Marvels by Kurt Busiek

Marvels by Kurt Busiek: The Secret of Success

Marvels is a superhero comic book written by Kurt Busiek and illustrated by Alex Ross. The first volume was published by Marvel Comics in 1994. The genre of the book is a graphic novel. As the authors themselves mention, the target audience includes small children, teens, and adults.

The main idea of Marvels is to show the effect the superheroes have on an ordinary man. In the four-part miniseries, this graphic novel tells the story of the first four decades of the Marvel Universe observed by the photographer Paul Sheldon who lives in New York City. It is the dawn of the superheroes age. Also, here we see the initial appearance of Prince Namor the Sub-Mariner, the Human Torch, and Captain America in the late 1930s. This suggests the beginning of the superhero age. Against the background of the 1940s up until the 1970s, Busiek investigates the Marvel Universe in its entirety.

The graphic novels’ success owes a lot to the efficient collaboration of its author who managed to create the believable and thought-provoking story, presenting a new view of the Marvel Universe that no other comic book story did before. This concept is revolutionary by itself.

Due to the enormous popularity of the book, many imitations appeared later. Probably the most painstaking was a mini-series, The Marvels Project in 2011. Also, as Guardian writer Ben Child comments, the story about the Fantastic Four was filmed by 20th Century Fox (Child, 2013).

Kurt Busiek is worthy of respect for his encyclopedic knowledge of Marvels’ history. He cites an accurate time-line of events related to the superheroes. His writing is meaningful and exciting. Though he created a story about superheroes, we have to admit that the most significant part of the comic book is the human characters. It is important for Busiek to examine how common people react to super-power individuals who act as villains and saviors. In a world which is rescued from destruction on a practically daily basis, with ordinary humans side-by-side with superheroes, we see common men and women discover their potential. They constantly find themselves in the midst of the battles and adventures of these new super-beings.

One of the problems that Busiek raises in his graphic novel is the moral ambiguity prevailing in the Marvel Universe. We can trace it by the example of Namor who turns from hero to miscreant and back again. In this way, the author shows that even a fantastic world is not devoid of human vices.

Let us examine the professional work of the artist Alex Ross that deserves special attention. It took him about a year to finish the illustration for one of the stories and almost three years in general. This is not animated cartoon pop art. When we open the book, we see the excellent painted artwork that is strikingly realistic in some cases. Ross’ style of painting astonishes because Marvels’ super-heroes look as if they are alive. This is an example of how a fantasy world can be portrayed in a vivid way.

The illustrations in the book are mostly painted in watercolor. Their style is not abstract or impressionistic, but portrait-like. It is an extremely high-level comic book in terms of artwork. In 1998, Ross won the National Cartoonists Society Comic Book Award for Superman: Peace on Earth.

If you are interested in the history of comic book superheroes beginning from its golden age, you will not regret if you choose to read this graphic novel. In case you are not familiar with the subject, you will find an introduction about Marvel comics from the artist and author in the preface to each of the four stories. If you decide to read this book, you will be pleasantly surprised not only with its plot, but also the astonishing artwork.

List of References

Ben Child: “Fantastic Four: How Will Josh Trank Distinguish His Reboot”. The Guardian. 5 April 2013.
Randy Duncan, Matthew J. Smith. Icons of The American Comic Book: From Captain America to Wonder Woman (Greenwood Icons), Santa-Barbara, California, 2013. – 920 p.