Axel-In-Charge: "Secret Wars" Jam Session Talking "A-Force," "Ultimate End" and More
by Cullen Bunn
This is an exercise in nostalgia for me. My collaborator on The Sixth Gun, Brian Hurtt, suggested this topic, and he said he could probably guess the projects I’d mention. Anyone who talks to me long enough will have a pretty good idea of the books that meant a lot to me during my formative years. Hell, you might think most of my comic book influences came out of one of those Whitman 3-packs so prevalent in Piggly Wiggly and Stuckey’s in the 70s. Well, you might be right. I think every comic creator has a list of a dozen or so books they’d love to work on. Here are just a few of the titles I’d love to take a crack at reinventing or re-imagining. I could easily create a second (and maybe a third) list of six projects I’d love to tackle. Rom: Spaceknight … Scare Tactics … Blackwulf … Warlock 5 … The list goes on and on … but the following list are the dream jobs that pop most readily into my skull.
Keep in mind, this isn’t about blowing anyone away with these notions. It’s about daydreaming.
Easily my pick for favorite comic book of all time. I credit The Micronauts with getting me into collecting comics … not just reading, but really collecting. I can remember the first day I stumbled onto an issue of the book very clearly … from picking it up at the grocery store to reading it a dozen or so times in the back room of my dad’s office. For a comic about a line of toys, The Micronauts (like ROM: Spaceknight) tore past its humble origins into something really special. Of course, I would almost kill to write their story.
With licensing and such, it would be tough to tell the story of Marvel’s Micronauts without some significant changes, but for the longest time I thought I had a way to do just that. My story, The Microverse, would follow the ‘Nauts after the defeat of Baron Karza. I even thought of a way to ret-con the end of New Voyages, but damn if I’m at a loss to remember it now. Anyhow, Commander Rann, Marrionette, Bug, and Devil would be a few of the characters on the team. Acroyear, who was a Mego-owned character, would also be in the group—but he would have abandoned the name of his people, as well as his trademark armor and helmet—to lead the contemplative life of a monk. Rounding out the team would be Psycho-Man. He would play the Dr. Smith role to our group of adventurers. My story would send the ‘Nauts a thousand years into the future, where the Enigma Force had been driven mad and was becoming a tyrant more destructive than Baron K—uh, he who should not be named …
That’s it! I’m digging out my action figures and playing this story out right now!
I think almost every writer who grew up in the 70s would love to take a shot at writing a Man-Thing story. I don’t know what it is about the character … Maybe the whole tragic, near-mindless monster vibe appeals to me. My first encounter with the creature was in an issue of The Micronauts (the first issue of that series I read), and I came across him again in the first issue of his 1979 re-launch.
“Are those tears trickling down your face, monster? Tears for Dr. Oheimer, that good man who lies dead in your arms? Are they tears for the life that might have been, now vanished in the smoke of the raging inferno? No, monsters can’t cry. It must be the moisture of the swamp.”
Those lines sealed the deal for me, and I’ve been a fan ever since.
Much of my desire to work on a 70s-style monster hero has been satisfied with my upcoming project, The Tooth (from Oni Press). Still, telling a Man-Thing yarn remains a goal of mine. I’ve got a story staged in my head and ready to go. It’s a solid, no-holds-barred fright fest that I believe could actually put Man-Thing on the map as a really scary horror character. That’s all I really want to say about that one, because I’m really keeping my fingers crossed to make that happen!
A boy and his dinosaur … What kid wouldn’t freak out over this comic? I think I first saw Devil Dinosaur in an issue of Marvel’s Godzilla, and I read that issue over and over again. Since the original run, Devil Dinosaur has appeared in a few books, and he’s getting a little play in Jason Aaron’s Astonishing Spider-Man/Wolverine. As with Man-Thing, I have an idea for a Devil Dinosaur story that (to my all-too-self-important point of view) would change the way readers look at the character. Okay … maybe not, but I still think it would be a lot of fun! My initial premise was a Devil Dinosaur MAX story, something that throws a little Dinosaurs Attacks and The Mist into the mix. It’ll almost certainly never happen, and I guess I could always try to tell that story with a T-Rex other than Devil Dinosaur, but it would most assuredly be a bit of a love letter to that character.
