Reality. It’s a word we all know and use constantly, but how do you really define it – especially in the way-out world of comic books?
Back in the early ‘60s, when the might Marvel Universe was just beginning, we decided to make a conscious effort to inject reality into all of our super hero sagas.
I can almost hear some of you thinking, “You’ve gotta be kidding! How do you write about guys with super powers who can fly and stick to ceilings and lift buildings and travel to other dimensions – and then use the word ‘reality’ in the same sentence?
Well, since you bothered to ask, let me try to explain.
It’s our objective to make every Marvel tale as exciting and wildly imaginative as possible. But, the most important element in any story is the element of belief. You, the reader, have to believe in the characters and in what they’re doing. Let’s take Spider-Man, for example. In order to derive the full measure of enjoyment in each Spidey thriller, it’s necessary for you to accept that a man bitten by a radioactive spider could gain the wall-crawling, web-swinging powers of an arachnid. In other words, you’ve got to believe.
Now, here’s the crucial part. In order to help you accept the basic fantastic concept, we tried to make every element in Spidey’s adventures as realistic as possible. We let him in the sort of neighborhood we’ve all seen and are familiar with; we gave him the kind of family situation and problems with which any reader can identify; we saddled him with the same money woes and hang-ups that you and I might have; and we did something even more radical – something you may not have even been aware of when you first started reading Spidey – you may have just accepted it, taken it for granted without realizing that no other company but Marvel had ever done such a thing before. Can you guess what thing I’m referring to?
It has to do with the word “reality” again. If we want everything in our stories to be real, then our characters have to live in the real world, right? That means neither Spidey, nor the Fantastic Four, nor Iron Man, nor any other of our proud plethora of powerful heroes live in Gotham City or Metropolis or Center City or Pleasantville or wherever. No way! They live in New York, or San Francisco, or London, or, in some more extreme cases, Atlantis or Asgard – but they live in places that are identifiable, that are real. And in the cases of Atlantis and Asgard (and the various galaxies and star systems that we also include from time to time), even if they’re legendary, they’re real legendary names!
But it goes even further than using actual cities. When Johnny Storm wanted to stay home and work on his car, he didn’t fiddle around with a Whizzbang V-8 or some such. Nope, he went right over to his Chevy Corvette and did his thing. When the Fantastic Four set headquarters in the Baxter Building, we placed it smack on the east side of Manhattan, and you wouldn’t believe how many FF fans have trudged the streets in that area looking for the building.
I guess you get the idea. Our plot points may deal with fantasy, but Marvel was, is, and always will be grounded in reality! Or, as you yourself are probably itching to say, “Parturient montes, nascetur ridiculus must!”