Inside the Midnight Sons comic book that Marvel passed on in 2017

Midnight Sons concept art
Midnight Sons concept art (Image credit: Greg Smallwood)

Greg Smallwood is currently working on DC's The Human Target with writer Tom King, but a couple of years back he pitched an interesting idea to Marvel fresh off his run on Moon Knight: a new Midnight Sons team book. With a Midnight Suns game just announced, we thought it the perfect time to look back at what almost was.

Midnight Sons concept art (Image credit: Greg Smallwood)

"My interest in Midnight Sons came from my work on Moon Knight. I really dug the idea of Moon Knight on a team and the Midnight Sons seemed like the most obvious choice," Smallwood told Newsarama at the time. 

"I've always loved the darker characters at Marvel but a lot of them have receded into the background since their heyday in the '90s. With a lot of '90s nostalgia coming back in a big way, I thought now would be a perfect time to bring these heroes back together but in a contemporary style. Johnny Blaze is essentially the heart and soul of the story I developed but each of the characters is given their moment to shine."

Originally created in 1992, the Midnight Sons were the central team and brand for a mini-line of Marvel horror titles in the mid-'90s which included Ghost Rider, Morbius, Werewolf by Night, and others. The team has rarely appeared since the late '90s, save for one-off appearances such as in 2009's Marvel Zombies 4 and a reunion in the 'Damnation' event. Read all about this team in our massive Midnight Sons article.

For his pitch, Smallwood incorporated longtime Midnight Sons members such as Blade, Ghost Riders Danny Ketch and Johnny Blaze, Morbius, Jennifer Kale, Hellstrom, and the Punisher. He also brought Moon Knight into the team, which Marvel would do a year later in the aforementioned 'Damnation,' for which Smallwood drew variant covers.

Here are Smallwood's character sketches for his Midnight Sons pitch:

Marvel ultimately passed on Smallwood's Midnight Sons idea, and the artist/writer shared several cover concepts and character designs for the aborted project on his social media at the time. 

(Image credit: Greg Smallwood)

"There are a lot of folks at Marvel who are interested in the project but it's a logistical nightmare for editors," Smallwood told Newsarama in December 2017. "A variety of issues at play - continuity, character availability, scheduling, marketability - make movement on the project difficult. But the folks at Marvel have been hugely supportive of the concept and I know they're doing what they can to make it happen."

To date, Smallwood's Midnight Sons book hasn't happened, however he drew the 'Damnation' variants as well as a horror-themed Marvel Comics #1000 variant. His 'exclusive' contract with Marvel ended in 2018 and he branched out to make his writing debut on Archie's Vampironica, co-writing it with his sister, Megan Smallwood. He's currently drawing the aforementioned The Human Target series at DC.

Many of the Midnight Sons easily chart in our list of the best supernatural superheroes in comic books.

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)