Monday, August 29, 2016

"And From That Moment The World Would Never Again Be The Same" - The Beginning



It begins in 1982, with a boy.  He's almost four years old, but it's not important who he is, or where he lives.  His mum has taken him shopping, as she does every Friday afternoon.  He's standing in front of the magazine rack at the newsagency, and while he's not important, and where he lives is not important, what he holds in his hands will become very important to him.

The cover is mostly black.  The boy recognises Spider-Man from the television.  Spider-Man is about to punch someone, which is strange, because Spider-Man never punches anyone on TV.  Behind him, silhouetted in a door frame. is a man wearing a strange vest and buccaneer boots, with a pistol in each hand.  He's saying something, but the boy can't read the words.  He knows they're important, though.  He begs his mum, and is allowed to take it home with him.

He can't read the pages inside, so he looks at the pictures instead.  He sees Peter Parker, Spider-Man's alter ego, singing with a lot of old people.  He sees a strangely dressed man riding a flying bicycle, and shooting flames at Spider-Man with his umbrella.  He sees that the silhouetted figure from the cover is an old man, with grey hair and a wrinkled face.  Spider-Man is turned into an old man as well, for a little while.  The boy can't read the story, but the images make him feel uneasy.  There's something strange and unfathomable here.  This is for me, he thinks.  This is for me when I'm older.  He pulls out a red texta and scribbles over all of the faces.  And every Friday, when he goes to the shops with his mum, he buys another one.

It begins in 1939, with a magazine publisher.  He is 31 years old.  His name is Martin Goodman, he works in the McGraw Building on Manhattan's West 42nd Street , and he has just published his first comic book.  On the cover is a man made out of flame who is melting through the door of a bank vault to pounce on a criminal.  Inside this comic, the flaming man runs amok in New York, torching everything he comes near, while elsewhere in the book two deep sea divers are murdered by a strange undersea prince with wings on his ankles.  Martin sells a lot of these comics, and decides to make more.

It begins again in 1991, with the same boy.  He is twelve years old, and it's still not important who he is, or where he lives.  He has just finished reading a stack of comics that he borrowed from a friend.  In those comics a bald man just had his legs shattered in psychic battle with an entity representing all of man's darkest urges.  A man with knives coming out of his hands just fought another man who can throw exploding playing cards.  I'm going to read these forever, he thinks.

It begins in 1961, with a writer.  Or is it an artist?  Nobody is quite certain.  One of them is 38, the other is 43.  Their names are Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, and they work on Madison Avenue in Manhattan.  They have just created a new comic book.  The cover is dominated by a huge green monster, and looks like a lot of the other comics they have collaborated on.  The inside is different, though.  On the inside, four people fly a rocket into space where they are bombarded by mysterious cosmic rays.  They return to Earth with with fantastic powers.  One can stretch bis body to amazing lengths, and another can turn invisible.  One can burst into flame, just like a certain character from 1939.  The last becomes a monster, and is consumed with bitterness and rage.  Stan and Jack keep making these comics, because it's their job.  Very soon, it will become something else entirely.

It begins with one story, and with thousands of others.  It spans from 1939 to the present day, and from before the birth of the universe until its myriad endings.  It may be the largest, most complex fictional creation of all time.

This is the story of the Marvel Universe, and how it unfolds, year by year, and issue by issue.

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