Marvel Comics is bringing back the Marvel 2099 imprint, which means it's time for fans to learn everything there is to know ahead of the event. The confirmation comes courtesy of Marvel's November 2019 solicitations, outlining the publisher's plan to relaunch their Marvel 2099 range. A time travel epic will kick off in Amazing Spider-Man #33, focused on Peter Parker and Spider-Man 2099, Miguel O'Hara.
The event will serve as the springboard for a full range of comics, with Marvel already confirming Fantastic Four 2099, Punisher 2099, a new Spider-Man 2099 book, Ghost Rider 2099, Doom 2099, and Venom 2099. Some of these are clearly brand new characters (there's never been a Venom 2099 before, and artwork has been circulated showing a brand new Punisher 2099) but others are familiar titles getting a new lease of life.
Comic book readers from the '90s will be thrilled at this news, getting a nostalgic buzz by seeing a popular and beloved comic book brand returning to the shelves. But here's our guide to Marvel 2099 who either needs a refresher, or is new to comics and hasn't really encountered it before.
Marvel 2099 Was Stan Lee's Last Big Idea For Marvel
The late, great Stan Lee came up with the idea for Marvel 2099 when he began to collaborate with artist John Byrne on Ravage 2099, a book that he intended to explore the future of the Marvel Comics universe. It was the early '90s, and Lee had noticed that society was becoming increasingly concerned with what the new millennium would hold. He figured that comics were the perfect medium to explore that, and decided to show the tail-end of the 21st century. Unfortunately the collaboration between Lee and Byrne fell through, but Lee was still eager to pursue the idea, and he approached Marvel about it. Editor Joey Cavalieri was particularly enthusiastic, and signed up to an entire Marvel 2099 range, becoming responsible for overseeing it.
"It was a chance to create the Marvel Universe all over again," Cavalieri reflected in an interview in Marvel Age #117. "At the very beginning of the Marvel Universe of 2099, there are no superheroes. We start to see them, one by one, just as you did in the '60s. Who would not be excited by that prospect?" The heroes of 2099 were updated versions of characters like Spider-Man, the Hulk, the Punisher, and the X-Men, with Marvel enjoying teasing what had happened to the originals at the end of the "Heroic Age." Each 2099 character was a clever riff on the original, reinterpreting the concept in a dark, dystopian world where corporations ruled rather than governments.
The Heroes of Marvel 2099
The star of Marvel 2099 was undeniably Miguel O'Hara, aka Spider-Man 2099, created by Peter David and artist Rick Leonardi. The Spider-Man 2099 comic soon established itself as the best-selling book in the range, regularly selling over 100,000 copies, in part because of David's darker take on the old "power and responsibility" maxim. His hero was head of the genetics program at Alchemax, aiming to create corporation-controlled super-soldiers who could take down criminals with extreme prejudice. Alchemax attempted to force his participation by getting Miguel addicted to a drug that hooked into his DNA sequence; Miguel attempted to rewrite his DNA, but corporate sabotage led to it being merged with that of a spider. Now recognizing the evils of Alchemax, he remained one of their staff in his civilian identity, but undermined them in his superhero identity as Spider-Man 2099.
The X-Men 2099 were an updated version of Marvel's merry mutants, assembled by Xi'an Cha Xan and the mutant called Cerebra. A group of mutants who lived in the deserts, they fought for Xi'an's vision of a new future paradise for mutantkind, where man and mutant could live side by side in peace. Their members included revolutionary new mutants such as Bloodhawk, Meanstreak, Krystalin, Serpentina, and Metalhead, and they wound up going against both evil mutants and corporations that sought to control the mutant population.
Another key standout was Doom 2099, a reinvention of Marvel's classic and most feared supervillain. He was revealed to be the original Doctor Doom, who had disappeared decades ago and mysteriously returned to Latveria to overthrow its corrupt government. Doom became a fascinating and complex character, more an antihero than a superhero, as he sought to defeat the corporations that had turned Marvel 2099 into a dystopian nightmare. Needless to say, when Doom did triumph, it didn't turn out well.
Marvel 2099 Has Come and Gone (and Come Again)
Unfortunately, the Marvel 2099 range was one of the casualties when the comic book bubble burst in 1996. Marvel Comics was left on the verge of bankruptcy, and changes in leadership seemed to be happening on an almost daily basis. As a result, the publisher down-sized at speed, and editor Joey Cavalieri was one of the people who was fired. Virtually all the writers in the entire range resigned in sympathy with Cavalieri. Marvel hired replacement writers to finish off the books, and wound up Marvel 2099 over the next couple of years.
Marvel 2099 may only have run for a few years, but it was a huge success, and as a result Marvel Comics has returned to it many times. Spider-Man 2099 has returned many times, whether as a member of a dimension-traveling superhero team called the Exiles, or as star of his own book. Peter David has regularly returned to write Spider-Man 2099's stories. Unfortunately, there's generally been a lack of a consistent editorial direction to the franchise's stories. As a result, the timeline has gradually become a lot less cohesive, to the extent that there have been countless different iterations of the X-Men 2099, with characters mysteriously dying and returning from the grave. One of the most interesting versions appeared in Brian Bendis' Uncanny X-Men annual, with the X-Men's Magik revealed as the Sorcerer Supreme of 2099.
Marvel's new approach bodes well for Marvel 2099. They'll need to nail down the basics of the timeline, but with a strong editorial hand, they should be able to keep the timeline consistent now. Given the enduring popularity of Marvel 2099, there's no reason this couldn't be another hit for the House of Ideas.