Marvel A-Z: The Project

It’s been a long time since my last post–and it’s not particularly as if they were coming in frequent a year ago either. Most of that is a commentary on the life of an adjunct. Teaching multiple classes doesn’t really leave a lot of time or energy for blogging. I think another part though is that I’ve shifted a bit in my focus, that while I’m still doing game research and playing games, an increasing amount of my leisure time is spent on something that’s a little easier to consume in small chunks: comic books and graphic novels.

This interest certainly isn’t new; I’ve been reading comics more or less regularly since I was 8, and I’ve even posted about superheroes before (see here). Increasingly, however, I’ve been moving myself into positions where I can talk about them academically, in research and teaching. Last year, I helped assemble a panel on videogames and superheroes for a conference, and contributed my own paper on cuteness, nostalgia, and videogame adaptation of 90s superhero cartoon properties. In the fall term of that year, I taught my department’s first year course on superheroes. And probably most significantly, I started a comics studies podcast Three Panel Contrast that I host with two comics scholars, Drs. Andrew Deman and Anna Peppard. In short, I don’t know if I’m quite at the point where I self-identify as a comics scholar myself (I feel like I’m lacking a bit of the fundamentals to embrace that label), but the pendulum is definitely swinging that way.


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures #20, from 1991–the first superhero comic I remember reading.  Giant robot vs Kaiju monster, with the Turtles in the middle. Wild stuff at age 8.

All of which is to say, I’m going to move a project that I’ve been half-heartedly working on here, in the hopes that doing so will bring it closer to full heart. “Project” is a little grandiose, but what I’m doing is essentially reading my way through the entire backlog of Marvel Unlimited–the online subscription service that Marvel puts all of its recent comics up to six months on, plus an ever-increasing amount of their backlog–some 70 000 plus comics in total. And as I did so, I found myself taking more screenshots and more notes. I was putting it on Twitter for a few weeks, but last week, something went wrong, and I lost a full max thread length of tweets–and if you’ve ever had a 25 tweet thread vanish on you, you’ll know it’s not something you want to happen twice. So, I decided I’d move that thread here; it gets less traffic, but at least it’ll be preserved, and it’ll probably prompt me to both post more and flesh out my ideas. Here’s the arbitrary rules I’ve set for my reading:

  1. I’m doing it alphabetically. Hence the project being named “Marvel: A-Z.” Well, technically, it was originally named “Comics I Read This Week” but I came up with the better name a few weeks through.
  2. Specifically, it’s alphabetically by creator. I thought this would keep things interesting, by offering snapshots of different Marvel periods, and give a sense of how the creators develop over time.
  3. I’m not proud of this one, but creator means writer or penciller. This approach is motivated by two factors. The first is practical–while Marvel generally keeps writers consistent for a run and tries to do the same for pencillers, but inkers, colorists, and letterers frequently are on for single issues, and it’s a little too much whiplash for me to dart between all the in media res series. The second is entirely my own failing. I don’t want to denigrate the work inkers, colorists, and letterers do, but the truth is I don’t have the artistic grounding to be able to discern their approaches in action in anything but the most basic way. Hopefully, that’s something I can improve on as we go.
  4. I ain’t going back till it’s over. That is, sometimes works will be added from the past, or a creator is still working for Marvel and putting out issues. The only consistent way to find these issues would be to search through the entire list from the top each time, or pay very close attention to the new issues tab; I’m not interested in doing either, so I’ll read everything the creator has that’s currently available, and move on.
  5. It might not be exhaustive, but I’ll do my best.  One of the consequences of doing this already is that I’ve come across some mislabelling in the older works; when it’s in the middle of a run on a title, it’s fairly easy to track down an issue or two that isn’t properly attributed to its creators, but I’m probably going to miss something here and there.
  6. It’s all pretty arbitrary. Basically, I’ll read what I want to read; these are guidelines I made up, not rules set in stone. If I really want to read something and put it here, I will, albeit probably not under the Marvel A-Z label.

So–I’ll read the comics, and make some comments about them here. If I skip over someone on the list, it’s generally because I didn’t think I had anything interesting to say, which isn’t necessarily a knock on them. We’re going to start with some backtracking; in my personal reading, I’ve reached Ahmed, Saladin, but I want to start at the beginning of the reading and work forward. Eventually, I’ll catch up, and then we’ll make it a weekly thing. Hence, look forward to the first “real” entry next, where I’ll be talking about…. *checks notes* the 321 comics attributed to Jason Aaron, and how this project nearly ended right out of the gate because that is a wild amount of comics.


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