Thursday, October 22, 2009

It is time to launch a new Flight book

Welcome to the new Flight...
So, as has been discussed on numerous times by various posters, the quality that most defines a successful Alpha Flight comic seems to be a sense of family and connection between the characters (and I would say that two other qualities that define a successful AF comic would be, focussing more on characterization than just running from massive battle to massive battle, and having a creative team who is passionate about and committed to the characters).

This leads me to the natural thought – how would a new launch of the Alpha Flight franchise look, for it to be successful and satisfy both new readers and long-time fans?

First, who would the creative team be? Second, what characters would be on the team? Third, how would the creative team launch this series?

Let me tackle the characters first; and I think I will mix in some of the “launching” into this portion of it. It stands to reason (at least in my mind it does) that if characterization and connections are a large part of this series, then that directly ties into the characters that are to be in the series.

Characters that should be in the series...actually, let’s start with characters that should NOT be in the series. Guardian; sad to say, it is time to lay him to rest permanently. And the Guardian suit, too. And the whole Mac and Department H thing. It has run its time, run its course, and it should be done with. A new page is needed. Just like we first heard that Omega Flight was going to honour the past but be different, the new Alpha Flight launch needs to do something similar (only it should actually stay true to that, without the interference of Marvel executives who do not know or respect this franchise). I love Guardian as much as anyone does. I deeply respect what Mac and Heather have done for the Alpha Flight series. I actually applauded bringing Guardian back, I never liked the fact that Mac died in issue 12. But enough is enough. I feel that the best way to honour the sacrifice of both Mac and Heather, is to leave them in the grave. Their time is done. But their legacy lives on, in the people they have affected by their actions and their selflessness.

So, how do we bring in characters with a sense of family ties and deep friendships, yet still honour the past, while putting (gently) to bed the fragile remains of Mac and Heather and others who have made the ultimate sacrifice?

Well, first we have Walter Langkowski. Football star. Scientist. Brilliant man. Great big hairy beastie, given to fits of rage, and always aware that he could be a conduit for the Great Beasts to enter our world. A staple and a cornerstone of Alpha Flight (and Omega Flight), he was in every significant series (well, technically, he never showed up in Volume 2 until the end of it...). And he should definitely be in Volume 4 of Alpha Flight. (Which begs the question, should Alpha Flight be called “Alpha Flight”, or “AF Vol 4”, or should it just be called “Flight” perhaps? – Personally, I like the thought of calling the comic “Flight”, but having the team be called Alpha Flight.)

Of all the characters who “died” at the hands of Michael Pointer defending their country, I think the only one who should be “brought back” is Puck, Eugene Judd. I have a thought for how to bring him back, which I will discuss later on...

Now, having already said that Sasquatch will be an integral part of the new Flight (yes, that is how I will refer to it for now) , I think a wonderful way to involve some past history of Alpha Flight in the new Flight book, would be to include Aurora. Not only to include her on the team, but to have her be mentally stable enough to be attached romantically to Langkowski. In fact, I would love for the opening scene of the new Flight book to be (sorry, I know I am jumping ahead here) the wedding of Sasquatch and Aurora, which would be attended (in plain clothes) by all the new members of Alpha Flight. Immediately following the wedding, the team is pressed into action against The Master. We get to watch the team in battle against a dangerous enemy, and do not actually know yet who all the members of the team are! The battle could last several issues, perhaps, and we could have flashbacks showing how the team came together and helping to generally introduce the characters to the readers. Having Aurora (but leaving Northstar with the X-Peoples) would give Alpha Flight yet another link to the X-Men for future meetings and cross-overs. And hey, who doesn’t love Northstar’s disdain for Sasquatch, and his protective hovering over his sister? What an awesome way to bring that back to the Flight!

Seriously, I love my little idea for the start of the series. Remember how awesome (John Byrne’s) volume 1’s back stories were, showing who the characters were and how they came to be a part of Flight? That is the sort of thing this idea leaves wide open for use by the new creative team. Think about the possibilities...

