Wednesday, February 21, 2007

My MARVEL-ous Journey

One of my resolutions for 2007 was to gain an appreciation for Marvel. I am trying to discover why I hold undying love for the DC universe, yet am pretty much apathetic toward the Marvel cast of characters.

I am trying to take note of specific things about Marvel that bother me. Here are three I have decided on so far:

1. Marvel takes place in real cities in real America. Really there's nothing wrong with that, but it still bores me for some reason. Maybe I don't want my superheroes referring to 9/11. It's also too restrictive. Fictional cities means endless possibilities, and imaginative architectural artwork. It's also impressive the way that DC has done such a good job creating fictional American cities, that fans can actually be offended if a cityscape doesn't "look like Gotham."

2. Marvel is unbearable quippy and cute. It's not like I mind witty banter between my superheroes. I am a big Keith Giffen fan, for example. But what Marvel is often lacking are clever jokes. A lot of the recent comics that I have read have sounded like bad sitcoms.

3. I think I might hate Spider-Man. He. Won't. Shut. Up. I get that he's supposed to be full of bad jokes and kind of lovably annoying, but I seriously could not be in the same room as that guy for more than a minute. And I, of course, am talking about current Spider-Man. He used to be much cooler.

My journey to discover Marvel has involved the following so far this year:

- Reading Civil War (and all related tie-ins)
- Reading New Avengers in order
- Watching the Fantastic Four movie
- Watching Ghost Rider (seriously...not as bad as I thought it would be)
- Reading the rest of the Grant Morrison run on X-Men (I'd only read the first 10-12 issues or so)
- Reading the Frank Miller run on Daredevil
- Reading any Marvel that anyone lends to me or recommends

And so my quest has lead me here to Florida, where I will head to Marvel Island at Universal Studios in a few short days. I will interact with Marvel characters in their natural habitat and, apparantly, "ride them." I look forward to it, and will be documenting with pictures.

America, by the way, is amazing. They have fake diners instead of real ones.


Benito said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Benito said...

Well, there's your problem. You just read a big pile of shitty Marvel comics. Anyone would be annoyed.

(Not the Morrison X-Men or the Miller DD. Those are good. I meant the current output you decided on. Yeugh.)

johnny_haiku said...

I'm in a similar boat myself, in that I vastly prefer DC (as a general rule). I'd seriously recommend you read Nextwave though, and maybe Whedon's Astonishing X-Men run.

Roy said...

I grew up on Marvel comics. I had an uncle who collected X-Men from about Giant Size on, as well as a lot of Spider-Man stuff, so I grew up reading all the mutant books and Spidey.
I don't know what changed, but I'm so completely disinterested in most of Marvel's output these days. Completely.

I find too many of the characters really, really annoying. I'm tired of Wolverine being poorly written. I absolutely hate the Punisher. The X-Men feel too dark or just stupid most of the time. Spider-Man is annoying and has too many stupid plot twists and gimmicks. I haven't even touched Civil War because everything I've read about Civil War is... well... stupid.

And, suddenly, I find myself really intrigued by DC stuff. Sandman Mystery Theater was the first DC book I picked up in ages. I read through some of the Justice League trades, and the more I read about them, the more interested I am.

If nothing else, I have to say that DC knows how to create cool costumes for their heroes. Marvel characters are kind of stupid and boring looking compared to some of DCs offerings. I'm a sucker for a good cape and a popped colar.
Yes, I'm looking at you, Red Tornado.

rachelle said...

I should clarify: there are some Marvel titles that I read and enjoy regularly. Astonishing X-Men, Runaways, Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane...I guess that's pretty much it.

I used to be really into X-Men and Wolverine comics, but I just can't be bothered following them anymore, usually.

Jeff said...

We have real diners. But you probably won't find any in Tourism Land.

I honestly agree with everything you take Marvel to task for these days. I look at the Marvel stuff on my pull list, and the only book that's really nonnegotiable is probably Runaways. Which you might want to read.

Jeff said...

Or, never mind, because you already read Runaways. Yay.

Matthew Perpetua said...

Agreed -- you are totally totally reading the wrong stuff!

New X-Men is a good call. Bendis Daredevil actually trumps Miller Daredevil. Runaways -- read that! Definitely read Mark Waid's run on Fantastic Four, that is lovely. Avoid Civil War. Spider-Man's humor is the #1 best thing about him, though it kinda helps if the writer is funny! All the Marvel movies suck except for maybe the Spidey movies, don't watch them!

Matthew Perpetua said...

Err, sorry, missed the bit about you already reading Runaways.

Dan Slott's She-Hulk stuff is fun. His Spidey/Human Torch thing is really fun too. You can't go wrong with old Stan & Jack Fantastic Four either.

