Friday, August 19, 2011

The Marvel 52, Part One: Marvel Pulp



I've kept pretty quiet about DC's whole New 52 deal up to now. For better or worse, I don't form opinions quickly, so I gave DC some time to get all their announcements out and respond to the first couple of waves of concerns. I will say that my initial reaction was positive though. I haven't followed DC comics for a couple of years now, so it doesn't affect me personally that they're cancelling everything and starting over. If anything, some of their new series sound really interesting. Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang on Wonder Woman, for instance. Barbara Gordon as Batgirl again, as another example.

My main criticism is that DC seems to be hoping to eat its cake and have it too in regards to balancing current fans with potential, new readers. The New 52's been promoted as an "all-in" approach to reinvigorating the line, while at the same time refusing to call itself a reboot and insisting that fan-favorite stories (an extremely loosely defined category) still count. That's not very "all-in" at all and I suspect that their wishy-washiness will cost them some of those potential, new readers they're wanting.

I don't expect that they'll lose many readers though. As much complaining as fans have been doing, they're still fans. They've stuck with DC through Countdown to Final Crisis; I expect that they'll stick around through this. And it's not like Marvel's got anything especially exciting going on to compete. Yeah, yeah, Marvel still routinely beats DC in sales; all I'm saying is that I don't expect current DC readers to suddenly start switching to Marvel as a result of the "non"-reboot. Whatever you think of DCnU, it's certainly interesting. Marvel, on the other hand, continues to publish the same kind of crossover stuff they've been doing for the last five years. I'm not saying that none of it's good, 'cause some of it really is, but seriously...their section of Previews the last couple of months hasn't been nearly as exciting and expectant as DC's.

I wish I'd thought of this myself, but it was Comics Should Be Good (Robot 6's sister blog at CBR) that came up with the idea of developing your own Marvel 52. I like DC's idea of creating smaller imprints within the DCU (JLA, Batman, Superman, Dark, Edge, etc.). so I used that for my Marvel list too. Not that DC came up with it. Marvel's done the same thing before with Marvel Knights, Tsunami, Marvel MAX, and whatnot. I even used some of those in my list.

Because this could get long, I'm going to divide this up into a series of five posts going into September when DC launches their stuff. That'll give me some room to talk about why I picked the concepts I did as well as the creators I'd love to see work on them. We'll start with a category I call...

Marvel Pulp



The idea behind this "imprint" is to focus on some of the great, not-quite-superhero concepts that Marvel's had over the years: Westerns, jungle adventures, period heroes, spies, and space opera. We'll do this in countdown format, so:

52. Gamora by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Sam Hiti

Gamora's got a lot of history in Marvel's cosmic comics, but the focus on this would be her traveling the universe as an intergalactic bounty hunter. Gamora's extremely hard to kill and has a wicked sense of humor. Kelly Sue DeConnick (OsbornSupergirl) can deliver the goods on funny (and excitement) while Sam Hiti (Tiempos Finales, Death-Day) knows everything about drawing beautiful women and exotic, alien landscapes.

51. Guardians of the Galaxy by Roger Langridge and Shaun Tan

As fun as a Gamora solo-title would be, we also need a book that can capture the rest of Marvel's cosmic characters like Silver Surfer, Thanos, and Rocket Raccoon. Roger Langridge (Thor: The Mighty Avenger, Snarked!) has the imagination to make that incredible, while Shaun Tan (The Arrival, Tales from Outer Suburbia) has the ability to mix the real and the odd in a unique, believable way. He's not known for action sequences, so I'd be interested to see how he tackled that, but I can already imagine his depiction of the arrival of Galactus and it's mind-blowing.

50. Sabra by Carla Jablonsky and Laurenn McCubbin

Sabra isn't a well-known character, but I've been fascinated by her since I first saw her in The Incredible Hulk #256. Maybe because she took her Israeli heritage so seriously, yet didn't seem to have been created specifically to fill a slot as Israel's Superhero for Contest of Champions or something. She eventually became just another of the many, international mutants running around the X-Men's corner of the Marvel Universe, but I've always thought she was better than that. I'd love to see her in a series that focused on the issues of the Middle East in a thoughtful, objective way. Not that Sabra herself should be objective about them, but that the series could explore the region and its history in a way that educates as well as entertains. Carla Jablonsky's done something similar with Nazi-occupied France in her Resistance series, so I picked her to write.  Laurenn McCubbin has a great, realistic style that would complement that kind of story beautifully.

49. Black Widow by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Amanda Conner



I don't know if this was the right thing to do, but though I picked 52 visual artists for my list, I only picked 26 writers and gave them each two books. That was partly because most writers can handle multiple books in a month, but it was also partly to make list-making easier on myself. I'm sure I'll regret it later when I realize I've forgotten one of my favorite writers.

At any rate, this is the second book I'd give Kelly Sue. I promise that I didn't purposely match up women creators with women characters, but it worked out that way in Kelly Sue's case. I'd love to see her write Black Widow. As for Amanda Conner: I love seeing anything she draws, but one look at her variant cover from Secret Avengers #6 above and you'll get why I want her on a Black Widow comic so badly.

48. Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD by James Turner and Luc Jacamon

If you've read James Turner's Rex Libris or Warlord of IO, you know how insanely, awesomely inventive he is. Just the guy to put the "super" back into super spy. And Luc Jacamon (The Killer) knows all about drawing deadly people in diverse settings, both urban and exotic.

