Now remember, this is my fantasy; a magical world where profits, sales quotas, and corporate overlords don't matter. It is, simply, my idea of an ideal Marvel publishing schedule for me, and it's naturally based strongly on my own nostalgia, which is a weird mish-mash of eighties and nineties Marvel with some minor aspects of the sixties, seventies, and modern day.
If I rebooted the Marvel Universe, my premise would be fairly simple: the Silver Age and much of the Bronze Age happened pretty much exactly as we all remember. It is now, in Marvel Time, about eight to ten years since the first superheroes, the Fantastic Four, debuted.
As far as the content of the comics, my mandate to the writers would be to strip-mine the best of the past while moving forward, basing their new stories on the strongest material from classic Marvel. The writing style should be of the seventies/eighties/nineties heavy sub-plot style. Third person narrative captions and thought balloons should abound, and relationships and characterizations should stick to the most iconic versions of the characters.
Artists, meanwhile, would be instructed to draw the comic books like comics books, featuring page after page of impossibly physically idealized men and women in skintight, seamless costumes, doing everything from punching a bad guy to sitting at a desk in the most exciting way possible. HOW TO DRAW COMICS THE MARVEL WAY would be required study for every artist prior to their starting work on a book. Artists should certainly develop their own unique styles, but they should keep all characters one hundred percent on-model with absolutely no liberties whatsoever taken with things such as minor costume details, hair length, etc. Changing these things willy nilly, without advance editorial approval, erodes the concept of a shared universe.
In short, the single watchword for the writing in these comics would be "bombastic", while for the artwork it would be "dynamic". And all the series would be produced, by mandatory order, using the "Marvel method" of plot followed by pencils followed by script. I honestly believe that this procedure leads to far better, more interesting comic books than the "full script/art monkey" style utilized nowadays.
And lastly, our series lineup, along with a brief logline and the inspiration/feel they should aim for, would be:
- ALPHA FLIGHT: Guardian, Shaman, Puck, Snowbird, Northstar, Aurora, and Sasquatch defend Canada from threats great and small, sometimes together and sometimes in smaller groups. Bi-monthly.
Inspiration: John Byrne’s ALPHA FLIGHT run.
- AMAZING SPIDER-MAN: Peter Parker balances power and responsibility with his life as a grad student bachelor. Twice monthly.
Inspiration: Late sixties SPIDER-MAN by Stan Lee and John Romita mixed with Roger Stern’s early eighties SPIDER-MAN.
- (THE MIGHTY) AVENGERS: Captain America, Thor, Vision, Scarlet Witch, Captain Marvel (Carol Danvers), She-Hulk, Wonder Man, and the Beast battle the foes no single hero can face alone. Monthly.
Inspiration: Late nineties AVENGERS by Kurt Busiek and George Pérez.
- AVENGERS WEST COAST: Iron Man, Hawkeye, Mockingbird, Yellowjacket (Hank Pym), the Wasp, U.S. Agent, Hercules, and Tigra team up regularly to protect the western seaboard. Monthly.
Inspiration: Late nineties AVENGERS by Kurt Busiek and George Pérez.
- BLACK PANTHER: T’Challa, the king of Wakanda, finds himself embroiled in political intrigue and defends his throne from usurpers. Monthly.
Inspiration: Christopher Priest’s late nineties Black Panther.
- BLACK WIDOW: At the order of Nick Fury, SHIELD operative Natasha Romanova travels to exotic locations, mixed up in constant action and romance everywhere she goes. Bi-Monthly
Inspiration: James Bond movies crossed with Ed Brubaker's CAPTAIN AMERICA.
- CAPTAIN AMERICA: Away from the Avengers, Cap undertakes missions for Nick Fury’s SHIELD and works as an independent operative, sometimes alongside his partners, the Falcon and Agent 13. Monthly.
Inspiration: Mark Gruenwald’s eighties/nineties CAPTAIN AMERICA.
- CAPTAIN MARVEL: Ex-Air Force operative Carol Danvers flies solo against many of the Earth’s greatest villains. Monthly.
