Monday, March 31, 2008

THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF STANLEY

ITEM! This is it, True Believers! The announcement that couldn’t wait but had to take a number and go sit patiently until all the litigious legal letters were laminated and lamented. Actually, I still can’t technically talk about it. You know Hollywood lawyers. But your Uncle Stanley can drop an inkling of insinuating innuendo. As you may already know, the House of Mouse and Yours Truly inked a development deal awhile back, and tomorrow I’ll be giving you boundless blog buffs an Intranet exclusive. This idea has been in the development stages for over a year, and I just dropped a hint of it in the Spidey Daily newspaper strip a few weeks ago to see if any over-eager No-Prize seekers would catch it. So until tomorrow, ponder away, oh peerless predictors of all thing precocious!

Excelsior!
Smiley

Sunday, March 30, 2008

CARPE DVD-IUM

ITEM! Well it’s Sock It To Stan Mailbag time here in ever lovin’ blogville. Elliot M. Bour of Los Angeles, CA writes:

Thank you so much for posting your disappointment in Marvel over the cancellation of the GIT Corp DVDs. I had been collecting these since they first started putting them out and thought that not only were they a wonderful idea, but wonderfully executed, as well. I think the online service Marvel is now offering is a horrible idea and can only hope it will fail so they will go back to putting out the DVDs ... Isn't there anything you can do, Stan?

I wish there was, Elliot! Marvel management stopped taking my calls years ago. Rascally Roy Thomas was just chiding me the other day by phone for not even knowing about this lamentable loss until a year-or-two after the DVD collections were out on store shelves. Your Uncle Stanley doesn’t move as fast as he used to, pilgrim. And I’ve been unbelievably buried and busy concocting the next generation of literary icons in about a million different mass media. That, and my company just sued The House of (My) Ideas for $5 billion, which I’m not even supposed to talk about. You know, there should be a DVD collection of the list of things my attorneys expect me to remember not to talk about! That would be handy.

The best thing frantic fans of GIT’s diligent and delightful DVD collections can do is follow Ol’ Smiley’s example. Vote with your wallets and your world wide web writings. There’s only two things most corporations care about, and that’s money and bad publicity (note that the second causes the loss of the first). Even if I didn’t already have most of those back issues leather-bound in my climate-controlled vault beneath Casa de Lee, I wouldn’t give Marvel dime-one to rent back issues online. I’ve had Irving Forbush scour the Intrawebs to grab all of the GTI DVDs he can, at places like this and this. Until Marvel•Mart sees the light an re-licenses GTI, I guess we’ll all just have to Hang Loose and support our local back-issue comic shops!

Excelsior!
Smiley

Saturday, March 29, 2008

DAZE OF LINES AND POSES

ITEM! If you’re a Bombastic Baby Boomer (or even an exceptionally well-informed Gen-X’er), you may remember a couple of humor magazines written by Yours Truly back in the 60s: You Don’t Say! and Monsters to Laugh With (later Monsters Unlimitted). In both manic mags your Uncle Stanley took photographs (political in You Don’t Say!, movie monsters in Monsters to Laugh With) and gave them wonderously wacky comic word balloons.

If you think about it, the idea was pure genius. After all, by the mid-60s I was spending most of my days and nights putting in word balloons and captions for stacks of Kirby and Ditko penciled comic book art. With those two, I usually had a passing idea of what was really going on plot-wise at best. Taking pictures of Richard Nixon or Frankenstein’s Monster and giving them dementedly droll dialogue was a seamlessly simple segue from what I was already doing. Not to mention that using those procurable public-domain photographs meant no angst-ridden artists to coddle, credit or compensate. Plus it was an ever lovin’ kick to do!

I let you in on a secret, Fearless Front-Facers. Back in those simpler times, Yours Truly still dreamed of becoming a best-selling author, and I thought that maybe these marvelously mocking mags might become so successful that their contents would be recollected into best-selling books.

Well as Grandma Lieber used to say, never give up on your dreams, Tiger. Now on sale at fine booksellers everywhere is my new bestseller, Election Daze: What Are They Really Saying? This is an all-new comedic collection of sensational satire featuring all of your favorites: Gorgeous George W., High-Steppin’ Hillary, Barack-Attack Obama and even little Johnny McCain. Get your copious copy here.

This first volume has already been such a sizzling sales success that I’ve already got a sequel volume in the works. Since I really loved doing the monster photos too, I decided wouldn’t it be great if I could combine both of my comedic loves into one dizzyingly dazzling dramaturgy? Just for you, oh Keepers of the Faith, is a world-premiere sneak peek at my up-coming volume. We’re thinking of calling it Bride of Election Daze. Let your Fearless Leader know what you think!

Excelsior!
Smiley

Friday, March 28, 2008

LAST ACTION HERO

ITEM! Speaking of NY Comic Con (April 18-21, natch), my contact at Hasbro just called to remind me that although the Stan Lee Action Figures were the hit of Comic Con San Diego, there are still hundreds of pallets of them sitting at the Hasbro warehouse in Hoboken, NJ. So this is your chance, Marvelites! Don’t miss out on what is someday certain to be a calamitous collector’s item!

That said, I wish the Hasbro marketing folks had listened to Ol’ Smiley when we were first discussing this titanic action figure toy. The one they came up with was nice enough I suppose. It features my trademark patent-pending windbreaker, khakis and prescription sunglasses (the preferred eyewear of fabulous fossilized fantasy writers from Harlan Ellison to Yours Truly). It also comes with interchangeable Spidey/Peter Parker head, mask, feet and hands. Pretty cool, huh?

But your Uncle Stanley had the Hasbro sculptors and designers mock up a prototype to my own exceptionally exacting standards, and can you believe the suits rejected the idea out of hand? You know, even after 67 years in the biz, editorial rejection still stings. That’s why I have my  POWn company now where I run the show, Sunshine. Well me and about 30 lawyers. I bet if Hasbro had listened to Stan the Man, these things would’a sold out at Comic Con SD. Check out the cool-o-meter rating on this unreleased baby! Who says the isn't the Marvel Age of Shameless Self Promotion?

Excelsior!
Smiley

Thursday, March 27, 2008

POW! COME SEE ME GET MY JUST DESSERTS AT NEW YORK COMIC CON

ITEM! As you may have already read, this year at the New York Comic Con (April 18-20) they will be handing out the first-ever-in-a-scintilating-series of New York Comics Legend Awards. And the first reluctant recipient will be Yours Truly. See the press release here if you don’t believe the Smilin' One.

Words would fail me, but luckily I have my ever-trusty pocket thesaurus with me at all times. I can’t tell you how humbled I am to be honored by this rollicking recognition, especially while I’m still around and kicking to receive it! Not bad for a kid from West 89th Street!

