The Watchtower 1.18.03: What If Ben Ran The Comic Book Industry? Pt.1

Wow…it’s been over a week and the site is actually running really smoothly; who woulda thunk it? I’ve got a lot of “thank you”s to say and credit to give…but first, I’ve got a column to write…

IF BEN RAN THE INDUSTRY PT.1: MARVEL COMICS

Every once in awhile, I challenge myself, and ask the question “what if I ran the comic book industry?” What if I were able to launch and cancel titles? To assign creators to different books? To mandate what characters would be featured in what titles and what directions those titles would take? These are questions many comic book fans ask themselves each day…so allow me to indulge myself for a moment and give my answers publicly. This week, I take on Marvel Comics and tell you all how I would handle the House of Ideas…next week, I’ll continue with “What if Ben Morse Ran the DC Universe.”

I did lay down a couple of ground rules when I did this little exercise:

1. No writer could write more than three titles (not even Geoff Johns)

2. No penciller can pencil more than one title

3. If I want to launch a new title, I need to cancel an existing one

With every creator in the industry at my disposal (within reason), no disputes, no feuds, and with my pick of titles and directions, this is what my battle plan (and mine alone) would be to make Marvel the best it could be for the fans…

X-Men Titles

The Goal: There are a ton of X-Titles…thus there should be something for everybody. There is enough X-Titles to provide good stuff for fans new and old and of multiple genres…

UNCANNY X-MEN

Writer: Chuck Austen

Penciller: Ian Churchill

Cast: The current one, minus Wolverine, plus Chamber

Direction/Notes: This book is headed in the right direction, in my opinion, under Austen’s capable hands, and appeals both to long-time x-fans as well as fans of character-driven, soap opera-esque stories. I’d throw Chamber back in the mix (something I think Austen will do sooner or later anyhow) and lose Wolverine (more on that later), but mostly keep it the same; this title is doing well. Asayima is a good artist…but I have other plans for him. Churchill’s Uncanny run was good and all-too brief…and in my world, he’d have no problem coming back onboard.

NEW X-MEN

Writer: Grant Morrison

Penciller: Ethan Van Sciver

Cast: Current cast minus Wolverine

Direction/Notes: I’ll come right out and say it: I have not been a fan of Morrison on this title. I loved him on JLA, but I think that was because he was working with such iconic characters that he could make changes but not go totally overboard…his X-Men aren’t even recognizable, and as a longtime fan, his lack of respect for continuity is frustrating. Still, he has brought in a lot of new fans, so he stays…but with some provisions. Without renaming the title “New Mutants,” the focus is going to be even more on the students, original Morrison creations that he is free to explore without being tethered to the past. He keeps Xavier, Jean, Beast & Emma because he’s made them his own, plus Xorn. He loses Wolverine, because he’s not doing anything with him; after he’s done with the storyline with Emma, Cyclops is out as well (I think Morrison is wasting a potentially strong character…I loved his Icons LS and Brian K. Vaughan’s take on him), either to Uncanny or into a solo title. And lastly, Quitely is out, because no matter how good he is, the title needs a single penciller, and I think Van Sciver fits the bill nicely.

X-TREME X-MEN

Writer: Chris Claremont

Penciller: Salvador Larocca

Cast: Storm, Rogue, Gambit, Bishop, Sage…and adding Wolverine & Cannonball

Direction/Notes: I liked the most recent issue and Claremont is writing Wolvie well…so I say Claremont keeps him. This book will be for the longtime fan and for the x-fan looking for more action, less talk.

Now, with the core titles out of the way and hitting fans on different levels…we go to the satellite titles, which I want to cover different niches…

WOLVERINE

Writer: Brian Azzarello

Penciller: Darick Robertson

Direction/Notes: Kick-ass action/adventure in the classic Wolverine style. No offense to Greg Rucka, but Azzarello could do a mean Wolvie, and I think the world is ready to see it.

