web stats

CSBG Archive

The Past Was Close Behind: Marvel’s 1993 Annual Characters Are Built to Last, Unlike Squirrel Girl

This feature spotlights moments, exchanges, etc. from older comics that take on a brand new light when read in concert with later comic books. Here is the archive of previous installments.

I’m going a bit out of the norm and instead featuring a particularly amusing (in retrospect) article from a 1993 Marvel Preview magazine discussing Marvel’s 1993 Annuals, which each introduced a brand-new Marvel character. In the article, Squirrel Girl is used as an example of a character who did NOT last….

In 1993, Marvel introduced one new character for each of the following 27 Annuals. The notable aspect was that the regular writers for each of the respective books created the characters introduced in the Annuals (with some exceptions, of course)…

For whatever reason, not many of these characters even lasted beyond their initial appearances in the annuals. A few notable ones stuck around for quite awhile, like the anti-hero X-Cutioner (a disgruntled FBI agent who decided to use weapons from old X-Men villains to become a vigilante) and Legacy, son of Captain Marvel, who is the only one of the characters created here to get his own ongoing title before being killed off seven years ago. Annex was the only other character to get ANY sort of title, as he had a mini-series in 1994. After going about ten years without being used, Annex showed up during Civil War and appeared in Avengers: Initiative on a recurring basis, likely making him the second-most successful character from the 1993 Annuals (if only because he actually had his own series). The half-alien/half-mutant Adam-X, the X-Treme, got a lot of initial attention because his creators, Fabian Nicieza and Tony Daniel, featured him prominently in X-Force during their run on that title, and then Nicieza used him in both X-Men and also his Captain Marvel series (starring fellow 1993 creation, Legacy). In fact, Adam-X is the most recent creation from the Annuals to actually appear in a Marvel comic book, showing up in Uncanny X-Men #542 in 2011 (after Uncanny writer Kieron Gillen had used Adam-X during his SWORD series, which was about aliens on Earth).

However, what makes me laugh in retrospect was the article that Evan Skolnick wrote about the Annuals in a Preview book Marvel did in 1993. Check out the article…

1993preview1

1993preview2

1993preview3

Specifically Gruenwald’s description of how Squirrel Girl is the type of character he does NOT want these 1993 Annual characters to be (which he gets to after first explaining why it was so important to him that the characters be created by regular Marvel writers):

[W]e wanted these characters to be incorporated into the Marvel Universe, and it was felt that, if it were the regular writers with writing assignments doing it, after they finally had a chance to put their pet idea into play, they wouldn’t be able to wait to incorporate it into the regular run of the series – as opposed to someone inventing Squirrel Girl, everyone laughing at it, and never being used again. And don’t quote me on Squirrel Girl, because I love Squirrel Girl, love Squirrel Girl, but it’s the sort of character…well, will it show up in Iron Man? I don’t think so. So while the creation of a Squirrel Girl–excellent character, by the way, excellent–would have satisfied the criteria of being new and premiering in an annual, I don’t know if we’ll ever see Squirrel Girl again. It’s another one of those, “Whoops, it’s accidentally an incidental creation that just makes our list longer and doesn’t really help the Marvel Universe.”

First off, as you can see, Gruenwald is being quite complimentary of Squirrel Girl. And secondly, obviously, at the time, Gruenwald was absolutely correct. No one had any plans to use Squirrel Girl. Here is an old Comic Book Legends Revealed about the creation of Squirrel Girl by Will Murray (with art by Steve Ditko for her first appearance). It was not until Dan Slott had her join the Great Lakes Avengers in 2005 that the character began to snowball in popularity…

Becoming a recurring cast member of Brian Michael Bendis’ New Avengers…

And now so popular that she will be a playable character in the upcoming Marvel Heroes online game…

squrrelgirl4

after being a playable character in Marvel Super Hero Squad: Comic Combat as well as Marvel Super Hero Squad Online….

In any event, the lesson is, I guess, you never know WHO the heck is going to become a fan favorite! Not even someone like Mark Gruenwald who knew more about comics than you and I ever will couldn’t predict it!

If you have a suggestion for some other hilarious in hindsight comic book related item, drop me a line at bcronin@comicbookresources.com!

63 Comments

[...] article about Marvel characters who were destined to fade away: The Past Was Close Behind: Marvel’s 1993 Annual Characters Are Built to Last, Unlike Squirrel … Boy, was he wrong about Squirrel Girl! __________________ Check out my sketch card blog: [...]

