Saturday, 27 November 2021

Robert’s Time Capsule: The Avengers et al.

Avengers 4 cover

Robert recalls:

Throughout primary school, I read superhero comic books with an obsession verging on addiction. I was fiercely loyal: Marvel was my brand, first, last, and (I vowed and believed) forever.

I started buying them in second grade, in the PX of the long-since-dismantled Hunter’s Point naval shipyard in San Francisco, where my family spent a year living in a quonset hut while my father’s ship was in drydock. My first comic book was the Avengers; their colorful costumes caught my eye, and the confusion of characters inside posed a puzzle I had to solve.

A lot of things combined to keep me hooked — the action, the quips, the graphics (especially by Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko). A large part of the appeal was that the people behind the comics seemed to be having fun. They joked about their continuity errors and even, sometimes, their own momentary lack of inspiration:

Inspired dialogue by sleepy Stan

(Some of Stan Lee’s self-mocking spirit undoubtedly lives on in MuseBlog.)

I liked the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, and the solitary superheroes. My real favorites, though, were the X-Men.

X-Men 7 cover

It surprised me recently to read that Marvel considered the X-Men “second-tier” members of its stable at the time, and certainly they weren’t nearly as interesting as they became 20 years later. But I wasn’t complaining. They were teenagers, which was cool. They were sophisticated in ways that a California kid couldn’t grasp. In their off hours, they even hung out with beatniks!

Beast and Iceman incognito in Greenwich village

Words like “combo,” “Zen,” and “Bohemian” baffled and riveted me. My parents had to tell me where Greenwich Village was (and how to pronounce it), but they didn’t explain beatniks very well. Later the early 1960s gave way to the mid-1960s, and sometimes real life started to seem stranger than the comics.

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