What if the FantaCo Chronicles had continued?

We did magazines about the X-Men (Dave Cockrum cover, edited by me), Fantastic Four (John Byrne cover, mine), Daredevil (Frank Miller cover, edited by Mitch Cohn), the Avengers (George Perez cover, Mitch’s), and Spider-Man (Byrne cover, mine).

spider-man chroniclesAlan David Doane, who was a regular customer at FantaCo, the comic book store/publisher where I worked from 1980-1988 asked:

If you could have edited five more FantaCo Chronicles volumes, what comics/characters would you have chosen, who would be the main interview subject in each, and who would you have chosen to draw the covers?

First, a review: we did magazines about the X-Men (Dave Cockrum cover, edited by me), Fantastic Four (John Byrne cover, mine), Daredevil (Frank Miller cover, edited by Mitch Cohn), the Avengers (George Perez cover, Mitch’s), and Spider-Man (Byrne cover, mine).

I was happy to get almost anyone good to do the covers. Owner/publisher Tom Skulan didn’t want Cockrum to do the X-Men cover, not out of artistic taste. He believed Dave was also doing that Official Marvel Index cover for the X-Men. We tried getting several others, including Wendy Pini of Elfquest fame.

Byrne was great for the FF front cover, but Perez was late for the back, which is why the front and back were the same, and for no additional charge. Miller was supposed to do Spider-Man but he found that he could not, and Byrne did that cover extremely fast.

After getting chewed out by Marvel’s Jim Shooter, we were steering away from doing any more of their titles. In fact, a Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers Chronicles (and other “underground” titles) was even announced but never released; that would have certainly been edited by Mitch Cohn.

I was in early conversations with Denis Kitchen about doing something with Kitchen Sink Enterprises, which surely would have been driven by Will Eisner’s Spirit.

To your question about future Chronicles:

The Defenders, with an emphasis with Doctor Strange. Writer Steve Gerber, for sure. Cover by Sal Buscema.

Captain America and Iron Man, who of course, shared Tales of Suspense; this would make indexing easier. Cap writer Steve Englehart; I LOVED that run. Cover by John Buscema.

Characters related to the Fantastic Four: Silver Surfer, the Inhumans and Black Panther, for sure. She-Hulk? Luke Cage? Oh, what the heck – Stan Lee. Cover by Byrne.

The Hulk and Sub-Mariner, who were in Tales to Astonish for a time. Bill Bixby, because I was a big fan of My Favorite Martian. Cover by Herb Trimpe.

Thor plus any Avengers not covered – Ant-Man/Giant Man, et al. The underrated Marie Severin. Walt Simonson turned the Thunder God upside down.

Of course, I have no idea if I could GET any of those artists, save for Byrne. Maybe we would have asked Fred Hembeck, who was friends with a number of artists in the Mid-Hudson. And he could have done a great take on Tales to Astonish #100.

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.”

September rambling #2: Len Wein

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Keeper of the FantaCo flame

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Truckstop
The interesting and unexpected result of this blog is that I’ve become a keeper of the flame for things related to FantaCo, the comic book store where I worked from 1980 to 1988, and its early staff. A fellow named Jim Abbott emailed this picture of a sign by Raoul Vezina (d. 1983), the great artiste of Smilin’ Ed.

Jim writes: “I doubt you’ve seen this. It was on the front of 279 Fair Street in Kingston [NY], owned by my friend, the late Bruce Talbott, of New Paltz Continue reading “Keeper of the FantaCo flame”

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