So Sayeth the Odinson: A Timeline of a Pivotal Period in American Comics History: Part 1 of 3 1996

Greetings from the Odinson,

The late 1990s was, to say the least, an interesting and tumultuous time for comic books, creatively and as a business.  The Odinson is going to look at a pivotal three-year window and reminisce about the impact it had on the course of Comics History. 

I will also sprinkle in some other bits of trivia so we can remember what was going on in the world of pop culture (i.e., music, movies, and television) around the same time our beloved industry was rocking back and forth aboard the S.S. Minnow.    

1996-1998: A Timeline of a Pivotal Period in American Comics History

Part 1 of 3: 1996

1996 in a Nutshell

In the decade that began with an explosion and a tsunami-like uptick in the market thanks to titanic record-setting milestones like Spider-Man #1, X-Men #1, The Death of Superman, and the birth of Image Comics, and ended with a back to basics resurgence of powerful pathos-driven comics that paved the way for the New Millennium and a second renaissance not seen since the mountainous peaks of the mid-1980s, smack dab in the middle these two extreme highs, was 1996.

At this time, DC Comics, in the aftermath of killing off Oliver Queen and turning Hal Jordan into one of the biggest threats the DCU has ever seen, went into cruise control.  I mean, except for a seminal Elseworlds tale by Mark Waid and Alex Ross and a major two-company crossover event, arguably the most notable thing to happen at DC in 1996 is Final Night, and this story is about as milk toast as event stories get, and that’s saying something for a tale that features the ultimate sacrifice of one of DC Comics’ biggest icons. 

By the end of the year, Marvel was facing a Chapter 11 situation that though may have not closed its doors forever, it certainly influenced not just its comics, but the industry and the future of superhero cinema.

So, what happened in 1996 in the worlds of comics (and pop culture)?

January

The Sensational Spider-Man launches marking not only a new ongoing Spidey title to an ever-growing list, but solidified Ben Riley’s takeover of the mantle of Spider-Man from Peter Parker who at this time in history forever-fans of the wall-crawler were informed was nothing but a clone.

In Pop Culture:

On January 17th, From Dusk till Dawn saw two masters of their craft, Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez, join forces like a filmmaking-Voltron and produce one of the best, most original takes on the vampire genre ever seen. 

February

HeroQuest, in a year where DC wasn’t really giving the Odinson much to be excited about, this 3-part tale was fun.  This story about a neophyte hero seeking out experienced veterans, learning his trade and showing respect to the legends that came before him is refreshing when juxtaposed against the fully realized, totally awesome-at-everything they do-almost infallible-know better than everyone else-teen heroes of today. 

March

Marvel vs. DC was the apex of the Big Two playing nice with each other.  This event book that stands out amongst all others pitted their iconic heroes against each other for the undisputed heavyweight title, and the fans decided the outcome.

In Pop Culture:

On March 8th, Fargo was released as the Coen Brothers signaled to the world, they were no longer just cult filmmaker heroes, but they had upped their already great game to even higher heights with this corky crime caper that influenced so many other films to come.

On March 15th, Executive Decision marked the end of an era for a certain kind of movie action star (and some might say the relevance of Steven Seagal on the Big Screen) as the big muscles, invincible one-man-armies made famous in the 80s and early 90s would soon move over as the leaner, faster action icons of the New Millennium started to come into vogue in the late 90s.

On March 22rn (the Odinson’s birthday), Resident Evil made its debuted and instantly became a survival-horror classic and an Odinson Top 5 game franchise of All-Time.

April

The Amalgam Universe is one of the craziest and most entertaining experiments to ever happen in the History of Comic Books as the worlds of Marvel and DC merged producing a hybrid universe populated by amalgamated versions of their characters.

In Pop Culture:

On April 20th, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers was rechristened Power Rangers Zero.

On April 27th, Dexter’s Laboratory debuted on the Cartoon Network becoming an instant classic.

May

Kingdom Come is by far and away the best thing DC did in 1996.  Mark Waid and Alex Ross joined forces and created a seminal tale that beautifully explores the importance and impact of these iconic DC heroes.

In Pop Culture:

On May 14th, Doctor Who: The Movie bridged the gap between the 7th Doctor’s bow in 1989 and the triumphant return of the beloved character in 2005 with the 9th Doctor.

On May 27th, Scott Hall, known at the time as Razor Ramon for the WWF, came through the crowd at a WCW event, interrupted a match in progress, grabbed a mic, looked dead into the camera and with the words “…you want a war?  You’re gonna get one…” fired the first shots of what would go down in history as the Monday Night Wars.

June

In Pop Culture:

On June 1st, Tom Holland was born.

