The story of Marvel in the 1990s is filled with dizzying highs and terrible lows. The publisher had some of its greatest successes of all time but also went bankrupt. It produced some of the greatest artists the comic medium has ever known but watched many of them leave for the greener pastures of Image. The X-Men books became the biggest draw in the industry, but the rest of the line faltered for most of the decade.
Marvel was the biggest publisher in the country, yet they were often the most panned as they chased Image’s trendsetting vibe. However, they still put out some great comics – including those very important to the publisher – which changed the Marvel Universe forever.
10 Captain America (Vol. 1) # 444 Brought The Title Back To Greatness
Captain America had a hard time for most of the ’90s. Sales kept falling as readers seemingly no longer wanted heroes like the Sentinel of Liberty. Captain America (Vol. 1) # 444, by writer Mark Waid and artist Ron Garney, proved that was not the case. Waid was one of the biggest writers of the ’90s and Garney was the perfect artist for Cap’s adventures.
Waid jettisoned all the trend pandering the title had become known for and took a back-to-basics approach, which paid off. Captain America had a buzz again, and fans loved it. Unfortunately, the Heroes Reborn deal was already inked and Waid and Garney were forced off the book, although they’d return after that abortive reboot.
9 Onslaught: Marvel Universe # 1 Paved The Way For Heroes Reborn
Heroes Reborn represented one of Marvel’s biggest attempts to rehabilitate the Avengers and Fantastic Four, and the seeds were planted in Onslaught: Marvel Universe # 1, by writers Scott Lobdell and Mark Waid, and artists Adam Kubert and Joe Bennet. Tying up the “Onslaught” story in a bow, it ended with the Avengers and FF shunted off to their new home.
Heroes Reborn is infamous in Marvel history but still an important part of it. The “Onslaught” story, built for months in the X-Men books, was chosen as the vehicle for it. And because of Heroes Reborn, the book has an infamous reputation.
8 New Mutants # 98 Introduced Deadpool To The World
Rob Liefeld’s legacy as a creator is checkered at best; however, there’s no denying how important he was to ’90s Marvel. New Mutants # 98, written by Liefeld and Fabian Nicieza with art by Liefeld, introduced several new characters to the X-Men mythos – the most important being Deadpool. The Merc with a Mouth was very different in his debut but would go on to do big things.
Deadpool has since become one of Marvel’s biggest crossover stars. He even has a legion of fans who never read any comics (and that was before he starred in two popular solo films). More than any other character Liefeld created (even X-Men mainstay Cable), Deadpool’s impression on pop culture is undeniable.
7 X-Men: Alpha # 1 Kicked Off The Age Of Apocalypse
The Age Of Apocalypse is one of the most beloved X-Men stories of all time. The massive forty-issue storyline was kicked off by X-Men: Alpha # 1, by writers Scott Lobdell and Mark Waid and artists Roger Cruz and Steve Epting. The issue kicked off the story in epic fashion, introducing X-Men fans to a very different world.
The Age Of Apocalypse was a huge gamble that paid off. X-Men: Alpha # 1 was the perfect opener, setting up the plots that would be carried through the ten miniseries and X-Men: Omega # 1. All these years later, the comic still holds up.
6 X-Men # 25 Changed Wolverine And Magneto For The Rest Of The ’90s
X-Men # 25, by writer Fabian Nicieza and artist Andy Kubert, was the penultimate chapter of “Fatal Attractions,” pitting the X-Men against Magneto in a climactic showdown. This battle led to one of the biggest X-Men moments of the decade, as Magneto tore Wolverine’s adamantium out and Professor X mindwiped him.
The story took Magneto off the table for the rest of the decade (until 1998’s “The Magneto War”) and planted the seeds of the Onslaught storyline. It also changed Wolverine’s status quo until 1999 and kicked off the bone claw era of the character. This would change the way fans saw the Canadian mutant and led to great and not-so-great Wolverine stories.
5 Web Of Spider-Man # 117 Kicked Off The Clone Saga
Spider-Man’s Clone Saga is one of the Wall-Crawler’s most infamous stories. It changed Spider-Man’s momentum through the decade, and it all kicked off in Web Of Spider-Man # 117, by writer Terry Kavanagh and artist Steven Butler. The introduction of Ben Reilly started off the long-running story – one that is still debated to this day.
The Clone Saga was an idea that could have been great. Fans were actually pretty into the story at first; however, Marvel saw the sales and stretched the whole thing out. Years went by and fans turned on the story, damaging the Spider-Man brand until writer J. Michael Straczynski came aboard in the early 2000s.
4 Marvels # 1 Reminded Readers Of The Grandeur Of The Early Marvel Universe
The ’90s were very much a time when fans seemed to eschew the more classic elements of comics. Marvels # 1, by writer Kurt Busiek and artist Alex Ross, changed all of that. Introducing Daily Bugle photographer Phil Seldon as he documented the beginning of the Marvel Universe in the Golden Age and beyond reminded readers of the joys of Marvel history.
Marvels was the breakthrough comic for both Busiek and Ross, two creators who’d go on to do big things at Marvel and DC. Marvels remains a classic ’90s Marvel comic where the writing was just as great as the art.
3 Avengers (Vol. 3) # 1 Made The Avengers Great Again
The tale of the Avengers in the ’90s is pretty depressing until 1998. The decade started out good enough for the team, but as sales fell, Marvel chased the trends to try and make the team’s book popular again. Nothing worked and Heroes Reborn ‘s attempt to farm the book out to Rob Liefeld’s Extreme Studios hurt more than it helped.
After the story ended, Marvel made the right decision and put writer Kurt Busiek and artist George Perez together for Avengers (Vol. 3) # 1. Their run was the best the Avengers had been in years and made Busiek one of the most important Avengers writers ever. It remains a high watermark for Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.
2 Daredevil (Vol. 2) # 1 Hero The Key To Marvel’s Future
In the year 2000, Joe Quesada was made editor-in-chief of Marvel Comics. He reset the publisher’s course, and his leadership is responsible for some of the most important Marvel comics of the 2000s. The genesis of that came from Daredevil (Vol. 2) # 1, by writer Kevin Smith and artist Quesada and his partner inker Jimmy Palmiotti.
While getting writer / director Smith was a coup, the book was the beginning of the Marvel Knights imprint, run by Quesada and Palmiotti. The imprint took B and C-list Marvel properties and made them popular again, showing how good the two were at running a line. Quesada’s future at Marvel changed the company and the comic industry.
1 X-Men (Vol. 2) # 1 Is The Best Selling Comic Ever
X-Men (Vol. 2) # 1, by writer Chris Claremont and artist Jim Lee, cemented the X-Men as the biggest franchise in comics. The book introduced the Blue Team and Lee’s iconic costume redesigns, and it also kicked off Claremont’s last X-Men story – the end of Marvel’s longest run by a writer. It’s also the best-selling comic of all time, moving over eight million copies.
This book left an indelible mark on the comic industry. Lee was already a star but it made him a superstar, and the end of the Claremont run was a landmark. This comic set the tenor of the X-Men for the rest of the decade and changed things in comics forever.
NEXT: 10 Marvel Comics That Deserve A Sequel
10 Marvel Heroes Who Could Outsmart Lex Luthor
About The Author