Stand Up Comics: Return of the Mack

Shelf Awareness is happy to welcome back Stand Up Comics and its author, Adan Jimenez, who is once again highlighting great comics that you can handsell to your customers. Since this is the first column in a while, he's focusing on some other recent returns in comics--concepts, characters, and creators--but none that require any foreknowledge to enjoy. So, without further ado, read the column, then read some Stand Up Comics!

Champions v1: Change the World by Mark Waid, Humberto Ramos, and Victor Olazaba (Marvel Comics, $15.99, 9781302906184)
The Champions originally premiered in 1975 with members previously from the X-Men and the Avengers. It ran for less than three years and was plagued by an erratic publishing schedule and an incredibly high turnover of creative teams (12 teams in only 17 issues). The Champions ended in January 1978, and the team popped up only three times in the next 40 or so years. Then Mark Waid rebooted the concept in 2016.

In this new version, the Champions are some the most popular teenage heroes Marvel is currently publishing: Ms Marvel, Nova, Miles Morales Spider-Man, Viv Vision, Amadeus Cho Hulk and the young time-displaced Cyclops. As we're seeing in real life, these teens are fed up with how adult heroes are dealing with various problems in the world, especially after the second superhero civil war disillusions them. But instead of just fighting bad guys, these Champions attempt to fight for justice and deal with some realistic problems that have nothing to do with super-villains, including taking down a sex trafficker, helping girls in South Asia fight against fundamentalist zealots who would rather kill them than let them learn, and exposing a corrupt, racist sheriff in small-town America.

This is a series that especially needs a boost as the vagaries of corporate superhero publishing may not give it enough time to find its audience.

Handselling opportunities: Fans of the more diverse and inclusive Marvel heroes from recent times, and fans of stories with causes.

Doom Patrol v1: Brick by Brick by Gerard Way, Nick Derington, Tom Fowler and Tamra Bonvillain (Young Animal/DC Comics, $16.99, 9781401269791)
The last time we saw Gerard Way, frontman of My Chemical Romance, in the comics world, he was penning the completely unexpected Umbrella Academy. I say unexpected because almost every other time musicians tried their hand at making comics, we got nonsense like Glenn Danzig's Satanika or Gene Simmons's House of Horrors (though M.F. Grimm's Sentences: The Life of M.F. Grimm was pretty amazing). But Umbrella Academy was stunning, surreal and sublime (and is now being made into a TV series by Netflix).

Way finally returned to comics in a big way, being given his own imprint at DC Comics, Young Animal, which is being heralded as the new Vertigo. He currently runs four series under that imprint, two of which he writes: Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye with Michael Avon Oeming, and Doom Patrol, a series making its own triumphant return.

There have been six Doom Patrol series total, but arguably the best runs were by Grant Morrison and Rachel Pollack's from the late '80s and early '90s, and that's exactly what Way mines for his new series. Robotman, Negative Man, Jane Morris, Danny the Ambulance (né the Street) and Flex Mentallo are all returning members, and Way draws very clear throughlines from Morrison and Pollack's work to his own, from the absurdity of the Doom Patrol's adventures to the creepiness of Niles Caulder (yes, he's back, too). But what really shines in this new Doom Patrol is new character Casey Brinke, who acts as the audience surrogate upon entering this weird and wacky world but acclimates much faster than the rest of us. Still, it's the weirdness of it all that makes me very excited to see what comes next.

Handselling opportunities: Fans of Way's Umbrella Academy collections and Morrison's Doom Patrol, of course, but also fans of the surrealism of David Lynch and Salvador Dalí.

The Wild Storm v1 by Warren Ellis and Jon Davis-Hunt (DC Comics, $16.99, 9781401274184)
Jim Lee sold his WildStorm imprint to DC Comics in 1998, and debuted Warren Ellis's excellent Authority and Planetary, and Joe Casey's underrated Wildcats. A few years after that, the "Eye of the Storm" initiative cemented WildStorm as a mature readers imprint with a new Gen13 series by Chris Claremont, Ed Brubaker's acclaimed Sleeper, Joe Casey's Wildcats 3.0 and Micah Ian Wright's unfinished but excellent Stormwatch: Team Achilles. Then "Worldstorm" happened, which attempted to bring the imprint's characters back to their superhero roots, then "World's End" happened, which took the concepts to an apocalypse and beyond--and then the imprint sputtered out.

When DC relaunched its entire universe as the New52, WildStorm properties were all folded into the main superhero continuity alongside Superman, Wonder Woman and the Batman. But they never quite gelled, and many of the WildStorm characters that had initially been such an important part of the new universe mostly faded away and disappeared (except for the Midnighter, who had an excellent series penned by Steve Orlando and often guest-starred in Tom King's equally excellent Grayson).

Now, Ellis has come back to the properties that made him a household name. In The Wild Storm, Ellis is using many of the core WildStorm concepts and characters, but reimagining them for the present day. Ellis has been given a similar mandate as Way with Young Animal and will be creating multiple series for his new WildStorm universe. In this first title, we are given a glimpse of the shadowy new world: Miles Craven's International Operations secretly runs the Earth, while Henry Bendix's Skywatch secretly runs outer space. Jacob Marlowe's HALO Corporation sits between them, attempting secretly to bootstrap the human race into the future as quickly and safely as possible. When I/O engineer Angela Spica saves Marlowe with technology she stole from I/O, she inadvertently reveals that the technology was originally stolen from Skywatch and sets in motion a series of events that will bring everything into the light. Ellis is a favorite writer of mine, and I can't wait to see where he goes from here (and how many other characters he folds in; Ben Santini already got a mention!).

Handselling opportunities: Fans of "Eye of the Storm"-era WildStorm titles, and fans of Warren Ellis in general, who is in top form here.

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