With “Guardians of the Galaxy,” Marvel has tapped into its most unusual property to date. Now that it’s almost assured box office success, and with a sequel already greenlit, it’s time to pull the curtain back and see what other surprises Marvel Comics has to offer.
With a history dating back to 1939, as Timely Publications and then Atlas Comics, Marvel has been in the character creation business for a very long time. Along the way, they’ve brought to life pop culture mainstays like Spider-Man, X-Men, the Fantastic Four and the Avengers. But those are just their big guns.
With the Marvel Cinematic Universe expanding on both television and in the films, there are still several properties hidden in the pages of Marvel’s comic book universe that have yet to be picked up. But if “Guardians of the Galaxy” can get made, and a movie can be in the works about the lunatic assassin Deadpool, then anything can happen.
Whether on ABC, Netflix or the big screen, these properties are more than ready to take the Marvel Cinematic Universe to the next level.
Here is 11 Marvel properties that have been challenging and amusing comic audiences for years who deserve a bigger stage:
Agents of Atlas
Based on unrelated characters published by Marvel’s predecessor Atlas Comics in the 1950s, they were at one time declared the “Avengers” of the ’50s. Later continuity erased this from having happened, and they became agents of the Atlas Foundation, which turned out to be evil. A group, which includes a gorilla, a goddess, an alien and a robot among their members, fighting to take down the very organization they work for certainly puts a fresh spin on the concept of a superhero team.
Cloak and Dagger
These street-level mutants were created in the early 1980s, and were very much a response to the nation’s interest in saying no to drugs. The unlikely pair met as teenage runaways in New York City. They were abducted and had drugs tested on them, which awakened their latent mutant abilities. Cloak gained the ability to access a darkness dimension which he can teleport himself and others through, while Dagger can create “light daggers” which can drain vitality. Theirs is a symbiotic relationship as he hungers for light that she can offer, which keeps her from overcharging. They mostly stick to street-level crime, trying to stop the drug trade and protect other runaways and homeless young people, which would make them a perfect candidate to join Netflix’s slate of “Defenders” projects like “Daredevil” and “Luke Cage.”
Great Lakes Avengers
Not everyone has what it takes to be an Avenger, but that doesn’t mean they’ll stop trying. Based in Milwaukee, this group of misfits have the heart to be Avengers, but they don’t have particularly great powers, and they aren’t the best in combat. Luckily, Wisconsin is light on super-villains, so they seem perfectly capable of policing the relatively tame small town crimes they face. Their members include a guy who doesn’t stay dead, a supermodel who can make herself super-strong by making herself super-fat, a guy who can teleport others into the next room through his body, and a guy who is flat … named Flatman. Like “Fargo,” this would work best as a grounded crime series with a wicked sense of humor, with the occasional cameo by a Marvel superhero rolling their eyes at how ridiculous these people are.
Embracing the potential madness of a character like Batman, Marc Spector is the Earth avatar of an Egyptian god, Khonshu. He takes on the false identity of a millionaire businessman, as well as an additional identity as a cab driver to stay close to the criminal element on the streets. Aside from his combat and fighting skills, he has enhanced strength which waxes and wanes with the phases of the moon. Incredibly brutal and violent, Moon Knight eventually suffers a series of mental breakdowns, developing multiple personalities and seeing things that aren’t there. Imagine if Batman and “The Lord of the Rings'” Gollum had a crime-fighting baby, and that’s Moon Knight in a nutshell. It would make for a great exploration of the mental strains of the superhero lifestyle, and what happens when it becomes too much to handle, but you don’t know how to stop.
Superheroes aren’t just for grown-ups. Power Pack is made up of a group of pre-teen siblings. Whitemane, A horse-like alien, sought to save the Earth from the Power patriarch, who was going to accidentally destroy it with antimatter. When another group of aliens mortally wounded Whitemane, he passed his powers onto the Power children so that they could save the planet. With the help of his sentient starship, they saved the day and began their career as child superheroes, hiding their powers from their parents. With powers based on gravity, acceleration, density and energy, Power Pack could be educational as well as entertaining, serving as a gateway for younger viewers into the more complex Marvel Universe.
Every year, a group of teenagers are brought together when their parents throw a massive charity event. While they’re all very different, they’ve formed a kind of friendship. One year, they decide to spy on their parents’ event, only to discover that their parents are members of “The Pride,” an evil organization with varying superpowers. The kids learn they’ve inherited their parents’ superpowers — one of them gains the telepathic ability to communicate with a dinosaur — and use them to take their parents down. Now homeless, they’ve become a makeshift family, and try to atone for their parents’ misdeeds by battling new forces of evil attempting to rise up in the absence of the powerful “Pride.” This one would work as an adventure series in the tone of anything on The CW, populated with beautiful young people wracked with guilt.
The Sentry has near god-like superpowers, but suffers from multiple personality disorder. It is revealed that he’s been around since the start of the Marvel Universe, but no one remembered him, including himself. The Sentry’s greatest foe, the Void, was threatening to destroy the world. But then it was discovered that the Void was actually another personality inside the body of the Sentry. And so, the man who was the Sentry erased the memory of the Sentry and the Void from every living thing on the planet, including himself. When the memories returned, though, so did the threat of the Void. “The Sentry” introduces the Marvel Universe’s most powerful superhero, who also happens to be its most powerful supervillain, as well as dangerously insane. There are no easy answers in this psychological tale, with only the fate of every living being hanging in the balance.
All of the strength of the Hulk, and yet Jennifer Walters doesn’t lose any of her intelligence. She is considerably taller, more glamorous, and green, but the shy and mousy Jennifer actually enjoys the confidence being She-Hulk brings her. Maybe that’s why she’s continued practicing law as She-Hulk, often taking on superhero cases and clients. It’s like “Ally McBeal” with off-beat superheroes, frivolous lawsuits and a whip smart lawyer who can go toe to toe with any supervillain who interrupts her time in court, or her night out with her friends.
Marvel actually created an entire line of books set in the year 2099, but Spider-Man Miguel O’Hara was the breakout star. In this future Marvel Universe, corrupt megacorporations run the country. Miguel works as head of the genetics program of perhaps the most powerful of those corporations, Alchemax. In this future, the age of heroes is long gone, but not forgotten, and the new Spider-Man’s arrival sparks a new hope in the populace, who long to throw off the shackles of their corporate oppressors. He has visited the present on multiple occasions, so it could be fun to play with a dystopic future Marvel Universe that could be changed by events happening in the present.
This alternate-universe team is essentially Marvel’s take on DC’s Justice League. The core team consists of Hyperion (Superman), Nighthawk (Batman), Doctor Spectrum (Green Lantern), Power Princess (Wonder Woman), and the Whizzer (the Flash). In other words, making a “Squadron Supreme” movie would be Marvel’s way of proving they can make a “JLA” movie better than DC can. Plus, the Squadron Supreme takes the concept further by deciding that the best way to take care of the Earth is to usurp control of it and rule, despite the objections of Nighthawk. At this point, it becomes the one non-powered member of the team against the rest for the freedom of humanity.
In this unique take on superheroes and mutants like the X-Men, the X-Statix were more like reality television celebrities than superheroes. The only thing stranger than the mutants who took up the team was the rate at which they died. In fact, most of the original team died in the issue they were introduced. The concept worked as a deconstruction of our celebrity-obsessed society, with many members of the team joining for the spotlight, despite the inherent danger. The breakout character, though, was the green floating glob named Doop who acted as the team’s cameraman. Speaking an alien language no one understood, some speculated that he was the mastermind behind everything that happened to them. It could make for a fun and violent series with a death-count “The Walking Dead” couldn’t match.