The weather outside is pretty wet and the fields are as muddy as they come, so how better to indulge in rest and relaxation as per doctor’s orders than by participating in a hearty tug of war?
That’s just what is going on over at The Matticus Kingdom, and I for one am heading along to join in the fun. The Jester himself has decreed that all are welcome to join in the debate on the thorny issue of which is better: DC or Marvel. I felt it was time to settle this particular thorny issue for once and for all. Time for some EBL wisdom.
By the way and for your information, the last time I took part in a tug of war I was 16 years old. I got to be the anchor because I was heaviest (ie fattest), but who cares because we won, and that was the one and only time being the fat girl worked in my favour. So look out world, here I come again.
When I was no more than a little Bag Girl, back in the days before Electronic was even a thing, I was a devotee of Superman comics. Bunty and Princess just didn’t quite float my boat. The rest of the girls at school loved them, but I was a bit of a rebel and preferred my super-heroes. And what was not to like about Superman: square-jawed, clean-cut and generally-hyphenated even down to having an alter-ego in Clark Kent? As a short-sighted child I adored a hero who wore glasses and wasn’t the Milky Bar Kid.
Comics also had to compete with television, even in those prehistoric times. And on television was another superhero: Batman, with his quirkily scripted sidekick Robin and hilarious villains, not to mention cartoon-captioned fight scenes. Kapow! Zonk!
And so DC ruled my imagination for my early life. What you learn as a child stays with you. Admittedly I actually preferred Marine Boy, but that is another story.
After a time though, the Superman premise got a bit thin. What was that kryptonite thing about? A super-hero who couldn’t go near a rock? And all those LLs…. I was pretty sure Mrs Woodrow at school would have something to say about stories where everyone had the same initials. I wasn’t sure what that was, but I didn’t think it would be complimentary. Mrs Woodrow did not approve of laziness. Or a lack of imagination, which was a good thing when you coem to think of it.
Then one day I was in a newsagent and saw a new comic. It had The Incredible Hulk and Spiderman. I didn’t know who they were but the drawing style caught my eye and it was a special price because it was an introductory issue. Small girls with limited pocket money learn very early to spot a bargain, and I seized it with both sticky hands, despite the newsagent man giving me the eye because I was a girl and he thought it was a comic for boys.
O (as the young people have been wont to text and tweet) and M and finally G.
Who needs to be fighting alliterative villains when you have to avenge the murder of Uncle Ben and work off your existential guilt? Who needs a Bat Cave when just getting angry has consequences for your wardrobe? And never mind all those soppy LL girls, when there was the Invisible Girl! Who needs clean-cut, square-jawed, boring and serious heroes when you can have drippy, anxious, bumbling college boys and science geeks and the types who make emos look like Zeno the Stoic. It was all so full-on, in-your-face, shades-of-grey that I almost wept for the joy of it. There were ethical debates and impossible choices and consequences and philosophy. It all felt exhilaratingly grown up, which is a slightly odd thing to say about teenagers in lycra, but there you have it.
Superman was for babies; Spiderman was for the more mature, ten year old girl about town. I was finally confronted with stories where the good guys did bad things and the bad guys had proper back stories with causes and effects and it was in one sense just a teensy bit like real life. Complicated. You weren’t even quite sure who would win in a fight, and sometimes no one did.
Admittedly I didn’t realise Pater Parker and the guys were foreigners (Americans) until later when cartoons arrived on television. Until then I kind of imagined Peter talking a bit like a Cockney geezer. Kind of Lock Stock for kids. Uncle Ben would have been like Bob Hoskins: “Right, Peter, wiv great power comes great responsibility, geddit?”
Oh, did I mention the theme tune?
I won’t start on what happened when I discovered 2000AD. And as for the Sandman, well now. I think we’ll stop right there.
Now none of this is particularly witty or amusing. Comics are far too important for that. But the reasons my vote goes for Marvel are that (a) I like complicated, (b) I like blurred boundaries and (c) kids need to have a chance to explore their dark side too. I may have learned my science from Star Trek, but I established my moral compass with Uncle Ben and Aunt May.