Marvel at 80: Marvel 2099, Part II
Editor’s note: This is the second part of our 2099 retrospective. The first part can be found here.
The crazy train that was Marvel 2099 had been running for almost three years by this point in our story. Creative teams had shuffled about, status quos had been irrevocably changed, and sales were both excellent for some but beginning to dip for others. A Change was needed to keep the line from going stale.
2099 line editor Joey Cavalieri collected all of his creators in one room, and everyone began throwing ideas about. Mark Miller and Grant Morrison even had a pitch they submitted. The full story can be found here, but it would involve future versions of Captain America, Iron Man, Martians, an attack from Galactus, and even a future Avengers comic. This would, tragically, not be used. However, Doom 2099 writer Warren Ellis had a different pitch: what if Doom took over America?
By launching a military assault on America itself, Doom takes Washington DC and install himself as the new President of the fractured states of America. Sweeping changes were implemented as books were altered and rebranded as "2099 AD," or "After Doom." The status quo was changing, and Doom wanted everyone onboard as he cleaned up what remained of the country. Books were also given either a second chance or were offed entirely.
As a part of his environmental reforms, Doom would encase the entire radioactive island of Hellrock in liquid adamantium. This also was the final resting place of Jean-Paul Ravage, whose run ended with 33 issues and the entire cast dead.
Jake Gallows would be outed as the Punisher, but would instead be promoted by Doom to the head of his new security force. Almost a parody of Judge Dredd, the new Punishment Police and SHIELD would ensure justice reigned supreme while Jake himself would be lost in the Punisher's persona.
Zero Cochrane would become the Marshall for Traverse City, becoming a more traditional law enforcement character for a time. This still involved the hyper-stylized art, and overly violent combat the book was known for, though, as the Ghost Rider fought against the electronic forces of Lovecraft.
Mutants would be given Halo City, a wonderful place that would be just for them and didn't function as a reservation for undesirables for once. On top of that, former backstabbing X-Man Junkpile became an agent of SHIELD in order to combat the lawlessness of the Nevada desert while the rest of the team fought against the Theater of Pain. In Halo City, the team would fight the Graverobber and a league of zombies he had resurrected - including some that looked like modern-day X-men!
Lotusland Studios would become the new head of California after a massive series of accidents. Doom would bargain with the Hulk's alter ego to try and bring some of his power to the island nation. Hulk would even fight the "Anti-Hulk," a knockoff copy that would, unfortunately, end with a gamma bomb ripping what remained of California asunder. This also ended the book at issue 10.
Spider-Man's life continued to change in bizarre ways. Miguel O'Hara traveled back in time accidentally to cross paths with the 1993 incarnation of Spider-Man. The story, penned by Peter David, is a wonderful snapshot of Marvel from that year for Wall-crawling heroes, and well worth digging up. Further, Doom wanted to recruit Spider-Man for his cabinet as minister of superhuman affairs… while Miguel took over as the head of Alchemax.
While Spidey would think about both of these, a new threat emerged from the past. The Venom Symbiote has returned, bonding with a mass murderer and causing havoc with Miguel's personal life. This would climax with his girlfriend Dana being slain by the monster.
For those who wanted even more information on how the new country would run, Marvel put out a special set in-universe as a collection of documents from President Doom as to the changes made to this new world. While not as thrilling as most comics, it made for a compelling read.
Doom's tenure as President was absolutely fascinating. Rather than become the petty dictator that everyone feared he could become in 1993, Doom was a benevolent ruler in the century to come. He put technology into fixing the ruined skies of America, funneling corporate profits into public works and education. He would even allow dissidents to protest publicly.
So long as it was non-violently, and during business hours of course.
Unfortunately, this could not (and would not) last forever. Issue 33 of Doom 2099 revealed that Captain America had somehow survived the chaos of the previous century that had ended the age of Heroes. Not only that, but this Captain America claimed that Doom actually set it all in motion as part of a grand plan to take over the world.
Some of you savvy readers out there have probably figured out the real con, though. The mega-corporations of America have grown sick of following Doom and decided to rise up against him. Their Cap is a ruse, a clone created to take advantage of the inherent jingoism in the costume and the trust the people remember having in the real deal. As such, America's newest President was also this fake Steve Rogers, who did massive amounts of drugs, had horribly fake-looking hair, and literally draped himself in the American Flag.
This culminated in the one-shot 2099 Apocalypse. The ironically positive dreams and hope of Doom's reign came crashing down as America found itself under fascist reign. Told with a framing story featuring news reporter Jack Whitlow, this tale plainly put forth the dangers of fascism while also exterminating heroes whose books had just been canceled. Hulk, gunned down. The Punisher, vaporized. Nearly every minor hero who showed up in 2099 Unlimited were also killed off with a combination of savage violence and Ellis' almost trademark dark humor.
