For Your Consideration: Marvel Comics: The World Outside Your Window HC


Robert Greenberger

Robert Greenberger


by Robert Greenberger

Marvel Comics: The World Outside Your Window

Marvel Comics: The World Outside Your Window


Somewhere during the early days of the Marvel Age, writer/editor Stan Lee described the comics as being “the world outside your window,” something readers could recognize and relate to. It began with the characters actually having feelings and problems then quickly moved to setting the adventures in, for the most part, New York City. The oversized hardcover Marvel Comics: The World Outside Your Window certainly celebrates that unique aspect.

One could argue that the trend began all the way back when Captain America first punched Adolf Hitler on the cover to Captain America Comics #1, released long before America entered World War II but readers certainly knew what was happening in Europe. As a result, it’s fitting that the book includes “Trapped in the Nazi Stronghold” by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby. The story from issue 2 sees Cap and Bucky sent across the ocean to challenge the fury of Nazi guns and dive-bombing Stukas, as they staged a two-man Blitz in Hitler’s personal stronghold.

Amazing Spider-Man #97

Amazing Spider-Man #97


However, it really wasn’t until 1970 when the comics truly began to tackle the contemporary issues of the day. Racism was only discussed by Stan in his Soapbox and campus protests were mild compared with the other problems that plagued the flower generation. That all changed when the White House personally asked Marvel to address the growing drug problem. Recognizing the publicity value along with the social responsibility, Stan and publisher Martin Goodman defied the Comics Code Authority and released three issues of Amazing Spider-Man without the seal of approval. The story garnered coverage in the mainstream press, notably The New York Times. Its success also finally persuaded the Code to review its guidelines, the first update since their 1954 introduction.

The final chapter, from issue #97, is here, as Spider-Man battles the Green Goblin but it’s really all about Harry Osborn’s pill-popping habit. Stan, Gil Kane, and Frank Giacoia weren’t subtle but nicely mixed the moral with the adventure.

Howard the Duck #8

Howard the Duck #8


In the wake of America’s disillusion with the government in the post-Watergate world of the mid-1970s, the 1976 campaign gained extra importance. There’s little wonder then that not one but two of the monthlies tackled the election. While the Roger Stern/John Byrne Captain America story didn’t make the cut, the funnier Howard the Duck #8 is here. Satirist Steve Gerber (aided and abetted by David Anthony Kraft and Don McGregor) is joined by Gene Colan and Steve Leialoha in a one-off tale exploring the mallard’s brief election campaign. (Back then, Gerber smartly sold Howard the Duck for president buttons, a wonderful collector’s item.)

Iron Man #128

Iron Man #128


Marvel didn’t shy away from any topic that helped define the characters and the creative team of David Michelinie, John Romita, Jr., and Bob Layton looked at Tony Stark’s excesses with fresh eyes. His descent into alcoholism was a brilliant subplot in the late 1970s, culminating in the celebrated “Demon in a Bottle”, from Iron Man #128. He has been a recovering alcoholic ever since and that aspect helped inform Robert Downey Jr.’s performance in the films.

Since their introduction in 1964, the X-Men have wound up being a super-heroic metaphor for problems plaguing minorities. The racial prejudices that weren’t really addressed elsewhere, were explored in depth here through the years, especially in the hands of writer Chris Claremont. Given the teenage readership, he addressed one aspect head on in New Mutants #45, a 1986 tale that saw how threats have consequences. In this tale, drawn by Jackson Guice and Kyle Baker, a student at Salem Center High School is threatened with being outed as a mutant. Terrified, he commits suicide and in the aftermath, his casual friend Kitty Pryde delivers an impassioned speech.

And although HIV/AIDS was clinically diagnosed in 1981 and became a headline throughout the decade, comics were actually slow to address the issue. While DC’s New Guardians beat Marvel to the punch, the House of Ideas explored it more thoroughly. It began with Alpha Flight #106, a 1992 story from Scott Lobdell, Mark Pacella, and Dan Panosian where Jean-Paul Beaubier, Northstar, discovered an abandoned infant suffering from AIDS. To draw national attention to the issue, he came out at gay – a major first for the company.

