Mad Madame Meme

Well, I have something in the works…but in the meantime, Madeley has taken my suggestion, and made a meme out of one of his recent ruminations.

His instructions for said meme:

“What creators who are usually associated with a certain company (or, indeed, medium) would you like to see writing someone else’s title? For example, would you want to see JMS on Hellboy? Which DC character should Bendis have a crack at? Should George Pelecanos write Batman? (Answer: Yes)

Let’s get taggy, and remember to get taggy in turn and spread the love like rapidly mutating wildfire. Hell, don’t wait for a tag if you’re up for it, just drop me an email and I’ll pop a link in.”

So okay, I’m in. Here goes…

Mike Mignola’s Captain America.

This one’s for Adam Star. And, can’t you see it? Those big black shadows, ornamental emblems, and this wing-headed blue-chain-mailed walking Masonic symbol in the form of a man? But actually, here’s what grabs me: it isn’t that Captain America is a symbol, it’s that he’s a magnet for symbols — or perhaps more precisely, he’s a target for symbols. They just aim straight for that big white star on his chest. Man, I’m telling you, Cap is Hellboy: he’s fought Nazis, extra-dimensional space loons, dead men from the future, a secret society of Tories (read: dead men from the past), Richard Nixon, a version of himself corrupted by idealism, mad sinister Dr.-Seussian genetic scientists, blank slates, cultural stereotypes, and his own mythology. In fact about the only symbolism he hasn’t faced is the Monolith from 2001. Red Skulls. Cosmic Cubes. The guy is buried to the forehead-emblem in iconography. So what could be more perfect than to put him in Mignola’s hands, who works almost exclusively in that very same artistic mine-shaft that Cap was dug out of? By issue #3, we’d probably see the beginning of a year-long crossover with our favourite Sentinel Of Liberty and Dr. Strange, to rival (or is it combine? well, Jung does tell us that the principle of opposition eventually becomes the principle of harmony) the most freaked-out work of Englehart and Kirby on this title. And, to perhaps embroider Englehart’s unfinished Dr. Strange work on “The Occult History Of America” while we’re at it? Hey, just toss in a little Nick-Fury-as-Odin stuff and you have, once again, that quintessential Marvel demi-mondean superhero comic…all the odd little corners, the unexplored implications, that used to be so attractive but have lately been forgot. I’m fond of saying that Captain America has often been the most cosmic book that Marvel puts out — so let’s return to those days of raw symbolism running red on the floor.

Darwyn Cooke’s The Mighty Avengers.

And while we’re at it, let’s get someone to return us to Marvel’s historical roots, in the time of skinny ties and Beatlemania and the Cold War, and a superhero clubhouse full of half-baked monstrosities. Pick it up with Cap thawing out, a man out of time — straight from the mid-Forties to the mid-Sixties. And then reboot — let Cooke take it anywhere he pleases. Forget “retro”; this wouldn’t be retro. This would be a hard reboot of the Avengers title, in fact the hardest reboot of any title ever seen: like being in the Sixties, buying those crazy Marvel mags for the first time, still warm from the spinner rack. How far can we drag these properties and stories up the river of nostalgia, and what happens when we finally get to the headwaters? What happens to nostalgia then? Cooke himself has flirted with it in the up-to-date New Traditionalist fashion, but as impressive as New Frontier was, it couldn’t quite go far enough — it couldn’t quite break the rules completely, and so it stands as a phenomenally-impressive riff. A love-letter to a dead darling, a story set irretrievably in the past…even if it’s a past largely invented.

His Mighty Avengers, by contrast, would be set in an invented present. The present of 1964.

Or, am I crazy?

Okay, but could it be done?

If it could, Cooke’s the man to do it. Because, let’s get this nostalgia kick right out of our system. I mean let’s really get it out.

Peter Milligan and Mike Allred’s Phantom Stranger.

I’ll say nothing about this one, because to do so would give away a pet idea I’m nurturing — but do I really have to say anything about it? I wanted Mike Allred’s Solo to go on forever — this way it would. And this will no doubt prove to be the shortest little explanation in this whole list, but hey: it was either make it underweight, or leave it out altogether. And who would be so crazy to leave this out? Deadgirl, only with hats and more smack-talk. We’ll pick it up right after Zatanna leaves Cassandra Craft’s place. Oh, and speaking of Seven Soldiers

Grant Morrison’s Marvel Team-Up.

