Though confetti still rains and pots and pans continue to clang for Marvel Comics’ 75th anniversary year, it’s never too soon to start planning future milestones. Maybe you’ve never day-dreamed of what Spider-Man or the X-Men might be up to in the year 2061 and beyond, but some very exciting creative talents have done just that.
“We’ve had a bunch on anniversaries lately at Marvel,” says editor Nick Lowe. “Most of our characters have had their 50th anniversary in the past couple years. We’re in the middle of Marvel’s 75th anniversary as well. It was [former Senior Editor] Steve Wacker’s idea originally, that it would be fun to tackle a 100th anniversary, to imagine our characters as they might be in 40 or 50 years.”
Each week in July sees a new 100th Anniversary Special featuring a team or solo hero as they might appear in their far-flung future. It’s not only an opportunity to muse on the future of some iconic characters, but a chance to see some of the most exciting creative talents of today set loose on five wildly imaginative stories.
Writers Andy Lanning and Ron Marz and artist Gustavo Duarte envision 100th ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL - GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, with a cover by David Lopez.
Lanning asks: “A chance to work with my good buddy Ron on a Guardians of the Galaxy story set in a possible future continuity a hundred years from now that explores what things might look like in the future, how the team has changed, what’s stayed the same, what’s different and do whatever you want? You had me at ‘A chance!’”
“This is the first Marvel work I've done in quite a while,” reports Marz, “so it's been a lot of fun coming back to where I started, with the cosmic end of things in the Marvel Universe. The Guardians of the Galaxy still exist in the far-flung future, but a somewhat different version. Or maybe an ‘evolved’ version is a better way to describe the team. This version of the Guardians isn't just trying to preserve our universe; they're trying to preserve all universes from the all-consuming hunger of Galactus. What happens if the World Devourer devours the nexus to all known universes?”
So, who’s guarding the galaxy?
“Well, there's still a Star-Lord, and she's pretty great at the job,” teases Marz. “Iron Man is part of the team, though you really have to wonder how Tony Stark is around after all these years. Drax is back, and so is one of the original Guardians, Charlie-72. No, ‘72’ is not a typo. Groot and Rocket Raccoon are still around too, because I think there might be open rebellion in the fan base if we didn't include them. In fact, Rocket is not the only raccoon on the team.”
As you might imagine, the universe will be exponentially scarier in 2069.
“The villain is Galactus,” says Marz, “But maybe not a Galactus you're familiar with. Saying more than that might ruin the surprise. And of course Galactus has a herald.”
“Plus, one of the main things we wanted to keep was the awesome scale a book like GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY offers and then up the ante a bit more!” adds Lanning. “We’re also playing with the notion that we have years of continuity we can refer to that the readers haven’t a clue about! It makes this issue read like a great ‘What If?’ adventure!”
“Ron and I are really excited to be working with Gustavo Durante on this book,” says Lanning. “I’ve been a fan of his work since picking up his collection, ‘Monsters!’ Gustavo is a fantastic storyteller as demonstrated in the stories in that book. Which are all silent. This guy can really tell a story! Ron and I wanted to take advantage of these skills [and] so have written the story Marvel old school: as a plot which Gustavo will draw from. Then we will add dialogue once the pages are complete. It’s a great collaborative way to work and we are eager to see what he does as the pages come rolling in!”
Sean Ryan and In-Hyuk Lee drop us right in the middle of the action with 100th ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL - SPIDER-MAN.
“We’re jumping into a story already in progress for this issue,” Ryan explains. “We’re treating this issue as if it was the last issue in a long arc that has been running in the Spider-Man books for a while. This issue sees the story coming to an end. The idea of the story being that the symbiote is back, but it’s been infused with technology that gives its host the power to plug in to the grid and control anything connected to it. And this being the future, that’s just about everything.”
Look for appearances from Eddie Brock and the Kingpin, in a dynamic that surprises from the very first page.
“The core of Spider-Man I think is what it’s always been from the beginning: ‘With great power comes great responsibility,’” says Ryan. “No matter what year it is, it’s an idea that’s always relevant. There’s always going to be people with power who aren’t using it responsibly. We’re always going to need Spider-Man around.
“Everything around him might change, but Spider-Man doesn’t. A perfect example is his costume. Sure, he might change costumes every now and then, but he always goes back to the same costume he’s had since his very first appearance. Stan Lee and Steve Ditko created the perfect super hero 51 years ago. It’s never been broke, so there’s no need to fix it.”
Robin Furth and Jason Masters imagine a mutant on Pennsylvania Avenue in 100th ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL - X-MEN.
