Wednesday, July 30, 2008

ALWAYS BET ON THE DARK HORSE

Welcome back to The Hype Box. Guest columnist J.S. here, giving Sir Stan a much-needed day off to catch his breath after another megalithic media-circus feeding-frenzy, otherwise known as Comic Con San Diego. And guess what? There was one announcement that most of the industry hacks and flacks missed. In their headlong rush to congratulate DC Comics for absorbing yet another competitor’s superhero pantheon (the Archie and Milestone heroes in this case), they missed out on Dark Horse Comics’ announcement that they were bringing back some characters very near and dear to my heart: Doctor Solar and Magnus Robot Fighter

These Gold Key Comics heroes (who also once called a little ‘90s imprint named Valiant Comics home) will be appearing again later this year in all-new adventures published by Dark Horse. And just wait until you see what I have in store for these characters! I’ve already gotten the first year’s worth of plots and story arc worked out for both Solar and Magnus, and I’m ready to hand the first couple of scripts off to artists. The scale of these books is going to be so epic and mind-boggling that they’re going to make Secret Wars look like Secret Wars II. Which would be quite a feat, I'll grant you.

The only hold-up so far is that my agent is still waiting on the call from Dark Horse President Mike Richardson actually asking me to write these books — surely a mere formality at this point. And Barry Windsor-Smith hasn’t returned any of my calls as yet. But I assure you, gentle readers, that I’m poised and ready to create some truly great stories for Solar and Magnus... and if sales don’t start going up on Legion of Super-Heroes I may be ready sooner rather than later!

Take Care,
Shooter

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

CO-CREATORS, THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STORY

ITEM! Hi there, Heroes! One of the reasons I started this off-the-record, off-the-wall and off-the-hook li’l eye-opener of a blog was to set the record straight and make some amenable amends to some of my co-creators past and present. And how better to tell their sensible side of the story than to let them do it for themselves? Once upon a time in a Silver Age far, far away, their were two extra features included in our 72-page annuals that were actually plotted, drawn and mostly written by Jolly Jack Kirby and Sturdy Steve Ditko, each representing their own facetious feelings about their respective collaborations with Yours Truly!

First up in The Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1 (Nov. 1964, natch) was Ditko’s imaginatively titled “How Stan Lee and Steve Ditko Create Spider-Man” (see selected panels below). Even then, Stevey-Boy was complaining about my practice of signing my name on anything and everything that wasn’t nailed down!

Then the King gives us his version of the Lee-Kirby collaborative process in the perhaps sarcastically entitled “This Is A Plot?” from The Fantastic Four Annual #5 (Nov. 1967, and if yah don’t already own this one and the Spidey Annual above, what the heck are yah waiting for? Irving Forbush’s Birthday? Marvel only reprints these things in about a gazillion different trade paperbacks and books! Get thee to a local comic shop now, pilgrim!). Jack actually did a pretty good job of capturing the simultaneous creative joy our plotting sessions, as well as the near-total lack of us actually listening to what the other was saying (see panels below).

What can I say? As in all writing and art, no matter how fictitious or fanciful the story, our true experiences and personas usually shine right on through. If I’da been Carl Jung instead of the liltin’ literary lengend that I was, I might have picked up on some of these clues to the future falling-outs your Uncle Stanley was destined to have with Kirby and Ditko. Ah well, you know what they say... blindsight is 20/20.

Excelsior!
Smiley

Monday, July 28, 2008

SEX APPEAL IS FIFTY PERCENT WHAT YOU'VE GOT...

ITEM! ...and fifty percent what people think you’ve got, at least according to Sophia Loren. So while we were munging through the latest mass of manic missives from the Sock It To Stan emailage, we came across this one from Jumpin’ Jonathan Nolan of Queensland, Oz. Jon tipped us off about the latest “versus” poll being run over at the picesallmedia.com forums. Seems there’s a nifty new survey being taken called SEX APPEAL: Stan Lee vs. Joe Quesada.

Of course your Uncle Stan is the runaway winner thus far, not that current Marvel Editor-in-Chief Joe “Quickdraw” Quesada isn’t a moderately good-looking man in his own right. But quick show of hands: who’s partied with Rebecca Romijn, Pamela Anderson, and often been mistaken for Hugh Hefner? Sit down, Tommy Lee... you don’t count!

Still, there’s no sense in taking any chances. All Keepers of the Faith should go visit this sensual census and remember what a man named Milhous once said: vote early, and vote often! 

