But isn’t the Marvel Universe a Fictional One?
July 16, 2002
By Avi Green
As anyone who’s ever watched Sesame Street on American television
probably knows, Sesame Street is supposed to be set in New York, but
it’s still an entirely fictional neighborhood that only exists in
the studios of PBS and the Children’s Television Workshop. You could
spend a year searching for it throughout New York and you’d never
Well isn’t the Marvel universe similar in some ways?
To say the least, it is. Real life cities like New York may be used
as a location for many of the Marvel superheros and their enemies to
reside in, and yet, there are only so many areas within, from
neighborhoods to buildings, even within places like Queens County
and Brooklyn, that are entirely fictional and cannot be found
anywhere in the city’s real life counterpart.
And likewise, many of the goings-on in the MCU are not only
altogether fictional and science-fictional, they’re also much more
dangerous than anything that goes on in the real world. And what may
go on in our world does not neccasarily go on in theirs.
Which brings us to our latest discussion: do fiction and reality go
together? The answer is, sometimes yes, but also, sometimes no. Real
life problems are what can be dealt with, and comics like Spider-Man
have dealt with these quite well. But when it comes to real life
tragedies like that of the World Trade Center destruction last year
on September 11, that is where fiction and reality just don’t go
And comics like last year’s Amazing Spider-Man #36 have
dealt with tragedies like that one quite badly.
Last year, following the destruction of the World Trade Center twin
towers on September 11, Marvel and other companies put out some
charity books, most notably Heros, by various authors and artists
for the sake of the victims. And these books dealt with the
situation without trivialising it.
But apparently, for Marvel, this was not enough. In a very rushed
move, they assigned Joe Michael Straczynski, during the middle of
his tenure as writer of Amazing Spider-Man, to write a story
in the 36th issue that would depict the superhero community of the
MCU taking place within the real life horror of last year and
showing them taking part in clearing away the destroyed building and
searching for dead bodies. Straczynski reportedly wrote this all
within a fortnight, and it shows.
When the issue first came out (over here in Israel anyway), I was
too upset to read it. It appeared in stores on December the 1st,
2001, a day after the horrific
suicide bombing that took place in the Ben Yehudah mall street
in Jerusalem, in which two children who lived in my neighborhood
were murdered in cold blood in the bombing. Because of that, I was
just too enraged and upset to even stay in the store when I saw it.
Just like the issue was an insult to the thousands of Americans
whose lives were lost in the destruction of the World Trade Center,
it was also an insult to the many Israelis whose lives were lost in
terrorist attacks by such terrorist cells as the PLO and the Hamas
over the many years, and to read it then would’ve made my blood boil
even more. I just backed away from the shelf in disgust and left.
Several months later, I am able to read it, and having done so, I
can only say that my worst worries have been confirmed by this
issue: it trivializes the plight of the victims, quite simply, by
presenting super-powered fictional characters in a real life setting
which almost any of them could’ve prevented at ease had they existed
in real life.
Lines that don’t fit the scenario
Following the crash of the hijacked passenger planes in the WTC, a
news reporter says on TV, “bodies in freefall motion.” This line, to say the obvious, was in extremely
poor taste, and I just cannot believe how contemptuous Straczynski
could be to use something as disgusting as that.
Among some of the most baffling questions raised in this issue, are,
where exactly were the Avengers, the X-Men, Fantastic Four, or even
Spider-Man himself during the hour or so before the WTC buildings
collapsed? This very question is asked by two passers-by fleeing the
wreckage of the WTC to Spidey himself as he reaches the scene.
“Where were you?”
To which he responds by saying: “we had no idea…we just couldn’t
Really? This is coming from just one of many characters in the MCU
who’s done battle with some of deadliest fiends in the MCU’s rogue’s
gallery, from Doctor Doom to Kang the Conqueror to even Mephisto,
enemies who’ve caused death and destruction on an even greater scale
than the Taliban, the PLO, and Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi dictatorship
have ever caused. These are villains who’ve leveled whole cities and
nations in even less time than it takes to fry an egg, and neither
Spidey nor anyone else could imagine something on this big a scale
To say the least, this does not sound like Spidey at all. It sounds
only like it could’ve come from the mind of its very own writer
himself. About the only word in here that Spidey said that sounds
convincing enough is “God.” But past that, nada.