AGENT X

Writer: Gail Simone

Penciller: UDON

Direction/Notes: The humor book with a cross section of action, in my ideal world, the fan favorite creative team stays onboard. But one other major change…Agent X is most definitely NOT Deadpool. I want to free Simone from any shackles of the past series and let her work with the characters she’s created…plus, I’ve got other plans for the Merc with a Mouth…

CABLE

Writer: Robert Weinberg

Penciller: Doug Mahnke

Direction/Notes: Back to Weinberg, back to Cable, and back to sci-fi/fantasy. And JLA penciller Doug Mahnke, who’s shown he can draw both technology and sorcery, is the perfect unique artistic mind for Cable.

X-STATIX

Writer: Peter Milligan

Penciller: Mike Alldred

Cast: Current cast

Direction/Notes: If it ain’t broke (not the last time you’ll read that)…

EXILES

Writer: Judd Winick

Penciller: Mike McKone

Cast: Current (ever-shifting) cast

Direction/Notes: See above…but let’s keep McKone onboard…

WEAPON X

Writer: Frank Tieri

Penciller: Georges Jeanty

Cast: Current cast plus Deadpool

Direction/Notes: I was on the fence about this title, but villains-as-headliners is a concept that always has potential, and Tieri is too talented a guy to leave jobless. My secret weapon: giving Tieri an entertaining fan-favorite character whom he has written before in Deadpool.

X-MEN UNLIMITED

Continues as is…

Spider-Man Titles

The Goal: Keep Spidey fun and accessible for both long-time readers and newcomers brought in by the movie

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN

Writer: J. Michael Stracynzki

Penciller: John Romita Jr.

Direction/Notes: Definite “if it ain’t broke” case…

PETER PARKER: SPIDER-MAN

Writer: Tom Peyer

Penciller: J. Scott Campbell

Direction/Notes: He’s had a nice run, but I think Paul Jenkins is worn out on Spidey and needs to move on, it’s time for a new take. I love Kevin Smith, but with his schedule, I don’t trust him on my marquee character. So why not Tom Peyer? He did a great humorous series about real human interactions in Hourman and I think he’d write a really fun Spidey. This would be a more light-hearted, character-driven title contrasted to the slightly darker action-packed Amazing. And Campbell has done some classic Spidey covers, let’s move him to the inside.

TANGLED WEB

Cool idea…let’s leave it and keep the good creators coming…

SPIDER-GIRL

Writer: Tom DeFalco

Penciller: Ron Frenz

Direction/Notes: I keep it because it’s a long running title and because I believe having an all-ages title is important.

Avengers Titles

The Goal: They are the icons of the Marvel Universe…the team book should be a showcase of guys with solid solo titles so that it’s exciting to see them interacting with each other and others…

AVENGERS

Writer: Geoff Johns

Penciller: Phil Jimenez

Cast: The current one, minus Jack of Hearts, plus Hawkeye & Nova

Direction/Notes: After a rough start, I think Geoff Johns has a good roll started here. And just in case Geoff’s workload with his other titles is too much, I give him the gift of Phil Jimenez, a guy who will not only provide amazing art and who can draw almost as many characters as George Perez, but a gifted co-plotter who can both pick up slack and push his creative teammate. For characters, as much as I like what Geoff is doing with Jack of Hearts, the situation he’s been put in kind of dictates that he can’t stick around forever (though I wouldn’t be opposed to him staying if Geoff has ideas…he can handle big casts). I throw in Nova, because I like rookies in the Avengers, and because he’s the brash flipside of the coin from Justice, the last New Warrior-turned Avenger. As for Hawkeye…he belongs there and the fans want him, plain and simple.

THOR

Writer: Dan Jurgens

Penciller: Alan Davis

Direction/Notes: Jurgens is doing some interesting stuff with the religious/political angles right now, and I’d let him keep doing so. Alan Davis has the most majestic art around, and he will bring a regal feel to Thor…plus, another potential co-plotter to help out Jurgens, who can use some reining in at times.