Astonishing X-Men #51

Astonishing X-Men #51


Beaubier’s story tended to be more backburnered than not depending on management but finally, twenty years after coming out of the closet, Marjorie Liu, Mike Perkins, and Andrew Hennessy properly married him off in Astonishing X-Men #51. He bubbling romance with Kyle Jinadu, who had been manager of Team Northstar Extreme Snowsports, led to a romantic wedding (and lovely wraparound cover). At the reception, Rogue tells Kitty that she wonders what would have happened if her mothers — Destiny and Mystique — were married, and if it would have made a difference, perhaps the first suggestion they were romantically linked.

Uncanny X-Men #303

Uncanny X-Men #303


The mutant world also became the home for the AIDS epidemic, which was thinly disguised as the Legacy Virus, which ravaged their community throughout the early 1990s. In time, it mutated so homo sapiens were also sickened but finally the Beast found a cure. However, it came too late to save Illyana Rasputin who succumbed to the disease in Uncanny X-Men #303, from Scott Lobdell, Richard Bennett, and Dan Green (unlike the real world, she returned from the dead, hale and hardy).

Incredible Hulk #420

Incredible Hulk #420


Less fortunate was the Hulk’s long-time companion Jim Wilson. He’d been gone from the Hulk’s life for some time before Peter David brought him back to highlight the toll AIDS was taking around the world. In Incredible Hulk #420, drawn by Gary Frank and Cam Smith, we discover that Wilson had become manager of a Los Angeles clinic that cared for dying AIDS patients, where he contracted the disease. He’d been ill for some time, but had been lying about how serious his condition was (something far too many people did back then). He was seriously injured when parents attacked him at a protest that wanted an HIV-infected student removed form a public school. He begged Bruce Banner for a blood transfusion but Banner refused, concerned how the gamma-irradiated blood would affect his diseased body. Instead, Wilson died peacefully.

Captain America #1

Captain America #1


The modern era had its own issues, beginning with how to depict the world outside our windows when terrorism strikes home. In the wake of 9/11, J. Michael Straczynski, John Romita, Jr., and Scott Hanna try to make sense of a comic book New York, filled with super-heroes, yet none could prevent the planes from demolishing the twin towers. The beautiful, haunting story from Amazing Spider-Man #36 put things into perspective while also setting the tone for a relaunch of Captain America in 2002, from John New Rieber and John Cassaday, the first issue of which is also here.

Amazing Spider-Man #583

Amazing Spider-Man #583


Real-world politics doesn’t often enter the comics, but America’s first black president was a precedent that could not be ignored. Marvel celebrated the occasion in Amazing Spider-Man #583 in a short tale from Zeb Wells and Todd Nauck, where Spidey stops the Chameleon from impersonating Barack Obama at the presidential inauguration with special appearances by Joe Biden and John McCain.

Champions #24

Champions #24


Violence in many forms also remains outside the window, and that sadly includes the continuing trend of school shootings. Jim Zub and Sean Izaakse tackle that in Champions #24 from this year. There’s been a mass shooting at Miles Morales’ Brooklyn Visions Academy and the PTSD aftermath takes center stage in “Trigger Warning”.

Ms. Marvel #13

Ms. Marvel #13


Today, multiculturalism has finally made its way into the stories with series featuring lead characters of all colors, genders, persuasions, and ideologies. Leading the way has been G. Willow Wilson’s Ms. Marvel so it’s fitting Kamala Khan is here. The story from Ms. Marvel #13 is the beginning of a new arc and while it touched on being politically active, really was depicting a Muslim teen’s life in New Jersey, as Kamala began crushing on her video game buddy Kamran as they bond over their shared love of playing World of Battlecraft and watching classic Bollywood movies.