Sunday, July 27, 2008

My life in comics - L.A.'s greatest superheroes...

Because you didn't demand it, here's another fantastic comic based blog entry following on from the success of my homage to the 80's L.A. based superheroes - The West Coast Avengers.

My L.A. super-team themed blog post got picked up by local website, so I thought I'd revisit the comic world for a look at today's L.A. heroes.

For those not up on their current Marvel comic lore (shame on you), sadly The West Coast Avengers are no more, but they did last for about ten years and 102 issues (plus a four issue limited series and eight annuals).
Avengers West Coast Annual #5 cover

Based on America's West Coast in a compound in Palos Verde, their roster initially consisted of fan favourites Iron Man and Hawkeye and less well known heroes Wonderman, Mockingbird and Tigra.  

Eventually their ranks grew to include The Vision, Scarlet Witch, Moon Knight, Spider-Woman, War Machine, Wasp and more.

When I was younger I loved how their West Coast exploits were so different to the predominantly New York City based heroes and so here are a few more comics which carry on the mantle of L.A.'s mightiest superheroes today...

Runaways Volume 2 issue #1 cover

The Runaways are not your usual superhero team.  They were created by Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona and their comic was launched by Marvel in 2002. 

The basic premise of the comic is that unbeknownst to a group of teenage friends all of them have super-villain parents, collectively called The Pride, who rule the Los Angeles crime underworld.  

The kids discover the truth when they witness their parents making a ritual human sacrifice to the supernatural forces that give The Pride the power to control L.A.  Over time we learn that they are the children of alien invaders, time-travelers, mystics and mutants.

Runaways Volume 2 issue #13 cover
Unusual for comic book characters, the children reject established superhero trappings, such as masks and costumes, and simply 'runaway' to set about trying to destroy their parents hold over L.A.  

Along the way there are real shocks, including a few surprising deaths and even a genetically engineered dinosaur from the future.

With witty dialogue and realistic teenage angst the series was a sleeper hit and garnered wide critical acclaim, but the first volume didn't last beyond issue 18. 
Runaways Volume 1 issue#18 cover - the last issue of the first series

Relaunched with a second volume and another issue #1, the team of teenage misfits has enjoyed continued popularity, if not huge sales success.

Vaughan, best known as the writer of Y: The Last Man has since experienced wider success becoming one of the principal writers on the immensely popular ABC show LOST.  

In the future he will also help bring Runaways to the big screen, as Marvel Studios has decided to option it as one of its movie franchises.

After the departure of series writer/creator Vaughan, cult TV favourite Joss Whedon (Buffy, Angel, Firefly, Serenity and writer of Astonishing X-men) took over the writing for a six issue run and moved the Runaways to New York. 

Unfortunately his disappointing run was plagued by a series of delays and as a result Marvel have decided to start over again with a third volume coming in August 2008.
Runaways volume 2 issue 3# cover - featuring the infamous Hollywood Sign
A new series will be written by Terry Moore, creator of Strangers in Paradise, with art by Humberto Ramos, and will return the Runaways to their L.A. stomping ground.
Over its lifespan Runaways has featured many famous L.A. landmarks and areas such as the Griffith Observatory, the Hollywood Sign, Bronson Canyon, Downtown L.A., they even set up home in the second volume of the series under the La Brea Tar Pits.
Coming soon in August 2008 - the third volume of Runaways with a new issue #1

Spinning out of Runaways we have our second youth team based in L.A.
The Loners, formerly Excelsior and ex-teenage heroes, who first appeared in Runaways volume 2

This is another unique concept in the comic book world, a 'self-help' group of ex-teenage heroes who banded together to support each other and to help dissuade other young superpowered individuals from becoming part of the dangerous lifestyle.

They first appeared together in the second volume of Runaways initially under the group name, Excelsior (as all Marvel fans will know the catchphrase of 'Godfather' of the Marvel Universe, Stan Lee), but it looks like no one cleared it with legal, as due to copyright issues, they soon returned in their own series as the renamed The Loners.

The team consisted of fan favourites from the 80's and 90's - Turbo, Darkhawk (both ex-New Warriors), Lightspeed from Power PackRicochet from the Slingers Green Goblin (Phil Urich) and Chamber (of Generation X, who turned out to be an imposter).

Their L.A based therapy support group. was joined in their own six issue limited series in 2007 by Spider-woman III (Mattie Franklin), Hollow (formerly Penance of Generation X) and a new character, a cyborg taking up the mantle of Red Ronin.

Each of the six issues featured a teen movie inspired cover - The Breakfast Club, Ferris Beuller's Day Off, Weird Science, Pretty in Pink, Some kind of Wonderful and Sixteen Candles (so very Hollywood!).
The Loners #1 cover - an homage to The Breakfast Club movie

The Order issue #1 - California's official superteam
This comic series launched in September 2007 after Marvel's hugely successful Civil War event. This superhero team was part of the 50-State Initiative, a program to put a government sanctioned super-team in every State in America. 

The Order are California's official superhero team and they were based in Los Angeles.

Originally to be called The Champions, again legal problems forced a last minute name change for the group.  

The team was comprised mainly of well known celebrities who had been given their superpowers through technological means, modeled on the pantheon of the Greek gods. 

They were the pet project of Tony Stark (Iron Man) and were run by his long time assistant, Pepper Potts.

Sadly even though I thought this series was well written by Matt Fraction and had great art by Barry Kitson, the title only lasted ten issues.  

Their short lived adventures took them all over L.A. to Rodeo Drive, Century City, the San Gabriel Mountains, Catalina Island and they even had their HQ based at the Bradbury Building in Downtown L.A.  

But fear not, The Order still live on and were recently featured in issue #2 of the new Eternals comic.
The Order issue #9 cover - California's official superhero team

The Champions Classic trade paperback volume 1 cover
This short-lived mid-70's superteam were the first Marvel group to be based on America's West Coast.

Their roster comprised of established heroes including former X-Men Angel and Iceman, Russian spy Black Widow, Greek demi-god Hercules and the supernatural Ghost Rider. The team was later joined by another Russian character, Darkstar.

Despite the popularity of the individual members, there was never really a reason for this group to exist, aside from being a West Coast version of the superhero teams based in New York City, like the Avengers, so the comic only lasted 17 issues.

Luckily for those loyal fans, the adventures of these Champions of L.A. have recently been collected in two trade paperbacks of the entire run.

And there you have it, five comic book teams that are part of L.A.'s rich superhero history (at least the Marvel Comics version).  

I hope you've enjoyed that round up, why not check out some of the comics featured above and see if the writers and artists portrayal of L.A and the U.S. West Coast is accurate.

Come back soon for more interesting installments of entertainment, Los Angeles and life from Jason in Hollywood...

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