IRON MAN

Writer: Joe Casey

Penciller: Kia Asayima

Direction/Notes: The best, most entertaining part of Casey’s work on both Uncanny X-Men and Wildcats has always been the way he integrates business and industrial intrigue into adventure. Is there a better possible fit for the original corporate super-hero? And there are few books that would benefit more from the anime stylings of Asayima…I think this team could do some really exciting stuff with ol’ Shellhead.

HAWKEYE

Writer: Fabian Nicieza

Penciller: Andy Kubert

Cast: The current one, minus Jack of Hearts, plus Hawkeye & Nova

Direction/Notes: A way to keep the Thunderbolts fans and give Avengers fans something they’ve been wanting for years. Hawkeye is a great character with great solo potential…his narrative alone could pack many an issue. Fabe is a talented guy, has experience creating series starring members of a team who were on the cusp of solo adventures for years (with Gambit) and writes a definitive Hawkeye. Andy Kubert has no regular gig, aside from mini-series, and draws great action. I’d have the Thunderbolts as a big part of the supporting cast as well.

Marvel Universe

The Goal: Action, adventure, diversity of brands, and fun

FANTASTIC FOUR

Writer: Mark Waid

Penciller: Mike Wieringo

Cast: The current one

Direction/Notes: If it ain’t broke…

CAPTAIN MARVEL

Writer: Peter David

Penciller: ChrissChross

Cast: And you can rest assured that I certainly wouldn’t fail to capitalize on the momentum U-Decide has given this title…

THE HULK

Writer: Bruce Jones

Penciller: Mike Deodato Jr.

Direction/Notes: Another one that ain’t broke…

INFINITY

Writer: Jim Starlin

Penciller: Stuart Immonen

Cast: Adam Warlock, The Silver Surfer, Thanos, and more…

Direction/Notes: There has been little focus on the cosmic side of Marvel since the cancellation of Silver Surfer, and I think last year’s Infinity Abyss showed that Jim Starlin still has some great cosmic soap opera to tell. Plus, with the nostalgia boom, some of these characters, who were huge in the late eighties and early nineties, are going to have big appeal. This would be an anthology title, where the cast would shift by the issue. Finally, you’ve got Immonen, a great artist who deserves regular work and who has cosmic experience from his Legion of Super-Heroes run.

Marvel Knights/MAX

The Goal: Same as always…new takes on old favorites and stuff that pushes the envelope…

DAREDEVIL

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis

Penciller: Alex Maleev

Cast: The current one, minus Jack of Hearts, plus Hawkeye & Nova

Direction/Notes: Talking to Matt Morrison has certainly given me reason to have doubts about this title, but from what I can see, the fanbase is still there and doesn’t warrant any drastic changes

CAPTAIN AMERICA

Writer: Christopher Priest

Penciller: John Cassady

Direction/Notes: Priest is a perfect fit here, as he has shown that he can write politically relevant stuff and government intrigue. I was tempted to almost put Kurt Busiek, who wrote a great iconic Cap in Avengers, as the writer here, but I think right now a socially relevant Cap sells better than a classic superhero Cap, and Priest is the man to bring us that…and bringing in some Panther readers with him wouldn’t hurt. As far as Cassady goes, he’s already well on his way to becoming the definitive Cap artist, and I won’t be the one to derail him.

ELEKTRA

Writer: Greg Rucka

Penciller: Greg Horn

Direction/Notes: The only change I want here is Horn doing more than just covers…those things are gorgeous!

ALIAS

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis

Penciller: Michael Gaydos

Direction/Notes: If it ain’t broke…

THE PUNISHER

Writer: Garth Ennis

Penciller: Steve Dillon

Direction/Notes: Still a match made in hell…but in a good way.

INHUMANS

Writer: Paul Jenkins

Penciller: Jae Lee

Cast: All the classic Inhumans…

Direction/Notes: My Spider-Man restructuring left Mr. Jenkins without a job…why not team him with his old buddy Jae Lee on the project that made them stars? Fan favorite characters and a proven creative team equals gold.

