Sunday, January 20, 2008

Comics of the 90's

In the 90's I rediscovered comic books for a few years. I didn't realize it at the time but many other people were on the same kick.

My favorite comic books were Strangers in Paradise, Harbinger, and Magnus Robot Fighter. Magnus Robot Fighter was a re-imagination of the old Gold Key comics hero battling robots in a future decadent society. Strangers in Paradise was a romantic adventure story of three people in their twenties in Houston from a master artist and story teller. Harbinger re-imagined young people with mutant super-powers being taught to use them, the Heroes of its day or an X-Men for the 90's.

There were a number of other amazing Valiant comics which became the biggest competitor Marvel and DC ever had, before crashing and burning. After a few years I decided comics were a bad investment for my limited entertainment dollars. They were too expensive for the short time it took me to read and reread them. The overheated comics market also paused and then crashed at about the same time.

Andy Smith had an article on the 10 best comics of the 90's. Number one was Harbinger #1.
In the editorial, VALIANT's Editor in Chief, Jim Shooter, tells us that the book we hold in our hands is the most important since Avengers #1. Thirteen years later and I'm still not sure that he was wrong. When this book was first released it was a national sensation. Every kid worth his polybag and backing board just had to have one, and the resulting frenzy sent the book to the top of Wizard's Top Ten Hottest Books List for a then-record four months. What's more, the demand didn't stop even when the book began selling for well over $100. When it was good, Harbinger was without a doubt one of the best written books in comics history. The first story line (Children of the Eighth Day) deserves to be uttered in the same breath as the masterpieces of the art form; Watchmen, Maus, Dark Knight Returns, etc..

The book's creative team reinvented the genre popularized by the X-Men. The good guys did unforgivable things, the bad guys were usually more right then the good guys, and best of all, they behaved like real people would -- In the VALIANT Universe, when you want to kill your enemy, you don't challenge him to a stand-off at your base on the moon (this is actually a plot involving the X-Men), you send someone he trusts to shoot him in the back of the head. Things happen in Harbinger that would never happen in an X-Men book (for those that know Harbinger think Torque), but happen all the time in the movies and other arts, and definitely in real life. Most importantly, Harbinger was the book that sparked a revolution in comics. Harbinger was the Pulp Fiction of the comics industry -- an indie critical and commercial smash hit that changed all the rules and broke down the door for a host of independent talent. Without Harbinger, VALIANT wouldn't have become the third largest publisher as quickly as it did. Without Harbinger, there wouldn't have been an Ultraverse Universe or a Crossgen Universe. Without Harbinger, there wouldn't have been a wake-up call for the rest of the industry to move away from gimmicks and hype, and back to quality story-telling.

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