And finally we come to the closing of the cycle of super-heroes in the Literature Post, where I have reviewed the different eras of super-heroes and their immediate predecessors in the form of novels in prose (ie written without illustrations), but since it’s quite clear that super-heroes as a literary genre gained momentum in the format of comic books or graphic novels, is just and necessary to close the cycle commenting on some examples in this format. Clearly, the selection and variety of super-heroes in comic books is almost infinite and 9 choices to choose will not scratch the surface of that genre, but I hope they serve as a guide for those not versed in the subject and want to venture into this type of reading. To prevent the post would be even more dispersed than it already is, I chose to select examples that fall within the classification of “super-heroes’ teams”, choosing three examples of DC Comics, 3 of Marvel, and 3 other from independent publishing houses. Read. Any book. Just read.
Between 1986 and 1987, the 12 originals issues of “Watchmen” written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Dave Gibbons were published, then collected in a single volume in 1987. Nothing like this had been written in the history of comics, and from then nothing like it has been published again. There is a “before” and “after” with the release of “Watchmen.” This title brought the world of comics to a fully adult context, and also paved the way and as it kinda “pushed” to other writers to develop comic book stories, most ambitious, more adult, darker.
Everyone has their own favorite comics, but when it comes to mentioning which is the best comic book story of all time, the arguments always lead to one, and that is “Watchmen”.
This was the masterpiece that Alan Moore rose to a level of writer that nobody else has been able to match, since apart from the undisputed authorship of “Watchmen,” has also achieved fame with his “run” in “Swamp Thing” which was the foundation stone of the label “Vertigo”, a subsidiary of DC Comics recently “assimilated” by the general label of DC. Likewise is the author of “V for Vendetta”, “Marvelman (Miracleman)”, “Top Ten”, “Tom Strong”, “Promethea”, “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen”, “From Hell”, “Fashion Beast” and as stories such as “Batman: The Killing Joke,” “Superman: Whatever happened With the Man of Tomorrow”, “Superman: For the Man who has everything”, “Green Lantern: Mogo doesn’t Socialize”, “Green Lantern: in Blackest Night “,” Superman & Swamp Thing: the Jungle Line “, etc … He is the creator of characters such as” John Constantine “, he is the “godfather” who impulsed the career of Neil Gaiman (The Sandman) to gain entrance in the business of comics, including his unpublished proposal “Twilight of the Superheroes” was the basis for what was then known as “Kingdom Come” by Mark Waid & Alex Ross. Also events such as “The Rann / Thanagar War” and “The Blackest Night” were inspired due to stories written by Moore many years before.
When Alan Moore presented his proposal for “Watchmen,” the idea was to use characters from the gallery of “Charlton Comics,” which was recently bought by DC Comics. But when the editors realized that the proposed changes and possible fates of the characters, and seeing that they could not use them as planned later titles in DC, they asked Moore better to “create” new characters. That’s how Captain Atom, Thunderbolt, Peacemaker, Nightshade, Blue Beetle and The Question, evolved to become Dr. Manhattan, Ozymandias, The Comedian, Silk Spectre, Nite-Owl and Rorschach.
“Watchmen” is an adult socio-psychological study of the real impact and consequences that would cause the existence of super-heroes in the real world, which inevitably would have led to changes in the story as we know it. Set in the years ’80s, where Richard Nixon is enjoying his third term as the President of the United States, thanks largely to his success in winning the Vietnam War, having the advantage of super-heroes, especially Dr. Manhattan, the first being with super powers of the world, but then approved a law that prohibits the existence of super-heroes with secret identities, however Rorschach is the only one that refuses to obey the law. The story begins when Rorschach is investigating the death of a man who turns out to be The Comedian, with which it is speculated that someone is trying to kill all those who were masked heroes. His investigations will take him to get reacquainted with his old allies and the different paths that each has taken.
Today it is virtually impossible to think there was a team of the Justice League without the “heavyweights” such as Superman and Batman, but that was precisely the case for nearly a decade where DC thought it was best that the “Justice League of America ” would be composed by characters without their own titles, thus, creative teams could act freely in their stories, on paper the idea sounded good, but in practice it was an era where it was supposed to be the team with the world’s most powerful heroes, but they were ridiculed in these stories and thus by fans. Also during that time, key heroes because their stories were left out of being able to be used in the title anyway: Superman died, Batman got broke his back and replaced by another, Green Lantern Hal Jordan went insane and killed the GL Corps, Wonder Woman Diana is subjected to a new contest and loses her “title” and replaced.