Hopefully Ol' Smiley will be the first of many Merry Marvel Marchers to receive this awe-striking award. I even have a few ideas that I’ve been flying past the New York Comic Con Committee to make this award even more delightful and dignified for future recipients. As the Aristophanes of Illustrative Alliteration, I’ve been mulling over the name of the thing — “New York Comics Legend Award.” Doesn’t exactly roll of the tongue, does it, pilgrim? That’s why I’ve suggested to the committee they simply shorten the name to “The Stan Lee Award” after it's first amorous awardee. I mean, Will Eisner and Jack Kirby have awards named after them, so why not your Uncle Stanley? See the bronze prototype pictured at right. I asked them to cast it in uru, but no one at the foundry had ever heard of that.

The Stan Lee Award... almost brings a tear to your eyes, doesn’t it Frantic One? See you at the awards banquet!

Excelsior!
Smiley

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

ONE MORE DAZE

ITEM! Well Frantic Ones, never let it be said that your Uncle Stanley isn’t the first to admit when he’s wrong, as rare an auspicious occasion as that may be. Even a broke clock is right twice a day, or something like that. But my former assistant boy-genius editor (and pedantic publisher of Alter Ego magazine) Rascally Roy Thomas just sent me an unpublished cover proof for The Amazing Spider-Man #66 that he had somewhere in his copious comic art collection.

To say I was flabbergasted and floored would be an earnest understatement. I’d forgotten all about this. I know, I know... whatta shocker! But what you see here reflects the original story that we all-but-published for Spidey #66. To recap, our favorite Web-spinner had just busted out of prison (#65) after being injured and knocked unconscious by the Vulture. Originally, I’d planned to introduce Mephisto as the next, niftiest, newest Spidey Villain, and had Jazzy Johnny Romita draw it up as usual. In the unpublished storyline, Mephisto appeared and taunted Spidey into a confrontation only to find himself teleported into his own miniature version of Hell where Mephy would strike a deal with him to save the life of his secret on-again-off-again crush, Mary Jane Watson. Who would Spidey chose? Gwen or Mary Jane? Ah, the delicious decision-making drama.

But about that same time I was also trying to plot out the first few issues of The Silver Surfer, which I thought was going to be a snap without the able assistance of Jolly Jack Kirby. As it turned out, not so much. Without Jack's interstellar input, I had no idea what to do with the character to be frank with you. So, at the last minute, I decided that Mephisto was too good a villain to waste and switched him over to be the main baddy for Silver Surfer #3 (see the salvaged and appropriately altered cover), published a few scant months later. A quick patch job on the art by Razzy Romita and Jaunty Jim Mooney salvaged some of the Spidey #66 art and most of #67, along with the metaphysical magic of sometime-Spidey penciller Johnny Buscema. Mysterio, an old Ditko Spidey villain even made a handy illusionistic Mephisto substitute.

The rest, as they say is history. As I already somewhat-erroneously pointed out in my a prior peerless post, I thought that the Joey “The Kid” Quesada’s “One More Day” and “Brand New Day” story lines smacked a little too much of classic Stan Lee Spidey. Now you know why. And is your Uncle Stanley offended at this? Perish Forbid, True Believer! Even Pissaro said, “Good artists borrow, great artists steal.” Either him or Steve Wozniak. I forget which. 

Excelsior!
Smiley

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

AMONG US DWELL... THE MUNSTERS!?

ITEM! A lot of Frantic Fans wonder what working with Jack “King” Kirby was really like. Just like the other great creative partnerships in history, Lennon and McCartney, Sonny and Cher, Fred and Barney... folks want to know who did what and who influenced who. Me and Jack? Due to a debilitating combination of long-term memory loss and having dropped acid in the 60s, frankly I don’t remember much. And other times I just make things up. The whole temporal-lobe trick is to just say something repeatedly for three or four decades and voila! You do remember it! If not as it was, then certainly as it should have been.

But ever since I’ve been taking five-times the prescribed dosage of St. John’s Wort, I’ve been having these memory-burst days where I recall something with crystalline precision. Today’s one of those lucky days, pilgrims, and Smiley’s sizzling synaptic misfires are your gregarious gain! For example, here’s the TRUE STORY of how the Lee-Kirby team came up with everyone’s favorite genetically-manipulated cousins, The Inhumans!

Jolly Jack and I were still meeting face-to-cigar in those days to plot out the FF. One day I suggested to Jack that we might revisit the Frankenstein concept that had served us so well as a template for The Incredible Hulk, and create a new Universally-Inspired Manic Movie Monster to pillage and plague our cosmic quartet. Now you have to understand that although we talked a lot to each other during these plotting sessions, neither Jack nor Yours Truly were ever particularly good at listening. In this case, I said “Frankenstein” and Jolly Jack heard “a family of Frankensteins.” Immediately he started ranting on-and-on about this great new TV show he’d seen called The Munsters, and how we could do our own rift on that comedic concept. The Munsters!?? But by this time I’d learned that when Jack got all wound up like an 8-day-clock over something to just shrug and say, “That sounds great, Jack!” and see what he brought back.

But here’s the thing about the King. He’d have a great idea one minute, and then ten more the next. So it was no surprise to your Uncle Stanley when Jack dropped off the pencils to FF #44 and there was no sign of a family of Universal Movie Monsters in it — just some new ungainly ungulated villain named Gorgon chasing the Frightful Four’s Medusa and Dragon-Man around. No biggie. I dialogued accordingly. Then Jack brought in the next ish (FF #45) and suddenly there IS a family of monsters, albeit more Merry Marvel Mutant than Monster per se. And suddenly Madame Medusa is one of them instead of the Frightful Four? What? Did we skip a few issues?

I spent a whole evening at home with those pencils trying to write the captions before I finally got it. Crystal, the only Inhuman who could pass for a normal human? That was Marilyn Munster. Lockjaw was Spot, the Munsters’ pet dragon. Yvonne De Carlo as Medusa anyone? Somewhere in that cosmically creative cerebellum of Jack’s, he had actually taken the basic idea of The Munsters and turned it inside out, and made it his own... er, I mean Marvel’s.

I never quite worked it all out in my own mischievous medulla oblongata, but such is trying to understand the eclectic creative whims of King Kirby. I did ask him once who Black Bolt was supposed to be, and in his typically dyslexically cryptic way, he said, “I don’t know, Lee, but wouldn’t it be great if we all had a boss that shut the hell up once in awhile?”

Excelsior!
Smiley

Monday, March 24, 2008

THE RED AND THE WHITE AND THE BLUE WILL COME THROUGH...

ITEM! So Mercantile Marvel Management did what the Third Reich, the Red Skull, and even Batroc the Leaper couldn’t do — they killed Captain America. Maybe you heard. And then, after the massive media-flurry died down, after the sensational story slowly sank in the sales-boost sea... they brought him back! What’s that you say, Frantic One? Not Yet? They will soon enough. Trust your Uncle Stanley on this one.

