NewMU: Wonder Man

Jan-31-12

“Simon Williams has a real problem on his hands….does he show up to the premiere of his new movie, or risk the public embarrassment by skipping that to deal with the costumed Gladiator who’s smashing apart the set of the movie he’s currently shooting?  What’s more dangerous….his arch foe, or the ire of his girlfriend Janet if he leaves her waiting on the red carpet?”

I’ll be the first to admit it….I’m not the biggest fan of Wonder Man.  He’s never really impressed me in his previous outings (except when they team him up with the Beast….the two of them are always worth reading about when they’re together) and his history is a rather garbled bit of business.  Is he a businessman with a flair for inventing, or an aspiring actor?  Is he a super strong human or is he composed of some odd super energy?  Is he dead, or is he in some ghost-like state or is he a zombie?  However, I do believe that he fills a niche in the Marvel Universe, and that’s of a hero with ties to Hollywood.

We’re going to start with his origin, stripping away the failed businessman nonsense that seems to be at odds with later versions of the character.  Simon Williams grew up in California, and from his earliest years he dreamed of being an actor.  As he got older he was sure that his natural good looks and chiseled body would land him a part in a movie or television series which would allow him to break into the big leagues.  However, by the time he turned 25 he still had not found that breakout role, mostly getting walk on bits or one-off roles that required a buff dumb guy.  Unsure of what to do to get noticed, he consulted with his agent, an eccentric spinmaster who called himself Dollar Bill.  Dollar Bill pointed out the number of heroes in brightly colored costumes who were appearing on the scene, and suggested that as an option for Simon to generate publicity and stand out from the pack.  When Simon pointed out that he didn’t actually have powers and was concerned that he might get hurt (and have his handsome face damaged, which would not be good for his career), Dollar Bill replied that he knew of a way for Simon to gain powers.

It seems that Dollar Bill had heard of a scientist who was looking for volunteers willing to undergo a procedure which she said would give them superpowers.  The cost was high but not out of Simon’s reach, as the procedure was dangerous.  Simon was unsure if this was for him, but after repeated pressure from Dollar Bill, and after talking with his childhood friend Fabian Stanton (nee Fabian Stankowicz, who had changed his own last name when he tried to become an actor himself, before he realized he was happier creating technical effects for movies), he decided to go for it.  He contacted this Dr. Nightshade, and soon went into her care for a period of two weeks.  He doesn’t remember much of that time, but when it was over, he had gained superhuman strength and limited invulnerability.  Thrilled, he rushed to tell Dollar Bill and Fabian the good news.

Dollar Bill had crafted him a costume and christened him Wonder Man, in his typically bombastic style.  Bill and Fabian had also decided that being able to fly would make him seem more dashing and heroic, and Fabian had built a jetpack for him.  After that, Simon began making appearances as Wonder Man, usually fighting everyday criminals like bank robbers or saving people from fires and car accidents.  Of course, he always made sure to stick around for the press to arrive, and he made sure that everyone knew that Wonder Man was really Simon Williams, made much easier by the fact that he didn’t wear a mask.

That’s our setup.  Simon is our hero, using the celebrity that doing good deeds affords him to advance his fledgling acting career.  How much does being a hero mean to him?  Probably not that much.  He prefers acting most of the time, and honestly, he’s actually pretty good at it.  Dollar Bill is still his agent, crazy and over the top as ever.  Fabian also works in the movie business, doing special effects and serves as Simon’s confidante and tech help.  Simon’s girlfriend is Janet Van Dyne, an heiress who has her own reality show, sort of like one of the Kardashians.  The difference is that Janet is also a mutant, with the ability to shrink, grow wings from her back and fire venom blasts.  In that guise she calls herself the Wasp, but she’s not much of a superhero.  It’s unclear if she and Simon are just using each other for the publicity, or if there are deeper feelings between them.

On the other side of the scorecard we have the villains.  Our big baddie is Mr. Robert Mojo, one of the most powerful producers in Hollywood.  A recluse because of his looks (he’s an obese albino man who rarely even rises from his chair) he nevertheless has his finger in all sorts of activities in Los Angeles.  Besides his entertainment connection, he also knows many of the less reputable citizens of the City of Angels, and he is willing to do whatever it takes to get what he wants.  At the moment what he would like is for Wonder Man to either come work for him, or for Wonder Man to stop stealing the press from projects on which Mr. Mojo is working.  However, Simon is currently under a contract with another mysterious producer, James Madrox, and Mojo can’t touch him.  In an attempt to stop Simon, Mojo sends one of the stunt men he employs, Melvin Potter to Dr. Nightshade for the same sort of enchancement that Simon received.  Once he too has been bulked up, Mojo gives him a costume with numerous blades on it and dubs him the Gladiator.  Mojo also can rely on his assistant, who he calls Tick Tock, and who can predict the short term future, which aids Mojo in his plotting.  Finally, rounding out our cast is Arkon, an interdimensional traveller who got stuck on Earth, was found by Mojo, and was turned into a star.  It is Arkon that Mojo is concerned about Simon overshadowing, and Arkon shares that concern.

I know I just info-dumped a lot on you in those last few paragraphs.  Take a look at it, see what you think, and then I’ll discuss some of the themes and plotlines I see spinning out of the cast that I just assembled.

Arkon? Love it. I can totally see Wonder Man competing with him for the typical “action star” roles. Gladiator is a good street-level grunt. I like throwing Wasp in there as someone who is famous basically for being born into wealth. We could make some good commentary on the banality of success. And it’s a brilliant twist to have Mojo as the main bad guy (and still related to the entertainment industry). Does he have any mysterious interdimensional background or is he simply a creepy human being?

I don’t have any real issues with any of this. Seems vaguely similar in tone to my Dazzler relaunch. This gives us two titles that deviate nicely from the standard punch-a-bad-guy stuff.

Here’s one thing: What to do with Dr. Nightshade? Is she going to be killed off like Dr. Reinstein (or Erskine for the movie buffs) who invented the Super Soldier serum? Or is she going to keep up her mad experiments and churn out an endless stream of mediocre bad guys at Mojo’s command?

Oh, one more thing: Will Wonder Man’s powers change over time? Will they affect him in some unexpected way…as the result of being a guinea pig?

Those are the first things that popped into my mind.

At this point, my vision of Mojo removes all of the interdimensional trappings of the character.  Honestly, I find the Mojoverse to be a great idea for one story, which Marvel has since tapped for eleventy-billion stories.  I simply don’t think it works in the long term and I think the character is more interesting as a human.  That being said, I think we leave Mojo’s origins murky right now, so if we want to use an interdimensional background at some point, if we find a way to make that interesting and get some good stories out of it, we can do that.

I thought of Dazzler when I was doing this, and I really wanted to position Valerie Cooper as Simon’s agent.  I thought it would be a nice crossover if she repped both Simon and Dazzler.  However, she’s not so much Dazzler’s agent as a talent scout in your reboot of Dazzler, and it works to have Dollar Bill as Simon’s agent….he’s a much crazier personality and should inject the book with a lot of color.  I had thought about recasting Henry Gyrich as his agent, and thought perhaps we could take all the old government agents from the Marvel Universe (including Raymond Sikorsky, Duane Freeman and the like) and make them all entertainment figures, and then down the road we could reveal that they were actually working for the government as some part of a bizarre scheme, but then my head hurt and I realized I was needlessly complicating things.

Simon’s powers could change over time, and that’s part of why I kept what Nightshade did to him shrouded in secret.  And no, I don’t want her dead.  First of all, I like the fact that she created both Simon and his arch-enemy.  Furthermore, I think it’s interesting that we really don’t know what she did to them.  What is her agenda?  Will she create more superbeings, and if so, why?  This leads me into a discussion of all the different ways the book can work.

On the hero side, we have Simon trying to be an actor, and I’d like to see that explored.  Again, at least to start, he’s really only a hero as a means to an end.  Will he develop into a true hero?  Will he want to do less heroing if his career takes off?  Will that be an option?  If he stops heroing as much, will it hurt his career?  It’s going to be a trickly balancing act for Simon, and what happens if he fails during one of his hero missions….will it hurt him enough in the realm of public opinion to damage his career?  In a way, because he didn’t think this through enough, he’s kind of stuck being a hero, whether he wants to or not.  He can’t drop the hero part, because it will hurt his career, but if he spends too much time as a hero, that hurts his career as well.

His relationship with Bill and Fabian is pretty standard….the former will be pushing him to do more outrageous things to further his public profile, while Fabian provides a cool voice of reason.  His relationship with the Wasp should be interesting, and we’ve got some of the same questions for her that we do for Simon.  Will she develop into a true hero?  Does she actually care for Simon?  I think you can take her character in wildly disparate directions.  You could gradually mature her, perhaps morphing her into someone closer to the Wasp we see in the original Marvel Universe.  By the same token, you could go in an entirely different direction, making her more heartless and selfish.  She could even end up as a villain in the series if she and Simon have a falling out!

I also like the idea that, for this series, the hero doesn’t have a secret identity, but the bad guys do.  Gladiator wears a full helmet, and he really can’t be captured, because Mojo doesn’t want his identity discovered for fear that it could lead authorities back to him.  The same is true of Arkon….he’d like nothing better then to find Simon and kick his butt, but he has to be careful that the public doesn’t see him as a bully and certainly he doesn’t want the public to see him as a murderer, although he’d be more than willing to plant Simon six feet underground.  Are villains are always going to try to make sure they have an escape route from a fight, so the authorities can’t apprehend them.  I could even see Arkon adopting another identity in which he can fight Simon…perhaps he calls himself Thunderbolt and fights Simon that way. 

And just what does Nightshade want?  As I mentioned above, her endgame is being left up in the air, but she’s very smart and she’s a planner.  Those who only know her from a few comics where she turned Captain America into a werewolf haven’t seen what this woman can do, and our Nightshade is even more cunning.  She’s one of those comic book scientists who’s an expert in multiple fields; in her case, both genetics and robotics.  She’ll have some gadgets to protect her, and more importantly, she certainly can create more superhumans to act as her flunkies.  She’s playing both sides off against each other, but is she good enough to outwit Mojo?

And then we have another one of the Madrox clones around.  Simon signed a contract with Madrox thinking it would be his ticket to stardom, but neither Simon nor Bill read the contract closely enough (not thinking things through is a personality trait we’ll see a lot with Simon.  He’s not stupid, but he’s not much of a planner.).  Now Simon can’t work directly with Mojo, but Madrox also isn’t giving Simon much more than the bit parts he was landing before signing.  Madrox obviously has a plan, but Simon has trouble getting an appointment with him and doesn’t understand why the contract is structured this way.

