The Watchtower 4.19.04

Life is rough when you’re born in late January and are of mixed Jewish and Christian heritage. Don’t understand what that bizarre statement has to do with comic books? Of course you don’t that’s why you’re reading this column.

When I was but a child, December to January was the most glorious time of the year. I got presents for Chanukah, presents for Christmas then presents for my birthday, enough consumer goodness to last me until Easter hit and the chocolate dulled the pain! But as I got older, having those three events so close together became an excuse for my parents to give zany “combo gifts,” meaning one sweater sometime in December to cover the entire gift-giving season.

At first, getting wasted on New Year’s and continuing to drink throughout the rest of the year helped to dull the pain, but, as my 411 colleague Tim Stevens well knows, alcohol can only keep you from the bleak realization of your own station in life for so long.

To compensate, I like to make wish lists incrementally through the rest of the year of things I naively think I have a shot at getting instead of a tie come next December.

What was the point of the past semi-factual four paragraphs? To segue into a theme column that would have made much more sense during the holiday season: my wish list for the comic book industry!

1. JLA: Year Two by Mark Waid, Brian Augustyn & Barry Kitson

I was just re-reading my copy of JLA: Year One the other day and thinking of how I could re-read it again the next day and the day after that and still probably want to read it again. JLA: Year One was a story that needed to be told for continuity reasons and that could have easily been rushed out and still sold, but Mark Waid & Brian Augustyn instead put their heart and soul into twelve issues of Silver Age fun mixed with Modern Age characterization that made for a good and weighty read that earns its place in the JLA canon. Barry Kitson also contributes, in my opinion, the best work of his career, and given Barry’s level of talent, that’s really saying something.

JLA: Incarnations was a nice sorta follow up project, but I want the original creative team back to tell twelve issues of the Justice League’s second year. Nobody captured the camaraderie of Aquaman, Black Canary, The Flash, Green Lantern and J’onn J’onzz like the JLA: Year One team; I’m anxious to see what happens to the tight-knit family unit when Green Arrow, The Atom and Hawkman jump on board. I also want to revisit the evolving Silver Age DCU and see how the world around the JLA continues to adapt and evolve to the new standard bearers. A project like JLA: Year Two would only further solidify the JLA legend and bolster the main title, plus give fans a great read to add to their collection.

2. New Warriors volume 3 by Fabian Nicieza

This probably seems like a “duh” throwaway pick to anybody who knows me and my passion for the New Warriors, but I honestly think now is the time to at least try for a re-launch. Teen books are hot again thanks to Teen Titans, there is a whole new hotbed of political and social issues to touch on like the best early episodes of volume one did, and, most importantly, Marvel is letting Fabian Nicieza revive, like, every title he has ever worked on except for Nomad. Fabian made New Warriors, in my opinion, one of the most underrated, enjoyable and thought provoking reads of the 90s, and after a decade away from the characters, I’m sure he’s got some new stories to tell.

Nova, Night Thrasher, Speedball and Namorita aren’t doing anything but rotting in limbo (and appearing in JLA/Avengers #4); Justice and Firestar are bigger stars now thanks to their Avengers stint, but they are also available; Rage, Turbo and any number of teenage mutant characters are there to fill in the gaps. We need an artist? How about Tom Grummett, ultra-talented fella who will be hot after finishing Avengers/Thunderbolts and filling in on Teen Titans, draws great young characters, and has been unjustly out of regular work since Power Company was cancelled?

At the very least can we get Nova a stint in the Avengers (provided they abandon this horrible “big guns” idea)? The team needs a young hothead to spice things up.

3. Release more Legion of Super-Heroes TPBs

In this trade paperback motivated market we find ourselves in, Marvel and DC seem anxious to serve up all their current and most recent goodies in TPB form, but are only once every so often giving us the classics from their century of published history. One area in which DC has been particularly neglectful is their Legion of Super-Heroes property.

Legion Lost is probably one of the most requested bodies of work to be put into trade among Legion fandom and curious readers, but it has gone over three years now without being collected. Aside from that, Legion lore is teeming with classic stories for DC to collect and package; so far they’ve only released “The Great Darkness Saga,” but that’s just scratching the surface. There are plenty more epics from the Paul Levitz/Keith Giffen classic run, as well as before and after (featuring the work of Jim Shooter, Dave Cockrum, Mike Grell and more), begging to be re-released. It could only help the flagging sales on the overlooked Legion title.

One or two more Mark Waid Flash TPBs while you’re at it as well.

4. Ultraverse Re-launch

Though they may not use all of them all the time, DC has done pretty well with characters they’ve amassed through acquiring smaller publishers, from Captain Marvel to Blue Beetle to Captain Atom (not to mention Wildstorm, even if the corporate folks at DC don’t seem to be treating that particular venture too kindly at the moment). Marvel, on the other hand, is sitting on a unique and once-popular collection of characters in the Ultraverse Universe that set the industry ablaze in the mid-90s.

Marvel is clearly making the move to expand their horizons and at least challenge DC in terms of more imprints under their publishing umbrella with Icon, but re-launching the Ultraverse would be a far more sound offensive volley than, say, Epic or Tsunami were. The Ultraverse characters still have a fair amount of name recognition from the Ultraforce cartoon or the Night Man television show, and Prime has been optioned for a major motion picture. Get the right creator on any of these properties and you could have the next Supreme Power.

5. Guy Gardner in the JLA

And thus I complete the second phase of my “he can’t go this entire column without mentioning New Warriors, Guy Gardner and Young Justice” cycle (will I hit the third? Stay riveted to your screens!), but I swear, this one makes sense!

