You can't read super hero comics for very long before you begin to fantasize about having superhuman powers and wonder if such abilities are to any degree possible. Not only that, but the wonders of aliens, subsea cities, hidden races, time travel, magic-- all these things are routine encounters in the pages of the four color funnybooks. (Funny strange not funny ha ha.) When you're young and your knowledge of the physical world is still impressionable, comics are a wonderful way to stretch your imagination as well as being a wealth of erroneous information. Thanks to my longstanding love of comics, I have always been interested in science and what's beyond science-- the paranormal. As a subscriber to the Skeptical Inquirer (the journal of inquiry into the claims of the paranormal), I've been acutely aware of the ever changing boundaries between science as the rational, and the unexplained and unsubstantiated.
Recently the thought occurred to me, what are the beliefs of those of us who work in fantasy for a living? Does the weirdness and inexplicableness of the Marvel Universe's pseudoscience rub off on us, affecting our personal beliefs about the real world. Does it make us all the more hardened against fantasy, or does it have no effect at all? Being the inquisitive type, I came up with a survey, cribbed largely from one appearing in The Skeptical Inquirer and coaxed 35 of my fellow Marveloids on the editorial and production staff to fill it out. With the able assistance of my secretary, Josie McCain, the results were tabulated. Here for what they're worth, is a list of statements, many of which have as yet been unproved by science, followed by the number of respondents who strongly believe, mildly believe, mildly disbelieve, or strongly disbelieve in it, and my inevitable commentary. I'm hoping this bunch of people who spend their workdays steeped in comics are a representative sampling of the whole lot of us...
1. The position of the stars at your birth influences your personality. Strong beliefe: 1. Mild Belief: 10. Mild disbelief: 9. Strong disbelief: 15. It looks like a majority of comic bookers don't believe in astrology. Perhaps that accounts for the dearth of characters who as astrologically based or influenced. (So when's the last time we showed the Thing reading his horoscope?)
2. Half-human/half-ape beings exist today. Strong belief: 5. Mild belief: 9. Mild disbelief: 8. Strong disbelief: 13. Another majority of Marveloids dismissed the existence of sasquatches, yetis, bigfoots, and missing links. That, of course, hasn't dampened enthusiasm for such characters as Sasquatch, Wendigo, the Beast, and others.
3. Alien life forms exist. Strong belief: 22. Mild belief: 8. Mild disbelief: 3. Strong disbelief: 2. All right. The vast majority believes in other life Out There. We certainly have an abundance of it in the Marvel Universe, but as yet we have no evidence one way or another if we're alone in the universe or far from unique.
4. Alien life forms have visited earth. Strong belief: 12. Mild belief: 11. Mild disbelief: 10. Strong disbelief: 3. Of the 30 folks who believe in extraterrestrials, 23 of them believe they've actually trafficked with us Earthlings.
5. Some people can see the future. Strong belief: 13. Mild belief: 13. Mild disbelief: 6. Strong disbelief: 3.
6. Some people can move objects mentally. Strong belief: 12. Mild belief: 11. Mild disbelief: 7. Strong disbelief: 9. A pretty strong showing for psychokinesis. And to think that none of the current staff was around when Uri Geller visited the offices and bent former editor in chief Marv Wolfman's keys!
7. People's souls survive the death of their bodies. Strong belief: 16. Mild belief: 11. Mild disbelief: 6. Strong disbelief: 2. The majoirty of Marveloids believe in some sort of afterlife. Since most traditional religious systems do too, they're in good company.
8. Some people have lived lives prior to the ones they are living now. Strong belief: 2. Mild belief: 15. Mild disbelief: 9. Strong disbelief: 9. Almost half believe in reincarnation as the particular method by which people's souls survive death.
9. There is something about the Bermuda Triangle which is responsible for the mysterious disappearances of ships, planes, etc. Strong belief: 3. Mild belief: 16. Mild disbelief: 7. Strong disbelief: 8. A slight majority believes the legends of the Bermuda Triangle, setting of Marvel's late lamented SKULL THE SLAYER series.
10. Psychics have actually helped police find murderers. Strong belief: 13. Mild belief: 11. Mild disbelief: 9. Strong disbelief: 2. Over two thirds believe that police departments have enlisted the aid of Peter Hurkos and his ilk. Interesting.
