In honor of Free Comic Book Day (this Saturday, May 4th), I offer the following golden memory.
My favorite comic books when I was in middle school were The Punisher and The New Warriors. The Punisher was all about over-the-top macho violence and revenge — like Batman with guns. The New Warriors were a horribly-named third-tier team of teenage superheroes whose roster included characters Night Thrasher (like Batman with a skateboard) and Speedball (a guy who had the power to bounce).
The Punisher has been the basis for a few forgettable movies and one pretty great online short film. But The New Warriors have yet to be trapped in Hollywood’s spotlight. It’s only a matter a time before that happens, and when it does, I’ll buy a ticket and be the first in line.
The New Warriors was a typical comic of the early 90s: A wealthy badass (Night Thrasher) puts together a team of young superheroes for the purposes of…I’m not sure. I believe Night Thrasher wanted to take on evil that the big teams (The Avengers, Fantastic Four, X-men) wouldn’t tackle. If that’s true, good for him!
The team roster consisted of Speedball, Firestar (she had fire powers), Namorita (a female relative of Namor who patrolled the ocean and…for some reason…could fly, too), Nova (a super strong guy who could fly, had a great helmet, and became more popular after his New Warriors time), and Marvel Boy a mutant teen who can move stuff with his mind.
When they weren’t fighting crime, they were having typical teen romances and problems. Marvel Boy and Firestar had a love connection, and Nova (who was like a cool jock) was crushing on Namorita. Meanwhile, Speedball would be cracking jokes and Night Thrasher would be mysterious and angry. Today, it’s the stuff of any and every YA novel.
In one story arc, Marvel Boy gets beat up by his awful, abusive dad. His dad hates that his son is a mutant. Rough stuff. I haven’t picked up these comics in over 20 years and I still remember the art in this issue.
I don’t mind spoiling the story since the comic is decades old, but if you really want to read The New Warriors fresh, stop reading this post.
Anyway, so Marvel Boy’s dad is beating him up and then suddenly Marvel Boy blasts his dad with a telekinetic mind force. The kid can’t control his power, emotion takes control, and the blast accidentally kills his dad. Wow, right?!?
Then Marvel Boy turns himself into the super hero police and goes on trial. He confesses his crime and is sent to superhero jail. Firestorm is very supportive and says she’ll wait for him to get out of superjail. This all plays out over several issues.
When experts and critics rank the best comic books and graphic novels, you will find the usual suspects: The Dark Knight Returns, Watchmen, etc.
My own list of best comic stories would include those as well, but also the Marvel Boy story from The New Warriors. Sure, it was melodramatic. Sure, it was corny and cheesy. But to the middle school Dan reading those issues of the New Warriors, it was ah-maz-ing!!!
I felt bad for Marvel Boy. I wanted to be Nova. Namorita was hot! Firestar had awesome powers! Night Thrasher had a skateboard!!!! And Speedball bounced! It was perfect.
The New Warriors #1 was one of the first comic books I ever bought. It was a special book; a first issue! My older brother and his friends, who were all collecting comics, assured me this issue would be worth a lot of money someday because it was a #1. The issue is now selling on ebay for $3. Eh…it’s still worth a lot to me.
It was the very first issue, so I didn’t need to worry about the complex back stories that bogged down the X-men and Avengers books. I was there right from the start and stayed with it for a few years.
The New Warriors is and will always be one of my favorites.
Happy Free Comic Book Day!