When the tyranny of the Axis Powers threatened the world, many costumed champions stepped forward to fight for freedom during the Golden Age of heroes in the Marvel Universe. The most famous of these heroes like Captain America, The Sub-Mariner, and Union Jack continue their fights for justice in the present day or have spawned long lasting heroic legacies but many of them remain forgotten. That will change in January of 2008 when readers are reintroduced to many forgotten golden age heroes in the pages of “The Twelve,” a twelve issue mini-series by writer J. Michael Straczynski AKA JMS and artist Chris Weston. We spoke with Editor Tom Brevoort about the series
“The Twelve” was an idea that JMS brought to Marvel. “Every so often, we bring our major creators to town for an editorial retreat, to plan out the next year or so’s worth of storylines,” Brevoort told CBR News. “In advance of one of those retreats, JMS sent over a document with nine or ten different ideas he had for potential projects that he was interested in doing, and the story that became ‘The Twelve’ was among them.”
As readers may have guessed, the title “The Twelve” refers to the cast of characters in the series. “Every single one of the characters who make up the Twelve is a pre-existing actual 1940s Timely Comics character–though most of them appeared in only a few scattered stories back in the Golden Age,” Brevoort explained. The twelve characters are Captain Wonder, Dynamic Man, Electro the Marvel of the Age, Rockman, Mister E, Mastermind Excello, the Blue Blade, the Phantom Reporter, the Laughing Mask, the Witness, the Fiery Mask, and the Golden Age Black Widow.”
The cast of “The Twelve” is composed of Golden Age mystery men but readers shouldn’t expect the series to about them smashing up Nazi spy rings or taking down Golden Age supervillains. “Most of ‘The Twelve’, from the middle of the first issue on, takes place in the present day. It’s really a story about culture shock, and about changing values–the Captain America scenario writ large. What happens to these heroes of the 1940s when they find themselves propelled into the world of the 21st century, and find it not a paragon of super-science with flying belts and rocket ships, but instead a place where the sexual revolution and the fight for equal rights and the saturation of mass-media that were only a twinkle in the eye in 1945 have happened. How do they cope with the world of today?
“In broad strokes, the overriding story is about a dozen mystery men from the days of World War Two who find themselves suddenly thrust into the present, into a world where everyone they knew and cared about is dead, and the ideals they fought and bled for smash up against the reality of the world the survivors of that conflict built over the last six decades,” Brevoort continued. “And then, somebody gets killed…”
Over the course of the series, readers can expect “The Twelve” to encounter some of the more famous Marvel characters. “We’ll see a number of other Golden Age heroes in the first issue, and one or two modern Marvel characters may quickly pass through, but this series is very much focused on these twelve castaways of time.”
As readers may have guessed, “The Twelve” stars a host of heroes from the age of Pulp style adventure but the series is anything but that. “We’ll probably be picking up some pulp-style trappings in terms of the look of the final package. But this is a sophisticated, very introspective examination of the world in which we live, the longing for a simpler time that maybe wasn’t really as simple as we remember it, and the ways in which society has changed but people remain the same–all wrapped around a murder mystery,” Brevoort said. “The tone is closer to something like ‘Watchmen’, though the story itself is its own animal.”