Axel-In-Charge: Facing the 'Divided' Marvel NOW! Future
In the next few days it will not only be Thanksgiving but also my birthday, so I’ve decided to create my own unconventional creator/superhero wishlist. On previous Thanksgivings I have asked diverse comic book creators about what they’re thankful for and discussed my own gratitude for comics, but this year I’m taking a different direction and writing about what I’d like to see.
These are my fantasy teams and it is a very unlikely and impractical wishlist. These are my own personal ideas about who I believe could enrich and transform the superheroes that I’d like to see them work on. I’m sure some of you have got your own ideas about this, and I’d love to hear them, so please add your own wishlists in the comments here.
Smallville and Young Superman
Dan Clowes, art and writing.
The offbeat, out-of-continuity, one-shot stories about established superheroes are gold to me. I think that they do a fantastic job of enriching the general world of the character and in recent years I’ve read some great takes on Superman. What I’d like to see is a similar look at Smallville and Superman‘s youth. It could be an addendum to a major story (e.g. one of those things where you get to see his own journey after some major battle.)
While Clowes work always has a surreal, disturbing edge, there is often a background of small town life in his stories. With affection and care he describes communities of people living and working in a kind of uneasy harmony. Beyond the stories of the townfolk there is always a strange threat of some unspoken secret, just as for Smallville there is are secrets to tell. Whether it is the burgeoning sexuality of Ghost World or the dark mysteries of Like a Velvet Glove Cast in Iron, something hangs over the populace in Clowes stories. My opinion on Clowes suitability for this project was cemented by issues 22 (also published as Ice Haven) and 23 of his comic: Eightball. Taking the townsfolk of Ice Haven and combining them with the young boy’s character’s comic/hero-obsession of #23 basically provides the raw ingredients of a truly offbeat take on the young Superman growing up in Smallville and I’d love to read the end result of that recipe.
New Teen Titans
JH Williams writing. Cory Walker, art.
Teen Titans is a team that I (predictably) loved when I was little, but rarely read now. Back when George Perez and Marv Wolfman were doing their strange thing on New Teen Titans, I was an avid fan and I would very much like to see J.H. Williams and Cory Walker do something odd with this book again.
Williams doesn’t do a ton of writing, but I think he could and it would be a lot of fun to read. He’s got a very strange mind and a very interesting approach to symbolism and story telling that I think a diverse team like the Titans could benefit from. On Batman: Snow Williams and Fisher created a dysfunctional, disturbed little team who only just had time to find their feet. It reminded me a little bit of Andy Helfer’s depiction of The Shadow‘s team in the ’80’s, but with slightly more cohesion. I’d like to see this style of writing taken to an ongoing Teen Titans comic book. Cory Walker’s qualifications are impeccable and frankly I don’t understand why he isn’t doing a ton of work. He would be ideal for this project, with his existing work on Invincible showing that he can easily draw a compelling young, diverse team in all kinds of situations, not to mention the incredible range he demonstrated in Destroyer, from epic, wild, violent action scenes to intimate, character-driven scenes. His lovely, fluid line would complement J.H. Williams organic, poetic writing.
Since both creators seem to like to take their time and I am more than willing to wait for quality work, this could either be a bi-monthly comic, or perhaps a series of larger quarterly books consisting of single stories that work in isolation as well as part of a whole. I would like it to be ongoing though, perhaps initially it could be a limited run, just to try out the project, test the waters. I can easily see it being fun to read for a very broad age range and maybe fun to work on for the creators too; I’ve met both of them and they strike me as really nice guys who share a love of the medium and the capacity for storytelling. I’d like to see how J.H. Williams would treat the characters and I’m sure that Cory Walker could give me some captivating, epic space battles, all while having the finesse to show the marvelous interactions that Williams would inevitably write.
Chris Ware, art and writing.
This might sound strange, because the successful Spider-Man we see is pretty flashy and confident. But his confidence is always a mask, his wise-cracking a cover for his insecurities. Similarly, Chris Ware often creates characters like Rusty and Jimmy Corrigan are often shown alone, filled with self-doubt and failings. This is a side of Peter Parker which has often been examined a slightly juvenile way and the character deserves a more respectful look at his other side and how it affects his work.
Chris Ware’s ability to create funny, tragic, self-critical characters could be a perfect fit for Spider-Man. I’d love to see him take the character for a specific story, maybe a short 6-12 issue run, or maybe even a single volume released all at once in the vein of his more comprehensive Acme Novelty Library. With all of the time changes that has went on with Spider-Man when he gave up his past, he’s missing a little je ne sais quoi for me right now. I’d like to see Chris Ware take him inside of himself a little more, watch the snappy comebacks and then read the thoughts that would accompany those moments. I want a chance to see the man behind the mask again, and this time with the quirky gravitas that Ware could give him.
Mark Waid, writing. Amanda Conner, art.
