Marvels was something new and different when it was published in 1994. Written by Kurt Busiek with art by Alex Ross, Marvels retold the beginnings of the Marvel Universe from a civilian’s perspective. It reframed many of the major events in Marvel’s Silver Age, including the debut of the Fantastic Four, the early anti-mutant hysteria, and the first coming of Galactus. However, the series started with a roomful of reporters seeing the artificial Human Torch being lit in public for the first time. In this page, the reader literally sees the demonstration as Phil Sheldon, a newspaper photographer and the story’s protagonist, sees the event. For all practical purposes, the reader is Phil. It’s an effective technique that allows quick empathy for the character.
Alex Ross’ art was groundbreaking. His paintings breathed life into his superhuman subjects. It made the world feel as real to the reader as it did to Phil. It was a perfect pairing of artist and subject. Ross even found a way to make a man on fire look real using only paint. Nearly twenty years later, this image still works.