The Mercury Chronicles #0, Summer 2005, Speakeasy Comics
writer: Vito Delsante
artists: Mike Lilly & Shawn McGuan
colorist: Ben Hunzeker
letterer & designer: Jeff Powell
editor: Ron Hill
Blogger’s note: Entry for Sunday, April 20, 2008.
In his back page blurb about The Mercury Chronicles, Speakeasy Comics President Adam Fortier describes the Golden Age of comics as “a time when individuals in this fledgling industry were literally creating a medium of entertainment from the ground up and one that had a very uncertain future.” Indeed, considering his comments, and this zero issue’s use of an old time news reel to establish the setting and prominent characters of this series, I’m reminded that our culture’s most influential media are still very new considering the context of human history. Whether or not or believe the world to be 7,000 or 3.6 billion years old, the advent of film is just a small, and conveniently the most current, fraction of that time; further, while the printed page has been around a bit longer, we often forget that the comic book industry was the first to pioneer the press’ two major elements -- words and pictures -- in a combination of sequential storytelling. This was just about hundred years ago. Out of thousands to billions of earth history.
Wow. And sometimes I muse about life before the Internet. You know, that dark era known as the ‘80s . . . when cell phones were the size of your forearm.
The Mercury Chronicles takes place in that tumultuous post-World War II, pre-Civil Rights Movement period in American history, that awkward decade when we the people realized that we needed a war to rise out of our Great Depression and we suppressed the thought with the hope that life was as perfect as one of those new black and white sitcoms on television. Heroes were easy to define -- from fictional characters like Superman and the Lone Ranger to our own military soldiers, heroes were obviously men and women (mostly men) that put everyone else’s lives before their own, readily sacrificing their own liberty for the call of duty so that the rest of us were spared the responsibility. Heck, everyone else still pitched in where they could, though, buying war bonds, recycling paper, and sending care packages overseas. It was the twentieth century’s post-adolescent, responsible thirty-somethings.
(Yes, I’m implying that centuries take twice as long to “age” as the average human being, likening the ‘00s-‘10s to childhood, the ‘20s-‘30s to adolescence, and all the way up to the ‘80s as its proverbial midlife crisis. But that analogy is for another day, and definitely warrants of other centuries, too.)
Enter Commander Champion and Mr. Mercury, the world’s finest heroes of writer Vito Delsante’s interpretation of events. Though both fought bravely during World War II, only Champion survived to tell his tale . . . until 1947, when a mysterious flying saucer crashes in New Mexico, and the military converges to discover the ship’s sole occupant: a travel-weary Mr. Mercury! His three-year absence is a mystery, shrouded in the supernatural context of that strange period of history, and I confess an interest in his story.
When I picked up The Mercury Chronicles #0 earlier this year, I wasn’t sure what the thin 10-page story would offer, other than the stunning art I encountered while initially flipping through its pages. Indeed, this kind of prologue is the perfect way to kick off a series -- a simple enough launching pad that can be summed up in just a few panels’ worth of story in the follow issue #1, yet poignant enough to stand on its own as a teaser for the greater concept to come. Mike Lilly’s sketchbook section is also more comprehensive than I would’ve expected, complete with color studies and insightful notes into the visual development of the series. As I’m sure was intended, this little peek behind the curtain has inspired me to find the whole series to see if it lives up to its pre-development potential.
Fortier concludes his introductory blurb by describing The Mercury Chronicles as “an authentic homage to the era [the ‘30s-‘40s] rather than a haphazard interpretation,” perhaps like the one I rattled off above. From what I’ve read so far, I agree. Since the comics of that era are relatively black and white compared to the mired subplots of today’s graphic fare, Delsante seems determined to use war, the mystery of space, and superheroes in a way to exploit the true vulnerabilities of that otherwise innocent time. In other words, his Mercury Chronicles is checking the barometer of America’s then-developing pop culture. It’s all in the name.