Wednesday, August 26, 2009

This Is Not A Ghost Ship

I hate going more than a couple days without posting, I know it looks bad, but fuck it, this is one bizzzzy summer. You know it's bad when you're looking forward to classes starting up again in a week and a half because you'll be able to relax.

Anyway, here's a short thought I've had rattling around in the back of my head for a while:

The Thing is the most versatile character in the Marvel Universe.

Think about if for a second: he's as at home in the most transcendentally weird cosmic stories as the grittiest street-level urban drama. He works in soap opera, he works in slapstick. He works alongside just about anyone else.

Spider-Man's Marvel Team-Up ran for 150 issues, plus various revivals (and, of course, Spidey wasn't in a few of the earlier issues). But despite the fact that he has been involved with every single conceivable type of story and team-up, the desire to put Spider-Man front and center in every big story often feels forced. The fact is, no matter how many Secret Wars he's been in, Spider-Man can't ever be comfortable in that milieu because it's not part of his basic character. You would think that after seeing the Beyonder destroy an entire galaxy and fighting Thanos during that period where he was God would give a dude some perspective, but perspective is the one thing that Spider-Man can never actually achieve. To do so would change the character on a fundamental level - although it would make sense, he can never actually come out and say, "you know, I've fought God, I really should learn not to sweat the small stuff".

But the Thing, well - his main character trait is perspective. It's what he does. He's the kid from the Lower East Side who became jaded before he even knew how to walk - it makes as much sense for him to fight Galactus for the fate of the planet as to fight some drug pushers down on Yancy Street. He's seen it all and even if he puts on a good show he never loses his capacity to be surprised for both good and ill. You can put him down into any corner of the Marvel Universe and he'll find a niche - fighting alongside Thor in Asgard, battling mystical hobgoblins with Doctor Strange, or clobbering drug runners alongside Daredevil. (In fact, the Thing's street-level roots are really underexplored - probably because the urban milieu doesn't work for the other 3/4 of the Fantastic Four. But if you asked me to pitch a revamped Marvel Two-In-One my hook for the first arc would be simple: "Ben vs. the Mob", with Spidey, Daredevil, Moon Knight and you could even make the Punisher work if you did it right.) He's like the Colt 45 of Marvel Superheroes - works every time. Spider-Man is a great character, surely, but suffers due to the fact that his popularity has resulted in him being shoehorned into any number of stories in which he just doesn't fit. The Thing always fits

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