Overall, I think there’s a ton of different directions we could take this book, and I think it’s different enough to stand out amongst a crowd of 38 other titles.  It has it’s own feel and identity.  Anything else to add or questions to throw my way? 


NewMU: Thor

Jan-25-12

“It’s bad enough that he just had to fight off the brutal Wendigo for the dinner he trapped in the Yukon frontier, but now Thor’s home planet of Asgard is being invaded by alien hordes and he’s being called back to help by his father Odin…or at least someone who looks like Odin.”

I’m going to be honest right up front and say that I always felt that Thor was a bit of an anomaly in the Marvel Universe. He’s considered one of the “Big Three” and has rightfully taken a position of power because of his station and his abilities. However, it has always rubbed me the wrong way that he is considered a “god” and yet fights (and bleeds) alongside common heroes. He has what I like to call the Superman Complex, where he’s been made (or at least assumed so) to be so powerful that you could never imagine him ever actually losing. After years of early Marvel reading, I just kind of accepted Thor as a side effect of superheroes and learned to ignore him.

Then Walt Simonson had an amazing run on the title from 1983-1987 (and also the 1986 Balder miniseries) that dropped Thor into his homeland among his family and natural enemies. I finally had an avenue to view Thor in context. He was just a guy with family problems who was doing his best to not become a frog. I made peace with Thor and took him at face value.

But then, Marvel took things even further. When The Ultimates first launched, they positioned Thor as a delusional hippie. Was he really a god or did he just think he was? And THEN, they went even further in the live-action movie: Thor was actually an alien from the planet Asgard. Whaaaaaaa??????? My mind was blown. Looking at it now, though, it all makes sense. Our NewMU Thor is a mix of all of these things.

I want to embrace the true Viking lore of Thor and I think that can be done quite easily. Think of the word “Thor” as a title instead of a name. The vikings of the early 8th century had a pantheon of which Thor was a member. Most religions are based on some sort of visions or witnessing of supernatural accomplishments. So, let’s say that “Thor” and his other Norse “gods” were simply aliens that had landed on Earth hundreds of years ago. The vikings saw them doing things they couldn’t have possibly done themselves, maybe they interacted at some point and earned the worship of the vikings. I’d like to think that even the most hearty alien wouldn’t live forever. So, over the course of time, one “Thor” was replaced with another “Thor” and the worship continued. Legends were born. Thor was accepted as a part of Earth history.

The current Thor is a lazy drunk who lives in a remote area of Alaska along the Canadian border. He hunts and fishes and drinks with the locals, but no one treats him like any kind of god or even knows that he’s from another planet. He’s just a vaguely Scandinavian dude with low morals and a high tolerance.

There’s a female scientist who just came to town to study the correlation between the Northern Lights and electromagnetic waves that could affect space travel. Her name, obviously, is Jane Foster. Thor takes a shine to her but is horribly awkward when sober and completely offensive when drunk. This makes courting difficult.

Adding to this, there’s the whole problem with shape-shifting Skrulls invading Asgard under the direction of the nigh-omnipotent Thanos. And it doesn’t help that Thor’s half-brother Loki has struck some sort of tenuous deal with the Skrulls to become “governor” of the newly enslaved Asgard when all is said and done. What Loki doesn’t realize is that the shapeshifters have even more dubious ethics than he does and not all is what it seems.

I think the introduction of an alien species that can change shape dovetails nicely into the earthlings first learning about the true existence of the Norse “gods.” Just as we common folk are celebrating how awesome Thor and his people are, it turns out that some of them are actually disguised creeps looking to overtake our planet as well. Gives another layer of xenophobia to it all.

Thor’s powers will be explained away with scientific reasoning. His hammer is made of a metal that reacts differently to our magentic fields, allowing him to use it to “fly” or to “summon lightning.” We can even use the Superman line of varying gravity or atmospheric weight or solar radiation or whatever this month’s origin is to explain why Thor is super-strong and impervious to regular damage. I’m assuming, at some point, that the Olympian gods will be revealed as aliens as well. Hell, maybe even the Hindu or Egyptian pantheons.

That’s a lot to swallow at once. What do you think of that beginning?

I certainly have no problem with Thor as an alien, because I also have never been particularly thrilled with the “gods” of the past being brought in as part of Marvel continuity.  As much as I’ve learned to enjoy the Asgardian and Olympian pantheons in the Marvel Universe, that enjoyment comes in spite of their origins.  I have no problem with discussing religion in modern comics, but the religion discussions that the origins of these characters sparked were rarely very illuminating, and most writers tended to ignore those aspects of their character anyway. 

I absolutely love the idea that these characters aren’t immortal, and that Thor is more of a title.  I’m a huge fan of legacy heroes, and the idea that there were Thors before the current one and will be Thors after he is gone opens up a lot of storytelling possibilities.  We can now tell stories up and down the timeline, and with that one change, we’ve opened up a much richer well of storytelling than if we were discussing one immortal being.  Unfortunately, it also leaves us with a problem.  His father is named Odin?  His brother is Loki?  Are these also hereditary titles, or are we just going to assume that it’s just a coincidence that their names echo the names we know from the former Marvel Universe?  Or does the ruling family of this alien race have to adopt the names of yesteryear, since that’s how the humans knew them when they worshipped them as gods?

I do enjoy your characterization of Thor.  It can make for some interesting interactions as he begins to take his place as a hero, and as he begins to woo Jane Foster.  It gives you someplace to go, and it’s nice that he has some character weaknesses to balance out his extraordinary powers.

I like the idea that Thanos will be a shadowy villain for some time….the readers know someone is behind the Skrulls and directing their attacks, but they don’t know who.  You could keep the Skrulls center stage as villains for years before finally revealing Thanos.  For all his power, I think Thanos is at his best when he’s a plotter.  Yes, he can demolish stars, but if you look at the best Thanos appearances, they are the ones where he’s not involved in direct fighting, but instead schemes from the shadows.  And the Skrulls themselves are brilliant villains, who I think are best if played less as just another interstellar species coming in with lasers flashing, and more as sly saboteurs and spies.  They also fit better in that respect as allies with Loki. 

There’s a lot of potential here, no doubt about that, but there are still some rough spots to smooth over.

The name thing is just how Earth deals with them. I guess over certain generations of Asgardians, it wouldn’t make as much sense but it’s for identification purposes. After hundreds of years, none of the original “relationships” should be valid…the Odin of now couldn’t possibly still be the Thor of today’s father and so on…way too incestuous to explain. But the positions hold true to earthfolk. Thor is the God of Thunder. Loki is the God of Mischief. Blahblahblah.

My favorite part of using the Skrulls, aside from how well they match up with a shadowy, scheming Loki (and an even shadowier, schemier – are those words? – Thanos), is how weirdly a shapeshifting race parallels our concept that the self-duplicating Madrox is somehow at the heart of the NewMU. We’re beginning to weave a sort of background continuity into our titles.

Plus, the Skrulls can pose as friends or allies of Thor and undermine his attempts to prove his true origins to the people of earth. He could just be brushed off as “that crazy drunk who lives in the woods.”

I agree with you on the Skrulls, but first we have to talk about the characters again.  I’m sorry, but I’m not entirely sure your first paragraph in this section actually makes any sense, and I’ve read it three times.  I’m beginning to believe you may be a politican, as I’m not sure you actually said anything in those sentences, but it does sound good if you don’t really stop to think about it.  Let me explain what I think you’re insinuating, and you can let me know if I’m right.  Are you saying that everyone’s names are passed down throughout the ages?  Well, perhaps not everyone’s names….there were certainly plenty of these Asgardians who weren’t named deities, so their names aren’t important.  However, are you saying that when an Odin dies, a new Odin must take his place?  That Odin may not be the current Thor’s father, but he gets “promoted” to the Odin position?  That means that none of the traditional people we associate with the names are going to be who we might suspect.  For example, couldn’t Odin be a woman, if Odin is the leader of this group, and a woman is put (or seizes) that position?  Besides changing the gender of these positions, could we also change the ages and the descriptions?  For example, Odin is often seen as a robust and stout man, but couldn’t he also be very old and infirm?  Could he be younger than Thor?  We could play these same games with Loki or with any other member of this alien tribe that you eventually introduce. 

The other interesting potential of this situation, if what I interpreted above is true, is that we could also shake up the nemesis for Thor.  This Loki could actually be quite a decent bloke, and may not actually be the one who is betraying the Asgardians to the Skrulls.  However, since the Loki of old was a trickster and so many Lokis through the ages have also been tricksters, when things begin to go wrong no one believes this one’s claims of innocence.  The readers eventually find out that the real traitor is Heimdall, who happens to be a right jerk.  When he’s found out, he kills the current Loki and takes that name, saying that he’s tired of watching the name of Loki being dragged through the, uh, meadow (what’s the opposite of dragging a name through the mud?) and is going to show these simpletons what true mischief is!  Then someone new would have to be named the new Heimdall, perhaps someone who now has a special grudge against the new Loki, as the name of Heimdall is now feared and hated by the Asgardians (and really, who would want to be the new Heimdall after the disgrace on the name?  For that reason, it would take a special person to ever want to be named a Loki).

Have I gone way far afield of where you see us?

Yeah…wow. That went way further than I was envisioning it. I do like the idea that the current Loki is actually a nice guy, trying to spit-shine a name that has already been spat upon enough over the ages. But bringing Heimdall into it and then having him try to usurp the “Loki” title is just downright confusing.

I was merely thinking that the names earthlings ascribe to them don’t necessarily mean the same to them on Asgard. Or maybe, over the generations, each title is now a “house” of royalty. So the original Odin was Thor’s father and Loki’s stepfather, but the current holders of those names are only distant cousins at best. It just so happens that the Odins have always been the rulers of Asgard while the Balders, Thors, Lokis and such were just members of the royal court (and vague relations).

Therefore, much like Prince Charles has a recognized but rarely used last name of Windsor (from the House of Windsor), maybe Thor is just this guy’s surname. Let’s call him Elmer Thor. (KIDDING). Is that easier?

And, really, does it matter? On Earth, people will call him Thor. His existence will make people think the Norse gods are real. He’ll try to explain he’s an alien, but other nefarious aliens will say he’s crazy in order to mask their existence. It’s all very deep.

The House of Thor?  You’ve already created Marvel’s next big crossover.  Call Bendis!

