Written by Zeke Perez Jr.
What would it be like to live in a world with superheroes? When we watch superhero movies or read comic books, we’re transported into such a world. But what if you woke up tomorrow and that world came to you? What if you looked out your window only to see a man in a blue spandex suit stretch his limbs or a flaming human figure flying through the sky? What if superhumans, mutants, monsters, and other creatures were all a part of everyday life, battling it out in your hometown?
Plenty of recent movies and shows from both Marvel and DC focus in on the impact that heroes would have on the average people around them. In Spider-Man: Homecoming, the central villain is directly motivated by the destruction that heroes were responsible for in the Battle of New York. Students at the Midtown School of Science and Technology learn about the Sokovia Accords in history class and gossip about the Avengers. In Luke Cage, a street side bootlegger sells videos of ‘The Incident’. In Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, the latter is brought to court to account for the destruction of Metropolis brought about by his battle with General Zod. He becomes a controversial figure as people are torn between supporting him and heroes like him for the good they do or condemning them for their unchecked powers and the havoc they wreak.
The theme of the conflicted citizen is a very valid one. Superhero movies or comics have often overlooked the impact that superheroes have on the cities they fight to save. The plot implications of buildings being leveled and lives ruined are ignored for the sake of big special effects budgets. But in Captain America: Civil War and the movies mentioned earlier, citizens living amongst superheroes has become a key plot point. That makes for a perfect time to read or re-read Marvel’s Marvels: Eye of the Camera.
Marvels: Eye of the Camera is a sequel to the original Marvels, a four-issue comic series written by Kurt Busiek and released in 1994. Marvels examined the Marvel Universe through the eyes of everyman photographer Phil Sheldon. Marvels: Eye of the Camera followed up 15 years later with a six-issue series reprising the characters and the format. Sheldon struggles with his legacy and worries that the public views heroes as ‘sideshow freaks’ because of how his work was framed. He rejects his publisher’s idea of releasing a book about super villains, hoping to avoid increasing fear in the community.
Citizens are coming to terms with their feelings about mutants, taking positive and negative stances on the matter, often revealed through ‘man on the street’ style interviews. The language used in Eye of the Camera fosters the sense of mystery that comes with being an onlooker in a superheroic world. Rumors of ‘a monster in the southwest’ send photographers ‘to New Mexico to try to get pictures of this hulk out there’. Other characters are revealed in a similar fashion.
In the Eye of the Camera universe, reports on heroes or mutants are everyday news. They even become so frequent that viewers lose interest and the reports eventually turn into mundane celebrity gossip (along the lines of, ‘who is Invisible Girl dating now?!’). Heroes are almost a nationwide spectacle, with The Thing appearing at Muscle Beach to promote a Fantastic Four movie or with the Avengers hosting open tryouts at Yankee Stadium. Sheldon is conflicted about this and the role of the media, asking ‘Did we corrupt them, drag them down to our level?’
The series should excite any Marvel fan, as it boasts an unbelievably long roster of Marvel heroes either making an appearance or being referenced. Another truly outstanding aspect of the series is that it almost acts as a historical fiction book. Every picture or storyline of a superhero in the comics is taken from its original comic appearance, complete with a reference table in the back of the trade paperback identifying which series and issue they came from.
We have long imagined what being in a world with superheroes would be like. This series shifts the thought to what would it be like if they were in ours? With a lot of comic media tackling this theme, now is the perfect time to revisit the masterpiece that is Marvels: Eye of the Camera.