MARVEL: Apocalyptic Fiction as the Unpaid Shrink

So for the last two years I’ve been working on my senior thesis. We were told that we had freedom to choose whatever we wanted, but to assure that whatever we did we loved. Research of any persuasion can be tedious, especially when looking to secondary sources. It is difficult to be original. It is also difficult to write about franchises with entire universes.

The Marvel universe has often claimed bits of my soul during my research, and I can only describe research on Marvel like looking into a black hole. You can find things if you want to, and with the sheer size of it all, your brain starts to melt.


However, I digress. Somehow I managed to finish my essay. It’s a lengthy darling, but I figured I might as well share the abstract. After I recover from my bouts of insanity, maybe I’ll figure out more on what I could use the essay for.

SO far my heart is set on a panel at NY ComicCon in October. Hard? Yes, impossible? We’ll see.

SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 20: Actor Tom Hiddleston speaks onstage at Marvel Studios
SAN DIEGO, CA – JULY 20: Actor Tom Hiddleston speaks onstage at Marvel Studios “Thor: The Dark World” and “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” during Comic-Con International 2013 at San Diego Convention Center on July 20, 2013 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)


From the DC Universe to Archie Comics, apocalyptic storylines are becoming the norm. Each of these comics has three similar characteristics: Firstly, the world is in a chaotic state, a state that will inevitably destroy it. Secondly, there has been a significant shift in comic world politics and morals, and thirdly, the most beloved characters are picked off in gruesome ways. The apocalypse itself is a Christian construct, bringing to question why Christian ideals have shifted into the comic world. America is a predominantly Christian country so the idea that the religion might unconsciously saturate aspects of our lives is not far-fetched, but why do comics bear the brunt of apocalyptic peril?

The media is full of apocalyptic themes, but most visual media is based off a comic book equivalent. Popular television shows like “The Walking Dead” or movies like “I am Legend” were preceded by comics, and in both cases were adapted into a more palatable version for the screen. This essay will discuss the emerging patterns within post-2000 comics in order to support that apocalyptic fiction fulfills the human need to battle uncertainty. Apocalyptic fiction provides a form of wish fulfillment, a way for humans to control their fear, and to live it through easily identifiable characters. Graphic novels or “sequential art” is perfect for examining humanity because it accesses our emotions in ways that are cannot be copied by other mediums. In order to prove this, the essay is divided into three segments. Firstly addressed will be the construction of graphic novels and its effect on the reader. Secondly addressed will be the reader’s effect on the plot and story of graphic novels in history, then lastly addressed will be specific examples in the Marvel world that reflect the three apocalyptic storylines, and analysis of their content.

Sydney Adams

Apocalyptic Fiction as the Unpaid Shrink, 2015

The Man Who Broke into My Bombshelter

The Man Who Broke into my Bombshelter

A rusty can of fade labeled food stuffs crashes to the floor.

It wakes me and I think, what day is it? I turn beside me. There is a black box I  personally painted for such confusion. I stare at the thick jagged lines of white. Hm…supposedly it’s February 14th; talk about irony.

The  box gets another crudely drawn calendar slash and I think, should I have voted Democrat? Eh, it’s too late now.

There is another quake and more cans rattle. My hand moves about until it lands on my lighter. Still kicking after all of this time, Made in America.  I light a stubby creme candle and stare at it. For a moment it brings peace to me. I am glad for the glow. It is the glow I imagine emerges from underneath ashes, embers rising up, stirring in the wind.  It is the glow I will have, when the quakes are over.

My thoughts are interrupted by a grinding sound. Whipping towards the door I watch flakes of rust sprinkle to the floor. A creak fills the silence, a horrible creak, a terrible, life threatening creak. Then, I hear the snap of a chain being broken.

I never thought it would end this way. I had prepared, done everything I had been told, watched every PSA, Fire Marshal Bulletin, and News Conference. It wasn’t fair. Not after everything I had given up to get down here.

I scream as I’m blinded by light, pushing back into the shelves like a burning vampire.

“Are you alright?’ he asks. His voice is gruff and authoritative like a soldier’s, but with a soft undertone like a country singer.

“Stop it! Stop, we’re all gonna die!” I shriek. My eyes can’t take real light, not after all of this time. They water madly as I push away. I feel his finger on my arm and I gasp. The first touch in over a year. Would it be my last?

“Close the door,” I command, pointing to where I believe it should be. “We can stay here together.”

“I’m not here to stay,” he chuckles. “I’m here to take you out.”

My fear is renewed. The booms still sound, the ground still quakes. It can’t be over.

“If it’s not over, we’ll die from the radiation,” I say.

“Yeah, that’s the point,” he says. “Come on.”

His words frighten me. I pull away from him, knocking my heels into something hard. I’ve hit the wall.

“No,” I say. “I’m safe here.” A crash booms overhead and dirt sprays into the shelter.

“But, you’re not,” he says.

“I don’t want to die.”

“Everyone dies. At least we’ll be tog–”

“Not me,” I say. “N-not today.”

For a long time he is silent. I pry my eyes open. I can’t see his face, not past the black shadow. He stands over me. For a second, I reconsider. The sound of gunfire changes things. I squeeze my eyes shut.

“Not me,” I whimper. “Leave me alone.”

He waits, before letting out a long heavy sigh. “Alright maam, if that’s what you want.”

 I hear him moving away. I squint. The man climbs out and locks the steel door behind him.

Above, I can hear the sweep of fire as it ravages the land.

A day or two passes while I huddle in the dark. For a while I cry. Then, I forget he is there, busying myself with melting candles.

Time passes, seconds, minutes, years. The chalk runs out when the sound runs out. I run out when the food runs out, when there is no more hope.

I step out of the shelter. The land is burnt black and the sky is a haze of gray. I could breath it, whatever it was.

I called out. “Hello?”

No reply.

There is nothing, the man has probably died.

I am alone, alive but alone.