Sixteen years ago today, the world changed with the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon by a group of terrorists. Given the severity of the situation, with nearly 3,000 people dead and a country left in shock, it was not a surprise that Marvel’s heroes based in New York City would eventually address the situation.
While DC Comics and Marvel contributed to or published benefit comic anthologies for the families of the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks, for the most part their main universes didn’t deal with the tragedy. In the months before the attack, DC Comics had been publishing the company-wide OUR WORLDS AT WAR crossover, with the heroes (and villains) of Earth banding together to battle the cosmic entity Imperiex and Darkseid. By the time Sept. 11 came around, much of the DC Universe had already been written to seem like a war zone, an unfortunate and unlikely coincidence, to be sure.
Marvel, however, decided to incorporate the tragedy into the pages of Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 2) No. 36, a special issue written by J. Michael Straczynski, with art by John Romita Jr. and Scott Hanna. In the issue, Spider-Man, New York City’s most relatable hero, takes in the scope of the destruction at Ground Zero and the surrounding area. Other heroes are on the scene as well, including Capt. America, Daredevil and Thor. The heroes are joined by villains as well. In some instances – like Doc Ock, Magneto and Juggernaut – their presence made sense. They had their reasons for what they did, but in a time like this it made sense that they would put aside their personal grudges and desires.
The part of this issue, though, that usually gets some criticism, is the image of Doctor Doom – a dictator who rules with an iron fist (not THE Iron Fist) and who has caused no small amount of property damage and loss of life – with tears welling up beneath his masked face at the site of the devastation. I understand what JMS was likely going for – even a heel like Doctor Doom would be hurt by the actions of these terrorists – but it just seemed like an odd choice.
I remember finding copies of the issue at a grocery store back in the day and picking up a couple, just to have, despite not being a regular Marvel reader. It was an emotional time for all of us.