Tuesday

Ralph Macchio on Continuity

Marvel editor Ralph Macchio weighed in on the subject of continuity in the Original Marvel Universe on the letters page of Thor #364 (February 1986):

Most of the original Marvel characters from the sixties are still thriving, and we intend to keep them that way. What we don't want to do is embalm them. Change and growth are essential. In a comic book that runs a long time, you're likely to have antagonists coming around again for the zillionth time--and how many times can you believe that the heroic Purple Pantywaist will take the menace of the terrible Tape Dispenser seriously since he's already beaten that nasty villain 37 times? ...So you search for ways to bring back old guys without simply retelling the old stories. Because if the readers begin to feel like they've read it all before, they'll start reading something else! And no worse fate can befall a comic book!

It's too bad Marvel lost sight of this sensible approach a few years later, locking their characters into a continuity merry-go-round that continues to this day. No growth, no lasting change, and embalmed "iconic" characters that fight the same fights over and over with no sense of history.

Thursday

Casting the Classic Fantastic Four

The casting of Josh Trank’s 2015 Fantastic Four movie stirred up controversy among comic book fans, centered mainly on the choice to cast an African American actor as the Human Torch. Beyond this largely knee-jerk response, though, I believe there is a deeper resentment that Trank and his production team have decided to adapt Mark Millar’s Ultimate Fantastic Four series rather than the Stan Lee & Jack Kirby original. This is clear in the fact that the ages of the actors hired to portray the team are all within four years of each other.

Personally, I’d prefer to see an adaptation of the classic Fantastic Four on the big screen, especially in light of the very disappointing pair of films from Tim Story some years ago. I decided to indulge in some “fancasting” to see what movie stars I might select if I were a Hollywood big shot.

I decided to limit myself to actors who would, in 2015, be the same age as the characters were when they gained their fantastic powers, at least as determined by my Original Marvel Universe timeline. I also wanted people who had experience making feature films and could convincingly carry a picture for a mass audience—movie stars, in other words. (Judgments of acting ability are highly subjective, so that wasn’t much of a factor.) Then I looked for facial similarity to the classic versions of the characters.

Here are my picks, along with background sketches to show the richness of the original characters—a wealth of material being jettisoned in favor of a “young” team.

 
Ryan Reynolds as Reed Richards 

Reed Richards, a 39-year-old beyond-genius research scientist from California, grew up in a world of wealth and privilege. However, his mother’s death in 1983 left him to be raised by his father, a stern, secretive, and somewhat obsessive physicist. The boy’s aptitude for science was his father’s primary focus, and by 1990, Reed was taking college-level courses at Cal Tech. Five years later, Reed joined the Army, partly out of a desire to serve his country, but also as an act of rebellion against his father. He was assigned to the Military Intelligence Corps and traveled the world. By 1999, Reed grew frustrated with the military chain of command and resigned to further his education. He enrolled at the State University of New York, where he became friends with football star Ben Grimm and intellectual rivals with foreign student Victor von Doom. Following graduation, Reed pursued further advanced degrees at Stanford, MIT, and Columbia. While in New York, he met young Susan Storm, the niece of his landlady, who developed a mad crush on Reed. In 2009, he graduated and returned to California to take a position at his father’s research facility. When his father mysteriously disappeared in 2011, Reed was able to devote the company’s full resources to his longstanding dream—a spaceship capable of interstellar travel. Now, his project nears completion.

  
Channing Tatum as Ben Grimm 

Ben Grimm, a 36-year-old test pilot, grew up in a poor neighborhood on New York’s Lower East Side. In 1991, Ben’s older brother Daniel was killed in a street gang fight. However, Ben’s involvement in the gang only grew over the years, until in 1997, he made a life-changing decision and joined the Air Force to become a fighter pilot. He served with honor, even surviving getting shot down in hostile territory. In 1999, he enrolled at the State University of New York on the G.I. Bill, where he became friends with science whiz Reed Richards. Finding success with the college football team, Ben felt he had put his street gang past behind him. However, a traumatic breakup with his girlfriend Alynn soured him on romance for many years. Upon graduation in 2003, he returned to the Air Force and qualified as a test pilot. In 2012, Ben nearly died in the crash of a prototype jet, but he was pulled from the burning wreckage by his best friend, Desmond Pitt. Undaunted, Ben continued to put his life on the line in service to others. When Pitt took a position at NASA, Ben found his circle of buddies drifting apart. As a result, he began dating Dr. Linda McGill, an Air Force physician, but has begun to think he might resign from the Air Force if the right opportunity comes along.

