Issue(s): Marvels #2
Review/plot: A great continuation of Phil Sheldon's observations about the Marvel Universe.
The issue focuses on the unfair distinction between the celebrity status of the Avengers and the FF and the "hated and feared" status of the X-Men and other mutants.
Quality Rating: A
Chronological Placement Considerations: This book spans a fair amount of time from 1964 and 1965. See the references below. Most importantly this issue must go after Reed and Sue's wedding in Fantastic Four annual #3 and the Sentinel attack in Uncanny X-Men #14-16. The Iron Man/Titanium Man fight in Tales of Suspense #70 in only announced as an upcoming event in this issue, so i've placed it (and Avengers #19-20, which take place concurrently) directly after this issue.
There's a note from Kurt Busiek in the Marvels trade paperback that uses these issues as an example to how all of the continuity neatly fits together in the Silver Age. After noting that the Human Torch references Reed and Sue's upcoming wedding in Uncanny X-Men #13, and how he wanted to use the FF wedding and the debut of the Sentinels to juxtapose "royalty" of mainstream superheroes and the persecution of mutants, he writes:
Here's how it works: The wedding had to happen after the X-Men fought the Juggernaut, since that was the story the Torch guest-starred in. But the X-Men attend the wedding, and at the end of the Juggernaut story, the X-Men are all injured and bed-ridden - and they're still recuperating at the beginning of the Sentinels story, so it can't happen between those two issues. But they're all injured again by the end of the 3-part Sentinels story, and are hospitalized in the beginning of the next issue, which flows right into a 2-part Magneto story - and by the time that's over, we're 5 or 6 months beyond the wedding in publishing time. So it must happen during an issue, and as it turns out, the only time during that stretch that the X-Men are uninjured and otherwise unoccupied is very early in the Sentinels story - a period of less than two days.
Read that quote again and tell me you wouldn't find something similar on the Marvel Chronology Project's bulletin board.
Continuity Insert? Y
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (5): show
The mutant girl is taken from the EC comics story "The Loathsome".
Posted by: Mark Drummond | August 2, 2011 4:53 PM
This issue actually deals with what I called a huge plot hole in another post, that being, why are non-mutant superpowered people OK, but mutants hated and feared? And the image of the kid above (and mutant CHILDREN are used repeatedly throughout such stories; such as in God Loves, Man Kills) probably goes a way towards explaining the difference. One would be much more frightened of something if his kid could be born a freak. Plus we have to remember that mutants are often born truly freakish-looking, whereas few Marvel heroes are freakish-looking.
I still think it's not a perfect idea, but it can be worked with. I think Stan and Jack's having mutants join non-mutant teams is still a mistake, unless there's some mention of the distinction within those books - I wasn't an Avengers reader, so I don't know if it ever got brought up or not.
Posted by: Paul | May 10, 2012 12:46 PM
The distinction is never really addressed head-on in the Avengers, but they deal with their share of prejudice, especially around the Vision/Scarlet Witch marriage.
With the exception of Cap, Iron Man, and the FF, Marvel heroes generally have at best a tenuous relationship with public acceptance. Cap and IM are very obvious US symbols, and they're both essentially regular people, and the FF have a known origin (which was again, at least originally, in the service of their country) and public IDs and they're essentially celebrities. Cap and IM (and to a lesser degree Thor) lend credibility to the rest of the Avengers, even when they're mutants, but it only goes so far; it only takes one misunderstood actin or well-placed Skrull to get the pitchforks out. The Marvels and Eye of the Camera series point out how the public is constantly turning on their saviors.
I know you disagree about Spider-Man, Paul, but in my reading he's often wanted by the police, cursed at by Bugle-influenced citizens, and trying to convince mugging victims that he's not just trying to rob them himself.
And in all the Days of Futures Past type stories, the non-mutant heroes' graves are right alongside the mutants. Similarly, characters like Henry Gyrich have no love of non-mutants. I think "mutant" just becomes shorthand for "above the law freaks" but actual mutants have the disadvantage of being detectable by Sentinel scanners. Things get especially bad for the X-Men specifically after they're put into scenarios where they're invading government institutions during the Claremont run.
It certainly affects the mutant books more, but i think the Marvel universe as a whole is stronger for having the "distrust of super-heroes" theme.
I think all of the above is the starting point, i.e., the public doesn't trust super-freaks generally, and then you add to that mutants are often odd looking and the fact that people like Magneto are out there advocating for the extermination or supplanting of the human race, and i think the automatic mutant distrust gets relatively plausible.
Posted by: fnord12 | May 10, 2012 10:56 PM
I think i wrote more in that comment than i did for this entry... ;-)
Posted by: fnord12 | May 10, 2012 10:56 PM
I think part of the confusion (part of my confusion, anyway) may come from the Hollywood versions. I grew up an avid reader of the mutant books (as the comments probably gave away) but I also read Spider-Man and Fantastic Four with a sprinkling of Daredevil.
