It’s funny, the generation my parents all had this thing about remember where they were when President Kennedy was assassinated and it never really made sense to me how something could make such an impact. Sadly, I understand now… and I would give anything to still be ignorant of the feeling.
Today is a Day of Remembrance, we’ll go through the day talking to people we know and others we don’t about what we felt and how we found out about America’s Darkest Hour a decade ago. Message boards, Facebook, Twitter will all be full of such stories. We’ll also have to deal with conspiracies and the clueless people who put them out. They will be easily ignored.
So, what does this all have to do with comic books? Well, in December 2001, Marvel felt is important to reflect the attacks in their universe. After all, most of earth’s mightiest are based in New York City. The book they felt was best to handle it was Amazing Spider-Man. What character is more New York than Spider-Man?
The issue in question was Amazing Spider-Man #36 (from the then recently relaunched series) and it was written by J. Michael Straczynski with art by John Romita, Jr. It was placed in the middle of a story that was running through the title at the time, that story was put on hold to accommodate the issue.
Behind the plain black cover, with nothing more than the issues title and number under the publisher’s name, was the impact of the attacks on the Marvel Universe. Spider-Man arriving at the scene after the towers had already fallen and his reaction, his feeling of being completely overwhelmed by such a horrible act of hate, is summed up with one word: “god.” Hands on his head and in shock he can’t think of anything else to say.
When he arrives on the scene he’s met with a question that those of us in the real world wanted to ask of our fictional heroes: “Where were you?” A question with no answer. No real answer anyway.
He moves through the wreckage and eventually finds a young boy huddled by a car. He tries to get the boy to move to a safer spot but the boy thinks if he waits in this spot and doesn’t move, hid daddy, who went inside the Towers to get something, would be alright. When the lifeless body of his father is carried out of the wreckage, it’s truly a heart breaking moment.
There are a few more moments like this. Spider-Man pondering the thoughts of Captain America, who stands silent, fists clenched so hard they shake, he wonders what it must be like for a man who witnessed the horrors of World War II and now has to witness the horrors of 9/11 up close.
Even the villains feel the impact. Now, some have taken issue with the image of Dr. Doom, Magneto, Doctor Octopus and the Juggernaut standing in the wreckage and many have taken issue with Doom shedding tears over the loss of human life. It makes sense to me. While these are villains and, yes, they have taken the lives of innocent people, they have always done so for a solid reason. Kingpin, for the attack on his city. Doom, who has always wanted to rule the world but for no other reason than the prosperity and safety of his beloved Latveria, it makes sense that he would be effected for is something like this could happen in the World’s City, what of his people and homeland? He’s always been one to remove people he deemed a threat but at his core, he’s a man of honor and would not attack in a manner that would kill so many innocent men, women and children.
The narrative of the issue is as powerful now as it was in December 2001. For this look back at it, I took it upon myself to read it for the first time since it came out and it still strikes at the very core of what makes all of us humans. I feel no shame in admitting to tearing up as the young boy screamed for his Daddy as Spidey tries to hold him, at wondering how it must have felt for those Brave Souls on United Flight 93 when they made the decision to take the plane before it his Washington, the hollow feeling inside their chest as they said their final farewells to friends and loved ones over the phone.
It seems that in the years since this attack we have forgotten exactly how we all felt. Politics and personal interest have replace humanity and love of country. Reading this book reminded me of what we, as Americans, are capable of when we are against the wall.
I realize that this isn’t the normal sort of review we generally do here at Comic Booked, but this isn’t a normal comic. This is a comic book that removed the one thing comics always gave us fans. Despite all the love or hate for what the publishers do, for all the people who love or hate such things and Brand New Day or the DC Relaunch, comics were always an escape. On September 11, 2001 we lost that escape and reality came crashing into our world. We’ve since tried, and to an extent succeeded, in reclaiming some of that escapist feeling but, for me at least, the thought is always there…where were you when the Towers got hit?
I take solace in real reality that on that day we had Real Superheroes. People like FDNY Chief Peter J. Ganci, Jr, 54. Engine 4′s James C. Riches, 29. NYPD Sgt. Timothy A. Roy, Sr., 36. Plus the many, many others who’s names I’m sorry I cannot list here. These people showed us the real world impact of Superheroes. These are the people, much like Spider-Man and others, who see a building on fire and run INTO it to save lives even knowing they may lose theirs.
These are the people I salute every day. These are the people I tip my hat to and these are the people I’m proud to call my Fellow Americans.
To everyone, with a uniform and without, who heeded the call to action and put their lives on hold and, in many cases, in danger, to run into the heart of the fire to help their fellow man, You are all Great Americans.
You will never be forgotten.