"U.S.Avengers": A Guide to Marvel's New Patriotic Superhero Team
These last few days, the good burghers of the Essential Sequential agency have been posting sketch after sketch by Italy’s Matteo Scalera to their Instagram account. Scalera might not be the biggest name in their stable of artists (which includes Dave Johnson, Andrew Robinson and Dan Panosian), but he’s producing stylish work, redolent of another couple of Essential Sequential artists, Eric Canete and Sean Gordon Murphy. I’d throw Declan Shalvey and Robbi Rodriguez in as another couple of touchstones, too. A little further digging reveals Scalera’s blog and his DeviantArt page are the places to find better-quality, less ruthlessly cropped, versions of these illustrations. His DeviantArt account reveals him to be an absolute sketch machine — he’s numbering them, and has reached 533.
As Marvel Studios builds toward its Phase Three plans, which we already know include a Doctor Strange movie, we can expect the comics division to launch numerous projects starring the often neglected, and frequently mistreated, Master of the Mystic Arts. When it comes time for editors to recruit writers for one of those — say, a miniseries or original graphic novel — they may want to give novelist Irvine Welsh a call.
In a new interview with our sibling blog Spinoff Online, the acclaimed author of Trainspotting and Filth discusses comic books at length, and reveals that if he were given the chance to tackle a DC Comics or Marvel hero, he would “would do a Grant Morrison and deconstruct the character.” And who would he like that character to be?
For those who might’ve missed this 2006-2007 miniseries, Doctor Strange: The Oath is a five-issue story written by Brian K. Vaughan and drawn by Marcos Martin — that pedigree alone should ensure it has a place in your long box or the handy trade paperback sits on your shelf. Vaughan’s clear, lyrical writing style is in full force, and Martin’s art is as fluid and dynamic as it’s been for Mark Waid’s Daredevil. The story delves into the occult to save Wong, who’s been stricken with a fatal disease. Not only does it have magic and mysticism, it also reminds you of Strange’s classical origin as an arrogant surgeon who had to learn humility in an area both street-level and far-flung dimensions. It also brought Night Nurse in as a strong supporting character to the good Doctor’s retinue and, as the back cover tells me, firmly establishes Doctor Strange in the Marvel Universe.
A nice idea, but it really did nothing of the sort.
Debuting in 2001, Marvel’s MAX line was an attempt to draw a clear line between its vaguely older-teen comics and distinctly “adult” titles featuring some of the well, edgier, characters from its library. The imprint largely excelled at that, with the flagship Alias, by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos, and Garth Ennis’ takes on Nick Fury and the Punisher. However, in recent years it’s become a shadow of its former self, existing solely to carry Ennis’ recent return to Fury, and the noble but ill-fitting Wolverine MAX. But that doesn’t mean it can’t have a revival.
In today’s Six by 6, I look at six characters that straddle the fence separating “popular” from “popular enough to carry their own series in the long-term” that would do well to take a trip to the MAX line. Some are no-brainers, while others might surprise you.
To quote our very own Michael May, “wish this was real”: Brendan McCarthy plugs the release today of IDW Publishing’s The Complete Zaucer of Zilk by slipping this sketch out into the ether, of the three magic-wielding characters he’s drawn over the years: the Zaucer, Doctor Strange, and Mirkin the Mystic, of the all-too short-lived Paradax! comic from 1987 (two issues, and one was all-reprint).
It comes with a companion piece: this sketch, of Paradax himself meeting Doctor Strange. As I never tire of pointing out, Pete Milligan and McCarthy’s Paradax (in Eclipse comics’ Strange Days) pretty much invented the whole “superhero as an unlikeable wannabe celebrity” subgenre, three years before Morrison’s Zenith in 2000AD, and 15 years before Warren Ellis’ The Authority made that trope de rigueur for mainstream comics for an extended period. And also in passing invented that whole “leather jacket over your superhero costume” thing that ruled the 1990s.
Comics have become ideal source material in Hollywood’s eternal search for the next blockbuster. But in the numerous attempts to transform comic-book heroes into movie stars, some have, inevitably, failed in the making. I don’t mean failed as in bad, but rather adaptations that were announced only to be canceled before moving into production. For today’s “Six by 6,” I look at six instances of movies that spiraled into an early grave, and commiserate over what could’ve been.
1. George Miller’s Justice League: In 2007, Warner Bros. was hard at work developing a a feature based on DC Comics’ top superhero team. In September 2007, the studio announced the hiring of director George Miller of Mad Max and Happy Feet fame, and pushed to get the film finished before the writers’ strike. The proposed budget clocked in at $220 million, with set already being constructed by early 2008 in Australia. Producers even went so far as casting Armie Hammer as Batman, Megan Gale as Wonder Woman, Common as Green Lantern and Adam Brody as the Flash, before the project was abruptly shelved. After the creation of DC Entertainment in 2009, this Justice League movie was permanently canned in favor of a new approach. I would love to have witnessed a movie like this. Miller is an excellent, and mind-bendingly diverse, director, and much of the movie would have relied on the strength of the script.
