Friday, May 30, 2008

JACK'S ONE MAN SUPER-SOLDIER CORPS

ITEM! Hey there, Heroes! It’s time once again for your Uncle Stan to prove that he isn’t just a soulless corporate shill who’ll pimp any project with the name “Marvel” stamped on it! Heck, I’ll even promote products published by the professed opposition if the money is right. But I kid, I kid. I’m a kidder. What are yah gonna do? Sue me? Good luck with that one... but I digress.

Out this week from the Distinguished Conglomerate is the deluxe omnibus edition of Jack "King" Kirby’s OMAC: One Man Army Corps, and it’s a better read today than it was in the mid-70s! The most shocking revelation for Yours Truly came when I read Madcap Mark Evanier’s inevitable introduction to this Kirby collection. Apparently OMAC is another one of those ideas that Jolly Jack originally had back during the late-60s at Marvel, but which he chose to keep to himself. According to Ever-ready Mark, OMAC was originally conceived by Jack as a version of Captain America that took place in the future. Let that sink in for a moment, kids. That means that sometime in 1968 Jack envisioned an entire alternate line of Marvel Comics that took place in a future timeline. On our own, Marvel wouldn’t come up with that idea until Johnny Byrne and I cooked up the Marvel 2099 imprint in 1993! And as always, Jack was there way ahead of us mere mortals...

Sometimes it makes me dizzy thinking what would’ve happened if my publisher-uncle-in-law Marty Goodman hadn’t been such a puerile putz and treated Jolly Jack better while he was at Marvel. Jack was banking ideas like crazy after Marty went back on his word to salary the King and make him a company employee with bennies! Imagine a Merry Marvel Multiverse where Doc Doom mixed it up with Mister Miracle, where the Demon and Doctor Strange confronted Dormammu, or where Darkseid takes out Thanos for being a copy-cat trademark infringer! Not to mention a future-Marvel universe where a successor to Steve Rogers gets his super-soldier powers from a orbiting computer in the sky called Brother Eye! I guess if the quantum theory sciencey guys are right and there are an infinite number of parallel universes out there where every possible scenario is played out, then there are places in the multiverse where that’s exactly what happened. In those universes, your Uncle Stan probably has twice as much to be humble about! It boggles the mind, pilgrims...

Excelsior!
Smiley

Thursday, May 29, 2008

SECRET INVASION #12 - SNEAK PREVIEW!

ITEM! Well pilgrims, it seems it only takes a little bit of Stan the Man re-dialoging of a page from the Lee-Kirby classic, Fantastic Four #18, and voila! A sizzling sensational sneak preview of how the Secret Invasion story line will probably end! That's right, Bendis! As the kids today say, "I'm in UR Head, Riting UR Comix!" I think I'll call this story, "Secret Invasions... Ur Doin' It Wrong!" Either that, or "A Tale Told by an Industry-Insider, Full of Sound and Fury, Signifying Negative Profits" What do you Tigers and Tigrettes think?

(Click on page below for a larger view.) 'Nuff Said!


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

AMONG US WALK... YOURS TRULY?!

ITEM! Apparently there are secret invasions, and there are really top-secret SECRET INVASIONS that even your Uncle Stanley knew nothing about. The following appeared in my emails in-box late last night:

“Dear Stan,

It is my unfortunate duty to inform you that you are in fact a Skrull sleeper agent that has been in place since at least 1973 (see attached photo), and almost certainly much longer than that. In an upcoming issue of one of the 250 Secret Invasion tie-in comics, it will be revealed that you replaced the real Stan Lee in 1962, shortly before writing the Fantastic Four #2 story “The Fantastic Four Meet the Skrulls From Outer Space.” This was part of a propaganda campaign to prepare the human race for eventual Skrull rule, as have been all of the Skrull stories that you've written since then.

Additionally, since I am retconning these events as outlined above, you will note that you no longer originally came up with the many Skrull story ideas, story arcs, and plot points that are now a part of my Secret Invasion story line. I did. You didn’t originally create my story because I created you first! I hope this settles the issue once and for all. I look forward to reading a retraction of your many slanderous blog postings.

Sincerely,
Brian Michael Bendis

Well, BMB... there won’t be any retractions until I have my liltingly litigious lawyers look over your delusional denouncements. Heck, maybe I’ll get lucky and a couple of them will turn out to be Skrulls, too! Actually, now that I think about it, that would explain quite a few things...

Excelsior!
Smiley

Monday, May 26, 2008

THEY SAY LITIGATION IS THE SINCEREST FORM OF FLATTERY

ITEM! We interrupt your regular Hulk-centric bloggage for the following very important message. In the event of an actual emergency, you’ll be instructed which blog to tune into for real news and information that you can actually use. Probably Occasional Superheroine.

Well, well, well... imagine your Uncle Stanley’s surprise when young Ivr Forbush III brought me a copy of the most recent Mad Magazine, and what to my wondering eyes should appear but an Iron Man “attach a funny word balloon to a photograph” feature (see pic for the only funny joke in the whole spread - there, your Uncle Stan just saved you $4.99. Your welcome, Tiger). We won’t even get into who invented that genre to begin with (hint: Mrs. Lieber’s favorite fair-haired son) or who is currently still it’s present peerless practitioner (hint: go buy your copy of Election Daze now, pilgrim!). What’s gotten my garrulous goat this time is that some uncredited hack from “the usual pack of copy-cats” lifted the idea for this Iron Man feature directly from this erstwhile humble blog, namely my post from way back on April 30 called “Top 10 Unknown Gadgets in Iron Man’s Armor.”

