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.

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The Avengers: Reassembling Greatness.

Jan-12-09

If you’ve ever read even one post from this blog, you know that John and I are both GIGANTIC fans of The Avengers in pretty much any shape or form. Oddly enough, in all of our weeks and months pondering over how to revamp this person and how to better position that team, aside from a hypothetical “Dream Team” lineup we’ve never delved into the thick and twisted history of our favorite superhero team.

Until now!

With one week left before the debut of Dark Avengers, we thought this would be the ideal time to spend an entire week thinking, planning and pontificating on Marvel’s premiere superhero squad. No matter what shape they take…be it “New”…”Mighty”…”Ultimate”…”Secret”…”Initiative”…or now “Dark” (which is really just a rehashed Thunderbolts lineup in sheep’s clothing), The Avengers still stand for one thing: teamwork. Of course, we plan to strip away what we perceive as silliness and superfluity. I’m sure, somewhere along the way, there will be some pooh-poohing of Bendis and his mangling of the Avengers legacy. John will say nice things about Kurt Busiek. And we will both sing the praises of Roger Stern.

However, first thing’s first: The lineup (or lineups, as it were). I’ve always been a fan of the continental part of the Avengers lineage. That is to say, I would prefer to see the teams focused on both the East and West coasts. I’m not quite sure where John and I stand on the enforcement of the Superhero Registration Act. Have we sort of let it fall to the wayside in our interpretation of the Marvel U? Or do these Avengers teams we concoct have to abide by stricter guidelines since they fall under government auspices? Or do we jettison the “sanctioned” concept altogether?

We also need to be cognizant of the storylines we’ve already enacted throughout our version of Marvel’s playground. Are Ant-Man and Stature out of contention for membership since we sent them off to Kansas? Is Iron Man off the grid? Do we keep Scarlet Witch under the tutelage of Doctor Strange? We haven’t really fooled around with many of the current core Avengers members in our work…Captain America, Wasp (is she still dead in our world?), Thor, Wonder Man, Ms. Marvel, Ares, Luke Cage and Iron Fist are all available. We sent Hawkeye to California with Hank Pym and Black Widow, but that could be the nucleus of a western outpost. Should Daredevil, Echo, Spider-Man or Wolverine be considered at all? Are there characters we need to bring back from the dead (or from the ranks of the missing/replaced/incarcerated)?

Where do we start with the Meanwhile…Avengers?

So many questions. Let me start by saying that the Avengers is my favorite super-hero comic ever. I have read every issue from Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s number one through the issues that took place during Civil War. Sadly, I simply can not enjoy Bendis’ run on the series, and before anyone flames me for that, let me say that I never liked his work on the series, and I still stuck with it for a few years, so I think I gave him a fair shake. My point behind all of this is that I think I have a very firm grounding on what makes the team work and what’s happening on the team when they’re at their best, at least from my point of view.

As far as what is and what isn’t game in our discussion, I am of the opinion that we shouldn’t be beholden to the continuity that we have created in past entries. While it’s interesting to play with the idea that we’re creating our own Marvel Universe I think that forcing ourselves into following previous entries is a negative in two ways: it becomes a barrier to those who haven’t read the blog before (“Wait, they can’t use Stature for what reason?”) and it may cause us to use (or not use) characters which are ideal, simply because they’re somewhere else. Besides, we’ve already violated our own continuity, as we declared Brother Voodoo a supporting character in our Dr. Strange book, and then used him as a member of the Nightstalkers. So, I don’t think our past posts should be used to hinder what we do in the current post.

However, to this point, we have continued using the current Marvel continuity as a guide. That means that the Wasp is indeed dead. Can we use her? Sure, if we want to; we just need to resurrect her, which everyone knows will happen eventually, especially since her death was so incredibly lame. Heck, all of the important characters that Bendis killed in Avengers: Disassembled have returned by now in some form or another, and while we could spend an entire post debating whether the revolving door of death has been a boon or a bane to comics, the fact is that it exists, and we should feel free to use it in this post.

Should the Avengers be sanctioned? Yes, I believe they should. I think the Avengers work best as the “Official” superheroes of the Marvel Universe. Whether working for the United States Government or the United Nations, they are those heroes who the governments of the world seek out when they need help. Being sanctioned has always been good for some great plots as well, as the Avengers are forced to comply with government regulation and policy. Plus, some of the most interesting supporting characters have been the federal liaisons with the Avengers: Henry Peter Gyrich, Raymond Sikorski and Duane Freeman (well, maybe not Sikorski, as he never did too much, but the others were valuable members of the supporting cast).

So, in summary: yes, they should be sanctioned; no, I don’t care about what was written before (you may use it as a guide if you like, but expect that I may ignore it if I feel it’s getting in the way of a good idea); and yes, we should try and follow current Marvel continuity. However, after all my long-windedness, it turns out that current Marvel continuity doesn’t work too well for us right now. As long as Norman Osborn is in charge of things, we’re not going to be able to do what we want with the Avengers, and they sure as heck can’t be sanctioned. So, perhaps it would be okay to look at the end of the Dark Reign storyline, and set our Avengers teams in the aftermath of this particular plot. I don’t think anyone assumes that Dark Reign won’t end with the heroes back in charge and the villains back to operating out of the shadows, so let’s just move there now, as we discuss the Avengers.

Those are the ground rules for this in my mind. Let me know if you disagree, and then, let’s discuss what we want to do. I see Dark Reign as just ending, and the federal government realizes that they made a huge mistake in giving Osborn as much power as they did. They recognize the need for a real team of heroes to restore the public’s trust, so they want to rebuild the Avengers. How do they do that and who would they choose? I think one of the most interesting things about any new Avengers is the absence of Steve Rogers, always a cornerstone of the team. How does a new team form without his involvement? What do you think of this as a starting point?

I can fall in line on most of these points. Current Marvel continuity is our guide. The process we go through to revamp things just makes us use our brains a bit more to resolve continuity conflicts (something I wish more writers and editors would think through). I also agree that the Avengers have worked best as a government controlled team. In fact, I’m pretty sure that most of my Avengers reading has taken place while they’ve enjoyed that status. I can’t really recall the non-government team very well. I also agree that we need to work around the “Big Event” scenarios and just present what we think should happen after all the hoopla dies down. Aside from the whole “bad guys in charge” thing, I’m assuming that the SHRA will eventually be revoked as well, but we can work with it for now.

However, I’m hesitant to ignore the pseudo-continuity that we’ve created in our own Meanwhile Universe. You mentioned our double-dealing of Brother Voodoo, but I really see no conflict there. We made him a member of a team of supernatural investigators. That doesn’t mean he can’t also guest star in the occasional Dr. Strange book. It really just means that he’s precluded from taking off on any extensive adventures with anyone else (without explanation) or joining any other teams. I had assumed that everything we were doing here was linked somehow. Otherwise, every revamp we offer could ultimately be the same…and that would get rather boring and redundant. “I know how we can fix Captain America! Make Spider-Man his partner!” quickly becomes “I know how we can make the X-Men better! Make Spider-Man their leader!” and then we have another annoying Wolverine situation where he’s everything and everywhere. Too easy to just cop-out and offer the safe answer.

No, I would prefer to use the tools we’ve made available to ourselves. If we need to change or explain away some of our own created continuity, that’s fine. And, I believe, it’s an important thing to do. We made a choice to send Stature and Ant-Man to Kansas…now, if we want them back, we need solid reasoning to make it happen. Like I said earlier, most of the major players in team history have been left untouched by us. I think we can assemble something valid and interesting from those characters and a few unique twists.

Is that cool?

I like the point of view on how to start the team. The question is, who’s the one to make the first step? Let’s assume that the teams have been disbanded or have fractured under their own weighty morals and duties. The Osborn-built teams have been sent packing and the ones he merely oversaw are having serious doubts about their mission and their purpose. So, we have a relatively clean slate to work from. Relationships, with each other, with the government and with the people, need to be rebuilt and reestablished. Who raises their hand first?

You and I are going to have to write a post where we can argue about continuity one of these days. Still, I’m willing to table that argument for now and acquiesce to your concerns.

The first step you mention raises an interesting question: would the genesis of the new Avengers come from the government itself, anxious to reestablish a superhero team that can engender the public trust again, or would it come from a hero who felt that the Avengers were a necessary team and needed to be recreated? I believe there would be parties on both sides who recognized the need for the Avengers, but whomever steps up first is going to be the heart of the story, at least in the beginning, and therefore assumes more importance.

While I like the Avengers as being sanctioned by the government, I don’t think the impetus for the team’s formation should ever lie within those official channels. The Avengers should always be brought together because the spark within them, as heroes, cries out that this assemblage is necessary. If the government goes around and recruits the team, then you have Freedom Force or various incarnations of X-Factor, or some other, equally mercenary, group. That’s not the Avengers.

If the genesis of the new team’s formation comes from within the ranks of the heroes, though, who would raise the call to assemble? Captain America would have been the obvious choice, but as we’ve noted, he’s a little dead right now. The Wasp is also dead, which takes two heroes out of the running. Pym has just returned from years as a hostage to the Skrulls, so he may not want to restart the team; or, he may feel like the Avengers are what he knows best, and he may seek them out as a way to reconnect to the past he remembers. Iron Man is in disgrace right now, but he could see the team as a way to return some measure of trust in him to the world; conversely, he could see himself as a liability to the team, with his name and presence bringing instant distrust in the eyes of the public. Thor is something of a wild card, and I admit to not reading his current series, which I’ve heard is excellent. Would he want to be involved in mortal affairs as he tries to rebuild Asgard, or would he prefer to focus on the world of gods before returning full time to the world of men?

You know, with the founding members all in varying states of disorganization and shock, I think perhaps that our team should be suggested by someone outside of this august circle. A former Avenger, to be sure, but one that wasn’t there at the beginning. One who feels that the Avengers are important and believes in the team with all of their being. Any suggestions on who that might be?

