AKA Is There A Marvel Tumblrwave?
(Important disclaimer. I am something of a partisan, in that my brother is writing two monthly comics for Marvel. This partly explains why I’m so interested in their strategy, but I haven’t mentioned his titles in this piece. Oh, and Hazel Robinson writes for this site. And I’ve been to the pub with Kieron Gillen, but then so have a lot of people. Look, speculative Internet random, just assume I’m very biased. Sorry.)
POSTCARDS FROM THE DINERVERSE
Young Avengers ended well. If I say that my favourite issues were 6 and 7 and 14 and 15 it might seem like a terrible unintended slight to Jamie McKelvie, who drew only one complete issue of those four, along with everything else. But they were my favourites – the issues where the comic was most clearly about the parts between the adventures: shit jobs, cheap eats, parties. The stuff of late teenage life.
It’s the 13th issue of Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie’s run on Young Avengers tomorrow. Aside from a foreboding moment for triskaidekaphobic fans, it’s the start of the end of this season. A season I have miserably failed to live up to the initial commitment of writing about every issue of. For largely boring adult reasons like ‘needing to do the washing,’ ‘never seeming to get a minute to think,’ ‘being very stressed and tired’ and worst of all ‘not really being able to get away with writing at work.’ All of the responsibility and none of the capacity.
If I saw myself as a grown up, from the vantage point of some reality-trashing portal back to youth, I’d be thoroughly appalled. Where did all my conviction go? “No, shut up,” my older self would plead, “it’s incredibly complicated trying to remember to function like a normal human being” while my sullen, accusatory teenage self glared at me with all the anger and disappointment of discovering that ‘normal human being’ becomes the peak of her existential ambition.
Marvel comics exist as part of a very extensive meta-verse, a plethora of multiplicities which, in canon, play out many scenarios and worlds. It’s extensive, pervasive mechanic to the way things work in the comics, affecting technologist and magic-using superheroes alike,
I know it’s by no means unique to Marvel but there is something fantastic about a fictional multiverse that embraces its own multiplicity, which throws itself wholesale upon the principle that every event is a branching, that there must be thousands of variants on every element of minutiae. It’s partly interesting to me because it makes fanfiction meta-canon and partly interesting because it gives creatives an excuse to go apeshit fucking ball-crazy.
Warning: some little spoilers for Young Avengers #8 ahead
[IMPORTANT TIMESTREAM INSTABILITY NOTE: This is not about the current issue of Young Avengers. This is an old thing about issue #2 that I'm just slipping in here because my chronal transporter has stopped being able to go into the past. I mostly wrote it slightly drunk, at about 2am, just before Young Avengers #3 came out in some desperate attempt to pretend to be current even at the time. As you can see, I've since entirely abandoned that particular timey-wimey ambition but I still quite liked it when I read back through the draft while trying to write an up to date thing so here you go. Also, as a nice touch, it's now super-painful to think about since #8!]
The good news is there’s not much left to spoiler about Young Avengers #2, now. And even better, I haven’t followed through on the elaborate and disturbing Kid Loki-as-brunch-fiend-Carrie-Bradshaw angle I was originally planning, so it’s all turned out for the best, really. Better horribly late than with alarming photoshop.
One of the things you develop, over your lifespan, is control over your impulsive disclosure urge. Some people are naturally inclined to never tell anyone anything about what’s going on with them, some people can’t stop themselves; the middle ground is roughly what you move closer to, as you learn various, frequently incredibly painful lessons.
There’s massive connotation to either end of the spectrum; people who are too private are considered at best mysterious or shy and at worst suspicious, people who share too much are considered stupid, brash, outrageous or at best, naiive. ‘Trustworthy’ is a hard thing to learn to be, sometimes, especially with different standards in different contexts (trustworthy with your BFFs is a lot more detail than trustworthy at work) and getting a balance as well as a personality is something that takes time. And the aforementioned painful lessons.
Reading Charlotte Geater’s excellent piece on the diner motif and Grease in Young Avengers, especially in issue #7, I was earwormed by the Tell me more tell me more refrain from Summer Lovin’. Which was kind of the theme of this issue, in a way, being packed full of exposition and catch-up. The terrific Not-stagram page (more on this story later) showcases the full gamut of exaggeration, stolen stories, personal landmark documentation and social currency bank account statements and dodgy selfies that you’d expect from any healthy extrovert’s online presence- no need to ask Loki. Or more accurately, no point. But he appears to be so open and he’s sharing all his (and Kate’s) photos! Ah, lying by admission.
“Last night I was on a podium, waving my shirt around my head and a sudden thought came to me”; youth underemployment today
1.02 million 16-24 year olds are unemployed and not in full-time education in Britain currently. 17.35 million are unemployed in the US, slightly over a quarter of the potentially employed in that age group. And it’s getting worse, not better.
And all this time, the message you’re told as young person, much too young to make choices like ‘what piece-of-shit thing do you want to do for the rest of your life?’ you have to make the decision as to what you want to specialise in. You might do it age 14, you might do it age 16, you might (if you’re super lucky) get through to 18 or even 21 before you really narrow your options.