Because there’s nothing wrong with Marvel that the judicious application of a little psylocybin couldn’t cure, and Marvel Team-Up has historically been the invisible stitching that holds the big softball of Marvel continuity together anyway, but inexplicably no one’s using it for that right now, so brew the tea up and let’s get started! Continuity from the bottom up, not the top down, how refreshing it’d be to see that again! One title, in a line of profoundly out-of-synch stories, that serves as the Clock of Marvel Time. Put all your Editor’s Notes in here, put your thought-balloons in here too. Forget explanations, tortured crossover inconsistencies, and just let someone write to that stuff, for a change — Marvel Team-Up, in Grant’s hands, could share a slogan with Java: the network is the system. Let him build a Virtual Machine of continuity, and decide what to feed into it. Let him play with editorial captioning even more aggressively than he did in All-New Atom, and get meta with it, and get WAY meta with it! Besides, I want to read his quippy, jerky Spider-Man dialogue. Just tell him it could be his rejoinder to Moore’s 1963. He’d mess the joint up. He’d bring this place back to life.

James Robinson’s Son Of Satan.

Think it’s a stretch? But of course it’s just more Starman, isn’t it? Family issues, forgotten history — let’s face it, Marvel’s Seventies-born Hellscape is a mess. No one can figure out how to tell a story in it anymore, and is that so strange, really? What was originally intended to be one simple thing, and mean that same one simple thing, has now been turned into fifty million things that are anything else but. And the reason for it all is that even the most expert explainer can’t fix up multiversal structures if they’re just set up to fail anyway. So split it all off: make an Opal of it. Bring in Space Cabbie and Ultra The Multi-Alien, and some red-headed cops and a Shade. In this era of Buffy and Angel, a person should be able to do this without falling prey to needless badassification, or obsessive timeline-tinkering. Take Daimon Hellstrom away to…oh I don’t know…Rutland, Vermont or something, and just let him live there. Exorcist Detective. Big old house. Spooky goings-on where the all ley-lines cross. Magic trident. Think of him as a cross between Kent Nelson Dr. Fate, and Jack Knight Starman. And just let him run for a couple of years, see what happens.

Steve Englehart and John Romita, Jr.’s Hawkman.

This one’s really a no-brainer, isn’t it? Because who do you call, when the roof’s caving in, and the basement’s flooding, and you can’t understand how you could ever have lost the plot this bad? Englehart looks on this sort of thing as a professional challenge, I believe: he’s a one-man superhero restoration company. He’ll find inconsistencies you didn’t even know were there (because they were buried under the other, bigger inconsistencies), and he’ll use the little ones to mop up the big ones. And the man does not waste other people’s paper, either: give him two years, and he’ll satisfy everyone but the people who enjoyed having a messed-up Hawkman that doesn’t make any sense and can’t be reconciled with himself. No reboots required with Steve E., that would be a cop-out! Everybody’s story makes it out of the burning building alive, because he doesn’t believe in the no-win situation. I was thinking of putting him on The Eternals, actually…just because Gaiman left a good amount of room to move in it…but Hawkman’s got room to move too, if one can only learn to see it, and so I’ll content myself with slapping JRJR on there, because wow, what a Hawkman he’d draw.

Peter David and John Romita, Sr.’s Wonder Woman.

If there’s anyone who could draw a perfect Wonder Woman, it’s probably Jazzy Johnny — why it’s simply the stuff of commissioned sketches. As for PAD, well…he’s an interesting case, a guy with a proven professional track record who can handle drama, an anarchic fanboy with an occasional tendency to be the person who laughs hardest at his own jokes, a guy who sometimes lets plots get away from him, or gets too chummy with his characters for their own good, but then again a guy who’s occasionally been known to spin straw into gold. A little like the love-child of Keith Giffen and Mark Waid, really. So, which PAD would show up, to work with the penciller who’s a Living Legend, on the character that seems to have suffered from being a living legend too? In many ways I think it would be an ideal assignment for him. The “clubhouse” atmosphere he seems so fond of is something every Wonder Woman scripter in the last few years has made their bread and butter, so clearly there’s something there…and it seems everyone agrees that a Wonder Woman without a certain amount of breezy off-hand humour just isn’t worth writing about. But I think PAD’s occasional excesses would be either restrained, here, or put to good use: if WW needs anything, it’s a writer who’s not afraid to get a bit too chummy with her, and the character’s iconic status (only to be enhanced by Romita’s pencils, no doubt) leaves little opportunity for running off with her in an absurd direction, as it probably would set an upper limit on just how raunchy the humour could get, and still serve the story. Yes…yes, I think PAD could potentially be a great WW scripter, actually, because for all his faults he does have voice…and sometimes he has too much voice, but then again sometimes Diana Prince has too little.