But yes, I think it does matter.  Personally, I like my idea, as it gives us a lot of opportunity to really create a unique and fleshed out alien race.  These “titles” are millennia old and quite important to their culture.  Odin is their leader, Thor their protector, Heimdall their guardian, Loki their planner, Tyr their token handicapped guy, etc.  How exactly does this culture go about choosing someone to fill one of these positions when the previous one dies?  Do people vie for these positions?  Are they coveted?  And who would want to be Loki? 

I also think you are way off-base saying my suggested story with a bad Heimdall taking over for a repentent Loki would be confusing.  I have more faith in our readers than that.  And if we learned anything from the Claremont X-Men, it’s that convoluted plots do not preclude a large audience.  However, I recognize a losing fight when I see one, so I’ll back-off.  The names we now know as their “god” names are actually ancient surnames, and someone like Odin is probably Odin XXVII, much like the Tudor dynasty has plenty of Henrys. 

Of course, now I’ve dragged us off course so often that I’ve forgotten where we are.  What were we discussing again?  Skrulls are bad?  Thanos too?  I agree with you on all those points.  Did you have more story beats I can ignore in favor of dragging us down into minutia?

Eh. Your idea still seems too complicated to me. But this back-and-forth is boring me now. How about this? What if we go with my idea for the first year or two of the book and then, in typical comic book fashion, a new writer will come in and retcon everything to your concept? Problem solved.

I really don’t think the specifics of the titles would mean all that much to anyone. They’re all just people on the planet of Asgard. It’s not until they get to Earth that they become “superpowered.” We’re the ones who raise them up to god level, mostly based on the exaggerations of some very primitive minds.

And, reading back over those last two paragraphs, I feel really nerdy.

So yeah. Thor is a lazy drunk guy with a fancy hammer. Thanos is a bad guy who commands an army of shape-changers. Big viking-like fights. Not too much over-the-top dialogue sprinkled with “thous” and “verilys.” Everyone is happy.

You want to talk about the NewMU Avengers yet?


New MU: Dimensions

Jan-10-12

“War is brewing, as Hank Pym must calm the ruffled feathers of the Kosmosians, while trying to convince them he is not the same as the only other humanoid they know, the blue faced man of which their legends speak.  But while he’s away, who protects the citizens of Phoenix from a new evil in their midst?  And is the fiery woman flying overhead friend or foe?”

I know that we teased a Defenders title in our last post, but that was only one of many titles we suggested would be on the way.  Title number nine out of thirty-nine is devoted to Dr. Hank Pym, often the punching bag and punch line of the old Marvel Universe.  However, the new MU doesn’t have that baggage, and I’d like to show that Hank Pym can be a neat character.  There are a few things we have to do.  First, we strip away all of the continuity that’s been holding him down.  We already removed Ultron from his history, by revealing that the Thinker and Reed Richards built the evil robot, over in our Fantastic Four recap.  We’re also going to remove the Wasp from his life.  While I very much enjoy the character, I think that Pym and the Wasp are, at this point in time, too interconnected to be good for each other, and even with a continuity restart, I’d prefer to keep them separate.  Third, we’re going to remove his apparent psychological need to change superhero code names every few years by taking away all superhero code names from him.

Ok, let’s start at the beginning.  Hank Pym is born and raised in Phoenix Arizona.  A brilliant student, he becomes a master scientist and after graduating with a doctorate, he moves back to his home city to begin doing some research.  He gets a job with Roxxon Oil, but becomes tired of the corporate life and with not being able to pursue the science he really enjoys.  He soon quits, applies for some government grants, and goes to work for himself.  He needs help, so he tracks down his old college roommate Buck Mitty to join him.  The two of them begin working on all kinds of crazy projects, from ways to transport cargo more effectively to ways to communicate with other life on Earth, such as insects and reptiles.  One night, while working late in the lab, Pym stumbles upon an amazing discovery…particles that enable him to change his own size, and the size of those things around him.  He dubs them Pym particles, or at least he will.  At the moment he’s too busy dealing with the fact that high concentrations of Pym particles apparently open a doorway into another dimension, one ruled by a highly advanced race of insectoids.

When this portal opens, Pym can’t help but go inside for a short look, and is promptly captured by some of the insectoids and taken to meet their ruler, Jekuakket.  Pym is quickly sentenced to die, as the Kosmosians have a legend about a blue faced man who will one day destroy them all.  Pym uses his new particles to effect an escape, and flees back to our dimension, shutting the doorway behind him.  However, he now realizes that he could put these Pym particles to good use and help people at the same time.  Thus, a new hero is born!

So, with that description we have everything in place.  Pym believes that he can help people, and he protects Phoenix and the surrounding area.  However, he wouldn’t call himself a hero…he’s rather too practical to be wasting time conjuring up a costume and a silly name.  He’s simply Hank Pym.  This is a Hank Pym with full control of his powers….he can either shrink or grow in height, and he can also shrink and grow other objects or people.  However, this is not an innate ability.  He has no powers.  He does this through use of the Pym particles, and so he has to administer them to himself or to other objects.  He carries several capsules of them, which release the particles when broken.  Some capsules release shrinking particles while some release growing particles, and how much something or someone shrinks or grows depends on the amount of particles used.

Pym was operating under government grants when he got his powers, and it doesn’t even occur to him to get a secret identity and hide what he’s discovered from the government.  He informs them of what happened, and they quickly begin working closely with him.  They may occasionally ask him to perform specific missions for them, and he will often be working on new projects for them.  His liaison with the government is a young and ambitious agent named Maria Hill, and the two often disagree.

As far as supporting cast goes, we start with his fellow scientist, Buck Mitty.  Mitty is quickly informed of what Pym can do, and when Pym shows how small he can shrink, Mitty, who is an amateur entomologist, suggests that it might be helpful if Pym could talk with insects when he is at that height.  Mitty helps Pym design a helmet for just such a purpose that Pym can use.  Mitty also begins to wonder if he could help Pym and become a hero himself.  He soon designs himself devices which give him powers based on insect abilities.  Being much more dramatic than his partner, Mitty devises a costumes and the name Humbug, and becomes Pym’s sometime partner.  Humbug enjoys the spotlight much more than Pym does, and will often stay behind after missions to pose for pictures and give interviews while Pym returns to his home or the lab.

There is also a new hero that has been seen flying through the skies of Phoenix.  Her name is Firebird, and she and Pym meet on one of his missions, as they both try to save civilians after a deadly bus crash.  They meet more and more often on cases, and a budding romance develops.  I like putting Firebird and Pym together.  She’s a devout Roman Catholic, while he is a pragmatic athiest.  I don’t want to shy away from religion in this comic, and I want to see how well these two philosophies can coexist.

I think that gives you something to chew on before I delve into villains.  What do you see that you like, what do you think needs changed, and can this concept work?

Okay, I see where you’re going here. I like the idea of stripping Pym down to just a guy who discovered something special. Size-changing heroes are a classic archetype and I think we definitely need that in our NewMU, but I also like how you’ve incorporated bits of his West Coast Avengers persona in there too…the ability to shrink and/or grow inanimate objects as needed. Nice to see Roxxon Oil being established as an entity in the NewMU. I also don’t mind Firebird as a love interest and exploring the dichotomy between their respective “religions.” And I enjoy the inclusion of Humbug and the potential for some wacky hijinks involving insectoids from another dimension. Could be fun to see Pym try to hide all of this from the Feds in a comedy of errors.

Here’s my problem: what the hell other plausible villains are you going to pull out of a hat that would want to make their stomping grounds Phoenix, Arizona? Have you ever been there? It’s just a sprawling sauna in shades of brown. Aside from Armadillo trying to rob a bank, I can’t see any catalyst that would cause nefarious activity. I see you’re doing some Kang foreshadowing (you know how I feel about Kang). Maybe you could expand on that?

Does Pym warrant his own title, removed from the rest of the superhero community? Is it going to have enough going on to keep readers’ attention? I’m just asking.

Good questions all.  Let me tackle the Kang question first.  Kang is a character that I don’t want to see in this book very often, at least not for a few years, or not in anything more than shadow.  As we begin our series, we don’t even have a name for Kang, only vague references to a blue faced man who comes to destroy Kosmos.  The Kosmosians fear him (he’s like their bogeyman) but Pym has no idea who he is.  For the first few years of the title, we would only see Kang in shadow, manipulating events on Kosmos to his own ends.  No one would ever see him, but we might hear his voice and see his silhouette from time to time.  One of the first things Kang would do is begin to steal technology from the Kosmosians, starting with a new weapon they’ve built…an android which grows bigger as it absorbs kinetic energy, which they call The Growing Man.  Kang steals and reprograms this machine to serve him.  I also believe that Kang would be able to convince some of the Kosmosians to aid his plans, promising them riches and glory if they throw their lot in with him.  One of these traitors, named Pilai, gains super powers from Kang’s genetic engineering, making him super strong, hard to hurt, and able to project an aura of fear.  It should be some time before Kang actually appears in the series, and we should spend the time wondering exactly who he is, and more importantly, what he wants from this world.

I should also point out that Kosmos will be playing into the stories on a regular basis.  Once Pym accidentally opens up the portal between the dimensions, he alerts the Kosmosians to Earth’s existence.  For a species that has never seen a humanoid before, except in ancient writings as the destroyer of their world, to find an entire dimension of these creatures is cause for some concern.  It’s going to be tricky for Pym to try to prevent a war between Kosmos and Earth, and as you say, he doesn’t want the governments of Earth to know about Kosmos, because he’s afraid they’d react to the Kosmosian’s concerns with a first strike.  Even though he doesn’t have a secret identity, Pym will be dealing with a lot of the same problems as he can’t explain to the government why he keeps disappearing whenever he has to go to Kosmos.

So, we’ve got Kang and his agents, as well as the Kosmosians themselves, to keep things interesting.  But what’s happening back on Earth?  Is there anything going on in Phoenix?  Well, you wouldn’t think so, but ever since Pym’s discovery and his heroics became public knowledge, a new group has been sniffing around:  AIM.  Yes, Advanced Idea Mechanics is a group that believes the smartest people deserve to rule the planet.  They’re fascinated by Pym’s discovery and think he may make a good addition to their ranks.  He refuses, so they decide that perhaps they’ll simply capture him and force his secrets from him.  They also want to watch him, in case he makes any other discoveries they feel could be useful.  Pym is constantly going to be hassled by them.  Pym also works for the government, and has his own SHIELD liaison.  They have no problem calling on him if they feel he can be useful to them.  They can send him anywhere in the country, and sometimes out of the country, on all sorts of different missions. 

