Archive for May 5th, 2012

By Bob Clark

Truth be told, I’ve always been a lot fonder of the idea of the Marvel Universe than how it usually plays out in the comics themselves. Oh sure, it’s fun to think about how, starting from the 60’s the company became something of an elaborate creative petri dish for Stan Lee and the bevy of writers who would follow in his wake, creating and repurposing characters left and right and using them to populate a series of interconnected superhero books that give new meaning to the word “crossover”. It’s even fun to look at the way in which these connections usually come about, in the form of occasional guest-starring roles in different titles– the Fantastic Four occasioning to solve a case with Spider-Man, or the friendly neighborhood shutterbug himself swinging in to help the X-Men battle Magneto or mutant-haters for an issue or two. In the earliest times that characters meet one another in the old books, there’s often a kind of goofy sincerity at work that belies the epic scope that later creators would eventually push the crossover-system into. With Stan Lee and many of the other original authors, it was simply enough for the various heroes and villains to mingle without any real sense of narrative entanglement– nobody had to live or die permanently in their legendary showdowns, or even settle down into conflicts that expanded beyond the scope of their original storylines (superheroes, even with their villains, forever seem something of commitment-phobes).

In later years you could see drastic shifts in the various rogues galleries orbiting around all these protagonists, and even see rotating cast-members rotate out of one hero’s circle, and into another. Perhaps the definitive example of this occurred during Frank Miller’s storied run on the then second-tier title Daredevil, repurposing the classic Spider-Man mastermind villain Wilson Fisk, “the Kingpin of Crime”, into an all encompassing nemesis for the blind lawyer turned vigilante. At other times, it’s possible to see almost the entire roster of one book transcend into a new title, and all their old spots taken up by new characters– if it weren’t for the classic X-Men line-up of Cyclops, Jean Grey, Angel and Beast splitting for a brief while, we’d have never gotten the equally classic additions of Wolverine, Storm, Nightcrawler or Colossus. However, this phenomenon of characters moving in and out of different books for keeps is something that really began in earnest with the cadre of invented and recycled characters that have made up the dream-team of superheroes known of the Avengers, and with the essential members of the multiple decades’ worth of various line-ups finally reaching the silver screen altogether after a four-year long round of origin stories and franchise table-setting, we can now witness the cinematic manifestation of the fabled Marvel Universe interconnectedness coming true before the eyes of millions in as mainstream a medium as it’s ever found. And my god, is it boring.


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