Worth a shot, anyway. And then there’s always Jazzy Johnny to bring him back down to earth, if he flies off it.

Wil Pfeifer and Michael Avon Oeming’s Iron Man.

You wonder why, so I’ll tell you. Put simply, it’s because this character needs a shot in the arm, and he needs it bad. So much like the modern-era Captain Atom, whose recent Pfeifer-scripted miniseries actually made me like him possibly for the very first time ever…and yet Tony Stark’s got bigger problems than just being boring, because he’s become the most horrifyingly conflicted character Marvel’s ever had. So what to do about him? Well, as I’ve had occasion to mention recently, the problem with this iteration of Iron Man is precisely that it isn’t a screaming departure from the original symbolic foundation of the character — he concealed a damaged heart back in the Sixties, and he conceals a damaged heart now. He wrestled with the morality of his business back then, and he does the same now. And he’s every bit as over his head now as he was back then too…well, okay, a bit more these days, that’s true. But in any case, this is the through-line, sure enough: this is how you rehabilitate him, by using the stuff that’s already there. Iron Man has very nearly gone right over the edge (and why was he in the Illuminati room instead of Cap, anyway? Doesn’t make sense; I blame Shooter), and so he needs some dramatic pulling-back: he needs a massive crisis of conscience, verging on a full-on nervous breakdown. And it’s all there; and Pfeifer has shown he can not only identify this stuff, but pull it out and put it to use; therefore it’s got to be Pfeifer.

But, especially it’s got to be Pfeifer with Oeming. Just think of Oeming’s art, so different from the techno-porn Iron Man’s been saddled with as he’s become more and more the machine, and not the man. And he’ll still be that way in all of his other Marvel appearances, no doubt. But in the Iron Man book, he’ll be playing on pause, taking off the clunky, blocky helmet to give one of those amazing soulful Oeming looks of regret, as he finds himself running more and more out of the ol’ crypto-fascist techno-porn gas. This is like every issue of Powers ever, pure reflection; but then when he puts on the suit again, what could be more muscularly comic-booky than how Oeming would make that look? Imagine, Iron Man a comic book again! Why, I’d read that…

Hmm, that’s only eight. I should probably try for ten. But oh well, maybe in the comments! For now I’ve really got to pop this thing in the mail, and tag some folks. So how about just five, chosen randomly from the usual gang of idiots, like…

Jim Roeg, the Fortress Keeper, Tom Bondurant, Sean Kleefeld, and Prof. Fury.

But I really shouldn’t put Sean K. in there, since he’s off Marvel…however the next three names on the speed-dial (the WordPress dashboard makes selecting these things plenty easy, let me tell you) happen to be Evie, who’s already done one, Fake Stan Lee, who’s just going to say himself for everything, and Madeley who came up with the damn thing in the first place…and so I give up. Anyone else out there who wants to consider themselves tagged by me, jump right in!


17 responses to “Mad Madame Meme

  1. Actually, we have: I believe it was Jake’s “15 Comics Titles” meme, like two years ago. That’s where I lifted my Darwyn Cooke Avengers from (though I neglected to tell Madeley I was plagiarizing myself), just because I’d like to repeat that one as often as possible. But then it’s sort of interesting, I’m noticing a certain periodicity to memes and debates online, aren’t you?

    Anyway, I’m glad this kind of meme came around again, because I love my Captain America idea. Also it’s not quite the same: I don’t think my Cap here would’ve made my “Top 15” cut, and I don’t expect the same creation of “digest” titles that filtered all through the last one. In fact I imagine that what this one’ll show is that DC’s kind of transposable-talent heavy at the moment, compared to Marvel.

