Friday, January 27, 2012

Your Favorite Character, Trapped Forever in a Team Book

Doug: Happy Friday, everyone -- another weekend staring us in the face! Last weekend our friend Rip Jagger published a cool post about the brand-spanking-new Marvel Firsts: the 1970's Volume I. Rip was kind enough to provide cover images for all of the books contained therein. I know I have my copy on reserve from Amazon.com, and I'm sure it will arrive soon.

So anyway, since we are crazy in love with the '70's, and as I often muse over these little four-color pamphlets to which we all have an addiction, this thought occurred to me -- help a brother out by participating in some stimulating conversation today -- of all of the team books you've loved, which character is your favorite who never had their own series? Some nominees:
  • Hawkeye (mini-series don't count as far as I'm concerned)
  • Valkyrie
  • Colossus
  • Nighthawk

For DC you can go with whatever you want -- so many characters (Batgirl, Elongated Man) had back-ups in some of the Bronze Age mags that I don't know if we should consider those as solo series or not.

So, who ya got?

34 comments:

Chuck Wells said...

Hawkeye, Valkyrie, and Nighthawk were all favorite characters of mine. While I think that any of them could have supported a solo series, I think their strengths as characters are better served in a team title, but a mini-series or special would be fine as far as I'm concerned.

Colossus on the other hand, doesn't "scream" solo book to me at all, and I like him just as much as the others you've mentioned. Gimme Piotr back in his original fighting togs, battling alongside his original all-new, all-different cohorts in a single monthly team book, and that's all I need.

Anonymous said...

Hi Doug – another great sideways question from the labyrinth that is your brain. Also, kind of ironic that you’ve gone so Defenders-heavy in your choices, considering the original Defenders were created for precisely the opposite reason to this thread.

Vision
Scarlet Witch
Invisible Girl
Polaris (probably Alex too, but definitely Lorna)
Banshee
The Black Knight

I guess we’re allowed villain teams too?

Mastermind (so much potential, as Claremont utterly demonstrated).
Darkstar (loved her, no idea what happened to her. Please don’t tell me, it probably involves her getting killed twenty times and turning out to be a skrull and getting transformed into something).

Richard

Edo Bosnar said...

I agree that Nightcrawler is a cool character who could really work in a solo series. I loved that first mini done by Cockrum, and he would work really well not only in that sort of swashbuckling/fantasy tale, but also in (tonge-in-cheek) hard-boiled detective stories, espionage thrillers, space operas and straight-up super-heroics.

Doug said...

RE: Nightcrawler.

The "image inducer" makes espionage tales particularly open to endless possibilities. That would be fun!

Doug

Doug said...

Hi Doug – another great sideways question from the labyrinth that is your brain.

I am regularly struck, sometimes at the strangest times, by inspiration for these questions/discussions. Of course a poser is only as good as the number of responses given, but you folks generally pull through.

By all means, if any of our regular readers get similar conundrums passing through the gray matter, make a comment in our Suggestion Box. And it also strikes me just now that we haven't done a Do-It-Yourself Open Forum in quite some time -- look for one of those soon!

Doug

david_b said...

I'd go with the obvious choices, but I'd agree they just work better in team environments (Hawkeye, Vish, Nighthawk, the Pyms).

I suppose you can basically say that about nearly any title character who happens to already have a substantial backstory built in the Silver Age pages of TOS, TOA, etc. But even some of the 'not-quite-flagship types' like Doc Strange, Fury, Luke Cage and Namor got their time to shine as well in solo books.

I like the idea of characters 'trapped' in teams.. They gave the teams character and a great home for cherished banter back and forth, always something to look forward to.

I'll always give a shout-out to the short-lived Swordsman, I still recall some pretty cool letters listed in Avengers letters pages suggesting a return to a 'kooky quartet' days with Wanda, Vish, Mantis, and Swordy. I can still imagine how cool that would have been.

Karen said...

I think in many ways I prefer these so-called secondary characters over the superstars, primarily because they can actually change and evolve. They are not so important that they must be like flies in amber, forever preserved with whatever qualities are deemed essential to keep them popular.

Hawkeye in particular has a wonderful history, going from a hothead constantly stirring the pot to a stalwart team member. He's still got his passion but he's not a jerk! The Vision also was able to grow and change, at least until Byrne got his hands on him.

J.A. Morris said...

I'm guessing Doug meant Hawkeye never had a series during the Bronze Age, because he was the star of 30-some issue of Solo Avengers(which later changed it's name to Avengers Spotlight). I read a dozen or so issues, it was okay.

