A Marvel of a mess

Published April 12, 2022

Meanwhile in a comic book style

So far, my 30 Day Challenges have fallen into one of two themes - either trying to embed a habit, or really giving something a good go. The comic book challenge is the latter, something I’ve thought about and dipped into occasionally but never had the stamina to keep up a good streak of comic book reading. One thing I didn’t mention in my introductory post, is that the vastness of the various superhero universes is another thing that has previously put me off. And my reading for the first 10 days has proved that is something I was right to be nervous about.

For my own reference, these are the comics I read in the first third of this challenge:

  • Day 1 - Hawkeye: Kate Bishop (2021-2022), 2 issues.
  • Day 2 - The Amazing Spider-Man (2018-Present), 1 issue.
  • Day 3 - Iron Man (2020-Present), 2 issues.
  • Day 4 - Iron Man (2020-Present), 1 issue. Black Widow (2019), 1 issue.
  • Day 5 - Black Widow (2019), 3 issues.
  • Day 6 - Black Widow (2019), 1 issue. Shang-Chi (2021-Present), 1 issue.
  • Day 7 - Marvel Comics (1939), 1 issue.
  • Day 8 - Shang-Chi (2021-Present), 1 issue. Scarlet Witch (2015-2017), 1 issue.
  • Day 9 - Scarlet Witch (2015-2017), 3 issues.
  • Day 10 - The Amazing Spider-Man (2018-Present), 2 issues.

I’ve really enjoyed reading them, the artwork is so varied and so skilled - I love that feeling when you’re reading the story, it’s building up to something, and then you flip over to a full page masterpiece, it can be breathtaking. But the stories make no sense to someone who only really has the MCU as a reference. The Black Widow story was self-contained, so I read through really quickly and enjoyed it, but the background was Black Widow was dead and back again, some kind of falling out with Captain America, a lot of backstory I had no idea about.

Sometimes the comics will reference something and put a small editor’s note to point out where you can read more - that’s fine, but I’m worried you’ll end up referencing back to something that in itself needs a reference and you end up thirty comics ago, forgetting what you were reading in the first place.

All of this is just an extension of my completionist personality. I’m really trying to relax into it but more than anything, I desperately want to just start from the beginning and work through it all to make sure I’ve got it all covered. I did read the first ever Marvel comic, which was fun. It was nothing like the modern day offerings but at least I knew there wasn’t a backstory I was missing.

That first comic was in 1939, though. That’s over 80 years of artwork to trawl through. The Marvel that we know and love today supposedly started in 1961, so that’s still a good sixty years of narrative to navigate. It’s just not possible, is it? Well, this guy did it:

Which made Wolk wonder: What if he kept going and read them all? What would the Marvel story looked like if you were able to view it as a coherent whole? A spreadsheet of 27,000-plus comics was duly compiled. (This avoided the versions of Marvel that came and went before Stan Lee and Jack Kirby struck gold with Fantastic Four #1 in 1961, and also left out anything Marvel published that didn’t tie into the larger Marvel story — sorry, Star Wars.) Then Wolk started chipping away at it, arc by arc, over five long years of dedicated reading.

Comics, completionism AND a spreadsheet?? Now you’re talking.

To be continued in a comic book style

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