I read comic books with the understanding that I shouldn’t take anything they portray too seriously. A journey to the worlds contained between their covers requires forgiveness of many nonsensical things. That said, there’s a problem that exists in the Marvel and DC universes which just freaks me the hell out. Beyond the monsters, both scientific and fantastical, there are beings whose existence in those worlds is just “wrong.”
I’m talking about the normal people.
Not that fact that they exist, but rather the fact that they’re going around just like us in their daily lives. Exactly like us actually – and that’s the problem. You see, I understand there has to be some similarity between our Earth and the one that the Avengers are saving from Ultron. A good story only works when the reader can relate on some level.
But the people of comic book Earth simply can’t be just like “us.” In essence, I see four huge certainties that exist in their world but not in ours. I’ll try to keep these Marvel-centric as I’ve read a more of their comics, but in a nutshell the following factors make me really wonder about people like Aunt May.
Magic is fun when it’s at a children’s birthday party or a Vegas variety show. Do you know when it’s not fun though? When it’s being combined with science to create bombs capable of making a mutant-vampire army bent on world domination.
But perhaps that’s an extreme example? Let’s dial it back a bit. Instead, simply imagine a world where you could readily find a trinket at a pawn shop and gain magical powers from it. This is the kind of thing that can, and does, happen often in comics. Their Antique Roadshows are full of motherfucking magic. Yet in spite of this, nothing seems to be done in comic books about the prevalence of crazy ass mystical items scattered across the globe.
Why does this matter? Well, think about how our Earth, or even a typical real government, would react to such occurrences. How would they prevent the possibility of Joe Blow gaining ice powers because he accidentally unearthed the Medallion of a Thousand Winters at a swap meet?
Honestly, they’d start regulating that shit. If you think the IRS is bad with the death tax, just wait until the government has to create an organization to monitor and control magical forces. They’d probably establish the Bureau of Extranormal Affairs (BEA) to deal with objects and beings of unnatural power.
That’s right, “beings.” Meaning people (most of the time). And you have to believe that those folks would be constantly monitored. But not just them. You see, while some people in comics become naturally gifted with magic, others are gifted through extraordinary means.
You Can Just “Get” Powers
When going to sleep at night I have (near) absolute certainty that I will not wake up in the morning with amazing powers. That just doesn’t happen in the real world. Maybe we don’t play with spiders in nuclear reactors enough, or tamper with cosmic rays close to our reservoirs (who knows why). Fact is, people on our planet are entirely lacking in the superpower department. Thankfully, most of us have come to accept this deficiency and are able to go about our lives not wondering about what could be if not for those pesky scientific laws regarding our biology.
As you know, it’s not like this in comics. If there’s an accident with anything, ANYTHING, described as scientifically advanced or unknown, then there’s a good chance that you’re on the fast track for superpowers. The only thing more shocking than this is that there’s chance you could wake up one morning with molten blood and iron skin. Just because. To note, in such a scenario I’m calling dibs on the name TectonX right now.
The scientists in comics have even gone so far as to identify the X-gene responsible for mutations. And yet, they don’t seem to have any means or desire to test for it. This makes absolutely no sense as historically it seems the general population of “normal” comic people are quite literally freaking out about mutants on a daily basis.
At least, until you go to an Iron Man comic.
However, if you’re outside of the X-Men (but still in the Marvel universe) it’s actually quite rare to find any members of the Friends of Humanity hanging around, or to find big rallies to bring the Mutant Registration Act back. For the most part, the regular citizenry seem pretty oblivious to the fact that at any moment they or the person next to them could be granted the powers of a demi-god.
Now let’s be honest – if these normals were really paying attention to world events, such as that time that Magneto turned off all of the electricity on the planet Earth, the Mutant Registration Act would have passed. All mutants would suddenly fall under the scope of the BEA, which by now would be the largest government organization.
To be fair, Marvel did once pass a Superhero Registration Act. This resulted in repercussions from their civilian world and eventually led to the superhero Civil War. From a story perspective, this was successful and did a fine job up-ending things from the status quo – that is, until aliens invaded.
I have no idea how many alien invasions there have been in comics at this point, but it’s a lot. Between Skrulls, Galactus, Shi’ar, Brood, Phalanx, Kree, Nova Corps, and Symbiots, one would believe that the human race might be a bit cautious when looking up at the stars.
They certainly don’t ponder the eternal question of “are we alone in the Universe?” No, that ship has sailed. Denizens of the MCU know, for a fact, that they are not alone and they have very good reason to be terrified of that knowledge. One alien has even tried to eat the Earth – several times!
By now, we can’t even call the BEA in. With the serious, ever-present threat of alien invasion the UN would need to step up, big time. Hell, they might even be useful.
Ronald Reagan once said: “…if suddenly there was a threat to this world from some other species from another planet outside in the universe. We’d forget all the little local differences that we have between our countries and we would find out once and for all that we really are all human beings here on this earth together.”
He wasn’t wrong. If a race of intergalactic slugs came down and threatened to enslave humanity with their mucus biotech, you can bet that we’d all band together and load our shotguns with rock salt real fast. But again, nothing like that happens in comics. This is a world where it’s not an “if” we’re going to be invaded, but a “when”.
However, I can understand why a regular Joe in Marvel might not put aliens at the top of his “holy shit” list. There’s something bigger to consider. Beyond the chaos surrounding magic swirling through the world, legions of super powered beings that spring up every day, and the imminent threat of ET coming back with a posse, there’s something else. Something that really, really makes it seem like these people can’t just be going about so “business as usual” usual. And it’s even more “beyond” than aliens.
Yeah, so in the Marvel universe faith isn’t a so much of a leap. There is a clearly a Heaven that many heroes have been to and are from. A Hell where villains have passed through it’s fiery rotating doors. Even God Himself has even helped the Fantastic Four with the ultimate comic book deus ex machina (a pencil). This isn’t hearsay, nor the words of a few people who had near death experiences on the Discovery Channel. Real people have died and returned to life. They’ve interacted with angels and demons alike. Sometimes a demonically possessed man rides through the streets of New York City with a burning skull and a flaming motorcycle powered by hellfire.
So clearly, the comic book populous has an answer to the question “what’s on the other side?”
What would that certainty do to our world? Would separation of church and state seem like a good idea to a society that can’t deny the presence of a supreme being that has, in the past, issued rules to live by? And what happens when you factor in that eternal paradise or damnation are now a certainty? I can’t really say, but I would guess that society as we know it would cease and transform into something that strove to help us to our final destination.
In comics, that never happens. People are simply leading regular day-to-day lives in a wholly irregular world, regardless as to whether demons being summoned from the nether realms in Central Park.
All of this leads me to one inescapable truth: the normal people of comic book worlds are epically fucked up. And I do mean epically. They go about their lives pretending that no major recent historical events such as alien invasions, magical battles, mutated humans or the return of the dead, have mattered.
It’s like the Stepford Wives on a global scale. So either S.H.I.E.L.D. is pumping something into the water, or Franklin Richards is up to shenanigans again.