Monday, 17 May 2021

BABE OF THE DAY - PAIGE SPIRANAC...



Paige Spiranac would be ideal to play Susan Storm, aka the Invisible Girl, in any new Fantastic Four movie, but for one thing - it would be a crime against humanity if Paige were invisible.

Saturday, 15 May 2021

BLOGGERS - DARE YOU ANSWER THE MOST PERPLEXING QUESTION IN THE WORLD?*


*Well it is in my house.

One of the things that often bemuses me is just why some people leave frequent and lengthy comments on other people's blogs, yet leave only occasional and scant remarks on mine - even when I posted first on the same subject.  Or why readers flock to comment when another blogger admits to remembering absolutely nothing about the comics he's borrowed from the Internet, and says so in every post he ever publishes.  Same old, same old in every single post - and there's a couple of guys who even pay him for the privilege.  Maybe they think if they pay (or should I say 'sponsor') him then they essentially own his blog and thereby can make it the venue for their own private party.  I've never yet seen a blog that's worth paying for (or donating to), and that includes mine!

As an example of what I'm talking about, on another blog at the moment the blogger asks a similar question to one that I've posed a few times (with even a very similar title to an old one of mine - and no, I'm not suggesting he copied me) and is inundated with numerous very lengthy comments, including a few from readers of my blog who - if they answered at all - left far shorter responses to essentially the same topic when I raised the issue.  Don't get me wrong, I appreciate the comments I do get, but I sometimes wonder why some folk seemingly couldn't be bothered to reply to some of my posts, yet write a novella of a response to someone else asking the same or a similar question.

Or perhaps I do understand.  Could it be that people like being able to show off what they know, and when they get an opportunity to reveal their knowledge on some topic to a bunch of other regular commenters, they seize it with both hands?  Maybe there's just not enough participants in my blog to make it worth people's while to take the time and effort to comment when they can save it for a wider audience on someone else's blog.  I'm not necessarily saying that I get fewer visits than those other blogs (I wouldn't know either way), just that I seem to have fewer and shorter responses from some of those who do drop into my site.  (There are exceptions of course, and you may be one of them.)

Anyway, it wouldn't surprise me if I get little or no response at all to this post, but someone else will get dozens of lengthy replies if they ever ask a similar question (about someone else's blog obviously).  So tell me - where am I going wrong?

BUILDING AN EMPIRE...


Copyright REBELLION

I bought the above book in the early '80s ('81 or '82) from John Menzies in Glasgow's Buchanan Street.  Published in '78, I'd seen it over the years at various times in different places, but it'd never previously called out to me to purchase it.

Not sure why as it's a handsome tome, so I guess I wasn't really a fan of The Trigan Empire, despite the impressive art of Don Lawrence.  (I wasn't too keen on some of his aircraft designs though.)  Or maybe it was because I'd already read the initial strips when they'd been reprinted in Vulcan around the mid-'70s and didn't feel compelled to own them again.  What changed my thinking that day I don't know; perhaps I just had money to spend and the book was in the right place at the right time - and at the right price.  I say that because, although I couldn't swear to it, it may've been reduced.

Anyway, one day during an idle chat with an acquaintance, he expressed his love for the strip and when I mentioned owning this book, he offered to buy it.  Unusually for me I agreed, and we arranged for me to visit him on the coming Sunday and pass the volume into his hands for a paltry sum, probably less than I'd paid for it.  On the appointed day I chapped his door and was met with no response despite repeated attempts, so I took the book home and have had it ever since.  When I eventually ran into him some time later, he said he'd been in but hadn't heard me at the door.  "Tough luck," I thought, "too late!" - he'd had his chance to buy it and wasn't getting another.  (And he'd have had to be dead not to hear me knocking).

Anyway, fairly recently I learned there'd been an earlier incarnation of the book in the form of The Look and Learn Book of The Trigan Empire, published by IPC in 1973 (for '74), and I managed to track one down a few days ago, which arrived at Castel Crivens yesterday (Friday).  It has only the first two stories of the Hamlyn edition's seven, though the latter has used the same proofs or negs as the former in regard to those two particular adventures.  I bought it mainly for the cover, which I think is better than its later counterpart.  Which one do you prefer?

So I now have five editions of Trigan Empire reprints, the two already mentioned, a tabloid-sized hardback by Hawk Books, two Rebellion volumes, plus a 48 issue part-work of Look and Learn which reprinted the strip exactly as it had first appeared in Ranger Magazine.  I believe there are two more volumes due from Rebellion's Treasury of British Comics imprint, and you can be sure I'll be adding them to my collection when they appear in the not too distant future.

