Imagine a world on the grandest scale.
A world where a hovel in South America is connected to a skyscraper in New York, a beach mansion in Malibu, all the way to the floating head of a giant, mysterious celestial being.
Imagine a world where technology and science and mythos coexists easily and with a reasonable explanation.
Imagine a world full of heroes that, despite their differences, can unite and inspire.
Image a world of hope.
That’s the Marvel Universe in a nutshell.
The Marvel Universe as we know it was first established as we know it today in 1963, with the advent of the Fantastic Four, a team created by writer/editor Stan Lee and artist extraordinaire Jack Kirby. Much has been written about how the group was first and foremost a family, a fact that rings true to this day. But along with establishing the first dysfunctional superhero team, Lee and Kirby placed them in the most real world of settings – the Big Apple, New York City. As the Lee, Kirby and company began expanding their storytelling empire (thanks to a strong commercial reaction to the FF), the idea was in place to keep the location a real world one, so that the possibilities of heroes bumping into one another were there and utilized. Spider-Man was living in Queens, Daredevil in Hell’s Kitchen. The X-Men’s home base, Professor Charles Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngster’s was located not far, in Westchester County. All these amazing characters, connected so closely, simply by living conditions.
That’s just where it started.
As the Marvel Universe continued to grow, characters would move to different teams – X-Men would become Defenders and Avengers; Spider-Man would make a pitch to join the Fantastic Four (ultimately getting his wish decades later due to tragic circumstances). One team’s villain would become another’s adversary, and cameos were always a pleasure for readers. Editorial meetings would occur to keep characters and storylines on track (for the most part), eventually becoming quarterly retreats that would come up with the path for characters and massive, overarching storylines for Marvel’s wide line of comics.
It’s all connected.
The Marvel Universe has been operating this way for decades, and it would be expected to consider transporting this storytelling methodology to a live action world an impossible task. However, since 2008 and the arrival of two significant films, audiences have been witness to the creation of something as grand, if not grander:
The Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Released by the then only burgeoning Marvel Studios, the first film from in this world was Iron Man, starring Robert Downey Jr. as genius billionaire playboy philanthropist Tony Stark, and directed by Jon Favreau. The film hit at the right time, with the right tone – fun and flippant, intense and intelligent. On its own, it was a stellar introduction of a new franchise to theatres, but with its final seconds, the end tag that occurs once the credits stop, Iron Man becomes something more. With the arrival of the character of Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), and few brief lines, audiences were given the ultimate building block.
Marvel Studios would release The Incredible Hulk just a few months after Iron Man rocked the box office, and in their planning and their brilliance, they had Robert Downey Jr. make a brief cameo, connecting the two films and the world they were creating. It was the beginning of something big. A mammoth world onscreen that would make its way from cities to the stars, and from movie theatres to television screens and tablets.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe is guided by the deft hand of Marvel Studios President Kevin Fiege, who has shown remarkable aptitude in world-building. He understands the Marvel Universe that comic book readers love, while also demonstrating an unquestionable ability at hitting a mainstream audience who may not have known Thor from Thanos. Fiege isn’t alone, though. There’s an amazing braintrust involved from all facets of the business who have found ways to work together – names like Joe Quesada, Alan Fine, Dan Buckley, Jeph Loeb, Louis D’Esposito and Brian Michael Bendis. Joss Whedon, the cult auteur turned blockbuster director of the Avengers films, is himself a Marvel Zombie and has helped craft the world inhabited by the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D and the devil of Hell’s Kitchen. Before our every eyes, the Marvel Cinematic Universe lives and breathes. And none of us can get enough.
It may never be perfect though, thanks to the business of Hollywood and all of its wheelings and dealings. While Sony and Marvel Studios have found a way to bring Spider-Man into the MCU, the odds of the X-Men scrapping with the Avengers is unlikely, and we’ll probably never find the Guardians of the Galaxy doing battle with Galactus, the devourer of worlds. But then again, who knows? In the MCU, it seems as though dreams really can come true.
Which brings us to Biff Bam Pop’s It’s All Connected: An Unofficial Guide to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s a great big world that’s been created, with its share of inspirations, history and dots to connect. Over the course of the next twelve months, that’s what Biff Bam Pop and the writers contributing to It’s All Connected will seek to do, for your pleasure and ours. Whether you’re a Biff Bam Pop regular visitor, or just discovering us for the first time, I feel confident when I say that most of us are fans of the Marvel way of doing live action myth-making. From the impact of RDJ’s Tony Stark and the importance of Artificial Intelligence in the MCU, to the depiction of American values during and post-World War II, there is just so much to contemplate and explore. Which is what we’ll be doing.
It’s All Connected begins now.