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Rewriting Untold History

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The Marvels Project sets out to give us the true story behind their 70 years of superheroes. But what are we really getting—a filling in of the blanks or a complete revamp?

While DC has been doing it for over 40 years, Marvel has just recently begun paying serious notice to its Golden Age characters. DC has had crossovers, alternate Earths, and more than one ongoing series devoted to their characters. All Marvel really had was the occasional Invaders series and the big three—Captain America, Sub-Mariner, and the Original Human Torch—active in modern continuity.

Things are different now as Marvel is approaching its 70th Anniversary. They are delving deeper into their roster of WWII era characters. Between J. Michael Straczynski’s The Twelve, the recent Alex Ross Avengers/Invaders miniseries and the numerous special one-shots dedicated to their Golden Age titles, Marvel is dusting off its history and putting it on display.

The only thing left for Marvel to do to catch up with DC is to integrate its history—all of it—into the rich tapestry of its continuity. And tomorrow’s The Marvels Project sets out to do just that.

Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting, both from the completely awesome Captain America series, are charged with the task of writing the true origin of the Marvel Universe. They will show all the connections between the Golden Age heroes and they all impact the current day cast of their books. In other words, introduce a sweeping legacy of the sort DC has done with the Justice Society and its other WWII era characters.

But how will Brubaker and Epting present this new history? Will they do a complete revamp? Or fill in “gaps” in the original stories with untold secrets like Brubaker did with X-Men: Deadly Genesis.

Well, I guess it depends on what the creators have to work with. Golden Age stories, in general, were written as the disposable entertainment they were at the time. Meaning, not a lot of thought was given to plotting, continuity or what the lasting impression of the work would be. The Sub-Mariner would be a villain one month, a hero the next, and back again. The Red Skull, Nazi Germany’s answer to Captain America, could operate in the United States pretty much with impunity. It didn’t have to follow logically, or even make sense, it just had to tell an entertaining story.

Of course, this makes filling in the blanks very difficult. It is hard to make a story fit in between two other stories when there is very little connective tissue between the two stories. You would have to make the connection between the two tales first, then make the point you want second.

Another option would be throwing out everything that has come before and start anew. This never really sits well with all fans. Because even if a story is awkward and doesn’t make sense, it is part of the character’s canon.

Such is the minefield that Brubaker and Epting have to maneuver. Add to that the fact that they have to work with characters many modern fans don’t know and find a way to make everything jibe with present day Marvel continuity and they have their work cut out for them.

But if it works, it will enhance the whole Marvel universe. The sense of legacy is one of the things I love most about DC. It’s about time Marvel did something about their legacy.

Also out this week:

Red Circle: The Hangman #1

DC has had a bit of success in integrating other comic companies’ characters into their universe. They’ve brought over the Fawcett characters (Captain Marvel, Mary Marvel), Charlton characters (Blue Beetle, Question), Quality characters (Blackhawks, Uncle Sam), and soon will be merging the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents into the fold.

One group of other heroes they weren’t successful in bringing in was Archie Comics’s superhero characters (Yes, Archie Comics published superheroes at several points in their history, believe it or not). DC revamped The Fly, The Shield and others back in 1991 but the experiment never caught on with readers.

Well, maybe the second time will be the charm. They’re giving it another go and have brought in J. Michael Straczynski to make sure its done right. And this time, the “Red Circle” characters will be a part of DC continuity.

J. Michael Straczynski (W), Tom Derenick (A), DC Comics, $2.99. One-Shot.

Luke Cage Noir #1

Essentially, when you think about it, Luke Cage is a hired gun. For most of his years in the comics, he would hire himself out to fight for whoever would pay his price. Instead of guns, he used his own superpowers to fight for his employers. If you look at it this way, he’s a natural for Marvel’s noir line.

So, it’s not surprising that he is the next Marvel hero to get a miniseries in their “Noir” experiment. His series is set in Prohibition era Harlem—an interesting time in one of New York’s most important neighborhoods. As is typical of noir heroes, he is being pulled into situations he has no interest in, and he’s going to have to fight—and kill—to make his way out.

Mike Benson & Adam Glass (W), Shawn Martinbrough (A), Marvel Comics, $3.99. Four-Issue Miniseries.

Star Wars: Dark Times—Blue Harvest #0

There are times when film companies want secrecy for their productions, especially on highly anticipated blockbusters, they will film their movies under a fake name. The most famous example of this is Return of the Jedi. Filming was done under the title Blue Harvest to keep spoiler hunters and rabid fans away during shooting.

As is the case with Star Wars, anything that makes its way into the legend about the property makes it into the mythos. “Blue Harvest” was the title of a recent arc in Dark Horse’s Star Wars: Dark Times comic book. However, the prologue to the storyline began on MySpace Dark Horse Presents and never appeared in comic form. That is, until now. Any Star Wars fans who do not have a computer can rejoice. The prologue is coming to you!

Mick Harrison (W), Douglas Wheatley (A), Dark Horse Comics, $2.99. One-Shot.

Doom Patrol #1

The Doom Patrol are some of the most colorful members of DC’s menagerie and they have had a colorful history both in and out of comics. There were comparisons between the team and both the X-Men and Fantastic Four over at Marvel. There’s the fact that for the last issue of the original series, the creators killed off the whole cast.

There’s the fact that the property helped spawn the careers of both Erik Larsen and Grant Morrison (there are two names you don’t often see in the same sentence) and also being one of the original group that helped form the Vertigo imprint and one of the few that was able to make its way back to mainstream DC.

There is also the numerous revamps and restarts. The latest begins tomorrow and seems a return to the classic Doom Patrol of old. And, as an added enticement for Silver Age fans, there will be a Metal Men co-feature for your money.

Keith Giffen & J.M. DeMatteis (W),Matthew Clark & Kevin Maguire (A), DC Comics, $3.99. Ongoing Series.

Ghost Riders: Heaven's on Fire #1

When is a cancellation not a cancellation? Apparently when Marvel does it. They have been playing fast and loose with some of their low-selling titles, either cancelling them without telling anyone (Eternals, I am looking at you) or what they are doing with this series.

Supposedly, the regular Ghost Rider series is on hiatus and will be replaced by this miniseries. Moon Knight and Immortal Iron Fist are getting the same treatment. The belief is that the series will be restarted after the mini ends, with a big up swell of new readers brought in by this series. Personally, I’ll believe it when I see it. We could very well have seen the last of the above titles.

Jason Aaron (W), Roland Boschi (A), Marvel Comics, $3.99. Six-Issue Miniseries.

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William Gatevackes is a professional writer living in Mamaroneck, NY with his wife Jennifer and daughter Vanessa. He also is a comic reviewer for PopMatters, has written for Comic Foundry magazine and is the comic book movie editor for Film Buff Online. Links to his writing can be found at his website, www.williamgatevackes.com

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