In the 90s, Dr. Druid had an all-too-short-lived series that I thought had a lot of potential. It cast Druid in a much darker light, gave him a team of creepy sidekicks, and amped up his power and scare-factor. In issue 4, the Son of Satan killed Druid, and that was that.
… Or was it?
I dream of a world where Druid, burned to ash by the Son of Satan, manages to reconstitute himself. His ashes float on the ether until they reach a place of power—the Nexus of Reality—and he slowly begins to re-grow, stealing bits of meat from swamp creatures and insects to build his body. The Man-Thing is drawn to Druid’s place of re-birth, and the two form a kind of symbiosis. Druid spends some time in the swamp, regaining his considerable strength, before the Son of Satan finds him again. The two face off, and the Son of Satan realizes Druid is more powerful than ever before. Is he a little afraid of Druid? Yes … and whosoever knows fear burns at the Man-Thing’s touch!
So what if it sounds a little goofy? It’s the beginning of a story that’s stuck with me for years! I think Druid and Man-Thing would explore all things dark and mysterious in the Marvel Universe—kind of like a B.J. and the Bear story—and it would have a cool supernatural 70s vibe like nobody’s business.
Even though Marvel couldn’t the attain licensing for my favorite Shogun Warriors (Dragun), I still loved this comic. Besides the connection to the toys, this book hooked me with the monster in issues 10 and 11, the Five Heads of Doom/The Hand of Five. There’s a creature that would have made a great toy! I gobbled up the rest of the series in hopes that the giant robots would ever face another creature so awesome. Alas, it was not to be. The book was fun, but it never again lived up to those first couple of issues I read.
I’d love to return to the world of Shogun Warriors, whether continuing the story set up in the Marvel series (with the Guardians of Light and Dr. Demonicus) or starting fresh. As much as I wanted to see robot vs. monster battles back in the day, I think I’d focus more on the Shogun pilots, their training, and the other characters in their world. Our heroes do their best work when they’re shut off from everyone else behind a thousand tons of metal. Would they be similarly shut off in their day-to-day lives? Could they even have day-to-day lives? Sure, there would be giant monsters, but not every issue. We’d have to have some build-up so the battles would be a little more impactful. Maybe it would play out a little like Neon Genesis Evangelion, only without the nonsensical ending.
Those Pesky House of Mystery Kids
Forget the short stories inside every issue (although I loved them)! I’m talking about the covers! Starting around issue 174 of House of Mystery, three kids (two boys, a girl, and sometimes their pet dog) showed up on a number of issues. As far as I know, the characters never appeared in a single story, but they made the covers come to life. The kids were almost always depicted as spying on some unfolding horror (the way us brats in the real world often spied on the horror movies our parents or older siblings watched when we were supposed to be asleep).
Well, I’d love to write a series following these kids on their many adventures. The children of a famous occultist, the trio follows their pop around town as he solves mysteries. As far as I’m concerned, all the mummies, vampires, cultists, evil puppets, swamp monsters, and boogeymen dwell in the same small town. (Didn’t every kid think their home town was as haunted as all get out?) Of course, their father never realizes the kids were shadowing him, nor does he know how many times they save his bacon. In my mind, the girl was most likely the leader of the trio, and she was quick-witted and brave. The older boy was a bit of a scaredy-cat, while the younger boy was always bumbling blindly into trouble. The dog would pop up every now and again, like he did on the covers, either to save the day or accidentally spoil the kids’ best plans. The kids battle evil using the only weapons kids really have — youthful creativity and dumb luck.