Make Mine Marvel – The Wall Street Journal
From the early 1960s to today, the Marvel superhero universe has seen its fan base grow from an inner circle of comic book addicts to seemingly everyone. Beginning in the first issue of The Fantastic Four, in 1961, readers have followed the sequential adventures of characters possessing non-human abilities and the quality of intrinsic human weakness. The bitter, stone-skinned thing, so mighty of the Magnificent Four; The green-skinned, enraged, and enormously more powerful Hulk; And in particular, the perpetually tormented Spider-Man – these are among the often confused and not always superheroes whose adventures have drawn an increasingly sophisticated readership during a decade that has brought real-world confusion. Some have noted that as the Marvel universe has expanded over the decades, particularly through several recent top-grossing films based on comic books, Marvel has moved from counterculture into the depths of culture itself, becoming massive, continuous, and semi-legendary. whose narrative arcs often intertwine in fascinating and sometimes confusing ways. Latecomers, especially moviegoers who like to read comics in order to gain a deeper understanding of the “cinematic world” they have come to love, may ask: Where do I begin?
Enter Douglas Walk, whose previous books include Reading Comics: How Graphic Novels Work and What They Mean (2007). For his new book, All Marvels, he “does his best so you don’t have to”—that is, he’s spent two years reading more than 27,000 Marvel comic books, aiming to map key points to the tracks of Marvel’s most famous titles (and even some of the lesser ones). Fame) as a guide for new readers. Mr. Walk is quick to point out that his book isn’t a syllabus – one of the many charms in this highly entertaining volume is its ethos of totalitarianism: it’s against the idea of Marvel as the private province of some grizzly, in-knowing crowd who’ve followed Marvel stories for most of their lives (a crowd that includes Mr. Wolk himself, who worked in a comic book store in the mid-1980s). He writes: “The only kind of ‘gatekeepers’ who have any business centered on comics, are the ones who make sure the gate stays wide open for anyone who wants to join the fun.” He tells readers, “Skip! Trust your flair!” His book is useful for doing this, with most chapters referring to specific issues of magazines, complete with their publication dates and the names of artists and writers, as starting points for thinking about developments in the series. Mr. Wolk notes that part of the fun for new Marvel readers is “to confuse and then find a way out of the confusion,” and that “what the story wants from you is not your knowledge but your curiosity.”