Inspiration: Captain Marvel should be the Marvel Universe’s female Superman, a la John Byrne’s eighties run or SUPERMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES.*
- DAREDEVIL: Criminal defense attorney by day, guardian of Hell’s Kitchen by night, Matt Murdock faces the street-level foes no other hero can handle. Monthly.
Inspiration: Frank Miller’s first DAREDEVIL run.
- DEADPOOL: The Merc With a Mouth strives to prove he is more than just a hired gun with the help of his sidekicks, Weasel and Blind Al. Monthly.
Inspiration: Joe Kelly’s DEADPOOL/Fabian Nicieza's CABLE & DEADPOOL.
- DEFENDERS: Nighthawk, Valkyrie, Hellcat, Namor, and Dr. Strange band together to tackle the threats the Avengers miss. Bi-monthly.
Inspiration: Borrowing a page from DC: the Keith Giffen/J.M. DeMatteis JUSTICE LEAGUE INTERNATIONAL.
- EXCALIBUR: From their base on Muir Island, Captain Britain, Meggan, the Black Knight, Cerise, Kylun, Wolfsbane, and their reluctant handler Pete Wisdom protect the British Isles from everything the multiverse can throw at them. Bi-monthly.
Inspiration: Excalibur should be Britain's Mightiest Heroes, a super-team beloved throughout the land. In this case we would shoot for Bob Harras's AVENGERS, which featured the scope of the Avengers with the X-Men's sensibilities.
- FANTASTIC FOUR: Mr. Fantastic, the Invisible Woman, the Human Torch, and the ever lovin’, blue-eyed Thing explore the universe and and protect the world from Dr. Doom while maintaining some semblance of a normal family life. Monthly.
Inspiration: Stan Lee’s & Jack Kirby’s FANTASTIC FOUR and John Byrne’s version of same.
- GENERATION X: At Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters in Massachusetts, Banshee and the White Queen, along with resident assistant Kitty Pryde, instruct the next generation of mutant heroes: M, Jubilee, Synch, Skin, Husk, and Chamber. Monthly.
Inspiration: Scott Lobdell’s GENERATION X.
- HEROES FOR HIRE: If you’ve got the cash, no assignment is too small for Luke "Power Man" Cage and Danny "Iron Fist" Rand to tackle. Every issue features a back-up serial starring Colleen Wing and Misty Knight, the Daughters of the Dragon. Bi-monthly.
Inspiration: The early eighties POWER MAN & IRON FIST series by way of seventies "exploitation" films.
- (THE INCREDIBLE) HULK: Gray or green, smart or dumb, the Hulk rampages his way across the country and past the armed forces. All he wants is to be left alone! Monthly.
Inspiration: Peter David’s early (Gray Hulk/Joe Fixit era) INCREDIBLE HULK run.
- IRON MAN: Billionaire industrialist playboy Tony Stark lives a life of fast cars, fast women, and fast adventure when he dons a suit of sleek, hi-tech armor to transform into his red-and-gold “bodyguard”, Iron Man.
Inspiration: David Michelinie & Bob Layton’s original and second IRON MAN runs, mixed with the IRON MAN films.
- MARVEL SPOTLIGHT: Every issue features an adventure of a rarely seen or brand-new Marvel character or team.
Inspiration: The various Marvel anthologies of the seventies (MARVEL PREMIERE, MARVEL SPOTLIGHT, etc.).
- (THE MIGHTY) THOR: From Earth to Asgard and beyond, Thor defends all realms from gods and monsters alike. Monthly.
Inspiration: The eighties THOR run from Walter Simonson.
- MOON KNIGHT: With his pilot Frenchie and his lover Marlene, the macabre Moon Knight (a.k.a. Marc Spector, Steven Grant, Jake Lockley, and more) trots the globe battling international felons and terrorists. Bi-monthly.
Inspiration: Doug Moench’s earliest seventies Moon Knight stories as seen in MARVEL SPOTLIGHT and HULK! magazine.
- NEW WARRIORS: Night Thrasher, Justice, Firestar, Namorita, Nova, Silhouette, and Speedball will be the next generation of heroes, unless their teenage angst tears the team apart first. Monthly.