But the movies (which I've seen much more recently than I've read Spider-Man) depict him as universally beloved by everyone but Jameson - basically he gets the public treatment Superman gets. So that may have skewed my perception of how he's treated. I haven't seen Avengers yet (or any of the movies leading in other than Iron Man) but I would guess those filmmakers treated those characters similarly. It seems that only with the X-Men is it an explicit theme that the filmmakers feel they HAVE to bring into the film. But you're almost certainly right about how it's actually been treated in the comics.
Posted by: Paul | May 11, 2012 6:54 AM
The biggest reason why the public distrusts mutants more than "regular" super-powered humans is the fear that humanity will be replaced and eventually driven into extinction. Random accidents ala the FF, Spider-Man, or even the Hulk won't do that. But mutants can.
Mutants as a stand in for minorities are an obvious theme, but I think people often overlook the connotations of the phrase often used for mutants, "children of the atom". We all know what would be at the forefront of people's thoughts on hearing the word "atom" in the 1960s.
Posted by: Chris | May 11, 2012 11:30 PM
Sources page from the trade paperback edition for cross checking:
Posted by: Jay Demetrick | April 27, 2014 2:34 AM
Non-mutant superheroes do get a lot of distrust from the population. Actually, in the Avengers/JLA crossover, the Avengers are warped to the DC universe and Captain America thinks the JLA is a group of overlords because of the amount of publicity they get, contrasting the mistreated superheroes of the Marvel universe.
Posted by: Enchlore♠ | October 6, 2014 7:36 PM
My favorite part is "it all went off without a hitch". It didn't, of course... but then it did, because the part where the villains all attacked is now in an alternate timeline, thanks to the Watcher.
Posted by: Andrew | January 9, 2015 7:38 PM
Yeah, alternate timeline... wait, what?
Posted by: JP | May 15, 2015 4:36 AM
FF annual #3 ends with time being reset so that the villain attack never happens.
Posted by: fnord12 | May 15, 2015 8:44 AM
Ah. I had never actually read it. That's... weird. Doesn't seem necessary. They could have just shown the Avengers tying up some of the villains and telling Reed and Sue, "You kids go on with your wedding; we'll handle it from here!"
Posted by: JP | May 15, 2015 8:53 AM
When this was first published it was years before the first X-Men movie, and seeing Professor X "played by" Patrick Stewart was pretty mind-blowing. Since then, of course, it seems like it was always inevitable. Sadly, seeing Russell Johnson, the Professor from Gilligan's Island, play Mister Fantastic was a dream that never came true.
Posted by: Andrew | May 22, 2015 8:04 PM
The little interconnected details that Busiek describes in his commentary are (for me, anyway) the real draw of the early Marvel Universe. Finding a way to read the books chronologically in hopes of discovering more of these little nuggets is more or less how I came across this site.
I wonder, though: was this level of integration intentional? Did Stan really consider that it might be necessary for the X-Men to have some inter-panel downtime in issue #14 in order for them to logically appear in the Fantastic Four Annual? Or is it an inadvertent byproduct of one writer scripting every single book in the line?
In other words: brilliant plan or happy coincidence?
Posted by: xourherox | March 15, 2016 11:30 PM
I'm also going to quibble with your rating here, fnord. Normally, I'm fully on board with your grades. I came to the Marvel Universe late in life, so I fully understand the difference between a B book (a story comic fans consider great) and an A book (a story I could hand to a non-comics layman.)
But isn't Marvels the very definition of a B+ book? It's so deeply immersed in the minutiae of the Marvel Universe that I'm not sure it's fully accessible to a non-comics reader. While the concept of the "hated and feared" X-Men versus the lionized Fantastic Four is fairly on the nose, the real joy of these books comes from watching Busiek uncover the intricate dynamics of the early Marvel Universe.
For example: I first read Marvels in 1998; it was among the first Marvel comics I ever read. I had no idea what was going on... the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, the Avengers--they were all just "big names" to me. In fact, I quite clearly remember finishing this issue confused as to how the Human Torch could appear in the first issue (set in the 1940s) and still be a teenager in an issue quite clearly set in the 1960s. I imagine this was less of an issue for those familiar with Marvel’s Golden Age/Silver Age history. It wasn't until I had read (and re-read) the 60's Marvel canon that I fully understood the point of Marvels and what Busiek was building towards with each issue.
To be clear: I'm not exactly arguing that these books don't deserve an A--they're worthy simply by dint of Busiek's writing and Ross's art. But I'm curious to hear what folks think about their accessibility to non-Marvel readers.
