On the night of 4 April, 1991, 20-year-old Angela Marie Hammond called her fiancé, Rob Shafer, from a pay phone which was located in the parking lot of a grocery shop in Clinton, Missouri. The couple were awaiting the birth of their first child together and Angela had arranged to meet Rob that night. She called to tell him that she was too tired to meet and was going to head home and get a bath. While on the phone, Angela informed Rob that there was a man in a pickup truck circling the parking lot before parking his truck, getting out, and pretending to look for something. She gave Rob a description of the man before screaming and the line going dead. Rob jumped in his car and made his way to the parking lot. On the way, he passed a green Ford F-150 pickup truck and believes that he heard Angela screaming his name from the truck. He immediately turned his car around and took off after the truck for approximately a mile before his car went dead. Her abandoned car was discovered at the parking lot beside the pay phone but her body, and the man in the green truck, were never found.

this is where shared universes for superheroes all began. marvel mystery comics #7, may 10th, 1940 (almost exactly 75 years ago!)

and then just a few pages later, we see it - we see namor, the submariner, laying waste to new york. it’s like we’re watching it all happen in real time.

as i just said on twitter: it’s worth remembering that marvel mystery comics was an anthology comic in which they both appeared. you didn’t have to buy separate comics – at first – to keep up on what they were both up to. it was all here. in one magazine.

it added extra depth and value to cheap, mass-market comics full of LOTS of short stories. it’s pretty different to the shared universes of secret wars, or the MCU, where it means there’s a lot more stuff you have to keep up with. it stopped being about value and depth – or stopped being just about that, as that’s still what shared universes are about, at their best – and became a way of selling you more stuff.

which isn’t to say that shared universes weren’t always about selling you stuff, because they were. that’s what value’s about. that’s what mainstream comics have always been about, and it doesn’t mean i love them any less. but. it’s worth thinking about how it’s changed.