HEAT VISION

Marvel Changes Its History With a Fictional War

Characters such as The Punisher and Tony Stark will no longer have origin stories tied to real-life conflicts.
Steve McNiven/Marvel Entertainment
Characters such as The Punisher and Tony Stark will no longer have origin stories tied to real-life conflicts.

The comic book Marvel Universe has, for decades now, had an unofficial rule that the period of time between the debut of the Fantastic Four and “today” spans about 10 to 12 years, rather than the 50-plus years of real-time publishing, in order to keep the characters young enough to continue to have adventures on a regular basis. That’s become a problem over the years — but a new comic book series has found an unexpected solution.

The second issue of History of the Marvel Universe, an attempt by Mark Waid and Javier Rodriguez to create one unified timeline out of the thousands of stories published by Marvel across its 80-year existence, addresses the fact that Marvel’s references to real-world military conflicts have unintentionally aged its characters — by creating a fake war for the various characters to have fought, instead.

“I’ve been contending for years that, just as the origin of the FF ‘floats’ a perpetual 12 to 13 years behind current day rather than forcing the characters to age in real time as if they really went up in their rocket ship in 1961, we should also create a ‘floating conflict’ to serve a similar purpose for characters whose origins are tied to specific wars,” Waid told Marvel.com about the new conceit.

“The Punisher's origin, for instance, was originally tied to Vietnam, but the longer it's anchored specifically there, the stranger it gets that Frank Castle isn't 70 years old,” he continued. “Likewise, over the years, we've moved Iron Man's origin from Vietnam to the Persian Gulf War and so forth to keep Tony Stark from being over 80, and it's time we found it a permanent home. Now and forevermore, those characters, along with veterans like Rhodey, Reed Richards, and Ben Grimm will be said to have fought in the Siancong War, a single conflict that will hang perpetually about 15 years behind current continuity — and about which you'll read more someday soon.”

(Originally, Reed Richards and Ben Grimm had served in the Korean War, and James Rhodes in the Vietnam War.)

Inside the comic, the Siancong War — named after an Asian country which “resisted communist takeover” at some undisclosed time in the past — is described as a “decades-long” war that involved “nations both from the West and the East.” Siancong — or “Sin-Cong,” as it was originally called, first appeared in 1965’s Avengers No. 18, where it was portrayed as a Communist state ruled by the villainous Commissar, in one of Marvel’s many 1960s stories centering around the threat from Communism.

As Marvel continues to shift the timeline of its earliest comic book stories forward, it may need to employ more narrative tricks like the creation of the Siancong War. If nothing else, with everything from The Fantastic Four No. 1 forward taking place in the 21st century, there may need to be an explanation about how the Cold War stretched decades past its conclusion in the real world.

History of the Marvel Universe No. 2 is available in comic book stores and digitally now.

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