While they might not be a household name (yet), now's a good time as ever to taking stock of at one of Marvel's most unique concepts in light of a recent comic book series and their continued involvement on the fringes of the MCU.
In 2022's Damage Control #1, a new intern is initiated into work at the Damage Control (or "D.C.") offices in the famed Flatiron Building in New York City. But while Gus the intern may be just becoming acquainted with the motley crew at D.C., the cult classic organization created by Dwayne McDuffie and Ernie Colón has occupied an important place in the hearts of the Mighty Marvel Marching Band since its inception in the late '80s.
Ground zero for Marvel's Damage Control
McDuffie's original pitch was for Damage Control to be a sitcom set within the high-stakes world of Marvel Comics. In his pitch, McDuffie described the premise using comparisons to Cheers, Taxi, and The Mary Tyler Moore Show. However, the pitch emphasized that stories were to highlight the colorful cast of characters rather than the super-powered plot elements.
Damage Control's first appearance in the panels of Marvel Comics was in 'The Sales Pitch' by Dwayne McDuffie, Ernie Colón, Jon D'Agostino, Rick Parker, and Gregory Wright, appearing in Marvel Age Annual #4 (1988). This story introduces the recurring character Henry Ackerdson, Vice-President in Charge of Marketing for Damage Control. In this story, he approaches Hulk in Las Vegas and proposes a commercial partnership (Hulk declines).
In the story 'Overture' by McDuffie, Colón, Al Williamson, Parker, and Wright, appearing in Marvel Comics Presents#19 (1989), we're introduced to the character of John Porter. While not precisely the main character of the series, Porter generally plays the straight man to the more colorful characters that round out the rest of the D.C. staff roster.
In 'Overture,' Porter is at Josie's Bar & Grill, operating in his former capacity as an insurance salesman for superhero-related damage. When Daredevil-related damage destroys the bar, director Anne Marie Hoag arrives on the scene, fixing the leveled establishment and recruiting a somewhat dumbfounded Porter as a D.C. Account Executive.
Welcome to Damage Control
In Damage Control (1989a) #1 by McDuffie, Colón, Bob Wiacek, John Wellington, and Ed King, Porter arrives at D.C. headquarters (located in Manhattan's famous Flatiron Building) for his first day at work. Over the course of the issue, Porter deals with his first big job: an incapacitated, skyscraper-sized robot built by the Tinkerer (which, to add insult to injury, has self-repairing functionality that has trapped Spider-Man inside). Meanwhile, through Porter's perspective as the new guy, readers are introduced to the other employees of D.C.
These include Anne, the attractive and put-upon front desk secretary, Eugene Strasser, the mad scientist in the basement, and Lenny Ballinger, the cigar-chomping site foreman. We are also introduced to Bart Rozum, the long-term D.C. intern.
In addition to introducing the remaining D.C. employees, this first four-issue run also offers a window into the "normal" operations of the company. In Damage Control (1989a) #2, for example, D.C. comptroller Albert Cleary must undertake a personal call to inquire about an account that has gone into arrears – but the account belongs to Doctor Victor Von Doom!
And in Damage Control (1989a) #3, Ackerdson undertakes his first attempt to better market D.C. by making stereotypical superhero uniforms mandatory for the crew and introducing a mascot: Fluppy, the bulldog. While this plan, connected to a publicity stunt with Iron Man, eventually falls through, it isn't the last time Ackerdson will attempt to earn extra profit for the organization via "unconventional" means.
Damage Control (1989a) #4 is told chiefly through flashback, as the D.C. crew recovers memories of a project undertaken at the X-Mansion that Professor X subsequently erased.
Damage Control's first crossover eent: Acts of Vengeance
The eponymous organization gets a significant overhaul in Damage Control (1989b) #1 by McDuffie, Colón, Wellington, and Parker, an issue that ties into the 'Acts of Vengeance' crossover event. In one of this issue's storylines, Porter, Gene, and Bart are accidentally called to The Vault prison in Colorado, where they become accidentally embroiled in a breakout involving the Wrecking Crew.
But fortunately, Porter's previous personal connection to Thunderball – established in Damage Control (1989a) #1, when T-ball visited D.C. H.Q. to pick up his wrecking ball from lost & found – ensures the D.C. crew survives (although Porter does earn a pretty serious stinkeye from Steve Rogers over the affair).