But I think Hawkeye could've carried a Bronze Age series. It's too bad, I'm sure guys like Gerber, Moench or McGregor would've made it an entertaining series.

And I'm with Richard, Darkstar could've been an interesting solo character. I had to look her up, and Richard guessed right, except the part about her being a skrull.

Doug said...

J.A. --

I totally forgot how many issues of Solo Avengers Hawkeye was in. My fault!

But since I can't really remember any of the storylines, it must not have resonated with me (I had a handful of issues).

Doug

Anonymous said...

Hi Karen – ref. flies in amber, this is a bit of a sidebar, but I was reading an interview with Joss Whedon (about some movie or other that he’s working on) in Empire magazine. They asked him how a director like him (with a penchant for unexpected plot twists, characterisation and killing people off) could possibly enjoy working for a studio like Marvel, which is so restrictive, hands-on and won’t let him mess with any of their properties with 50 years and more history. His answer was very interesting: that whereas that is a logical question, the worst kind of interference you get from studios is when you’re three-quarters of the way through principle shooting of a horror movie and the studio suddenly announces that horror films have tested badly that week and they want you to re-shoot it as a romantic comedy. Immovable Marvel is absolutely guaranteed never to do that, which he says is a big attraction for him.

JA – what are the chances, right?

Richard

david_b said...

I just had a long response to Karen's praise of Clint Barton and his growth/development in the early Avengers mag, but decided I wasn't really saying anything noteworthy.

A better question is: Which solo books have we seen where a former team member just fell on his face as a solo title..?

Doug's mention of nothing resonating with Clint's 'solo book' in the 80s was going to be my point as well. Other than losing his hearing, Hawkeye's solo adventures were pretty much unmemorable duds. Perhaps like Wolvie, Clint got a lot of unnecessary padded backstory in the '80s, but..really: who didn't..?

I tried Solo Avengers for the first dozen issues (like WCA), but the lousy writing and art (like WCA) couldn't hold my interest.

Actually, a lot of that decade was a mess for our Marvel heroes.

Poor Vision...

Dougie said...

Trapped in a team, should have had ther own series, Bronze Age edition:

Marvel: The Vision, no contest! By George Perez and Jim Shooter, maybe; villains could be classic Kirby- Mad Thinker, Quasimodo, Super-Adaptoid, Kree Sentry, etc. etc.

I was just thinking the other day how under-used Colossus was but I don't see him as a solo artist; he should have been the BMOC of the New Mutants! But then he'd have made Sam and Roberto redundant.

DC: Timber Wolf got a series in the Nineties but a Mike Grell vehicle would have been great.

E-2 Robin: at least an occasional back-up strip featuring some Golden Age villains like Tweedledum and Tweedledee and the Cavalier.

Inkstained Wretch said...

I've said this one before: I think a Black Widow series could have been a real winner. She's the right combination of sexy and tough, with an intriguing backstory. Ideally, it would focus less on super-heroics and more on the super-spy stuff and get maybe Howard Chaykin to do the art.

Dougie's suggestion of an Earth-2 Robin series isn't bad either. The original Earth-2 Huntress had a great back-up feature in Wonder Woman. It would have made a great regular series. (The post-Crisis Huntress is a completely different character IMHO.)

Finally, Zatanna could have been a great subject for a solo series. In addition to being a superheroine she was also a stage magician, a situation that I think would have been the basis for a really offbeat series along the lines of Blue Devil.

As you can see, I think there was a lot of used potential in Bronze Age female characters.

Rip Jagger said...

I'm of the opposite view on some of the classic team players.

I think lots of characters just cannot support a solo book. They are always better in a team context, because what makes them click is the interplay of personality.

The 80's showed a lot of this to be true when the endless limited series from Marvel kept showcasing lesser and lesser characters, and while it might be fun to read four issues with a characters like Falcon, Hawkeye, Iceman, Vision, Red Tornado, Elongated Man, and such, more issues just works against them.

Less is more with some of these guys.

Rip Off

Doug said...

What about this? Team book right into team book --

The Lady Liberators

Do you think there'd have been a market for a book like that? Talk about hitting the stands at the time of all of the ERA (Equal Rights Amendment) talk!

Doug

david_b said...

Rip:

"Whaaaattt..?? You didn't like the 12-ish limited Vish/Scarlet Witch saga..?

(I kid, I kid, I haven't found ANYONE who did...)

Doug, that's a SUPER idea for a column all it's own.

How would it have progressed..?

Who would have been the best artists..?

Wonder how each writer would have shaped it (Thomas, Conway, Gerber, Englehart)..?

Would there be the stereo-typical dumb males like in Avengers ish 83..?

