By Kiel Phegley
Super heroes and civil rights history will cross over in the ambitious ADAM: LEGEND OF THE BLUE MARVEL six-issue limited series debuting this November from writer Kevin Grevioux and artist Mat Broome. While the topical hook to this new hero might be steeped in serious issues of American history, Grevioux says that the path from conception to comic book holds mysteries and triumphs all its own:
"The Blue Marvel was the greatest, most powerful super hero in the Marvel Universe for about three to four years in the late 1950s/early 1960s, and he wore a costume that completely covered his whole body so no one would know that he was black," the writer explains.
However, while the tale of a character that must hide his race to operate in public certainly carries a tragic edge, the Blue Marvel's hard times don't end there. As the first issue of ADAM describes, a particularly violent battle with his arch nemesis drops a skyscraper on the hero and tears his mask apart, revealing his race. Exposed to the people he's sworn to protect, the revelation of the Blue Marvel's race incites panic in the American public and leads to a fateful meeting with the nation's commander in chief. Grevioux elaborates:
"The Blue Marvel, for all the good he's done for the world, President Kennedy still calls him in after meeting with a secret group of military men and says, 'Look, I am really trying to do something good with my administration. I understand the plight of black people in this country, and it needs to stop. But I have to tell you, as long as you are operating and people know you're black, I can not push forward with civil rights.'"
Having been inspired to put on the costume by Kennedy's famous "Ask not what your country can do for you" inaugural speech, the Blue Marvel agrees to retire and disappears for over 40 years. But in 2008, the Blue Marvel's greatest foe rears his head again, forcing the leader of America's 21st Century super heroes to reopen the book on this forgotten Marvel of the '50s.
"Now Iron Man has to find him and see if he can help stop this villain before the villain tries to destroy the world," says Grevioux.
With modern day appearances in the main story by the Avengers and Namor confirmed and more Easter Eggs hinted at, ADAM: LEGEND OF THE BLUE MARVEL will synch up with Marvel mythos in more ways than one. For his part, Grevioux wants nothing more than to see his character step firmly into the pantheon of Marvel's biggest heroes.
"This is my own creation that I've had in my head for quite some time, and it really represents something that I've wanted to do since I was a kid growing up and reading Marvel comic books," enthuses the writer, noting that he'd been hoping to work the concept into the Marvel Universe since he started working for the publisher. "When I first conceived of him, I was going to debut the character in NEW WARRIORS and try to slip the idea in there, but as I saw where they wanted to go with NEW WARRIORS, it became evident that I couldn't do that. So I tried to find another way to do the character.
"I was talking to my friend [writer and Sentry creator] Paul Jenkins about it, and he came up with the idea of maybe the character having been the first Scout—the Sentry's sidekick. After thinking about it more, I changed my mind about that. But what was interesting was that I actually wrote a spec script of the character to see if I could garner some interest over at Marvel."
While the Sentry connection that inspired the script did not ultimately come to pass, it did push Grevioux to flesh out his character by way of extensive notes whose creative drafting finally got the green light from Marvel.
"What I did was I wrote up a pitch of the character—his background, his origin and some of the finer character points and the world which he came from," he continues. "Along with the spec script, I did a whole dossier which would be the C.I.A. or N.S.A. files that the government officials had put together analyzing this character—who he is, what his powers are and what we should do about him since we're now aware that he exists."
And while the dossier piqued the in-office attentions of Marvel and the in-story attentions of Tony Stark, Grevioux hopes the tale will hook the in-store fans come November.
"We're going to have that good, old style Marvel slam, bang 'em up fighting along with plenty of character stuff. Looking at civil rights and the Jim Crow era with regards to superheroes, I think, is really interesting."
For up to the minute Marvel news spinning out of the 2008 San Diego Comic-Con, visit the Marvel.com SDCC news hub. And while you're waiting in between announcements, spend some time over at Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited!