Tuesday, February 23, 2016
The Revised Marvel Universe
Along with Stan Lee's Origins of Marvel Comics series that went on to spawn a look at villains as well as throwing a spotlight on the distaff characters of the company's books, there were two one-shot comics published in 2010 that featured their own origin profiles of various characters. And they obviously didn't see a need to reinvent the wheel when it came to their respective titles.
What sets them apart from other origins efforts is their attempt to break with the past. Since many of the characters profiled had been around for decades, the contributing writers make an effort in the revised origins not to lock the heroes into any set time frame. With some heroes, their origins were fine as is. Captain America, for example, could have been floating around in ice for any number of years and been awakened at any time; Spider-Man's uncle could have been murdered in 1990 just as well as 1962; in Stephen Strange's case, car accidents didn't only happen in the '60s; and the Avengers could have affixed their charter with whatever year their date stamp was set at.
Naturally, however, a few of them needed to have their origins revised to a "one size fits all" style that would omit inconvenient details which would have locked them into a certain time period and would stand the test of time from that point on. The Fantastic Four would be one of the stand-outs, since their conversation about beating "the commies" to the moon--and later, "the reds" to the stars--dates the group to the 1960s no matter how it's phrased. But only a slight adjustment is needed to bring them into the 21st century.
(One has to wonder just why Reed's project was being cancelled by the government, if he's considered such a brilliant scientist. There's no logic to the government building a starship all the way to launch-ready status and then cancelling the entire project; on the other hand, many such instances have occurred with expensive military aircraft, both in the U.S. and abroad.)
Nick Fury, of course, can't be fighting in World War II, and yet be in his late 40s/early 50s when he's tapped to be the director of S.H.I.E.L.D. in the 2000s. But if an experimental formula worked for Steve Rogers...
And just as with Cap, it looks like Fury is good to go for at least the next few decades.
Tony Stark was also tied to a wartime period--in his case, the Vietnam War, where shrapnel from a booby-trap-triggered explosion forced him to design his Iron Man armor while a prisoner of the enemy. But war spans the decades, unfortunately--and such conflicts don't have to have a historic name to stand in for the cause of Stark's transformation.
We could also assume that the Hulk's origin can be plugged into any year, if we omit Igor's plot; and after all, Rick Jones can drive onto a bomb test site in whatever year we want to place him. But that raises the question of why the bomb test wasn't aborted when Banner raced out to get him to safety; and regardless, Rick being a teenager locks the Hulk into that year, presenting the Hulk's origin with the problem these books are trying to bypass.
Strangely, though, some origins in these books are unnecessarily tweaked, while others are prone to errors. Doom, for instance, is still shown to be conducting his miscalculated experiment to contact the netherworld, but in the revised version the purpose of his experiment is slightly changed.
It's unclear whether the origin is keeping the same angle of the netherworld, or just boiling the situation down to Doom's ego--but the result is the same. Doom is expelled, he meets up with the monks, his armor is made, and he eventually winds up in Latveria. Why bother with such a small adjustment?
The Black Panther's origin receives similar subtle treatment--the goal apparently being to provide a reason for T'Challa to leave Wakanda and become a hero in the States.
Moving to the X-Men origins book reveals other odd revisions. The Beast's experiment in finding the chemical cause of mutation is completely sandpapered over, with his change to bestial form and continued shifts now attributed to "misfortune," which appears to point to his own misjudgment but otherwise could mean anything.
With Emma Frost, she grieves over her fallen Hellions, slain by the Sentinels--when they were actually killed by time-traveler Trevor Fitzroy.
The Sub-Mariner gets a page in the X-Men origins book because it's maintained that he's a mutant--though in the absence of a story that shows either Leonard MacKenzie or Princess Fen being exposed to chemicals and/or radioactivity, I still prefer thinking of him as a hybrid.
Jean Grey's origin certainly raises an eyebrow or two, since it appears to jettison all that we've been told about the Phoenix force replacing her as a perfect copy of herself, while she was out of commission for the duration. In this version, it was Jean herself who became Phoenix, just as we originally thought she had in the first place.
For the most part, these one-page mini-dossiers are nicely put together, and give all of these characters simple, uncomplicated, baseline origins that suffice for any reader to become familiar with (or refamiliarize themselves with) for as long as the characters remain in demand.