NPR Revives a Forgotten Superhero

Now that he’s fallen into the Public Domain, National Public Radio (or, rather, Planet Money at NPR) has decided to claim MicroFace as their own.

They’re having a comic book made up, and you can pre-order it

They’re also selling T-shirts and other stuff.

The creator, Al Ulmer, died decades ago, but they interviewed his daughter (who’s now 80), and she thinks her father would love the revival.

Information on the original character, pre-NPR:

Hey good looking, we’ll be back to pick you up later!

I like Planet Money, but I found the first episode in the series (where they try to “buy” Doorman from the Great Lakes Avengers from Marvel) to be below average. They didn’t even explain what they meant by “buying” Doorman (a licensing agreement? transferring the copyright of the comic issues he appeared in?) and it seemed like they were faking ignorance of the difficulties that would involve. The later episodes about abandoned copyright were interesting, though.

What’s really impressive is that he could tweet with that mask.

Og help me, but I instantly knew what this was from.

I thought it was a delightful episode. The comic book framing was fun, the attempt to directly participate in some economic phenomenon is Planet Money at its best. The dramatic reading of the first appearance of DoorMan was so good.

I think partly they never explained what they meant by “buy” is that they couldn’t do it. Why go into the details of something that doesn’t happen?

I don’t know. I just think it was kind of stupid to stand outside of Marvel’s offices (on the radio, so you can’t even see it) with a briefcase full of cash trying to pay money for…something? Personally I’d be much more interested in a discussion of the business of super-hero licensing, for instance.

I just started reading the first segment of this series, but I’m pretty sure they’re going to talk about superhero licensing.

I can see that. But it’s totally on-brand for Planet Money to try to take active part in some market, and I think those are their best stories. I love when they try to sell their one barrel of oil or report on their single toxic bond or hawk their tiny pickup truck of Christmas trees.

I definitely enjoyed learning about the crude oil market and the Christmas tree market. I’m not sure what I learned from the first episode other than “Doorman is a dumb idea for a superhero” and “Marvel refused to comment for our story”.

The other episodes focusing on the public domain were more educational.

The episode did have a bit of “comics intellectual property for dummies” quick review with the reminder of how Marvel owns a buttload of legacy characters from acquired labels all the way back to Golden Age, and afterward with the guy from Archie Comics who very briefly told them how come Marvel would not even speak to them (preserve every character just in case, with the example of Groot). But yes, the DoorMan bit had a vibe of “man, who even cares about a character this stupid?” and “man, are Marvel corporate stiffs or what?”

…Did they make clear that Doorman is supposed to be kind of a stupid character, like the rest of the Great Lakes Avengers? That’s the entire point of those characters - they’re deliberate self-parodies by Marvel. Even if Squirrel Girl somehow became unironically popular. (And, BTW, that’s another example of “preserve every character just in case” - even the silliest characters can unexpectedly resonate with fans, especially in the hands of a talented creative team).

(And it’s not “DoorMan”, it’s Doorman. He’s not a Man with the powers of a Door…well, he kind of is, actually. He opens “doors” - that is, he rips the very fabric of the universe to create interdimensional portals, which allows his teammates to instantaneously travel anywhere in the world, and beyond).

In the show they dumb it down to “he goes up to a wall, and then makes himself into a door through it”. The way you describe it he’s almost respectable.

I actually bungled his power set.

Originally, his power was pretty much as you describe - he can become a door that his teammates can pass through. He’s kind of a silly hero. But, again, he’s supposed to be. All of the Great Lakes Avengers are supposed to be sillier, less useful versions of existing Marvel characters.

In his case, Doorman originally had a more limited version of the power set of another character, Cloak, who is a living portal to the Darkforce dimension which is…a whole thing in the Marvel Universe. Depending on the creative team and the needs of the plot, Darkforce manipulation can be a pretty powerful power set. Doorman originally could just act as a portal that allowed his teammates to pass through him to the other side of any solid object. But he could also become intangible and grant direct access to the Darkforce dimension.

Later, he developed more elaborate Darkforce manipulation powers, and became a cosmic-level character, and a literal Angel of Death.

And he had a cool costume, in a minimalist sort of way (IMHO).

This part of the episode was something I wish they’d gone into more. Because it doesn’t really make sense to me. Like, yes, Groot is now a beloved character worth a ton after he was a charming sidekick in Guardians of the Galaxy, but you don’t need a vault of characters for that. They could have made up a charming character to put in Guardians and made a popular character worth a ton of money. The fact that they had a living tree that could only say one sentence in the vault somewhere seems pretty orthogonal to the fact that they now have a popular licensed character on their hands.

The reason Groot is popular has everything to do with his portrayal in a recent well-made popular movie, and basically nothing to do with whatever comic book he was in in the 60s.

Damn, even at this, Flyover Country gets no respect. :sweat_smile:

They went over that, but as stated, too briefly – but it’s part of the whole deal of why Planet Money was looking for a revived character to begin with and in the end went for the Public Domain: to not have to create one anew 'cause that is harder and riskier. And under Marvel’s logic, if you’re going to write a role for a charming sidekick for the new movie, they’d rather have you use in that role a character that Marvel already owns and controls 100%.

Actually, the Groot that first appeared in Marvel comics, back in the monster-attack era comic of 1960 was downright loquacious. He didn’t have only one sentence

They completely re-imagined him, his character, and his backstory. They did, in effect, create a new character.

But Marvel still hangs onto their old stuff, including monsters like Fin Fang Foom and Gorgilla.

He showed up not that long ago.

The story also involves Wolverine, two of his female clones, SHIELD, Captain Marvel, and Iron Man. It really should be made into a movie to confuse and anger the “X-Men and Avengers shouldn’t meet” folks.

He’s shown up quite a few times over the past few decades. I don’t know why he’s so popular when…The Crawling Creature, for instance, isn’t.

Better name.