Marvel Comics Heroes Who Need Another Chance

Marvel Comics has thousands of characters and a legacy spanning back decades.  Times change, new books pop up and old ones go away; and in the shuffle, some characters get discarded.  Sometimes they come back as supporting characters like Terror, Slapstick, D-Man, Misty Knight, Stingray and others have in recent months.  But some only get a few token appearances despite the potential they have for their own solo book.  These are a few such characters that deserve a new series of their own.

Death’s Head

Death’s Head was created by Simon Furman as a throw-away character for a Spaghetti Western-esque story in his run on Transformers UK.  After receiving the completed art of the character he realized that Death’s Head had potential but if he appeared in the Transformers comics first he would be the property of Hasbro rather than Marvel.  So Furman quickly wrote up a script for a one-page story called High Noon Tex which introduced the character completely divorced of any reference to the Transformers and had it run in the backs of several Marvel UK books a few weeks before his actual first appearance in Transformers.  Death’s Head was then inserted into an issue of Doctor Who where The Doctor reduced him in size to the scale of an average human being, he was then sent on to an appearance in Simon Furman’s futuristic book Dragon’s Claws.  After receiving a more superhero-universe friendly makeover he started bouncing around the various dimensions and time-frames, turning up in 2020 to fight Arno Stark, making appearances in She-Hulk and The Fantastic Four, and having his own series that was canceled at issue 10.  He was relaunched under a different writing team with a radically different design meant to evoke the Terminator and Predator franchises as well as be more in-line with the more beefed up “extreme” style of 90s superhero comics.  Death’s Head II involved the original being killed by an AIM cyborg named Minion only to transfer his conscience into his killer’s body and go on many more adventures. Unfortunately, this version lost all the charm of the original series and — though it has its own cult fanbase — is mostly tolerated at best by fans of the original character.

The original Death’s Head still occasionally pops ups in titles like Marvel Now!, Iron-Man, Avenging Spider-Man, and the recent Marvel UK revival “Revolutionary War.”  The appeal of the character is his complete guilt-free amorality (he’s neither good nor evil, but simply driven by money) and his bizarre speech patterns (he’s angered by the term “bounty hunter” preferring to call himself a “freelance peace-keeping agent” and he makes declarative statements in the form of a question, punctuated by the word “yes?”).  Picture the dark humor of Deadpool or Lobo but much drier and less in-your-face with elements of 2000 AD, Grimjack, Jonah Hex, and The Stainless Steel Rat.  The character’s time- and dimension-hopping nature leave the story open to go anywhere and do anything and could even be a springboard to drag out some of the fewer-seen parallel future and past characters and worlds of the Marvel multiverse such as Thundra, Deathlok, Killraven, the Marvel Western line, The Black Knight and Camelot, Future Imperfect, Old Man Logan, etc.  Fellow Marvel-property-created-for-Transformers character Circuit Breaker could even pop up and since Disney owns Marvel and Lucasfilm it might even be a way to introduce Jaxxon into the Marvel canon.

Ka-Zar and Shanna the She-Devil

MM - Ka-Zar

Ka-Zar and Shanna are the lead characters of two separate books; he’s a Tarzan rip-off who lives in The Savage Land with his loyal sabertooth tiger Zabu and she’s a play on Sheena portrayed as a strong amazon-type adventurer.  The two characters have been married and ruled over the Savage Land for some time but they haven’t had a proper series since the late ’90s.  Readers of that series by Andy Kubert and Mark Waid have been clamoring for more of these two, as they have only had a couple of miniseries and scattered cameos ever since.  The Savage Land hasn’t even been shown or mentioned since Secret Wars as Marvel seems to be focusing more heavily on Weirdworld as the bizarre dinosaur-filled place characters visit for a change of scenery.  Marvel has been varying its types of stories and a good old-fashioned jungle adventure with dinosaurs and various bizarre lost races starring a violent Amazon woman, her knife-wielding wild-man husband, and his pet sabretooth is just the kind of book we need!