Y'know, being able to read stories I didn't see as a kid is like returning to the '60s and catching up with what I missed at the time; almost like hitting a rewind button and reliving my early years and experiencing what I could've and should've but somehow didn't - expanding my childhood so to speak.  It's difficult to put into words, but I'm sure you're all clever enough to catch what I'm trying to say.

Anyway, forgive my self-indulgent nonsense.  It's really just an excuse to show off my new acquisition and remind you all that you too have a chance of experiencing what you may have missed first time around, and to encourage you to consider buying Rebellion's Treasury of British Comics collected editions of one of Britain's most popular strips from the '60s.  Whether you've seen these strips before or not, you're bound to enjoy having them in your collection to dip into whenever the fancy takes you.

Go on - treat yourself today!

******

(Update: Sharp-eyed readers will notice a few minor changes to the above text since first posted.  That's because, last night, I typed out and published a first version, only for it to disappear into limbo when I attempted to correct a typo moments later.  An email then appeared in my Spam inbox, saying that the post had been deleted because it contravened Blogger community guidelines content policy, and that I should click an enclosed link if I wished to appeal the decision.

However, heading that email was a warning saying that the link was known to steal information and it was dangerous to respond to it.  I therefore deleted the email and rewrote the post from memory, but I've just noticed a new email in my inbox [not Spam] saying that after re-evaluating my original post, it's been restored to my drafts file.  I've therefore taken the opportunity to restore some of the original text because I preferred it.  Must've been the word 'Empire', eh?) 




Below is the very first Trigan tale as it appeared in Ranger, and reprinted in a 'new' Look and Learn part-work series a few years ago.  Below that is the cover of the tabloid-sized volume published by Hawk Books in 1989. 



Thursday, 13 May 2021

ROBERT THE ROBOT - I CAN SEE RIGHT THROUGH YOU (WELL, ALMOST)...


Copyright relevant owner

Many years ago, back in the early '90s most likely, I bought white metal recasts of the Fireball XL5 crew which had been part of the MPC Fireball playset manufactured in the early '60s.  (Which costs a small fortune on the collectors market these days.)  I had a choice of painted or unpainted and opted for the unpainted ones, figuring I could do them myself when time allowed.  Guess what?  Time has never allowed and they're tucked away somewhere, awaiting the application of a paintbrush by my own fair hand whenever I have a chance to get around to it.

Several years back, I noticed that someone in the States was producing transparent recasts of the Robert figure and I finally got around to buying one a few weeks ago, which arrived today.  At last, a Robert the Robot figure that resembles his TV counterpart, and even though he might not have his mechanical 'innards', it's the closest I think we'll ever see to how he should look as far as a 'toy' goes.  So I'm a very happy chappie and therefore thought I'd give you a glimpse of the newest addition to my vast accumulation of stuff.  (H'mm, now where have I heard that expression before?)

And if there are any toy companies out there reading this, I'd love to see a Jetmobile with Robert on it, similar to the Golden Gate one with Steve Zodiac and Zoony from the '60s.  So what are you waiting for?  Get to work before I fall off the twig.  And what about the rest of you Crivvies?  Are any of you fans of Robert, or do you have a different all-time favourite Gerry Anderson character?  Do tell!

PART SIX OF STAN LEE PRESENTS: THE UNCANNY X-MEN...


Copyright MARVEL COMICS

Hi, true believers, Smilin' Stan Lee here again, inhabiting the form of a Mego 8 inch action figure through which I communicate with you earthbound fans from my comfy cloud in the Heavenly Hills.  Thus far we've looked at Thor, Iron Man, Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, and the good ol' Fantastic Four, so let's now turn our attention to The Uncanny X-Men.

Sometimes I just can't win.  Back in the '60s I gave writer Arnold Drake a crack at writing the X-Men, only to later learn that he thought I'd ripped-off his Doom Patrol series for DC Comics.  Both mags featured a wheelchair-bound leader of strangely-powered misfits, and each team had a group of baddies they fought on a regular basis.  In Doom Patrol's case it was The Brotherhood of Evil, and in the X-Men's case it was The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants.  Doom Patrol debuted around 3 months before X-Men, but it usually took around 6 months to put a new comic together, so the timeline doesn't really allow for Arnold's claim.  He tried to get around that fact by claiming I must somehow have learned of his idea before it appeared in print - perhaps in a tip-off from someone at DC.

Then there are those who claim it was Jolly Jack Kirby who dreamed up the X-Men and all I did was dialogue his pages based on his margin notes - yet Jack is never accused of ripping-off the Doom Patrol, only me.  So if I had nothing to do with creating the X-Men, how can I have ripped-off the Doom Patrol?  And if Jack came up with Marvel's merry mutants, why does he get a pass on having plagiarised DC's team?  See what I mean?  I lose out either way - it's no wonder I suspect there are some people who just plain don't like me.  Anyway, contrary to those calumnious claims, I, along with Jack, created the X-Men, and the Doom Patrol had nothing to do with their birth.  It was simply one of those curious coincidences that occur from time to time in the world of comics.

