LA CROSSE, WI—Returning to his hometown to attend a cousin's wedding Saturday, Josh Sundling, 29, reportedly demonstrated on numerous occasions a vast, far more intricate understanding of the fictional Marvel Comics Universe than of his own family's genealogy.
Sundling, who cannot identify his ancestral homeland or the meaning of his surname, possesses extensive knowledge of the creation of superhero teams, the history of imaginary alien races, and the special powers of countless characters.
"We're from Sweden or Norway or somewhere around there," said Sundling, who when prompted can accurately detail the origins of each cartoon member of the X-Men, the Avengers, the Defenders, and the Squadron Supreme. "I don't know for sure. I never really asked about it."
Though Sundling reportedly reread several issues of Moon Knight recently and found himself enjoying the subplot of the hero's romantic involvement with Tigra, it is believed he did not realize his cousin was dating anyone until he received an invitation to the wedding.
"I guess Andy had been engaged for a while," Sundling said of his cousin Tom, whom he has met on 26 separate occasions and once spent two weeks with at summer camp but routinely confuses with other relatives. "One of my aunts was telling me about it. Whichever one used to have the long dark hair and kind of looked like former Alpha Flight member Diamond Lil."
"She cut it, though, and now it's white and curly," Sundling added. "Kind of looks like Daily Bugle editor in chief Joe Robertson's haircut. Especially if you look at those old issues from the '70s, back when Ross Andru was drawing him."
According to family sources, not only is Sundling not familiar with his family's heritage and history, but the 29-year-old also appears more emotionally attached to the fictional characters in his comic books than to many of his blood relatives.
"Josh has always loved those cartoons," said uncle Donald Grier, whom Sundling believes to be one of his father's friends from college. "I remember one time he cried after reading about Captain America, because the Captain's little helper guy had died."
"It was weird because I'd never seen him cry before," Grier said. "Not even at Papa's funeral.
Though Sundling is unaware that his grandmother was the first female valedictorian at La Crosse Central High, or that ancestors on his mother's side narrowly escaped famine by fleeing across the Atlantic with nothing but the clothes on their backs, he has been known to confidently discuss the histories of the Skrull, Kree, and Shi'ar civilizations. Sundling also has a working knowledge of Jean Grey's complex family tree, which contains multiple clones and characters from other realities.
Sources confirmed that Sundling does not know his grandmother's maiden name.
"It's so fascinating that Jean Grey and Cyclops had a child from an alternate future who ends up marrying Franklin Richards, who is the son of Mr. Fantastic and Invisible Woman," said the man who did not recognize his own nephew at the wedding. "And then their kid, Hyperstorm, travels back in time and attacks the Fantastic Four."
"I've always been drawn to superhero pedigrees and how they pass traits down from one generation to the next," said Sundling, completely unaware that colon cancer runs in his family. "It'd just be cool to have something rare in common with your relatives."