Did You Catch Moon Knight’s Timely Atlas Allusion?

Posted 2022/04/28 10 0


The latest entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Moon Knight starring Oscar Isaac, is currently being released for streaming on Wednesdays on Disney+, with the fifth and penultimate episode, “Asylum,” having arrived on April 27th, 2022. Along with a bunch of revelations about the nature of Marc Spector’s relationship to Steven Grant, the episode also included a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it reference to Timely Atlas Studios, a metafictional allusion that digs deep into the real-life history of Marvel Comics!

The name of the in-universe movie studio pays homage to the real-life history of Marvel Comics, originally called Timely Comics when it was founded by Martin Goodman in 1939. Later on in the publisher’s history, in 1951, Timely Comics was succeeded by Atlas Comics. Then, finally, in the early 1960s, the publisher changed its name once again, this time to Marvel Comics, which is the name that seems to have stuck.

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Timely Atlas Studios Appears in Moon Knight Episode 5

In Moon Knight episode five, the in-universe movie studio appears on the poster hanging on the wall when Marc and Steven visit one of their childhood memories. The poster is for the in-universe movie Tomb Buster, starring the character “Steven Grant,” which we first saw playing on a television screen in the previous episode, “The Tomb.” According to the details on the poster, the movie was produced by Timely Atlas Studios, which even has a logo that pays homage to the comics publishers that preceded Marvel.

There’s nothing new about Marvel making meta self-references. In She-Hulk (2004) #2 by Dan Slott, Juan Bobillo, Marcelo Sosa, Chris Chuckry, and Dave Sharpe, Shulkie lands a gig at the law firm of Goodman, Lieber, Kurtzberg & Holliway. The law firm’s name is a meta joke referencing Marvel’s history: Goodman is a reference to the aforementioned founder of Timely Comics, Lieber is a reference to Stan Lee’s non-pen name Stanley Lieber, and Kurtzberg references Jack Kirby’s non-pen name Jack Kurtzberg (Holliway is Holden Holliway, a character in the series).

But that’s not the end of the self-reference in this issue, as it is soon revealed that Marvel Comics exist within the Marvel Comics universe… and furthermore, they are licensed by the real heroes and qualify as legal precedent thanks to the fact that issues published before 2002 bear the seal of the Comics Code of America, a federal agency.

The idea was also emphasized in the second episode of Squirrel Girl: The Unbeatable Podcast, written by Ryan North, a follow-up to the 2015 title(s) The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. In a public service announcement, a narrator stated that historical records about previous superhero exploits could be found in “cheeky comic book format” at one’s local library.

Another example of Marvel Comics meta self-reference took place in Moon Knight (2016) #6 by Jeff Lemire, Wilfredo Torres, Francesco Francavilla, James Stokoe, Michael Garland, Cory Petit, and Greg Smallwood. In that issue, Steven Grant is experiencing life as though he is the director of a movie being produced by Marvel Studios, while Marc Spector is the actor playing Moon Knight. Hmmm…

With She-Hulk just around the corner, is it possible that we’ll be seeing more meta self-references to Marvel Comics and its history in the coming MCU releases? Our next chance to find out will come with the season finale of Moon Knight, to be released on Disney+ on Wednesday, May 4th, 2022.

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