Nic said...

I just don't like the whole "heroes with regular problems" thats dull. Superheroes are supposed to have legendary adventures, not worry about the plumbing (I recall one spiderman comic years ago dealing with this problem) Heroes are larger than life let them be that way.

rachelle said...

I actually did read the Spider-Man/Human Torch books. That was a rad series.

I'm planning on reading all Brubaker Marvel stuff, and I'll be checking out the Bendis Daredevil stuff for sure too. I kinda like Bendis. I liked him pre-Marvel, and I don't mind his Marvel writing either, even though I know it's a little...cute. I feel the same way about Winick. Bendis is Marvel's Winick.

The Mighty Robolizard said...

1602 happens to be the comic that got me into the mainstream, and it seems to be the best comic to come out of Marvel. Almost indie quality.

Oh, and love your blog btw.

Johnathan said...

Crap! I totally forgot that I had all kinds of great Fantastic Four stuff from three or four years ago. When you asked about Marvel all I could think of were the trades.

When you get back, yo.

Jon Hex said...

Cable & Deadpool
Immortal Iron Fist, well pretty much everything Brubaker writes
Punisher War Journal
Nicieza's Thunderbolts and Born Better
Beyond! mini-series

Michael Rawdon said...

Jesus-on-a-stick, what a crappy selction of Marvel comics you picked up to read. Other than Miller's run on Daredevil, I don't think the rest is worth bothering with. (And his first run is only decent if you understand the context in which it appeared. Born Again is genuinely great, but very dark.)

I'm also more of a DC fan than a Marvel fan, but Marvel has published some great stuff. Here are a few things you might consider checking out:

Fantastic Four (first series) #1-60 (try the Essential FF collections unless you need to read them in color)
Amazing Spider-Man (first series) #1-50 (also available as Essentials)

These two runs are the cornerstone of the Marvel Age, and both hold up very well today. Be a little tolerant of the first 12 or so issues of each, as it takes them a little while to find their voice.

Iron Man: Demon In A Bottle (also in TPB as The Power of Iron Man) by David Michelinie, John Romita Jr. and Bob Layton
Doctor Strange (2nd series) #48-73 (a great character-driven run by Roger Stern, Marshall Rogers and Paul Smith)
Hawkeye TPB by Mark Gruenwald
Machine Man TPB by Barry Windsor-Smith
Avengers (3rd series) #1-56 (Kurt Busiek's terrific run from the late 90s, illustrated by George Perez, Alan Davis and Kieron Dwyer; available in both paperback and the Avengers Assemble! hardcovers)

I could probably scrounge up some earlier Avengers and X-Men issues to read, but the above is a good start.

I don't have much good to say about Marvel over the last 5 years. It's been a pretty lousy era. Civil War has sucked eggs (but then, it's a Mark Millar book), and New Avengers has been pretty boring and excessively wordy (but then, it's a Brian Michael Bendis book).

L.P. Mandrake said...

I don't think I've really dug anything by Brubaker since Sleeper ended, so I can't say I recommend Daredevil or Captain America.

I grew up with Marvel, so I have a great deal of fondness for the characters. At this point, though, I hardly get anything from them. Just Runaways, X-Factor, Marvel Adventures: Avengers, and the odd mini. I think right now, the best writers are mostly at DC (particularly with McKeever jumping ship). Trade out Bendis and Millar for Morrison and Waid, though, and I'd be back on board the Marvel bandwagon.

Tom said...

Since you like Giffen, why not try Annihilation? I thought it was quite good, and certainly a better miniseries than Civil War. I'm also mostly a DC fan, so I can't speak for many other Marvel titles, although I am enjoying Iron Fist and Punisher War Journal. Matt Fraction is great. I'm also cautiously optimistic about Dwayne McDuffie's Fantastic Four--the first issue of his run was quite good.

David said...

Can I just say...I absolutely love this site. Thanks so much for your witty comments and sarcasm. Its awesome! I visit here regularly and am a big Superman fan. Do you read current Supes stuff? If so, I'd love to hear your thoughts sometime on the current direction the titles are going in.

chrishaley said...

Oh wow, you're going to my favorite place in the world. Universal's Islands of Adventure, I mean.
I'm looking forward to these pictures you say you'll be taking and sharing.

Oh, and because I can't say it enough, Civil War was a terrible idea and it's execution was even worse.

toonsNtunes said...

I am totally digging your blog!!

As a Marvel fanatic, and someone who only flirts with DC (I only pull Catwoman, Wonder Woman, & All-Star Supes), let me give you some current Marvel reading to try to change your mind.

Avoid Civil War. I love the series, but if you're not that into the characters and history they're messing with, then the whole series won't have a lot of wait with you. Same reason I hacven't read any of the DC Infinite Crises, etc.

