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Future Imperfect: Marvel 2099

By Patrick McNair Oct 3, 2016 - 9:27 AM print

In the early 1990s, Marvel began to experiment with new narrative continuities and created a whole new series of stories to see where the Marvel Universe would be 100 years in the future. The project was initially announced as a single series called The Marvel World of Tomorrow , before being changed to an imprint line as Marvel 2093 (the year being 100 years from the year in which the titles were published), before being changed yet again to Marvel 2099 . Four titles were initially published: Spider-Man 2099 , Punisher 2099 , Doom 2099 and Ravage 2099 . Of these titles, three were reimagined versions of established characters, (with the exception of Doom, who was in fact the original Victor Von Doom, who had been teleported to the future) while Ravage was an entirely new character, with the first eight issues of Ravage 2099 written by Stan Lee.

Marvel 2099 is set in a dystopian future, where America has become a corporate police state, ruled by megacorporations, of which the most prominent, Alchemax owns a private police force known as the Public Eye. The Public Eye forces civilians to live in a perpetual state of paranoia, within a totalitarian state, having traded away civil liberties for a life of enforced security. Alchemax was a jumping off point for many of the 2099 heroes as Miguel O'Hara (Spider-Man) was an employee of Alchemax R&D, Jake Gallows (The Punisher) a Public Eye officer and Ravage, a former CEO of an Alchemax subsidiary. Before the start of the comics, there were no superheroes in the world, with the heroes of the present day Marvel continuity passing into legend and mythologised through religion, such as the Church of Thor. The present-day Marvel continuity is referred to as the "Age of Heroes", which violently ended as a result of an apocalyptic event that set society back a number of generations.

Later, the imprint expanded to include X-Men 2099 and 2099 Unlimited , an anthology series that included Spider-Man 2099 stories and also introduced a new Hulk. Despite the comics having a strong degree of interconnectivity, the imprint only featured one crossover story within the 2099 universe, The Fall of the Hammer, , which depicted an attempt by the corporations to recreate the Norse pantheon, including a new Thor. However, as time went on, sales for the 2099 imprint began to flag (with the exception of X-Men and Spider-Man ), so the editors began to take the series in a different direction, with the 2099 A.D. (A.D. standing for "After Doom") storyline, where Dr Doom was revealed to be the original Victor Von Doom, accidentally sent to the future and took over the United States. The storyline allowed Marvel to cancel a number of low selling titles such as Ravage and The Punisher , with these characters and a handful of others being killed off in the story. New titles like X-Nation 2099 , an X-Men spin-off and Fantastic Four 2099 (the original quartet, like Doom) were introduced to boost sales, but both series were quickly cancelled and original editor Joe Cavalieri was fired.

As Marvel 2099 continued to decline, every title was cancelled and consolidated into a new single series entitled 2099: World of Tomorrow , which continued incomplete storylines from the previous Marvel 2099 titles; although that series was quickly cancelled as well, lasting only eight issues. The 2099 line was concluded with the one-shot comic, 2099: Manifest Destiny in 1998, where Steve Rogers, the original Captain America is discovered in suspended animation and along with Miguel O'Hara, reform the Avengers. The title went on to summarise the next thousand years, where the dystopia of 2099 is transformed into a utopia, where humanity expands into space by 3099. Since then, the world of 2099 has been revisited on a few occasions, most notably the "Future Tense" storyline in Captain Marvel and in a series of one-shots, celebrating the fifth anniversary of the Marvel Knights imprint in 2004, under the title, Marvel Knights 2099 (albeit, an alternate 2099 universe, unconnected to the original).

Marvel 2099 was a unique experiment for the company and one that dared to explore new ideas and possibilities for the Marvel Universe. It's no surprise that both X-Men 2099 and Spider-Man 2099 where the most popular titles, considering their present-day counterparts had always enjoyed a high level of success. Other titles like Ravage 2099 suffered from a lack of direction, with a variety of writers brought in after Stan Lee's departure. As a result, later issues feature an almost completely different version of the main character that significantly veers away from Lee's tale of corporate espionage. The company struggled to keep readers engaged with futuristic versions of established characters, later bringing in the original Dr Doom and Fantastic Four, but by then it was too late and Marvel was forced to cancel the entire line and quickly wrap up the imprint in a final issue with 2099: Manifest Destiny . Despite its commercial "failure", Marvel 2099 remains a distinct line of comics that went on a limb and tried something different, providing an entirely new stage for its writers.

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