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.”

Stan Lee: Marvel’s misunderstood showman

Fred Hembeck on Stan Lee (2009): “The man is Fantastic, Amazing, and Incredible, with the Uncanny ability to keep us in Suspense, all the while Astonishing us–even if he is a bit Strange at times!”

Stan LeeBy the time I started reading comic books in the early 1970s, Stan Lee had just recently stopped scripting the bulk of the Marvel titles. He had ceded the title of editor-in-chief in 1972 to Roy Thomas, and other writers were joining the fold.

But Lee, born Stanley Martin Lieber, was listed as publisher and his name was still prominent in every issue: “Stan Lee Presents” and his chatty Stan’s Soapbox. Then I started reading the back issues of the Amazing Spider-Man, via the reprint title Marvel Tales, drawn by Steve Ditko. This inevitably brought me to reading other 1960s works, mostly Lee/Jack Kirby material.

The Hollywood Reporter noted: “Beginning in the 1960s, the irrepressible and feisty Lee punched up his Marvel superheroes with personality, not just power. Until then, comic book headliners like those of DC Comics were square and well-adjusted, but his heroes had human foibles and hang-ups… The evildoers were a mess of psychological complexity.”

As I was learning about the Marvel Universe, I picked up The Origins of Marvel Comics, a book by Stan Lee which Alan David Doane lovingly wrote about. And I got Son of Origins and several other books.

Larry Wilson, who owned a comic book store rival of FantaCo in Albany, noted that “he taught me history, irony, bravery, how to be heroic, fairness, and humility. He gave hope to the downtrodden and told us that good defeats evil, racism is vile, and we all have a role to play in the cause of justice.”

Christopher Allen wrote: “I can’t begin to calculate his impact on me as not just a lover of comics but of reading, of words, and how he affected how I saw the world and the people in it, how even heroes have problems, how everyone deserves respect, and how we are responsible for using our abilities to try to make the world a little better for others.”

Chuck Rozanski, President of Mile High Comics wrote about being “a scared 10 year-old kid hiding in his room from an abusive father in 1965 who found hope and strength through Stan’s awesome early Spider-Man stories…. I took great solace from [Peter Parker’s] struggles to find his place in a hostile world, while still maintaining his decency and never losing his moral compass.

“In many regards, Stan Lee became my surrogate father through the power of his remarkable prose, which still resonates with children (and adults) today. He instilled positive values in me that continue to guide my life, and for that I will be eternally grateful to him.”

Back when my friend Fred Hembeck used to have a daily blog, he always wrote about Stan on December 28, Lee’s birthday. In 2009, wrote: “The man is Fantastic, Amazing, and Incredible, with the Uncanny ability to keep us in Suspense, all the while Astonishing us–even if he is a bit Strange at times!” For an earlier birthday note, see HERE.

John Trumbull collated recollections by people Lee worked with, including Roy Thomas, Gerry Conway and many others. Even in his nineties, Stan was the face of Marvel, as his IMDB page makes clear, with dozens of movie appearances, game voiceovers and the like.

Comic book writer Mark Evanier has an interesting perspective. “The trouble with having mixed feelings about someone is that there are those who just want to dwell on the negative ones.”

Also: “Those of you who feel like I do that our friend Jack Kirby was wronged by credits in the past, please remember that Marvel now credits Jack where for decades they did not.” Stan, for his part, was almost always generous in describing Kirby and Ditko’s role in the Marvel method.

I was sadly aware that his last year or so was difficult. “Lee’s wife and partner in nearly everything, Joan Lee, died on July 6, 2017, leaving a void that made her husband… vulnerable to hangers-on who began to surround him.”

The Vanity Fair article, and title, are correct: Stan Lee’s True Legacy Is a Complicated Cosmic Mystery. Ditto the subtitle: “Marvel’s greatest showman was always misunderstood—by those who inflated his importance, and those who dismissed him as a boastful egomaniac.”

Finally, this public service message from Stan. RIP, true believer.
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Now I Know: When a Court Ruled Whether the X-Men Are Human

Stan Lee turns 95, true believers

At the 2016 Comic-Con International, Lee introduced his digital graphic novel Stan Lee’s ‘God Woke’.

When I started reading Marvel Comics in the early 1970s, Stan Lee wasn’t writing them anymore. He became the publisher right around that time. When I started looking back at what came out before I started collecting, Stan the Man was in the center of it all.

