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Reviews and commentary by Tony Isabella
"America's Most Beloved Comic-Book Writer & Columnist"

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for Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Something different for today.

Shortly after one of my TOT readers expressed his interest in seeing any of my unsuccessful pitches, I came across a Marvel pitch I wrote over two years ago (October 2007). This particular pitch came about because Ron Wilson, an artist I'd worked with at Marvel back in the 1970s, wanted me to develop an idea he'd had for, not just a story or a series, but an event.

Ron's fairly rough idea was for a special wherein a character he'd drawn in the 1980s challenged some of Marvel's greatest heroes to a aeries of rematches with the added bonus being these rematches would be written and drawn by some of the best Marvel writers and artists of the 1970s and 1980s. He asked me to come up with a plot to encompass these battles and write the formal pitch. I thought this was an intriguing challenge, so I set to work.

No Marvel editor ever went for this pitch, so it's remained in my files ever since while the Marvel Universe has continued to move on from where it was at the time I wrote it. But, hey, when a guy is doing five columns a week, such things have a habit of surfacing when you least expect them.

'Nuff said. Here's the pitch...

Marvel Two-in-One Annunal 7

by Tony Isabella and Ron Wilson
(proposal for limited series)

To save the universe, he must challenge himself as no warrior has ever done before. To save the universe, he must once again become its champion!


This is the story of a fallen champion who struggles to regain his honor and his warrior's edge, who must challenge himself physically and mentally, and who, in triumphing, becomes more than he had ever realized he could be.

On a creative level, this is a series that will reunite some of the best writers and artists of the 1970s with each other and with the characters who made them stars.


Tryco Slatterus wanders the forgotten corners of the universe. He is an Elder of the Universe. Once he possessed the Power Gem, one of the Infinity Gems, and deemed himself Champion of the Universe. Now he calls himself "The Fallen One," disgraced by his defeats at the hands of the She-Hulk and Titania. Despair and shame are his only companions.

But, in the wake of the Annihilation Wave and other cosmic events, a new force has arisen in the universe. If we could describe/name this force in our language, we might call him the "cosmic sponge." He absorbs the remnants of emotion and energy left in the wake of galactic chaos, tragedy, and wars, converting these into power with which he will conquer the universe. Sadly, there is no shortage of pain and death in our universe. His power grows with each world he crushes, but, in a universe torn by cosmic wars, he remains largely under the radar. Soon he will be unstoppable.

A surviving warrior from one of the Cosmic Sponge's conquests finds Tryco and convinces the former Champion to challenge the Sponge to battle. Alas, Tryco's attempt to regain his former glory is undone by his atrophied skills, his lack of experience in fighting such a foe without his Power Gem, and, ultimately, his lack of confidence. Tryco has lost his fighting heart. The once-invincible Champion of the Universe is easily and ignominiously defeated.

However, in his moment of deepest despair, Tryco finds the strength to challenge himself anew. With the old warrior as his trainer and guide, he decides to return to Earth and test himself against the heroes and villains of that remarkable world. Some encounters will find Tryco fighting against Earth's heroes and some will find him fighting as their ally. He will regain his fighting heart and far more. He will find a more heroic purpose to his life than battling for mere glory and power.

In the finale of the series, Tryco will challenge the Cosmic Sponge and, at the seeming cost of his own life, triumph. The conqueror has been slain, but it looks like Tryco will soon follow him into death's dark realm. Except...

Tryco's fighting heart will not allow him to surrender. He lives. He heals. He regains his strength. Then, mysteriously, one night, he slips away into the night. His legend grows, but no one knows where he has gone.

The series ends with Tryco laboring on one of the worlds devastated by the Cosmic Sponge. He is incognito, working to bring the world back to life. His successes are small, but steady, and, when he's done with his work here, he will move on to the next world in need of a secret champion.


Ideally, I'd like to write the bookends of this series with Ron drawing them. How many issues go between those bookends and who will write/draw them depends on what Marvel thinks the market will support and who is available/interested.