Walter’s present partner-in-crime is Arachne. One of the things I would like to see covered in the new Flight series is to actually see her being granted dual-citizenship, to give her a real reason to stay in Canada. Julia is also great, because she has the tag-along, her daughter, which also helps to give Flight that family feel.

To further that end, and with my mind lovingly connecting to the old days of the West Coast Avengers series and the Vision and the Scarlet Witch mini-series, I would like to see Julia’s boyfriend, the Shroud, brought to Canada to be part of Alpha Flight as well. I know that he is undercover in America as part of the criminal underworld, so what we need to do is screw that up for him. With all the crap going on in Marvel comics right now, with Osborne and the Hood and all, it seems it would be pretty easy for somebody to discover that the Shroud is really a good guy, and “out” him. With his cover blown, his days undercover as a bad guy have to be behind him. What better thing to do, than join his girlfriend in Canada as part of the new Alpha Flight? Once again, we have the family relationship aspect of Alpha Flight. More and more, it is already becoming a lot like John Byrne meant it to be, as a sister-comic to the Fantastic Four, more like the family feel of that comic than the team comics that are X-Men and the Avengers.

Again, the new Flight comic does not always have to star every member in each issue. The writers can go back to the tried-and-true of having some issues be stand-alone adventures for one or two of the members. This allows Alpha Flight to have a fairly large number of members, but still keep that close-knit family feel and work on developing characters in a way that has meaning and stays true to who the characters are. I bring this up, because, so far, for characters, we have Puck (still unrevealed as to how he comes to be alive and well), Sasquatch, Aurora, Arachne, and Shroud. That makes 5 characters, and I have 6 more that I want on this team still!

First, though, another word about who should NOT be on this team. Although I deeply respect what magic-users and mystical beings such as Shaman, Talisman, and Snowbird brought to Alpha Flight in the past, I think that none of them (nor Earthmover, either) should be a permanent part of this team. I have no problem with Alpha Flight hooking up with Talisman or Snowbird at times, indeed I expect it to happen from time to time (it would be wrong to completely ignore these characters), but I also think it is important to establish that Canada has other heroes that are not current members of Alpha Flight, ones that are off having adventures and keeping Canada safe (even though we may not see those adventures). – As an aside, I’d like to have it be established that Talisman has taken Albert Louis (Feedback) under her wing and is advising him and helping him to manage his powers. I’m not sure why that is really important, I just think it would be a cool way of establishing that characters that are not heard from are still alive and active. - So, all this is to say that I do not wish for Talisman and/or Snowbird to be a part of Alpha Flight, but I do want them to show up in the books from time to time, and to be spoken of as if they have real lives and are busy in them defending Canada from other menaces that Alpha Flight themselves are not facing.

Having said that, I am sure some of you are wondering how Alpha Flight will fare without a magical person on the team. Quite well, thank you! As already established, when the story calls for it, Talisman and/or Snowbird will be available to help the team out. Perhaps the spirit/ghost of Shaman can show up at times, too. And, the team has this new character on it...

One of the new characters that I like is Airborne, who is a young half-Asian man from Vancouver, Charles Thomas “Tommy” Wong. His primary power is a limited, by-touch control over gravity. This is his main ability (which he gained in an accident). His mother was an Asian woman, and his father was Smart Alec (Alec Thorne). This gives him some interesting ties to Alpha Flight’s past and history, does it not? Like his father, he is brilliant, but only as far as numbers go. Amazingly enough, he has an innate understanding of and sense for magic, although he is incapable of using it himself. Basically, he senses magic by “seeing it” as a series of numbers and numerical equations that he can make sense of.

...He may not be able to use magic, but he can sense it and understand it. I am sure this will be useful to Alpha Flight at times.

