Funnybook Babylon

March 27, 2008

FBB Roundtable: Books Only You Would Buy

Filed under: Blurbs — Pedro Tejeda @ 1:33 pm

There was a recent discussion among several contributors on this site about the viability of a book put out by Marvel or DC that didn’t feature superheroes as the main hook in some format. The truth is books like that only speak to a small subset of the audience. It also got us talking about a book like this that if put on the stands only we would buy. The rules are simple: the comic has to take place in the shared universe of either company, but not have any main characters that are superheroes. It also must have something about it that forces it to take place in a superhero universe. Here are a couple of the books we came up with.

Jonathan Bernhardt: The Insignificants

A cross-generational examination of the life of the plebes of one of the Big Two superhero universes, centrally concerning a family patriarch involved in low-level organized crime, his new enforcer who’s a depowered ex-cape, and his teenage grandson who’s dating a girl who has just started to develop superpowers. The book’s scope and themes change to reflect which universe it’s set in, but what remains constant is a constant, continuous narrative look at the lives of some of the more interesting “little people” in one of these shared worlds, instead of a sort of standard-issue, Astro City cut-in vignette, and then we’re done with them forever. The main characters here aren’t tools to examine the superbeings and the world they live in; the superbeings and the world they live in are tools to examine the main characters. None of this one-and-done shit.

The book’s got crime, relationship drama, old dogs learning new tricks, nostalgia for a past that’s even more blatantly a hazy patchwork of memories than in our own, “real” world; retcons make sitting back and recalling the good old days more interesting, anyhow. Sweet touching moments between the kids, hard-nosed action from the enforcer, showdowns with the Punisher or Batman, cameos by Captain America or Superman, and ruminations and drinking from the old folks. Turned from an ongoing into a six-issue miniseries in the solicitation for issue three, with some event tie-ins and maybe another look a year or two down the line if it’s well received. Damage Control is more successful than this book.

Jamaal Thomas: Metahumanity

“Of all classes the rich are the most noticed and the least studied.”
-John Kenneth Galbraith

I imagine that if a person woke up one morning with superhuman abilities, something that set them apart from the common man, fighting crime (or robbing banks) would be the last thing that person would think of. If your dream was to achieve power, why would you want any attention drawn to who you really were? My proposed series would be an anthology taking place in either company (even though we would need an alternate justification in Marvel post-HOM), that focused on politics, finance, and religion. I would introduce three protagonists that would represent each theme, and whose lives and careers would be affected by the possession of superhuman abilities. The narrative structure that I envision would be something akin to Traffic or Syriana, but with the only singular common theme being the shadow world of people with powers who don’t exactly hide them, but don’t use them to engage in showy feats. The stories themselves would generally be about the rise of these individuals in their respective fields, but I would want to keep the possibilities as open as possible. I would intend for there to be fairly regular interaction with the main superhero universe, especially for the big company wide cross-overs, as the title could really help ground things in a way that a title like Front Line has failed to do. I would also take the extra step of setting the action in three separate areas that go largely unnoticed in both companies: Dubai, Brazil, and Berlin.

The audience? We don’t need a goddamn audience.

Joseph Mastantuono: X-Colonial

Basically this is an X-book with all new characters that deals with being a Mutant in post-colonial Africa. It would have to be written by someone who has spent a serious amount of time in Africa.

Instead of simply being a Team Book with Superpowers, fighting bad guys, it would take prominent African historical figures from the post-colonial period and use Mutants as Analogues. It would work as mini biographies telling the stories of Africa in a way that 14 year old white kids from suburbia would understand.

The first would be a the Mutant version of Fela Kuti based on the documentary “Music is the Weapon,” told through the memories of a X-Man who had visited when he was in his prime. Following stories would explore themes of Post-Colonial Politics in a changing Africa.

