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What Comic Books Look Like in the Marvel Universe

by  in Comics, Comic News Comment
What Comic Books Look Like in the Marvel Universe

Knowledge Waits is a feature where I spotlight pieces of comic book history that pique my interest. Reader John wanted to know if Marvel ever did a comic book that was designed as if it were a comic book that was released within the Marvel Universe. Not only did they do a comic book like that, John, but they did a whole week‘s worth of comic books like that! Let’s take a look!

The concept that comic books about the characters in the Marvel Universe exist within the Marvel Universe is something that goes all the way back to the earliest days of the Marvel Age. In “Fantastic Four” #5 (by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Joe Sinnott), the Human Torch reads a “Hulk” comic book to the Thing.

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Famously, Steve “Captain America” Rogers even drew comic books for Marvel for a while there in the mid-1980s (he came up with the idea in “Captain America” #312 by Mark Gruenwald, Paul Neary and Dennis Janke)…

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However, in 2000, Marvel went to a whole other level with “Marvels Comics Group”, a clever week-long event spearheaded by Marvel editor Tom Brevoort. The concept is that for a week in July 2000 (as most of you likely know by now, comic books are released on a weekly schedule based on four weeks in every month. However, a few times each year, there are five weeks in some months. If you’re on a four week schedule, those weeks could either throw off your entire schedule or leave you with very little product to publish, so for a while there, Marvel and DC began to do special “fifth week” events to plug in those holes in the schedule. DC still sort of does that, with specials and annuals being released in the fifth weeks of their monthly schedules. Marvel nowadays just pushes their normal schedule forward a week), Marvel released six comic books that were examples of what comic books look like in the actual Marvel Universe.

“Spider-Man” #1 by Paul Grist and Kyle Hotz depicted Spider-Man as a monstrous menace, only kept in check by the noble efforts of the Daily Bugle substitute The Clarion, and its heroic publisher/editor T.T. Thomas.

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Hotz’s artwork nicely handled how well J. Jonah Jameson’s editorials really did work in making the people of New York City who had never interacted with Spider-Man directly think that Spider-Man really was a threat and/or a menace.

In “Thor” #1 (by Ty Templeton, Derec Aucoin and Walden Wong), the idea is that the Asgardian god that we know and love as Thor is actually a hero using alien technology to make himself appear as though he has god-like powers. The mantle of “Thor” had just been passed down from the man who first discovered the alien tech to one of his sons.

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Tony Isabella and Eddy Newell (a reunion of the acclaimed creative team on the sadly short-lived 1990s “Black Lightning” comic book series) used the same basic approach as the “Spider-Man” comic with their “Daredevil” #1, as Daredevil is depicted as an actual devil fighting crime on the streets of New York City…

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“X-Men” #1 by Mark Millar, Sean Phillips and Duncan Fegredo was a compelling look at the power of prejudice, as the Marvel Universe was so biased against mutants in general that this book, about a team of mutants captured by Sentinels and forced to work on a suicide mission for Colonel America, is a striking example of what those biases would look like as it crept into the popular culture of the time…

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“Captain America” #1 was one of the books in this event that most bought into the metafictional approach of the event, as the book was written by Peter David and drawn by Ron Frenz and Joe Sinnott and Mark Bagley and Al Vey, but those creators are there only to “assist” the real writer and artist of the book, writer Rick Jones and artist Steve Rogers. Rick recounted a fun story of him traveling through time and teaming up with Captain America and Bucky…

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Finally, Karl Kesel went overboard with his “Fantastic Four” one-shot. The Fantastic Four famously help with the stories on their own comic book series, with their then writer/artist John Byrne even being there with them for the Trial of Galactus in “Fantastic Four” #262 (by John Byrne, of course)…

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So the comic is done as if it were a fan magazine. Paul Smith drew the main stories in the comic, which are dictated by different members of the team (here’s one dictated by Reed Richards)…

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but other artists contributed pages, as well, like Joe Jusko painting some “candid photos” that Sue Richards shared with the fans…

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Brevoort also wrote a giveaway comic that tied in with the event where Brevoort painstakingly (and hilariously) detailed the history of Marvel Comics within the Marvel Universe.

This whole event was a blast. Thanks to John for suggesting I write about it! If anyone has a suggestion for a future Knowledge Waits topic, drop me a line at brianc@cbr.com!

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