The Justice League needs a Green Lantern at all times; there are too many claimants to the name and that power ring contributes too much to the team dynamic (mostly carrying the folks that can’t fly in emerald gondolas and such) for it not to be so. The GL franchise is apparently about to undergo some revamping (again) and thus both Hal Jordan and Kyle Rayner may be off limits or needing more solo exposure before being ready to be in a team. Alan Scott is already spoken for by the JSA. Ditto Jade and the Outsiders. And…well…the sad fact is that John Stewart’s JLA tenure to date has been about as exciting as watching paint dry.

Not to mention: the JLA are all too chummy lately. Nobody argues like when Green Arrow and Hawkman were in the mix. Batman doesn’t make half the snide comments he used to. Hardly anybody batted an eye when friggin’ Major Disaster joined up. The JLA needs dissention. The JLA needs the straw that stirs the drink. The JLA needs…

…Guy Gardner.

Seriously, it’s perfect.

6. Joe Casey on Iron Man

I’m doing this one for Kevin Rapp. I don’t read Iron Man now and probably wouldn’t if Joe Casey took over, but a lot of people like Kevin would.

Honestly, it makes so much sense that I’m shocked nobody at Marvel has gone ahead and made this happen yet.

Iron Man is the ultimate corporate intrigue book. Joe Casey is the ultimate corporate intrigue writer. He has a built-in cult fan base. He loves the Avengers. Nobody else

‘Nuff said.

7. X-Men/Teen Titans II

In the mid-80s, the X-Men and Teen Titans were the two hottest properties in comics. A crossover between the two seemed like printing money. Chris Claremont and Walter Simonson put together a story some have deemed a modest classic and others have called disappointing. The real anticipation was for the sequel from the New Teen Titans dream team of Marv Wolfman and George Perez, anyhow. But then the negotiations between Marvel, DC and Perez involving JLA/Avengers broke down and X-Men/Teen Titans II died a sad death.

It’s now 2004. JLA/Avengers has come and gone and it was a rousing success. George Perez is going back and doing another “dream project” that went undone with Marv Wolfman in the New Teen Titans graphic novel “Games.”

Also, the X-Men and Teen Titans are once again among the hottest properties in comics. If the time were ever ripe for the sequel that never happened, it is now.

However, I recognize that George Perez is a busy guy and may not be able to commit all the way like he could have back in the day.

I propose a solution:

Split the chores of a really good one shot trade or a cool mini-series between the classic Titans creative team and the current team of writer Geoff Johns and artist Mike McKone. Have half the story feature a flashback to the classic characters (Robin, Wonder Girl, Changeling, Cyborg, Raven and Starfire on the Titans side, Cyclops, Wolverine, Storm, Colossus, Nightcrawler and Kitty Pryde on the X-Men side) with Wolfman/Perez, a sort of framing story…the other half focuses on the modern Titans and whatever modern X-Men Johns wants to play with having an adventure that follows up on the original.

Now that really would be like printing money.

8. An ongoing series or series of mini-series for the Giffen/DeMatteis Justice League

There were few things more enjoyable in 2003 than picking up any issue of Formerly Known As The Justice League. I’m not alone in this contention: I know this.

Perhaps the series of minis is the best way to go here. I’m not sure Giffen, DeMatteis and Maguire can or, more likely, want to do the monthly thing, but given a few months of break and lead time, these guys can put out gems every so often.

I just want my regular fix.

9. Peter David on The Defenders

Peter David has now had three highly entertaining titles cancelled in one character year. He’s writing Fallen Angel, but it both doesn’t fit in the category of PAD stuff I enjoy and, to be honest, I’m not sure it’s got commercial longevity.

I’ve accepted that Young Justice is not coming back (yep…write down the date). But as good as PAD was on Hulk and Captain Marvel and Supergirl, I still think he’s at his best on a team book, and one that doesn’t need to be taken too seriously so he can go ahead and satirize the entire comic book world.

Stick PAD on Defenders, give him his favorite, The Hulk, plus two straight men in Silver Surfer and Dr. Strange plus the x-factor of Namor, throw in Nighthawk, Hellcat and Valkyrie (all rife for comedy), plus let him drag in whatever second or eight stringers he wants and you’ve got a consistently entertaining book, dude.

10. Kurt Busiek on JLA

It’s no secret I think the rotating teams concept for JLA is perhaps the worst idea since Gunfire getting his own series. The JLA needs to be pushed by DC in the same way they’ve pushed Batman and now Superman. It should be in the top ten every month and they need a big name to put it there.

Kurt Busiek just got off writing the highest profile JLA project since Grant Morrison brought ‘em back in JLA/Avengers. In the humble opinion of this scribe (actually, not so humble, I run a major comics web site and I’m drop dead gorgeous), he nailed every member of the big guns pantheon, and others, dead on. A series like JLA, where he can fully exploit his penchants for team dynamics, crisp sub-plots, and, above all, his love of the history of comics, is perfect for Kurt Busiek. It’s a marriage made in heaven.

Of course, you would need an artist of comparable skill, and that is a short list. George Perez would obviously be the dream choice, but that’s kind of wishful thinking. Jim Lee…? See previous answer. Ooh! Ooh! I know! Phil Jimenez! Brilliant artist and George Perez’s heir apparent! Done.

Get Busiek & Jimenez on JLA stat and get them telling the time of big, epic, in your face stories I want to see.

It’s Ben’s world and you all just live in it, people. But seriously…wouldn’t a world in which the ten things I’ve outlined existed be a far better one than the one we live in?

E-mail me and let me know what you think and what would be on your own comic book wish list…and perhaps YOU will have your thoughts appear in The Watchtower, the number one comic book internet column in the WORLD! (NOTE: I won’t even pretend I can back that up).

Have a pleasant week.