After the ruins of a dream comes the birth of another. Marvel put out a subsequent one-shot that teased at ideas for solo books that were being planned. 2099 AD Genesis told the tale of an old mutant who was repeatedly hinted at being one of the old 1990s X-Men, traveling to Halo City to meet the newest generation of Mutants, the X-Nation. Meanwhile, a Stark/Fujikawa expedition into the Negative Zone disturbed four hidden cryo pods, each emblazoned with a bright blue 4. On the streets of Nueva York, a figure in all black with red glowing eyes and small horns on his head fights crime with energy clubs and acrobatics.
Within a few months, both X-Nation and Fantastic Four 2099 hit the newsstands. Daredevil 2099 did not and was literally forgotten about despite being made by Warren Ellis himself.
Fantastic Four 2099 focuses on a newly-costumed Fantastic Four team. Displaced in time, they believed themselves to be the original team. They would first focus on trying to fix the future before instead deciding to try to find a way home.
The X-Men spinoff X-Nation was like a futuristic Generation X, featuring the next generation of Mutants living in Halo City and their troubles. 90s X-Men villain Exodus would also show up, as vague and unmenacing as ever.
Neither of these books would even reach 10 issues thanks to a small problem with Marvel.
You see, we are now solidly in 1996, and those who know Marvel's history remember that the company was facing bankruptcy at this time thanks to a literal truckload of poor decisions and relying too much on comic speculators. Their eventual solution would be to sell off movie rights to properties like Spider-Man, X-Men, Fantastic Four, and others to various movie studios. Any Marvel movie between 1999's Blade and 2008's Iron Man stemmed from this deal, with Iron Man being the first in-house Marvel movie ever. While books continued to be published as those deals were being set, Marvel was also cutting corners as if someone had given them Ghost Rider 2099's flaming chainsaw. One of the first victims was Ghost Rider 2099, followed by line editor Joey Cavalieri. And like that, 2099 began to fall apart.
Peter David quit Spider-Man in protest, leaving after issue 42 hit stands. Warren Ellis left Doom 2099 with issue 39. Other creators would also jump ship, leaving 2099 with fill-in writers and artists struggling to keep a sinking ship afloat. Gimmicks would hit the books as they tried to bring up sales, with the Doom of 2099 coming through to the current run of Fantastic Four into the past to cure a disease in Latveria while also obtaining his third suit of armor. Namor of 2099 would appear in Spider-Man as Atlantis began to menace New York, all while Spider-Man also had to deal with a new Green Goblin of the future. The child of two main characters in X-Men 2099 would be super-aged into an angsty villainous teenager called the Darksun. None of this helped, as the books continue to slide into oblivion. Rather than continue publishing five books of descending quality, it was decided to end the current 2099 line entirely.
Oceans would rise, pushing Mankind off their megacities. Namor would invade Nueva York and cause the few heroes who remained to run away as the entire city evacuated. The X-Men also had to flee Halo City as it was submerged under water. There was a thought to have the cities survive in some form, and have the books all relaunched as Marvel 3000 with new creative teams. Ever-shrinking budgets and a lack of unified vision instead found what remained of Mankind gathered at the Savage Land, and all united under the title 2099: The World of Tomorrow.
2099's last gasp tried to tie most of the dangling plot threads together. Most of the X-Nation went to Mars with the Thing to see if the colony on Mars was still ok (which was unmentioned until now), only to be nearly killed on arrival. Those heroes who remained on Earth did their best to keep what remained of humanity alive… and fight off the threat of the Phalanx, who returned to rear their head and try to devour the world.
Unfortunately, this is also where 2099 falls apart entirely. Characters vanish and are never mentioned again. The Thing vanished after the crash on Mars and not even the Fantastic Four remember him before abandoning the world and fleeing into the past. Skullfire, perhaps the main character in X-Men 2099, had evolved into a being of energy in the last pages of the old book… and never showed up again. His lover, the psychic vampire Luna, never even thinks about him despite being a major character in the new book. Ghost Rider? Vanished, presumed dead while a copy himself survives on the internet… which is never addressed in this book.
The World of Tomorrow ends with a wet thump, with Doom sacrificing himself to end the Phalanx threat with a time travel based plan that actually couldn't make logical sense… but still happens. The world is now under benevolent Latverian rule, lead by one of the X-Nation teens who was also captured by the Phalanx.
There was one more book to 2099 before the line truly ended. 2099: Manifest Destiny reaches comic stores in March of 1998. The story was told by Len Kaminski and an art crew featuring Mike McKone, Mark McKenna, and Jason Wright. Together, a tale was spun that covered 1999 up through 3099 and tried to answer a few questions that fans had about 2099 - and provide a better ending than the previous book. Captain America is found (again), only to be the real deal. Found alongside him is Thor's Hammer, and what happens is truly awesome.
It was at this time that the Watcher would appear again, and bring the future Fantastic Four with him. They were revealed to be replicas he had made to try and re-inspire a planet falling into ruin, and also brought with him Inhumans and Eternals from the moon. With this revelation, it was also shown that a shield had been placed around the solar system by aliens who were sick of Mankind butting in their plans. Together, Mankind would break through the shield… at the cost of Utah giving his life so that Mankind could live.
