For those of us old enough to remember collecting comics in the ‘90s, it was a time of stratospheric highs and hellacious lows. Fueled by the now-infamous speculator bubble, the comics industry achieved record high sales and massive print runs, the era was notorious for the introduction of insane variant covers, the proliferation of bloated crossover events and the emergence of scores of independent publishers intent on giving Marvel and DC a run for their money. Riding high on the successes of the latter half of the previous decade, the ‘90s started off with a bang with new publishers like Image and Valiant filling the shelves with exciting new heroes like Spawn, WildC.A.T.s and X-O Manowar, while the old guard killed off Superman, crippled Batman and exiled the Avengers to an alternate dimension. Alas, comics’ faux renaissance was not to last.
After the bubble burst, sales plummeted drastically across the board and comic book shops closed by the dozens. Although often scorned for its lack of original content and misguided sales promotions, the ‘90s weren’t all bad. Among the glut of retread ideas and cheesy gimmicks, some of comics’ most beloved and enduring heroes were born. If it weren’t for the ‘90s, we’d never have Deadpool, Hellboy, Kyle Rayner and a host of other heroes who still resonate with fans to this very day. So just how well do you know the superheroes of this contentious period of comics history? Take our quiz to find out!
He was inspired to become a superhero by Superman.
He was created by Louise Simonson and Jon Bogdanove and debuted in 1993’s “The Adventures of Superman” #500 as a former weapons designer who faked his death to escape his greedy employers. Superman saved his life shortly before sacrificing his own to stop the menace known as Doomsday. Inspired by Superman’s heroism, he designed a powerful suit of armor and embarked on his own superhero career. He was later recruited into the Justice League by Batman and proved to be a valuable member of the team, who used his exceptional intellect in battle as often as his substantial might.
He was created by legendary Spider-Man artist Todd McFarlane.
He debuted in 1992 in the first issue of his self-titled ongoing series. Created by Image Comics co-founder Todd McFarlane, he was one of the publisher’s early franchise characters, easily outselling other titles such as “Youngblood,” “WildC.A.T.s” and “Savage Dragon.” Chronicling the struggle of damned former C.I.A. agent Al Simmons in his quest to reconcile his demonic existence with a normal life, at the height of his popularity, he starred in his own live action film starring Michael Jai White and an animated series on HBO.
She was hired by Jessica Jones and Luke Cage to be their daughter’s nanny.
She was created by Will Murray and Steve Ditko and first appeared in 1992, in “Marvel Super-Heroes” #8. Over the years, her popularity increased spurred on by her characteristic optimism and surprising victories over some of the Marvel Universe’s most powerful villains—among them Doctor Doom and Galactus (who she defeated through friendship). Based on her innate charm and stellar resume, she was hired by Jessica Jones and Luke Cage to care for their daughter. Currently, she is a member of Roberto Da Costa’s retooled U.S.Avengers.
He was an officer in Xavier’s Security Enforcers.
He first appeared in 1992, in “Uncanny X-Men” #282, created by John Byrne and Whilce Portacio, born in an alternate timeline where mutants were incarcerated in concentration camps until the Summers Rebellion freed them from oppression. As a member of the Xavier’s Security Enforcers, he was sent from the future to hunt down the fugitive mutant Trevor Fitzroy. He eventually joined the X-Men hoping to prevent his future from ever happening. During the “Messiah Complex” storyline, it appeared he murdered Charles Xavier in his bid to assassinate Hope Summers, who escaped into the timestream with her protector Cable.
He transformed the New Mutants in X-Force.
He first appeared in 1990’s “New Mutants” #87 and was created by Louise Simonson and Rob Liefeld. The creators were tasked with creating a new leader for the team who was the polar opposite of the intellectual Charles Xavier, so a gun-toting military man from the future was born. On the lookout for soldiers in his war against Stryfe and his Mutant Liberation Front terrorist organization, he transformed the New Mutants into a lean, mean squadron of fighters that was quickly rechristened X -Force.
For several years, he was the only member of the Green Lantern Corps.
