Tag Archives: 1990s

“Girlfrenzy” 1998

Nearly all of my most recent comic book purchase consists of female-led stories. This was by intent. I’m not entirely sure why or why now, but it was a conscious goal while making my selections, which is almost the only way this would happen; the great majority of comics including my own collection feature male characters. A little more variety seems all to the good.(1)

The majority of these female-led stories are from two DC… projects I guess we’ll call them, from 1998. This was not as much by intent, per se. But the “Girlfrenzy” and Tangent families offered known places to find a variety of complete-in-one-issue female-led stories, and the single examples of each which I owned already are satisfactory.(2) Plus, the dazzling cover design still feels remarkably fresh after 22 years.

I have already made comments on the individual comics in a previous post, but there are a few observations worth making about the whole assemblage.

First of all the fact that these projects existed at all, in 1998 no less, still seems a little astonishing. “Girlfrenzy” was an overt attempt to publish a family of female-led stories—something which as noted is rare enough in the world of comics publishing—and in the same year the Tangent project featured women in at least half of its lineup even though that was in no way required by the concept. Granted that both of these projects were also planned as one-offs and left that way, it’s still fascinating to me that someone greenlit even that much.

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Tangent, “Girlfrenzy” & other back issue reviews

I ordered myself some comic books on Labor Day, and two weeks later they finally arrived. None of the delay had to do with the postal service; I selected USPS shipping but Mile High Comics shipped my order FedEx anyway, after taking about 12 days to ship it at all. That said, despite the fact that the turnaround time seemed to approach that of mail order from the same retailer back in the days of catalogs (and MHC’s web site appears unchanged from the last time I purchased online from them years ago), I was satisfied overall. Good selection and fair prices count for much, whereas speed seems odd to worry about when I’m ordering books which in many cases are more than 20 years old.

Anyway, despite most of these books being big publisher products with prominent names, some certainly are approaching that category of “old and/or obscure comics” now. Let’s see how I made out for my $40.

“UEGO, take me back to 1998.” (No, seriously, please, take me back to 1998, I’m ready to go no need for my luggage pleeeeease.)

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Kirby Memorial issue of Marvel Age

This is not an old and/or obscure comics post, for the simple reason that Marvel Age was not a comic book.

Marvel Age was, I guess, basically a house-produced fan magazine, something probably near 100% obsolete in the age of the World Wide Web. But these did exist, in the Before Time. (Other examples which come to mind are Nintendo Power and something from Sierra which may have had a couple of names over the course of its existence.)

Although Marvel Age shared the size and format of a typical comic book, it generally contained minimal actual comics content. Issue #138 was no exception. It did contain, however, about as much a formal memorial as the company published upon the death of its all-time MVP, Jack Kirby.

So let’s revisit that, 26 years later.

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Millennium (TV series)

I have gradually worked my way through most of the late-1990s series Millennium, over the past year and a half. For various reasons I have skipped a few episodes, but I can evaluate the series from the pilot through the final episode.

Conclusion: good, interesting, holds up well. Might have gone in some very promising directions had it not been cancelled after season 3.

I remember the series from back then, and I caught some or all of a few episodes. Enough that I suppose it made some kind of impression on me, to be recalled more than a dozen years later browsing DVDs in the library. (I miss browsing in the library although I’m not going back any time soon.) The episodes I watched on the scratched-to-hell library DVDs interested me enough that eventually I asked for the complete series when trying to think of gift ideas, and here we are.

Millennium is/was obviously making-it-up-as-they-went-along fiction, which has various uses for a serialized work; viewed as a whole, the absence of any firm master plan is not really a strength, but is less of a fault than might have been the case, given the intentional themes of mystery, conspiracy and questioning what’s real.

Ultimately Millennium lacks firm answers or closure, in much of any form, because its fundamental story was pre-millennial eschatology and it was cancelled several months before the year 2000. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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Ghost Rider, 2099, and futures past

It occurred to me, recently, that when Marvel launched their 2099 comics in the early 1990s, the setting’s distance in time was twice that of the “Marvel universe’s” origin. The fictional world’s pre-war beginnings lay a little more than 50 years in the past; 2099 lay more than 100 years in the future. Now, as of 2020, the present has moved to a point midway between both.

Taking stock, I feel that 2099 has aged well beneath accumulating dust. The original line, at least, may be approaching the threshold of “old/obscure comics.” The 25-issue Ghost Rider 2099 series written by Len Kaminski is probably there, and worth more appreciation than it probably has, or than at first glance it probably appears to deserve.

The series’s strong start accounts for much of its worth after a quarter-century. Nothing about Ghost Rider 2099 was really groundbreaking; realistically all of the pieces had been used before. But during the first dozen issues they were chosen and assembled very, very well.

