An entry from my old Marvel blog going through the individual comic books I edited a decade earlier–which is now more like 23 years earlier.
It’s been a while since I last did one of these, but I didn’t want to let this occasion pass without acknowledging November 1999. Because that was the month where my office set a personal record for the most books edited and released in a given month. Now, since then, I’ve topped this amount handily a number of times-and once you factor in the titles I currently oversee as well as those I directly edit, I demolish it at this point. Still, fifteen releases in a single month is still a pretty strong showing-especially during a period when the average editorial office was producing in the neighborhood of six.
So let’s see what was going on back then, and if any of it was any good.
AVENGERS #24 marked the two-year point in the Kurt Busiek/George Perez award-winning run (as was commemorated on the cover here.) This was the follow-up to the “Eighth Day” storyline that played out through a number of books the preceding month or two, and which introduced a family of characters centered around the Juggernaut, the Exemplars. Unfortunately, while there were some cool designs generated by Jose Ladronn for those characters, they never quite caught on. I think the idea was too cerebral-it’s easy to understand that the Juggernaut is a guy who can’t be stopped, but the other Exemplars all had attributes that weren’t as straightforward. And they couldn’t help but come across as merely just another super-team.
THOR #19 continued the Dan Jurgens/John Romita Jr/Klaus Janson era on the series. I don’t remember all that much about this particular issue-other than that I think it was around this time that my assistant, Gregg Schigiel, wrapped up his running “Saga of Thor’s Lost Helmet”, which ran through the letters page for around six months.
THUNDERBOLTS #34 was the first issue of the series written by Fabian Nicieza-which means that a decade has now gone by since originator Kurt Busiek was regularly on the title. I can’t remember offhand if the first hints were dropped here, but Fabian brought some fresh attention to the series by introducing a new incarnation of the mysterious Scourge. Strangely enough, the current version of Scourge is leading the T-Bolts today.
AVENGERS: DOMINATION FACTOR and FANTASTIC FOUR: DOMINATION FACTOR went through a strange birthing process. At the time, AVENGERS FOREVER was just wrapping up, and had been received well. Speaking with then-EIC Bob Harras, Dan Jurgens mentioned how he’d love to do a sort of “Fantastic Four Forever” in the same vein-and Bob, not realizing that Dan and I had never spoken about this, immediately approved the project. After some tossing around of ideas and concepts, we wrangled in Jerry Ordway, who had been helping out on the main AVENGERS series, and made this a larger tale that bounced back and forth between the two limited series. But I was too smart by half when I proposed the odd numbering system, in which the first digit denoted the issue of the particular limited series, and the second the chapter of the overall story. All this did was confuse almost everybody.
The real reason that this month was so heavy with books from my office is that I released a “fifth week event” this month-a series of seven connected specials revisiting some of the leftover concepts and characters from the successful-yet-critically-panned Heroes Reborn era.
HEROES REBORN: DOOMSDAY kicked off the event, with a time-displaced Doom (who hadn’t returned to the main Marvel Universe along with the rest of the displaced heroes) crashing back down onto the now-decimated heroes Reborn Earth and deciding to claim it for his own. Writer Chris Claremont was on staff at this point, and was writing FANTASTIC FOUR, so it made sense to me to have him develop the spine of this story, around which the other one-shots would revolve. Mike McKone turned in some excellent artwork.
The following week saw the release of five one-shots, some of which were troubled in their birthing, many of which changed from their initial conception.
HEROES REBORN: YOUNG ALLIES was originally conceived as a buddy book starring the HR-Earth Bucky and Falcon, along the lines of the Star-Spangled Kid and Stripesy where the teenager was the lead character. But this all had to be reworked when I discovered that the HR Falcon was the actual Falcon, and had returned to the MU along with everybody else. Instead, Fabian Nicieza pitched the idea of a new Young Allies team, with a cool new Toro, and interesting approach to a character called Kid Colt, and a few other new characters. These guys were among the very few of these concepts to be used later, as the team showed up again in THUNDERBOLTS a few years later.
HEROES REBORN: ASHEMA continued the spine story, written by Chris Claremont and illustrated by Michael Ryan. The title character was a Celestial who’d fallen from grace, and who was attempting to save the HR Earth that the others of her kind intended to destroy, most notably the Dreaming Celestial. Not much to say here, the least interesting entry in the lot, despite nice Michael Ryan artwork.
