The closest thing I could compare my experience at Marvel Entertainment with would be Barbecue Corn Nuts (corn gone wrong, to the laymen snack pounders out there). It tastes really weird at first, so weird that you ingest it as quickly as possible. And then you realize that this is the most freakish snack you’ve ever had. And you can’t stop gorging.
So yeah, I worked for Marvel as an intern. And I love Corn Nuts. Marvel, as in comic book powerhouse beast machine, as in Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, Iron Man, X-Men. The list is longer than Shaggy and Scooby’s drug record. And every time I tell people that I worked there, it reminds me of how unqualified I was to step foot in the place.
Toys are as far as the eye can see, from the desks of lowly interns to the open fields of creative design farm country and up to the gracious court of chief editors. Even the bathrooms are stocked with comic merchandise. It’s the only place I’ve ever seen where you can read about Lizard while you drain your lizard! The work atmosphere alone would propel any office scrub to lace his or her underpants with all sorts of bodily functions. My boss wore camo cargo shorts for the entire two months I was there. And work-related questions would soar like Wonder Man:
“What did the Incredible Hulk do to Iron Man’s face?”
“Who said you could eat my cookies?” (That one was done in an Arnold Schwarzenegger voice).
“Where did you find that clown car, and why is it filled with corn dogs and copies of Tim Allen’s autobiography entitled ‘Don’t Stand Too Close to a Naked Man’?”
“Why is the title of that book so creepy?”
And for most, going to work at the “House of Ideas” is like going to church or synagogue or a mosque or Subway (if you’re Jared, the annoying skinny guy). The entire staff worships the medium, no matter what they do. Even Keanu Reeves loves Marvel, and it’s physically impossible for him to smile.
As an intern, I wasn’t exactly high on the “food chain.” Let’s just say I was equivalent to fungus on the rock that doesn’t get paid to do work. But people always listened to what I had to say, however incoherent and offensive (that’s right, moron, I said offensive!). Generally, my work would entail research projects, online articles, brainstorming sessions and writing outlines – writing where I had to utilize 10 different synonyms for Spider-Man. A daily trip to the free comics bin was always in the works. And however laborious a project would be, I would always remind myself that I got to live comic books everyday. What better way can a human being enjoy life than working in the place where art meets literature? Obviously barring tornado chasers and members of the National Relaxation League.
My experience culminated in a discussion with Marvel’s Editor-In-Chief Joe Quesada at his bar in Manhattan. It was my last night, and I was drinking harder than Tony Stark. I pitched some ideas to the man who owned the bar. Although I sounded as dyslexic as the song “The Way I Are,” he was candid and relaxed with me, reminding me to never compare my work to anyone else’s and to do my own thing.
So I hope I did Marvel Entertainment justice with my prose, even though I’m pretty sure I didn’t. I met some of the most genuine people you’ll ever meet and learned about how work can get done without ridiculous conventions like “ties” and “reality.” And you can say that comics aren’t real and that I had a starry-eyed summer.
Understand then that the comic book world is much more real than the phony plastic planet we live on, where “real” entails snooty girls from Long Island revealing their plans on how to lead a stress-free life. Here’s a tip: marry a comic book fan or invest in our nations children! I hear that’s the thing to do nowadays.
Stahl is a member of the class of 2009.