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!


It’s A Whole New World!

Nov-29-11

From the looks of it, it’s been nearly 20 months since our last entry. Much has changed since we entertained you last. Children were born. Haircuts were received. Things were hidden under other things for fear of certain people finding them and using them against us. Y’know, basic life stuff.

Anyhoo, timely as we have always been, John and I decided a few months ago during that whole “New 52” DC relaunch thingy that it might be interesting to explore what would happen if Marvel chose to undertake a reboot. We discussed between ourselves the ups and downs of DC’s endeavor and decided to lay a couple ground rules for this experiment.

First of all, COMPLETE REBOOT. None of this confusing partial continuity stuff. No clinging to established ideas just because we’re scared of change. Of course, we’re not going to mess with things that are good either. Spider-Man will still be Spider-Man. There will be updates to histories and origins. There will be new relationships and allegiances. There won’t necessarily be new characters, but some will be reclassified.

Secondly, there is no way we would ever want to formulate 52 titles. It makes no sense. Plus, why bother revamping a line of comics if half of them are just going to star the same guy anyway? We made a fairly strict rule that there would NOT be multiple titles for the same character. Then we broke our own rule just a tiny bit. No need to panic.

To this end, we’ve come up with a list of 39 titles that we think are well-rounded and offer different views of the “New Marvel Universe.” Why 39? Well, Marvel was founded in 1939. Plus, it’s pretty much less than 52.

This isn’t meant to be an additional universe outside regular continuity, like the Ultimate-verse. Nor is it supposed to be a parallel universe like whatever the one Squadron Supreme is or was in. It’s not even new like that New Universe thing that happened but most people forgot about. This is a complete replacement for what exists now as the so-called Marvel-616. An all-new Marvel from Day One.

In deference to the area code where John and I reside, let’s call this our Marvel-717 universe. And here’s how it all came about (heavily abridged to make it slightly less boring):

(June 13, 2011) We should do a blog entry about rebooting the Marvel Universe, using some of the concepts we’ve already put out there.

It would be super fun. Shall we create a Hypno-Hustler series?

Complete madness. Regardless of how I feel about the intent or direction, they must’ve put a boatload of thought into this DC reboot. It’s a massive undertaking considering all the characters, all the storylines and all of the history they need to either forget about or rectify or some combination of both.

How true. I wish I could have sat in on some of their creative planning sessions.

(November 26, 2011…after a few months of reflection and absentmindedness) Hey, remember this conversation?

If we’re going to do this, it has to be a hard reboot. Agreed?

Sure. We can make our own rules. The number of titles has to have some odd significance, like “39” for the year Marvel was founded.

I like the number 39. Always thought 52 was too many anyway.

More original books. New partnerships. Unexpected angles.

(insert vague discussion on titles, one or two fang-bearing arguments, lunch break, titles broken down into categories, some name-calling)

I understand the logic of having these discussions now, but I feel like there are good things here for the blog that we’re “wasting” on each other.

And, on that note, we’ve come full circle. We may or may not post more relevant details from our secret e-mail exchange as we reveal the titles we’ve discussed. Regardless, this has already been an enlightening experience and we hope you enjoy our planning.

With that said, here goes nothing! Our titles will begin “launching” next week. Welcome to the Marvel-717 Universe…


Hiatus

Feb-17-09

Well, as may have become obvious over the past few weeks, we’ve been having problems bringing content to Meanwhile…Comics.  Both Jason and I are quite busy, and we have been having some discussions about what this blog was supposed to be.  Did we just revamp old characters?  Did we provide commentary on current comics controversies?  Were we all snark, or more criticism?  While we sort these questions out, we’ve decided to take a break from the blog.

We may be back someday, so never fear.  Jason’s also got something else he’s working on right now, and I have to admit, listening to the premise, it sounds brilliant.  I’m quite excited, and can’t wait to see what he makes of it.  We’ll announce it here when we have details.  Meanwhile….thanks for reading and we hope to talk to you soon!


Feb. Previews Part 2: Letting My Fingers Do the Walking

Feb-10-09

Continuing our tour through this month’s Previews. Let’s see what else I thought was interesting!

Fallen Angel Volume 6: Cities of Light and Dark: I just finished raving about this series a few posts ago, so we know I like it. It’s a great read. I’d recommend it.

Resurrection: I know nothing about this trade paperback, written by Marc Guggenheim. Well, I do know one thing, and that’s the price of this compilation: $6.00. That’s a great price, and it makes it awfully tempting to try this.

