Once in a while—not often, but occasionally—circumstances will give you an excuse to do something you were probably going to do anyway.
For example: I had always intended to do a post about Marvel Comics’ 2099 imprint sooner or later. However, an announcement made last week gave me the motivation to turn Sooner or Later into Now.
The announcement was that one of the cornerstones of the imprint, a futuristic version of Spider-Man, would be returning in an ongoing comic, with its original writer, Peter David (I was going to say “21st-century,” rather than “futuristic,” but, somehow, that doesn’t sound as impressive as it used to.)
The Marvel 2099 line was introduced in 1992, with variations of three familiar characters, Spider-Man, Punisher and Doctor Doom, and an original character, Ravage. (Officially, all of these comics had 2099 in their titles—e.g. Spider-Man 2099—but I don’t want to get too repetitive, so let’s just take the number as a given, okay?) These were set in a world influenced by cyberpunk stories and movies. The world was controlled by mega-corporations with names like Alchemax, Stark-Fujikawa, Synthia and Roxxon “Stark” is a reference to Tony Stark, and Roxxon is the Evil Energy Corporation that plays a role in the present-day Marvel Universe.
There was even a shout-out to one of my favorite pieces of sf music. A later series—featuring Ghost Rider—was set in Transverse City, a location explored by the late Warren Zevon in the album by the same name.
Launching these comics together enabled the creators to coordinate the use of characters and background elements that would appear in all of the series. Slang like “Shock!” and “Jammit!” started to appear almost immediately, along with things like Doc-In-A-Box, a chain of clinics run like fast food restaurants, and the Thorites, a cult that worshipped the God of Thunder. As a possible future of the Marvel Universe, it was easy for the 2099 comics to introduce major storylines with major repercussions, such as Doom’s conquest of America.
The imprint quickly expanded to include the Hulk, Ghost Rider (who was a super-hacker now, rather than a supernatural character),the Fantastic Four; an anthology title and two titles featuring the latest generation of X-Men. Ultimately, though, the line fell victim to the cutbacks that affected most of the industry in the late 1990s.
Other writers who contributed to the 2099 books included: Warren Ellis, Gerald Jones, Len Kaminski, Pat Mills, and no less than Stan Lee scripted the first few issues of Ravage. Contributing artist included: Rick Leonardi, Al Williamson, Pat Broderick, Ron Lim, Chris Bachalo and Mark Buckingham.
Peter David brought an almost perfect mix of skills and experience to this version of Spider-Man, with a background in writing sf novels, TV episodes and comics (including the original Spidey). His protagonist was Miguel O’Hara, a scientist for the Alchemax Corporation (and partially Hispanic long before Miles Morales, the Spider-Man of Marvel’s Ultimate universe, was introduced). After being tricked into taking a highly addictive drug, in order to insure his loyalty to the corporation, O’Hara tries to flush the drug from his system using an experimental process that will quickly rewrite his genetic structure. Experimental processes being what they are, he quickly finds himself with super strength and the ability to climb walls.
However, there are significant differences between Miguel and Peter Parker. Here’s an exchange form an early issue
TYLER STONE (president of Alchemax): What would your father say, if he were here today?
MIGUEL : ‘Help, help, get me out of this coffin!’?
Miguel’s supporting cast include his brassy and manipulative mother, his brother and Lyla, his household computer, who manifests itself as a hologram of Marlyn Monroe. David’s unusual mix of credits also allows him to make metafictional comments on the series. When Lyla presents a hologram of Parker’s Aunt May as a possible persona, O’Hara quickly tells her to delete it.
Miguel was sent back to the present as part of the recent “Superior Spider-Man” storyline and will be involved with the upcoming “Spider-Verse” plot. The Spidey 2099 is scheduled to spin-off of that, starting in July. Miguel will be remaining in the present, in an attempt to change the course of the newly-formed Alchemax . Will he be as popular, away from his native turf of flying cars and megacorps? I can’t say, but I’m looking forward to finding out.