ABC’s New workplace comedy Damage Control, straight from the pages of the Marvel Comic.
This week on The Heroes, Villains and Sidekicks Show we’ll be looking into the origin and backstory of Marvel’s clean up crew for superhero disasters, Damage Control.
So let’s say that Bruce Banner is having a coffee at a nice diner in Manhattan and the waitress accidentally didn’t give him his decaf. Then to make matters worse, she served him apple pie and not peach pie and his eyes go green and he Hulks out. He destroys the restaurant, and just about the entire block, then jumps away muttering something about feeling a bit jittery.
Well usually that’s where we leave things right. We follow the Hulk, he turns back into Banner and laments what he’s just done. But in the pages of Damage Control we learn what happens back at the scene of all that destruction, the Damage Control crew are hired to clean things up and rebuild. Think of it, all those super human battles in NYC, all that damage, a company like that could make a killing. I’ve always loved this concept although it doesn’t seem like a title that could really fly in the normal Marvel Universe. Although I could see it really working if taken and run with by someone like Bendis. It really reminds me of he Bendis treats heroes and civilians in his amazing title Powers. Where heroes aren’t always the good guys and or just make stupid mistakes, like getting powers and trying to fly for the first time only to smash through several buildings and then hitting a person walking her dog completely obliterating her. This really happened in a Powers storyline. It was so cool. If you haven’t read Powers please, give it a read.
Damage Control was co-created by writer Dwayne McDuffie and artist Ernie Colon and first appeared in the 1988 Marvel Age annual number 4 in a short 5-page story titled “The Sales Pitch”. We didn’t learn that much about the team then. The entire 5 pages is just a representative from Damage Control telling the Hulk what Damage Control was all about and asking him if he would be their spokesperson. The representative gave him a brochure, which looks hilarious, I’ve put a image of it up on the site. No surprises…the Hulk does not care for the pitch and clobbers him with a roulette wheel. If you’re wondering why a roulette wheel, this was back when the Hulk was grey, was smart and ran a casino. So strange to read some of these 80’s book’s. Silver and Bronze age stuff is silly and weird sometimes, but 80’s stuff just feels wrong sometimes. But maybe it’s all the characters with mullets.
So that’s our first glimpse at Damage Control. We don’t get a lot. The team then show up again in Marvel Comics Presents number 19 in 1989 in a 17-page story. This time we get a little more insight into the group and what they can do. This story starts with John Porter talking to the bar owner when suddenly Daredevil and a bad guys he’s fighting bust through the window. John then kicks his sales pitch into high gear trying to sell her superhero insurance. She asks if he’s from Damage Control and he say’s he’s on his own and not affiliated with them. As he tries to sell her on the idea her bar is being destroyed bit by bit until a grenade blows the place up leaving her in tears standing outside of it with John Porter and the other patrons. Just then Damage Control swoops in and says they are there to fix her building and uphold their end of the contract. In a few panels they clear the debris and put up a new building. John is just standing there amazed. He wasn’t aware they could do work so fast and well. It’s then that Ann-Marie Hoag, a stylish older woman offers him a job with Damage Control, Inc.. And he takes it.
The core Damage Control team includes:
Ann-Marie Hoag: Founder and first director of Damage Control, she’s a shrewd older woman with some fairly high up contacts in the Marvel Universe.
Robin Chapel: Traffic manager and Ms. Hoag’s most trusted employee who ends up taking over Damage Control for a time.
Albert Cleary: Comptroller, he’s a financial genius and helps to keep the company in the black.
John Porter: Account executive, John has the uncanny ability to find peaceful, if not very unique solutions to complicated problems.
Bart Rozum: Former intern, offered a full-term contract as personal assistant to Robin Chapel. He’s a very Shaggy like character, really right out of Scooby Doo.
Eugene “Gene” Strausser: He’s a tech at damage Control, a bit of a Stark, able to build and understand tech and help Damage Control rebuild destroyed buildings and the like. He actually becomes a villain at one point after he is fired from Damage Control, but he reforms and is hired back to help the team.