When Hal Jordan went insane after the destruction of Coast City, he murdered virtually every member of the Green Lantern Corps. Only one ring survived and it was given to this unlikely hero by the Guardian of the Universe called Ganthet. Created by Ron Marz and Darryl Banks in 1994, he was the sole member of the Corps for several years, keeping the torch burning during its darkest period. Later, he achieved virtual godhood as Ion and eventually helped bring Jordan back to life in “Green Lantern: Rebirth.”
This DC Comics character was co-created by Marvel Chief Creative Officer Joe Quesada.
A legacy hero who was created by Jack C. Harris and future Marvel Chief Creative Officer Joe Quesada, he debuted in 1992 in the first issue of his self-titled miniseries and eventually proved popular enough to receive his own ongoing title. Over the course of his career, he served as a member of the Freedom Fighters, Young Justice, the Forgotten Heroes and the Justice League. In his latest Rebirth incarnation, it was revealed that he was gay. He currently serves in Batman’s new Justice League of America, alongside former villains like Lobo and Killer Frost, and fellow legacy hero the Atom.
He’s also known as the Merc with a Mouth.
When he first appeared in 1991 in “New Mutants” #98, he didn’t have all that much to say. It wasn’t until Joe Kelly and subsequent writers infused him with what would become his trademark twisted sense of humor that we all know and love today. He's truly come a long way since his bland beginnings. His 2016 live action film is the highest grossing R-rated movie in history and he currently stars in numerous ongoing series, even becoming a member of the Avengers, working alongside Steve Rogers, Rogue and the Human Torch.
This ragin’ Cajun always has a deck of cards handy.
He first appeared in a brief cameo in 1990’s “Uncanny X-Men Annual” #14 and subsequently joined the team a month later. At the time, he was the latest in a long line of roguish characters to join Marvel’s Merry Mutants, following the likes of Wolverine and his future girlfriend Rogue. Born with the ability to charge any object with destructive kinetic energy, this inveterate thief prefers to use typical playing cards as weapons, hurling them with startling accuracy—a handy talent to have, when scoping out his next big heist.
These fugitive teens were the “gen-active” offspring of Team 7.
Today, this team is often maligned for its over-sexualized depiction of its teenaged stars but back in the day, when they debuted in the pages of 1993’s “WildC.A.T.s Trilogy” #1, fanboys took an instant liking of the vivacious gen-active fugitive super-teens. Created by Jim Lee, Brandon Choi and J. Scott Campbell, the book was a massive success for much of the ‘90s. The offspring of a covert unit of metahumans called Team 7, their adventures were typically light-hearted romps that provided a much-needed counterpoint to their more serious adult contemporaries in the rest of the Wildstorm Universe.
He was second man to become the supernatural version of Ghost Rider.
The first Ghost Rider was a Marvel Comics Western hero, who had no real connection to the later supernatural being who usurped his name. Created by Howard Mackie and Javier Saltares in 1990, he became the second supernatural Ghost Rider after his predecessor Johnny Blaze was freed of the curse that bound the demon Zarathos to his soul. It was later revealed that the two were in fact long-lost brothers. For a brief time they operated together as the Spirits of Vengeance. The second Ghost Rider was last seen in the pages of “Superior Spider-Man” providing intelligence on his arch-nemesis Blackout.
This impulsive speedster was born in the future.
Created by Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo in 1994, he first appeared as the hyperactive speedster Impulse in “Flash” #92. Born in the 30th century, suffering from an accelerated metabolism that sped up his aging, he was raised in a virtual reality calibrated to keep up with his faster perception of time. Eventually, he was brought to the present, whereupon his metabolism was shocked back to normal by Wally West. He took up several costumed identities over the course of his career and for a short time even assumed the mantle of the Flash.
She first appeared in the pages of Spawn but now exists in the Marvel Universe.
She was created by Neil Gaiman and Todd McFarlane in 1992 and debuted in “Spawn” #9. Originally, she was an divine bounty hunter who attempted to kill Spawn during their first encounter. They later buried the hatchet and become romantically involved. After Neil Gaiman gained ownership of the character, he sold the rights to Marvel Comics, which swiftly introduced her into continuity during the “Original Sin” storyline. She was revealed to be Thor’s long-lost sister, who disappeared when Odin separated the Tenth Realm from Asgard.
