For example, both Dynamite and Dark Horse are doing quite nicely with their somewhat integrated lines of heroic fantasy. Dynamite based theirs upon well-known pulp heroes such as The Shadow, Doc Savage, The Avenger and Zorro. Dark Horse has resurrected golden age licensed characters such as Captain Midnight and Skyman and has been integrating them with their own Comics Greatest World (X and Ghost), brought back from wandering around the1990s. Nice stuff – some of it great stuff – but these are not new characters.
The same thing is true over at Valiant. They’ve resurrected their characters and did what amounts to the fourth or fifth relaunch of their universe, sans those licensed from Western Publishing (which are now over at Dynamite Comics after Dark Horse took their shot). This time the effort seems to be well-received and its worthy of that but, again, these are not “new” characters or original characters.
DC and Marvel keep on altering their atlases as though somebody dared them to confuse M.C. Escher. Nothing new here outside of the occasional new-person-with-old-code-name gambit, sometimes followed by the old-person-returning-to-the-old-code-name variant.
So where’s the new stuff? Where are our totally new and original superheroes? I remember the thrill I felt when I fell across T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #1 – the real one, done by Wally Wood and Reed Crandall and Steve Ditko and Gil Kane. Totally original stuff created by some of the greatest talent the medium has seen. They made such an impact upon baby boomer comics fans that they’ve been resurrected by such well-financed publishers as Archie Comics, Penthouse, DC Comics and, most recently, IDW. Even Marvel had a bid in on at least two occasions. And, as it turned out, the only thing these latter efforts were lacking were the likes of Wally Wood and Reed Crandall and Steve Ditko and Gil Kane… and the 1960s sensibilities that molded the property in the first place.
We’ve got brilliant creators wandering around out there today. Most are all well-employed, and their creator-owned stuff tends to be non-heroic fantasy. That’s completely understandable. If you spend most of your time doing The League of Uncanny Spider-Bats, you’re going to want your own stuff to taste different. Even the brilliant lads at Aw, Yeah Comics (the imprint, not necessarily their home-base comics shop) do that.
Nonetheless, it is 2014. We’ve got a whole different set of concerns. The DC Universe was born out of the depression and World War II. The Marvel Universe was born out of the nuclear arms race. Today we’ve got terrorism, plagues, a completely dysfunctional government, and a planet that has been savagely and perhaps terminally abused.
So. Where are our superheroes?