How Lee & Kirby's "Fantastic Four" Birthed the Marvel Universe, Part 1
“This store is so negative!,” a woman said in astonishment. She had a kid with her, a happy elementary schooler who was perusing our new comics wall. The young shopper’s mom, perhaps grandmother had ambled her way to the counter to make this proclamation. I asked her why she thought the store was negative and the woman went right to the heart of the matter: violence. There was just too much of it in the store for her to consider this a positive place for her child. Calmly going into “Oh man, what did she see?” mode, I calmly explained that not all comics were for kids and that Batman sometimes has to fight a bad guy or two to make sure they go to jail. She understood, but there was something displayed behind me that got to the heart of the matter: our Fear Itself promotional poster.
“Fear, that’s terrible for kids to see, and all the violence, it’s just too negative for them,” she explained. I looked at the poster, wondering if there actually was something terrible on it but no, no gore, sexual situations or excessive violence. She actually had a problem with the title. I told her the title came from the quote that we have nothing to fear but fear itself, an appeal for strength. How every kid faces a fear at one time or another and why not show them how super-heroes handle theirs? “After all,” I told her, “… you know the good guys win.”
She thought about it and we talked about fear and being strong. In the end, I hadn’t changed her mind entirely but she did admit that saying the whole store was negative was probably a bit rude. The young customer bought something he liked and everyone went home happy. If a robot had carried in a cupcake for me, it would have been the perfect day.
But then again, nothing in this world is perfect, not even my unflinching adoration for one of Marvel’s finest architects (FRACTION 3:16!). But if you boil Fear Itself down to its base elements, you will find jewels of the human spirit expressed in the Mighty Marvel Manner. It may not be the best event book, but I’m starting to think that the core of Fear Itself is one of the most important stories you can read for inspiration.
(WARNING: We will be talking about Fear Itself, including this week’s cataclysmic issue #7, grab your copies and read along)
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