Written by Ed Brubaker
Art by Steve Epting
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That Mitchell and Webb look (which is like Peep Show - only not as clever, dark or funny) had this
sketch where one Nazi - noticing the skull emblazoned across his hat -
asks another Nazi: "Hans - are we the baddies?" To which the answer
(obviously) is: yes. Yes. Yes. And yes again. For if there's one thing
that our culture has taught us since the start of World War II all the
way to the current moment it's that: the Nazi's are baddies. The
ultimate baddies. The baddies to beat all other baddies. None more
baddie. The baddies to rule them all etc. If you're looking for a
quickest and easiest shortcut to make someone look evil just make them a
Nazi, get to proclaim their love of Hitler and draw them with a
swastika (just ask Charles Manson): you don't even have to bother with
any other sort of characterisation or distinguishing marks or anything
like that - it's like the way that the bad cowboys in old films used to
wear black hats - being a Nazi clearly and simply and totally marks you
out as a bad guy .
And for those very reasons - (and
as strange as this may sound to say) Nazi's have been a bit of blessing
for stories of action and adventures and - particulary - superheros.
Because not only are an easy shortcut to badness - but they also have
the whole evil image thing down pat: those skull on the hats for one
thing, not to mention the thigh-length boots, all the the facist-style
marching and that intimating salute (designed - apparently to show the
underside of your hand to whoever you give it to). Which is why they've
been utilized in films from everyone from Marathon Man to Indiana Jones
and in comics - well - everywhere.
There is a
down-side to the use of Nazis-as-bad-guys tho - one which The Marvels
Project seems unaware of. Namely - that while it's alright to use the
Nazi's as your antagonists - things get a little more fraught when you
start to refer to the actual atrocities they commited. For this reader
mixing elements as cartoony as a villian whose head looks like red skull
with references to the holocaust is like mixing ice cream with dog poo:
at the very least - it's distasteful .
But - let's back up a second: what is The Marvels Project about anyway?
- set in the late 1930s and early 1940s it's a period peice that takes
all the early Marvel stories featuring the likes of The Human Torch,
Namor and Captain America and retells them to make them a little more
realistic and gritty. I don't know if there's anyone who read those
comics when they first came out who'd still be bothered to read this
book now (they'd have to be - at the very least - 90 years ago) - so
it's a little bit nostalgia-by-proxy - it isn't anything that anyone can
be geninuely nostalgic for - but you can kinda squint your brain and
For me - the only way that I really know about
any of this kinda early-days-of-Marvel stuff is by reading Kurt Busiek
and Alex Ross' Marvels book (and there's even a few points where the
cross-over directly - isn't that image of New York being hit by a tidal
wave the same in both?): and it's the one book that I was most reminded
of when reading The Marvels Project. However - whilst Marvels manages to
make it's superheroes seem more realistic by hiding their exploits
under a veil that the reader doesn't really get access to - The Marvels
Project by letting the reader into every nook and cranny of it's
superheros lives just makes those same superheroes seem less and less
Yeah - maybe it's just time that I
stop reading superhero comics. I didn't much enjoying reading this book -
and by the end just felt kinda demoralised and sorta spiritually
exhasuted and I could ask myself was: "what's the point?" There have
been lots of worthwhile books that I have discovered my making my way
through lots of pages of men in tights - but at this point it's starting
to feel that the well has run dry and there's nothing much more to wow
or thrill me. About the only thing I did like with The Marvels Project
was the background appearances of some of the characters from The Twelve
(does that mean that The Twelve has reused old Marvel characters? Or is
The Marvels Project referencing The Twelve directly? Altho on second
thoughts - who cares?)
My pitch for a film (if anyone's listening) would be set sometime
during the World War II and have a bunch of Allied troops and Nazi
troops getting stuck in some dingy place together - coming up against
some evil Lovecraftian monster - and being forced to join forces in
order to fight it (because - hey - if something is even worse than Nazis then you know that it's got to be really really really bad).
 Altho - it's not impossible to get that sort of high/low combination right: see Kurt Busiek and Carlos Pacheco's Arrowsmith: So Smart in Their Uniforms book (link below) - which manages (somehow) to mix "war is hell" with wizards and dragons and make the whole concept sing.
I call this "The Batman Problem": as in Christopher Nolan's Batman
films where the more effort he expends into making Gotham City seem like
somewhere that could exist in the real world - the more you start to
feel the ridiculousness of the fact that the hero is a man dressed like a bat.
Links: Pop Dose Review, Espinasse's Super-Read-Of-The-Week Review,
Further reading: Marvels, The Shadow, The Twelve, DC: The New Frontier, Arrowsmith: So Smart in Their Fine Uniforms.
Profiles: Ed Brubaker.
All comments welcome.