Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Group Members You'd Have Liked to Have Seen in a Solo Book

Doug: I don't know about you, but I think it would have been really cool to have seen the Swordsman in a solo adventure book, as a sort of soldier-for-hire or adventurer -- maybe a treasure hunter. Many have commented that they enjoyed him as a bad guy in the Silver Age, and again as the loveable loser during his Bronze Age run in the Avengers. His comic book life might have been extended had he been given a try-out or some other extended run in a book he could call his own.

Doug: Similarly, at DC I think you could have gotten some mileage out of a solo book involving Colossal Boy.
Giants are really eye-catching on covers, and the whole Science Police angle could have been used to some effect. Obviously various Legionnaires could have guest-starred, and to some extent writers and artists could have exploited a sort of Gulliver's Travels motif as Gim moved throughout the United Planets.

Doug: So how about you? Which characters from the Bronze Age, who were in team books only (so no Thor or Iron Man, and not even the Thing as he was for all practical purposes already in a solo book in Marvel Two-In-One) would you have liked to have seen in their own book? Or, maybe they could have carried half of a split-book... Let's hear it!


Rip Jagger said...

The Angel always struck me as a good solo character. The plotline about "The Avenging Angel" in his origin and later reprised during the Neal Adams run set the stage. He got a solo three-parter in the back of Ka-Zar and Marvel Tales, and those showed that he had the makings I always thought of a breakout hero.

Rip Off

david_b said...

Well, just off the top of my head, you know I'm going to name my favorites, both Swordsman and YellowJacket.

As much as I love YJ, I doubt if he would have had a sufficient rogues list or secondary characters to keep the book going, or anything other than his lab work.., so it would have been an interesting task to see one made up.

Swordsman would have been a great book. I recall one letter writer on the Avengers page (around ish 122-128) calling for a smaller team, consisting of Vish, Wanda, Swordsman and Mantis, with an occasional visit by one of the 'Big Three'. THAT would have been an EXCELLENT book, especially fleshing out more the squabbles that Steve Englehart brewed between the four. It would have featured some foils between the logical Vision vs. the swashbuckling Pierre, then with the love interests mixed in.

I'd name Hawkeye as the most obvious choice back in the Bronze as well. Obviously he had his stories in the '80s, but somehow they never fazed me much. There was a serious depletion of good material in the 80s for Clint and it showed. I never thought much of Mockingbird either, just no orginality or spark. His leading the Midwest Avengers had potential. Seeing his appearances in MTU 22 was very enjoyable and to me would have been a great start for a Hawkeye solo book.

Shame Marvel figured it out a decade too late.

Edo Bosnar said...

I know he had a mini or two, but I think Nightcrawler is a character that could have been used in a long-running series to good effect. The character has so much potential, and could work in any number of genres: noirish crime, swashbuckling adventure, SF, fantasy or even satirical, or any combination thereof.
As for DC, I'd say one of my favorite Legionnaires has always been Ultra Boy, and I think he could have held his own in a solo series - if done right. There was that brief story-arc in LoSH wherein Ultra Boy had amnesia for a while and ended up with a band of intersteller pirates which at the time made me think it would have been cool having him (maybe together with Phantom Girl) lead a band of intersteller adventurers/crime-figthers.

William said...

From the Avengers, I think that Hawkeye could have carried his own book for a while. Back in the 70's he had a lot of personality and a cool costume. I remember there was a really good solo story with him in an issue of the Avengers (by Byrne and Michelinie) where he fought Deathbird that showed his potential as a solo act. I really think with the right creative team he could have had a lot of potential. (At least for a few years).

I am also surprised that the Human Torch didn't get more of chance at his own solo title back in the Bronze Age. He had a stint for 2 or 3 years in Strange Tales back in the Silver Age, but that was when he was first starting out and wasn't quite as developed as a character. I guess Marvel was always a little nervous about some kid lighting himself on fire and jumping off a roof.

As far as DC goes, it seems that they gave most of their characters a shot at solo stardom at one time or another. B-list characters like The Creeper, Hawk & Dove, Black Lightning, Blue Devil, Blue Beetle, Black Condor, Captain Atom, Firestorm and even Ambush Bug (and many others) all had their own solo series at some point. So, I personally can't really think of any characters from DC that I'd like to have seen with their own book that didn't already get the chance.

J.A. Morris said...

I think the Bronze Age Vision solo series would've been interesting. He was always curious about humanity and how he related to humans, could've worked.

Plus, he had some of the coolest powers of any hero.

The current incarnation of the Vision is a sad leftover version of a great character. I still get ticked when I think about that "married to a toaster" comment that every creator ran with.

Karen said...

J.A. - couldn't agree more about the sad state of the Vision -well, the character they now call the Vision but actually isn't. I think the whole "toaster" idea (thanks, John Byrne)damaged the Vision just as much as the "wife-beater" label screwed up Hank Pym. Both characters deserve better.


starfoxxx said...

The Scarlet Witch would have enough plotlines and drama circling her to deserve her own series.