I was the first scripter of the X-Men, followed by Roy Thomas, Arnold Drake, and almost countless others since then.  I gotta say I'm proud of Roy, who took on the mag without missing a beat and continued in a style almost indistinguishable from my own.  If it hadn't been for the credits, I'd probably never have been aware that I wasn't still writing the strip.  (I've got a terrible memory y'know - can't recall whether I've mentioned it before.)  Good on ya, Roy.  Incidentally, Arnold's up here too and I've forgiven him for his rash claims, so panic ye not, Merry Marvel Maniacs - harmony reigns in these here Heavenly Hills.

Excelsior!  And may your amulet never tickle!

My very own ish of DP's debut.  Copyright DC COMICS

Wednesday, 12 May 2021

STAN LEE PRESENTS: PART FIVE - THE FANTASTIC FOUR... (UPDATED)


Copyright MARVEL COMICS

Hi gang, Stan Lee, inhabiting his Mego 8 inch action figure, back to rap with you again.  I should probably have kicked-off this series with an affectionate look at The Fantastic Four (after all, they started the Marvel ball rollin'), but better late than never.  Y'know, some people have asserted that the alleged similarities between the FF and DC's Challengers Of The Unknown prove it must've been Jack Kirby who came up with our Cosmic Quartet and that I had nothing to do with it.  Let's take a look at those so-called similarities.

1) There are four members in each group.

2) Both groups survived plummeting from the sky.

3) Both strips were drawn by Jack Kirby.

From my point of view, the first two are superficial and are outweighed by the differences, which are...

1) The FF had superpowers, the Challengers didn't.

2) One of the FF was a woman, whereas the Challengers were all men.

3) The Challengers survived a plane crash which should have killed them, whereas the FF's rocket returned safely (if roughly) to earth once the automatic pilot took over.

4) The Challengers didn't know one another before the crash, whereas the FF were friends before undertaking their space flight.

Also, it was surviving a crash which should've killed them that motivated the Challs into undertaking their adventures; with the FF it was being transformed by cosmic ray-endowed superpowers which inspired them to band together as a team - not quite the same thing.  There might be other similarities and differences, but that's enough to work with for now.  My point being that I think any comparisons made between the FF and the Challengers in an attempt to ascribe total creative authorship to the same man are exaggerated and don't stand up to scrutiny.

Also, the FF came about because my publisher, Martin Goodman, tasked me with creating a group that would cash-in on the success of DC's Justice League Of America, which was proving to be a popular hit at the time, so there was a specific reason as to why they came to be.  The FF mag wasn't just some casual creation, randomly churned out on a whim to see what might stick - it was a specific response intended to capture a slice of the relatively recent re-emerging market for comicbook superheroes.

The fact that a re-envisioned Human Torch was part of the group suggests that Martin Goodman (or myself) might have at first wanted to use some of our back catalogue of Timely's heroes.  It may well be that Captain America (maybe Bucky as well) and Sub-Mariner were among those considered for inclusion before I (possibly with some input from Jack, possibly not) came up with the line-up as seen in the published mag.  There had already been an attempt to revive the aforementioned wartime heroes only a few short years before which hadn't been the success we'd hoped for, hence, possibly, that idea being abandoned.

My synopsis (below - click to enlarge) for the first issue still exists (no surprise that some of my critics doubt its authenticity), but I simply can't recall whether or not I'd already talked things over with Jack before typing it.  However, there are aspects of it that Jack changed at the drawing stage, and the Mole Man section may well have been entirely down to the Jolly one.  Though again, we might have discussed it at some point prior to Jack drawing it, just can't remember.  Things like that just didn't seem important at the time - we were all too busy doing it to dwell on it.

However, once the series was well under way, Jack assumed a more creative input into the plots with only minimal 'interference' from me, though I'd say my editing, scripting, and characterisation, along with occasional plot tweaks, were essential elements in why the mag became so popular.  That's why, when divvying up the credits, it's in no way a disservice to either of us to regard myself and Jack as co-creators of 'The World's Greatest Comic Magazine!'

'Cos we were, and it was!

Excelsior!


BABE OF THE DAY - PAIGE SPIRANAC...



Tell you what, Crivvies - write your own captions to this pic of Paige Spiranac, 'cos I'm off to my scratcher to catch up on some dreams.  The way I see it, if she's gonna dream about me, then it's only polite to return the compliment.

Tuesday, 11 May 2021

PART FOUR OF STAN LEE PRESENTS: THE CREATION OF DOCTOR STRANGE...


