So the Chrome Age runs, roughly, from about 1992-2008(?). When exactly it ends is open to debate, but it pretty much begins with the Death of Superman and the foundation of Image Comics. (Read about recent comics history here).
I’m interested in defining the runs that came out during that period that we’d consider classic, essential runs. Are there any story arcs written during the Chrome Age that will, in a few more decades, be considered on par with Claremont’s X-Men or the Stern/DeFalco & Frenz run with Amazing Spider-Man?
Four runs come to mind for me:
Ron Marz on Green Lantern (#48-125)
Marz’s run was polarizing because of Hal Jordan’s plunge into insanity and his subsequent replacement by Kyle Rayner. Jordan fans went nuts, but Marz should be praised for doing something daring with an established character. And Hal’s ouster wasn’t just a “Death of Superman” or “Superior Spider-Man” -style attempt to drum up sales. Things didn’t go “back to normal” after a year or two. This was real change, real character development (insofar as such things are possible in a medium in which universes can be undone and reinvented at any time). In Kyle Marz gave us a likeable and relatable Lantern, a character who because of the responsibility and power suddenly thrust upon him now found himself rubbing shoulders with Superman and Batman. But because Kyle had no history with these characters, the new GL injected an everyman into the Justice League set. One favourite detail of mine: when he wasn’t busy saving the world, Kyle was a professional artist. Imagination and creativity were supposed to be key character traits. Marz promised that Kyle would never use the ring the same way twice, and he never did. He didn’t hit bad guys with a giant green fist in every issue. He was always finding new and sometimes hilarious ways to pound his adversaries to a pulp.
Mark Waid on The Flash (#62-129)
Long before he was breathing new life into Daredevil and scripting The Fox, Waid was building a reputation for himself writing the adventures of Wally West. Like Marz, Waid was handling a “next generation” incarnation of a fan-favourite. After Barry Allen died in Crisis on Infinite Earths, Wally took his place. And while Wally had been the man in the red pyjamas for five years already, it was Waid who really define West’s tenure as the Flash. One of the exciting elements about Waid’s Flash was the scope of Wally’s powers. Every new arc seemed to stretch the Flash’s capabilities. Towards the end of the arc, the Flash, who could channel the “Speed Force” to a variety of effects seemed equal to the Green Lantern’s, Wonder Woman’s and even Superman’s of the DCU. Waid made good use of the Flash’s colourful rogues gallery, and through Linda Park, Waid was able to add a human dimension to the Flash, the kind of thing usually reserved for Spider-Man comics.
Erik Larsen on The Savage Dragon (1-Present!)
Erik Larsen deserves more praise for what he’s accomplished with The Savage Dragon. Dragon was one of the original six concepts that launched Image Comics. Of those six, only The Savage Dragon and Spawn remain, and McFarlane long ago handed off responsibility for Spawn to other creative teams. For sheer longevity alone, Larsen’s run on The Savage Dragon is unprecedented. Larsen’s early years developing the character were a wild ride. The comic was goofy and violent, funny and sexy. It was filled with classic superhero slugfests and witty dialogue. Larsen developed a mythology and rogues gallery that was diverse and crazy imaginative. It left the reader feeling he was engaging with all of comic book history in some bizarre and delicious amalgamation (i.e. Iron Man + the Punisher + Captain America = Super Patriot). And along the way, Larsen’s Dragon really changed, sometimes radically. Lovers died. Villains were slain. Dragon left the police force and joined a government-funded super-team. This kind of storytelling can be attributed to Larsen’s vision and dedication.
Todd McFarlane on Spawn (#1-70)
McFarlane remains one of the greatest comic book artists of all time. And at the dawn of the Chrome Age he also gave us one of the most interesting characters of all time. McFarlane’s Spawn suffered perhaps from overexposure. That might be one reason why the character’s star has fallen in the past 10 years. In the early-mid-90s though, Spawn was it. He was an antihero with a tragic past and a cursed future. He made a deal with the devil and was trapped in a sentient costume. He spent his time fighting with demons and living in an alley among homeless people. Among the highlights of this series is an arc from 29-32 in which Spawn travels the American south while his Hellspawned costume goes through a kind of metamorphosis. There’s a reason Spawn was one of the bestselling comics during the 90s; it wasn’t all flash. There was a great and original story being developed there with outstanding art first by McFarlane and later by Greg Capullo.