It’s all well and fine to steal an idea from some blog probably only read by four or five aging MMMS members surfing the World Wide Webs from their Lazy-Boys in Retirement-ville (and a big shout out to our one faithful reader in Bonita Springs, Florida! Keep Making Yours Malox, Marvelite!), but to not even give Yours Truly a co-creator credit for the original idea... I know, I know... the Smilin’ One objecting to not receiving credit-where-credit-is-due. The irony is so thick you could slice it with an adamantium claw. Still, this is me, Tiger. I’ve got enough POW! Entertainment lawyers on retainer to sue Doc Doom back to the Stone Age. I guess I just really expected better from a magazine owned by the Distinguished Conglomerate. I thought we had an understanding. John Ficarra, this old man is a callin' you out! Expect to hear from my attorneys first thing Tuesday morning! 

Excelsior!
Smiley

Saturday, May 24, 2008

WHOSOEVER HARMS THE HULK...

ITEM! Louis Leterrier finally got off his derriere and sent me a recalcitrant rough-cut Incredible Hulk DVD screener this weekend, and wow! My faith in all things Marvel Entertainment is restored! They managed to get my filmed-after-the-fact cameo into the movie after all. That alone should guarantee some solid box office numbers, Fearless Ones! Oh, and the other 119 minutes of the movie are pretty great too. And since you have faithfully tuned into your Uncle Stanley’s Soapbox today, it’s my pleasure to share an extended clip from the movie with all of you. Who says this isn’t the Marvel Age of Pre-Opening PR?

Watching this clip from The Incredible Hulk movie called “Street Fight,” the calamitous continuation to the above blog title should probably be “... gets his green gamma-rayed gluteus-maximus handed to him!” I really dig how the Hulk is just knocking the Super Soldier serum’ed snot outta the Abomination in this scene. Yes, Frantic Ones, the SS serum is mentioned by name in the movie. Just another marvelous intra-franchise nugget we placed in there to connect this movie with the upcoming Captain America movie! So while we all count down to June 13, enjoy this sizzling superhero smackdown! You can also see a larger widescreen version here!



Excelsior!
Smiley

Friday, May 23, 2008

BARON BRUBAKER AND HIS MASTERS OF UPHEAVAL

ITEM! Welp, True Believers, it’s time for your Uncle Stanley to retract, retreat and recoup. It’s true. Even your Fearless Leader is capable of admitting when he’s made a mistake, and Odin knows I’ve had lots of practice at it in the last 67 years in the biz! This time Yours Truly has to apologize to Ed “Baron” Brubaker for ever doubting his storytelling sensibilities. After giving the post-”Death of Captain America” story arc a good solid read-through while lounging by the pool the other day, I’ve changed my mind about it. Upon reflection, I think ze Baron Brubaker has really caught the iconic Lee-Kirby-Steranko era flavor of the old Cap books quite nicely... with the obvious exception that Cap isn’t actually in any of the stories!

But given that everyone from Yours Truly to Aunt Petunia knows that Steve Rogers is going to be brought back from the dearly departed drop-zone sometime between now and the 2011 premiere of The First Avenger: Captain America movie... I’m willing to keep reading and see where Ever-ready Eddy is heading with his sizzling story arc. In the current ish (Cap #38, natch) Ed’s ratcheting up the totalitarian tension nicely as the Red Skull tries to topple our trembling government. My sole concern at this point is that some damn silly Skrull is going to randomly pop up in the middle of the next issue or two. That would spoil the mood of Brubakers’ story faster than Galactus showing up at the Big Boy all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet! Hopefully Herr Quesada can restrain himself just this once... but I’m too old to start holding my breath at this point. Anyways, keep up the good work Ed!

Excelsior!
Smiley

Thursday, May 22, 2008

THERE WAS A HOT GIRL IN THE COMIC SHOP

ITEM! Kudos to my adopted great-grandson Irving Forbussh III for pointing Yours Truly to this video and thanks to Hellacious comic book artist Eddie Campbell for posting it. I’m sure many of you Fearless Front-Facers out there will enjoy this, but what fascinates your Uncle Stanley is how much I’m digging this swingin’ li’l tune myself. After all, I’ve been happily married for over 60 years. Maybe this song reminds me of some of the younger and more attractive “friends” that I have over on my official lawyer-approved MySpace page. Or maybe this song by an awesome Ozzie musical comedy group called Tripod reminds me of the completely chaste old-man crush on Heidi MacDonald that I’ve been nursing for years now. Anyhoo, Earnest Irv is embedding a YouTubes web-linky-thing so that all of you can enjoy this magical mystery show for yourselves. ‘Nuff Said!


Excelsior!
Smiley

THE INCREDIBLE BULK OMNIBUS VS. DIGITAL COMIC DATABUS

ITEM! My reader copy of The Incredible Hulk Ominbus arrived in the mail today, and I have to say that I really love these enormous door-stop editions that would kill a small child if dropped on their head. For a measly 9,900 cents, you get 752 gamma-irradiated pages of Ol’ Greenskin’s adventures from The Incredible Hulk #1-6, Tales to Astonish #59-101, and Incredible Hulk #102! Plus letter cols, pinups, and a few assorted other goodies — like intros from me! Although Yours Truly already has many of these back issues leather-bound in the crypt underneath Maison de Lee, parts of the collection suffered some water damage when our basement flooded years ago back in New York., so it’s nice to have another bound reader copy!

