Sunday, August 16, 2009

Creating the Marvel Universe

The Marvels Project #1
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artist: Steve Epting
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Rating: 4 Stars

Marvel is celebrating 70 years this summer. The centerpiece of the celebration is this 8-part miniseries that explores the beginnings of the age of the Marvel superheroes.

Written by one of my favorite scribes, Ed Brubaker, The Marvels Project shows some behind the scenes origins of The Human Torch and places the world climate in perspective. This is definitely a solid read and something that Marvel does really well with their characters and history.

Back in the 1990's, Marvel released another miniseries called Marvels. That story put the goings on in some of the most classic stories in a real world setting from the point of view of the normal people witnessing these Earth-shattering events. This book may very well be on par with Marvels by the time it is completed.

When I finished this first issue and had a chance to think about it, I began to think about something I hadn't before. Marvel and DC both have iconic characters, but they have very different approaches in handling their respective histories. Marvel relishes it's place in the real world, while DC seems to treat their characters as mythical beings of fantastical abilities (even for someone like Batman).

I've often wondered what the results would show if you poll every single person who buys a comic book and asked them if they prefer Marvel to DC. Would the results be skewed by how many comics a person buys in a month? Would it be skewed by gender or race or financial standing?

It's probably safe to say that the results would like show more of an even split. Both offer the thrills and chills of our modern day mythological gods in a serialized manner. But if anyone asks me what the big difference between the two are, it's pretty easy for me to explain.

Marvel tends to publish slightly more "mature" topics. They have moved away from the "sunshine superhero" type of story. For better or worse, realism is Marvel's m.o. DC is the home of the biggest icons in the industry - Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. They are the archetypes of the entire industry. No one reads Superman to see him deal with street level kingpins or struggling being a socially awkward person. We want to see Superman fight a big, bad robot or some ridiculously powerful badass and saving all our hides.

DC exists on a different plane of reality as well. Metropolis, Gotham, Star City, Coast City, Keystone City and all the other large cities that play home to the heroes of the DCU. Sure, New York City and Washington, D.C. and other real-world cities exist, but DC's whole schtick is to give each hero a city that plays to each heroe's strengths and purpose. Hell, they even have a multiverse to better deal with their 70+ years of continuity.

That being said, Marvel rarely tampers with their characters' origins. They will retcon certain storylines as needed, but for the most part, reading the first issue of Marvel Comics or issue #31 of The Amazing Spider-Man will give you stories that are canon to the Marvel U. without needing to know what Earth-2 is or Earth-3 and so on. Yes, Marvel has a multiverse as well, but it's meant to be more of a fun, "let's see what happens if..." type of thing. For the most part, Marvel is one universe, and it just so happens to be our universe.

Now, to get back on track of what I was talking about, The Marvels Project, like most other Marvel books that deals with origin or real world reaction to heroes, looks to be entertaining and educational. Marvel wants you to care about the original Human Torch or know how Namor (the Sub-Mariner) became such a douche. They don't use their characters like DC, they use them in terms of historical recollection and fondness. This book allows the reader to see the world change just like those denizens back in the 1930's. I've always been a fan when Marvel turns the calendar back to look at their earliest heroes because I don't need to know that this world the story takes place in is actually a whole another universe. As much as I know about DC's multiverse and enjoy those stories, it's nice to not have to think or worry about what Earth my book takes place on.

Thanks for reading. I'm a little behind, but I still plan on doing a write up of some books I got at the Chicago Comic-Con and Escape from Wonderland #1. I'll try to get another blog up tonight.

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