By Ray Tate
As you read this column, a war is being fought. No, not a war against terror, or how the President pronounces it Terra. Nor do I speak of the horrible atrocities being committed by the Israeli government and the Palestinian terrorists. I'm speaking about the more important war. The war against cancellation.
It all began when Marvel decided to cancel Captain Marvel. It then escalated when they decided to keep the title but raise the price. I've read Peter David's reasoning, and it seems sound.
I grew up during a time when comic books were cheap entertainment but delivered better quality. For a dollar, I could buy a comic book that was one-hundred pages where Batman teams up with the Shadow to confront his fear of gunplay and still get some pretty fine back-up material like two Manhunter stories, Doll-Man, Kid Eternity and Hawkman.
For three dollars, I can watch Bruce Wayne in one of the most contrived moves ever made by DC buy a gun so his immediate suspicion for the murder of Vesper Fairchild is guaranteed and get a hit or miss black and white back-up feature, but I digress (pun intended). Peter David makes sense.
The cheaper the comic books are the more likely somebody will buy them. It doesn't take a genius to figure this out. If comic books were still a dollar or even a dollar and a quarter I may not have dropped my Batman titles and voiced my disgruntlement in more detail. What would DC care? They'd still make a profit.
This price increase has led to challenges made by Mr. David to save Captain Marvel. It's been suggested that his challenge is an act of desperation or publicity in collusion with Marvel. I sincerely doubt Mr. David's move is a publicity stunt. He doesn't need one. He's a bloody novelist for pity's sake. He writes the New Frontier Star Trek novels.
After Mr. David made his claim Bill Jemas met his challenge with another. He will write a book having Marvel in its title without editorial constraint using an artist of his choice within Marvel's guidelines not say the Luke Cage standards. This book Mr. Jemas believes will outsell Captain Marvel. Mr. Jemas has unimaginatively named this hypothetical book The Marvel.
To dispel any ideas that this is a publicity stunt, Joe Quesada said that he would also challenge both Jemas and David, and then Steven Grant threw his hat into the race during a recent Permanent Damage. I've corresponded with Steven Grant during his run on Vampirella, and Peter David has dropped me a note once. I don't know Bill Jemas and haven't seen any of his work. I'll say nothing about Joe Quesada since his run on Iron Man sucked. So given this fleeting acquaintance with one of the contenders as well as a strong appreciation for his work, given a respect and admiration for Peter David's talent, given a complete ignorance regarding Bill Jemas and a shrugging off of Joe Quesada's alleged writing skills, I've come to this startling conclusion. I don't believe there are any more original uses in comic books for the word Marvel.
Let's look at this. There have been six different versions of Captain Marvel. The original is the Big Red Cheese. His sister was renamed after the Crisis Captain Marvel. She has also gone by the name of Mary Marvel and the fan term of endearment Captain Mary Marvel. There's been Captain Marvel of the Kree and his son who was at point blank range when this war broke out. Marvel, the comic book publisher, made a fantastic move by dubbing a black female super-hero Captain Marvel. She's honestly my favorite of the Marvel Marvels. The sixth is an obscure one who had the power to separate his body parts. I wonder if he also separated his--no, scratch that.
Marvel Girl was one of the original X-Men. Ms. Marvel was even better than the original Marvel Captain. Somebody felt it would be a good idea to rename her Warbird which never has made any sense to me. I do believe there was a second Ms. Marvel who was briefly a member of the Fantastic Four. She popped up when Carol lost her powers and became Binary--still I'm sorry a better name than Warbird. On DC's side, there exists a Captain Marvel Jr. on whose hair Elvis based his own coif and Lieutenant Marvels as well as Hoppy the Marvel Bunny. Oh, and we can't forget Uncle Marvel.
Then we have the Masked Marvel from a cliffhanger serial. Marvel Boy is an old hero I first encountered in What if? and the name has recently gained fame in a mini-series critically acclaimed. The title Marvels has been taken. Marvel Maxim is unfortunately existent. Marvel Premiere, Tales, Chillers, Team-Up, Two-in-One are right out.
