If I Ran Marvel, part two: Amazing Spider-Man through Deadpool
By Michael David Sims
25 October 2006 Thanks to an article by Mark Millar, last week I decided to buy Marvel Entertainment and inject my vast creative input. Or I would if I had, like, a billion dollars. Since I can barely afford to pay my bills, I can only use my platform here to speculate as to what I would do if I found a cold, hard billion laying around. In the first part of this article I took a look at Marvel's various imprints; today I'm retooling everything from Amazing Spider-Man through Deadpool. But first, some rules:
01. All books are monthly, unless otherwise noted.
02. Creators will be given a 12-month head start.
03. No writer can author more than four monthly comics at a time.*
04. No artist can illustrate more than one monthly and one mini at a time.*
05. No one will write and / or draw a comic they're currently working on.*
06. Exclusive contracts are void.
07. With but very few exceptions, no character can have more than one title.
* Creator-owned work excluded.
Writer: Jimmy Palmiotti & Justin Gray
Artist: Amanda Conner
Since August of 2004, every Amazing Spider-Man storyline has either tied into something much larger (i.e. Civil War, "The Other") or has been at least four issues in length. Sometimes longer storylines work for the character, but mostly Spidey's tales should be quick, two- or three-part adventures. They can tie into a greater whole, such as three four-part stories comprising a yearlong event, but each piece should feel like its own complete, satisfying story. That's where the writing team of Palmiotti and Gray come in. They're body of work clearly demonstrates their ability to script everything from single-issue stories to three-part tales to six-issue "for the trade" storylines. It's also quite common to find high action and humor in many of their books, something Spider-Man is known for. Amanda Conner's pencils are often quirky and bring a true sense of fun, yet there's plenty of depth and emotion to her work. (Plus, just imagine her drawing Mary Jane.)
Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
Artist: Jim Cheung
Joss Whedon brought an outside fanbase to Astonishing X-Men, signaling a change in X-readership. He also brought a deep respect for X-Men lore and the female characters. Upon Whedon's exit, a writer of equal ability, one who can also retain the audience Joss brought with him, must step into those mighty big shoes. An understanding that Astonishing is more about the characters and drama than the action is also needed. Brian K. Vaughan understands and displays this each month in his critically acclaimed comics Y: The Last Man and Runaways, and it would be no different in Astonishing. Jim Cheung might at first seem like an odd choice and better suited for the action-packed Uncanny X-Men, but he's no stranger to slow, soft moments and progressing the story through subtle expressions and gestures.
Writer: Kurt Busiek
Artist: George Pιrez
It might seem a little too easy to put this all-star team back together, but they're the best men for the job. Period. They bring so much to the table: iconic imagery, stories which respect the past but also move the characters forward, dynamic action and dramatic character moments. With this team, it's all there.
Black Panther & Storm
Writer: Christopher Priest
Artist: Rick Leonardi
Black Panther, both the comic and character, would be nowhere today if it weren't for the skilled hand of Christopher Priest. He took a B-list Avenger and made him a viable commodity and much loved character. Since then Panther has floundered creatively, but Priest could have him back on top within one issue. He'd also make sure Ororo was presented as T'Challa's equal, his queen not his subject. Most of you are mulling, "Rick who?" The rest of you are nodding, "There's a name from the past!" No matter which camp you fall into, the man's influence and talent are undeniable. Leonardi's lines might seem rough at first, but further inspection reveals a deep understanding of human anatomy and composition. Black Panther & Storm needs to exist in a real world that just so happens to be filled with costumed despots, human-hating aliens and superpowered mutants. Priest and Leonardi would not be outdone.
Black Widow / Elektra: Endgame
Writer: Greg Rucka
Artist: Alex Maleev
Six-issue limited series
Elektra has been hired by an unknown benefactor to assassinate the leader of a nation on the verge of creating its first nuclear weapon, and Black Widow has been ordered to stop her at all costs. By the end, one will die and the survivor will never be the same. That type of story has Greg Rucka's name written all over it! (It helps that he's written several Black Widow minis, 16 issues of Elektra and is the current writer on the internationally / politically themed Checkmate.) Dark and gritty action, yet sexy and character driven you say? That's Alex Maleev, who famously drew the sexiest Black Widow ever in Daredevil #61-64.