  2. One just for me? Awesome. Mignola on Cap is sheer brilliance. I’d buy that in a heart beat, and pickup the Cooke Avengers and Morrison Team-Up too (and couldn’t we do that? Ignore copyright and let Morrison team up Spider-Man with whomever).

    I’d buy anything drawn by Steve Rude, and he’s so good at space and aliens, so I want Baron and Rude Legion of Superheroes, preferably the Silver Age version with Superboy, the Super Pets, etc. Heck, I’m going to check out Rude Dude Productions to see what Nexus and the Moth I can mail order.

    So Rude Legion would be a thing of beauty, but not out of left field at all. So how about Hayao Miyazaki on New Mutants (the classics), or hell, the X-Men in general, but you just know he’d craft some achingly poetic symbol-laden yet fully apt visual metaphor about teenagers with super powers. And his Warlock would be something to see.

  3. Sorry, I always go New Mutants on these memes. Psychological issues. So scratch that. Make it Miyazaki Star Wars. I know, we’ve seen manga Star Wars before, but a Miyazaki treatment would be something else entirely. Also, Miyazaki Nexus sure would be interesting, and to take it full circle, I’ll have Curt Swan draw Naussica.

  4. Someone in comics need to give you some serious editorial POWER, plok. I want all these titles! Especially, well…all of them, really! No way I can top these, but I think I have some ideas of my own… I’ll send you a note when they’re up.

  5. I’ll be right over, Jim

    But first! Miyazaki on Star Wars? Ahhh…how beautiful it would be. And Baron/Rude Legion? Man, those are good suggestions.

    Y’r welcome on the Cap stuff, Adam…somehow I just thought of a symbolically-supercharged Cap, and it reminded me of you. Actually I was going to nominate you for this meme, but was worried that either a) it wouldn’t fit with the content of your blog, and b) that you’d find a way to make it a synchronistic excursion! And thus show me up. But man, what a rabbit-and-hat trick that would be! I was contemplating trying the same thing myself, but then decided it’d be too tough for my overly-linear style.

    And unfortunately I seem to have forgotten the names of the art team on Robinson’s Starman! Ridiculous…

  6. I love the idea of riffing as a musical metaphor for comics writing, transposing rules and concepts from one reference frame to another. Like a different kind of lens to get to the heart of what’s right with some things, and what’s wrong.

    And speaking of filtering, Captain America’s history viewed through Mignola’s lens is way more interesting than the character’s been in decades. I’d pick that up in a heartbeat.

    It would be nice if anyone was able to rehabilitate Marvel’s hellscape. Those 70s comics were great (and crap, at exactly the same time). But no one seems to be able to get to the heart of what made them so interesting. Garth Ennis’ Ghost Rider was interesting enough, but it was Garth Ennis‘ vision of Hell, as examined many times before, not the Marvel U. version.

    Seems odd to say it, but you know the most effective version of the horror characters recently? The VS System card game. All the horror characters and items and spells and groupings all boiled down to their essence. You look at them and think, how can you go wrong with that? And yet, they do. I blame the Blade movies, because I am grumpy and foresake the jumpy camera and grinding soundtrack of youth.

  7. Well there is one author we may have been taking for granted, because he’s been ahead of his time, not directed to our so desperately important current concerns. An International Man who can embrace a score of cultures with affection and not be trapped into supporting any one against another. An author who seems to be able to take any social phenomenon and turn it into a neat playlet for no more than ten characters, and yet can turn on the visual grandeur at will; who has no doubt seen all the grand narratives making their last gasps for legitmacy, but really doesn’t care because his own resources of vulgar narrative are inexhaustible.

    An there’s one title I think would bloom at his touch, which had one satisfying little run a few years back. A story centered on the trials of one little family in a rather alienating world, which nonetheless reached for Zelaznian extremes of science fiction and ancient religious imagery. Just waiting for a new author with just the right instinct for wedding fantasy and farce.

    I speak (of course) of Sergio Aragones’ Vimanarama.

  8. On reflection, and meaning no disrespect to Mr. David…having just re-read an Agents Of Atlas comic, I think I’ll switch my vote to Jeff Parker on Wonder Woman…

  9. Pingback: Switcheroo: Hulk in Space « Double Articulation·

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