You better hide your nuts around Squirrel Girl.

I don’t care what anyone says, Squirrel Girl beat Dr. Doom, not a Doombot. Later writers screwed it up by taking it too far like beating Thanos or apparently having hooked up with Wolverine. Sometimes you have to know when to drop the joke and leave it alone. Not that I haven’t loved having her around again but it’s like trying to do the Aristocrats dirtier than Gilbert Gottfried. It’s not gonna happen and you’re just gonna look like a caveman trying to figure out a whoopi cushion when you screw it up.

Charles J. Baserap

April 27, 2013 at 6:30 am

X-Treme was used quite a few times, even for a while being the lead candidate for the official third Summers brother, and appeared during Utopia, the X-Men/Dark Avengers crossover. Battling Bantam I believe was killed off in Civil War

The problem with the Squirrel Girl beating the major baddies shtick is that in the original story the writer actually took the time to show how she did it. He really “earned” the joke. Current writers, going for the cheap laugh, just showed the aftermath of a fight and said “Look who Squirrel Girl beat this time haha.” It was cheap and unearned. A copout. That’s why the joke had such diminishing returns lately. I have no problem with the joke being kept alive but there should be a rule that if writers do it they sit down and figure out how she wins the fight and show it on panel. If they’re unable or unwilling to do so, they shouldn’t use the joke then.

Travis Stephens

April 27, 2013 at 6:56 am

The Tom DeFalco plan to destroy Marvel was in full effect by ’93 I see .I bought 0 of those annuals and switched to DC because even at my tender pre-teen age I knew they were crap.

Squirrel Girl is the ultimate proof that there are no lame characters, only lame writers!
Amen.

I bought all of these. I was that guy.

Ten years ago, I did a retrospective on these characters on the CBR message boards (don’t go looking for the thread, it’s long gone). During that thread, I noted that quite a few of these characters never showed up again. Which cannot be said for Squirrel Girl.

Laurence J Sinclair

April 27, 2013 at 7:56 am

Yikes, how many of those names try to replace the letter ‘c’ with a ‘k’ to be more edgy?

Yeah, but Bloodwraith was awesome. If they make a Black Knight movie, I still think he should be the villain.

Travis, why would you swear off Marvel and go to DC when they did the exact same thing with their Bloodlines Annuals the year before(or after)?

I seemed to get the impression at the time that Marvel and DC were trying to jump on the ‘new character’ bandwagon after Dark Horse’s and Malibu’s response to the Image-verse was to create their own Super Hero Universes with CGW and Ultraverse respectively. The entire industry was silly with new characters for awhile there.

At least DC Bloodlines gave us Hitman. Frankly, I’m amazed that Hit-Maker didn’t get his own book, his costume with the H and M shoulder pads is just amazing, and could have been a great finger on the moment with being an ersatz Puff Daddy.

Travis Stephens

April 27, 2013 at 9:06 am

Mainly because DC had done the same thing with Bloodlines. Not that Marvel hadn’t swiped from DC and vice versa. Marvel- besides some of the X-titles- had thrown in the towel after the defections to Image and Dark Horse. DC at least had the Death of Superman/Reign of the Superman axis going on. Compare that to DeFalco’s Thor or FF at the time.

I love that “And don’t quote me on Squirrel Girl” is made into the pull quote, with pictures of Squirrel Girl all over the page. It’s funny because it’s exactly the opposite of what you do when someone says “don’t quote me on that.” Of course, this is in a Marvel house rag rather than actual journalism, so surely if Gruenwald didn’t actually want to be quoted, he could have just taken it out.

I have heard of exactly one of these characters (X-Cutioner) and never read a comic with him or even understood fully what his deal was. He had… a song? Did he sing?

The Thanos joke in GL[A/X] was hilarious less because it was a continuation of the “Squirrel Girl beats everyone” joke and more as a dig at Starlin and the constant policing of Thanos appearances.

I’m confused by Travis Stephens’s comments. Travis, are you saying that Death of Superman/Reign of Supermen was good?

Oh, and just to state the obvious, it is indeed pretty hilarious that they made such a big deal about introducing this bold new wave of halfassed characters. I mean, the Tracer? Really? That was the best they could think of for a name? I actually laughed out loud when I scrolled down to the Battling Bantam.

