Well, since nobody played the Comics Oscars Game…
First of two ordered-up memes: from Harvey Jerkwater, a suggestion for a Marvelized Tangent Universe, only to the EXTREEEEEME…!
“In 1997, Dan Jurgens had a snazzy idea. The birth of the Silver Age brought about a ton of new characters who bore the names of unused Golden Age characters. Some hewed closely to their namesakes, such as the Flash. Others were quite similar in the basics but wildly different in background and genre, like Hawkman. And still others were totally different except for the name, such as the Atom. Jurgens thought it would be fun to take this approach and try it all over again.
Out of this notion came “Tangent Comics.” DC put out a collection of one-shots for a universe they never intended to follow up with, and stocked them with characters of similar names and radically different types. “The Metal Men” was a war comic. “The Joker” was a female vigilante and anarchist. “Nightwing” was a shadowy organization with evil intentions. And so forth. Supporting characters in the stories were similar. “Aquaman” was a villain, a water elemental. “Captain Boomerang” was a pilot and the leader of a flight team in the mold of Blackhawk.
DC went so far as to create an alternate history for that world. In the “Tangent Universe,” the Cuban Missile Crisis had a tragic ending. Cuba and Florida were destroyed by nuclear missiles, and Atlanta became a coastal city, now dubbed “New Atlantis.” The Soviets invasion of Czechlosovakia in 1968 led to an American military response and WW3. Things were, in short, quite different.
Nifty. It also begs for the obvious: Marvel’s response. I call it “Digression Comics.”
–The title of the series as well as its star(s) must recycle the name of Marvel Universe characters or organizations. Supporting characters and villains should as well.
–A brief series pitch for the comic, explaining the book’s appeal. Why would a reader want to try it?
Suggestions for Awesomeness:
–The bigger a departure from the original concepts, the better. Recasting the Hulk as a variation on Man-Thing isn’t a departure. Recasting the Hulk as a rusted-out, haunted oil tanker that floats around the north Pacific and serves as the basis for a horror anthology comic is a departure. This isn’t the Ultimate Universe, which is “Marvel with a Twist.” This is, to use a nauseating Hollywood term, a “re-imagining from the ground up.”
Now say what you will about Harvey, but he’s a man with a plan. The Incredible Hulk as EC-style horror comic about an abandoned freighter? Ohhhh, YASSSSSSSS…but Harvey, where should we start?
“Imagine taking these names and building whole new concepts around ‘em: Mister Fantastic, Ghost Rider, Deathlok, Beta Ray Bill, Blade, Ka-Zar, Elektra, Martinex, Rogue, Quasar…”
But Sean W., weren’t you just telling me about a Marvel version of this that did exist?
“Mister Fantastic” — nobody knows how, and nobody knows why, but here’s a man who can not only bilocate, not only can multilocate, but he can’t stop himself from multilocating! He’s in every English town, every English city…for all we know he’s in foreign towns and cities as well. And every day there’s more of him. Mild-mannered, understanding, he’s everybody’s best friend for ten years…and then there’s even more of him. His eye is even on the sparrow. He’s like Jesus, only with a double chin, and dirty glasses, and you don’t need faith to believe. He doesn’t even get older. He’s just always there.
Humour mag: Death Note flipped on its side to become a smiley-faced emoticon. He’s a great guy, this Mister Fantastic…but there’s only so much room on the Earth, and the more of him there is, the more it becomes a problem. Eventually he needs to be put to work. He becomes like a technology: need to haul a barge out of the bay? Well, you could use a winch, but why not use Mr.-Fucking-Fantastic? It’s not like we’re gonna run out of him…
Need to make a pile out of something?
But, admonitions from mothers and fathers notwithstanding, there are always girls who are attracted to both his put-upon nature, and his mysterious multiplicity. He’s both exotic and homely; both a farmer and a lawyer and a sort of king and a sort of mute dumb equipment that will stand there and serve sandwiches; in a word, he’s English cultural bullshit personified.
In about the year 1897, a Chestertonian anarchist is jilted for a Mister Fantastic, and tries to get him tried in court as a bigamist. But the case can’t be proved; in fact though Mister Fantastic confesses, he does not confess to bigamy but to polygamy…which is quite against the law, but not the crime he was charged with, and so (with the help of a skilful advocate) he goes free.
Our Chestertonian anarchist then conceives, in a fit of rage and inspiration, the following incredibly correct plan: if he can just find the real Mister Fantastic, the original from whom all these multiple instances emanate, and if he can kill him…
Well then; problem solved. No more Mister Fantastics, they’ll probably puff away into smoke, and then he can marry his girl. Why it’ll be like an annulment. Yes: a cosmically-just annulment.
He’s our main character. Let’s call him Gil Bloodpenny. A strapping young genius, who can pick up a full-grown Holstein and hurl it two feet…and that’s a lot, I couldn’t toss a carton of milk much more than four feet, and this man can hurl a cow. Can hurl a cow. Cuchullain reborn. Cow-hurler. The man is simply Demetrious. The flat bronze blade smashes the interloper’s nose into seventeen ugly, crusty shards…the thick drops of blood spill out, to the glory of Apollo…
Anyway: he conceives, with his razor-sharp brain, this, um, crystalline plan. And then he goes out across the country to raise an army of brilliant and Herculean jilted lovers like himself. He forms a vast spy network of these geniuses and physical marvels. He secures the assent of the Government in his plan, too: they’re quite concerned that the sheer weight of Mister Fantastics will sink the glorious Island Nation. So, he slaughters hundreds of Mister Fantastics. But more and more are constantly popping into view. In the pulpit. Down the local pub. Suddenly there’s one sitting having dinner with you. Driving the bus. They’re everywhere. And it’s all the same man! Who seems a little embarrassed by it all. “I say…I really do understand your frustration…” Chop! Kick! Beat! Sever! And then you go to your hotel, and he greets you as a doorman: “Truly, I feel awfully bad about it…” Yes, yes. Honestly I’m worn out with killing you. Can’t you just tell me where the original of you is? “Well, the truth is I can hardly remember…I know one of me is kneeling down somewhere…”
“What?” The minor Hercules feels his bow…I mean, his hat…drop from numb fingers. “You’re kneeling?” He laughs, lustily. Well, he never laughs any other way. “Of course,” he says. “Of course…”
Pardon me; gotta go to bed. Should I finish the story later, or…?
Anyway: that’s my version of Mister Fantastic.