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Let's do the Time Warp Again
2.22.2002 by Scott, every Thursday.

Welcome back everybody. Due to overwhelming demand, I am wearing pants while writing this column, and to everyone who wrote in to me, again, I am sorry.

Moving right along, let’s get this column into full swing. This time, I’ll be taking you on a fan-tabulous tour of one of comicdom’s most interesting times, the 1980’s. I would have started with an older period in comic’s history, but since for pretty much the days before the eighties I was mostly a naughty urge my mother and father had, well, let’s just use the old adage “Write what you know”.

The Eighties were an interesting time in comic books. Some people rose to the top of the comics industry and changed it forever. People like John Byrne, Jim Shooter, George Perez and Marv Wolfman, and Frank Miller all shook up the way we looked at the old stand-bys, while Peter A. Laird and Kevin B. Eastman proved that a cool idea and a good work ethic can make you rich and famous. Let’s take a look at these movers and shakers during the decade that also brought us Knight Rider and Billy Ocean.

John Byrne, love him, or like me, hate him, one cannot argue that he left an impact in the comics world in the 80’s. Working with Chris Claremont, he was responsible for one of the best runs of any comic ever printed, for their job on Uncanny X-Men. Byrne’s then took his pencils and bought a typewriter to hammer out what many consider the best Fantastic Four run as both writer and artist. His controversial reboot of Superman was well received, and got Byrne the reputation of being able to sort out convoluted character backgrounds and set them at ground zero, but he was never able to attain results as well received as those for the Man of Steel series.

Jim Shooter wrote his first comic for DC in the 70’s at the ripe age of thirteen, a fantastic story in and of itself, but his real claim to comic fame came as editor in chief for Marvel comics in the early and mid-eighties. His brainchild, “Secret Wars”, brought something never before seen to the industry, the “maxi-series”. Crossing over into almost every monthly title marvel put out and spanning an entire year, it was such a phenomenal success that it was done again and again until everyone was sick of it. It’s sequel, the cleverly named “Secret Wars II”, along with crossovers like “Fall of the Mutants”, “Atlantis Attacks”, “Squadron Supreme”, and “Inferno” all pushed sales higher and higher. But Shooter’s demanding and unforgiving nature didn’t make him too many friends, and when his idea, the “New Universe” failed horribly, he was replaced as EIC, and without much fanfare.

George Perez and Marv Wolfman took a book of unpopular sidekicks and cast away characters and created a team of superheroes whose book rivalled the X-Men as the best team title out there. The Teen Titans took kid partners Robin, Kid Flash, Wonder Girl, Aqualad, and Speedy, along with some new creations and lesser known characters like the Changeling, Cyborg, Raven, and Starfire and made them into a top selling book for years on end. Perez also pencilled DC’s “Crisis of the Infinite Earths”, a book that attempted to iron out the messed up continuity issues of the DC Universe, and killed of the classic Flash and Supergirl. A series that led into the aforementioned reboot of Superman by John Byrne.

Frank Miller. Hmm. After a fantastic run on Marvel’s Daredevil, Miller wrote and pencilled a mini-series for DC entitled “The Dark Knight Returns”. This series forever changed the way Batman was drawn, written, felt. Darker than he ever was, grittier, mean and cold, Frank Miller changed whom Batman was. Tim Burton borrowed heavily from the theme and feel of Miller’s work for his 1990 film “Batman”. No longer was Adam West the first thought that popped into you head when the Caped Crusader was mentioned. Batman inspired fear in the hearts of evil men once more. Thanks to Frank Miller.

Finally, Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman had a wacky idea and a few bucks to invest, and turned it into one of the most marketable franchised forces to hit the comics world in a long time. Mutants + Ninjas + Reptiles = Wildfire, Catches on like. Eastman and Laird’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles debuted in 1984, an took off, spawning a hugely popular cartoon and toy line, not to mention the t-shirts, back-packs, and movies (there were three, one with a cameo by Vanilla Ice).

These gentlemen, along with many others, through these years of indulgence, brought comics back up out of the low sales and general moody-ness that the seventies had left them in. They helped make comics fun again, and introduced old heroes to a new generation. Toys were made, cartoons put on Saturday mornings (God how I loved Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends. What a fantastic show it was. Sorry, I’m regressing into my childhood here, and it’s far less full of late night drinking fits and column deadlines passing like gas after burrito night, and has more candy.) , and kids bought it all.

So as you look back at the 80’s, look past the Duran Duran and Dallas and Mike Tyson not yet crazy and the Cosby Show, and look at how good comics were. And Think about what they were to become, in (dun dun dunh!) the 90’s…..

Scott MacIver

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