 
AnnaSophia Robb as Susan Storm 

Susan Storm, a 22-year-old model from Long Island, New York, enjoyed an upper-middle-class upbringing as the daughter of a successful physician. In 2007, she fell in love with Reed Richards, a grad student at Columbia University who was living in her aunt’s boarding house. Reed humored his 14-year-old admirer, thinking her crush would soon pass, but Sue only grew more determined as time went on. After he graduated and returned home to California, Sue kept in touch with him through social media, though her life took a dark turn soon after when her mother was killed in a car accident. Unable to deal with his grief, her father descended into alcoholism, and in 2011 he was sent to prison for manslaughter. A private person by nature, Sue kept Reed ignorant of these events, fearing her sorrow would scare him off. To support herself and her younger brother Johnny, she abandoned her college plans and found modeling work in New York City. After watching her family’s disintegration, Sue wants more than anything to find a measure of security.

  
Nathan Gamble as Johnny Storm 

Johnny Storm, a 17-year-old high school student from Long Island, New York, has watched his family life fall apart after his mother died in a car crash when he was 11. His father, a successful physician, descended into alcoholism and was jailed in 2011 for manslaughter. His sister Sue works as a model in New York City to support him, but she refuses to discuss the tragedies that have befallen them. Thus, Johnny has become withdrawn and depressed, and his schoolwork has suffered. Though very bright, Johnny prefers tinkering with cars to studying. He wishes he were popular, athletic, and wealthy, but these dreams seem increasingly out of reach. As his junior year draws to a close, he doesn’t seem to have anything going for him.

This sets the stage for the story of how they gain their powers and become a team of superheroes and, more importantly, a family.

Friday

Captain Marvel is Here!

Have no fear...


Monday

Those Kinky Sixties 2

In the early 1960s, "kinky boots," which had been popular in the underground fetish scene for decades, began to emerge into the fashion mainstream, as demonstrated by this article from the January 3, 1964 issue of Time magazine.


Notably, the article makes no mention of the pervy provenance of the "lady-lion-tamer" boot that it breathlessly describes, making only oblique references to its impracticality and sexiness in contrast to the perfunctory rubber rain boot. The kinkiness is further obscured by references to wholesome characters from children's literature such as Christopher Robin and Peter Pan.

The specific examples given in the second paragraph, "made of fake leopard or silk faille or nylon mesh or even real leather" reference an article in the May 12, 1963 New York Times fashion section, which led off with four photos of those specific styles. Clearly the writer of the Time piece was using the previous year's newspaper article as a source. Even that article, written by Leonard Sloane, called boots "a seemingly unlikely prospect for fashion honors in the women's shoe industry" and marveled at the rapidity with which high-fashion boots had caught on in the American market. However, Sloane also ignores boots' long history as a prominent sexual fetish item.

The reference to the magazine's BOOKS section directs the reader to this photograph of teen-age novelist Caroline Glyn.


It's hard to imagine a world where even style-conscious women were dubious about wearing boots and had to be encouraged to do so by articles such as this one. But, just two weeks later, the New York Times would run a helpful article on the proper care of leather boots. And, unknown to the editors of Time magazine, the go-go boot craze was just around the corner.


Previous kinkiness

Tuesday

Dropping Acid in the Negative Zone

In this excerpt from Amazing Dope Tales & Haight Street Flashbacks (Summertown, TN: The Book Publishing Company, 1980, pp 16–17), Stephen Gaskin reminisces about his experiences with Marvel Comics in the San Francisco counterculture of the late 1960s.


Pop Culture


When I was in college, I hardly read anyone who was alive—that’s what you do in college, because everyone in the English Department is so competitive that none of them can agree on anyone who is alive, because they think they’re better than all the living ones.

I started tripping with Charlie and Linda and Paul and John and Bob and Kemo and them guys. We went over to this house, and it was far out. Charlie and Linda lived there together, just lived together. It blew my mind. They were one of the first young couples I’d met who just lived together. I was from square country.