11. Prayer can make amazing things happen. Strong belief: 12. Mild belief: 10. Mild disbelief: 8. Strong disbelief: 5. A majority apparently believes in the personal intervention of unseen forces to help human beings achieve their wishes. Another traditional religious belief.
12. Subliminal information causes some people to obey the message. Strong belief: 9. Mild belief: 17. Mild disbelief: 5. Strong disbelief: 4. Whew. An overwhelming group of Marveloids believes in subliminal compulsions, despite there being no experimental evidence supporting it.
13. Some people can heal illness by simply touching the patient. Strong belief: 6. Mild belief: 12. Mild disbelief: 9. Strong disbelief: 8. Faith healing? Marveloids are almost evenly divided on the issue.
14. People can become possessed by spirits or demons. Strong belief: 3. Mild belief: 12. Mild disbelief: 10. Strong disbelief: 10. A majority doesn't seem to believe in evil spirits.
15. Human beings are genetically related to apes. Strong belief: 25. Mild belief: 5. Mild disbelief: 2. Strong disbelief: 3. Scientists have determined that something like 99 per cent of our genetic material is identical to that of the chimpanzee. The overwhelming majority of Marveloids don't have a problem with that. (Maybe because we used to publish PLANET OF THE APES.) Belief in this kinship does not necessarily make one a believer in evolution, a possible mechanism explaining why our two species are related.
16. Yogis can will their hearts to stop for up to 30 seconds. Strong belief: 17. Mild belief: 16. Mild disbelief: 1. Strong disbelief: 1. Control over autonomic responses-- Marveloids say yes!
17. Rudimentary life has been created from non-living molecules in a laboratory. Strong belief: 2. Mild belief: 10. Mild disbelief: 9. Strong disbelief: 14. The majority of us don't believe scientists have synthesized any sort of life form by recreating the primordial soup, apparently.
18. People can start on fire for no apparent reason. Strong belief: 3. Mild belief: 10. Mild disbelief: 9. Strong disbelief: 12. Not a lot of popular support for spontaneous combustion. Human Torch, take note.
19. Water can be found with dowsing rods. Strong belief: 2. Mild belief: 13. Mild disbelief: 13. Strong disbelief: 7. A slight majority has no use in divining sticks.
20. People can be cursed so bad things happen to them. Strong belief: 1. Mild belief: 13. Mild disbelief: 11. Strong disbelief: 9. The majority don't believe in curses, but a sizable number do. A pox on them, I say! (Again, kidding.)
21. Some mothers have psychic bonds with their children and can sense when they're hurt or in danger even when separated by some distance. Strong belief: 6. Mild belief: 23. Mild disbelief: 4. Strong disbelief: 3. Wow. Empathy between mom and kid scores high.
22. There is a big, living creature in Loch Ness. Strong belief: 2. Mild belief: 15. Mild disbelief: 10. Strong disbelief: 8. About half and half as far as Nessie goes.
23. People who live good lives will be rewarded after life. Strong belief: 5. Mild belief: 11. Mild disbelief: 8. Strong disbelief: 9. Again about half of the Marveloids appear to believe in Heaven or its equivalent. Compare that 16 to the 27 who believe in the survival of the spirit after death, and the 17 who believe in reincarnation.
24. Scientists will one day cure the problem of aging, granting human beings extremely long life spans. Strong belief: 0. Mild belief: 8. Mild disbelief: 9. Strong disbelief: 18. Great pessimism toward the idea of eternal youth. Elders of the Universe, a word to the wise. This question has more to do with faith in human scientific genius than in anything paranormal, but I thought I'd toss it in.
So there we have it, the highlights of my survey. What can we generalize about the belief systems of your on-staff Marveloids? Hmmm, I was surprised by the support for alien visitations, psychokinesis, psychic detectives, subliminal compulsions, Nessie, and mother/child bonds, but otherwise there doesn't seem to be any special fantasy bias. Any of you out there see any patterns I've missed in the answers? Drop me a line in care of this magazine. Til next time, believe whatever want to-- as long as it doesn't hurt you or anybody else. Just don't expect me to believe it. I'm a skeptic.