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Marvel Comics Silver Age - What Made There Superheroes Like Spider-Man, Iron Man, Hulk Great!

May 12, 2011 | Comments: 0 | Views: 87

I was thinking about 1960′s Marvel Comics and what made that foundation of a comic book universe great, why those characters and books got popular, and I came up with 3 concepts which I will expand upon:


2.Lack of Space Alien Origins

3.Relatable Heroes 

1. Community

The Marvel Heroes lived mostly in the same real world city and connected together and ran into each other.With DC Comics for example, it seems that every hero lives in their own fictional city made just for them. Batman has Gotham City. Superman has Metropolis. Green Lantern has Coast City. You get the idea.

With Marvel Comics, most of them occupied New York City. For readers, this made for a relatable setting. Where you as a reader could believe such meetings could take place. And even better was, as a writer setting up a situation to make heroes living in the same city meet is not that difficult.

2. Lack of Space Alien Origins

This was a key factor overlooked by most anyone I hear mention Marvel's success.Outside of the Silver Surfer and Thor, EVERY Marvel superhero made then was just a human being. They did not get their powers from some outer space creature, or some other unrelatable idea.

I think the whole "alien origin" aspect dilutes a character into that of "just another silly comic book character" from the mainstream public viewpoint. A regular person on the street can't relate to that. And having an alien origin just seems silly to a non comic buyer.

Now sure you can say: Is getting hit with a gamma bomb? Or a bite from a spider more relatable?I hear what you are saying, and you are right, but also wrong. I think the elements like the above are more plausible and believable for a comic book setting. The whole "suspension of disbelief" thing. But something like an alien origin is too over the top.

Check out the Spider-Man movie or the X-men movie for example. Their origins sound plausible enough on the surface that the public can accept it.Now say in the above movies, a space ship drops down and zaps a guy who then becomes Spider-Man. That sounds rather silly doesn't it?Or a space ship drops down and zaps a guy turning him into the Hulk. Not as cool an origin right?And that's my point. Whether by planning or random luck, Stan Lee and company avoided the alien origins idea.

As for Thor and the Surfer, they didn't spoil the whole thing because it was just a few that had alien origins and therefore can still fit in.

Also Thor was made very human first by Stan Lee. He was really a human who acquired Thor's power. That human base really anchored Thor as a character.

And the Surfer brought about and was used as an outside observer of humans. Looking at us from a viewpoint that we could never see. Telling us how basically how our world was a paradise. If only we would stop destroying each other and live in peace, could we see this world for the gift it really is.

3. Relatable Heroes

This is why those Marvel heroes got popular as well.These Marvel heroes had problems and situations we could relate to. Despite their fantastic powers and battles, they were also down to earth.They had anchors that made us relate or feel sorry for them. These were not invincible heroes, like DC comics had. The DC Heroes being mostly perfect and in essence rather shallow when you peeled back the layers.The Marvel Heroes were given a depth and understanding that DC did not have.

For example, with the exception of Iron Man, everyone else had financial problems. And you really did not want to be Iron Man, who had to suffer in secret.

Spider-Man had relationship, financial, and school problems.

The X-men had trouble fitting in with society, yet at the same time an obligation to protect us.

In Closing

I think these three factors were the keys that made Marvel Comics the successful universe that it is today. And the reason why back then readers picked up the books in the first place.Even today I notice many creators DO NOT use these same rules. For example when I read Image Comics Savage Dragon and the Pitt with their alien origins. My feel for them as a character got disappointed. They just lost a relatable factor with me.

Or you have generic Punisher knock offs, who are blood thirsty heroes. Yet their is no emotional origin for these heroes to make me care for them or their situations.

Making a successful comic book universe today is difficult, if not all but impossible. But I think if you stick to the above three principles, you won't be steered far wrong.

Rob is a long time comic book fan, collector and commentator. He likes to share his thoughts, opinions and ideas about comic books and related pop culture media.

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