Manic Merry Marvelites everywhere might well ask what was the whole point then? Why kill off a major character in an media blitz that sucked in the likes of Newsweek and CNN, who all gave it huge front page coverage? You just answered your own question, sunshine. The so-called “Death of Captain America” story-arc did exactly what it was supposed to do — sell more books. Even celebrated Cap co-creator Jazzy Joe Simon fell for the whole thing hook, line and stinker. He was quoted as saying, “It's a hell of a time for him to go. We really need him now.”

I’d say it’s the oldest salacious sales-boosting trick in comics, but that honor would belong to Yours Truly and the ever-reliable, ever-trusty “Let’s have the heroes meet, have a massive misunderstanding, and then slug it out for 22 pages” trick. Back in the day, that little gem used to be pure sales gold. 

But this is the post-modern 21st Century Mighty Marvel we’re talking about. It’s not like back when I was running the show while standing on my desk shouting "Excelsior" to inspire the troops. Although God rest his soul, if Martin “Good Ship Trend-Follower” Goodman could have run his entire comics line on the principles of just selling more movie tickets, trade-paperbacks, and action figures, he would have.

It would be easy to toss another log on the Joltin’ Joe Quesada let’s-end-his-evil-reign-of-terror-now bonfire, but that would be letting Edacious Ed Brubaker off the hook. Not to back-seat plot, but that guy rolls out a story-arc slightly slower than Aunt May’s shuffle board team. My bet is we see Steve Rogers back in uniform as Cap again sometime around issue #50 — over a year from now and two years after he “died.” But he's definitely coming back. It doesn’t take a disenfranchised Chairman Emeritus to figure that out.

The only real question is how? Well your Uncle Stanley is taking all bets, with vivacious Vegas odds to-boot! Baron Brubaker has said in interviews that the Steve Rogers seen in the latest issue of Cap is a.) not a clone (Marvel learned their lesson with that one apparently), and he’s b.) not a skrull (Thank God for that). My bet? Well it takes a sense-shattering Shakespearean storyteller like your Uncle Stan a little bit of effort to put himself in the place of a writer who’s plots are being dictated by what will sell the Most Marvelous Merchandise — about half a step as a matter of fact — so I would have to go with this: the Steve Rogers that appeared in Cap #36 was brought from moments after he was frozen solid in 1945 with time travel technology stolen from Doctor Doom. Then you know what yah got, pilgrim? A "Brand New Day" for Captain America! If it worked for Spidey, then why not Cap? You heard it here first True Believer. And just in time for the 2009 Captain America movie! You have been warned, Marvelites! ‘Nuff Said!

Excelsior!
Smiley

Saturday, March 22, 2008

FOREVER FORBUSH!

ITEM!  Letters! Hoo-Boy, do we ever get letters here at It’s Always Sunny in Soapbox-land! From time-to-time I’ll try and answer the perkiest of your pen-pal postings via the Electronic Intranets. This one just in from Odense, Denmark (who says this isn’t the Marvel Age of Instant International Inquiries?):

Dear Stan,

You said on your site that the technical assistant helping you with your blog is one Irving Forbush. Since Irving’s first appearance was in Not Brand Echh #1 in 1967, wouldn’t that make him nearly as old, and therefore as computer-illiterate, as you?

Thanks,
RoXr1138

That’s quite a syntaxed non-gender-specific sobriquet you’ve gotten for yourself there, RoXr1138! May I call you RoXy? Any-hoo, RoXy, you’ve asked an excellent question that your Uncle Stanley is only too happy to answer.

Technically, Irving Forbush joined our Merry Marvel Bullpen when we were merely Magazine Management Corporation way back in the mid-50s. His "first appearance” was a creative credit in an early humor magazine of mine called Snafu, where he was listed as founder. And by founder, I meant that he ran out and got us our bagels and lox every morning. But you’re quite correct, Irresistible Irving is only a few years younger than your Uncle Stanley, which places his birth sometime in the middle Pleistocene.


But that was Irving Forbush Sr., who’s now comfortably retired and holding court poolside with a bevy of retired Playboy Bunnies somewhere in Boca Raton, Florida. My affably able assistant these days is his grandson, Irving Fonzworth Forbush III. Li’l Irv the Third started hanging out at the Mighty Marvel Offices way back when he was knee-high to an assistant editor... which came in pretty handy ‘cause he was a little knee-biter back then. He got Roy Thomas so many times the Rascally One started showing up to work in his soccer shin-guards.

Hope that clears up the generational mystery, RoXy. Forbush-Man 3 has not only inherited the cape and pan-like helmet of his grandaddy, he’s taken on the awesome responsibility of making sure that everything you see on this website accurately reflects all that is honest, heartfelt and humble in Yours Truly. Remember culture-lovers, that with great power comes great repost-ability. 

Excelsior!
Smiley

Friday, March 21, 2008

SECRET INVASION, NOT-SO-SECRET PLOT-HOLES

ITEM! You’d think that Joey “Mad Dog” Quesada would call the Smiling One up once in awhile and solicit some of my 67-years-in-the-biz experience and advice before he goes off on these massively misjudged editorial misfires, like the so-called Secret Invasion multi-title story arc. 

According to this predictably pedantic premise, it will be suddenly revealed that unbeknownst to us rabid readers, several Merry Marvel Heroes have secretly been shape-changing Skrulls plotting the take-over of planet earth. No really — that’s the whole idea. You know, I liked this plot the first time I read it, in, I don’t know... Fantastic Four #2 (1962, by Yours Truly and the great Jack Kirby).

But R.F.O.’s (Real Frantic Ones) who have read the whole 102-issue Lee-Kirby run of the FF will notice that we only actually used the Skrulls as villains about four times, three of those appearances in the early run of the book. Why? Because even your sometimes seemingly senile Uncle Stanley understands the inherently inevitable story-logic problem with using a highly advanced race of shape-changing antagonists: they would roll right over us, pilgrim! How many times can even our cosmic-ray powered quartet manage to defeat an entire interstellar civilization of manic metamorphs? Not many, True Believer, before it becomes painfully obvious to even the most naive naysayer that the good guys are going to win no matter what. And when that happens, when the reader’s suspension of disbelief is senselessly shattered, then all the drama gets sucked right out of the story quicker than a prune juice smoothy going through Aunt May.

Joe, Joe, Joe... this isn’t rocket science, yah know. This is basic storytelling 101. I’ve unblocked your number on the Spider-Phone. Give your Uncle Stanley a call. If I could dialogue FF #91, then I can probably help you pave over this horrendously hideous plot-hole you've dug for yourself.

