Monday, September 20, 2010

Champions' Syndrome

Once in a while, a comic book company gets an idea. Say you have two beloved writers who have a large fan base but who aren't big enough stars to carry a series on the strength of their names alone. Suppose you have several characters who suffer from much the same problem.

What's an editor to do? How about putting the writers on a book which stars all of these characters and hope that the combined fan bases are enough to float a book.

Thus, we get thing like Marvel Comic's new Heroes for Hire title and I have to say I have my doubts about the whole thing.

For one thing, the writers in question, Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, are begin asked to write outside their area of expertise. This writing team has been primarily known for more science fiction oriented comic like Legion of Superheroes and the Guardians of the Galaxy. A earth-bound comic featuring grim-and-gritty mercenary street level characters seems a little bit out of their wheel house.

The second problem is that there is no logical reason for the characters in the series (Elektra, Iron Fist, the Punisher, Ghost Rider, and Moon Knight) to work together. Iron Fist, for example has always been more of a traditional super-hero, so why put him on a team with characters known for being amoral murderers ie the Punisher.

Furthermore, Ghost Rider and the Punisher are not really what spring to mind when one thinks of "Heroes for Hire." Sure, the Punisher was introduced as a mercenary but that angle was dropped pretty quickly after he first appeared. Since then his sole motivation has been an unceasing war on crime. Similarly, the Ghost Rider is magically compelled to avenge the innocent and fight supernatural evil. As a result, he is compelled to move from place to place, a trait which doesn't really itself to holding down a job. Furthermore, neither of them would with Elektra, a character who has no compunction killing innocent people.

This whole exercise reminds me of the short-lived Marvel series the Champions. An attempt to do something with a group of characters who didn't have their own books, the Champions was a comercial failure. It starred two original X-Men, two b-list Avengers and, oddly enough, the Ghost Rider, with no real reason for any of the character's to work together other than editorial fiat.

It's a shame. I like the characters in Heroes for Hire and Abnett and Lannning are superb writers. I really hope that this book succeeds but I'm not optimistic. Who knows though? Maybe, the second time will be the charm.

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