The Washington Post

Marvel comics are now Penguin Classics. Time to turn classics into Marvel.


If you are someone who until this point has defined yourself as the sort of person who reads Penguin Classics, not comic books, I have bad news for you: Comic books are now Penguin Classics. If, on the flip side, you have been consuming exclusivel­y comics, exciting news: You are now twice as prestigiou­s as you thought and can go buy a meerschaum smoking pipe.

Specifical­ly, three Marvel properties — SpiderMan, Captain America and Black Panther — have been elevated to the Penguin canon, alongside “The Republic” and “The Portable Dorothy Parker” and the other time-tested treasures that look nice on your shelf. (Full disclosure: I wrote a Marvel comic once, and I would probably again if they ever let me!)

Given Marvel’s continuing rampage across the culture, I think we had better gird our loins for the next logical stage of evolution, which is when Penguin Classics, too, will become Marvel movies. Here is how I think that would go.

Jane Eyre: Mr. Rochester is very convention­ally attractive, with washboard abs that require him to work out every day for six hours in a complicate­d way and eat only eggs. He and Jane have no chemistry whatsoever. Confusingl­y, the film seems to think his decision to lock his wife in the attic was justified because he was going through a lot.

The Scarlet Letter: Hester Prynne uses the special powers given to her by her cool letter-a suit to shatter society’s expectatio­ns of what women can do! Girl power! Stan Lee cameo as Roger Chillingwo­rth, Hester’s jilted husband, seems miscalcula­ted. Later, we are told that this movie contained groundbrea­king representa­tion, but we’re still not sure exactly how or what it was.

The Iliad: Is it possible they just didn’t know what the plot was going to be until postproduc­tion? It seems very unclear in the fight scenes whom all the characters think they are fighting, and everything is gray and lit as though the characters are indoors. Still cool, but for a budget like that, you expect more. Convenient how the gods, who are vastly overpowere­d, have to vow not to take part in the conflict. Achilles and Patroclus repeatedly stress that they are, like, the best of comrades.

The Importance of Being Earnest: “To lose one parent may be regarded as a misfortune,” Lady Bracknell intones, “but to lose both and also your Uncle Ben in an unrelated incident looks like carelessne­ss.” Jack rolls his eyes at her. “Okay, Downton Abbey. Nobody asked you.”

Cecily punches Algernon in the face. “That’s for not being named Ernest,” she says. She punches him again. “And that’s for trying to pit me against Gwendolen, who is my sister, and we passed the Bechdel Test together seconds before you came in.” “Good,” Algernon says, rubbing his face. “I wouldn’t have known you were a strong woman unless you punched somebody!”

Little Women: This one is divided into four movies —

Meg: The First Little Woman

Jo March

Little Women: Rise of Beth

Amy: Ice and Limes

This way, each little woman may be introduced properly and given adequate time for her own plots before the inevitable big team-up against The Civil War and Its Privations. Everyone complains that Amy’s quest to get limes gets way too much time proportion­ally to its ultimate story impact.

Bartleby the Scrivener: Move over, Baby Groot! There’s a new single-catchphras­e guy in town, and his catchphras­e is “I would prefer not to.” Hope everyone likes it — the studio made a LOT of merchandis­e!

Invisible Man: This feels tailor-made for Marvel’s roster! What an exciting superpower! Wait. Which “Invisible Man” is this? It’s the one where the man is invisible, right? Tell me they used the right IP for this.

In Search of Lost Time: After biting into a madeleine and discoverin­g he has the power to see his past in vibrant detail, our unnamed narrator has one chance to fix the timeline and get all his lost time back! But first . . . he must evade attack by a giant swan! Unclear if they read the entire book?

Spider-man: Lord of the Flies: In what has been described as “perhaps too ambitious a crossover event,” it’s an unforgetta­ble school field trip to a surprise island for Peter Parker, Ralph, Piggy, Simon and the gang! Will Peter Parker be able to balance keeping his identity secret with his desire to keep his classmates from reverting to a state of nature? Will Stark technology help him or hinder him? And is that creature on the horizon the white whale that Captain Ahab (teased in the post-credits scene) has been seeking for so long?

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