There are 25 Marvel and DC movies planned for the next 5 years. If you’re anything like me, you want to see all of them. Marvel movies have dominated the big screen ever since phase one of the Avengers began. There is a wish-fulfillment that comes from seeing ordinary people become extraordinary. Captain America is nothing but an uber-patriotic Cinderella story, where the ball is World War II and the fairy godmother comes by way of super-soldier drugs. These are fables buried deep int eh fabric of human (and, let’s face it, American) psyche. We all want to have a super power we can claim as our own.
If know the true names of Captain America and the Hulk, if you went to see Days of Future Past for other reasons than that every actor in the movie was a ridiculously beautiful example of human physique, if you are confused about why Spider-Man and Fantastic Four are being remade again but know you’re going to see them anyway, then I have a book for you.
I know who you are. You’re like me. You want to read the comic books, you want to be more than just a casual fan of these heroes, but you have no idea where to start. What’s the difference between Avenger’s Vol 1 and Avenger’s Assemble? More importantly, how can you ask that question without sounding like you’re trying to jump on a bandwagon?
There’s good places to start for every series (and I will do posts about individual heroes another day.) But there’s one 4-volume series that has every character you can think of in the Marvel universe.
So if you’ve already seen Ant-Man, if you can’t wait the week to see Fantastic Four and the month until Age of Ulton comes out, have I got a book for you.
With Great Power
Ken Busiek’s Marvels is not about one particular super hero. The book follows Phil Sheldon, a news photographer living in New York City. It begins in 1939 with the first appearance of caped heroes swooping over the city.
There are a lot of familiar faces in this: J. Jonah Jameson, The Human Torch, Spider-Man, Captain America, the Sub-Mariner, the Fantastic Four, the X-Men. But it’s not the story of them. It’s the story of how those with super powers swing wildly on the scale of popularity. One minute, they’re the glorious heroes. The next, heroes are being scorned by the city for demolishing skyscrapers. They are being hunted down in Red-Scare type hysteria when it becomes clear that mutants, heroes, can be the person living next door.
This book answers the question of what would life really be like if there were heroes in the world. It is not the prettiest picture. Perhaps because it rings too much of truth.
During his entire career, our narrator Phil is the champion of super-heroes, defending their actions as necessary in a world so filled with so much power.
In the Spider-Man movies, we see how New York can be a hostile place for a super hero. As the Green Goblin says in the 2002 movie, “You (Spider-Man) chose the way of the hero. And they found you amusing for a while, the people of this city. But the one thing they love more than a hero is to see a hero fail, fall, die trying. In spite of everything you’ve done for them, eventually they will hate you.”
Marvels is not about super-heroes. It is about the lives they touch by their very existence. It’s about kids growing up under the scare of mutation. It’s about trying to defend idols even as their blowing up city blocks.
It’s a short book, only 4 issues. The ending has a bitter-sweet taste. Phil is our narrator, but un-special humans are not necessarily the heroes of this book. Super heroes aren’t necessarily the heroes.
In the end, you have to choose your own heroes, and choose wisely, and try not to be swayed the opinions of the fearful. And standing by your convictions will make you into your own brand of hero.