Excelsior!
Smiley

Thursday, March 20, 2008

PHYSICIAN, REVEAL THYSELF

ITEM! Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: an American doctor travels to the Far East and unwittingly passes a series of character tests, only to discover that an ancient, dying sorcerer has selected him to accept the mantle of mystic defender of the Earth. That’s the origin of Doctor Stephen Strange, the one character even your Uncle Stanley has acknowledged was basically Sturdy Steve Ditko's idea, right?

Don’t you believe it, pilgrim! I was down in The Climate-Controlled Crypt a few days ago looking through some of my leather-bound copies of past Marvel Classics when I came across a character that even I’d forgotten: The Fantastic Doctor Droom! Who the heck was he, you ask, oh Faithful Follower of all things Marvelous? Doctor Droom was an abstruse antecedental attempt at an ongoing super-heroic character that debuted in Amazing Adventures #1 (June 1961) — five months prior to the first issue of The Fantastic Four, and over two years before the debut of Doctor Strange. What’s that you say, pilgrim? Lost your 47-year old copy of this frankly fabulous fable, did you? See the whole debut story here.

Everyone always wonders what Jolly Jack’s version of Spider-Man would’a been like if I had decided to go in that editorial direction in 1963. Well the Doctor Droom stories in Amazing Adventures #1-4 and #6 might give you some unimpeded insight... which is to say not all that great. Mine and Jack’s earlier Doc Strange prototype spent most of his time hypnotizing alien invaders... which Reed Richards, the scientist’s scientist, was prone to do a few times in early issues of the FF. Even the titanic team of Lee-Kirby was a little hit-and-miss in those earnestly early eons-ago. The Doc Droom stories were hardly the mind-bending mystic battles fought across far-flung dimensions that would later be a part-and-parcel of Ditko’s Doctor Strange. 

But still, it hard to believe that Stevey-Boy didn’t take major inspiration from Ol’ Doc Droom. Interestingly, although the first Doc Droom tale was a Lee-Kirby production, guess who inked it? If you guessed Sterling Steve Ditko, award yourself you own home-grown No-Prize True Believer! After the drubbing Ditko’s given me over the years over who co-created Spidey, it sure looks like it’s sauce-for-the-gander time to the Smilin’ One. Wanna check out all of Ol' Doc Droom's dramatic adventures for pennys-on-the-collector-comics-dollar? Irving Forbush says to be sure and check out the Amazing Adult Fantasy Omnibus.

Excelsior!
Smiley

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

NICK FURIOUS, AGENT OF M.P.A.A.

ITEM! Samuel L. “Oh I'm sorry, did I break your concentration” Jackson called me late last night on the Spider-Phone. Apparently he’s hoppin’ mad ‘cause word just got around to him that his commanding cameo as Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. in the new Iron Man movie just hit the cutting room floor. Sammy is up in arms about this, as this cameo was supposed to be a serrepticious sneak preview for a possible 2010 tent-pole movie for that same character.

It took more than mere minutes to calm him down, pilgrims. It seems that director Johnny “Fan-Fave” Favreau isn’t taking his calls, hence the late-night shout-out to Your Truly. It’s just as well because the Smilin’ One knows exactly what happened anyway.

Your Uncle Stanley had to remind Sunny Sammy about the little talk we had prior to his accepting the cameo role. I tried to stress to him that as big of an amorous admirer of his work as I was, this was a Merry Marvel Movie and their were a few rules. Rule One: best not to ad-lib your lines too much, and if you do, don’t ever, ever, EVER use any of your *ahem* trademark colorful metaphors. Did Sam the Man listen to that advice? Hell, no. He’s all about being an “artist” and “the method,” whatever that is.

I found out weeks ago when Jazzy Johnny Favreau called me up complaining about the on-set incident. It seems that Sam elected to lace one of his lines with an invitation to the villain to self-procreate, and then accused him by name of having relations with his maternal forbearer. John’s problem was that with the time left to complete his final print he couldn’t even over-dub the lines without it sounding like Jackie Gleason in the network TV version of Smokey and the Bandit. And he couldn’t just leave it in and let a 60-second cameo drop his whole PG-13 rating straight down to an R. That’s box-office suicide for a cross-over comic book flick, kids!

So the decision came down the pipe to cut the scene and save it for a delightfully dirty DVD extra, and Sam’s pretty P.O.ed (that’s Pruriently Offended — Never-Salacious Stan). I tried explaining to him that this was Iron Man, not Unbreakable, and that not every director lets his actors run amuck like M. Night Shyamalan, but to no avail. Before he hung up he vowed to “rally the fan-boys” on the Intrawebs and mumbled something about seeing who was going to procreate who. Ah well, your Uncle Stanley did his boisterous best... 

Excelsior!
Smiley

THUS SPAKE ZARATHUSTRA

ITEM! One of the elder gods of imaginative literature has passed on to that great publishing house in the sky — Arthur C. Clarke died yesterday at age 90 in his adopted homeland of Sri Lanka. I feel like the creative clubhouse of us pioneer penners of peerless predictive prose is just a little more empty today.

Did’ja know that Arthur C. Clarke and Jolly Jack Kirby were born mere months apart back in 1917? Yup, and they both served in WW II. Clarke was helping invent radar for the Brits while Jack was slogging along through Europe in Patton’s 3rd Army. And both thought of things before anyone else — Clarke invented telecommunication satellites, Kirby the iPhone... er, Motherbox.

Maybe the similar ages and outlooks of Arthur C. Clarke and Jack Kirby explained why Arthur didn’t even get that mad when Jolly Jack took major liberties when adopting his book and screenplay into the Marvel Treasury Edition of 2001: A Space Odyssey. I begged Jack to let me dialogue this one, but he just kept faxing me back copies of his contract with the "editorial freedom" clause underlined and surrounded by Kirby Krackle.

I hope that Arthur C. Clarke finds out that the afterlife is "full of stars."

Excelsior!
Smiley

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

WHAT A TANGLED WEB WE WEAVE

ITEM! Well I’ve finally finished Madcap Mark Evanier’s Magnum Opus, Kirby: King of Comics, and I have to say... Well Done! Aside from some quibbles I have with the art direction of the cover (you could have called up your Uncle Stanley and asked how color registration in comics works, you know), this titanic tome is an absolute must-read for frenzied fans of the King.

The most interesting part to Yours Truly was the brief section on the consistently-contentious creation of everyone’s favorite web-spinner, Spider-Man. To be completely honest with you, pilgrims, I don’t remember what I had for lunch yesterday, my-as-less who did what over 45 years ago. I can tell you this: in the past I’ve been gratuitously guilty of taking any credit that wasn’t nailed down. But how to make after-the-fact amends? Judging by everyone’s response, even this sizzlingly sincere personal letter to Sturdy Steve Ditko didn’t get the job done.

But the truth is I’m not getting any younger, True Believers. And since your Uncle Stanley has the long-term memory of a headless cadaver, I’ve employed the stalwartly studious services of my own personal research assistant, Irving Forbush, to help me nail this puppy down once and for all.

