When my daughter asked me several months ago to watch a Marvel movie with her, I couldn’t possibly have known what I was stepping into. It all seemed innocent enough. Excitement, adventure, superheroes saving the world. Good stuff. My daughter is pretty low key, however, so I was caught a bit off guard to witness this imaginative personality so unrelentingly captivated by this hulking behemoth that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Even less predictable would have been me, the dad, getting so thoroughly swept up, as well. I’ve sat down on the couch once, twice, now at least a dozen times. I’m hooked. I’m a fan. I can’t wait for more! Why?
It’s the beginning of April 2019, and I’m just as excited as the youngsters about the release of “Endgame,” now only a few weeks away. I’ve been casually searching my brain to pin down the source of such unbridled attraction to this tantalizing franchise. My answer came quickly and was certainly predictable, since it’s an element I find important in many creative efforts, including my own: it’s the details.
If you ever want to gleefully jump down a bunch of frivolous and entertaining rabbit holes, go to Wikipedia, then hop around in the world of superheroes. Click on the name of a specific character. Any of them will do. Let’s say Iron Man. Wow, look at all those Team Affiliations! He’s a busy guy. There’s a whole day of reading right there. Fictional Character Biography could be another hugely wonderful waste of time. Now click on his Armor link to go to yet another page dedicated entirely to that one aspect of Mr. Stark’s character. Oh jeez! So many links beckoning me. I don’t have time for this. And yet, I find that I actually do, and there’s a good reason why – I’m honing my craft by studying the pros, seeing how they do it.
For someone still learning the tricks of the trade in fictional writing, this is not trivial stuff. It’s a gold mine to be discovered and explored. MCU is not just for kids. Oh no. I’d be willing to bet the adults love the storylines even more than the young fans. And for me, the guy still putting “pen to paper” after all these years, the value of spending ridiculous amounts of time ogling the special effects on the big screen, trying to figure out the web of intricacies that tie it all together, wondering how I’ll ever keep it straight, then realizing that, slowly, I actually am…this all counts as a very good investment in my book. Not to mention Marvel has given my daughter and I something very fun and endlessly entertaining to share and talk about, and that’s always a good thing.
So I’m happy to sit on the couch, my little sidekick by my side, both of us riveted to our seats, watching, listening, waiting, only to be surprised, time and again, by something new, or an unexpected someone coming to steal the scene in surprising, mind-bending ways.
MCU has become my classroom. For those of us drawn to speculative fiction, Marvel can teach us a’plenty about character development, plots and subplots, world creation, twists and turns, pacing, good dialog, danger and suspense, and unexpected endings that leave us yearning for more.
If you, too, are a writer, struggling to get your creative juices flowing, I urge you to spend some time with Iron Man, Hulk, Black Widow, Thor, Scarlet Witch, Captain America, and all the rest. Consider it study time. A fun homework assignment. Your portal to see how the professionals go about bringing their audiences back, time and again. How many of your own story ideas might your cranium generate as you watch, glued to the screen, imagining new characters coming to life on the page, your own new worlds springing to life, your own new plots being planted like seeds in a vast plain of potential.
Can’t wait for April 26. In the meantime, I’ll keep writing. You should too. Seriously…go get busy!