Thursday, April 21, 2016

If I Had a Buck...The Aluminum Age

Martinex1: Here at the Bronze Age Babies' site, there is an obvious love for all things from the 60's, 70's and 80's, so don't judge me too harshly when our virtual spinner rack carries us unabashedly into 1990's comic book territory for a $1 shopping spree challenge.

While I, perhaps more than others, have an affinity for comics from my adolescent days I did continue reading and collecting until the turn of the century and beyond.  In my opinion, I was still able to find some good and even great superhero stories after the Bronze Age.  The art was changing quickly on the heels of the Image movement, and the writing was becoming more decompressed as titles clogged the racks, big special events seemed to pop up every month, and variant covers started to appear.  But there were still some gems amongst the dreck of the disposable decade.

Below are 15 titles that I found some hope and enjoyment in during those days.   I felt there was some artistic aspect worth recommending in each.   In retrospect, some truly survived the test of time better than others.  They all had a sensibility or heroism that I recognized and liked from previous generations of comic work.  There are definitely comics worthy of a re-read, and others that should find their way to a recycling bin. 

These comics were cover-priced far too expensively for our normal game, so once again they reside in the quarter box (much like in reality).   Four for a dollar.  As always, share your selection and your thoughts; share your cheers and jeers. Thanks again to Mike's Amazing World of Comics site for the extensive cover archives and credits.

So listen to some Nirvana, Eminem, or Guns N Roses; pop in your VHS tape of  Herman's Head or Quantum Leap, enjoy a cold glass of Crystal Pepsi and make your picks and comments from the Aluminum Age.

Kirk Busiek's Astro City #11 (Nov 1997)  The covers, writing, and art in this series were top notch.  I enjoyed to modernist take on archetypes I loved.
Force Works #11 (Mar 1995) An evolution of the West Coast Avengers with writing by the clever team of Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning.   This Spider Woman had some nice moments.
Ghost Rider #15 (July 1991) Danny Ketch was the new Ghost Rider and that had pros and cons to it.   The art by Mark Texeira had some good aspects; this cover is an example. 
Guardians of the Galaxy #8 (Jan 1991)  Can you believe this was 25 years ago?   Not their best outing, but I love the characters and the future history that this book expanded.
Hourman #7 (Oct 1999)  I didn't read it at the time, but I have to give kudos to the robotic Hourman and the writing of Tom Peyer and the art of Rags Morales.  This cover is by Scott McDaniel.
Impulse #20 (Oct 1996) Mark Waid's Impulse had a ton of humor but also a lot of heart.  
Incredible Hulk #387 (Nov 1991)  I only read the Hulk sporadically (sorry HB) until Peter David took a turn writing, and then I explored the massive back catalog.
Journey Into Mystery (Featuring The Lost Gods) #506 (Feb 1997) During the period that Thor was "gone"  Red Norvell and a new group of gods fought the Egyptian god Set.
JSA #2 (July 1999) The old and the new brought together in the great DC tradition; the originals and their legacies fight for justice.  
The New Warriors #4 (Oct 1990) A brand new team for a new generation,The Warriors had some familiar tropes but improved on some lesser known character properties under the guiding hands of Fabian Nicieza and Mark Bagley.
Spider-Man 2099 #4 (Feb 1993) The 2099 brand had some hits and misses, but Peter David crafted some decent tales as Miguel O'Hara took on the identity in the far flung future and a fancy new suit.
Thunderbolts #11 (Feb 1998) Spoiler Alert!  In a bold move the Masters of Evil play hero in a bid for world domination.  Kurt Busiek and Mark Bagley establish a whole new approach for some classic villains.
Ultraforce #6 (March 1995) Gerard Jones and George Perez created a hero team for Malibu's Ultraverse with oddballs like Pixx, the Ghoul, and Prime.   The first arcs are highly underrated in my opinion, and the art is amazing.
X-Factor #71 (Oct 1991) Well, Peter David is at it again.  This time he puts his twist on a mutant team with some great characterization for the likes of Madrox and Quicksilver.  The art by Larry Stroman had some really over-the-top 90's flair.
Quasar #37 (Aug 1992) This series was a fun cosmic romp written by Mark Gruenwald in a very traditional way.

So that is a rundown of the "new" stuff.  Enjoy the covers!


Edo Bosnar said...

