|Miss Van Dyne & Dr Pym on holiday, by Don Heck & H E Huntley in Tales To Astonish #46|
This week's post in The Year In Comics series concerns The Wasp and her first few appearances in the Marvel Universe of 1963. With the exception of Peter Parker and, probably, Victor Von Doom, Janet Van Dyne strikes me as being - at first - the most interesting of all Marvel's first wave characters, although her appeal soon waned when it was Stan Lee's scripts rather than those of H. E. Huntley which dominated proceedings. Hardly a common opinion, or even a commonly debated matter, I know, but should you be in any way curious about this particular backwater of comics chin-stroking, the post can be found here.
|Detail from John Romita's cover to "The Superhero Women", Fireside, 1977|
The chance to write about the very earliest Marvel superhero tales may well have come at exactly the right time for me. Though I've been trying - with very little success - not to think too much about it, today's my 50th birthday, and there does appear to be something entirely apposite about paying attention to the pop culture of the time of my birth. For it does shamefully seem that there's a great deal of the entertainment that I've loved which I've somehow managed to take almost entirely for granted. Whether it's The Beatles or Dickens or David Low, the superhero or test matches or The Wire, I'm constantly returning and finding that I really don't understand the pleasures that I've been enjoying for - in some cases - decade upon decade. A single overlooked detail will suddenly transform the bigger picture almost entirely, as I found when I realised, for example, that there were more or less two different versions of the Wasp appearing in Marvel's books for the first few months of her existence, or as hit me when it dawned that there actually was a very good reason for why she hung the label of "Avengers" upon the super-team she'd helped to form. It seems that I've all-too-often been sleepwalking through experiences that I imagined I was extremely familiar with. It's a realisation which suddenly reminded me of a line from Gladstone's diaries - an uncommon business, I do assure you - which I chanced upon years ago and never thought too much about until today;
"Swimming for his life, a man does not see much of the country through which the river winds, and I probably know little of these years through which I busily work and live ..." - (31/12/1868)
|Death by endurance bath-swimming, by Lee, Huntle7 & Heck, in TTA#48|
Of course, Gladstone had far more compelling reasons to have missed much of the age that he'd been living through, and I'm sure that he'd never have regretted lacking a familiarity with the ephemera of the Penny Dreadful anyway. But there is a comfort of sorts to be had in realising that even the great carry the suspicion that they've failed to experience and understand more of the world that they were struggling to make sense of and shape. For me, that's as true of minor and yet beguiling comic strips as it is of anything of any greater significance. At the very least, I could have twigged more about the middle eights and the panel frame sizes, the stage directions and the single point perspective, of the pop culture I've loved.
Gladstone has the laudable excuse that he invested his long decades in the attempt to - shall we say - comfort the fallen even when he wasn't trying to reform the nation. I've not even been paying enough attention to the comic books I've been reading.
Given that there are Splendid Wife-baked cakes to be eaten and idle hours to be wasted away on even more frivolous indulgences today, I hope you might consider coming back on Thursday, when the extra waste-away-a-moment material which I usually add on a Tuesday will be posted instead. There's some charming, and in a few cases rather disturbing, Silver-Age silliness to be chatted about then in connection to Miss Van Dyne and in particular Dr Pym too, so if you're in the vicinity, please feel free to pop in to TooBusyThinking.
And tomorrow, as always, there'll be a celebration of 13 characters in comics history, to which your contributions would be very much appreciated. This week's topic may well have something to do with the passing of the years ...
|Another exquisite, Caniff-esque panel from Don Heck, from the Lee-Huntley-Heck TTA#48|
The Year In Comics # 38 can be found here.
The TooBusyThinking Tumblr - with regularly-updated content - can be found here.