Depending on how things fall out of Dark Reign and the SHRA, there will be some hesitancy on the part of the government and the heroes themselves to continue along any given path. Both will be trying to regain credibility in the face of the general public. And I think both will lean on the other to ensure any move forward is done correctly and cautiously. The government would offer to let the Avengers function as their own autonomous team, not bridled under the control of any given agency or overseer. This would take them back to the days of having a liaison…someone who ensures that they do things by the book but isn’t there to dictate missions and decisions to them.

I can only assume that Iron Man’s position of influence will be restored in the wake of everything Norman Osborn is attempting to do to him now. His reputation will be tarnished, but the people are fairly forgiving under the right evidence and circumstances. However, I don’t see him as the catalyst for getting the team back together. He would be very reluctant and would need someone else to set things in motion.

For that position, two names come to mind, both of whom served on the team at one point or another and have always been seen as go-to folks when the Avengers needed a little extra assistance: She-Hulk or Falcon. She-Hulk’s relationship with Tony Stark became more and more strained as events played out in the Marvel Universe, but she’s also a strong personality who is universally trusted by her peers. Falcon was Cap’s right-hand man for a long time. He’s seen as a steadfast supporter of all the ideals the Avengers stood for. Plus, he has the government contacts through his dealings with both Gyrich and SHIELD. I think either, or both, of these heroes would be able to bring the government and Tony Stark to the table to at least craft the beginnings of a relaunched Avengers team.

With his resources, experience and history, Iron Man is clearly the one hero who could stand as a figurehead for the group. I’m not saying he’s a slam dunk for membership, but he would at least play a very significant role in bringing the Avengers back.

Interesting choice for your two heroes who might be the impetus for the start of the new team of Avengers. Of the two, I would choose the Falcon. Here’s how I see it going down.

Dark Reign is over, as you mentioned, and everyone is picking up the pieces. The Falcon recognizes the need for a group of Avengers, a group that can be in the forefront of restoring the public’s confidence in their heroes (since heroes got a bad rap during Civil War, when they fought each other, and then in Secret Invasion, when some of them turned out to be alien invaders) as well as a group that can work with the government, since the government has also had a rocky road with heroes lately. The Falcon would also see the return of the Avengers to be important as a way of remembering the legacy of his friend Steve Rogers. Rogers, as Captain America, was a long time leader and public face of the Avengers, and the Falcon knows how upset Steve would be if he knew that there was no Avengers team out in the world.

However, the Falcon is realistic. He’s a member of the Avengers, but he’s never served with them for any length of time, and he’s not considered one of their premiere members. When someone thinks of the Avengers, the Falcon is one of the last heroes they consider, and when they think of the Falcon, most people don’t even think of his time with the team. No, if the Falcon is going to sell the idea of a new Avengers team, both to the government and to potential members, there’s going to have to be a bigger name than him. That name is Tony Stark.

After all, the Falcon had been working with Stark quite a bit when Stark was the head of SHIELD, and the two had bonded after the loss of their friend, Steve Rogers. Sam approaches Stark, and he explains why he thinks the Avengers need to exist and why he thinks Stark needs to be a part of it. Stark agrees, and the two of them go visit their government contacts, who direct them to the office of Valerie Cooper, the Deputy Director of ONE, which is charged with the preparation and defense of America from superhuman threats. She listens to their proposal, and agrees that perhaps authorizing the Avengers to act for the government, as has been done in the past, is a good idea. However, she’d want to see a team roster.

So, who would be on said roster?

Right. Good setup. Pretty much what I was thinking too. Here comes the tricky part…

Are Iron Man and Falcon automatically charged with being de facto members of the group? Is Falcon registered? Would all of the members need to be officially registered or would clemency be offered? And what about characters that the US government clearly has no jurisdiction over…like Thor or Ares? There’s a whole slew of decisions that need to be made before we can really start to form any sort of cohesive team. Although, I will admit that the task of tracking down characters and inviting them to a “whole new Avengers” would be a fun thing to show in the comics.

I would assume, at least until the whole SHRA thing is nailed down and revoked or whatever they do to it, that we will only be dealing with registered heroes. That gives us a more limited list than I would like, but I think it’s still workable. My first choices would be the three people I’ve already mentioned: Iron Man, Falcon and She-Hulk. I think Tony would need the other two around to act as his conscience and his support. Not a bad nucleus to build a team around either!

I would like to bring Ant-Man and Stature into the fold. Both are currently registered and working through the Initiative. The new Ant-Man has one heck of a personality, but has a certain legacy to uphold. Cassie, of course, has her own unique legacy and I think she would work well under She-Hulk’s tutelage. It would also be interesting (and Dan Slott is doing it too) to add Vision to the team, considering he recently professed his love for Cassie.

Beyond that, I’m not sure. Wonder Man and Black Widow both quit the team after Secret Invasion (plus we have Black Widow off with Hawkeye…of course, that was before Mockingbird came back into the picture). Sentry never did anything for me. Spider-Woman is pretty useless and, regardless of who she really is, will serve as a reminder to the population of the whole “invaded by aliens” thing for a long time to come. Ms. Marvel has jumped over to the unregistered team, though that could be rectified too.

That leaves us with folks like Stingray, Starfox, Hellcat, Nighthawk, Gargoyle, Flaming Skull, members of the Great Lakes team, and any number of Initiative trainees.

So, to recap, I’m proposing an initial lineup of: Iron Man, Falcon, She-Hulk, Ant-Man, Stature and Vision. Feel free to add one or two of your own…or, of course, offer up a completely different list that we can fight over. Fisticuffs!

Let me start by saying that I don’t think that we need to stick only with the registered heroes, and I don’t think you should limit your choices as such. I would be willing to bet your paycheck that the Registration Act will be undone at the end of Dark Reign. When you consider that the ranks of the registered heroes have dwindled as more and more of them go over to the unregistered side, I think the writing is clearly on the wall. Besides, if the Registration Act still existed, our entire premise for the book would be shot. After all, if the government, under the SHRA, wanted to have a new team of Avengers, they’d simply draft whomever they wanted from the ranks of registered heroes. Plus, if we’re dealing with the aftermath of the SHRA, it sets up the idea that the people need heroes to believe in again and the heroes are slightly damaged after all of the pain that the SHRA caused. So, I think the SHRA should not be a consideration when we’re setting up the team.

Moving on to members of the team: Personally, I wouldn’t add Falcon to the team. I love Sam Wilson, but he’s never really been a member of the regular team for long, and I honestly think that he works best when he just comes in and pinch hits for specific missions. Besides that, I don’t think that Falcon would want to be a regular member. For someone who doesn’t have his own book, Falcon is a very busy hero, and Ed Brubaker has been using him to great effect in the Captain America book. I think that Sam would be available to help if needed, and would show up in the book to, indeed, act as part of the conscience for the team, but he wouldn’t be on the roster.

If Sam and Stark (yes, I know, I should be going with all first names or all last names, but calling the Falcon ‘Wilson’ sounds wrong, and Stark sounds better than ‘Tony’ for Iron Man) are looking to build a team that will engender the trust of both the government and the citizenry, I think they’re going to look at those people whom the public identifies as Avengers. So, I can certainly see them choosing Vision and She-Hulk. I believe that they would approach She-Hulk first, with Stark asking her to be on the team to serve as his conscience, since the two of them had such a public falling out after Civil War. I also think that bringing in Stature and Ant-Man is a good idea, as they’re brilliant characters, and they also callback to two of the founding members, Ant-Man and the Wasp.

In fact, if you look at the line-up of Iron Man, She-Hulk, Stature, Ant-Man and the Vision, you begin to see that these may be the Avengers of the new century. Yes, Iron Man and She-Hulk are the same as they have always been, but Vision has been rebuilt, and again, Stature and Ant-Man are the 21st century analogues to two of the founders of the team. With those in place, and with Falcon acting as an advisor, I think that he and Stark would also approach another new legacy hero of the 21st century: the new Captain America.

I think the new Captain America is a very interesting character, and I believe putting him on this team, a team that meant so much to his mentor, is going to be very interesting ground to explore. How does he deal with these people, some of whom were very close to his predecessor? How do they deal with him, since his methods are very different from the Captain America that they adventured with for all of those years? Plus, this gives us an Avengers team with all of the icons on it, or at least modern day counterparts to those icons, with the exception of Thor, who I’m willing to lose.

That would give us a team of Captain America, Iron Man, She-Hulk, Vision, Stature and Ant-Man. Six heroes, and we could add one or two more. One of the questions we haven’t answered is who would lead this team. I don’t think it would be the new Captain America, and even if it were offered to him, I don’t think he’d take it. He’s well aware of how inexperienced he is at being a hero, and he has almost no current knowledge of working within a team. I also don’t think Stark would want it. He’s been beaten around in the press quite a bit lately, and I think he would see himself as a liability in the top spot. Actually, I see him offering the job to She-Hulk when he asks her to join the team; it would be a way that he would show her that he’s not the manipulative taskmaster he was portrayed as during Civil War and its aftermath. She-Hulk has always been a smart woman, and in her solo series, she was shown to be a little more serious and competent. I think she’d do well in the job; it would be another good opportunity to explore parts of a character that haven’t been explored before.

Are you ok with that line-up? Shall we add a seventh hero?

I was going to suggest She-Hulk be the leader as well. Not only is she more than competent and experienced (both as a hero and a lawyer), but it would be a positive gesture on Tony’s part…acknowledging that She-Hulk was right and deserves credit for that.

Looking at the lineup as it is, we have an experienced yet still fresh character (She-Hulk) assuming a new role and we have the most experienced, most historic member (Iron Man) sort of taking a back seat to the decision-making process. On top of that, we have four members who are, more or less, new to the whole hero-ing scene. For that reason alone, I think we need to throw another old schooler onto the squad to offer support and guidance in the field and off. I was thinking of someone like Wonder Man. I know John isn’t a fan of the character, what with all the ridiculous plotlines and rebirths and baggage he’s carried for decades now, but he has proven to be a valuable asset and a dedicated team member in the past.

