Marvelman Family’s Finest #1 – Atop the Fourth Wall

Welcome to Atop the Fourth Wall, where bad comics burn. In this Patreon-sponsored episode, Linkara looks at some reprints of Marvelman!

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Title Card Art by Viga:

Originally released January 23rd, 2023

ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION: If the moon’s made of cheese, then this is the biggest cheese wheel ever.

#at4w #Marvelman #Marvel

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38 thoughts on “Marvelman Family’s Finest #1 – Atop the Fourth Wall”

  1. I'd like to add a slight correction. The trial only lasted for 1948 to 1951 when they settled. Whiz Comics #2 came out in February 1940 and the cease and desist was sent in September 1941. However, on February 17th 1942, American entered WW2 and all legal action was halted indefinitely. When that ended, due to America needing time to get back to a peacetime economy, it didn't actually go to trial for another three years.

  2. Given this character largely exists because of the start of the Silver Age, I argue I should explain the causes of that. To anyone unaware, the decline of superheroes in the 50s is long and complicated as well as extensive. It can all be traced back to Seduction of the Innocent by Fredric Wertham which claimed that superhero comics were both promoting teenage gang violence and such evils as homosexuality and black people deserving rights. In those days, your barn door swinging the other way was about as culturally accepted as being a Neo Nazi today. This was also the same infamous book that said that Batman was essentially a gay paedophile. In those days, you were either straight or lumped in with child predators and pedophiles; no in between. This eventually led to the equally infamous Comics Code but there were other factors in the decline.

    Post WW2, there was a cultural shift. A lot of young adults had been drafted into the war and either died or lost interests in comics after roughly three years with no access to them as well as having other worries like the GI Bill. This left only young children who were interested more in comedic, jokey spin-offs. This is why you see post-1945 comics often focus on pets and younger characters instead of the main heroes; most infamously the Alan Scott Green Lantern's dog as well as Batbaby. A common misconception though is that romantic and adventure stories took thier place for about 11 years. They didn't; the comic book industry was a financial disaster zone at this time with nothing to keep certain genres in the public's mind. Long story short, the Golden Age of Comics was an unintentional fad. It began with Action Comics #1 but went mainstream with Detective Comics #27 only to be halted and held back by having to become WW2 propaganda. When the war ended, suddenly the old style of writing was seen as outdated even by 1945 standards. The whole "slap a Jap" level propaganda common back then also wasn't helping as people were more skittish about racism (except from in America anyway) after the Holocaust. The war crimes committed against Hiroshima and Nagasaki also made people slightly less happy at the idea of radiation making you superhuman since, even back then, they knew of the incredible number of ways radiation can fuck you up.

    The final major reason? Frankly, people had just lived and fought through the bloodiest war of all time with a whole loada genocide and war crimes so there was a strong sense of Nunquam iterum. Put simply, superheroes were seen as from a bygone era and only promoting pre-Holocaust viewpoints which led to the view comics should be more adult and realistic. This is the main reason for the explosion in teen bullshit comics as well as really fucking horny romance comics. By 1950's standards, they were straight up smut and existed to attract the "lol boobz" demographic. With the Baby Boom, parents also didn't want thier children being raised around violent material which largely led to the Comics Code with Wertham just being the cherry on top. It ended because the Barry Allen Flash began to gain popularity snd the comic book industry promptly told the Comics Code to fuck off/

  3. Detective Comics didn't sue Fawcet over Captain Marvel because he was as Superman rip-off per se. Had they been doing that they would pretty much have had to sue a good chunk of the entire comic book industry at the time. They singled him out mostly because he was outselling Superman with something like 3-1.

  4. Because of this review, I did buy the first volume of the Marvelman Classic collection that Marvel put out. Some things to note:

    –Marvelman's origins are never shown. The first few stories all start off with a narration caption explaining that a nameless "Astro-Scientist" used a machine on Micky that lets him use "the key word of the universe" KIMOTA to become Marvelman and that's all we ever get. The scientist is said to have died immediately afterwards and (at least in the comics reprinted in the collection) never actually shows up nor is he ever referenced within any of the stories.

    –Dr. Gargunza likewise appears without any fanfare, having already fought Marvelman by that point. Presumably, the creators of the comic figured that readers would quickly cotton on to him being their Dr. Sivana stand-in and didn't need explain it.

    –Gargunza's first appearance has him building a machine that lets him summon living skeletons that he uses to frighten/blackmail people into giving him money.

    –Boromania is a recurring element/antagonist, first appearing pretty early on. It seems to be the comic's stand-in for Soviet Russia.

    –All the stories are pretty short. I'm sure it's so that they fit into an anthology book as was common at the time, but it is funny just how abruptly some of the stories end. Marvelman will be facing the bad guy in one panel and the story is then immediately over by the very next panel.

    –The Captain Marvel influence is at its most blatant with Micky Moran whose design is near-identical to how Billy Batson was drawn in the old Fawcett Comcis, just with blonde hair instead of black and a slightly different hairstyle.

  5. Imma be honest. I was walking around my house to grab a drink from the fridge, then I heard Linkara bring up the "King of Vegetable Land" and I couldn't help, but to pause for a moment for that to process.

  6. I've heard of vegetables being called marrows, but only thanks to Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit, where vegetable competition is a main part of the plot and they're often referred to as marrows. So I assume that it is a bit of British terminology that never crossed the pond to the States.

  7. 13:07 You are referring to the very first (Silver Age) Superboy, as opposed to the much later "legacy" versions, which were, in fact, "offspring"
    (one being a (somewhat) clone, the other actually his son)

  8. The Miracle family’s unwillingness to question their world was explained and retconned in miracleman #6(a personal favorite).
    Rather similar to what happened with the doom patrol when Morrison took over and asked “why did the chief make an evil looking giant robot?”(besides the standard reason anyone would want to build a giant robot(BECAUSE THEY CAN AND IT’S FUN))

    Also as a fan of young miracleman I am as stoked about MM:silver age continuing this year as you were with titans rebirth.

    Also also, 22:14 princess peach tried but I don’t like her chances against MM.

  9. 0:07 – Ooohoo! Now you know what it's like to do intense research like Phelous. 😛

    18:17 – Well, you may think about his future Alan Moore style. I personally think he'll go from Little Lamplight to Big Town.

  10. Marvelman! His world is an absolutely baffling mishmash of aliens and fantasy vegetable people and you will just have to accept that! XD Seriously, it's nice to have some just FUN comics on here. Also, yes, I believe "marrow" is a Britishism — looks like they're either related to zucchini, or are overgrown versions of same!

  11. Good to see you doing British comics. I wonder if one day you might do "The Leopard from Lime Street" which is, ahem, very heavily influenced by Spider-Man but transferred to a British rural setting.

  12. The joke of the mad scientist trying to destroy mountains is that all the things that he says are a "curse" are actually good for humanity. No mountains means no rivers, no rain shadow, no predictable source of fresh water necessary for our agriculture. The reason why urban civilisations never emerged out of west Africa is that there are no suitable mountain chains there to make pre-modern agriculture possible, forcing more organised societies to rely on nomadic lifestyle.