That being said, I still say you can’t beat the modest modern-day convenience of GIT Corp’s sadly discontinued Hulk DVD-ROM Collection! For starters, the $50 price tag of the DVD collection includes 43 years of Hulk comics from 1962-2006. In other words about six times the comic reading goodness versus the $100 Ominbus! And of course the GIT digital scans show the entire comic book including those 60s Marvelicious House Ads and all the other stories included in each ish (a lot of Prince Namor the Submariner in this case). Though out of digital print, Frantic Ones can still grab the few remaining copies here at amazon.com!


To this day the Smilin’ One cannot believe that those short-sighted, greed-impaired MBA dropout bean-counters at Marvel Management yanked GIT Corp’s license to produce these daring digitally-scanned DVD collections. What can Merry Marvel Marchers like you and I do about this? I’m glad you asked, Tigers and Tigrettes. To quote Bill Murray in Stripes, “Do what I do, and say what I say, and go out there and make me proud!” In other words, raise as much fuss about renewing GIT’s license as possible on every Marvel forum board that you can click your Spider-Mouse on. And whatever you do, for the love of Mike, DO NOT buy one of Marvel’s ill-considered online digital comic subscriptions. Your Uncle Stanley will forgive you, but the karma hit could haunt you for years to come!

Excelsior!
Smiley

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

WRECKIN' THE TOWN WITH THE POWER OF PIXEL-BALLS

ITEM! Now this is what I’m talking about, True Believers! The new TV commercials are out for The Incredible Hulk movie and the Hulk CGI footage is notably improved! See Irving Forbush’s screen-cap comparison shots to get an idea of what your Uncle Stanley is on about. The skin texture and modeling are improved, the Hulk’s hair looks more mussed, and they used the best stage trick of all... they’ve added a little ragged remnant of shirt to distract and misdirect the eye! And what the heck is that thing on the Hulkster’s left shoulder? Did those jokesters at Rhythm & Hues sneak in their other emerald envoy, the Geico Gecko?

I'm still a little worried because Marvel Entertainment has yet to send me a Hulk DVD screener, so Yours Truly hasn’t seen any more of this movie than you pilgrims have. But I rest somewhat assured that all involved are working as hard as humanly possible to make sure that everyone’s favorite jade giant looks as photo-fantastic as possible. If R&H does their job, then the rest is basically up to Eddy Norton and King Louis Leterrier. They only have about four weeks left to Make Theirs Marvel! Till then, let’s all just keep our Gamma Rays crossed! Meanwhile, enjoy an earnestly embedded TV spot, courtesy of the YouTubes and Honest Irv!


Excelsior!
Smiley

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

MAD PROPS TO WILD BILL ELDER

ITEM! I know I’m a little late to the party with this one, but things have been crazy hereabouts. There are scripts to be written, deals to do, and about two-dozen POW! Entertainment lawyers to keep fed. Plus your Uncle Stanley doesn’t move quite as fast as he used to, and it takes me a while these days to get the ol’ memory cells fired up. Still, I wanted to say a few words about one of the greatest and funniest artists in comics — the late Bill Elder!

Bill did it all. He was truly a renaissance man. In the early days, he created one of Marvel’s most iconic Golden Age characters, Prince Namor the Submariner. Then he said good-bye to Timely Comics and moved over to EC Comics where he and co-genius Harvey Kurtzman created the original Mad comic book. Years later Bill and Harvey created the tantalizing and titillating Little Annie Fanny for Hef over at Playboy Magazine. As if that wasn’t enough sizzling success, the unsinkable Bill Elder still somehow found the time to come back and do some work for Mighty Marvel (even though our pay rates at the time were abysmal). He and Jolly Jack Kirby used to kid each other about who was really the “King of Comics,” and despite his many career successes, Bill eventually gave the title willingly to Jack. That’s just the kind of gentleman he was.

I lost track of Bill sometime in the early 70s, but never forgot what a great guy he was to work with. We’ll miss yah, buddy.

Excelsior!
Smiley

Monday, May 19, 2008

MARVEL DOES RIGHT BY GENTLEMAN GENE COLAN

ITEM! It’s good news day here in Soapbox-land! It seems that Marvel is actually going to help out Gene Colan and his wife Adrienne Colan with some much needed financial and medical assistance — thanks largely to efforts by Clever Cliff Meth, as well as peerless pressure from Marvelites everywhere just like you. Genial Gene certainly deserves it. Everyone likes to shout about how Marvel is the House that Lee-kirby built, but there were many, many hands on deck without which we wouldn’t have the rollicking characters and comics that we all still enjoy today! Gentle Gene Colan was one of those early Marvel architects without whom we would’ve never had classic ishes of Iron Man, Daredevil, Doctor Strange, Tomb of Dracula or even Howard the Duck! Oh, and he co-created a little character you may have heard of: Blade the Vampire-Slayer!

It just goes to show some things work even better than hordes of over-paid attorneys — things like spreading the word via the Intrawebs, and fans of Genial Gene banding together to shout a message as one. Good work, pilgrims!

Excelsior!
Smiley

AMAZING ADULT ANONYMITY

ITEM! I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Whoever donated the Amazing Fantasy #15 original art to the Library of Congress obviously had his reasons for wanting to put some good karma back on the wheel. What if this person wants to donate more original art on condition of continued anonymity? Even though the donor clearly wishes to remain anonymous, still the speculation continues. Really, people... stop. Please. It’s embarrassing.

Excelsior!
Smiley

Sunday, May 18, 2008

FANTASTIC FONTS, FACES AND FOURS

ITEM! Well Fearless Ones, we talked about the history of Spidey’s logo, so it seemed only fair to give Marvel’s First Family the same frankly featured foray into frantic fandom! Simple, you say? After all, wasn’t the Fantastic Four logo simply a reuse of the Amazing Adult Fantasy font? True, true... but there’s much more to tell regarding the 3-4 issue evolution of the FF from un-costumed anonymous adventurers into properly attired super heroes!