Ignoring - for now - that there may be legal and/or personal issues involved with some of the creative teams I'd like to see, here's a list of some possibilities:

FANTASTIC FOUR by Stan Lee and Keith Pollard
INCREDIBLE HULK by Len Wein and Herb Trimpe
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN by Gerry Conway and John Romita
AVENGERS by Roy Thomas and George Perez
X-MEN by Chris Claremont and John Byrne
IRON MAN by David Michelinie and Bob Layton
IRON FIST by Chris Claremont and John Byrne
LUKE CAGE by Tony Isabella and Ron Wilson
THE THING by Roy Thomas and Ron Wilson
GHOST RIDER by Gary Friedrich and Mike Ploog (though I'd be a reasonable substitute for Gary, much as I'd like to see him writing his creation again)
BLACK PANTHER by Don McGregor and Rich Buckler
SHANG-CHI by Doug Moench and Paul Gulacy
CAPTAIN AMERICA by Steve Englehart and Sal Buscema
DOCTOR STRANGE by Steve Englehart and Frank Brunner
DAREDEVIL by Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan
DEFENDERS by Steve Gerber and Sal Buscema
SUB-MARINER by Roy Thomas and Gene Colan

I'm going by my doubtless less-than-perfect memories of what super-hero titles Marvel was publishing in the 1970s and who was writing and drawing them.

Additionally, Marvel might want to salt contemporary artists into the mix. At a con recently, a popular young artist introduced himself to me, expressed his regard for my writing, and asked if we could work together on something. Some of Marvel's impressive new (newer) talents might likewise jump at a chance to work with an old pro whose work they enjoyed when they were younger.

For me, as a writer and reader, among the most interesting aspects of the one-shots would be seeing myself and others working on contemporary versions of characters we used to write and draw back in the day. Obviously, egos would have to be checked at the door. The characters have to be the characters they are today and not the characters as we did them in the 1970s.

Equally important, each one-shot has to have some meaning for the overall story. Tryco has to hone some skill, learn something about himself, etc. in each and every one of them. The editor (editors) will have to steer the writers - myself included - into keeping the overall story on track.

That's the pitch. This could be an exciting story/event. If you like what you've read so far, Ron and I would be delighted to take it to whatever next step you require.

Tony Isabella October 28, 2007


It's only two years and four months since I wrote the above pitch, but the Marvel Universe and the real world have gone through considerable changes in that time. In the Marvel Universe, we have had the Skrull Secret Invasion, the Dark Reign of Norman Osborn, and a universe-spanning War of Kings. In the real world, we lost Steve Gerber, a great writer, friend, and man. Not to mention the political and economic upheavals of past few years, mostly because thinking about them makes me as sad as Gerber's absence.

As I later found out, "Rematch" was never a Marvel-sanctioned offer or discussion...and a Marvel editor expressed his regret that I wasted valuable mental energy on the pitch. But, as I told the editor, Ron was a pal and, even if nothing came of it, I enjoyed the exercise. I was trying to sharpen my old comics writing skills in ways I couldn't do with the other work I was doing then. On the bright side - okay, I'm stretching bright a lot here - my current lack of employment offers me ample time to both sharpen my comics writing skills and to pursue other projects. If anything good happens on either front, I'll let you know.

Thanks for spending a part of your day with me. I'll be back Wednesday with more stuff.

Tony Isabella

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Zero Tonys
ZERO: Burn your money before buying any comic receiving this rating. It doesn't *necessarily* mean there's absolutely nothing of value here - though it *could* - but whatever value it might possess shrinks into insignificance before its overall awfulness.

ONE: Buy something else. Maybe I found something which wasn't completely dreadful in the item, but not enough for me to recommend it when there are better comics available. I only want what's best for you, my children.

TWO: Basic judgment call. I found some value, but not enough to recommend it. My review should give you enough info to decide if you want to take a chance on it. Are you feeling lucky today, punk? Well, are you?

THREE: This denotes something I find perfectly respectable. There are better books out there, but I wouldn't regret buying this item. Based on my review, you should be able to determine if it's of interest to you. Let the Force guide you.

FOUR: I recommend anything earning this rating. Unless you don't like the genre, subject matter, or past work of the creators, I believe you'll enjoy this item. Isn't it uncanny how I can look right into your soul that way?

FIVE: Anything getting this rating is among the best comicdom has to offer. You should buy/read this, even if the genre/subject matter doesn't appeal to you. It's for your own good. Me, I live for comics and books this good...but not in a pathetic "Comic-Book Guy" sort of way.

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