Comic book characters in the '90s weren't just extreme, they were exxxtreme. Pouches, ponytails, pads, and plasma pistols covered these heroes and villains from head to toe, and their origins were just as intense as their wardrobe choices. After writers like Frank Miller and Alan Moore pushed comic book writing into darker territory in the '80s and artists like Dave McKean moved things in a more cerebral direction, the '90s saw a huge rise in gritty stories and over-the-top characters.
New companies like Image Comics practically used these extreme concepts as their foundation, but even Marvel and DC got in on the action. From reboots of old characters to brand new heroes to names that came and went with the Y2K scare, '90s comic book characters are likely some of the most visually recognizable in the history of the medium. But which was the most extreme?
- Photo: Image Comics1
First Introduced In: Spawn #1, 1992
His EXTREME Origin: CIA mercenary Al Simmons is betrayed by his own directory and viciously slain on a mission. Arriving in hell for his lifetime of evil deeds, he strikes a deal with a being called Malebolgia to return to life and see his wife one last time. But as he's made a deal with the devil, things don't turn out the way he hoped. He returns badly disfigured and possessing the powers of a Hellspawn. What's more, it's been five years and his wife has married his best friend and they've had a child together. Simmons then disguises himself as the new husband and has non-consensual intercourse with his ex-wife, proving that another word for antihero is often just villain.
His EXTREME Powers: Spawn's body is made from necroplasm, and he wears a living suit that's full of nasty tools of destruction. His magical powers grant him everything from teleportation to regeneration to energy blast powers. He can even resurrect the fallen.
His EXTREME Accessories: Spawn's living suit is outfitted with chains, blades, and spikes a plenty, not to mention skulls and a huge cape. And as a former CIA operative - and '90s comic character - he also prefers to just unload on his enemies using his collection of pieces.EXTREME?!
First Introduced In: Amazing Spider-Man #344, 1991 (as Cletus Kasady); Amazing Spider-Man #361, 1992 (as Carnage)
His EXTREME Origin: Cletus Kasady began his comic book life as a monstrous serial slayer who had been taking lives since his childhood. That wasn't extreme enough, so his origin was later updated to include him perishing as a child only to be resurrected by an ancient god. While in prison, he meets Eddie Brock, who recently lost the Venom Symbiote. After disgusting Brock and receiving several beatings from him, he decides to shiv the former journalist - but is stopped by the return of the Symbiote. As Venom, Brock leads a jailbreak, but he leaves behind the child his Symbiote was pregnant with. When the entity enters Kasady's bloodstream, it grants him even more extreme powers and the two become Carnage.
His EXTREME Powers: Carnage has the usual superpowers of strength, durability, speed, and regeneration, but his Symbiote lets him do much more than Venom can (though Venom's own powers grow over time as well).
His EXTREME Accessories: Given that the Carnage Symbiote is the ultimate super-suit, Carnage doesn't need accessories. Instead, Kasady's Symbiote can shapeshift into a variety of blades, claws, and spikes to allow Carnage to wreak havoc.EXTREME?!
First Introduced In: The Uncanny X-Men #201, 1986 (as Nathan Summers); The New Mutants #87, 1990 (as Cable)
His EXTREME Origin: Cable's origin is full of time travel and alternate realities, making him the living embodiment of '90s comic book tropes. The villainous Mr. Sinister hopes to defeat Apocalypse, so he clones Jean Grey (who is currently the Phoenix) and orchestrates the marriage of her clone, Madelyne Pryor, to Scott Summers. They have a child named Nathan who grows up fighting in a future ruled by Apocalypse. Aside from his dystopian upbringing, he also spends much of his life battling a techno-organic virus that is slowly turning him into a cyborg.
His EXTREME Powers: As the child of two of the most powerful mutants, Cable is at the Omega level. He's considered one of the most powerful psychics on Earth, but he has to use his powers to constantly keep his virus at bay. So while he has just about every mental superpower in the book, he prefers to use gigantic energy cannons to fight evil.
His EXTREME Accessories: Cybernetic parts, energy cannons, and more tactical pouches than Deadpool, Cable his almost the poster boy for '90s comic book character design choices.EXTREME?!
First Introduced In: Ghost Rider #1, 1990
His EXTREME Origin: While Johnny Blaze had a much more '70s-centric origin when Ghost Rider debuted as a character, Marvel created a new host for the Spirit of Vengeance at the dawn of the '90s. When young Danny Ketch and his sister go to a graveyard on Halloween night to take pictures of Harry Houdini's tombstone (really), they encounter a clash between Deathwatch and some of Kingpin's men. When Danny's sister cries out, Deathwatch fires at her, hitting her with an arrow. Danny runs to a junkyard with his sister, where he sees a motorcycle with a glowing gas cap. When he touches it, he's turned into the new Ghost Rider and takes extreme revenge on evildoers.
His EXTREME Powers: Danny has the standard Ghost Rider powers, which were extremely ahead of their time when they debuted. Super-strength and other common powers are one thing, but the flaming skull and the Penance Stare, which makes the receiver experience all the pain they've ever dealt out, fit right into the '90s.
His EXTREME Accessories: A motorcycle, a leather jacket, tons of spikes, and a magical chain, AKA the most '90s accessories.EXTREME?!