I also think readers expect a wild card with every new Avengers lineup and I hate to cause disappointment. I remember when certain characters had been brought in before, they were used as the eyes of the common person peering inside this life of a mega-superhero team. We already have those wide-eyed types in the younger, less experienced members. However, as a nod to the recently expired SHRA and the notion of rehabilitating villains into helpful citizens, I thought it may be an interesting gesture to offer a position on the Avengers to a former villain gone good. Not only would it show integration with previous storylines, but it would also add a new dynamic to the team atmosphere…can they trust this person? For that role, I would turn to a well-established character such as Boomerang (who was a member of the Masters of Evil, but also helped Iron Man on at least one occasion), Blizzard (who has also helped Iron Man and has a love-hate relationship with She-Hulk), or more interestingly Songbird (the former Screaming Mimi and former leader of the Thunderbolts).

I think any of the above would be good additions to the team, but I await John’s input before we firm up the lineup. Then we can move on to Part Two and decide how this whole thing happens and what comes next.

Await no longer! I shall input and firm up lines!

You’re correct that a more seasoned hero might be a good idea. You’re also correct in that I find Wonder Man about as interesting as a “Full House” rerun. Ugh. I’ve even read the Peter David penned mini-series featuring him, and it also left me cold. Heck, Peter David convinced me that Madrox was one of the neatest characters at Marvel, and he couldn’t get me to like Wonder Man. What does that say about this character?

It’s interesting, because if you look at Wonder Man from a distance, he has a lot of attributes that should make him interesting. He’s been dead and alive quite a few times, but unlike all the other characters at Marvel who can make that claim, he’s also been in-between those states a few times; once as a zombie, and once as an energy being tied to the Scarlet Witch. The love of his life married his “brother”, the Vision, then dated him, and then went insane. His twin nephews were revealed to be figments of someone’s imagination. His “brother” Vision was dismantled and returned to life without his mental patterns. His real brother has tried to kill him on many occasions. He’s an actor and is conversant in the ways of Hollywood. He’s made of energy. And, he generally has horrible fashion sense. There should be an interesting character here, but if so, I’ve never seen it. He continues to disappoint, and I have zero interest in him.

There are other choices out there besides him. Wolverine, for example, has a lot of experience as a hero, and this would be a great book to showcase him, since he isn’t seen much in the Marvel Universe….

I kid. But seriously folks, there are a ton of other heroes that we could use instead of Wonder Man. For example, there’s….well, actually that won’t work, since we want someone widely known as an Avenger and they aren’t. How about….well, actually, that doesn’t work either, since they’re more of a leader, and I don’t want them stepping on She-Hulk’s toes. Hmm. This is actually a bit of a problem. We want an established hero that is considered a quintessential Avenger, and someone who’s not a natural leader. There’s not a lot of heroes who fit that bill. Plus, Wonder Man would be a perfect public face for the team, and could do their PR, which is going to be important if they’re working to regain the public trust. Fine, he’s in, but you better be able to make him interesting.

As for our “reformed criminal”, I am so down with Songbird being made a member. For those who read “Avengers Forever”, it was stated in that book that she would eventually join their ranks, and there’s no time like the present. She’s proven herself time and again in the Thunderbolts title to be a true hero, yet she still struggles somewhat against her dark past. I think she’d be perfect.

So, She-Hulk leads Iron Man, Stature, Ant Man, the Vision, Songbird, Wonder Man and Captain America, with the Falcon stopping by to advise, hang out, and go on the occasional mission, when necessary. Now that we know who they are, we need to know what they’re doing. That will be another post.


Casting Call: Justice League

Oct-27-08

I know we just did our Dream Team for the Justice League last week, but it got me to thinking about how there aren’t a lot of DC movies being made and the ones that have been made are a mix of ups and downs…the reinvigorated Batman franchise has made huge gains both financially and credibly, but the latest Superman relaunch was a bit of a disappointment. And that supposed younger Justice League film never got off the ground in light of last winter’s writers’ strike. So, I thought it would be fun for John and I to fill out our version of the Justice League cast…

Wonder Woman: This is probably the toughest decision to make. The right actress has to have a certain age and wisdom to them, yet still be young and look good in the costume. She also can’t be one of those lithesome types so popular these days…WW is big and strong. That’s a tough description to fill. My first reaction would be to go with Kate Beckinsale, but that just seems so obvious. Plus, she might actually be too pretty for the job. If I knew she could act (aside from her role on the new incarnation of American Gladiators), I’d pick the tough and beautiful Gina Carano. Instead, I’m going to have to go with one of the early rumors: Charisma Carpenter.

Green Lantern: I know I’m going to have a hard time coming up with some young, dark-haired guys to fill some of these roles…guys that aren’t generic and one-dimensional (*cough*BrandonRouth*cough*). However, Kyle Rayner has a certain earnestness to him that I think one particular person can conjure up. As a matter of fact, he was also rumored to be up for this role recently: Friday Night LightsScott Porter.

Flash: In my mind, Wally West could only be played by one person, and that’s the person who has long been attached to the role in a supposed solo movie that may or may not ever get made: Ryan Reynolds.

Plastic Man: Wow. This is a tough one. He has to have a good sense of humor and even have a sort of goofy looking face. Yet he has to be a believable actor in order to pull it all off. Whoever plays Plastic Man should be a bit taller and on the thin side. I thought I had this thought wrapped up, but then I got hit with a weird epiphany and now I can’t decide between two good actors. One is a bit younger and definitely embodies the actual “look” of Plastic Man. The other is a couple years older and would need to dye his hair, but I think has a stronger personality for the character. The two choices are: Jesse Bradford or Neil Patrick Harris.

Animal Man: Buddy Baker is just a normal guy. There’s nothing special about him. He’s a family man who just happened upon something wonderful. This position is ripe for an established character actor, one of those types that you’ve seen in a bunch of movies and has pulled off his acting so well that you can never remember his real name. I have the perfect name: Alan Tudyk.

Mister Miracle: This one was probably the toughest for me solely because you see Scott Free out of costume maybe once every fourteen years. What does he look like? What sort of person is he out of his superhero role? I dunno. I found one panel with his actual face and I just thought he looked a bit like Casey Affleck.

Black Lightning: Jefferson Pierce is obviously a bit older than some of the heroes. He’s been around the block a few times, has a certain roughness to him, but could also come across as a quiet leader if need be. He has a teaching background, has two daughters and is definitely an established professional. My first impulse was to pick LL Cool J, but then I thought he looked too nice and easygoing. Black Lightning has more of a burning intensity to him. To that end, I selected someone who has seen a lot of screen time lately and someone who was actually cast to play John Stewart in the now-stalled Justice League film: Common.

That’s my cast of seven. I’m sure John has his own opinions. Hopefully we can come to a jovial consensus.

I’m a huge fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. I think the casts are good and don’t often get enough credit. That being said, I simply can not see Charisma Carpenter as Wonder Woman. I’m not saying that she’s a bad actress, as much as I’m saying that she simply doesn’t have the gravity and weight (and I’m not talking pounds) that she would need to portray the Amazon princess. That may not be a fair assessment from me, but that’s how I see it.

Unfortunately, finding someone to fill the role is difficult, since so many women in Hollywood are reed-like stick figures. I’d be tempted to throw out the name of Lucy Lawless, another early rumor for this role, but I already secured her a role as Black Widow, so I won’t push my luck. Instead, I’m going to look to Sci-Fi Channel’s late, lamented Farscape, and nominate Claudia Black, who has the look, the strength and the gravity to portray Princess Diana.

I don’t have a problem with Scott Porter, and certainly some poor actor from that underrated show should get a break in the big time. I say, let’s use him!

Love Ryan Reynolds! Perfect!

As for Plastic Man, I don’t think there’s any choice here. I like Jesse Bradford, but there’s no one better than Neil Patrick Harris for this role. The problem with Plastic Man is that, if you take his humor out of context, he can come across as simply obnoxious. You need someone who can be in your face and over the top, yet still likable and come across as real. That’s what Neil Patrick Harris does every week on How I Met Your Mother. He’s the clear choice.

I really hate to agree with you so much, but I think Alan Tudyk would make a great Animal Man. I need to find someone here I can argue, besides Wonder Woman.

Well, I can argue with you about Scott Free! Actually, I think Casey Affleck is a great actor; his recent turns in The Assassination of Jesse James…I’m Not Typing the Rest and Gone Baby Gone were amazing, and I’ve enjoyed him in other roles as well. However…..ugh. No, I can’t really argue with you on this one either. He wouldn’t be my first choice, but there’s absolutely no reason why he couldn’t do a fantastic job in the role.

I can’t really argue about Common either; he’d be great in the role.

Well, I could try and pick a false argument with some of your choices, but that seems pointless. You made some really great picks. I just need you to agree on Neil Patrick Harris, and then we can fight about Wonder Woman, although I don’t know how you could possibly disagree on Claudia Black.

As far as Wonder Woman goes, I was looking for someone who was slightly older and had some ethnicity to them, but wasn’t an everyday name that would have previous recognition attached to them. I mean, you look at Lynda Carter from back in the day and she was just the perfect embodiment for Diana Prince. I think Susan Sarandon would’ve had a similar resonance too. And I was toying with the idea of selecting Rhona Mitra, but I wasn’t sure she was “beefy” enough for the role. To that end, I don’t mind the selection of Claudia Black. I’ve certainly never heard of her before. She’s older and rather tall. Plus, she’s like a fanboy dream, with appearances in Hercules, Xena, Farscape, Stargate, Beastmaster, Moonlight and Pitch Black and videogame voiceover work with God of War, Conan, Lords of Everquest and Crysis. I say she’s in!

And, of course, I have no problems with NPH as Plastic Man. He’s hilarious AND a good actor.

Wow. That was much quicker and easier than I had anticipated. Here’s our heroic lineup for the “Meanwhile…Comics!” version of a Justice League movie:


Angel & Iceman: Best Friends Forever

Oct-06-08

Do you think Bobby Drake and Warren Worthington wrote the typical messages in their Xavier Institute yearbooks? You know, all of those “have a great summer” lines and “remember that time we gave Cyclops a wedgie?” quips. I would conclude that they did, indeed. Why is that? Well, for the simple reason that the two of them seem to be inseparable in the Marvel Universe. So what makes these two heroes such tight teammates?

