Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Marvel from a DC Girls Perspective...

So, recently I've decided to dip my toe into the vast waters of the Marvel universe but as a DC fan (including Vertigo - of course!) I'm a little apprehensive and have a few teething problems...

Thing, the first: Why do all of the character's in the Marvel universe - and by "all", I really mean MOST - have the same initials for first and last name? Peter Parker, Matt Murdock, Pepper Potts, Jonah Jameson, Bucky Barnes, Bruce Banner, Reed Richards, Scott Summers, Sue Storm...do I need to go on?!

Although it bugs me just a little, I actually do know why. My dad once explained that Stan Lee thought they were catchier and would be more memorable. To be fair this is true, as having not read much Marvel other than a few issues of X-men when I was younger - reading them while Dad was out of course because God forbid if he caught me reading his beloved comics! (He's a collector!) - I seem to have remembered a whole bunch of Marvel names. Of course, there's also the exposure to the many Marvel films of late - which, I have to say are getting better all the time. This is another reason I'm keen to read some more Marvel.

Yet, as I was writing the Marvel character names out back then, the blatant hypocrisy dawned on me...Lois Lane, Lana Lang, Lex Luthor, Billy Batson, Guy Gardner, Wally West, J'onn J'onnz, Dinah Drake, Zatanna Zatara...*eating my words* Yeah, so apparently, both Marvel and DC are guilty parties when it comes to catchy alliterative names.

It's not like I have an avid love affair with DC and wish to defend it to the very end, because it's mainly Vertigo publications that got me into DC in the first place and I think this has made it harder for me to truly embrace the idea of a caped "hero". As a young'un I watched plenty of Adam West's campy Batman antics on TV and in 1995, aged 10, which all the other girls had posters of Take That on their bedroom walls, I had a huge poster of Batman Forever on mine - so I suppose my love of Batman has always been there.

With regards to Superman, I enjoy his character for the socio-political affect he's had on the world. From the very first radio shows entertaining those at home during the war, inspiring hope and a sense of patriotism to the action packed George Reeves TV show and the tragically devastating effect if had on him as an actor. That, and the fact I also remember my older cousins all having Superman bedsheets. That was the epitome of cool in the 80's after all. I find the anthropology and social implications of Superman fascinating. Everyone knows that logo. I mean, he's so iconic even our mums know who he is!

I've never had that same connection with Marvel characters with perhaps one exception but I was a moody teen at the time, which is another problem with Marvel, it always feels so teenage to me. I felt akin to the X-men for a while because of the outsider element of mutants and I liked the range of characters - you can choose any of these characters and based on their attributes, weaknesses and traits can liken them to friends, family and anyone new you meet - especially if you were ME as a moody teenager anyway.

In the Marvel universe every character is flawed or "human" in some way. I understand this is a great story telling device and lots of interesting things can be built around various issues. But, it's like a freakin' daytime chatshow. Let's take Iron Man as an example...recovering alcoholic. Or Spiderman...a whiney teenager. Daredevil...a blind man with a lot of pent up Catholic guilt. Hulk...anger issues. I get that these very "real" issues are being explored, thus possibly also helping their readers but seriously...can't Spiderman just shut the hell up?

At least in the DC universe, the problems or weaknesses our heroes face aren't like those of the real world. Kryptonite is a made up element, but I suspend my disbelief. Wonder Woman is a princess of the Amazons, basically she's a frickin' badass princess. The very opposite of those la-de-da Disney princesses that disillusioned little girls want to grow up to be. She can even communicate with animals at times. I don't care that it's not "real". It's escapism - I love it. I suppose there are issues at hand but they seem less obviously portrayed in DC comics. They feel more grown up. Hence my love of Vertigo.

Yeah, so Superman is technically an immigrant and that is something which is explored as an issue, especially recently with all the citizenship stuff but before then it's all been understated, it doesn't have to drive the story forward. Obviously, there's the whole feminist take on Wonder Woman too. I mean, how can it be ignored?! Yet, it's not shoved down your throat every other page.

Obviously I've left out the big one...the God damn Batman. Why? Well, because he's DC's human hero, the vigilante billionaire with the utility belt who has a fear of bats but recognises that he can use this fear for good. He also loses his parents and has the whole revenge thing going on - but he doesn't do this in the whiney Spiderman way and it's an all together darker tale. The mean, terrifying representation of the Gotham streets and the altogether darker environments are far more enticing to me than the "This is basically New York" mentality of Marvel.

It may seem that I'm bashing Marvel a bit much but I do genuinely want to find a way in to the 'verse...I've been recommended Iron Man Extremis as a starting point mainly because it's written by Warren Ellis, who I know and love from reading Hellblazer and illustrated by Adi Granov who does some phenomenal art work.

So very pretty...

Anyhow, I'm going to continue writing about my immersion into the Marvel Universe as it unfolds. Expect many reviews!


  1. Well said. You seem like a smart person. As a long time comic reader I'd like to offer my 2 cents.

    Marvel is far more interested in selling a brand than creating good stories. DC as well but Marvel is aggressive about it. If a good story arc is chugging along, Marvel will jerk that character out of character in order to serve a crossover sales event. Fake deaths or life changing events take place, the previous story arc is abandoned and fans aren't worthy of a comic-book logical explanation.

    I am a fan of Dark Horse, Hadron Colliderscope follows me on Twitter (for some strange reason) and although I don't know much about them I like what I see. I do hope it turns out to be fun for you. Please post your findings.

  2. Thanks for your comment, I'm pleased some one is reading it! I wasn't able to read it or view it on my blog until today! I hope you enjoy my musings on Iron Man Extremis. Also, Hadron Colliderscope are ace, consider it a compliment that thye follow you!