Meanwhile, Hoag is stepping down as director and joining the President's Commission on Superhuman Activities in Washington, D.C., where she'll be lobbying against superhero registration. She appoints Robin Chapel to take her place.
While Damage Control had previously been an uneasy joint venture between Kingpin and Stark, both men sold their shares in the first issue of the second four-issue Damage Control miniseries to begin in 1989.
The Carlton Company subsequently purchases D.C. One of their first act is to build a giant building around the Flatiron Building, complete with a giant "D.C." on the roof. Soon, the Carlton Co.'s incompetent stooges are causing problems for the organization's operation. This leads to the firing of Eugene Strasser, D.C.'s technology expert, who promptly seeks revenge on the organization using a mech suit in Damage Control (1989b) #3.
Other consequences of the Carlton Co. purchase of D.C. include Frank Castle launching a personal vendetta against the company in Damage Control (1989b) #2. Fortunately, in Damage Control (1989b) #4, Cleary can convince S.H.I.E.L.D. to buy control of the company from Carlton Co. (and he can extort the Carlton Co. stooges into agreeing to sell, as well). And due to Gene's previous experience working with S.H.I.E.L.D., he can assist with a vital account thanks to a work release.
While Carlton is officially ousted, Chapel elects to retain former Carlton Co. employee Ray Lippert as D.C. staff. This isn't the only update to D.C. staff in this arc, either, which also sees a new intern for the intern recruited: Robbie Baldwin, whose secret identity is Speedball, a member of the New Warriors. Meanwhile, Hoag announces that she'll be staying in Washington and working on a superpower Political Action Committee – a.k.a. the "Power P.A.C." – leaving Chapel in place as director of D.C.
At the conclusion of this miniseries, the ostentatious D.C. building is sold to a "comic book company" that Cleary states had earned a lot of profit from a movie the previous summer. Hint: Tim Burton's Batman was released in theaters in June 1989.
Damage Control: The Movie
In Damage Control (1991) #1 by McDuffie, Kyle Baker, Brad K. Joyce, and Robbie Busch, the D.C. crew garners the suspicion of Lt. Steve Sure. He believes D.C. may be setting up superhero fights to cash in on the cleanup. Meanwhile, Henry's newest moneymaking scheme involves making a movie based on the company's exploits.
The D.C. crew spends the entirety of Damage Control (1991) #2 at Yankee Stadium, mostly discussing Star Trek with the Hulk and the New Warriors. While a traditional conflict seems inevitable for most of the issue, the two factions are ultimately inspired by the fact that Klingons join the Federation by the time of Star Trek: The Next Generation and agree to put their differences aside. We also learn that Hulk's favorite Trek episode is "The Enemy Within" (go figure).
Damage Control (1991) #2 also sees the full return of the construction crewmember that gained Cosmic-level abilities cleaning up a job site back in Damage Control (1989a) #1. The employee has been transformed into Edifice Rex, a Cosmic-level threat whose anal-retentive tendencies lead him to conclude that he should destroy the universe (to clean up the mess). Edifice Rex has been using his extraordinary power to anticipate superhero destruction and send D.C. to clean up the mess before it even occurs, getting D.C. off the hook for Sure's suspicions.
In Damage Control (1991) #3, the D.C. gang attends the premiere of the Damage Control movie (which it turns out had already been made – the director just lied about needing to research so he could hang out with them for the previous two issues). The movie is an unmitigated disaster, with little-to-no basis in reality, riddled with nonsense and racist stereotypes. However, Marvel Comics writer Dan Slott is listed in the credits as having played the role of "Man in Subway."
Damage Control (1991) #4 is an oversized issue that sees D.C. in a final confrontation with the universe-threatening Edifice Rex! After much fanfare and lead-up, including gathering all of Earth's Mightiest Heroes, the conflict is resolved simply by firing Edifice Rex from his employment at D.C. This issue also sees Robbie departing as Rozum's intern.
Losing control of Damage Control
In the intervening years, D.C. made sporadic appearances in the Marvel Comics universe, occasionally playing a more prominent supporting role – especially regarding crossover events. Note that the following does not include every appearance of D.C., especially since the organization's cameos sometimes amount to little more than a logo on a bill.