They’re almost as bad as the first wave of new characters created for the New 52.

I have no idea who that is in the Ghost Rider annual, but that’s a pretty good character design for the time period.

The X-Cutioner’s Song storyline actually has nothing to do with the X-Cutioner, and predates his creation by a couple months.

Is the lady from the Namor annual really called just “the Assassin”?

Wow.

It shows that creating a character which can last is not that easy.
For it to work you need vision and inspiration.
(or someone else with those qualities to re-invent the character)
The character should be unique and memorable – not generic and forgettable.

Travis Stephens

April 27, 2013 at 10:58 am

Mark
Compared to what Marvel was putting out at the time DOS/ROTS was not bad. This was another one of those “throw some crap out and hope we get lucky” stunts. And Marvel was serious about this being the introduction of their 90′s/next era characters.

I can’t even begin to imagine how bad the other characters must have been for Annex to be the winner of the bunch.

Mark Black: “Travis, are you saying that Death of Superman/Reign of Supermen was good?”

It was as good as Watchmen… at least in comparison to its closest equivalent at Marvel, Spider-man’s Clone Saga…

Snark aside, I enjoyed the Death of Superman quite a bit. It might be plartly nostalgia, since that was the story that turned me into a comic book collector, but I thinl that, while not perfect, it was pretty solid and enjoyable (epecially all the stuff that happened after the death -world without, reign…)

I don’t really think Marvel was serious about this endeavour. I think it was a gimmick in an effort to sell what essentially amounted to extra long fill-in issues and one shots.

Goes to show how crap the New Characters War turned out for DC and Marvel. Are any of the characters from those Marvel annuals and “Bloodlines” still active? I’m guessing Tommy Monaghan would’ve come back with the nu52 reboot, but apparently DC Comics do not want to screw with Garth Ennis. Oh, they’ll fuck with Alan Moore’s legacy, but the editors have read enough Preacher, Hitman and Adventures In The Rifle Brigade to know not to fuck with Ennis.

I bought a number of these annuals when they came out. Some of the new characters were good, some were pretty bad, and some were merely average. The one character who I did really want to see again but who, as far as I know, never popped up again, was the Face Thief from Iron Man Annual #14. He was this really creepy, sinister demonic villain who took on other people’s forms by actually ripping their faces off and wearing them on top of his own.

Jason: it does depend on what kind of contract they have with Ennis. In the late 1980s and into the 1990s, DC signed some very generous contracts with creators, so maybe the contract with Ennis was just much more favorable to him than the ones they signed a few years earlier with Moore. That’s one reason why Robinson’s Starman hasn’t returned in any capacity.

Brian mentions a few who turned up again, and blood Wraith managed to show up a few more times, once in a story in the Harras/Epting Avengers and again in an issue of Avengers Unplugged. It helps that he wasn’t an entirely new character, having started out as the Black Knight’s squire, Sean Dolan, back in the Roy Thomas limited series where the medieval Knight took over the modern one’s body.

He was last seen in Avengers v.3 #36-7, wherein the Ebony Blade causes him to absorb the vengeful souls of Slorenia, the country Ultron slaughtered, and grow to gigantic size. The Scarlet Witch managed to seal him within the borders of the dead nation, and he got a cameo a few issues later showing that the Avengers hadn’t figured out how to power him down.

Given that no one can keep the Ebony Blade’s chronology straight, it’s no surprise we haven’t seen him back lately. I wonder if he would have turned up in Paul Cornell’s MI13 series had that book lasted.

Creating a hot character is like writing a catch phrase or . . . getting superpowers. It’s something that rarely happens on purpose. You’re just going along and somehow manage to catch lightning in a bottle.

As for the Squirrel Girl thing, it seems no one knows what kind of characters from the past can turn out to be a big deal in the future. Lets use Starlord for example. If you had told me back in ’93/’94 when I started reading comics that Starlord would be the major space hero in the Marvel Universe, I would have said “Who’s Starlord?”. Now, it doesn’t seem so odd.

Yeah, it’s crazy to me that Star-Lord became a big thing. I really got into comics in the late 1970s, and I remember him very well from my childhood, but he was never part of the Marvel Universe at all back then. Or at least there was no indication that he was part of the same continuity as everybody/anybody else until much, much later.