Our story starts with a tragic twist. Through a set of decidedly disastrous distribution decisions (better covered in a future blog, but here's some background) Mighty Marvel’s only access to newsstands throughout most of the 1960s was also our primary competition — DC Comics! The bend-over Brand Echh bargain that was brokered went something like this: DC would distribute Marvel’s books, but we could only publish eight titles per month and we were “encouraged” not to publish books that competed directly with DC’s... namely superhero books! Thus, we published mainly monster-of-the-month books along with a handful of westerns and glamor girl comics. When it came time to break the mold and create the Fantastic Four, Yours Truly thought it prudent to position the FF as closely to being just another monster book as perceptually possible. FF’s #1 and #2 therefore featured typical Marvel Monsters on the covers, and our heroes looked about as much like super heroes as Aunt May’s bridge club. Even so, when the books came out we still held our collective breaths waiting for a backlash from the folks at National, and what we finally heard was... absolutely nothing. Not a peep came from our Distinguished Competition.


So by FF #3 your Uncle Stanley was starting to feel a little froggy. I decided to make the Cosmic Quartet over into proper superheroes. That meant costumes, a high-tech headquarters, secret identities... the whole schmeel. Yes, pilgrims, you read that sentence correctly. Jack and I still hadn’t hit on the genre-defying idea of the FF having public identities and becoming media darlings. And so, in Jolly Jack’s original art for FF #3, Sue designs costumes for the team that include masks (see assorted before-and-after pics)! What’s more, the Thing was covered from head-to-toe so as to completely disguise his scaly orange appearance.

As he so often did, King Kirby was the one that actually caused your Uncle Stan to stop and rethink the concept a little. For starters, Jack made their “hideout” the top five stories of a New York skyscraper, complete with it’s own ICBM! It’d be mighty hard for the FF to conceal their real identities if they were launching missiles and pogo planes every other ish! So much for the secret HQ and secret identities! So with a little Sol Brodsky production magic — off came the masks!

And while we were changing things, the Smilin’ One wasn’t too crazy about Jack’s simplified “FF” chest symbol. It just didn’t seem heroic enough. I know, I know... Jolly Jack co-created half the Marvel universe and all of everything cool in it. But let me tell you something he didn’t create... the extruded “4” chest symbol for the FF. Your favorite Silver Age editor - writer - art director -bon vivant noodled out the famous-four symbol on the back of one of Jack’s FF pages (see pic at right).

The last change was to have Jack re-do the cover art to FF #3 (see the original version above). Out went the feature creature and in went the Fantasticared and costumed goodness! And that’s how the Lee-Kirby team finally birthed “The Greatest Comic Magazine in the World!” Hyperbole, thy name is Marvel!

Excelsior!
Smiley

Thursday, May 15, 2008

ARACHNALOGOS

ITEM! Let’s talk logos, pilgrims and pilgrettes! How ‘bout more info on the history of the Spider-man logo than you can shake a web-shooter at? With a lot of help from Irving Forbush (and enough over-the-counter memory-enhancing pharmaceuticals to make monkeys recite Macbeth), I’ve assembled an action-packed arachna-anthology to appease even the most assuaged apocryphal appetite. 

In the beginning, there once was a little Spiderman (no hyphen) that tried to spin a little web under the creative auspices of legendary Kirby-collaborator Joltin’ Joe Simon. Circa 1953 or so, Joe came up with an idea for a new hero initially called Spiderman. Deciding later that there were too many “name-that-animal”-man characters on the market, Joe later changed the name to The Silver Spider — but not before creating a Spiderman logo (pictured above)... the self same logo that Jolly Jack Kirby would later drag into my office in 1962 along with “his” idea for a new long underwear character by the very same name!

Most Frantic Ones know the next bit of our story. I liked the idea, but my publisher uncle-in-law Martin Goodman didn’t. Jack liked his version of the character (more-than-a-little-loosely-based on both Simon’s original idea and the subsequent Simon & Kirby Fly character done for a competitor), but I didn’t. I gave it to Sturdy Steve Ditko to do over in a more original spider-vein, and decided to sneak it into the struggling Amazing Adult Fantasy book. We went through several logo iterations at this point. Check out Ditko’s never-before-seen original logo that’s sitting underneath it’s paste-up replacement on the first page of the Amazing Fantasy #15 original art (now residing snugly at the Library of Congress, natch)! Ditko’s first logo attempt (still without a hyphen, as was the case several times in that story’s dialogue) was interesting, but your Uncle Stanley thought it was too busy and a little too horsey. 

Sol Brodsky and Johnny Dee (nĂ© Jon D’Agostino) came up with a couple of alternatives that we ended up using. Ditko’s page-one logo was replaced with the fancier of the two, and we used that same logo on Ditko’s original cover art before I had Kirby redo the cover (we redid a lot of things back in those days, pilgrims — Taskmaster Stan). We finally ended up using Sol’s plainer, blockier Spider-man logo on the published cover of AF #15.

Sol’s logo was the official one for a brief period — you can see various versions of it at the top of most of the splash pages of Spidey stories commissioned for Amazing Fantasy (before it was cancelled) that ended up being published about a year later in The Amazing Spider-man #1 and #2. We tried to fancy it up with a Spidey-signal and some webs... but your Uncle Stanley still wasn’t satisfied. 