It would have to have been later in the 70s; too early and you'd have had another Shield Femme-Force and you know how silly that concept was done.

I would have had the Valkyrie lead over Widow.. In the spirit of Red Sonja or something, she would have been super. Perhaps would have gone longer than Champions, which unfortunately always seemed like just one Marvel super-team too many.

Inkstained Wretch said...

Err ... "As you can see, I think there was a lot of UNused potential in Bronze Age female characters."

Sheesh ...

Anonymous said...

Wonder Man.

I like his back story. He is imperfect from the beginning.
His criminal past, his brother the grim Reaper, the Vision and Wanda. Also his powers were overtaking his humanity. A regular series would have allowed all of this to be explored at a steady pace.

Edo Bosnar said...

Inkstained, re: your suggestion about a Black Widow solo series done by Chaykin - that would have been awesome if he ran with that idea in, say, the 1980s, with some Code restrictions to rein him in here and there. Now, though, I'm not so sure given some of his more recent story-telling ticks and propensities, i.e. we'd have the Widow as some kind of dominatrix spymistress (and no disrespect to Chaykin: he was and still is one of my very favorite comics writers/artists).
By the way, david_b makes an interesting point about Vision and Scarlet Witch, since a lot of people mentioned Vision as a great potential solo character. I totally agree with him about the 12-issue series, and I have to add that, although better, I really wasn't fond of the first 4-issue mini, either. I think both of those series really underscored how much those two characters actually hamper each other. Not at all to defend the way Byrne handled it, but he was correct in seeing the need to dissolve that marriage.

Dougie said...

Am I the lone fan of the Vision/ Scarlet Witch maxiseries? It was one of my favourites in the mid-80s, especially the first issue, crossing over the first WCA (another comic I never missed, under Englehart and even under Byrne.
)
Some of the individual issues are weaker than the whole but for me, it's a final flourish of Kozmic Headshop Marvel: superheroes, mutants, infidelity, parenthood, insanity and tax returns!

Steve Rogers said...

Valkerie seemed to be the obvious choice to me when I was reading those early Defenders - I thought it was just a matter of time before she got her own book. She could easily have been Marvel's answer to Wonder Woman with a strong connection to Asgard and Thor. She even had a flying horse - the merchandise potential was all there. I dunno why they even bothered with Ms. Marvel.

humanbelly said...

Boy, there really aren't that many mainstay team characters that haven't had their own non-limited series solo title, though, are there? Of the ones we're bandying about, very few come to mind that didn't already exist in the MU before they became associated with a team. Vision, Dane Whitman's Black Night, and the current iteration of Valkyrie, in fact. (Val's Barbara Norris version was the one that's most associated w/ her long tenure in the Defenders-). Of these, I feel like the "classic" Vision is the one that has enough of a complex inner life to sustain a title of his own-- although a great writer can certainly breathe new life into almost any character, I suspect.

Hmm- you know who might be interesting? Former Avenger/former Sinister Six/former Frightful Four/former Wild Pack (was that it? Silver Sable's little group o' mercenaries?) member: The Sandman. Grizzled, old-school, ample precedent for trying to turn his life around over the years, serious deep mental health issues, a great perspective on the seamier side of the MU--- I would totally follow his story. . .

@Anonymous(recent post): Yep, even ol' Simon had a solo title in the late 80's/early 90's-- albeit a short-lived one. It was light-ish and fairly fun-- ran about the same time as Quasar's run. They both got the axe at around the same time-- was sorry to see both of them go.

HB

Dan said...

I'd like to see Archangel get his own series and draw off not only his transformation, but also his past with all the various teams he featured in - then again maybe a more positive hero with simillar links would be good - like Ice Man?

Vision is a prime candidate, and USAgent always appealed to me, but he did kind of lead Captain America as a replacement for a while so might not count.

Redartz said...

Can't add much to this list; you've all covered it pretty well! I do think Sue Storm/Richards would have been a fine candidate for a solo book. It was fascinating seeing the progression in her development from the early Fantasic Four issues up to the late 80's Byrne run. I remember when she dropped the "Invisible Girl" in favor of "Invisible Woman"; my reaction was "It's about time!".

One note; there hasn't been much mention of the Legion heroes; of these Braniac 5 would have some solo potential. Other interesting possibilities might be Shadow Lass or the White Witch...

ChrisPV said...

I love Nightcrawler so very, very much. But I don't think he's got the kind of overall package to sustain his own book, at least not without having to rely heavily on cameos from the X-Men. What makes him stand out to me is that, like your humble narrator, he's a Catholic whose circle includes a lot of really diverse folks, and watching him try to balance it all out puts him up to the top of my list. Without those relationships, he can come across kind of dull, or like a second rate Daredevil.