Interesting choice, Martinex. I'll give it a go:

Astro City #11 - a no-brainer for me, as I actually have an issue (the Samaritan Special) and I've read a smattering of stories online (I know, I know...). Definitely an excellent concept and series, one I'd love to explore if finances (and time) allow.

Thunderbolts #11 - Busiek strikes again! Always been curious about this series, as I've heard good things about it. And yes, the premise is quite intriguing.

Ultraforce #6 - Another I've always been curious about. Also, George Perez.

Quasar #37 - Generally I like Gruenwald's writing, and as with T-bolts, I've heard/read many good things about this series.

JJ said...

I kept my toes in during the 90s but never found anything that really sent me. Just didn't have the budget to pick up a wide sample. After being disappointed by WildC.A.T.S., Cyberforce and a few others I basically just collected Miller's Sin City and Martha Washington books. Seeing this array I feel like I really missed the boat.

1) Thunderbolts #11. This title seems to be held in high regard, even to this day. Time to jump on. Great concept! I do like Kurt Busiek as well. I have his Avengers revival with Perez in hardcover here and I like it quite a bit.

2) Quasar #37. I do love that crazy Marvel cosmic stuff and I've never read Quasar before. How did I miss this? With Gruenwald at the helm it sounds like a good bet to me.

3) I'll roll the dice on Ultraforce. I must've picked up the wrong Malibu comics. The ones I saw were so underwhelming. Somehow I missed this as well. George Perez is a beautiful bonus.

4) And my blind man in the dark choice: Hourman! Seems like an intriguing concept and character. Why not give it a go?

I've mirrored Edo here but the above titles do seem to be the best of the lot. Nice idea for a post, Martinex. The 90s weren't all bad, were they?

Redartz said...

I had largely left comics by the 90's, with a few exceptions (Ryan FF and Amazing Spider-Man; don't get me started on the clone saga, have never read a single Image comic). Yet I'm always happy to be introduced to some winners that I missed, thanks Martinex1! And since I've read none of these offerings today, I'll try:
Astro City (love Kurt Busiek, his "Untold Tales of Spider-Man" was a high point in the 90's). Have heard many good things about this series and mean to give it a look.
Force Works- mainly for that sharp cover...
Impulse- quirkyness and humor always appeal to me, so here's my quarter.
X-Factor- Peter David's work is always worth a look.

dbutler16 said...

Ugh, most 90's stuff I think is better used to wipe my...well, let's just say I don't think much of it. However, there are a few here that look worthwhile:

Guardians of the Galaxy #8, because I'm just a sucker for the Guardians of the Galaxy. Probably a mix of the cool visuals and the sci-fi angle.

Incredible Hulk #387, because Peter David did some interesting things with the Hulk.

JSA #2, because most of the JSA has been really good, and I believe that this run falls into that category.

Quasar #37, just because it looks pretty good, and I sorta like Quasar.

J.A. Morris said...

The only one of these I had was Thunderbolts #11. It's a good series, with great characters and actions scenes. This was the last series I made any effort to get. Worth picking up the tpb. Nice work by Bagley and Busiek.

William said...

Let's see, if I had a buck to buy 4 of these comics…? I think I go hit the vending machine instead. LOL

Unknown said...

The only one of these I had back in elementary school was Ghost Rider #15, with the cover by Mark Texiera. As I recall, in that experimental era of gimmicky covers, it was a glow-in-the-dark cover and at the time, to this preteen youth, this concept seemed the coolest thing ever. Taking the issue home from the comics specialty shop, "Saturn Comics" (as the surly red-headed owner chose to dub it, and where countless hours were spent), I went into a semi-darkened room with it to see firsthand if it really did glow in the dark or not (it did, to some extent, though not in a pitch-dark room).

Thomas F.

Doug said...

had the JSA and X-Factor issues. I never read that JSA, and wished I'd never laid eyes on the interiors of that X-Factor. Larry Stroman's style isn't my style.

At some point I'd like to give Thunderbolts a try. I generally like the work of Busiek and Bagley, although the latter trends "90s" in style. But it was OK on Amazing Spider-Man before sliding over to Ultimate Spider-Man.

Overall, I'm sort of like William -- I think I'd rather see if I could get a package of Hostess Cupcakes rather than any of this four-color material.

That saddens me.


Humanbelly said...

Great topic call, MX1-!
I was still buying a huge amount of comics every month at this point--- although not enjoying the majority of them, IIRC. But I'd forgotten about the legitimate treasures that were quietly waiting in the wings-- if one could just see them past the glare of all the kewl stuff that was dominating the LCS shelves (spinner racks being a distant, fond memory by this time).

