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Worth Something Someday: Ravage 2099 #9

Welcome to the first installment of Worth Something Someday, a series of (as Archduke Cronin would say) indefinite length and regularity, in which we critically re-examine and attempt to contextualize comic books of the 1990s. “The ’90s” was the most infamous and tumultuous decade of comics since the 1950s, during which the industry experienced its highest highs as well as its most crashing lows. Some call it “The Dark Age,” but now comes the time to shed some light on the era. Many of the comics we shall cover were purchased by speculators and secreted away with the hopes that they’d be worth something someday. So let’s ask: are they worth it?

Where else to start our look at comics at the tail end of the 20th century, than with one that takes place at the tail end of the 21st, with a cover that declares everything we know… is wrong!?

(Ganked from The Marvel Database at http://marvel.wikia.com/Ravage_2099_Vol_1_9)

Ravage 2099 #9 - Written by Pat Mills & Tony Skinner, Pencils by José Delbo, Inks by Keith Williams, Letters by Phil Felix, Colors by Gina Going, Edits by Joey Cavalieri. Published by Marvel Comics.

The cover date is August, 1993, which means this likely came out in June. What happened in the world while this was on the stands? Canada elected its first female prime minister; the Unabomber struck again; Bill Clinton announced “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”; earthquakes and tsunamis struck Japan; Jurassic Park premiered; Magic: The Gathering debuted; NASA lost the Mars Observer; Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger got married; GG Allin died of a drug overdose; Lorena Bobbit cut off her husband’s member and threw it into a field.

Stan Lee defined Marvel Comics as a brand. From steering the ship in the earliest days of the Marvel Universe to spewing moxie all over the pages of Bullpen Bulletins, Lee set a precedent for the comportment of the comic book industry, not just in terms of content and characterization but in personality. Marvel characters rely on internal or interpersonal conflict, but Marvel as a media machine presents the opposite to the world, basing its public identity on the infinite exuberance and charming arrogance of Lee’s copy from the ’60s, where fans were “True Believers” and every sentence ended in at least one exclamation point. After all, he rather bombastically proclaimed The Fantastic Four to be the “Great Comic Magazine in the World!!” on the cover of its third issue. Marvel Comics were the coolest– why wouldn’t you buy one?

That same issue of Fantastic Four describes the book as a “collectors’-item”, which would become a prophetic statement. By the 1990s, the general public had discovered there was gold in them there pages, and comic books began selling higher numbers on the collectors’ market. Suddenly, the worthless paper in your grandfather’s basement or attic paid for your kids to go to college– or would, in the future. Speculators snapped up copies in the millions and the comics industry catered directly to them with new #1 issues and variant foil fool’s gold covers. It was here when Stan Lee, president emeritus of Marvel, whose name proudly presented each issue of every series, made his triumphant return to comics in the ’90s Speculation Age, with the next great original Marvel hero. What did we know about Ravage that was so wrong?

Barrio Man will be joining the Avengers next year

Marvel launched a line of comics taking place in the year 2099, filled with future versions of their characters, in a society ruled by corporations, where littering is a capital offense, pollution turns men into mutroids, everyone wears business overalls, and pogs are still hip. Stan Lee and Paul Ryan (not that one, the other one) produced the only series not based around a pre-existing character. Paul-Phillip Ravage, a top executive at Eco, an environmental agency/police force, is betrayed by top brass and set up to die. He quickly turns badass, starts talkin’ like Ben Grimm, outfits himself with weapons and armor at a junkyard, and starts fightin’ The Man. Later, radiation from Hellrock, an island of Mutroids ruled by– wait for it– Dethstryk, gives him the ability to shoot energy from his hands.

The opening issues progressed almost improvisationally, with tweaks and retooling coming with each passing issue. Ravage initially digs his gear out a junkyard, then he gets a laser-proof coat lining (really), then he shoots giant energy beams from his hands, then he gets a high-tech eyepatch-monocle. This progression of change and revamping reminds one of the various kicks in the pants that Hank Pym and the Hulk underwent in the ’60s to become more sellable, or the slow early evolution of the Fantastic Four concept. Seven and a half issues later (Lee “plotted” #8), however, Stan and Paul were gone, replaced by Mills, Skinner, and artist Grant Miehm. The series underwent a far more massive retooling, completely changing its main character.

