Thursday, March 19, 2015

Year in Review: 1997

Three movies in 1997 grossed more than $500,000,000. No. 3 was the wonderful Men in Black at $589 million. No. 2 was the disappointing The Lost World: Jurassic Park at $618 million (I read the book and liked it much better). The highest grossing film of the year made more money than those two combined. Coming in at a staggering, record-setting $1.8 billion — with a B — was Titanic. It also won the Academy Awards for best picture, director, original score and song. Since I was only 10 years old at the time, I had to wait until it came out on VHS to watch it. And even then, I could only watch the second tape, which did not contain any nudity. That's right. As late as 1997, we were still splitting long movies onto two separate VHS tapes.

Unfortunately, 1997 was not a good year for superhero films. The big one was Batman & Robin, which nearly destroyed the Batman franchise and all superhero films altogether. Just a terrible, terrible film. And many people forget this, but DC also released another movie in 1997 — Steel, starring Shaquille O'Neal. That movie is unwatchable, and technically worse than Batman & Robin. But the latter committed the greater sin by having a much larger budget and infinitely more popular and important character. I didn't see either of these movies in 1997 because I knew both would be awful. But I was more than occupied with Disney's Hercules and the release of the special editions of Star Wars.

This year was also a big one for Impulse. Coming off a relatively quiet 1996, Impulse appeared in 38 comics in 1997. Besides that, he also went through a major creative shift, swapping out Mark Waid and Humberto Ramos for William Messner-Loebs and Craig Rousseau. Impulse still didn't find a new superhero team to replace the New Titans, but he did make a relatively high number of appearances thanks to the Flash Month, the Plus series, and the Genesis event. We also got to see Impulse in the DC Animated Universe and were given one final glimpse of the Impulse-Quicksilver cross, Mercury.

Best Issue: Impulse #24

This was a tough one to decide. Impulse #25 and Impulse #32 were both wonderful and emotional. But issue #24 earns the slight edge mainly for the one amazing splash page of Bart giving a farewell hug to Max. It was such a wonderful and effective image, perfectly encapsulating the dynamic of these two characters. This issue also introduced us to Bart's long-lost mother, gave us lots of backstory about Bart's origins, reunited Max with his distant daughter, and revealed that Carol knew Bart was Impulse. It was such a monumental issue with superior artwork, writing, emotion and humor. This, and issue #25, was the perfect way to end the amazing Waid-Ramos run.

Best Writer: Mark Waid

Waid claims this award for the fourth year in a row, even though he only wrote a handful of Impulse issues in 1997. But he also had a big hand in the Flash Month event, and the few issues Waid did write, really were the best of the year. There were a handful of fill-in writers this year, and William Messner-Loebs didn't become the official full-time writer until later in the year. All that adds up to a stronger case for Waid, who didn't just go through the motions in handing off his creation. He made sure to send off Impulse on a high note, while also laying the groundwork for a new direction for the series. It's going to be very sad moving forward without the incomparable Waid, but I know we'll be able to see him again from time to time.

Best Artist: Humberto Ramos

Ramos claims this award for the third consecutive year, even though he worked on even less issues this year than Waid did. But he did do a handful of wonderful covers, and he left on such a beautiful, strong note, I just had to give him the slight edge over Craig Rousseau. Rousseau got off to a very rough start, but improved dramatically by the end of the year. But he only got to do one of his covers in 1997, and even Rousseau at his very best isn't as good as Ramos, in my opinion. And let's not forget that Ramos had the greatest impact of Impulse out of all the artists to draw him. Ramos set a new standard for how the character looks and feels, laying the foundation for years to come. Rousseau picked up from there, and did do a great job, but at the end of the day, he's a very close second place in my book.

Best Supporting Character: Carol Bucklen

Carol finally breaks through after threatening to win this award pretty much from the beginning. And it's all because she finally figured out Bart is Impulse and told him about it. Now she can fill that void Bart has been missing in his life the whole time. He really needed someone his age who knew his secret identity. Now Bart has someone he can talk to openly about his double life, and someone who can help cover for him and protect his identity, as well as keep his fleeting mind focused. Max Mercury comes in a very close second, especially for his emotional outbursts with Bart in issues #23 and #24. But Max spent big chunks of 1997 playing the damsel in distress and needing to be rescued by Bart. Other strong candidates for this award include Preston (see issue #32) and Helen Claiborne.

Best Villain: President Thawne

Bart's other grandpa comes away with the award in a rather weak field. Darkseid was involved in Genesis, but he wasn't really the main villain of that event. And after him, who else really threatened Impulse? There was Dr. Morlo, the Spazz, and the Suit, but none of them really felt that threatening, at least as far as Impulse was concerned. So I give the nod to President Thawne. Not so much for what he did to Impulse in the present, but more for what he did to him in the past. Thawne killed Bart's dad, kidnapped Bart, told Meloni that Bart was dead, then tried to turn Bart into his personal soldier. He also is the sole reason Bart has to stay separated from his mother. He may not do a lot in terms of classic super-villain fighting, but the effects of his behind-the-scenes actions are enormous.

That's it for 1997. We'll now move into another big, monumental year for Impulse, in which he will finally, finally form a new, wonderful superhero team! But first, we have to send the Legionnaires back to the 30th century. Next time, Legion of Super-Heroes #100.

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