Friday, August 31, 2012


Doug:  Welcome to Fantasy Island, kiddies!  Today's Open Forum asks you to put on your "What If? Well, Why Not?" thinking cap and come up with some alternate scenarios to well-known events.  And, if you want to extend it, shoot -- give us a one- or two-year plot outline!

Doug:  Here's the deal:  We all know that throughout comics history there have been many watershed moments.  For example, under the Earth's Mightiest Heroes umbrella the return of Captain America way back in Avengers #4 totally turned that title in a different direction; similarly the break-up of the originals and entrance of three former villains in #16 ushered in a new era.  And what of the introduction of the Vision?  Certainly that was influential for decades.

Doug:  Over in Amazing Spider-Man, we all seem to mark time with the deaths of Gwen Stacy and the Green Goblin.  Past the Bronze Age, there was the introduction of the black costume.  Was the introduction of the All-New, All-Different X-Men the biggest game-changer of them all?

Doug:  So here's your poser for today:  Let's just pretend that in each of the above cases (and please -- don't hesitate to throw out your own for the betterment of discussion), the title was failing so poorly in sales that it was on the verge of cancellation.  The events I've named no doubt would have saved those books, and then some.  But what would you have done as an alternate action?  Would you have taken an existing character and introduced him or her to the Avengers?  Would you have switched creative teams in some of these books?  Is there a plotline that ran somewhere in another comic that you feel would have worked in your favorite book and increased reader interest?  The sky's the limit today, so let your imagination run wild.  And thanks for playing!


Anonymous said...

Happy 50th Independence day Trinidad & Tobago !!!!!

OK now that's out of he way - yes there are several watershed moments in comics history. Giant-Man pulling out Cap from the freezing Arctic waters, and their reaction to seeing the iconic star spangled outfit under his tattered clothes remains burned in my mind's eye even after all these years. The Avengers was a better series because of him.

Perhaps the biggest game changer in terms of a team's history was the 1970s debut of the all new, all different X-men with Nightcrawler, Storm, Colossus, Banshee, Thunderbird RIP, and a then obscure mutant called Wolverine! On a personal note, while I love Wolvie's character, I think he's being overused in the Marvel universe. Wolvie in the Avengers. Wolvie in the Defenders. Really? I liked Logan better when he was a mysterious loner; half the appeal of the character was his mysterious past and his unpredictable nature. Nowadays he's just another killing machine. That book would have been very different if Chris Claremont had not been at the helm at that time.

It would have been interesting to see what Spider-Man would be like today if Gwen Stacy had not been killed off. Ditto with the Green Goblin. Imagine instead of Mary Jane, we had Gwen getting married to Peter! The later black costume/Venom saga was interesting in spots, but (I'm in the minority here) I could have done without it. BTW what I said above about Wolvie also applies to Spidey these days.

Also, I've always wondered what the Marvel universe would be like if for example, the original Kree Captain Marvel had not died. I'd like to see his further adventures.

Hmmm, this whole post sounds like ideas for a classic issue of 'What If ..'!

- Mike from Trinidad & Tobago.

humanbelly said...

Good lord, Doug-- this is, like, a question for an MFA written exam final-! If comics had a degree program that was similar in nature to, say, dramaturgy or musicology, this is the sort of thing you'd be required to write a 90 minute essay on. . . ! (Mind you, I never had any trouble with that sort of thing. "Enough, Humanbelly!", the professors would cry out, "We have our own lives to get back to. Surely you've said enough by now?!?")

So, I'll see if I can toss out a couple of brief ones, at least:

1) Rather than the demise of Gwen & Gobby, another option would have been to continue with the direction they'd strongly been hinting at: That Pete would reveal his identity to Gwen. Mind you, this wasn't going to go well. Pete seemed to be willfully blinding himself to the fact that Gwen had gone pretty much nutso with her fanatical hatred of Spidey at that point (No one seems to remember that. It stemmed from her father's death, naturally.). But it may also have been the catalyst to get him to reveal himself to Aunt May, as well. The perpetual lying, lying, lying for years on end to the people you love the most simply isn't a healthy model for even the most selfless of characters. I honestly liked the thoughtful way May was handled in this matter right before OMD and BND wrecked the Spidey universe.

