So: Grant Morrison’s Seven Soldiers series. I don’t know that it’s the “best” thing Morrison’s ever done, but I personally find it the most interesting. There’s a lot going on thematically that you can either choose to engage with and go down philosophical and sociological rabbit holes, or you can just let wash over you and engage with it on an almost subconscious level. Structurally, it amazes me every time I read it how well it all fits together, both in theme and in narrative; the ideal way to read it isn’t in a book, or even on a computer with connected hyperlinks, but maybe as some sort of 3D holographic interface in which you could see the point where Klarion’s encounter with the Horigal intersects with the pirate train from Manhattan Guardian, and then watch the two streams go on their separate ways again.
But, leaving aside all that fancy stuff, on the most basic level, Seven Soldiers was an attempt to “transform a neglected, third-string, C-list DC property into a strong commercial feature with franchise development potential.” In his introduction in the first collected volume (where that last quotation also comes from), Morrison says he gave each character “a first issue origin story, a well-defined opening character arc and enough conceptual fuel to run for years, if fan support demanded an ongoing title.”
So did he succeed? According to the standards of the second quotation, I think he did, because I think most of the concepts are pretty well set up by the end of the megaseries. But by the standards of the first? Not a bit! This is something I complain about all the time, and I suspect it is why Plok issued this challenge. None of these characters have been given an ongoing series (well, Zatanna’s getting one, I believe, but she’s got the JLA connection and was probably the least revamped of all the characters, and it’s not likely it’ll carry much of the Morrison stamp on it anyway), and very few of them have appeared even in guest-starring roles outside of comics Morrison’s written. In the case of the Guardian, the new version’s been dismissed in favor of the old one in James Robinson's Superman comics.
Why is that? Part of it is a nostalgia-driven market suspicious of new ideas (or even new takes on old ideas), and part of it is Morrison’s reputation. Not only is he considered a difficult act to follow because of his status as a popular, top-tier writer, but a lot of people have convinced themselves you can’t follow Morrison. “Oh, he just has these cah-rayzee ideas; must be the drugs!”
Very well, then. If paid professionals are not going to have a crack at it, then a dude sitting at his computer very late at night is going to do it for free.
Here are the ground rules for this game: I am going to assume that the comic book market is a very different place, and that all seven books were successful enough to warrant an ongoing series (I may in fact be pretending it’s 1992, when pretty much anything with a character resembling a superhero sold like crazy), and that I am writing all of them. They’ll be interconnected to some degree, like a mini-universe inside the DC Universe (but they’ll still interact with that main DC Universe), but probably to a lesser extent than the original mini-series. Morrison went out of his way to find connections between all the characters, and it would be silly not to exploit that. Readers of Morrison's series may also remember that Millions the Mystery Mutt, world’s richest dog and former mascot of the Newsboy Army, appeared at the end of Seven Soldiers #1 to be given control over the East and West Coast mobs as the Dogfather; this will show up in all my imaginary series as an important plot point, if for no other reason than it’s too crazy not to run with.
The posts will go up whenever I finish them (hopefully once-a-week-ish). Each post will cover one ongoing series and will discuss themes, the status quo and storytelling engine, and –- like MGK’s similar posts –- a bunch of intriguing-sounding mysteries I am only going to hint at, and if you want to learn how they turn out, someone is going to have to put me in touch with DC Comics to write actual scripts for real. (Note: This is not going to happen.) Or just take me out to a bar and buy me lots of drinks. (Wait wait: WHY NOT DO BOTH?)
Unlike MGK’s posts, however, mine will not have cool little graphics at the top, and for this I can only apologize.
I hope to have the first up by the end of the week, and we’ll see how this goes. I’ll start out with the one that seemed the most explicitly set up by the end of Seven Soldiers, and my semi-namesake – Ystina, the Shining Knight.