I wish I could tell yah exactly who it was that designed the final logo, but my daily dosage of St. John’s Wort has just about worn off and I’m drawing a big blank. I remember that we had it all cockeyed on Spidey #1 but got it nicely finalized on #2 as part of giving the whole Marvel Comics line a much-needed identity make-over. From then until now some version of that same logo has graced the cover of every ish of Spidey from the Lee-Ditko days all the way up to Dashin’ Danny Slot in 2008! That’s 559 issues of walloping webbed-up wonderment, Tiger! And now, as Paul Harvey says, “you know the nest of the story!”

Excelsior!
Smiley

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

MARVEL'S SWINGIN' PLASTIC PILLOWS

ITEM! Remember these, True Believers? Me neither. Let’s face it... your Uncle Stan’s long-term memory works slightly better than a shot-gunned sieve. But be that as it may, look-see what I found this morning while rummaging around down in my climate-controlled vault at Casa del Lee... a Merry Marvel Marching Society plastic pillow! And they only went for a measly $1.50 way back in 1968. That was about three gallons worth of gas at the time... so in today’s dollars they would only cost about $12-15 buckeroos. What a bargain!

You know we sometimes give the late, great Vinnie Colletta a hard time around these here parts, but you have to give it up to The Prince! I mean do you have any idea how hard it is to ink an inflatable plastic pillow? It takes a mighty light touch, sunshine. Enjoy the "this-offer-clearly-expired 40 years ago" ad below!

Excelsior!
Smiley

WHEN CAPTAIN AMERICA THROWS HIS MIGHTY SHIELD...

ITEM! Yes, it’s true, Tiger. That is Captain America’s shield sitting on Tony Stark’s lab bench in that boffo box-office bonanza, Iron Man. Frantic Ones everywhere have discovered one of Jonny Favreau’s earnest easter eggs serendipitously slipped into the scenery (see pic above). An easter egg that was digitally painted out of the trailers and previews, I might add. Read the whole story here and here.

Fan speculation and Intraweb chatter is running at fever pitch. What does it mean? It’s not really that hard to figure out, pilgrims. Card-carrying Marvelites will remember that Tony Stark actually did make a high-tech shield for Cap all the way back in Avengers #6 (June 1964 — Studious Stan). If you haven’t read these or other Avenging classics, then shame on you, sunshine! You can either turn in your MMMS membership card or go straight to your local comic book shop and get your copious copy of Essential Avengers Vol. 1, Marvel Masterworks: Avengers Vol. 1, or even the out-of-print but still-to-be-had GIT Corp 40 Years of the Avengers DVD-ROM collection! These titanic tomes may not be as intellectually stimulating as the Complete Works of Shakespeare, but they're a heckuva lot easier to tote around!

Even though your Uncle Stanley hasn’t seen a Captain America movie script yet, it’s pretty obvious where this is going. The Cap movie will no doubt cover his WWII days to introduce both Cap and the Red Skull’s origins, then zip forward to the present day with Cap being thawed-out and outfitted with a Stark-tech shield so he can go he can kick Nazi sleeper agent gluteus maximus and even go Avenging — just like in the comics! Say it with me, Merry Marvel Marchers... “just like in the comics!” Ah, that magic phrase that guarantees both high-fidelity sound and concept, and as often as not, high box office returns. Now that Mighty Marvel is running these mega movie franchises, expect that to be the rule rather than the exception! You read it here first, pussycat. ‘Nuff Said!

Excelsior!
Smiley

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

SECRET INVASIONS OF THE THIRD KIND

ITEM! Your Uncle Stanley has been taken somewhat to task of late for all the Brian Michael Bendis-bashing, so I thought I’d make some amends by pointing out that no idea is truly original, and even the Skrullicious Lee-Kirby classics borrowed ideas from previous Merry Marvel stories, Rod Serling, and maybe even Erma Bombeck. Heck, the idea of shape-changing aliens probably goes all the way back to ancient Greece with Zeus and that classic pick-up line, “Hey Lady, is that a swan in your lap, or are you just glad to see me?”

Well-read True Believers probably already know that the Dire Wraiths are the redheaded step-cousins of the Skrulls from the Andromeda Galaxy. But didja know that they had some even poorer, more-distant cousins? Check out the "Martians" (apparently Mars is easier to conquer than Earth) from Amazing Adventures #4 (Sept. 1961... four months before the Skrulls showed up in FF #2). Apparently these Skrull-like waffle-eared-ones lost their ability to shape-change somewhere along the Darwinian way. They had to resort to realistic rubber masks to impersonate humans! Still, the family resemblance is striking.

Three months later in Amazing Adult Fantasy #11 (April 1962, cover above), a whole ‘nother un-named branch of everyone's favorite metamorphic misanthropes show up and try to invade by shape-changing into the dominant species of planet Earth. There was just one snag... these Skrull cousins are really, really dumb. They didn’t even need Reed Richards' bovine intervention (hypnotizing them into unfortunate ungulates) to muff up their own invasions plans. I won’t spoil the ending, but you can read the whole story right here. Or better yet, get your own calamitous copy of the Amazing Fantasy Ominbus to check out these and other Silver Age classics!

So it’s true, Frantic Ones... everything old is new again. Yours Truly has been no less guilty than Bendy-Boy of recycling characters, plots and themes and regurgitating them into fan-boy orgies of cross-over collector classics in order to sell the next six months worth of books. Brian Michael "Continuity-Bending” Bendis is just walking around in my house slippers with his Uncle Stanley’s pipe the same as I did with others who came before me. Let he without sin cast the first Skrull! Or as Shakespeare said, “Why then tonight let us assault our plot...” 