George R.R. Martin, author of the bestselling fantasy epic A Song of Ice and Fire, is a Marvel fan from way back, with a letter in 1964’s Avengers #12 counted among his earliest published writing (he was a New Jersey teen at the time). So it probably should come as little surprise that, in theory at least, he wouldn’t mind taking a crack at writing Doctor Strange, whom he says “was always one of my favorites.”
A comic with “From the Creator of Game of Thrones” slapped across the cover would seem like a license for Marvel to print money. However, before Martin would even consider tackling the Master of the Mystic Arts, he would require an unlikely guarantee from the publisher.
“Before I would ever do that, I would have to have my lawyers to meet with Marvel’s lawyers and work out an absolutely iron-clad contract that would say whatever I did in the story would continue to be canon forever, and would never be retconned, rebooted or reimagined out of the universe when some later writer decided to mess around with it,” Martin tells MTV Geek in an interview recorded at Worldcon. “Because I hate that, I hate — I’ve always hated reboots and retcons and the fact that a writer comes in and undoes what a previous writer did and, y’know, brings dead characters back to life, kills new characters that weren’t intended to die. That’s the one thing I don’t like about comics. That drives me crazy.”
No trip to Hollywood is complete without buying a map to the stars’ homes. Now you can do the same thing for New York City superheroes in the Marvel Universe. Only – thanks to Dorkly – the map is free. They tell you where to find your favorite heroes’ hangouts, but the best part is that they also have photos of the real life buildings that inspired the fictional ones and/or reside at their addresses.
In recent years, we’ve seen a boatload of comic books and graphic novels make their way to the silver screen, from “big two” stalwarts like Spider-Man and Batman to independent titles like Scott Pilgrim and 30 Days Of Night. Among the various adaptations, translations and remakes, there’s one guy that has carved out a niche to become the godfather of comic books and movies: Stan Lee.
At the tender age of 17, Stan Lee began a long and fruitful career at Marvel Comics (then known as Timely). Lee went from assistant to editor to editor-in-chief and later publisher and icon. And all through those years he wrote — diligently, prodigiously and prophetically, it seems. During that time he co-created the enduring comic icons of Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, Daredevil, Doctor Strange and a host of others. Although he’s best known for his creations during the 1960s and 70s, Lee continues to this day to create new characters through his own ventures and partnerships through other companies.
With such a broad and diverse landscape of concepts he’s created and co-created over the years, even after the recent comic book movie successes with his name on them, there’s a mountain of material up for grabs.
Neilalien, the pseudonymous/palindromic blogger behind the Doctor Strange-centric site of the same name, celebrated his eleventh anniversary of blogging on Friday. He did so by announcing he wouldn’t be blogging anymore, at least not for the immediate future and not with anywhere near the regularity and intensity he’d previously maintained if and when he returns.
To call this the end of an era would be a considerable understatement. Neilalien was the very first comics blogger, launching his blog on the unthinkable date of February 25, 2000 — long before most of us had even heard of blogging, much less started doing it ourselves. It was roughly another three years before enough comics readers started blogging about the medium and the industry, and engaging one another in the process, that the “comics blogosphere” could even be said to exist. Neilalien became a vital part of that community largely through remaining partially apart from it — quick to swipe at perceived groupthink, content to go his own way in terms of what he was reading and writing and why. While the heterodox linkblogging and no-holds-barred industry commentary of Dirk Deppey’s early ¡Journalista¡ blog for The Comics Journal helped link comics blogs to one another and make the existing comics-internet infrastructure of major news sites and message boards aware of the blogosphere as a source of news and commentary, Neilalien’s more personal approach led by example, if you will. Here was a guy who didn’t work in the biz and had no aspirations of doing so, a guy who just really liked Doctor Strange and wanted to get his thoughts on and discoveries about the character and his goings-on out there, a guy who in the process would champion worthwhile non-Doc comics everywhere from the Big Two to the tables at MoCCA, a guy whose blog was nothing more or less than what interested him and what he felt like saying about it. The model blogger, basically. And his carefully maintained anonymity — I’ve had lunch with the man and still don’t know his real name — lent him an aura of mystery in this put-it-all-out-there-for-all-to-see medium.