Inspiration: The original nineties NEW WARRIORS issues by Fabian Nicieza and Mark Bagley.
- SCARLET SPIDER: Ben Reilly wanders the country, righting wrongs where he finds them and struggling to come to grips with the fact that he is a clone of the original Spider-Man. Bi-monthly.
Inspiration: SPIDER-MAN: THE LOST YEARS by J.M. DeMatteis mixed with THE INCREDIBLE HULK TV series.
- (THE SENSATIONAL) SHE-HULK: After the Avengers defeat a villain, prosecuting attorney Jennifer Walters puts him behind bars. But her reputation as a party girl regularly lands her in hot water with her bosses, leading to sometimes comical situations. Monthly.
Inspiration: Dan Slott’s SHE-HULK with bits of John Byrne’s SENSATIONAL SHE-HULK mixed in (and maybe just a touch of the zaniness of THREE'S COMPANY, too).
- SILVER SURFER: The silver-skinned sentinel of the spaceways explores the galaxy, discovering new worlds and civilizations. Monthly.
Inspiration: The late eighties/nineties SILVER SURFER series.
- THUNDERBOLTS: Moonstone, Fixer, Songbird, MACH-5, Atlas, Blizzard, and Jolt struggle to make amends for their criminal careers and bring their founder, Baron Zemo, to justice, even as infighting threatens to deep-six their efforts. Monthly.
Inspiration: Kurt Busiek’s and Fabian Nicieza’s THUNDERBOLTS.
- WARLOCK AND THE INFINITY WATCH: Adam Warlock, Pip the Troll, Gamora, Drax the Destroyer, and Moondragon safeguard the Infinity gems and defend our plane of existence from extra-dimensional warlords. Wild-card Thanos is sometimes their ally, but always for his own reasons. Monthly.
Inspiration: Almost any Marvel series from Jim Starlin.
- WOLVERINE: The ol’ canucklehead strikes out on his own, adventuring solo around the world from Westchester County to Madripoor. Bi-monthly.
Inspiration: Early MARVEL COMICS PRESENTS and WOLVERINE stories from Chris Claremont and John Buscema.
- X-FACTOR: Havok, Polaris, Iceman, Mystique, and Multiple Man work for Dr. Valerie Cooper as the U.S. Government's mutant task force. Monthly.
Inspiration: Peter David's original X-FACTOR.
- X-FORCE: Cable and Domino lead Cannonball, Boom Boom, Warpath, Moonstar, Siryn, Sunspot, and Shatterstar on proactive, para-military missions to eliminate threats to mutantkind before they can fight back. Monthly.
Inspiration: Fabian Nicieza’s post-Liefeld X-FORCE run.
- (THE UNCANNY) X-MEN: At the Xavier Institute for Higher Learning, Professor X presides over Cyclops, Phoenix, Storm, Colossus, Wolverine, Nightcrawler, Gambit, Rogue, Bishop, and Psylocke, all feared and hated by the world they have sworn to protect. Twice monthly.
Inspiration: The seventies/eighties Claremont/Byrne/Cockrum/Smith X-MEN by way of Scott Lobdell’s and Fabian Niceiza’s nineties X-MEN.
For some this might be considered living in the past. For me, it's... well, it's exactly that. That's why it's a fantasy, after all! They say you can’t go home again, but I say you’ll never know until you try. Even if it turned out to be a disappointment, it couldn’t be worse than what we have now.
*This may deserve its own post, but in brief: I really think modern Marvel has a good handle on Carol Danvers, but I would take her further. She should absolutely be Captain Marvel, and I think she should be one of the Earth's highest profile superheroes, rivaling Captain America in (in-universe) popularity. She should really be Marvel's Superman. Thor may be closer to Superman in power level, but he spends a lot of time in Asgard. Carol should be the version of Superman that protects Earth from aliens, stops natural disasters, etc. She should be a Really Big Deal in the Marvel Universe, maybe even serving a term as the Avengers' chairperson.
But she should do all this in her classic Dave Cockrum costume. Nothing against the suit they have her in now, which isn't bad -- but Carol belongs in her classic outfit, one of the best female superhero costumes ever created.