Damage Control Inc. then returns in 3 separate mini-series, each limited to four issues. I partly believe that they never got a series that wasn’t a mini because the concept works a lot better in short contained stories. I re-read all the issues from each series before I recorded the show and found them to be a little formulaic. A bad guy destroys something and then Damage Control fixes it, there is some corporate intrigue about how the company is run and some soap opera inter-business relationships but I had a hard time getting into the stories. That being said, I still love the concept of the book and I think it could be done really well now and how comic storytelling has improved. I keep thinking that Bendis would just kill writing a new version of Damage Control.
But all that being said there were a lot of moments that I really liked reading through the mini’s. For example on one page the construction crew from Damage Control is cleaning up a demolished building when one of the men find a glowing object and pick it up. The foreman tells him to put it down, but before he can the worker transforms into a muscular green man and explains he is not meant to be hear, that he has a destiny and he flies away. The foreman calls in and tells Damage Control to send over another worker, one of his just had an “origin” and won’t be back. I just loved that page. That’s what I think the book could be, not just them cleaning up but being affected by the events, being changed. I think that could be really fun.
One odd thing about Damage Control is that it is owned by Tony Stark and Wilson Fisk. Not a pair you would think would go into business with each other. Well their partnership doesn’t last long, in one of the series Mrs. Hoag, the founder, is offered a job with the government and puts Robin Chapel in charge. Fisk and Stark both do not feel she is capable enough to run the company and sell their interests in it. Stark sells more out of really not wanting to be business partners with the Kingpin of crime. Damage Control is then sold to Carlton Co an obvious nod to Charlton Comics, so that was neat. But Carlton was doing some shady things, like borrowing money from the Kingpin to actually have enough to buy Damage Control. Well that gave Fisk a stake in the company and he bleed them dry with crazy criminal type interest payments. So Charlton cut costs and fired people and almost bankrupt the company. Fearing Damage Control would go under Hoag came back and got her friend Nick fury involved. They then discovered what Charlton was up to and that Fisk had his hand in the company’s cookie jar. Not only was Fisk getting these huge interest payments, he made 700 million off the company when he orchestrated the early nineties Marvel event Acts of Vengeance.
Now out from under Charlton Co. and Fisk Damage control rebuilt itself, hired it’s employees back and went out there to get more work. They pop up from time to time in the Marvel Universe, they had a 3 issue mini during the Planet Hulk event and even bid on rebuilding the Avengers mansion when Luke Cage was in charge. One of their last appearances in the Marvel Universe was in The amazing Spider-man issue 673 where they were hired to fix up Manhattan after the events of Spider Island. There may have been some newer appearances but I wasn’t able to find them in my research. If you know of any just head over to the site and post them in the post for this show on the episodes page..
So why I thought it would be interesting to do an episode on Damage Control is because both ABC and NBC are developing shows along this vein. ABC is actually developing a show titled Damage Control that is totally based of the comic series and if you think of it, it’s a perfect superhero show for a network. You can sprinkle in some capes, have them destroy things and then Damage Control comes in to clean up. Not a lot of special effects, sure there will be a lot of CGI, but nothing like in shows like Agents of Shield. That and according to Variety, the ABC version of Damage Control will be shot as a workplace comedy like the “The Office”, which suits the wacky nature of the comic well.
Here’s the description ABC released:
Damage Control centers on the overworked and underpaid clean up crew of the Marvel Universe. Their specialty is dealing with the aftermath of the unique fallout from superhero conflicts, like returning lost ray guns to their rightful owners, rescheduling a wedding venue after it has been vaporized in a battle or even tracking down a missing prize African parrot that’s been turned to stone or goo. Sometimes the most important heroes are the ones behind the scenes.
I’m really looking forward to seeing what they do with that. Now NBC is also doing a workplace comedy that revolves around superheroes and the damage they inflict on cities that show concentrates more on the insurance end of the process. NBC’s show is called Powerless and again revolves around normal, non-powered people who help out cities and average joe’s when a super villain destroys their property. The interesting thing is that the show is set in the DC Universe, making it the first DC superhero comedy out there.
It’s really strange that there are two shows along the same vein coming out at about the same time, but that actually happens a lot. One network puts out a show about firemen, then the other network tries their hand at a fireman show. We’ll see which one comes out on top, but they seem different enough to find their own audience.