With its Digital Comics Unlimited initiative Marvel Comics not only found a way to revive decades of archived material from its publishing past, it also lit upon a way to keep some of its more obscure and unused characters alive within the context of its most current blockbusters. So far, Marvel.com's original digital comics have helped dig out a place in the Marvel U for characters like American Eagle and M.O.D.O.K., and at this weekend's New York Comic Con the practice of dusting off oddball characters in online stories took a new step with the announcement of a few projects, including "Dark Reign: Made Men."
Written by Frank Tieri (who also recently scripted Marvel's "Incredible Hulk" movie tie-in web comics for the publisher), the five-part series focuses on the fate of Marvel Characters who have fallen through the cracks of Norman Osborn's America, including Tieri's own Gamma Corps characters and a handful of fringe Marvel bad guys.
"Anybody that knows my work knows that something like Dark Reign is certainly in my wheelhouse," Tieri told CBR. "I'm the kind of guy who's been called Mr. Villain. But while yes, I've done so much work with villains over the years, I'm also a guy who's been accused of killing a lot of them. Some of that rep is justified and some of it's not, but either way, I guess this is my way of giving something back instead of taking away.
"Immediately after hearing about Dark Reign, I saw it as an opportunity to bring back a lot of B-list villain characters and teams. So with that in mind, we’ve got new versions of the Enforcer and Jack O’ Lantern on tap. We’re bringing back one of my all time favorite Iron Man villains, the Spymaster. Why, we’re even managing to put a head back on good ol’ Atumma and save him from the comic book scrap heap. I guess you could say where once ‘F.T. taketh away, now F.T. giveth.’"
And while the five stories serialised under the "Made Men" banner aren't connected by plot, the writer said that the tales will be thematically linked. "'Made Men' sort of took flight from an idea Marvel.com’s John Cerilli and I had, to do something for the Dark Reign event that could see life as a digital project. I think he probably describes the project perfectly when he says, '"Made Men" is not really a project at all, but really five projects in one – five different stories, each saying something different about the Dark Reign event.'
"Once we threw the idea by Tom Brevoort and he went for it, then it was just the matter of coming up with which characters to use – which turned out to be easier said than done. Basically, what happened was that myself, Ben Morse and the Marvel Digital crew came up with a huge list of what characters we wanted to use – and I had a list of my own – and we tossed it back to Tom for his yeas or nays. We went back and forth with this a bit, but in the end, I actually think it was a good thing it took as long as it did. It shows that we took time and care into the selection process, and what that means to the fans is that you can expect Marvel to have plans for these characters beyond just this project."
Tieri explained that the long term plans held particularly true for the members of Gamma Corps who have been waiting in the wings since Marvel's "World War Hulk" event to step back onto stage. "The intention when I created the Gamma Corps, was that Marvel always wanted to do something with these guys beyond just 'World War Hulk,'" he said. "It was just a question of what form that would take, and Dark Reign came along and gave us the chance to have them come back in a cool new way, with a cool new purpose. If you remember the end of their series, the Hulk had convinced the Corps members that the Illuminati were really the ones who had a lot to answer for, not him. Well, if you look at what’s going on with one of the Illuminati’s most prominent members, Iron Man, he’s kind of front and center and in a bit of trouble, so that fits in with what we want to do quite nicely. By the time our story is all said and done, the team is going to wind up with a different mission statement and a different status quo that will put them in a very interesting position within the new Norman Osborn Marvel Universe."
Overall, the writer hopes that each successive story within "Made Men" (whose art team has not yet been finalized) will unveil a new layer of the most recent status quo shift within the Marvel Universe. "One of our main goals with these stories was to let each story show a different wrinkle on the new Marvel Universe now that Osborn is in charge. For example, the Jack O'Lantern story deals with the law enforcement aspect of Dark Reign. How does Osborn being in charge affect law enforcement and its approach in handling criminals? We’ll see that play out a bit here. You’ve got the new Enforcer squaring off with the Hood, Attuma involved with Cabaal member Dr Doom, etc—essentially you’ll see how we've brushed off these characters and come up with some different and compelling stories for each of them. Expect them to be back in a big way."