Great Pages: MARVELS #1

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.

From Marvels #1 (1994)


  1. Marvels is still on my wish list…

  2. I still have my dog-eared old Marvels paperback sitting proudly on my shelf. If my house burned down (perhaps as a result of an android demonstration gone awry), it would be the first book that I’d re-buy. For me, it is required reading if you love superheroes.

  3. Oh man, Marvels is one of my favorite books and I haven’t thought about it in a long time. I’ll have to dig it out and give it a re-read soon. That is a great page from that book.

  4. So how does it compare to Kingdom Come? I saw the 10th Anniversary edition and i might get it.

    • They’re both excellent, if very different, stories.

    • I am not a big Marvel fan but I loved this book and love Alex Ross’ work. It is one of his finest, along with Shazam!: The Power of Hope.

    • Both books look at their respective superhero universes from the opposite perspectives: Marvels is the beginning of an Age of Heroes from the perspective of a normal man, living it on the ground level. KC is the end of an Age of Heroes from the perspective of a normal man, guided omnisciently through it by, essentially, God.

      Both are the perfect distillations of what each universe means: Marvel, a universe where men pretend to be gods, and DC, a universe where gods pretend to be men.

    • @CaseyJustice – You just broke it down

  5. Alex Ross & the great Kurt Busiek, such an awesome combination.

  6. A real highlight of the medium. I gave my copy to a friend so I’m looking to replace & re-read it very soon. To anyone who hasn’t read it & is wondering if they should – go for it!

  7. Jacen Chris (@jcbhatestweeter) says:

    I feel dirty when I admit that Alex Ross’ art doesn’t do it for me. I’ve had so many people give me crap for that.

    • Don’t worry about it, I share the same opinion. Maybe it’s just me but most of his DC heroes look odd compared to his Marvel ones.

  8. O

  9. Whoops.
    One of my favorite all-time comic stories. It took a few conventions to get all the issues signed by Busiek and Ross. They are one of the diamonds in my collection.