Marvel recently announced a set of variant covers for its newly launching U.S. Avengers series. As with most listicle-ized ideas in modern comic bookery, it wasn’t much of a shock to me as a stunt. It will provide local comic shops something cool to order to entice collectors with, and for the super serious collectors, there will be a future market to Pokemon Go! and just go ahead and collect ‘em all. It’s a novelty, sure, but there’s been worse ones.
What it really does, though, is cause fans to curiously align themselves to a particular hero — as jocks will take to their geographically-proximate sports-ball-teams. With that, comes that nearly indescribable urge to gain a soft-spot for a particular character… and of course then talk smack at other hero/state pairings in an effort to show one’s newfound super civic pride.
For my home-sweet-home in the south suburbs of Chicago, Illinois, comes Dr. Hank McCoy. Beast, if you’re naughty. The choice, for those in the know, isn’t too surprising. McCoy hails from the suburbs of Chicago himself (or so sayeth Wikipedia, Chicago’s Time Out edition, and countless other sources). Hence, the blue beast was chosen as the surrogate super son of Illinois.
I’ll be honest. Prior to seeing the cover and assignment, I wasn’t a fan of Beast. I don’t hate the fur ball, mind you… but even amongst various X teams and Avengers teams, he’d be nowhere close to a personal favorite. Funny enough though, seeing the cover with Hank leaping stoically off the Illinois map made me reconsider my personal feelings. Whereas California got the glitz and glamour choice of Iron Man and New York nabbed native son Luke Cage, Illinois got what I’d certainly say was a deep cut. We are home to the third largest city in the nation, and the best we muster is a guy who proclaims “Oh my stars and garters!”? In true Chicagoan spirit, my answer to that very question was a resounding “F*ck right he is!”
Beast is strong, fast, flexible, ambidextrous with four limbs, and a genius. He cured the legacy virus. He’s fluent in nine languages. He can hold up his end of the conversation with Reed Richards, Steven Strange, and Tony Stark… all while hanging upside down and teaching a class of X-babies. You see? And he’s my home state hero. It’s like we got Spider-Man and Mr. Fantastic all in one guy! And he’s the same color as our beloved Chicago Bears. Hell, he could play quarterback if he wanted!
See how quickly my opinion changed? The second they aligned my home to Hank, an affinity arose. Because he was offered as ours, suddenly there became an emotional edge to my opinion. Now when I open up my Marvel Contest of Champions mobile app, I’m more apt to hope I open up a crystal with the periwinkle protector to add to my cadre of combatants. And should people hold up their state-assigned hero as a better (“Indiana has the friggen’ Winter Solder, brah!”)? Well, I’ll be happy to scoff as I rattle off 17 ways my Dundee-native doctor can whup their candy ass twelve ways from Sunday. Curse you Marvel. What did you do to me?
It’s a cherry idea, I give them that. To turn a cash-grab novelty to in a buzzfeedesque game of proclivity is an instant hit in my book. Same way I felt when the Initiative post Civil War gave us the “Illinois Space Knights.” Same way I felt when I found out my broader home soil was home to such characters as Maria Hill, the Question (well, sort of… ask Mike Gold or Denny O’Neil), Ghost Rider, and Savage Dragon. To know that a fictional character shares the same air as you… may love a good Italian Beef — dipped, of course — and occasionally knock back an Old Style in a tallboy? Well, nothing makes me quicker to warm my icy Illinois heart.
So, it begs the question of you: What lilly-licking punk hero did your silly state get?