The Superhero Factory

Paul Morton skips through Sean Howe's history of Marvel comics at The Millions:

Marvel comicsAt some point, at 4, at 8 or 25, every child learns he will not become a superhero. It won’t be his first disillusionment. He will meet men and women who won’t return his affections. He will discover he has only a limited talent for the vocation he honors. He’ll still indulge his initial fantasies from time to time, usually through stories that imbue the superhero mythos with a hint of realism, some concept of what a superhero would look and act like if he inhabited our world. In the ’60s Marvel Comics comforted its readers by creating superheroes as neurotic as themselves. Ben Grimm was a powerful but impotent rock-man who could only be sated by the love of a blind woman. Reed Richards had no curiosity for the sexual possibilities of his body, which could stretch in any and all directions. By the ’80s, the concept of superhero-comic realism led to the ultra-violence of DC’s Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns. But in the ’60s Marvel Comics avoided anything like Alan Moore’s misanthropy and Frank Miller’s fascism. The Marvel Universe was at once familiar and psychedelic, mature and juvenile, populated by likable good-looking freaks. It was a happy place.

Read the rest of the essay here.