While I try very hard not to give in to the nattering nabobs of negativity about the hobby we all love, living through the excesses of 1990s comic books has made me somewhat cynical, and perhaps too critical of much of that decade’s four-color output. Today, Faithful Spoilerites, that all changes! Welcome to Ten Things!
Whooshman-Bicarbonate Films, in conjunction with ‘An Amateur Comics Historian’, and ‘Dethstryke Bludforse’, Presents:
TEN 90s CHARACTERS WHO COULD BE EASILY REDEEMED!
When John Byrne had Alicia Masters fall for young Johnny Storm during Ben Grimm’s Secret Wars-related absence, he created a very difficult and surprisingly adult storyline for the Fantastic Four. Naturally, later writers had to shoot it in the foot, due to the massive sea change in status quo that it entailed, but the idea of a Skrull infiltrating the Fantastic Four is a good one. With Lyja’s ties to the Super-Skrull program, she was an interesting character to read about, and her presence naturally created unrest within the members of the FF. In the new age of Cosmic Marvel ushered in by the importance of ‘Guardians Of The Galaxy’, Lyja is one good story away from being the next Rocket Raccoon…
9) ALPHA CENTURION
I talk a great deal of smack about 1994’s ‘Zero Hour’ crossover, and how very little content of note came out of it, save for some chunks of Mark Waid-written Legion and James Robinson’s ‘Starman’, but that’s being too harsh. For the glaring faults of the series, it had some cool ideas in play, and one of the coolest was Marcus Aelius, an honest-to-Caesar Roman Centurion plucked out of time by aliens and given superhuman attributes. One A.C. was the hero of an alternate-universe Metropolis, but the native DCU got their own version, who clashed with Superman over who was the alpha male of the city. A great name, a decent look and a cool retro origin are already in the bag, all we need for an Alpha Centurion revival is the story that would allow him to make a name for himself in the post-Flashpoint world.
A short-lived (as damn near all Fox TV shows save for The Simpsons seem to historically be) TV vigilante, M.A.N.T.I.S. was ahead of his time on multiple levels, featuring the adventures of a self-made super-man with elements of that Batman fellow everyone loves. Though it’s been 20 years, Carl Lumbly has proven his chops as a voice-actor, meaning the right person could bring our cyborg hero back as an animated series with the same actor, and really leverage the cyberpunk/superhero aspects into something similar. Hell, if we’re playing perfect world, bring him into the DC Universe and have him strike up a friendship/rivalry with Victor “Cyborg” Stone, and the story writes itself…
Twenty years ago, when Shriek debuted, the Spider-Man comics were at a historic low-point, and so much of her oeuvre escaped my notice. Still, it’s easy to see early influences of the goth subculture at play in her costume and gimmickry, and embracing that could make Shriek into something more than just “the girl with no pants on from the Clone Saga.” Her last appearance of note was among a throng of disrespected and joke characters as part of Boomerang’s ‘Sinister Sixteen’, but playing her powers and insanity closer to the vest and emphasizing the human aspects of the character would make her a strong villain or even a villain-turned-hero…
6) ATOM IV
Adam Cray appeared during a time when Ray Palmer was suspected to be dead, and worked for/with Amanda Waller in her role as leader of Task Force X. Using his abilities to their utmost (i.e. for espionage and sneaky-times), Cray proved himself to be an asset and a decent anti-hero type. His murder was pretty much fait accompli (fans of Ryan Choi have to realize that brutally murdering people who try to muscle in on Ray Palmer’s gimmick is an old tradition), but given a recovery and a change of name to avoid being marked as “expendable replacement”, Adam would be a welcome part of Amanda’s power base even in a post-New 52 world. After all, who doesn’t want the perfect invisible spy?
Priscilla Kitaen’s last series, in 2011, did a lot to help bring her out of the “90s cheesecake girl” mold she seems to keep getting slammed into. Since she is a former exotic dancer, Voodoo seems to get a lot of sexpot roles, as well as a lot of “undercover sequences” in strip clubs and houses of prostitution. Still, as a sorta telepathic shapeshifter with combat training, Voodoo has a lot to offer as a hero or a member of a team. Once the idea that her last title was cancelled at 12 issues fades, Priscilla is just one decent hook away from being the DCU’s version of a Rogue or a Jubilee…
What? Two ecdysiasts in a row? This one’s a cheat, as she debuted in 2003, but students of 90s comics should agree with me: Erotica Jones is indubitably a 90s character at heart. Whether you want to revamp the super-campy blonde television version or the slightly more realistic redheaded version from the comics, Stripperella has potential as a hero, whether you want to play it straightforward or parody. Unlike similar characters, such as Marvel Comics Stacy X, there’s more to Erotica than the sum of her skin showing, and if you keep her super-spy trappings, you can even make her into a sexy version of ‘The Girl From U.N.C.L.E.’.
3) BARB WIRE
Aaaand this makes our third ecdysiast and the second consecutive Pamela Anderson character on our list, which in itself tells us an awful lot about the 1990s. Barb Wire’s comic book adventures were (save for the pink leather) pretty realistic noir-type tales, and even her much-mocked movie outing took the character as seriously as anything in its world. Barb Wire is, essentially, a cross between Rick from ‘Casablanca’ and Deckard from ‘Blade Runner’, a badass bounty hunter who works hard to keep her bar alive in a city riddled with corruption and rot. Again, a writer has the option of tongue-in-cheek or deadly serious, you could do much worse for your character thesis than “Bleach-Blonde Batman”.
A favorite of mine from the much-missed Malibu Comics Ultraverse, Hardcase is that oh-so-90s concoction: The Superhero as Superstar archetype. The central spine of much of the early Ultraverse, Tom Hawke was Jean-Claude Van Damme, if he were bulletproof. Taking that and updating it with a Bradley Cooper-type action star, while maintaining his street-level-but-super abilities would make for a no-brainer, especially in the era of TV superheroes. With the Ultraverse currently owned by Marvel, the upcoming Secret Wars crossover madness schmageggi would be a perfect time to put our purple-clad hero back into circulation for good…
1) ANGEL PUNISHER
Aaaand, here’s where I start taking heat… The problem with The Punisher as a character is twofold: First, his origins as a Vietnam veteran tie him to a specific time and place. While that can be updated to a newer conflict, whatever stories we tell about him are about a normal human being using skills and training in a world of Marvels, which leads us to our second problem; the matter of consequences. Giving The Punisher supernatural abilities may seem like it undermines him as a normal human vigilante (and it does, on some level), but it helps to explain how a perfectly normal man survives all of his encounters, be they with superpowers or just plain ol’ bullets. It takes the subtext of “The battle for Frank Castle’s metaphorical soul” and brings it to the forefront, removing the metaphorical part AND it gives us another level of angst for Frank, who can now confirm that he’ll never even be reunited with his lost family in the afterlife. Yes, the idea of John Rambo shanking his way across the Marvel Universe is an appealing one, but the idea of John Rambo with unlimited bullets and resistance to damage (for real, not in the normal “we don’t pay attention to consequences” way) could add a whole new dimension to the adventures of the Punisher…
Thanks to Faithful Spoilerite Mark Berryman for suggesting this topic to me via the Twitter, and feel free to follow along (@MightyKingCobra) for more Ten Things madness over there! As with any set of like items, these aren’t meant to be hard and fast or absolutely complete, and indeed, there may be one or two other 90s-types that have some staying power. That one New Mutants villain seems to have a fan or three, so there’s that. Regardless, the comments section is Below for just such an emergency, but, as always: Please, no wagering![signoff predefined=”PayPal Donation” icon=”icon-cog”][/signoff]