#245 Can we still marvel at “Marvels”?

MarvelsThe 1994 release of Marvels took comics by storm. The four-issue miniseries established the places of both hyperrealistic painter Alex Ross and continuity maven Kurt Busiek in the industry. There’s still plenty here to make it a standout story 16 years later, but has some of the shine come off? And, is making a logical narrative out of a mainstream comic companies’ disparate series really doable? Tim and Kumar discuss.

Also, Patrik W resurfaces to talk with Tim about the upcoming American Comics Exhibition in Tokyo. Tim, Patrik, and 13 other artists will be displaying their work!

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Resident of Japan since 1989, creator of "The Crazing Spider-Hag"

3 thoughts on “#245 Can we still marvel at “Marvels”?”

  1. Great show, guys.

    I do think Marvels was very much a product of its time. Not that Marvels is what I think of when I think of “’90s comics”, but rather it was unique in that it went against the grain of the era. Its greatness seems–or seemed–overblown due to its being so unique and different at the time. Like you guys, I think it’s only about a 7–a good comic, but not the masterpiece many think it was at the time. That said, it’s still very historically significant, I feel.

    I do think some of your critiques don’t hold much water, though. First of all, yes 1994 was pre-internet, but pretty much every kid who read comics at the time would have gotten the Danny Ketch reference. We KNEW that stuff, easy; it wasn’t obscure then, and I’m not sure it’s obscure now, either. A basic understanding of the Marvel Universe timeline is all that Marvels requires–and “requires” might even be a strong word. I don’t feel that its references are obscure at all. Anything you know about continuity will add to the experience, but the “demands” of prior knowledge are pretty damn basic. And besides, we’re following a character who doesn’t know any of it and is seeing it unfold for the first time. So at the very least we’re right there with him.

    Second, many basic, pedantic questions about how Spider-Man’s costume works with his powers were indeed addressed in the ’60s. Stan Lee LOVED to explain those sorts of things via thought-bubbles coming from Peter Parker as he swung around town. There was even an early Annual (Spidey Annual #1 or #2) in which Lee and Ditko gave a guided tour of Spidey and his powers and costume. It was the same with the FF and how their powers worked with their costumes (made of “unstable molecules”). All of this stuff was explained at the time, and these sorts of questions WERE and ARE the sorts of things that kids ask. It wasn’t beneath Marvel to explain it in the ’60s.

    You guys answered your own question about why mutants are hated: Because they’re supposedly the future of humanity. Many “evil” mutants openly state that they want to REPLACE humanity, and many human scientists back them up on this. Humans in the Marvel Universe sense this almost like an invading army–so of course they’re going to react with hate and violence. As to why a puny human would throw something at a mutant who could kill humans–well, that seems like either stupidity born out of blind hatred, or it could be explained as an agent provocateur tactic: Get a mutant to retaliate and then you’ve got further proof that mutants are dangerous and need to be legislated against. The real-world analogies between mutants and minority races are imperfect, sure, but–c’mon. It’s an imperfect analogy but still an interesting one. You guys do make some good points, but they’ve been covered and explained by many X-writers in the past and I’m not sure if you’re aware of them. Sometimes mutants are popular with humans in the Marvel U. In Morrison’s New X-Men run there was even a famous gay mutant fashion designer, which I thought was great, because of course if there were really mutants then there would be a gay mutant fashion designer who made clothes designed for mutants.

    Overall, though, great show. I’m really looking forward to the Bendis debate next week. I can’t stand the guy’s Avengers stuff, though I enjoyed his Daredevil. The dialogue is atrocious and his characterization skills turn every hero into a dingbat airhead hipster doofus. Still, there’s something about his plotting and pacing that makes the comics somewhat compelling to me…

  2. Hi, di44!

    We did talk in the show about how we are “following a character who doesn’t know any of it” and how the presentation was fine and appropriate in that respect, and maybe I did know who Dan Ketch was in 1994. But reading it now, I had to stop and think about it for a while to try to remember. In my book that makes that one moment a mis-step at a key point in the series (the last page!). If only the timing could have been worked out in such a way that the kid on the bike was, say, Peter Parker.

    I don’t remember any of Spider-Man’s powers being adequately explained in the first 40 issues, but maybe I need to give them a re-read.

    As for the mutants being hated, you make an excellent point about the evil mutants and their open declarations. I’d forgotten about that. BUT, 1) Busiek does not make that point in Marvels; 2) In the same vein, the writers are inconsistent about it — some say it a race metaphor, some say it’s communism, etc. For a casual reader (yes, we do exist!) it is confusing and illogical. You are right that I probably have not read enough X-Men comics to get a clearer picture. 3) That still doesn’t explain how civilians know who is a mutant and who is not if their origin is unknown. For example, why isn’t Spider-Man accused of being a mutant? By the same token, when someone is accused of being a mutant, why don’t they say: “No, no, I was doused in radioactive chemicals!”

    And we did mention the wonderful X-Statix series as well where mutants are all celebrities. Which of course didn’t jive with the other X-books.

    Anyway, thanks for listening!


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