Monday, April 4, 2016

Explaining DC Comics Bloodlines Crossover – Just For the Hell Of It Mondays

Blood In, Blood Out

This Wednesday brings issue number one of Bloodlines by J.T. Krul and V. Ken Marion, which harkens back to a much-reviled series that ran through DC Comics in the bloated funny book landscape of the 1990s. It was notable, perhaps, due to having run across a series of Annuals that did not cross over with regular continuity, and it was therefore easy to ignore by successive creative teams. We here at Weird Science DC do not forget...or is that we do not forgive? Maybe we don't forestall? One thing I know we don't do is write articles when we can publish interesting work by much more capable people, and so we are proud to present this retrospective on Bloodlines, written by Chris Sheehan of the Chris is on Infinite Earths blog! Read on for your gory edification! – Reggie

You had me at "first appearance"...

In light of this week's pending release of Bloodlines #1 (of 6) by J.T. Krul and V. Ken Marion the folks at Weird Science thought it would be a neat idea to revisit the original.

Bloodlines is such an indictment on early-nineties comics collecting culture and mentality.  Back then, perhaps fueled by the back-end of each issue of Wizard Magazine, we were all about the "first appearances".  From Deadpool and Doomsday (or just his fist) to the Battling Bantam and Slapstick, we could not get enough... these were after all, what were going to put us (and our children) through college.

It seems in 1993, the big two took special notice of this fact, and both devised ways in which every annual they released that year would feature the first appearance of what they hoped would be a hot new property.  Marvel polybagged each annual and included an exclusive trading card giving readers... er, investors some insight into the lives of these "Character Finds of 1993".

Not to be left out of the potential speculator frenzy, DC Comics' 1993 Annuals also each featured a brand-new character making their landmark first appearances.  I often like to play like I was immune to the speculator mindset.  Granted, I wouldn't indulge often, though that is more an indictment on the thickness of my wallet than any real enlightened precognitive foresight.  I was just as much a "mark" for these key issues as anybody.

Oh the excitement, cracking open the latest issue of Wizard Magazine to see how our recent purchases/investments were fairing in the market.  We felt as though we had blue chip stocks, and were managing our portfolios.  Fun at the time, however, terrifyingly sad looking at it through the rear-view.

There was one main difference between Marvel and DC's efforts that year.  Marvel was simply using the Annual platform as a way to introduce a new character... the DC Annuals were all interconnected.  Bloodlines, for all its warts... was a story.  Several "waves" of story, in fact.

Bloodlines begins with the Outbreak story line which ran through the May and June 1993 Annuals.  These issues introduce the concept of the Bloodlines Aliens, who act as parasites by sucking down the spinal fluid of their prey.

Bloodlines: Outbreak starts in Lobo Annual #1, wherein a the L.E.G.I.O.N. discovers an odd egg-shaped craft in space.

Inside the craft lay the Parasitic "Bloodlines" Aliens.  They make quick work of the L.E.G.I.O.N. Squadron with the exception of Lobo and a woman named Layla (the girl with the purple mohawk on the above cover) who manage to escape.  The Parasites did in fact manage to nip Layla's nape, however, this only causes her previously dormant meta-gene to activate granting her great strength and toughness.

The aliens, now awakened set their sites to Earth.  Throughout the next eight annuals, we meet the few new characters of note.  Among the more prominent are Anima, Argus, Ballistic, and Nightblade.  The former two characters would go on to star in their own ill-fated ongoing titles, while the latter two joined the Blood Pack for their four-issue "ongoing" tour de force.

The second chapter of Bloodlines is Earthplague which ran through the July and August 1993 Annuals.

Earthplague featured several of the "New Blood" characters teaming up with established DC superheroes.  Perhaps this second chapter was a way in which DC Comics could attempt to somewhat legitimize these new properties.  Showing these new characters as on a measure of equal footing with such beloved characters as Robin, Green Arrow, and the Justice League made it appear as though these folks may be here to stay.  Hindsight sadly (though your mileage may vary) tells a different story.  Razorsharp, who appeared in the Robin Annual would head the Psyba-Rats team following the event and star in their three-issue limited series.