After thorough research on the subject, including accounts from Joe Simon’s The Comic Book Makers, Will Eisner’s Shop Talk, the Steve Ditko 32-Page Package: Tsk! Tsk! and about a zillion issues of the Jack Kirby Collector, Forbush-Man assures me that he finally has the story straight. Marvel Entertainment attorneys are advised to turn back now and back-click to Forbes.com. 

Sincerely submitted for your approval is the following all-encompassing credit-box for the creation of The Amazing Spider-Man. Hope this makes everyone happy, even that Rascally Randian Stevey Ditko! You know what they say, Marvelites, “Success has many co-creators, but failure is a sales bomb.” Your Uncle Stanley doesn’t see anyone raisin’ Heck over who created Patsy Walker... 

Excelsior!
Smiley

Monday, March 17, 2008

IF I COULD TALK TO THE ARTHROPODS

ITEM! I just got my revised post-writer’s-strike slate of upcoming Merry Marvel Movies and you won’t believe who’s STILL on the list alongside the lengendary likes of Captain America, The Mighty Thor and the Avengers ... Ant-Man!

Avi “Avaricious” Arad and Yours Truly have been round and round about this one, True Believer, and I thought your Uncle Stanley had finally managed to stomp the idea deader than a house ant. But no, the Jaded Juggernaut that is Marvel Entertainment has insisted on dredging up every dubious design of the creative fount that was Lee-Kirby and turning it into a movie. I mean, come on. The Astonishing Ant-Man was a huge comic-book bomb. When not even Jack “King” Kirby and Stan “The Man” Lee, plus four name changes, nine new powers, more costumes than Liberace, and a super-model sidekick could make something a best seller... it’s time to hang up your cybernetic helmet. Not even Joltin’ Joe Louis hit a home run every time at the plate, folks.

And I don’t think your Uncle Stanley has ever heard the basic problem with Ant-Man’s pint-sized premise articulated any better than in this classic skit from a 1979 episode of Saturday Night Live, featuring the Great Garret Morris as Dr. Henry Pym. Best bit: Dan Aykroyd as the Flash warning John Belushi’s Hulk, “Whew! That’s really impressive... size of an ant with full human strength. You must be able to really clean house on those other ants!” Forbush-Man says if you click on this linky thing, you can see it all for yourselves, Fearless Front-Facers. Enjoy!

Excelsior!
Smiley

Sunday, March 16, 2008

THIS IS A PLOT?

ITEM! Speaking of calamitous cameos, here’s a little blast from the provincial past: several of my audacious archival appearances in comic-book form, all skillfully sketched by Jack "King" Kirby.

First and perhaps most infamously, there’s this perilous portrayal, Funky Flashman from Mister Miracle #6. The Flashman is my all-time favorite, mostly because I was able to use this loving little lampoon as emotional blackmail to help talk King Kirby into coming back to Marvel in the mid-70s. Well, that and $10 more a page than he was getting at DC. And some vague promises of editorial freedom. But I digress...

You know pilgrims, Jolly Jack liked to pretend that Yours Truly was the only one in the Merry Marvel Universe who liked to see charismatic kisser in print. But right from the start, Jolly Jack was sneaking himself in their right alongside your Uncle Stanley. Witness this corner detail taken from FF #10 (Jan. 1963)... or our abortive attempt to attend Reed and Sue’s wedding in FF Annual #3 (1965, oh keeper of all things temporal).

But I guess the occasional Kirby self-promotion in our Merry Marvel Mags wasn’t the same as all the press that Ol' Smiley was garnering at the time in mainstream mags like The Village Voice. Okay, I get that. That was about the time that I started to sense the teensey weeniest bit of resentment wafting up from the King’s cigar-smoke-laden pencils. And when I tried to compensate a little by letting Jack both write and draw his own stories, what did I get? “This is a Plot?” (FF Annual #5, 1967) is what I got. Try saying that story title as if you were your own Jewish uncle, boy-chik. Is it just me, or does anyone else sense the sizzling sarcasm in this panel taken from that self-same sardonic story?

Still, as we both got older and moldier, Jack mellowed out a bit. Our last Kirby-created appearance together as rollicking cartoon characters was the fan-fave What If? #11 (also-known-as "What If the Marvel Bullpen had Become the Fantastic Four?"). This magnificent masterpiece was one of the surest, shiniest, most sensational show-stoppers in all Marveldom that I didn't personally write. It doesn’t get any better than Stan “the Man” Lee as Mister Fantastic, Jack “King” Kirby as The Thing, Fabulous Flo Steinberg as The Invisible Woman, and Sol “Who’s He?” Brodsky as The Human Torch. They just don’t make 'em like that anymore True Believers, and it’s probably a good thing they don’t! 

Excelsior!
Smiley

Saturday, March 15, 2008

AIN'T HE UNGLAMOR-RAYS?

ITEM! By the time you read these imperishable words, the teaser trailer to the upcoming The Incredible Hulk movie will be knockin’ em dead from border-to-border and coast-to-coast on the World Wide Intraweb. And by the way, if you live in one of those totalitarian countries that tries to block Intranets access, just email your local government official and ask ‘em when you’ll be able to see this titanic trailer (if you live in Cuba, imagine how that will shake ‘em up!). If an 85-year-old Geritol-addict born before the Great Depression can figure this stuff out, you can too True Believer!

Unbelievably, my scene-stealing cameo is not featured in the teaser, but I’ll bet you millions-to-mutants that it’ll be included in the next one. In the manic meantime, pilgrim, you can assuage your aching appetite for all things gamma-irradiated by watching your Uncle Stanley erratically expound on how the Jolly Green Giant came to be at about 5:18 into the following vivacious video. Irving Forbush says that he’s going to embed me below this copy, but I told Irresistible Irving that your Uncle Stanley doesn’t web-sling that way. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Any-hoo... Enjoy oh Hulkophile! 




Excelsior!
Smiley

Friday, March 14, 2008

RAIDERS OF THE LOST ART

ITEM! You do your very best day-in-and-day-out pilgrim, and it’s just never enough. Turns out it was a good thing that Marvel didn’t print enough of the recent Fantastic Four: The Lost Adventure. For those True Believers who somehow, some-way missed this one (and for shame on you if you did!), it was a Raucous Re-creation by your Yours Truly and Joltin’ Joe Sinnott (with an able assist by the talented Rascally Ron Frenz) of the never-published original Lee-Kirby story for FF #102. For what happened to that story in 1970, see this rapturous recap.

So why is it a good thing that the print run on this Marvelous Masterpiece was unbelievably underestimated? Because try as we might, there was one page of King Kirby’s pencils to the original story that no-one no-how could come lay their little No-Prize lovin’ mitts on. Believe me, we tried everything. I even sucked it up and personally called Lovely Lisa Kirby and Garrulous Greg Theakston just to triple-check that they did not possess the mischeiviously missing page. Finally, we just had to wing it with a page of Kredible Kirbyesque Kopy-cat pencils from Ronny-Boy.