If you have a passing interest/knowledge of the X-world, pick up X-FACTOR. I can not recommend this to enough people. The current X-Factor series has been nothing short os surprising, engaging, and quite enjoyable. It's my current favorite book. The chracters are great, the art has been a little hit or miss since the lost their original artist, and Peterd David's writing has been off the hook.

Also check out the just ended 'Nextwave'. A team of 3rd rate all but forgotten characters lead into a light, almost nonsensical series. It only made it 12 issues, but they were funny, the art was unique, and I've never read a thing like it.

Those are the must check-outs. Some other stuff that I'm really enjoying are the current Dr. Strange mini-series (not mired in extensive continutirty, just fun & engaging); Ms. Marvel (she's a really dynamic character and the writers are steering her in an interesting direction); and Brubaker's run on 'Uncanny X'Men' (space adventures... pretty well done - it's panning out to be an epic tale though, so maybe better to wait for a trade and read the whole thing at once).

Hope that helps!!

Tiina said...

I think you'll really like my boy, Brubaker's Daredevil and Cap stuff. I'll lend you what I've got when you get back into town.

I read Civil War #7 last night and I laughed the whole way through. I don't think I was supposed to. At least McNiven's art is effing beautiful.

Anonymous said...

Old school Spidey is where it's at! I've been gorging myself on Essential Spidey Vol. 6, and loving it. So much awesome Gil Kane and Ross Andru many goofy attempts at social relevance and "hip" much crazy Osborn hair. Also, the constantly capering, speedo-sporting, weirdly gremlinesque Jackal. This is what Marvel was to me, not whatever Marvel has turned into these days (DD, Cap, Astonishing, and Runaways excepted, natch).

Of course, these were some of the first comic books I ever read (courtesy of Marvel Tales reprints), so I can in no way be actually objective regarding their quality.


rachelle said...

Aw geez. So many nice and helpful comments and I haven't had time to respond to them, being on vacation and all.

I will be sure to read everything suggested to me. After I take a little DC break. Man, I needed it.

I'll respond to the most recent comment.

Dave: I KNOW! What is UP with the Osborn hair?! It's the WORST!

Matthew Perpetua said...

I wouldn't recommend reading Brubaker's Daredevil until after you finished Bendis' run since it flows directly out of that long term storyline. Reading the entire Bendis DD run straight through Brubaker's current run is probably the most satisfying comics experience I've had in recent years, along with the Scott Pilgrim books, Brian K Vaughan's Runaways and Y The Last Man, and Mark Waid's Legion of Super Heroes.

plok said...

For a starter pack of the Marvel flavour of the 1960's, I prescribe: the original Lee/Ditko run on Dr. Strange, the Lee/Kirby Thor (is that Thor Essentials #2? I don't know), whatever you can stand of the original X-Men (one of the goofiest comics ever written), a little Cap, a little DD, a little FF, a little Spidey both Ditko- and Romita-flavoured. There. Or you could just read Alan Moore's 1963.

Now, the Seventies: anything with a monster or a vampire or a spaceship or somebody who's not white on the cover, Englehart Avengers and Captain America, Gerber Defenders, Howard The Duck, Marvel Two-In-One, Marvel Team-Up, Conway/Andru Spider-Man, anything written by Len Wein. That about covers it...and if you see a Kirby, pick it up, if you want a shock...

Eighties: Claremont X-Men with Cockrum and Byrne, Byrne FF, Stern/Byrne Captain America, Stern/Rogers Dr. Strange. Can't remember more right now. You're already reading Frank Miller's DD, you said...basically you can just feel pretty safe reading anything Claremont/Byrne-related in this timeframe.

Nineties: Englehart Silver Surfer, West Coast Avengers, and FF. Again, can't remember more at the moment. It was a bleak period.

2000+: NuMarvel, especially X-Force/X-Statix and the first year or two of Ultimate Spider-Man. Peter Bagge wrote a Spider-Man comic, in these days. God, how sweet it all was: Seth even wrote a fan letter to Ultimate Spider-Man, and no, I'm not even joking, he did. Freakin' Seth did. How weird is that?

Wow, I'm old, eh? It's a fact.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with many of the previous posters. There are definately better Marvel books out than those you've chosen to read.

Spider-man Loves Mary Jane has been excellent.

All of the recent Power Pack mini series are good, with Power Pack/Spidey being the best. Also, they come with four page Civil Wards minis in the back that are hilarious.

Marvel Adventures Avengers is awesome. Just plain super heroic fun. If nothing else issue #9 was the best single issue of anything Marvel put out this year.

I mean CAPDOC? Awesome.