Consequences of reading Marvel in public

Ryhmä-X 2/1985 Cover
Ryhmä-X 2/1985 Cover

In my youth Marvel comics were one thing that separated me from my class mates, but today they have brought me together with people I never would have met otherwise. The latest example of this was when I was reading Ryhmä-X 2/1985. But first, let’s take a look at the magazine itself.

The plot

The first story of the magazine takes place in the Muir Island. Moira MacTaggert has been hiding her son, “Mutantti X” – or Proteus as he calls himself – and now he has escaped and is sucking the life out of people on the island. This happens just when the majority of the X-Men get back to Professor X‘s mansion and run into Beast and find out that Jean Grey is at Muir Island. They call the island only to hear the women scream when Proteus attacks them.

On Muir Island the X-Men are once again united and join Moira in the search for her son. Interestingly Jean breathes out the first name of Jason Wyngarde to Scott, half conscious after Proteus’s attack, and continues to have flashbacks to 18th century. Moira, on the other hand, says she should have killed her son ages ago. In the end Wolverine finds Proteus, who tries to take over his body. Proteus doesn’t know that Wolverine’s bones are covered with metal, which is poison to Proteus, and he has to draw back to his former body. Proteus alters reality around them, and the story ends in a cliffhanger where Storm is having a hard time keeping Proteus away.

The second story of the magazine continues the adventure of a previous assemblage of the X-Men. They have invaded a Z’Nox‘s ship and manage to banish the Z’Nox planet with the joined energy of all the good people of Earth, channeled through professor Xavier and the X-Men, and finally through the eyes of Cyclops, shooting a ray of “good vibes” or something to the planet which makes the Z’Nox escape from Earth’s vicinity. After the effort Xavier collapses to the ground leaving the X-Men fighting over women over his bedside.

What does a 34 year old Egyptologist and a 10 year old Kazakhstan boy have in common?

This happened last Wednesday. I had been shopping with my husband and at half past nine in the evening we finally sat in our home bus. My husband sat opposite of me. At Hakaniemi a group of foreigners came on board. That’s quite common since there are many ethnic stores in the area, so I didn’t pay any attention to them. A man from the group sat next to my husband and a woman next to me. I was reading Ryhmä-X 2/1985 when suddenly the woman got up and before I really knew what had happened, a young boy, maybe 10 years old, jumped excitedly to the seat next to me and leaned very openly over me to be able to read my magazine better! :D I think everybody in the vicinity laughed out loud in the bus. I turned the magazine so he could see the comic better.

Ryhmä-X 2/1985 Huge monster
The huge monster caused an excited "Wow!"

I asked him if he could understand Finnish, but he replied to me in English. The boy was so excited about my magazine he could hardly contain himself even though he could not understand the Finnish text in it. He pointed at the cover image and named all the characters and their super powers. Then we went through the whole magazine and he named every superhero to me. Luckily the issue had pictures of very many heroes. He also told me he liked Storm and Nightcrawler. I agreed with him that Storm was very cool.  I was surprised to learn he didn’t like Wolverine, but when I told him he was my favourite, he immediately started to compliment his strength (the boy said Wolverine was even stronger than Colossus) and the cool blades that come from the back of his hands.

He also asked me if I’d seen all the X-Men movies. He was especially very excited about the new X-Men movie right now in the theaters – X-Men: First class – and complimented it, saying it was very good. He was disappointed that I hadn’t seen the Wolverine movie, but on the other hand we both liked Daredevil as a character and had seen that movie. He also checked if I knew Elektra – of course I do!