Excelsior!
Smiley

MARVELOUS DAYS OF CONS GONE BY

ITEM! Even though I’m back home soaking my tired and tortured tootsies in my admantium-lined jacuzzi at Casa Del Lee, I just had to wax a little nostalgic about the long and winding road these comic book conventions have taken us all on. MMMS member-in-good-standing #7420 Homer J. got me started when sent in this scan to the ol' Sock It To Stan emails box! It's quite the reminder of  dazzling days gone by!

Marvel-Con ’76 may not have been as luminous and large as San Diego, but dog-gone if we didn’t have us some fun back when we were all a little brighter-eyed and bushier-tailed. Can you imagine getting a 3-hour art lesson from the master John Buscema himself? Or writing lessons at the feet of Rascally Roy Thomas? And if yah got bored by all that, there were Free Kung Fu exhibitions! Man-o-man, them were the days! Thanks for the teary-eyed trip down memory lane, Homer! Consider yourself No-Prized, Good Sir!

Excelsior!
Smiley

Sunday, July 27, 2008

SAN DIEGO COMIC CON - THE WRAP-UP

ITEM! San Diego Comic Con — Is there anything more magnificent than 125,000+ True Believers all united in a single purpose, i.e. finding the nearest little-fanboys-room? The crowds were unbelievable, the fun indescribable, and the excitement unimaginable. Besides all the many and marvelous projects your Uncle Stanley was hawking like a manic madman at the Con, I was even honored Friday night to be in the audience when the Distinguished Competition’s Major Mojo, Paul “Leave it To” Levitz, got his shiny Bob Clampett Humanitarian Eisner Award. You pilgrims probably don’t understand what it means for a publisher to get anything with the word “humanitarian” in it. Publishing is a tough biz, and usually when you’re in the position of making the hard calls and taking the rough falls, folks rarely think of you as human, much less humanitarian. Well, except for Yours Truly, of course, but that’s magnanimous and munificent me. Congratz, Mr. Levitz!... and hang onto that thing for dear life. It’ll come in handy later for beating freelancers back into submission when they’re missing more deadlines than Doc Doom’s hairdresser!

Excelsior!
Smiley

Friday, July 25, 2008

SAN DIEGO COMIC CON REPORT - FREYADAY

ITEM! Just got out of the “Adapting Comics to Screen” panel (a.k.a. how do we guarantee that we never spend good studio money on another Batman and Robin ever, ever again), and I’m running like mad to get down to the Disney booth. And when I say running like mad, I really mean amblin’ along as best I can while teams of bodyguards cut a swath through the crowd ahead of me. See the pic below that Earnest Irv took of me using my incredible charm, smarm, and forearm to disarm the long-suffering swarm as I get cutsies in line. It’s good to be me! Man alive... it’s only Friday and I’m already sagging worse than Aunt May’s support hose. When is this magilla over with, anyways? Two more days? Yeesh!

Excelsior!
Smiley

HOUSE OF MOUSE REUPS FIRST-LOOK DEAL WITH THE MAN

ITEM! What can I say — Mousketeers Robert Iger and Steve Jobs know a good thing when they see it! In case you didn’t already hear, Disney just announced at Comic Con that they’ve elected to reup their first-look deal for another two years with the best-looking Purveyor of Wonder around, Yours Truly! That, and we just announced the fabulous first fruits of the Disney-Lee collaboration, a dramatic darling of a digital comic I like to call Time Jumper. It's all about a guy with a time machine built into his cell phone (which is way better than a DeLorean, don'tcha think?). Coming soon to a mobile phone or device near you! Wanna bet on whether or not it’s released for the iPhone? Nah? Why not?

Now if only I could convince them that it’s worth dealing with Marvel to do a Spider-Mouse cartoon! All they keep telling my lawyers is something about Snow White freezing over...

Excelsior!
Smiley

Thursday, July 24, 2008

SAN DIEGO COMIC CON REPORT - THORSDAY

ITEM! Hookay then! Since there’s about 125 gazillion True Believers out here in San Diego right now, Yours Truly is gonna keep these Comic Con reports short and sweet... kinda like Heidi MacDonald! The Virgin panel discussion just ended and it went swell enough I suppose, except for Grant Morrison hoggin’ up too much mike-time. You know what the Scots are like after a few early morning pints. Afterwards, I finally got out on the convention floor with my circle of bodyguards and had Irving Forbush snap a few pics which I’ll be a sharin’ with yah as soon as we get inside some kind of Wide-Fi cloud that Irv keeps jabbering on and on about. Here’s the first one: your Uncle Stanley standing in front of what I think is supposed to be Galactus’ glamorous goggles from the next Fantastic Four movie. Obviously they’re gonna be painted purple in the movie! If yah see me on the floor, please don’t forget The Code of Comic Con Conduct. Enjoy!

