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Bloodlines: The ’90s Crossover So Gross That DC Tried To Forget It

Out of all the comic book events created by DC Comics in the 1990s, perhaps none were as emblematic of the absolute worst trends of the decade as Bloodlines, the company’s massive 1993 crossover storyline. In a decade in which Superman died, Green Lantern turned evil, and Batman’s spine was snapped, DC certainly had no shortage of shock-value stories. But Bloodlines wasn’t merely an alien-invasion story – it was also a backdoor pilot of sorts for a whopping twenty-four new heroes… nearly all of whom, by the end of the decade, would be forgotten by DC along with the entire event.

The push for new heroes in Bloodlines was part of a short-lived sentiment among executives that staple characters like Superman were seen by readers as behind-the-times. It was hoped that these “New Blood” heroes would earn new series of their own, prompting collectors to buy up first issues. This was part of the Comic Speculation boom of the ’90s. New character introductions, deaths, and grand “nothing will ever be the same” moments sold comics by the box, and so that’s what Bloodlines set out to deliver.

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Seven alien parasites from another dimension arrive on Earth, each named after one of the seven deadly sins: Angon (anger), Pritor (Pride), Venev (vanity), Lissik (lust), Gemir (greed), Glonth (gluttony), and Slodd (sloth). They each possess the ability to shapeshift between their human form and their true form: large insectoids with multiple limbs, a hard exoskeleton and a proboscis with which they could suck spinal fluid from their victims, often in gruesome, over-the-top displays of gore. This was usually fatal, but in rare cases, the bite activated the victims’ latent superpowers – bringing forth the New Blood heroes.

The appearances of the New Blood heroes showcased every unfortunate costume cliche the ’90s had to offer. Oversized leather jackets, large shoulder pads, chrome wiring, tactical harnesses, and open cowls that allowed the heroes’ long hair to flow freely. Their powers, despite originating from the same source, were likewise characteristic of the grim and gritty ’90s: Gunfire could turn any object into a gun, firing its mass as bullets; Argus could turn invisible (but only in the shadows); Shadowstryke could launch dark energy blasts from his hands; and nearly every hero carried a weapon of some sort, usually a large machine gun or sword.

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New Blood heroes tended to debut in the DC annuals, and the narratives were distressingly similar: the new Bloodlines hero would be attacked by one of the seven aliens, wake up hours later and discover their powers, create a costume, encounter an established hero (the Flash, Batman, Green Lantern, etc.) and fight that hero before finally teaming up to defeat the alien. In almost every instance, the New Blood hero deals the final blow.

After three chapters of Bloodlines (“Outbreak,” “Earthplague,” and “Deathstorm”), the entire event culminated in the two-parter Bloodbath. Here, the aliens kill themselves in order for their dead bodies to merge and form the Taker, a massive, Cthulhu-like mass of alien tentacles and teeth that absorbs all the established “behind the times” superheroes (except Superman). Only the New Bloods could save the heroes and take down the Taker for good, at which point they all began stories in their own books – none of which lasted longer than a year, except for Hitman, the only New Blood hero to enjoy true popularity.

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Today, Bloodlines is mostly treated as an embarrassment, and even the Justice League came to see the New Bloods as a joke: in Hitman/JLA #1, the Flash says the New Bloods “…invent just the worst reason for team-ups,” and Green Lantern admits “Those guys are lame. I mean they are really lame.” The New Bloods who weren’t unceremoniously killed off in subsequent stories quickly faded into obscurity, along with the rest of Bloodlines. As a time capsule of ’90s comic book trends, it’s fascinating, but as a DC Comics story, it’s best left forgotten.

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