Stan Lee looked across the board room table at the directors, editors, writers and artists of Marvel comics, all assembled in the largest board room in the building. Everyone was busy talking, getting caught up on the rumors about who became what. He did a quick head count, and was distressed at the figure he came up with. They had lost at least a third of their staff to the Change.
Impatient to start the meeting, he formed a ball of energy in his hoofed hand and tossed it on the center of the table. With a flash of light and a loud BOOM, it exploded, leaving the papers on the table undisturbed, but effectively killing all of the conversation in the room.
"Now that I have your attention, could we please get started?" Mr. Lee said, sitting down at the head of the table, his back to the curtains covering the windows to the 10th story board room. Normally, he would have the curtains open, but considering the number of flyers New York now had, and the fact that this meeting was key to the future of Marvel comics and its characters, he didn't want anyone from their competitors watching in. After much shuffling around, everyone settled into their places around the table and the edge of the room.
"Now, as we all know, there was a slight change in the definition of 'normal' last month, and what I want to know is how we're going to deal with it?" Stan made sure to glance at everyone in the room. Quite a few people were trying to hold back snickers and they all were smiling.
Stan let a smile of his own cross his lips. His statement was the understatement of the century, considering what it was referring to. The Change had swept across New York City just as Stan had been arriving at the office. His first indication had been the pair of bull horns that had literally sprang from his head. Everything had gone downhill from there.
Now a mid-degree bull Murphy, Stan had decided to hold off any more production until more was known about what had happened. He gave everyone a few weeks off and disappeared out in the country to think and plan. Those few weeks were now up, but not everyone one had returned. Hopefully though, there were enough people here to get the comics he had in mind out.
I should've gotten nametags for everyone, he thought ruefully to himself as he realized that he couldn't recognize any of the faces looking back at him. Marvel comics now had a fair number of pigeons, crows, dogs, horses, and many of the other relatively common morphs on staff, but some of the more 'rarer' morphs were here too. A stegosaurus was sitting along the wall next to a hammerhead shark, and a goldfish morph was warily keeping an eye on the piranha morph who was sitting on the edge of the fishtank they were sharing by common necessity.
Stan stopped his ruminating and continued his speech. "The way I see it, we have two options. The first option we could do is continue on like nothing has happened. We keep drawing everyone like normal humans and continue on with the Onslaught and Hero's Reborn plan.
"Our second option is much more drastic. We put Onslaught on indefinite hold, cancel Heroes Reborn completely and we bring the Change across to the Marvel Universe. Thoughts people?" he finished and waited as hushed discussions started up around the room. Finally, a dog spoke up from the back of the room.
"I say we bring over the Change. It would be fun drawing everyone as morphs, and it would be a change from what we usually do, kind've like Amalgam was. Hell, if the fans don't like it, we could just do a reset like we did with the Age of Apocalypse, and pick up things like nothing happened!" Everyone else in the room nodded in agreement.
"We're going to need to bring in morph characters eventually, otherwise we won't be able to survive. Our normal adult heroes simply would be out of place in a world of adult morphed humans." the stegosaurus spoke up.
"Good, I feel the same way you do, so the next... Yes?" Stan stopped as he noticed a small mouse morph raising his hand hesitantly.
"I- I'm not against br-bringing in the Ch-Change, b-but should we r-r-really be dropping Onslaught for it?" he asked timidly.
"We aren't dropping Onslaught completely, just putting him on hold, and probably not a long hold either. I don't think we can afford to keep Professor X out of the loop for too long, and right now, Onslaught is Professor X." Stan replied to the mouse.
"Do we really need to drop all of the Heroes Reborn stuff? After all, most of the Onslaught comics and the first Heroes Reborn comics are already in post production. It would be a waste to just throw them all away." the goldfish piped in.
"Well, we could do it, but that would mean delaying the change in the main universe until after Onslaught, as well as waiting for the second issue for the Reborn stuff."
"So? By delaying it, we could hold a contest to decide on what the new heroes will be, and the change could be blamed on Onslaught's death, and if we need to go back to normal, we just tie it in with the Heroes Return storyline. Could it be any simpler?"
