Monday, December 30, 2013

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

When we last left off, it was late 1991. Ryan was in the fourth grade, and Darkwing Duck, which had started airing on The Disney Afternoon and ABC that very same fall, had become his favorite show. However, much to his vexation, a friend and classmate kept boasting (as if it were somehow HIS accomplishment) that some Marvel Comics villain named Thanos had killed off all of the heroes in the Marvel universe (at least according to Ryan's friends) in some allegedly awesome mini-series called The Infinity Gauntlet. Thus, Ryan's friend reasoned, Thanos would be able to kill Darkwing Duck with his pinky finger, if he felt like it.

To begin with, Ryan already didn't care about, and found no appeal in, Marvel Comics. But now, he'd been pushed over the edge, and became an active Marvel detractor.

This growing aversion didn't extend to just Marvel, but to the action-dominated, thriller-oriented arm of the sci-fi genre, across all media. A lot of Ryan's grade school peers who liked X-Men and Spawn (I think of this as the era of the X-Men, Image, and all that I repelled me) also liked the Terminator movies. All of these things seemed gnarled, grizzly, and coldly metallic to Ryan. When a friend would describe the blood and gore in a movie they'd seen over the weekend, Ryan would ask him what was wrong with him and how he could possibly enjoy such fare.

In short, in the early `90's, Ryan was reading these comics:

He was not reading these comics:

(In fact, to Ryan, the above were not even comics -- they were just in the way. A meaningless din.)

But he ESPECIALLY wasn't (no way in Hell; over his dead body) reading THIS (as he considered it at the time) atrocity:

(The Marvel superheroes were in trouble. Didn't they know to call DW?)

At this point (reverting to first person), in my mind, all superhero comics were all lumped together in the "yuck" bin. I thought little more of DC than I did of Marvel. Now, as a longtime DC fan, that's hard to believe. But, it's not such a stretch, considering how that was the era of the bloodletting that transpired in major story arcs like "A Death in the Family" and "The Death of Superman" -- both of which I'd been to some extent exposed to. (How could I not have been, in the case of the latter?) A few years before my unpleasant run-in with Thanos, at a friend's birthday party, as part of a goody bag, I received a copy of a recent issue of Batman that happened to be a part of "Death in the Family". When you're six years old and a couple of years earlier, your favorite show had been Super Friends (via syndicated weekday reruns), a bleak, angst-caked story about Robin being beaten with a crowbar to a bloody pulp just isn't going to work.

Within a few years, I would have come around on DC. I had just become active in fandom, via a certain A.P.A., and Joe Torcivia encouraged me to give DC a chance.The Paul Dini-Bruce Timm animated series also played a role. They weren't cheesy, not "hardcore", but just right. These distillations of the DC characters converted me. Batman and Superman came to have a "feel" much closer to that of Uncle Scrooge than to my conception of the Marvel and Image properties. Batman: The Animated Series had actually only premiered a year later than my friend drove me away from superheroes with Thanos, and, in keeping with that, at first, I found it drab, boring, and depressing. It was actually falling in love with Gargoyles a couple of years later that warmed me up to B:TAS.

But, even with the influences of Torcivia, Dini, and Timm, I might not have ultimately gotten hooked on DC if, in my most formative years, an attachment to the characters hadn't been ingrained into my psyche. Super Friends was one of my earliest favorite shows, remember? Before DuckTales premiered and, at the age of five, I immediately went nuts over it. Before my first Uncle Scrooge comic. I've actually been a DC fan longer than a duck fan! I just forgot that for several years.

But, as I was entering high school and getting more into DC, I was simultaneously and paradoxically moving away from comics and animation. I had never really changed my mind about Marvel; but now, I was indifferent to it.

Next time: The early `00's come along, and I go to college. A couple of movies come out. I see and like them. That makes me say, "I should go read the original comics." Another entire decade later, I get around to it.

-- Ryan

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