The transformation of Marvel Comics in the 90s.
This is going to be a short post. Nothing more than a gentle push to relive some Marvel history from the 90s. But I will throw in a little back story before I get to the meat of the post. I am a comic book fan, and more importantly, I was a fan before it was cool. Within the last decade or so, nerd culture has been embraced but there was a time that reading comics was social suicide. The comic world, like the gaming world, was regulated to the geeks and nerds and avoided by the cool kids (at least in public).
Some of my favorite issues from the 80s and 90s. Each has a particular reason for being special to me, including the story of why and where I picked that specific issue. Comics to me are more than the stories inside the book. To me comics helped form who I am; they are a timeline to events in my life.
Of course, there are always exceptions, and as the 70s rolled into the 80s, comic companies started to take chances on more grown-up or adult stories. Characters that were seen as silly or for children gained an edge. This edge pushed them out into the fringe of the mainstream and allowed people to see that comics might be more serious than they first believed. Even so many people had no idea this was going on, but the fans were taken on an amazing ride. Batman, Spider-man, The X-men, Avengers, Daredevil, and so many other books were given the freedom to stretch out, to test the limits of the comic code and to embrace dirtier and darker stories.
Then as the 80s came to the end, people started to see dollar signs. Comics just might be a cash cow if handled correctly. The uncool feeling of comics was being chipped away as Saturday morning cartoons and video games highlighted some of the popular books and introduced them to people who may have avoided the monthly printed adventures. New companies formed to compete with Marvel and DC and more importantly, Marvel became a public entity.
It was during this time that comic popularity spiked in the industry as the creative forces behind some of the most beloved books were pushed aside and the bottom line became the driving force behind the top titles. Comics were less about the story and more about fancy covers, crossovers, and #1 issues. This flooded the market with material that initially got lapped up by comic fans and investors alike but like the sports card market, it didn't take long for the crash to come.
Another thing that happened to Marvel in the 80s and 90s was the mishandling of their franchises in the realm of Hollywood. They sold most of the rights to their most popular characters away, many times for pennies on the dollar. It was too late before they realized the real cash cow they had would be in their ability to control their franchises within movies and television. And with that the ability to market and expand their characters to the mainstream.
Of course, it's different now, Marvel was bought by Disney which turned and bought Fox, and brought back the X-men and Fantastic Four back into the family. They made a deal with Sony to "fix" Spider-man and allow him to interact with their characters. We are in a golden age of Marvel visual entertainment, and the comics are not seen as important as they once were. In fact, many of the DC and Marvel stories you see in the theater and on television are stories from the past. Rarely do you see any new comic stories being used as the starting point to these scripts.
So the reason for the post...if you have Amazon Prime you can watch 3 documentaries that will remind you of the comic industry atmosphere in the 90s and the changes that were coming to the industry. All three are very entertaining and have tons of hidden gems.
Doomed! The Untold Story of Roger Corman's Fantastic Four
This gem highlights the never-released Fantastic Four movie made in 1994. This was a big deal and when it was shelved many fans were upset they weren't going to get to see Marvel's first family on the big screen. Bootleg copies popped up in conventions and it was something to behold, even though it was a copy of a copy on VHS. Watch it here.
Chris Claremont's X-Men
This documentary tells the story of how Chris became the creative mind behind all the X-men stories and characters you love today. All the main X-men movies are based on stuff he wrote, created, or perfected in the 80s and into the 90s. You can watch it here.
The Image Revolution
In the 90s a group of artists decided to abandon ship at Marvel to gain more creative control over their work. It gutted the crews of many of Marvel's biggest franchises. This is the story of the creation of Image Comics and the effect it had on Marvel. Watch it here.