I feel a bit dumb about just how often I say on this blog “I don’t like to promote products from my own company” and then go on to do so, but heck, I guess it’s a good thing I’m so proud of a lot of the stuff people I work with are producing.
So with that said, I will now promote something from my own company because I was really taken aback at how much I dug it and don’t think it’s getting nearly the attention it deserves.
For the last several months, Marvel has been putting out a series of “Super Issues” one-shot specials; each is a 48-pager done all in black and white and made up to look like those old over-sized Hulk and Conan magazines from the 70’s. They’ve got groovy names like Rampaging Wolverine, The Indomitable Iron Man or The Savage Axe of Ares (or Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu—because frankly, some things can’t be improved upon). The format for each has been three short traditional comic book stories and then a fourth prose piece with bitchin’ art.
Jody LeHeup, one of the more promising young gun types to strut around the Marvel offices with menacing goatee, is the editor on these bad boys and the kid does a kick ass job assembling top flight talent and producing a really unique look at familiar characters each month in a pulp setting that really makes them shine.
I heard quite a bit of buzz on one of the more recent specials, but kept getting sidetracked from reading it; now, having digested The Mystic Hands of Doctor Strange, I do believe it’s the crown jewel of an already impressive crown.
Not too long ago, I talked about my fringe attachment to Doc Strange and how there’s much potential in the character and his trappings, but he’s such a square peg to fit in the round hole provided by typical monthly super hero comics and the Marvel Universe sometimes. It feels much of the time like Strange is a cool character who creators really want to get, but often fall just short of understanding and throw in the towel.
Well, Jody found some guys who really get Doctor Strange.
The first story is a quirky little think-piece about devil worshippers and the idea that the mentally ill can save the world and why Doctor Strange must stop them by Kieron Gillen and Frazer Irving. From there, Peter Milligan and classic Strange artist Frank Brunner weave a classic Strange yarn about the doc helping a husband literally exorcise the demons of the dead wife her tormented when she was alive. Ted McKeever writes and draws a far-out head trip about the effects of alcohol on a Sorcerer Supreme and the need for calm clarity over unfocused rage when fighting monsters. Finally, Mike Carey closes things out with a prose piece on a young Strange’s first magical duel in the Dark Dimension with Marcos Martin providing illustrations.
For years I’ve thought Mike Carey would be the perfect writer for Doctor Strange. Upon reflection, Kieron Gillen and Peter Milligan are equally excellent choices. Then you’ve got Frazer Irving, who was born to draw stuff like this and do it dang well, plus Frank Brunner and Marcos Martin, who have already proven they’ve mastered the mystic arts in their own way. Finally, I’m not as familiar with Ted McKeever as I’d like to be, but wow, that fella can jam!
Beyond Jody’s brilliant job of creator selection, though, it occurs to me that Doctor Strange is just such a perfect character for this type of format, and by the same token this very different presentation may be just what the character has needed for so long. Doc’s a cool guest star and occasional dues ex machina in the Marvel Universe proper, but his best solo stuff really seems to come when it’s a step removed from who Spider-Man or the Avengers are fighting. I’m not saying Strange can’t work in a book like New Avengers, but much in the way it’s nice to have a MAX Punisher book in addition to the one set in regular continuity, this is a character that could really benefit from his own off-to-the-side book.
And to be honest I really kinda love the idea of Doctor Strange short stories on a regular basis that don’t have any connection or set time frame. Not everybody may have a good long-term take on the guy, but I bet a lot of folks have that one good story they’ve been dying to tell (and certainly I wouldn’t mind seeing the guys who worked on this particular special do an encore or 50). Strange also works so well as a Cryptkeeper or Cain type who can be the narrator or gateway to this ghoulish tales we don’t get a good look at otherwise.
Anyways, I’d certainly encourage you all to check out The Mystic Hands of Doctor Strange whether you’re a fan of the character or not and also pick up whatever other Super Issues you find as they’re really pretty cool.
And Jody, when it comes time for The Heroic Helmet of Nova or Stalking Werewolf By Night, you remember who talked up your books, buddy.