Monday, January 14, 2013

1987 - Dwayne McDuffie's Proposal for Damage Control

Notes On A Series Proposal (grabbed from
"A Restoration Comedy"

I think I know how to do something that I understand has never worked out too well for Marvel. I have an idea for a humor series with a hook that could attract the hard-core fan audience without turning off a less knowledgeable reader.

Damage Control is intended to be an ensemble cast situation comedy along the lines of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Barney Miller, Taxi, WKRP in Cincinnati, Cheers, and the like but set firmly in the Marvel Universe. As in those shows, Damage Control will focus on the lives of a group of people who have an interesting and/or unusual job, and on the odd people that their job brings them in contact with. Its the nature of the "unusual job" that serves to connect Damage Control with the Marvel Universe.

Damage Control is a Manhattan-based company that specializes in the clean-up, repair, and restoration of property damage caused by super-powered activity. A typical day's work might involve:

  • Disposing of dangerous super-scientific hardware and cleaning up residual energy from high-tech super-battles.
  • Replacing smashed or disintegrated sky-scrapers.
  • Restoring the Statue of Liberty's arm when somebody yet again tears it off to use as a weapon.
  • Repairing those serious potholes that all of those underground sewer and subway battles leave.
  • And dealing with the ridiculous problems that all of the beings with god-like powers leave behind (Taj Mahal-style palaces erected with the wave of a hand in the middle of Broadway. Major landmarks turned into Jell-O pudding. That sort of thing).

Anyway, you get the idea. Our protagonists are people who have to come up with creative (and I hope amusing) solutions to extremely odd problems. These problems could be made up, or they could actually tie-in with stories from other titles. However, the bizarre problems are generally only background for stories about our cast: some of the ordinary people who work in a world filled with super-beings. This is about cleaning up after super-heroes only to the extent that say, the old Bob Newhart show was about being a psychologist. I hope this will be character comedy with a lot of internally consistent weirdness and a grand sense of fun.

I mentioned earlier, "the odd people that their job brings them in contact with." In the context of the Marvel Universe, that means more than the frustrated insurance people, and harried city officials that one might expect Damage Control to deal with. Although Damage Control's services are generally paid for by Super-Hero insurance, or federal disaster funding, the more responsible Supergroups like the FF and the Avengers either carry a surety bond or pay their own damages. I would imagine that even many super-villains, especially those with large organizations, such as the Kingpin's or Doctor Doom's, prefer to have their messes cleaned by professionals used to dealing with weirdness on their grand scale. There are ample opportunities for cross-overs of all kinds. To increase this opportunity (and to generate a pretty good running gag), as a service Damage Control maintains a "lost-and-found" filled with power totems, equipment, masks, gloves, et al, found at battle sites that they've restored. People want these things back, but it's sort of embarrassing.

This is primarily character comedy with one sitcom joke: weird things happen and these people aren't impressed. It's suited to varying story lengths and is a different approach to meta-continuity than I've seen. This is a good place to deal with some of the unanswered (not to mention unasked) questions of how things work on Marvel-Earth. We've often seen the Marvel Universe linked together through cosmic epics. I'd like to do it by showing that S.H.I.E.L.D. and Heroes For Hire have their garbage hauled away by the same people. If you buy the premise at all, I'd like to talk to you about my cast of characters, the tone I hope to set, and the long-range, sinister implications of an organization like this one existing in the Marvel Universe.

  • The Thing receives a bill for services rendered and comes to investigate. He's never heard of Damage Control as Reed always handled this stuff before. A grand opportunity for a tour of the facilities as an intro to the series.
  • An alternate intro would involve the first day at work (and in New York) of the central character, Damage Control's newest account executive. Can he handle the pressure?
  • Heroes For Hire come to post a bond on themselves (assuming they're alive and together again).
  • The gang dealing with a major mischief spree by the Impossible Man or the aftermath of a magical menace who left everything transformed into weird stuff.
  • An insurance PAC lobbies for Super-Powered disasters to be considered "acts of God." Can Damage Control survive without insurance income?
  • Jarvis comes to sign some documents on behalf of the Avengers and proves that his years of experience as their butler make him just as talented a super-problem solver as anyone at Damage Control.
  • An account executive is charged with investigating a delinquent account. Doctor Doom's.
...and more involving the interplay between characters I don't have the space to lay out here. Please let me know what you think.

-Dwayne McDuffie
October 9, 1987

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