REALLY hard to keep it down to four, 'cause there are titles here that I love as much as any other comics I've had, really.

JSA gets priority. That was a fantastically enjoyable run on that title, which conveyed an incredible sense of deep history, and had me caring about characters and relationships and titles and storylines that I didn't know the first thing about. It was a perfect example of what was Marvel's strength in the Silver/late-Silver Age--- the reader is introduced mid-stream, but rather than being intimidated by the weight of previous history, the book made you want to find out more.

ASTRO CITY is a very close second, here. It's only knock is that--- there just wasn't enough of it-!

INCREDIBLE HULK-- although Peter David was maybe a little too in love with his whole Pantheon thingy. Man, the art on that book was just so good for so many years in SOOO many different folks' hands, too.

And as a dark horse entry, JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY: LOST GODS-- a neat, neat little storyline that was introduced once Marvel had finally given up trying to find a way to sell more than three dozen issues of Thor every month--- and they effectively killed him off/disappeared him while figuring out what the heck to do with him down the road. But this was a kind of fun, sort of older-style Marvel arc, with a lot of our Asgardians stranded in NYC, posing as humans, searching for Odin (and meaning, reality, identity, etc). Particularly cool was Ulik passing as human.

That's my four, but for the latter, I could easily substitute my beloved QUASAR (the under-achieving art being its biggest liability), GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, or THUNDERBOLTS. Hmmmmmm-- and maybe I could toss in the short-lived WONDER MAN series for consideration? A very fun, light book at a time when, unfortunately, fun, light books were heaped with scorn and disdain. . .


Garett said...

I'll go with Ghost Rider for the Texeira art. He looked like he had that Neal Adams influence, and his art had an impact but not as wild as Sienkiewicz.

Hulk for the Dale Keown art.

I'll check out Ultraforce for George Perez. Another '90s series he did was Sachs and Violens.

And Quasar because the cover looks pretty good and I see the art is by Greg Capullo.

There are bits and pieces of good comics in the '90s. Some by older guys:
Kubert starting his personal graphic novels with Fax from Sarajevo
Will Eisner's To the Heart of the Storm

The Elseworlds books by DC.
Chaykin's Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser with Mike Mignola.

Of the Image books, the one I think has held up the best is Danger Girl by J. Scott Campbell for its light frothiness.

david_b said...

Hostess Cupcakes...? Did someone mention Hostess Cupcakes..? I'm sooo there.

Frankly, a very intriguing topic and good discussion so far, but personally, these would make my eyes hurt. As a '90s buyer, I stuck to buying up Silver/Bronze Age vintage hole-fillers.

HB's mention of LOST GODS sounds like good fun.

Martinex1 said...

Ha, I knew there may not be much love for this lot of 90s fare, but I think HB expressed it well. There really were a handful of books that continued with solid storytelling in a much more character oriented vein that I think many of us would find to our liking. If you do decide to stick your toe in and take a look at any of these, here are my succinct and sincere recommendations.

Astro City is really great and I think it is some of the most thoughtful work around superheroics. For me it went a long way to correct some of the dark and gloomy and sad remnants from the late 80s; it embraced a more positive outlook while also being somewhat modern. It took versions of characters like Superman, Batman, and the FF and really explored aspects that the big two were not exploring. The art is fantastic. I recommend the first trade paperback to get started.

The Thunderbolts filled the 616 hero gap during Heroes Reborn (ugh). And the first twelve issues I found to be fun, exciting, and different. Again, Busiek has such a great handle in characterization and this team had some great interaction and motivations. Some of these characters became my favorites for a while. I haven't reread it recently, and I think I will do so, as I really remenmber these fondly. It was really written in the Marvel team tradition Bagley's art can be quirky, but I liked it on Thunderbolts.

The first six issues of Ultraforce with Perez are really a good team book. Not many people know it, but the characterization is very much in the spirit of late 70s Avengers and the Teen Titans. It has that feel. And the Ghoul is a great character; I can't believe he didn't become more of a star. There are sections that are heartbreaking throughout. It definitely pulls from themes in Iron Man, Caprain Marvel, Teen Titans and others, but I think you would find it enjoyable. Be careful to not jump in when Marvel took over and the Black Knight joined etc. Not sure what Marvel was doing or why we never saw these characters again once they absorbed Malibu. But it was not strong at that time.