They had lots of rock ‘n’ roll records, and they had lots of comic books. They had Doc Strange, a whole box, all in order. And they had a whole box of Fantastic Four, all in order. And they had a whole box of Thor, all in order. They had a lot of comic books.

There was a lot of pop philosophy coming out in the comic books at that time. They pointed out to me that comic books had changed: it used to be that they were very stick-figured like Superman and Lois Lane; but in the Fantastic Four, the characters had personalities, and interacted. They hassled with each other, and had problems and phobias and stuff; they had to conquer themselves to do things. Doc Strange had to do a lot of self-conquering. The battles he fought were not always something outside that could be done with a savate kick: he had to come in and get to himself inside. It was said that some of that continuity was being written by acid-takers. I don’t know if that was true, but that’s what was being said. And we believed it, because it looked like it.

So they were running all this pop culture, and they would use metaphors from comic books in their trips. On acid trips, they’d talk about how this was just like when Thor happened across the bridge in Valhalla when Loki and Thor were having it out.

I hung out and got stoned with these kids, and listened to the Who play Boris the Spider, and had it about scare me up my tree. Boris the Spider was scary, I realized. And the Who was even scary, some.

They taught me the Tolkien trilogy. They told me about Gandalf the Grey.

These were people who were students where I was teaching. We talked about magic and telepathy of every form. We went through and combed all of our experiences, and talked about it together. They were my first tripping partners, and some of my first teachers.


Wednesday

Emma Peel's Leather Catsuit

Though the character of Emma Peel is closely associated with the zippered black leather catsuit she wore in the title sequences and promotional materials for her first season on The Avengers, she wore the outfit only a few times in the episodes themselves.

Below, Mrs. Peel battles a well-dressed henchman in a photo-comic based on the extended fight scene from “Death at Bargain Prices,” which premiered in October 1965. Diana Rigg plays Emma Peel and George Selway is her opponent, with Patrick Macnee making a cameo as John Steed.



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Saturday

The Doctor Strange Game of Mystic Power

Playing pieces from the Doctor Strange Game of Mystic Power, from Crazy Magazine #88. I can remember playing this game with my nephew in the summer of 1982.



Art by Steve Mellor

Sunday

Emma Peel, Queen of Sin

Diana Rigg made quite a splash in “A Touch of Brimstone,” an episode of The Avengers first broadcast in February 1966. Her character, Emma Peel, is made over into a kinky “Queen of Sin” while investigating a group of subversive anarchists called the Hellfire Club. Her climactic scene is presented below in comics form. This is appropriate since the episode inspired a similar storyline in Uncanny X-Men nearly fifteen years later. The scene also features Peter Wyngarde as villain John Cartney and Art Thomas as the hapless lackey who takes a beating.



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Saturday

Proper Galactus

Just another reason I prefer to read Silver Age comics in Marvel’s black & white Essential reprints. When I take a look at Fantastic Four #48, for example, I can fill in the colors in my mind’s eye. Therefore, I get to see a proper Galactus, like this:




But when I read the same story reprinted in the slicker Marvel Masterworks line, I am forced to see a Galactus who looks like a reject from some outer-space Christmas pageant.




For all the wonderfully expressive work done by colorist Stan Goldberg and his assistants throughout the 1960s, it is all too clear sometimes that they were coloring as fast as possible. The wildly shifting color schemes Galactus displayed in his first several appearances shows that they didn’t always have the luxury of doing much design work in advance. Hindsight now makes the color in these old comics more of a distraction than an enhancement.

Friday

Marvel Universe Relaunch!

In my previous post, I suggested that the time had come for Marvel to reboot their comic book universe. Rather than start completely from scratch, though, I thought Marvel would do better with a starting point developed by updating where the Original Marvel Universe stood just before the Fantastic Four first gained their superpowers. Thus, I outlined the “current” circumstances of over 240 characters, which offered myriad tantalizing story possibilities. I thought this would serve as a firm foundation on which to rebuild a shared universe in the tradition started by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, and all the others who contributed.

As I continued to think about it, I realized this was just the first step. As others have done, I came up with a plan to relaunch the entire line of Marvel Comics as a response to DC’s recent “New 52” initiative. For what it’s worth, here’s how I would do it.

