Tuesday, January 02, 2007
One of my favorite series from the Silver Age was Challengers of the Unknown...and, unlike many, I actually preferred the Bob Brown-drawn version to the original Jack Kirby/Wally Wood issues. For one thing, once Kirby left, the Challs began to exhibit individual personalities in speech and habits, which made for a more interesting group.
But by the end of the '60s, no one seemed to know how to make a group of non-super adventurers work. There were several attempts to rework the concept, but none of them really jelled. Later attempts to revive the series...including a "Vertigo-ized" version of the originals...never caught the spirit of the characters or the idea behind them, either.
About 20 years ago, through my buddy Bob Greenberger, I submitted my attempt at reviving the Challengers. As I expected, it never saw the light of day. I no longer have the original proposal, but here are some of the highlights, as I recall them:
"Ace" Morgan--Like all the Challs, Ace never had a real first name in the '60s. I decided "Ace" was more than just a description of his flying prowess but an acronym for "Arthur Charles Edward". In 1990, I made him a former 'Nam pilot...today, I'd probably make him a former shuttle pilot. I also had married him off to part-time Challenger June Robbins, and given them a 10-year-old daughter, Maggie.
"Rocky" (Robert) Davis--With pro wrestling a joke, I turned Rocky into a former gold-medal Olympic weight-lifter, and a college grad with a degree in physical therapy.
"Prof" (Philip) Haley--Not just a diver, but a polymath scientist--sort of Jean Cousteau combined with Carl Sagan. His special interest is in ancient civilizations.
"Red" (Aloysius) Ryan--No wonder he prefers "Red"! Red is the youngest Challenger, a former gold-medal Olympic gymnast. He's the one--other than her parents--who is closest to Maggie Morgan, her beloved "Unca Red."
I gave them utilitarian uniforms, in purple and gold--recalling both the Kirby-era jumpsuits and the Bob Brown-era yellow-and-red outfits. The uniforms were layered...tight-fitting t-shirt under a jacket, with baseball-style caps. I suggested there might even be a cold-weather version as well.
My art is crude--I'm out of practice--but here's a look at what I had in mind.