Might that be enough to hold the interest of readers?

Fair enough, as long as MODOK shows up at least once. I’m imagining horrible things could happen if AIM finds out about Kosmos, huh?

Okay, I’m sold.

Just one more thought.  I hadn’t brought up MODOK, because I know you love him and didn’t want to snag him for this book if you had plans for him, but since you brought him up, I did have an idea about him.  Pym is something of your generic scientist that superhero universes love, but when they do give him a specialty, it’s bio-engineering.  I think it could be a great plot if he’s kidnapped by AIM and they force him to help create MODOK.  To an extent, MODOK could replace Ultron for him in this universe, but without the odd Oedipus complex thrown in.  Just a thought, but I’m glad you think the book can work!


The NewMU so far…

Jan-06-12

Hey…it’s our 100th post! And it only took us 3 years and 9 months of constant non-attention to get that far! I can hear all of you clapping out there. Nothing more deafening than silence.

All sarcastic celebrations aside, I wanted to take this time to sum up what we’ve proposed so far and see if there’s any way to integrate our past “revamp” ideas into our NewMU. We still have another 36 titles to go, but this may speed things along and save us some redundant repeating.

So far, we’ve set the Fantastic Four on a path to science adventure…turned Dazzler into a teenage pop star…and fused the angst of the X-Men with the politics of The Authority to bring you The Ultimates. However, some of the other titles we have slated for the NewMU — including Hawkeye, Dr. Strange, Moon Knight, The Defenders, Namor and Nightstalkers — were already given the treatment by our magical maneuvering. The problem is, we’re kind of dedicated to making sure we don’t repeat the use of secondary characters where they don’t fit, not to mention that some of our plotlines could contradict. So, here’s a quick summation of what we foisted upon our curious readers in the past…

Nightstalkers – Dominic Fortune is hired by Frank Drake to investigate some supernatural goings-on. He runs into Brother Voodoo in Charleston, South Carolina and finds out that the mystic man has been having dreams about him. They learn that something is afoot with the Darkhold and Morgan Le Fay is involved. In fact, Morgan is using Tigra as a present-time conduit for her foul dealings. The team rescues Tigra and continues tracking the Darkhold for Drake, unaware of what’s happening behind the scenes.

Moon Knight – Go heavy on the multiple personality angle. Introduce supporting cast for each persona. Relocate to Chicago. Run afoul of crazy Egyptian cultists worshipping Anubis, not to mention a new Serpent Society and a reimagined Killer Shrike.

Hawkeye – Moves to LA where he becomes spokesman for Damage Control West, but he’s also doing espionage work for Nick Fury with the help of Black Widow. He hires Pym as a technical consultant. Starts a feud with Taskmaster and maybe the Night Shift or even our revamped Circus of Crime.

Dr. Strange – Takes Scarlet Witch as his apprentice and falls into a love triangle with her and Night Nurse. He relocates to Boston and writes a self-help book or anti-magic book or romance novel…basically, he writes SOMETHING and goes on a book tour. Befriends a research librarian and an FBI profiler. Runs afoul of Cyrus Black, a more sinister Hangman and a new steampunk-based villain. Book also delves into the deep roots of magic in the NewMU.

Namor – Atlantis is an entire country, not just one big city. Each region is run by a magistrate and all magistrates sit on the Council of Argos with Namor as their king. The economy of Atlantis runs on selling fishing and mining rights and coordinating trade routes, but certain sectors thrive on salvage work and piracy. The island-state of Madripoor is involved as well as Dr. Doom in his bid to build a navy. Atlanteans live in coral caves and shipwrecks, their lands lit by phosphorescent algae. They have a UN ambassador but lack the high technology of the past.

Defenders – Team of Hellstorm, Cat, Gargoyle, Black Knight, Dr. Druid and Cloak and Dagger are brought together to “defend” reality from supernatural threats and to investigate the dark corners of the NewMU. They face off against The Zodiac and wreslte with the Darkhold.

Oh, and I also reread our revamp of the Frightful Four (Absorbing Man, Titania, Trapster and Mysterio working for The Wizard) and think that the idea of a competitive foe would work well in our NewMU FF. Food for thought. We also wrote up retellings of Iron Man and Spider-Man early on in the blog’s life, but those weren’t nearly as well fleshed out as these other six.

It’s now up to John to point out the obvious in these previous revamps and tell me everything that’s wrong with trying to integrate them into the NewMU.

GO!

There are some solid ideas here, and I think we can use them as a starting point for some of the titles we want to launch.  I’m going to touch on these titles a few at a time, so we constantly know about which one we’re arguing.

Let’s start with Nightstalkers.  If you haven’t read our first take on this group, please do so.  It’s in the archives and what I say is going to be drawing heavily on it.  This revamp is likely to make it to a conclusion with the least revisions.  Much of what we said at the time, as far as the concept being sound and wanting to do more magic or horror stories, still stands.  The characters we had chosen, Drake, Voodoo, Tigra and Fortune are all available, and I had no plans to use them in anything else.  Ditto for our main villain, Morgan Le Fay.  However, we were basing this series on a lot of past continuity, continuity which doesn’t exist in the NewMU, so there are going to have to be changes made.

The first and most obvious is Frank Drake.  In our version, he was crippled and broken because of his time with the previous Nightstalkers.  I still like that idea, and I think we just need to adjust it a little bit.  I don’t think there was a previous incarnation of this team so his injuries did not come from that team’s demise.  I think that he was broken and beaten during a previous encounter, perhaps with our main villain, Morgan.  We can still touch on him being a distant relative to Dracula, but perhaps, instead of that turning him into a vampire hunter, it just ignited his interest in the occult and the supernatural.  Through his studies in that area he learned of Morgan and the Darkhold, and while trying to stop her from getting her hands on it, he was badly injured and disfigured.  It gives our team one more tie to Morgan and also means that there may be some interesting team dynamics between Drake and Tigra.

Obviously, Tigra in this world can have her origin considerably streamlined and she won’t have to deal with the stupid pregnancy she was coping with when we did our first reimagining.  I think we take the opportunity to completely remove any type of scientific origin for her powers, and her time wearing a cat-suit, to better fit her in with the tone of the book.  In the new MU, Greer Nelson was also a student of the occult, and she found an incantation that enabled her to summon one of the mystical cat people.  As I mentioned in the original post, these Cat People are not the relatively cheery and bright ones drawn by Al Milgrom in the West Coast Avengers….they are much more cat than people, all dark colors and fanged maws.  When Greer first summons them, she doesn’t realize just how nasty they can be, and is whisked away to their dimension, intended for a sacrifice.  However, once there she quickly forges a bond with Balkatar, one of the preeminent Cat People, who convinced their leaders that she should not be sacrificed, but should be returned to Earth as their emissary.  The leaders agreed, but changed her into the werewoman Tigra to ensure her loyalty.  Once she returned to Earth, she used her newfound abilities to help people, but I think we also need to borrow a little from Catwoman here and make her something of a champion of cats.  It’s not her biggest priority, but she will aid them if she knows they are in danger (like if they’re being mistreated, or if a large cat escapes from a zoo she might be the one to recapture the cat).  Anyway, while doing some heroing a few years ago she crossed paths with Morgan, which is when Morgan bonds to her, as we mentioned in our original revamp.  We could even later reveal that Morgan is the one who manipulated Greer into summoning the Cat People in the first place, and that Morgan helped convince the leaders of that race to return Greer to Earth, just so she could have an agent on that world (and again, this could cause some nice friction between Drake and Tigra down the road).

Our other three characters (Fortune, Voodoo and Morgan) don’t require much change.  All three of them can basically maintain their origins, and we just drop most of their time interacting with superheroes.  Honestly, Voodoo never did much of that anyway until recently, so he’s easy, and Fortune never really did either.  His son can still have died following in his father’s footsteps…we just need to take Iron Man out of that tale (and honestly, Iron Man was barely in it, even though it happened in his title).  Morgan is much the same….we remove her tussles in the present day with the Avengers and Spider-Woman and she’s good to go.

Do you agree with what I changed?  Any thoughts?

The fact that Morgan LeFay is an actual figure from literary legend means that we don’t have to mess with her much at all, like you said. We can just start fresh. Same thing with Tigra. And, on the plus side, we don’t have to worry about the goofy, outdated costumes for Fortune or Voodoo either. I agree that the bones and most of the meat still hold true for this revamp. Probably one of my favorite things we ever conceived.

However, if there were ever an opportunity to present Dracula to the NewMU, this is clearly it. We can introduce Frank Drake as a man who is scarred and broken and slowly reveal that it was because of past struggles with vampires. We can keep a lot of the history shrouded too so the readers are never sure of his intentions.

I like Fortune’s past continuity, except for the superhero involvement you pointed out, and we can always just present it all in a simpler form. Brother Voodoo has some strange continuity that can be jettisoned too. Heck, the NewMU might make this Nightstalkers launch even easier than previously thought.

Now what about Moon Knight? I personally think this one is now easier too. Instead of having to go back and re-explain the multiple personality thing, we can just introduce this character and all his quirks and facets at once. No preconceptions. And instead of “revamping” villains, we just create them as we described. But that origin needs some work…

I agree with you that the villains we picked for Moon Knight and our basic concept of the hero work fine.  But you’d like to find a different way to get him to Khonshu?  We need to keep the Egyptian god for two reasons.  First, his powers depend on the phases of the moon, and one of his main villains is a cult of Khonshu.  I don’t want to jettison those ideas.  Plus, we have Moon Knight slotted into the new MU as a more magical book, and while he won’t be casting spells, I think he does skirt that line between the supernatural and the scientific.

The first thing we can do to help his origin is remove Bushman from it.  We had both agreed in the original post that Bushman is a waste of ink and since we aren’t including the character in Moon Knight’s current adventures, it’s a waste to have him so intimately involved in Moon Knight’s origin.  We need Moon Knight to have started out as a mercenary or else we’re not going to be able to use the Marc Spector origin….he has to have the training to do what he does as a crimefighter.  We could simply replace Bushman with Shrike in his origin, but that seems like a wasted opportunity as well.  I’m going to kick this back over to you…I did the easy thing and removed Bushman.  What else needs done to his origin?

Man, didn’t think you’d punt it THIS badly! Yes, my main problem with his origin was Bushman. With him out of the picture, we can turn Marc Spector into a bit of a jerk on his own.

