Monday, 2 July 2012

Books: Marvel Boy


Marvel Boy
Written by Grant Morrison
Art by J. G. Jones

Available now from Islington Libraries
You can reserve this item for free here:

How can you not love a comic that starts with a multi-coloured computer voice warning: "Two hundred million parallel realities and counting!"?

So. I have been meaning to write about Marvel Boy for a long, long, long time now. I've had this blank saved un-published post run sorta sitting there in my blog posts drafts folder for - what? - over a year. But I've just never had enough - I dunno - get up-and-go to actually sit down and write it. Thinking about it I'd say a big part of that is the due to the formatting of all the copies we have in Islington (sorry Islington): there's another copy I've read where the first few pages are laid out in a different way [1] - so instead of opening with a double-page spread the first page just hits you by itself (which you can tell is what was originally intended by the way the picture of the spaceship extends over from page 2 to page 3 - and if what I'm saying isn't making much sense (sorry) then looking for the spaceship is probably the best way to understand what I'm talking about) and then (with the other copy I've read) the page that says "sole survivor" has a page next to it which is completely black which - all-in-all - makes the opening impact that much harder and makes the Islington copies seem a bit like - I dunno - a cheap copy: like watching a film someone's taped off the TV [2]. Of course once you get past those opening pages (altho - wait it does do it again much later with: "what's so funny" - but let's ignore that) and on to Noh-Varr striking his best Jesus Christ pose and "Hello Cruel World" plastered across the side - it's all the same - but - yeah - it's not so great when you reading something that fluffs the start just so that - what? - it can skimp on two pages - and I guess I've just been waiting for Islington to realise their heinous mistake and replace their cheap copies with the prestige format before I posted this post. But - shockingly - this hasn't happened (oh well).

But let's try and forget all that and start again: superhero comics for all their countercultural bluster are often fairly conservative when it comes the values that they represent - by which I mean to say: Superman, Batman, Spider-Man and all the rest often use their time and energy to try and preserve the status quo rather than attempting to upset it. The idea behind Marvel Boy (Grant Morrison: "We`re always being told that super hero books are nothing but adolescent power fantasies. Fine. Here comes the ultimate adolescent power fantasy!") is: wouldn't it be fun to have a comic where the guy [3] with the all superpowers was less Johnny Upstanding Moral Citizen Dedicated To Truth, Justice and The Betterment of All Races, Colours and Creeds and more - well - Johnny Rotten [4]: someone who just wants to smash stuff and who instead of seeing the masses of humanity as something worth protecting - sees them more as something to fight against? There's that little speech Michael Caine gives in The Dark Knight ("Because some men aren't looking for anything logical, like money. They can't be bought, bullied, reasoned, or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn.") and while obviously we can all agree that that isn't the type of person that we would want to invite around for a polite little dinner party - it does sound like someone who it would be fun getting a few voyeuristic kicks from: because looking around at the apocalyptic entertainment we all like to spend our time on - alien invasions, zombies, nuclear war, etc - there's a part of all of us that just wants to watch the world burn [5]. 

Of course because it's Grant Morrison there's a little more to it than that - and for me - a big part of the thrill of reading Marvel Boy is the cool and crazy and outrageous ideas that he manages to drop in every other page - I don't want to sound too much like a drooling fanboy but there's stuff here that could be used to sustain a whole movie (altho: with the paucity of ideas in most modern movies that sounds more like a cuss than a compliment) but these guys squeeze all they can from it in just a few pages before they're moving on to the next thing: which left me feeling almost giddy the first time I read it. 

Also - after the ordeal of Mark Millar's Wanted (which is still number one in the "comics which left a nasty taste in my mouth" list) it's nice to see J. G. Jones using his powers for good instead of evil: there's a brilliant sharpness and clarity which he brings to all his artwork that makes taking him in as easy and pleasurable as drinking a cold glass of lemonade. 

[1] And just to be clear: when I say "different" I mean "better."

[2] For anyone that doesn't understand this reference: shut up and stop making me feeling old.  

[3] I guess "Marvel Girl" would have been a step too far. 

[4] Fun fact: The name Johnny Rotten apparently - and man what could possible be more English than this? - comes from the fact that John Lydon's teeth were so bad ("his lack of oral hygiene led to his teeth turning green").

[5] For me - the gold standard of this type of comic would be Alan Moore's D.R. and Quinch (first published in the year I was born) - where: not only are the two punkish leads evil teenage extraterrestrials - but they manage to beat 99% of all the other bad guys out there and blow up in the Earth in their first 6 page appearance (and it's not even like they were doing it on purpose either - rather it's just a revenge prank gone horribly right). But - yeah -basically you should read it.

Links: Graphic Content Article: The Future Is X-Rated: Marvel Boy, The Modern World And The History Of The Marvel Universe / Graphic Content Article: 28: Reconsidering Noh-Varr Post-Morrison, The Comics Reporter ReviewCollected Editions Review.

Further reading: The Authority, Batman: The Dark Knight Strikes Again, Batman: Year 100, JLA: Earth 2, Black Summer, The Boys, IrredeemableWanted, D.R. and Quinch, X-Men: New X-Men, The Avengers: The New Avengers: Illuminati.

Profiles: Grant Morrison.

All comments welcome.

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