Creating A New Legacy
♦ Tripwire’s contributing writer Scott Braden gives us his sixth in an occasional series about comic series that never were. Today it’s the turn of Dan Jurgens’ The Sentry: Legacy…
Dan Jurgens’ The Sentry: Legacy
In the early ‘90s, Valiant was the publisher to watch.
Launched by former Marvel editor–in–chief, Jim Shooter and others, the fledgling comic book company grabbed the attention of millions of fans through its superior storytelling, while pulling the purse strings of countless speculators looking to cash-in on its innovative gimmicks and unspoken promises of a high return.
Those were the good times for Valiant – but good times sometimes end.
When the stories seemed less strong and the gimmicks not so innovative, fans took their business elsewhere. In an effort to bring consumers back to the fold, the Shooter-less Valiant turned to hiring high-profile talent in an honest effort to transform the premier publisher into a comic book powerhouse.
Thus, the “Birthquake” event – the marketing push to end all marketing pushes – was launched. And, that’s where acclaimed creator Dan Jurgens came in.
Best-known for helping revitalize the Man of Steel’s various titles through the “Death of Superman “ and “Superman Returns” storylines, Jurgens was the logical choice to help return Valiant to its former glory (and beyond) by having him take over its linchpin title: Solar, Man of the Atom. Working with Valiant executive editor, Tony Bedard, Jurgens looked at the book as a way to interject a new direction into a comic book universe in desperate need of somewhere to go.
Having both read and enjoyed the title under Shooter’s authorship, Jurgens saw great potential in using the character to guide the company – and its super-hero universe – into a brand new tomorrow.
“From the moment that Valiant and I started talking,” Jurgens remembered, “one of the things we tried to do was identify some of the problems they were having at that point as a publisher. What I thought we could do was use Solar – as a book where anything you could possibly imagine can happen – to set up and spin off an entire new world for them. That was the plan from Day One.”
Hesitating to use the word “universe” (“That was such a buzz word at the time.”), Jurgens played with one of Shooter’s original ideas for the character – an awesome power that would enable the popular writer/artist to create a brave new world of his very own.
“With my run on Solar, Man of the Atom #46 – #50,” Jurgens explained, “I introduced readers to an Earth similar to our own, except for the fact that their super-heroes – or ‘Specials’ as I had called them – existed since the dawn of World War II. Heroes such as American Ace, Ultimax, Luna, and the Sentry. These were characters who, through their stories, I would reveal the secrets behind this new world.”
One of those secrets – perhaps the biggest – was revealed in the introductory storyline.
“From the very beginning,” Jurgens said, “I was going to reveal to the public at large that they were created by Solar. As the story progressed, I had the public’s notion of God being shattered due to the fact that they had literally met theirs – and he’s some guy with a radiation symbol on his chest.
“That discovery, in turn, led me to create a society who had to deal with some heavy psychological, sociological, and theological issues. For example, if a world discovers who their god is all at once, what does the discovery do to that world? What does it do to their social mores? Then, if you have a group of people that are “special,” and they become distanced from the public at large, where do they stand in the eyes of society? Society has just learned who their god is, and they are not happy. Society has also realized that there is a group of people, The Specials, who rank in-between them and this level of godhood. What does that knowledge do to people? These were the kind of questions I was tackling with that run.”
Arguably the most successful title from the “Birthquake” relaunch, Jurgens’ Solar was an immediate hit. In fact, it was so well received that after finishing his top-selling run on Solar, Jurgens was then greenlighted to turn his attention to the first mini-series that would further investigate his “new universe” – The Sentry: Legacy.
The first in a series of four-issue stories, The Sentry: Legacy would have reintroduced readers to Patrick Kamerick – the newest man to don the hero’s name. But for those that believed the Sentry would just be a homage to The Phantom and other intergenerational super-hero sagas, they were being two-dimensional. As far as Jurgens’ inspiration, think JFK.
“My Sentry mini-series was the Kennedy family as super-heroes,” Jurgens revealed. “Looking at the Kennedys, they have a fascinating story to tell. And, I’m not talking about the assassination stuff or anything like that. What I mean is that here, you have a family that has set out to become a political force in this country. And, there were enough of them in the family that if it didn’t work for one, by God, it would work for another. If you just take that simple base we have in reality and extend that to super-heroes, then what do you have? That’s what The Sentry: Legacy was.
“When you look at the first issue, you have the drunk, old uncle who was supposed to have been the Sentry, but couldn’t cut it. You then had other Sentries who fell in battle, so it was up to the son – or the younger brother – to carry on. Throughout the story, you would learn the secret history of this heroic dynasty, as Patrick desperately tried to live up to and understand the rolehe was born to play – even though he’s seen firsthand what it did to his father and uncles before him.
“Of course, the public at large doesn’t quite understand the Sentry either – because of the nature of the mask. They are still wondering if they’re dealing with the same man who called himself the Sentry 30 years ago or not? Is the Sentry an immortal character who changes costume, or is it a different man each time out? They don’t know, but by the end, they could very well find out.”
“When I was finished with The Sentry: Legacy,” Jurgens continued, “I would have immediately started another four-issue mini-series that would have concentrated on one of the other characters. And, it would have rolled over continuously that way so I could, at one time, concentrate on individual characters, and at another time, concentrate on the entire world in general.”
But, before Jurgens could plan out the next mini-series to follow The Sentry: Legacy, the “Birthquake” was halted – and everything came to a stop.
“It wasn’t so much about Valiant (or Acclaim) deciding that they did or didn’t want to do the project,” Jurgens recalled, “as much as what has happened to the industry. From the day that Tony and I first hatched the plan as to what I was going to do, to the day it all went away, the economics of the entire industry changed – and Valiant’s situation as a publisher changed, too. They had just come out of ‘Birthquake’ – a very aggressive plan where they were going to publish books twice a month in an effort to recapture the magic they had in the market – and it didn’t work out incredibly well. I was to finish my run on Solar, and then roll over and do the mini-series. That just didn’t happen.”
Although Valiant, or rather Acclaim Comics, would try to once again relaunch their comics with the Valiant Heroes line (and ultimately fail), Jurgens would go on to take the themes he had created for The Sentry: Legacy and build them into something bigger.
“With The Sentry: Legacy and the series that would have followed,” Jurgens added, “I had stumbled upon themes I thought were worth exploring. They intrigued me. That’s why I came back to those same themes when I set out to create the Tangent Universe [for DC Comics]. In fact, I imagined the Sentry’s world as this incredible section of some infinite tapestry. Now, by taking those same themes into the Tangent Universe, the tapestry I originally envisioned continues to grow still.”
Lost Tales©2019 Scott Braden. All Rights Reserved