As most even casual comic readers know, the man born Stanley Lieber co-created the Avengers, Black Panther, Daredevil, Doctor Strange, the Fantastic Four, the Hulk, Iron Man, the Silver Surfer, Spider-Man, Thor, and the X-Men, among many others in a shared superhero universe.

Moreover, it’s was Stan’s Soapbox which really established the Marvel brand throughout several comic books by various creative teams. He also “addressed issues of discrimination, intolerance, or prejudice.”

Lee took a lot of grief, not entirely of his making, because Marvel, in the main, created him, if not entirely fairly financially, then certainly less badly than Lee’s co-creators, people such as Steve Ditko, and especially the late Jack “King” Kirby. This was particularly egregious because of what was dubbed the Marvel method, as described in the Wikipedia:

“Typically, Lee would brainstorm a story with the artist and then prepare a brief synopsis rather than a full script. Based on the synopsis, the artist would fill the allotted number of pages by determining and drawing the panel-to-panel storytelling. After the artist turned in penciled pages, Lee would write the word balloons and captions, and then oversee the lettering and coloring. In effect, the artists were co-plotters, whose collaborative first drafts Lee built upon.”

This tension has largely dissipated to a great degree when Kirby’s heirs settled with Marvel in 2014, which has meant the artists behind the characters are getting on-screen notice as well as compensation when those films show up in the movies.

And speaking of cinema, Stan Lee has cameo appearances in every single feature film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This means that he has appeared in the movies that have grossed more money than any other actor. More than Harrison Ford or Tom Hanks or Frank Welker or even Marvel movies actor Samuel L. Jackson.

“At the 2016 Comic-Con International, Lee introduced his digital graphic novel Stan Lee’s ‘God Woke’, with text originally written as a poem he presented at Carnegie Hall in 1972. The print-book version won the 2017 Independent Publisher Book Awards’ Outstanding Books of the Year Independent Voice Award.”

Sadly, Joan, Stan’s wife of nearly 70 years died on July 6, 2017 at the age of 95.

August Rambling

GayProf noted Perry when he wrote: “Numerous songs en vogue right now celebrate women consuming alcohol to the point of blacking out, hooking up, or hurling (not always in that order). ”

Because I was out of town, I managed to miss a couple of significant cultural anniversaries. One was the 50th anniversary of the first real Marvel superhero comic, the Fantastic Four, by Stan Lee and Jack “King” Kirby. Mark Evanier explains why it had a November cover date. Check out this hour-long Kirby documentary. And here’s a link to the intro to the FF TV show.
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The other was the 100th anniversary of the birth of Lucille Ball. I watched most, if not all, of the episodes of every single one of her ongoing series, from the seminal I Love Lucy (1951-1957; 8.9 out of 10 on the IMDB scale), which started before even TV Guide and I were born, but lives through the clever concept known as the rerun; to the star-studded (and too long, in my recollection) episodes of The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour (1957-1960; 8.6); to The Lucy Show (1962–1968; 7.3), which was the one with Lucy as Lucy Carmichael, Vivian Vance (Ethel Mertz in the earlier shows) as Viv, and Gale Gordon as Lucy’s testy boss, Mr. Mooney.
Continue reading “August Rambling”

December Ramblin’

Hit me with your rhythm stick/Je t’adore, ich liebe dich
Hit me with your rhythm stick/Das ist gut, c’est fantastique


I’ve enjoyed seeing composer Steven Sondheim, lyricist for West Side story, a funny Thing happened on the Way to the Forum, and many, many other musicals, a couple times on television recently, promoting his book “Finishing the Hat: Attendant Comments, Principles, Heresies, Grudges, Whines and Anecdotes.” I’ve ordered the book if only for the lyrics themselves, and what he’ll have to say about them. I enjoyed hearing about the strong tutelege of family friend Oscar Hammerstein. He has appeared on Stephen Colbert‘s program and on The Newshour on PBS. Part of the latter interview is here:
JEFFREY BROWN: And the greatest focus is on words that rhyme….He uses an old rhyming dictionary and a 1946 edition of “Roget’s Thesaurus.”
STEPHEN SONDHEIM: A rhyme draws the ear’s attention to the word. So, you don’t make the least important word in the line the rhyme word. So, you have to — and also a rhyme can take something that is not too strong and make it much stronger…
BROWN: And…he believes words that are spelled differently, but sound alike, such as rougher and suffer Continue reading “December Ramblin’”