The period of the years 200o to 2009 could be argued to be the biggest decade in the history of comic books. This was the decade that comics finally broke through to the mainstream. From Marvel recovering from bankruptcy to becoming THE comic company to comic movies grossing billions of dollars worldwide, this was a decade to remember.
Instead of doing a countdown, I am going to just list the biggest defining moments in the decade of comics whether they be storyline, company, writer, artist or media related. They are in no particular order. So much has happened this decade that I could fill five columns, so if I missed your favorite moment feel free to yell/pester/comment me.
The Rise of Brian Michael Bendis: To me Bendis = Marvel. He is without a doubt the biggest writer in comics and has been synonymous with Marvel Comics for most of the decade. First, lets backtrack. In 2000 Bendis was a relative unknown having only written some indy comics and done some work for Todd McFarlane over at Image. When Joe Quesada took over Marvel as Editor-In-Chief (more on that later) someone showed him some of Bendis’ work, and he immediately saw the strengths of his writing. He was given the task of launching Ultimate Spider-Man with artist Mark Bagley, which was a retelling of Spider-Man’s origin in modern times with many changes. Of course all the fanboys hated this idea and even more-so the idea of a nobody writing Spider-Man. Then something happened. Over the course of the first arc people realized, “WOW! This guy can write!” Bendis has a knack much like Joss Whedon for writing realistic dialogue. Many of his comics are talky but feel like you are ease dropping on a real conversation. After this Bendis was given another assignment, a short stint on Daredevil with artist David Mack. This again was better than anyone had expected.
Bendis soon found himself the ongoing writer on Daredevil with old Image partner Alex Maleev. They turned in an amazing run from issues #26-81 that ranks as one of the ALL time greatest Daredevil runs, possibly only second to Frank Miller. He then turned his attention to the Avengers Franchise. That’s where “business picked up”. Bendis decided to do away with the old guard of Avengers in an event called Avengers: Disassembled. He had the Scarlet Witch driven mad by chaos magic and the Avengers, as we knew them, were gone. Then came New Avengers with an all star team of characters such as Spider-Man, Wolverine, Captain America, and newcomers like Luke Cage and Spider-Woman. For years the Avengers franchise had lagged far below X-Men but all of a sudden New Avengers was a ginormous hit for Marvel which led to Bendis writing Mighty Avengers and even now Dark Avengers. While this was all going on, he continues to this day to write Ultimate Spider-Man with an astounding 143 consecutive issues, which in this day and age is unheard of. Bendis has become Marvel’s #1 talent all the while never letting ego set in. He keeps in touch with his fans on the Bendis Board.
The Launch of the Ultimate Universe/Joe Quesada Promoted to Editor-In-Chief: In 1999, Marvel was near death and had declared Bankruptcy. They were even close to selling their characters and assets to DC Comics. The only major highlight of 1999 for Marvel was their Marvel Knights imprint which was run by Joe Quesada and Jimmy Palimotti. They hired their friend Kevin Smith (yes, THAT Kevin Smith) to write Daredevil and Marvel had a huge hit on its hands for once. Cue early 2000, and Joe Quesada was given the reigns of Editor In Chief. All of a sudden Marvel was hip and edgy again. Every corner of the Marvel Universe was retooled and modified. Top writers and artists who had refused to work for Marvel were now willing. There was an influx of talent the likes of Grant Morrison, Brian Michael Bendis, Mark Millar, J. Michael Straczynski and more. Something that the old administration had already put into motion was something of a reboot/separate universe for the newer fan without all the continuity and characters of the regular Marvel Universe. This was called the Ultimate Universe. Quesada put Bendis on Ultimate Spider-Man and Mark Millar on Ultimate X-Men. These became gateway comics to the mainstream audience. These were the first comics to immediately be put in collected editions when they were finished with a story arc. It led to Barnes and Noble and other bookstores ordering large amounts of the collected editions as well.