Let’s try to find some answers, shall we? Angel and Iceman made their first appearances in X-Men #1 way back in September 1963. Since that time, you rarely see one without the other. They remained on the original X-Men team through issue #94 in August 1975. My first inclination would be to say that they were so used to being teammates, that when the first incarnation of the X-Men split, Angel and Iceman thought it would be best to continue on together. Beast was too cool for school and had already left to join the Avengers. Cyclops stuck around to lead the new team. And Jean Grey was too busy being killed and reborn for nearly 12 years to be bothered by any sort of continuity.

Being post-teen mutants in the swinging 70’s must’ve been too much for Warren and Bobby, so they decided to take a cross-country trip to Los Angeles and join the most disparate group of comic book weirdos ever assembled (since trumped by nearly every Defenders gathering ever). Until January 1978, they were members of The Champions. Evidently, writer Tony Isabella wanted The Champions to be just Angel and Iceman, but editorial intervention brought in Black Widow, Hercules and Ghost Rider (and later, Darkstar…with Black Goliath and Jack of Hearts waiting in the wings). Aside from the completely obvious pairing of two mutants with a Russian spy, a Greek demigod, and a flaming demon on a motorcycle, The Champions was most noteworthy for having the team face off against Swarm, the Nazi beekeeper. That was good stuff.

Times must have been tough after that powerhouse group disbanded. For the next couple of years, Angel and Iceman make scattered appearances, primarily in a few issues of Spectacular Spider-Man , Marvel Two-in-One and What If? And, while Iceman was busy on his big television debut in Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, Angel had a recurring role in early Dazzler issues.

Angel & Iceman somehow dragged themselves out of character purgatory and dove headfirst into the eighth circle of Marvel hell, the Defenders. In October 1983, they joined their fellow former X-Man Beast in the New Defenders (Beast having joined up with the non-group after his run with the Avengers). I don’t have the issue in front of me, so I can only assume that Bobby and Warren agreed to come aboard after a conversation with Beast that involved a lot of crying and begging on his part. I don’t know. Maybe they lost a bet? That seems likely.

When that group broke up for good in February 1986, the duo came together with their Xavier Institute alumni to form the original X-Factor. Yes, they were saved from falling back into obscurity by becoming mutant hunters. See, X-Factor (aside from unbelievably bringing Jean Grey back to life and facilitating Cyclops leaving his wife and newborn child) was set up on the basis of reverse psychology. They “hunted” mutants, but were secretly mutants themselves and only “hunted” other mutants in order to save them from persecution. Shh! Don’t tell anyone.

Of course, realizing that calling yourselves mutant hunters was probably bad PR for mutants in general, they soon abandoned that premise and were promptly taken over by the government who quite enjoyed the mutant hunting notion. By this time, the main catalyst for keeping the original X-Men from rejoining the flock (Magneto as leader) had been removed and Angel & Iceman were free to return to the fold. Oddly enough, the two of them continue to come and go together from the X-Men pretty much up through present day.

Are they just good friends? Are they MORE than friends? Is it something about their powers that work well together? Is Bobby Drake really shallow and just hanging out with Warren Worthington because he’s rich? Is Angel sticking close to Bobby because his powers are cooler and make up for Angel’s inadequacies?

There HAS to be an underlying theme here!

It’s interesting that you bring these two up as a couple, since there were rumors swirling in the late 90s and early 00’s that Iceman was gay. That would have supplied an interesting reason for why he hung out with Angel so much; he had an unrequited crush on our winged mutant. However, Marvel, no doubt feeling that one gay mutant was more than enough, quashed these rumors pretty quickly, and started trying to give Iceman feelings for any woman he came in contact with, which always struck me as being incredibly forced and uncomfortable. I’m not saying I think Iceman is gay, as much as I’m saying that having a crush on every girl he met had never been his thing before, and trying to shoehorn it into his personality now just didn’t seem to work.

In the end, I think these two have a nice little bromance going and they certainly have spent more time together than any other mutant duo I can name, except for Cyclops and Jean or Havok and Polaris, which isn’t really helping their claims of being no more than a bromance. Iceman, we may remember, actually did try to break up the Angel/Iceman bromance with an actual romance; when Polaris was first introduced, her boyfriend was Iceman, and the two were rather inseparable. Well, inseparable for all of about ten issues, until Havok was introduced. His golden hair, chiseled features and Summers boy ability to have women fall all over him quickly seduced Polaris, and she left a very hurt and angry Iceman to chase after a man who couldn’t control his powers, and could emit mortal blasts of concussive force at any time. Polaris wasn’t too bright in her early appearances.

It is interesting that Iceman and Angel have ended up together so often. If one reads the early issues of the X-Men, when they appeared together, or even the issues of X-Factor in which they starred, they don’t tend to pal around much. Both of those books almost always paired Iceman off with the Beast; they were the Scooby and Shaggy of the mutant set. I would consider Angel the Daphne of the group (some might think Jean should have that position, but I would argue no; after all, Daphne is useless, which fits Angel, Jean has red hair, just like Velma, and in the end, Angel is prettier than Jean), and we all know that Daphne never runs around with Scooby and Shaggy. Indeed, Angel usually spent time with Cyclops and Jean, especially in the early issues of the title, when Stan Lee and subsequent writers were desperately trying to create some tension in the Cyclops/Jean relationship by making us think that Angel might sweep Jean away before Cyclops got his chance. Sadly, it’s difficult to build that tension, since it was obvious that Jean had no romantic interest in Angel by her thought balloons, so unless Angel was going to kidnap her and force her to marry him at gunpoint, the reader could be confident that Jean and Cyclops would eventually be together.

Iceman and Angel both have tried to separate themselves; they’ve both had limited series and one-shots, and as I’ve mentioned before, Iceman even went back to college and became a Certified Public Accountant. Surprisingly, this career does not appear to have held his interest. Apparently, he preferred dealing with Magneto over dealing with the IRS.

I don’t believe their powers are incredibly compatible, and they don’t seem to complement each other much in that regard. Of course, as we’ve noted, except when he had the metal wings created by Apocalypse, Angel is basically worthless. In 1963, as I’ve also mentioned before, most of Marvel’s heroes (except for Thor and the Hulk) were much weaker; the whole Marvel Universe was probably a 1/3 of the power that it is today. Over the years, both heroes and villains got stronger, and where the ability to fly was relatively unique and interesting in 1963, by the mid-80s almost everyone in the Marvel Universe could fly, even Aunt May (that time she became the herald of Galactus). Upgrading Angel to Archangel and giving him metal wings was a very necessary way of keeping the character relevant, but it has sadly been reversed, and he is now useless once more. Certainly, as I’ve said before, the personality is more important than the power, but when your power is the ability to flutter around the villains, smacking at them with your little pink fists, you become difficult to write, and generally frustrating to read about. Hey, I liked Cypher of the New Mutants too, but the ability to understand languages earned him a grave before he was out of his teens.

I’m sure the real reason that Iceman and Angel so often find themselves on teams together is because someone in Marvel editorial feels that, by placing them both on a team, you can get some of the magic of the original X-Men. This is also highly absurd, as the original X-Men had no magic; if they had, their book would not have been bimonthly and they wouldn’t have been in reprints for two years in the 70s. Still, putting either Iceman or Angel on a team means nothing, and conjures up no images. Putting them together makes one think of the original mutants, and that means something. Storywise though, it also makes a certain amount of sense. If you’re launching a new venture, surely you’re more comfortable with an old friend at your side. Since the original X-Men were rather insular and didn’t mix much with the rest of the Marvel Universe (much like the current X-Men, come to think of it) Angel and Icemen don’t have a lot of friends beyond their immediate teammates, and the original X-Men class certainly shares a bond that would be hard to break. I would imagine that it’s this very sense of camaraderie that keeps these two close through thick and thin.

I agree with you for the most part. I’m trying to recall any significant romances that either Angel or Iceman have had in their documented existences. Iceman had a fling with Opal Tanaka, who ended up leaving him for a former villain. He dated Lorna Dane on and off over the years. And he flirted with Havok’s nurse Annie for a bit. Angel has done slightly better for himself, pursuing both Jean Grey and Dazzler, bagging Candy Southern during the Champions years, hooking up with Psylocke later on, becoming close with a police officer as Archangel and even having an implied fling with the much younger Paige Guthrie.

Angel has always come across as being above everyone else around him (perhaps that’s a subliminal reference to his angelic name and abilities). He was a superhero on his own before being located by Xavier. He helped house and fund both the Champions and the Defenders for some time. And he supposedly left the X-Men for a while because he thought Wolverine was a “brute.” Seems pretty metrosexual to me.

Bobby plays like more of a hanger-on. He’s younger than Warren and probably more unsure of himself and his place in the world. At the same time, he’s also more laid back and easy to get along with. Iceman, as you’ve noted, has palled around with Beast and is friendly with Spider-Man.

I, for one, was completely horrified when Angel lost his wings. And then, when Apocalypse turned him into Archangel, I was pretty ticked off. It wasn’t so much that they had messed with one of my favorite characters, it was that they used that lame villain to do it. I can’t stand Apocalypse. Archangel’s metal wings seemed like a pure 90’s thing to me. And they were out of place for such a grounded character whose entire identity was originally based around trying to hide his wings and then learning to live with them. Man, the writers really put him through the ringer emotionally during those years too. His wings are cut off and replaced, he watches his girlfirend be killed, then he has to deal with Apocalypse. Poor guy.

His lack of significant power doesn’t bother me. He just has to be used as more of a tactical weapon than a powerful one. And he has his purpose…he flies up high and looks at stuff. Whee! Plus, I think his newly revealed secondary mutation of having “healing blood” is much more in line with the angel imagery.

As far as the idea of constantly placing Angel and Iceman on teams together, I think there is some resonance for readers. Sure, the beginning publishing history of the X-Men is laughable at best, but over the years the characters have become rather iconic. There are worse things that Marvel has done than trying to build a team around a few original mutants (*cough*Spider-Clone*cough*). Hell, there wasn’t any other common thread holding the Champions together, was there? And the Defenders actually started to feel like a team when Beast was leading a group that included a couple former teammates and friends.

