In my previous article, I mentioned that Chris and I are going to talk about our affection for a forgotten decade in comics, the 1990s. Some of you out there might argue that they were forgotten for good reasons. Both Marvel and DC lost a lot of their most promising talent to independent books due to their archaic rules and sometimes draconian treatment of talent. Comics, like sports cards, were overproduced. This reduced potential future value and upset speculators. Personally, I don’t care much about that. If I can get my hands on a book, I don’t care about your future value.
I also mentioned in that article that we would not be able to travel to That’s Entertainment, but we would be able to record. Plans changed yet again. Chris’s schedule opened up so that we could go to the store, but mine was more restrictive, so we haven’t recorded yet. Fear not! We will be sure to get together over the weekend and scratch that comics discussion itch for you next week.
DC on Television
Like Marvel, I was introduced to DC comic book heroes through television. Of course there was the live action Wonder Woman starring Lynda Carter. Like The Incredible Hulk, if you were alive in that time period, you watched those shows. It wasn’t like today where almost everything is on demand and you can consume entertainment at your leisure. There was this thing called appointment viewing where everyone watched the show at the same time and then talked about it the next day around the water cooler. At least I imagine that there was a water cooler as I often hear that as a saying, too.
What might be surprising is that I originally discovered Batman through television, too. Well, you might think, that’s not so bad. I loved (Batman: The Animated Series, Batman Beyond, *insert your favorite Batman series here*) too. DC might not be able to make a decent movie, but their TV series are pretty good. Ah, youth, so innocent and sometimes naive.
That’s right, ladies and gentlemen. As a child of the 70s, who came of age in the 90s, my first and defining Batman was Adam West. But, I have an excuse. My father loved the show. He wanted to share that love with his sons. I took that love very much to heart. When the Tim Burton Batman movies came out, my father warned me, “This isn’t anything like the TV show. Historically, Batman can be a bit dark.” I responded by not seeing the movie until it was on cable. Boy, did I show them! They responded by killing the series by making a decent sequel and then two terrible follow ups that seemed to try to split the difference. It did not work.
DC Comics in the 90s
Eventually, I loved the Tim Burton films and heaped the proper scorn on the other two movies in the franchise. My Batman was no longer the blue and grey suited “dad bod” of Adam West. Joker wasn’t a benign practical joker with hand buzzers and squirty flowers. It was a black suited solitary Dark Knight fighting against a sociopathic murderer in spotty clown makeup who still wears a squirty flower, but with acid.
This shift in attitude and my status as a casual collector meant I only collected Batman and one other DC book. Luckily, it was during the Knightfall story and I collected them all. Unluckily, during one of my moves I didn’t want to move the comic book collection. I also erroneously assumed that I’d never collect comics again. Well, you win some and you lose some.
The second DC hero that I paid attention to at the time was Superman. DC decided to radically alter both of their most popular heroes. Killing Superman (spoiler alert) was such a big deal that they talked about it on the nightly news. That doesn’t seem like much in this era of the 24/7/365 news. Then it meant more. Stations only had three hours dedicated to news. Time was precious. Everyone wanted to see how they would kill the Superman.
I remember the story being good up to the actual death. DC followed it up with “Rise of the Supermen”. I collected those books, too, but the only one I enjoyed was Steel. If you didn’t get a chance to read the story, I recommend picking up the trade. Sure, they redid the story in Batman vs. Superman, but it was a shadow of itself in that movie.
I think that I was more into DC comics back then. The Death of Superman was enough to get me and Kevin to convince his dad to drive us to the local comic book store so that we could get the books on the day that they released. This is while we were both on vacation visiting him in Maryland. The Batman story was less interesting to me, but I did prefer that over almost everything that Marvel was doing at the time other than their 2099 books.
Sure, both stories that got me into collecting DC books in the 1990s were gimmicks meant to sell comics. Well, I never said that I was above falling for gimmicks. Next week, when I talk about my history with comics in the 2000s, you’ll see that both companies got me again with gimmicks. But, heck, the stories were good and I’m glad to have been able to experience them as they unfolded.