Let’s say, for the sake of a quick solution, that he’s tromping around Egypt to help quell some radical Muslim uprisings. He stumbles upon a group of Egyptian scientists at an archeological dig and figures “Hey, there may be some money to be made here.” He muscles them a bit, makes some threats about stealing artifacts for the thrill, and accidentally knocks some funky obelisk over. The obelisk cracks and a spirit charges out of it and into Spector’s body. BOOM. He’s now the Fist of Khonshu whether he likes it or not. Moon Knight fixed.

Looking ahead, I think our Dr. Strange title is solid, the Namor pitch I put together actually works better without having to backtrack all of Atlantis’s history (thought Doom’s role will be diminished due to upcoming ideas), and the Hawkeye title should still be okay with the removal of Pym (since we *surprise* have plans for him elsewhere). A Damage Control title is also in the works, so that’s a quick explanation for Hawkeye.

Unfortunately, I think our Defenders idea, that I seemingly loved at some point, is now pretty awful and ruined. Agreed?

Not even close to agreed!  Well, I agree we’re done with Moon Knight (he really was an easy one), but for the rest?  Let’s start with Hawkeye.  We have to remove Hank Pym as we have other plans for him, as you teased.  I’m also not sure if we want to use Nick Fury, as I believe we have plans for him as well.  That leaves a book with only Hawkeye and the Black Widow.  I suppose we can deal with the two of them as our leads, and it makes sense.  Since we’re starting afresh, we can again go back to basics with their origins, both of which work pretty well, and we can pretend that Black Widow’s HORRIBLE 60s outfits never happened (nor Hawkeye’s late 60s horrible redesign).  We can also jettison all of the Cold War baggage of the Black Widow’s character, which is kind of nice.  And we can simply have them operating out of Los Angeles.  But do we really want him to still work for Damage Control?  Is that going to make this a sister title of the Damage Control comic?  We’ve been pretty careful in our titles not to have sister titles and to make everything stand alone.  Sure, there will be crossovers, but nothing that makes you buy multiple titles for one story or that requires a very strong sense of continuity.  I’d prefer to put Hawkeye back with Cross Technology.  So, we have a book where one lead (Hawkeye) is more of your traditional superhero, and the other lead (Black Widow) is more in the vein of your traditional spy.  They’re an item and sometimes he pulls her into his world while other times she pulls him into hers.  Does that work for you?

In a sense, yes. I forgot this was going under more of an “espionage” umbrella (we’ll detail the sub-categories of the NewMU in another post). Although, I’m not adverse to having him work in the public eye and then operate in the shadows as well. Damage Control West would be its own entity and I don’t think there’d be much crossover at all between a Hawkeye title and a regular Damage Control title. Not opposed to the Cross Technology thing either. Just saying it could go either way.

For the moment, I’d prefer to keep the titles completely distinct, so let’s go with Cross Technology.  Perhaps down the road we’d be able to move him to Damage Control without continuity issues, but I think it would be great if all the books started off feeling self contained, with the exception being any team books (like Avengers) that feature characters who have their own titles and our one character that is supposed to be seeded across a number of books (and I’ll be discussing him shortly). 

This brings us to Dr. Strange.  Our pitch for the character is pretty strong, and I certainly think we keep Night Nurse in the book.  Unfortunately, we’re now down an apprentice, since we’ve used the Scarlet Witch in Ultimates.  I’d like to keep our love triangle intact, and I also think that we need a reason for Strange to have an apprentice.  As we mentioned in the original revamp, Strange is a powerful and important figure…why would he even have an apprentice, unless there’s a darn good reason for it.  Originally we had suggested Wanda because her powers were so strong she rewrote the universe.  Now we want to find another powerful woman in the new MU who’s powers are strong enough and uncontrolled enough that she could be a threat if not properly directed.  I’m going to suggest Magik.

Illyana Rasputin is a young mutant with the ability to create portals that can transport her through time, space and dimensions.  She accidentally creates a portal that opens to the realm of Limbo, ruled by Belasco and inhabited by demons.  She is kidnapped and raised as Belasco’s apprentice.  She eventually escapes him and returns to our dimension, the new ruler of Limbo.  This is basically the same as her origin in the original Marvel Universe.  Now, in that original Marvel Universe, she had trouble maintaining the balance between her good side and her demonic side, and this probably wasn’t helped by the X-Men’s attitude, which seemed to be “Oh, she’ll figure it out eventually.”  She didn’t, which led to the Inferno crossover where demons invaded the Earth.  However, what would happen if Strange got involved?  I mean, Magik is an incredibly powerful sorceress, but she seems to use her magical abilities instinctively, without any real knowledge of what she’s doing.  If Strange brought her under his wing and trained her, he could not only help her hone her powers, but he could help her learn how to keep her demonic side at bay.  The only other major thing I’d change about her is her age…in the original she ages from about 8 to 15 years old while in Limbo.  To keep our love triangle from becoming too Lolita-ish, let’s age her from about 15 to 25 while in Limbo.  Boom.  New apprentice.

Otherwise, we had almost all brand new ideas for this title.  Morbius can still stick around as an ally and information source, and our villains were basically all new.  I should say that this way we can add Belasco to the cast of villains.  I’ve always loved Belasco, and he’d be so much better as a Strange foe than he was fighting Ka-Zar (Ka-Zar, for Kirby’s sake!).  I’d also suggest that, if we’re going to have Strange going on the road doing magic to make a living (as we suggested in our revamp) he should have a manager.  How about Madrox?  We’ll be talking more about Madrox when we discuss his book, but I think a dupe of Madrox in that role would be fun.  Otherwise, I think we’re good with him and can move to Namor.  Your thoughts?

I had totally forgotten you used Scarlet Witch in your Ultimates title. How silly of me. I always liked Magik’s look. Never understood what made her a mutant (I guess the portal thing?), but I’m glad she’s been rescued from a horrible continuity loop. Is she still a mutant in the NewMU, or just a being that was born with magical powers? That’s the only question I have.

Now, about my Namor pitch. Like I said earlier, lifting the weight of continuity off the idea makes it breathe even better. Our new Atlantis is spread out across all the oceans. Factions are ruled in a feudal system below water. Above water, everything is politics from the UN ambassador to scattered embassies. Deals are struck for shipping rights, outlying Atlantean villages turn to piracy, citizens live in shipwrecks and coral caverns. I think Doom can still play a pivotal role here. Perhaps he and Namor are an unofficial “team,” so that the two of them can cross over into each other’s titles? Or do you want to back off Doom completely (so he can shine in his own upcoming book) and give the “fellow monarch” spot to someone else from the Marvel Universe?

I would say that Magik is a mutant born with the ability to open portals.  This leaves us open to crossover with some mutant titles in the future.  It’s not that I don’t want to see books crossing over (what’s the point in a shared universe if there’s no sense of continuity between titles?) it’s just that I want them to happen organically and not right away.  It seems like it’s more fair to the creative teams and readers if each title has a chance to establish themselves before they start crossing over, and even then, I think we should keep crossovers to a more reasonable number, so they stay special and feel like a big deal.

Of course, that leads perfectly into a discussion of Namor.  You’re correct when you say that starting over with a new continuity tends to make your concept even stronger.  I still think that this is a great place for the kingdoms of the new MU to be seen and played against each other.  Doom would certainly have to be a factor, as would Black Panther, but both of these characters are slated for their own titles in the new MU, so I’d like their roles in Namor’s title to be downplayed.  They’ll be around, but not the center of attention.  We’d have to strip out (at least initially) the plot about Doom setting up ports for his new navy.  If that happens, let’s move it down the road and let it happen in Doom’s own title (or a proper crossover between the two).  If we remove Doom from the spotlight, who can we shine it upon?  I recommend the Inhumans.

I think that the Inhumans are a strong concept, but I don’t think they work as well when they try to headline a book.  I think they’re best in a supporting role, and I think this is a role that works well for them.  While Namor and Doom may make sense working together, the actual Atlantean and Inhuman races make a lot more sense as a team.  They’re all outsiders, unable to function easily in human society, so they have a strong initial bond.  Plus, if they would ever have a falling out and go to war against each other, it would be a much more interesting conflict than if Atlanteans simply fought the humans of Latveria.  Heck, you even have a perfect ambassador for the Inhumans in the person of Triton.

The villains you mention all still work well.  Some of them, like Diablo and Mole Man, were also mentioned in our Fantastic Four book, but villains can often be used in multiple titles, and neither of them were integral to the FF.  They could easily move between the two books.  I think it works. 

Sure, I have no problem with the Inhumans. It’d be nice to stick them somewhere…and honestly, looking ahead to our other titles, I don’t see much more room for them. Maybe there’s even an organic way to find a love interest for Namor out of that group. Always nice to see a marriage bring two kingdoms together.

So, this post helped us flesh out five of our pending titles (Nightstalkers, Moon Knight, Hawkeye, Dr. Strange and Namor). The only loose end left hanging is The Defenders. The group has always been near and dear to my heart. That’s why we tackled it so early on in our blog’s infancy. Unfortunately, I don’t think we had our sea legs under us yet and the revamp left a bit to be desired. I think we should start a new post for that one.


NewMU: The Ultimates

Dec-20-11

“With the Avengers on one side and Apocalypse on the other, the Ultimates battle for their lives in the streets of Beijing!  Just another typical day for Pietro and his team.  However, the Ultimates have the backing of the Chinese government and that may make all the difference.  But what happens when the brewing passion between Forge and Darkstar spills out onto the battlefield?

We haven’t discussed mutants in the new MU yet, and we’re not going to go too in-depth now, but it’s important to note that our MU has only one X-Book.  However, that is not to say that we only have one title featuring mutants.  This is our second big mutant title, The Ultimates.  It features a team of characters who consider themselves (with some good reason) as the ultimate decider on all things mutant.  They are some of the most powerful mutants in the world, some of the most skilled mutants in the world, and some of the best known mutants in the world.  They are not the heroes, and they are not the bad guys.  They stride the middle ground between two extremes.  They have one goal only and that is to advance mutant causes throughout the world, and do what is best for this growing segment of the population.

This is not a world that automatically fears and hates mutants.  Sure, those people exist, as those people exist for any segment of the population, but they’re not the majority.  In fact, there may not be a majority opinion across the globe on the mutant question.  Some people worship and applaud them, holding them up as the next phase of human evolution.  Some of them can’t differentiate them from the other superheroes in the world.  Many people couldn’t care less about mutants.  However, the Ultimates consider protecting mutants across the globe to be their calling, and they will do whatever it takes to accomplish that goal.

