4 Times the Real World Became Part of the Marvel Universe
Real-life historical events have often found their way into Marvel’s stories – and affected its heroes.
In SPIDER-MAN: LIFE STORY by Chip Zdarsky and Mark Bagley, we are told the story of Peter Parker as if it occurred in real time. The radioactive spider bit him in 1962, and each issue covers a different decade of Peter’s life since. Along with giving us a reimagining of the Marvel Universe, Zdarsky and Bagley show us how real-world events, such as the Vietnam War, affected Peter. SPIDER-MAN: LIFE STORY #3, on sale now, covers the 1980s.
Even though the Marvel Universe resides in a fantasy world where people can walk on walls, turn invisible, and wield enchanted hammers, it also went through the same historical events as the real world. Here are just a handful of monumental real-life events and how they affected the Marvel Universe.
World War II
Long before the Fantastic Four journeyed to space or Peter Parker went to a particular science demonstration, World War II raged through Europe. The United States, while it didn’t enter the war until 1941, was still watching the war unfold. Dr. Abraham Erskine, a scientist who defected to the U.S., created the Super-Soldier formula. His first subject was patriotic but frail Steve Rogers. After being injected with the serum, Rogers became the man known as Captain America, the Sentinel of Freedom.
Initially, Captain America fought the war on American soil, stopping Nazi spies who tried to infiltrate the country. Once the United States finally entered the war, Captain America led Bucky, the original Human Torch, and Namor the Sub-Mariner on the frontlines as the Invaders. The Allies were not the only ones utilizing superhuman beings, as Johann Schmidt led the opposing force as the diabolical Red Skull.
The Cold War
Following World War II, the rivalry between the United States and Russia began. While it did not lead to full-scale assaults between the two countries, it did lead to battles on the political and scientific fronts. From the space race to the nuclear race, the two nations were always trying to move one step ahead of the other.
The chance to beat their rival on the scientific front is what led to two of Marvel’s most colossal creations. Reed Richards, Sue Storm, Ben Grimm, and Johnny Storm, took Richard’s experimental space ship into the cosmos too soon. With not enough shielding, cosmic rays bombarded the vessel and its passengers transformed into Marvel’s First Family, the Fantastic Four.
When it came to the arms race, the bigger the bomb, the better. It’s why the U.S. Government had Dr. Bruce Banner design the gamma bomb. When young Rick Jones stumbled onto the test sight, Banner saved him just in time, as the bomb went off and engulfed him in gamma rays, transforming him into the Incredible Hulk.
The Vietnam War was a tumultuous time in our country. While arguments about whether we should be involved in the first place took over the news, there were still thousands of soldiers fighting, some still not sure of the purpose.
In BORN, a four-issue miniseries by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson, the central theme was the consequence of war and the effect had on the human psyche. The story chronicled the last days of Firebase Valley Forge, whose platoon was under the command of Captain Frank Castle. In general, Castle’s origin was one of a family man and decorated war veteran who became the Punisher out of the need for vengeance following the murder of his wife and children. His family’s death was nothing more than the match which ignited a fire that was already there. War had gotten to Frank Castle, and while he looked like he had it together on the outside, a voice of violence bred through the conflict had other plans for the Punisher.
September 11, 2001
The events that occurred on what should have been a typical Tuesday morning are hard to forget. Many people knew in detail what they were doing that morning, from driving into work to heading to class. As people gathered around their televisions, they struggled to understand that what they were watching was really, truly happening.
In AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #36 by J. Michael Straczynski and John Romita, Jr., the heroes of the Marvel Universe did their best to help where they could. Seen mostly through Spider-Man’s eyes, it doesn’t focus on Super Heroes leaping in to save the day, but the real heroes who jumped into action without regard for their safety, as well as those who gave their lives to help others. Spider-Man shared his thoughts at the end of the issue: “We could not see it coming. No one could. We could not stop it. No one could. But we are here now. With you. Today. Tomorrow. And the day after.” His promise didn’t just represent Marvel’s Super Heroes, but all of us.
Even though the Marvel Universe lives in its own world, from the amazing to the uncanny, the real world’s historical events have brought heroes together and made them questioned their roles in the bigger pictures. Other events led to the origins of Marvel’s biggest and best or most violent. History affects everyone whether you're within the comic pages or reading them.
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