In the Core Marvel Universe



When I reviewed the first part of “FrankenCastle” last week, ISB reader Karsten mentioned that he didn’t think the concept had a place “in the core Marvel Universe.” This turn of phrase stuck with me, as bizarre high concepts are the thing I love most about Marvel, so I set about listing off a few of the things that have happened in the Core Marvel Universe, starting on Twitter and then compiling them into an all-new article on ComicsAlliance, where I explain that…

In the Core Marvel Universe, a scientist that turns into a monster when he gets angry because of the time he saved a teenager (who would later go on to be the sidekick for an unfrozen World War 2 veteran, a cyborg from space and an alien from a planet called Rad-Nam) from a nuclear weapon once went to another world where he became a barbarian king and fell in love, but it ended badly. Then this exact sequence of events happened again, only this time it was in space and it made him so mad that he flew back to Earth in a spaceship made of rock so that he could make an astrophysicist, a wizard and a former secretary of defense fight to the death in Madison Square Garden.

So in retrospect, a swamp monster and a vampire stitching up a vigilante into a Frankenstein’s Monster isn’t really all that crazy.

Seriously, though, despite the fun I’ve been having with it–and the absolute clusterfuck that the comments on that post turned into afterwards–I’ve got no ill will towards Karsten, who’s actually pretty solid as far as ISB commentators go. He’s entitled to his own opinion–even when it makes him the Wrongest Wrong in Wrongtown–and I’m glad he left the comment. As for the rest of you…

Er, anyway, give the article a read, and feel free to contribute your own True Tale of the Core Marvel Universe in the comments section over there, where people have already started in on it!

40 thoughts on “In the Core Marvel Universe

  1. Judging any story by its “place” in the collective universe seems silly to me. As long as it doesn’t conflict with previous established stories, more power to it.

    And I forgot Tony used to be in the department of defense. Does that mean Osborn’s hunt for Tony can be portrayed as Obama trying to put the Bush admin on trial?

  2. “As long as it doesn’t conflict with previous established stories…”

    Oh Chris, please run with this next, cos really? Have you seen Marvel’s continuity? or, even worse it seems, DC’s?

    Also, I never realized how much I loved the Hulk until Planet Hulk. Got the hardcover on my shelf with a bunch of other graphic novels, but I’m really thinking it should be next to my complete works of Shakespeare and the Odyssey.

  3. How could it NOT fit into the ‘core Marvel Universe’? Okay, granted Marvel love “pocket universe” stories that save them the trouble of retconning or even rebooting already convoluted continuity.

    But…but…but, Frankencastle IS standard Marvel fare, Karsten. As Stan Lee would say, “Hang loose, true believer!”

  4. Re-reading Karsten’s comment, he (or she, I guess)actually just says he doesn’t see the appeal. It’s implied that he doesn’t think the idea has a place by the “core Marvel Universe” line, but he never really says it. It was that crazy Chicken guy that really seemed to have a problem with it. At least that’s how I interpreted it.

  5. As soon as anyone starts talking about continuity or “core fundamentals” as regards comics and their characters, I’ve programmed myself to tune out.

    DC went through the Silver Age. The Hulk and The Thing exist because Stan Lee really got into doing monster comics during the 50s. Are we really going to start talking about “core values” when it comes to a product that has always relied on fantasy and zaniness to sell itself?

    I mean, I take comics seriously too, but lets not kid ourselves about what they are.

  6. I can’t agree more honestly. I am sure you of all people hear the kinds of crazy, awesome stories that get passed over when they’re pitched to the major two companies because they’re afraid to go out of their comfort zone with their characters. I know I am gonna be in the minority with this but I often feel like DC and Marvel would be better if they just killed off their main characters from the ‘normal universe’ for at least a full year and just focused on their secondary characters more. I mean Heroes Reborn wasn’t particularly good but we got Thunderbots and Heroes for Hire out of it which I liked and 52 was great. It seems like the worst stories in comics are the ones where the plot is muted for the purpose of maintaining the status quot. That’s why I HATED World War Hulk, Secret Invasion and can guarantee will feel the same about Dark Reign. They have AWESOME concepts but right at the end they decide that everything has to go back to normal again and warp up the story in the most half-assed, mono-tone manner like “Everyone was fine on this spaceship and they’re all back” or “And Hulk gets not absolution and everyone goes back to what they were doing before.” Utter crap if you ask me. It’s why, as much as I love the characters, I can’t read most mainstream comics anymore. At this point it’s just basically Agents of Atlas, Secret Warriors and the occasional Deadpool.

