In the news, at least once a day, I can guarantee there is going to be someone reflecting on the downward spiral that our nation seems to be in. With Glenn Beck’s statements last week, it shows that the people in power are caring less and less about what they do with their power and who they seem to hurt.
This is a core staple of comic books, to do good with your power and potential.
This seems like a severe contradiction seeing as I’m about to talk about an alien invader that felt the need to blow the words “F*** YOU” into the center of New York City to make his point known.
Continuing along with our theme of the best comics published in the early 2000s, since we’re coming on the 10th anniversary of 9/11, definitely shows there was a different way of doing comics.
I would never want to use cliché’s unless they absolutely apply to the situation. I do believe it works, though, as 9/11 changed the epic-ness of comic storytelling for a period of time and would purposefully remove or not do the extreme kind of end of the world storytelling that needed to happen to truly tell stories. Over time, comic books were able to break away from that stigma, as I’m sure movies and television were able to do as well. For a long time, large scale stories like this couldn’t be told.
Stories with themes like this are hardly told anymore.
Hidden behind the chaotically perfect art and the teenage-centered rebellion, there’s a story hiding there that tells us we can all be stronger than what powerful outside influences will tell us we can be.
“Marvel Boy” was written by comics mastermind, Grant Morrison, who we discussed at length in “Superman: All-Star” for crafting the perfect Superman tale.Accompanying him is artist J.G. Jones. What these two set out to create was, in the simplest terms, is a complete journey through the center of the Marvel Universe.
Looking closely, at every page, you will find some allusion or homage to some wonderful aspect of it. Whether it’s the Bannermen of the United Nations (that all just happen to look like international Captain Americas) or the main story villain, Midas (who happens to look just like a much older version Iron Man), the entirety of “Marvel Boy” is a love story that respects and honors what came before.
Yet, that’s not we’re here to talk about.
We’re here to talk about our main character, the title proclaimed by the story but never in the series, “Marvel Boy”, named Noh-Varr.
Noh-Varr is not of our world, our dimension. He comes here, part of the 18th Kree Diplomatic Gestalt, tasked with traversing and discovering all the different dimensions throughout our cosmos. What dimensions those are, we are never told.
Noh-Varr and his crew crash into our planet within 5 pages.
Following is a crazy, wild, rebellious turn against his captor, the politically-in-control and corporation-empowered Midas, lover of the strange and extreme. So, when Noh-Varr finally escapes, what does he do? Fight back. The only way he knows how.
What Grant Morrison did here was craft a story reflective of our own times. While his characterization is odd but never uninviting, Morrison creates a world where everyone constantly tries to keep Noh-Varr down and restrained. He’s not sure where he is, but Morrison fills him with the life and vigor a main character sometimes lacks. Not once, in his campaign against humanity, does Noh-Varr question himself or let loose on his fight. Is it confusing, sometimes frustrating for him? Yes. Does he alter his course? Yes. But he never questions his motives.
It’s the kind of stagnant will and determination that is hard to find.
Comics, as I will say, truly emphasize the epitome of the human spirit. Grant Morrison will say that too. Recently, he published “Supergods”, a novel exploring the Scottish writer’s mind about superheroes and all things related to it. Within, he makes it known that superheroes are our modern day myths and gods. The show us what we can be. Reflecting on the whole book could take us a completely different article to complete, but I want to focus on that.
Superheroes show us what we can be.
With series artist J.G. Jones accompanying Morrison, we’re shown a new brand of art. In the back of the hardcover edition, Jones felt that he needed to compete with the video game renaissance that was happening at the time, and I believe he exceeded his work by at least ten years. His style, his substance, and his design, were years ahead of his time. Everything from weapons to outfits to panel angles were all taken to another level. Always a treat, Jones makes the ride that much more enjoyable.
As a 5th grade teacher, with the coming 10th anniversary of September 11th, I need to prepare myself for that day. To explain to my students what it meant that day, to see those images. To live that life. And how, no matter what we think, the world we were living in changed. Our mindsets changed.
Noh-Varr never changes. Never falters.
What Noh-Varr and his crew of the 18th Kree Diplomatic Gestalt truly represent is what our future was supposed to be. Bright, shining, and willing to be experienced just like Noh-Varr and his crew were accomplishing. Hopping from universe to universe, experiencing all the wonders that can occur. And, just like our life, powerful, influential outside forces have intervened and placed a halt to our growth. In the series, it was all-powerful Midas. Constantly trying whatever he can to get in the way of him, to prevent his growth.
I’m not sure that Marvel Boy was meant to be a bizarre mirror-like reflection of our current state of affairs, with Marvel Boy representing all that we could be and the evil Midas representing whatever you believe in that is supposedly in control of our lives. Grant Morrison is genius, sure, but a fortune teller? That may all be just a little hard to believe.
Yet, there it all is. A story, published years ago, reflecting our modern world today. Showcasing our true potential, but how it can always be stalled or halted.
However, Noh-Varr, or Marvel Boy (as the story refers to him as), does something we haven’t truly done.
He rises to his challenge.
That’s what we’re supposed to do.
No more needs to be said.
- In addition to writing for the column “Comic Matters” for the Tucson Citizen website, Rob Acosta is also a 5th Grade Elementary school teacher, frequenter of local comic book shop Heroes & Villains, and explorer of the importance of comics. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org