Excelsior!
Smiley

Monday, May 12, 2008

IF A IS A, THEN DITKO IS DITKO

ITEM! Didja know that your Uncle Stanley is capable, when hard-pressed, of talking about something besides himself and his own projects? Shocking news... I know. But the fact of the matter is, there’s only one of me and a whole planet of Frantic Ones out there keeping the faith and Making Their’s Marvel each and every day. Well, the Smilin’ One is here to help. Today, let’s talk about Sturdy Steve Ditko and the dearth of diligently-done and delightfully-designed Ditko-designated publications coming soon to a davenport near you.

First up, from the man himself, is Ditko’s first new published work in 8 years, The Avenging Mind, available by mail-order only from longtime Ditko publisher Robyn Snyder. See Blake Bell’s excellent website Ditko Looked Up for details on how to order this puppy!

And speaking of Bashful Blake Bell, his own 216-page hard cover opus Strange and Stranger: The World of Steve Ditko (see cover shot above) is due out in stores in just a few more weeks! A wonderful companion book to Madcap Mark Evanier’s Kirby: King of Comics, Strange and Stranger is sure to be about as exacting an examination of everyone’s favorite Randy Randian as you’re going to find in this lifetime. And of course Sturdy Steve gave this book his usual ringing personal endorsement: he made ‘em change the title!

But wait! There’s more! Longtime Ditko devotee Rascally Rob Imes has brought back Big Bill Hall’s 80s-90s fanzine publication, Ditkomania! Keeping the original numbering, ish #64 is now available! Go to your local comic book shop and demand they order your copy today, pussycats!

Finally, it looks like Sturdy Steve has tentatively tipped his toes back into the World Wide Webs with the Steve Ditko Blog. Predictably, the Publicity-Shy One has nothing on the site to let Ditko addicts everywhere know that it looks like 2008 is shaping up to be the Year of Steve Ditko! But that’s what old carnival barkers like Yours Truly are here for! Well, that and to keep the lawyers employed.

Excelsior!
Smiley

Saturday, May 10, 2008

A PLACE WHERE EVERYONE DARES TO GO... THEY CALL IT ZANADU!

ITEM! This being the week of the big Emerald City Comic Con in Seattle, Yours Truly figures it’s time to hand out another Excelsior Award for Comic Shop Excellence! This one goes to two of the best comic shops serving the West Coast since 1975 — Zanadu Comics!

Zanadu has been supplying the Greater Seattle area with not only a monstrous melange of mainstream Marvel comics, but one of the most scintillating selections of alternative and underground books since Robert Crumb was knee-high to a Yippie. They even sell Brand Echh comics, if you’re in to that sort of thing... While your Uncle Stanley has never been there, I recently had the occasion to send Irving Forbush on a mission there while we were in town. I was on the road myself and without my leather-bound copies of Tales of Suspense, and the boy-chiks at Zanadu Comics (at the hipster University of Washington location, natch) hooked Honest Irv right up with a copy of GIT’s out-of-print Iron Man DVD-ROM collection! 

Irv also brought me back an unsolicited copy of the Jesus Hates Zombies trade paperback ‘cause he thought I would dig the Amazing Fantasy #15 tribute cover (and what can I say... I’m a sucker for the sincerest form of flattery every single time). Did I mention that Irv also brought me back a few choice 1960s Playboys too? Yup, they got those too! Zanadu’s is one of those ever-rare old-school kind of comics shop that has it all, pilgrims.

So congratulations to Perry “Livin’ the Life” Plush and his crew on winning a well-deserved Exy! It’s a virtual award to be sure, but that doesn’t mean it won’t make you the envy of all your fawning fans and frantic friends! Just remember to keep shelving the Marvel and Virgin comics up front where the True Believers can find ‘em! 

Excelsior!
Smiley

Friday, May 9, 2008

BATTLE OF THE BOX OFFICE BILLIONAIRES

ITEM! I was just thinking the other day that if Marvel and the Distinguished Competition ever do another crazy crossover comic, the perfect writer for it would be Dashin’ Dan Slott. Besides a cranium completely crammed with a copious collection of comic book continuity, Danny-Boy’s writing is uncannily comical! Plus the Danster doesn’t go in much for any of that fancy “decompressed (i.e. lazy) storytelling.” 

If Dan Slott were to do an Iron Man/Batman crossover, for example, it would probably go a little something like the video below, which answers the musical question, “Is there room enough this summer for TWO billionaire playboy super-heroes with gadgets, women, a side-kick and a loyal butler?” Enjoy!



Excelsior!
Smiley

Thursday, May 8, 2008

HOW TO SUCCEED AT SECRET INVASIONS WITHOUT REALLY TRYING

ITEM! Well Fearless Front-Facers, it’s another month and that means another issue of Brian Michael “Mind-Bending” Bendis’ brainchild, Secret Invasion. Try typing THAT three times fast. Let’s see... where were we? As you’ll recall from our recent rollicking rant, in issue #1 of Secret Invasion, the Skrulls impersonated our heroes as a preparatory prelude to a mass invasion of Earth — not at all like the plan they used in their very first Lee-Kirby appearance in Fantastic Four #2 (Jan. 1962). This month, in Secret Invasion #2, the Skrulls augment their invasion plans by sending in specially-enhanced Skrulls that each have multiple powers based on our heroes’ powers — again NOT AT ALL like their second Lee-Kirby appearance in Fantastic Four #18 (Sept. 1963). You don’t exactly need concentric Spider-Sense squiggles emanating from your head to see where this is going, pilgrims.

