Thursday, February 24, 2011

Gunfire: The Marvel Character That Should Have Been

Recently a friend of mine inherited a sizable chuck (like 15 short boxes) of early to mid 90s DC comics and asked if I wanted to take some of the books off his hands. Never one to say no to free comics, even those from a publisher I rarely read from an era better left forgotten, I leapt at the chance. While I tried to pick out some of the more interesting titles (Millar/Hester on Swamp Thing, Waid's Flash run, Ennis/McCrea Demon, etc), i just couldn't resist all those deliciously awful 90s series like Guy Gardner Warrior, Extreme Justice, and, the most 90s book of them all, Gunfire.

Created by Len Wein and Steve Erwin, Gunfire is a six year-old's imagination (or maybe just my six year-old imagination) come true: He can turn anything into a gun. Wrenches, sticks, lead pipes, tire irons, construction girders, it doesn't matter; as long as he can point it at something, he can make it shoot.

Pretty awesome, right? Well, awesome for the 90s at least.

Anyway, secretly Gunfire is Alex van Horn, the newly anointed CEO of the technology firm Van Horn Industries after his shady father died from a space alligator bite. Don't ask, it's DC in the 90s. With all kinds of cash at hand, Alex decides to use his powers to put Van Horn Industries on the up and up by destroying all of the misappropriated Van Horn tech. This quest puts him up against a litany of technological freaks, from guys in armor that can shoot stuff and guys in armor that can deflect stuff, to a man with transparent skin and even his own not-so dead father.

It's, um... an interesting book, if not a little repetitive and derivative. For those really interesed, I live blogged this earlier in the week. Go relive the madness, if you dare.

Throughout my experience with the book, I couldn't quite shake an uneasiness with the book; like, it just felt wrong. At first, I thought it was because I wasn't used to DC books, and that off-ness was just me being out of my comfort zone. Not a bad theory and it helped ease those thoughts for a while. That is, until I saw this:

And it hit me, Gunfire is totally a Marvel character. Admit it, if you saw him hanging out with Nomad and Deathlok, you'd totally think they were a new (and totally badass) super team. Probably something with 'Extreme', 'Revenge', or ' Deadly' in the title. Or, more likely, all three like: The Extremely Deadly Revengers! But I digress.

Unlike most DC characters, Gunfire's base of operations was in New York and not some fictional coastal city. More, aside from a brief appearance from The Mirror Master and the fact that he first appeared in an issue of Deathstrike, Gunfire has no ties to the DCU at large. No wonder I kept expecting a mention of the Daily Bugle.

On a more meta level, Gunfire doesn't fit the traditional mold for a DC hero. Normally the DC heroes are gods striving to live among men or, more so at the time, the latest in a legacy of heroes. Gunfire however is just a kid thrown in over his head trying to clean up the Van Horn name.

Last but not least, his villainous and not-so-dead father looks just like Stryfe. Because I think we can all agree that Marvel (and to an extent Image) had the market cornered when it came to behind-the-scenes armored supervillains.

In the end, I can't decide if Gunfire got let off easy by being in the DCU. At Marvel, he probably would have gotten a bit of a push in '94 before fading into obscurity only to be used as a punchline to a Bendis joke fifteen years later. At DC, even though he more quickly drifted into obscurity, he never became a joke. Instead, Sterling Gates cut off his hands during New Years Evil and Garth Ennis made fun of his powers in Hitman # 1,000,000.

Oh well, better luck next time Gunfire. Until then, you'll always be my favorite Marvel Hero that never was.

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