MARSHAL LAWMedium: Comic books
Originally published by: Marvel Comics
First appeared: 1987
Creators: Pat Mills (writer) and Kevin O'Neill (artist)
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Superhero parodies have been with us since the days of Supersnipe and The Red Tornado. During the 1980s. the superheroes were still around, but they'd changed. The era of grim'n'gritty heroes called for a grim'n'gritty parody. In Marshal Law, writer Pat Mills (Judge Dredd) and artist Kevin O'Neill (Nemesis) took all the grim and all the gritty
characteristics of contemporary long-underwear guys, exaggerated them beyond reason as a good parody should, and distilled them into the grimmest, grittiest superhero of all.
Marshal Law operated in the near-future city of San Futuro, built on the ruins of San Francisco following a devastating earthquake, the long-expected "Big One". Genetic engineering had made super-powered people common (not that they weren't already pretty common in comic books), and among the super-powered was Joe Gilmore, an ex-soldier consumed with the self-loathing that sometimes afflicts those who have done what he'd done. Joe became a government-sanctioned superhero, whose assignment was to rid the city of the freelance "heroes" who were continuing to use their military empowerment and training in civilian life, to the detriment of the community. His powers included super strength and inability to feel pain. The latter made it possible for him to carry on even when grievously injured, enabling greater display of blood and mayhem.
Marshal Law was first seen in a six-issue mini-series, published by Epic Comics (Dreadstar, Captain Confederacy), a Marvel imprint that allowed creators to own their work. Its cover dates ran October, 1987 through March, 1988. In it, the marshal came up against many rogue superheroes who evoked images of what Marvel characters such as Mr. Fantastic and Captain America might be like if they were psychopaths living in a vicious dystopia.
Marvel/Epic brought him back in a 1990 graphic novel, Marshal Law Takes Manhattan. Creators/owners Mills and O'Neill next took the character to Apocalypse Comics (Toxic), which published a couple of stories about him before going under. Mills and O'Neill took him back to Marvel in 1993 for the two-part series Pinhead Vs. Marshal Law: Law in Hell. His most recent American publisher is Dark Horse Comics (The Mask, Hellboy), tho he did appear in a 2002 issue of Britain's 2000 AD.
Other than in 2000 AD, the last new Marshal Law story appeared in 1998. But he's kept in print by Britain's Titan Books (which has reprinted many British series, as well as such DC offerings as Swamp Thing and The Sandman). There's what appears to be idle talk of a movie version, but so far, Marshal Law remains confined to comic books.