2) In the Avengers, wasn't one of the Kooky Quartet's earlier missions a side-tracked attempt to track down the Hulk and try to enlist him? While I don't see him playing nicely at all w/ Quicksilver nor that era's Hawkeye, the Earth's Mightiest Heroes animated series does (well, did) a fantastic job of showing that he could be used effectively and dependably in an Avengers-team environment. Mind you, I think he would maybe have fared a bit better on a team with Cap, T'Challa, and/or the Vision on the roster. EXTREMELY patient guys who think of and treat him as a man, not a monster.

3) Every character that's been "For real/We mean it this time/Not a trick or a Hoax/Gone-For-Good" killed- and then come back to the land o' the living- should either have stayed that way, or should not have been killed in the first place. Off the top of my head, this list would include:

Mary Jane Watson-Parker
Aunt May
Reed Richards
Norman Osborn
Loki (in the late 80's? Remember?)
Thunderbolt Ross (OMG, and now he's that awful Red Hulk)
Betty Ross-Talbot-Ramirez-Banner
Professor X
Johnny Storm
Simon Williams

Ohhhhh, you get the picture. . .


david_b said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
david_b said...

I'd like to look at 'game-changers' that didn't work.., or failed miserably, and why.

1) Lady Dorna. Her death (and his new-found Dad quickly afterwards..) preceeded Gwen for Subby's title, yet... zilch impact.

2) Vision Disassembled. 'Nuff said.

3) Hank Pym Framed. A quasi-logical conclusion to years of quirkiness, yet.. bad writing/art made it a terrible regret to a once proud and visible member of the Marvel Universe.

4) Thing changin' back to Ben Grimm. Quickly became a cheap cliche', but not as bad as......

5) Jason Todd. 'Eh, started the whole DC 'dead-character-for-a-while-to-raise-sales', followed by Flash (Crisis) and Supes. Wasn't a good trend.

As for great trends, as mentioned earlier, Starlin grabbing Mar-Vell from the K-S War and starting the entire Thanos/Destroyer arc was Masterful..!

Would also include Cap's Secret War/Nomad arc..: What grandeous impact it would have served if perhaps played out until the Bicentennial (then perhaps culminating with Cap proudly back in uniform for ish 200..?) was stomped on when Jack came back.

humanbelly said...

To the "failed miserably" category I would add the Johnny/Alicia whirlwind romance and marriage. Yeesh. The problem with the FF, of course, is that their status quo is so much of what completely defines them. Aaaaaaand makes them stagnate, unfortunately. But every time one of them dies, or quits, or leaves, or loses their powers, or has a baby, the book loses its center and becomes just another super-team book. HOWEVER-- you know which abandoned FF game-changer I really did like? The whole Johnny/Lyja "marriage" that came in the wake of the Johnny/Alicia boondoggle. Had the writers pursued that relationship, and committed to it (like they did in the M2 Universe), I would have been a very satisfied customer. I wonder if it's too late?

I would also would like to have seen Jarella survive in the pages of the Incredible Hulk. Her introduction (and existence) was a big game-changer in that title a few years before. THE game-changer, in a way. She's really the only soul who was equally comfortable with Banner/Hulk in both identities-- very much in love with the man that both of them comprised (at the time). Her own homeworld- Ka'i, I believe- was a surprisingly rich little creation, with quite a sense of depth of history and society. Adventures there had rather a Conan/fantasy feel to them. Jarella on Earth may have been a tougher story vein to mine-- but she made the Hulk such a better guy, that you longed to see it tried, at least.

And, of course, I've never NOT wanted to have my ol' pal, the Child-like Hulk back again. Ultimately, we lost any semblance of him for the most part once Peter David gave us Super Banner Hulk (The Professor). Also great stuff--- but there simply aren't any heroes with that particular simple personna. A big ol' dangerous Lenny w/out a George to keep an eye on him. . .


Fred W. Hill said...