Next character to bring into the fold is another new character. It is not really known if she is a mutant, having been this way from a young age, but is something of a snow-leopard/human cross. Like Marina before her, she brings to mind the fact that Canadians are thought of world-wide as friendly and accepting, as she was adopted by a human couple. She can change back and forth between her furry form and a more human-seeming form. She is furry (black and white stripes), has a tail, and has slightly-clawed hands. She has cat eyes with excellent vision, and can also smell quite well. She is quick and agile (but no super speed or reflexes), and has a working knowledge of karate at an amazingly high level. She comes from the Yukon area of Canada. She was recruited by Sasquatch to be a member of the new Alpha Flight, and her first mission for him (before the new Flight was officially a ‘go’) was to hunt down Yukon Jack and see if she could bring him into the fold. This task she successfully completed. Her codename is “Marten”, which is a weasel-like animal from the northern forests. The name given her by her adoptive parents is Angelica Bianca Hannover.

Which leads us to Yukon Jack himself. As you may recall, he was supposed to have married the doppelganger of Snowbird, which he did. But not long afterwards, she winked out of existence. He pined after her. In truth, he began to wander the frozen north, searching for her. And, if you think about this closely, you will understand why having Snowbird permanently on the team is not an option. However, think of the fun the first time the two meet! She is a half-god or demi-god. He thinks he is a god, has a superior attitude (a la Thor or Namor), and thinks she is his long-lost love. Let the sparks (and fists) fly! Lol. Yukon Jack is a great character. He is powerful, he is unpredictable, he has so far been little used (so no convoluted back-story to fix up), and he has the attitude that every team needs. He tends to be a loner because of his attitude, but the one person who has earned his respect and friendship is Marten, who successfully tracked him down and convinced him to come and join up with Alpha Flight. Throw in his moodiness over having lost his wife and not being able to find her, and you have a real gem in Y.J. that a decent writer will have a field-day with.

Next up for the new Alpha Flight is Purple Girl. Yes, I said “Purple Girl” and not “Persuasion.” Why? Read on!

As we all know, PG was a former member of Alpha Flight and Beta Flight. In particular, she has connections to Northstar because of her earlier crush on him. But the real reason she is here, is because having her present is the way that we get to have Puck back on the team. Although we have all thought that Alpha Flight died the day they met the Collective-possessed Pointer, we later found out that Sasquatch had survived. In the same way, Puck too, survived. The problem was, he survived in a brain-dead state. Literally, he was kept physically alive only by machines; his brain activity had shut down. In a last ditch effort to save him, Walter (wouldn’t it be nice to see Walter visiting Puck in some hospital!) finds Persuasion and calls her in. She makes a tremendous effort and commands him to “awake”. Pucks turns a deep purple colour, sits bolt upright, his brain functions miraculously returning. But Persuasion slumps to the ground, cries out, then passes out. Puck’s skin returns to its normal tone, but he remains sitting up, breathing on his own, his brain functioning properly, now fully healed. Persuasion recovers, too; but her powers have fled. The strain appears to have been too much for her. Although her powers have gone away, her skin still stays purple, so she goes back to the moniker of the Purple Girl.

So, you ask, if she has no more powers, why is she a part of Alpha Flight? Maybe it is because of the influence of the next two members of Alpha Flight to be introduced...

Next up is Manikin, or Doctor Whitman Knapp. Former intern to Dr Lionel Jeffries, Madison’s crazy brother (now deceased). Former boyfriend of Purple Girl. Now a full-fledged doctor in his own right. Lost the ability to draw three past/future versions of humanity out of himself, but he now has the ability to become one of the three himself. How will he and the Purple Girl feel about each other? Will they pick up their romance, or just be friends? As for Manikin himself, let’s establish some limitations. Seems to me, his abilities as Highbrow never had any real limits, and that is not a good thing. I think his ability to teleport people or things should have some strict limits on it. I also think that, although it is stated that Highbrow can “fly”, I would much rather leave this as simple levitation. Also, the “circuitry’ that is seen on his skin, can we just call that some form of tattoo or something, rather than leaving us with the feeling that this mysterious stuff on his skin is an unlimited power source of some sort? Everybody needs restrictions, and I think that by restricting what he can do as Highbrow, we establish this for Manikin. Besides, I see him being important in many ways to this team, such as being a support for Purple Girl, and also his medical training being much needed without Michael Twoyoungmen on the team anymore (RIP, Michael).