It was so cute! The boy’s name was Daniel and he was half Russian and half Kazakhstan. He had a limited English vocabulary so he didn’t understand half of what I told him and vice versa. But the mutual understanding we had about X-Men and other Marvel superheroes… It was instant friendship. We spoke about the Marvel heroes the whole 20 minutes bus ride back home and I was very sorry when I had to get off at my stop. I wish I’d had some extra magazines with me I could have given to him. I think he said he’d seen all the movies but had never read any of the comics. I even thought about giving him the magazine I was reading, but they are so hard to come by and year 1985 is so expensive I just couldn’t let go of the issue. If I run into him or his father, who could speak Finnish very well, and the boy said he was also Finnish, meaning that he lived in Finland, I’ll try to give them some of my extra comics.

Ryhmä-X 2/1985 Back cover with RockPoster ad
Ryhmä-X 2/1985 back cover advertising RockPoster magazine. This one caused a few giggles between us - '80s style.

Daniel, wherever you are, I wish you all the best and hope your life will be filled with superhero comics!

But the meeting left me thinking it’s an amazing world when a 10 year old boy and a 34 year old Egyptologist find a common ground and understanding immediately from a common hobby.  And even though Daniel had not seen any Marvel comics previously, he knew the characters through movies. And it must be because of the movies he saw some of the characters differently from me. Whereas Jean Grey is a “good” character, to him she was “bad” and “evil”. Daniel kept on pointing the cover image of the Phoenix and telling me she was not to be trusted and how the bird phoenix was evil, very bad. I tried to tell him Jean was good, but when I remembered he knew her through movies, she might indeed seem a very evil and dangerous creature.

Spandex over Coke any day

There aren’t that many things that join together generations of people across the world. There are many global brands known all over world like Coca-Cola, but they seldom bring people together. When you see a person drinking your favourite soda, do you automatically think you have something in common? I doubt it. With Marvel comics come a common set of values and a common storybase. The X-Men comics for example deal with human rights issues and what is it like to be ostracised because of the way you were born. The stories are about justice and equality and also about making the right thing even though it might not benefit you personally. The stories also teach you not to pay evil with evil but try to solve things in a more constructive way, thus breaking the cycle of violence. (Yeah, I know, they still fight a lot.)

Also, who has not wished they had some awesome superpowers. The superheroes are cool and I would definitely welcome an ability to fly fast like Aurora from the Alpha Flight, have healing abilities like Wolverine from the X-Men, and be lucky like “Hannu Hanhi” (Gladstone Gander). I know, he’s not a superhero, but with his luck he might as well be.

Ryhmä-X 2/1985 Women and clothes
Ryhmä-X 2/1985: 1) Jean: "I'm not sure about that, but I can do this." 2) "Jean turns around and slides towards Lorna, changing the structure of her clothes telekinetically; with each blink of an eye a new outfit appears." 3) "It's a desperate attempt to lift the spirits and change the subject." 4) "This time it works." - Women and clothes. So easy to distract. (I'm so going to return to this topic later in the future.) The person sitting in chair is not Jean but Lorna, who's supposed to have green hair. Colourist's mistake.

We hide it like good Finns

It’s funny in a way that in my youth I felt the Marvel comics separated me from my class mates and now they are one of those cool things which have brought me together with new friends. Once I made it public I had a thing with Marvel comics, I suddenly found out I was surrounded by other Marvel enthusiasts. Even the girls came out of the closet, telling they had read a few comics or at least seen the movies and knew the characters. But the funny thing is, there were these two men in my student organization whom I felt I didn’t have much in common with and honestly I doubt we would have become good friends as things were. Don’t get me wrong, I liked them both, but we just didn’t have a natural reason to hang around together outside of school.  But when we learned about each other’s Marvel collections it was immediate friendship. I think it might have changed the way we perceived each other and since then we have become better friends and have this mutual understanding between us.

Maybe even through this blog I will make new friends or at least meet other interesting people while reading Marvel comics in public.

P.S. Yesterday I saw a woman in my home bus with a cool Marvel bag. I almost commented it to her, but then kept my silence like any good Finn. When I took out my Marvel comic, she noticed it and I could see she shook her head a bit and smiled. See, we are everywhere.

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