Sep 26, 2013

Roundtable: Retro Series

Welcome to another round of the Comics Cube Roundtable, where we at the Cube give our takes on certain comics arguments. Click here for the full list. 

I'm gonna let Ben kick it off this week:

Any longtime comic book reader has probably done it (no, not that). Waxed poetic about the wonders of yesteryear, the series that was better back when, or the character that was cooler before whatever arbitrary line has been drawn in the sand, demarcating the better from the “they ruined him when…”

Well, today will be no different, as I ramble on incoherently about the retro style series I would love to read, separated by decade. (Kind of like my own little version of the VH1 retro series I Love the ‘80s, which I indefensibly loved.)

Shall we begin? We shall.

The 60s

Ben: The one and only possible answer here is a Spider-Man and Human Torch series set in the swinging ‘60s.  Johnny Storm and Spidey have long had the kind of friendship that I prefer to have and to read or watch, which is a strong foundation based on mutually giving each other a hard time (see Kelso and Hyde from the underappreciated television classic, That ‘70s Show).  I don’t have all the details sketched out in my mind, but it definitely would involve Spider-Man making moves on Doris, Doris allowing it to get Johnny’s attention, and Johnny getting super mad about it.  The reason I’d set this in the ‘60s is I want maximum amounts of goofiness and fun.  Plenty of appearances by Paste Pot Pete, Plant Man, the Vulture, the Beetle, and any other villain with no more complicated an evil motivation beyond “the Torch gets on my nerves.”  Sweater vests, sock hops, beach parties, and girls that don’t kiss on the first date.  Plus, lots of asbestos.

Dream Creative Team: Dan Slott, Stan Lee, and Steve Ditko

Travis:  Black Panther. And no “he lives in America and teaches school and jumps around as a super power” either. Adventure comics. King of a fantastic and powerful nation made of science and badassery who has adventures as the living avatar of his people's god, ancestors, and hopes. Don't deflect, don't whitewash, and don't sublimate Panther for the sake of the nearest white superheroes, while also highlighting his allies and enemies, from Daredevil to Killmonger. Headfirst and hardcore.

Matt: The 60’s is obviously a great time for a family adventure series. What screams family adventure more than the Fantastic 4 (6)? You have eccentric dad, Mr. Fantastic, nearly destroying the world trying to create the perfect toaster. You have Sue Richards, protective mother and the level-headed one of the group. You have uncle Thing, strong, protective, a bit dim-witted. You have uncle “Human Torch” Johnny, free spirited, wise-cracking and ready for adventure. Additionally you have 2 kids, ready to take part in the hijinks and potential swashbuckling good times. I think the drawing should be a bit more stylized of the time, the rounder lines, softer edges, sort of animation-quality drawing. I am also adamant that the stories be Silver Age zany from time to time.

Duy: After reading a bunch of Kirby-era Thor and Ditko-era Dr. Strange, I'm pretty convinced I want a Thor and Dr. Strange team-up series set in the 60s, but with  just so people can go wild with 2013 effects. Thor saved Dr. Strange's life early on in their careers by performing an operation on him. How does this never get mentioned again? Stan would write. Ron Frenz would draw, because when I think of the list of guys who can ape Kirby and the list of guys who could ape Ditko, Frenz is the only guy on both lists.

The 70s

Ben: The easy one here is Power Man and Iron Fist, probably the most popular answer to a question like this.  It’s not hard to see why.  The Times Square setting back before it got cleaned up (apparently).  All you’d have to do is simply take any Blaxploitation movie poster from the ‘70s, replace the characters with Power Man and Iron Fist, and work backwards from there.  Just take the whole mystique of ‘70s New York City from films and television, distill it down into one amalgamated vision, and pop in the ultimate superhero odd couple.  Working the skuzzy back streets of the big city, and making a few dollars to boot.  Just soak the whole series in sweat and grime.  Throw in some appearances by Moon Knight, some visits to Hell’s Kitchen and a certain blind attorney, and you have at least one monthly reader right here.

Dream Creative Team: Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction, and David Aja

Travis: Let's Geki-ga in! This is as close to self-consciously retro as I want to get: big crazy robots and the monsters who fight them. Flowing handsome hair, lovely big eyes, and giant fucking robots. Cutey Honey, Godzilla, Soldier Blue, and massive mecha whose arms shoot off and do stuff.

Matt: I like the idea of street-level, dirty, dark, dangerous do-gooders, and alliteration, for this decade. Since it would give me an excuse to bring back the greatest superhero hairstyle, ever, I would actually set an entire series in Manhattan. You’d get Daredevil, Iron Fist and Power Man (afro required) and let them fight the rise of violence and drug use in the 70s in New York. Their costumes also kind of scream 70s nostalgia to me, I’m not sure why that is for DD though.

