stan lee

Marvel Then & Now

MARVELTHENNOW

We discuss the 2006 Interview DVD “Marvel Then & Now” by The Hero Initiative.
We talk about the beginning of the Marvel Universe, Stan Lee, and some classic Marvel stories. In addition, Adam and Nick talk about their personal Stan Lee and Kevin Smith stories. The episode rounds out with a few reviews of recent comics we think you should be checking out.

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…And So Enters the Amazing Spider-Man

Stan Lee – Editor

Gerry Conway – Writer

Gene Colan – Artist

Cover Price $0.15  (Purchase Price $4.00)

This comic is a perfect example of a Marvel Comic.  This issue hits every Marvel note of the period.  We’ll start with the cover and it’s great use of the Daredevil red to give the cover just enough pop against the mostly light blue background.  The cover artwork is an entire Marvel story itself.  Three heroes; two locked in battle and one in need of help.  A pair of mighty Marvel alliterations and a glorious bottom banner listing the guest stars completes the cover.  Color, action, and bombast all crammed into one panel that made me frantic to find out what is going on.  Sal Buscema hit a home run with this cover.

Once inside the comic I am treated to Gene Colan at his best.  Gene delivers the great NY skylines with our heroes swooping and tumbling through the gaps and over the rooftops.  Heroes are given a few pages to stretch out and whine to themselves.  Against the artwork Gerry Conway channels his best Stan Lee to layer in dialog that could’ve come straight out of a Romance comic.  All three heroes (Daredevil, Spider-Man, and Sub-Mariner) are coping with some sort of romantic loss and heaps of self-doubt.  It’s this juxtaposition of sappy dialog and sweeping visuals that defined Marvel comics.  Inside the inner dialogs we, the reader, get glimpses into our heroes’ mind and heart that no one else ever does.  That’s the hook.  Everyone knows Superman, only I really know Spider-Man and Daredevil.  Marvel manages to make the reader feel connected to the stories instead of being only an observer.

 

Once our heroes meet up they of course fight each other.  An outside force has arrived and confused the heroes and public.  During the hero battles each character is also fighting themselves on the inside.  For these stories to work you can’t break the panels too often and so Marvel used the top half of pages 12-13 to keep the story going unbroken and allow for some advertising space.  I found this less distracting then I thought it might be.  It seemed to me that more time and attention was spent on pacing and page breaks in the page layouts here than I see in many of today’s comics and the series of splash pages that mascaraed as storytelling.

Of course there are some groaners in this book too.  It is over 40 years old so not everything holds up.  The mystery that brings the heroes together is a golden tear dropped energy portal.  It hovers and scares people until it opens and a mystery woman appears from inside.  Then Spidey and Daredevil both climb inside and disappear.  The story felt proto-Beyonder and the hovering “teardrop” looks too much like a floating vagina for my taste.  This of course led to all the wrong associations with the plot points and visuals on the page.  The issue finally ends on a sad and lonely note, the unanswered/missed phone call followed by Next: Beware the Bull!  I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.  One other nit pick, when did Mary Jane Watson ever have blonde hair?

In the end for $4.00, the cost of a current comic, I was treated to a slice of Marvel history.  This issue also contained Bullpen Bulletins and a Stan Lee Soapbox that discussed word balloon use on comic covers, interesting stuff considering the cover of this book.  The letter page started with a very detailed critique that named names and made recommendations for changes by a J.A. Salicrup, is this a young Jim Salicrup?  Jim started as an intern and then worked his way up editor at Marvel in the 80’s and 90’s.   I’ve spent more money and gotten less enjoyment from more comics than I care to list but this bronze aged gem delivered extra innings for the same price.

What’s Your Universe?

Immortalized by the Adam Warrock song “Marvel vs. DC”, it’s a question a lot of us have asked each other for most of our lives. Which universe is better the 616 Marvel or the contemporary DCU (they tend to have reboots)?

