It’s the 1990s, and comic books need to get with the times dudes. Kids today don’t want big blue boy scouts! They want action! Edginess! Content that appeals to their new-fangled Generation Xtreme culture of mountain dew and skateboarding! Comics naturally were happy to oblige on that trend back then. It was awful and a reminder of how the industry is more often than not reactionary instead of evolutionary to what’s popular at any given time.
Now there’s good extreme, and there’s bad extreme. Good extreme is Lobo, whose entire over the top nature is so bonkers that it works as a parody of the culture to glamourise violence and murder the actual spirit of Christmas. Good extreme resulted in Aquaman ditching a goofy reputation to become a true king of the seas once he lost a hand and replaced it with copious amounts of facial hair. Bad extreme on the other hand? Here’re ten examples of gnarly character reinvention gone tragically awry:
Adam X the X-Treme
How extreme is Adam X the X-Treme? So extreme that he didn’t even need a vowel at the beginning of his title, as Marvel was clearly attempting to make some quick cash by charging anyone who used a variation of the word that was the sum totality of the 90s. Hell, that first sentence alone already means that I owe the house of ideas a dollar.
A renegade from the Shi’Ar homeworld, Adam X was peak 90s: A backwards baseball cap, the tightest of vests and the entire Gillette catalogue for shoulder pads. Ridiculous design concepts on their own, Adam X’s EXTREME love of blades all tied into his even MORE EXTREME powerset, which consisted of him literally burning the blood of his enemies once they’d been cut up enough. EXTREEEEEEEEME!
The teenager of steel may have had several reinventions since he was reintroduced to audiences after the death of Superman, but his return to the printed page was the living embodiment of middle-age trying to be hip. That horrendous haircut. John Lennon’s sunglasses and the age-old 90s comic book tradition tradition of matching skin-tight spandex with an oversized leather jacket.
Plenty extreme, but not as gnarly as his attitude as this super-powered Kryptonian got hot under the collar whenever someone referred to him as anything other than Superman. A rude and crude dude, this would-be replacement to the original man of steel was the attitude of another decade personified to the max.
A time-travelling soldier who fought his way past the tyranny of the future so that he could finally end it before it began? Cable was essentially half a Terminator rip-off when he made a debut. When Rob Liefeld drew him, the other half was essentially pockets, guns the size of aircraft carriers and biceps that looked like nuclear bombs had been sewn underneath the flesh.
The real sad hook to this most bodacious of all X-Men? That we never did find out what he had inside all of those many many pockets.
If Cable is a walking collection of future dystopia pickets and guns, then Prime is the muscular equivalent of that idea. How many muscles did Prime have? All of them. Malibu’s Ultraverse line of comics may have experienced a boom in the mid-90s heyday of comic books, but it couldn’t keep that momentum going, thanks mostly to its line of characters who were cheap knock-offs of DC, image and Marvel Comic’s best.
Prime himself was a walking joke, a parody without self-awareness to realise just how ridiculous a character with muscles that didn’t exist yet in any reality truly was. Moral of the story? Hell if I know, but I’m going with drugs are bad.
While Doctor Fate may have been reciting spells long before Doctor Strange rolled around, DC’s mystic powerhouse was always viewed as the sorceror inferior to the competition’s resident wizard. The solution to make Doctor Fate relevant again? By having the original Doctor Kent Nelson stripped of hi magical artefacts, which were then stolen by Jared Stevens.
Also they exploded, he got a wicked Ankh-shaped scar on his eye and he melted the helmet of Nabu into throwing daggers as he became a demon hunter that was known simply as “Fate”. Radical dude, totally radical.
Ghost Rider is pretty much already a character who rides on the wild side of life. Leather jacket and flaming skull? Hell, I’m amazed that he didn’t set up a side gig as a gimmick for heavy metal concerts. Experiencing a boom in popularity in the 90s, the Spirit of Vengeance needed an arch-nemesis. A Venom to his Spider-Man, Moriarty to his Sherlock or consequences to his government corruption.
What Ghost Rider needed…was Vengeance. Originally Lt. Michael Badilino (WHO’S BAD? CHA’MONE!), Vengeance was Ghost Rider. But like, purple. And with more CCs of engine in his HellCycle. Also a purple demonic spiked Mohawk because why the hell not. You could literally smell the Mountain Dew on his exhaust fumes whenever Vengeance angrily rolled into frame.
Guy Gardener: Warrior
Look, Guy Gardner has always been a jerkass. That’s actually part of his charm, because Gardner wasn’t just a better Green Lantern than Hal Jordan, he would have been chosen to wear Abin Sur’s ring originally if he had been closer at the time. Able to overcome fear and wield the full might of the Green Lantern Corp without even breaking a sweat, Gardner only had two weaknesses: Batman’s fist and his own arrogance.
When Jordan destroyed the Corps in the Emerald Twilight saga, Gardener didn’t have a ring either. Fortunately, it turned out that the cocky ring-slinger did have was a suddenly convenient link to newfound alien heritage in the form of his Vuldarian DNA.Able to manifest weapons from his body like a Charlton Heston wet dream, Gardener was an NRA poster child to the max. Thank Grodd these powers were burned out of him in the wake of Green Lantern: Rebirth.
While Bane was pretty much another extreme 90s villain, even his radical achievement of breaking the Batman paled in comparison to the demon that his attack would give birth to. His spine crushed and Gotham defenseless, Bruce Wayne did what any insane billionaire would do: Entrust his legacy and resources to a brainwashed assassin from an ancient order of knights. Naturally.
For a while, this worked. Jean-Paul Valley rocked the traditional grey tights, but his convenient plot device mental programming soon kicked in and resulted in him donning a new suit of armour to bring the fight back to Bane. Armoured up (as was the trend in the 90s), and now equipped with with a collection of weapons that ranged from flamethrowers to razor-sharp talons, this was a Batman for a more cynical age.
Again, it didn’t last too long as the original Batman returned to reclaim his mantle from the tubular dude who had twisted his image.
Heroes Reborn…just all of it
The Fantastic Four, Thor and many of Earth’s mightiest heroes have fallen in battle against the might of Onslaught. Earth has lost its greatest champions, who gave their lives to stop the mother of all menaces. Or did they? Because when Marvel wanted to relaunch their icons as hip new heroes, they decided to reveal that they’d been successfuly stored in a pocket universe that saw their timelines rewritten.
Sweet Stan Lee, it was awful. You had an Iron Man who was more exhaust pipe than armour, a Hulk whose collection of muscles and mullets could rival that of even the aforementioned Prime and the horror that was Rob Liefeld’s Captain America:
Fortunately, they all got better. Now let’s never ever speak of this again.
Marvel wasn’t lying when it mentioned that the original Civil War would have casualties. Over 600 of them to be exact, mostly children when the bumbling New Warriors decided to try and capture a villain whose explosive powers had been enhanced to Baysplosion levels. His team dead and his powers burnt out, the overwhelming guilt of being partly responsible for the Stamford tragedy led to the hero known as Speedball adopting a new monikor and modus operandi: Penance.
His kinetic powers now activated by pain, Penance wore a suit of armour that looked like it belonged on a GWAR road tour. A spike for every life lost, Penance was perhaps one of the last truly EXTREEEEEEEME characters of Marvel comics. Well him and P-Cat, the Penatant Puss.
Last Updated: July 31, 2017