Copyright MARVEL COMICS

Hi, Stan Lee here yet again, inhabiting the form of my Mego 8 inch action figure, to rap about one of Marvel's most popular characters. However, before that, I have to set the stage by indulging in a fair amount of preamble, so bear with me, Merry Marvel-ites.

One of the many amazing things about the human mind is that it's tremendously susceptible to suggestion.  For example, ask someone what the difference is between two seemingly identical objects, and you've planted the notion in their heads that there is a difference (even when there might not be), and their thoughts then set off in search of an answer which didn't exist before you asked the question.  Many poems, for instance, arise from a line suddenly popping into the writer's head and them then making it up line-by-line as they go along (following rather than leading), not necessarily because they decided to write something on a particular subject.

It's almost as if the idea has a life of its own and must simply take its course, quite independent of the writer.  However, ask what their inspiration or motivation was, and they respond as if there'd actually been one, and do so quite unconscious of the fact that they'd never even thought about it until you asked.  They recount what seems most likely now that they've been directed down that avenue of thought, and by the time they've finished, they've come to subconsciously believe their explanation as the truth simply because it seems entirely plausible and even extremely likely.

The Mystic Master's debut issue

I've done that, and so has Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, and just about any other creative person you care to name.  Ask them for a reason for doing something and they'll give you one, even if there was no specific reason other than trying to earn a living.  In my case, I was once asked how I came up with the idea for Spider-Man, so I gave what seemed to me an entirely plausible account of watching a spider crawling up or down a wall one day, and getting the idea from that.  I was also, as a kid, a big fan of The Spider radio show, and that also figured in my thinking when relating my inspiration for Spidey years after the fact.  Contrary to some assertions, the two accounts are not mutually exclusive; both could have played a part, but I suspect I hoodwinked myself into believing the 'spider on the wall' tale because, hey, it might've happened and, besides, it made for a much more interesting 'reminiscence'.

Jack did the same thing when he later recounted that he'd created The Hulk because he'd once seen a woman lift a car off her son who was pinned underneath, and the idea that rage could fuel some kind of super-strength was his inspiration (or part of it) for the character.  Only thing wrong with the tale was that Jack wasn't responsible for Bruce Banner's rage-induced transformations, which didn't happen 'til after Steve Ditko had taken over the strip.  Whether it was Stevey or me who came up with that angle, or whether it came from both of us after talking things over is something else lost in the mists of history.  

However, don't think I'm suggesting that Jack was lying; what likely happened was, looking back years later when The Hulk's rage-morphs were long established, his subconscious mind joined the dots to come up with a 'picture' of events which made some kind of sense.  However, he just misremembered, joined the dots up in the wrong order and thereby came up with the wrong picture.  Sometimes we just don't remember, and in trying to recall what we've forgotten, we come up with what seems like a reasonable explanation and then find ourselves believing that it really happened that way.

Which now brings us to Doctor Strange.

While writing my best-selling book, Origins Of Marvel Comics, I cast my mind back and recounted what I felt must have happened, based on whatever sequence of events I could remember, even when I couldn't recollect absolutely everything.  I didn't deliberately or knowingly lie, but I probably didn't represent the full unedited picture.  If you ask me now who came up with the idea of Doctor Strange, Steve Ditko or myself, I can't actually remember whether it was him or me, though I felt it was me back in 1974 when I wrote Origins.  (Having said that though, nowhere do I explicitly state in my intro to the reprinted strips that I created the character, even if that's the impression given.)

Steve's version of events is that he brought the fully illustrated first story in to me with no prior involvement on my part, but whether he's referring to the character or the plot is by no means certain.  As the commissioning editor, it's not altogether impossible that I said "Hey, Stevey, why not do a strip involving a sorcerer?" and left him to it.  I'd already done Doctor Droom with Jack Kirby (which Steve had inked), but that hadn't really worked and was short-lived, so maybe I wanted to see how Ditko would do with a similar idea.  Now, I know what you're thinking.  What about my letter to Dr. Jerry Bails in 1963 in which I say " 'twas Steve's idea" ?  Below is the paragraph in full - click to enlarge.

Read it carefully.  I say that the first story is nothing great and that it was Steve's idea, but what precisely am I referring to - the plot or Doctor Strange?  If I meant the character, wouldn't I have said "he was Steve's idea"?  It could be interpreted either way, so it's not exactly conclusive proof that I had nothing to do with initiating the Doctor's existence - even his name was down to me.  However, for the purpose of discussion, let's assume that Ditko dreamt up the character and the plot on his own before bringing it in to show me.  As Steve has so often said himself, an idea is not fully realised until it's brought to fruition.  Steve might have created the look of Strange, but 'twas me who christened him, supplied him with his origin (significantly similar to that of Doctor Droom), scripted his sorcerous dialogue and mystic incantations - in short, his character and personality, which are all part of bringing a comicbook hero (or villain) to life for the reading public.