“After saving the world from a black hole, Scott Summers has transformed from fugitive to national hero,” Furth explains. “On the platform ‘Equality for All,’ Scott has been elected President of the United States. But as a comet shoots across the sky—an ancient harbinger of disaster—Scott discovers that his country is descending into chaos and that those he loves most are beginning to disappear.
“Of course we’ll see Emma Frost, Beast, Kitty Pryde and Wolverine, but we’ll also learn about the grown-up Eva Bell, Christopher Muse, and Benjamin Deeds. The Cuckoos will be there too, as will a time-traveling Shogo Lee. As for the bad-guys, well, you’ll have to wait and see!”
“I’ve always identified with Scott Summers because of his intense moral code,” says Furth. “Even when he’s misdirected, he believes passionately that what he’s doing will lead to a better world. Scott has always struck me as Presidential material—earnest, good-looking, an upstanding citizen-type—but sometimes his code becomes too inflexible, too unyielding. I’m always intensely aware that Scott—like so many of us—can have good reasons for making really bad decisions. For him, the ends justify the means. But ultimately that is a dangerous proposition. Scott has the makings of both a savior [and] a dictator, depending on what he’s fighting for. He could bring about a better world, or he could bring about Armageddon. Big issues, but interesting ones!”
Writer and artist James Stokoe assembles the 100th ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL - AVENGERS.
“Even in 2063, the Avengers are still dedicated to helping and protecting those that need protecting,” says editor Jonathan Moisan. “In this case, that means what remains of Earth after a failed Badoon invasion and America getting sucked into the Negative Zone. And while they do end up fighting the son of a familiar Marvel villain, they manage to not only stop him but also find a habitat for an endangered species. Y’know, just a normal day.”
“In the world of 2063, the Avengers are still the same heroes you know and love—sort of,” Moisan continues. “There’s Rogue and Beta Ray Bill. Doctor Strange, who’s currently inhabiting his 13th body by the time we see him here. And what would an Avengers comic be without Tony Stark? Of course, his body has been destroyed and Stark Tower is a huge Iron Man suit containing a segmented piece of his brain, but that won’t stop him from helping the team. We also see an appearance by Captain America, but I won’t spoil more than that here.”
As editor, Moisan had the task of finding an exciting voice to foretell the future of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes:
“When I took on this issue, I had only one name on my list of talent to go to: James Stokoe. I had always enjoyed James’ work on Orc Stain and the STRANGE TALES story he did, but when I read Godzilla: Half Century War, I was blown away. To me, James is the perfect guy for a book about the future of Marvel because I think he represents the future of comics. His art and storytelling is so out there and strange, yet organic and natural, I knew he’d bring just the right touch to this book. And as for the story, it’s all James and I couldn’t be happier. When I went to him and asked if he was interested, my one request was that he didn’t hold back. Once I got back the initial pitch and especially when I got the cover, I knew I had hit gold. I wanted to create the strangest, most out there, balls-to-the-wall fun Avengers comic in 100 years and I’m pretty sure James has done just that.”
Jen Van Meter and Joanna Estep explore the very lengths of a family’s ties in 100th ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL - FANTASTIC FOUR.
“In 2061,” posits Van Meter, “The Fantastic Four title has for about 10 years been about a team of teens being Science Heroes! despite the pressure of operating within a fairly oppressive galactic governance body; Trin and Kirby—the twin children of Valeria Richards and Bart Banner—Lee Minh Cam—the current Human Torch—and Victoria Harkness—granddaughter of Dr. Doom—investigate time-travel crimes and have adventures with help from their Restored-Earth-based Mission Controller, Valeria Richards. Lately, some apparitions from their past—old spaceships and strange messages—have got them looking for a new kind of time-vandalism, and it looks like it just might be family members long thought dead!”
While meditating on the potential future of the FF, Van Meter also considered the mindset of a creative team approaching a centennial, and the natural desire to look back:
“I figured that if this was going to be a 100th Anniversary Issue, the creative team of 2061 would have wanted to build to something that would feel big, something that would open new doors and amaze and delight their readers, so it seemed like a big return of long-lost characters was the sort of thing they'd aim for.
“For us, it won't have been a 20-year absence, so rather than try to shock today's readers, I felt the big questions were about how a world without Reed, Sue, Johnny, Ben and Franklin would feel. What sort of stories would they have had to tell to start and maintain such a long absence? What would it be like for Valeria, left behind, missing them and watching the world smear their reputations? What would she do to get them back? What if her own kids were endangered by their return?”