Comics made during the 90’s have been criticized for being all style and no substance. However, there’s no denying that they certainly had style. It was a time when a comic could be sold solely on cool-looking art. From recent conversations with contemporary comic creators, I’ve determined that the 90’s might be due for a comeback.
If I had to describe 90’s art as a whole, it would be that of the extreme caricature. All the features in a character design were heavily exaggerated. If a character was hot they were “drop dead” sexy, if a character was scary they were “wet yourself” terrifying, if a character had a pouch on their belt they had a mega-ton of pouches.
The title of this article is “Are the 90’s coming back?”, but in some ways they never went away. Image Comics artists like , Greg Capullo, Humberto Ramos, and Joe Madureira have endeared their artwork to new fans with Batman, Spider-Man, and Darksiders. There’s an audience for extreme caricature. Therefore, I’d like to highlight some things artists who draw that way can do to be relevant to contemporary audiences.
Blood And Guts With Heart
Supernatural protagonists can do more than just look badass. Devilman, for example, is a character with supernatural powers not unlike Spawn or The Darkness. However, Devilman’s story speaks to larger themes about social exclusion and fear-mongering. We tell stories about monsters to help understand the monsters within us.
Dial Up The Comedy
There’s something intrinsically ridiculous about how 90s comic book characters were designed. You can’t take some of these characters seriously, and maybe we shouldn’t. There’s room for self-aware comedy that pokes fun at characters that are overpowered or oversexualized. Look at anime like One Punch Man or Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid. These anime embrace the inherent humor and fun of ridiculous characters and I suggest comics do the same.
It’s Not The Story – It’s How It’s Told
The biggest thing comics from the 90’s had going for them was the insane amount of detail poured into every page. The art wasn’t only meticulous in its depiction of reality, but also dynamic in its abstraction from reality. The art is fulfilling enough on its own so the plot doesn’t need to be groundbreaking.
A good example of comics that put art before plot are the works of Geof Darrow. Whether it’s Hard Boiled with Frank Miller or his own creation, the Shaolin Cowboy, Darrow proves that a comic that focuses solely on action, humor, and mind-blowing art is still worth people’s time.
Original Legacy Characters
We need characters that can withstand the test of time and speak to multiple generations. Too many 90s characters were just edgy, and did not resonate with larger universal themes. Readers still have a place in their hearts for superheroes and heroes of myth and legend.
However, I also believe that it’s time for new legends and new myths. We have evolved technologically to the point where gods and monsters no longer feel as real as they once did. What do our heroes of today look like and why should they be remembered?
So to recap, I want to see dark, supernatural comics with deeper meaning. I want to see comics with sexy characters and laugh-out-loud jokes. And I want to see comics that you can read and enjoy for the art itself. I know I’m not the only one who feels this way. Artists from all over are working on new independent projects.
The clip above is a recent Kickstarter by Eddie Nunez which caught my eye. If we support artists of extreme caricature, the 90s will be back before you know it.