From what I've read, the Avengers was created in a rush to take up the printing place scheduled for Daredevil which wound up running several months late, DD & the X-Men being the knockoffs of Spider-Man & the FF Stan was ordered to come up with by Martin Goodman. And so Jack drew up a story using the spare heroes he'd designed so far for Marvel, leaving out the members of the FF and the one's Ditko had designed. It seems unlikely they really planned for the Hulk to stick around for long and once they decided to bring back Cap, the Avengers made the perfect vehicle for his comeback and they came up with a suitably dramatic means to do, almost making the 1st three issues seem a planned set up -- introduce the team, have the Hulk leave in a huff in the 2nd issue, then have the Hulk team up with the Sub-Mariner to fight the team, then have the team chasing Subby who just happens to unknowingly encounter the ice-cubed body of his former compatriate from WWII and throws that body into the sea, resulting in the discovery of a thawing Cap by the pursuing Avengers! Certainly, the Avengers would have had a very different history if the Hulk had stayed and not been replaced by Captain America. Imagine the Hulk on monitor duty! And I suspect the Avengers would have had a lot more difficulty getting security clearance (seems Tony Stark must have pulled a few strings to get clearance for Clint, Peitro and Wanda). Of course, adding that trio as the remaining original members left was another masterstroke, at once differentiating the team from mainly the stable Silver-Age line ups of the FF & the X-Men and allowing the possibility for more character development than was likely in a team dominated by members who had their own solo series. The Avengers started as Marvel's echo of DC's Justice League of America but by replacing the original members with characters who were previously treated as super-villains, albeit reluctant ones, the entire premise changed. And we might recall from reading those issues that Cap was not always thrilled to be teaching prima donnas like Hawkeye and Quicksilver and even left the team in a huff once. Of course, he came back when the chips were down, but even Cap could lose his cool. I have a couple of very worn original issues from the first few months after Cap's return and based on the letters published he wasn't universally popular at the time. I think having him forced into an unquestioned leadership position, no longer working with successful, experienced partners but with untried newbies, is what really allowed him to shine as an Avenger and as a leader. That he wasn't perfect or infinitely patient made the series all the more interesting.

Rip Jagger said...

The game-change which came to mind was the invention of the Detroit Justice League. Perhaps because they are featured in a recent Back Issue, but when Gerry Conway ejected the core team and replaced them with the likes of Vibe, Gypsy, Steel, and Vixen, I took a holiday from the series. I will confess that I got hold of those issues years later when I was filling in my collection.

There's no doubt the series was drifting, lost in the flash which had been the X-Men, Teen Titans, and other "youth" groups. It was worth a try I guess, but you can't call it a success.

What they eventually came up with was much more entertaining and lively.

Rip Off

Fantastic Four Fan 4ever said...

The biggest mistake of them all was when the X-Men got rid of Jean Grey in the Dark Pheniox Saga...I know I didn't spell that one right... Wel, anyway the attempt to bring her back never worked. If Editor and Chief Jim Shooter had left Chris and John alone the story would have unfolded naturally. I saw the page in which Jean lived and the evil entitly left. It was better for the X-Men saga than watching her demise.

Jim Shooter wanted a Gwen Stacy moment in X-Men. For me, at least, it didn't work and seemed artifical. I stopped reading after that.

humanbelly said...

I acquired most of that Detroit Justice League run (and the subsequent demise of the team/book) in the late 80's from a guy who wanted to give his two garbage bags of comics to an appreciative home.

I agree it was a much-needed game-changer for that book. The preceeding traditional, formulaic direction of the book had nothing left to offer-- even though it was well-drawn & not badly scripted. Although it surely wasn't the intent, Aquaman's team was, in retrospect, the chronicle of a perfectly reasonable, inspired venture that simply didn't pan out. A very bittersweet (well, largely tragic, in fact) storyline that, if anything, may have had more in common with Cap's Kooky Quartet. In fact, I wonder if that kind of comparison may have been made at the time?

It's been a long, LONG time since I read it-- but I do think I remember that poor Aquaman's self-doubt about his leadership abilities, and the responsibility he felt for the young team members was particularly compelling. And the team's ultimate demise made sense in the context of the DC universe at the time.


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