Major Summer Blockbuster Proposal:
The Rise and Fall of the Defenders
A Tragedy in Five Acts
Civil War was an astounding success, and aside from reactionary frustration people had with certain plot points, the only real regret I feel like readers had with the story was that the heroes were fighting the heroes. This is not to say that Marvel Readers had a problem with hero-on-hero violence (nor have they ever), but that people really missed seeing the villains.
The problem with major stories that feature villains as the main antagonists is that they always seem to function too similarly: the villains unite, almost destroy the world (or the universe or existence or time or whatever) and then the heroes unite and stop them, and the Hulk usually picks up a mountain. And I love these stories, we all do, but I think that readers nowadays are more sophisticated—they don’t want to be told what to think or for whom they should root. They expect more ambiguity, more shades of grey, more complex characterizations.
World War Hulk, poised to be another blockbuster, also eschews the more traditional epic comic story structure by casting one of its most popular characters in the role of violent instigator. This story smacks of the Iliad; the Hulk is Achilles (the strongest there was) he has been wronged by those who were once considered his allies and friends. But unlike Achilles, who enacts his vengeance against Agamemnon and Menelaus (who took his favorite concubine away) by choosing to refrain from fighting, fuming in his black-sailed ships and allow his countrymen to be slaughtered by the Trojans, the Hulk takes the battle directly to the doorsteps of those who wronged him. World War Hulk already has me hooked because I can see both sides of the story, and I feel for both parties. The Illuminati really screwed the Hulk; they destroyed the one place in the Universe he ever felt he belonged. But the Hulk’s offensive could potentially leave so many more dead than the few who did him great ill. This is an engaging story.
So how to reconcile these two trends? How to create a story that has plenty of heroes fighting villains yet doesn’t feel hackneyed, quaint or outdated? I have a germ of an idea that perhaps can lead somewhere. Recently in the pages of Black Panther, in response to the growing conflicts of the Civil War, T’Challa and Storm took a diplomatic trip to some of the various more fantastical other countries or domains in the Marvel Universe. Some of these characters, like Doctor Doom, are villains outright, but others, like Namor, alternate back and forth. Magneto previously played into this category as well, as the ruler of Genosha, and I feel that if he and Doom were to reappear in a major way in the Marvel Universe in a major event, the book would sell very well. And given the books we have access to, I think this could work out all right.
Growing fearful of American Superhuman Hegemony, Latveria, Atlantis, Wakanda, Attilan (maybe) and New Genosha (and others) form a coalition calling themselves The Defenders, their stated mission being to keep Tony Stark and the Americans in check. Namor is elected the leader of this new governing body which controversially includes the once again Latverian Dictator Doctor Doom and the newly reappeared Magneto, who has developed an unstable and addictive serum that can grant former mutants their powers (these developments can be dealt with as “Road to Defenders” storylines in the pages of Uncanny X-Men or Fantastic Four, as well as why T’Challa would possibly support this dangerous new body).
And to all our hero’s surprise and somewhat dismay, this new governing body is actually extremely effective world wide, repelling a potentially disastrous mystical and alien attack, and gaining a lot of favor throughout all parts of the world other than America. This continues to the point that Spider-Man, feeling incredibly betrayed by his former friends who have abandoned him after the Civil War, opts to join the Defenders (though he also does so to make sure they don’t grow too megalomaniacal, I mean, he is a good guy after all, we can’t have him pick the wrong side for the wrong reasons all the time). She-Hulk perhaps joins the Defenders as well, sick with Tony Stark for sending her bro into space (another plot point of this, depending on how much we want to tie this into World War Hulk is that the rest of the world is really mad at the Illuminati whom they link with the American Initiative for scorning the Hulk and causing his attack on the planet; Namor is clearly absolved from this comparison).
However, the real drama of this cabal involves the power struggle between Magneto and Doctor Doom, who both desire to be the leader of this new team. They both try and play Namor, whose intense love for Sue Richards is, in this storyline, his Achilles heel. Controversial storybeats might include Sue actually returning his affections for once (cause you’ve got to anger as many die-hard fans as possible when you tell stories like this one). Again, this would all be in the hands of the writers and editors of various books, but basically things come to a head when a patrol of Initiative Heroes kill a group of Defenders when they mistaken believe the Defenders are in American Waters without authorization, and Namor uses this opportunity to launch a full out invasion of New York with his real motivation being to kill Reed Richards and reclaim his bride. This is of course where Spider-Man reveals himself to be a hero spy and sleeper agent, where perhaps Doom and Magneto are revealed to be not quite as evil as we’ve always thought (or maybe only Doom is shown to have a heart at the end, Magneto’s having been destroyed by House of M), where several characters die and where Namor Reed and Sue have an almost Shakespearean final confrontation that leads to the death of the erstwhile Prince of Atlantis.
By the term Tragedy I mean it in the Classical Sense, meaning that it would possess these five acts:
In the case of the story I described, the exposition-climax would be the rise to prominence of the Defenders and their successful defeat of a major cosmic/mystical force when the Americans could not, with the falling action and catastrophe being the mad actions of Namor, who for all his success can't find personal satisfaction.
This is a general outline that I think could potentially boost sales of our titles across the board, sell very well itself and in the hands of the right creators, be a critical success to boot. I know Tom said crossovers aren't in effect, but I took that as an olive branch to make things less difficult. I love so much about what Marvel's doing right now I can't honestly think of not including it in my books.