Spider-Man swings into The Nineties and introduces some of his most popular foes!
Our format on DFSG is simple:
One essential version of the character or team’s origin, one that will give new readers the information they need to move forward.
Three tales that not only entertain, but give the new reader a comprehensive view of character or team.
One alternate reality tale that exemplifies the character or team’s versatility.
Let’s get swinging!
“Chance Encounter” & “Venom” – The Amazing Spider-Man #298-300 (1988)
Written by David Michelinie
Art by Todd McFarlane, Bob McLeod, Bob Sharen and Janet, Miss Jackson if you’re nasty
While Michelinie began to plant the seeds of Venom nearly two years early in Web of Spider-Man #18, as long as you’ve got the basics, you really only need these three issues to get up to date. The introduction of Venom is indisputably one of the most important moments in Spider-History. In an era defined by great art, here we find some of the best work Todd McFarlane ever did. There’s a reason the cover to AMS #300 is one of the most imitated of all time. But you may be asking yourself “Yeah Vinny, but how is this an orgin?”
Let’s just say that by the end of #300, a bit of a rebirth takes place.
“The Return of The Sinister Six” – The Amazing Spider-Man #334-339 (1990)
Written by David Michelinie
Art by Erik Larsen, Mike Machlan, Terry Austin, Bob Sharen, Randy Emberlin, John Romita Sr., Keith Williams, Mike Rockwitz and Gregory A. Wright
With a reborn Spider-Man sporting a more traditional look, it wouldn’t be long until some of his classic villains were thrust into the spotlight. Erik Larsen had picked up penciling duties permanently from McFarlane after #228 and brought his own edge to the energetic Michelinie scripts. “The Return of The Sinister Six” defines what makes Spider-Man, if not all comic book superheroes, work best – a respect for the past that acknowledges the time spent by the readers, while still pushing the story forward. Now, parts of the plot definitely feel a little dated, especially the utterly Nineties drug-centered aspects, but it is still a great ride with some gorgeous art.
“Torment” – Spider-Man #1-5 (1990)
Written by Todd McFarlane
Art by Todd McFarlane, Bob Sharen and Gregory A. Wright
“Torment” is not the most complex story and is one that has faced intense criticism when it comes to its literary merit. Regardless, McFarlane’s Spider-Opus takes one of the most beloved Spider-Rogues and brings him into the Spider-Nineties.
Though not his first time drawing Curt Conners, it was here that the writer/artist’s vicious, creepy version of The Lizard took hold. It defined the character for a generation. It should also be noted that this run was sharing shelf-space with the equally influential and already mentioned “Return of the Sinister Six“. When it hit shelves, Spider-Man #1 became the best selling comic of all time and sold 2.65 million copies.
Basically, if you read comics at the time, you read “Torment“. It is this type of book that defines the era anyway.
Big art, big sales and wild action. An era of Image.
“Maximum Carnage” – Spider-Man Unlimited #1-2, Web of Spider-Man #101-103, The Amazing Spider-Man #378-380, Spider-Man #35-37 & The Spectacular Spider-Man #201-203 (1993)
Written by Tom DeFalco, Terry Kavanagh, David Michelinie and J.M. DeMatteis
Art by Ron Lim, Mark Bagley, Alex Saviuk, Tom Lyle, Sal Buscema, Scott Hanna, Don Hudson, Bob Sharen, Jim Hoston, James Sanders III, Nel Yomtov, Sam De La Rosa, John Kalisz, Randy Emberlin, Ericka Moran and Kevin Tinsley
There’s no greater proof of how big this story really was than how many contributors are listed above.
A testament to the popularity of Spider-Man and Venom, fans clamored for more of the pair as The Nineties moved through its early years. Venom grew so popular that he transformed into a sort of hero. It begged the question – Who could contend with The Lethal Protector?
The next derivative of the Symbiote Spider-Man, Carnage lacked the sympathy that Venom’s origin derived and was nothing short of a cold-blooded killer. Only a year into his run, Carnage would threaten the Marvel Universe in a way few villains had. The epic “Maximum Carnage” may be the climax of Spider-Man’s rip-roaring run in this era. It certainly employs some of the finest creators the character has ever seen.
“Maximum Carnage” extended past comic book shops. To this day, many of the most popular images of Carnage and Venom come from this run. Much like “The Return of the Sinister Six“, it produced a video game. Unlike “The Return of the Sinister Six”, that game is still popular today.
An Alternate Universe
Spider-Man 2099 #1 (1992)
Written by Peter David
Art by Rick Leonardi, Al Williamson and Steve Buccalleto
In the upcoming podcast, we get a little into how Spider-Man’s design was a huge part of the character’s success. While Miguel O’Hara’s suit isn’t quite as iconic as Peter Parker’s, it is damned good. Spider-Man 2099 isn’t the greatest tale, but certainly reflects the less hopeful view of the future that Nineties science fiction tended to maintain. Though is starts as pure gimmick, it is only a few issues in that Spider-Man 2099 becomes a fun romp of its own.
Superhero comics in the early Nineties are too often derided in pop culture media. If you want evidence of their importance, just look at how many characters created in that period thrive today. Yes, there was a big focus on trying to create the next epic, but with tales like Maximum Carnage, Knightfall and The Death (and Return) of Superman, I think they pulled it off an admirable amount of times. When you focus on one character, some of the weaknesses are going to be exposed. In this article. I did my best to pick four moments that certainly lasted, without devoting too much time to one big creator: Todd McFarlane. In truth, this could have mostly focused on his work. The Assassin Nation Plot is easily one of my favorite Spider-Man tales and his run on Amazing is as important as Jim Lee on X-Men.
Quote me on that.
I hope that this sparks some interest in the era and gets a few readers who were turned off to explore it.
This will series will certainly continue and if you thought this era was divisive, the next piece deals with a certain Saga that people still argue about today.