Civil War: In 2006-2007 there were only two words that mattered in comics: Civil War. To say this was the biggest event of the decade would be an understatement. It tore the Marvel Universe in half and the repercussions are still being felt today. With an incredible creative team of Mark Millar and Steve McNiven, it was a seven issue mini-series that also ran throughout every title Marvel published. The premise of it was the introduction of a Superhuman Registration Act in the USA. The act required any person in the United States with superhuman abilities to register with the federal government as a “human weapon of mass destruction”, reveal his/her true identity to the authorities, and undergo proper training. It had many political allegories to what was going on at the time as well. This led to Iron Man being on the Pro-Registration side and convincing Spider-Man to reveal his identity to the world, with Captain America leading the Anti-Registration resistance. This was the first crossover in years to sell well over 200,000 copies. The ending was Captain America surrendering and Iron Man leading a whole new Marvel Universe with his pro-registration, which in turn led to the next big moment…
The Death of Captain America: In 2007 for the first time in a very long time, the front page of most newspapers had a super-hero on the cover. Not since the Death of Superman in 1992 had mainstream press picked up on a story this big in comics. After an incredible 25 issue run by Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting, Brubaker did the unthinkable. As Cap went up the stairs for his hearing after Civil War, he was assassinated. The symbol of America in the Marvel universe was dead. This led to Cap’s long thought dead sidekick Bucky Barnes taking up the mantle of Captain America with some modifications and just now are we seeing the return of Steve Rogers. (No one stays dead in comics)
The Rise of Geoff Johns: Geoff Johns started off the 2000’s co-writing JSA with David S. Goyer. Shortly after that he was given a shot at writing Flash. Little did anyone know this was the beginning of a superstar writer and an EPIC Flash run as well. Very quickly Johns’ star began to rise at DC Comics and soon he was writing Flash, and then in 2003 he relaunched the Teen Titans with an amazing cast of teen heroes such as Superboy and Kid Flash. 2005 was a banner year for Geoff as he orchestrated the return/rebirth of Hal Jordan (the former Green Lantern who in 1992-3 had been made to kill all his fellow Green Lanterns, go batshit insane, and become the villain Parallax). Johns took this continuity and ran with it but found a way to redeem Hal Jordan as a Green Lantern and restore the Green Lantern Corps and franchise to its rightful place at the top of DC Comics. Right now we are seeing the payoff to all this with Blackest Night. Also, in 2005 Geoff penned the big DC epic Infinite Crisis, which was met with mediocre results but mostly because of editorial interference. Then in 2008 Geoff turned his sights towards the Man of Steel and went about writing some of the very best Superman stories in a long time. He ended 2009 with Flash: Rebirth, bringing Barry Allen back to the mantle of Flash. Geoff Johns is DC’s equivalent to Bendis. Even outside of comics people are experiencing him, as he wrote an episode of Smallville last year and will be doing a 2-parter this year introducing the Justice Society to live action. Geoff Johns may very well be the best writer in comics today.
One More Day: One of the most controversial decisions of the 2000’s was Marvel EIC Joe Quesada’s decision to go ahead with a storyline in the Spider-Man books called One More Day. Since 1987 Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson had been married, but over the years many writers had complained that there wasn’t much you could do with a married Peter Parker and that it took out the core traits of the character. Of course there is a STRONG majority who loved the marriage. Quesada bit the bullet in 2008 and decided to get rid of the marriage with a story where Aunt May is shot due to the fallout of Peter Parker’s ID being public knowledge and leads to Peter and MJ making a deal with Mephisto (Marvel’s version of the devil) to spare Aunt May’s life. In return, Mephisto would wipe everyone’s mind of Peter Parker’s ID but him and MJ would never have been married. To this day there is still a strong majority of fans who hate this storyline and have boycotted Marvel for it. Others have grown to love the single Peter Parker.
Comic Book Movies Reach The Next Level: Up until the 2000’s DC had been the only comic company to have success in the movie business. The Superman and Batman franchises had been moderately successful. That was about to change and it all began with 2000’s X-Men. Bryan Singer had the right cast and made it at the right time. All of a sudden people realized that these so called “kid stories” were more than that and there were real characters and real layers. Marvel became a movie juggernaut in the 2000’s with Blade II and Spider-Man in 2002, Daredevil, Hulk and X2: X-Men United in 2003, Spider-Man 2, Blade: Trinity and The Punisher in 2004, Elektra and Fantastic Four in 2005, X-Men: The Last Stand and Ghost Rider in 2006, and Spider-Man 3 and Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer in 2007. Then in 2008 Marvel took control with the opening of Marvel Studios and financed and controlled their own movies with Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk with the ability to crossover characters from each movie. They finished out the decade with Punisher: War Zone and X-Men Origins: Wolverine in 2009. Meanwhile, DC had a rough time with their only output being Catwoman in 2004 (probably the worst comic movie ever…), Batman Begins in 2005, Superman Returns in 2006, The Dark Knight in 2008, and Watchmen in 2009.