Sunday, December 15, 2013

Marvel and I: The Story of a Long-term Misunderstanding, Part One

Before the past year and a half or so, I've spent most of my life being Marvel-illiterate. Now, I didn't, at 30, emerge from under a rock, so for most of my life, sure, I've been, each to a different degree, acquainted with Spider-man, the Incredible Hulk, and Captain America: in the case of Spider-man, I knew that his alter ego was Peter Parker and that he struggled with teen angst and his crush on the red-headed Mary Jane; but the Hulk and the Cap were no more to me than mere icons. Case in point: in second grade, myself and a few friends would play Batman every day at recess. One of our ranks urged that, along with the Joker, the Penguin, the Riddler, and the like, someone on the bad guys team should play "the Incredible Hulk". Now, I knew that the Incredible Hulk wasn't a Batman, let alone a DC, character, but I went along with it; some brute muscle seemed to round out our play-acting game's villain super-team.

(When I was in second grade, being familiar, via pop culture, with both characters but not a follower of either's comics, this would've made perfect sense to me.)

One evening after school, when I enthusiastically updated my parents on how I'd been spending my recess, my dad laughed and informed me, "The Incredible Hulk is a good guy!" Having doubted my friend in the first place, I knew that my dad -- whose foremost reference point was the 1978-82 CBS live-action Incredible Hulk TV series -- was right. But as in my mind it made sense that spindly, craven wretches like the Joker and the Riddler kept a *cough* hulking brute on hand to serve as their "brawn", I held my ground[*], and the makeup of our recest cast went on changed ... until we moved onto, each in its own turn, Ghostbusters, our self-created team of time travelers, and eventually even Darkwing Duck ...

([*] As I would eventually learn, neither my friend nor my dad had it quite right. In the original six-issue run of The Incredible Hulk and his subsequent run in Tales to Astonish, the character [or at least his alter-ego, Bruce "Bob" Banner"] is squarely the protagonist, but not necessarily a hero of any sort; at best, an anti-hero. And in his crossover appearances in issues of the same era of The Avengers, Fantastic Four, and Amazing Spider-man, he was depicted as an outright public menace and, format-wise, the indisputable antagonist of each respective story.)

Ah, Darkwing Duck. My fourth grade coincided with that series' fall 1991-spring 1992 first season, co-run between The Disney Afternoon and ABC's Saturday morning lineup. (No, despite what any Wiki or DVD episode order says, the 13 episodes that premiered in the fall 1991 do not comprise the series' "second season". They were part of the first season ... well, an argument could be made that the episodes that were "previewed" [in full] on The Disney Channel in the spring of 1991 should be considered the first season, and that both the 1991-92 syndicated and ABC episodes together comprise the second season ... but that totally flies in the face of conventional wisdom, so at best, those Disney Channel-"previewed" episodes can collectively be considered, "er, the "pre-first season".) And during those months, Darkwing Duck dominated my life. I was obsessed with it. My best friend and I developed handwritten-and-drawn fliers for our "Darkwing Duck Fan Club", and distributed photocopies of them to every boy in the fourth grade. (Oh, don't get me wrong; at that point, I already had several crushes on girls under my belt, but we figured that our "club" wouldn't appeal to girls. If we were smarter, we would've found a way to entice them into joining us!) 

But then, a friend and classmate started boasting to me that some Marvel villain named Thanos had conquered the world and could easily kick Darkwing's ass. Thus began a longstanding revulsion on my part by any Marvel comics, one which took me nearly 20 years to undo and get to the heart of the matter. (For the record, though, I'm still a DC man, at the end of the day.) And, ironically, my coming-around has been centered on ... Thanos. 

This is not the post that I meant to write tonight ... but it's far better than the one that I did! And so, our story is ... to be continued!

No comments:

Post a Comment