Now this from Titanic Tom Brevoort! The missing page has suddenly surfaced. Some kid bought it on ebay no less! Even always authoritative Johnny “There’s always To” Morrow got caught flat-footed on this one. What to do, what to do? I guess it’s back to the drawing board for another even-more complete recreation, hopefully coming soon in an adequate print run to a comic shop near you. I’ll have to re-gear my bustling brain all over again to script this one page. Merciless Marvel Management wasn’t sure that the Smiling One had it in him the last time to get the job done. But I gotta tell you, Fearless face Fronters, it’s just like riding a bike. It’ll be a cold day in Hell before your Uncle Stanley forgets how to ignore Jack’s margin notes and dramatically dialogue a comic book the way he sees fit! ‘Nuff Said!

Excelsior!
Smiley

Thursday, March 13, 2008

SGT. STANLEY'S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BULLPEN

ITEM! You’ll never guess what I came across while I was banging around in my hermetically-sealed homage to yesterday, otherwise know as “The Crypt.” I found my vivaciously vintage copy of the frollicking "flexidisk" record the Marvel Bullpen recorded in 1965 for inclusion with membership kits for the Merry Marvel Marching Society!

If you’ve ever wondered what Jolly Jack or Fabulous Girl-Friday Flo Steinberg's voices sounded like in real life, this is the one for you, True Believer! About the only Bellicose Bullpenner we didn’t get on this audacious auditory acclamation was Stuffy Steve Ditko, who took one look at my scintillating script for the thing and shouted something about “A is A” and “A day’s work for a day’s pay” and then stomped outta the building. Little did we know at the time...

But the most of the rest of the 1965 Bullpen are on this raucous recording! Hear, oh Fearless One, exactly what Jack “King” KirbySilly Sol Brodsky, Charming Chic Stone and Darling Dick Ayers all sound like while reading stiffly from my ponderously pre-prepared script!

What’s that you say? You weren’t even born in 1965, my-as-less still in possession of your M.M.M.S. membership kit? Shame on you, pilgrim! Thankfully, my Intraweb technical assistant Irving Forbush found this priceless performance out there somewhere on the World Wide Webs. Click HERE to be whisked magically away to Daring Doug Pratt’s blog and listen til’ your clamshell-like ears can’t take it anymore!

Excelsior!
Smiley

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

A COOL EXEC WITH A HEART OF STEEL

ITEM! Man am I ever jazzed about the soon-to-be-unleashed on an unsuspecting public Iron Man Movie! May 2nd can't come fast enough. I got so wound up last night that I had to go down into “The Crypt” (Joanie’s name for the humidity-controlled vault that I had built 50 feet below our Long Island mansion) and re-read some of those early Iron Man appearances in Tales of Suspense.

You know I’d forgotten that Ol’ Shellhead originally started out as a second-tier hero in the Marvel Universe. In those earnestly early days of the Marvel Age of Comics, you could always tell which colorful costumed characters I considered secondary players because those were always the ones that I let my kid brother Leapin’ Larry Lieber script. It didn’t usually work out too well (witness how quickly The Mighty Thor or the Human Torch solo books went to Hell-in-a-hand-basket when either Jack or I took a breather from them — and don’t even get me started on Ant-Man), but Larry and Darling Don Heck both really came out of their shy-prone shells and blossomed on those early Iron Man tales.

Even the “timely” setting of the origin story, featuring the Red Menace as adversaries and Vietnam as a backdrop, set this series apart from the Distinguished Competition. I know it all seems annoyingly anachronistic in these modern times when America is at war with an entirely separate set of brown-skinned folks located in a wholly different part of Asia, but this was cutting-edge stuff at the time, trust me.

What wasn’t cutting edge was the science, and since Jack and Yours Truly created and plotted the thing, I guess we can’t rap little bro’ too hard for that. Cramming every incredibly incongruous inception conceivable into every crook and cranny of Iron Man’s armor? That was just Jack being Jack. And the whole thing about the armor being “transistor-powered?” That one was me, pilgrims. It sounded pretty cool at the time. After all, even to my laudably limited scientific understanding, transistors had taken the refrigerator-sized radios of my cretaceous childhood and transformed them into transistor radios the size of your average ever-lovin’ iPod. That seemed like a lot o’ power to me, pilgrim. The fact that transistors were shrinking things, not magnifying them, must have escaped my attention at the time.

But fear not, True Believer! I’m sure that Jon “Foggy Nelson” Favreau and crew have fixed up all the science in the new movie — at least enough to pass muster as another Mighty Marvel Box-Office Blockbuster. And I’ve been on the set of this one, pilgrim. You’re totally going to buy Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark. Believe it, Fearless Ones. He makes a waaay better Howard Hughes than that pocket-sized popinjay Leonardo DiCaprio.

Excelsior!
Smiley

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

WHITHER DIGITAL COMICS?

ITEM! You’ll have to forgive Ol’ Smiley for being a little late to the party on this one, True Believers. I only just learned not to pound on the keys of the luxurious laptop my great-grandson set me up with as hard as I used to on my old Olympia manual typewriter (the preferred writing instrument of Harlan Ellison and Luddites everywhere, pilgrim!). If I do, the plastic keys tend to fly off in errant directions and then Irving Forbush has to haul the thing down to the Apple Store to get ‘em stuck back on. It’s a real pain-in-the-keister. Maybe Harlan’s on to something... but I digress.

It was only a few months ago as Yours Truly was browsing the software aisles at Best Buy when I spotted GIT Corp’s clearly convenient collections of Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four on DVD-ROM. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing for a few sizzling seconds. Here was every single issue of Spidey and the FF (plus Amorous Annuals!), all stored digitally on DVD and readable on a computer screen. Fantastic! If I was creating the Magnificent Marvel Universe today, instead of nuclear radiation, every crazy character’s powers would come from digital radiation. Or transistors. Do they still make those?

So it was with some chagrin that your old Uncle Smiley recently read that after doing such a fabulous job of panoptically re-presenting these cosmic classics of the Marvel Age of Comics, GIT lost their license to produce these digital discourses from Mighty Marvel. The article said that the House of Ideas had decided to present their own digital version of their books online at Marvel.com. Fair enough, right? After all, they own ‘em right? Heck, they own everything. Probably somewhere in the safe at 387 Park Avenue South they probably still have the lockbox with Jack's and my souls in it.

But what did I discover when I tried to read a few of my own peerless past productions on the Marvel website? They want me to subscribe to their service for a monthly fee of $9.99 or $59.88 annual rate... just to read their mags. I don’t get to keep ‘em, like I do with the DVDs. And guess what happens when I unsubscribe, oh Fearless One? That’s right — poof! No more Mighty Marvel Mags.

