Marvel Comics’ December 1991 Cool-O-Meter

Back in the early 1990s, Marvel Comics’ identity was transitioning from the kistchy clubhouse that Stan Lee’s Soapbox columns presented in the 60s and 70s, to a more corporate-minded entity. But for those last few years, they were still holding onto the older brother telling his kid sibling why Marvel Comics Was Cool message, and started introducing the Cool-O-Meter, so you would know what things you “should” and “should not” like in popular culture.

I know other websites have posted a bunch of these, but none of them go through every single entry like I’m about to do. So strap in and prepare for a buttload of nostalgia from 1991!

First off, we have Dr. Seuss. Opinions on ol’ Theodor Geisel have maybe swayed a little bit in 2021, given that the current publishers of his work have decided to discontinue publishing a handful of books with illustrations that haven’t aged particularly well, but in late 1991? Sure. I guess he was the coolest of the cool.

Next up, Guns ‘n’ Roses. In 1991, GNR contributed “You Could Be Mine” off their Use Your Illusion II album to the soundtrack for Terminator 2: Judgment Day. They were already one of the biggest rock bands in the world thanks to 1987’s Appetite for Destruction album, but four years later? Yeah, they were probably the coolest band in the world, as well.

The Power Pack Holiday Special is not a comic I’m familiar with, but I’ll bet it stars the Power Pack, a quartet of elementary school-aged siblings with super powers, and probably takes place around Christmas time. No idea if this was actually cool or not, I’m just going to chalk this up to Marvel sticking in a bit of self-promotion.

Mystery Science Theatre 3000, the show featuring a man trapped with snarky robots in space who are perpetually tortured by being forced to watch bad sci-fi movies, is probably the only thing on this list that’s genuinely COOLER in 2021 than it was in 1991. MST3K had a very successful Kickstarter a few years back, resulting in a couple of new seasons on Netflix. Shout Factory has select episodes of the original series available for free streaming.

Spy Magazine is not a thing I’m familiar with, but apparently it was a satirical magazine that lampooned American popular culture from 1986 to 1998. That sounds like something that probably belongs just below MST3K on a Cool-O-Meter.

Northern Exposure was an early-90s dramedy series about a New York City physician sent to become a general practictioner in the small town of Cicely, Alaska. I’ve never seen the show, but I’ve been told it was very good. It won a bunch of Emmys, so, y’know. Awards.

Utter Lack of Pretentiousness. This loquacious inclusion is a fanciful reminder for one to, “always be yourself.”

Kim “The Alley Cat” Alley was a name I was unfamiliar with, but it turns out she was a popular model at the time. Today, she is a model talent scout. And apparently around this time she had just broken off an affair with a now-former president. So there you go.

Characters With No First Names is next on the list. Would that include, maybe, Logan? Bishop? Gambit? Had Johnny Blaze come back toteh Ghost Rider comic by this point, calling himself just “Blaze”? A bizarre inclusion.

Olympic Basketball Team: Jordan. Bird. Magic. Barkley. Stockton. Malone. Pippen. Mullin. Drexler. Ewing. Robinson. Christian Laettner, who began his pro career with a gold medal. And Shaq as an alternate before he joined the NBA. The 1992 USA Men’s Olympic Summer Basketball Team is the greatest basketball team ever assembled. You will never convince me otherwise.

Pregnant Sitcom Actresses is a very weird inclusion on this list, but maybe there were a lot of pregnant actresses that TV season? I could only find a couple, but who knows what then-popular shows have been forgotten to time?

The Barbi Twins were a pair of real-life identical twins who posed for Playboy earlier that year. Someone at the office was really horny while making this list.

Cable is the son of Cyclops and Madelyn Pryor, Pryor herself a genetic clone of Jean Grey. When he was an infant, Nathan Christopher Summers was infected by the villain Apocalypse with a “techno-organic” virus. A mysterious woman from the future agreed to take baby Nathan to her time where they could cure said virus, but Cyclops would never be able to see his son again. Around this same time, a white-haired, battle-hardened warrior by the name of Cable took over the New Mutants, Professor X’s next generation of mutant heroes, and–oh, they probably mean Cable television, huh? Yeah, that’s pretty cool, too.

Nostalgia for the 1980s: Apparently, it began in 1991, and hasn’t stopped since.

Barton Fink: You know, I’ve never seen this movie about making movies, but that sure is the kind of thing that gets award nominations, isn’t it?

Holographic Video Games is next, and, to the best of my knowledge, they didn’t really exist in 1991. But that’s okay, because virtual reality would take over as the next big fad in gaming the following year…and not be an actual reality for over another decade.

Living off the Fat of the Land: So, basically the exact opposite of someone who exhibits an utter lack of pretensiousness. I’m glad this is low on the list.

Lobo: Marvel making a mockery of the Main Man, from their Distinguished Competition.

Marla Maples: An actress who I can’t find much about, but apparently was also having an affair with a certain now-former President. Why in the world are both of them on this list?

Iambic Pentameter: Iambic pentameter is a type of metric line used in traditional English poetry and verse drama. The term describes the rhythm, or meter, established by the words in that line; rhythm is measured in small groups of syllables called “feet”. I can see why people at Marve would think this was uncool.

Herman’s Head: A Fox sitcom that featured voice of Lisa Simpson, Yeardley Smith. That’s literally all I know about this show.

Parodies of A Christmas Carol: I’m not sure what parodies of the Dickens classic were around in 1991, but 1992 saw the release of The Muppet Christmas Carol, which is arguably the most entertaining iteration of the tale. Maybe a lot of sitcoms with pregnant actresses were doing Scrooge stories that year.

People Who Don’t Like Cool-O-Meters: Well, there you have it.

I hope you enjoyed this look back at some of the pop culture weirdness of the early 1990s. I might do more of these, whenever I come acros them in old comics.