In 1997, DC saw that it was the right time, with the return of most of the “heavyweights” of DC, and it gave the green light to the new comic book “JLA” (the first time was used this acronym for Justice League of America , officially as the title of the comic) written by Grant Morrison and illustrated by Howard Porter (initially). The team ultimately returned to the greatness and respect, made by Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, The Flash (Wally West), Green Lantern (Kyle Rayner), Aquaman and Martian Manhunter.
The comic book introduced for the first time, the “Watchtower”, located on the surface of the moon (before the headquarters were simply called “Justice League Satellites”). This “run” of the JLA saw the introduction of new villains such as Prometheus, a new “Injustice Gang” and the return of villains such as Darkseid and the Crime Syndicate. Also increased the team members and so unexpected characters like Plastic Man had a chance to prove they could be valuable elements of the JLA, as well as creating Zauriel and Tomorrow Woman. The “run” is highly appreciated by relevant stories such as “New World Order”, “American Dreams”, “Rock of Ages”, “Justice for All”, “Divided We Fall “, “Syndicate Rules” and the most popular story of the entire run, “Tower of Babel” (Mark Waid & Howard Porter) where the JLA is “attacked” by someone they less expected.
The New Teen Titans
In the history of comics have been creative teams when certain writer has joined certain illustrator and magic appears and they enter into the history of comics. One of those creative teams was the writer Marv Wolfman and the artist George Perez who together created the title “New Teen Titans” which at the time becoming the best-selling comic book and more solid title of DC Comics between 1980 and 1984, becoming so popular that even a “crossover” with the X-Men from Marvel was possible.
The team was formed by the knowns, Robin (Dick Grayson), Wonder Girl (Donna Troy) and Kid Flash (Wally West), adding Beast Boy (from the missing Doom Patrol) renamed Changeling, and creating Raven, Starfire and Cyborg (which has since been positioned to the point that the reboot of the DC of New 52, he is now a member of the Justice League). Later they got another member created for the comic book, Terra (Tara Markov).
Although the comic book reached the # 91 in 1988, it was generally recognized that the most robust and memorable era of the comic book was from # 1 (1980) to # 44 (1984). Where it was introduced villains like Deathstroke – the Terminator, Trigon – the Terrible, Blackfire, The Gordanian Empire, Brother Blood, HIVE and showing the resurgence of the Brotherhood of Evil and even wrestled against the mytical Titans from the Olympo, but even they did not hesitate in confronting drug traffickers responsible for “enslaving” teenagers who flee their homes. The team moving to New York, finally had a home base of respect, The Titans Tower and vehicles like the T-Jets, putting them on par with the Justice League in matter of resources. Dick Grayson during this “run” finally decides to leave the “shadow” of Batman, abandoning his identity of Robin and first appearing as Nightwing.
This “run” is highly remembered for stories such as “A Day in the Lives …”, “A Pretty Girl is like a … Maladi!!!”, “Dear Mom and Dad …” “Runaways”, “Who is Donna Troy? “and of course the iconic story “The Judas Contract “where the team was never the same.
The comic book brought this team of young adults, showing a narrative, a selection of topics and characters’ interaction to a level like never before DC Comics has managed to do before or after this iconic title. These heroes laughed, cried, celebrated, suffered, began as a team, finished as a family and all matured together.
Fantastic Four – Heroes Reborn
In 1996, after the event at Marvel Comics where the X-Men, The Avengers and the Fantastic Four fought the villain Onslaught, was believed for months that the Avengers and the Fantastic Four were killed in the final battle, but the “reality” was that Franklin Richards, son of Mr. Fantastic (Reed Richards) and the Invisible Woman (Susan Storm-Richards), created a “pocket universe” where he put both teams of heroes to prevent them from being destroyed by Onslaught.