League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill return for this new series. Jason mentioned it below, and I’m quite excited. I was actually a little disappointed in The Black Dossier, but I love the first two series and I still enjoyed The Black Dossier; it just quite wasn’t quite what I was hoping (I’m not a huge fan of the text pieces. I normally don’t enjoy text pieces in my comics. I loved Starman, but the text pieces were always the weakest part of that story for me as well. It’s odd, since I read a ton of novels and non-fiction books (more non-fiction as I get older), but I think it’s just my mind-set. When I sit down to read a comic, I want comic, not text pieces. I’m a simple man). Anyway, my anticipation for this is still high.

The Batcave Companion: Twomorrows Publications has produced a lot of works that examine the history of various comics and their creators. I’ve read five or six of them, and some of them are really fascinating, and some of them are rather disappointing. For example, their second Teen Titans Companion was simply an entire book of interviews. While some of the interviews were very interesting, I was disappointed that there were no essays containing some critical thinking on the various incarnations of that group. The Blue Beetle companion, which did have some essays, was unfortunately not very well organized or written. Yet some of these are excellent; the All-Star Companion volumes are fascinating looks at these comics, and their descendants in the modern age. This is all a long way of my saying that, while this book looks really interesting, I can’t recommend it without perusing it first.

Books section: Previews isn’t just comics. They also sell books, and while I normally buy my prose reading material on Amazon (I support my local shop, but I will buy some things other places and Diamond really isn’t the best distributor for this sort of thing), I thought it might be interesting to note three titles in this section that seem worthy of consideration. One is Mutant Cinema: The X-Men Trilogy from Comics to Screen, which looks at the X-Men in all their incarnations, from comics to cartoons to movies. My only concern is that the author has set himself a mighty challenge; that’s a heck of a lot of material to cover. I can’t imagine they can get it all into one book, and I fear it may not be very in-depth.

I also noticed Disney’s Neglected Prince, which focuses on the men in the Disney films. I’m a huge Disney fan, and the men in their movies are often ignored. I think this looks like it could be quite interesting. Sure, some of the Disney heroes are pretty dull (does Snow White’s Prince Charming even have a line in that film?), but some of them are much more active. Heck, Prince Philip, in Sleeping Beauty, even gets to fight a dragon!

Finally, I see they’re soliciting Star Trek: A Comic Book History. I’d be very interested in this book, assuming it delves into some of the decisions that was made with this franchise. For example, why did Paramount yank the license from Marvel in the 90s? Marvel was publishing a few good comics, including one focusing on a class at Starfleet Academy, and one focusing on the early adventures of Christopher Pike. I’d also like to hear from some of the creators, to find out what it was like trying to create these comics under the watchful eye of Paramount.

Finally, there are some interesting Marvel trades on the schedule. Incredible Hercules: Smash of the Titans gives those of us who haven’t read this series a chance to catch up on what’s been going on since Hercules took over the book. I keep saying that I’m going to give this series a try, and maybe this is the time to do it. She-Hulk Volume 8: Secret Invasion sees this series dealing with all the changes it’s main character went through during Civil War. I’ll admit to liking Dan Slott’s issues of the series better than these by Peter David, but I think that’s mostly because of the circumstances that David found himself in with the character, who got pretty smacked around during the crossovers. That’s got to be hard as a writer. It’s not that these issues are bad at all, but Slott’s were just so darn fun.

Finally, we have Deadpool Classics Volume 2. It amazed me at the time these were published how much I enjoyed them, and I do recommend this. Joe Kelly doesn’t always knock me out, but when he’s on fire, he is hotter than a five alarm blaze. His scripts on these stories were full of adventure and humor, and Ed McGuinness’ artwork just exploded with energy. Also, they’ve collected the first ten issues of Spider-Man 2099. You know, the whole concept of the 2099 Universe had some potential, and I enjoyed a few of the books, but unfortunately, it seemed like the universe got out of control early on and the editors were never really able to rein it back in. It’s a shame, since this Peter David-Rick Leonardi series was a great read, and David seemed to strike the perfect balance between bringing in concepts from the original series, and introducing new concepts all his own.

So that’s the Previews for this month. I’m not sure I’d do this every month, but hopefully I’ve spotlighted a few things to watch out for and order. Don’t forget to support your local comics shop!


February Previews: To Buy or Not To Buy

Feb-09-09

So I did actually see Jason at the end of last week. He is alive, and getting out to see me was much easier than expected. He said the “bake a file in the cake” trick may be an old one, but there’s a reason it has stood the test of time.

When I encountered Jason at the end of the week (I hesitate to say where, as they may still be looking for him), he mentioned that he had seen the new Previews catalog and that there was very little of interest in it. I hadn’t glanced at it yet, but as there’s often little of interest to me these days, I expected he was correct. Imagine my surprise when I read mine, and came away with more items of interest than my tiny budget would ever allow me to buy! In an effort to educate Jason about the wonders of the February Previews catalog, I bring you this list with items of interest (at least to me):

Sinfest Volume 1: Many of you may not be familiar with this comic strip, which has been lighting the dark corners of the internet since the year 2000! There have been collections of Sinfest in the past, but they’ve always been published by the cartoonist’s own company. This one is being released by Dark Horse, and I’m quite excited to see if there’s any difference and what sort of production values they bring to it.