Writer: Mark Millar
Artist: Kilian Plunkett
In my estimation, only three writers have truly captured the essence of Captain America in the last decade: Mark Waid, Mark Millar and Ed Brubaker. Whereas many writers see Cap as an American beckon, toeing the government line, these men understand he's about fighting for the little guy and not big government. Millar earned the spot over Waid because, frankly, I want to see what Millar can do with the character outside of Civil War and The Ultimates, and because he isn't afraid to get political. He took Wolverine for a wild, unforgettable ride, now it's Cap's turn. (Obviously Brubaker lost out due to the fifth rule.) Amidst the action of the third issue, Kilian Plunkett brought a true sense of iconic class to Superman in Millar's Red Son. As an icon, Captain America deserves the same respectful treatment.
Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Olivier Coipel
Mar-Vell is alive. Now before you go rolling your eyes, o' scoffing one, allow me to explain. Captain Marvel has a very retro air about him. Had he not died in 1982, one suspects the character would not be relevant today. Everything about him screams, "I was created in the 1960s. Does it show?" But that's not a bad thing, at least not for this series because it's akin to Untold Tales of Spider-Man. Set at the dawn of the modern Marvel Universe, Mar-Vell has just landed on Earth and writer Mark Waid has been charged with using modern storytelling techniques to expand upon Mar-Vell and Marvel's past. Not only would this give longtime readers an opportunity to revisit their favorite era and see their most beloved characters as they once were, those who missed out on Marvel's lush past will have a chance to explore a time they're ignorant to. Everybody wins, especially Waid whose Legion of Super-Heroes and JLA: Year One work clearly demonstrates his want to tell tales from a bygone era. Despite this being a retro book, Olivier Coipel's lively pencils would help get across modern sensibilities mostly in action and pacing. He's an underused asset at Marvel, and this project would rocket him to the top.
Cloak & Dagger
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Pasqual Ferry
Six-issue limited series
Here are the two reasons Cloak and Dagger haven't been relevant as of late. The idea of an interracial duo, especially one that's also a couple, broke social taboos when they first debuted. Since 1982, however, interracial dating has become more accepted, numbing the social impact the characters once had. The other reason is the fact that they're so entrenched in the 1980s, both in design and origins. As we move away from that decade, it becomes harder and harder for younger creators to relate to the characters. That's where Bendis comes in. If you look at the characters he has a deep respect for Luke Cage and Spider-Woman, specifically they were created in the 1970s and had strong runs leading into the 1980s. Hell, Jewel, Jessica Jones' alter ego, whom he created and retconned into Avengers continuity, has a very 1980s vibe to her. All that said, with his love for the characters he grew up with, Bendis would have no trouble making Cloak and Dagger relevant for today's market, just as he did Cage and Spider-Woman. Where Pasqual Ferry comes in, then, is making the city backdrop look bright and colorful. Dagger personifies light, and the bright world should reflect her vibrant nature. Cloak is the sore thumb, the pimple on your nose and the 800-pound gorilla all rolled into one: his bleak demeanor and ever-present, light absorbing garb makes him impossible to miss and would serve as a nice contrast to the dazzling world bustling around him.
Writer: Jeph Loeb
Artist: Renato Arlem
Despite being set in a superhero world, Murdock tends to exist inside of a Chinatown bubble, and that trend needs to continue on both creative fronts. Say what you will about Loeb's excessive use of red herrings, and I've said plenty, the man knows how to build suspense especially over the course of yearlong storylines. Through the use of dialog, he accurately captures the core of the characters, and has an affinity for knowing when to let the action carry the book. Renato Arlem, unlike Loeb, you've probably never heard of. His recent work on X-Factor exemplifies why I've chosen him for the assignment; though he can employ a variety of styles, including cartoony and superheroic, it's his grainy peek into the real world underbelly that stands out the most and fits the overall attitude of Daredevil.
Writer: Joe Kelly
Artist: Keith Giffen
Before Joe Kelly, Deadpool was nothing more than a Deathstroke wannabe: a hard-to-kill, masked mercenary with the surname Wilson. After Kelly, the character gained a cult following due to his slapstick humor and disregard for the fourth wall. Much like bringing Christopher Priest back to Black Panther is a smart move creatively, so is Kelly's return to Deadpool; no one knows the character better than the man who defined him for generations to come. Remember when Keith Giffen used to draw Lobo, especially Lobo: Infanticide? That's the Giffen I want on Deadpool! From top to bottom, Deadpool should be a "This is fucking nuts, but I can't put it down" kind of comic book. Giffen's Infanticide-era sensibilities gets you in that mindset from the moment your eyes lay sight on the cover. Together these two men would produce the wildest, wackiest solo title in the Marvel Universe.