Agents of Atlas

MM - Atlas

Agents of Atlas is a team of superheroes built up from characters who originally appeared solo in old issues of Atlas comics (one of the precursors to Marvel.)  There’s Jimmy Woo, a secret agent who appeared in Yellow Claw (a short-lived yellow peril book in the vein of Fu Manchu); Namora, cousin of Namor the Sub-Mariner with powers and abilities comparable to him; Venus, a siren who resembles the goddess Aphrodite and can control the emotions of those in her presence; Marvel Boy/Uranian, a spaceman who battles crime with a flying saucer and a host of Uranian gadgets; Gorilla Man, a hunter who killed a magic gorilla which turned him into one upon its death; and M-11, an old 1950s-looking robot with devastatingly destructive abilities.  These completely unrelated heroes team up for a weird crazy quilt of nostalgic ’50s pulp-hero goodness and their books during the Marvel Heroic Age were some of the most enjoyable of that era.  Atlas was canceled a mere five issues into its ongoing run but with the successful relaunch of The Guardians of the Galaxy and Marvel’s attempts at making The Inhumans a thing again, it seems that an Atlas revival is inevitable.

Blade

MM - Blade

Despite a trilogy of modestly successful movies, a short-lived television show, and name-brand recognition Blade has never actually had an ongoing series of his own.  He’s made regular appearances in ongoings such as Tomb of Dracula, Midnight Sons, and Captain Britain and M1-13 (unlike his movie counterpart the Blade of the comics is British.)  Marvel’s horror aspects have been woefully unexplored since the late 80s and Blade, more so than other common characters like Elsa Bloodstone, Michael Morbius, Daimon Helstrom, and Doctor Strange, is the best character to do it.  Blade has sort of become Marvel’s supernatural answer to The Punisher (a connection which was even lampshaded in Marvel Team-Up at one point) and that sort of approach would be a great way to explore all the darker corners of Marvel’s universe.  Vampires and Dracula would be a common theme obviously, but Blade is a versatile enough character to fit in with all manner of monsters and spookiness.  It would also be a good chance to develop Eric Brooks as a character as his various miniseries and one-shots haven’t done much with him in the past two decades.

Ghost Rider(s)

MM - Ghost Riders

There are currently four “main” Ghost Riders (Johnny Blaze, Daniel Ketch, Alejandra, and Robbie Reyes) and there’s also Old West Ghost Rider A.K.A. Phantom Rider Carter Slade, the anti-Ghost Rider Vengeance (Mike Badilino), and Ghost Rider 2099 Kenshiro Cochrane.  The way to handle these characters in the past has been to pick a Ghost Rider and follow them around with maybe another popping up in a supporting role. Johnny Blaze often appears as a wise mentor character and the smart money is on the newest Ghost Rider Robbie Reyes being the focus of a new series. But a better way to tackle these characters is to handle it as an anthology of sorts.  The writers can still tell overarching stories but they can pull from a pool of characters to suit specific situations and thus not alienate any fans of a certain character.  Each Ghost Rider is a little bit different in personality and abilities so this could make for a more varied approach to storytelling, not to mention that the inclusion of Ghost Riders from other times create the opportunity to seed plot-lines that carry over several epochs and build toward bigger stories.

Man-Thing

MM - Man-Thing

Another Marvel horror title up for a return, Man-Thing has appeared in a lot of material but a return to his horror roots is long overdue.  The most recent Vision, Scarlet Witch, and Carnage series have both proven that there’s room in the modern Marvel canon for straight horror stories and a return to Citrusville, Florida with sorceress Jennifer Kale and our titular swamp monster.  This would be a good book to explore some otherworldly Lovecraftian creatures and gods as Man-Thing is the protector of the nexus of all realities.  Mostly it would just be a great vehicle that would continue to find uses for one of Marvel’s most interesting monster-heroes.

Rawhide Kid

MM - Rawhide Kid

On the subject of more diverse subject matter, it’s time for a return of The Rawhide Kid.  A simple traveling gunslinger story, Rawhide always stood out among Marvel’s various “Kid” cowboy heroes.  There would, of course, be room for Two-Gun Kid, Kid Colt, Hurricane, Phantom Rider, Red Wolf, and the rest to make appearances in waht should be Rawhide’s show.  His easy-going nature and quick thinking in action could be used for an approach to the character very reminiscent of the western films of Terence Hill.  They should even keep the detail of him being gay that was introduced in his MAX miniseries, so long as they stay far away from anything else introduced in those books, which were pretty much a string of lazy gay jokes and references to western-themed television shows.

Werewolf by Night

MM - Werewolf

The tale of Jack Russell, the werewolf by night, was one of Marvel’s best horror comics of the 1970s, incorporating a werewolf into the greater Marvel universe and introducing readers to the anti-hero Moon Knight.  Recent appearances of Jack Russell have shown that he now has some modicum of control over his lupine form though some struggle with his animal nature would make for a better story.  There’s got to be at least a few writers out there with a great “Werewolf By Night” series percolating in the back of their mind.

