O Say Can You See: The Greatest Patriotic Super Heroes of All-Time
This is the sixty-seventh in a series of examinations of comic book urban legends and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of the previous sixty-six.
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Grant Morrison and Mark Millar had a pitch for a revamp of Marvel’s 2099 line of comics.
As has been the case for most of comic book history, if you want to try something really new and different, the best place to try said ideas is in a low-priority comic book, because people won’t be as upset with the changes.
Note how much freedom Warren Ellis had with his storyline in Doom 2099 where he basically had Doom take over the United States, affecting all 2099 titles, causing them to be titled “A.D.,” After Doom.
Well, thanks to a poster on the Millarworld boards, MikeLun, who linked to an old column Scott Braden did for Overstreet, we can see how Grant Morrison and Mark Millar were ALSO willing to try to take advantage of the 2099 Universe.
Braden explains how Marvel asked Morrison and Millar to pitch something, so they figured something involving the 2099 Universe would be cool, so they figured out a storyline (circa 1994) titled Apocalypse.
Braden quotes Morrison, on the background of their two new additions to the 2099 Universe:
“Marvel heroes (in the past) were always characterized by their less-than-super alter-egos,” Millar wrote in his and Morrison’s proposal to Marvel. “We had the lame Donald Blake, the puny Peter Parker, the blind Matt Murdock and so on. This is what made these secret identities so much more interesting than their counterparts at other companies.”
With that in mind, Morrison and Millar were going to start Apocalypse off with a BANG–launching two new titles; Captain America 2099, a series detailing a broken man’s transformation into the new Sentinel of Liberty, and Iron Man 2099, the ongoing adventures of 2099’s Armored Avenger.
“Our Iron Man was completely spastic power-wise,” Morrison laughed. “We dreamed him up as the most fantastic scientific mind on Earth who had created this wonderful war suit. Imagine, when he’s in the war suit, when he’s Iron Man, he can do anything. He can change shape, become intangible, travel through space…anything. But the minute something happens to that suit, he’s just a guy whose body is completely worthless.”
“I wanted to base him on the British scientist and writer, Stephen Hawking,” Millar added, “a man with a super-brain trapped inside the body of a disfigured invalid. A handicapped superhero would seem genuinely fresh in an industry still cluttered with successful yuppie super-people.”
Another twist they wanted to add was that their Iron Man, although working for Stark Industries, would not be Stark himself.
“Iron Man wouldn’t remove the helmet until the fifth issue,” Millar admitted, “when he finally would reveal his true identity to the book’s love interest. She, with the reader, would suspect it’s Stark, and becomes disgusted when she finds out it’s instead this poor, disfigured man. Stark, on the other hand, would’ve probably been a major villain.”
Like their Iron Man, Morrison and Millar’s Captain America 2099 was also a tragic hero. Unlike the chemically-enhanced Steve Rogers, he was a very human war veteran who, after fighting a war over a certain resurfaced undersea kingdom (a conflict Morrison compared to America’s war with Vietnam), came home to search for the “American Dream.”
“We had Atlantis rise up from the ocean floor,” Morrison explained. “All the Atlanteans, except Namor, are dead because of pollutants from the surface world, so it’s now just this mysterious jungle world covered with weird ruins that were built thousands of years ago. And with Atlantis re-surfaced, both America and some unnamed Eastern super-state try to claim it as their own, resulting in this terrible, messed-up war.
“Our Captain America was a Marine who fought in that war, and now his life is completely shattered. He fought the war thinking that (the legendary) Captain America would come back to save them. But with no sign of Cap, and with America losing, he’s lost everything. His mind’s gone and he has nothing left to believe in. He doesn’t believe in America. He doesn’t believe in anything.”
They were then going to have their unlikely hero find a menial job as a janitor for Stark Industries, obsessing over Captain America’s absence. Not understanding why Captain America hasn’t come back in what he perceives to be “the hour of his country’s greatest need,” he sets out (to the amusement of his fellow employees) to either find the Living Legend, or become one.
“The guy decides that he wants to be Captain America,” Millar revealed, “so he goes to the bombed out ruins of Avengers Mansion, and digs up Captain America’s corpse. There he finds Captain America with the costume still on him, still holding the shield….”