This is not a good idea. And if there’s anything that your Uncle Stanley knows how to do after 67 years in the biz, it’s how to sell comics. Can you imagine if we had tagged our subscription ads back in the day with a monthly up-keep fee? Actually, my boss Marty Goodman once proposed just such a model. The kids were supposed to keep mailing us their nickles and dimes each month, and when they missed a payment — Bammo! Two or three goons showed up at their house and repo’ed their Rawhide Kid collection. I told him it would never work, and in the end got him to settle for letting me create the Merry Marvel Marching Society instead.

So good luck with your new venture, Marvel Entertainment... you're gonna need it! I’m just glad my salary is primarily derived from the movie franchises at this point. True Believers can still get the last few remaining copies of GTI’s Marvel DVDs here. Get ‘em while they last, sunshine!

Excelsior!
Smiley

Monday, March 10, 2008

BEHOLD! THE COMING OF GALACTUS!

ITEM! Lets talk about Galactus — possibly the single greatest villain to hassle the FF since Aunt Petunia’s hair dresser! As befits most of the achingly archetypal Lee-Kirby creations, the true origin of the World Devourer has long since been shrouded by the murky mists of time. But I doubled up on my St. John’s Wort this morning just for you, Frantic Front-Facers, and in an unprecedented rambling of rambuncious recall, I’m going to dispel some of the muddled myths that have grown up around the creation of the Big G.

Back in the day, Jolly Jack used to ride the train into the Mighty Marvel offices once a week or so to drop off pages, and we would confab on our next set of cosmic comic creations on calamitous cab-rides to the Seawane Club. This was well past the point where I would have to type up sizzling plot synopses for Jacko. Usually, I’d just say something along the lines of “Next ish, let’s have Dragon-Man fall in love with Sue and Reed’s bridge club,” and Kirby would come back a couple of weeks later with 22 pages of the next serialized sensation.

Now on this fateful day, I supposedly said something along the lines of “Let’s have the FF meet God.” Think about that. Does that really make any kind of sense to anyone? God? This was 1966, pilgrim. Can you imagine how a story about the Fab Four meeting the Almighty would’ve gone over in the 1960s Bible Belt? Yeesh! That the worst idea in the entire history of bad ideas anyway. Not that it stopped later writers from trying it out for size (thought you snuck that one past the Old Man, didn't you, Mark Waid!). But me suggesting to Jack that we have the FF meet the Good Lord in 1966? I don’t know how these stories get started in the first place, unless it’s me repeating it a few hundred times over four decades.

What I actually suggested to Jack was that we bring back one of our past creations from the old Monster Book days to imperil our Fabulous Foursome. I said, “Let’s have the FF meet Goom!” Jaunty Jack seemed enthusiastic about the idea of revisiting the ever-green, never-corny world-conquering-alien theme again, and off he went to pencil our next Marvelous Masterpiece.

Imagine my shock when Jack showed up a week later with the pencils to FF #48. I mean we all knew that as titanically talented as King Kirby was, he was terrible, I mean unimaginably horrendously, unfathomably terrible at issue-to-issue continuity on character designs and costumes. But even so, who in their right mind could forget a gigantic grey pumpkin-head like Goom (he of the truncated tusks)? Jack must have, because he willy-nilly redesigned the character as a Techno-Kirby cosmic prospector (complete with a ball cap bill built right into his space helmet) with a huge English “G” on his chest. I think the Silver Surfer was supposed to be the ner-forgotten Googam, Son of Goom (Tales of Suspense #17, natch).

Obviously it fell to Ol’ Smiley to try and dialogue his way out of this merry mess as eloquently as possible. The result? Another literary Lee-Kirby masterpiece for the ages. To paraphrase the nearly-late great Paul Harvey, “... and now you know the rest of the story.” ‘Nuff Said! 

Excelsior!
Smiley

ATLAS SHRUGGED

ITEM! Speaking of the Jonathan Ross BBC documentary, In Search of Steve Ditko, if you haven’t seen this one, True Believers, then shame on you! Even if you’re living in America and don’t get anything more than endless reruns of The Red Green Show and Doctor Who on your local PBS station, this is the Informative Information Age, pilgrim! Get off your gluteus maximus and look for that bad boy online!

What’s that, you say? Can’t you just do all the hard work for me? Sure I can, Fearless One. Well, actually I can’t. Since your Uncle Stanley knows slightly less about the Intraweb than your average Generation-Xbox six-year-old, I’ll have to depend on the tireless efforts of my technical assistant, the Irresistibly Informed Irving Forbush. Who says this isn’t the Marvel Age of Instant Online Graitfication?

Forbush-Man informs me that if you click on THIS, you will be instantly transported to another bombastically bellicose blog where the whole program is posted in easy-to-swallow, pharmaceutically-prescribed 10-minute doses.

Besides being a wonderful tribute to the artistic genius that is Secular Steve Ditko, this loving laudation to the man that many consider the co-creator of Spider-Man gave Yours Truly a chance to go on the record about the whole contentious creators credit concern. But apparently even a signed letter from Ol’ Smiley and me telling Jonathan Ross point-blank that if Sturdy Steve wants to be called the co-creator of Spider-Man, then it’s all copacetic with moi still wasn’t good enough. What do these people want? A frank admission of guilt? Stan the Man doesn’t believe in guilt, pilgrims. Never look back, I always say, which actually works out pretty well if your memory works like a shot-gunned sieve. Face Front, True Believer!

Excelsior!
Smiley

Thursday, March 6, 2008

... AND I NAMED HIM THAT!

ITEM! Well my copy of Mark Evanier’s long-anticipated Jack Kirby biography, Kirby: King of Comics finally arrived from Amazon today. I’m really looking forward to this one, pilgrims! And at least with Madcap Mark Evanier at the helm, I don’t have to noodle my noggin too much about having to screen this tumultuous tome for the hatchet job Ol’ Smiley sometimes gets from the press — like the pummeling that I took at the hands of that British Beeb Boob Jonathan Ross. That man made me say things that I didn’t even want to say, like my honest opinion on the subject. Journalists — sheesh!

But Eveready Mark Evanier has always been an F.F.F. (Fearless Front Facer)... which is batter than some of the initials I've been called. Heck, not only is Marky-Boy one, he invented that frantic title! And he's a close personal friend of mine to-boot, by which I mean that he returns my emails. His writing, even in that column that he writes for Johnny “There's Always To” Morrow’s Jack Kirby Collector, has always been enviably even-handed. And if anyone knows Jack, Marvelous Mark is the guy. But after knowin' a fellah since he was knee-high to a fanzine editor, you’d think he would have sent his Uncle Stanley a promo copy, wouldn’t you?

