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November 20, 2010

Marvel Super Hero Squad and the modern charm of Thanos

Posted in: Games,TV

Wolverine, Iron Man, Hulk and Thor in "Marvel Super Hero Squad." (Marvel)

The new game Marvel Super Hero Squad: The Infinity Gauntlet has just hit store shelves, and I watched the trailer below with a bit of fascination. The reason? I continue to be surprised by the ability of Marvel and DC to create versions of their characters that are wildly different in tone. When I was a young comics fan in the early 1980s, Thanos was a murderous butcher on a cosmic scale, a guy who actually romanced death and kissed her right on the lips — or would have if, you know, death’s femine aspect actually had lips. Now Thanos is part of a video game for tykes, a sort of lightweight Skeletor who sound like he needs a cough drop.

This is hardly new nor surprising in the corporate age of full brand exploitation – go to a store such as Target and you’ll find a Blu-ray copy of “The Dark Knight” that shows the Joker murdering cops and blowing up hospitals and then, just a few aisles away, you can find the “same” clown tamed down for the Lego Batman videogame or, over on the toy aisle, taken down to toddler level for toys such as the  Fisher-Price Joker’s Funhouse play set. Some fans get defensive or sour about all of this, and certainly the sheer volume of it can be numbing. But I’d also say there’s something fascinating about the supple nature of modern legend-crafting that allows these characters to be all things to all people (or something close to it). If you want epics that truly endure for generations, it’s not a bad idea to offer mythologies that are bendable and poseable for hours of safe creative play.

– Geoff Boucher

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