Staff Favorite: When the “Old” becomes “New”: Marvel Comics’ “The Twelve”

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Being a hero is about the shortest-lived profession on earth. – Will Rogers

The Twelve: A Thrilling Novel of Tomorrow
written by J. Michael Stracynski
illustrated by Chris Weston
Find it in the GRAPHIC NOVEL SECTION (GN STR)

The 1940s to early 1950s where considered the Golden Age of Comics.  During this time (fueled by World War II) the comic book industry was at its height in popularity and at the center of this popularity were superheroes. Spurred on by characters such as Superman, Batman, Captain America, and Captain Marvel, companies all across the United States churned out imitations and knockoffs, hoping to capitalize on the market’s success. But eventually all good things come to an end. If you have read the Library’s article Critical Thinking Skills 101: The Danger of Perceived Expertise you have already learned that in the 1950s, the Golden Age of Comics ended and due to the restrictions of the Comic Book Code, many companies went out of business and the lesser known superheroes of the time were sent into the waist bin of obscurity.

Jump forward to 2008, on the heels of Marvel Comics (which was during the 1940s know as Timely Comics) 70th Anniversary, the company, whom has never been known for having much nostalgia of their past (compared to DC Comics which is almost a company of pure nostalgia), decided to dig in their waist bin and revive some of their long-forgotten characters. To do this they enlisted long-time comic book writer J. Michael Stracynski (Babylon 5 creator, Rising Stars, Squadron Supreme) and artist Chris Weston (The Invisibles) and asked them to basically recreate DC’s The Watchmen.

The story follows The Phantom Reporter, Electro, The Black Widow, The Laughing Mask, The Blue Blade, Dynamic Man, Master Mind Excello, Mister E, The Fiery Mask, The Witness, Rockman, Captain Wonder. A group of superheroes, who toward the end of WWII are captured by the last vestiges of the Nazi Party and placed into suspend in the hopes that studying them will lead to further advances in eugenics. Fortunately the group that captured them is killed off by invading forces. Unfortunately they never tell anyone about the frozen group, who are buried and forgotten by time. Flashforward to the present day Marvel (616) Universe: A sinkhole in Germany opens, revealing the secret location of the heroes who are then unthawed and welcomed to present times. The rest of the book deals with how these characters from the 1940s adjust (or not) to modern times on top of a murder mystery and flashbacks to the characters origins.

While the book is certainly not The Watchmen, it is a very interesting take on how someone from a different time would have to adjust. And the characters, while poorly named, are all very compelling in their own right.

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