So, almost 4 years before Marvel launched its alternate universe known as “Ultimate Marvel” in this event known as “Heroes Reborn” you could see a new “beginning” of the Fantastic Four, the first team of heroes conceived in Marvel by Stan Lee himself with Jack Kirby. This project for a year (13 issues) supervised by Jim Lee, which he made the design of the new uniforms, along with the internal art and cover (# 1 to # 6, # 10 (cover only)) he was also co-writer of the comic with Brandon Choi throughout the entire “run” of the 13 issues. From # 7 onwards, the art was handled by Brett Booth, Ron Lim and Mike Wieringo.
During this “run” you can see an “upgrade” of the origin of the team, as well as their encounters for the “first time” again with Dr. Doom, Mole Man, Alicia Masters, Namor, Dorma, Galactus, Silver Surfer, Firelord, Terrax , Plasma, The Watcher, Black Panther, Black Bolt, Medusa and the rest of the Inhumans, and also the creation of Wyatt Wingfoot.
In 2000, Marvel Comics decided to launch a new alternate universe titled “Ultimate Marvel” which during its epic existence lasted until 2009 (later it was again “rebooted” into “Ultimate Comics”).
This universe “Ultimate Marvel” is indeed the inspirational basis for what evolved into the current “Marvel Cinematic Universe” and “Amazing Spider-Man”.
The universe of comics from “Ultimate Marvel” was formed by “Ultimate Spider-Man,” “Ultimate X-Men”, “Ultimate Fantastic Four” and of course, the main team of super-heroes, the version in this universe of “The Avengers” known here as”The Ultimates”, where the creative team of the writer Mark Millar and the artist Bryan Hitch led the title for two years, where they were able to show that with ingenuity, the “original” team of “The Avengers”: Captain America , Iron Man, Thor, Giant-Man and The Wasp, could impress a new generation of readers and become the most popular team of super-heroes at that time. This is where “Nick Fury” was depicted as an African-American character that left no doubt that Samuel L. Jackson would eventually be casted to incarnate him on the big screen.
Later they introduced other members as Hawkeye, Black Widow, Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch, Falcon and Vision.
The iconic “run” by Mark Millar & Bryan Hitch is collected in 4 volumes entitled: “Super-Human”, “Homeland Security”, “Gods and Monsters” and “Grand Theft America”.
The Ultimates (in its iconic first two-year “run”) also appear in relevant TPBs: “Ultimate War”, “Ultimate Power”, “Ultimate Human”, “Ultimate Iron Man” and the Ultimate Galactus Trilogy: “Ultimate Nightmare”, “Ultimate Secret” and “Ultimate Extinction”.
In 2008, it resurfaced for the third time the title “X-Force”, this time managed by the creative team of writers: Craig Kyle & Chris Yost and by the amazing artist Clayton Crain, bringing this title to heights of popularity never before seen . Later Clayton Crain is replaced by Mike Choi as illustrator.
Cyclops needs to active an undercover team (even without telling Emma Frost or the other X-Men) to handle situations that the X-Men cannot do it publicly. This secret team must use lethal force to exterminate threats against the mutant community.
The team is initially composed of Wolverine (field leader), Warpath, Wolfsbane and X-23, and later also join Archangel, Domino and Elixir.
This “run” lasted for 28 issues. (Later changed to call Uncanny X-Force, with another creative team and other characters entering the team).
The TPBs are titled: “Angels & Demons”, “Old Ghosts” and “Not Forgotten”, besides in the supplementing multi-title events: “Necrosha” and “Second Coming”.
The label “Wildstorm” was an independent comics company founded by Jim Lee, who was recently absorbed by DC Comics and in the “reboot” of the New 52, the titles of Wildstorm, became incorporated within the universe of DC Comics.
However, when the comic book “The Authority” was first published in 1999, Wildstorm label remained as a solid “indy” comics company, and that is why I selected it as an example of super team heroes within the “indy” comics line.
“The Authority” was created by the creative team of writer Warren Ellis and illustrator Bryan Hitch. Where most of the heroes of the team, they were characters previously been created by Warren Ellis in the comic book “Stormwatch”.