If you want a good light hearted choice, Impulse under Mark Waid is just that. I always chuckled,reading that book. There is such apparent love for Max Mercury and Impulse within. The art is very cartoony and at first was off putting but if you can get past that you will enjoy the antics. If I can describe the story style, it is like the Flash (in training) cross pollinated with the best Archie book you ever read.

Short notes on others:

JSA is just as good as HB says and very traditional in all the best ways. If you can get past the Stroman art at all in X-Factor (Doug is absolutely correct) read the issue where the team as government employees goes through a psychological evaluation. The take on Quicksilver is so perfect and so enlightening; it is worth every cent. Peter David is really great here and in the Hulk of this era. Quasar can hit the right notes: as HB said, the art changes created chaos, but the Paul Ryan and Greg Capullo stuff is good. Lost Gods is again a weird little sidebar during Heroes Reborn that was extremely more enjoyable than the core titles of the time.

Ghost Rider became not good very fast as it became very gimmicky very quickly as Thomas points out. Force Works was a mess, but there are granules of future brilliance in Abnett and Lanning's writing.

If you haven't read much from this period, you may be pleasantly surprised. Happy hunting.

Anonymous said...

I kept reading comics right into the 90s, so these look quite familiar. I eventually quit reading because of the incessant crossovers and gimmick covers, but there were some good stories back then. As for my four picks:

I love Astro City, so that's definitely on my list.

I've never read that JSA series, but I've always wanted to, so that's on my list.

I LOVE Peter David's X-Factor run; I've got all those issues and they're great. I agree with Doug about Stroman's art...too "scratchy" and weird for my taste, but David's writing makes up for it in my opinion. (And Martinex1, I agree about that "psych-analysis" issue--#87, I think?--it was brilliant and I think it deservedly won some awards for Best Story.)

And to round it off, I'll go with New Warriors (another comic I collected back then); Nicieza's writing was great (I think the comic went downhill after he left) and I've always loved Bagley's art.

I have read Thunderbolts and it's pretty good, so it gets honourable mention.

Mike Wilson

david_b said...


I knew I came too late for the Cupcakes.

Darn government job.

And RIP 'Former' Artist Formally Known As Prince.

Humanbelly said...

Man, my sister NEVER posts on facebook, and she's so distraught about Prince and making continuous posts that she's practically trending herself. . .


Anonymous said...

I know this is Bronze Age Babies, but to dismiss this fine collection of comics is to miss out on some great comics. It reminds me of how people used to dismiss the '70s as not as good as the '60s or as revolutionary as the '80s. Cast aside your prejudices! Recover from the early Image-induced PTSD! The '90s wasn't all bad!

Incredible Hulk 387- Peter David redeemed a stale character, provided a lot of entertaining banter, and made me a comic book fan with his run on the Hulk. Dale Keown was like John Byrne crossed with Jim Lee, and Mark Farmer's inks smoothed out his rougher moments. Marvel's best book of the era.

Astro City 11 - Kurt Busiek combined and encyclopedic knowledge of super-hero tropes with genuinely affecting character writing, clever storytelling, and amazing world building. Brent Anderson's Neal Adams-iesque art, and Alex Ross's excellent designs and covers round out a fantastic package. Do you like super-heroes? Read Astro City.

Impulse 20- Mark Waid & Humberto Ramos created the best teen hero comic since Amazing Spider-Man. Impulse was hilarious and often moving. The supporting cast was one of the best in comics.

Hourman 9 - Tom Peyer and Rags Morales put together a great fish-out-of-water series. Imagine Data from a Star Trek as a super-hero, written by a guy who can do comedy. Throw in some impressive visuals. Stir and enjoy!

It was hard not to choose X-Factor or Thunderbolts, as they were also awesome '90s comics.

- Mike Loughlin

The Groovy Agent said...

Definitely Astro City, Hourman, and JSA. Refreshing oases in a dirty and dry desert. Ghost Rider 'cause that cover was one of the few gimmick covers that rocked. Oh, and I personally refer to this era as "The Gilded Age"... ;D

Anonymous said...

Awright, awright, I'd go with (in no particular order) Hulk, Guardians of the Galaxy, JSA and Spidey 2099!

- Mike 'the 90s were a blur to me comicswise' from Trinidad & Tobago.

Ian said...

The New Warriors was a great read! It had a very definite Bronze Age vibe, for me.

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