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THE SENTRY

Meet the Marvel superhero you never knew

By Trent D. McNeeley     July 19, 2000

You know him. You just don't remember him. His name is Robert Reynolds, and he's the most powerful character the Marvel Universe has ever seen. At least when in his guise as The Sentry.

'Sentry is the Marvel Universe's Superman,' says Paul Jenkins, who will write the five-issue mini-series that officially brings The Sentry into the Marvel fold for the first time.

But if Sentry's really that powerful, how come we're just hearing about him now? The answer to that question lies at the heart of the series itself.

Birth of a Legend

Sentry is the brainchild of the legendary Stan Lee and the late Artie Rosen. Created in 1961 before Lee and artist Jack Kirby created The Fantastic Four, which has always been credited as giving birth to the Marvel Universe, the character could actually hold the distinction of being the Marvel Universe's first superhero. But if that's indeed the case, where did he come from and why is he only being discovered now?

Writer/creator Lee's resume as co-creator of the early Marvel Universe--which includes such long-standing characters as Spider-Man, the Hulk, the Avengers and the Fantastic Four--needs no recap. But despite four decades in the industry, younger fans might not be familiar with Rosen, who is likely best known for his work as an artist on the Marvel/Atlas Comics title Crime Can't Win. Rosen died last January, which is when his widow, Blanche, began going through his old files and sent some of them to Marvel. They wound up in Joe Quesada's office, where the Marvel Knights editor unknowingly allowed them to languish in a pile with submissions from would-be writers and artists.

'Everything ends up in my office. And I look at it all, eventually. I just didn't happen to get to that package [right away],' says Quesada apologetically.

But Jenkins did find the materials when looking for something to read on a trip. When he realized what he had, he couldn't believe his eyes. 'Sentry was created in the extremely early days of Marvel,' explains Jenkins. 'It was a haphazard time, when Stan and company were running around getting a bunch of comics off the ground. They featured much more down-to-earth heroes. But Stan was experimenting with all sorts of different characters. Amongst those that had been developed was The Sentry. When Stan looked back he realized that Sentry didn't fit into the Marvel Universe, so [the character] went by the wayside.'

Born Again

Long forgotten, Sentry's about to find his way back to the comics forefront, thanks to Jenkins and artist Jae Lee. Quesada gave the creative team behind the recent Eisner-award-winning Inhumans maxi-series first crack at publishing a Sentry book because of their past success and enthusiasm.

'Paul is a brilliant writer with a hot hand, who's very enthusiastic about this project,' says Quesada. 'If you're enthusiastic, you'll end up with a great story. There weren't many people clamoring for an Inhumans story, but he showed that with a great story, readers will come.'

So, after years collecting cobwebs, how will the duo introduce the character into the mainstream Marvel Universe? 'The story Jae and I are doing speaks to Marvel's vision of a superman,' says Jenkins. 'Once we delve into his history and his present, we find that Sentry faces a character called the Void. The Void is his arch-nemesis. He's so dangerous to the Marvel Universe, that the battles between the two threaten the very existence of the Marvel Universe itself.'

That might be why you've never heard of him.

'What made us forget about him?' asks Jenkins. 'Maybe he was one of the original characters of this universe. Maybe he was a founding member of The Avengers. Maybe he was going to be one of the greatest heroes ever. So what made us cast him aside?'

Jenkins promises to explain all that in the pages of The Sentry, as well as four crossover titles that'll follow the mini-series. For those of you keeping track, the production schedule looks like this: The Sentry #1 ships today, with subsequent issues to follow about one every month. After The Sentry #5 in November, there will be a four-issue set of specials according to Michael Marts, the Marvel editor responsible for the one-shots.

'In December, you'll see one one-shot each week,' promises Marts, who says the titles include Sentry/Spider-Man, Sentry/Fantastic Four, Sentry/Hulk and Sentry/X-Men. After that, a one-shot Sentry epilogue is due in early 2001. Jenkins will write every Sentry story, but Lee will hand off art duties for the crossover titles. Marts said a complete list of confirmed artists would be announced soon.

Who is The Sentry?

So, who exactly is this mysterious superhero? 'Sentry is a guy who goes through a great transformation in our story,' says Jenkins. 'When we begin, he comes across as this delusional alcoholic. He's a guy who thinks he may have once been a superhero, but no one else is listening to him. He keeps having these flashbacks where he recalls doing heroic deeds.'

Sentry's alter ego, Reynolds, keeps a 'super serum' in a hollowed out book in his library. 'He goes down secretly at night and he drinks it,' says Jenkins. 'And it looks an awful lot like vodka.' Suddenly, when he takes the serum, a miraculous transformation takes place, according to Jenkins. But what's really going on? Is Reynolds the Sentry, or is he just a drinker or a random head-case?

The lack of memories on the part of Reynolds and everyone else could very well be a conspiracy, teases Jenkins. And as the memories become stronger, Reynolds will seek out other heroes, from Spider-Man to the X-Men, to ask if they remember him. None of them do, except for the Hulk. 'The Hulk remembers him immediately,' says Jenkins, 'but Bruce Banner doesn't.'

To find out why, however, Jenkins says you'll have to pay the price of admission. But finding out could spell danger for the citizens of the Marvel Universe. 'As the forgetfulness starts to wear off and people begin to remember Sentry, The Sentry goes from being a delusional alcoholic--and a very scruffy one at that--into something more,' says Jenkins.

'Even his clothing changes. It adapts to him and becomes his famous Golden Sentry suit. He undergoes a personality change from confusion to this altruistic, god-like being: The man who glows with an inner light, who shines with the power of a million exploding suns, whose eyes are golden. He has a calming effect, and that's how he begins to appear.'

Jae Lee is the artist called upon to make this transformation unforgettable, and he's doing his level best, despite having a hard time getting a grasp on this complex character. 'I'm on issue #4 and I'm still not clear on all his powers,' admits Lee. 'They seem to come from the sun, but clocks play a part in it. And then there's the super serum.'

Powers aside, Lee says it was also artistically challenging to bring back these forgotten, outdated characters. 'Artie Rosen's sketches are clearly from a bygone era,' says Lee. 'Sentry had the corny cape, gloves, boots and mask typical of the era when The Fantastic Four was created. I updated the look so it wouldn't seem silly to readers with modern tastes.'

That updating, says Lee, includes removing the mask and streamlining the costume, while keeping such a powerful character in an archetypal style. 'It's not easy drawing these guys in a photo-realistic way,' admits Lee. 'Especially the villain Void. In the past, he was drawn in black silhouette, wearing a cape, cowl and even a Fedora. It's hard to make that look sinister. So there's an inherent challenge in updating these classic characters.'

Having a Ball

Jenkins says he hopes that by the end of the Sentry mini-series, he will have made an indelible mark on this classic character, but not confused history to much for hard-core fans.

'I hope the book doesn't end like some other revisits of history, putting us in the position of 'Damn, we're going to have to explain it,'' says Jenkins. 'It should work seamlessly. We don't want to completely alter the Marvel Universe. We want to put out a good story. And if the Powers-That-Be never want to revisit it, that should be okay. But if they want a couple of characters to remember The Sentry, we could do that, too, giving us the opportunity to further explore the legacy left us by Stan and Artie.'

Despite the challenges that might pose, all the parties involved say they're having a blast introducing modern audiences to these classic characters. 'You will remember,' promises Quesada, who hopes to find even more classic characters that might've been forgotten. 'I'm digging through all my files right now!' [Laughs]

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