Layers of Fiction

By | Tuesday, April 11, 2006 Leave a Comment
You know what I realized a year or two ago that I haven't really been able to tout anywhere? Marvel's layers of fiction. Most people, when they think of Marvel comics, they think of Spider-Man, the X-Men, whatever. What they don't realize is that what Stan, Jack, Steve, et. al. built back in the 1960s actually had several layers of fiction working in concert to make an intriguing full package. Let's look at how the onion gets peeled...
  1. Reality -- This is our world where Stan Lee is still alive and making a TV show called "Who Wants To Be A Superhero." Jack Kirby's been dead for several years now, and Marvel's biggest money-makers are character licenses tied to movie franchises.

  2. The Bullpen Fiction -- This hasn't been used as much in recent years, but Stan used to tout how all the artists and writers basically sat around the Marvel offices and worked and joked with each other all day. Everyone was friends with everyone else, and Marvel was just a big, happy clubhouse. One of the more recent additions to this fiction was the creation of Artie Rosen, who supposedly developed the Sentry with Stan Lee back before the Fantastic Four.

  3. Marvel Comics -- This is the fiction most people think of when they think of Marvel. These are the adventures that you and I read about in the comics every month, and the "reality" in which the Hulk and Daredevil reside. Interestingly, there are representations of Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Joe Quesada, etc. in this fiction, but all of the old Bullpenners are still alive and well. In this level, Stan Lee once hosted Saturday Night Live and the Avengers have appeared with David Letterman.

  4. Marvel Comics Bullpen Fiction -- Similar to the Bullpen Fiction, the Marvel Comics Stan Lee also touted how everyone was part of their big family; however, like the Bullpen Reality, this was something of a distortion. The Sentry is something of a fiction here, as most of the population of the Marvel Universe would not believe in his existence.

  5. Marvel's comics -- Within the Marvel Universe, there are comics published about the various heroes running around. Spider-Man and the X-Men are treated as villains here, and most of the comic books take a number of liberties with the accuracy of information. The Sentry's comic was one of the few accurate ones and actually served as something of an archive since no one could remember through the Bullpen Fiction of his non-existence.

I want to say that there are some more sub-layers in there, too, but I just can't think of any offhand. In any event, I think this layering of fictions makes for intriguing reading, and helps make some of the Marvel comics out there more interesting these days.
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