I actually have no idea what to do for the 70s. I guess it's not an era I've thought about much. So I'm just going to say that the DC Western Heroes, from Bat Lash to Jonah Hex, get transported right into the 70s and they have to deal with it. Gun-toting cowboys in an era that abhorred war? Yeah!
The 80s

Ben: Due to the overwhelming expansion and domination of the X-Men franchise that really began during this time, it would be really easy to throw out a retro series about the uncanny mutants here.  But considering every X-Men comic that’s come out since has basically been a callback to Claremont’s heyday (even his own), I’m going to go another direction.  Since the ‘80s was basically the decade of the tie-in comic, particularly for this reader, I say we go all-in on that concept.  Star Wars, Transformers, GI Joe, Visionaries, Inhumanoids, He-Man, Voltron, MASK, and Thundercats all together in a taste explosion the likes of which haven’t been felt globally since chocolate first met peanut butter.  Dr. Claw calls together a council of Cobra Commander, Starscream (making moves behind Megatron’s back), Mumm-Ra, Skeletor, Darth Vader (and whoever the bad guys were on the rest of those shows) all plotting against the forces of good behind their army of Inhumanoids and sentient robots.  Only collectively, under the leadership of Optimus Prime, and behind the badassery of Snake Eyes, can the day be saved.  (10-year-old me just popped a boner.)  Luke Skywalker, in your classic misunderstanding, faces off against Snake Eyes, easily destroying his katana with a swing of his light saber.  But then Snake Eyes picks up a light saber of his own…  Matt Trakker driving Jazz, Duke riding shotgun, Scarlett with the uzi in the back seat.  Storm Shadow does the universe a favor, by decapitating Spike Witwicky and Rick Jones.  Up in space, Voltron and the Millenium Falcon do their best to keep Unicron from eating the Death Star, which would grant him untold power.  Shockingly, in their darkest hour, Rom makes his long-awaited reappearance into comics, wielding the Matrix, destroying Unicron, and saving the day.

Dream Creative Team: Brian Michael Bendis and Mike Zeck

Travis: John Constantine wandering around big gatherings of superheroes as different shared universes collapse, reboot, or reestablish themselves, from the TMNT universes to the GI Joe-verse, the Marvel Universe or subsidiary New Universe, et cetera. John's got the jackets and the big ties, natch, looking very much a reflection of his temporal element.

Matt: Buddy comedy time. Yes, that’s right, Booster Gold and Blue Beetle (Ted Kord), laugh and love. Set on the beautiful beaches of Coast City. The tans, the mysteries, the moustaches! I don’t think I need to go beyond that concept to sell it, except to say, Ted will have a moustache and it will be visible at all times, regardless of costume. Think Miami Vice meets Magnum PI meets Golden Girls.

Duy:  If there ever was an era that X-Statix would have worked better in, with its concept of being like a celebrity team as well as a sports team, it's the 80s. Imagine U-Go Girl hanging out with Michael Jordan (or a fair equivalent), or team members based on Magic Johnson and Larry Bird and Charles Barkley (as The Spike and The Anarchist were loosely based on Allen Iverson and Dennis Rodman). Imagine Doop hanging out with Michael Jackson and The Anarchist trying to get with Madonna (insert Dennis Rodman joke here). You'd buy it.
The 90s

Ben: A ten-issue mini-series called “What’s in that pouch?” where the key questions of the decade are finally revealed.  (Spoiler alert, Cable had gummi bears in his.)

Dream Creative Team: Shoot me

Travis: Small press, creator-owned stuff that gets all the talent paid exceptionally well. No necessary connections between stories or characters, just anthology style.

Matt: The 90s were a time of change and prosperity and peace (in the West). The Soviet Union fell and technology really took off (yeah internet and computers!). Old Soviet heroes getting used to the fall of the USSR/Berlin Wall would be a good start. Rocket Red or Omega Red getting used to abundant blue jeans or being able to finally, openly listen to the Beatles. Juxtapose that with a hero like Mr. Terrific or Tony Stark really taking their tech ideas to insane heights. 

Duy: This one's easy for me: the lost adventures of Ben Reilly, the Scarlet Spider! Peter Parker's clone spent five years of his life travelling, and we only ever saw a few months of it. I say we see the whole thing, but set it in the 90s, because Ben's kind of a product of his time. One necessary story: Ben must have been in Seattle at some point in 1992.
The 00s

Ben: In a celebration of all that has come before, I propose a team-up series of the greatest female characters in comics history (as determined by me).  U-Go Girl claws her way back from the land of the dead, dragging Gwen Stacy with her.  Gwen quickly becomes “Gwen Stacy: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.” and joins U-Go Girl in solving the identity of the mysterious figure that will plague our heroines throughout the series.  Colleen Wing and the Black Cat, brought together by seemingly unrelated circumstances, are forced to break into the Baxter Building, where a visiting Crystal from the Inhumans is unwittingly pulled into the story.  After the final piece of the puzzle, Squirrel Girl, is added into the mix, they team up to defeat the mystery puppetmaster that has been pulling their strings, none other than the villainous Enchantress.  After saving the day, they decide to remain a team, to fight the foes that no one else will fight, but they don’t always get along.

Dream Creative Team: Mark Waid and Steve McNiven

Travis: Widescreen reference-stuffed mashup fight comics with a twist. Mark Millar is not allowed to write it, but Brian Bendis can draw a few pages.

Matt: Massive, pervasive use of technology to gather information from around the world and combat global threats clearly lead to a Midnighter series. He would be able to process the massive amounts of information now available at humanities fingertips and possibly, hopefully,  stop Lolcats from becoming a thing.

Duy: If the success of the Iron Man movies have taught me anything, it's that we live in a perfect age for technologically based superheroes. So, with that, I say, DC should have a Steel series where they just go wild with the tech effects.

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