Your Uncle Stanley probably should be flattered, and when Marvel pays me to be, I will probably act that way and say some very complimentary things about the All-Seeing Eye of Aga-Bendis in the forward of the expensive hard bound collection of this predictable exercise in repetitive storytelling that is sure to come. But that will be then, this is now. I mean come on... this is sequelitis at it’s finest. It’s like the stifling and stupefying studio-think we run into in Hollywood all the time. How can we make the exact same James Bond film 22 times in a row? That kind of thing.

While I’ll admit that some younger and less-well-read Marvelites may geek out at the scene of scads and scores of scabrous Skrulls with mix-and-match powers scampering around the battle-scarred cityscape... what a mess! A Skrull with the combined powers of Doctor Strange, Black Bolt, Iron Man and Mr. Fantastic? Oh wait — he's the Illuminati-Skrull. I get it. How is that supposed to work? He casts a spell and the second he utters “by the Crimson Bands of Cyttorak” he levels half his own forces with a vocal sonic boom? Maybe he’s supposed to stretch an armored hand over his mouth and try to shush himself! A Skrull with the powers of Sandman, Electro and Doc Ock? Points for pulling the powers of three of Spidey’s biggest baddies into one Skrull, but what happens the first time you throw a bucket of water on this guy? He shorts out his own mechanical arms while simultaneously fusing himslef into glass? Whaaaat? If that happens he better stay away from the smashing-slashing-blasting Skrull with Wolverine, Cyclops and Colossus’ powers! You start to see my point. Even I don’t know if Skrulls have toes, but if they do they’re gonna be stepping on ‘em faster than Spider-Skrull can say “Walloping Web-Snappers!”

Man alive, I’ve gotten myself a little worked up over this. It actually feels better than double-doses of St. John’s Wort! Maybe I should get cranky more often. Anyhoo, it’ll be worth it to your Uncle Stanley to pick up Secret Invasion #3 just to see if a Skrull impersonates Franklin Storm just like they did in their third appearance in FF #32 (Nov. 1964). I’ll be taking any and all bets via the Sock It To Stan emailagebox!

Excelsior!
Smiley

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

IMPERIUS TEXT! IT'S GOOD TO BE ME!

ITEM! Hang Loose, Heroes! Just wanted to take a li’l breather today from all the nebulous news and gratuitous gossip and say... it’s good to be me! Your Uncle Stanley has more projects going than you can shake a creator credit at, and sometimes I forget to stop and smell the posies. Comic cameos, mega movie deals, munificent manga, and all manner of other lucratively licensed properties and projects... not bad for your average ornery octogenarian! At UCLA they’re even thinking of naming a wing of the Law School after me in gratitude for all the attorneys I’m gainfully employing in Hollywood right now.

I do want to address one concern that I’ve overheard in some Wall Street circles. Although the Smilin’ One no longer has his own teeth, hair or knees, there’s nothin’ wrong with my hearing. I overheard a remark the other day to the effect, “So long as Stan stays alive, we’re all money!”

Let me assure you, Mister Wall Street Investor. Yours Truly plans on living another 20+ years at the very least. I have signed contracts that last that long! And please note: none of them are contracts that involve deals with supernatural forces in exchange for my soul. Marvel still has that little item locked up in a vault somewhere at 387 Park Avenue South! Mine and Kirby’s... but who am I to complain? Life is pretty damn sweet from where I’m sitting, and your Uncle Stan intends to continue to enjoy the view for a good long time to come. You’ve been warned, True Believers!

Excelsior!
Smiley

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

SPIDER-MAN, SPIDER-MAN, DOES WHATEVER A LIBRARIAN CAN!

ITEM! Okay hysterical historians and lubricious librarians, it’s time to go get your swingin’ library cards validated so that you can go see the original art to Amazing Fantasy #15 up close and personal! 'Course, you’re also gonna need to take a little drive to Washington D.C... but every true-blooded American should do that at least once in their patriotic lives anyway. Cap would be proud!

It brings a tear to my eye to see the scans and pics already put online by some of the library staff. That one lady reminds me of Sol Brodsky, and not because there’s too little of her to love, if you know what I mean. But it really takes me back down nostalgia road, only bigger and better than it ever was. Back in 1963, we were just trying to get the damn books out the door and keep our jobs. Few were the times we ever slowed down enough to sit down and really appreciate the precious paneled pen-and-inked wonders that Kirby and Ditko were delivering to us on an almost daily basis. Just look at the scan above. Gaze in wonderment at the details of Sturdy Steve’s delicate pen lines that were later mostly mauled by the crude mechanical reproduction processes of the day. The wonder! The majesty!

I often wonder what we could do with Stevey’s art in these days of computers and lasers and photoshops. I wondered until Irving Forbush showed me. I gotta say, as much as I love the over-complicated pen lines of these modern comic book artists (heck, Marvel pays me to like ‘em, so why not?), there’s some real artistry going on in Ditko’s simple strokes and design... an artistry that’s all but gone from today’s comics.

Anyways, before I get too mawkishly maudlin, here’s one of those linky things that’ll take you to an officially unoffical Library of Congress librarian’s own boisterous blog. You can read all about when, where and how you can go see these twice-up treasures for yourselves. That’s your tax dollars at work, pilgrims!

Excelsior!
Smiley

Monday, May 5, 2008

IRON MAN CRUSHES BOX OFFICE

ITEM! So last night the Spider-Phone buzzed and sure enough the caller I.D. was the one I was dreading, Avi Arad. I figured Avi was calling to gloat and arrange to collect on the bet we made over Iron Man’s box office take opening weekend. As you’ll recall from our last webispode, your Uncle Stanley bet Avi that Iron Man would break the opening weekend records of Spider-Man 3 and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, taking in $140 million plus. Loser agreed to have Spider-Man’s costume body-painted on his nude body and parade up and down Sunset & Vine. What was I thinking? And even though the Golden Avenger gratuitously garnered the second biggest opening weekend of any non-sequel movie, and placed 10th overall, it’s $104.2 million take didn’t quite put it over the absolute top. Everyone at the studio was celebrating last night except Yours Truly because I had this stupid old-man bet hanging over my humbly harangued head. 

