Hard Cosmic versus Soft Cosmic
(Editor's Note: Article was written in 2010: This is the third in a series of opinionated articles focusing on Marvel Cosmic. CosmicBookNews.com's very own "Nova" and "GoTG" reviewer, Mr. Bill Meneese, offers up his opinions on just what "Cosmic" means.)
There has been considerable consternation on the part of Marvel Cosmic fans over the past half-year. Who can blame us? After all, we’ve had to endure several anxiety provoking developments including the “placing on hiatus” of Nova and Guardians of the Galaxy; additionally no word of the fates of our two favorite titles from the Marvel honchos other than some evasive and cryptic references about “plans” and “percolation periods” in a few articles and tweets. The recently released December solicits did little to allay our fears as they pointedly included no Nova and no Guardians of the Galaxy. There were quite a few solicits for Chaos War with Marvel billing it as more cosmic than Annihilation and Infinity Gauntlet. This billing on Marvel’s part has led some cosmic fans to conclude that Marvel is out of touch with what cosmic fans really want to see in a cosmic comic. Others have disagreed with that assessment. In any case, it has led to some debate among cosmic fans about what Cosmic really means.
Apparently, Cosmic means many different things to many different people. For Marvel, per recent tweets and interviews with their editorial staff, Cosmic apparently means any type of universe threatening or (especially) Earth threatening events somehow tied to a space setting and starring any random Marvel hero.
In contrast, per my analysis of posts in the CBN Forum, the cosmic fans have no clear consensus as to what cosmic means. Among the cosmic fans, some pretty much agree with Marvel’s definition. Others believe that Cosmic is more narrowly defined by space-based characters in space-based settings with loose or no ties to Earth. Still others believe the Cosmic tapestry is very broad and can include primarily Earth-based characters with strong or loose ties to space, magic, or other dimensions of reality (e.g., Fantastic Four, Thor, Dr. Strange, Eternals, etc.). Taking all that confusion and disagreement into account, is it any surprise that Marvel’s editorial staff straight-facedly bills Chaos War as more cosmic than Annihilation and probably wonders why the cosmic fans aren’t completely satisfied?
Clearly, we need a definition of Cosmic that can be agreed upon by most. Let’s start with a review of the literature. What do you suppose Google turned up?
Not surprisingly, Google turned up exactly what I expected. Namely – the mixed bag of what the Marvel honchos and the readership believe constitutes cosmic as referenced in the paragraphs above.
Turning to the source of all knowledge, Wikipedia, I did find an interesting definition of Cosmic Entities: Cosmic entities, also referred to as cosmic beings, are a type of fictional character in the Marvel Comics Universe. They possess power on a stellar, galactic, universal, or even multiversal level, far beyond those of humans or conventional superheroes; and frequently serve some natural function in the universe.
This Wiki definition was followed by a list of characters that essentially constituted gods, god-equivalents, demons, and abstracts from the Marvel Universe. I found this interesting but unsatisfying. To me, this definition focuses on what I would call the mythological or high fantasy aspect of cosmic almost exclusively and conveniently ignores what I would call the mid-range and hard science-fiction aspects of cosmic.
Another article that came up from the Google search was the results of a poll of Marvel Cosmic fans asking which Marvel Cosmic Hero, Marvel Cosmic Villain, and Marvel Cosmic Entity they would like to see on film. The results were interesting for who they included (mostly hard cosmic types on the heroes and villains side) and who they excluded (not a god from any recognized pantheon or a strict magic user or a Herald in sight). In order of first to last, the Cosmic Heroes most desired for a live action film were: Captain Marvel, Nova, Black Bolt, Adam Warlock, Beta Ray Bill, The Guardians of the Galaxy, Quasar, Drax the Destroyer, Moondragon, and Starlord. The Villains included Thanos, Skrulls, Annihilus, Kree, Ronan, The Collector, Superadaptoid, and Grandmaster. The entities included The Watcher, The Beyonder, The Celestials, The Living Tribunal, Eternity, Mistress Death, The Stranger, Lord Chaos, and Master Order. Hmmmm – mortals in conflict on a stage set by the cosmic entities (or “gods” if you prefer – Joseph Campbell would smile knowingly if he could read about this). Sound familiar? In classic Campbellian style, a set of mortal space-based cosmic protagonists, mortal cosmic space-based antagonists, and the space-based cosmic god-like overseers of the activities of mortals were identified as those most desired to see on film. If this poll had been an actual scientific poll, it would suggest that the first cosmic film from Marvel should be The Thanos Imperative.
It occurred to me that a unified definition of cosmic might be culled from all the information I found on the net. Bear with me.
Let’s say that Cosmic is really not so much a binary type of categorization as it is a continuum of concepts ranging from “soft” magical-mythological-high fantasy themes and characters to “hard” science-fiction themes and characters. Under such a conception, cosmic stories, characters, entities, films/TV Shows, and settings could be categorized along a Cosmic Continuum something like the following examples:
|Chaos War||Thanos Imperative||Annihilation|
|Thor/Hercules/Doc Strange||FF/Warlock/Quasar||Nova/GotG comics|
|War Planets/Shadow Raiders||Star Wars||Star Trek/BSG|
|Magical Realms/Dimensions||Earth or Space Setting||Space Setting|
We might argue about where a cosmic character, storyline, or entity would fall on the continuum, but the basic idea is that cosmic is a broad tapestry that encompasses a variety of concepts and themes ranging from those more akin to high fantasy to those more akin to hard science-fiction. The commonality is that the cosmic character, storyline, or entity deals with situations on a scope far greater than those dealt with by conventional street level Earthbound superheroes and storylines. Thusly – is Chaos War cosmic? Yes. But, so is Annihilation. The former is just softer cosmic than the latter.
So, on the soft cosmic side, we have gods, demons, and other mythological/abstract characters with powers granted from magic who deal with the more supernatural storylines. On the hard cosmic side, we have characters with powers granted from science and technology who deal with the more natural universe type storylines. Toward the mid-range, we have characters that have a blend of both the natural and the supernatural.
I know that the setting aspect of cosmic has been debated recently. One implication of the continuum definition of cosmic would be that it is relatively independent of setting. A cosmic story could take place on Earth or out in space. In other words, the setting is less important than the characters involved and the scope or theme of the story. That being said – it should be acknowledged that the hardest of the hard cosmic stories tend to take place in space and the softest of the soft cosmic stories tend to take place in magical realms.
We all have our preferences along the continuum. I prefer the hard cosmic side of the continuum, but I can enjoy stories and characters that fall into other areas of the continuum. I prefer spacebound stories over Earthbound stories -- but I can enjoy Earthbound stories. I think it’s generally understood that everyone is going to advocate for their particular favored spot on the Cosmic Continuum.
It almost goes without saying that both Marvel and the Cosmic Fans want to recapture the success of Annihilation. From my analysis of the forum content, I do think that a great many of the cosmic fans who visit Cosmic Book News fall into the Hard Cosmic Annihilation side of the continuum and want more Nova and GotG. Maybe if we all start talking a similar language about Cosmic, we can more coherently communicate to Marvel our preference for Spacebound Hard Cosmic stories. If we’re lucky, maybe they’ll listen, understand, and give us what we want.
Article by: Bill Meneese