Plus, his power is cool and all but it doesn't lend itself to very big battles. He doesn't have the kind of mental acuity and physical skill to constantly punch above his weight class like Batman does, so without some kind of power upgrade to make him more threatening, you have to cut him off from basically all of the baddies from the X-Men side.

Y'know whose solo series never caught and it made me really sad? The Thing. I recently acquired and read the whole run, and it just...doesn't feel right. And Ben carried Two-in-One for years, so obviously he's got some staying power. But making him a space ranger and then following that up with WRESTLING? It's like the intention was to remove all the stuff about him that makes him The Thing. I can't help but feel that Mike Carlin single-handedly made it impossible for Ben to have a solo series. Which is sad, because he deserves one.

William said...

Good topic, but most of the characters I could think of that are closely associated with a team book that I would like to see in a solo series, have already had a their own books at one time or another. Such as The Thing, Human Torch, Ant-Man, Wolverine and Wonder Man, just to name a few.

I always liked Havok and Nightcrawler, but I don't really think either could carry a solo series for a long run.

Maybe The Beast could though. (The cool 70's Perez version, not the horrible "Beauty and The Beast" inspired Cat-Man that he is today).

You opened this article speaking of the "Marvel Firsts: 1970's Volume 1". I got mine from Amazon last week, and it looks awesome. A must have for any "Bronze Age Baby". I can't wait to get Volume 2 (coming in March) and Volume 3 (due out in June). I am still reading "Marvel Firsts: 1960's" however, but as soon as finish that up, I will jump into the glorious 70's.

Edo Bosnar said...

Redartz's suggestion about solo Legionaires reminded me that there was a column on a similar topic, but restricted to the Legion. Too lazy to go look for it, but I'll reiterate the gist of my comment there: Ultra Boy. Preferably leading a band of swashbuckling, spacefaring do-gooders (with maybe a few other 'renegade' Legionaires in tow).

Anonymous said...

I know I'm straying a tad bit from the focus of the topic. But...

Edo, you reminded me of something. I wish DC had done more with the LSH. The Espionage Squad.

Chameleon Boy, Shrinking Violet, Duo Damsel, Phantom Girl, Invisible kid and throw in Ultra Boy for the "normal" heavy.

( A 6 member team is a small elite squad in the LSH. Any other book its a full roster.)

Edo Bosnar said...

Anonymous - cool!
My team of 'renegade' Legionaires led by Ultra Boy would include Phantom Girl, Invisible Kid, Chameleon Boy, Duo Damsel and possibly also Shadow Lass (and maybe Night Girl from the Substitutes), in other words, with the exception of Ultra Boy, members with 'weaker' or somehow limited powers that would often make using extra weapons or gear necessary (and yes I know, Chameleon Boy isn't necessarily one of the weaker members, but he's just so cool).

humanbelly said...

Oh! This took some pondering, but--

ROBOTMAN from Doom Patrol-!

I always thought he was the most compelling character in every one of the DP's iterations (although I never picked up that sort of manga/Cartoon Network-ish run from a few years ago).

A personality much like Ben Grimm's-- but with just a touch more film noire about him. HORRENDOUS personal circumstances. Powerful, resourceful, painfully human-- and certainly an Everyman figure trapped in unthinkable circumstances. Geeze-- I'd buy that title, too. Possibly make him a detective, of all things. . .

HB

ChrisPV said...

Humanbelly wins the thread. Cliff Steele for the win.

humanbelly said...

*Sniff* First of all, I'd like to thank the academy. . .

HB

starfoxxx said...

as far as I know the WASP has never had a series, not even a mini! Unless you count her co-billing with Ant-man in Tales to Astonish. She's amongst Marvels' oldest female super-heroines (and Heroes), and has rarely gotten her due except when Stern(?) made her Avengers chair.

Gray said...

Just to add my two cents...
Hawkeye never really got the author or artist to do him justice. His first four part miniseries by Gruenwald and Bob Hall was ( in my opinion ) very good. He had a lot of promise as a solo character.
Nightcrawler is almost a no-brainer. He had a great backstory, well defined character, sympathetic traits, great power, mysterious origins, to me he was far more compelling and charismatic than Wolverine, whose solo series I avoided like the plague. I think Kurt would've had a great series.
The character I am surprised that no one has mentioned...Storm. Great character. Great story. Easily could've been a great solo story.
Thanks to humanbelly I had a thought...would'nt a Valkyrie/ Black Knight book have been a hoot? Both mystically oriented, sword wielding, winged horse riding characters?? They could've had some fascinating stories.

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