While most of the book is a thoughtful little epilogue with some incredibly good moments (such as Miguel O'Hara being worthy of the hammer of Thor), it's filled with weird background things as well. Like how Jake Gallows is somehow back from being disintegrated.
Still, that would be that. 2099 would close out with a more positive note and a true message of human courage and compassion. It was far from ideal, but it's better than some books get.
2099 wouldn't quite be left alone, though. Peter David would resurrect the line briefly to have Miguel O'Hara guest star in a 4 part Captain Marvel story with the Genis-Vell incarnation of the title, which takes place between issues already published. Miguel would also join the reality-hopping Exiles after his identity was outed in an offshoot of the 2099 line. This time he would be written by Chris Claremont, who seems to have confused him with Peter Parker.
However, it would be enough to keep people remembering the comic line pretty fondly. So much so that Miguel O'Hara would also show up as Spider-Man 2099 in multiple official video games, namely the two PlayStation 1 Spider-Man titles as alternate costumes, and as himself in both Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions and Spider-Man: The Edge of Time. Amusingly, former voices of Spider-Men would bring Miguel to life in both games. Dan Gilvezan, famous for his role as Spider-Man in the 1981 animated series Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends (and Bumblebee in a little-known animated work known as Transformers) would provide a world-weary voice for Miguel as he fought new incarnations of old Spidey villains in the former game. Edge of Time would feature Christopher Daniel Barnes from the 1994 animated incarnation as Miguel instead.
Robert Kirkman, during his brief stint at Marvel, would make a series of 2099 specials focusing on the Marvel Knights line. Daredevil (finally), the Inhumans, Punisher, and the Black Panther would all show-up, along with a Spider-Man analog in Mutant. Different from the previous 2099 timeline, this book featured mutants being outlawed, and Reed Richards being the last surviving member of the Fantastic Four… now living as a brain in a jar piloting Ben Grimm's body. This 2099 line would also be referenced in Kirkman's Marvel Team-up, featuring C and D list heroes saving the past from a threat in 2099.
2009 would bring a brief mini-series called 2009-2099 Timestorm. Time travel between modern-day Marvel and 2099 would bring the heroes of both worlds together. However, despite having a lot of similar takes on the concepts and slang, it was still drastically different. Miguel O'Hara was now a teen in high school, and there was now a half-Atlantean Human Torch. It was a fun tale but didn't acknowledge the previous crossovers either.
Finally, Dan Slott would bring a third incarnation of Miguel O'Hara to the present day in his run of Otto-Octavious-As-Peter-Parker in The Superior Spider-Man. This Miguel would stick around for quite a bit, with several runs on a solo comic by creator Peter David himself. While 2099 would be visited a few times, the book was more focused on Miguel being a temporal fish out of water while trying to figure out what caused his 2099 to end in ruins. This also had a brief run with 2099 in the Secret Wars crossover series, fleshing out the world more by adding a future form of the Avengers.
Marvel has also just announced a new 2099 launch to be coming in November, though there is nothing else about it aside from the logo. Odds are fantastic that some form of Miguel will appear, as he has in nearly every other iteration, but time will tell what happens.
...oh, and Miguel got a cameo in a little movie called Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. But no one remembers that movie, nor was it one of the funniest moments in the film.
Well. Now that we've examined all of the branches of 2099, are any of them worth revisiting? Oh, most certainly yes.
Spider-Man 2099 was some seriously refreshing adventuring back in the day, without the drama of clones or grimdark Spider-Man. Reading it now, the book feels like science fiction from a time where they couldn't quite predict how the future was going to go, and it still has some seriously compelling character work and interesting takes on the Marvel formula. Doom is one of the most interesting takes on the character of Victor Von Doom, with some great character work on the guy. The book even takes a direction that modern comics would never dare take as the man takes over the world. Punisher is, frankly, an incredible deconstruction of the Dark Age of Comics while being incredibly precinct for how broken law enforcement could be in 2019. While it was lost at the time, there's a heavy sense of irony and dark humor with each page that only seems obvious in retrospect.
The rest of the books, sadly, are not that great. X-Men is a fun romp but covered absolutely no new ground. Ravage is only for die-hard Stan Lee fans at this point, but it is a weird look at a Stan Lee stabbing for relevancy. 2099 Unlimited had some fresh ideas, but none of them were built upon before the entire book was wiped out with the Apocalypse one-shot. Fantastic Four just felt like a pale imitation of the books already on the stand, which were already themselves a poor imitation of the Kirby/Lee days.
However, Marvel 2099 remains a fantastic concept and one that continually has fans to this day. Since Marvel is bringing it back in some form, it seems only fair to consider checking out 2099's earlier forms. X-Men and Spider-Man both have some volumes released, both physically and digitally, but almost the entire run of 2099 has been banished to online auctions and back issue bins. Considering you can get a ton of comics for under their original printing price in this line, it's hard not to recommend it if you can find them.