Back in the late 90’s, comic books were still trying to find out what they could be in the modern age. The rush of popularity earlier in the decade from collectors rushing for Death of Superman and the newly minted Image Comics titles had slowly faded off and comic books as a genre were at a serious risk of extinction. Marvel, the biggest publisher in the world would try anything to make sales again. Today’s Longbox Select was one of those attempts… it didn’t work.
The Slingers were a group of younger heroes brought together by the retired Golden Age hero, Black Marvel. Four college kids were given costumes that were each at one brief time worn by the Amazing Spider-Man. This youthful group was meant to connect to a new audience, unfortunately, it failed to bring in any new sales. Today the surviving members are part of Marvel’s obscure D-class of heroes, rarely seen and with only one brief reunion in 2012.
Sure, comic sales were difficult at this time, but for a young dedicated nerd like myself, The Slingers cover was a big deal. The first time I saw it my older brother had purchased a copy and was showing it off. Though I was more into vintage comics the new group had called my name and I made it to the comic shop soon after with my allowance to secure my own copy.
But, Marvel made another strange move with The Slingers. With variant covers slowly becoming a thing, the publisher decided to release Slingers with four different covers – one featuring each character. The problem with that was, there was no main cover but four equal choices. You basically had to buy all four, or guess which character you would like the best, even though you haven’t met them yet? Another failed experiment to be sure. I made my choice based on aesthetics, and the new character Ricochet had an appealing look.
Actually, I still love Ricochet’s look, does he have a figure or a Pop vinyl or something?
The Slingers starts off in very Alan Moore fashion, with the aftermath of the death of one of the main characters. The mysterious Dusk, a character that many fans were excited about, already slain on the streets of New York.
We are introduced to heroes Ricochet and Hornet as they discretely discuss how they did nothing wrong. The brilliantly designed Ricochet sets out on town and ends up saving his girlfriend (whom he stood up) from a mugging. Meanwhile, the leader, Prodigy meets with their benefactor to reveal that he is the Black Marvel.
They save the day of a train going off the tracks or something – I dunno, honestly this copy I have is a misprint with repeat pages. So, how bout I just get into the whole arc instead.
Dusk is dead. It is later revealed that this happened not because of some terrible villain, but because of the groups own amateur failures. As they are training they try to convince Dusk to attempt to fly. At the same time Ricochet makes a sloppy mistake and it looks like Prodigy will let him fall to his death. Instead, Dusk steps off the building and falls to her demise. A major introduction to these characters as they are already living in guilt and fear of being blamed for the accident.
There was a lot of potential for The Slingers. They looked cool, they were loosely connected to Spider-Man, and they were heroes for a new generation. The story itself is surprisingly strong, despite the randomness and overdoing it that was prevalent throughout comics at this time. On paper the Slingers title really should have worked. Unfortunately, they are victims of being at the wrong place at the wrong time.
There are still Slingers fans like me. It was an exciting moment in Civil War: Front Lines to see Prodigy stunningly argue against the Superhuman Registration Act. From there Prodigy and Ricochet made random appearances throughout Marvel events and initiatives. But, that they are now doomed to obscurity, only remembered by the fans that were there during a dark time for comics. A 2012 reunion was attempted with another interesting story, but again, it was short-lived and none of the heroes have really made appearances again.
With that all said, despite their short career and lack of popularity, The Slingers are a part of comic history. Introducing brand new characters with their own ongoing title like this is something that Marvel would never attempt today. It documents a time when the publishers were throwing hail Mary’s and the problem with that is, it’s a one in a million shot. Eventually Marvel found there groove, but this is still a milestone moment of the uncomfortable years. For that, The Slingers deserve to be remembered and have earned a spot in the Longbox Selects.