C2E2 2011: Liss and Zircher Unlock the MYSTERY MEN
C2E2 2011: Unlocking the MYSTERY MEN
When Marvel debuted the initial teaser image for Mystery Men back in early February, most fans concluded that it had something to do with the 1940s series Daring Mystery Comics published by Marvel predecessor Timely Comics; some even going as far as linking up the shadowy figures in the teasers to specific characters from Marvel’s World War II past.
Well, silver medal try. As first announced Sunday during Marvel’s “Next Big Thing” panel at C2E2 in Chicago, Mystery Men stars all-new characters, hailing from the pulp era of fiction — specifically 1932, years before guys like Captain America, Namor the Sub-Mariner, or even the Daring Mystery Comics folks showed up.
Mystery Men is a five-issue miniseries, written by David Liss (Black Panther: The Man Without Fear) and illustrated by Patrick Zircher, a comics veteran who has showed his range in titles from Terror Inc. to Nightwing to Cable & Deadpool. The comic starts in June, with two issues scheduled to ship that month.
The five main characters of Mystery Men — Marvel’s first (of many) New York City-based costumed crimefighters — are The Surgeon, The Operative, Achilles, The Revenant and The Aviatrix. Liss said that it’s more of an “ensemble story” than a team book.
“The central figure in this book is The Operative, a former cat burglar who comes from wealth and power and a very messed up family. He's been using his skills to rob from the rich and ease the plight of the poor during the Depression, but when the woman he loves is murdered, he is drawn into a dark and dangerous pulp world.”
“We wanted to do something that combined gritty realism, pulp goodness, and an early emergence of the Marvel U,” Liss wrote.
Though the comic definitely takes place in the Marvel Universe, Liss said the connections won’t necessarily be explicit, given the early year the comic is set in — though at the C2E2 panel, he did state that Baron Heinrich Zemo (the current Zemo's dad and the first in the family to glue a hood to his face) would be old enough in 1932 to play a role in Mystery Men; hinting that the popular Captain American nemesis and Masters of Evil founder might make an appearance.
Liss, who made his name in the publishing industry with historical fiction novels like A Conspiracy of Paper and The Whiskey Rebels, finds the 1930s to be an especially inspiring decade.
“The 1930s offer so much rich material for story telling — the Depression, corruption incredible poverty and incredible wealth, prohibition, crime, snappy clothes, you name it,” Liss wrote. “I love the stylized characters and storytelling of the period, and I love the crime and pulp stories that emerged in the '30s. There are so many great tools to play around with.”
Zircher has a similar affection for the period.
“The pulp era and early Golden Age setting is rich territory,” the artist wrote. “We could touch on actual history and some of its fascinating characters. Then there's the fedoras, suits, sexy dresses, the planes, trains, and automobiles.
This is Zircher's first time working with Liss, and the artist said that collaborating with someone with a background outside of comics has definite advantages.
“I've worked with David Liss and Daniel Knauf, a novelist and a television writer,” wrote Zircher, who worked with Knauf on Iron Man. “Both saw page space differently than long-time comic readers who had transitioned to comic writers. They were apt to put more on a page than I'm usually comfortable with. That does make for more work (though these gents quickly and adeptly perceived the rhythm of comics). In any event, there's a plus, writers from other backgrounds bring those skills and sensibilities with them and often take interesting approaches uncommon to other comics.
“David's stories are full of ideas and make incredibly satisfying reads. There's a lot of meat on the bone!”