Friday, November 14, 2014

Looking back: Comics

When I was younger, I was a huge comic book fan. In fact, if I'm honest I'm still quite a fan. Especially with all these Marvel titles becoming fantastic movies. That said, there was a period between early 1997 and late 2013 that I ceased reading comics. It was a reintroduction of an old favorite that got me back into them temporarily. But July saw this character get his own ongoing series again which has me once more heading to my local comic shop once a month to pick up the new book.

The staple of my youth was the Amazing Spider-Man. As the nerdy kid that got picked on, it was natural that the story of a nerdy kid that gets picked on gaining extraordinary powers and becoming an admired hero would appeal to me. These stories not only provided entertainment, but also an escape and hope that the quiet nerdy kid can win in the end. Looking back, I think it also helped to feed my love of art in some (at least small) way. Through my years of reading various Spider-Man titles, the art of Mark Bagley was always my favorite. When I would draw Spider-Man, it was always Bagley's art that I would try to replicate.

But it's religion that I usually talk about here... In comics, anything goes, but the Marvel 616 universe largely mirrors our Earth. The popular religions of real life are what you'll find there. In fact, Peter Parker (Spider-Man) is himself, a Christian. It was never central to his character, but he was a believer none-the-less. At the time I was a believer and barely noticed. Today I am an atheist, and the character's beliefs still don't bother me. He's still a character I am a fan of.

Interestingly, comics and theology collided with the creation of a title published by Dark Horse Comics called S.H.O.O.T First. A title in which the titular acronym stands for Secular Humanist Occult Obliteration Taskforce. The premise is that there are creatures from another dimension entering our plane under the guise of angels or demons. They are out to destroy humanity and only the group of nonbelievers that make up S.H.O.O.T. stand in defense of humanity from these creatures disguised as angels. You would think this would be a series that a non-believer like myself would jump right into. But upon reading the sample pages, it didn't really click for me. Maybe I will give it a try some day if I find myself with more disposable income, but for the time being I will skip it. Though, the prospect of introducing more atheist heroes does appeal to me.

But what comic is it that has brought me back into the fold, and once more begin adding to my comic book collection? I still remember the day I discovered the character... It was 1992 and my mother had taken my brother and I to our local Highs convenience store. I looked at the magazine rack like I always did to see if any of the always changing comics selection looked good. There it was, Spider-Man 2099 #5. (I still have this issue and my first Spider-Man in my collection) At first all I saw was a Spider-Man with a different costume. "When did this happen?", I thought. But when I read it, I found that this was not the same Spider-Man, but one from the future.

Set in the year 2099, it is Miguel O'Hara that is Spider-Man. A brilliant geneticist that gained powers similar to the original Spider-Man (plus a few new ones) through corporate sabotage rather than a radioactive spider bite. Miguel is not the nerdy kid, but a loner with different troubles, and sees the mega corporation that he works for as a source of corruption and evil. He feels that a corporation with such bountiful resources should be used for the benefit of humanity rather than it's detriment
(eventually he takes control and does just that).

When Miguel was reintroduced in Superior Spider-Man I was inspired to complete my collection of all 46 issues of the original series. Upon re-reading them all I noticed a theological detail that I had missed in those decades past.

In the Earth of 2099 Christianity is still a major religion, but so is the worship of Thor. Thorites are taken just as seriously as any other religion. And the return of Thor is foretold much like Christians today like to talk of the return of Jesus. In fact, Spider-Man 2099 is seen to the Thorites as one of the prophesied signs of the return of Thor. Looking back, I find that to be a neat little detail that was built into the world of 2099. At the time of this writing, Miguel is stuck in 2014 in the new series. the writing has been great, just as before. And when he eventually makes his way back to 2099, I will anxiously anticipate what other details are revealed about this fictional, but intriguing world of 2099.

-Brain Hulk

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