This is like my favorite bit in the issue, so here it is

Ravage, his gal Friday Tiana, and his Shortround sidekick Dack have stolen a disc with 1500 megabytes (that’s a lot!) of incriminating info on their enemies, but crashland their stolen Fantasti-car in a barrio. We know it’s a barrio because we’re introduced to Barrio Man, the informal superheroic mayor of the town, with his Codex Heroica. Ravage, horns growing from his face, has started undergoing another transformation, his “biological software” doing a system restore, “default[ing] into primary mode,” an evolutionary throwback of man. We get a new dump of information– how Ravage led the Green Berets (get it?) in the Pollution Wars, which was in actuality a corporations vs. government conflict in which the company men won. In quick succession, first Dack quits the sidekick biz and then Tiana kicks Ravage to the curb. A wedding takes place in the barrio– one where the formal wear consists of superhero costumes– and Ravage stumbles upon some more thuggish corporate troopers. Cue shadowy cliffhanger splash page, teasing the reveal from the next issue which would put Ravage into full-on beast-man mode.

The main character’s demeanor, appearance, superpowers, setting, supporting cast, all changed in the coming issues. Ravage would drop the stubble, the blue collar accent, the guns, the chains, all the standard “extreme” accoutrement, turning into a claw-and-muscles type of character. Mills and Skinner tease some future story threads in #9 as we get a peak in on Ravage’s never-before-seen family, long enough to witness the murder of Ravage’s brother. The series quickly shoved the previous status quo aside and this particular issue served as a backdoor pilot for itself, transitioning from Stan Lee’s Marvel Age sensibility to Mills and Skinner’s 2000 AD (more like 2099 AD, amirite?) approach.

The “everything you knew about ___ was wrong!” gimmick seemed prevalent in ’90s comics, as the super-dense weight of continuity collapsed into a black hole, and stories became about themselves, featuring dark secrets from the past looming once again. Was everything we knew about Ravage 2099 proven wrong? Not really– but I can’t imagine the editorial or structural mayhem which must have been occurring behind the scenes, or what may have led the gears to be switched so ferociously so early in the run. Still, as a kid I enjoyed the series on both halves of the divide, simply as the adventure comics they set out to be. As an adult, I find it great fun watching Stan Lee try to write a comic for the 1990s, just as I still dig Mills and Skinner’s slightly more satirical and character-focused issues, along with that fine Grant Miehm art.

For a character created by the biggest name in comics, we’ve yet to see a revamp of Ravage 2099, despite Marvel digging through the vaults looking for more existing properties to polish up and throw back into the market. There is no Ravage 2013 on the horizon, as far as I can tell, no mini-series published solely for the purpose of trademark renewal. Whatever happened to Ravage 2099? According to Wikipedia, “Ravage (presumably) died after being immersed in liquid adamantium by Doom and sent into space,” a fate fit for the Poochie of 2099, the forgotten future of Marvel comics.

Is this comic worth anything? Oh, but Ravage 2099 contains multitudes. As a quarter-bin castoff, it represents a failed original property in a failed line of comics that nonetheless contained some good stories and cool ideas– Spider-Man 2099 is still a cult favorite, and a character who still shows up from time to time. As the only comic Stan Lee wrote in the ’90s, it gives us an eyewitness account of the collision between the unstoppable force of Stan Lee and the immovable object of ’90s excess. As a window into the future of the Marvel Universe? Assuming comics as we know them, let alone human beings, survive to the year 2099, I don’t expect these prophesies to come true. (Well, we will be ruled by corporations, but…) Spider-Man will still be Peter Parker, Punisher will still be Frank Castle, and Ravage? Ravage will still be the “hero that never existed.”

Still, for a series which started out with a trenchcoated, kneepadded, scarred-eyed, gun-toting anti-hero fighting against the man which abruptly became a story about the man, who turned into a beast and clawed his way out from the inside, it wasn’t half-bad. But then, it was the ’90s. Everything we knew was wrong.

Sign of the times: This issue features an ad for The Meteor Man. Said character later featured in his own Marvel series. Maybe we’ll talk about it someday.

Up next: Will there be a next time? You’d better leave suggestions for your favorite and least favorite ’90s comics below.

Bill Reed will be at NYCC this weekend, and if you catch him he has to give you his pot of gold. Follow him on Twitter @billreads so he feels validated.

36 Comments

Great topic! I’d like to suggest either X-Force #1 or X-Men Vol. 2 #1. Both were, at various times, the highest-selling comics ever, and I know that I had a copy or 2 set aside of each in case they became worth something someday.

Now I have all 5 X-Men #1 variants, and I easily have 15 copies of X-Force #1. Any time someone decided to unload their unwanted comics on me, I could always guarantee there would be at least 1 copy of each in there.

Batman 491.

How about spotlighting a DC Comic next? Follow that with the first issue of Dark Horse’s Hero Zero, one of the early output issues of Image, and then at least a Valiant title.

X-Force Annual #2, the first appearance of Adam X the X-Treme

Prime, Strangers, Prototype, Night Man….seeing a pattern?

I loved that book. Still have it too.

I’d love to see Boris the Bear #1 or #10 with the Punishbear cover. I realize those are both from ’86 or so but I definitely think of the mutant animal craze as being a dark age thing.

