Monday, September 19, 2005

Hidden 90's Gems: Part I

Okay, Cronin, you asked for it. Time for Bill Reed to tell you What Was Cool Back in the 90's! or I Think the 90's Were Middlin' Strike Back Part Deux.

Yeah, we all know there was a lot of crap back in the 90's, and I'm sorely tempted to review something like Bloodstrike (from Image), but my comics stash is miles and miles away at the moment. So I'm going to go with what I remember best, and those are some of the gems that were hidden throughout that crazy decade, stuff you may have missed or thought looked bad but which turned out to be fun or silly or great. And I'm going to do this all without mentioning Grant Morrison or Flex Mentallo. (Oops.) But you know what all the popular stuff was, and you can look at other posts here already to see some of the really good stuff. But my favorites are the ones who get picked last for basketball. These guys are the benchwarmers. But they still got talent.

I may have to turn this into a series if I get lazy or if the post gets too long. Bear with me; I bring you visual aids.

1. Sleepwalker (Cover Gallery!)

I love this title. I'm only missing four issues of it (1, 2, 5, and 6 for those of you who are generous). And you know what? It was really pretty good. Yes, okay, so some of the art was wonky there for a bit, but it was an offbeat concept from writer/creator Bob Budiansky that just ran away with itself.
Okay, so it's about this dude, Rick Sheridan. It's also about this dude called, er, Sleepwalker, who is a guardian of the mindscape. But he ends up getting stuck in Rick's head, and when Rick is sleeping, or knocked unconscious, or whatever, Sleepy can enter our physical world and protect it from weird-ass criminals like the Chain Gang, or 8-Ball. And Sleepy had such awesome powers as "warp vision."
The art started off awesome, by Bret Blevins, and kinda faltered when Kelly Krantz came onto the title... but it later picked up. And the stories? The stories were insane. Sleepwalker battles Nightmare, or an army task force, or becomes addicted to a certain color of light which drives him nuts (like catnip, or something) and has him knock Rick into a coma just so he could get more of it, though later he has to enter Rick's mind to wake him up, but Reed Richards and some evil government agents have followed him and it just gets crazier from there. Or the story where Sleepy and Rick switch brains (after originally merging into a half-Rick/half-Sleepy hybrid monster) so that they have to cope with each other's lifestyle and almost get themselves killed. Or when Sleepwalker betrays the human race and invades the world. Anything can happen on the mindscape. And, of course, it was the 90's, so Ghost Rider and Deathlok make guest appearances.
The book also boasts the coolest cover gimmick ever. The cover of issue 19 (the first one I ever got!) could be taken apart and turned into a Sleepwalker mask. Totally awesome. Luckily, however, my little mind still knew that that would be desecrated the sacredness of the comic, and it remains in one piece to this day. Or maybe I punched the eyes out. I forget.
There were 33 issues and a Holiday Special. Check your back-issue bins for goodness! I've found Sleepwalker issues in the strangest places, from comicons to Atlantic Book Shops on the boardwalk.

2. Terror, Inc. (Cover Gallery!)

Now, I don't have too many issues of this (six or so of an apparently 13-issue run), but the ones that I do have are loads of fun. Terror is some weird freaky-looking mercenary-ish dude who can swap body parts with dead guys. Hilarity ensues. And Punisher, Daredevil, Cage, Silver Sable, Wolverine, and more appear. It's a huge 90's-fest, yes, but it's damn fun and twisted. Especially the one where Terror ends up in a Santa suit (#8), which is creepy and touching at the same time. Most of the issues were written by DG Chichester and drawn by the late great Jorge Zaffino.

3. NFL SuperPro (Cover Gallery!)

No, I'm not freakin' kidding. I loved SuperPro. Yes, I was sort of a wee lad, but, dammit, SuperPro was totally awesome, and in retrospect, totally insane. I can't remember his origin too well, but I'm pretty sure it involved steroids. And he went on sports-related adventures and fought enemies like Instant Replay.
The title only lasted a year or so, and I've got maybe half of those issues (and multiple copies of #2, for some reason). No, you really can't take them seriously these days (I am sure this series is Fabian Nicieza's great shame, but if I ever meet him, he is signing these bastards for me), but they are, in my opinion, shamelessly fun comics. When SuperPro wasn't saving the rain forest, he was teaming up with Lawrence Taylor, or slam-dunking the Constrictor (literally, that's how he beat him). And I'm pretty sure SuperPro is responsible for my introduction to Captain America (and Crossbones). Yes, the concept was ludicrous, but it was incredibly entertaining to myself as a kid.

So what do all these titles have in common? They feature characters that Robert Kirkman also likes and is supposed to feature in an upcoming Marvel Team-Up arc about a "League of Losers." I know I'll be buying it.