Stan smiled. "Not in the world of comics. OK, I want the Onslaught stories wrapped up as fast as we can. Get as many of them out by the end of the week as possible, cut out some of the threads if needed. Start spreading the word for the 'morph the hero' contest too; we'll decide on the prizes later. I want us to be in the position to bring in the Change by the end of the month. Now, not counting the books already in post production, how many Change stories can we get --"
Stan was interrupted by a loud splash from the aquarium. The morphs sitting closest to the aquarium jumped up and out of the way of the column of water that spurted up, carrying the piranha morph into the air and onto the conference table. "...out?" Stan slowly finished, his gaze torn between the soaking wet conference table with its stunned piranha, and the half empty aquarium and it's lone goldfish morph.
"She looked at me funny." the morph in the tank said, shrugging his shoulder fins. Stan shook his head and waited for the piranha to aseepishly climb back into the tank. She carefully kept her eyes away from the gold fish.
"Anyways, as I was saying, before I was interrupted, how many stories can we get out?" Stan asked, picking up where he left off.
A bison morph, sitting at the wet table stood up. "Well, I've been checking around the offices and calling numbers, and I've reached this conclusion. Nearly all of the writers have stayed with us, but our pencilers, inkers, painters and other artists have taken a beating; and most of them will be needed for last minute editing of the Onslaught books. Based on what I've found, we should be able to get 5 new titles out by the end of the month. From there, we should be to work our way back up to full production in about 3 months." Stan realized that the Bison is the head of the human resources department, Ronald Gillis.
"Do your calculations include Rembrandt and Picaso?" someone called from the back of the room. A mid-degree gorilla and a winged hawk looked up in surprise. Stan assumed that they would be Rembrandt and Picasso.
"Yes, they include those two people." the Bison replied. He glanced over at Stan and saw the puzzled look on Stan's face. "Rembrandt and Picasso here are two people we found last week. They both can take images from someone's mind and reproduce it exactly on paper. We've been training them here with some of the writers and artists to get used to drawing our characters. As far as we know, we are the only company to have discovered that type of talent, but I'm sure the others will soon enough."
Stan nodded his head and smiled at the two artists. "Good job in getting them. Is there any other new people I should be aware of?"
"Just one, I've hired him for our Public Relations department." Ronald tried to hide a small smile as he pushed a button and the board room doors open up. In strode Captain America, looking like he always did, with his shield on his back. He stopped at the end of the table.
"Good day, Mr. Lee, everyone else. Captain America, here, at your service," the hero said to the stunned people in the room, in the voice taken from the old cartoon.
"Pretty impressive, isn't it?" the Bison said, smiling at his stunned co-workers. He pushed the button again and the Captain faded out. The door opened again and Cyclops and Jean Gray came in.
"Good day ladies and gentlemen." Cyclops said in Jean's voice from the new cartoon.
"Oops! Well, the person behind this is limited to about two people, and even those two are a bit of a strain for him. He sometimes gets a little confused when there is more than 1 character, like what just happened." the Bison said with a laugh. "Come on in and show yourself, Jim!"
A low degree Lynx morph came in, holding a couple of cards in his hands. The people near the door could see his hand was covering a picture of Cyclops and Jean Gray.
"Everyone, this is Jim Thomas. He can project a moving, speaking, lifelike image of whatever picture his hand is touching. I figure he will be excellent to use at conventions and other publicity occasions." The Bison stood up and put an arm around the small man's shoulder.
Stan got up from his seat. "Excellent plan, with his help we should be able to get back on top!" He walked to the lynx and held out his hand to Jim. "Welcome aboard Jim!"
Jim uncovered the cards to shake Stan's hand and the two X-men fade out. "Thank you sir. It's always been a dream of mine to work with you."
"Well, we're happy to have you here. Why don't you take a seat and have a hand in making the future marvel characters." Stan indicated an empty seat in a corner of the room and returned to his seat.
"Do you have any other surprises instore for me?" Stan asked Ronald.
"Nope, that's all, for now." the Bison replied, smiling.
"OK, now back to business. Since we can only get 5 titles out, we'll need to decide which ones. Due to the lack of personal, only the titles that are at or near the end of Onslaught should be considered." Though considering how big Onslaught has been; that doesn't narrow our search by much!
The room exploded in noise as everyone shouted out their comic book.