Man, I loved me some 2099; spidey and x-men 2099 especially. Ghost rider was also awesome, and yeah I even liked the trolled out Hulk in 2099 UNLIMITED.

I never did get into Ravage, though the fact that he was shot into space after being immersed in adamantium does add some appeal. That really should be the de facto method of cancellation for all failed marvel characters.

I was something of a pro at gravitating towards terrible comics that would be cancelled. Malibu comics? Oh yeah, I got in on the ground floor with both Hardcase AND the Strangers.

Impact comics? You know it! The Comet, the Shield, the Fly AND the Web! Collectors items fo’ shizzies. I even had a couple of issues of the Crucible which was intended to re-launch the whole mess, but served as its swan song instead.

C’mon, those of us who know Bill know a few books that will be here eventually.

Thunderstrike

Sleepwalker

And…others.

You must have Darkhawk, post-Valentino Guardians of the Galaxy.

Gunfire. Anima. Takion.

It is frightening how many crap ’90s books I can come up with off the top of my head.

Actually, with Anima, either her zero issue or her debut in New Titans Ann. 9. Those books are “worth” something.

Nightmask! Oh, wrong failed universe.

L.E.G.I.O.N.! I’d really love to have an in depth look at that series, and it’s connection to the Legion of Superheroes.

I’d love to see some Valiant, because that company simultaneously represents the best and worst of the 90s. Shooter’s early runs on Magnus, Solar, and Harbinger hold up as being some damn good comics. And then there are the later issues of Rai & the Future Force, Bloodshot, and Hardcorps that really were atrocious.

Anything from Marvel Flashback. (Also anything from Heroes Reborn or Amalgam Comics, but those are kind of obvious.)

There were a few comics I bought as a kid as potential retirement funds. I would love you to look these over:

G.I.Joe #155 (marvel): The final issue, sort of. The Joe’s close up shop. It was not techically the final issue as they printed some random issues done by Todd McFarlane they had left over as potential fillers. I bought a few of these and have them in mint unopened bags, ready for when I need a downpayment on a house.

Ren and Stimpy #1: Double plastic wrapped, with a secrect message inside as well as a “Hairball scented” air freshener. The secrect message, “You eediot, you opened the bag now the comic ess WORTHLESS!!”. Damn, and I payed $30 for that comic, three weeks pocket money. This has to be worth a mint now.

I was a sucker for #1’s, big deaths and final issues. Comics like G.I.Joe #152 The origin of the Joe’s, and Transformers: Generation 2 #1 with its folding open cover and grand promises of not being like your fathers Autobots.

Dude, I totally know which book you need to do next. I was reminded of it today at the comic shop when those Joker mask covers on Batgirl and Batman 13 taunted me into buying them.

That Sleepwalker issue with the mask. 19 or 20, can’t remember which.

So val-u-bull if you didn’t wear it!!!

I think that comic led to Robert Kirkman wanting to make comics. Which led to everyone’s favorite TV show, The Walking Dead.

You know it’s true!!!

Also, while we’re at it, good to have you posting again, Bill. Let’s hope you get in more than just 1 or 2 of these posts before you disappear again, huh?

When I worked at Half Price Books (approx 10 years ago), almost every day we would get people bringing in boxes of the various “collectors” issues from the 90s. I specifically remember one guy that had 3 long boxes filled with numerous copies of the various hologram Robin mini series and stuff like that. I offered him $30 for all 900 or so comics, and he gladly took it.

Although I will say that despite how many issues of X-Men #1 came in, they always sold almost right away. So that comic we actually offered about 50 cents to a dollar for it. Much higher than most comics.

Yeah, I’m with Sean X-Men 2099 and Spiderman 2099 were great titles!!

Marvel seriously need to bring Skullfire, La Lunatica and Xi’an back!! :)

One little piece of trivia – Kim Campbell was never actually elected as the Prime Minister. She wasn’t the leader of the PC Party when she won her seat and she only became Prime Minister because then-PM, Brian Mulroney, retired. Campbell won the subsequent leadership race and became Prime minister for about five months. She never sat in Parliament as the Prime Minister because Parliament was closed for the summer. She lost the next election.

The Shadowman/Aerosmith issue. It was on prominent display at my local shop, and 13 year old David wanted it so bad because it A) featured Aerosmith and B) it was a Valiant comic, which (like anything by Image) at that time was said to be just printed money.

Or you can do something easy and feature Superman 75. I had cousins buying up the collector’s additions of that issue guaranteeing me that in a few years they would be used to buy a house and sending their kids to college. Of course all I wanted was the black arm band from it.

since you started with ravage might as well sooner or later do the whole 2099 line spider man and doom. and x-men and can not believe stan lee himself created ravage and also showed even the big legend like stan lee can have a comic book failure from time to time

oh my god there are so many image comics i bought i dont think were ever even opened. how about Brigade? they were like, a Youngblood knock off or something? i have like 10 of them, half of which i think are #1’s. i have no clue what they are about but would love to know more.

