The “good death” of Carl Reiner

Denny O’Neil, David Mazzucchelli, and me

Carl ReinerIt appears that Carl Reiner had a good death on June 29. The 98-year-old was productive and vital until the very end.

This is very clear as I was watching If You’re Not In the Obit, Eat Breakfast, the 2017 documentary for which Reiner was nominated for an Emmy. I caught it on July 3.

He “tracks down several nonagenarians [and older] to show how the twilight years can be rewarding.” The participants included Fyvush Finkel, who died before the release; the recently deceased Kirk Douglas; Betty White; Dick Van Dyke, with his much younger wife Arlene; Norman Lear; and naturally, his friend of 70 years, Mel Brooks. Here’s the preview.

I’m pleased to note that my daughter has watched all five seasons of The Dick Van Dyke Show, which Carl Reiner created, and which I love. Of course, he played the irritable TV star, Alan Brady, as well as the budding English anti-existentialist Yale Sampson, and several other annoying characters.

Not like his characters

But as Mark Evanier noted: “Carl Reiner was the friendliest, most talented person in show business… He was a guy I admired not just for his fine work as a writer, producer, director, and performer but for just the way he was as a person. Every time I was around him, he was an absolute delight – funny, engaging, willing to talk with anyone about anything. He was just what you’d want an idol to be. He was a role model for how to be truly successful and sane in show business.”

Yes, Carl Reiner was an actor (Ocean’s 11 franchise, Hot in Cleveland) and director (Oh, God; The Jerk; All of Me). But mostly he was a writer, going back to 1950s television, with Sid Caesar and Dinah Shore. He co-wrote and directed Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid (1982) and The Man with Two Brains (1983).

I had wished he would have been selected for the Kennedy Center Honors, like his friends Mel Brooks had been in 2009 and Norman Lear in 2017. It may be that he was underappreciated as the straight man, such as the interviewer of Brooks’ 2000 Year Old Man.

Other recent deaths of note

Dennis O’Neil, who died June 11, was a comic writer who I admired greatly. His Green Lantern/Green Arrow with Neal Adams made the book relevant. He also did work on Iron Man and The Amazing Spider-Man.

Somewhere in my possession is a photo of O’Neil, David Mazzucchelli, Augustus Manly (Matt at the time), me, and a fifth person at the comic book store FantaCo in Albany. Denny and David were working on Daredevil at the time, so this had to be 1984 or 1985. He was quite pleasant, but I might have been a bit awestruck.

Hugh Downs, who passed away on July 1, was a constant presence in my television watching the last third of the 20th century. He hosted the game show Concentration (1958-1968), which BTW I was very bad at. Downs also co-hosted The Today Show (1962-1971).

With Barbara Walters, he co-hosted the news show 20/20 from 1978 until his retirement in 1999. In 1984, “he was certified by the Guinness World Records as holding the record for the greatest number of hours on network commercial television (15,188 hours).”

The reference to the “good death”, incidentally, comes from Paul McCartney explaining the song The End of the End from his 2007 album Memory Almost Full.

Joltin’ Joe Sinnott (1926-2020)

the greatest inker for Marvel Comics

Joe SinnottI was working the front counter of the FantaCo comic book store in Albany on November 2, 1982. Joe Sinnott had driven the 45 miles from Saugerties to buy 10 copies of Life of the Pope, John Paul II, which he had inked. He wanted to have copies to give to family and friends.

I’m sure we gave him a deep discount. But I wish I could have just given them to him. It’s because, as everyone who has written about him has noted, he was the sweetest man in the comic book business. In fact, he might have been the kindest person I’ve known, period.

Joe, as most comic fans know, was the primary inker for Jack “King” Kirby on the Fantastic Four. Read this quote from Joe’s Wikipedia page. “Sinnott was a master craftsman, fiercely proud of the effort and meticulous detail he put into his work. That slick, stylized layer of India ink that Sinnott painted over Kirby’s pencils finished Jack’s work in a way that no other inker ever would. Comic fans had never witnessed art this strange and powerful in its scope and strength.”

However, Joe worked on a multitude of titles, before, during, and after his stint on the FF, including Thor, Silver Surfer, The Avengers, and the Defenders. He “retired” from full-time work for Marvel in 1992 but inked the Spider-Man newspaper feature until 2019.

Pettigrew for President

On my occasional treks to the Albany Comic-Con, I’d always stop by Joe’s table and talk with him. Or try. The line to see him was always the longest in the place.

As I noted in 2017, my friend Mark got the chance to meet Joe. Mark also discovered a fairly obscure Sinnott credit. “A bi-monthly comic book called the Treasure Chest of Fun & Fact was distributed in Catholic parochial schools. The Treasure Chest was intended as a remedy to the sensationalism of traditional comics.”

Joe Sinnott died this month. Mark Evanier shares his history, but also what a swell guy he was. Check out Joe’s official page for photos, samples of his art, and more.

I’m mentioned in Kirby & Lee: Stuf’ Said!

Jack Kirby expressed his dismay to the interviewer over Marvel’s uncompensated reuse of his Fantastic Four animation storyboards to make a ‘new’ Lee/Kirby story in Fantastic Four #236.”

Stuf' SaidMy friend Rocco, who is as responsible for me blogging – he told me about Fred Hembeck’s blog – emailed me recently. “I am reading the new book titles Stuf’ Said! about Jack and Stan. They quote you from FF Chronicle. The book is great.”

Huh, what? There is something called Jack Kirby Collector. Number 75 is a double-sized publication called Kirby & Lee: Stuf’ Said! “The complex genesis of the Marvel Universe, in its creators’ own words.”