Fifty-two being an arbitrary number, and somewhat unwieldy, I would trim it down to forty titles a month, released ten per week. This isn’t too far off from Marvel’s current output of regular ongoing titles. Next, I felt variety was extremely important -- variety of subject matter, tone, genre -- which has been sorely lacking in the tunnel-vision strategy of mainstream comics for some time. This also keeps readers from feeling they need to buy all 40 titles to keep up with what’s going on. Some are more interconnected, more “plugged in” to the shared universe, than others. Some can easily stand alone, though all share common elements that reward taking a completist, or “big picture” approach to collecting. A “win-win” for everybody.

Also, many of the titles below would be designed to have a limited life-span, to be replaced by “all-new, all-different” properties after they’d run their course. This would help keep things fresh as the new Marvel Universe rocketed onwards and upwards.

If it were up to me, I would relaunch the Marvel Universe as follows:

FIRST WEEK

1. Fantastic Four
While testing an experimental warp-drive spacecraft in high Earth orbit, Reed Richards, Ben Grimm, Sue Storm, and her brother Johnny Storm are exposed to strange energies that transform them into something more than human. Celebrated as the Fantastic Four, they use their superpowers to explore the world’s most mysterious places, and battle whatever weird menaces they find there.

2. Spider-Man
High school student Peter Parker receives superhuman abilities in a bizarre laboratory accident, and does what any self-respecting teenager would do: he tries to cash in! Unfortunately, his show-biz career as the mysterious Spider-Man is cut short by personal tragedy, forcing Peter to learn a bitter lesson about responsibility. Desperate to earn money as a news photographer, Peter uses his Spider-Man identity to get spectacular shots of New York’s most infamous criminals, whom he invariably ends up fighting.

3. X-Men
Professor Charles Xavier has created a school for mutants, where he trains his first class of students in the use of their uncanny powers. Fearing persecution, the students have adopted the codenames Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Angel, Iceman, Beast, Banshee, Havok, and Polaris. Xavier dreams of peaceful coexistence between humans and mutants, but realizes his students may have to fight for their place in a world that hates and fears them.

4. Iron Man
Tony Stark has felt like a target since his parents died under mysterious circumstances, leaving him in charge of the family business, an international technology firm. When he is nearly killed during a kidnapping scheme, Stark constructs an invincible suit of high-tech battle armor and swears he’ll never be vulnerable again.

5. Thor
Thor, son of Odin and prince of Asgard, has been banished to Earth because of his bad attitude. Good for Asgard, bad for Earth. This is one thunder god who doesn’t suffer fools gladly, least of all foolish mortals. His hair-trigger temper and unstoppable magic war-hammer spell trouble for anyone who gets in his way. But learning to be a better man is his only hope of returning home. The beautiful emergency-room doctor Jane Foster wants to help, but can she survive the chaos that surrounds Thor long enough to try?

6. Hulk
A laboratory accident turns withdrawn scientist Bruce Banner into the ultimate Jekyll & Hyde. His green-skinned alter-ego Hulk is a distorted mirror image: physically strong but morally weak, and may prove to be the most dangerous man on the planet. After Hulk makes a shambles of Banner’s life, the fugitive scientist goes on the run, trying to keep his inescapable “enemy within” from hurting anyone else.

7. Black Panther
The noble king of the prosperous African nation of Wakanda, T’Challa, the Black Panther, upholds his sacred duty to protect his people’s greatest treasure, the unique substance called vibranium. He’ll need all his intelligence, cunning, and fighting skills to fend off spies, mercenaries, and thieves from every corner of the globe. He soon discovers, however, that his greatest enemies may lurk within his own government.

8. Ant-Man & Wasp
Pym particles are the key to all superpowers, but only one man understands how they work: Dr. Henry Pym, the molecular biologist who discovered them. Of course he becomes a target for every terrorist group, subversive organization, and two-bit crook with delusions of grandeur. However, the wealthy young socialite Janet Van Dyne has taken a shine to Dr. Pym and is determined to keep him from meeting the same tragic fate suffered by her renowned scientist father. When Pym’s wife Maria is murdered by his enemies, he agrees to empower Van Dyne and himself to fight back. As Ant-Man and the Wasp, this unlikely couple finds action, adventure, and romance!

9. Black Widow
International superspy Natasha Romanova goes rogue when her handlers try to have her killed after a botched operation. She searches for allies she can trust while tracking down and getting revenge on the men who betrayed her.