Honestly, it’s weird for me to think of Iceman and Angel in separate lights. They’ve been side-by-side for so long that one without the other just seems odd. I was completely taken aback when Iceman was on TV with Spider-Man. It just didn’t make sense (not to mention how much better the show would have been with Iceman AND Angel). And the few runs where Warren worked in tandem with the Avengers just felt awkward to me. I remember being excited to see Angel and then feeling dirty after reading the issues…like I just witnessed something I shouldn’t have. Of course, those weren’t the best years for the Avengers either.

Maybe this entire history is why I suggested we set Bobby and Warren up as leaders of the X-Men. The two characters have been ingrained in my brain as a permanent team. Man and man, side-by-side. Two former schoolboys sticking up for each other through thick and thin. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.


Casting Call: Hawkeye

Sep-17-08

Back in the day, when Wizard magazine used to be relevant and informational (says the writer who still has a slavish devotion to the magazine’s fart-and-boob-joke-filled pages), they used to run a two-page spread about fantasy casting calls for turning current favorite comics into other media applications…television or movies, specifically.

In order to spread our site’s wings a bit, and perhaps put some imagery into readers’ heads in lieu of neither John nor I having relevant artistic skills, I thought it might be fun to do a fantasy casting for one of our Marvel revamps. And, still being fresh in my mind (and not having a HUGE cast), I thought we’d go with the Hawkeye pitch first.

So, who would you like to see play Hawkeye in a movie version of our idea? Who would best fill the roles of Black Widow, Hank Pym, Taskmaster, members of the Night Shift and a possible love interest for Mr. Barton?

This could be fun.

I’m going to avoid the fact that you read Wizard; I prefer my mental image of you to be smarter and have better taste. Ok, ok, I used to read the magazine as well, and their Casting Call feature was always a really neat feature. This is a game that anyone can play, and Hawkeye and his cast are as good candidates as anyone else, since they lend themselves to a movie.

For Hawkeye himself, we need someone who can play cocky and roguish, and still retain a very likable presence. I’d be tempted to cast Justin Hartley, who has been playing Green Arrow on Smallville, but I’m not sure if he’s got enough presence to anchor a movie. A young Cary Elwes may have been a good choice, but those days are past him. I’m going to have to suggest (and I can hear the groans before I type his name) Leonardo DiCaprio.

Look, I’m not a fan of Titanic either, but the fact of the matter is, DiCaprio is actually a good actor. Moreover, anyone who saw Catch Me If You Can knows he can play a dashing rogue, or a con man, and isn’t that what Hawkeye is, a con man with arrows? Plus, DiCaprio needs a movie like this. He seems to enjoy playing morose characters in more serious movies, and playing a lighter character in a fun movie would show a completely different side to him (and if Iron Man proved anything, it’s that super hero movies can be fun and good at the same time, so he shouldn’t worry that it would lessen his career).

I think that our Dr. Pym should be someone a little older, to show that he’s been at the hero game for a little while. I’d love to say Robert Downey Jr., but that’s a simple cop-out, since I think he could play every part in this movie, including the Black Widow, and do it brilliantly. Besides, I’d like to fit our movie into the Marvel Universe movies that have already been released and he’s a perfect Iron Man. Hmmm. You know, perhaps Cary Elwes would be good in this role. He might be a little too old, but he’s got the weight (quite literally) needed to play someone who’s best super-heroing days are behind him. I didn’t expect to cast him, but I think he could do it. It’s quite a different interpretation of Dr. Pym than I was originally considering, but there’s potential there, I think.

The Black Widow is easily one of my favorite comics characters, and were this a few years ago, I would have cast Michelle Pfeiffer, one of my favorite actresses, without even blinking an eye. I think that Pfeiffer can do anything. Natasha is supposed to be a little older as well (I always imagine her in her early 40s), but I’m not sure if Pfeiffer has the bad ass streak she would need to truly capture the spirit of the Black Widow. Sorry Michelle. You’ll still always be my favorite.

If not Michelle Pfeiffer, then who? Unfortunately, Hollywood is not kind to middle age actresses, either favoring very young starlets (and Lindsay Lohan will not be playing the Black Widow) or preferring more mature actresses (and as much as I love Sigourney Weaver, she’s a little too old). I’d love the idea of someone like Amy Adams playing this role, but she’s just too young. If this was animated, I’d say we could just have Susan Sarandon do the voice and be done with it. But we need an actress who can kick butt, be beautiful, and make you very afraid of her when needed. She has to have the gravity to make you believe she’s a world class spy, but still be athletic enough to look like she can perform the sorts of stunts the Widow performs. In the end, I’m going to go with Kate Beckinsale. She’s a little younger than I was hoping for (mid-30s), but she can kick butt, she looks great in leather, and she honestly deserves a good movie.

Whew! It’s much easier to pick someone else’s choices apart than to create your own. Quick! Come up with some ideas so I can do just that!

Wow. Not the direction I was thinking you’d take at all. Of course, I’m having the same problems you were when it comes to finding relevant actors who can fill these roles. Maybe we’re just getting too old for this stuff! Hell, if this was posted 15 years ago, I could’ve easily seen Val Kilmer playing Hawkeye, with Susan Sarandon as Black Widow and an experienced yet plucky Robert Redford as Pym. In the interest of full disclosure, let me be the first to say that I was also pushing for Tom Selleck to play Tony Stark…back in 1984.

Cary Elwes would’ve made a great Clint Barton. He’s got the right amounts of suaveness and bravado. Or at least he did. Val Kilmer used to as well, until he ate a baby elephant. However, I’ve never felt that DiCaprio brought anything to his roles other than some sort of simmering immaturity. I’m just not a fan. And, regardless of how much he ages, I just don’t think Leo looks old enough or experienced enough (or ripped enough) to pull off the role with any sort of believability.

No, I was thinking of someone more along the lines of Kevin McKidd:

First of all, he’s Scottish, which instantly gives him swagger. Secondly, he’s played the adventure-type roles before…starring in HBO’s Rome series and in NBC’s Quantum Leap update Journeyman. He’s blond. He looks a bit older, grizzled and war-weary. And he’s a pretty fine actor.

Cary Elwes might make a good Pym. But, in fair play, I have to throw my own pick out there: John Slattery. Slattery has become the go-to guy for supporting actors (at least on television). He’s currently got a great role on Mad Men, and he has portrayed all types of men on shows as widely varied as K Street, Ed, Desperate Housewives and Will & Grace.

Filling Black Widow’s skintight suit is a bit more difficult. The actress we choose has to be a bit older and wiser, but she also has to be gorgeous and flexible. A redhead wouldn’t hurt. And she should probably be some sort of foreigner. I LOVE LOVE LOVE Kate Beckinsale (one of my favorite females on the planet), but I agree that she’s probably too young (I also agree that she looks mouth-watering in leather). I can think of a few competent actresses who sort of fit the mold for the character…Rhona Mitra, Carla Gugino, maybe even Famke Janssen…but I’m going to lob a name out there and see if it sticks: Saffron Burrows.

A lot of people think she’s a stiff talent, but I think she has the requisite vacant, who-gives-a-damn look and attitude needed in the character. You may remember her from such instant classic films as Wing Commander (with Freddie Prinze, Jr.), Deep Blue Sea (costarring LL Cool J) and Troy. Or, you may recall her most recent role in The Bank Job, alongside my pick to play Taskmaster…

Jason Statham. I think this guy is fabulous. Amazing fight skills. Gritty demeanor. And, from what my wife tells me, he’s not bad to look at either. Of course, his face would be covered in a skullface, so that may not count for much.

Those are my picks for the Big Four roles in this little venture. Start tearing them apart in 3…2…1…

The ripping shall now commence….to an extent.

I love Kevin McKidd and agree that he’s a fine actor. Moreso, as we learned when he was in Rome, he really can sell the idea that he can kick your butt. I’m not 100% sure that I see him as Hawkeye, as I’m not sure if he has the cocky swagger that you think he has, but you know, he’s such a good actor that I have no doubt he could pull the part off. I still think that you’re being too unkind to Leonardo DiCaprio, and doing what so many people are doing, which is judge him by his early years and the awfulness that was Titanic. I think that he’s taken so many dark and serious roles simply to distance himself from that image. But fine, Kevin McKidd it is. He’ll be cheaper, and we can spend the money on special effects.

Did you enjoy the part where I agreed with you? Good, because it won’t happen again for awhile.

I like John Slattery, but for Dr. Pym? I’d rather have the heavier Cary Elwes play him, as Slattery looks old. It’s the grey hair, and it’s not fair, but neither is life, or casting calls. I simply think that he ages Pym into his 50s, whether you want him to or not, and that simply doesn’t work for me. He’s great, and perhaps we can find something else for him to do in the movie (no, I don’t know what). If I’m throwing him out, and you’re throwing Elwes out, we need another choice, right? I’m going to nominate Doug Savant.

You may know him from Desperate Housewives. I think he works. He’s two years younger than John Slattery, but looks ten years younger. I think he looks the perfect age; older than Hawkeye (although, with Kevin McKidd playing Hawkeye, we’ve skewed Hawkeye a little older than I would have liked), but still young enough that, if given the chance, he could still hold his own in a fight. He has a certain world-weariness that is good for the character, but he hasn’t let life beat him yet, which is important.

Now, we come to the Black Widow. You suggested Saffron Burrows. You couldn’t have surprised me more had you suggested Dom DeLuise play the Black Widow. Or, at least, I would have been surprised had I any clue who the hell Saffron Burrows is. The really scary thing is when I looked at her filmography and noticed that I’ve seen her in quite a few things. Now, I’m someone who knows actors and actresses to a decent extent, and I didn’t know this woman? She was so bland and boring that she didn’t leave any impression on me through everything in which I had seen her? Sorry, no. Plus, if we’re looking at age, Burrows is exactly one year older than Beckinsale, so we’re not gaining much there. I’d still pick Kate Beckinsale FTW, but, in the spirit of trying to be helpful, let me suggest another option.