“And like Arthur finding Excalibur,” Morrison added, “he just pulls out the shield (from Cap’s skeletal hands), holds it up, and that’s it. Suddenly, he thinks, ‘I’m going to be the dream.’ Even with his mind shattered and his confidence completely gone, he sets out to become Captain America and suddenly finds the dream again.”
Millar continued, “The important thing was that our Captain America was someone who perpetuated the ‘American Dream,’ as well as inspired the same in others.”
They then planned to tie in the Martian invasion from Killraven into 2099 continuity, even making Ravage a descendant of Killraven!
Braden quotes them on the description of how the story would tie in, and another Marvel hero they would have worked in:
“Our idea was that the Killraven stories had actually happened, but Earth somehow got itself back together. It’s now one hundred years later, and the Martians are attacking again, meaning that all the superheroes were going to have to deal with them, obviously. Or rather, a group of superheroes.”
Morrison and Millar were going to have Cap, Iron Man, as well as other 2099 heroes join forces in an attempt to drive off the Martian Invasion. As Avengers, they were going to be all that stood between conquest by the Martians and freedom. At the same time this was going on, readers would also have learned that some former Avengers are still alive and well in the “World of Tomorrow”…sort of.
“Giant-Man is around,” Morrison said, “although he’s been comatose for over one hundred years. He’s reached this huge size, and he just stands with his feet straight in the Hudson River. He’s just this huge monolith. I mean, kids paint slogans on his feet and stuff. He’s just been there forever. His heart beats once a day, and it resounds through the gates and ships; it makes the Earth shake.”
The next plot would have involved Galactus, with the heroes of Earth being basically screwed against the combined attack of the Martians and Galactus.
Braden recaps Morrison’s take on the story:
Cap even tries to rouse the man-mountain that was Giant-Man, but to no avail.
“Captain America gives an impassioned plea at the feet of this mighty Goliath,” Millar said, “but Giant-Man just stares out into space, hearing and feeling nothing. He’s beyond the cares of humanity, lost in the lonely worlds of gods.”
Though they fight on valiantly, the overwhelming numbers of Martians teamed with Galactus’ sheer power prove too much for the new Avengers. But though they’re down, they’re definitely not out.
“The team has been beaten down, and all the heroes are just lying there bloodied and battered,” Morrison said. “All of a sudden, Captain America gets up and starts rallying everybody. He holds up his shield and cries out, ‘AVENGERS ASSEMBLE!'”
Affecting all around him, Captain America’s call-to-arms even wakes the sleeping giant that was Henry Pym. After a century of near-slumber, Giant-Man’s eyes open as if to meet his destiny. Morrison and Millar then cut back to Cap and a nearly defeated Avengers, fighting with their last ounce of strength, when suddenly they realize that a man-god once again walks the Earth.
“From off panel, we hear the sound of thunder,” Millar said, “enormous footsteps getting closer and closer. Captain America and the others look up, wiping the blood from their eyes and hope radiates from their faces. The reader turns the page and we have a big, double-page spread where a two-hundred foot Giant-Man stands before a two-hundred foot Galactus, ready to fight.”
“He then just walks over and decks Galactus,” Morrison laughed.
With Giant-Man knocking Galactus on his ass, the Avengers were given some precious time, no matter how limited, to think. How were they going to win this?
“Galactus needs a world to eat,” Millar said, “and Earth’s involved in a war against an aggressive alien force. Their solution is to give Galactus Mars.”
With the newer, tougher Avengers offering Galactus alien worlds for lunch, the only question that remained was why should he take them up on their offer? Morrison explained, “Galactus is not a bad guy. The heroes go up to him and say, ‘you can’t do this to us, but why not them?!!’ And he says, ‘Okay, I’ll spare you, but you have to give me something in return.’ So he goes and leaches the energy of Mars, destroying all the Martians in the process. Then he just goes on his way forever.”
This big mini-series would lead into an Avengers 2099 ongoing series that Morrison and Millar would have co-written, but it was never to be.
Pretty darn cool, though, no?
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