Inkstained Wretch said...

One of the problems with comics in the Bronze Age is that there weren’t many titles featuring female superheroes. (Not sure if that holds true today.) To the extent that female heroes got any attention at all it was in team titles, and a lot of the time you had to figure the writers had them there mainly to offset the fact that the teams were mostly men. I think a lot of those heroines could have used their own title.

In DC, I always thought Zatanna was an underused character. Not only do her magical powers open up all sorts of fantasy storylines in addition to conventional superheroics, but her being a stage magician with no secret identity could have made for some amusing storylines involving showbiz and celebrity. That and I’m a sucker for a girl in fishnet stockings.

Over at Marvel, I think the Vision and Scarlet Witch title would have been a great idea for an ongoing series. The marriage – figuratively and literally – of scifi, magic and mutant powers offers up endless possibilities. In the hands of a smart writer it could have even been cutting edge by exploring the nature of their boundary-breaking love and marriage.

And finally, why did the Black Widow never get a solo series? A series about a sexy former Russian spy who is now fighting bad guys for Nick Fury’s SHEILD? Sign me up.

dogspunk said...

the beast. smart, funny, athletic, conflicted... perfect personality for a solo book. And as a former x-man and current avenger (in the bronze age) he's got more than enough enemies and guest stars.

dogspunk said...

oh! and for women, how about a tigra/thundra title? both awesome characters who would be different enough to have a lot of interesting banter and dynamics between themselves.

Dougie said...

The Falcon's own urban crime series would have solved his inferiority complex. Drawn by Sal Buscema and Frank Robbins, written by Tony Isabella. Villains including Deadly Nightshade and the Condor from Nova. If this had happened circa 1975/76, Bendis would have him leading the Avengers today. My preference would be for the falconry version not the flier.

A Lady Liberators title featuring Tigra and Thundra, drawn by Perez, seems obvious in retrospect.

And I completely agree about the depressing treatment of the Vision.

Sharper13x said...

I agree with the Angel.

Did Deathstroke the Terminator from Teen Titans ever have his own book?

Fred W. Hill said...

Actually, the Black Widow, the Beast and Tigra all did get their own series during the Bronze Age (or tail end of the Silver Age in the case of Natasha & Hank, depending on what borderline you choose). Of course, none of them lasted very long, but the Beast's first (and so far only?) solo series was where he was initially transformed into a more beastial and furry big-footed mutant, and, I believe, Steve Englehart's first regular series.

A Human Torch solo series, focusing on the young man rather than the adolescent, and with much more intelligent writing than he ever got in his Strange Tales tenure, certainly sounds intriguing. Johnny's one of those young heroes who was never really allowed to grow up. Oh, sure, he did start college, had a serious relationship, and by the end of Kirby's run, certainly looked several years older than when he was introduced in 1961. But then Johnny dropped out of college, he lost his girlfriend, and unless his elastic brother-in-law started paying his teammates for their assistance with the lab work, it seems he never had a regular paying job. Of course, the FF famously made a point that they didn't earn a salary when Spider-Man applied for membership, and apparently Johnny & Sue inherited a small fortune, or maybe Johnny was employed as a mechanic, although if so, I suspect that day he melted a hotrod and burned a hole through the garage while responding to Reed's signal in that first issue was also Johnny's last day on that particular job!
A few months ago I got the Spider-Man / Human Torch collection, based on some good reviews. I enjoyed it -- several very funny incidents, including Spidey's encounter with Paste Pot Pete, but also several more thoughtful moments, such as when the Torch refers to his problems with Crystal and Spidey opens up enough to talk about how hard Gwen's death hit him and how he doesn't really have anyone else to talk to about it, in either his civilian or superhero identities.
Of course, Johnny is reputedly dead now, at least for the time being, but maybe he'll be resurrected as Dead Torch, the burning wraith seeking the one-armed man who shot him down! Oh, wait, I'm getting him mixed up with another dead, red-hued character.

Edo Bosnar said...

Yeah, there was, and I guess there still is, a shortage of women headliners. I didn't bring up Black Widow or Greer Nelson (Cat/Tigra), even though I like both characters quite a bit, because they did in fact have their own series in the early Bronze Age. In the case of Black Widow in particular, I agree with Inkstained: it surprises me that no attempts were made to relaunch a BW series in the '80s, when Wolverine and Punisher were starting to get really popular. One would think a a black leather-clad ex-Russian spy would have dovetailed perfectly into that tough guy/girl trend.
On the subject of female characters, I think Marvel squandered away some real potential with Her (the female version of Warlock) - with the right creative team, I think a really good space opera series could have been done with this character, instead of relegating her to permanent B (or C?) status and having her become Quasar's sidekick for a while...

Anonymous said...

I agree about the girls. The Witch and the Widow (hmmm...sounds like a title right there) would have been interesting. Natasha for her whole back-story, including marriage to the Red Guardian, being a triple-thick double agent, relationship to Ivan and bedding various suitors including Hawkeye, Daredevil and Hercules (gotta be a tough act to follow, right boys?).

