Tuesday, 20 November 2012


Images copyright respective copyright owners

BARRY PEARL is as fine a chap as you could ever hope to
meet - even 'though I've never actually met him.  However, I feel that
I have, via our email exchanges, in which Barry has kindly tolerated and
indulged my annoying tendency to edit everything* he writes.  Which, it
must be said, is no reflection on Barry's writing (after all, he's just written
an introduction to one of the MARVEL MASTERWORKS volumes) -
it's just that I can't help myself;  I automatically edit everything I read
as I'm reading it.  Give me a shopping list and I'll edit it for spelling,
grammar and punctuation.  What can I say?  It's a disease!

(*I'm indulging in hyperbole of course - I don't literally mean
'everything' he writes - it just probably seems that way to Barry.)

Anyway, Barry hosts a great blog called Barry's Pearls of Comic
Book Wisdom (check it out soon), and he very graciously acceded to
my request to write something about himself for my own humble blog.
So, without further ado, here's Part One of what Barry kindly cooked
up for our entertainment and edification.  Take it away, Barry...


Kid Robson is one of several
friends, colleagues and editors I
have happily met on the internet.
He asked me to write something
about myself, so I thought I'd tell
the untold story of how I became
interested in comics, left them for
a while, then had a funny return.
The secret thread of the entire
story is my weird memory.

My family moved to Nashville,
Tennessee and then Kentucky
for business reasons when I
was a mere youngster.

The first movie my parents ever took me to was Fantasia, and that's where
the memory thread begins to click in.  If I can remember the movie I can tell you
what movie theatre I saw it in.  In fact, I could probably tell you on what TV set I
have seen most TV shows.  Fantasia began the development, for me, of a love of
visual storytelling, be it drawn or live-action.  I love that movie, its colours, its
music and its abstractness, which would stay with me for my entire life.

My Aunt Gussie & Uncle Leon,
in Woodside, Queens, N.Y., owned
an old-fashioned candy store.  They
would send my brother and me boxes
of candy and comicbooks.  The first
comic at the top of the first box was
Lois Lane #1, with Lois flying like a
witch on the cover, but I was too young
to read it then.  Very soon after, how-
ever, we moved back to New York, to
a strange place known as Brooklyn, and
en route my father bought me World’s
Finest #102 - 'The Caveman from
Krypton', the first comic I ever read.
I loved it!  I even loved the Tommy
Tomorrow back-up strip.

I can tell you that I had chicken pox in the spring of 1959 only because
I remember my mother buying me a comic to take my mind off the itching
and to stop me scratching.  It was Challengers of the Unknown #8, my
first encounter with Jack Kirby and Wally Wood, although I didn't know
it at the time.  That's when I fell in love with comics.  I then began to use my
aunt’s store as a library, reading dozens of comics several times a month!
But nothing was as good as Challengers….until Marvel got started.

At first, being so young, I thought that Charlton, ACG and Marvel
(which wasn't called Marvel then) were all the same company.  This was
because their stories were similar, they often used the same artists and their
comics weren't as brightly coloured as DC's.  But soon Marvel began to distin-
guish itself, first in better anthology stories and later with great superheroes.
I loved them, having finally found stories as well-written and drawn as the
Challengers.  Of course, those first ones were the Fantastic Four, also
drawn by Jack Kirby (who I still didn’t know at the time).

I shared a small room, no bigger than four single beds, with my brother.
There was only so much space to store all my comics, baseball cards and
records.  My mother would let me know when I got to my limits by throwing
out my comics - including Lois Lane #1 and the Brave and the Bold #
28-30 (Justice League).   So I had to decide which ones to keep.   Let
me tell you the reasons I decided to keep my Marvels.

First, I really, really liked them.  Second, Marvels had continued stories
and a growing continuity.  It was great fun to pull out a bunch of comics and
read them all in order.  But there were other more important reasons.  I was
there at the beginning.  There is a 'completist' gene that many collectors have
and I knew that I could never have all the Superman, Batman, and Archie
comics.  ( I started with World’s Finest #102 and Superman #132.)  How-
ever, I could have all the Marvels.  Fantastic Four #1; the first Spider-
man (Amazing Fantasy #15);  The first Thor (Journey Into
Mystery #83), etc.!  I loved that I was there at the beginning!

Finally, 50 years ago, I had a long stay in the hospital.  I wrote Stan
Lee a fan letter with a funny parody poem, 'The Rhyme of the Sub-
Mariner'.  Stan and Flo Steinberg, his assistant, sent me a nice letter
(above) and stack of comics for me to read.  I was hooked.

To thank them, I started writing what would eventually become 'The
Essential Marvel Age Reference Book'.  I took every Marvel comic-
book, as it came out, and wrote an index card featuring its plot, references,
credits, dates, history and what-not.  I kept a separate file of cards for all
the guest appearances.  I also kept many pages of notes and quotes that
became the first part of my book.

By 1977, Stan, Kirby, Ditko and several other great contributors
had either already left Marvel or had begun to leave - and so did I.  My
aunt’s candy store also closed, so no more library.  I estimated at that time
I had read about 15,000 comics, most of them from my aunt’s store.  The
stories and even the printing were not what they used to be.  I now needed
a typist to retype my book and I needed illustrations.  So I put everything
aside and gave up on current comics.  I still kept up the hunt for older
ones 'though, which I enjoyed more.

I was very bad with computers and never got the hang of DOS, but
when Windows came out with pictures, icon and sounds, it clicked into my
memory, just like movies and comics did.   So, at the turn of the millennium,
after being in storage for a quarter of a century, I took out my comics.  What
prompted that?   I had gone to a comicbook store just to look around and saw
that there were books such as 'The Justice League Companion' and the
'Warren Companion'.  I thought that if there should ever be a 'Marvel
Companion' and it wasn't written by me after all that work, I’d hate
myself!  So I learned desktop publishing and started working
on my book!
The white story cards and the orange tabs were 'merged' to become this
sort of page (above) from my book.  Below you will note that I typed
character appearances onto blue cards and they became my character
map pages.  did this every month as the comics actually came out -
and as I read them for over 15 years. 

When I finished my first draft, I sent a copy
to Stan Lee, complete with a photocopy of the
letter he'd sent me a half a century ago.  And he
sent me a wonderful reply.  He was also to say
that he was so glad he sent me the comics and he
made me an F.F.F., a Fearless Front-Facer,
the highest rank of Marvel.  We also began
emailing, which we do to this day.

And that leads to a funny part of the story.


And be sure to join us for that funny story (and
a lot more besides) when we publish Part Two
of Barry's fascinating reminiscences in our very
next blog post - at this link!

(Click on images to enlarge.  In select cases, click again for optimum size.) 

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