Darn. I wish I had another option for the Widow. Every actress I think of is either too old or too young. Or, in many cases, too willowy (yes, that’s probably not a word. A high percentage of my brain function is being spent trying to cast the Widow, so I don’t have enough left to think of actual words. If this continues, my grammar will continue to deteriorate, and new words will spew from me higgeldy-piggeldy. Soon it will look like Dr. Seuss posted this, with new crazy nonsense words all over the place). By too willowy, I mean they look like a stiff breeze could blow them over, and the Widow needs to look like she could kick some butt. Like Beckinsale can. But I digress.

I was going to originally suggest Maria Bello, but I’m actually not a fan of hers. Then I saw The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor and I’m now convinced that she should never work again, nor should anyone in anyway connected to that film. Oh, my head hurts just recalling it. So, I’m going to move onto someone that will, no doubt, create some more nasty comments, but I’ll stand by my choice (unless you have a better one….Saffron Burrows? Sheesh!). I nominate Lucy Lawless.

Yes, she played Xena. But since then, she’s popped up all over the landscape, and she’s shown a very wide acting ability. She is blond, but as the picture above shows, she can do red hair. She’s beautiful, but she’s also 40 years old. Plus, she not only looks like she can kick your butt, but she actually CAN kick your butt.

As for Jason Statham….brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. He’s a great actor who can be serious as hell, still play lighter moments, and again, he can kick your butt all over the place. Great choice.

Once we agree on Pym and the Widow, we can move into a few minor characters.

I apologize…for some reason your photos weren’t coming up correctly, so I replaced them all willy-nilly. The new shot of Lucy Lawless is actually pretty hot (and I always thought of her as being pretty butch). I guess I had an impression of her as a bigger woman. Must’ve been all that Xena armor she wore. I could see her in the role of Black Widow. But I still can’t believe all the hostility that everyone seems to have towards Saffron Burrows. I wonder how the poor girl gets out of bed in the morning. No, seriously, I want to know. Better yet, I’d like to be in the bed with her when she gets up…

I digress.

The picture of Doug Savant that I put in there really shows his age more than any image I had in my head. I still picture the young, idealistic guy from Melrose Place. Looking at him now though, I could almost see him playing Hawkeye! See, I put Slattery in there because I was envisioning Pym as an older dude, someone who put in his years as a hero but was now content to just sit back and help out. Kevin McKidd is younger than me (by a year or two), but has a certain experience in his face. If you want to skew Hawkeye younger, we could consider other options. How about Jesse Spencer?

He’s blond, Australian, almost 30 and costars on House. Relative newcomer. Not too hard on the eyes (I suppose). Definitely has a cockiness to him. And his awesome hair makes me jealous. What do you think?

I think that I agree. I am also jealous of Jesse Spencer’s hair.

I admit to not watching House (and I don’t have time to, so all of our hundreds of readers….ok dozens of readers….ok, my mom, don’t have to waste their time writing in and telling me how great it is) so I know nothing about Spencer. All I do know is that, when I type his name, I want to put …For Hire after it. This means nothing, except for the fact that I am old.

He certainly has the look of Hawkeye, and the picture shows the perfect Hawkeye cockiness. While I really like Kevin McKidd, I think that if we paired Spencer up with Savant, we’d have a better feel for the age of the characters. So, we have Spencer as Hawkeye, Lawless as Black Widow, Savant as Pym, and Statham as Taskmaster. Hmmm. Not bad. Who else would we need to cast? Do we want to cast all of Night Shift or is that too many people? I’m thinking it may be a bit much for our movie. Perhaps we should think TV series, since, with the exception of Statham, these actors have most of their popularity from television.

Well, I can see no reason why these folks shouldn’t branch out to a big bad comic book movie. I always favor the Star Wars method of casting anyway…pick established actors that don’t have a lot of exposure and see what they can do. You always throw a ringer in there (like Billy Dee Williams or, to some extent, Harrison Ford) just to prove you understand the process. I think Statham does that for us — he’s a fairly hot commodity right now — and I’d love to have him as an older, more experienced villain type versus a fresh-faced hero who’s still being backed up by his journeyman friends.

We should probably restrict ourselves to these four characters though. If we start casting other roles, then we end up slipping into multiple conflicts that would be best exploited in an episodic television setting. I prefer to look at the Big Picture!

Of course, if we were to attempt to launch a Hawkeye film, we’d have to more or less start from scratch. The story arc we developed for an ongoing comic title wouldn’t hold water on the screen. I say we use the trick Marvel has been using lately of having other characters appear as crossover appeal in their movies. This ties in perfectly with Hawkeye’s origin too, since Iron Man pretty much launched his career and Black Widow played a huge part in his direction too. We could start off showing him catching some common crooks or something and then do a flashback scene with Tony Stark…maybe even Nick Fury. Then they could approach him (and Widow) about joining some SHIELD Special Ops team (like in Ultimates). Taskmaster is the hardest part ot get in there if only because he’s never had a real origin in the comics. The funny thing about him, and something maybe we should discuss in another post (seeing as how he’s my favorite villain), is that no one knows his real identity and yet the government has been able to contact him on numerous occasions and use his services. Weird.

Anyway, that’s how I see things. Hawkeye is young and ready for action. Widow and Pym offer wisdom and assistance. Taskmaster is some sort of weapons runner or government assassin or something. And this is our cast:


Hawkeye: Just a bit off target

Aug-28-08

Ah…archery humor. It gets me every time. There are few things I enjoy in life as much as cracking wise about fletchings and draw weights. Brings a tear to my eye. My side has literally split and I can see all the funny falling out of me firsthand. Ha. Ow. Ha.

Okay, enough of that tomfoolery. We’re here today to talk about one of my favorite Marvel characters of all time: the sarcastic, bombastic and somewhat elastic avenging archer, Hawkeye! Using one of the most proven methods of superhero introduction, the “oops, I thought you were a bad guy” routine, Hawkeye was thrust upon the comic reading audience way back in 1964. And yet, he has managed to retain all of his youthful wit and charm ever since. Well, at least until Bendis set him on fire.

Hawkeye has built lasting relationships with some of the biggest guns in Marvel’s world. Captain America has taken a sort of mentor role with Clint Barton. Iron Man aided in his original reform. Yet, he’s always walked his own path to achievement. For instance, he gained membership in the Avengers by breaking into the mansion and tying up Jarvis. He earned Iron Man’s trust by attempting to steal stuff from him. And, let’s not forget that Hawkeye has managed to sleep with most of Marvel’s important females including Black Widow, Scarlet Witch, Mockingbird, Wasp, Moonstone, Echo and She-Hulk (not to mention possible dalliances with Viper, Moondragon, Patsy Walker, Deathbird and…uh…Jocasta?).

He has been a member of the Avengers, chairman of the West Coast Avengers, leader of the Thunderbolts and even briefly tagged along with the Defenders. Still, individual success continues to allude this tried and true hero. Marvel has produced two miniseries (in 1983 and 1994) featuring the character. They launched an anthology title called Solo Avengers (and, alternately, Avengers Spotlight) that featured Hawkeye in most of the main storylines. A one-shot hailing him as “Earth’s Mightiest Marksman” was released in 1998. And there was even an aborted attempt at an ongoing title a few years back. But none of these books really showcased the strengths of the Hawkeye character.

Of course, I guess we still need to define what those strengths are and how Hawkeye can best be utilized. For that, I turn the reins over to my partner to begin our traditional back-and-forth debate.

I’m actually not the Hawkeye fan that you are, and for many years, wasn’t very fond of him. I think that Hawkeye has a brash charm, but honestly, for many years I focused on the brash and not the charm. It took quite awhile before I could see him as anything beyond an annoying loudmouth who happened to use a bow and arrow. I think the turning point for me was when Hawkeye was sent to California to found and lead the West Coast Avengers. At first I didn’t even like him in that book. He was still brash and annoying, and why was he called the leader, because he sure as heck didn’t seem to be doing any leading. Yuck. However, as I kept reading the book, he kept growing on me, and I came to see Hawkeye’s charm through the attitude in which he cloaked himself. This was a normal guy (normal, at least, in that he had no powers) who was struggling to be an A-List hero in the Marvel Universe. Yes, he could be abrasive, but in the end, he was your typical working stiff, trying to get ahead. The only difference between him and Joe Lunchbox was that Hawkeye worked in the Avengers, not at IBM.

At this point in time, I’m a big fan of Hawkeye, and even enjoy him in those old appearances where he used to annoy me. Honestly, were I to try and identify what I like most about Hawkeye, and where I think his popularity stems from, it would have to be his everyman quality. Again, he’s obviously not an everyman, as I know few people who can shoot a bow with his accuracy, but compared to most of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, Hawkeye is so very relatable. His speech patterns are close to a normal person’s (love them or hate them, no one actually speaks like Captain America, Thor or Mr. Fantastic), his drive to prove himself to those around him is something we all feel, his romantic struggles are something that everyone goes through…..Hawkeye is like the really cool kids in high school that you wanted to hang with, but you read comics, so they shunned you.

I think it’s easy to see this when you pair Hawkeye up with Captain America, one of his good friends. When Cap gets too out of touch with things, Hawkeye is a great way to bring him back to earth. After “Operation: Galactic Storm” in the Avengers, Cap was upset that he had become unfashionable and wasn’t a good leader for the team. Cap was in a deep funk, and it was Hawkeye who took Cap out for a night on the town and smacked him in the face (metaphorically speaking) and told him to snap out of it. During Mark Waid and Ron Garney’s second run on Cap’s title, when the world was gripped by Capmania, it was again Hawkeye who was there, having fun with the concept and enjoying the heck out of it, while Cap worried and moped.

That points out another thing that makes Hawkeye popular: he’s generally a very upbeat guy. While sadness and drama have their place, they can get a little old when overplayed. I’ve always been amazed that Uncanny X-Men has been such a popular book for so long, when it seems that for years at a stretch the title was mired in depressing persecution and mopey characters. Hawkeye doesn’t have that. While he’s been sad and upset at times, he bounces back pretty quickly. (It’s one of the reasons that killing Mockingbird was such a bad idea….you don’t make Hawkeye grim and gritty. It doesn’t work for the character, and the only other option is to have him bounce back from the death of his wife quickly, which just makes him look like an ass, which is equally unacceptable.) It’s Hawkeye’s positive attitude that makes him such an effective leader, and I think its the reason he was so perfect for Thunderbolts, which needed a character with a more upbeat attitude, since the only one on the team at that time who was upbeat was Jolt, and she was annoying as all hell.

