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?
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.
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.
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.
First Introduced In: Batman: Sword of Azrael #1, 1992
His EXTREME Origin: It's one thing to find out you were a test-tube baby genetically modified with animal DNA, it's another to learn it was all done by an ancient cult called the Order of Dumas who have trained generations of warriors named Azrael. This is the story of Jean-Paul Valley, who eventually takes over for Batman when the Dark Knight is broken by Bane. But his conditioning leads him to become unstable and aggressive, causing various Robin's to vie for his job and eventually take him down.
His EXTREME Powers: Imagine all the mental and combat skills of Batman, but then all the usual superhero powers of strength, speed, healing, and durability.
His EXTREME Accessories: On top of his powers and training, Azrael fights using an armorized spin on Batman's costume. And for the extreme '90s touch, it's bristling with blades.