Also on the team is everybody’s favourite Brit and former leader of Beta Flight, Colin Hume Ashworth. He has immediate ties to both Manikin and Purple Girl, and can be a steadying influence to Purple Girl in particular , as he too understands what it means to lose ones powers. Speaking of having lost his powers...what is he doing on the team? Well, simple, really; it is redemption time for him. In my mind, he was always shown to be too weak-minded, and I think it is time he was shown to be a true hero. To that end, I decided that during all the time that Omega Flight was arresting those villains who fled north across the border into Canada, they surely must have confiscated some super-technology and stuff from the villains. So, I have given him a confiscated suit belonging to a villain that I call “the Fly”. He has taken both the costume and name of the former villain, and now has a suit/belt that allows him to shrink down to small size, fly, and also has gloves that allow him to pack a big whallop of a punch. Drawbacks? Well, he has to either be small, or not be able to use any of the other powers in the suit. Also, after about 5 to 6 hours of continuous use, the suit must be “plugged in” and recharged. The technology is alien, of unknown origin, so it cannot be copied.

And that, that is my version of the new Alpha Flight team of heroes! Following are my Alpha Flight team, as envisioned by moi!

1. Sasquatch ( Dr. Walter Langkowski )

Sasquatch is Dr. Walter Langkowski.

When making official appearances, Langkowski wears this cool looking orange spandex costume.

Walter wears orange briefs of unstable molecules,

that shrink and grow with his drastic changes in mass, so as to avoid being arrested for indecent exposure every time he changes from Sasquatch form to Walter form.

2. Aurora ( Jeanne-Marie Beaubier-Langkowski )

Aurora is the resident flying speedster mutant of Alpha Flight, and now that her mental state is pretty much under control she has become the new wife of longtime love Dr. Walter Langkowski. Her new name is Jeanne-Marie Beaubier-Langkowski.

Aurora’s new costume has done away with the maple leaf design, as Alpha Flight has decided to honor the late James Hudson by refusing to wear any maple leafs on their costumes; from now on, the maple leaf design stays with him in the grave.

3. Puck ( Eugene Milton Judd )

Puck is back. Eugene Milton Judd, wise-cracking investigator and tumbler, a man cursed with dwarfism from birth, is back from the seeming-dead, and Canada could not be happier.

Along with his rebirth, Judd has gone back to a classic design for his costume.

4. Arachne ( Julia Cornwall Carpenter )

Arachne is Julia Cornwall Carpenter, mother of Rachael Carpenter, and now a citizen of both the USA and Canada.

She too has changed the design of her costume.

5. The Shroud ( Maximilian Quincy Coleridge )

The Shroud is Maximillian Quincy Coleridge, a blind man who controls the Dark Force.

He is also a former long-time mole in the machinations of evil, having spent a lot of time working undercover as a villain.

With the fact that he is really a hero on the side of good out in the open, he has been marked for death by many a villain that he has crossed, and so Max Coleridge bolted for the Canadian border to come and be with his long-time girlfriend, Julia Cornwall. Here is the Shroud in costume.

6. Airborne ( Charles Thomas “Tommy” Wong )

Airborne is Charles Thomas Wong, or Tommy as he likes to be called. Tommy is a half-Asian young man of 19 years of age, born in Vancouver and raised there by his immigrant mother and grandparents.

At the age of 16, he was involved in an accident resulting from his being chased by members of a Chinese-Canadian triad, and he somehow gained the ability to affect the pull of gravity on an object or person; this is only activated by touch, though. So, Tommy could touch a person and cause them to either be rooted to the ground or to free-float into the air. There is a limited and finite number of objects or people that Tommy can touch and activate with his powers before he loses control over everybody or everything he has affected. And here is Tommy in costume as Airborne.

