Epic Revival

Marvel Comics is reviving their Epic line. More specifically they are reviving the Epic name. From what I’ve read so far the emphasis of the line will be much different from in Archie Goodwin’s day. What interests me is that they are actively seeking scripts from new writers. Or rather, they will be. They’re not ready for scripts yet. It’s work-for-hire stuff and they seem to be encouraging people to come up with stories set in the “Marvel Universe” and the details aren’t all in yet as to what the exact deals will be.

I mostly lost interest in working in “mainstream” comics a long time ago. It’s not as if I tried really hard to get the work. When I first started out I didn’t think my art would go over well with the superhero publishers. It was crude and unpolished and not at all slick. As I got more skilled I became better able to draw action hero types but I had less interest in doing work-for-hire stuff. Eventually I put doing comics (and drawing much at all) on hold to deal with more tedious life stuff.

In the last year, since the guys at the Black Seal invited me to contribute illustrations to the first issue, I’ve been working a lot of creative projects. Much of that is writing as well as drawing. I’ve always written. I used to write short stories for extra credit in 5th grade. I started a novel back in 7th grade that sits, unfinished, somewhere in a box in my mother’s basement. The novel’s protagonist still shows up in my sketchbooks now and then. I’ve been working with Nizzibet on screenplay and comic script ideas since we got together back in the Nineties.

When my Life Plan was to be a Comic Artist, being a Comic Writer was always part of the plan. I never imagined one job being separate from the other. So when I heard about the Epic opportunity the writer part of my brain automatically kicked into gear. It’s never been dormant for more than a few days. It only took a little bit of digging through my biological memory banks to start thinking of different Marvel Comics characters I’d enjoy writing. It did take some digging. I haven’t read any Marvel Comics in the last few years. I’ve kept vaguely current with Marvel Universe continuity through comics reviews on the internet and by flipping through new comics when I’ve been in a comic store.

Once, I could have told you how many times Spider-man had fought Doctor Octopus, how many times the Kingpin had escaped death, who the Puppet Master’s relatives were – important stuff like that. But it’s been many, many years since Spider-Man #103, the first comic I ever bought and read. I don’t know what issue Spider-Man is currently on. Rough calculations tell me that the series should be nearing its five hundredth issue sometime soon. I don’t know if Doctor Octopus is supposed to be alive or dead. I think Norman Osborn, the original Green Goblin is back (and he died back in Spider-Man #122).

To part of the Marvel comics fan base continuity detail is important. I do understand that. It used to be vitally important to me as well. It’s still important to me but in a more limited way. When a series – of novels, television programs, films or comics, is easily accessible I like it to be internally consistent. If a character gets his right hand chopped off in episode nine I don’t like it when he shows up missing a left hand in episode nineteen. I remember being annoyed by the inconsistency of history in L. Frank Baum’s original fourteen Oz books. I couldn’t understand how Baum kept getting details wrong. Didn’t he reread his own stories? As a Spider-Man fan I loved knowing the history of all the characters and loved watching the soap opera of Peter Parker’s life unfold.

I don’t see any point in trying to catch up on all that history now. There are somewhere near two thousand Spider-Man episodes out there in form of multiple series, mini-series, specials and guest appearance in other characters’ series. Much of that material is out of print, available only as back issues to be purchased at higher than cover price. And that’s just Spider-Man history. There are thousands more episodes of Marvel Universe history published in dozens of other titles and most of it is out of print. Over the last few days I’ve tried researching the history of just a few characters on the internet. What a headache.

The comic book fan in me would still like to play in the Marvel Universe, especially if he could get a paying gig, so I have been playing with ideas for one shots and mini-series. Fortunately, when it comes to wanting to write MU stories, the characters that most interest me are usually villains or oddball heroes that never managed to sustain their own series. The villains can be especially attractive. It’s been said that part of Spider-Man’s appeal was that he lost as much as he won. Maybe. Things certainly went poorly for Mr. Parker much of the time. But compared to any of his rogue’s gallery Spidey was an all-star. The Lizard, for instance, has made seventy-five appearances in various comics. If those were issues of a series that would total more issues than the average comic has before cancellation. And, because he’s a villain, he always loses. But he keeps getting back up to try and conquer the world again. There’s a certain appeal to characters who just refuse to give up.

I don’t know if any of my ideas will make it into script form. If they do I’ll need to know more about what Marvel is offering before I submit. And if I submit it’s a longshot that my story would be accepted. I’m having fun thinking about it. That’s the main thing for now.