Friday, 6 November 2009

70 Years of Marvel - 1998

By 1998, Peter David had been writing the adventures of the Incredible Hulk for over a decade. In that time, the character had gradually evolved, from a character which no-one was really interested in, to one of the company's most complex books, with a main character whose motivations we could never really be sure of, and whose next move we'd rarely be able to guess. The book being a big success, Marvel editorial naturally wanted to tamper. Unfortunately, by 1998, Peter David was nearly as big a success as the Hulk, so when he was asked to alter his plans for the character, restoring the Dumb Savage Hulk who'd been so preeminent before his takeover, he walked off the book. It wouldn't be the last falling out PAD would have with Marvel Editorial, but it would be the biggest, with the Hulk wandering undirected for the next few years.

1998 also saw Marvel experiment again with outsourcing their work, this time to Event Comics, a little company run by an up-and-coming writer / artist called Joe Quesada. Rather than handing over their prime properties to Quesada and co, Marvel instead gave them free reign with some of their second-tier titles: Black Panther, Daredevil, the Inhumans, and the Punisher. The Marvel Knights books, as they were branded, were aimed at an older readership, 15 up, and, other than redefining the Punisher as a fallen angel, didn't miss a beat. In particular, Daredevil's fortunes took an upswing, transforming a character that no-one had known what to do with in years, into a grim and gritty street vigilante, under the authorship of first Kevin Smith, then Brian Michael Bendis. As with every successful idea in comics, the first idea of editorial is that more of what is successful, will automatically be more successful. Which is why pretty much every book this decade has been aimed at older readers. Comics aren't for kids, folks, not anymore.

Or maybe they are. After all, 1998 was also the year in which Spider-Girl gained her own title. Created as a one-off for an issue of What If?, May "Mayday" Parker is the daughter of Spidey and wife former bidey-in, Mary Jane (a daughter never born in the "real" Marvel Universe), and her adventures, provided by Tom DeFalco, have been ongoing ever since, despite numerous well-documented attempts to kill the title off. Let's hear it for the little book that could.

Elsewhere in 1998, Bill Clinton was denying having had relations with "that woman", whilst George Michael was admitting trying to have relations with "the man".

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