What doesn’t work for Hawkeye? Changing his superhero identity. Twice in his history, Marvel has given him the power to grow in size and become super-strong and called him Goliath. Oy vey, bad idea. First of all, super-strong characters are a dime a dozen in any superhero universe. There is no team that really needs another strong man. However, there are precious few other archers in the Marvel Universe, and none of those other archers come close to Hawkeye’s prominence. Being an archer, and the arrows he uses, makes Hawkeye unique. Second, as mentioned above, Hawkeye is someone people can relate to, partly because he isn’t superhuman. By making him superhuman, you strip that part of him away. Bad idea. Currently, Hawkeye is calling himself Ronin. Yeesh, will Marvel never learn. He’s not a ninja….he’s an archer! Let him be an archer!

What say you, o’ longtime Hawkeye booster?

I agree with absolutely everything you just said. That’s good. That puts us on the same page as far as a starting point for a revamp goes. It’s funny that you bring up Hawkeye’s brashness and his relatability…those are two things that always attract me to any character, whether comics-based or coming from film or television. I don’t like the cool and aloof “bad boys” who glower and sneer just for the effect. I want a guy who can throw out a snarky quip and still be willing to get his hands dirty. The best analogy I can come up with is the Luke Skywalker versus Han Solo debate. Captain America is in the same archetypal range as Luke and Superman and Sir Galahad. He’s the strong, pious warrior who puts everything before himself. Hawkeye is the roguish, “I’ll do it if I have to, but I won’t like it” type…exactly like Han Solo, Die Hard‘s John McClane or Sir Lancelot (who wasn’t above sleeping with his boss’s wife).

That said, I think those qualities are also obstacles in creating a lasting run for this guy. Hawkeye has such a nonchalant personality that nothing sticks to him. Marvel is known for its angst-ridden characters, and a guy who can just bounce around with no attachments is difficult to shoehorn into any sort of ongoing continuity. Spider-Man has his Aunt May and, until recently, his relationship with MJ. He also has an alter ego that worries about paying the bills and getting to work on time. And, even more, he has a home base. Spider-Man is known just as much for swinging through the streets of New York as he is for any villain he’s ever faced.

What does Hawkeye have? Let’s see…he’s an orphan with a dead wife, a mentor who turned out to be a criminal, an older, dead criminal brother that he shot during a botched robbery and, um, a bunch of ex-girlfriends who have various levels of disdain for him. Not really a lot to build a legend on…unless you’re James Bond (or William Shatner).

I think that was the biggest problem with his brief ongoing series. It was like “On the Road” with Clint Barton. He was traveling across the country on a motorcycle wooing strippers and getting involved with drug running bikers…like if Burt Reynolds had starred in Dukes of Hazzard. It fell flat for me. Where did he get his money from? Where did he call home? Who were the people he surrounded himself with? Better yet, what were his problems? And who was Clint Barton when he wasn’t Hawkeye?

In order to re-energize the Hawkeye mystique (after Bendis, in my 100% accurate opinion, has completely ruined the character) and make him a hero able to stand alone, I think we need to go back to the basics: motivation, enemies and supporting cast. Let’s break him down to the traditional 5 W’s (Who, What, When, Where and Why). We can rebuild him…we have the technology…

Why do I have the sneaking suspicion that you have answers to all of these questions already? Well, let me see what I can do about these questions you pose, because I think you’re exactly right: to make Hawkeye successful, we have to build a life for Hawkeye.

One of the time periods that I think worked for Hawkeye was when, back in the mid-80s (I believe), he was head of security for Cross Technology. As their security chief, he had a job, which gave him money, and he had the perfect springboard for adventures. Moreover, I found it very novel, and so very Hawkeye, that when he needed a job, he didn’t even think of applying for one in his secret identity, but instead went and got his heroic identity employed. How many superheroes do that? Everyone’s always so concerned being employed in their “true identity” (since, for example, Peter Parker deep down considers himself to be Parker first and Spidey second), but not Hawkeye. Honestly, I would think that often someone’s superheroic identity would be much more employable than their civilian identity and props to Hawkeye for figuring that out.

I mention this because, when we try to determine where Hawkeye’s money comes from, we’re going to have to provide him with a source of income, and I think giving Clint Barton some typical job would be a very bad idea. It just doesn’t fit for the character. The only thing I can imagine Barton doing in his civilian identity wouild be working at a circus or carnival, but that’s cliche, and I really don’t think he’d enjoy it. It’s not like Hawkeye’s days in the big top were particularly enjoyable or fun. What might Hawkeye do? Celebrity endorsements. C’mon, he’d be a natural!

Hawkeye’s supporting cast is going to be a bit more difficult. Depending on where he’s getting his money, you could build a supporting cast from that. It’s somewhat ironic, that while Hawkeye is known to and friendly with the vast majority of the heroes in the Marvel Universe, he’s not really close to very many (with the exception of Cap, and he’s a little dead right now). Were it me, I’d pair him up with one of my favorite characters, and someone that I think could be a very interesting match for the battling bowman: Black Widow. Hawkeye and the Widow were a team for quite some time in the Marvel Universe (albeit for much of it on the wrong side of the law) and they were romantically involved as well. They’ve both grown quite a bit since that time, and haven’t worked closely together much since the old days. I think putting them back together at this stage in their lives could make for some very interesting chemistry. However, I wouldn’t want to thrust them together as a couple right away (if at all; I think the story would have to determine whether that happened). So why would they work together?

Well (and this could all change once Secret Invasion is finished) but what if the two of them were running around doing things for Nick Fury? I can’t see Hawkeye working for Iron Man or SHIELD, but Fury is a rebel, and a criminal under the Superhero Registration Act. Hawkeye would love the idea of working with someone like that, and if the missions he was doing helped to undermine the Superhero Registration Act, so much the better. Of course, that wouldn’t be all that he did, and you could still do unrelated plotlines, but it gives him a purpose, and it gives him a reason to hang out with the Widow. He’d still need more supporting characters, but that’s a start.

Enemies? Sadly, Hawkeye has no real rogues gallery. I’m afraid we may have to build that one from scratch. However, I’ve typed long enough, and I still have this feeling that you may have some ideas percolating in your ever plotting skull. Let’s see what you’re thinking, and then we can argue about why Black Widow really does belong in the new Hawkeye series.

I’m honored that you think so highly of my thought processes, but to be quite honest with you I have absolutely no prepared statements to make on this topic. I’ve just been making it all up as I go along. I’ve been exposed as the fraud that I am!

In my original post, I was going to mention his employment at Cross Technologies. That stood out for me as a unique way to handle the whole “superhero needs a job” angle. Perfect for his temperament too.

There’s actually something in the idea of celebrity endorsements. Hawkeye is the perfect type of character to do that too. He has that laidback cockiness necessary to be a good spokesman (similar to Booster Gold over at DC). And he’s not a huge star whose reputation would be tarnished by appearing on a billboard for laundry detergent (or, more appropriately, Target). I could also see an espionage role being played in the background…sort of like that Schwarzenegger movie True Lies. Smiling pitch man by day, covert operative by night.

Love the idea of bringing Black Widow in too. She’s such a useful character who never really gets the spotlight much. And she has ties to many of the other Marvel heroes, not to mention an already established past with Hawkeye. I would like to see them actually play up the fact that a relationship didn’t work between them…have them just being “good buddies” and every time romance is brought up by someone, they scoff at the suggestion of it.

You know who else I could see in this book? One of your favorites…Hank Pym. Think about it, they have history with the Avengers and West Coast Avengers, Hawkeye used Pym particles when he was Goliath, and he’ll need someone steeped in science and technology to help him develop more trick arrows and other weaponry. Not sure how Pym is going to be rectified in Secret Invasion, but a Hawkeye title could be a good place to rehab his character. It would place Pym in a role similar to the one played by Microchip for Punisher.

That’s a good start on supporting cast, but I think giving the book a solid setting will aid even further in establishing the character. My suggestion would be to put Hawkeye back on the West Coast. Realistically, there’s nothing particular keeping him in the New York area. His best friend is dead. He’s technically on the run as a member of the New Avengers. I’m sure he still has a bunch of viable contacts from his years spent in California (not to mention that it plays perfectly into the endorsement idea). He could easily grab a snooty up-and-coming actress as a love interest. Other potential background characters would be his agent/manager, a landlord, some big shot studio exec, maybe a bookie or bartender, and even guest appearances from all his ex-girlfriends. I could even see a braggadocious Hercules showing up (in an homage to his days in the Champions and the ties to Widow).

Villains are a bit tougher to scrounge up. There’s always AIM or Hydra or Sons of the Serpent…good for group fight scenes and counter-espionage angles. Are there any leftover WCA/Force Works villains still prowling the Los Angeles basin? Master Pandemonium? Graviton? The Death-Throws? Batroc’s Brigade? Grim Reaper? Our new and improved Circus of Crime lineup? Is there anyone who particularly has it out for Hawkeye? I’d LOVE to see him have a protracted face-off against Taskmaster…I think the two of them are opposite sides of the same coin. Plus, Taskmaster is sort of the reluctant hero now working for the Initiative while Hawkeye is a true hero forced to be on the lam. Interesting dynamic.

That covers the WHO and the WHERE. I think we really need to dig into the WHY next…

I think your suggestion to use Hank Pym is brilliant, not just because I like the character and not just because Hawkeye really does need someone to help create his arrows and develop new ones, but because I’ve always felt that Pym works best in a supporting capacity. Certainly, putting him back on the west coast harkens back to the days when these two worked with the West Coast Avengers, which were good days.

The villains you mention are good ones, and I love the idea of developing a Hawkeye/Taskmaster rivalry. They’re pretty evenly matched, and there could be a lot of great matches between the two of them. I’d also suggest, if we’re on the west coast, that we could always use the Night Shift as adversaries. Surely the Shroud’s cover has been blown by now, and if we remove him, we have a very interesting group of villains with some different powers and a history with Hawkeye. Truly, haven’t comics been calling out for more appearances of the Brothers Grimm?