But I decided to suck it up and take the call anyway, only to find out it’s Avi calling to concede the bet! Seems he only remembered betting that Iron Man wouldn’t take in over $140 mil period. Since it took in $104.2 million domestically plus a whopping $96.8 million foreign, that put the total opening weekend at $201 million! You can buy yourself a lotta Repulsor Rays with that much mullah, pilgrims! So Avi conceded the bet and shamefully, Ol’ Smiley let him! This morning at dawn I sent Irving Forbush out with a digital camera to meet the Avaricious One down in Hollywood. Technically they were at the McDonalds on Sunset a little ways down from Vine, but your Uncle Stanley isn’t gonna quibble. Actually... now that I think about it... I more-than-suspect that Avi knew he won the bet and he chose to concede anyway, just so he could go web-swinging in public the whole way, if you know what I mean. Who knows with these Hollywood types. Anyhoo, a win is a win! Enjoy the only PG-13 shot that Honest Irv came back with! ‘Nuff Said!

Excelsior!
Smiley

Sunday, May 4, 2008

YEA, THOUGH I WALK THROUGH THE UNCANNY VALLEY OF CGI...

ITEM! Here’s the latest low-down on Mighty Marvel’s second-most eagerly anticipated summer movie: The Incredible Hulk! As you all probably know by now, the latest trailer is out, and the studio suits are plenty worried. Viewer reaction has not been as ardently and anxiously anticipatory as they were with Iron Man just a few months ago. And no one can seem to understand the problem. Great stars + great director + “TV Show Lonely Man Theme” should = Great Movie, right Tiger? So what’s the problem?

Your Uncle Stanley thinks he knows... and I’ve tried to tell ‘em, bless their little studio exec simulated mechanical hearts, but who listens to me? I’m just some 85-year-old Triassic fossil who only happened to co-create the entire Marvel Universe... whatta I know? The tragic part is, Hulk director “King Louis the XVIII” Leterrier also knows exactly what the prob is. He knew what the biggest problem was with the last Hulk movie and tried to fix it in this one. But the suits wouldn’t listen. Lefty-Louis hated (and when I say hated I mean hated in the same way the French hate anti-perspirants) the CGI effects in the first Hulk movie. He wanted to do as much of the new Hulk movie with actors, prosthetics and animatronics as prudently possible, and the studio suits wouldn’t let him.

You see Louis understands the dirty little secret of ILM and other CGI effects houses. None of ‘em have yet fully-conquered the “uncanny valley.” What in the name of Aunt May’s Depends is the uncanny valley? It’s a term coined by Japanese roboticists to account for the inexplicable revulsion humans instinctively have towards robots that are given appearances too close (but-not-quite-close-enough) to humans. It’s a trick of human perception. Suddenly your brain stops judging the subject as a simulation doing a good job of being human and starts looking at it as a human doing a terrible job of being human. Kinda like the difference between a SHIELD Life Decoy Model and a Doom-Bot. One just walks down the street and takes a bullet for you, the other is trying to simulate the egomania of the ruler of Latveria.

So back to CGI effects. It’s one thing to motion-capture Robert Downey Jr. and computer simulate a guy running around in a suit of power-armor. It’s another entirely to computer generate a convincing giant jade juggernaut who’s basically only a very large human being. Effects house Rhythm & Hues has probably spent enough money to build their own private helicarrier to make their CGI Hulk even more human than the last movie. And all that sweat and toil has gotten them... almost nothing. More detail, sure... different shade of green, check... but your brain still goes “nope... not buyin’ it!” Your Uncle Stanley personally thinks they woulda been much better off Frankensteining the new Hulk up Kirby-style. The more monstrous the better. Big, heavy brows and so on. That’s what Louis wanted to do anyway. My humble heart goes out to yah, Lou. The Hollywood suits never listen to true genius, do they? And speaking of the Abomination... who sez an audience wouldn't buy great big finned ears on a CGI character?

Excelsior!
Smiley

Thursday, May 1, 2008

BOUNTEOUS & BULLISH BOX OFFICE BET

ITEM! Hiya Heroes! It’s almost that time... time for an adoring public to embrace the greatest Merry Marvel Movie since Predator vs. Howard the Duck... Iron Man! Your Uncle Stanley saw it last night with an audience, and this thing is bound to be a bombastic box office bonanza! I had tears in my eyes from the audience cheering and leapin’ outta their seats. Well, from that and Gwyneth Paltrows’ perfume...

I made a bet with Avi Arad back when he jumped ship last year that this movie was gonna beat Spider-Man’s opening weekend. Later we upped the ante to include beating Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. That means an opening weekend in excess of $140 million, and I’m stickin’ to that figure like Aunt May’s wheatcakes stick to yer ribs. Word-of-mouth-plate alone on this sucker is going to drive it through the stratosphere! And the best part? The loser of the bet has to hire an artist to body paint Spidey’s costume onto his nude body and parade around Sunset and Vine for at least one hour. During daylight. I know, I know... no one wants to see that, but what do I care at this stage in my life? Besides, it's not Yours Truly who's gonna be treating folks to the Full Spidey! I am totally winning this bet, pilgrims!

Excelsior!
Smiley