If at any of those points you give employment a try and it doesn’t work, you’re told that the answer is another qualification- whether it’s sneering at your lack of whatever high school completion certificate(s) or the view that if you just converted your degree to law, that’ll work this time.
You’ll never fulfil your potential (whatever some varied but predetermined social expectations and maybe, hopefully, your own particular talents and interests make that) unless you get back to school and really hone your specialism, this particular ability you’ve bargained your future on and which everyone either told you wouldn’t amount to a real thing or was hopelessly second-hand ambitious for you to become a world leader in.
Or you stop that. You stop that and you try and work out what you’re actually doing because you can’t take on any more mortgage-sized debts against unsecured futures and you need a minute to work out what’s going on here. Except then you have to pay the rent.
A Brief History Of Teen Superhero Comics, Part 4
It’s probably the most famous panel in 60s Marvel history. A gag, a cliffhanger, a revolution. A young woman standing in a doorway, smiling, in total amused confidence, at the boggle-eyed kid she’s just been introduced to. “Face it, Tiger… you just hit the JACKPOT!”
It’s Amazing Spider-Man #42, a half-dozen issues into John Romita’s run on art. It’s the debut of Mary-Jane Watson, and a defining moment for the teen superhero comic. For the first three years of Spider-Man – under Steve Ditko – he’s been an awkward, put-upon nerd: teen frustration sometimes pushed into farcical territory. Then Romita replaced Ditko, long-running plot threads were put to rest, and Peter Parker could suddenly get a life. A love life. A complicated love life.
I love Miss America. She’s really fucking angry, she likes punching things and she’ll tolerate a great number of things for barbecued pork belly. She’s also sensible and intuitive and curious and has a fierce not-just-survivalist instinct that enjoys scraping through things but doesn’t want that to be the end achievement. She’s not out for fame and you couldn’t pay her to join the Avengers (according to Vengeance) and she likes dragging small chaos-oriented types around by their feet. She’s great; I love her, indeed, so much it briefly warped my brain into cosplaying her at ComiCon last week.
But she’s not Kate Bishop. And I love-love Kate Bishop. I love Kate Bishop to such a terrifying degree that the idea of attempting to cosplay her makes my palms go sweaty, not just because of the idea of all that lycra in a humid convention centre but because I would be panicking about attempting to both do her justice and convey all of my feelings about Kate Bishop As A Thing. Because I really truly relate to Miss America and I think she is the coolest but Kate is my favourite.
WARNING: There are some BIG SPOILERY SPOILERS in this for Young Avengers volume 1 and volume 2 through to #5.
I guess there was probably a lot of hand-wringing about his butt. But I probably glazed over during anything that followed the phrase ‘Noh-Varr’s butt.’ Just to get this out of the way: Jamie McKelvie is doing an extremely fine job of supplying some slightly-older-than-young-and-thus-ok-for-your-correspondent-to-goggle-at totty, here. Who knew the whole part-cockroach thing was attractive?
The question that appears to be being raised by the young people is: is Young Avengers cool enough? And indeed, if it is cool enough, is it also geeky enough? Are Billy and Teddy’s hairstyles preventing them being colossal dorks?
I don’t even want to get into the last question of that (although no, no of course they are not; they’re just vaguely dealing with being super greasy teenage boys for goodness’ sakes) but whether Young Avengers is too cool is a good question.
Y’see, Noh-Varr looks pretty cool. He’s a silver-haired alien boy for ladies in their twenties to mentally high-five Kate Bishop over. He’s got a spaceship and nega-bands and he’s been in the grown up Avengers and he’s totally done it, probably several times.
Young Avengers 2, by Jamie McKelvie and Kieron Gillen (post will contain SPOILERS)
Let’s think about pop and parents for a moment.
Pop from the 50s on may have been about the generation gap, but it was rarely about the generation gap. Parents showed up occasionally as a force of denial, a brick wall, an elemental “no”, but from the start – “Yakety Yak”, say – they’re a figure of fun, too. Gradually they fade from the picture entirely – the dramas and crises, the lusts and dreams of pop are played out in a world emptied of parents. Parents become ever less threatening, more petty, more ludicrous. As the generations turn, they also become the people who failed – and were failed by – pop, fans themselves in some laughable old time, long gone. But now? Aw Mom you’re just jealous it’s the BEAS-TIE-BOYS.
And yet some trace element remains of real struggles, a genuine gap in which the Midwich Cuckoo boomers – hip to pop – faced a parental force whose own shaping experiences (wartime, the depression) were utterly alien. The unbending parental authority of the American 50s and 60s quickly passed into pop culture myth, so much so that it’s impossible for someone like me, born to post-hippie parents, to truly comprehend how real it might have been. But as a myth it lingers, pop’s chthonic enemy from pre-Beatles deep time, remembered in certain phrases or ritual gestures.