So Sayeth the Odinson: 1996-1998: A Timeline of a Pivotal Period in American Comics History Part 2.1: 1997

Greetings from the Odinson,

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

Part 2.1 of 3: 1997 (January-June)

Be sure to check out Part 1: 1996 (HERE).

The late 90s was a pivotal moment in history for the comic book medium.  The industry, thanks in no small part to the bottom falling out on an unprecedented speculator boom, both creatively and financially was in flux. 

By the end of 1996, Marvel Comics had canceled five of their longest running flagship titles (Avengers, Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, and the Fantastic Four) and handed these IPs over to their competitors, and was facing a Chapter 11 situation that left the future of the company in question.  And DC Comics was having about as much impact on the landscape as trying to row upstream against the current with one paddle. 

So, what happened in 1997 in the worlds of comics (and pop culture)?

January

January 1997 was a huge month for comics.  Everybody came out of the gate swinging hard, determined to make this year better than the last.

The Amazing Spider-Man #419 saw the triumphant return of Peter Parker as the one true Spider-Man!  I can’t speak for everyone, but the Odinson was glad the Saga whose name shall not be mentioned was finally over. 

Abominations and Valkyrie was Marvel’s attempt to throw anything against the wall and see what sticks.  Since they didn’t have Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and Marvel’s First Family in the fold for the foreseeable future, Marvel started trying out B and C-List characters and giving them their own series to see if anything popped.  Some did.  Some did not.  They had their most success with X-characters (Beast, Colossus, Domino, Juggernaut, Maverick, Psylocke and Archangel, and Quicksilver).  This was a trend all throughout 1997.  The Odinson will mark these with an [*].  

Devil’s Reign (Marvel and Image), Prophet/Cable (Marvel and Maximum Press) and Daredevil and Batman (Marvel and DC) were part of another popular trend – the company crossover.  This may not have started in 1997, but it sure was abundant here.  The Odinson will mark these with an [**].

The Incredible Hulk #449, 1997 was an interesting year for the Hulk as this issue saw lightning strike as the mysterious new team of heroes The Thunderbolts made their very first appearance (more on them and the Hulk’s year in a bit).

Hobgoblin Lives finally solved the mystery that began all the way back in Amazing Spider-Man #238 – Who is the Hobgoblin?!

The Long Halloween is a Top 5 Batman tale of All-Time and served as one of the inspirations for 2022’s The Batman.

Grant Morrison’s JLA begins!  What else can the Odinson say about this momentous run that he hasn’t already said before?  THIS is the Gold Standard.

In Pop Culture:

On January 31st, Star Wars Special Edition hits theatres allowing fans to see this legendary film on the Big Screen once again (even if it has updated FX and added scenes, it was still super cool).

On January 31st, the epic Final Fantasy VII was released for PlayStation and the bar for what the video game experience can be was raised.

Like I said, January 1997 was huge!  How could the rest of the year follow that? 

February

The Incredible Hulk #450 saw the seeds of what would become the Illuminati start to sprout. 

Savage Dragon/Hellboy** (Image and Dark Horse)

WildCATs/X-Men** (Image and Marvel)

Lobo/Mask** (DC and Dark Horse)

In Pop Culture:

On February 15th, the last episode of the fantastic and highly imaginative animated series Gargoyles aired on ABC.

On February 21, The Empire Strikes Back Special Edition, and those magical words – I am your father – sent a chill up the spine of movie goers once more!

On February 24th, ECW (Extreme Championship Wrestling) invades Monday Night RAW!

On February 25, the Leprechaun went to outer space!

March

Gladiator vs. Supreme** (Marvel and Image)

Spider-Man/Badrock** (Marvel and Image)

Jack Kirby’s Fourth World makes its triumphant return under the watchful eye of John Byrne (with Walt Simonson), and the Odinson can think of no other blokes that could possibly do the King justice better than those two modern masters.

In Pop Culture:

On March 7th, Private Parts, the King of All Media Howard Stern’s biopic based on his best-selling book hits theatres.

On March 10th, Buffy the Vampire Slayer premieres on the WB and would go on to become one of the best, most influential shows in history, a true pop culture icon. 

On March 14, Return of the Jedi Special Edition hit theatres, and though it suffered the most at the hands of add-ons, it was still fantastic to see it on the Big Screen once again.

April

Thunderbolts #1, in the absence of the Avengers and Fantastic Four, a new super team has taken up residence in Four Freedoms Plaza, heroes with a deadly secret.  Check out the classic Avengers tale Under Siege to witness when the seeds for this master stroke were planted.

Batman/Aliens** (DC and Dark Horse)

In Pop Culture:

On April 4th, Chasing Amy, easily one of the Godfather’s funniest, most poignant, and best flicks hits theatres.  

On April 11th, Anaconda hits movie screens and does for the monster movie what Scream did for the teen slasher four months earlier as it ushered in a new generation as films like Lake Placid, Deep Blue Sea, Snakes on a Plane, and so many others would come in the decade that followed.

May

In a bold new direction, the likes of which had not been attempted since Death of Superman, DC Comics introduces Superman Blue!

Ka-Zar*

Change or Die is a seminal moment for superhero comics as writer Warren Ellis takes what was traditionally a meat and potatoes superhero vehicle like StormWatch and shifted gears into the more modern era of Big Screen, high octane heroics and began to lay the groundwork for what would eventually become The Authority.   

In Pop Culture:

On May 2nd, Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery hit theatres and laughter resounded across the land.

On May 9th, The Fifth Element took the Odinson by surprise as it instantly became one of the funniest sci-fi/action/adventures of All-Time with one of the best casts ever assembled.

On May 16th, Todd McFarlane’s animated gem, Spawn, debuted on HBO in all its rated TV-MA glory.

On May 27th, I’ll be Missing You, a song commemorating the passing of rapper The Notorious B.I.G., was a collaboration with Puff Daddy, Faith Evans, and 112 and sampling the 1983 Police hit Every Breath You Take debuted and soon topped the music charts.

June

Alpha Flight*

Hellboy: The Lost Army is the first of 14 and counting novels to star Mike Mignola’s blue collar, monster-stomping hero whose adventures to this day are among the best and most original that comic fans can still enjoy.

Vampirella/Wetworks** (Harris and Image)

Return to the Amalgam Universe** (Marvel and DC)

In Pop Culture:

On June 6th, Con Air, one of the manliest movies ever made hit theatres and gave us one of the best readings of a line ever seen on the Big Screen.  “Why couldn’t you just put the bunny back in the box?”

On June 9th, after eleven glorious seasons of over-the-top, gut-busting, gloriously offensive humor, Fox’s flagship sitcom, Married with Children, aired its final episode.  Odinson Rating: 5 Hammers and a Thunderclap.

On June 20th, Batman and Robin hit theatres and embarrassed comic fans everywhere.

Be sure to tune in next week for 1997: July-December.

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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