With Deppey (who incidentally was sort of Neilalien’s Baron Mordo) already gone and many other figures in the early comics blogosphere either dormant or enmeshed in other fields, Neilalien’s retirement leaves the scene nearly unrecognizable from what it once was. Major comics news sites, even corporately owned offshoots of major media conglomerates, have adopted the blog model (you’re looking at one such effort right now). And in today’s hit-obsessed climate, the idea that a site like Neilalien’s, blissfully unconcerned with anything that didn’t concern its creator, could have played a central role in the comics blogosphere is difficult to comprehend. That’s what makes his departure such a loss. And if nothing else, his passionately and frequently articulated conviction that there’s nothing wrong with Doctor Strange that smarter, better, more imaginative writing on the part of Marvel’s creators couldn’t cure will remain advice worth heeding, even if he’s no longer around to dole it out with the conclusion of each fresh Bendis New Avengers arc.
Vaya con Agamotto, my friend. I’ll miss you.
But wait, I can hear you saying now, that’s not Doctor Strange! Nope, that’s the promotional flyer from this past weekend’s Denver ComicFest by Scorpio Steele, featuring a really rockin’ Galactus. I saw it last week and meant to do a post about how awesome it was, but I somehow misplaced the link before doing so.
Luckily Super Punch did a post on it, as well as Steele’s really awesome — and not safe for work — Doctor Strange story, which he has posted over on ComicSpace. It’s a fun little story featuring an interdimensional romp (literally) between Strange and Clea and a mystery third participant who shows up at the wrong time. Again, it’s NSFW, so save it until you get home tonight.
The pseudonymous NeilAlien is a ruthlessly efficient linkblogger, an unfailingly cogent and provocative thinkblogger in his all-too-rare longer posts, and a tireless advocate for not just the (former, alas) Sorcerer Supreme, but for all the comics he loves and all the comics bloggers, critics and journalists whose work he appreciates. He invented what we do long before the idea of blogging about comics — hell, long before the idea of blogging — was even a twinkle in most of our eyes. Hail the Alien!
PS: Definitely check out Spurge’s salute to NeilAlien, a list of 21 things he likes about Doctor Strange.
So, Brother Voodoo dusted off his doctorate, hung it high above his name and became an Avenger of the Supernatural last October. While skeptical of how he went about it, I felt the first issue was fast, hard-hitting and looked ready for action. This was new! All new, one might say… maybe even all different. After a lot of hemming and hawwing, the House of Ideas was finally going to show us what it wanted from a Sorcerer Supreme, reinventing the man in their own image. If Stephen Strange didn’t do it for Editorial, let’s see who did.
Oh. It’s canceled at issue 5, you say? Hrm.
Personally, I thought the second issue wasn’t as good as the first. The dialogue sounded stilted, character voices started to blend together the longer you read it and… well, something was missing. A lot of ominous atmosphere, a fight with Doctor Doom is always cool, but the momentum of the narrative slowed down. This was not a good sign for the book and honestly, as creative a villain as Nightmare is, I know I was at least burnt out on him since Peter David’s Hulk story ‘Tempest Fugit’, oh way back when. Something was missing, the book sold poorly and Rick Remender will probably scoot Voodoo and Pals into his surprisingly entertaining and fun FrankenCastle story. He’d play better there and have a more specific set of goals herding giant monster terrors as well as helping out the undead Frank Castle (hey, voodoo!), more than is was with the ‘you’re going to get important, hang tight’ theme of his own book. I don’t see this is as fall for Jericho Drumm, more a return to his strengths.
But where does this leave Wong, the fate of our dimension and the Sanctum Sanctorum?
Well, the Sanctum Sanctorum will remain safe right above the Pinkberry (no, really!), but the setting of an old familiar story and the way it’s told isn’t as in jeopardy as you may think.
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Doctor Voodoo: Avenger of the Supernatural is yet another book to cash in on that ‘Avengers’ gold that does New, Mighty, the Initiative and Dark so well these days but it doesn’t really need it. Jericho Drumm doesn’t need a byline for being Sorcerer Supreme, the job title should be enough. I also don’t think he should be so quick to tack on his PhD. Sure, it’s in Psychology and that’s nothing to sneeze at, but that degree will do him jack all in the days to come.
Having been chosen specifically by the Ancient One for the power/responsibility gig of the century, Brother Voodoo (again, no offense to the Doctorate but Brother Voodoo is a much cooler moniker and his actual brother’s spirit is such an essential part of his character; besides, it’s not like anyone calls Speedball ‘Penance’…) has taken the role rather quickly and with little fanfare. He still wants to go back to his job at the clinic, he grabs whatever magics he can (even scary dark stuff) to patch up holes in the barriers between this world and the next and if Doctor Doom shows up, well he’ll add him to his To Do list. There’s no messing around in his first issue, no lingering doubts no fond retelling of his origin, it’s right to business.
It’s about time.