Here we go into …
Before I go on, I’m doing my best to stay up with current major Marvel events, so for example, I’m operating under the assumption that all the depowered mutants, such as Jubilee, are still depowered, so that’s been eliminating a lot of characters from the map. Along the same line, I’m ignoring the newest incarnation of the New Warriors because, for the most part, it hasn’t filtered down into our collective memory just yet.
That being said, the one big event/theme I am ignoring is the 50-State Initiative program, because it essentially is doing the same thing I am. (But maybe they could use this as their roadmap!)
LOS ANGELES (Wonder Man, The Runaways, Werewolf by Night, Goliath, Shroud)
Wonder Man is arguably one of the biggest celebrity superheroes — or at least a superhero who relishes being in the public eye. While his superhero career transcends his efforts as an actor, the combination of the two roles, plus his chosen hometown make him enormously popular. As full-time L.A. resident, he’s loved by most and scorned by the bitter. Mostly concerned with city-wide or even national-level threats, Wonder Man usually only faces criticism because he often ignores street-level crime within the city.
Notes: Wonder Man is one of my favorite Marvel characters thanks to his 1990s series by Gerard Jones. It was funny and full of adventure. Likewise, it proved that Wonder Man isn’t dull. I see him as a not-so-good actor who’s struggling to prove himself as more than an example of “stunt casting.” Sticking him in Los Angeles, where he’s been for much of his heroing career, only makes sense.
The Runaways are an outlaw group of teenagers who are mostly concerned with social justice issues. As such, the Runaways often play both sides of the law as they operate in the greater Los Angelese region. With no discernable “neighborhood,” the group has been hard to pin down by the authorities, but that might also be because many see the group is indeed fighting for the good of the people. As such, efforts to contain the group have been half-hearted at best. The group’s members are Karolina Dean, Molly Hayes, Victor Mancha, Nico Minoru, Chase Stein, Xavin, Old Lace and Gertrude Yorkes.
Notes: A great series who’s early premise tries to explain why there’s so few heroes in L.A. Well, even if you disregard that premise, it’s still a great series. These guys are Cloak & Dagger for a new generation, and that’s an honorable place in the Marvel Universe.
Though not exactly a hero by conventional standards, the beast known as Werewolf By Night seems to call the greater Los Angeles area its home. The creature clearly has a good streak to its ferocious nature, as it seems to explicitly target criminals and members of the underworld power structure. The creature is really Jack Russell, a man afflicted with lycanthropy, and he has struggled for many years with the savage soul inside himself. Russell does in fact target his victims … often stalking and kidnapping the scum and villainy of the basin as Russell. Once he captures them, he then locks himself and his victim in a room and they wait out his transformation into the werewolf. From there, he just lets his “nature” take its course, and satisfies his animal needs to boot. With his ferocious, serial killer-like nature, Russell is wanted man by the authorities.
Notes: In this scenario, a Werewolf By Night series takes on the form of a confessional. Each of the criminals/slimeballs Russell targets quickly comes to terms with their fate: They will die savagely at the hands of a terrible beast. This foreknowledge makes them spill their guts on the horrible things they’ve done through their life, making the comic more of a done-in-one series about the victims rather than the Werewolf.
Though recently killed in the Superhero Civil War, Bill Foster, a.k.a. Goliath, was a giant among L.A.’s black community. Growing up in the toughest section of town, his drive pushed him to become a scientist and then he became a superhero. Though overshadowed by the world-saving efforts of dozens of other superheroes, Goliath made sure to reach out to minorities and the poor. These efforts, which often were little more than an unending parade of public appearances and volunteer efforts, endeared himself to the nation and the residents of L.A.’s ghetto in particular. With his death, Goliath’s popularity has grown immensely and there is now a small cottage industry on Goliath memoriablia.
Notes: Sure, Goliath, also known as Black Goliath, has had a spotty publishing history, but in the last few years, he went from a “never been” to a pretty awesome character to cannon fodder in “Civil War.” In the end, he also had a damn awesome costume!
