Inside the Marvel Comics Midnight Sons pitch by Greg Smallwood that still haunts us today

Marvel Comics #1000 variant cover
Marvel Comics #1000 variant cover (Image credit: Greg Smallwood (Marvel Comics))

Anticipation is building for XCOM's Midnight Suns Marvel game, a new video game adventure that puts a new spin on the concept of the Midnight Sons, Marvel's premiere supernatural super-team.

Usually organized around characters like Doctor Strange, Blade, and Morbius the Living Vampire, the Midnight Sons have had numerous incarnations over the years. Back in 2017, popular artist-writer Greg Smallwood pitched his own idea for a new take on the team, but his concept never came to pass. 

Earlier this year we collected snippets of information about the Midnight Sons pitch that the comic creator released on social media, but since then, Smallwood has provided Newsarama with the full pitch for what could've been, offering an in-depth look at the characters and plot points he had planned.

(Image credit: Greg Smallwood)

Midnight Sons by Greg Smallwood

Greg Smallwood's Midnight Sons was planned as a five-issue limited series which he would write and draw, uniting a new team of some of Marvel's magic-themed heroes as the Midnight Sons to stop Daimon Hellstrom from releasing Ghost Rider's demon spirit Zarathos into the wild, to end the spirit once and for all.

"The central debate that echoes throughout the story is set up in the very first scene with Doctor Strange, Johnny Blaze, and Daimon Hellstrom," reads Smallwood's pitch for Midnight Sons. 

"Blaze is fatigued and discouraged by the increasingly blurred line between good and evil. Strange asserts his belief in fighting for good in a never-ending world of darkness and evil while Hellstrom insists that survival means stamping out evil by whatever means necessary," the pitch continues. "Strange has the wise and measured approach, recognizing that the war against evil will never be won – it will go on long after they're gone."

Other Marvel heroes that Smallwood planned to be part of his Midnight Sons were Moon Knight, Hannibal King, Blade, Jennifer Kale, Man-Thing, Satana, and even the Terror. Here are Smallwood's designs for some of the characters:

 The villains Smallwood had in mind were Blackout, Jigsaw, and the Hood.

"The book strikes a tone somewhere between True Detective and The Defenders," Smallwood's pitch explains, referencing the HBO crime series. "With its unique blend of supernatural horror and action noir, Midnight Sons offers fans a dark, atmospheric mystery set against the epic backdrop of the Marvel Universe."

Smallwood planned for the series to take place primarily in New York City during the wintertime, complete with "holiday decorations, snow-covered streets, and rooftop pillars of steam will help establish a strong sense of time and place for the reader."

Other portions of the story would have taken place on the Astral Realm, with Smallwood describing his planned artistic rendition of the immaterial dimension as "equal parts Tarkovsky, Lynch, Moebius, and Ditko."

What went wrong with Smallwood's Midnight Sons pitch at Marvel

Smallwood pitched his Midnight Sons idea to Marvel in 2017, midway through his multi-year 'exclusive' deal with the publisher. At the time, he was known exclusively as an artist but was hoping his Midnight Sons pitch would be his avenue to writing comics.

"I felt like it was a book that sold itself so I didn't do a hard sell on the concept. Maybe that was a mistake," Smallwood tells Newsarama. "Some folks at Marvel really needed a hard sell."

The Punisher (Image credit: Greg Smallwood)

Smallwood tells us that the primary reason he was given for why Marvel passed on his Midnight Sons project was that "marketing really didn't think a Midnight Sons book would sell." 

According to the creator, then Marvel Comics editor-in-chief Axel Alonso recommended that the Punisher be added, to give it more of a "tactical vibe". Others within Marvel said Doctor Strange would need to be removed, as he wouldn't be "available" at that time, says Smallwood. 

"Didn't help that my understanding of the pitching process was woefully out of date," he confessses. 

"I incorrectly assumed that the creation of books started at the bottom but in reality, marketing or publishing often decide what books get made and editorial is tasked with assembling the creative teams," he continues. "A writer simply pitches his concept for the title and characters. I was swimming upstream and had no idea."

"To be honest, I was unwilling to compromise at that stage in my career...very stubborn," Smallwood concludes. "Everyone at Marvel was very patient with me but I was hard-nosed about everything."

Smallwood eventually shelved his Midnight Sons idea, instead scratching his horror comics itch by writing and drawing Archie Comics' Vampironica series with his sister, Meg Smallwood.

The closest Smallwood came to actualizing his Midnight Sons idea was depicting some of the characters on a pair of Marvel variant covers - one for Marvel Comics #1000, and the other for the 'Damnation' crossover event.

Smallwood is currently drawing the upcoming DC 12-issue series The Human Target with writer Tom King.

Do you love the supernatural side of superheroes? Here are the best supernatural comic book heroes of all time.

Chris Arrant

Chris Arrant covered comic book news for Newsarama from 2003 to 2022 (and as editor/senior editor from 2015 to 2022) and has also written for USA Today, Life, Entertainment Weekly, Publisher's Weekly, Marvel Entertainment, TOKYOPOP, AdHouse Books, Cartoon Brew, Bleeding Cool, Comic Shop News, and CBR. He is the author of the book Modern: Masters Cliff Chiang, co-authored Art of Spider-Man Classic, and contributed to Dark Horse/Bedside Press' anthology Pros and (Comic) Cons. He has acted as a judge for the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards, the Harvey Awards, and the Stan Lee Awards. Chris is a member of the American Library Association's Graphic Novel & Comics Round Table. (He/him)