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Putting the Damage On

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It was an idea that was so good that you had to wonder why no one thought of it before. After all, as long as there have been comic books, there have been city destroying battles between the good guys and the bad guys. Someone had to pick up the pieces and repair all the damage? What was their story?

But it took until October of 1987 before a creator came up with the idea to focus a series around this idea. That was when a young writer came up with a pitch for a comic featuring the company who specialized in rebuilding the New York of Marvel Comics after its numerous superhuman battles. The writer was Dwayne McDuffie and the corporation was named Damage Control.

Damage Control first appeared in Marvel’s bi-weekly anthology, Marvel Comics Presents, in 1989, but McDuffie actually first pitched the idea two years earlier.   And from the get go, he knew that Damage Control would be quite unlike any other comic book property. He compared it not to other titles, but to TV shows like Barney Miller, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and Taxi.

It was billed as an ensemble comedy, much like the above mentioned shows. And it was. It had the pacing and the feel of a really good network sitcom. It was chock full of colorful characters, with a little romance and a lot of humor. And the art by co-creator Ernie Colon fit this story style to a tee, excellently bridging the suit and tie world of the company with the spandex wearing world of Marvel.

That original story in Marvel Comics Presents led to a miniseries later in 1989. That then led to another miniseries a few months later which led to yet another miniseries in 1991. Those three series gave us a look at how Damage Control handles a variety of situations such as trying to collect a debt from Doctor Doom, trying to survive an Acts of Vengeance crossover, and attempting to deal with a movie based on their lives.

After that last miniseries, Damage Control faded into the background of the Marvel Universe and McDuffie’s star began to rise. He spearheaded the multicultural Milestone line of comics over at DC and moved into the world of animation, becoming a major name in the field for his work on Static Shock and the various Justice League series.

Damage Control played an important part in Marvel’s Civil War event. It was revealed that a CEO for the company by the name of Walter Declun (a character not in McDuffie and Colon’s original series’), supplied the villain Nitro with Mutant Growth Hormone. This resulted in a spike in Nitro’s powers that made the destruction of Stamford, Connecticut possible. This meant a lucrative contract for Damage Control. Declun was fired from Damage Control and later killed by Wolverine.

Around this time, McDuffie made his return to comics, writing arcs on Fantastic Four, Firestorm and Justice League of America. His coming back to the medium he started in allowed him the chance to return to his first, major creation.

In the aftermath of the World War Hulk event, Marvel’s Manhattan is in a serious state of disrepair. Obviously, bringing America’s biggest city back to life is a job for Damage Control. This results in a new, three-issue miniseries spinning off from World War Hulk, written by co-creator McDuffie. Artist Ernie Colon unfortunately won’t be back. He will be replaced by Salva Espin.

But this is not the same Damage Control McDuffie left over a decade ago. The events of Civil War and World War Hulk have made the Marvel Universe a bit darker. As a matter of fact, one of the new additions to the Damage Control mythos, Tom Foster, is the nephew of Bill Foster, one of the victims of the Civil War. He is resentful about his uncle’s death, and this resentment should play a big part in his character in the new series.

Does this mean the new Damage Control miniseries will be darker? Will the ensemble humor be replaced with angst, teeth gnashing and hand wringing? Or will McDuffie keep the concept true to the lighter tone of its original roots and make the series a refreshing change of pace from the rest of the Marvel Universe?

Either way, the series will feature interesting characters written by a man who knows them well. And if following World War Hulk leads to good sales, this might not be the last we see of the company.  

Also out this week:

Young Avengers Presents #1:

Allan Heinberg’s Young Avengers series created quite a fanbase over its 12 issues. Its fans have been clamoring for a sequel. However, these fans have been waiting a while for one, and as long as the TV Grey’s Anatomy—Heinberg’s current day job—remains popular they will have to continue to wait.

Marvel, out of the kindness of their own hearts, has given Young Avengers fans something to tide them over. This miniseries will feature individual stories of the team members written and drawn by some of Marvel’s hottest creators. This first issue focuses on Patriot and is written by Ed Brubaker with art by Paco Medina. Brubaker is a natural choice for the Patriot, who is tied into the Captain America legacy.

Ed Brubaker (W), Paco Medina (A), Marvel Comics, $2.99.   Six-Issue Miniseries.

Jack Staff Special #1:

Paul Grist is a comics veteran. He has worked with Millar and Morrison. He has handled legendary characters such as Grendel and Judge Dredd. So it’s funny that he is now finally getting recognition for his own creation, “Britain’s Greatest Hero”, Jack Staff.

Sort of an ersatz version of Union Jack (extrapolated from a pitch Grist made for the Marvel character), Jack Staff is a British hero who recently returned from a 20 year absence. The actual series is returning from a bit of a hiatus itself, and the Special will serve to re-introduce the character and his supporting cast to new audiences before the regular series begins again in a few months. So this one-shot will be an excellent opportunity for new readers to jump on.     

Paul Grist (W/A), Image Comics, $3.50. One-Shot.

Iron and the Maiden: Brutes, Bims and the City #1:

The first Iron and the Maiden series was advertised with the main selling point of being on time. I always thought that was unique and eye-catching. I guess I wasn’t the only one whose eye was caught because that miniseries did well enough sales-wise to garner a follow-up. But before that follow-up hits stands, we have this special sketchbook issue.

Fans were drawn to the concept, which takes place in an alternate reality much like our 1930s. Mike Iron is just another resident of The City, caught in the power struggle for his hometown between The Government, The Order religious sect, and The Syndicate crime organization. He has survived this far with the help of an otherworldly “Angel”. This sketch book features designs and interpretations of the universe introduced in the first series, and provides a jumping on point before the next series.

Jason Rubin (W), Various (A), Aspen Comics, $2.99. One-Shot.

New WorldOrder #1:

One of the most popular avenues for story telling lies in the idea that the world is secretly controlled by shadowy cabals of powerful men and women. This idea served as inspiration for tales from The DaVinci Code to New Avengers: Illuminatti. Comics once again tap this well spring with this miniseries.

The plot revolves around “The Lonely Ones”, a group of people on a mission to seek the truth to life’s mysteries and use it to awaken the citizens of the Earth to reach their true potential for greatness and move away from a path of self-destruction.  Will they succeed? They must, because the survival of the world depends on it.     

Gustavo Higuera (W), Giuseppe De Luca (A), Image Comics, $3.50. Ongoing Series.

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William Gatevackes is a professional writer living in Mamaroneck, NY with his wife Jennifer. He also writes periodic comic reviews for PopMatters, is a weekly contributor to Film Buff Online and writes title descriptions for Human Computing’s Comicbase collection management software. Links to his writing can be found at his website, www.williamgatevackes.com.

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