Sure, the Legion of Monsters may look pretty scary, but they're not bad guys. Originally formed in 1976's Marvel Premiere #28 with the lineup of Ghost Rider, Man-Thing, Mobius the Living Vampire and Werewolf by Night, they've tackled supernatural threats and worked to defended the Marvel monster world.
Recently, the group resurfaced in the pages of the "FrankenCastle" arc The Punisher, enlisting the radically transformed Frank Castle's help against Robert Hellsgaard. And that team — Morbius, Werewolf by Night, Living Mummy and Manphibian — are starring in a new four-issue Legion of Monsters miniseries debuting in October, looking for a serial killer whose trail leads to Monster Metropolis.
They're not alone in their quest, being joined by Elsa Bloodstone — and given that her raison d'être is to hunt monsters, it's certainly an unexpected pairing for both readers and the characters.
The Legion of Monsters creative team is writer Dennis Hopeless — making his Marvel debut here before next spring's X-Men: Season One graphic novel — and artist Juan Doe, of last year's Fantastic Four In…Ataque Del M.O.D.O.K. one-shot. Newsarama chatted with Hopeless over email about how both FrankenCastle and Nextwave influenced this series, why the series is much more of a police procedural than one might guess, working with Doe and which of the monstrous main characters has emerged as his favorite.
Legion of Monsters
#1 cover.Newsarama: Dennis, this is going to be your first Marvel work that makes it into stores, but it was announced the same week as X-Men: Season One, which isn't out until March 2012. Did one project lead to another, or did they both kind of come about around the same time?
Dennis Hopeless: Alejandro first emailed me back in March. I'd sent him some samples of my indie work and he said he wanted to talk to me about pitching some stuff. Legion of Monsters came out of that initial conversation. Then a few months later while I was waiting on final plot approval for LoM, he asked if I wanted to take a shot at pitching X-Men: Season One.
These were my very first Marvel pitches so I'm still kind of shell-shocked by the whole thing. The last eight months seems like a blur.
Nrama: The Legion of Monsters is definitely one of the many unique concepts to come out of Marvel in the '70s — what appealed to you about writing the group? A fondness for the characters, monsters in general — maybe both?
Hopeless: I'm a lifelong horror movie fan so I definitely do love monsters. But I was born in 1981. Those great '70s Marvel monster books were all before my time.
I was introduced to most of these characters by Rick [Remender] and Tony [Moore] in those first "FrankenCastle" issues. But that was more than enough to make me a fan. I couldn't have loved that series more. When Alejandro asked me to pitch a Legion of Monsters mini, my first thought was, "Hell, yeah! Monster Metropolis!"
I've since gone back and read a bunch of the '70s stuff. Those characters have such rich histories and it's been a blast cherry-picking the weirdest bits.
Nrama: As you just mentioned, the Legion of Monsters had their most recent high-profile appearances during the FrankenCastle story in Punisher. Did the events in that book influence what you're doing here?
Hopeless: Definitely. Rick took every monster in the Marvel Universe, crammed them into the sewers beneath Manhattan and named it Monster Metropolis. That's a fantastic idea and I built our whole story around it.
In FrankenCastle, the Legion of Monsters were fighting off crazed monster hunters and trying to protect their people from extinction. Monster Metropolis was their stronghold, the site of their last stand.
Not to spoil anything, but with Frank's help, the monsters won.
Our story picks up months later. Monster Metropolis is still teeming with horrors, but they're no longer united against a common enemy. Now it's every monster for itself and only the Legion stand in the way of chaos.
Nrama: On Marvel.com, series editor Alejandro Arbona described Legion of Monsters as a "cop story," which is not what most might expect from a monster comic. Can you describe a bit about how that term fits?
Hopeless: Oh it's a cop story through and through. The Legion are monster cops trying to protect and serve a monster city. There's obviously going to be plenty of horror in the book but if I did my job, there's a cool police procedural in there too.
Legion of Monsters
#2 cover.Nrama: Elsa Bloodstone is also at the center of this book, who most fans will recognize from Warren Ellis and Stuart Immonen's Nextwave. Obviously that was a very unique take on the character, but can readers who remember her from that book identify pretty closely with what you're doing with her here?
Hopeless: I don't know for sure whether or not Nextwave took place in the regular 616 Marvel Universe. The Internet is torn on that issue. But, at least in my mind, our Elsa is the Nextwave Elsa.
There are a few books that I try to reread before I start a new project, just to show me what great looks like. One of them is Nextwave (the other two are Casanova and Scalped). That book is everything I want my comics to be.
Nrama: Morbius, Werewolf by Night, Living Mummy and Manphibian are all cut from the classic monster tradition, not to mention with their own long history in the Marvel Universe. In writing the book, has there been a clear favorite for you among the bunch? Or maybe one you're surprised at how fun they were to write?
Hopeless: They're all pretty great. If I had to pick a favorite it would probably be Manphibian. His speech impediment makes his a fun voice to hear in my head.
Now that I say that, though, it might be Morbius. He wears a lot of hats on the team and tries to be the right monster for every job. But there are a few moments when he's alone and we get the "real" Morbius. The Morbius he would never show his teammates. Those have been my favorite scenes to write.
Nrama: Given the characters and concept, one would guess this would be a book that doesn't take itself all that seriously. How would you describe the tone of the series?
Hopeless: Well, the stakes are very high and the characters definitely take the events of the book seriously. But, yeah, we're dealing with mad science and foam rubber monsters. How can we not go a little tongue-in-cheek? First and foremost, we're shooting for fun.
Nrama: Of course, can't go without talking about the work of Juan Doe, the artist on Legion of Monsters. How potent are the visuals he's been providing?
Hopeless: He's incredible. That first cover made my eyes itch. And the second one, with the motorcycles-- I don't even know what to say. I just couldn't be happier.Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!