Wonder Woman needs help, this is clear. Apparently JMS tried to do his thing but pulled out half way through, leaving no one happy. Many people have tried, but for me the character has rarely had the consistent appeal that she does outside of her own comic book. As one of the most recognizable and iconic comic book characters in the western world, Wonder Woman is perversely a very poorly read book. It is time to take her back to her roots, to remember the kind of Amazon goddess she was created to be when Marston originally created her to make a healthier, happier readership. I envision this project as an ongoing one and I’d like to see my team work on Wonder Woman for at least a year, signing on with a commitment to the character and her world.
From the brief glimpses we’ve had of Waid’s depiction of Wonder Woman in Kingdom Come and JLA, it is blatantly clear that he can write the hell out of this powerful, beautiful woman, giving her the grace and desire she so badly needs without sullying her name in anyway. Waid’s use of Wonder Woman in Kingdom Come is so varied; We see her as the healer, bringing Superman back to work, as the diplomat seeking peace, as the warrior forced to clean up, and even as a mother and lover. If he can do this in such a short series, imagine what he could bring to the character over a year. It is time to allow a writer with some love and respect for Wonder Woman to do the job of writing her in the way she deserves to be written.
There are a two artists that I’d like to see work with Wonder Woman: I want J.H. Williams to create covers and Amanda Conner to do interiors. Williams has crafted the most evocative and atmospheric covers ever seen on books like Promethea and Batwoman and I would like him to give the same attention and love to Wonder Woman. She deserves it. Internally, although I love J.H. Williams art, I crave a more assertive, pop-art, brash style of work. Amanda Conner has repeatedly shown that she can draw a huge variety of sexy, beautiful, strong women. When she drew Supergirl in Wednesday Comics, she created a truly youthful, pretty, determined, playful character. Her treatment of Powergirl was similarly unexpected, giving her a weight and physical substance that I’ve never experienced in the character, bold and sassy. Two entirely different female characters, teen and adult, small and large, but both sexy, both great fighters. I’ve seen myriad female characters drawn by Conner and no matter what their type, she can make them look damn good and create some truly dynamic action scenes. Amanda Conner can handle the job and more importantly, when I’ve seen her Wonder Woman drawings, she doesn’t just look strong, beautiful, confident and happy, she also looks kind. Her beauty isn’t some cold, austere thing, her Goddess-like quality is warm and inviting, just as I imagine I would feel in the presence of a loving goddess.
Gilbert Hernandez, art and writing.
For me, Catwoman hasn’t been crazy enough for a while, and if anyone can bring the crazy these days, it’s Beto. She needs a nice little 4-6 issue run, something thick and heavy with that lovely mat coating on the cover that makes them feel like rubber. I was going to suggest his brother Jaime for this job, but that was mostly because I desperately wanted to see him draw that feline cat burgler…
The thing is though, as much as I want to see that, her character needs a little of Gilbert’s wild freakiness right now, a little trip into some strange place. Beto could do a wild short series or one shot, something that took her to someplace she hadn’t been before. I’m tired of the whole “not-so-naughty Selena is pissing of the mob” stuff. Let’s see her do something else, something deeply unexpected. Even when he does use organized-crime references in his work, it’s all creepy and ominous, never simple or clear-cut. I want to see Catwoman peering anxiously around corners with those long shadows and creepy nights that Beto can draw and use so well in his stories. If the entire opus of Luba and her family isn’t proof enough that he can handle this, there’s bizarre early work like Errata Stigmata and his writing on the Return of Mr X to show his odd obsessions and interests.
Grant Morrison, writing. Jamie McKelvie, art.
Ever since J.M. DeMatteis and Seth Fisher’s Will World, I’ve been obsessed with the imagination and strength of will that it takes to be a Green Lantern. Combine that with the eeriness of spending years trapped inside your own ring, floating in space, as Hal Jordan did before Green Lantern: Rebirth, and I think we’ve got some serious surreal potential in this superhero.
Grant Morrison might be many things, but primarily he is a surrealist. Broad, experimental books like the Invisibles show his love of psychedelic, experimentation in comic books, while every other thing he does pushes at the boundaries of the expected and the acceptable. Who else do you think of when you want uber-surrealism but Morrison? He needs to work on the Green Lantern franchise, in any way possible, ongoing, monthly, weekly, yearly, whatever. I just want to read it. Having said that, it would have to be with a very solid artist. I want someone who can balance the potentially ungrounded nature of Morrison’s take on Green Lantern.
In books like Suburban Glamor and Phonogram McKelvie hints at worlds with more than the norm. He has proven his ability to precisely and imaginatively draw a diverse range of characters, situations and environments. Comfortable mixing magic and mundane, he imbues every frame with humanity, always hinting at an inner life and evolution. I’d like to see him work with Morrison on a Green Lantern comic book which really speaks to the qualities this hero has had to foster in order to be bizarrely creative when battling violence and mayhem. What kind of person can live this way, and how does it evolve the character?
There are so many artists and writers who I would like to see take superheroes against type, but there is only so much time that I can ask of you reading this (and this is already twice as long as I usually ramble, so thank you for bearing with me.) As I said above, it’s the time of year to ask for the impossible, so I’d love to hear your thoughts on the most unlikely (and desirable) combinations of creators and characters you can come up with. In the meantime, have a very happy Thanksgiving.
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