Monday, November 26, 2007

Essential Update '07

Last year at about this time, I made a list of
the top fifteen Marvel series I wanted to see made into Essentials. It's now a year later, and I thought I'd take a moment to ask, "How did Marvel do?"

Unsurprisingly, they did a lot more volumes of existing series. I can't say I mind, honestly; it was good to get another X-Men volume, a couple more Spider-Man trades, more FF, more Silver Surfer, more Punisher, more Werewolf By Night, and more X-Factor. But of the fifteen titles on my list, only two were actually collected: Ms. Marvel, and Dazzler. (Which isn't to say there were no other new series being collected--'Essential Marvel Saga'? I didn't list it because I didn't dream Marvel would collect something so wonderful, yet so I've learned that my fanboy dreams can truly become reality.) So what does this year hold in the Marvel release schedule of my dreams?

15. The Champions. To be honest, I'm not sure what the rights issues are with this series, and I suspect nobody else does either, including Marvel (they did, after all, get within two months of publishing a new 'Champions' series before deciding to call it 'The Order'.) But I know there's a 'Champions Classic' set of trades in print, so Marvel must have the rights to reprint its old stuff. So howbout an Essential, Marvel?

14. Shang-Chi, Master of Kung-Fu. Another one where the rights might be in limbo...they can obviously make use of Shang-Chi himself, since he's an original Marvel character, but the series also used Fu Manchu, and I'm sure the rights have lapsed on him by this point. Still, I will fall back on my "Godzilla" argument: If Marvel can hash out the rights to an Essential Godzilla, how much harder can any other character be?

13. Micronauts. I really don't know what the rights status for this series is. But somebody's got to be able to reprint these. Even if it isn't Marvel, I'd settle for another company putting out an affordable black-and-white reprint volume...

12. Adam Warlock. With all the "cosmic" characters enjoying a big renaissance due to the success of 'Annihilation' and 'Annihilation: Conquest', putting out affordably-priced reprints of the old adventures of these characters sounds like a smart move to me. And it's not like Adam Warlock doesn't have a fan following. (OK, certainly the sales figures on 'Adam Warlock and the Infinity Watch' suggests he doesn't have much of one. But that was a whole different era.)

11. New Warriors. Another series that seems more relevant than ever in the new year...there's a new 'New Warriors' series out, Nova's got his own series again, Night Thrasher and Penance (the former Speedball) both have mini-series, Justice is a prominent character in 'Avengers: The Initiative'...really, Marvel, this one just makes sense.

10. Spider-Man 2099. The only reason this didn't make the list last year is because I figure a series should be at least fifteen years old before being considered "Essential"...and that time has passed by 2008, meaning that Peter David's wonderful reimagining of the Spider-Man concept can see print. It's the best of the 2099 line, it's got a surprisingly faithful cult following, and it's the only series to feature the line, "I have tough nipples." What's not to like?

9. Power Pack. They're already doing new, family-friendly out-of-continuity 'Power Pack' mini-series. Why not reprint the classic adventures as well?

8. West Coast Avengers. Hawkeye. Team Leader. I should not have to speak of this one again next year.

7. Alpha Flight. Another one of those series that's had a bit of a renaissance lately, and one that I really think would work well in big, 24-issue chunks. It was ahead of its time in "writing for the trade", with lots of ongoing subplots and character developments that unfolded over many issues, and now is the time to reprint it.

6. ROM. I am aware, thank you very much, of the rights issues regarding ROM. Pah, I say to them. Pah! If you can do 'Essential Godzilla', why are you letting the only records of our great struggle with the Dire Wraiths languish in Marvel's vaults?

...don't make me get Congress involved here.

5. Quasar. See everything I said about 'Adam Warlock', only with bells on. This really was Mark Gruenwald's magnum opus, and I don't think it ever got the attention it deserved. I think it would sell very well in trades, and I really enjoyed the series.

4. New Mutants. As I understand it, the reason this hasn't been collected is that Bill Sienkiewicz's art doesn't translate well to black and white. But I still hold out hopes that somehow they could "remaster" it to make it work, because this really is the definition of an "Essential" title. Following the X-Men during the 80s meant following the New Mutants, and the X-Men and X-Factor titles feel incomplete without the missing third of the story.

3. Excalibur. Less "essential" than the New Mutants, but oh-so-gorgeous...and don't even try to tell me that Alan Davis' art doesn't look good in black-and-white, because I ain't buying it.

2. Guardians of the Galaxy. Still one of my favorite series ever from my childhood (well, teenage-hood), still needs to be reprinted, still needs to be relaunched (I wanted to see 'Civil War' end with the Guardians showing up and siding with Cap), but I must bump it down a spot, because...

1. What If? I must, at this point, confess the deepest of fanboy shames. I totally forgot about 'What If?' when making last year's list. Two series, hundreds of issues, one-shots to this day, the inspiration for 'Exiles' and the only place where you could see seriously dark stuff go down in the Marvel Universe, this cries out to be reprinted. Yes, I'm aware there's a "Classic" line for this series, much as there is for many of the series on this list. But I loves me the big thick black-and-white volumes, and that means I wait in anticipation for the day this one gets released.

1 comment:

j_ay said...

Anyone that says Sienkiewicz’s work doesn’t look good in b&w is blind. Check out the 2 Essential Moon Knights to prove this (indeed some of the Hulk Magazine stuff doesn’t look sharp but that was originally published in b&w with heaps of grays). And his New Mutants work is even better. I own a few of the original pages (b&w, of course) and have seen countless others, and they look AMAZING.

Hopefully Marvel will get around to this, as you’ve stated, it’s pretty surprising they already haven’t, but sadly we’ll still have to wait for the second volume before it gets good, and poor sales of the first volume could make a second questionable. But Sienkiewicz is making a pretty broad comeback to comics, some of the New Mutants characters are still being used, so we’ll see…