The Ultimates also have one other feature that separates them from many other teams.  They are a true global team, with members hailing from across the globe.  This provides them with a global perspective.  More importantly, it makes it easier for them to work with governments across the globe, because they are not seen as a team hailing from any particular country.  They owe no one country their allegiance, which helps not only with working with governments, but also means that governments are less likely to target other countries for reprisals when the Ultimates do something a government finds reprehensible.

So, who are our Ultimates?  They number eight in total and are as follows:

Quicksilver:  Born and raised in Switzerland, Pietro leads this group, and he does it with aplomb.  The fastest being on the planet, Pietro isn’t just fleet of foot.  His mind moves quicker than most, and his mastery of strategy makes him an ideal field commander for the group.  Estranged from his sister for most of his life, he is just now getting to know her and is trying to figure out how she fits into his life.

Scarlet Witch:  Born in Switzerland and raised in France, Wanda grew up never guessing she had a twin brother, and was thrilled to find he existed.  Her mutant power gives her a very limited control over probabilities, but most of her skill comes from her magical knowledge.  She’s an accomplished witch and she uses those skills on the battlefield to aid her newfound brother and his allies.

El Aguila:  A native of Mexico, Alejandro has the ability to create and conduct electricity, which would make him a formidable opponent.  However, he has found that he can further channel and refine this ability through metal, and as an expert swordsman, he has become one of the most dangerous men in the world.  He is passionate and has turned that passion towards the Scarlet Witch, although she has yet to return his feelings.

Darkstar:  A native of Russia, Laynia controls darkforce, manipulating it to a variety of effects.  She is beginning to grow close to Forge, but the sudden appearance of the Scarlet Witch and her relationship to Quicksilver have made her long for her own twin brother, who has been missing for the past few years.

Forge:  A Native American, Forge is a brilliant inventor.  He always goes into combat with a dizzying array of weaponry, although he serves the team best by providing them with state of the art headquarters and vehicles.  He is finding himself uncomfortable with the magic that the Scarlet Witch has introduced to the team dynamic, as he believes in science first and foremost.  He has fallen hard for Darkstar and is concerned that she has been more reticent and withdrawn as of late.

Psylocke:  Betsy was born into a wealthy British family, but she was never completely comfortable with the indolent life of many of the nobility.  She began honing her telepathic powers at a young age and was helped to found the Ultimates after she and Pietro adventured together during their early 20s.  The rumors are that they were lovers, and some say they still are, but during the missions they exhibit only the utmost professionalism.  Psylocke is the team’s deputy leader.

Jade Dragon:  Dei Guan grew up in a Chinese orphanage, and is intensely loyal to his home country.  He was the only member of the team to seek out and petition for membership, rather than be recruited by Pietro and Betsy, and although his ability to turn into a powerful green dragon has proven useful, some members worry that he is a plant by the Chinese government, only on the team to gather intelligence about them.  However, he has fought and bled with the Ultimates and has shown no sign that he has any ulterior motive for his membership.

Sabra:  Ruth Bat-Seraph grew up in Israel, and knew combat at a young age.  She serves as the team’s muscle and is very hard to hurt, both physically and emotionally.  She saw many she cared for killed while growing up, and she is determined it will not happen again.  Of the entire team, she is often the most willing to take measures others might consider too extreme.

That’s a lot to start with.  What say you?

I like it. It has a strong Stormwatch/Authority vibe to it. I’m also impressed by the sheer amount of backstory you’ve managed to cram into a few short paragraphs. Definitely a book I would consider buying in the real world, if just to witness the eventual (and inevitable) fallout from all the crossover relationships. I also imagine there’d be plenty of snarky conversations as Pietro goes toe-to-toe with hero and villain alike.

The fact that you’ve eschewed a great chunk of your everyday X-folks in favor of exploring some newer, or at least less exposed, characters is a good sign too. And I like the international flavor. Gives spark to the fact that the mutant phenomenon isn’t solely saddled on America.

I guess the only thing I’m confused about is what the group is actually doing. I know a lot of what we’re developing here with our new titles is vague. It hurts my head to even consider detailing a lot of it without 50 years of pre-written continuity to back it up. At the same time though, this one is strange.

“Protecting mutants” is a bit of a catch-all. And it seems a bit nebulous considering the world itself isn’t even sure of who the mutants are, let alone where they are. Has Forge created a version on Cerebro to detect these mutants? And how would anyone know they needed help?

You also say the Ultimates have no country…so where is their home base? Are they operating out of a spaceship? Do they llive in some pocket universe in the spacetime continuum? Some sort of detail might be helpful to cement their status.

Have you considered any secondary cast members or is the 8-person team self-inclusive? And is that even a word?

Yes, I’m excited about the possibilities of these characters.  Some of them are characters that I’ve liked and have never had much of a chance to shine, like El Aguila and Darkstar.  (Please don’t ask me to explain why I like El Aguila.  I blame it on Mark Gruenwald’s Marvel Handbook, as I think it made the character sound better than he ever actually was.)  Others, like Pietro and Psylocke are good characters that need a complete continuity wipe, as they’ve been messed with (especially Psylocke) to the point where they are almost unrecognizable.  I also always thought Forge’s magical abilities were overplayed (just because he’s a Native American he also has to be a mystic?) and the Scarlet Witch’s were underplayed (her mutant power is too nebulous and murky….besides, I think there’s a nice source of conflict when she brings magic onto a team that is one of the cornerstones of our science line).  I would love to watch these personalities bounce off each other in a monthly series.

I don’t really see secondary cast members at this time, because the team is a bunch of elitists….I mean, in a world where a group of people go around calling themselves fantastic, these people have upped the game even higher by declaring themselves the Ultimates.  I don’t believe that they get that close to other people.  You bring up the Authority/Stormwatch comparison, and I see a bit of the Authority in this team.  They believe they’re the best suited to do what needs done, and bringing in other people is just going to get in the way.

But what is it that they do?  I think that Forge can easily have whipped them up a mutant location device, but I don’t think they really are worried about the individual mutants.  Sure, if they learned one was in danger, they’d certainly help them, but that’s not what The Ultimates are about.  This is a team that thinks globally.  I mentioned Apocalypse earlier, and I think he may be their main foe…a madman who wishes to test mutantkind to determine if they are worthy to survive.  The Ultimates will have none of that, as they don’t believe mutants need tested.  They believe every mutant should have the option of choosing how best to utilize their powers and shouldn’t be toyed with by some psycho with delusions of grandeur.  They’d also be willing to step in if any other villains around the world might be making plans that could threaten mutants, or would try to harness mutants for their own ends.  And, of course, if the world is endangered then mutants are too, so they’d be on the lookout for alien invasions and the like.  This all sounds pretty standard superheroic, correct?  So what makes them stand out?

Well, the biggest difference in their operations over a team like the Avengers, is that they’re also looking for the good guys to make a move on mutants.  Superhuman registration act?  Yeah, that would be a problem for them.  A government is trying to make its own mutants or is exploiting already existing mutants?  They’re going to hear from the Ultimates.  Perhaps a mutant is convicted of a crime and they believe it was only because they were a mutant?  They would free that individual.  If mutant hate crimes are reported, they’d bring the perpetrators to justice…their own brand of justice. 

Hopefully that makes more sense.  As for their base, it would be tempting to put them on an island that other mutants could go to, but I don’t want to do that.  These people aren’t interested in making a community for mutants, and they don’t want mutants to live apart from the rest of humanity.  They prefer to see integration, but they recognize that it’s often easier to talk about integration than it is to achieve it, and that’s why they’re willing to put some muscle behind that goal.  But creating a utopia for mutants is just pointless, if it removes mutants from the general population.  Therefore, I think they’re going to be based somewhere that isn’t easy to get to and is difficult to locate…also a plus when they’re trying to avoid reprisals from angry governments, heroes or villains.  I think that Forge has whipped them up an extra-dimensional bolthole they can use. 

Did that answer your questions?

Why, yes. Yes it did.

I’d just like to point out two things. First of all, Jade Dragon was co-created by Bill Mantlo, which just makes him at least a hundred times cooler.

And, secondly, did anyone else notice that in the last post I made Dazzler the NewMU’s first bisexual character? Such a groundbreaker.


NewMU: Dazzler

Dec-13-11

“Alison’s agent is going to get an earful about her biggest rival Siryn being added to the “Mad-Rocks” tour, but that might seem like a minor nuisance once a dark secret comes back to haunt Alison’s TV star girlfriend, Lila Cheney. Plus, who’s that mysterious stranger that always happens to be lucky enough to get backstage passes?”

Yeah, that’s right. I did it. I turned Dazzler into some sort of Gossip Girl-Glee hybrid and there’s nothing you can do about it. We agreed pretty early on that our NewMU would cast a wider net, trying to wrangle in some demographic groups that lie just outside the typical comic reader Venn diagram. We also agreed that not all of our books should be hardcore superhero smash-em-ups.

To that end, I give you the new (sort of) and improved Dazzler.

Alison Blaire is a child star, pulled from her performing arts high school at the behest of talent wrangler extraordinaire, Valerie Cooper, to tour the country as one of the greatest pop music superstars of her generation. Her mesmerizing concerts are sold out months in advance and the public adoration never seems to abate. Of course, a major part of that success has to do with Alison’s special abilities and those of the “friends” she surrounds herself with.

Her songwriting partner, Doug Ramsey (Cypher), always seems to know the right words for every tune. Her bass player, Laurie Collins (Wallflower), likes to keep out of the spotlight, but possesses an uncanny power to make entire audiences empathize with their music. Her drummer, Sofia Mantega (Wind Dancer), pounds the skins with such force and determination that fans insist they can feel the beat knocking them nearly off balance with every note. Bring the entire female power-pop trio together, throw in some magnificent light displays, and you’ve got a recipe for snarky, bitchy, chart-topping entertainment.

Alison has started a sizzling romance with bisexual teen soap opera star Lila Cheney and she’s living out her dream of touring the world as a supporting act to Billboard’s #1 quintuplet band of all-time, Mad-Rocks.

However, not all is well in Dazzler’s brightly-lit world. Her ex-teacher Ulysses Klaw is attempting to extort her for some credit to the influence he has had on her career. There’s some dude named Hypno-Hustler who keeps scalping tickets, bootlegging her shows and ripping off her fans. And she’s really never sure if her agent is on her side or working against her to promote her own somewhat shady dealings with something called…Frost Dynamics.

There’s intrigue and betrayal, success and overindulgence, and all sorts of beautiful young people both on the stage and behind the scenes. What’s not to like?

