I’m a big fan of comic books, and have been for a good while now. They’re pretty cool. Fun stories with fun characters in a unique medium. Good stuff. But you know what’s the best stuff? Marvel Cosmic; to me, the cosmic corner of Marvel represents the very best of what comic books have to offer. So I wanted to celebrate that with a new column.
For those not in the know, Marvel Cosmic refers to Marvel comics that take place in an outer space setting. These are stories set in the far corners of the galaxy with strange alien races and crazy new planets, stories that follow characters like Quasar or Moondragon. Marvel Cosmic initially blossomed out of the wonderful mind of Jack Kirby; in the Silver Age, he and Stan Lee established a lot of the foundations of that world. Together they were responsible for so many imaginative ideas that future creators could play with; we got Galactus, the Skrulls, the Negative Zone, Silver Surfer, Ego the Living Planet, and the Kree. All of these are essentially the building blocks of Marvel’s Cosmic universe and, at the time, all of them were fresh and exciting ideas with fresh and interesting characters from across the stars, and all of them were just waiting to be explored further.
From there writers and artists continued to build on those foundations. Writers like Steve Englehart and Roy Thomas added to the mythology in books like The Avengers. We got stories with the Avengers and the Fantastic Four like the Kree-Skrull War and the Celestial Madonna storyline. For a time, the cosmic universe was more in the background, a backdrop for Marvel’s earthbound characters to visit occasionally. But when Jim Starlin came along these space characters really took off; Starlin created Thanos, Gamora, and Drax, and made Adam Warlock into what he is today. If Kirby laid the foundations, Starlin built the walls, creating a whole new world on the fringes of the Marvel universe.
However, it wasn’t until the 2000s that Marvel cosmic became solidified with Keith Giffen’s Annihilation, a cosmic event that united all of the characters and concepts of Marvel cosmic into one massive story. From there, passed the torch to Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning who would create the modern Guardians of the Galaxy, spearheading a series of interlocking books all under one cosmic umbrella. This was the final step in making Marvel cosmic a cohesive entity, this is where the roof came over the heads of the cosmic characters. They had a place to stay, a house all of their own where creators could tell stories with them in the spotlight. Marvel cosmic has largely built off of that work and now with writers like Al Ewing, it is expanding once again.
So why do I love Marvel cosmic so much? Well, it’s because I think it’s representative of everything I love about comic books; comics are silly and bizarre with hundreds of completely insane characters, worlds, and concepts. A lot of superhero comics tend to suppress that wackiness, to try to push it down. Marvel cosmic is the opposite of that approach, it’s all about embracing the craziness. Characters like Pip the Troll and Rocket Raccoon have been around for a while. They’re goofy characters in design and in concept, yet they work because they’re fully fleshed out characters who can, thanks to the time and care taken in writing them, coexist alongside grandiose philosophical gods like Silver Surfer and Adam Warlock. That’s why I adore Marvel cosmic. It’s a whole universe. A rich tapestry of stories and ideas. It can be a more grounded space opera in a book like Guardians of the Galaxy. It can also be an operatic epic like the Eternals. It’s a universe that feels like it can do anything and go anywhere, but more than that it fits together and it feels cohesive.
The nature of these stories as well means it brings out the very best in its creators. Largely separate from Marvel’s earthbound characters, writers can weave whatever tale they want. There’s not much of a need to explain that Iron Man is evil now or a need to tie into the latest massive event. They can stand on their own because really we don’t even need to bother with boring old Earth. This Gives the stories an element of unpredictability. We know Captain America ain’t gonna be dead long but what if Mantis bites it? Cosmic stories give writers the room to do what they want and push the boundaries more. That boundary-pushing is especially true of the artists. Cosmic stories often take you to such visually stunning places and introduce us to spectacular creatures and beings of extraordinary power. It gives artists the ability to totally cut loose and let their imagination run wild. It’s a space where the likes of Jack Kirby, Ron Lim, and Mike Allred can experiment and put out some of their best work.
That’s ultimately why I love Marvel cosmic. It’s a playground full of anything and everything but it’s also oddly cohesive with effective world-building and its own mythology, it’s a universe that lives on with or without us reading it. So that’s why I’m doing this series, to share my love of this side of Marvel comics with you. In each article, I’ll discuss a different cosmic story. Some you might have read and some you probably haven’t. It’s going to be a long journey, I mean we have a whole universe to explore. So let’s waste no time and get started. Join me on my adventure throughout the cosmos as we travel on The Road to Knowhere.