  7. Let’s boil this down to the fundamentals.

    In the Core Marvel Universe, humans/gods/aliens/robots get physics-defying superpowers from various sources, wear figure-hugging spandex, give themselves over-the-top aliases and then fight other superpowered humans/gods/aliens/robots, who are often trying to destroy/rule the world (where, for “world” read “USA”).

    That’s why I love superhero comics.

  8. So… the more we hate on Chris, the stronger he becomes? He’s like Emperor Palpatine, Red Hulk and the career of Andy Dick all rolled into one.

    Personally, I’ll only feel cheated by the recent turn of events in Punisher if Frank isn’t super-sized and having a rematch with Baragon at some point in the near future.

  9. I get the impression it’s less people accepting bizarre high concepts in Marvel, and more a question (in some people’s minds) of whether certain characters should be in the middle of that high concept change. People reading only Ennis’ run would be confused or upset at a drastic change of the Punisher into FrankenCastle, but people who have read the stories for far longer know that those types of changes are actually normal and many times work out. It’d be like people being outraged if Batman was written in a serious tone if the only thing they knew about the character was from Adam West.

    Whether that idea works or not is a different question altogether.

  10. …the flagship character’s girlfriend was tragically killed when she was thrown off a bridge by an industrialist on a flying piece of sheet metal…

    …who also knocked up said girlfriend and gave her twins whose existance she hid from the flagship character before she died.

    (God, I hope that one’s been tossed out of continuity with Brand New Day…)

  11. @JosephJohnJurgens:

    Personally, I’ll only feel cheated by the recent turn of events in Punisher if Frank isn’t super-sized and having a rematch with Baragon at some point in the near future.

    Now that’s high concept.

  12. who’s actually pretty solid as far as ISB commentators go.

    This is the definition of ‘damning with faint praise.’

  13. This is more a technicality than anything else, but I’m not sure that the robot fighting superpowered zombies with a teleporting dog is actually the core marvel universe.

    Weren’t the events happening on the Marvel Zombies world? Haven’t read a marvel zombies comic in years though so I may be wrong.

  14. Weren’t the events happening on the Marvel Zombies world? Haven’t read a marvel zombies comic in years though so I may be wrong.

    Marvel Zombies 3 and 4 cross over with the regular Marvel Universe. As always, doubting me only makes me stronger.

  15. I get both sides of the argument. Yes, the Marvel universe is a crazy, crazy place where insane and ridiculous stuff happens. But some things just don’t work for certain readers in certain titles. It’s like aliens in Indiana Jones.

  16. See, I never saw the problem with aliens in Indiana Jones. Compared to the nutty stuff from the earlier films, what…was it too plausible? Was that the problem?

  17. Punisher never really fit in the core Marvel universe, whether he got turned into a Frankenstein or not. Because, y’know, to the rest of the superheroes, Punisher is someone who needs to go down, hard, because Punisher kills people. All the time.

    I mean, for a while, it was canon that Captain fucking America never killed one single Nazi until Brubaker retconned that shit. And it’s canon now that the fucking Hulk never killed anyone because of some bullshit supermath.

  18. In regards to the Indiana Jones thing, I’m not sure if it’s because people believe that the Ark of the Covenant is real and capable of melting people’s faces off or if they think Indiana Jones should be only looking at religious backgrounds. Though the Crystal Skull thing does have some history to it. You’d think they’d be more upset that Mutt was swinging along vines with a group of monkeys before being upset about aliens.

  19. Don’t mean to be off-topic, but if the alt-text for the cover of Punisher #12 isn’t “F-F-F-FRANKENCASTLE!!” I will be sorely disappointed.

  20. The monkeys, the fridge… those bothered me a lot. the aliens are totally okay. Indy reacts to the myths and ‘trends’ popular to the period. in the 20s, it was the Thuggee and the holy stones. the 30s, the Nazis and their quest for holy christian relics.
    in the 50s… of COURSE it’s gonna be Soviets and aliens. its the frigging Cold War!

  21. I liked the Soviets as villains. They were evil, but in a different way than the Nazis. They might want to kill Jones sometimes, but it wasn’t *personal* and they wouldn’t go out of their way to murder him. They wouldn’t stick him in a deathtrap just for the fun of it, for instance.