HEROES REBORN: REBEL went through changes similar to those of YOUNG ALLIES. Initially, it was to star the guy who wore the prototype of Tony Stark’s HR armor, his best friend. But when we realized that the character had been killed during the HEROES REBORN IRON MAN run, we switched gears. Joe Kelly did an excellent job conceptualizing this as a post-apocalyptic western in a Midwest irradiated by gamma fallout. And the artwork by Matt Haley was lovely-what there was of it. When I was forced to call in Mark Bagley to complete the job over a weekend in order to meet our strict street date, in a fit of pique I credited him as “Matt Haley Bail-Out Brigade.” Matt eventually forgave me for this, I think.
HEROES REBORN: MASTERS OF EVIL by Joe Casey and Charlie Adlard was similar in spirit to Joe’s recent DARK REIGN: ZODIAC limited series, though unable to push boundaries quite so far in a Comics Code world.
HEROES REBORN: REMNANTS gathered together all sorts of bits and pieces that were left over in the HR Universe in one wacky title (the HR Ant-Man design, for example, was adopted by the Avengers’ accountant, who became Mant) and all built around one central joke: we revealed that the Swordsman of the HR universe, whose true name and history was hinted at but never revealed in the course of the run, was actually that world’s Wade Wilson, Deadpool. Writer Joe Kelly was in fine, wacky form, but he really drew the short end of the straw on this assignment in terms of his artists, as again with REBEL, I was forced to bring in other hands to finish up this job from Ethan Van Sciver at the last minute, which gave the final product a very choppy feel.
Finally, a week later, HEROES REBORN: DOOM wrapped the whole thing up, with Doom transporting the entirety of the planet into the regular Marvel U and situating it on the far side of the sun in opposition to the Earth. As is typical of Chris, he’d had so many ideas and set up so many threads that the conclusion here feels rushed and he never quite gets back around to everything. Years later, Jeph Loeb and Rob Liefeld would revisit the HR universe in ONSLAUGHT REBORN, not realizing that this series of books had been done. Even more strangely to me, this whole event was recently collected in a Trade paperback along with the HEROES REBORN: THE RETURN limited series-proving that you can never be quite sure just what you do will eventually be reprinted
Until I looked at this cover, I’d completely forgotten that HULK #10 was a fill-in art job by Ron Frenz. HULK wasn’t in a great place at this particular second, as it was transitioning from one creative team to the next. Jerry Ordway had stepped in to provide me with a three months bridging arc after the situation hadn’t worked out with the previous writer. But two months later, Paul Jenkins came on board, and together with regular artist Ron Garney did some very nice work.
We also launched CAPTAIN MARVEL #1 this month, by Peter David and Chriscross, spinning out of the events of AVENGERS FOREVER to some extent. I really liked Carlos Pacheco’s redesign of the classic Mar-Vell outfit, and I thought the character could probably sustain a series, at least for awhile (it wound up running for 60 issues in two iterations.) But the big news here was me convincing Peter David to come back on board a regular Marvel title-he was still smarting from being let go from HULK not that long ago, but he agreed to take Genis’ series on when I told him that Rick Jones was one of the leads, and that he could bring in Rick’s wife Marlo from his HULK run.
Finally, the third issue of AVENGERS: UNITED THEY STAND came out, based on the short-lived Avengers cartoon. There’s probably an entire blog post to be written about my experiences working on that cartoon, which I’ll have to get to at some point. A:UTS was written by Ty Templeton, who’d come to prominence on DC’s adaptations of their animated shows, and who devoted an incredible amount of attention and dedication to this series-he honestly treated it as though it were the one-and-only Avengers title, and was great at being able to interface with the cartoon’s writing staff and getting them to agree with whatever crazy thing he wanted to do that month. The artwork was provided by Derec Aucoin. While this series got some good critical notices, the fact that it was an adaptation of a cartoon that quickly vanished doomed it to a similar fate all too soon.
And that was everything! Looking back on it, while there was plenty of quantity, the quality was in flux, even on those long runs that are generally well-regarded today. None of these fifteen titles really stands out as something truly special-there were better issues and worse issues, but nothing that was so overwhelmingly memorable that it’s stood the test of ten years of time. Some months are like that, I suppose.