His alter ego is named Frank Einstein, in honor of Frank Sinatra and Albert Einstein.
A popular creator-owned superhero, who debuted in1990’s “Creatures of the Id,” he was the brainchild of Mike Allred. An agent for the Tri-Eye Agency, virtually nothing is known of his life before the car accident that killed him. His body was rebuilt by a pair of scientists and he was rechristened Frank Einstein, a name that pays tribute to three unlikely sources: Frank Sinatra, Albert Einstein and Frankenstein. As a supernatural hero, Frank wandered the globe battling all manner of evil weirdness, sometimes aided by the superhero team known as the Atomics.
Despite his adult physique, it was revealed he was in fact only 14 years old.
After he was exposed to toxic waste, this 14 year old was transformed into a super-powerful urban hero representing his people's fight for equality. Created in 1990 by Larry Hama and Paul Ryan, he first appeared in “The Avengers” #326 and immediately set out to prove himself a worthy of membership, noting the lack of black heroes on the team. He was eventually granted probationary status but was later demoted, when it was revealed he was really only 14 years old. He later joined the New Warriors and was a valuable member of the team for several years.
This team of young mutants was mentored by Banshee and Emma Frost.
These young X-Men-in-training first appeared during the 1994 “Phalanx Covenant” storyline in “Uncanny X-Men” #318. Created by Scott Lobdell and Chris Bachalo, the team was comprised of young mutants, who had been held captive by the Phalanx, their escape facilitated by the sacrifice by the original Blink. Unlike previous mutant teams, they were based at the Massachusetts Academy rather than at the traditional X-Men proving grounds in Westchester County. Their mentors were former X-Men Banshee and the Hellfire Club’s White Queen Emma Frost.
They were secretly the Masters of Evil.
This team of criminal masterminds first appeared in 1997, in the pages of “The Incredible Hulk” #449. Created by Kurt Busiek and Mark Bagley to fill the void left by the absent Avengers, who disappeared during the “Heroes Reborn” storyline, they were given their own ongoing series, with the tagline, “Justice like Lightning.” In one of the most infamous reveals in modern comics, the final page of the first issue revealed that the team was in fact perennial Avengers foes the Masters of Evil, who were posing as superheroes to gain the public trust.
This member of X-Force hailed from the Mojoverse.
Another creation of Fabian Nicieza and Rob Liefeld, he first appeared in 1991, in “New Mutants” #99. Hailing from the future alternate-dimensional home of both Mojo and Longshot, he became a founding member of the first incarnation of X-Force. It was long rumored that he was the son of Longshot but it took several years for the details of his birth to become canon. Eventually, it was revealed that he was indeed the son of Longshot and Dazzler but had erased his birth from their minds before travelling to the future.
Her father is the Batman villain called Cluemaster.
She is the daughter of C-list Batman villain the Cluemaster, who spent most of her childhood in prison after numerous run-ins with the Caped Crusader. After he secretly returned to a life of crime, she adopted the costumed identity, in an effort to foil his plans. She eventually befriended the third Robin, Tim Drake, and through him was admitted to the Batman Family. For a short time, she took over the Robin identity and later graduated to the role of Batgirl, before DC’s New 52 reboot ended her superhero career. She was finally reintroduced in her original costume during Rebirth.
This standout ‘90s teen superhero team was recruited by Night Thrasher.
Although they technically debuted in 1989 in “Thor” #411, this team was granted their first ongoing series in 1990. The team was created by Tom DeFalco and Ron Frenz but it was Fabian Nicieza and Mark Bagley who really fleshed out their unique dynamic. Comprised of established teen heroes Namorita, Nova, Marvel Boy, Firestar and Speedball, the team was recruited by an entirely original character named Night Thrasher. The group was killed off in the third volume of their series during a battle with Nitro, who decimated the town of Stamford, CT and sparked the first superhero Civil War.
She was a founding member of Cable’s mercenary unit, Six Pack.