Shroud, and even fewer know he’s actually a working for the greater good. Yes, his longstanding modus operandi is still intact. Posing as a sinister crime lord, the Shroud twists evil actions into good through subtle manipulation of all his cohorts. Even the police, FBI and SHIELD are fooled by his activities, because to them he’s near the top of their most-wanted charts. And while Shroud does engage in a lot of illegal activities, nearly all of them are to pit criminals against one another. This effort has repeatedly pit him against a group of supervillain crimelords known as The Pride, best known as the parents of The Runaways. In fact, much of his recent activity has been to secretly assist the Runaways in their efforts which, in turn, keeps The Pride’s focus away from their regular business, and helps to fulfill the Shroud’s secret goal.
Notes: The Shroud is one of those characters that I can not understand how he didn’t become more popular. He’s dark, he’s mysterious and he’s got a mean streak. What happened? Why didn’t anyone ever really exploit him? I guess that’s what happens when you aren’t based in New York City!
Superstars abound in the Los Angeles area, with Dazzler most frequently spotted in Hollywood’s club scene. A true jet-setter, Dazzler makes her permanent home in Hollywood even though she’s only in the area a few months each year. In fact, her Hollywood Hills mansion is more often used by the X-Men to crash on the West Coast than by Dazzler herself. While in the L.A. area, she’s more known for using her powers to perform rather than operate as a superhero. Still, her time in the Mojoverse has built her into a solid fighter who can be relied on in a battle.
Notes: Dazzler’s origins are quite strange: She
was the product of a record
deal that dried up for Marvel. Still, once she got through her disco phase, she turned out to be kind of cool. I forget where she was originally based, but California certainly makes sense!
BEVERLY HILLS (Wondra/Jubilee)
Though she no longer has her mutant powers, the girl once known as Jubilee has kept in the superhero biz as Wondra. Raised in Beverly Hills, she has returned to her hometown where, more than anything, she operates as a pest to the rich and famous. In particular, she works to expose the hypocrisy of the glitterati, often secretly setting them up for embarassing revelations. Although her efforts are primarily focused on this activity, she still operates as a “regular” superhero, addressing crime, natural disasters and other threats posed against the city, though they are admittedly very few and far between.
Notes: When Jubilee first appeared in the pages of the X-Men, I hated her. Ugh, was she tacky, and the X-Men’s writers seemed to think she was amazing. Then she showed up in the 1990s X-Men cartoon instead of Kitty Pryde. Boy, did that suck. My temper has cooled since then, and I suppose she’s a marginally entertaining character. Anyway, she was originally from Beverly Hills, and I see her as the Parish Hilton of the X-Men. Famous, frivolous and a little bit of a fool.
SACRAMENTO (Ghost Rider)
Sacramento, the state’s capitol, is also the primary base of operations for Johnny Blaze, the Ghost Rider, though he travels through the state and American West quite extensively. Originally a famed motorcycle stunt-rider, Blaze has faded into obscurity in popular culture, but he’s well-liked and well-respected by the nation’s “motorhead” and motorcycling crowd. Hardly a conventional hero, Blaze operates as Ghost Rider when the Spirit of Vengeance grips him to extract that vengeance. The spirit can draw him across the country if it so compels him. This in turn leads to a vagabond existence for Blaze, who can do little more than accept his fate and go along for the ride. As such, he’s generally viewed as a complete basketcase by the public at large.
Notes: Very few heroes in the Marvel Universe are “legacy heroes,” which is a standard for the DC Universe. Johnny Blaze isn’t even the first Ghost Rider. That honor goes to an early Marvel cowboy hero. It’s an odd designation for one of the 1990s “kewl” heroes, but Ghost Rider is certainly a legacy hero. Most of his early adventures took place out west, so California, home to some of the 1960s-1970s motorcycle subculture, was a good fit as his home base.