And there's always a chance that Steve misremembered things.  Below, in his own handwriting, he admits that just like Jack and me, he didn't have a perfect memory either.  If Steve deserves the credit of being the published Spidey's co-creator for his input into the web-spinner, then I'd say I'm entitled to be accorded the same respect for my input into the Sorcerer Supreme.  What the readers saw was the result of both of us, not just Steve on his own.  Sure, he gets full credit for the visuals and most of the plots, but dare I say there was an equal measure of magic in the scripting and characterisation?  So who created the Doctor Strange that Marveldom Assembled saw in the pages of Strange Tales  and the Doc's own mag?

Well, it would be no lie to say that we were both responsible for the finished creation.  That's just the way comic mags are usually produced.  Anyway, you'll believe what you want to, but I'm giving it to you straight, I'm not trying to hoodwink you into believing a deliberate untruth.  There are always alternative explanations to any contentious issues that are worth considering and I've presented you with one that I think is entirely reasonable.  Whether you see it that way or not is entirely up to you. 

'Nuff said!

Monday, 10 May 2021

STAN LEE PRESENTS: PART THREE - THE CREATION OF SPIDER-MAN...


No Amazing Fantasy #15, alas, but here's the first issue of
Spidey's own mag.  Copyright MARVEL COMICS

Hi, Stan Lee here again with the lowdown (from my perspective) on who created Spider-ManJack Kirby claimed he did, but then again, Jack once claimed to have created Superman and The Punisher (the Frank Castle version, not Galactus's servitor), so his memory really wasn't any better than mine.  To be fair to him, according to Mark Evanier, he probably didn't mean to claim he was responsible for Superman, and maybe his hearing let him down when he was asked to clarify which of the two Punishers he'd created, but Jack wasn't always the most reliable witness in how things happened years after the fact.

(Incidentally, it was me who christened the character when the creators - Gerry Conway, John Romita Sr., and Ross Andru - were trying to figure out what to call him.  "What does he do?" I asked them.  "He punishes criminals" was their answer.  "Then call him The Punisher" I said.)

Another example of Jack's poor memory is that for many years he believed he'd designed Spidey's costume, probably because he drew the published cover of Amazing Fantasy #15, the comic in which the web-slinger made his debut.  It was eventually pointed out to him that his cover was based on Steve Ditko's original version, which didn't see print until quite a few years afterwards.  No, don't ask - I just can't remember why I nixed Steve's cover and asked Jack to draw a replacement (which Ditko inked), but that's exactly how it happened.  And if Jack could make that kind of mistake with Spidey, he may have done the same thing with Iron Man, who we looked at in the previous post.

Jack wasn't even correct when he later claimed he'd suggested to me doing a Spiderman character (no hyphen) he'd created, which had morphed into The Silver Spider (drawn by C.C. Beck) and then The Fly, because it was Joe Simon and Jack Oleck (his brother-in-law) who came up with that idea.  At one time, when Joe was still considering doing a Spiderman strip (prior to the name being changed to The Silver Spider, remember), he lettered a logo for the purpose, and it was this discarded logo that Jack later said he'd shown to me when touting the character as a possible feature for Marvel.  (And it's not impossible that Jack was simply responding to my idea about doing a spider-powered character, and he merely recycled Silver Spider/The Fly.)

I've no memory of ever having seen the logo, much less one of Jack suggesting the strip, but even if he had, it was Simon and Oleck's baby he was nursing, not his own.  Joe Simon later said that he'd expressed surprise to Jack about his claim, and Kirby's response was something along the lines of "Hey, what can I say, Joe, I needed the work."  Is it possible though, that Jack approached me with the idea of doing a strip by that name?  Anything's possible, but the concept of Spider-Man that Marvel published was mainly down to me, with the assistance of the incredibly talented Mr. Ditko, who designed the costume and the web-shooters.  (Though Eric Stanton, who shared a studio with Steve at the time, claims that it was he who suggested the latter to his artistic companion.)

See how confusing things can be when trying to decipher the facts so long after the events?  Steve, of course, brought a lot to the table, but I still maintain that I dreamed up the concept, and that's why I consider myself the creator of the idea.  Of course, whether it would have been as successful if handled by anyone other than Ditko is certainly debatable and maybe even doubtful.  So I'd go as far as to say that yours truly and Steve can rightly be regarded as co-creators as far as the finished published character goes, but Steve didn't come up with the concept and that's why I regard myself as sole creator in that department.

