All Of The Marvels Is A Marvel

Marvel comics

Reading every comic book Marvel has released is a Sisyphean task. By the time you’ve finished 27,000+, they’ve added another 1,000. Coincidentally, Sisyphus is one of the few heroes of myth NOT to be a key part of the Marvel story. And as Douglas Wolk has set out to prove, it is one huge Marvel story. You’ll be amazed to see where he considers it to have started.

In All of the Marvels, Wolk had to set a few parameters. Though characters in the Marvel Universe may have been created in comics’ Golden Age, it’s not until 1961 that it counts. Except The Invaders covers World War II and if you’re just coming to reading comics, there’s no way the Fantastic Four went into space in 1961 because they’ve clearly only had their powers for about 14 years. See? It’s easy to get your head hurting when really, you should just be enjoying.

Wolk read all these not so you wouldn’t have to, but so you could feel better about jumping around. The book isn’t laid out chronologically, because few people approach the Marvel Universe that way. Maybe somebody gave you a random issue as a kid. Maybe you watched one of the movies and went to a store or library and said, “say, I like that dashing Hulk fellow…” (I believe that’s what Nate Costa did.) So various chapters focus on specific characters or concepts, pointing out either the best jumping on points or the most influential moments are. Occasionally side chapters meander to controversies in the real world — “who really created it – Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, or Steve Ditko?” and how Marvel dealt with the Viet Nam War.

When it comes to the 21st century, things get curated by events — thought as he fairly points out, you can’t talk about Jonathan Hickman’s Secret Wars without mentioning Jim Shooter’s Marvel Superheroes Secret Wars. Well, you can, but some of us can’t help ourselves. It is all connected, but that doesn’t mean you have to see or know all the connections.

And then, you can take a step back and consider these modern myths. When left to their own devices, of creators driven to tell stories and respond to other stories with characters they love, these comics mean something. They resonate. They last. And Wolk convinces me to dive deep into the corners of Marvel that I missed the first time around, not in search of that meaning, necessarily, but in search of the sheer pleasure these stories have to give. The meaning is just a bonus.

But boy, what a bonus.

For those wondering if a similar volume could happen with the DC Universe, it’s clear that no, it can’t. Because Marvel has been one narrative, and DC has been one that resets every few years. Once you read, you’ll understand. And even if you’re someone steeped in this stuff, you’ll learn something new, and be grateful that by opening these pages, you’ve met another one of your own.

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About Derek McCaw 2089 Articles
In addition to running Fanboy Planet, Derek has written for ActionAce, Daily Radar, Once Upon A Dime, and The Wave. He has contributed stories to Arcana Comics (The Greatest American Hero) and Monsterverse Comics (Bela Lugosi's Tales from the Grave). He has performed with ComedySportz and Silicon Valley Shakespeare, though relocated to Hollywood to... work in an office? If you ever played Eric's Ultimate Solitaire on the Macintosh, it was Derek's voice as The Weasel that urged you to play longer. You can buy his book "I Was Flesh Gordon" on the Amazon link at the right. Email him at editor@fanboyplanet.com.