It gets worse – there’s more.
Thor is the big giveaway
The ensuing scenes with the Marvel superhero society cleaning up the
wreckage are even worse – as if it weren’t enough that this only
serves to cheapen the plight of the victims, they’re accompanied by
some of the most oozing and over-the-top sentiment to boot.
And if there’s any character in the MCU who could’ve averted the
disaster the easiest, it would’ve been Thor, now currently the Lord
of Asgard in the Marvel universe. The scenes with the God of Thunder
lifting huge steel girder beams is the most telling detail as to how
the superhero community could’ve prevented the disaster at ease.
Thor and even Hercules could’ve held up the fragile structure until
the all the people inside had been evacuated.
There is even a very contrived scene in which a little boy runs into
the disaster area to look for his firefighter dad. There’s no reason
why he would be there, and it makes even less sense that the
authorities would even allow him to remain in the area.
But the most offensive scene of all was when some of the most
prominent villains in the MCU – Doctor Doom, Juggernaut, Magneto and
the Kingpin – turned up, and rather implausibly too, considering
that Wilson Fisk was recently killed by some rival gang members in
Daredevil. Magneto may be dead, but it’s just not confirmed, and
Doom is on another planet, as Doom: the Emperor
Returns - which came out the same week as this book did in the
US - can answer to.
In fairness, I can probably see Magneto and the Kingpin feeling
horrified about what went on, since the former is a Holocaust
survivor and the latter could operate on the terms of Orwellian
“doublethink.” (Not to mention that some of his own gang members
could’ve worked in the WTC too.)
But when it comes to Doctor Doom and Juggernaut, not
a chance, if at all. Doom (who today bears some surprising
resemblances to Yasir Arafat) has led some of the most deadly
assaults on the US and other parts of the world with the coldest of
hearts. Back in the 60’s, there was one issue of the Fantastic
Four in which he uprooted the Baxter Building from its
foundation with the help of a tractor beam, lifting it dangerously
high up in the sky.
Worse still, the scene in which Doom starts crying, I kid you not,
was particularly insulting, not to mention childish. And if Victor
Von Doom were really sorry and horrified about all this, do you
think that even Tora Bora would be able to withstand his assault? No
way, Jose. Furthermore, as Chuck Dixon wrote for him in the
miniseries Doom: the Emperor Returns, “Doom has no tears to
shed.” And suffice it to say, for that matter, that nobody, hero nor
villain, in this issue, goes after bin Laden to avenge the deaths of
the WTC occupants.
While as for Juggy, Marvel’s execs apparently don’t realize it, but
back in November 1991, in a team-up between Spider-Man and X-Force
(the old one) in the sans-adjective Spider-Man #16, Cain
Marko knocked down at least one of the twin towers and cackled
evilly as it fell. When you think about that scene from back then,
which would look very ghastly if done today, it just sticks in your
mind, and leaves a very bad aftertaste.
Furthermore, there’s no reason why anyone would allow these demented
fiends whose own crimes outdo any Nazi/Islamic crimes nine to one to
enter the area without even dragging them off to jail for all their
past crimes. And as for our heroes, are they not rightfully offended
that these villains are arriving, not to mention crying, after all
the death and destruction that they’ve caused?
And that’s one of, if not the only thing, that’s really damaging
about this issue: because we all know perfectly well that the
villains of the MCU are going to and already have gone right back to
their old ways of death and destruction as they have before, and
But the most surely offending part of all was where Straczynski
inserted, deep within all that oozing quagmire, an overly liberal bias in which he suggests that this was
all our fault because we supposedly weren’t listening to, say, what
the Islamic world wants of us or even the residents of Afghanistan.
In other words, he’s saying that this is all our fault, that we
brought this upon ourselves.