Booster Gold: 52 Pick-up: This is a comic that I’ve never actually read, but I’d like to. I don’t read any DC comics at the moment, but the reviews I’ve seen of this book make it sound like something I’d like. You take an established DC character, you tweak their concept ever so slightly, and you move them forward, respecting their continuity but not wallowing in it. Plus, you don’t have dogs eat people, introduce people vomiting blood, or stuff anyone’s dead girlfriend in a refrigerator. This should be simple, but most of DC can’t quite catch on to these simple guidelines, hence my not reading their titles. This was published as a hardcover, but now you can buy it in trade paperback form, so it’s affordable if you want to check it out.

Starman Omnibus Volume 3: I’ve raved about Starman so much that even I’m tired of hearing about it. Suffice to say it’s my favorite series of the 1990’s, and if you press me, perhaps my favorite superhero comic ever. It so deserves this hardcover treatment, and this includes the Shade miniseries that James Robinson wrote, and is quite worth picking up.

Tiny Titans: Adventures in Awesomeness: Much has been written about who DC expects to buy this title. It’s drawn in a fun and cartoony style, and seems to be aimed at kids (and DC has it as part of their kid’s line), but to understand many of the jokes you have to have a working knowledge of DC continuity. Well, perhaps DC is just expecting me to buy this title, and if so, I shall not disappoint them, as I find it a joy. Art Balthazar’s art and stories are so amazingly funny and bright and cheerful that I fell in love with them from issue #1, and I’ll support this title until it is no more. Now if I could just get Marvel to start publishing series just for me.

Preacher Book One: I’m just going to say this now and get it out of the way. Deep breath. I’ve never read Preacher. Whew. I…I feel much better now. Like a weight has been lifted off me. I know that any serious comic fan has read, learned, loved and lived this monumental comics masterpiece by now, but honestly, I’m not a big fan of Garth Ennis and when this first came out, it seemed to me that he was trying to go over the top simply so that he could go over the top. However, I’ve been assured by many that this is not the case and that Ennis has a real story to tell here. I trust these people, so I plan to pick this book up and give it a real chance very soon.

Rex Libris: Book of Monsters: Rex Libris is a gloriously fun comic, one that follows the adventures of a librarian who fights those who would keep books, refuse to pay their late fees, and otherwise arouse a librarian’s ire. It’s got some great action in it, and while it can be a little wordy at time, it’s very clever. It understands the humor in it’s very concept and it has fun with it, but its not total slapstick. I highly recommend it.

See: Look at that, we’re not even finished with the comic’s section and already we’ve found lots of great possibilities in this month’s Previews. Tomorrow I’ll look at a few more items I found to be of interest, including some stuff from Marvel!

BOO! Hey, remember me? I used to post on this blog too! Look, I don’t have much time…I can hear the dogs’ nervous barking rising over the tree-speckled ridge in the distance…but I needed to catch my breath and thought this might be a good time to chime in. When I mentioned that there wasn’t much in the latest Previews to pique my interest, I was basically referring to single issues. John has already made that great, blind leap from floppies to trades without ever looking back. I, on the other hand, still have a burning need for instant gratification and have been unable to completely ween myself from the teat of monthly comics. However, I’m inching closer with every passing Previews.

I feel I need to make a few comments on John’s first round of offerings. While he and I now shop at the same location (after the premature passing of my own establishment), I’m still not completely loyal in my purchasing habits. To be quite honest, Amazon still receives a good chunk of my comic-buying cash. Especially when it comes to new hardcover books. Sure, I’m willing to buy my Scott Pilgrim at our local store, but the latest Starman Omnibus makes more fiscal sense when it is shipped to me at a generous discount. So, while John is surfing the pages to fill out his monthly order of trades and other books, I’m merely looking for my pamphlet fix (dwindling as it may be). I don’t regard the higher-priced trades as “must haves” that particular month.

So…never heard of Sinfest. Not really interested in Booster Gold since they killed off his buddy Ted Kord. Starman will eventually make it to my shelf. I consider Art Baltazar and Franco to be convention pals, but I can’t justify buying Tiny Titans until it’s released in its Absolute format (I make myself laugh). I already own all of the Preacher trades. And Rex Libris never really lit my fuse. However, I am ordering the first part of the new League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

What else is on your radar, John?

Uh-oh…gotta run. The search party is getting closer. I’ll see you guys on the other side…

Did anybody else hear anything?  I could have sworn there was someone here, just a minute ago, talking to us.  Well, whoever it was, they’re gone now.  Time to post something new.