That's my take on the matter, but you may disagree.  And you're allowed to - just as I'm allowed to see things my way.  However, infamous faulty memory or not, I was there at the birth so I'd say my account of events has the edge on the way you might prefer to see things any day of the week.  Anyway, that's it for now - see you next time, true believers, when we'll be taking a look at Doctor Strange!

Excelsior!

Friday, 7 May 2021

PART TWO OF 'STAN LEE PRESENTS': THE INVINCIBLE IRON MAN...


Copyright MARVEL COMICS

Hi gang, Stan Lee yakkin' with you again as promised last post.  Up here in the Heavenly Hills, I'm having a great time, but I miss my ol' Soapbox days, which is why I occasionally 'inhabit' my Mego 8 inch action figure so that I can communicate with all you Marvel Maniacs.  This time round we'll take a look at the Invincible Iron Man, as well as the fallibility of human memory (especially yours truly's).

At one time, both Jack Kirby and Don Heck seemed to think that Jack did the layouts for the pages of the very first Iron Man story.  It later turned out they were both mistaken and that Don had drawn Shellhead's origin story in TOS #39 all on his lonesome.  Don may've been confused by Jack pencilling Tony Stark's alter-ego's second (and fifth) appearance, which Don inked.

However, it's said that Jack designed the Iron suit as seen on the above cover, but I have a notion that covers were drawn after the contents (though they went to the printers weeks or months in advance), so if Jack designed the armour, perhaps he did it before producing the cover.  Just a guess of course, but that doesn't mean it ain't so.  (Doesn't mean it is either.  Hey, I like to be fair.)

Jack wasn't very consistent in drawing Stark's armour (especially the joints), and he gave him a cannon shell-shaped head with no chin.  However, Don had drawn the helmet with a chin when he illustrated the first strip and therefore tweaked Jack's pencils at the inking stage to reflect that.  Whoever designed the suit, it was Don's version that was the more impressive and 'realistic' looking one.

As with Thor, I supplied the plot, though I have no idea if I talked things over with Kirby before handing it to my brother Larry to do a full script for Don to follow.  Larry came up with the name of Tony Stark, avoiding the alliteration that I was prone to, which is why he wasn't called Tony TannerSamuel Stark, or Anthony Anderson.  Yep, there's no doubt about it, Tony Stark is a much better name for a millionaire playboy in the '60s.  Larry, ya did me proud.

Anyway, that's it for now.  Gotta dash for my monthly memory competition with Jolly Jack (yep, he's up here too) to see who misremembers the most from those early days of the Marvel Age of Comics.  It's usually a draw, 'cos we're both as bad as each other when it comes to recalling exactly how things happened.  We both did something right though, whoever did what, which is why these characters are still around in the 21st century.

'Nuff said!

Wednesday, 5 May 2021

THE FIRST OF A MARVELLOUS NEW BLOG SERIES: STAN 'THE MAN' LEE PRESENTS... (UPDATED)


Copyright MARVEL COMICS

Hi there, culture lovers, this is Stan Lee here.  I'll be appearing on 'Crivens!' from time to time to yak about some of the great comics I worked on with my fellow collaborators.  Y'know, the place I'm hanging out now since my passing is extremely comfortable and I guess I could just spend my time loafing about on clouds and playing my harp, but I know how much all you true Marvel Maniacs will be missing me so I thought I'd keep in touch.  I'm not usually one for plugging the characters of the Distinguished Competition, but similar to Deadman (though he does it with humans), my essence pops into my 8 inch Mego action figure in order to be able to communicate with you.

First up is Thor The Mighty, who made his debut in Journey Into Mystery #83 back in 1962.  Jack Kirby claimed to have created him, and he certainly came up with the look, but my brother, Larry Lieber, always wrote 'full script' and 'twas he who came up with the name Don Blake and Jane Foster (Jane Nelson in her first appearance), which is at odds with Jack's version of events.  So Larry wrote the tale, based on my plot, and Jack illustrated it from my brother's script.  Had the Jolly one created the character and his secret identity, he'd surely have named him, not left it to Larry.  (Hey, Leave It To Larry sounds like a great title for a TV show.)

Of course, pre-Marvel, Jack had played with the character of Thor a couple of times in the past in one-off tales, but apart from the design of the hammer, none of his earlier versions resembled Marvel's mallet-swinging hero.  For those who say Jack's design of Mjolnir proves he created the character, well, actually all it proves is that Jack created the look of Thor's hammer, whichever Thor it happened to be - DC's or Marvel's.  However, seeing as how 'King' Kirby came up with the visuals of our strip, and later contributed a great deal to the plotting, often coming up with the plots himself with only a little occasional tinkering from me, then he certainly deserves the title of co-creator.  I didn't do these stories by myself, and neither did Jack; we both relied on the Bullpen's talented inkers, letterers and colourists to help breathe life into our little fables.