The artwork helps a lot. Chris Bachalo‘s drawings are pretty to look at, and gifted the series with a few truly memorable designs, particularly the bizarre “Ghostworks.” The storytelling also feels perfectly timed and balanced, though. Plenty of settings and characters are introduced, but things happen every issue. There’s a sense of “openness” and freedom to how widely Ghost Rider ranges, at will, from a gang encampment to the C-suite to a round-trip errand from the Midwest to New York.

The Ghost Rider is not there to “play in a sandbox,” the Ghost Rider is there to make big, hands-on changes to a world filled with things he doesn’t like.

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Teaching leadership: more things we missed

Looking back on whether or not the 1990s were really a missed opportunity, I have concluded that it’s difficult to say that such was more true of that period than of others.

Which doesn’t mean that reexamination offers no lessons. Among those which it suggests, to me, hollowness in our society’s political leadership lessons seems prominent.

In my late 30s, it seems like I’m engaged in a self-study course in political leadership theory and practice, covering a lot of material that should be basic but which I just have not encountered before. It seems also like I’m not alone in this.

Two pieces of personal context also suggest that there is indeed a hole in what our culture teaches: First, I actually paid attention to most of the curriculum throughout my years in school. Second, in this area I even showed interest; in high school I spent a week immersed in something called the National Young Leaders Conference.*

Yet looking back, I nonetheless reached my 30s with an understanding of how democracy works that can’t be called complete even in outline form. If this was the case even for me, is it any wonder that America’s politics seem to have broken down?

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The 1990s: Some things we missed

After nagging at me for years, a 1996 comic book’s suggestion that the 1990s would prove to be a lost opportunity, for humanity, feels like it at last warrants a serious evaluation.

A month after summoning myself to get around to that, though, I wonder now if the moment of opportunity is relatively illusory. It seems like both I, personally, and the concentric circles of groups to which I relate should have done more. Should have responded to a relatively crisis-free and prosperous moment by pursuing ambitious reforms, and deep cultural and institutional renewal. It seems like we might indeed have launched a golden age had more of us been more generous, and more active in trying to solve problems bigger than our own personal concerns.

But it occurs to me that this is less of a special moment than a regular failing of human history. Many eras “might have been the prologue to a golden age” if people were more generous and more engaged in reform.

I look at e.g. today’s high school student activists and compare them with myself and most peers, immersed as we were in comparatively trivial pursuits. We should have done better, attempted more at least. But I’m not sure what prompt we overlooked. I was concerned by problems that seemed to threaten my personal life directly; arguably so are today’s students except that e.g. those problems now include heavily armed crazies shooting them.

Perhaps older people should have been more responsible, perhaps leaders of some sort really did drop the ball. After tossing around various possibilities for how, though, many still seem applicable to broad human history not just the 1990s.

I think it’s possible, though, that a few fundamental errors of the 1990s do represent a “wrong turn” particular to that era. Ironically, it has also occurred to me that another pop-culture artifact that wasn’t even trying to be especially serious might sum them up. From Austin Powers, 1997:

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The 1990s: Missed Crossroads

In recent years I have thought back many times to this opening page from Doom 2099, issue 43, cover date July 1996.

The words of John Francis Moore, published just as I was about to turn 18. (Artwork by Jeff Lafferty et al.)

For more than 20 years this pulp-fiction prophecy has lurked at the edges as I watched history unfold. I think I’m near, at last, to formulating some kind of response. If/when time permits.

For now I post it here as a kind of bookmark.

Marvel Holiday Special 1991

I’m sure that there are a variety of ways to measure the outsize place of Christmas among contemporary American holidays. Spending, obviously. TV specials perhaps. Holiday-specific music.

Personally, at least, I could also add the amount of once-per-year paraphernalia that I pull out of storage for a while, then put back away for 11 months before repeating the process, year upon year. The lights. The little tree. Christmas music CDs. Santa hat.

And Christmas comics.

This may be the least typical of my various personal Christmas traditions. I have as many as two dozen Christmas-related comics, either as individual floppies or as part of collected editions. It seems like I may as well pull them off the shelf at Christmastime, if ever. In recent years it has begun to feel a bit like I’m doing so mainly for that reason, more than for enthusiasm to read the stories again; I have read most of them so many times, and Christmas seems to roll around again a little bit sooner each year at this point.

Still, like the little tree, like my 20-year-old string of colored lights, it’s now part of Christmas to bring them out. Perhaps especially in the case of one Christmas comic, which I have had even longer than those lights… I realized this year that the first of several Marvel Holiday Specials released in the 1990s is now a full quarter-century old.

Cover of 1991 Marvel Holiday Special

Wraparound cover art by Art Adams. Purely decorative; no such scene appears in any interior story.

Good lord.

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Cynical Girl

I think it’s time to write something relatively cheery, again. At least, it’s time to try. But can I do it? Can I come up with something that is not informed by negativism, can I actually just be happy about something for even a moment?

These may be destined to remain open questions, I suspect. Because there’s probably a little yes and a little no in posting a warmhearted celebration of…

CYNICAL GIRL

Our hero.

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