Airborne also has other powers and things of interest. Tommy’s father was none other than Alec Thorne, or Smart Alec. Because of this, Tommy is unusually brilliant, at least as far as numbers and numerical equations go. Amazingly enough, he has an innate understanding of and sense for magic, although he is incapable of using it himself; basically, he senses magic by “seeing it” as a series of numbers and numerical equations that he can make sense of. He cannot use magic, but he can sense it and understand it. When using this innate ability to see magic as a numerical equation, Tommy’s eyes go completely white and pupil-less. Because of this, he has incorporated a pair of wrap-around sunglasses into his costume. Airborne stands 5 feet, 5 inches tall. He is 125 lbs. He has short, black hair. He is very polite. Brown eyes. His hobbies are X-Box and skateboarding. He also loves martial arts movies. For all intents and purposes, Tommy is a normal 19 year old young man.

7. Marten ( Angelica Bianca Hannover )

Angelica Bianca Hannover grew up in Whitehorse, Yukon. She was adopted by a nice Canadian family when she was 10 months old. Her real parents are unknown.

By the time she was one, she began to show the ability to “change forms”, switching back and forth from a human resemblance to the form of a grey and white furred creature with a tail. Ma and Pa Hannover took this in stride, and raised the child with love. At 15 years old, Bianca’s parents died (Ma of cancer, and Pa of a broken heart soon afterwards), and she went to live with her Aunt Matilda in Fredericton, New Brunswick, where she stayed until she was 19. She then spent five years living in Montreal, where she became fluent in French, then moved to Edmonton for two more years. Finally, at 26 years of age, she moved back to Whitehorse. Not long after arriving back there, she helped to track down a robbery suspect by using her “furry form”, and got a write-up in the local paper.

Sasquatch saw this article and contacted her to join the new Alpha Flight; but first, he sent her to try to track down the elusive Yukon Jack and offer him membership as well. Bianca took and completed this assignment, and earned the respect and friendship of Yukon Jack, who commented to her that she looked like a northern weasel, like a marten. She liked the name, and Marten became her code name. Bianca is 5’2” and weighs 120 lbs. She has long blonde hair and brown eyes. She has a pilot’s license. When Bianca becomes Marten, she is 5’6” and weighs 130 lbs. Marten has grey and white fur growing in a pattern resembling that of a zebra or perhaps a tiger. Her feet are human-like, but with a longer tuft of fur on the top, and with hard soles that allow her to not have to wear shoes. Her hands have slight claws at the end of her fingers, and she has another of those longer tufts of fur at her wrists. She has a wide, striped, long-furred tail. Her face is a cross between a human bone structure and that of a canine snout. She has brilliant green eyes that are shaped like cats’ eyes, and a mess of long grey fur on top of her head. Although Marten has speedier reflexes than that of a human, she has no superhuman speed. Her unique eyes give her excellent vision in this form, and she also has an excellent sense of smell. She also has an extremely high level of competence in karate, and mastered it (Olympic level athlete in karate) at an early age – she is much better at it in her furry form than in human form, however. Tests by Dr. Langkowski have not revealed who or what Bianca is, but have ruled out her being a mutant.

8. Yukon Jack ( Yukotujakzurjimozoata )

What more can be said about Yukon Jack? Arrogant, pushy, self-righteous, thinks he is a god. An extremely powerful and dangerous ally. Misses his wife, the doppelganger of Snowbird, to the point of obsession. Has agreed to be a part of Alpha Flight, because Marten convinced him that this was his duty. She seems to be the only one who can influence him.

(Sorry - I know I should have drawn on his tattoos, as they are integral to his character, but I don't have that sort fo confidence in my ability to do freehand art!)

9. Purple Girl ( Kara Killgrave )

Formerly known as Persuasion, Kara Killgrave is a now-depowered mutant, but is still cursed with her purple skin.

She lost her powers making a Herculean and near-impossible attempt to revive the brain-dead Puck, and although she accomplished the task it has seemingly cost her the powers she has used since she was a young teen. Will her powers come back? Will she fall for Dr. Whitman Knapp all over again? Will she stay with the team when she has no powers? Will I stop asking these questions?