The penultimate chapter of Bloodties was Deathstorm which ran from late August to early October 1993.

Deathstorm is perhaps the most famous chapter in this story as it features a certain Demon Annual.  The Demon Annual #2 has the distinction of being the Bloodlines issue that actually managed to attain both monetary and critical fame.  This issue featured the first appearance of the sole enduring "New Blood" character, Tommy Monaghan... known better to us mortals as Hitman.  Hitman was created by Garth Ennis and John McCrea and his ongoing series ran for 60 issues.

Finally, the whole shebang wrapped up in the two-part Bloodbath which closed out October 1993.

Bloodbath features the final confrontation between the New Bloods (with the one true Superman... and that other Batman) against the parasites.  When the dust settled, we found ourselves in the wake of an injection of "New Blood" on the comic shop shelves...

Following the Bloodlines crossover, seven (ongoing and limited) titles were launched including Anima, Argus, Blood Pack, Gunfire, Hitman, Loose Cannon, and Psyba-Rats... with the exception of Hitman, this launch proved wildly unsuccessful.  This was an event that when mentioned today is often met with groans, smirks, and snarky commentary... which, is perhaps a bit unfair.

This event was shaped by the vintage in which it was published.  It was truly a speculator's paradise, wherein it felt as though every single issue released to market had to have an angle... something that made it stand out from the rest.  In the age of the extreme, it's the bloodiest, shiniest, and most Wizard Magazine Top-Ten friendly that made it on your read pile.

Was it any good?  Well, I think I can safely say... it wasn't all bad.  Is it worth a read?  Maybe not in its entirety, however, there are some fun gems hidden in this Chromium-Age epic.  Ramifications were ultimately short-lived, and only proved to place something of a time-stamp on mid-1990's DC Comics lore.

Even though, by all accounts the Bloodlines mini-series being released throughout the Summer of 2016 is leaning more toward a horror type of tone, I can't help but hope for a little early to mid-1990's cheese to sneak its way into the proceedings.

For a great in depth look at all of the new DC creations borne out of Bloodlines, check out Comics Should be Good's January 2016 piece on the subject.

Today, over at my blog Chris is on Infinite Earths I will be taking an in depth look at one of the Bloodlines entries from the Outbreak chapter, Superman (vol.2) Annual #5 by Dan Jurgens and David Lapham.  It's a pretty interesting story that just so happens to fall within the Reign of the Supermen storyline.  Cyborg Superman called Superman (vol.2) home during this era, so he's our star.  If you are interested, please give it a peek!  Thank you for reading, and thank you Weird Science for having me.
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  1. Also worth mentioning Sparx appearing throughout Superboy and the Ravers, which itself was instantly dismissed as another in the line of teenage teamup books from that era. But it's a classic.

    1. Very true! I always forget that Superboy and the Ravers was even a thing!

  2. This is a little off-topic, but reading this article reminded me that none of us knew that Superman (Clark Kent) was coming back (or at least I didn't) and was pretty excited at the prospect of four new wannabe Supermen running around. I was particularly fond of the Cyborg and Eradicator and hoped that Superman would stay dead and be a major legacy point in the DCU(a la Marvel's Captain Marvel). Great memories.

    1. that's actually pretty funny because I found myself loving Steel and Superboy after Superman died and remember that I really wanted Steel taking over for him because I thought that he looked so bad ass with the armor, cape and hammer. I actually didn't want anything to do with Cyborg Superman or the Eradictor, but now I'm a huge fan of Cyborg Superman and really can't stand Steel.

  3. I know these comics aren't very good, I knew that even when I was 10 years old and collecting them all, but they are a guilty pleasure and I have weird nostalgia for them. I really hope DC someday puts together a Bloodlines omnibus.


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