Pedro Tejeda: Cabrini Green

Incorporating a little bit of what I loved about Christopher Priest and one of my favorite JLU episode, it starts off with an older Amanda Waller in a communal living home. She begins describing the loss of her entire political career. Sold out by everyone, the Wall uses every single favor possible to cash out of the game. She’s considered to be off limits to everyone and has no place to go. It isn’t until she receives a phone call from Chicago’s ACS letting her know that one of her nieces is in a group home. Doing the right thing yet again, Waller moves back to the Cabrini Green section of Chicago to raise her niece. She dedicates herself to cleaning up the neighborhood, dealing with the local criminals and the area’s lone super, a transplant from Idaho who is trying to make it the big leagues. First year plots will involve a highly contested community board election where Waller meets her match, encroaching gentrification led by a certain Gotham Businessman.


  1. I’m a long time reader (well, like 4 or 5 months) but this is the first time I felt I needed comment. I’ve always longed for a small time Marvel crime series, Like Alex Ross’s Marvels crossed with The Sopranos. Imagine how Tony Soprano circa season 1 would deal with the news that his son is growing scales and gills or something as his x-gene manifests itself. I would absolutely buy ‘The Insignificants.’

    Comment by Mike — March 27, 2008 @ 7:29 pm

  2. I’d like to see a series focusing on a Cadmus scientist trying to replicate superpowers, running into angry superheroes and worrying that a shady villainous conspiracy is behind his project where none exists – ultimately faced with the moral dilemma of science as a project and what it’s wrought, and what he’ll decide to do with his discoveries. I love surprisingly conservative endings, so I’d cheat: the main character becomes a superhero on the last page, acknowledging that the simple moral virtue of DC’s best-known superheroes is exactly what it seems to be.

    Comment by Jbird — March 28, 2008 @ 1:18 am

  3. Gotham Central was pretty much my favorite book while it was still going. Not sure if that qualifies since it did feature capes from time to time, but all the major cast members were cops.

    The narrative problem one runs into with a lot of these series is that if you’re going to set them in a superhero universe, they either need to involve superheroes or show how the characters’ lives are affected by superheroes. The story of Amanda Waller fighting gentrification may be a terrific one, but it might as well be a Vertigo or an Oni book about another character altogether. The cache of using Waller specifically is her connection to various superheroes and supervillains – so you end up commenting on how superheroes’ presence affects gentrification and whatnot. Which can be good – I liked the Batman: Gotham Nights minis by Ostrander that dealt with the ordinary people in Gotham – but if the idea is to get *away* from superheroes, that’s not really doing it.

    Comment by matches — March 28, 2008 @ 10:00 am

  4. I will lobby for a Daily Planet book in the style of Gotham Central until the day I am dead.You get to flesh out all the little nooks and crannies of Metropolis, which I’ve felt has never really had its own character to it. I would focus primarily on a newer cast of reporters, lower-tier than Clark and Lois (so as to keep Superman from saving their asses all the time). It would basically be a mystery series in a town where you have to have a huge pair of balls to be a criminal. Giant robots and aliens constantly flying around having fistfights with Superman in the streets. Project Cadmus, Suicide Slum, Steel, Supergirl, Krypto- there’s a lot to play with and a whole lot of potential.

    Comment by Charles Constant — March 28, 2008 @ 12:39 pm

  5. I was going to contribute to this article but I think I have gone on about my Dr. Doom romance comic and my Turner D. Century/College of Superhero Studies ideas often enough in other places.

    They’d both be totally awesome, and sell less than Street Poet Ray!

    Comment by Chris Eckert — March 28, 2008 @ 1:06 pm

  6. I had an idea, but now it sounds exactly like Gotham Central. Thanks a lot, matches and Charles.

    It would’ve been about SHIELD though, reminiscent of parts of Irredeemable Ant-Man. You could also call it Marvel’s Checkmate, I guess, but aside from the set-up it’d have a very different feel. Something like a mix of Checkmate and Damage Control. The whole point would be looking at superheroes and the various big events from the outskirts, not the outside, so you’d have plenty of recurring & special guest appearances.

    There must be some zeitgeist here we all want to tap into. Escapism wrapping around back to mundane 9-to-5 life.

    Comment by HitTheTargets — March 28, 2008 @ 5:54 pm

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