Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Classics - The Futurians

In looking at Marvel's Graphic Novels of the 1980s, I came across a nearly-forgotten favorite - The Futurians.

Dave Cockrum rose to fame handling comics that featured large casts, including the Legion of Super-Heroes for DC and the "New" X-Men for Marvel.

He helped create new characters for each group, and most of those characters are still active today. Cockrum was a master of design and took a lot of inspiration from Wally Wood and Gil Kane (among others), but he brought his own sensibilities to every project.

This graphic novel gave Cockrum lots of room to run with. He created his own "reality" and populated it with numerous original heroes and villains, and based it on a complex science fiction idea.

The story started on the Earth millions of years in the future, when two warring super-science races tried to take control of the planet. The evil Inheritors realized they couldn't defeat the noble race known as Terminus, so they escaped into the past and destroyed the sun in the process.

Unable to follow, the scientists of Terminus instead sent "seeds" into the past, which connected with various humans and ultimately gave them super-powers which would allow them to fight back when the Inheritors launched their city-destroying attacks.

Whew! It was a complex concept, but it served its purpose - giving a solid explanation for the new heroes and villains, and allowing Cockrum to design and create seven original heroes, supporting casts and armies of bad guys and monsters for them to fight.

Best of all, it was all written with strong characters and a great sense of humor. I love the costume and character designs on display here. They may be a bit garish and somewhat dated (which is to be expected in a story created 30 years ago), but Cockrum had a great sense of what worked and his creations seemed to roll out with Kirby-like proficiency.

The story also gave him lots of room for some incredible, over-the-top action sequences - sort of the equivalent of today's blockbuster action films.

Sadly, the series never quite caught on. Perhaps the concept was too bulky, perhaps there were just too many characters and too much dialogue. Whatever the reason, this graphic novel led to a series of five (or six) regular-sized comics, but that was the end of it - a sad finish for a strong idea.

His string of successful works far outweigh the ones that flopped - but as The Futurians shows, even his lesser-known work was outstanding.

Dave Cockrum was a true giant of the industry, and he is sadly missed.

Grade: A



Glen Davis said...

Futurians was great. Those follow up comics for Deluxe were collected in a TPB. Cockrum was bringing the concept back right before his final ilness.

Chuck said...

Glen, I think Deluxe (or someone) also published the final issue, separate from the original series. This is one of the "what could have been" series...

Glen Davis said...

I think that was Cockrum's own company, AArdwolf that published the final issue.