If this is really what JMS thinks, then I’d strongly suggest that he
look at this comment made by Andrew “Captain Comics” Smith on
October 5, 2001:
“And to those who say that America
"deserves" it for support for Israel, or the Gulf War, or some
other action with which they disagree ... I wonder: If their
sister was raped, would they excuse the rapist and say their
sister "deserved" it for some past action? That's called
"blaming the victim," folks, and it's moral and ethical
cowardice. No action America has ever taken -- and there have
been lots of NICE things America has done, mind you --
deserves this kind of response. Nothing excuses or justifies
the outright slaughter of 6,000 people. These ratbags are
murdering thugs, and they must be stopped -- because whether
we act or not, the killing will go on. They'll just be killing
US instead of us killing THEM, while we wring our hands in
self-loathing impotence. Me, I know which side I'm on in that
debate.” – Captain Comics, October 5, 2001
Absolutely correct. And while we’re on the subject, let me add that
this same very powerful argument by the Captain applies to Israel too. As to those who think
that Israel “deserves” it for its “occupation” of Judea and Samaria,
I can only wonder, would they have any of the same thoughts about
the American population as they do about the Israeli population?
Let us be perfectly clear here: just like nothing justifies or
excuses the murder of thousands of innocent people in America,
nothing, and I repeat - NOTHING justifies or excuses the murder of
thousands of innocent civilians in Israel. To do so is to commit an
act of moral and ethical cowardice, and in doing so, you’re
rewarding not only the enemies of Israel, but also the enemies of
America. And worst of all, to do so serves only to encourage more
acts of terror and gives the enemy the impression that they can get
away with their crimes.
What J. Michael Straczynski – and Marvel’s leadership and board of
directors did – is, to say the least, one of the most truly
contemptible acts against a population that needs no further scorn
than what they’ve already received.
An interesting aside, JMS reportedly donated the payment he got for
writing this issue, with Marvel donating a similar fee, but the
money that was made off this issue in sales was never donated to
charity. Quite simply, this is what’s known as profiteering from
someone else’s tragedy. Not to mention that many copies of this
issue were sold on E-bay and only after awhile did even Bill Jemas
or anyone else have the nerve to call for those scumbags to be
banned from selling them on the number one auction site on the web.
The critical hypocrisy under which this issue went to press was also
astonishing: comics reviewers almost everywhere heaped some of the
most gushing of praise on this issue in an almost deliberate bias in
Marvel’s favor. But the worst promotion of this issue came via their
ever so faithful servant, Wizard, who said in their hype for
ASM #36, “this issue’s going to kick ass!” Just one
of many reasons why nobody with sense should ever have to buy Wizard.
And why write about all of this in Spider-Man? Why not write about
it in another book like The Mighty Thor, the additional
For a very simple reason: Spider-Man makes money. Spider-Man is the
world’s most popular comics superhero next to Superman and putting
him either in the midst of a tragedy or the other way around can
draw interest…and dollars. And while Thor is certainly one
of the best books from Marvel with the same theme, and writers like
Walt Simonson and Dan Jurgens have done some of the best work on the
Norse God of Thunder, even he doesn’t reach the same kind of
popularity and sales that Spidey does.
I suppose there may be one asset to this utter atrocity: the stellar
artwork of John Romita Jr. For a book rushed into production for the
purpose of cashing in on a tragedy, it’s surprisingly well done.
Yet, given the terrible circumstances surrounding the WTC, I can’t
help but point out that somehow, it just doesn’t fit the scenario,
and it doesn’t belong in this issue. Tragedies are not something to
deal with in color.
I would like to say that if you haven’t bought this issue yet,
don’t. To buy it is an insult to the thousands of Americans and
Israelis alike whose lives were lost in acts of terror both
yesterday and today. And what’ll they trivialize next? The
Holocaust? The Rape of Nanking? The enslavement and murder of the
Sudanese blacks? The Iraqi massacre of Jews in Baghdad in 1941? The
genocide of the Armenians by the Ottoman empire during WW1? The
PLO’s massacre and murder of the Lebanese Christians in 1976,
something that’s virtually ignored by the media elite today? Or even
the Iraqi dictatorship’s use of poison gas against the Kurds,
another tragedy ignored? DC comics as of today is doing the right
thing to try and at least keep their superheroes at least along the
sidelines of WW2, because it would’ve been insulting to the many
soldiers who fought against Nazi Germany back in the 40’s. But this
on the other hand is breaking one of the most important rules of
storytelling: that reality and fantasy simply don’t intersect.
from NeedCoffee.com by Tobias Clutch
USA Today column by Michael Medved
Avi Green, who found the The Kang War in the Avengers
to done a lot better than the travesty spoken about here, can be
reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright 2002 Avi Green. All rights reserved.
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