10. Tales from the Swamp
An anthology of strange tales of suspense featuring a rotating cast of eccentrics in the steamy swamps of the southern United States. In the Florida everglades, disgraced biochemist Ted Sallis agrees to help Dr. Wilma Calvin re-develop the lost “super-soldier” serum of World War II, unaware that his sexy girlfriend, Ellen Brandt, is working for a subversive organization. Her meddling causes Sallis to be transformed into a terrifying monstrosity called the Man-Thing. Meanwhile, not far away, young sorceress Jennifer Kale explores the astonishing alternate worlds she finds within a spacetime rift called the Nexus of All Realities. Elsewhere, Jericho Drumm battles zombies in the bayous of New Orleans and southern Louisiana.


SECOND WEEK

11. Doctor Strange
Master sorcerer Stephen Strange protects the earth from all manner of mystical menaces as he travels the world collecting occult artifacts. Whether he’s exploring mind-boggling alternate dimensions or fighting off demons and monsters, the dashing Doctor Strange knows how to use magic with style.

12. Hawkeye
Former carnival performer Clint Barton uses his unparalleled skill with a bow-and-arrow as a modern-day Robin Hood on the streets of Chicago. He is equally adept at busting corrupt corporations and protecting the people from street crime, all while living according to his mantra: free-wheeling, free-loving, and freeloading!

13. Logan
The Canadian secret agent known only as Logan is the best there is at what he does, and what he does is covert-ops! A mysterious experiment stripped him of his memories, but left him with an unbreakable skeleton and razor-sharp claws that can slice through anything. His most closely guarded secret is that he is a mutant with enhanced animal-like senses and the ability to rapidly heal any wound. The rough-and-tumble Logan frequently crosses paths with straight-shooting CIA agents Carol Danvers and Michael Rossi, as well as their gruff superior, Nick Fury, in the course of his globe-spanning missions.

14. Inhumans
Since the dawn of time, the Inhumans have dwelled apart from humanity in the lost city of Attilan, hidden deep in the Himalayas. Each member of their race possesses a devastating super-power, which makes ruling them a challenge for their young king, Black Bolt. Palace intrigue and Machiavellian machinations are the order of the day as Black Bolt pursues the beautiful princess Medusa while fending off his traitorous brother Maximus. But how long can the Inhumans hide their existence from the world outside?

15. Department H
As head of a secret project within the Canadian Ministry of Defense, James MacDonald Hudson has been tasked with creating the perfect superhero to protect his nation and its people. High-tech research & development, radical biochemical experiments, tracking down mutants, and even magic and mysticism are all fair game as Hudson and his team seek to accomplish their mission.

16. Ka-Zar
Since he was a boy, Kevin Plunder has been lost in the mysterious Savage Land at the bottom of the world. Now calling himself Ka-Zar, this brutal and savage young man sets out to conquer his jungle home before he is enslaved by its bloodthirsty inhabitants or eaten by its prehistoric flora and fauna. But the greatest threat of all may prove to come in the form of beautiful scientist Bobbi Morse, the last survivor of a doomed expedition who sees Ka-Zar as her only hope of getting home alive.

17. Mystique
Mutant shape-changer Raven Darkholme is perhaps the world’s most devastatingly effective covert operative, due to her ability to precisely mimic the appearance of anyone she meets. However, when she stumbles on a top-secret multinational initiative to build mutant-hunting robots called Sentinels, her priorities change. Raven begins investigating the Sentinel project while continuing her government missions, knowing that tipping her hand could make her lover, Irene Adler, a target.

18. Patsy Walker
Former reality-TV child-star Patsy Walker is having difficulty settling into life as a celebrity “has-been,” a process not made any easier by her vicious and demanding “stage mom,” Dorothy. Patsy’s sunny, Orange County lifestyle suddenly takes a dark and frightening turn when dabbling in the occult gets her involved with a mysterious orphan named Daimon Hellstrom.

19. Where Monsters Dwell
FBI agent Jimmy Woo takes the cases no one else will touch: crimes so gruesome they could only be committed by inhuman monsters. Jimmy has learned the hard way that humans are not necessarily at the top of the food chain, especially after the sun goes down.