    The fridge didn’t bother me because it was for laughs. The whole sequence was so over the top that I was laughing from the moment I saw Jones looking down the hill at Doomtown. Of course he’s gonna run into a nuclear test site, and of course it ends with an iconic shot of him looking up at a mushroom cloud that might as well have lit up in neon and said “NEW ERA”. It’s not intrinsically any more silly than strapping himself to a submarine periscope for a week or falling out of a plane in a liferaft. ACME Lead Fridge? Why not.

  22. My only problem with Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was that it wasn’t that great a movie. Not completely dreadful, but there were a few of what the kids would call “the facepalm” moments.

    Although if I wanted to be an asshole about it – and why break the habit now? – I could point out that they weren’t aliens appropriate to the zeitgeist of the era, they were extra-dimensional entities, which is more of a 1980s-onward kinda conceit than a Red Scare-era B-movie one.

  23. This is why it bugs me when people say that Grant Morrison is too weird to write superhero comics. Superhero comics ARE weird!

  24. “…but came back and killed an alien queen in the head on television.”

    My favorite sentence, btw.

  25. JosephJohnJurgens, those wouldn’t be 1980’s extradimensional aliens in Crystal Skull. They were 1970’s style Chariot of the Gods aliens (and to get this back to comics: see Kirby’s Eternals which also borrowed from that material).

  26. Holy cats, a shout out! Even as the newly elected mayor of Wrongtown, my day has been made! :-D

    For the record, I agree with you for the most part- I love that the Marvel Universe is a place where a planet eating survivor a dead universe can coexist with a Vietnam veteran who shoots criminals to avenge his dead family. I love that Frank Miller’s Daredevil run exists in the same world as Grant Morrison’s X-Men, Straczynski’s Spider-Man (the first half of his run, anyways) and Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s…well, everything, but Fantastic Four naturally springs to mind first.

    The idea of superheroes existing in a cohesive universe is one of the biggest draws for me as a reader, and it always has been. Seriously, take the DC universe- since Action Comics #1, there have probably been about a quarter of a million stories set in the DCU- that’s literally more fleshed out than any other fictional reality in the history of mankind.

    But the thing is, once a character is developed to a point, core aspects of that character are brought out and refined. Batman doesn’t use guns. Spider-Man puts responsibility over his own well-being. Superman is pretty much pure good. When you get away from these things, it just feels wrong.

    And the great thing about comics is that there’s a way to break these rules- to have your cake, and eat it too. DC’s 52 (or so) universes, Marvel’s thousands of numbered realities (complete with a bureaucracy to run it all)- these things open the door to any story you could ever dream up.

    The Punisher I know and love is the one that Chuck Dixon and Garth Ennis perfected- a man in a world of supermen, whose strength as a character comes from how far removed he ultimately is from the modern superhero. Turning him into FrankenCastle isn’t a bad idea, in and of itself- but putting it in the core Marvel Universe (to beat a cliche into the ground) strikes me as the same thing as trying to do Red Rain Batman in the regular DCU- the idea becomes less fun when the the brutal, murdering vampire is the “real” Batman.

    But hey- this is all subjective, right? My version of the Punisher written well won’t ever synch up perfectly with anyone else’s tastes. And even if I’m not really interested in reading the FrankenCastle story, clearly it’s right up your alley- and more power too you. That’s ultimately what’s great about Marvel comics, isn’t it- there’s something out there for pretty much everyone to enjoy.

  27. By the way, if “In the core Marvel Universe…” becomes the new “In Soviet Russia…”, and you become Yakov Simsov, remember who incited the whole thing. ;-)

  28. For me (and my inability to keep from contributing to the derailing of this comments section) the fridge thing was a mistake that set the tone for the movie. Not just because “it was implausible”, but because it was implausible in a way that made it hard for me to care about anything in the movie.

    Because once you start your film with the hero escaping a nuclear blast by hiding in a fridge, how are you possibly going to make them believe the hero is ever in any danger? It was like a big neon sign saying, “We Will Come Up With A Bullshit Excuse To Save Indy No Matter What”, and that made all the subsequent fight and chase scenes less dramatic.

    (And yes, I do think supernatural threats work better than superscience ones for Indy. I think it’s because he came out of the pulp tropes of the 1930s, not the pulp tropes of the 1950s. He feels more at home with cursed artifacts and Nazis.)

  29. Karsten: We need to take that for a test drive – perhaps isolate one of those panels from Jeph Loeb’s Wolverine run where they explain that animal-based mutants are all descended from wolves (even those whose look and powers are clearly themed after cats) and the caption can read “In core Marvel universe, fanfiction is paying job”

  30. In Core marvel Universe, Man called TELford E PORTER will always have powers of instantaneous travel to any point in space.