10. Manikin ( Dr. Whitman Knapp )

Dr. Whitman Knapp is a medical doctor, and serves both as a combat operative for Alpha Flight and as a surgeon/medic for the team’s injured.

“Whit” can transform himself into three different beings besides his normal one (which used to be called Prime Unit); Proto, Apeman, and Highbrow. Apeman lacks intelligence but has superhuman strength of an unknown level; he uses brute force and savagery to get the job done. Proto is a sentient, single-cell organism. Proto cannot speak, but can understand human language quite well. He is an invertebrate with corrosive abilities, able to instantly dissolve things he/it touches. Highbrow is the only one of Knapp’s other forms that can communicate verbally with others. Highbrow can teleport people and things; his range has been cut back though since Whitman underwent some changes to his powers. Highbrow wears special glasses, enabling him to see great distances, and he also can levitate himself off the ground - indeed, heseems to prefers this to standing. Dr. Knapp can only become one of these beings at a time; when changing between them, he must become ‘himself’ again between transformations.

11. The Fly ( Colin Hume Ashworth )

Colin used to be Windshear, before he lost his mutant powers. He also was the leader/instructor of Beta Flight for a while, helping to train the younger generation of Canadian superheroes.

The suit that Colin now wears was kept by Walter Langkowski, taken off of one of the villains that Omega Flight captured fleeing across the border from America into Canada. This suit seems to be of alien origin. It allows Colin to shrink directly down to the size of 6 inches tall, and to grow again to his normal height. When at the smaller height, the suit allows him to fly, and the gauntlets give him a punch that packs a big oomph, hitting with the force of five regular-sized grown men. Suit consists of goggles, overlarge gauntlets, a large belt, and a leotard type body covering, plus boots. The costume itself is black, as are the goggles. The boots are red, as are the gloves. The belt is white.

The original villain that wore the costume called himself The Fly, and Colin appropriated the name as well as the suit. Now, I wonder if someone might recognize the suit, and want it back…

Now, on to the creative team. Fred van Lente’s name has been bandied about, and he does seem to be interested. As far as previous AF writers whose work I have enjoyed, Simon Furman would be a good choice if FVL is not available or interested. Simon has handled Alpha Flight before, and done so well. His grasp of the characters and their interaction was superb, and he could also write good plots. Either of these two writers would be great on this series.

Artists? Hmm. Trying to think of somebody who worked previously on Alpha Flight, and can actually draw Sasquatch without making him look all gimpy. Sassie needs to look like Byrne drew him.

Other notes: If Purple Girl is going to be powerless (truth be told, I like her character, but I hate her powers), she still needs to be brave enough to help her team-mates fight some of the time. That being said, I think she should have some sort of energy-pistol weapon or something that she can rush off into battle with, something that fires a beam that can knock people down perhaps?

Well, can’t think of much more. There, for better or for worse, is my idea for the re-launch of Alpha Flight, as envisioned in a new comic book series called “Flight”.

My apologies to any of you who may recognize some portions of this as having been something you have already discussed on the boards. I have not intentionally stolen any ideas, but I recognize that with all the great ideas that get pitched by all of you awesome Flight fans, there is a possibility that some of your thoughts got stuck in my head. Again, if this ends up being the case, my apologies.


Anonymous rplass said...

Ha! What a fun read. Great post. Love the new guy Airborne with his "Neo" costume. Now it's time to see how they interact and some interesting bad guys for them to fight. Start writing up some plots, or straight up fan fiction, man!

5:39 AM PDT  
Blogger Dredd Sweet said...

oh man...thanks, but do i have enough time to write fan fiction, lol? I mean, it took me, like, two years ot get my thoughts for a new Flight team onto this blog...yeesh.

thanks for the kind words. i'd post more at, but the site hates me right now and it won't load properly, so i can't post most of the time.

5:06 PM PDT  

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