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Blog: Primary Sources

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Last night I FINALLY did some ACTUAL PROPER RESEARCH for my PhD and it was VERY exciting!

"But Mark", you probably cry, "Surely you have done several metric TONNES of research over the past few months?" and you would be right to cry out so, for LO! I have been reading approx a MILLION books, papers and articles about comics in order to firstly get ONTO the PhD course and then to persuade people that I should be allowed to STAY. I've filled in forms, been to meetings, done presentations and TALKED about it no end, but this has all been reading what other people have had to say about it, or have DISCOVERED, rather than me actually going to PRIMARY SOURCES (i.e. COMICS) to look for myself.

That changed last night. The current TASK is to create a definitive timeline of Doctor Doom's appearances in the Marvel Universe during "The Marvel Age". Just SAYING this throws up a whole HEAP of questions e.g. These are all EXCELLENT questions, which I have been a) asking b) trying to ANSWER, THUSLY:

First of all, in order to get a "definitive" list of Doctor Doom's appearances I have been using SEVERAL databases of comics. I'm using the Grand Comics Database as my starting point, largely because you can download it as an SQL file (which Mr T Eveleigh, ROCK star and also my SERVER PROVIDER for these very webpages, very kindly uploaded to my server for me). I'm then getting data from The Marvel Chronology Project, The Comic Book Database and The Marvel Database to check that what I HAVE got is correct and to see if there's anything I HAVEN'T. Finally I'm using Comic Vine for MANUAL checks as we go along.

Once I've got all that going on I need to look at the second question - what is "the Marvel Universe" then eh? For these purposes I'm saying it's anything published by Marvel comics that ISN'T a reprint OR some kind of FLASHBACK. The first bit's quite an easy one, but the second takes a little bit of digging. If Namor The Sub-Mariner THINKS about Doctor Doom (as he is WONT to do) then it gets logged in some databases BUT it's not actually Doctor Doom HIMSELF appearing and so isn't part of his timeline. I think that makes sense, but it takes a bit of checking!

FINALLY, "The Marvel Age" itself. I have been GRAPPLING with the whole TIME PERIOD business ever since I started all this and originally was going to base everything on "The Bronze Age Of Comics". However, I VERY QUICKLY discovered that this is almost impossible to pin down. The Golden Age and Silver Age are pretty SIMPLE to define (first appearance of Superman in Action Comics #1 and the new Flash in Showcase #4 in 1956 respectively), but the Bronze Age starts anywhere between Jack Kirby leaving Marvel in 1970 to The Green Goblin killing Gwen Stacy in 1973, and the ending is variously "Crisis On Infinite Earths", "Secret Wars", "Watchmen", "The Dark Knight Returns" or approx 500 OTHER options - and that's even if you think there IS such a thing as "The Bronze Age" which about half the people I've read so far DO NOT.

It was a FLIPPING NIGHTMARE so instead of that I decided to say I was researching "The Marvel Age" which, it turns out, is quite straightforward to define - it starts with the first issue of "The Fantastic Four" in 1961 and ends in 1987 when Jim Shooter gets fired as Editor-In-Chief. You can't say fairer than that can you? It includes everything Marvel did that was EXCITING and FUN before it all went down the plughole in - WHAT I LIKE TO CALL - "The Dark Age" of all comics being rubbish, or, as it is also known, "the decade that I didn't read comics in".

And so it was that I spent a VERY ENJOYABLE hour last night actually LOOKING at some comics to see when EXACTLY this "Marvel Age" finished. I've got a subscription to Marvel Unlimited, an APP which lets you read LITERALLY THOUSANDS of old Marvel comics, so I looked through a whole heap of them from late 1987 and discovered that all Marcel comics dated October 1987 have Jim Shooter listed as "Editor-In-Chief" but MOST have changed over to Tom DeFalco by November 1987. So far I've found ONE exception, as Captain America 335 still lists Jim Shooter in November then switches to Tom DeFalco the next month, but I can happily deal with that SIMPLY by looking through EVERYTHING they published in those months. It's RESEARCH baby!

I need to finish doing all this and get it written up in the next couple of weeks as the putative first bit of ACTUAL WRITING for the thesis itself - tho thinking about it, I have pretty much done that with this here blog haven't I? Throw in a couple of REFERENCES and it's ready to roll - doing a PhD is PEASY!

posted 28/2/2017 by MJ Hibbett

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