Here’s an early paragraph: “As the 1960s wore on, Jack was doing more of the work via the ‘Marvel method,’ where the ‘artist’ was responsible for much/most/all of the plotting and pacing of the stories, while the ‘writer’ concentrated on the words in the caption boxes and balloons, after the drawn pages were completed and the story totally fleshed out.

“But Kirby was seeing [the late Stan] Lee get most of the credit – and since Lee was the editor, he had final say in masking changes to Kirby’s stories, even tales he had minimal or no involvement with from the outset. It lead to irreconcilable differences between them…”

In 1981, FantaCo put out a magazine called the X-Men Chronicles; I edited the 32-page magazine, even though I had never undertaken such a project. It was successful, selling out of 50,000 copies.

Apparently, Marvel Comics was suitably impressed and allowed FantaCo to use its logo, for free, on the next two titles, about the Fantastic Four, edited by me, and Daredevil, edited by Mitch Cohn.

I had called Jack Kirby in California and THOUGHT he understood that I wanted to do an interview with him about his Fantastic Four participation. We pitched the titles to the distributors and highlighted the Kirby coup. At the time, there were several companies to solicit, including Seagate (Brooklyn) and Capital City (Madison, WI), not just Diamond.
Fantastic Four ChroniclesHowever, when I sent the questions, he declined to respond to a number of them, so I came up with alternate queries. He DID mention the FF. From Stuf’ Said: (p. 130): “He also expressed his dismay to the interviewer over Marvel’s uncompensated reuse of his Fantastic Four animation storyboards to make a ‘new’ Lee/Kirby story in Fantastic Four #236.”

From my interview: “The trouble is that ‘Marvel wants it all.’ It worked that way in the past. But we would like to see a more equitable future where deals can be worked out to the benefit of all who work for sales.”

I had a Kirby interview but clearly not what I expected. FantaCo had two options: use the interview, or dump it. The latter would certainly mean we would have to resolicit FF Chronicles. AND it would also have an effect on the Daredevil collection, since they were being printed two up.

We obviously took the former path, printing 80,000 of FF and 90,000 of DD. A few days after they were back from the printer, the phone rang, and Mitch Cohn answered it. It was a profanity-laden tirade from Marvel editor Jim Shooter saying, essentially or possibly literally, “WTF were you thinking?”

He threatened to have Marvel sue FantaCo – which didn’t happen – and they revoked our use of Marvel logo, which was fine by us. So I spent $17 just to read “‘Questions and Answers with Jack Kirby, Version Two,’ interview by Roger Green.”

Movie review: Black Panther

Its actors, its costume design, its music, and countless other facets of the film are drawn from all over the continent and its diaspora.


Has ANYONE seen the movie Black Panther for the first time in a theater later than I? Taking off a day from work, I finally trekked out to the Regal Cinema in Colonie Center, near Albany on April 30, three days after the new Avengers movie, Infinity War opened.

I so seldom go to the mainline theaters that I had forgotten how many commercials there were, BEFORE the seven movie trailers, including for the aforementioned Avengers film.

Seeing it so late, after it had recorded $688 million domestically and $645 million overseas, I’m not sure what I’d add to what my friend Alan David Doane wrote: “Millions of African-Americans and others… found in the recent Black Panther film an inspirational culture in which they could see themselves and their own history.”

I will say that I spent time collecting articles that remained unread until after I saw the film. Check out a couple articles from Medium, 5 Lessons from Black Panther That Can Save Our Lives — and Transform Black Politics and Why ‘Black Panther’ Is a Defining Moment for Black America. From the latter: “Ryan Coogler’s film is a vivid re-imagination of something black Americans have cherished for centuries — Africa as a dream of our wholeness, greatness and self-realization.”

So naturally, when black people are feeling that, as Democracy for America put it, the flick is “a refreshing reminder of the power of representation in media,” some other folks feel somehow threatened. I mentioned this some weeks ago, and people seemed genuinely surprised; they don’t read enough right-wing literature.

I highly recommend reading The Tragedy of Erik Killmonger. The article contains major spoilers, none of which I will post here.

“Black Panther is a love letter to people of African descent all over the world. Its actors, its costume design, its music, and countless other facets of the film are drawn from all over the continent and its diaspora, in a science-fiction celebration of the imaginary country of Wakanda, a high-tech utopia that is a fictive manifestation of African potential unfettered by slavery and colonialism.

“But it is first and foremost an African American love letter, and as such it is consumed with The Void, the psychic and cultural wound caused by the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, the loss of life, culture, language, and history that could never be restored.”

The subtitle of the Atlantic article is: “The revolutionary ideals of Black Panther’s profound and complex villain have been twisted into a desire for hegemony.” That’s how certain people, certainly not I, chose to view it.

I am hoping that, even though it came out with a the non-prestige February release date, it gets some Oscar love. As others have noted, Michael B. Jordan as Killmonger (Creed), and the lead women, may have more screen charisma than Chadwick Boseman (42) as the title character, T’Challa.

Before Black Panther, I had seen only one Marvel Cinematic Universe movie since 2011, Ant-Man (2015). Seems that I probably need to catch up at some point.

September rambling #2: Len Wein

Congress’ most unapologetic feminist is the junior senator from my state

Share this post if you agree
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When I heard Len Wein, the legendary comics writer-editor, passed away at the age of 69, I was surprisingly sad. I had never met him, but he started writing comics professionally almost simultaneously to when I started reading them. Mark Evanier, his long-time friend wrote “Len Wein died… and it feels so odd to type those words even though I’ve known for a long time I would have to.” I also know people IRL who knew him IRL, and I experience their sadness as well. Condolences to his wife Christine Valada

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