The Slingers Reunion 12 Years in the Making!
One of my favorite comic books of all time was Slingers from 1998-1999, about a team of four college students trying and failing to be superheroes. It was a cute little series, but it didn’t have the traction to make it past 12 issues. That sucker got cancelled!
But since comic book characters never truly disappear, the four heroes have lived on in the Marvel Universe, popping up from time to time in various roles and stories. Usually in the background, rarely in any important capacity. As a fan, it’s basically just been a game of hide and seek over the past decade trying to spot all the appearances. Usually they only appear individually, never as a team.
That is until Avengers Academy #26 this week, when two of the Slingers finally came face-to-face for the first time since their series was cancelled all those years ago! Writer Christos Gage clearly did his research on the characters to add a personal touch to the encounter, so for a Slingers fan like myself, it was a giddy little thrill – emphasis on ‘little’. This is a tiny, minuscule moment. They barely appear on the same page together.
But in a pair of talking heads, Gage has them confront one another, seeing as how they’re on two different sides of the current Avengers Academy conflict. Ricochet is with the Academy, Prodigy is with the other guys.
For a Slingers fan like myself, that’s quite the fun little tidbit.
But does that make any sense to anybody else? There’s a lot of continuity squeezed into that little confrontation. Follow me after the jump for a fun history lesson on one of my favorite comic books of all time!
The story of the Slingers begins with Spider-Man in the mid-90s, when he was framed for murdering some low-level mobster. A reward was put out for the capture of Spider-Man, and every two-bit nobody who could pick up a weapon was gunning for the web-slinger. Spidey needed to go under cover to solve this frame-up and clear his name, so he devised four new superhero identities: Prodigy, Hornet, Ricochet and Dusk.
At the time, Spider-Man had four ongoing comics on the stands. So each comic got its own costume for a few months, until the frame-up was solved and Peter Parker returned to his normal Spider-Man costume. He boxed up the new outfits and put them in the attic.
But Marvel Comics had other plans.
Soon after, they started a new series called Slingers about the four college students who were recruited to be superheroes using those same costumes and identities that Spidey put in the attic. The series was about them struggling to be heroes and get into the whole rhythm of crime-fighting, while dealing with the mysterious origins of their powers. It was a very fun book, with a very light-hearted tone. Each character had their own distinct personality, and it was more about them struggling to be superheroes than anything else. They didn’t just dive in and succeed at being heroes, they had to work at it, often getting it wrong. Slingers had a hell of a lot of heart.
By the end of the 12 issues, they had each managed to come out relatively unscathed. But with the series over, they all went their separate ways.
My favorite was Hornet.
Eddie McDonough was a quiet, unassuming nerd with cerebral palsy in his left hand, making it useless. He wore a flying cybernetic battlesuit, with no actual powers himself. The Hornet suit also let him use his left hand, so he loved being a hero. Hornet is the one that Ricochet mentions in that picture I posted. Hornet has the saddest story of them all. After Slingers was cancelled, Hornet was trotted out a few years later to be served up as fodder for a Wolverine story. Wolverine was being mind-controlled by the bad guys and he needed to kill a hero to prove just how bad the situation was. Marvel couldn’t have him kill a popular hero…so bye-bye Hornet.
Next we have Dusk.
Dusk has only appeared about as much as Hornet since the end of their series, though at least she’s still alive. Cassie St. Commons wore an all-black costume that Spider-Man received from the Negative Zone. She could blend into the shadows and teleport. After the series, she made a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it appearance in the pages of Ms. Marvel, of all comics. She was under the thrall of the Puppet Master. And that’s it.
Faring far better is Ricochet.
Johnny Gallo is a mutant with enhanced speed and reflexes, so he’s very agile. Those yellow discs were his main weapon. He’d throw them around, letting them bounce and ricochet into the bad guys. Johnny reappeared a few years after Slingers as a member of the Loners, a group of former costumed young people who were trying to go straight and live normal lives. They were a support group for former superheroes from the 90s. The Loners first appeared in the pages of The Runaways, then got their own mini-series some time later. Obviously, certain events put them back into costume playing superhero.
After the Loners mini-series, Ricochet disappeared again…until randomly turning up in the pages of Avengers Academy! This new series is exactly what it sounds like: a school for young superheroes. I don’t buy the book, but I’ve been flipping through the pages at the store. Ricochet has appeared in maybe two panels, including the one I just posted up above. Still, it’s nice to know that he went to Hornet’s funeral.
The Slinger with the greatest track record is Prodigy.
Richie Gilmore’s costume, and especially his cape, give him enhanced strength, speed, durability and allow him to leap great distances in a single bound. He’s a stuck up douchebag, for the most part. Prodigy got his big break in Civil War, arguably Marvel’s most popular story in the past decade. It pit hero against hero over whether or not they should reveal their secret identities and register with the U.S. Government. Prodigy was the first superhero casualty when the new registration law went into effect. He got drunk, refused to register and got his ass kicked by Iron Man – as you can see in that picture.
Prodigy was eventually released from jail to join the heroes in the big climactic fight at the end of Civil War – but in the end, the pro-registration team won and Prodigy eventually had to sign up. He served time in the Initiative, basically a boot camp for registered superheroes. He eventually became a pretty big player in the Initiative, a leader among his fellow heroes. Prodigy had big roles in the Initiative tie-ins to the stories Siege and Fear Itself. Though he had a lot of problems during Fear Itself, such as that fight in Vegas that he mentioned.
Afterwards, following the Avengers Academy storyline, Prodigy has joined up with a guy named Jeremy Briggs. He’s a super-powered guy with some shady intentions who is hiring other heroes to his cause of making the world a better place. I guess he’s kind of sketchy, and the good guys at the Avengers Academy don’t like him.
Which brings us to Avengers Academy #26, where Briggs and his people arrive at the Academy to recruit more to their side. Well Ricochet is with the Academy, but he doesn’t want to go. And that’s basically the background for that exchange of talking heads.
They even share a panel together!
And that’s it. Small, minuscule moment in a random comic book that I don’t even read. But it’s a small reminder that once upon a time, there was a short little comic book series that I loved, and I’m not the only one.