Excelsior!
Smiley

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

A TRUE (TIM) STORY

ITEM! Have you ever noticed how most of my casual cameos in our Merry Marvel Movies go by so fast you need to hit slow-scan on your DVD remote to catch ‘em? That’s what happens when they make you an “Executive Producer”. Hiring you as an Executive Producer is Hollywood's way of getting the glitz and glammor of having your good name in their credit roll while paying you a paltry pittance to basically sit down and keep quiet. I don’t take it personally. Heck, I practically invented that system at Marvel in the 60s.

But did yah also notice how much beefier my cameos were in the two Fantastic Four movies? Well True Believers, here is the never-before-revealed secret origin of how the Smiling One went from cutting room floor reject to wonderously worthy speaking parts.

You see, FF director Tim Story and I turned out to be two of a kind. Of like minds, as they say. When we met during pre-production meetings on the first FF movie, there was that kind of sizzling simpatico usually reserved for likes of the Fred Astaires and Ginger Rogers of the world. After Tireless Tim had gotten the the lion’s share of his hero worship pour moi out of his system, he confided in me that he was feeling a little shaky about directing his first epic super-hero action flick with only fluff-fare filmic farces like Taxi and Barbershop sitting on his resume. It was your Uncle Stanley to the rescue after he dropped that little self-confidence bomb on me! If there’s anything that I have to share with the world at large, it’s an unswerving belief in my own Stylish Shakespearean Storytelling ability. So I decided to give the Timster a little self-confidence transfusion.

I shared with him that prior to my creation of the Fantastic Four in 1961, my biggest-sellers had been Millie the Model and Linda Carter, Student Nurse. Since Tumultuous Tim isn’t quite old enough to remember those iconic comic book classics, I sent a runner back to the hotel for my personal leather-bound copies that I keep on hand whenever I travel far from home. Sharing some of these shining examples of my peerless scripting resume seemed to perk him up some. Then I shared with him that the whole secret to handling huge creative challenges like the Cosmic Quartet was to find an artistic collaborator like Jack Kirby to help a fellah smooth out some of the rough edges in his cosmic conceptualizations.

Of course Jack having gone on to his great reward made him unavailable to help, and besides Tim had the John Byrne run of the FF planted firmly up his keister anyways. To his credit, Tim tried calling Byrne before I could warn him that Jaunty Johnny Byrne doesn’t return phone calls to anyone, anytime, ever. But then we had a good laugh about it all and I offered my scintillating services as both co-director and co-writer. Tim liked the idea, but apparently there were some union rule against an executive producer also writing and directing or some such nonsense. I suggested “Chairman Emeritus” but no one understood exactly what that job title really means, myself included.

But all was not lost, True Believer! Triumphant Timmy and I established a rapturous rapport during that brief 10 minute conversation, and the results speak for themselves. I got cast to play the speaking part of Baxter Building Postal Delivery Specialist Wee Willie Lumpkin. Granted, that was the only part on the whole casting sheet for anyone over the age of 60. But still, I finally scored a substantial speaking part of a fan-favorite guaranteed not to end up on the cutting room floor. The rest, as they say, was history!

Later on during pre-production on FF 2, I suggested a story arc where Willie got belted by cosmic rays and joined the FF with his super-power of speedy postal delivery, but to no avail. I mean an all-powerful cosmic being that rides a surfboard — sure thing. But a super-fast postal worker? Apparently that was too unbelievable a concept even for a fantasy super-hero flick. I also campaigned to play the part of the preacher at Reed and Sue’s wedding, but apparently that part called for someone who could both act and stand up for more than 10 minutes at a time. Ah well. To quothe the Bard, all’s well that ends well. In the end, your Fearless Leader finally had to settle for playing the single greatest super-being in the known Marvel Universe — himself! Who says this isn’t the Marvel Age of Humorously Happy Endings?

Excelsior!
Smiley

BRAND NEW DAZE

ITEM! Well folks have been haplessly hammering me on the new “One More Day” and “Brand New Day” storylines in recent issues of Spider-Man comics. At first I thought that the whole fan reaction thing was a bit of a tragically trivial tempest in a teapot. And I've been nice enough about it in public interviews. After all, I’ve been in Joe “The Kid” Quesada’s shambling shoes before myself. I remember the backlash we received from fans back in the day when we first gave the FF a flying bath tub for a ride or changed Sexy Sue Storm’s hairdo from a flip to a beehive. Being deluged by frantic fans’ frenzied feedback can be a little daunting to an editor-in-chief, lemme tell yah!

But that’s only one side of the sensational story, Marvelites. You should have been in the board room when Uncle Marty was calling me on the carpet just for having Sturdy Steve Ditko put Aunt May’s hair up in a bun. Apparently Grandma Goodman wore her hair in that style while administering 19th century hickory switch beatings to little Marty. For an old man that cared a hellava lot more about the girlie magazines he was publishing than he did for the peerless Pop-Art Productions that were Mighty Marvel, he sure could go ballistic about the silliest changes in our comic lineup. And I only had to deal with one angry old Uncle-in-Law. Joey-Boy has to report to a whole board of directors. Yeesh!

And I have to take some of the blame myself. That’s just the kind of gregarious gentle giant of iconic cultural class that I am. One of the primary objections to the whole “One More Day” retcon was that it was accomplished with just another garden-variety deus ex machina, and one that involved Mephisto at that. The reasoning went that ol’ Spidey is primarily a web-slinging superhero based on science rather than magic or fantasy, so why use the Devil as an adversary?

First of all, I don’t know how scientific a bite from a radioactive spider really is. Darling Steve Ditko and I were just making that part up as we went along. Plus, it was the 60s. The Russians had the H-bomb and we all knew it. Atomic radiation was the new magic lightning bolt, if you get my drift. Except for Thor, anytime we needed an explanation for how anything happened back in those hallowed days, radiation was the golden ticket. Cosmic radiation... gamma radiation... you name it we irradiated it. Probably if any of us were bitten by a radioactive spider in real life, we'd just get a bad rash. Or cancer. But I digress...

I think that Jovial Joe just followed the precedent set by Yours Truly when I first introduced Mesphisto as the main baddy in the first run of the Silver Surfer. What could be a more eclectically exciting exchange than having a intergalactic traveller, an alien, and a citizen of the Universe, pitted against the personification of a human, Earth-bound Jeudeo-Christian religious icon? Okay, so maybe I didn’t think that one all the way through. I honestly don’t know how Jack always managed to pull off that taking a mythological archetype and turning it into a science-fictiony being of cosmic relevance. Maybe it was talent. Who knows?

But the point is that Joey-Boy just followed in the fearless footsteps of the Smiling One. In fact, I think that was the whole point to begin with — returning Spidey to his massively merchandised roots. Everything old is new again, kiddies. Getting Petey Parker back to being single and living on Aunt May’s wheatcakes? Maybe they should have called it “One More In An Endless Series of Lee-Ditko Days”?

Excelsior!
Smiley