It wasn’t all that long ago that I grieved that the fifth issue of the Black Knight miniseries arrived a few years ago. It was the final issue in that series, and I grieved because I really enjoy that character and have done so since he debuted many years ago.
Was he gone forever? Nahhh, he’s already coming to the end of yet another miniseries already! Will someone give this guy a book already?
EVEN THE GOLD KEY HEROES CAME BACK
Here’s the most important paragraph from a news release not that long ago: “Dynamite Entertainment has published some of the most celebrated stories in the long history of the Turok, Solar, Magnus, and Doctor Spektor publications. Now, the publisher will introduce a new era for these long-running comic book staples with The Sovereigns #0, the oversized 48-page launch issue priced at $1.00 retail as the perfect jumping-on point for new readers!”
I’ve read many incarnations of those characters, but my favorite of the bunch has to be Magnus, subtitled “Robot Fighter.” (Solar is a close second in this list, though.)
I’m trying to remember all the various versions of Magnus I’ve read over the years. I can’t even begin to mention them all. Several are mentioned here at Wikipedia, but I don’t think even this page is complete! The one I liked the best most recently was from the same company bringing him back now, written by Fred Van Lente, with art by Cory Smith and cover by Gabriel Hardman. It was a very different take, which I always enjoy!
This is one of the rare times when these characters group together. The release stated it this way: “The Sovereigns #0 is the beginning of an epic tale that will change everything you know about some of comicdom’s greatest and longest-tenured heroes! Apart, they’ve saved countless lives in hundreds of world-shattering conflicts. Together, they form a team that has protected the world in the past, present and future. Now, they will be reunited one last time to face a threat that will forever change their legacy and bring them face to face with their final destiny!”
That’s got my attention And having Kyle Higgins, one of my favorite writers, scripted Magnus, well, that made I plunked down my money and got these books!
IS THERE ROOM IN THE MARKET FOR RETURNING HEROES?
In the last several months, I’ve read article after article online saying that the industry has overextended itself, that there needs to be an implosion rather than an explosion of titles. “People aren’t interested in other comics, and they can barely afford the ones out now,” I’ve seen mentioned time and again.
I have to disagree with that. If a character I like comes back with a creative team that makes him or her shine, I’m there! Hey, I’ll even try out ones I’m not certain about if I’m interested in the hero or heroine.
The problem is often the level of storytelling in comics today. If a comic has a great story about an interesting character with art that catches the fans’ eyes, it’ll be a success – some of the time!
I have to include that caveat at the end because there have been occasions when a book has just sparkled and yet didn’t catch on with fans. I’m left scratching my head when that happens, frankly. I often find myself saying, “What does it take to make a comic successful these days? Great storytelling just doesn’t seem to be enough!”
I have to be honest here – Most of the comics on the stands today are like most of the TV shows on the tube or movies in the theater. They’re SOS – Same Old Stuff. And that’s what the market often wants, apparently.
I’m reminded of the television program Brimstone, which ran on FOX. It was different, and I loved it. It focused on a guy who was sent from Hell to capture and return several people (and one car) that had escaped. It was creative, it was full of surprises, and it was sadly short-lived.
It lasted one whole season. The producers were clearly frustrated. “People say they want something they haven’t seen before, but when we give it to you, you don’t like it!” one said during an interview.
It doesn’t matter whether it’s on the TV, at the movie theater, or in comics. The familiar seems to be what attracts fans the most. It’s rare when something unusual comes along and is a hit.
I often read comics I think should sell tremendously, and am discouraged when they fade away, often without any fanfare.
On the other hand, the revised Batgirl really caught on at DC… for a while. I like the more realistic take that the creators offered. However, a lot of that has been watered down recently. Guess nothing lasts forever.
WHAT’S A COMICS COMPANY TO DO?
I adore it when a creator does the hard work of worldbuilding… You know, building a new universe or situation for a comic to function in. One I really cheer about is Black by Kwanza Osajyeko, published by Black Mask Studios. I think it’s one of the most creative comics concepts and execution out today. It took a lot of hard work on the part of Kwanza and the other pros behind it to make it the success it is, although I think it should sell even more than it does now!
However, the easy thing is often to make changes in a world that’s already well-known. Changing the Hulk in Marvel to another guy is, well, simple in comparison. You need to figure out what a different person will do that the Hulk environment. Compared to developing a whole new universe? Sorry, that’s small potatoes! However, which will sell better? The Hulk, for sure!
But there is nostalgia about heroes who have had at least one good run in the past. You don’t have to start from the ground up in that they very likely have an existing set up that you can build on. Oh, and they often have a ready-made audience prepared to support that character. At least, you hope so!
Remember, though, that I’m a big fan of many second-, third- or even fourth-tier heroes, like the aforementioned Black Knight. I just hope there are enough fans like me around to support this new series.
CAN THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE?
That famous X-Men revival by Len Wein and Dave Cockrum is always held up as a real possibility. “Maybe our book will catch on like that did!” After all, it was the return of a fairly popular team, and it’s rebirth, to coin a phrase, lasted for decades. Yes, it has slowed down dramatically in recent years, but it still is a big staple at the House of Ideas.
The old term “How many times can lightning strike?” seems to apply. Still, if the concept and execution worked previously, with some tweaking, hey, it could at least work again! Some companies would LOVE to have a series people are talking about again. That could help boost their other titles as well.
So if you like a character we haven’t seen in comics for a while, you just might rework him or her to fit today’s readers and pitch it to a company seeking a hit today. If it’s something they like, they could help resolve any copyright issues, if there are any, and make it happen!
Me, I hope J. T. Krul’s rework of The Owl comes back. I loved that miniseries. It focused on a Batman-alike character from the 1960s when the Caped Crusader was all the rage of ABC. I thought both versions were well worth reading. Could that happen, please? Oh, and maybe the Black Knight back at Marvel will keep going after that fifth issue?