RETRO: Fifty-State Initiative

31 May, 2007 at 5:59 pm (comics, new hampshire)

Marvel Comics has announced that, after the events of the much-touted Civil War series, the super-hero universe will be enacting a “Fifty-State Initiative” project, creating a set of locally-themed super-heroes for each state. Because, much like the Department of Homeland Security, they believe that each state is vulnerable to attack and needs gobs of money thrown at the problem to pretend that it’s been solved.

Regardless of how many super-hero stories have taken place in New Hampshire (come on, eager readers… I challenge you to name just one), this is simply part of Marvel’s schizophrenic approach to their world management. A very short time ago 99% of the world’s super-powered mutants were de-powered in an “event”, leaving a scant 198 costumed characters still viable for a bout of spandex violence. This was done, apparently, because in order to fill the plotlines of several dozen comic books every month, Marvel writers had gotten into the lax habit of simply creating a new batch of villains and making them mutants. Easy! If mutation is a massive shortcut that means we don’t have to think out origins or motivation, but only have to come up with some cool-sounding codenames and a bunch of vaguely-distinct costume designs, then it’s as simple as “ta-dah!” The Marvel comics universe was hugely overpopulated with these shortcut villains, and getting rid of them in a broad sweep matched well with the editorial tone of the current administration, mixing the super-real with a grounded, human series of character studies. It made the setting of the comics more mundane, and therefore should make the super-powered abilities of the remaining characters seem more spectacular by contrast.

It didn’t and it’s not difficult to intuit why, but as a basic idea as to the tone that Marvel comics should be setting, it’s not a bad idea. But that’s why this Fifty-State Initiative doesn’t make a damn bit of sense. We’ve just gotten rid of hundreds and hundreds of super-characters. And now you want to create, out of whole cloth, hundreds of super-characters? I mean, with the exception of Rhode Island, you can’t have just one super-dude patrolling an entire state… it’s geographically unmanageble. So you have to have teams in each state, which means four or five new characters time fifty states… And you’re right back with the overpopulated universe you just got rid of. Well done, Marvel.

Why do I bore you with all this nonsense? Merely to mention that I greatly prefer Threadless‘ fifty-state project. Threadless has chosen 107 national and international locations, spectacles, and landmarks that they want people to stand in front of whilst wearing their fave Threadless t-shirts. Bizarrely, the New Hampshire location is the little-known Museum of Family Camping. Still, we’re on the map! And I have trundled off the Museum to dutifully have my picture taken in its environs. Additional pictures may be taken in front of Massachusett’s Salem Witch Museum and the Ben & Jerry’s flavor graveyard in Vermont, if I am able to get my act together. Still more pictures, for those people too far away from a particular locale: on a roller coaster, submerged under water, with a celebrity, in front of your city’s welcome sign, or with any Paul Bunyan statue. Now that’s an initiative I can get behind.

Seated inside the Museum of Family Camping

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