Here’s a not so secret ambition: I want to write comic books. Specifically, I want to write the sort of off-the-wall bizarro superhero comics that hit me right in the cerebral cortex when I came back to comics in my University years: comics that were written by guys like Grant Morrison, Jamie Delano, Frank Miller and Alan Moore during the early, oddball Vertigo days, before they all went mainstream and electric and started doing Unplugged albums.
Here’s what else I want to do: take an established property and push it away from the same stable of core characters that we’re about to shove in a movie, so could you please re-draw them to look like the actors portraying them (Yeah, I’m looking at you, Bendis-MOR, post-Abnett Guardians of the Galaxy). And while I’m playing in the sandbox, I want to get my teeth into some of the supplementary characters: too cool to be disposed of, but never really given enough oomph to escape the cookie cutter.
So, while I’m expounding my Christmas list, let’s pretend I’ve been given free reign to choose my own Avengers team. And let’s pretend that, in the interest of satisfying all of the above, I’ve persuaded Marvel to let me write an all-female team (because, quite honestly, pretty much my favourite ever run of X-Men was back in the 250s or so, when the entire team was female, and they had to be smart instead of just punching and slashing everything that came along).
So, here’s this week Five for Friday: my female Avengers line-up. In order to do this, I’ve picked out 5 archetypes that I think a good team needs for balance.
1. The Tank.
The beef. The muscle. The super-archetype. When things get big and ugly, sometimes you just need someone around to go boom. This is the heavy-hitter: the Hulk, Thor, Colossus. You know what I mean.
In this position, I’m putting a character I’ve wanted to write for a very long time. Sif is based on a Norse Goddess. She’s a warrior; a lover of Thor who can match him, uh, stroke for stroke; the only non-Valkyrie to lead the Valkyrior in battle. She’s been possessed by Loki, trapped in the body of a dying human, and generally treated like the pining girl-on-the-dock for Thor’s adventures. In truth, she should be a major Marvel character: a hard-ass genuine warrior princess who calls nobody below a thunder God her equal. She needs a spotlight, and I’d love to give her one.
Sif, by Daniel Acuna
2. The General
Somebody’s got to lead. Every team has someone to direct the plays, to provide the focus, to act as the spokesperson and move all the pawns across the board. Captain America. Professor X. Cyclops. Night Thrasher. Often a team stands or falls on the quality of its leadership.
Another character who has been written overwhelmingly as a love interest/sexpot, despite theoretically being a superb tactician, soldier (in this case, yet another in Marvels’ interminable series of super-soldier experiments gone rogue) and rakish outlaw, Domino has been chronically underused by a franchise desperately trying to shoe-horn Black Widow into everything since they have a hot actor to sell comic books in the role.
Yet there’s so much to like about this character: a genuinely fun power set, some intriguing backstory wrinkles, and enough baggage to set up a lengthy series of edgy interactions right across the Marvel Universe. She’s begging to be a central characters in something, and placing one of the Marvel Universe’s great outsiders at the heart of its great institution could be a lot of fun.
Domino, by Greg Horn
3. The Conscience.
Every team, and every hero these days, needs a Jiminy Cricket: somebody who acts as that final sounding board, who gets in between the demi-God and the sure and certain knowledge that they could break all the rules if they really wanted, and frankly, there are very few people around who could stop them if they choose to do so. Luke Cage, The Wasp, Hawkeye: there’s always someone around to say “Then what makes us any better than them?”
Meggan is an elemental, an empath with the ability to assume any form, and take on any superpower, at will. If she wanted to, she could destroy the world, remake it, and destroy it all over again. Yet she is tethered to the emotions of every creature she comes into contact with: not just human, but animal, plant, and alien. And it is this overwhelming moral compass, towards all things, that makes her such a fascinating character. I’ve never seen her brilliantly used: she’s often tied to Captain Britain, and her only real extended run in comics was during the eXcalibur years. As a character with the capacity to draw out shades and intonations across any number of scenarios, she’s one I’d love to give depth to.
Meggan, artist unknown
4. The Street Warrior.
You ain’t seen what they’ve seen. And what they do isn’t very pretty. You know who I mean. They’re usually your favourites. The anti-heroes. The down and dirty types. The period 1987-1999. If you were lucky, Rob Liefeld didn’t get hold of them. Wolverine. The Punisher. Ghost Rider. Moon Knight. The guys who go where the bad guys are, and do worse. The shadows who come to life.
For me the most intriguing character of this type in all of Marvel comics is the once-and-former Queen of the Morlocks, Callisto. Scarred internally and externally, her life before she entered the tunnels under New York is completely unknown: she is a tabula rasa, born hurt and bitter. Her powers were stripped by M-Day, then returned to such an extent by the Terrigen Mists that even normal sensations are deeply painful. She is a ticking time-bomb, a creature made of sandpaper and edges. I’d love to write her.
Callisto and the Morlocks, by Jim Cheung.
5. The Wildcard.
The jester. The odd one out. The guy who presses the big red button just because it’s so big and shiny. The mouth. The edgy one that circles around the rest of the group like a shark around nervous swimmers. The dangerous one. The one that even the staunchest allies aren’t totally sure about. Go one way and you have Spiderman, Deadpool, Rocket Raccoon. Go the other, you get The Hulk, Sentry, Loki.
Just because my team isn’t unbalanced enough, what with a PTSD God, a psychologically scarred super-soldier, and a potentially psychotic cellar dweller of dubious history, I’m going to open door B and usher in another of my all-time favourite underused weirdoes.
Illyana Rasputina, otherwise known as Magik, is the poster child for storylines that realised they shouldn’t go there and skipped across the ice at the last minute. Younger sister of Peter ‘Colossus’ Rasputin of the X-Men, her nominal power is the ability to teleport. So, yeah. Then there’s the other stuff….
Abducted at the age of six, transported to a Limbo dimension and alternatively corrupted and tortured by a demon for over a decade, occupied and then abandoned by the Phoenix Force, she’s a sorcerer supreme who manifests her own soul into the shape of a sword and who once forced a schoolmate to experience a lifetime in Hell in the space of six seconds because she didn’t like the way he looked at her. There is so much don’t-go-there-don’t-go-there about her sexual bride-of-the-demon backstory that writers only ever go so far as making her, essentially, the angriest, bitchiest hero they can manage. To say she’s got issues is like saying the Antarctic is a bit chilly this time of year.
She could cause, quite literally, a world of hurt to anyone and everyone she meets. God, how I’d love to peel her apart and explore every aspect of her character. She’s the one that could make or destroy the team, and probably simultaneously. She’s in.
Magik, by Chris Bacchalo
So there we go: Sif, Domino, Meggan, Callisto and Magik. My five Avengers.
Yes, there are others I’d love to include — I’d love to write Hellcat, Lila Cheney, and Hepzibah, for example — and other archetypes I’d love to cover — a jester, an innocent, an outsider — but these are the five that fit my Five for template. So what about you? Who would you include, using the rules I’ve laid out above?