And that at the top of my head is what I immediately discarded. When I did some research in Jeff Rovin's splendid Encyclopedia of Super-Heroes I found more Marvels to be crossed off the list of titles. The first hero to use the name Marvel according to Mr. Rovin's meticulous research was The Masked Marvel--not to be confused with the cliffhanger serial hero. Next we have a Black Marvel who was by a Blackfoot Native given the ability of super speed, super aim and the most dangerous ability of all super swimming. Apparently, Black Marvel's mentor was on peyote at the time.
Mon-El whom you may know as Valor briefly used the name Marvel Lad, and there was still another Marvel Boy who was imbued with the powers of Hercules in Daring Mystery. Miracleman used to be Marvelman, and I'm pretty sure none of the remaining contenders in the Marvel Slug-Fest wish to open up that particular can of Marvel Millipedes. We further have a Kid and Young Marvelman.
There are some Marvel names left, though very few are particularly resonant. In the color category we have Blue Marvel, but if you ask me that sounds too much like Blue Marble. Red Marvel and Scarlet Marvel might have worked had there not been a Scarlet Witch and Red Guardian--times two. The Green Marvel might be confused with Green Lantern, Green Arrow or the Green Hornet. Puce, Pink and Purple Marvel sounds simply ghastly. Though I kind of like the idea of them getting together and forming the Marvelous Ps. Likewise for the Magenta, Maroon, Mauve Marvels. The Turquoise Marvel and Aqua Marvel have different problems. The Teal Marvel would be better off as an alias for Howard the Duck. The Brown Marvel just might rile Bill Cosby's Brown Hornet, and does Marvel really want that kind of legal hassle? The Orange and Yellow Marvels both sound like juices. A White Marvel sounds like something the Klan might think up, and the Tan Marvel sounds like he just came back from spring break. In the precious colors category assuming we don't wish to rip-off the Metal Men, we have the Silver, Platinum and Gold Marvels. These however seem tarnished.
In the brass category, we have Brigadier and Major Marvels. They would outrank Sergeant and Corporal Marvel. Ensign and Private Marvels really only shine the Captain's boots and say "Shazam!" Oddly enough there has never been a Dr. Marvel or Professor Marvel. No, wait a minute. That's not odd at all. Marvel Attorney at Law anyone?
Ms. Marvel was meant to be a symbol of the feminist movement of her time, but there hasn't been a Miss Marvel, a Mr. Marvel or a Mrs. Marvel. Can't imagine why. There's also a dearth of royal Marvels. Lord, Lady, King, Queen, Count, Countess, Baron, Baroness, Prince and Princess Marvels are all up for grabs. Use them in good health.
There are a few adverb Marvels still ripe for the plucking. Fearless Marvel and Fighting Marvel as well as Mighty Marvel seem redundant to me, but hey, it's you're call. There's also never been a Lone Marvel. Perhaps Puce and Pink were ambushed and Tonto discovered Purple near death. If Marvel, the comic book publisher, didn't have a Moon Knight, they may have opted for Moon Marvel. (Insert your Luke Cage joke here.)
Dark Marvel, Grim Marvel and Night Marvel are still open, though neither inspires much confidence. Dark Marvel sounds like a corrupt Marvel in the same way Dark Wanda and Dark Phoenix were corrupted versions of the heroes. Night Marvel is too close to Nighthawk. Grim Marvel might be a description of the Thing. Human Marvel anyone? This suggests that there are inhuman Marvels out there. Perhaps, Larry, the Dachshund Marvel. Why not cash in on the Spider-Man movie and clone him again to create Spider-Marvel?
When all is said and done I think Mr. Quesada and Mr. Grant as well as Bill Jemas, when he realizes The Marvel is the laziest hero name next to Sandwich, can only fight over the one title that makes sense. Bob Marley Marvel.
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