Posted by: xourherox | March 16, 2016 12:08 AM
I think the problem may be with the "non-comics layman" standard. If a non-comics reader asks for a recommendation, I'm going to hand them Y: The Last Man, or Fables. Maybe Sandman would be the most "far out" I could go. To an outsider anything with superheroes -- guys in tight, colorful costumes solving their problems by punching each other -- is something they simply can't enjoy or appreciate, no matter how good it is.
Posted by: Andrew | March 16, 2016 6:30 AM
Grades are always subjective. To address Andrew's point, i do say in the sidebar that i take it for granted that the reader can accept super-heroes as a concept. So while i agree that the Vertigo books and the like are probably better for laypeople, for this project i don't ding books for being about superheroes.
To xourherox, what i will say is that the continuity minutiae of Marvels is, to me, more like Easter eggs. I think what Busiek does really well in this series is take things from the perspective of a normal person and show his reaction to a world of supernatural happenings, both positive and negative. The specifics could just as easily be about Godzilla monsters or a generic alien contact or anything else, and the core would still be there, and i don't think it's necessary for readers to be familiar with any of the details for things to work. I wasn't familiar with most of the stuff Busiek was referencing when i first read these and it still worked for me on that level (and i could list a few other anecdotal examples from laypeople friends). But you have a good point that i'm probably influenced by the geeky coolness of how Busiek pulled all the elements together, which definitely does add another layer.
Posted by: fnord12 | March 16, 2016 8:10 AM
Marvel minutiae is to this series as World War II minutiae is to Saving Private Ryan. Research of such was very important to the creators in crafting their tale, and is not at all important to the audience in enjoying it.
It's good that Busiek pinpointed the timing of a wedding and that Spielberg used historically-accurate guns; those things make the experience feel more genuine, even if most people reading or watching wouldn't be able to pinpoint if they were wrong. But details like that really aren't what the stories are about.
Posted by: Mortificator | March 16, 2016 8:40 AM
As I've stated before I loved the Marvels mini-series and still consider it one of the best comics ever written.
Posted by: Bobby Sisemore | November 1, 2016 10:32 PM
Really facinating to read from «the poeple's» point of view.
Posted by: Roy Mattson | May 20, 2017 11:42 AM
It's always fun to see the inside jokes and real-life templates for characters Alex Ross puts in his artwork. Take the wedding of Reed and Sue, for instance. Alicia Masters is based off Linda Hamilton from the Terminator. Dr. Strange is Frank Zappa (from the PMRC Senate hearing years). Reed Richards himself, if memory serves, was based on Russell Johnson, a.k.a. the Professor from "Gilligan's Island". Can't say for certain, but Quicksilver's face looks like Sting's. Of course, a certain Fab Four are scattered in the back amongst the attendees. It looks like Liberace managed to wrangle an invitation somehow (behind Iron Man). And in the back left, is that Clark Kent? Oops, better stop for now, this "spot the celeb" game can get addictive!
Posted by: Brian Coffey | June 13, 2017 11:55 PM
I noted the Johnson reference above. And that's not Liberace; it's Dick Van Dyke, with his sit-com wife Mary Tyler Moore next to him. Tony Stark is based on Timothy Dalton or Errol Flynn, depending on Ross's mood. The use of Linda Hamilton threw me for a bit, since pretty much all the celebrity models in Marvels are from the seventies or earlier, but it makes sense because Ross's first published comics work was the 1990's NOW comics mini-series Terminator: The Burning Earth.
Posted by: Andrew | June 14, 2017 7:52 AM
@Andrew I see that now with Van Dyke and MTM, thanks for pointing that out. Don't know how I missed that besides over-thinking while looking at the panel, easy to do when trying to spot who's who in Ross' renderings.
Posted by: Brian Coffey | June 14, 2017 8:57 AM
[OT] I was at my therapist's yesterday and I made reference to Mary Tyler Moore having died…and she had no idea who that was. God, I felt old. I eventually, after sketching Mary's career and the success of her show, described her as being "between Lucille Ball and Tina Fey in significance for women on TV". Now, I'm wondering if the therapist thinks I meant to imply that Tina was #1… [/OT}
Wonderful, wonderful work. And just in case anybody has the same questions about Spidey's perception by the general public that Paul had a few years back, remember that Spidey spent almost 100 issues (88-186) being wanted by the police in connection with Captain Stacy's death. And that's just in ASM, not even counting Team-Up or Peter Parker.
I even remember the police firing shots at Spidey as he swings away, on more than one occasion. Someone with a better memory of Spider-books would have to help me with the details on that, however.
Posted by: Dan Spector | June 14, 2017 9:33 AM
You're probably thinking of immediately after Gwen died in ASM 122, when some cops try to detain Spider-Man, he smacks them down, and then swings off as they fire at him.
Posted by: Mortificator | June 14, 2017 11:12 AM
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