SAN JOSE (The Fantastic Four, F.F. allies and villains, El Aguila)
The Fantastic Four is based in Silicon Valley, better known as San Jose. Though they are officially a “California team “they are, in fact, extreme “universe” trotters as their scientfic explorations lead them around the world, through the galaxies and across multiple dimensions. And although they are away from San Jose for much of the year, they still call the valley their home, and work to protect it from any major threat. The team, which consists of Mr. Fantastic, Human Torch, The Thing and Invisible Woman, is especially popular with the highly educated, scientific-minded residents of San Jose. Essentially, the point of moving the FF across the country is to just do it. This, of course, means that many of the villains and minor heroes associated with the team gets transfered here too. Dr. Doom and Black Panther, for example, are often in the area supervising technology development. The Sub-Mariner is found amnesiatic and seperated (by a whole continent) from Atlantis here. Others, such as Annihilus and Blastaar surface here through Reed’s experiments. And skrulls simply congregate here because of the area’s high-tech focus.
Notes: If you read early issues of the F.F. comic, you’ll find out that the team actually blasted off from a base in California. Because of their universe-trotting escapades, I hardly think it’s important to keep them in NYC. With that in mind, I shoved them back to California, and into the place where uber-geeks are everywhere — silicon valley!
While the F.F. turns its eyes toward galactic-level threats, the less showy defense of San Jose falls upon the confident shoulders of El Aguila, even after losing his mutant abilities. A Zorro-like character, El Aguila deals almost exclusively with street-level crime and issues of social justice. Though he labors in the shadow of the world’s most famous superteam, he knows that he’s got a real grip on San Jose’s heartbeat. It’s true that he’s sometimes is joined by the F.F. in attending to local problems, but local authorities know that the first person to turn to is El Aguila, because he’s always there for them first.
Notes: I love El Aguila. His costume is just so cool that it makes me giggle like a schoolgirl. But no matter what my personal opinion, he was never able to reach beyond being an infrequent guest star. I figure that pairing him with the F.F. can only give him a boost.
SAN FRANCISCO (Living Lightning and Shadowoman)
The Living Lightning has bounced around California for his entire career, but he now resides in San Francisco and serves as its primary protector. As a former Avenger he carries a bit of clout, even if he was far from one of its most powerful recruits. His clout has helped to elevate the reputation of his crime-fighting partner, Shadowoman, a mysterious woman often confused with Spider-Woman. As one is wielder of the Darkforce and the other the blazing power of lightning, the two work as a crime-fighting pair often compared with Cloak & Dagger — she’s the dark and he’s the light. As a “dynamic duo,” they have worked successfully to crush any superhuman threat to the bay. The pairing has led to speculation that the two are a couple, but that is not the case. Instead, they are allies by cause — and the love for a city.
Notes: Two relatively obscure characters adds up to make them a major character right? Well probably not. Both these characters are pretty cool, but they could never make a comic on their own. Maybe together and a heavy application on the “light and darkness” theme would help. They certainly are cool enough that they deserve a homebase of their own, and given Living Lightning’s “affliation,” this city works just right.
In the last year or so, the real MU X-Men have moved to San Fran. I think that’s an awesome idea, and theLiving Lightning and Shadowoman would serve as a great supplement to that team.
SAN DIEGO/TIJUANA, MEXICO (Spider-Woman)
Jessica Drew, best known as Spider-Woman works primarily in San Diego and it’s ajoining city in Mexico, Tijuana. Seen as a shifty individual by local American authorities — even with her affliation with the Avengers — she hasn’t been well received by the city’s residents or authorities. In fact, she does very little “crime-fighting” in the area. Instead, she seems to operate in the city on matters that only seem important to her. She doesn’t really fight crime or protect the public good, she just fights people she doesn’t like (or fights people that don’t like her).
At the same time, Spider-Woman is seen as a champion in Tijuana, where she regularly thwarts rampant drug activity and violence, though some actually wonder if she might be interfering in the drug trade for her own reasons, rather than the public good.
Notes: Spider-Woman is a damn cool character. Recent revelations have shown that she’s been a skrull for quite a while. That doesn’t matter, when the real Jessica Drew returns, she’s welcome to set up camp in San Diego. Her original adventures were set in Los Angeles, but I moved her to San Diego just to give her more prominence. Adding in the Tijuana tie helps bring something new to the mix, and certainly adds a heck of a lot more for her to do.