47. Mystery Men by Susan Kim and Guy Davis

I really hate not to have David Liss and Patrick Zircher continue the concept they started, but one of the criteria I wanted for my list was to have as many women as possible on it. So I'm giving this '30s-set heroic pulp series to Susan Kim, who did such a great job with her adventurous City of Spies set in a similar time period. And I'm aching to see Guy Davis do some more stuff like he did on Sandman Mystery Theatre.

46. Tigra by Greg Pak, Fred Van Lente, and Kerry Callen



The inspiration for this book is two-fold. First, I wanted a jungle comic and Tigra would work great in that setting. She wouldn't have to stay only in that setting, but it would be a great homebase for her.The second inspiration was this description by Kerry Callen of what he wanted in a Tigra series: "a fun-loving character whose cat-like curiosity gets her into interesting predicaments." Pak and Van Lente would be perfect for that and one look at Callen's blog and you know he's the only guy for the visual part of the job.

45. The Savage Land by Joshua Fialkov and Jeremy Bastian

It's another jungle comic, but this one's different from Tigra. Her comic would be much more versatile with lots of guest-stars from other Marvel characters. The Savage Land of course would be set exclusively in the prehistoric world beneath Antarctica. At first I thought I'd call it Ka-Zar and Shanna (the first of several two-character comics you'll see in my Marvel 52), but then I remembered the temptation to take those two out of the Savage Land to interact with the rest of the Marvel Universe. Renaming it The Savage Land (which is a much cooler title anyway) removes that temptation.There's a whole world to explore there and as long as I'm fantasizing about my dream comics (as opposed to worrying about sales), I want to keep these characters out of the rest of the Marvel Universe. I don't care if other Marvel characters stop by for a visit, but I want the setting to stay consistent.

Josh Fialkov (Elk's Run, Tumor) does really well with setting and small casts of characters, so I pick him to write. Jeremy Bastian (Cursed Pirate Girl) draws lavishly and I'd love to see the creatures and landscapes he could fill the Savage Land with.

44. The Rangers by Alan Moore and J Bone

Based on another group of characters I once read about in The Incredible Hulk (#265 this time). The Rangers were a goofy team created by Bill Mantlo, but I liked their modern-Western concept and the sheer zaniness of it would be a great playground for Alan Moore. The team included Firebird (probably the most famous character to come out of the team) as well as modern versions of Red Wolf and the original Ghost Rider (renamed Phantom Rider to avoid confusion) and a couple of very Mantlo characters: Shooting Star (her gun shoots stars!) and Texas Twister (tornado powers). In keeping with making the series fun and versatile, J Bone can draw absolutely anything and make it look wonderful.

43. Gunslingers by John Ostrander and Leonardo Manco



Counterpoint to The Rangers, this would be a real Western set in the late 1800s. Really it's just a continuation of Ostrander and Manco's two mini-series, Blaze of Glory and Apache Skies in which they updated Marvel's classic, Western heroes for modern fans of Westerns.

Coming Monday: Midnight Sons!

7 comments:

snell said...

Damn, for a minute I thought your first entry was Gamera...

Michael May said...

Naw, Marvel lost that license.

Ken O said...

Very fun write up. I look forward to reading the rest. Guy Davis on anything is gold. And Jeremy Bastian's art is just stellar. Got to meet him for the first time at Heroes this year. Really nice guy.

Michael May said...

Yeah, he is. I've run into him at Chicago shows a few times and he's always awesome.

Anonymous said...

I hope there's a villain book and that it's serpent society. Written by a team that can do workplace comedy.

Erik Johnson said...

I'm digging this imprint name "Marvel Pulp!" (Exclamation Point Necessary) I could see this crinkled old paper box you have up top as sort of a banner logo to run off the top of each book of the line.

I regret not being familiar with Gamera or Sabra, because you certainly seem passionate about them. "Savage Land" is sounds like a great idea and indeed a cool name but difficult to identify with since theres no identifiable main character. I understand your reasoning with not wanting to use Ka-Zar and Shanna as leads but it their names would make sense from a marketing point of view.

Frank Cho would have been my first pick for a dinos and jungle book, but then again probably he's drawn more than enough trees and girls in leopard skins to last a lifetime.

The series here I would be most likely to invest in would be "The Rangers". Again, not familiar with the character prior to a Wikipedia search, but it didn't take long to hook me on a Western themed superhero concept. A visually diverse set despite the united theme, and what appear to be some strong women folk, especially with Firebird being a former Avenger. J Bone would be a must for art. Not sure if Alan Moore fits though.

My only problem is "The Rangers" isn't a very catchy name. Punch it up Marvel-Style! How bout "The Incontestable Rangers" or in keeping with the Western vibe "The Magnificent Rangers". (If Armadillo and Living Lightning were members there would be seven of them) It just seems like a lacking name. Sort of like if Nick Fury just called his squad "The Commandos".

Michael May said...

Nice point about the adjectives. Lately, I've associated them with too many titles featuring the same characters (Amazing Spider-Man, Spectacular Spider-Man, Uncanny X-Men, Astonishing X-Men, and don't even get me started on the Avengers right now), so I rejected them for most of my list.

You're right though that they're a long-standing Marvel tradition and do help to punch up the title. I should reconsider.

I knew I was going to forget some favorite artists. Frank Cho is definitely one of them.

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