Before Watchmen and before Captain Planet, the comic series Elementals brought the four forces of nature together as a super team by a then-young artist named Bill Willingham. Launched in 1984, it ran for a total of 75 issues between three ongoing and a handful of one-shots, and helped put Willingham on the map and pave the way for his work years later with Fables. It dealt with ideas about environmental danger, superheroes as celebrity, and even religion, predating many things that would later become status quo in the superhero genre. But due to lateness during its run and the disappearance of the title’s owner Andrew Rev, whom Willingham sold the book to in the early 90s, it’s become a forgotten gem in a sea of back issue bins.
With the last issue published 16 years ago and Willingham moving on to become the creator/writer of DC/Vertigo’s flagship book Fables, it seems like an ideal time for this indie superhero team to get a second life. Lawyers may need to sort out the rights situation, but this is how I’d do it.
Willingham admitted in later interviews that Elementals was created on the fly with very little pre-planning, but if you look back at the original work as a whole you see a number of things that could be grasped onto to create a new series. Like some sort of Earth-friendly Fantastic Four, the four-person team of Morningstar, Fathom, Vortex and Monolith facing off against an ageless sorcerer named Lord Saker is primed for riveting action. The heroes were all victims of death by nature in their human lives, and brought back by the very same forces that killed them which each taking on one of the powers of the four forces of nature.
Head Writer / Series-Runner – Bill Willingham: Although he admitted selling the title back in the 90s due to disinterest in writing more stories, I wonder if now, almost two decades later, Willingham wouldn’t be interested in showing his ideas for how superheroes can work. With his immense talent for world building (as seen in Fables) and the audience that comes with, it’d be interesting to see Willingham continue his revisionist take on the superhero genre as a sort of showrunner akin to how Joss Whedon manages Dark Horse’s Buffy comics.
Writer – Chris Roberson: Willingham’s a very busy guy, and to keep him on the book I’d enlist his longtime colleague Chris Roberson to be the one putting pen to paper. Roberson did some great superhero work on Superman/Batman awhile back, and his current IDW Series Memorial has been great as well.
Artist – Paul Pelletier: Pelletier has become one of the yeoman of comics, not unlike Mark Bagley. Month in and month out he delivers quality work, but can’t seem to get some of that sizzle other artists have. But have no doubt, Pelletier is a real force and I’d love to see him partner with someone like Willingham to dream up Elementals for the modern day.