DC Marvel Histories, we try to make sense of the continuity that perplexes, befuddles, and intimidates. We discuss what worked and what didn’t. This week, we’re talking about hardest working company in the Marvel Universe, Damage Control.
In 1989, readers were first fully introduced to Damage Control in the pages of Marvel Comics Presents. After a fight between Daredevil and a thug resulted in the complete destruction of a local diner, insurance salesman John Porter saw first hand how quickly Damage Control, a repair company specializing in properties damaged by superhuman battles, was able to replace the building. Mrs. Hoag, manager of the company, was on hand to oversee the repairs and to offer John a job as Account Executive with the firm.
John agreed to work for Damage Control. Upon his arrival with the company, he met most of the other major players including Robin, the Traffic Manager; Lenny, the Head Foreman; Albert, the Comptroller; Gene, head of R&D; and Bart, the local college intern. It was a tough crew and everyone handled themselves professionally.
During John’s first day on the job, he had to deal with a robot that had been taken out by the Avengers. Normally, this type of thing wouldn’t have been a big deal. After all, it seems like robots are a daily hazard in a place like New York City. Unfortunately, this was a giant robot. In fact, so big was this giant robot that it’s head had ended up rested halfway up the World Trade Center while its legs were at least a half-mile away.
The first issue also contained what I think is the best joke in the entire series. While Lenny and his crew worked to fix the damage caused by the Avengers’ battle, a glowing green orb was found by a member of the construction crew. The crew member felt compelled to touch it and when he did, he transformed into a super strong, green, muscle-bound figure. He leapt away, secure in the knowledge that his new-found powers were needed elsewhere.
Lenny just shrugged at this development and called headquarters to request another worker be sent to the construction site. “One of my men just had an origin,” he deadpanned over the phone.
It wasn’t just construction that weighed on Damage Control’s workload. Payment was also key to their business. They would only do work if all of a company’s bills were paid up. Usually, this wasn’t a problem. However, it came to the company’s attention that the Latverian Embassy in New York City hadn’t paid all of its bills. So, they sent Albert, the company’s Comptroller, to investigate. Everyone else was simply too scared to go. After meeting Doctor Doom in person, Albert was able to get a signed check for everything owed to the company.
As can be gleamed from the examples already given, this series had a very light tone. Its mix of real world problem and the more absurd aspects of the Marvel Universe was hilarious. It poked fun at the conventions of the superhero genre with affection, not malice.
Damage Control was created by Dwayne McDuffie and Ernie Colon. McDuffie had been an editor at Marvel for a little while and Damage Control was among the first titles that he wrote. During Damage Control’s first series, McDuffie answered questions for Marvel’s ‘Bullpen Bulletins’ feature that ran in most of their cover dated July, 1989 comics. It gave a good introduction to McDuffie’s personality along with lists of his favorite books and artists.
Sadly, McDuffie died unexpectedly in 2011 following heart surgery. His lose to both the comics and animation industries is still being felt today. McDuffie did a lot with his 20+ year career, including finally fulfilling his 1989 ambition of writing Fantastic Four in 2006.
The original Damage Control four-issue miniseries was a huge success. The series’ fourth issue was released in August and, in December of that same year, a second Damage Control four-issue miniseries launched. This time, the series tied in fairly heavily to the Marvel Universe by being a part of the massive Acts Of Vengeance crossover, which was then taking place in nearly every Marvel comic. While New York City was falling apart due to the massive battles in various tie-ins, Damage Control was experiencing a labor strike. It was awkward for everyone.
Just like the previous volume, this four-issue miniseries was received well enough for Marvel to commission a third Damage Control miniseries to be published the following year. Clocking in at four issues, just like the previous books, this third volume focused on both the return of that strange, green construction worker from the first volume and the creation of a Damage Control movie. Unfortunately, the former storyline didn’t fit with the tone of the previous volumes. This was McDuffie having fun with the idea of Marvel Cosmic but he was doing it with a bunch of characters who were extremely down-to-earth. It made for jarring reading.
Luckily, the Damage Control movie plot was just as fun as anything that had come before. Noticing that superhero movies were doing very well at the box office, the Licencing Department at Damage Control decided to make a movie based on their company.
You may notice that the art in this third series is very different than the previous two volumes. This series’ art was handled by Kyle Baker, as Ernie Colon was doing other work at the time. McDuffie still wrote every word.
Damage Control: The Movie was released in the pages of this third miniseries and it allowed McDuffie to lampoon the film industry. Starring Marlon Brando, Shelly Long, and Wonder Man himself, Simon Williams, the film got poor reviews from the Damage Control staff.
Unfortunately, this third Damage Control series was the last one for a very long time. After finishing this series, McDuffie left Marvel to set up Milestone Media, where he would go on to help create characters like Icon and Static. Damage Control was still mentioned in the occasional Marvel comic, but they wouldn’t be at the forefront of stories until Civil War.
During the events of Civil War, Wolverine attempted to track down the villain who had inadvertently touched off a political battle which pitched hero against hero. The trail he followed led him to Damage Control, where it seemed that the new CEO of the company had been giving villains drugs which enhanced their powers. More powerful villains meant more collateral damage which meant that Damage Control would get more construction jobs. Neither Wolverine nor Mrs. Hoag were happy with this plan.
Damage Control was able to ride the fallout from this scandal. Two years later, when Hulk returned to Earth after being exiled into deep space, his rage gouged deep holes into the New York City skyline. As before, Damage Control was called in to fix up the city. For a small fee, of course.
This World War Hulk spin-off miniseries saw the return of McDuffie as the writer of these characters. He was sorely missed and this miniseries was a fine one.
While this series existed squarely in the post-Civil War Marvel continuity of 2008, McDuffie still took the time to have some fun. For instance, he had his characters try to talk down the newly-sentient Chrysler Building from unmooring itself and going on a stroll around the world.
All four of these main Damage Control series are recommended. They’re a refreshingly different view of the Marvel Universe.
Even though McDuffie passed away in 2011, Damage Control lives on. Recently, they were name-checked in the pages of Avengers: X-Sanction by the Thing. It’s not quite the same as a full-on appearance, but it’s nice to see that Damage Control is still out there somewhere, doing the dirty jobs that no one else is able to do.
Here’s hoping that Marvel releases all of these Damage Control series in one nice omnibus. It would be wonderful if more readers could have access to these characters.
Jeff Reid wants it known that this was a one-off Marvel Histories and that you shouldn’t expect to see another one anytime in the foreseeable future. DC Histories return next (and every!) week. In case you don’t read this, he’ll also say the same thing on Twitter.