During the Civil War crossover event in 2006, D.C. played a significant role. In Wolverine (2003) #46 by Marc Guggenheim, Humberto Ramos, Carlos Cuevas, Edgar Delgado, and Randy Gentile, Logan has learned that D.C.'s new CEO, Walter Declun, was responsible for providing Nitro with Mutant Growth Hormone. In this issue, he sets out to confront Declun at the D.C. HQ in the Flatiron Building but is waylaid by both Anne and Anne Marie. In the next issue, he succeeds in apparently killing Declun.
D.C. also appeared in a few issues of Irredeemable Ant-Man. In Irredeemable Ant-Man #8 by Robert Kirkman, Cory Walker, Bill Crabtree, and Rus Wooton, Eric O'Grady met with Anne Marie under the alias "Derek Sullivan." Using a fake I.D. and his stolen Ant-Man suit, O'Grady claimed to be the "Slaying Mantis." While other recurring D.C. characters like Lenny and Fluppy do appear in this arc, two new super-powered D.C. recruits get most of the panel time: Abby Dunton (A.K.A. Visioneer), who uses her limited psychic abilities to help with D.C. search & rescue efforts, and Frank Johnson (A.K.A. Monstro), whose strength and invulnerability prove helpful in clearing work sites.
The D.C. crew reappeared for a three-issue limited series in the wake of World War Hulk. In World War Hulk: Aftersmash! – Damage Control (2008) #1 by McDuffie, Salva Espin, Guru eFX, Nate Piekos, and Nic Klein, Hoag, and Cleary can secure the contract to repair NYC in the wake of World War Hulk. This leads to Hoag getting the band back together, with Robin being an exceptionally costly re-recruit (considering she's still salty about Declun). Elsewhere, Gene's sentence is commuted, and Tom Foster (a.k.a. Goliath) joins D.C. to help with the search and rescue. Plus, both Visioneer and Monstro are still present on the roster.
In WWH Aftersmash! – Damage Control (2008) #2, the citywide cleanup is nearly waylaid when the Thunderbolts arrive and demand to see every participant's superhuman registration card. Fortunately, Rozum can diffuse the situation by exploiting his relationship with Penance (formerly Speedball). And in WWH Aftersmash! – Damage Control (2008) #3, Porter can negotiate with a newly sentient Chrysler Building and convince it to remain in NYC (for at least eleven months of the year – nobody visits the city in August, explains Anne Marie to Stark in an epilogue scene).
Anne Marie appeared in several issues of the fifth volume of Wolverine, beginning in Wolverine (2013) #3 by Paul Cornell, Alan Davis, Mark Farmer, Matt Hollingsworth, and Cory Petit. In these appearances, she frequents the Guernica Bar, a "pub for people in our line of work" favored by Logan. She observes that D.C. has earned plenty of business cleaning up after Wolverine's "charmingly brash actions." Anne Marie seemingly spends plenty of time at Guernica since she appears there again when Logan visits in Wolverine (2014) #10 by Cornell, Pete Woods, David Curiel, Petit, Steve McNiven, & Laura Martin.
The whole D.C. returns for a story in Civil War II: Choosing Sides (2016) #1 by Chad Bowers, Chris Sims, Leonardo Romero, Miroslav Mrva, and Clayton Cowles. When construction equipment begins vanishing from a cleanup site, D.C. ultimately discovers that Null the Unhuman has been filching parts to construct a family. Fortunately, after Monstro empathizes with the extraterrestrial conqueror, he agrees to put aside his plans to conquer the Earth and instead accept a position as a D.C. spokes…creature.
The return of Damage Control
In the first story in Damage Control (2022) #1, 'Into the Mailstrom' by Adam F. Goldberg, Hans Rodionoff, Will Robson, Ruth Redmond, and Cowles, the new D.C. intern Gus is placed in the mail room and tasked with delivering an ice cream cake to Cleary. Like Damage Control (1989a) #1, this issue (re-)introduces D.C. to the readers, but from a low-level perspective compared to Porter's comparatively lofty position. In addition to being briefed by long-time intern Bart, Gus eventually meets Cleary and hears about Anne Marie.
However, in the second story of the issue, 'Zapped and the Mother of Invention' by Charlotte Fullerton, Jay Fosgitt, Redmond, and Cowles, almost every member of the classic D.C. crew appears. In addition, this story, written by the late Dwayne McDuffie's widow, features a cameo appearance by Dwayne. "I'm glad somebody else is handling this issue," Dwayne remarks as he enters a subway station. "I've got a lunch date."