She was created Fabian Nicieza and Rob Liefeld and first appeared in 1991’s “New Mutants” #98. Her debut was eventually revealed to be an impersonator named Copycat. She truly showed up a year later in “X-Force” #8, joining Cable’s mutant strike force as his second-in-command. Born with the ability to alter local probability fields, she used her abilities as a mercenary for years and helped Cable establish his mercenary unit called Six Pack. Over the years, she’s served in various incarnations of X-Force and the X-Men.
Before the New 52, she took on the mantle of the Question.
A Gotham City police officer, who eventually assumed the mantle of the Question after the death of Vic Sage, she actually first appeared as a cartoon character in Paul Dini and Bruce Timm’s “Batman: The Animated Series” in 1992. Her comic book debut would come shortly afterwards in “Batman” 475. She quit the GCPD after taking down a corrupt cop and sunk into a life of depression and alcohol abuse. She was given a new purpose by the Question, who groomed her to take his place, revealing that he was dying of lung cancer.
This future hero was recently trapped in the present.
He's in a five-page insert in 1992’s “Amazing Spider-Man” #365. Created by Peter David and Rick Leonardi, he then received his own series later that year, serving as the flagship title of Marvel’s 2099 line. he became the future version of this flagship Marvel hero to avoid becoming a victim of blackmail by his employer Alchemax, using his research to rid himself of a dangerous drug. For a costume, he uses an old Day of the Dead outfit that he wore in Mexico. He recently became stuck in the present in the wake of the “Secret Wars” storyline.
His right hand is made of stone.
One of the most popular creator-owned properties to emerge during the ‘90s, Mike Mignola’s working class demon first appeared in polished form in “Next Men” #21 in 1993. He was summoned to the earthly plane in 1944 by the Russian mystic Rasputin, who was working with the Nazis at the time and raised by Professor Trevor Bruttenholm, founder of the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense. As a member of the BPRD, He served alongside fellow agents Abe Sapien and the pyrokinetic Liz Sherman, until he was killed in battle with the evil sorceress Morgana le Fay.
This team of mutates was created by John Byrne.
John Byrne's creator-owned riff on the X-Men were first published in 1992 under Dark Horse Comics’ Legend imprint. A mature readers title that approached the superhero genre with a more adult sensibility, the series featured scenes of a sexual nature, including attempted rape and implied child abuse. Byrne's protagonists were developed by the U.S. government, in an effort to create super soldiers. Notable for its realistic depiction of reluctant heroes and their powers, the book was critical success due to Byrne’s unflinching treatment of relevant social issues and its intriguing cast.
This electrifying teen was an important character in the Milestone Universe.
This teen hero was created by Milestone Comics founders Derek Dingle, Dwayne McDuffie, Denys Cowan and Michael Davis and first appeared in his own ongoing series in 1993. He gained his electromagnetic abilities after he was exposed to a mysterious chemical during a gang war and became a hero in the mold of Spider-Man, protecting the streets of his neighborhood in the fictional city of Dakota. In 2000, he crossed over into TV and starred in his own animated series. Much later he made his first appearance in the mainstream DC Universe, becoming a member of the Teen Titans.
He is a clone created from the DNA of both Lex Luthor and Superman.
This modern incarnation of the classic teen hero was introduced by DC Comics in the aftermath of “The Death of Superman” storyline in 1993’s “The Adventures of Superman” #500. One of four potential replacements for the Man of Steel, it was eventually revealed that he was cloned by Project Cadmus using the genetic material of both Lex Luthor and Superman. He enjoyed a popular run in his own ongoing series and joined other young heroes in both Young Justice and the Teen Titans. He sacrificed his life battling Superboy-Prime during “Infinite Crisis” but was later resurrected for a rematch in “Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds.”
He was tutored in the history of magic by John Constantine.
This young mage was created by Neil Gaiman and John Bolton in 1990 and debuted in “The Books of Magic” Vol. 1 #1. Born with the potential to wield vast magical powers in the service of either good or evil, he was tutored by John Constantine and the rest of the so-called Trenchcoat Brigade (Doctor Occult, Mister E and the Phantom Stranger) in an effort to gauge and perhaps influence his moral compass. He later starred in his own ongoing series, in which his powers were expanded upon and explored in more detail.