On June 7th, The Phantom starring a pre-Titanic Billy Zane brought the pulp hero to life on the Big Screen and was part of that first wave of superhero films in the 80s and 90s that paved the way for the explosion that would come in the next Millennium.

On June 10th, Scott Hall was joined by fellow WWF defector, Kevin Nash (a.k.a. Diesel) and the invasion of WCW was in full effect.  But who was the mysterious third member of the Outsiders?

On June 14th, The Cable Guy hit theatres with an incredible cast and saw Jim Carrey to be the first actor to earn $20 million for one picture. 

On June 23rd, at the King of the Ring, Stone Cold Steve Austin defeated Jake the Snake Roberts and put a stamp on his victory by launching into his Austin 3:16 tirade, planting the seeds for what would become known as the Attitude Era

July

In Pop Culture:

On July 3rd, Independence Day brought back the summer blockbuster.

On July 7th, Hulk Hogan dropped the leg heard round the world as he betrayed WCW, turned heel, and joined forces with the Outsiders.  Millions of little Hulkamaniacs’ hearts broke that day and the NWO (New World Order) was born putting WWF on notice the Monday Night Wars just went to a whole ‘nother level. 

August

Onslaught was the epic culmination of a subplot involving a traitor to the X-Men which started all the way back in the pages of The Uncanny X-Men #287.  This was a Crisis-level event that changed the course of Marvel History and the landscape of the Marvel Universe itself. 

Captain America #454 marked the end of one of Marvel Comics flagship titles and even though Cap was experiencing one of his best goes in the modern era under the watch of Mark Waid and Ron Garney, this issue saw his series end.

This was a trend that would not end with the Sentinel of Liberty, as we shall see in September.

Marvel Films became Marvel Studios and though it started out small, especially since all their IPs were scattered to the winds, it would eventually grow and become today THE filmmaking juggernaut we know thanks to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

September

Fantastic Four #416, after tying up so many loose ends and subplots like the Fate of Doctor Doom and Mr. Fantastic, the Ben/Johnny/Lyja Love Triangle, the Reed/Namor Rivalry, and the Fate of Franklin Richards, this issue marked the end of the series that launched the Marvel Universe.

The Avengers #402, after spending the better part of the decade playing catchup to Marvel’s Merry Mutants and losing their identity in the process, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes’ original saga comes to a merciful end.

Thor #502, the title began as Journey into Mystery, and after a 400+ issue run, it returns to Journey into Mystery after this issue ends the mighty Thor’s initial run.

Iron Man #332, after recent events fundamentally changed everything about Tony Stark and turned a cornerstone of the Marvel U into a villain, this issue brings Stark’s strange and turbulent first chapter in Marvel History to an end.

In Pop Culture:

Coldplay was born.

On September 6th, Superman: The Animated Series began, bridging the gap between Batman: The Animated Series and Justice League.

On September 13th, Everybody Loves Raymond, one of the most beloved TV comedies ever, started its hilarious nine season run.

On September 29th, the Nintendo 64 hit shelves in North America with its better graphics and game control and put all other consoles on notice that it was time to up their game. 

October

Essential X-Men and Essential Spider-Man were released and though they were not the first, these telephone-size collections helped take the trade paperback market from its infancy and forge it into the market staple it would become in the next Millennium. 

In Pop Culture:

On October 25th, Tomb Raider hit consoles introducing the world to the adventurer Lara Croft, and a pop culture icon was born. 

November

Heroes Reborn: Fantastic Four, Avengers, Captain America, and Iron Man sees Marvel hire former employees turned Image co-founders Jim Lee and Rob Liefeld to come back and reinvent the wheel. 

December

Darkness #1 hit the stands and alongside Witchblade, this new breed of hero took the genre in a darker and edgier direction for the remainder of the decade. 

The year ended with Marvel Comics filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection leaving the future of an American institution in jeopardy and millions of comic fans and retails wondering what was going to happen next and what this meant for the future of their beloved comics.

In Pop Culture:

On December 13th, Mars Attacks! was released as Tim Burton and an All-Star cast took a corky collection of trading cards from the 1960s and turned it into a Big Screen throwback to the golden days of 1950s alien invasion movies.

On December 20th, Wes Craven’s Scream broke the mold and changed the course of slasher horror forever.

Be sure to tune in next week for Part 2: 1997

This is Odinson bidding thee farewell

NOTE: For past entries of the So Sayeth the Odinson blog, over a decade’s worth of comic book and pop culture articles and reviews, click HERE.  Also, be sure to check out my novels The Survivors and Autumn Dawn, which were inspired by 1980s horror – HERE and HERE

About Odinson

I am a lifelong comics fan and pop culture enthusiast. Comic books, novels, games, television, movies, I love it all. From fantasy to science fiction, drama to comedy, as long as the writing and execution are interesting, I love it, and I want to talk about it.

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