All Of The Marvels
August 13, 2022 8:52 PM - Subscribe

"Mutants! Monsters! Monarchs! Mystery! A Journey to the Ends of the Biggest Story Ever Told!" Douglas Wold read the entire Marvel catalog (that's over 27,000 comic books) and summarizes his findings.

A must-read for fans of Stan Lee & etc; I started with the 'Plot Summary' Appendix, in the back, where he breaks the story down into six major epochs.
posted by Rash (9 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I'm reading this right now! Rash, I did the same thing with the appendices.

Would love to see a similar book (Hell, maybe I'll write it) about tie-in and non-Marvel-Universe stuff. I wondered what he was going to do with Conan, G.I. Joe, etc., and I thought his guidelines were really sensible... but they did make me gnash my teeth a little. I don't have the numbers, but I've probably read at least as much Marvel-but-not-Marvel-Universe stuff as mainline, especially the generic horror and Bronze Age monster stuff.

His advice not to go back to the very beginning was good, though I will say I almost immediately went and did just that.

Wold's 27,000-issue view seems to give him a certain detachment that I have never been able to achieve, and which regularly drove me away from Marvel as a kid. I'd read an issue and see the seven citations to other ongoing things, and then there'd be a clone and some time travel, and... just didn't work for me. Now, seeing his view of it, I'm much more appreciative.
posted by cupcakeninja at 11:56 AM on August 14, 2022

Oh, just ordered this from the library when I read this post.
posted by octothorpe at 12:45 PM on August 14, 2022

Speaking as someone who was a teenage Marvel-obsessive, I think this book does a really nice job of the central idea - that the Marvel Universe is the longest single narrative ever produced by humanity, and that the wonder of the narrative is that it has remained broadly consistent in its values and themes. The early chapters in particular, dealing with the themes of Fantastic Four (friendship, family), Spider-Man (growing up, failing, search for a father-figure), Shang-Chi (race and cultural issues, not always handled well in the comics) and X-Men (well, you know what the themes are) are very good at making me think I wasn’t wasting my youth reading this stuff.

Does anyone suspect that Douglas Wolk didn’t really read 27,000 comics? I mean, just finding them all seems like it ought to be impossible, even with Marvel Unlimited.
posted by Beverley Westwood at 5:04 AM on August 15, 2022 [1 favorite]

I was very grateful for the audio of this last fall, which I listened to not long after my mom had suddenly passed away, and I needed to do a lot of work in her home. It was a bleak time that Wolk's book made a little easier. Wolk has a pleasant, NPR kind of voice, and I definitely recommend the audio to anyone who has long commutes, etc.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 8:26 AM on August 15, 2022 [1 favorite]

I don't wish to fall afoul of any rules against promoting copyright violation, nor do I wish to impugn Mr. Wolk,'s very very easy to get access to virtually everything Marvel's ever published.
I at one point attempted to do what Wolk documents in this book. I didn't make it very far at all. It's not a surprise to learn that he doesn't recommend repeating the experiment.
posted by Ipsifendus at 9:13 AM on August 15, 2022

it's very very easy to get access to virtually everything Marvel's ever published.

I guess you're right, I hadn't considered the less official channels, but it's the "virtually", isn't it?
posted by Beverley Westwood at 12:04 PM on August 15, 2022

I thought his guidelines were really sensible.

I dunno, they exclude the WWII comics (of which I'm rather fond) and the Westerns, but just for the record (and since the book's going back to the library today) here are the three questions he used to limit his reading to 27,000+:
  1. Was it a comic book published by Marvel during the period bounded by 1961's Fantastic Four #1 and 2017's Marvel Legacy #1?
  2. Did it involve characters owned by Marvel?
  3. Could the version of Spiderman who stars in The Amazing Spiderman reasonably turn up in it without the benefit of a time travel, whether or not he actually does?

posted by Rash at 8:12 AM on August 16, 2022

I'm about 3/4 of the way through this and enjoying it a lot. I also checked out Fantastic Four #1 from Hoopla and am enjoying the very early silliness and amazing Kirby artwork.
posted by octothorpe at 8:12 AM on September 6, 2022

Finished it and kind of wish that it had been longer. There's just so much more that he could have talked about.
posted by octothorpe at 6:40 AM on September 10, 2022 [1 favorite]

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