The DC Universe is often sited as being a modern day version of Greek Mythology. Whereas the Marvel Universe prides itself on being more human and real. Superman lives in Metropolis while Spider-Man lives in New York City. Mutants are hated and feared in the Marvel Universe where metahumans of the DCU are often loved and admired. The differences are bountiful so we have to ask you: Which do YOU like better? Comment Below.

My Stan Lee moment came at a Wizard World Chicago in 2000 or 2001. I heard he was going to be there and dug around in my moms attic and came up with a 70s classic Romita Spider-Man poster I had picked up somewhere in the early 80s. I took it along with me and when I got in line for the signing, I was about 25 people past the “This is the End of the Line” sign.

I decided to stick it out and wait. They were flying people through so fast I think 50 people after me must have made it too. I shook his hand, thanked him for my childhood and had him sign it “Excelsior!”

My favorite Stan Lee story is when he accepted the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2011 Harvey Award Banquet in Baltimore.

2011 comic books marvel

He totally fooled the crowd by walking up to the stage looking like a feeble old man guided by his lady nursemaid. Once he reached the stage though, he transformed into a younger man by standing up straight and tall, then strutting across the stage with that girl on his arm like she was his date. He launched into a hilarious acceptance speech where he poked fun at a few other award recipients and had everyone in the room laughing. After all these years, he’s still got it!

Here’s a video from that night (sorry for the quality).

Happy Birthday to The Man

It’s not hyperbolic to say that there would not still be comic books without Stan Lee. Who else can you say almost single-handedly saved an entertainment medium?  That’s not to say his artistic co-creators weren’t instrumental in the success Stan had. Stan had a little luck (nephew of the publisher) and put in the hard work and creativity that made Marvel Comics what it’s been for over 50 years. When every other publisher did it one way, Stan would go the other. Stan had heroes without masks, heroes with money problems, romance, racial diversity, and dealt with real issues like drugs. His characters were at least one more dimension than the characters created before him. Elevating the medium he loved will be his greatest legacy.

facebook marvel comicsStan’s comics would not have been as popular or long lasting without his artist collaborators, without a doubt. The medium, however, owes Stan a debt of gratitude for expanding what was possible, growing their audience beyond children, and acting as the ambassador of comics. He has lived through 90 years of American history and his life mirrors much of what the country has gone through. He had an active role in World War II, the Civil Rights Movement, Corporate Expansion, and exporting American culture abroad. There will never be another Stan Lee. Not because his accomplishments could never be eclipsed (which I could argue won’t ever be) but his personality is just as engaging as any character he has created.

Here’s a few Stan Stories from Short Box contributors:

Stan Lee & Video Games?

Now don’t get me wrong, I do enough conventions to see Stan about 4 times a year lately, but my favorite story is from way back when, as a Gamestop manager, at our yearly conference. Gamestop conventions are like mini versions the old style E3′s with guest speakers and companies showing their new games and products, combined with days of training and product pushing from company reps.

Right around the time X-Men Legends came out they were demoing the game at the Activision booth and as a treat to the managers, they brought in Stan Lee for us to meet and greet. This being my first time ever seeing him in person I really wanted to meet him (even then he was kinda olderish and I wasn’t sure if I ever would again) so I waited in the long line for an hour or so. When I finally got closer I could see Stan was setup with copies of the game box art inserts that he could sign and accompanied  by a assistant as well.

The assistant’s job apparently was to make sure that our names were taken, written down and spelled correctly to streamline the process. So I get to the assistant, they write my name down, and pass it to Stan when my turn comes up. Stan looks at the paper, looks up at me with a smile and says, “I know how to spell Steve!” The only response I could muster was, “Blame your assistant, If you can spell Excelsior, I’m pretty sure you can spell Steve!”

He smiled a Stan smile and handed me my little autograph, and I went on my way. Not the most amazingly crazy story, but hey, we each  have our own, and I’ll remember it forever.