But this was when every writer was saving their ‘good ideas’ for characters because Marvel wouldn’t give them a cut of the pie if the character was a success, wasn’t it?

But, if you look at all the super villains who have been created over the years, probably the success rate so far as creating characters that anyone would cross the street to read has to be very low for any era, not just the nineties. Also, I think Squirrel Girl is being used because she was created at the time when many current writers were first reading comics, although I really don’t know what years Dan Slott was reading comics, so I could be way off base. But it is possible that (if comics survives as a medium at all) that when we get to creators who started reading comics in the 90s that more of these characters could be brought back. It is possible that some of them stirred the imagination of a reader back then who has been planning on how to use that character ever since.

Or maybe they just all kind of suck, who knows.

That was definitely a factor, phred, the fact that Image Comics had just recently debuted, making it seem kind of silly to give Marvel a good character. Marvel, though, at least began giving creators a cut of their creations by this time.

if nothing else Squirrel girl shows that marvel creators can have fun adding to the mu. plus the fact that for a character that sounds like a joke she has held her own when she shows up including beating doctor doom. for she has proven to have last contrary for what marvel though back then about her.

Ha! Good times.

And nearly 20 years later, I was interviewed for an online article providing a much more detailed and honest look at these annuals and how they came to be…

http://multiversitycomics.com/interviews/multiversity-comics-presents-return-of-the-1993-marvel-annuals/

Interesting stuff, Evan. Thanks for posting a link. And I actually thought that Excalibur Annual of yours was pretty good.

phred is correct. Marvels freelancers weren’t going to create interesting new characters at this point in time for the reasons he pointed out. I always suspected the writers and/or artists intentionally sandbagged this.

I thought Empyrean (Adjectiveless X-Men annual #2) was a decent character, and it was a pretty good story — but admittedly I’m a big Pyro fan and that issue handled him well. Still, I look back fondly on that story.

The Cadre (from the Web of Spider-Man Annual) also appeared in the final few issues of Terry Kavanagh’s Marc Spector: Moon Knight (drawn by Stephen Platt) and as a feature in Marvel Comics Presents.

Nocturne (from the Spectacular Spider-Man Annual) was featured in Amazing Spider-Man #395 and Spectacular #218.

The Devourer (Daredevil Annual) reappeared in Daredevil #336-337 and was featured on the cover of 336.

Tracer (Deathlok Annual) had one more appearance in Spectacular Spider-Man #211.

So many dead trees…

@armlessphelan The GR villain is Night Terror. He apparently popped up years later in a Blade series.

Also, I seem to remember Kyllian popping up in some Doctor Strange stuff later on in the 90s too. I think he had a new appearance and name and was teamed with Modred at the time.

Phred, the New Character Agreements were being offered to creators of original characters at this time at Marvel, so there was financial incentive to offer up new intellectual property. It doesn’t mean some writers weren’t still holding their best ideas for something else down the road (creator-owned, etc.) but there was definitely an incentive program in place.

Ben, thanks for the kind words! Glad to hear you enjoyed the Excalibur Annual I wrote, though to be honest I’m much more proud of the Deathlok Annual. If you can find it, check it out. :-)

I love the fact that in basically every new variation of Squirrel Girl artists make her hotter and hotter. Because you can’t be a woman in a superhero comic and not be smokin’ hot. I don’t even want to venture to learn what sort of fan art and fan fiction of her is out there.

Love Squirrel-Girl!
Wasn’t Adam-X being built up to be the third Summers brother?

Are there any other issues out there with Squirrel Girl on the cover? Because I could totally go some more Squirrel covers.

“I actually laughed out loud when I scrolled down to the Battling Bantam.”

I’m pretty sure that Bantam made at least one further appearance after this annual, making him among the most successful.

“I’m guessing Tommy Monaghan would’ve come back with the nu52 reboot, but apparently DC Comics do not want to screw with Garth Ennis.”

Hitman wasn’t even popular when it was around. They kept publishing it to keep Ennis happy with ‘Preacher’. As soon as ‘Preacher’ ended, DC said to him, “So, how many more issues would keep you happy?” and Ennis asked for a year (or so) and they gave it to him, but even so you can tell when you read it that he sped through the plot-based storylines he had to get through (ie: origins/deaths) and skipped any random one-off stories like the Dinosaur one. They wouldn’t bring it back. They barely published Ennis’s final Hitman story, two or three years after it was announced as part of “JLA: Classified”.