Likewise Wanda. Perhaps the only good retcon that ever happened was that Gruenwald/Byrne minor masterpiece circa Avengers #185. A little contrived, but tied up fifteen years of loose ends and still left the door open for Magneto (who always seems curiously in want of a daughter, doesn’t he?). She’s got a lot of back-story. You’re right about the science & magic thing with her and the Vision, but I’d like to have seen a story with Wanda going back to Agatha Harkness for more instruction and getting into something that tied in all the magical characters (Doc Strange, Brother Voodoo, maybe the Juggernaut).

I think ultimately I’d go for either Crystal or Clea.

Crystal’s ties to the Inhumans, the FF, the Avengers (via Pietro) open up untold plotlines and enemies, the Inhumans on the moon open up cosmic plotlines, and she also has both a chequered romantic CV and is a devoted mother later (did we ever find out what Luna’s powers were?). On top of all that, she controls the weather, for God’s sake! Why is it that when Thor and Orora do that, it’s a big deal but when Crys does it, it’s like...“and..?”

Clea...well, maybe I haven’t read enough Doc Strange, but she comes from another dimension, has mystic powers, and could easily have any of Doc Strange’s foes or new ones of her own. Or the Defenders. Or anyone who rocked up at the Village over the years. Did we ever explore her life in Dormammu’s dimension? Did she leave anyone behind ? And I fancied her when Gene Colan drew her. There. I said it.


Karen said...

Female comics characters have almost never been able to maintain their own titles for any length of time. Even Wonder Woman, the grandmama of them all, has trouble keeping her title afloat. I think it's just due to the fact that the super-hero books are mainly purchased by males and most are probably not that interested in reading about a woman in a lead role.

I have to say, I've never really been a regular reader of women-lead books. I think this is due to my favorite heroes being established when I was quite young. Back in the very early 70s, most female characters were still fairly lame compared to their male counterparts (and I was also reading a lot of reprints with the typical Stan Lee 'useless woman' types). So the characters I gravitated to were male -Spider-Man, Capt. America, The Thing, Thor.

Now in the mid 70s and later, guys like Englehart and Claremont made the female characters much more interesting and actually equal to their male partners. But even so, most of them were still only seen in team books. For some reason I never warmed up to Ms. Marvel. Actually, she, Spider-Woman, and She-Hulk -who all had their own titles -were essentially derivatives of male characters. So that was a bit off-putting too.

I don't think it's impossible for a female super-hero to be successful, but I do think the odds are against her.


Ric said...

Among the first comics I bought on the path to becoming a comics fan was Defenders 10. I was hooked and became a Defenders fan for life.

Nighthawk joined the Defenders a few months later and donned his new costume. Nighthawk was probably the first hero that I got in on the ground floor with (at least it felt that way.. especially when his DD appearance was shortly thereafter reprinted in GS Defenders). He instantly became my favorite.

I would have loved a Nighthawk solo series back in the day.

As an adult, understanding the limitations inherent with the character, I can see that a solo series may not have "flown"... but, man!, did I want to see more Nighthawk!


Fred W. Hill said...

Re your last post, Karen, I remember thinking it curious that the old House of Ideas was putting out all those dirivative female characters in the late '70s. At least SpiderWoman had nothing to do with Spider-Man except the similar name. Ms. Marvel & She-Hulk both had rather lame origins -- sort of made sense that they'd give Carol Danvers powers, although I hated her original knock-off costume; as for the female Hulk, maybe it would've been more fun if they'd transformed Betty Ross Talbot back into the Harpy and given the title to her. Just imagine the suspense -- what hapless male is angry Betty going to blast into smithereens this issue? Well, ok, that might've had very limited appeal for adolescent guys.

Inkstained Wretch said...

Karen, I think you nailed it with the observation that so many of the female characters who did get their own titles were derivative of male heroes. Look at the List: Supergirl, Spider-Woman, She-Hulk, Ms. Marvel.

It is hard to build a following in the first place if you are a knockoff of another character: The novelty of that fades quickly. I think more original characters like the Black Widow would have done better.

starfoxxx said...

Stephen, I believe Deathstroke had a series in the 90s.

Gray said...

I'm a bit late posting to this terrific topic, but, and all you Defenders fans back me up on this...Valkyrie could've been a really interesting solo title. An Asgardian demi-goddess tasked by Odin to bring the souls of valiant warriors to Valhalla? You could have stories from numerous timelines, past present and future, you could have gripping stories of courage from every culture and corner of the world, and you could guest star a ton of heroes and heroines from Dr. Strange to Hellcat. You'd get the opportunity to tell great stories about characters that are not superheroes and also feature an interesting heroine that was underexplored.

By the way, the Vision was always one of my favorite character, and what Byrne did to him in WCA was just ridiculous and unnecessary. He would have easily had a fantastic title.

Inkstained Wretch said...

As Defenders fan, let me second the idea of a Valkyrie comic.

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