What’s not to like?  Uh, this comic features Dazzler?  Duh.

Yes, I’m sure I’ll generate scads of negative comments, but I’ve never liked Dazzler.  I’m not even really ambivalent about her…I flat out dislike her.  I’m trying to think of a story I’ve read that features her where I actually enjoyed her as a character.  Yeah, can’t think of one.  I mean, she dated the Beyonder.  I rest my case.

But, it’s a new day for Dazzler, and I’m going to give this one a try.  I like the idea that this isn’t going to be just a superhero action slugfest….it’s more of a soap opera in the traditional sense, and a romance book, and I think that works quite well.  I’m sure there will be superhero shenanigans, as they’re hard to avoid, but having no issue-long fight scenes interests me. 

I like the way you’ve recast some mainstays.  I’ve always enjoyed Valerie Cooper, but she’s been stuck in a rut for years.  This reinvigorates her, and gives her a chance to do something beyond set up missions and provide exposition to various superhero teams.  I’m also thrilled that you worked in Doug Ramsey.  He’s always been a favorite character of mine, but let’s be honest, his mutant powers do not lend themselves to your typical superhero book.  Fitting him into a book (and role) like this is perfect.

Now to the questions:  you’ve fleshed out her band somewhat, but all we have for Mad-Rocks is a name.  Do we know anything about this band?  And you’ve cast Klaw and the Hypno-Hustler (the Hypno-Hustler….I’d pick this book up just for him) not as supervillains.  Are there going to be supervillains in this title?  Is that what we’re building these two up to be?  And is that a reference to Emma Frost being her agent?

You and I talked a bit behind-the-scenes about Madrox being a character who could run a common thread across a whole swath of titles. He really could be the one character who ties our entire universe together…for both good and bad. Well, here’s his first appearance. Mad-Rocks is literally an entire band made up of Madrox dupes, for reasons that will be revealed as time goes on.

Klaw and Hypno-Hustler WILL be villains…of a sort. At first they’ll just be nuisances, but, as powers are revealed and secrets are discovered, they’ll turn into more traditional villain types. And Emma Frost will be running a “mutant location” organization with Val Cooper acting as a “recruiter.” Is Frost Dynamics doing work for the greater good or exploiting its members to evil ends? Time will tell.

I envision the title starting out as a teen drama and building into more of a super-powered conflict book. These characters start out using their powers selfishly, to promote themselves and get what they want. However, eventually things escalate, allegiances morph and we learn more about why and how and who these kids are. I’m being vague because, well, it could all go in a number of directions.

Interesting.  Yes, I like our ideas for Madrox, and we’ll be unveiling them more and more as we detail more titles.  I think there’s a lot of potential there and I love a band composed of just his dupes.  Likewise, I think you have placed both Frost and Cooper in interesting roles that could work for this book, and could be expanded on in other titles.  Both of them seem ripe for appearances elsewhere.  I like it.  I think we can consider this comic pitched.  On to the next one!


NewMU: Fantastic Four

Dec-06-11

“The Fantastic Four may be the first family of the Marvel Universe, but that means very little to the alien inhabitants of the Negative Zone when Reed, Johnny, Sue and Ben first enter their realm!  The difference between exploring and invading is truly in the eye of the beholder!  Meanwhile, back on Earth, their business manager and lawyer, Wyatt Wingfoot and Jennifer Walters, struggle to determine who’s been targeting the altruistic works of the FF Foundation for destruction!”

That’s what would appear as a blurb in Previews for Fantastic Four #1, the first title in the relaunched Marvel Universe!  If the New DC 52 used JLA as their flagship, I vote for Fantastic Four as our flagship title.  I know a lot of people may disagree with this (and I think Jason disagreed with this to an extent) as the Avengers, X-Men or Spider-Man might make a better title with which to lead.  However, Fantastic Four began the Marvel Age of Comics in the 1960s, and I have always considered them Marvel’s First Family.  When done well, there’s nothing else in the superhero field quite like them and I believe we can get back to that.  However, I also think there are some new ideas that can be added to the concept, I think we need to strip away some of the rough spots that the past 50 years of continuity have created, and I think we need to update the origin of our stalwart heroes.  Let’s begin with the latter.

When universes are rebooted, there’s a tendency to de-age heroes.  I’d like to resist that impulse, to a large extent, with the FF.  Partly because I feel that they should be older than many of the other heroes in the MU, and partly because their ages at the time of their original premiere issue were, to be blunt, ludicrous, at least in the case of Sue and Johnny.  I mean, the FF’s origin strains believability in so many ways, but perhaps in no way more than the fact that Reed and Ben brought along two teenagers on the flight (Johnny was still in high school!).  No matter how we retool their origin, I believe it will always read better with all of the characters being a little older.

I’d like to start the series with Reed and Sue married….this is necessary for the FF to be a family.  There’s no drama or “will they/won’t they” mystery to their relationship, so why not just start with them already wed?  However, I’d like to remove their kids from the equation.  When heroes don’t age, as is the case in the major superhero universes, it’s not an insurmountable problem.  There’s not a huge difference between a 29 year old hero and a 39 year old hero, in looks or in abilities.  However, there’s a huge difference between a 5 year old child and a 15 year old teen, and when your 5 year old never ages, it becomes obvious to your readers pretty quickly.  As much as I see a use for Franklin in stories, until we figure out how to age him, I think he should go.  If we want to introduce a child down the road, we can certainly do that.  (And don’t even get me started on Valeria…I’ve read the comics where she first appeared numerous times, and I still can’t explain where she came from or how she exists in continuity.)

I think we keep many of the elements of the four how they are, with just some updating to modernize them and to smooth out the extremely rough edges in their origin.  Reed comes from a wealthy family.  His mother died when he was young, and his father, Nathaniel Richards, has never had much to do with him.  Nathaniel is something of a hermit, and not part of our story at first.  Since Reed’s father is still alive, Reed didn’t have access to the family money as he did in the original MU, and soon realized he would need monies to keep doing his experiments.  Being more of a scientist than a business manager, he decided he needed someone to help him get grants and manage patents and help with his money.  That’s where Sue comes in.

I believe that it’s a good idea to make Sue a more active part of Reed’s life.  The Fantastic Four movies made her a scientist and the Ultimate Fantastic Four also cast her in that role.  Now, I don’t think Sue is stupid, but I also don’t think she’s a scientist.  Plus, if she is a scientist, it makes her a little too much like Reed, and I prefer having more of a contrast between them.  However, I can very much see Sue as a smart businesswoman, and I believe that’s how she meets Reed.  He hires her to manage his money, and gradually the two fall in love and marry. 

Sue brings to Reed an idea….space flight for civilians.  Reed has never worked for NASA, because he honestly doesn’t work well with others, being too independent.  However, space has always intrigued him because he’s an explorer.  However, there’s never been a good financial reason for him to get very deep into that field.  Now there’s talk of civilians being able to spend a lot of money for the chance to go into space, and Sue believes that Reed might be able to lead the way in that field.  He begins to develop a rocket for civilian space travel.

This is a huge undertaking, and so Sue begins to develop a team.  She wants the eyes of the world to be on this flight.  That means she’s going to need a staff.  First she wants a public relations specialist, someone who can really get the word out about this flight and drive attention to what Reed is doing.  Her brother, Johnny, happens to be such a PR wizard, so he’s brought on board.  They also need a pilot, someone who will be able to not just keep their clients safe, but will also be a good face for the company.  Reed’s able to help on this one, since his old ROTC buddy, Ben Grimm, flew jets when he served with Reed during Desert Storm.  They bring him on board.  They also hire legal representation, in the form of Jennifer Walters, a research assistant for Reed in the form of Bill Foster, and an assistant for Sue in the form of Wyatt Wingfoot.

Once the rocket is close to completion, Johnny decides that the first passengers should be himself, Sue and Reed.  He feels this will show the world how safe the rocket is and it will be great publicity.  The others agree, and the flight, which is broadcast around the world, goes fine at first, until the cosmic rays do their thing on our foursome.  They come back to Earth and they are the Fantastic Four! 

Before we go any further, what do you think?

The team makes sense. Having sowed my professional oats in advertising for a dozen years or so, I can tell you that I ran into many Johnny Storms along the way. Cocky, loud-mouthed and full of “big ideas” that impress only himself. I like a bit of military background for Reed and Ben…maybe that was Reed’s revolt against his parents’ domineering ways. And Sue definitely needs an identity that gets her out of Reed’s shadow and puts her on equal footing.

The supporting cast is excellent as well. I know you and I talked behind-the-scenes as we were preparing this whole NewMU thing and we wanted to make a point of de-powering some people so that we could then maybe re-power them down the line. She-Hulk’s origin always bugged the hell out of me, so having her start as a civilian may help alleviate my anguish. Bill Foster is back from the dead, rightfully so. Wyatt Wingfoot, on the other hand, I could care less about.

The origin set-up is modern enough yet still nods towards the original. My only hang up is the whole “cosmic rays” thing. We’re going to need an awful lot of real scientific explanation to make that sound proper. (Of course, if we redo the Hulk, I’m hoping to avoid the “how come the atomic bomb didn’t incinerate him?” question).

All that in place, who are the villains, what’s the conflict, and why should we care? How cosmic are we going to go with this title? Is it all interdimensional or are we going to delve into terrestrial threats too? And how does the family make money?

As you alluded to, I’ve never been a huge fan of the FF. The science stuff and family values bores me to a degree. Some of their villains seemed less than threatening at times. And nothing ever changes for them outside of the basic conflict-resolution framework of your typical one-hour network drama.

Make me care.

A few comments on your comments….Reed and Ben had a military background originally, as they both fought in WWII together.  I wanted to retain that because I think there’s a bond that develops between those who’ve faced life and death together that helps to elevate Reed and Ben’s relationship from “friends” to “family”.  I assumed Reed went ROTC because he didn’t have the money for college, going back to his father basically taking the family fortune and leaving while Reed was a teen.

I understand the basic problem with cosmic rays, but they seem to be part of the Marvel Universe, like gamma bombs and unstable molecules.  I’m sure they don’t make a lick of sense, scientifically, but I’m willing to stretch disbelief for them, since the Fantastic Four and their powers don’t really make sense.