The thing I’ll give credit for on this 1993 Annual thing… you didn’t have to buy three other annuals (like the preceding years) or 12 other annuals (Atlantis Attacks / Evolutionary War), or however many annuals Bloodlines was. Each story was self-contained [shut up, New Warriors fans with great memories]. For an event, that’s actually a very positive step.

John Klein III

April 29, 2013 at 3:22 pm

I love reading articles about the Marvel 1993 Annuals. This is like the fifth one and I love them all.

I will say, that “X-Cutioner” comic was actually not bad. I seem to remember it having decent art and involving Mastermind, who I always dug.

But even then (I would have been ten at the time), I remember thinking “What a stupid name. Didn’t they just do a big story with the same name that had NOTHING to do with this guy?” I mean, fuck. Couldn’t they have just called him the Executioner?

The_Livewire

May 2, 2013 at 3:01 pm

X-factor wasn’t really on that list though.

Through the book, we’d seen the various Chalker brothers kill themselves in increasingly embaressing ways (One went out in uninsulated power armor and was electricuted when it rained. Another cut off his hands and replaced them with fan blades. “Number One Fan” killed himself when he slapped his forehead after he realized he needed his fingers to push the buttons to his door. A third was the cause of his brothers’ hatred of mutants because he was the mutant ‘Carnisaur’ and got rna over by a truck…)

In the annual, some badguy calls all of them up from the dead as “X-factor’s greatest foes!” To which X-factor said “Who?”

Wildstreak from the FF annual did make one more appearance. She popped up during the civil war. You saw her getting ready to be shipped of to the negative zone prison. Someone interferes though and she escapes.

Anyone know what the heck happened to Slapstick?

I want a crossover between this lot and the Bloodlines creations. And Hit Maker’s costume is awfully good.

Livewire: Vic Chalker (and brothers) was PAD’s strawman obssessed, comic fan from his CBG column., just fyi.

Blood Wraith is indeed one of the coolest characters in the mix.
Although, it STILL irks me that he killed Victoria Bentley (accidentally) and sucked her soul into the Ebony Blade.
Victoria is a character from Doctor Strange mythos who appeared in his 3rd appearance (Strange Tales # 114), so to be so unceremoniously forgotten is a crime.

Anyway, as for Doctor Strange’s Annual character; Kyllian – he was a regular character in Doc’s title for qute a while, serving as Doc’s hot-headed apprentice, until he was seemingly “abandoned” by Strange (who got sucked into a whole big side-adventure with the Midnight Sons) and so Kyllian went under the wing of Modred, turning evil in the process.

By now, Kyllian changed his name and his appearance (he was now a black-skinned demonic look with glowing red markings where his mystical tattoos once were) and continued to drop into Strange’s title now and again during the whole “Midnight Sons” era.

His most recent appearance was in a few issues of “Fear Itself: The Fearless” maxi-series, where a bunch of mystic baddies are followers of Sin, and Doctor Strange once again defeated him in battle.

So, he turned out to be not TOO bad of a character.
Just not a very GOOD one.

~P~

If you want improbable success, I would never have guessed as a kid in the Silver Age that Green Arrow would be a supporting character in one live-action TV show and then get his own.

I don’t see Squirrel Girl lasting any longer than, say, Deadpool. He’s just too silly and over-powered. A flash in the pan. I’ll be surprised if we see him again after New Mutants 98.

Around this time, DC was doing the same thing with debuting the “New Bloods” in their Annuals as part of the “Bloodlines” crossover. Much like Marvel’s debut characters of 1993, most of them were forgotten, a few got their own series that barely lasted a year (Gunfire, Anima, Argus), and only one had a series that ran for 5 years (Hitman). Also, paralleling how Marvel used Civil War to kill off all these forgotten characters, DC practically blew up all the New Bloods at once at the end of Infinite Crisis.

“Eradikation”? Seriously?

I think I would now like to write a book where all these characters came back. I actually kinda liked Khaos.

[...] fascinated by how some characters succeed while others fail. Here’s a look at Marvel’s push for a wave of new heroes back in 1993, all of them with Long Term Potential unlike the recently [...]

Leave a Comment

 

Categories

Review Copies

Comics Should Be Good accepts review copies. Anything sent to us will (for better or for worse) end up reviewed on the blog. See where to send the review copies.

Browse the Archives