BLADE

Writer: David Goyer

Penciller: Richard Corben

Direction/Notes: Despite two hit movies and a lack of horror titles, Marvel can’t seem to make a Blade series work. Solution: bring in the man who made movie-Blade cool, and who also happens to co-write JSA, one of DC’s best series, David Goyer. Add the gritty and realistic dark art of Corben, and Blade can become a franchise player.

Ultimate Universe

I’ll make things short and sweet here: the only change made is that Brian K. Vaughan moves in to replace Mark Millar as writer on ULTIMATE X-MEN to give MM more time to focus on THE ULTIMATES; no changes for ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN either

And what’s cancelled?

-ULTIMATE ADVENTURES & MARVILLE: Just bad ideas…

-THUNDERBOLTS: I don’t they can catch the X-STATIX lightning in a bottle twice…excuse the pun…

-BLACK PANTHER: A tough call, but even the writer of the series has admitted that nothing is bringing in the readers…

For those of you who were trying to keep score:

-HAWKEYE replaces THUNDERBOLTS

-BLADE replaces BLACK PANTHER

-INFINITY replaces ULTIMATE ADVENTURES

-INHUMANS replaces MARVILLE

What did you think? E-mail me and let me know, and I’ll respond to some of you next week…which will also feature my take on the DCU.

THE 411

Yes, ladies and gents, 411comics is now over a week old, and the smoothness with which the site has run, and the success we’ve been experiencing, has pleased me to no end.

I would like to thank all the staff, but in particular, props need to go out to Daron Kauppauff. Last week I found myself swamped with the other aspects of the site and asked Daron if he’d be interested in taking control of the Reviews section, to which he said yes. Daron has gone above and beyond, recruiting a great staff and working his ass off to provide you with a steady stream of consistently quality reviews. As it is updated just about every day, running the Review section is now small task, and Daron has done a great job; my hat is off to him and he has my appreciation.

On a related note, Daron has informed me that as of now we have all the reviewers we need, so if you were looking to become a member of the 411 review team, you’re out of luck for the time being (keep posted to this column to see if that changes). What we can still use is people who would like to do news reports for any companies other than DC, Marvel & CrossGen. You would be required to do once-a-week updates in the vein of our current news reports. E-mail me if you’re interested.

We also welcomed two new staff members this week. Kyle Litke is our new CrossGen news man and did an excellent job in his first column. Kyle is extremely passionate and knowledgeable about CrossGen, which helps him fit right in with our other two news guys, Jim & George…no small feat, believe me. It gives me great pleasure to announce that our other new columnist is Lauren Dougherty, who gives us a female perspective in a site filled with testosterone in her column, Strange Fruit. Lauren is a personal friend and has kept me sane through the process of getting this site up and running, not to mention a kick-ass writer; I’m indebted to her both as a friend and now her boss (that’s right, you all work for me! Bwahaha!)

It’s been a busy week for me, as I started college once more, returning to Connecticut College after four months in Norwich, England studying abroad. Good to see familiar faces and I’ve got a sweet room…only problem is my classes, or rather my lack thereof. Seems that my registration didn’t quite go through by the deadline due to the international mail…a fact that my school didn’t really think I needed to know until after I had moved in (and they had my tuition money for the semester). So now I’ve spent the past couple days begging any professors that will have me to let me in their classes. On the bright side, I was frustrated with the lack of non-fiction classes available to me as an English major, and this has given me a chance to refocus and create my own independent minor in journalism, so remember to look for those silver linings, kids. I also became the Editor-In-Chief of my school’s newspaper this week…they just better hope I don’t mix up our lead story with Manolis’ latest column…

In closing, we here at 411 would like to thank you, loyal readers, for making us quite the modest success as of so far. But we’re greedy, and we want more, so get out there to every message board you can find and spread the word! 411comics is here, and the best is yet to come!