Dark Days of DC

Was the early 90s the darkest days of DC? I never thought about it until recently but within a 2-2 1/2 year period you had the death of Superman, Batman’s back broken and replaced for about a year, green lantern (Hal Jordan) becomes parallax and takes out the guardians and the entire Corp, killing Killowag, death of green arrow, I think Hawk died after becoming evil, I think Hawkman died too. Then there is the whole woman stuffed in the refrigerator ordeal. I believe I’m missing a few other deaths and horrible acts. Is this the darkest time of dc comics not including alternate universe stories or else world tales?


I really don’t think it’s that dark over on the DC side. In my opinion, DC was having some of their greatest hits such as The Long Halloween, Superman For All Seasons, and Kingdom Come. They did have a few stumbles such as 90’s Wonder Woman, but I feel that it was largely countered by runs such as Birds of Prey, Nightwing, and Robin.

I think that the 90’s were largely dark because of the over saturated darkness and the deconstructionist view many writers had after Watchmen was published. Along with that, the business practices also did not help them due to them causing the crash.


I understand what your saying but that’s not what I was trying to say. I was saying they were dark times because of those deaths and events. No the stories weren’t as dark and depressing as we have today but it was a dark time because of all the major deaths.

That’s also why I said I wasn’t talking about else worlds or alternate universe stories as the ones you listed.


Hawkman on average dies once a week, so that is not a big deal. I once had a team up with him where he died and came back 9 times.


I think the '90s were pretty focused on events and big shakeups, which could even be pretty cool sometimes, and some books (mainly at Image and Marvel, but you saw the occasional Fate or Extreme Justice at DC) had this shallow, exaggerated, action-focused “gritty” style that people sometimes confuse with darkness. But even that was almost exclusively in the first half of the decade.

But, like, I’m reading Identity Crisis right now (I’ve been familiar with its general plot and more controversial points, but haven’t read it and tie-ins straight through). Something like this would never have happened in the '90s. Most of the ‘90s’ excesses were temporary problems. Superman dies so he can come back. Batman is replaced by AzBats so he can come back. Even Artemis as Wonder Woman, while much more poorly executed than those two, was just a single arc in a single title.

Now, there is Parallax, and that was pretty over-the-top. But it was also a big deal at the time. They wrangled two company-wide events out of it. Both of them sucked, by the way, but they existed.

As far as Women in Refrigerators goes, that specific moment was raised mainly as an example of a trend which arguably dates back at least to Gwen Stacy’s death in 1973, and certainly didn’t stop after the '90s. Again: Identity Crisis.

See, while the '90s liked their shocking twists and turns, the 2000s were when it became popular to think of lesser-known characters as disposable. You could kill, maim, or do worse to any lesser-known recurring character as long as it made life more interesting for the tentpole-types.

There are exceptions to all of this because there are exceptions to everything, but that’s my impression as someone who started reading comics in the 2010s, but has read a lot from the '90s and generally prefers that era to more modern stuff.


Very interesting question @fishin4bass.66054! I’ve recently been reading Batman & Deathstroke ‘90s series. Although they all seem to have a darker storyline, art style, and overall tone, I’ve also found them to be clever and humorous - really becoming fond of this era of writing. The love for the characters seems to have felt an internal shift in the 1990s comics but I personally see this as a benefit of the heroes having been around for a while and young writers coming in to narrate their own grittier versions of their favorite protagonists.

This might be off on a tangent but perhaps our resident Comic Historian @TurokSonOfStone1950 knows an additional tidbit… Was there something going on with DC during the 1990s that caused these major dark event storylines to all start popping off around that time (increase sales, spice up the arcs, lead to something bigger, experiment, etc.)?

Good points @JeepersItsTheJamags!

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Re the 90s

I looked at

Secret Origins the Story of DC Comics

1 hour and 17 minutes in

And my super hero genre history

From after crisis in 1986 to Kingdom Come in 1996

There were two distinct trends in that time

The bright and shining reboots of Superman by John Byrne and Wonder Woman by George Perez. Plus The lighter touch of Justice League International

The much darker but well written worlds of Frank Miller and the British writers that eventually resulted in Vertigo.

By the time the 90s came around the second type of comics were selling

The more traditional heroes were not selling
So DC did stunts
to jack up sales
Aquaman lost a hand
Hal Jordan became Parallax

Traditional DC Comic books lost their way especially as they tried to compete against
Image and Vertigo.

Kingdom Come in 1996 was a rebuke to all this

Again see
Secret Origins
at one hour and 17 minutes
for a summary of that time.


Thank you O’Wise @TurokSonOfStone1950! :pray: Very interesting - I knew you’d know the answer!

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