Meeting Stan Lee

pittsburgh comic conStan Lee changed my life. It’s that simple. I have been going to cons for years and, for whatever reason, I have never really been nervous around any of the celebrities. Stan was different. When I was living in Pittsburgh, I found out Stan Lee was coming to the annual Pittsburgh Comic Convention. This isn’t exactly a large show and had been shrinking each year…in my opinion. The idea that Stan was going to be in the city I lived in and to a Con I’ve been going to for over a decade was too exciting. The convention created a special ticket that ensured the purchaser one object sign by Stan. I bought two for myself! There wasn’t any thought what so ever what I was going to have Stan sign.

spider-man save the date signed

The Save The Date for my wedding that took place the year prior was a modified (by artist and friend Mark Welser) panel from the famous Amazing Spider-Man #50. You know…”Spider-Man No More”. Spider-Man and Marvel Comics meant so much to me that I included that panel in my wedding, the most important day of my life. I wanted Stan to actually touch something that was intrinsically part of my life. This was a real bridge to what he created and my life.

The second item I had signed was my copy of Fantastic Four #51. He had often sited this as HIS favorite story he ever wrote and I think that’s pretty powerful. I wanted to get that signed for my friend Jason’s son, Alex. I wanted one of his first comics to be a landmark comic written by and signed by Stan Lee himself. He should lord that over his friends when he’s over! That should be enough to make you king of the playground, right?

marvel comics signed jack kirbyMeeting Stan was brief but impactful. He signed the comic and said “This is a great book, are you sure you want me to write on it?” I was flummoxed. I said,”…uh…yeah.” Next came my over sized save the day print. Stan looked at it for a second and that was my opportunity to gain composure and engage. “That was the save the date for my wedding, Stan”, I said. He looked right at me and I figured I could get one more sentence in before I was told to move on. “Your comics have been so important to me that I wanted you to be part of my wedding.” Stan Lee, the closest I’ve come to a mythic person, looked right at me and said, “I wish I had a chance to get some cake from your wedding!”. I laughed, he said thanks, and I actually don’t remember walking the next few feet. Apparently, my friend Steve got a picture of us talking but I was so focused on this interaction I wouldn’t have noticed a bomb going off. There is no one on the planet that I could meet that would impress me more. The only thing I would do differently would be to have figured out a way to record video of the interaction because I would watch it over and over.

signing pittsburgh convention 2009

1st App. of The Gibbon

There are so many D-list characters in comics, but when I really have to think about it, one in particular comes to mind. The Gibbon!

The Gibbon was created by Stan Lee and John Romita and first appeared in Amazing Spider-Man #110. Martin Blank (aka The Gibbon) was born a mutant with ape like agility and reflexes. After learning about Spider-Man, Martin Blank goes looking for Spider-Man to offer a partnership as “The Gibbon”, Spider-Man laughs at Blank’s appearance and power, which means that Spider-Man created this villain in a way. Martin Blank has been laughed at all of his life, and this was the last time he was going to stand for it. Kraven the Hunter takes interest in The Gibbon, giving him a “special herb” that unleashes more of Gibbon’s animal instincts. The Gibbon goes after Spider-Man but is eventually defeated.

The Gibbon has made few appearances after Amazing Spider-Man #110. In issue #246 of Spectacular Spider-Man, The Gibbon joins the “Spider-Man Revenge Squad” (aka The Legion of Losers). Other members of the team are The Grizzly, The Kangaroo, and The Spot.  In this issue, Spider-Man actually lets them win because he feels bad for them. After robbing a bank, The Gibbon and The Grizzly decide that they no longer want to be criminals. Spot and Kangaroo do not like they’re decision and fight with Gibbon and Grizzly. Gibbon and Grizzly win the battle and take the money back to Spider-Man and quit crime.

I actually love this character mainly because he tries to hard to be something that he isn’t. The Gibbon isn’t quite a villain but he isn’t quite a hero either. He is just a character in the middle of all these super humans, that isn’t quite sure what or who he wants to be. Plus, this is the first time I really feel bad for a villain, only because he was trying to be a hero, but Spider-Man had to laugh at him. Man, Spider-Man, good work with that one! Responsibly, much!

Spider-Man Through the Decades

Part 2 of our Spider-Man 50 Anniversary Episode. Nick and Adam talk about Spider-Man stories through the decades.

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