Author and Portland State University professor Douglas Wolk got an a neatly wrapped gift today, a strong review on the front page of the Sunday New York Times Book Review.
For a writer hoping to sell a few books over the holidays, the timing and placement could not be any better.
Novelist Junot Diaz (known for his 1996 short story collection Drown and 2007 novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao) applauded Wolk’s 384-page consideration of the entire catalog of Marvel comic books and its meaning.
Since 1961, Marvel Comics has operated as a creative engine, pumping out stories about superpowered, heroic characters like Spider-Man, the X-Men, Thor, Black Panther, and the Avengers. Wolk’s book comes at a time when Marvel—whose superhero films regularly dominate the film world’s top-grossing slots worldwide—may arguably be seen as more of a film production company than a publisher of slim, 32-page, brightly colored graphic works.
The question remains: Are audiences interested in where the action-packed stories that roll across the silver screen began? And, if so, where should they start reading?
“Wolk read them. All 27,000 Marvel comics, give or take a few,” Diaz writes. “The result is All of the Marvels: Wolk’s brilliant, eccentric, moving and wholly wonderful attempt to distill it all into a coherent narrative.”
Diaz says the Portland writer has cracked Marvel’s code. “Wolk makes a convincing argument that the Marvel formula, what you might call its Super Soldier Serum, is monsters + romance + superheroes + topicality,” Diaz writes. The precise amount of human misery you need to inflict on a superhero in order to sell the galactic and fantastic, to make it real.”