Friday, 6 May 2011

Ten Marvel Characters Who Could Maintain A Solo Series

Marvel struggle sometimes to promote their characters across to the readership, which is likely because there’s such a massive dichotomy between the fans who come to conventions and argue about narratives online; and the majority who buy a lot of Marvel product, like monster trucks, and want to know if Hulk is stronger than Superman. So when it comes to creating new series, they are understandably cautious about which characters are popular enough to merit a comic. The character not only needs to have the potential to perform breathtaking feats which cause explosions, but also must offer some kind of interesting, complex narrative which gives the creative team room to flex their muscles.

Which is why so often a character can have either one of the two, and fail. Black Widow can cause explosions, but only when she uses guns. So although she offers writers the chance for labyrinthine storytelling, she doesn’t smash enough stuff to satisfy the audience (also, she is a woman). And while there’s a lot of smashing and destruction in Deadpool, there is little to the character beyond his self-destructive streak and punning. And Marvel did flood the market with about six titles, so that could also be a reason for why so many Deadpool titles were cancelled recently.

So looking at this, let’s try and work out ten under-used Marvel characters who we feel could legitimately sustain their own series.

Dr Doom

The main villain of the Marvel Universe, Doctor Doom probably has more fans than Reed Richards. Whenever he loses a fight, swarms of people devour the internet in their attempts to prove that it was a doombot, or clone, or it wasn't the real Doom. Doom's fanbase have been campaigning for years for a solo series, but they've only done it on internet forums and nobody takes forums seriously. While there are obviously going to be difficulties in writing stories about a character who doesn't win all the time, Doom is such an intriguing character - especially under the pen of a writer like Jonathan Hickman. Is there enough there to sustain a solo series? Perhaps. And that's the kind of perhaps that it'd be thrilling to see Marvel gamble on.


The first hero to come to mind is Falcon, Captain America’s teammate and flyer of the air. Sam Wilson has been an Avenger before and has quite the fanbase around. Although Black Panther or Luke Cage are always thought of as the most popular black character Marvel own, neither have the potential for stories that Falcon does. An active social worker who solves crimes in his spare time, Falcon is not held back at all by a wife, so could participate in romantic stories as well as fighting explosion stories. He neither has an iffy origin story, but instead could have a solo series which drags in popular characters like Hawkeye, Captain America and Black Widow as the supporting cast. While fans may still dither over supporting an African-American character, Falcon’s patriotism and past five-year streak of good stories surely make him a compelling choice for an ongoing.


Although appearing currently in X-Men Legacy and X-23, Gambit is the kind of character who can jump from story to story without the fanbase minding. Strangely pushed aside by Marvel during the press for the ‘Wolverine: Origins’ film in favour of Deadpool, Gambit is an enduring character who represents the excess of the early 90s in comics. He may not have originated then, but he’s associated with that time. Now Gambit is the rare character who has both a large male fanbase and a large female fanbase, including current X-23 writer Marjorie Liu. Having proved that she knows the character inside-out during that series, she would be the perfect choice to take ‘Remy LeBeau’ and push him into the A-List. Again, he can always call on characters like Rogue and the rest of the X-Men to support him, and he also has an established gallery of nemesiseses.


Hawkeye seems to represent the wishes of all Marvel fans. He teams up with Iron Man and Captain America, is intensely angry when something happens that he doesn’t like, and sluts his way around the Marvel Universe. Jim McCann is currently in charge of the character, and it was a surprise that the recent ‘Hawkeye & Mockingbird’ series didn’t take off. We think that may be because the use of an ampersand symbol in the title of any comic suggests that it isn’t important to the overall running of the Marvel Universe – it’s a team-up book, not a world-shaking book. Yet Brian Michael Bendis and Ed Brubaker both make frequent use of the character, without him seemingly reaching the point where he can hold his own title. There’s something not quite clicking with audiences here, and we can’t work it out either. At any rate, Hawkeye definitely seems like he should be more popular – and perhaps his upcoming appearance in The Avengers will give him that boost.

Iron Fist

Genre comics work well, at least on critics. No other Marvel comic focuses on fighting in quite the same way as an Iron Fist comic could. The previous series was some of the best stuff the company had ever put out, and was ultimately snubbed out because the stories took place off-Earth. While the otherworldly nature of the series brings to mind the Earth/Asgard setting of Thor, Iron Fist doesn’t yet have the familiarity to really pull that off. If he were to have a series – and you’ll have noticed how we keep coming back to this same thing – Marvel need to ground him amongst the rest of their universe. We all know he’s friends with Luke Cage and Daredevil, but he’s also now in the Avengers, and is getting noticed a little more. But this is a holding pattern, with the character not really doing much of merit besides funding the team/getting possessed. Surely the public want to read comics where the main character shouts out the names of each move he performs? With the way most comic book fans are also video-game fans, surely there is some way to bring the two interests together into an Iron Fist comic.


