The Origin Story

Marvel Super-Heroes #12, 1967

I was always a Marvel guy.

In the beginning, it wasn’t entirely by choice. Marvel Comics were simply what the neighborhood stationary store chose to stock. Picture a rickety, rotating wire tower filled with whatever publications a disinterested Korean store owner in Queens might select for display in the early eighties. Mad Magazine and Archie Comics may have been my other options.

The specifics are now lost to time, but it probably started with the Claremont / Byrne X-Men, luckily enough. Comic books were a major part of my childhood for as long as I can remember having one, and the storylines those men were putting out in their prime were more than sufficient to wrap a casual buyer in profoundly. Given the complexity of the writing, my reading sophistication steadily grew to allow an appreciation of the subtext below the supernormal, and it would guide my subsequent collection choices.

In time, I began to recognize the special appeal of the world that Stan Lee and Jack Kirby had built: the inhabitants of this amazing place were always people first, fantastical constructions second. For all that they could do, they were forever bound by what they could not. This conflict, Stan and Jack knew, is what creates genuine drama, and it pervades all of Marvel’s greatest creations.

Marvel Saga #1, 1985

Consider the story of Benjamin J. Grimm. A scholarship athlete who narrowly escaped the rough-and-tumble of Yancey Street, he had a special skill with airplanes. The faster, and more experimental, the better. Years after their meeting, when Reed Richards developed an extremely experimental faster-than-light drive, the only pilot he’d consider for the job would be his close friend (and former college roommate) Ben Grimm.

Marvel Saga #1, 1985

Barely out of earth’s atmosphere, a massive cosmic ray storm assaulted the spacecraft, forcing the crew to abort the flight. The autopilot systems guided the craft earthward to safety, but when the four emerged from the wreckage, they each found themselves dramatically changed—none more so than Ben.

Fantastic Four #1, 1961

He’d mutated into a massively powerful, orange, misshapen…Thing. But, somehow, this transformation into a bulletproof, lumbering behemoth served only to underscore the quality of his soul. For all the change wrought to his exterior, what hadn’t changed were those baby blue eyes, and the contrast worked to reveal the heart that had always shined so brightly within them.

Marvel Saga #1, 1985

Despite the ongoing pain and humiliation that came from his transformation, Ben would gain celebrity and respect for his exploits as a founding member of The Fantastic Four. The foursome would go on to save the world more times than anyone could count, and though he’d always yearn for a chance to simply be human again, Ben would find a version of happiness, purpose and stability in his new life as a superhero.

The Thing #25, 1984

But the stability would never last long. With the resilience of character shown through the trials he’d endured from creation, any writer worth his salt knew that Ben Grimm was the very definition of drama, of conflict.

The Thing #36, 1986

If he were ever to grow too comfortable in his own skin, the inertia would drag his character down into a puddle of self-loathing. Change could be internal or external, but change had to be the Thing’s only constant.

Fantastic Four #310, 1988

As it will be with this edition of

A site that once existed only to showcase my commercial photography is now reborn as a workshop of ideas. I expect this space to go through many mutations (both internal and external) as I explore this still-young communication medium.

In large part because I do so much more than take pictures these days. Superbiate & Son has gone completely unedited since the fall of 2008, when I began the business of founding The Vanderbilt Republic. Creating that company has been a process akin to exploring the contours of my own soul (in public). It’s been a messy, glorious, insane, inspired time. And I now know how Reed Richards felt when he emerged from the wreckage of a spacecraft, saw his three dearest friends transform dramatically, and felt the first tingle of cosmic rays in his bones.

I haven’t the slightest idea why I’m still standing, what my power will be, or what the future holds. But I do know that I’ve survived more than most could ever expect to, and that in itself ain’t half bad.

Fantastic Four #336, 1990

1 January 2011, 11:11


  1. I didn’t grow up reading comic books, they were for boys. In third grade though I dressed up as Wonder Woman for Halloween. Linda Carter’s Wonder Woman was the only superhero story to arrest my young imagination. She was fierce, her power all about love and truth and justice.

    I’ve recently been sporting a pair of red patent leather boots and considering my own origin story. God knows this fucked up world needs all the superheroes it can get.

    Cheers to your latest metamorphosis, George.

    — ladejota · 4823 days ago · #