‘The Marvels Project’ – A Rigorously Researched Retcon

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The Marvels Project
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Five years ago Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting‘s eight-part mini-series The Marvels Project: Birth Of The Super Heroes hit the shelves. It’s currently available in both hardcover and trade paperback format. And, if you want a well-told overview of the Golden Age of Marvel comics then look no further. This retcon gets The Timely Comics Watchamacallit‘s seal of approval.

Although the cover image for both the paperback and hardcover formats of this mini-series features a dynamic drawing of Captain America and Bucky, The Marvels Project is more concerned with creating a backdrop in front of which our favourite heroes save the day than it is with the star-spangled duo themselves. Of course, since Dr. Erskine’s super-soldier serum and its one-and-only recipient are both integral components of Timely Comics lore, we do see Steve Rogers’s sickly frame transform into the peak-human physique of Captain America. But, rather than taking over the whole story, Cap’s origin is one of many events featured in this genre-redefining tale.

The Marvels Project – Comparable Series

Brubaker and Epting’s The Marvels Project: Birth Of The Super Heroes has more in common with Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross‘s Marvels mini-series than just its name. Both retcon mini-series’ tell stories about the early days of superheroes, and both tell these stories from unique perspectives.

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Marvels Project
“I’d have called ’em ‘Timelies!'”

Phil Sheldon, news photographer, narrates the events of Marvels. Sheldon’s viewpoint represents that of an average guy going through the tumultuous origins of super-heroism.

The domino-masked Dr. Thomas Halloway AKA The Angel narrates The Marvels Project. And, though The Angel is a costumed hero, his viewpoint in The Marvels Project is that of a participant who’s witness to stunning scenes of superhuman strength by individuals more formidable than himself, i.e. Captain America, Namor, and the original Human Torch.

The Marvels Project – Super-Cameos

I won’t say any more about which superheroes appear in The Marvels Project. But, I will say that this mini-series represents a veritable Timely Comics who’s who. Brubaker and Epting make use of nearly every Timely Comics character available. And, although some heroes get shorter shrift than others, the variety of flamboyant costumes on display will amaze you.

The Marvels Project – But What’s It All About?!

Marvels Project
“Darn, I just crushed the Rock of Gibraltar with my giant-size foot!”

I’m wary of filling this article with spoilers. Like the last mini-series I reviewed, The Marvels Project is less than ten years old. So, I worry that interested parties may not yet have read it. I will say that this mini-series is basically a retcon of Human Torch Comics #5b (read about Human Torch Comics #5b here). Beyond being a straight retcon of a single issue, though, The Marvels Project acts as a tie that binds original Timely Comics material to Roy Thomas‘s retcon run on Invaders (1975 – 1979). More on that series later …

This mini-series gets huge points for setting these brightly costumed heroes in a grisly and startlingly real world. Brubaker and Epting’s stark setting gives readers an idea of what being lucky enough to survive the ’40s may have been like.

Timely did deal with real-world problems, like fifth columnists and USA’s imminent involvement in WWII. But, the Timely treatment was decidedly more juvenile than Brubaker & Epting’s. True Believers will remember, in one Timely comic all it took to make Hitler weep publicly was a loud voice.

That’s all for now, mighty Marvelites, but I’m going to keep ’em flying by reviewing another rollicking retcon! Since I’ve mentioned Roy Thomas’s Invaders so many times already, I’m going to review that series’ first storyline next: “The Coming of the Invaders!” ‘Nuff said.


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Michael Bedford
Under intense scrutiny by the Temporal Authorities, I was coerced into actualizing my capsule in this causality loop. Through no fault of my own, I am marooned on this dangerous yet lovely level-four civilization. Stranded here, I have spent most of my time learning what I can of the social norms and oddities of the Terran species, including how to properly use the term "Hipster" and how to perform a "perfect pour." Under the assumed name of "Michael Bedford," I have completed BA's with specialized honours in both theatre studies and philosophy, and am currently saving up for enough galactic credits to buy a new--or suitably used--temporal contextualizer ... for a friend.

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