Last summer at the San Diego convention, I was on a panel called “Revamping Legends.” The other panelists were three folks working for the Distinguished Competition who were involved in the legend-revamping of three of their long-time heroes, Superman, Wonder Woman, and Green Arrow. I was there in my authorial role as CAPTAIN AMERICA scripter. After each of my honorable colleagues put forth his position on how he determined what of the old legend (that is, origin, modus operandi, paraphernalia, costume, etc.) to keep and what needed revision, it was my turn to speak. I told the fan assemblage: “I don’t know what I’m doing on this panel. Marvel doesn’t revamp legends. We got it right the first time.” Needless to say, this provoked a response from audience and panelists alike, although not the unanimous outpouring of affirmation that I might have liked.
It made me conclude that at least some of you out there like it when we, the comics creators, admit that we totally messed up a character so badly that we have to do a wholesale revision in order to reposition the character in today’s marketplace. (Or maybe the audience at that particular panel just happened to be primarily DC fans – yes, it’s true, Marvelites, there are readers our there who say “Make Mine DC”!) Whatever the reason for this hisses and boos my statement provoked, I believe in what I said. Today’s creators would be hard pressed to improve upon what Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko created in the 60s (or Jack and Joe Simon did in the 40s with Captain America). That is not to say that stories featuring the mainstream Marvel heroes aren’t as good as the ones done in the 60s. It is to say that Marvel creators don’t have to go back and change a hero’s origins in order to do good solid innovative stories today. Walt Simonson’s THOR stories, Frank Miller’s DAREDEVIL, and my CAP tales do not have to negate what the characters’ originators established in order to do good stories. Rather, we were all able to do the innovative stories we wanted by expanding upon the characters’ solid foundations. (Incidentally, this is not to say that I place my work on CAP on a par with Simonson’s and Miller’s runs mentioned above. I am simply playing with “my” character’s current status quo like the two aforementioned gents did with “theirs” and thus I lumped myself in with them. It’s up to you the readers to determine the actual merit of my work.)
I guess in a field where creative types shuttle back and forth between the major companies so much, this is still something that distinguishes a Marvel book from a DC. Marvel’s legends grow, blossom, and branch out from a solid root system and trunk; DC’s legends are pruned and harvested now and again. You pay your money, you take your choice.