Saturday, February 7, 2009

Characters I Want to Write: THE 3D MAN! Obviously!

There's a fascinating allure to the 3D Man that I simply cannot ignore.

Readers in general don't seem to get what the deal is, how Roy Thomas managed to get such a concept published. Well, Roy Thomas was a pretty influential guy at Marvel Comics and a huge Golden Age Hero fan. Melding his love of movies from the 1950s with this conceit, Thomas created a character who is still kicking today, albeit in an altered form. Kurt Busiek got rid of the original version of the 3D Man for his own, and there's probably good reasons for that.

However, I'm proposing to return to the conceit which truly entrances me about the 3D Man. Namely, he's not just one dude, he's three.

Now, originally the 3D Man was two brothers, one a tough guy pilot type named Chuck Chandler, the other Hal, who is crippled. During the 1950s, an evil alien race called the Skrulls invaded Earth, to conquer it. Chuck was abducted by the Skrulls during a test flight, perhaps to be replaced by one of them, via the Skrull's natural shape-shifting ability. The panel above shows Chuck being confronted by three Skrulls. This is interesting to me as a plot point.

Chuck is a man's man, and manages to break free. His battle with the Skrulls inside their spaceship causes the whole thing to explode. As he's escaping in the experimental NASA rocket, Chuck becomes erradiated by the explosion. By the time he crashes the rocket, and nearly reaches his brother Hal waiting for him, his body explodes before Hal's eyes.

Chuck is dead, but Hal discovers the last image of his brother has been blasted onto his glasses, in red and green.

Goofy? Sure. Pure comic book delight. Absolutely.

So Hal is sitting around thinking hard about his brother Chuck when he slips into a trance and the 3D Man leaps out of Chuck's eyeglasses!
Now, the thing to remember here is Hal and Chuck shared their fusion. Hal lived vicariously through Chuck's superior physicality, and their fusion gave them a physical Third Man. Thus, the speed, strength, stamina and healing ability of three men in one. Chuck's mind, as the 3D Man, controlled the "body." Hal's mind sort of "rode along."
I was first exposed to the 3D Man via Bill Mantlo and Sal Buscema, in the issue cited above, in the story "Whatever Happened to the 3D Man?" Mantlo wasn't the most original or versatile writer who ever worked, but he loved these second bananas. He dug the 3D Man enough to throw him up against the Incredible Hulk. A mismatch of massive properties, in which Hal Chandler, middle-aged in the "1980s" of comics, had long retired with his wife and children from any adventuring "as" the 3D Man. Living in suburbia, Hal encounters a half-naked unfortunate who needs a helping hand. This kind man is learned and appreciative of Hal's family, and during the night Hal calls the cops. There's no flies on Hal, and he knows the stranger is Bruce Banner, aka the Incredible Hulk. Like everyone else, Hal thinks the Hulk is a killer, and dangerous. Hal calls up the 3D Man for the first time in decades, to presumably hold Banner until the authorities arrive.

As you can see, that turns out to be mere folly!

Eventually things went back to normal. The 3D Man realized the Hulk wasn't going to really hurt anybody unless provoked, and the Hulk hated everyone and jumped out of the story.
My idea is to have a 3D Man which incorporates the idea of three men in one. Each of their personalities will actually take part in creating this 3D Man, who is neither yin nor yank.
Reader disparage having "triple powers" in a world of superheroes. Pfft. I'll take triple powers any day. In my scenario however, the 3D Man is a bit more tragic. See, he doesn't exist without those other personalities, and neither of the primary personalities can do what they can as the 3D Man. Meaning, have powers, and be able to do real good in the world.
Which of course means smacking supervillains around and kicking the hell out of punks robbing old people on the streets.
Aside from darkening the colors a bit, to avoid the "hey, he has Christmas colors!" schtick, the 3D Man costume remains the same. What I liked about the original version is that the "costume" isn't a costume but part of the 3D Man. He's one with it. The goggles are his freakin' eyes, man.
I mean, that's my speculation. The 3D Man is, like, a ghost who can speed punch you right in the groin.
As far as the humans who make up 3D Man in this fusion, I've always been intrigued by the idea of the two men in love with the same woman. Only, neither have a chance with her. And she's enarmored with the 3D Man. Takes all kinds, right?

1 comment:

Patrick said...

I used to love the look of this character I believe I had his original book at one time. I actually drew a comic about him when I was a kid. I dont know why but I googled him today and found your article. Good stuff and I hope you get the chance to bring 3d Man back to life.