Arcane Marvel Archeology

By | Monday, September 21, 2020 Leave a Comment
Captain America: Patriot cover
I'm not sure where I came across it now, but a month or two back, I read that the All-Winners Squad were retroactively made the first superhero team to take up residence in the Baxter Building, decades before the Fantastic Four made it their headquarters. As an FF fan from way back, and one who generally enjoys the archeology of sifting through Marvel continuity, that sounded like something I had to dig into myself. Particularly since it didn't seem like the type of thing Marvel has really done much of since the turn of the century.

So I picked up the requisite stories and was not terribly surprised to see they were written by Karl Kesel. He has a similar sensibility and appreciation of Marvel history and continuity that guys like Roy Thomas, Mark Gruenwald, and Kurt Busiek have shown. Plus, Kesel is a long-time FF fan. So that he found another way to tie Marvel's Golden Age stories via All Winners Comics to its Silver Age ones via Fantastic Four is almost expected. The primary story is largely about how Captain America inspired Jeff Mace to become The Patriot, and how he was later recruited to take up the mantle of Captain America when that character died. I kind of knew that basic story at a high level, but only barely, so I figured I'd have the added bonus here of digging into that aspect of Marvel history as well.

What I found interesting, though, was that, while the stories here were good and provided not only the historical background I was hoping for, but also had a solid emotional hook for the main characters, I definitely did not feel the familiar excitement I used to have when discovering arcane pieces of Marvel continuity. Whereas before, I might've responded with something like "Aha! Cool!" this time it was a little like just checking a box off for me, "OK, All-Winners in the Baxter Building back in the '40s. Got it."

That's certainly not Kesel's fault. The bits in question are, by design, almost thrown in as asides and that's not the point of the stories in the first place. I actually quite enjoyed following Jeff Mace's story itself. What I don't quite know is why I wasn't as excited about the Baxter Building revelation as I might've been a decade or two earlier. Some possibilities I've considered:
  • I used to run a Fantastic Four website and I would have included these tidbits on the site. My excitement might have been tied to developing out new content for the site.
  • During the same time period, a good chunk of my self-identity revolved around being THE most knowledagable Fantastic Four fan. Knowing this additional bit of trivia would have further advanced my standing in that capacity. (At least in my own mind.)
  • It's been a decade and a half since I really followed the goings-on in the Marvel Universe. I may simply be less emotionally invested in it generally.
  • I'm also a decade a half older, plus the entire country is collapsing, so it could be that I really don't have the mental bandwidth to really give a shit about an amazingly obscure and ultimately meaningless retcon any more.
Of course, it could be a little "all of the above" with each piece being a contributing factor. I may still have had a subdued reaction in, say, 2014 if I'd come across this then but the additional weight of the past several years could have dulled that even more. I find it particularly interesting in light of the more recent History of the Marvel Universe book I looked at back in April; another Marvel archeology project for me, but one where I went in with very different expectations. I'll be curious, too, to see my reaction compares against the upcoming Other History of the DC Universe, another book which has that archeology aspect to it, but with yet another very different set of expectations.

At nearly fifty years old, I don't expect to respond to comics the same way I did when I was thirty. But I think it's worth considering why so I know what to look for and what to avoid in the future.
Newer Post Older Post Home