Stan considered sending another sound and light blast to quiet things down, but the noise soon died down to an uneasy murmur on its own.
"⁢Sigh> I thought something like this would happen. OK, since we are so limited, we only do the major comics first, teams have priority over individuals. I say Avengers Reborn, Fantastic Four Reborn and X-men. We'll need to do issues number 1 as normal for the Reborn stuff, but the change can come in issue 2. The X-men comic will just have the change happen the next day after they defeat Onslaught. That's 3, we need two more. Thoughts this time, people?"
This time, the noise only rose slightly as everyone reconsidered the importance of their own comics.
"We need a Spiderman. Spidey is our main character; we can't just forget him."
"How about a Gen X comic, to show how the slightly younger generation is reacting to the change?"
"Yeah, a Spiderman would be good, lets make it number 4!"
"Excalibur would be good to show the change happening in a place of the world that's actually awake."
"Silver Surfer could show the universal effects... This is a universal change, right?"
"What about the mutants? They aren't very different now, so what do we do with them?" someone asked, causing a slight pause in the conversation.
"With the mutants, I'm sure that the writers can come up with something so they can stay 'different'. We'll think of a way later, right? Now, what are the last two comics going to be?" Stan asked.
Looks are exchanged before another pigeon, this one with both arms and wings, spoke up. "Spiderman definitely needs to be out there in his own book. As for the last book, well, how about a Marvel Universe story, with flashes to what the other guys are all doing?"
"I like it. We're doing it. Everyone, break into your usual teams, or as close as you can to your usual. We are going to be doing 5 comics. The Avengers and FF Reborn issue 2 teams should work closely together, to get the timing right. X-men, Spidey and the mixture teams need to do the same. The time that the change happens does NOT need to match between the two universes. These comics WILL be out the week after we release the Onslaught comic. I want a quick plot idea for each book, a theme for the mixture story, make it a theme that can be picked up when the regular series are restarted, and a list of characters and what they will become, including any extra powers and sketches, on my desk by the end of the week. With that in mind, make the 'Morph the hero' contest Internet only; we need speed in this case. Dismissed!"
Stan had seen many of the people wanted to get to work, so he quickly wrapped up the meeting. He watched as everyone slowly filed out of the room, in deep discussion. "Ronald, Rembrandt, Picasso, Jim, could you stay here a moment please?" he called to the new employees and the manager.
They paused and walked back to the table. Stan waited until the last person has left before addressing them. "I don't want you three to join any teams yet. The new characters need to be decided on, and decided on quickly. We don't have time for long debates on whether or not Captain America would look better as a bald eagle morph or a golden eagle morph. I want you two," he pointed to Rembrandt and Picasso, "to sketch out the ideas people have. Try and concentrate on the writer's ideas."
He turned to Jim. "As for you, I want you to use these sketches and make your 3-D images. We're going to need to consider the action figure market on these characters, so it won't do to have a hero that is next to impossible to make a figure from. Your images can give us an idea of what the action figure would be." Stan sat back down. "You may go now, try to move around the groups as much as you can." The three left quickly.
"Now, Ronald, what do you know about these new guys?"
"Not much about Rembrandt and Picasso. Those two seem to be old friends, and they are excellent artists, but beyond that, we know nothing. They are eager to start here and we do need all the artists we can get right now. As for Jim, he's a Canadian. My brother, who was taking a vacation in Montreal, found him doing impersonations at the Just for Laughs festival. He loves performing and comic books, and my brother felt he would be perfect for our PR department. Family can come in handy at times, but I do wish my brother hadn't become his damn agent."
Stan got up and the two walked out of the room. "Hmmm, I guess that's enough for now. As soon as you can, do a security check on them, just in case. I'll be in my office. Paramount still wants us to go through with the Star Trek comics, but they haven't told me what everyone is now. I'm not doing a single sketch until they tell me what I'm to sketch!"
"Hehe, Good luck boss!" the Bison laughed as they arrived at Stan's office.
Stan waved his hand to dismiss Ronald and walked into his office. He saw the piles of papers in his incoming box and groaned softly in dismay. Closing things down for a few weeks may have been relaxing, but there was always a price to pay. With a sigh, he sat down and started on the first file.
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