I guess it's always possible that Jack and I discussed the idea of doing Thor before I gave the plot to Larry, or it might even have been Jack's suggestion to start with (though it could just as easily have been mine), but neither of us could swear to it either way with total certainty.  Let's just say that when it comes to creative rights, yours truly, Jack, and Larry all deserve a measure of credit in birthing our version of big daddy Odin's favourite son.  

Well, that's it for now true believers - I'll yak with you all again in the very near future.  Right now I'm off over to the next cloud to watch Sam Rosen re-letter the ten commandments in English; nobody could letter quite like Sam - though I hear a Scottish laddie I once met in Glasgow comes pretty durn close.

Excelsior!




Tuesday, 4 May 2021

STAN LEE DROPS IN FOR A VISIT...



The late, great Stan Lee isn't one to let death diminish his popularity, nor limit his enduring presence in the realm of mortals.  So much so, in fact, that 'The Man' turned up on my doorstep today in the form of a Mego 8 inch action figure.  What's the old saying?  "You can't keep a good man down!"  Excelsior. 


Monday, 3 May 2021

25 YEARS - NO TIME AT ALL. OR IS IT?


Copyright REBELLION

Much to my surprise, I learned, while reading John Sanders book, that he departed from IPC/Fleetway in 1990, after 25 years overseeing many of the classic comics of yesteryear.  (I thought he was still there for years after the fact.)  1990 feels recent to me, but if we jump back from that point, it takes us to 1965, and '65 to '90 seems like quite a stretch of time - probably because I went from being a kid to a teenager to an adult in that period.  Then I think "But it was only 25 years."

That's because the last 25 years to someone my age doesn't seem like a long time now, but to a younger person that stretch of time somehow feels very different.  1965 is history, 1990 is contemporary (relatively speaking), and the gulf between the two dates seems much longer that 1990 to 2005, though it's of the exact same duration.  Perceptions, perceptions, eh?  Anyway, this is a little post about nothing much at all, but I thought I'd share it with you just in case you didn't have any drying paint to watch. 

Sunday, 2 May 2021

PART SIXTEEN OF KIRBY 'KOCK-UPS' - JACK CURES BALDNESS...


Copyright DC COMICS

I'm currently re-reading my Jack Kirby Jimmy Olsen issues and have spotted yet another of Jack's kooky 'kock-ups' in #s 142 & 143.  In the former ish, the person who shot and killed Jim Harper (the original Golden Guardian) is revealed as a balding, bare-faced baddie, but in the next issue, he's sporting a full head of hair and a moustache, as well as being slightly foreign looking.  (At least Jack drew him holding the 'phone in the same hand.)

Perhaps the guy he's speaking to asked him to hold for a moment so he took the opportunity to affix his toupee and false moustache?  Or maybe that beer he's drinking has been spiked with hair restorer?  Whatever the reason, it's yet another lapse in continuity that Jack was so (in)famous for throughout his distinguished comics career.  If you'd like to see previous examples of this sort of thing, just type 'Kirby Kock-Ups' into the blog's search box and all shall be revealed. 

Tuesday, 27 April 2021

TRULY SCRUMPTIOUS...



If you've always wanted a Corgi Chitty Chitty Bang Bang in your collection, then you may be interested to know that the iconic model has been reissued for the modern 'adult collector'.  Unlike it's previous 'budget' reissue some years back, this one has painted and spring-loaded wings which pop out when the brake lever is pushed forward, plus a full complement of four figures.  Alas, no jewelled head or tail lights as per the '68 original, and the bonnet strap is printed on rather than being a plastic attachment, but this is a very nice model and available for a modest £24.95 (plus postage) direct from Corgi.

I now have four versions of this Corgi classic; an original '60s one, a '90s reissue, one from maybe around 15 years ago (which had unpainted pull-out side wings, and one figure), and now the latest one which arrived at Castel Crivens today.  That's not counting my three Corgi Juniors, or my SEG super large version, which is about 14 inches long, not including the front and rear wings.  This of course means that I have 8 Chittys in total, but I always was a greedy boy.

Anyway, should you like one, you'll find it on the Corgi website, but you'll have to Google it, 'cos I'm off to my scratcher.  In the meantime, what's your favourite Corgi or Dinky TV/movie tie-in cars of all time, and would Chitty be one of them?

Monday, 26 April 2021

A KING'S REACH SHOULD ALWAYS EXCEED HIS GRASP...


