George Romero and Marvel Comics Almost Teamed Up in 1983.

As part of the ongoing 1983 Project, I’ve been reading an old issue of Comics Scene magazine from that year. Within are so many tidbits of news some of which came to fruition but many did not. Buried within is an announcement that the father of the zombie movie genre and the then editor of Marvel Comics, Jim Shooter, were going to team up for a comic book and movie for a Marvel super hero.

Could there be a better mash up of horror movies and a thing that I love?

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Well, yeah, that would work.

But also to have the mind behind Night of the Living Dead and the rest of the series create a hero back in 1983 could have changed the attitude and opinions of super heroes before Tim Burton Batman and long before Iron Man started this current era.

This news in a decades old magazine is the first time I ever heard of the project.  To quote from the article:

Romero asked which secondary superhero would be a good candidate for the movies. “George was interested in creating a new world for the character,” Shooter explained. The director wanted to avoid top-of-the-line Marvel creations with already well-established backgrounds.

“I suggested Power Man, Machine Man .. six in all. I finally asked him, “Why don’t we just create a new one?”

 

There is a lot to unpack just from this bit of the article. One, Romero was ahead of the time looking for a second tier hero. Hulk, Spider-Man, and – really that was it for mainstream Marvel at that time – would necessitate huge budgets and micro managing oversight every step of the way. But one of these lower heroes, that’s someone that gets a smaller budget and less interference. Potentially this can result in an unexpected swell that raises all super powered boats. This is much like what happened years later with Blade.

Also, I miss that creative spirit in comic books. It’s still there today but not at the level it was before. The level that gave us alien trees and gun toting raccoons. “Just create a new one.” Jim Shooter sounds like Romero’s well meaning mother. Well honey if you can’t play with those super heroes you like in the funny books why don’t cha just make your own?

Romero’s Laurel Entertainment … is extremely interested in the merchandising angle.

I bet they are! In 2018 Marvel was predicting to make $500 million just on merchandise sales. Granted that number would not have been the same for a new project in 1983 but a well promoted hero in that era could make a fortune. See the wealth of He-Man and GI Joe product from that year alone.

First we tried to buy an existing superhero but the good ones were already bought or too expensive. The asking price was $1 million.

Who wants a time machine? Show of hands? One million. Someone hired at Marvel Comics today who creates a new character tomorrow could get one million by lunch time for that character. I will never get over spending the first 30 years of my life as the outcast geek who loved superheroes and the last 10 as one of the millions watching those same heroes in a billion dollar franchise.

The character has been described as a sheriff in futuristic Philadelphia who battles an adversary skilled in robotics.

Well, color me curious. Marvel Comics had already created numerous possible futures for their characters, so it is possible to have this new character still within the familiar universe. The 1980’s had plenty of movies starring robots or post apocalyptic survivors. A master like Romero could easily take the technology that already existed and with his team take that to a new level of excellence in a debuting super hero feature.

It’s just a shame this project never came to fruition and there is no record of it.

Or is there?

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