Scarlet Spider

MM - Scarlet Spider

This entry contains spoilers for Spider Island and Spider-Verse, consider yourselves warned.  For those unfamiliar the recent Scarlet Spider series did not deal with the Peter Parker clone Ben Reilly or the Avengers Initiative clone of Michael Van Patrick.  He’s actually Kaine the other Peter Parker clone; the big guy with the scarred face and the beard.  Following the events of Spider Island, Kaine was reborn via the power of The Other as an unscarred and much saner version of himself who was now fundamentally “good” but had a lot of baggage based on his life prior to his rebirth.  He moved to Houston, Texas fighting crime off and on using a stealth suit he stole from Peter Parker which was stuck in a red coloring, thus earning him the name of Scarlet Spider (something he detested because it reminded him of Ben Reilly, which made him feel guilty.)  He rescued a young Mexican woman named Aracely who could manipulate the emotions of people and she eventually took on her own moniker of Hummingbird.

There was a big overarching story involving Aracely that never got tied up before the series was canceled and even though the characters were transported to The New Warriors and that plot thread picked up, it wasn’t resolved there either.  Kaine was last seen in the Spider-Verse crossover event where he was killed but once again reborn through the power of The Other.  so he’s still around somewhere in the Marvel universe and so is Aracely.  Scarlet Spider was a good series with a great cast of supporting characters and a unique setting in the Marvel universe as it wasn’t on either of the coasts.  It’s doubtful that Marvel would ever reinstate the series but it was a good read and would be worth picking back up.

Toxin

MM - Toxin

Toxin is the “child” of Carnage in the same way that Carnage was to Venom; another symbiote suit born of an existing symbiote.  Toxin got a short series just prior to Civil War where the more child-like symbiote was bonded with a police officer named Patrick Mulligan.  Now Toxin is with former Venom Eddie Brock.  Brock and Toxin have a bone to pick with the symbiotes and their various hosts; it seems that Eddie has channeled all his murderous rage into the destruction of the creatures, Venom and Carnage being at the top of his list.

Eddie Brock has always been a fascinating character in that he really genuinely wants to be a good person but almost always goes about it in the worst way possible, that coupled with his insanity and the influence of a symbiote makes him a very tragic anti-hero when the writers aren’t portraying him in full-on heel mode.  With Venom serving as a cosmic space knight and Carnage‘s series having a very definite shelf-life, it would be good to get a classic symbiote anti-hero into their own title.

Jessica Jones

MM - Jessica Jones

In a lot of ways Jessica Jones‘ story has been told.  We’ve seen her as a hard-drinking frequently swearing mess in Alias, we saw her clean up her act in The Pulse, we saw her back away from super heroism to raise her child in New Avengers.  But that shouldn’t really be the end of the character’s progression.  Putting aside the obvious fact that the success of the Netflix series begs for more Jessica Jones, there’s no reason why the character should be relegated to that of Luke Cage’s wife and mother of a baby that will likely remain a baby forever.  Jessica found superheroing to be too stressful, again, but she’s still a licensed private investigator. And if Luke can go back to street-level crime-fighting with his pal Iron Fist, there’s no reason that Jessica can’t return to Alias investigations.  Sure she’s gotten over her baggage with the death of her family and her enslavement by Kilgrave the Purple Man, but that doesn’t mean she couldn’t continue to grow and develop.  Jessica Jones has always been a character with more potential than actual substance but there’s no good reason to leave a property so lucrative to go fallow.

Mary Jane

MM - Mary Jane

This one’s a longshot, but hear me out.  If there is a case to be made that the Marvel universe has its own Lois Lane, that person is Mary Jane Watson.  Model, club-owner, former jive-talking bubblehead, former wife of Spider-Man, and currently Tony Stark’s assistant, she’s a character who refuses to be brought down by all the chaos and disaster around her. She’s a survivor in a world where she can barely walk down the street without a costumed villain or alien warlord threatening to kidnap or kill her.  She has shown herself to be more than girlfriend or a damsel in distress.  She’s smart, resourceful, and witty and requires no powers or costume to face adversity.  Mary Jane may be Marvel’s most put-together character and a series of just her day-to-day life dealing with this insanity could potentially be wonderful.  They could even throw in Rick Jones (Marvel’s Jimmy Olson) as a sidekick.


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