Copyright REBELLION (and JOHN SANDERS, presumably)

I really enjoyed my regular visits to King's Reach Tower in London's Stamford Street for the first two years of my comics career.  It was a great building and I couldn't help but feel important whenever I walked through its exalted portals - or revolving doors actually, if memory serves.  Then the Youth Group moved along the road to Irwin House, and I remember holding the front door open for John Sanders as he entered one afternoon when myself, Kevin Brighton (art assistant), and Marc Jung (Buster's assistant editor) were going out for lunch, up to the cafeteria in KRT.  Mr. Sanders looked as if he'd imbibed a little too much, and I later learned it was probably due to him drowning his sorrows when a new football magazine he'd already got the green light for was cancelled at very little notice.  Apart from maybe a couple of nods and a polite "Morning", or seeing him wandering around corridors from time to time, that was my total experience of the gentleman in my time freelancing for the company.

Now, having just read his autobiographical account of his career in comics, I feel like I know him a little better, and I found his book an enthralling, behind-the-scenes glimpse at his involvement in iconic comics like 2000 A.D., Action, Misty, Starlord, and numerous other titles he had a guiding hand in during IPC's glory days before Robert Maxwell got his hands on the Youth Group and, in pretty short order, dismantled it until it was a pale shadow of its former self.  If you're interested in such history, you're sure to enjoy this volume as much as I did, and it sheds light on such topics as creators rights, ownership of artwork (and reprint fees, or the lack of them), and what goes on in the development of a comic up until the point of fruition.  The logic of the 'hatch, match, and despatch' philosophy is explained, and it certainly seemed to work, otherwise it would've been abandoned pretty early on and not repeated for so many years.

A couple of pedant's points, but Esther Rantzen is referred to as Esther Ransom in the book (that's life I suppose - see what I did there?), and 'minuscule' is spelt 'miniscule', but that's a tiny error that a lot of us have made when we're typing too fast, so nothing to get upset about.  I always had the impression that the Youth Group was sold to Maxwell before it moved from Irwin House to Greater London House, but I assume Mr. Sanders will know these facts better than me, so I'm not going to argue about it.  One thing that strikes me though is, had Mr. Sanders not planted the idea in IPC's mind to sell the Youth Group, Maxwell would never have had the chance to buy it.  Does the author ever feel that he may've been partly responsible in hastening the Youth Group's doom? 

I don't see the book on the Treasury Of British Comics website, but perhaps it's available on the 2000 A.D. store.  If not, you can order it via one of various Internet sites, as I did.  Definitely worth a read. 

Sunday, 25 April 2021

BATMAN, AGENT OF S.H.I.E.L.D. ?


Copyright MARVEL COMICS

Y'know, I've seen this cover a few times before.  I'm sure it's reprinted in one of my two-part S.H.I.E.L.D. Special Edition mags from the early '80s, but I'd never noticed what appears to be The Batman in the bottom left-hand corner until Fantastic Four Follower referred to it in the comments section of the previous post.  Well, I likely saw the figure (unless it was removed from reprints), but I just never clocked it looked like Batman.  Was anyone else aware of the Dark Knight Detective on the front of a Marvel comic or is this as much a surprise to you as it was to me?  In fact, is it even meant to be Batman, or is it merely a coincidental resemblance to another character inside the mag? 

So much for that Sherlock Holmes 'Improve Your Observational Skills' kit I bought years ago.  Maybe I should ask for a refund?!

PART FOUR OF KID'S KLASSIC KIRBY KOVERS - THE FABULOUS FF (WITH BONUS)...


Copyright MARVEL COMICS

Dunno about you, but I thought the four part tale contained within issues #90-93 was an absolute belter and a half!  I seem to recall reading somewhere that it was a Star Trek episode in which the crew either go back in time, or land on a planet which bases their culture on 1930s America, that inspired Jack to dream up this plot.  (Doesn't mean that Stan didn't contribute, Lee-haters, so down, boy!)  In our previous post, we saw the covers to #84-87, and Jack purportedly was influenced by The Prisoner TV series when he dreamt that one up.  Whatever would he have done without a TV, eh?

Anyway, if you've got a favourite cover within this lot, be sure to share which one (or ones) it is with your fellow Crivvies.  You know how nosy we all are.







Bonus: In between Kirby abandoning the mag and Buscema taking over, John Romita drew four issues of the good ol' FF.  I only have one original ish (though I have the others in a Masterworks volume), so I though I'd show it here.  I must admit I bought my original copy of this number (the one below is a replacement) purely out of lust over the pic of Susie on the cover.  Ah, young love.  (Looks a bit like Paige Spiranac in the previous post, eh?)  

Saturday, 24 April 2021

BABE OF THE DAY - PAIGE SPIRANAC...



Nah, Paige, that's the worst impression of a teapot I've ever seen - you're supposed to hold up one arm like a spout.  What's that you say, you're not a teapot, you're a trophy?  Okay, can't argue with that - you certainly are.



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