A young Josh McGary, inspired by the release of Tim Burton’s Batman, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and License to Kill decides to create his own action hero. In San Francisco, California, during a family vacation, Josh creates James Warner. James is a blonde-haired super spy. During this time, he also creates a superhero for his school in the character of Mr. Unpredictable. His identity, though unnamed was an avatar for himself. Notably, Josh was also inspired by an episode of Duck Tales, in this episode, Scrooge McDuck takes on an alter ego known as the Masked Mallard, a sort of proto Darkwing Duck. this inspired Josh to create his very first derivative hero, the Dynamite Duck. Generally, Josh would continue to draw these three characters throughout his childhood. Beyond these, he would create other random ones, using comic books as the inspiration for his style of artwork.
On a trip to Hawaii, Josh McGary, at 12 was collecting a set of comic book cards. At a flea market on Oahu, Josh bought an unopened box of DC Cosmic Cards set. An aspiring artist, he proceeded to use them to sharpen his drawing skills. Inspired by this source material he proceeded to replicate some of these images but with a twist. Together with his brother, they altered 12 of these character designs to create brand new characters. In the DC continuity, the major superhero team was called the Justice League. In the throwback nature of the boys’ original characters and their adolescent understanding of copyright laws, they decided to name their own team… the League of Justice. Josh would also self-publish his works under a unified brand, mostly as a nod to the prominent way in which comic book publishers advertised their brands. To this end, he added a visual indicator that his characters were a part of MC Comics, a thinly veiled reference to DC Comics, with the MC representing the two first letters of his last name, McGary.
In the ensuing years, much content would be produced under this MC Comics brand that would include new characters and developments for existing ones.
Monte and Josh McGary share a class in High School. An assignment is given to detail a forensic investigation. Instead, Josh and Monte use their story assignment to flesh out their characters. In this class, they begin to create a novelization of the characters and incorporate them into the necessary mystery. This forms the basic background for major relationships in this new universe. Here the backstory takes on important definition such as how the characters are interconnected and their setting of Oceanview.
These characters would be used many times throughout high school and personally for many projects including calendars, bored student sketches, comic book cards, and graphic design practice.
In college for graphic design and on his way to becoming a comic book artist, Josh draws upon his childhood creations and begins to incorporate them into his schoolwork once again. To do this, he realized that he needed to revitalize the designs, relationships, and backgrounds of some of the characters to bring them into their own original universe. As it was the late 90’s and early 2000’s, many of the Characters took on comic book and sci-fi elements of the day. This included trench coats and useful body armor.
Beyond this, Josh was also learning graphic design tools like Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop. Because of this, the era also began to see the use of composite artwork. Many images of celebrities were experimented on to turn them into the characters and many sketches were overlayed with color on the computer in post.
Due to the need for a wide array of source material in Photoshop, Josh began to draw together many of his original characters and teams that were not connected to the League of Justice and moved them into a single shared universe. Some characters would be folded into this universe and everything else was left to the annals of his sketchbooks. During this time, many of the characters that made it into his art projects were then completely altered or retconned to bring them into original identities and shared continuity. Most notably, James Warner was given a continuity reboot that made him actively connected to the League of Justice.
Also, this era cannot be chronicled without noting that a few elements first showed up during this period. Firstly, the universe was established as “The Menagerie.” The term was both a throwback to the pilot episode of Star Trek and a reference to the meta-narrative that all the characters were in a creative zoo of sorts. The word is french for zoo. This narrative was an important element in scifi at the time due to the release of the Matrix and its gnostic concepts. In its later era, The Menagerie and the idea of layered levels of reality would be important devices of storytelling for the characters. Beyond the name of the continuity being established as The Menagerie, Josh began to see his comic properties as part of a publisher known as Lucid Comics instead of MC Comics. This was a moniker that he began to adopt for himself in other places in his life. Lastly, the name League of Justice was dropped as altogether derivative and replaced with a new team name for the original League. This team would be retconned from the League of Justice to, the Assembly.
By 2002, Josh had decided to drop out of art school. However, the development done and the skills developed during his tenure in class help create a drive to see the characters from the Menagerie given life. To this end, Josh outlined a narrative that would see the characters across 3 separate timelines, using the Assembly as the focal point. The story would be told over the course of 7 books for the first narrative with some off-shoot stories being told adjacently.
To do this, Josh began to envision a new character that could serve as a proxy for the reader. This character was envisioned as a central character around whom all storytelling would develop. this would start a wave of real-life approximations. Josh’s friend Alyssa would serve as the inspiration for this character, allowing Josh to imprint personality onto this new character. The character, known as the Weapon would become a central character along all 3 timelines as the story of the menagerie would take her from a nihilistic anti-fascist into the grand matriarch of a legacy of heroes in her old age. Though she was a new character developed for narrative purposes, the practice of using real people for character development was then applied to other pre established characters whose narrative voice began to mirror the personality traits of the people around him. This was helpful in accelerating the writing process of the first 7 books.
Beyond an infusion of character development and storyline, a large amount of continuity streamlining took place. Many characters were cut from the Menagerie altogether and some were deemed unfit as known. The most notable character to be given the reboot treatment was the Lantern Lad, a derivative nod to Green Lantern. This character was completely replaced with an essentially new character, Alex Winter, the White Knight. This character was given Josh’s own personality and served as a sort of avatar within the Menagerie. Though not as prominently featured in the Menagerie, the Dynamite Duck was completely absconded and replaced with the Falcon. The Falcon was important as he was envisioned to be a self aware character in the vein of Deadpool, Lobo or Harley Quinn. His importance to the narrative was faith based as Josh had begun leading a Bible Study which would eventually lead him to pastoral leadership. The character would be self-aware in that he was conceived as a proxy for the biblical Jesus. This made him narratively similar to C.S. Lewis’ Aslan and his personality traits would be similar.
During this time, Josh wrote 7 scripts for the first of the 3 timeline settings and drew 3 of the 7 seven books. These books had their own consistent style meant to emulate quick sketching and efficient minimal panel work rather than the more elaborate comic work of the day. These panels were further highlighted by the color red, which was the only color shown.