In upcoming episodes of Hidden 90's Gems: My preferred Tom DeFalco/Ron Frenz collaboration; an overlooked part of Justice League history; and !mpact Comics! And more, if I happen to think of a bunch in the meantime. Yes, I know you all want me to talk about Deathlok or Darkhawk or whatever, but maybe we'll let someone else go over those, because I can't remember them that well (but I liked them).

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Reviewing !mpact Comics? Excellent. The Black Hood was a fine series.

When you review your Justice League picks will you cover the Quarterly issues? The "When Titans Date" story by Waid and Templeton is very good.

9/19/2005 04:48:00 PM  
Blogger Bill Reed said...

Yeah, Black Hood was awesome, but when it comes to !mpact, I'm way more of an expert on Legend of the Shield. Still, I'll try to touch base on everything, and entirely from memory. So it should be hilarious.

Aaaaand I don't have that issue of JLQ. No, but I have the one where the Conglomerate fight 90's Amazo.

Someone should bring back the Conglomerate. And give Reverb/Hardline/Vibe's brother yet another lousy codename. Hee hee.

9/19/2005 04:51:00 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

Sleepwalker, the book Tom DeFalco called "The Sandman done right."

Also, I believe Buzz Dixon wrote SuperPro, not Nicieza.

9/19/2005 05:00:00 PM  
Anonymous David C said...

Looking at, both Buzz Dixon and Nicieza wrote at least some issues of NFL Superpro (the entire series isn't yet indexed.)

I remember reading a quote from Buzz Dixon about how he got that particular writing gig. Basically, they were looking for someone to write the thing, and basically asked around the Marvel offices "Has anybody here ever actually played football? Like, at all?" And Buzz Dixon was the only one who had actual football experience (IIRC, not a tremendous amount, either - like he was on his high school JV team for a year or something), so he got the job.

What amazes me looking back on '90s Marvel comics is just how friggin' *many* there are! Ask me about DC comics of the same period, and chances are I've at least heard of most of them, but I have no memory of about half the Marvel titles that were churned out. "Terror, Inc.?" Literally no memory of this title or character's existence before now....

9/19/2005 05:05:00 PM  
Anonymous The_Nerk said...

Nope, no steroids in Superpro's origin. Just burning football films, fire extinguishing chemicals, and a "football uniform of the future". Though his first enemy was a mutated steroid freak. ("Kids, don't do drugs. Unless it's the Super-Soldier formula...")

9/19/2005 06:03:00 PM  
Anonymous thekamisama said...

A few I always thought never got the props.
Law Dog (Marvel/Epic)
Justice Society of America (the Templeton ones)
JLI/E/whatever it was always changing titles to...
Green Arrow
Hawkworld (the miniseries)
the best run of Batman ever.. Batman Adventures
Green Lantern Mosaic
I'm sure there are more I'm not thinking of...

9/19/2005 06:23:00 PM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

Don't worry, folks, I was already planning on covering Black Hood #1-8 some time this week.

We will learn, IS it as good as people remember it being?!?

9/19/2005 06:36:00 PM  
Blogger Bill Reed said...

Dammit, now I'll have to do a piece on Batman Adventures. I *adore* that series. One of the best Batman runs ever, yes.

Also liked the Parobeck JSA...

Hell, anything with Parobeck art.

...I should just do a bit on Parobeck...!

9/19/2005 07:32:00 PM  
Anonymous Dan Coyle said...

Other 90s series I liked: Typhoid
Hawkworld ongoing
Badger: Shattered Mirror
Fighting American
The Waid/LaRocque Flash run
Transformers, the Furman run
The Buscematteis Spectacular Spider-Man

9/19/2005 10:25:00 PM  
Blogger Bill Reed said...

Flash, yes. Spec. Spidey, oh yeah.

9/19/2005 11:08:00 PM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

I couldn't find all my Parobeck JSAs right away, so I just gave up on it....hehe.

So feel free to handle the Parobeck JSA!

And Bill, a bit on Shield would be fine, even if I am doing Black Hood.

9/19/2005 11:59:00 PM  
Anonymous The Hermit said...

Especially the one where Terror ends up in a Santa suit (#8), which is creepy and touching at the same time.

Don't all stories involving a Santa suit turn out to be creepy and touching at the same time?

(Excepting that JSA issue with Ma Hunkle. That got me all verklempt...)

9/20/2005 07:29:00 AM  
Anonymous Gary Esposito said...

Don't know if indies can be included:
Yummy Fur

9/20/2005 12:34:00 PM  
Blogger kelvingreen said...

Ah yes, Furman's Transformers run was class in a glass. The first Death's Head series was pretty cool too, before Marvel UK screwed the character over, trying to turn him into their Wolverine.

9/20/2005 01:15:00 PM  
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