I could see a series in this just based on all the die cut, foil stamped, embossed, silver ink/gold ink, glow in the dark, polybagged, trading card gimmicks that were used in the 90s..

How about an early Bongo issue? The Simpsons comic line started in ’93 at the (arguably) height of the show’s popularity, and I remember being super excited to pick up the first issue of Simpsons Comics and Itchy and Scratchy. That first issue of Simpsons Comics (with the FF#1 homage, ‘nach) was actually pretty good, and the flip story about Mr. Burns’ comic collection was a nice bit of ironic satire considering the big “COLLECTOR’S ITEM” banner on the cover.

I also would nominate that Aerosmith Shadowman book. ’90s personified, there. As well as those Ultraverse books, I was a huge fan of that line.

How about Generation X #1? Kind of a microcosm of Marvel in the ’90s. A mutant #1 issue with a wrap around chromium cover, featuring Chris Bacchelo artwork (someone I’d nominate as the ur-artist for a lot of the latter half of the ’90s).

If we’re talking post-bust books, I’d also throw an early Marvel Knights book in the ring, as a contrast to the early ’90s books and a precursor to what was to come the next decade. Maybe an early Kevin Smith DD issue or Priest Black Panther.

Can I nominate ’93 as the most ’90s year of the ’90s? Maybe it’s just my nostalgia talking (I was 13 at the time, and that summer was my first buying comics on a regular basis), but it does seem like that year was the biggest for comics for that decade, and featured a lot of the tropes we associate with those years.

Dang, I didn’t think this would get any comment. And Travis, you know me so well. Stop digging through my trash cans.

C.W.: The impetus for writing about 90s comics was that I was actually going to just write about comics from 1993 specifically, because it seems the vast majority of my comics– and all my weird tastes as a reader now– stem from that year.

Other things I was into in ’93…

Televised inline-skating-hockey on ESPN
the Red Hot Chili Peppers “Blood, Sugar, Sex, Magic”
Hating the Los Angeles Lakers for beating my Trailblazers in the WCF
Jurassic Park (book first, movie after)
Warheads candy
Hanna-Barbara superhero reruns on the new Cartoon Network

The Crazed Spruce

October 11, 2012 at 11:11 am

Hawk & Dove (which was actually pretty good).
Extreme Justice (or really any of the post-Giffen-pre-Morrison Justice League issues).
Anything from the annual crossovers. (Especially “Bloodlines” or “Eclipso: The Darkness Within”.)
“Armageddon: The Alien Agenda” and “Armageddon: Inferno”. (The follow-ups to “Armageddon: 2001″.)

The Crazed Spruce

October 11, 2012 at 11:12 am

(Great idea for a column, by the way. Looking forward to more installments.)

I second Boris the Bear.

How about discussing the 4 issues of Spawn written by Alan Moore, Dave Sim, Frank Miller and Neil Gaiman? Or all the Image comics that had a coupon for Image 0 so you had to buy two copies? John Byrne’s Next Men was a favorite, especially for the letter column where he railed against Image.

Leslie Fontenelle

October 11, 2012 at 11:53 am

How about the DNAgents?

Um… Deathmate. Black, Blue, Gold, Red, Plaid, etc.

So much garbage to choose from, although there are some gems. i love Mark Waid’s Flash for the later & Extreme Justice for the former. Also, i remember Turok, Son of Stone as a ‘hot seller’ that i bought thinking that i could get a stack for it later.

Wah, wah, waaaah…..

@Leslie Fontenelle: DNAgents were my dad’s favorite comics. He started reading because I kept asking him to take me to the store! He also later found some Miracleman books for something ridiculous like 10 cents each.

Anyone else remember Bart Sears’ Brute & Babe? Not the how-to stuff, the “tablet” comic book:
http://www.amazon.com/Brute-Babe-Monument-Begins-Volume/dp/B008AI9EA6

This was a $5 comic with 8 pages of story and 8 pages of character bios. However, nothing was actually bound together; it was sold in a clear plastic tuckbox that held the 8 “tablets”. The tablets were basically a glossy cardstock, nothing too fancy. The Amazon link says people are trying to sell it for $17, but I’m guessing those listings have been sitting for a looong time.

AverageJoeEveryman

October 12, 2012 at 10:56 am

I took “spewing moxie all over the pages of Bullpen Bulletins” to mean he kept spilling his bottle of Maine’s big contribution to carbonated beverages all over his paper while writing.

Mark, while she was not chosen by the people of Canada o b PM, she was elected to be leader of the PCs, so was technically elected.

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