imaginations to the fullest.’
‘Method’ turned out to be a fitting name for the process considering that long-term Marvel artist John Romita has dramatically described it as ‘digging into my insides and pulling it out’. If you can capture that solipsistic movie-brat effort in print, it’s no wonder that the books started to pick up sales among legions of alienated, sensitive Baby Boomers.
The original Marvel creators were a generation too old to write convincingly for them, but Spider-Man could nevertheless be found rubbing shoulders with student dissenters while Dr Strange devoted himself to Eastern lore in Greenwich Village and The Silver Surfer pondered the meaning of life as he drifted through the heavens on a ﬂying surfboard. Lee admits to being ‘a little worried about the so-called hippies’ and had Thor tell a bunch ofthem that they should get more active in society rather than drop out of it.
Marvel stories were usually told with a humanitarian, liberal slant. ‘Knowing that so many children were reading these stories,’ he says, ‘I tried to give them a decent moral tone. I tried to preach against things like hate and bigotry.
‘Today, when I go to conventions, or I do a lecture, or I come to a store to do a book signing, people say to me, Stan, I wanted to meet you because you had such an effect on me when I was young. But at the time I had no idea at all. I was just writing them and publishing them and I hoped someone would read ’em.’
His special talent, though, was and is in being a figurehead; developing a strong image for the company and promoting brand loyalty by making Marvel seem like a club for its readers — a club that, even today, is built around the personality of Smilin’ Stan Lee with his mysterious motto ‘Excelsiorl’.
The whopping tome he is over to promote, Marvel by Les Daniels, is a good gloss of
I THOH A genuine Horse god. no less, and topped with long blonde hair- unheard of for a man In 1962. Quickly developed a bastard diction combining Shakespearian and biblical language, and a pompous mannerto match. The way to get him off your back was to deprive him oi his hammer for a minute, after which he would switch to meek, lame doctor Oon Blake, orio find some pretext to send him off to his celestial home oiAsgard, where everyone else jabber: away like that. Origin: destiny, apparently.
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MABVEL’S CLASSIC HEROES
The characters that Marvel will be remembered for-ail super-heroes- made their first public appearances in an intense burst oicreatlve energy between November 1961 and April 1964. Costumed crime-fighting was never the same again.
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I OAHEOEVIL Matt Murdock was hit in the face by a canister oi radioactive material which blinded him but boosted his remaining senses until his handicap became almost irrelevant. Following a well-trodden route, he took up crimefighiing to avenge his father’s murder and fell in love with a woman to whom he couldn’t reveal his feelings or his identity. Daredevil has carried on with moderate success since his creation, but never really made his mark until the 80s.
I THE FANTASTIC FOUH Looking at the early issues today, it‘s hard to understand at first whythls little band - a brilliant scientist with a stretchy body, a woman who could turn invisible, a super-strong pile oi orange rocks called The Thing and a revival of the World Waril Human Torch character- seemed at all exciting. But they were certainly unusual, and handled with a seriousness that belied their absurdity and broke a few oi the rules govemlng super-heroes of the time. For instance, Lee and Kirby got rid of the iedium oiieen sidekicks and girlfriends by incorporating them in the team. The Thing, boosted by a healtin inlection oi pathos, became the team's only really sympathetic character. Origin: cosmic rays.
I THE x-IIEH Marking the entry oi the term ‘mutant’
into Itarvel's vocabulary, -
The X-Ien belonged to a school for gifted teenagers, although ‘glfted' in this case meant they could fire rays from their eyes. turn to ice or had wings sprouting from their shoulderblades. They were taught and led by a wheelchair-bound Yul Orynner-iype who kept them in line telepathicaliy. There was little indication aifirst that this was to be one oi Marvel's biggest successes. and it would take fifteen years and a complete change in line-up before this would happen.
Origin: genetic mutation.
I THE HULK hiarvel's tip of the hat to Or Jekyll And hir Hyde, Frankenstein and the wereon myth, this green-skinned berserker originally only changed places with Dr Bruce Banner at night, but the concept of the strip altered to allow him to appear when Banner became angry- symbolic of ‘the raging fury that dwells within us all’. Basically good, but short-tempered, resentful and misunderstood, he has much in common with the Frankenstein monster but is virtually indestructible. Happiest sulking alone in the desert.
Origin: Caught in the blast of an exploding gamma bomb, le radioactivity.
The List6— 19 December 1991 11