12 February, 2009

Make Mine Marvellous

So, for Christmas, my boyfriend bought me a couple of Marvel Essentials - those big thick volumes that pack a year's worth of Marvel comics into one big meaty binge. I got other graphic novels too, one of which, Watchmen, I read straight away so that no-one could spoil the ending for me. The others I'm saving. Except I'm not so much saving as postponing them, because those two Marvel Essentials were The Uncanny X-Men and they've now been joined by six further volmes - plus volume one of the spin-off series X-Factor (in which Danni Minogue and Simon Cowell recruit Louis Walsh to tjoin them in the fight against evil karaoke singers... or soemthing). Oh, and I bought volume 2 of Spider-Man (having bought volume 1 about a decade ago and always meant to catch up). And Iron Man after seeing and loving the film version. Oh, and Fantastic Four.

And I've also bought a selection of the superb Marvel Legends action figures too.

Basically, my bloke has awoken within me a love for comic books that I haven't had since I was about nine years old. I remember in infants school one boy mocking me in front of the teacher: 'All 'ee cares about is super'eroes'. I replied that all he cared about was football, in a tone of voice that told everyone how stupid I thought that was.

I know it was the realisation that I adored Doctor Who that quelled my passion for Marvel. But then, we couldn't really get comics all that easily when I was a kid. I had to wait for the annuals each Christmas, and eventually I stopped wanting them as much as I wanted Doctor Who novelisations. I know though that Marvel helped me to get above my reading age, and Doctor Who helped me stay well above it.

I met Terrance Dicks a few times when I was involved in conventions. In 1997, I was escorting Terrance from the main hall to the green room and I asked him how it felt to be responsible for improving the reading age of a generation. He beamed - I'm sure he's been asked that question in the exact same form before - and said 'Fantastic!' His books were never great woks of art, but then they were never meant to be. Like those Marvel comics, they were meant to entertain kids. But the byproduct of this is that they both enriched the imagination, long before we had such things as video tape recorders or photo-realistic computer games to distract us.

The other thing both Doctor Who and Marvel have in common is that they have a strong moral code. Terrance has often said that the Doctror is 'never cruel or cowardly', while Marvel's heroes all encourage diversity: the X-Men are led by a man in a wheelchair and consist of teenagers coming to terms with adulthood in a world where a difference can make normal people suspicious, afraid and violent. The mutants of X-Men, like the Fantastic Four and Spider-Man, act as a metaphor for recognising one's own potential and not letting other people's stupidity inhibit that.

My boyfriend and I talk about these kind of things all the time. It's like we're back in the playground, only this time we have a friend who understands how we feel, because he feels the same way.

... in that he's easily distracted and isn't paying attention because he's imagining an universe of his own superhero creations. We know our priorities, and they keep us young.

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