20. Werewolf by Night
High school student Jake Russoff has a problem. He’s a werewolf. Luckily his mother, Laura, and his step-father, Philip, know all about it, because Jake’s father was a werewolf too, until the night a silver bullet brought him down. Jake has another problem: his annoying little sister Lyssa. She’s not a werewolf yet, but in a few years, who knows? Jake is ready to run away and lose himself in the Sierra Madre Mountains when he meets a mysterious teen beauty named Topaz Taboo, who tells him if he helps her find an ancient book of spells called the Darkhold, it contains the cure for his curse. Topaz then leads Jake into a dangerous world, where he finds there are worse things than being a werewolf.


THIRD WEEK

21. Avengers
There are some menaces too great for any single superhero to withstand. Thus, Iron Man, Thor, Ant-Man, and Wasp band together as the Avengers. Their first mission leads them to recruit both the Black Panther and Hawkeye, as the renegade robot Ultron and its spectral android servant the Vision try to steal a sample of vibranium from the University of Chicago. A loose-knit, ever-changing membership roster allows the Avengers to respond to all manner of threats with just the right force. Captain America, the Black Widow, Hercules, and others soon join their ranks as well.

22. Sub-Mariner
Prince Namor is forced to leave his undersea kingdom of Atlantis to search the ocean depths for three ancient artifacts: Neptune’s Trident, the Sword of Kamuu, and the jewel known as the Eye of Zartra. However, the despotic warlord Krang is determined that Namor’s quest should fail. Mystery and adventure await as young Namor tries to prove himself worthy of being the one, true Sub-Mariner.

23. Captain Marvel
The world believes Captain Marvel to be one of its greatest superheroes. No one suspects he is really a spy for the galaxy-spanning Kree Empire. His mission is to test earth’s super-powered population, to determine who will be allowed to serve the Kree and who must be destroyed when their invasion armada eventually arrives. What better way to do that than to help superheroes battle supervillains? Only one thing threatens his mission: his own emerging sense of justice.

24. Magneto and the Brotherhood of Mutants
The mutant known as Magneto knows a war with mainstream humanity is inevitable, and it’s a war he is determined that mutants will win. As such, he has rallied a group of militant mutants to his cause: Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch, Mastermind, Toad, Pyro, Gypsy Moth, Mesmero, and Unus the Untouchable. Though strong-willed and fractious, Magneto believes they may be mutantkind’s last, best hope for survival.

25. Hercules
Bored with life in eternal Olympus, Hercules has defied the edict of his father Zeus and come to earth in search of adventure. His love of wine, women, and song quickly earns him as many admirers as do his amazing heroics. But he must stay one step ahead of the implacable Huntsman the gods have dispatched to drag Hercules home. Like all challenges, Hercules meets this one with a hearty laugh.

26. Sunfire
Teenaged Shiro Yoshida hates living in New York, but his father’s job at the United Nations gives him no choice. His attitude begins to change when he manifests mutant powers that enable him to fly and shoot flames from his body, inspiring him to become the brash superhero Sunfire.

27. Cable
The mysterious cyborg soldier-of-fortune known as Cable knows something bad is going to happen in the year 2025, because he’s traveled back in time to stop it. Unfortunately, he arrived twenty-five years early and has been forced to live in an era that seems very primitive to him, while trying to pick up the threads of his original mission. His inscrutable motives make Cable shockingly unpredictable as he tries to avert the coming global catastrophe.

28. Mantis
Though only a teenager, the girl called Mantis may be the world’s greatest practitioner of the martial arts, and she will need all of her skill as she leaves the temple of the Priests of Pama to search her native Vietnam and the rest of Southeast Asia for her missing father, a German mercenary named Brandt. Her unique philosophy makes Mantis an enigma to everyone she meets, from international financiers to drug-smugglers and pirates. But those who underestimate this young girl soon regret it.

29. Red Wolf
Will Talltrees joined the military to escape life on an Indian Reservation in Montana, and is now a member of Navy SEAL Team 11, performing special-ops missions around the globe. Will has a unique advantage over his fellow SEALs, though—the mystical entity Owayodata appears to him in the form of a red wolf to guide him in times of danger.

30. Tomb of Dracula
Dracula, Lord of Vampires, is revived after a century entombed in his castle in Transylvania, and is horrified to discover that the modern world has nearly wiped out all the other vampires. He sets out to rebuild his legions of the undead, despite the opposition of expert vampire hunters like the elderly Quincy Harker and his young assistant Rachel Van Helsing. Dracula’s personal code of honor and air of sophistication belie his ruthless, savage instincts, and he knows how to use the seductive power of evil to his advantage.