Warren Ellis mentions that the creration of the comic book “The Authority” basically was because the Wildstorm label loved to have him hired and although “no one read” the title Stormwatch, anyway they did not want to cancel the title. So when Bryan Hitch joined the creative team realized that he could create something “new” with a “different angle” and launch a comic book “which it sells good”.
The team is formed by: Jenny Sparks (leader), Apollo, Midnighter, The Doctor, The Engineer (second to use that name), Jack Hawksmoor and Swift.
The mobile base of operations for The Authority is called The Carrier, which is a “shiftship”, a sentient ship, able to move through “The Bleed”, a red space separating the parallel universes in the multiverse of Wildstorm, and therefore can also navigate between dimensions. The Carrier is 80 km long, 56 km high and 3 km wide. Also its power is supplied by a “caged baby universe”.
The Authority is a team different from other super-heroes, since they do not respect internal policies of the nations of the world and they didn’t recognize international law, they simply act as they see fit, eliminating any threats that jeopardize world peace and warns all people in the planet to”be good” since they will be watching.
The Authority protects humanity eliminating terrorist organizations, facing invasions from parallel “Earths”, dealing with the being who created the Earth who would be the closest thing to “God”, even they should “fight” against Earth itself when the planet itself “decide” that it no longer wish to accommodate humanity, and even they must face the governments of the “G7” when they form their own team of “super-heroes” pretending to be replaced them.
The original “run” of The Authority, # 1 through # 29 are the best stories and recommended reading. The creative teams were Warren Ellis & Bryan Hitch (# 1 to # 12), Mark Millar & Frank Quietly (# 13 to # 20, # 22), Mark Millar & Arthur Adams (# 27 to # 29), Tom Peyer & Dustin Nguyen (# 23 to # 26).
The Umbrella Academy
This comic book from the Dark Horse label, which started in 2007, is as unique as its creative team: Gerard Way, the writer, a musician born in New Jersey, USA, lead vocalist and co-founder of the alternative rock band called “My Chemical Romance”. Gabriel Bá, the illustrator, born in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Because the tours of the band “My Chemical Romance” is limited the time that Gerard Way can work in the comic and that is why, which so far have only been released 2 series of six issues each, although it has been announced that they are working on 2 more stories.
“The Umbrella Academy” is a team described as a “dysfunctional family of super-heroes”, whom as children, they were adopted by an alien masquerading as human under the name of Sir Reginal Hargreeves (aka The Monocle). They are the only seven survirors children from 43 infants gifted with superpowers due a mysterious comic event. This alien trains them to save the world from a non-explicit threat. Years pass, the alien dies, children grow up and the team is separated. However, the Family Hargreeves rejoined to face an unexpected menace. The stories are told in a nonlinear way, showing events that happen in the “present” but also in key moments of the “past”.
The team is formed by: The Monocle (leader), Spaceboy, The Kraken, The Rumor, The Séance, Number Five, The Horror and The White Violin.
The two stories currently published for The Umbrella Academy are: “Apocalypse Suite” (2008) and “Dallas” (2009). Although they are very recent comic books, they already have been catapulted into the lists of the best stories of comic books in different sites.
And as usual, I dedicated at least an option to a team of super-villains.
The label “Icon” which is a subsidiary of Marvel Comics, which was founded to allow writers and artists, relevant for Marvel, to develop their own projects without losing their authorship and creative rights thereof, while avoiding that these creators are going to other publishing houses with such projects.
Mark Millar, the writer, and Leinil Yu, the illustrator, are the creators of the comic book “Supercrooks” is a miniseries of four issues, published in 2012, and collected into a TPB in 2013 titled the story as “The Heist”.
The concept of the comic book is clearly inspired by the film “Ocean’s Eleven”, which had already inspired a Marvel miniseries entitled “MODOK’s Eleven”.
In “Supercrooks” villain Johnny Bolt realizes that the United States simply has too many super-heroes and so it is impossible to make any crime successfully. So convincing a team of super-villains and go to a country where there are no super-heroes who worry about. So they go to Spain! But the choice of the nation also goes hand in hand with an ingenious plan of Johnny Bolt to steal to “The Bastard” a character regarded as the “Godfather of all villains” and that is already retired after having amassed a fortune placing him as the fourth richest man on the planet.
UNTIL NEXT WEEK HAPPY READING!