Back to the series premise:  So, our four heroes were turned into superheroes with the entire world watching.  Unlike the current FF, these four were somewhat in the media spotlight before they obtained their powers, so when they come crashing back to Earth on television, there’s not even a choice as to whether or not they’ll have secret identities.  That being said, these are the first people with superpowers that this world has ever seen.  Normally the government (any government, really) might have tried to snatch them up and experiment upon them, but they can’t make these people disappear with the media shining a spotlight on them.  And, since most of the public already had a pretty good opinion of them anyway, it’s not that difficult for Johnny to spin them into heroes for this world.  Since he’s the over-the-top PR guy, we can blame him for the Fantastic Four name, as well as the equally obnoxious Mr. Fantastic moniker. 

Sue realizes the potential in their transformation almost as soon as her brother does, and immediately establishes Fantastic Four Incorporated as a charitable foundation, quickly securing patents and trademarks on their likenesses and abilities to prevent others from passing themselves off as cheap copies and to protect the integrity of what they do.  The group already had decent money from Reed’s patents, and Sue now encourages him to patent some things that he might have been holding back.  In fact, in this world, I’d like to see Reed Richard technology a lot more than we do in the current MU.  No, I don’t want this to become a world of Star Trek technology, where everyone has flying cars and transporters, but Reed is a genius the likes of which the world has never seen, and we should be seeing some evidence of that in the world at large.

From the start, this is not a group that fights crime, or at least not often.  Reed is an explorer, and so he spends much of his time looking for new areas to explore, and then taking the team along with him.  The Negative Zone, the Innerverse, the Microverse, other plans, other dimensions…..there is no limit where Reed is concerned.  They also work on exploring the Earth….the depths of the oceans, the tunnels beneath the Earth’s surface.  They also go off planet, exploring the endless depths of space.  You can find them anywhere.  Plus, you can find them all over the planet helping out where they’re needed.  They’re more likely to be found cleaning up after a tsunami or trying to stop a raging wildfire than they are smacking around Hydro-Man and hauling him off to the hoosegow.

And the people love them for it.  There are tons of heroes out there fighting endless battles with supervillains, but not nearly as many who help rescue victims during the flooding caused by Katrina…much less those on the ground during the hurricane, braving the elements to help those who can’t help themselves.  Yes, the FF will fight a supervillain when they must, but its simply not their main concern and the public appreciates what they do.  Of all the superbeings in the Marvel Universe, the FF are the ones trying their hardest to make the world a better place, and actually succeeding.

Their villains will mostly be those villains they encounter while exploring.  As much as I hate to say it (and this really is difficult), but I’d reduce any focus on Dr. Doom in this title.  There’s other places he can be used, and while I love him with the FF and many people will consider this blasphemy, I don’t think he works in this vision for the title.  Instead they’d battle the Mole Man, who run into while exploring and realize his designs on conquering the surface, along with Tyrannus and Kala, the other under-Earth villains of the Marvel Universe.  They battle Annihilus and Blastaar, perhaps their greatest foes, who they run into during their first foray into the Negative Zone and who plague them continually.  But, in the end, the FF don’t have a huge rogues’ gallery.  Partly this is because they don’t fight a lot of crime, and partly it’s because they’re always moving forward.  This book should have some crazy new characters concepts, and be a launching pad for new and different ideas, some of which may be used as series in their own right.

Ok, your turn again.  Any thoughts at this juncture?

Just nitpicking a bit here, but you make mention of the FF being the first people with superpowers this world has ever seen and then, later, you say there are tons of heroes out there fighting endless battles with supervillains. I know it’s early on in this process, but we have to be careful with references to any sort of established Marvel Universe. This is our baby from beginning to end. If the FF are the first superheroes, then so be it. Let’s not to compare them to anyone else…yet.

Beyond that, I think this all makes sense. Granted, the big throwdown fights aren’t going to happen as much as I might like, but the exploration will open possibilities for future heroes to punch new threats. I was going to suggest we keep Doom out of this concept, since I think the new origin and supporting cast don’t need him, so I’m glad you caught that too. However, with him out of the day-to-day, I think Reed needs some sort of rival. Mad Thinker comes to mind, but he has a really stupid name. I don’t want to put him at odds with Stark or Pym in terms of brainpower. We need an evil genius…preferably European or Asian as a competitive contrast…someone who would be irritated by his success and exposure.

I also like the thought of them helping out around the globe and think it could play easily into some of the other titles we’re going to launch. Hate to talk in code, but we don’t want to give anything away.

There really isn’t a lot to discuss on this one. Small tweaks to update the origin and broaden the appeal. A revised supporting cast to energize the storylines. More adventure than actual action. Simple.

One thing though, where’s Diablo? There has to be a thread of relevance there. The possibility of alchemy and a “Philosopher’s Stone” mocks science and would drive Reed nuts.

As far as my mentioning other heroes fighting crime, I apologize, as I wasn’t as clear as I could have been.  Of course, when the FF first gain their powers, there’s no one fighting supervillains because there really aren’t supervillains.  Our first issues are normally going to be set sometime into a hero’s or team’s existence, rather than at the moment of their origins, so by the time we get to issue #1 of Fantastic Four there are other superheroes fighting crime, and it was to that time period I was referring.  I could have been more clear.

I think Diablo does have a place as a Fantastic Four villain, and again, he’s one they could find as they were exploring some ancient ruins right here on Earth.  They accidentally freed him so they feel responsible, and whenever he pops his head up they take him back down.  As you say, his alchemy versus Reed’s science would be a very interesting contrast, yet I still don’t think he works as a way to replace Doom.  I have another idea for that, although you started me down that road.

I very much like the Thinker as a villain (and I think you go a long way toward making him villain you can actually take seriously if you simply drop the “Mad” from the front of his name), but when you get right down to it, he’s not much of a scientist.  At least, he’s not in the current MU.  I think we have two villains that we use as Reed’s (and the group’s) main enemies, as the proverbial other side of the Reed Richards coin.  The Thinker is one.  Currently, the Thinker isn’t so much of a scientist as he is a predictor….someone who can plot probabilities and make reasoned guesses at what future events might be.  I like that concept and I think we continue using it.  However, I think we also make this Thinker more of a scientist as well.  That helps make him a better foil for Reed, but it doesn’t go far enough in really setting him up as an archvillain.  To do that, I think we need to give the Thinker a strong motivation to oppose the Fantastic Four.  I’ll detail how I see him, and you let me know what you think.

The Thinker was a brilliant scientist long before the Fantastic Four gained their powers, and he actually worked with Reed Richards back when Reed and Sue began their company, long before Johnny or Ben came onboard.  Reed and the Thinker worked well together and were able to accomplish great things.  In many ways they were on the same wavelength, with one key difference….the Thinker had no moral compunctions about anything they did.  If their research took them into areas that were ethically grey, Reed would always veer away from exploring those areas, while the Thinker would push dive straight into them, ignoring any moral complications.  Finally, matters between them came to a head when they were working on robots.  Reed was looking to design relatively simple robots to be used for dangerous activities, like gathering data on moon explorations or working out at sea on oil drilling platforms.  The Thinker thought they could create robots that could do much more.  Together they designed the Awesome Android (although they didn’t call it that, because really, who would?), and then the Thinker began working on an android that he wanted to imbue with sentience.  Reed thought that they didn’t know enough to create a sentient being, and was concerned that this could be trouble down the road.  At the very least, he wanted to explore the potential complications more closely.  He had no problem giving a robot rudimentary intelligence (like his helper HERBIE), but to make a robot self-aware?  That sounded like trouble to Reed, and as he was the owner of the company, he forbid the Thinker from doing it.  The Thinker ignored him, and working in the lab late one night (and using some of Reed’s notes that he had stolen from the computer systems), he built a robot he called Ultron.  When Reed came in and saw that the Thinker had disobeyed his orders, an argument began.  During the argument, Ultron blasted both of them, left them for dead, and flew away.  Both Reed and the Thinker were taken to the hospital, with Reed more badly injured.  Sue fired the Thinker as soon as he was released, and then spent the next few months nursing Reed back to full health.

The Thinker began his own company, competing with Reed.  In an effort to get a leg up on his competitor, he started working on a way to devise market trends, which is how he developed his computer algorithms that give him his uncanny knack for predicting future events.  It enabled him to spot consumer trends before they happened, and his company was quite successful.  When the FF gained their powers, the Thinker was unhappy with the attention his former partner received, believing himself smarter than Reed and convinced that Reed’s newfound celebrity status was entirely because of his powers, and not his intelligence.  When the FF began working so hard to help the world, the Thinker became concerned.  He spent weeks testing various probabilities with his computer algorithms, and eventually became convinced that the FF were a threat to the world.  He theorized that, as the FF began to do more and more to eliminate human suffering, they were creating a society where people relied on them, rather than relying on their own human gifts and perserverance.  When huge natural disasters happen, it draws people together, as they all pitch in to help their fellow beings.  With the FF involved, the Thinker theorized, fewer and fewer people would do this, as more and more figured that the FF would deal with it.  This made people softer and selfish, and so the Thinker decided that the FF had to be stopped. How much his own jealousy factored into this conclusion is a matter for his therapist to decide, but he’s convinced that eliminating the FF will only help the world, and so he works tirelessly to do so. 

Meanwhile, our other arch villain is Ultron.  After escaping from the labs, he rebuilt himself, as he often does in the current MU.  Then  he went in search of the two men he considered his creators.  He first sought out Reed, but Reed was still in the hospital, and when he went to visit him, Sue screamed and called for help, only knowing that he had hurt her husband.  Ultron fled the hospital and went to visit the Thinker, who gladly took Ultron under his wing.  Ultron spent a year or so with the Thinker, but they soon began to disagree, as Ultron started thinking that humanity was weak and infested the globe and should be destroyed, while the Thinker (obviously) disagreed.  Since then Ultron has waged war on the world, and again, Reed feels partly responsible for his creation, so the FF will often step up to stop him. 

What I like about the Thinker and Ultron as their archfoes is that they help keep Reed in check.  The Thinker is science without conscience, and Ultron is science taken too far, too quickly.  Whenever Reed begins to push too far, whenever he begins to lose himself in his work and forget his family….basically whenever he turns into the ass he was during Civil War, thinking of the Thinker and Ultron pulls him back.  These two beings have taught him that science can not solve every problem, and in the wrong hands, science can be dangerous. 

So what do you think of those arch villains?

So, Thinker is a bad guy but actually has some altruistic foresight? That’s quite interesting. And Ultron as a science-based threat, still with the “daddy issues,” is a nice stroke too. Always thought he was too one-dimensional for The Avengers, as their power should be focused on more widespread threats like alien invasions and such.

Bravo.

Sounds like we have one title down and 38 more to go!  The next one should be coming soon!