FOURTH WEEK

31. Captain America
The lost hero of World War II is found frozen solid in the Arctic, but miraculously revives upon being thawed out, due to the legendary “super-soldier” serum that made him the ultimate fighting man. Now a man out of time, Steve Rogers must find a place in this daunting world of the future, while bringing old-fashioned justice to criminals of every stripe.

32. Daredevil
Blind attorney Matt Murdock has made a reputation for himself with his skillful defense of super-villains who are brought to trial. However, using the hypersenses he developed in a freak childhood accident, he has also become the masked vigilante Daredevil, to ensure that justice is done, whether in the courtroom or on the streets.

33. Ghost Rider
For most people, the Ghost Rider is a legend they tell around campfires, a frightening skull-headed demon said to haunt the loneliest back roads of America. But for Johnny Blaze, the legend is horrifyingly real, for Blaze is the Ghost Rider, cursed to wander the highways and byways of North America on a flaming motorcycle, searching for evildoers to punish with his soul-searing hellfire.

34. Falcon
Los Angeles street gang member Sam Wilson turned to crime in the wake of his parents’ unsolved murders, but now his 13-year-old nephew Jim has convinced him to make up for his past misdeeds. Adopting the masked identity of the Falcon, Sam uses his insider’s knowledge to thwart the crimes of both his and rival gangs. It’s a dangerous game as Sam must protect his secret identity at all costs, or see young Jim pay the price.

35. Punisher
Frank Castle returns from his tour of duty in the U.S. Marine Corps only to witness his wife and daughter gunned down by mobsters. He dedicates himself to a one-man war on crime, using all his military skill and hardware to become the fearsome Punisher.

36. Moon Knight
Marc Spector is a special-ops commando for the United States Marine Corps with a gift for unconventional warfare. Deployed to hotspots around the world, Spector battles terrorists, insurgents, traffickers, and anyone else who threatens America or its interests. His personal code of honor and preference for striking by night have earned him the codename Moon Knight.

37. Nekra
Nobody knows the power of hate better than Nekra Sinclair, an albino African-American goth chick who also happens to be a mutant. When she whips herself into a frenzy of negative emotions, Nekra becomes super-strong and invulnerable, as well as savagely violent, which serves her well living on the streets of Los Angeles. Her only friend is Jerome Beechman, a boy who looks like an ape but can bend women to his will using his mutant pheromones. Life is a bitter struggle for survival for these two teenaged outcasts, who are determined to live free or die.

38. S.H.I.E.L.D.
As head of the new clandestine agency S.H.I.E.L.D., Alan Chamberlain is responsible for keeping America’s ever-growing superhuman population under control, and he’s going to do it by the book. Unfortunately, the terrorist group HYDRA, led by Wolfgang Von Strucker, has other ideas, and they’ve got Chamberlain in their sights. Besieged on all sides, will S.H.I.E.L.D. survive the forces seeking to tear it apart?

39. Masters of Evil
From his hidden lair in the Amazon Rainforest of Brazil, mercenary Helmut Zemo has decided to create an unstoppable army of super-villains. He’ll use any means necessary to imbue his unscrupulous recruits with the requisite superpowers, which leads them on a worldwide campaign of murder and extortion. With Nathan Garrett, Erik Josten, Sergei Kravinoff, Karla Sofen, Elihas Starr, and Calvin Zabo willing to do whatever it takes, Zemo’s Masters of Evil quickly become a force to be reckoned with.

40. Sword of Atlantis
In the twilight years of the legendary Age of Atlantis, some 20,000 years ago, Lemurian princess Zartra escapes from her Deviant captors and battles her way to freedom. With the help of the sorceress Zhered-Na, she seeks to forge an alliance with Prince Kamuu of Atlantis, the only kingdom still unconquered by the subhuman Deviants. Encountering vampires, werewolves, and the enigmatic Eternals, Zartra relies on her warrior skills to get her safely from one adventure to the next.



Of course, even the best approaches can be wrecked by poor execution, such as “writing for the trade,” and whether the current editors and creators at Marvel would be capable of turning around the company’s declining fortunes is open for debate. I might just have to fire everybody and get all new people in there to make my idea work. Well, almost everybody.