The Fifth Color | The Final Word

Nine years ago, I got an email from the wonderful and impeccably dressed JK Parkin about joining a little group at Blog@Newsarama and writing a weekly column about Marvel. Thrilled to accept, I knew I needed a hook and, most importantly, a cool name. Asking friends on Livejournal (oh, this was so long ago, folks), I got the obvious ideas back of something with Marvel in the title, like "Marvelous Musings" or just "Ms. Marvel." What kind of silly name is Ms. Marvel?

Instead, I went for the pretentious-sounding "The Fifth Color," as comics are commonly thought of as a four-color medium, with readers providing a fifth color in how a book is received after its release. No art is created in a vacuum, and what's intended by the artist can meet resistance from a discerning public. A chainmail bikini can mean a lot of things to a lot of people: What some might view as a tactic by a female warrior to distract lustful enemies, others just see as cheesecake. And, amazingly enough, both of those interpretations may be correct, even if they're not what was intended by the creative team.

It's more than seeing the world in black and white, a wrong way or right way to read comics, but rather myriad colors, shades and viewpoints that get the final say.

In 2006, I don't think I ever could've guessed just how much of a say the reader would get. We can choose just how we read them: digitally, in trade paperbacks or in good old-fashioned floppies. We can select our personal canon on our favorite characters, whether that's strict 616 comic adherence or a mash-up of how the movies handle things. We have the final says on final says, as bloggers, as critics, as commenters on message boards. I think it's safe to say that never before in the history of the medium has there been this many people discussing comics with each other in such scope and detail.

This is the last Fifth Color at ROBOT 6, and I guess if I had to say anything with this column, if it had to be remembered for some elegant final words, I'd have to borrow some from the great orator Abraham Lincoln: "Be excellent to each other."


We all read comics, and that is such a wonderful, amazing thing. Each one of us reads comics differently; the way I read Ms. Marvel is different from the way I read Iron Man, and those are different from the ways you read the same comics. When I was in high school, I felt like I spoke a different language than other kids because I knew about the X-Men, so when I found another kid who read comics, we had our own language. It didn't matter if they loved Spider-Man more than I loved She-Hulk; we were just happy we knew what the other one was talking about. Read comics, share your love of -- or frustration with -- them with others and, most importantly, listen to them in return. Trust me, the world gets so much more colorful when you do.

What's next? Well, I'm not going anywhere. Mary Jane is joining the cast of the new Iron Man title, mutants look to be heading toward a genocidal crisis (again?) and Marvel's Jessica Jones is putting out set stills. I'll still be around to cover those moments and others as Marvel marches on. Heck, maybe I'll read some of those DC comics that Tom Bondurant is always going on about (I kid, I kid ...).

There are so many people I want to thank for the opportunity to do this, too many to name for fear of leaving someone out. But without a doubt, the most thanks goes to you, Dear Reader. Writing "The Fifth Color" gave me some much-needed purpose when I got out of an Intensive Care Unit, forced me to be more fair when debating major issues, which made me a better comics retail sales clerk, and most of all, let me talk to you every week in the mighty Marvel manner. Thank you for reading this far.

And now you have the final word.

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