She was the leader of the Exiles.
The Earth-616 version of this popular mutant only lived for a short time. Created in 1994 by Scott Lobdell and Joe Madureira, she debuted during the “Phalanx Covenant” storyline, in “Uncanny X-Men” #317. She inadvertently sacrificed her life one short month after her first appearance, freeing the young mutants who would go on to form Generation X, from their Phalanx guard. An alternate version of the character appeared a year later in the “Age of Apocalypse and eventually assumed leadership of the Exiles, a cross-dimensional team of mutant heroes, charged with protecting the multiverse.
He first appeared during Grant Morrison’s classic run on “Doom Patrol.”
This astonishing sentient piece of geography was created by Grant Morrison and Brendan McCarthy in 1990, during the former’s classic run on “Doom Patrol.” He possesses the ability to teleport anywhere on the planet and integrate himself into urban environments without causing damage to the existing infrastructure. He provided a home to many strange and wonderful inhabitants and eventually evolved into a new class of being, leaving the mainstream DC Universe to occupy an alternate dimension. He was last seen as a member of the New 52 incarnation of the Teen Titans, sacrificing himself to save his teammates.
This covert team of heroes was Jim Lee’s first creator-owned work for Image Comics.
One of Image Comics flagship titles along with “Spawn” and “Savage Dragon,” Jim Lee’s super-team was his first creator-owned work for the company he help found and debuted in 1992. A clandestine unit of soldiers embroiled in a war between two earthbound alien races called the Kherubim and the Daemonites, the team's creation served as the foundation of Lee’s Wildstorm Universe. While somewhat derivative of the ‘90s, the Wildstorm Universe was eventually absorbed by DC Comics and shoehorned into its New 52 continuity, until relatively recently. Currently, Warren Ellis is rebooting Lee’s original properties in the pages of “The Wild Storm.”
They were transformed into a true fighting force by Cable.
A ‘90s mainstay, this team first appeared in 100th and final issue of “New Mutants” in 1991. Created by Fabian Nicieza and Rob Liefeld, these mutant teens were led by the time travelling mutant known as Cable, who was looking for young warriors in his war against the Mutant Liberation Front. Over the years, there would be several different incarnations of the team, typically used in some kind of clandestine black ops capacity. Cyclops even used one version of the team, led by Wolverine as little more than an assassination squad tasked with proactively taking out threats to the mutant race.
He was Rob Liefeld’s answer to Superman.
The most powerful character in Rob Liefeld’s universe of heroes, he debuted in 1992, in the pages of “Youngblood” #3. Initially regarded as a bland pastiche of Superman, the character was reimagined by Alan Moore, after Liefeld asked him to write his ongoing series. Moore rebuilt him from the ground up, infusing him with a gravitas that was previously absent in his original incarnation. This version of the character was acclaimed by fans and critics alike for its exploration of comics history and juxtaposition of different artistic styles that evoked the major ages of the medium’s evolution.
He is the son of the Golden Age Starman.
The son of Ted Knight, the Golden Age Starman, he debuted in 1994 as a reluctant hero, who inherited his father’s legacy after the untimely death of his brother David. Created by James Robinson and Tony Harris, he never quite fit the mold of the traditional superhero, refusing to wear a costume and preferring to find peaceful solutions to his conflicts with so-called "villains." He much preferred running his antique collectible shop in Opal City and eventually retired from the superhero biz, passing along his cosmic staff to Courtney Whitmore a.k.a. Stargirl.
This young hero switched places with an alien suit of armor.
This teen hero debuted in the first issue of his self-titled ongoing series in 1991, created by Tom DeFalco and Mike Manley. His alter ego discovered an amulet of extraterrestrial origin that caused him to switch places with a powerful suit of armor. It was later revealed during the “War of Kings” storyline, that the alien armor was created by the mysterious Fraternity of Raptors, an interstellar order dedicated to preserving both the history and the future of the universe.