The comic book industry was at it’s most profitable at the start of the 1990’s. Things had looked bleak in the late 1970’s when sales had dropped drastically but thanks to the direct market (specialized comic stores) things had turned around. By the early 1990’s there was several comic titles that were selling copies in the millions (Spider-Man #1, X-Men #1 and of course the death of Superman).
Several top Marvel artists left the company to form their own comic company, Image Comics, in 1992 and the speculator market went into overdrive. Gimmick covers, bad writing and painfully long event stories started dominating the industry. By the mid ’90s the comic market collapsed with the biggest casualty being Marvel Comics. In 1996 the company filed for bankruptcy.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was the first live action film out of the gate for 1990. The characters were created as a parody of superhero comics in 1980s but had taken on a life of their own and with a successful cartoon, the film was a hit and would spawn to more sequels.
Many more comics would get movie screen treatment throughout the 1990s. Disney adapted Dave Stevens’ comic The Rocketeer in 1990, James O’Barr’s The Crow would become a cult classic after leading actor Brandon Lee was killed on set. Jim Carrey’s career would get a big kick when Dark Horse would adapt one of their titles into the 1994 CGI filled The Mask. British cult comic Tank Girl would misfire on screens as well as Sylvester Stallone’s attempt to bring Judge Dredd to life. More misfires from Dark Horse with Barb Wire in 1996 and Virus in 1999.
Marvel would fail several times to get a successful feature film. In 1990 a lame attempt in the form of Captain America wouldn’t even make it to screens, a Fantastic Four film in 1994 was so bad it’s never been released and the two made of TV movies Generation X and Nick Fury: Agent of SHIELD with David Hasselhoff as Nick were both dismal. Marvel’s only successful films would be Men in Black in 1997 (the comic was published by a branch of Marvel) and New Line’s Blade in 1998.
With Image’s success there was soon cartoons and movies based off some of the more popular properties. Todd McFarlane’s Spawn would get a cartoon series and a movie. The cartoon was better than the movie.
DC/Warner Brothers would continue their success with Batman with a sequel also directed by Tim Burton, Batman Returns. The success of the Bruce Timm/Paul Dini animated TV series would lead to a feature film in 1993, Batman: Mask of Phantasm which sadly didn’t do very well at the box office. In 1995 a third Batman film was made without Burton or Keaton. Batman Forever with director Joel Schumacher would begin the decline of the franchise which accumulated in 1997’s Batman and Robin. DC would only try one other character, Superman spin-off character Steel got screen treatment in 1997 with Shaquille O’Neal in the role. It’s a terrible movie.