The comic book that was 9/11 before 9/11 – Marvel Graphic Novel #17, “The Revenge of the Living Monolith”
After the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001 wiped the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers from New York’s skyline, there was a rush to similarly erase them from our pop culture memory. Remember the first teaser for Spider-Man, the one where bank robbers ended up ensnared in a towers-spanning web? That was scrubbed from the internet after the attacks. Remember the submerged, frozen pre-9/11 NYC skyline in A.I.? Excised from the DVD release. It was as if the grief was so great, America couldn’t even bear to look at those pylons of concrete and steel and glass ever again — or at least our betters thought so. One wondered whether the 1970s King Kong remake rights-holders were huddling together brainstorming ways to remove the towers from the film and the marketing.
This was all an overreaction, and more than a little bit crazy. It was like a jilted lover going through box after box of old pictures and taking the scissors to every appearance of their ex. NUTS. Yes, the loss was awful, but trying to erase memories in some dumb Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind quest for a palliative wasn’t going to help anything. You can understand wanting to remove the towers from the marketing of a summer blockbuster, as that would be in bad taste. But to erase things altogether was more than a bit Orwellian. Unpersons, untowers.
But they can’t get them all. There are plenty of times where the WTC has come into play in stories of yore, and, thanks to the setting of so many comics in the Big Apple, there have been plenty of four color tales to have the gone but not forgotten landmarks.
Like this. The Revenge of the Living Monolith.
For those unfamiliar with the book (it’s underwhelming), it had the titular villain harvesting the powers of the Fantastic Four and then going on a city-wide rampage, checked only by the efforts of Captain America, Spider-Man and She-Hulk. But the story isn’t really what we’re concerned with today. Look at that cover up there. Let it sink in.
Now let me say this: GOOD GOD THAT COVER EXPOSES A LOT OF STILL-RAW NERVES. ON MULTIPLE LEVELS.
There are three factors that make this cover a more-than-usual attack on the subconscious — if not conscious — mind. To wit:
- An explosive blow to the towers — There’s so much imagery from that one day that’s tattooed on our brains, but the dubiously distinguished champion of that dark gallery has to be the second plane impact, which came when every camera lens in the tri-state area was trained on the smokey remnants of the first crash. The variants on that picture were the ones that were splashed on 9/12’s newspapers. There’s no fireball on this cover, but the Living Monolith explosively decapitating one of the towers is certainly reminiscent.
- Fleeing pedestrians — Following close on the heels of the towers being hit was the towers coming down, and this put the owners of all those sky-trained eyeballs to a full run. Had the world ever seen anything like that — people in business attire fleeing for their lives down major urban thoroughfares — outside of the movies? And how many times that day and the days and weeks and years afterward did people reflect on how it was a like a Hollywood disaster pic? Or, dare we say, even a comic book?
- The act is perpetrated by a Middle Eastern man — Ahmet Abdol, also known as the Living Pharaoh, is a mutant with the ability to harness cosmic energy, which would make him into the Living Monolith when absorbed in sufficient amounts. He’s from Egypt. Mohamed Atta, the ringleader of the September 11th hijackers and pilot of the first plane to strike the World Trade Center, was from Egypt. Do you have to say more? (This isn’t meant to tar a region or a people. Just stating a fact.)
It’s probably that last factor that grabs you, because it’s not something immediately obvious, and requires a moment or two of thought to process. Then it comes to you, and it’s a little bit creepy. Or maybe this is just an overreaction on my part — overreactions all around. Anyway, this is a striking cover in light of intervening events, and that might be an understatement if there ever was one.
Maybe the big question is this: Could conspiracy enthusiasts find a way to shoehorn a controlled demolition into a Living Monolith rampage? My initial answer would be no, but you never can tell. Alex Jones, you have your marching orders.