1989 is one of those years that doesn’t seem like it was that long ago. The late seventies or early eighties, sure, and anything pre Star Wars definitely. But 1989 can’t be that long ago right? It isn’t like someone who was born that year could now legally rent a car or anything. Time, as they say, does fly and before we know it a quarter of a century has passed since we were asked if we had ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight. But 1989 wasn’t only the year that introduced us to Prince’s Bat-Dance, for there were a lot of other comic book milestones that year. Here are a few of the key books and events that made headlines.
The Batman Movie: This was without a doubt the biggest event of 1989. It is hard to really convey how epic and important this move was to today’s moviegoer that has an embarrassment of riches in terms of comic book movies. Before Batman the only decent superhero flicks had been Superman and Superman II; the others were all total garbage. The movie was heavily influenced by The Dark Knight Returns and The Killing Joke and was a total shock to those expecting some sort of Adam West fun romp though the Batcave. In the end Batman would go on to the highest grossing movie in North America that year (Last Crusade beat it world-wide) and its visual style and darker tone would influence the treatment of Batman, and superhero movies, for years to come.
Inferno: Once upon a time Marvel and DC didn’t have 3 giant cross-over events every year, so when a major company storyline took place it was pretty special. The main story ran through the X-books, and dealt with demons corrupting and using Magik and Madelyne Pryor to open a doorway for demons to enter New York. The series soundly established Mr. Sinister as a major X-villain and wraps up the Pryor/Jean Grey story. However, the non-X-books all dealt with the demonic invasion of New York, so while the X-Men were trying to stop the source of the invasion, Spider-Man, the FF, Daredevil, and the Avengers were busy trying to stop demons from eating panicky New Yorkers. One of the demons possesses the Hobgoblin and this demonic version would clash with Spider-Man for years to come. Inferno set the framework for all company-wide crossovers to come.
Atlantis Attacks: Of course not all large crossovers work as well. Atlantis Attacks ran though all the Marvel Annuals that summer and despite the title has very little to do with Atlantis or it attacking. The main villains are Ghaur and Llyra and their plot revolves around using the Serpent Crown to bring Set to Earth. It was the first time Marvel had used all its annuals in a large scale serial format and while it doesn’t rank as anyone’s favourite Marvel crossover, it actually makes more sense than some of the stories we’ve seen over the past couple of years.
Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on a Serious Earth: Written by Grant Morrison with art by Dave McKean, Arkham still holds up as one of the best Batman stories ever written. It deals with Batman being forced through a gauntlet of inmates who have taken over the asylum, but presents familiar villains in stark, terrifying, and surreal versions of themselves. The book was written as Morrison’s response to the trend in the 80s of making Batman increasingly violent, perhaps even psychotic, and has since been used as key source material for other comics, movies, and video games. The painted illustrations and distinctive lettering fit the story perfectly and it is a must-read for any Bat-fan.
If you haven’t seen Batman or read any of the above series since 1989 I would recommend a trip down memory lane, and if you have never read Atlantis Attacks there is a dollar bin somewhere with your name on it. Go get ’em tiger!