Another character with a massive male and female fanbase, Nightcrawler has the distinction of appealing to every type of Marvel fan. He is a swordfighting X-Man character who knows magic, frequently travels to space, can cross dimensions and is best friends with Wolverine. If there’s a character better-suited to an ongoing series, then they don’t exist yet. He may currently be dead, but Nightcrawler is such a clever, reserved character that we wouldn’t be surprised if he could find a way to personally get back to the world of the living. He once punched out Mephisto, y’know.

Scarlet Witch

If six years of build-up isn’t enough to get Wanda Maximoff her own solo series, then what about the fact that she is literally connected to every single other Marvel character? Many think she needs to redeem herself, while others think she was written a disservice by Brian Michael Bendis when he wrote “Avengers Dissassembled”. In either case, there’s an incredible story that could be told here, with guest-appearances by Avengers, X-Men, Spider-Man… anyone. She’s an immensely powerful character, and Marvel could either play up to this by writing grandiose Kirby-esque epics, or power her down a little and use her as the face of magic in the Marvel Universe. Wanda is responsible for many of the unanswered questions of the past few years – there’s an audience out there who’d like to see her start answering them.


Bring back Dan Slott, whose She-Hulk series was absolutely brilliantly told. It took a ‘feats’ character and refused to show her performing feats. There’s more to her than that, as shown in her previous history with John Byrne. While she appeals to male fans, Slott aimed his series at a female audience, which kept it in relative safety. Although subsequent stories have gone back to the fighting-fighting-fighting approach, the character still remains one of the most fun things in the Marvel Universe. She’s as at-home fighting off monsters as she is having a chat with Howard the Duck, and if the rumours are right, soon she’ll be appearing in Amazing Spider-Man. Good on ya, Slott!

Stephen Strange

This has always seemed to be an odd move for Marvel to make. They have the potential with Strange to tell offbeat stories of sorcery and monsters, yet they inevitably hold back whenever a new writer pitches them a story. The character has therefore become locked in as a supporting-role, teleporting and healing Avengers characters who are in trouble. Where he could be shown as a fighter, he is instead a defender of Earth – and yet this interesting personality trait never seems to get any attention. As one of the Avengers, Strange is surely the sort of character who you could tell bizarre stories with. And there’s nobody more suited to this than Matt Fraction. Surely? An indie take on a mainstream character – should be fascinating.


Marvel’s most popular African-American character by a mile, Storm’s fanbase are infamous. A poor showing in the movies from Halle Berry hurt the chances of getting her a solo series, but the X-Men series desperately needs to find a way to express the character. Undeveloped by any of the X-Men or MU books, Storm has instead spent the last six or so years floating around without providing any story development for the other characters. She hasn’t been deepened by writers even while her X-Men grow up, fight off the Decimation, and then see a Messiah appear. She’s simply stood around and watched as Wolverine set up an X-Force and Cyclops became defacto leader. And meanwhile, her marriage to T’Challa was poorly received by fans. Some writers are able to make the marriage work, but the initial setup was poor and Reginald Hudlin has proved to be a disasterous choice of writer. The character needs to be fixed up, because her fanbase is huge, her potential is huger, and… she’s friends with Wolverine.


We like Darkstar a lot, you guys.


Anonymous said...

Doom rather than Magneto? Pfff. Actually, I think either of them or both would have as good a chance as any hero of holding down a continuing series.

Steve Morris said...

I did consider Magneto, but in the end left him out for the same reasons I left out Luke Cage, or Cyclops. Magneto's already getting a lot of panel-time in X-Men Legacy, Uncanny X-Men, and elsewhere. Fitting in a solo series between those two books would squash the character and make it seem like Marvel were forcing him on the readership.

Anonymous said...

DARKSTAR : please no, not alone. Don't forget the WINTER GUARD (Vanguard, UrsaMajor and "a" Crimson Dynamo), they're the FF, X-MEN and AVENGERS all packed in one..

STRANGE: I remember a wonderful cover by Tom Cokker, can't see better choice, considering I'd like to read the same stories as you.

Finally, and once again, instead of a SHE-HULK ongoing, I'll be up for an ongoing HOWARD (written and draw by Sam Kieth) where she'd be more than welcome...

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