<i>By <a href=http://www.twitter.com/graemem>Graeme McMillan, Newsarama Contributor</a></i> <p>As Frank Tieri will happily tell you, his newly announced <a href=http://www.newsarama.com/comics/wondercon-2012-space-punisher.html><b>Space: Punisher</b></a> series could be the start of the next big alternate-universe franchise for Marvel Comics, following the likes of <i>Noir</i> and <i>Marvel Zombies</i>. <p>But what characters are best suited to send into the wild blue yonder and beyond? Here are some suggestions for future astronauts from the Rocketship of Ideas. <p><i>Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's <a href=http://www.facebook.com/Newsarama><b>FACEBOOK</b></a> and <a href=http://twitter.com/newsarama><b>TWITTER</b></a>!</i> <p>
Firstly: Devil Dinosaur, the pre-historic character created by Jack Kirby in the 1970s during his troubled second tour of duty with Marvel, doesn't get anything close to the amount of respect he deserves. <p>Secondly: If you can't grasp the potential awesomeness of a dinosaur in space, I don't know what to tell you. Just think of the possibilities: A time-lost dinosaur loose in the far future! Prehistory meets the Futurehistory! <em>Dinosaur Rampage In Orbit Above The Earth!</em> This is the kind of crazy high concept that blockbuster movies are made of, I promise you.
Imagine the conflict between science and faith actually turned into a literal conflict. What if a Norse God came to visit a humanity that has abandoned religion in favor of the science that has taken it far beyond the heavens it once saw as their ultimate destination? <p>Such a thing could be the kind of high-minded fare (with, of course, occasional slugfests for fun and variety) that once made series like <em>Silver Surfer</em> such Marvel staples. For extra flavor, add in the wrinkle that the Asgardians are, according to the <em>Thor</em> movie, actually aliens.
What Marvel character is least-suited to outer-space, on first glance? If it's not the Punisher himself, then possibly it's Linda Carter, the heroine of the 1972 <em>Night Nurse</em> series which mixed Marvel soap opera with... well, more soap opera, really, describing itself as "true-to-life adventures" of a regular nurse. <p>None of that seems particularly well-suited for science fiction, which suggests that it'd make the perfect follow-up to <b>Space: Punisher</b>. After all, it'll up the "What, <em>seriously</em>?" reaction, and also insert a science fiction aspect into Linda Carter's life that could possibly make her series a little more interesting to genre-centric comic book fandom than it was originally.
Along similar lines, who wouldn't want to see Patsy Walker get some science fiction in her life? More than anything else on this list, a <i>Space: Hellcat</i> series would benefit from ensuring that Kathryn Immonen, the writer who's had most influence/impact on the character in recent years, remains in charge of this particular reincarnation. <p>By placing Immonen's Patsy in space, no matter what the set-up, readers are guaranteed a fast-paced, smart, snarky and more than likely beautifully illustrated (look at Immonen's past collaborators on the character: David Lafuente, Stuart Immonen, Tonci Zonjic...) story that'll excite and amuse in equal amounts. An ideal science fiction story, in other words.
Ignoring the appeal of the "in space, no-one can see you scream" tagline I'm sorry there's a definite appeal in transferring one part of Matt Murdock's double life into space and seeing what it's like, and it's not the part that requires him to look good in tights. <p>There's a lot of potential in outer-space law, and the legal practices required to keep the system working, even before you get into the twist of Murdock having the work outside the system in order to support it (one of the simplest, and greatest, twists in superhero comics). Placing Matt Murdock into space could take full advantage of that tension without the need for any superheroing or even any super villains... just one man, a corrupt system and lots and lots of ray guns. That could work, right?
If one Marvel series has always demanded a science fiction element, it's <em>X-Men</em>, and what better place to explore ideas about the future evolution of humanity (as well as xenophobia and a fear of the unknown) than outer space? The history of the series is filled with concepts and characters that require no translation to fit into a space version of the series: The Shi'Ar, the Phoenix, the giant robot Sentinels and so on. <p>The question shouldn't be "Why would <em>X-Men</em> make a good science fiction space opera?" but, instead, "Why isn't <em>X-Men</em> already a good science fiction space opera?"
Yes, there may be a lot of potential for stories about one man being hunted by authorities all across the universe as he searches for the cure for his tendency to become a mindless, destructive monster (actually, now that I type it out, there's a <em>lot</em> of potential there...), but I have another idea for you: What about intergalactic space battles where one side uses Gamma Bombs and creates an entire planet of Hulks? They could even have gamma ray guns for more close-quarters combat. <p>Just imagine Thunderbolt Ross as Darth Vader (with Betty, of course, as a Princess Leia stand-in), and tell me that you wouldn't read this comic.
Another series that could be launched into orbit by focusing on the thematic story instead of the details: Focus on the great power/great responsibility (and, for that matter, great destiny coming from great tragedy) parts, and you can plug the story into any surroundings. <p>Peter Parker works best as an everyman who finds himself in circumstances beyond our imaginings, and yet dealing with it surprisingly well... so who's to say that that wouldn't work out perfectly for a story set in space? If nothing else, any excuse to imagine J. Jonah Jameson with a goldfish bowl-like space helmet, ranting away until someone decides to turn his intercom off is a good thing.
Iron Man is probably the Marvel hero most easily translated into a space setting of all of the ones who don't already spend most of their time there (let's be honest, <em>Space: Nova</em> wouldn't really be much of a stretch), because it only makes sense that genius, inventor and thrill seeker Tony Stark would find himself looking to the stars for his next venture like the comic book Richard Branson that he is. <p>Put Jonathan Hickman on this book and prepare yourself for the ultimate Iron Man armor, which will end up being an entire spaceship controlled by nothing except the brainwaves of Tony's own mind.
The reason the world needs a <em>Space: Captain America</em> series isn't because there's a story to be told about America seeking to continue its exploratory spirit to other worlds, <em>Star Trek</em>-style (although, yes, that would be wonderful), nor because there's an allegorical tale to be told about space exploration that parallels the discovery and evolution of America (although, that too could be very good). <p>No, the reason that the world needs a <em>Space: Captain America</em> is so that we can finally see a story featuring the "Astro-Hero" Cap from <em>Captain America's Bicentennial Battles</em>, way back in 1976. The world may finally be ready for the hero Kirby described as someone who'd take "a leisurely walk on an airless moonscape"! Don't ask just buy it!