Marvels: Eye of the Camera #5: A Whole Lot of Paper

Photographer-turned-author Phil Sheldon writes books about “the marvels among us”, “heroes” and “superhumans” like the Avengers and the Fantastic Four. His next book will touch on the topic of mutants and the X-Men.

But Phil is living on borrowed time. With his cancer spread throughout his body, he has merely months to finish his book. His family all pitch in to help: his wife Doris, and teenage daughters Jenny and Bethie.

These are tumultuous times for the marvels, “cheered” one minute and “savaging them” the next. Phil hopes his book will help change how the world sees them, for the better.

One day, while teaching Jenny to drive, they stop by LaGuardia airport where an X-Terminator sighting is reported. Phil took some photos of the mutant team in action (he recognized as the original X-Men), and reflected on how mutants are feared and hated, regardless of whether they did good deeds, just because they were born different.

In his weakening state and noticing how meticulously Doris cares for him, he regrets not spending enough time with his family, but constantly chasing the marvels and taking pictures. His job came first, but he was beginning to see less value in his photographs, and wondered if his photographic legacy will matter once he passes.

Despite the yearning to be at the forefront of reporting the news, Phil resigns to putting all his “energy” into his book. Doris invites Phil’s protege, Marcia, to visit and help Phil complete his book. Television is the new medium in reporting now, and Marcia’s line of work.

Phil receives a call from the Daily Bugle’s Jonah Jameson regarding his photos of the X-Terminators. Learning that Jameson is only out to besmirch the reputation of good mutants, Phil declines the offer to have his photos published for the Bugle’s feature.

The Sheldons have lunch in the city after Phil’s meeting at the Bugle. Phil catches a glimpse of the newspaper headlines about a “Mutant Riot in Texas”. He remembers the time when he first encountered the young X-Men in the streets and people were throwing “bricks at them” for defending humankind. Times have not changed; the people are still ungrateful for all the good the X-Men have accomplished.

Once, Phil was also afraid of mutants, but his daughters’ compassion changed his point of view. When his daughters where younger and mutant hysteria just begun, they had taken in and cared for a young mutant girl called Maggie. Maggie later ran away so the Sheldons would not take the blame for sheltering a mutant. Suddenly, a commotion involving the Avengers sends reporters fleeing to the scene. Phil finds himself caught up with the bustle and goes to take a look, accompanied by Jenny. This time, Phil could not get close to the action to take any photos. He deemed his failure an embarrassment, and that the world had to settle for photos of an inferior quality.

Phil gathered his strength and returned to focus on his book. He receives a call from another editor, Tracy Burke, who wants to fly him to cover the trial of Magneto in Paris. Because of his failing health, Phil had to turn down the opportunity of a lifetime. Watching the trial on television, Phil does not know “this new generation of X-Men”, who looked “scarier” and “more defiant”.

Phil has a relapse and is admitted into hospital. But he still ploughs on writing his book, determined to finish it. Alone with his wife, Phil has an emotional breakdown. He feels guilty leaving his wife and daughters behind, with only his photographs to be remembered by. Doris calms him down and leaves him to rest undisturbed. In the evening, Phil is visited by Maggie, who slips in through the window.

Next: Marvels: Eye of the Camera #6