Tuesday, March 10, 2009

On The Higher United Nations Defense Enforcement Reserves

Comicmix.com recently reported the passing of John Carbonaro, long time comics fan and Last Man Standing in the nightmare that was the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents copyright mess.

Now, just as I believe that there are a series of speedboats (belonging to Microsoft, Disney, the Mob, etc) idling off the shore of Florida, ready to race to Cuba the moment Castro dies, I think right now there are offers being drafted for the rights to the Agents by several comics publishers. DC came the closest to using them in recent history, kiboshing their planned series after Carbonaro allegedly nixed changes they planned to make to the characters. They put out the Archives series of the books, so they've likely got the most ideas to use them. If I had my choice, I'd want DC to get ahold of them. Given a choice between the Red Circle characters and the Agents to get folded into the DCU, it's no contest.

The THUNDER Agents' basic origin concept isn't as vital to the characters as, say, the Legion is. "A group of people given powers to fight The Warlord" could easily become "A group of people given powers to fight (insert threat here)"

Dynamo is about the only one who'd need an ever-so-slight tweaking. Len Brown was almost played as a complete clown in the books, almost as badly as The Web was treated in his Red Circle books (A henpecked Superhero - that's got gold written all over it, don't it?) He's a guy that desperately WANTS to get it right, he knows the pressure he's under; the thunderbelt can't be reset for anyone else until he's DEAD (slight tweak there). If anything, it's a reversal of the Spider-Man concept. As a regular person he's pretty okay and happy, it's as a Superhero that the guilt and the pressure weighs in on him.

For NoMan, let's try this - make him a younger man. Professor Dunn was an old man - he'd lived his life, sampled its wonders, he was pretty okay with giving up the lion's share of his humanity for the chance to stay alive and active. But make him a younger man, maybe mid-30, early 40's. He's glad to be alive, but like Cliff Steele, at what cost? If I may get a bit crude...one of the complaints some men use for not wearing...protection...is "I can't feel anything". Take that to the extreme, and you know what NoMan feels (or doesn't) like. I can easily see him becoming a sort of Mr. Spock / Dr. Manhattan like character - out of touch with the world. Starting to treat the other agents are expendable and replaceable, like his bodies; only the equipment they carry is valuable.

Lightning already has a great plot device built in - every time he uses the suit, he ages. So say he runs 100 miles in a second. How long would it take a regular person to run 100 miles - that's how much his body has just aged. So it could mount up but fast. I could see Lightning striking (heh heh) up a friendship with Jay Garrick, as opposed to Wally or Barry. Likely because he'll be the one he'll have more in common with sooner than later.

Menthor was rather ham-handed attempt at creating a conflicted hero, but damn if it didn't work. The wearer of the helmet was in fact a mole for the Warlord, and gettig assigned the Menthor helmet was the best-case scenario for his assignment. But the helmet was so powerful, when he wore, he was compelled to do good, disobeying his masters' commands to undermine THUNDER with his new power. John Janus (Janus - two-faced - get it?) died while trying to protect his THUNDER compatriots, and in the John C revival series, a new person wore the helmet, only to learn that the consciousness of Janus had been absorbed by the helmet, and could offer her advice. There's a lot there that could make for good character work.

When I first explained the concept of Menthor to my wife, she immediately compared it to the Happy Helmet from Ren & Stimpy. I had no answer - she had touched it with a pin.

And let's be honest, put the Iron Maiden on a cover, and it's gonna sell books.

Jim Shooter wanted them for Marvel back in the day. The Tower reps showed them what they had, and he realized they didn't have a single piece of signed paperwork from Wally Wood saying he transferred copyright. They didn't have the standard verbiage on the back of the paycheck. NOTHING. He realized he could take these facts to Wally's estate, but they wouldn't have the money to make a case. He recognized a minefield when he saw it, and he retraced his steps back out.

Wally Wood was an amazing creator - his art was dynamic and bold, his women buxom and brazen (you know the Power Girl story, right? True or not, remind me to work it into a piece sometime) and his stories imaginative and innovative. This was his chance to set up his own universe, and he jumped in with both feet. This is a bunch of characters who haven't had a serious viewing in over 20 years, and yet they're still well-known by fans.

The THUNDER Agents are just about the last set of classic heroes that hasn't been grabbed up by one company or another, or floated into the public domain. They have a vocal and loyal following, and the characters are even strong enough to survive a radical rethinking and modernization.

I'm betting we'll hear something in under a year.

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