However, you want to focus on why. Why? Because we like you. Whoops. Sorry. Reflex. Honestly, I’m not sure that Hawkeye needs a strong motivation to be a hero. I always felt he was a hero because he couldn’t be anything else. It’s all he really knows, and honestly, he enjoys it. If you want to go deeper than that, perhaps Hawkeye has decided to up his super-heroing as a tribute to his late friend, Steve Rogers. If he’s working with the Widow and doing some espionage things, perhaps it’s in response to the oppressiveness of Tony Stark and his new SHIELD. We could start the book with a long-term plot which would give us a semblance of a direction, if you wish. Perhaps he’s trying to find the Scarlet Witch, since he had feelings for her for a time (and they remained close friends for decades). Does Hawkeye know that Wanda killed him? If not, that could be interesting, as I wonder how his feelings would change if he did know (although, considering the fact that he got better, perhaps it wouldn’t be a big deal). I would suggest he’s on a mission to find Cap’s killer, but that would be best suited for the Captain America title.

It’s ironic that I have no strong motivation for this title, since I just commented elsewhere on the site that I felt most of the Ultimate Universe titles suffer because they have no real reason to exist. However, I would counter that most of those books are simply alternate reality versions of characters we can already enjoy in the Marvel Universe. Even worse, many of them are simply regurgitating plots from mainstream Marvel, albeit filtering said plots through a slightly different colored lens. Still, I think that Hawkeye adds something different to the Marvel Universe, and the supporting cast we’ve assembled around him gives us a lot of very interesting personalities to mix together. We’ve taken three of the oldest characters in the Marvel Universe, and we’re now ready to give them attention that they rarely receive. That, I believe, would keep the book an interesting one to read and write for years.

I thought you called yourself an Avengers fan? Did you not know that the first thing Hawkeye did when he reappeared was to track down Scarlet Witch and make sweet, sweet love to her? She had no idea who he was. I think he went looking for revenge, but left feeling sorry for her (you know, after he took advantage of her).

My thinking behind the WHY aspect of any supposed Hawkeye title wasn’t so much to delineate his motivation for being a hero, but rather exploring why he would leave Manhattan and why he would choose to realign himself with Widow, Fury and Pym. I mean, you can’t just launch issue #1 with him kicking up his bare feet on the La Jolla beach and not explain why he’s there or how he got there.

Initially, I was thinking he starts a road trip to escape the drama of Cap’s death, the oppression of the SHRA and the fallout from Secret Invasion. Does he meet up with his supporting cast along the way or does he recruit them once he gets to the west coast? Does he encounter any of his rogues gallery while traveling? Or, like I said before about starting as far into the action as possible, do we just show him in the midst of his “celebrity” career and then fill in the backstory blanks from there?

One of the biggest downfalls of his last standalone title was the fact that it was just Hawkeye and a bunch of people you’d never seen before…there was no history to play off of, no interesting relationships to reference. Without that interplay, Hawkeye’s true character is harder to define. He’s just a smooth guy with a bow. Whoop-de-doo. He’s not really a solo kind of guy.

That said, I could also see a scenario where he gets hooked up as a spokesman for Damage Control (one of my favorite Marvel concepts). That could lead him westward as well.

Also, good idea with Night Shift. That’s a bunch of obscure characters that we could really reinvigorate and make unique to Hawkeye’s world. I’d love to play up our new Circus of Crime to exploit Hawkeye’s background and then introduce a new Night Shift as a “welcome to the west coast” freakshow. I always find it more impressive to showcase Hawkeye’s talents against a group of bad guys anyway. And the Night Shift has some dubious, shadowy business ties too that could be mined for the espionage angle.

I am an Avengers fan, but I have to admit, my reading of the title has been a little spotty after Bendis went crazy, slaughtered some of their more interesting members, and started writing the characters so they all spoke with his voice, rather than their own. Still, I should have known that fact about Hawkeye and the Witch, or done some research. I thought about checking it out on the web before I posted, but there would have been typing and clicking involved, and it seemed like an awful lot of work for a pseudo-Monday morning. Next time I’ll have the intern look into that sort of thing.

As for hooking up with this supporting cast, here’s how I see it. The Widow has been working on the side of Superhero Registration as of late, but really, she’s a spy, so her loyalty is always a little suspect? The Widow has long been a supporter of Nick Fury, and the two are close. Fury sat the Civil War out, but I posit the theory that the Widow has been working for Stark and SHIELD because she’s actually spying on them for Fury. As Fury comes back into the limelight during the events of Secret Invasion, he knows that Natasha is likely to catch some heat if it’s learned that she’s basically been spying on Stark and SHIELD, and Fury thinks it may be best for Natasha to get a little distance. Fury has some projects for Natasha, and they are on the west coast, so he asks her to go out there and take care of them. That puts her on the west coast.

Hawkeye, in the meantime, has headed to the west coast as part of his spokesperson deal with Damage Control (I agree that Damage Control is one of the best ideas in the Marvel Universe, and working them in is great. They probably wouldn’t be seen much, but anytime with them is time well spent). While Damage Control spends a lot of their time and energy in New York (since there are so many superhumans there), the company is looking to expand. Now that the Initiative has put superheroes in every state, there’s going to be work for Damage Control all over the country, and they have decided to open a west coast office. They hire Hawkeye as their spokesperson for that office, hoping that he can help launch their west coast operations and give them a strong start on that side of the country (and since he is one of the few heroes to spend any significant portion of time out in California, he makes perfect sense for such a position). That gets him on the west coast.

With these two both in Los Angeles, it doesn’t take long (like, the end of the first issue) for these two to run into each other. The Widow has been working on trying to figure out what the heck is going on with the Night Shift, so she’s invited the Shroud to her new LA apartment to get some answers. The Shroud no longer leads the Night Shift, which he explains to the Widow. He also explains that the Night Shift want him dead, but not to worry, since he has one of his operatives (he had a few of them in his limited series) watching the building to make sure that the Shift doesn’t try anything. He then begins to tell the Widow what he knows of the Night Shift.

Meanwhile, the Night Shift does indeed want the Shroud dead, and they think that killing the Black Widow makes sense as well, since she could be a danger to them later. They gather near the Widow’s apartment building, but Ticktock warns them against acting now, as he can foresee that the Shroud’s operative will warn the crimefighter when he sees the Night Shift approaching the building, and the Shroud and the Widow will be able to escape. The Shift are contemplating their next move, when Hawkeye comes by. Hawkeye had heard the Widow was in LA and wanted to stop by and say hi. Hawkeye sees the Shroud’s operative, and not knowing who it is, assumes that anyone who’s keeping the Widow’s apartment under surveillance must be up to no good. Hawkeye attacks him, and while it wouldn’t be much of a fight, it doesn’t have to last long. Ticktock suddenly sees the future clear for an attack, and informs his colleagues. The Brothers Grimm fly up to the Widow’s apartment and throw some of their exploding eggs in the windows. Boom! The apartment explodes, and the Shift flees, just as the operative explains to Hawkeye that he was trying to protect the Widow and Shroud. Hawkeye turns just in time to see the explosion.

Hawkeye and the operative check out the wreckage, and find the Widow and the Shroud wounded, but alive. After the four of them help to rescue other tenants of the building, which is a total loss, the Shroud and his operative disappear, and the Widow goes to the hospital, Hawkeye trailing her. Once there, Hawkeye offers the Widow the option of staying with him, and since he was partly responsible for the destruction of her old place, she agrees. That gets them together. Living together they’re bound to help each other out, and with the Widow wounded, Hawkeye would insist on helping her, especially since he bears some guilt over her wounds.

I’d give them a five or six issue storyarc before introducing Pym. We had considered Pym to be a technical advisor for Hawkeye, but if we have him working for Damage Control, Hawkeye may not need an advisor, since Damage Control has one. How about this: after the Secret Invasion, Pym returns to Earth to again find that his name has been slandered and he’s considered a jerk. He’s been in this situation before, and this time, it’s not even his fault! He knows that he can use the “It was a skrull, not me!” defense, but he also knows that people may not buy that. Plus, as a prisoner of the skrulls for the last couple of years, Pym isn’t sure if he’s ready to go back out as a superhero again; he’s a little out of practice. What to do?

Then Pym sees the news of Hawkeye being back on the west coast, and remembers how Hawkeye gave Pym a chance all those years ago when Pym was trying to rebuild his life the first time. Pym contacts Hawkeye and offers his services as Clint’s technical advisor, but Hawkeye says that Damage Control has that covered. Or, well, they would have it covered if they had hired a tech advisor for the west coast yet. But they haven’t. They’re still looking for someone who has the knowledge they need to work as a technical advisor. They’d love someone with a good knowledge of science, who has experience with superhumans, and who doesn’t rattle easily. Hey, that sounds like Pym! Pym takes the job, and now we have the three of them working together. Thoughts?

I find it humorously ironic that Hawkeye was first sent to the west coast to start up a branch of the Avengers, to help spread heroic protection across the nation. Now we have him once again headed west, but this time to help head up a division of an organization dedicated to cleaning up after the heroes have completed their “protection” efforts. The funny part is that I can see Hawkeye finding some sardonic humor in this harsh reality as well.

While I won’t say there isn’t a definite stretch in logic to have the Night Shift attacking Black Widow just for merely being in town, I suppose their pursuit of Shroud would lead to some conclusion jumping. Strike while the iron’s hot, and all that. I do like the way you’ve brought Pym into the picture and it allows Clint and Natasha to rebuild their friendship before introducing another prominent character. Plus, I just love the idea of Damage Control…and, by offering him some public face time and some behind-the-scenes access, it almost combines our previous thoughts on Clint’s new career path. I also like the idea of digging into the celebrity phenomenon as it applies to superheroes…aside from Wonder Man’s brief fling with Hollywood, I can’t remember a time that Marvel has ever pursued this angle aggressively (which is especially telling considering the fact that Marvel claims to set all their adventures in the “real world” and our society seems to be in a constant media-induced euphoria).

Good. Let’s add this to the list of Titles I Now Want to Write. Darn it.