Excelsior!
Smiley

THE SKRULL BONE'S CONNECTED TO THE NECK BONE

ITEM! Okay troops, it’s time to get your Skrull on at the Comic Con! Out in comic shops this week — the aptly titled “Secret Invasion: Skrulls!” Rather than restlessly recycle every known Skrull plot previously used in a Mighty Marvel Mag (mostly ‘cause Brian Michael Bendis already beat ‘em to it), Skrulls! uses the actual art of invasions-gone-by to deliver an encyclopedic entry for every known Skrull dictator, agitator, infiltrator, irritator or aggregator that ever appeared in a Marvel Comic! Everything yah ever needed to know about the Skrulls is covered in this one, from those funky “A Piece of the Action” gangster Skrulls to their distant Dire Wraith cousins and every Skrull-cow in-between.

And speaking of Brian Michael Bendis, just how far back was he really placing clues to the Secret Invasion story arc? The oldest clue Irving Forbush has uncovered so far is this ad in the back of Spider-Man #172 (Oct. 1977), which means that Bendis has been working on this story arc since he was at least 10 years old! Now that’s dedication above and beyond, pilgrims!

Honest Irv also found the following video clip of Bendis answering questions while on a panel at Comic Con New York this past year. Seems he got a little flustered and his true colors showed for a brief moment or two. Click on the YooTube thingy below to see what happened! 


Excelsior!
Smiley

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

COMIC CON SCHEDULE AND CON ETIQUETTE

ITEM! It’s almost that time, Culture Lovers! It’s almost time for San Diego Comic Con 2008. Since many of you will be making the tireless trek out to the wild and wooly West Coast specifically to catch a glimpse of Yours Truly, I thought I’d make it as easy on yah as possible by letting you know my schedule and a few simple rules of earnest etiquette to use when approaching the Smilin’ One!

First, my complete Comic Con schedule can be found at this linky thing here. Just type "Stan Lee" into the search field and voila! It’s updated daily, so you know you’ll always have the latest and greatest info on where to track your Uncle Stanley down day-by-day!

Next, a few simple rules just to help things go as smoothly as possible as you traverse the thrill-seeking throngs waiting in line to get an autographed copy of Election Daze or whatever else has the good taste to come graced with my momentous moniker on it. Sure as Spidey wears a speckled shirt, someone will ignore this simple code of Comic Con conduct, but as Doc Ock would say, "forewarned is four-armed." The Smilin' One doesn't want to see anyone accosted by my POW!erful handlers or body guards. Here are the rules:

1.) On approach, check to make sure that I’m wearing my specially-tinted stare-proof prescription sunglasses. If for any reason I am not wearing them, DO NOT attempt to make eye contact. It’s not safe for mere mortals to gaze too long into the eyes of a living literary legend. Frantic Ones who have ignored this rule have been known to spontaneously combust or to break down into uncontrollable fits of worshipful sobbing.

2.) Only shake my hand if I offer it to you first. I need time to bring the power cosmic down to levels that won’t mutate genes or cause unwanted tanning.

3.) I’ll pose for any pictures so long as you sign my attorney’s short affidavit promising to publish the pictures as far and wide as possible so as too spread the word to the faithful masses. It also doesn't hurt if you're really cute.

4.) I’ll only sign items containing intellectual property that I can take actual credit for creating or co-creating... in other words anything you want to shove my way, pilgrims!

That’s it! You’ve suffered enough with the rules. See yah at the Con! So until the Silver Surfer buys a fright wig, let me leave you with this sly and sobering thought —

Excelsior!
Smiley

Monday, July 21, 2008

WHO CREDITS THE CREATORS?

ITEM! No matter how many times Yours Truly rhapsodizes about the magic of Jolly Jack Kirby, some folks just don’t seem to feel that Jack gets enough creator credit around these parts. Well, today we’ll try and fix that li’l problem. Wouldja believe me if I said that in my own humble opinion Jack’s influence as a creator can be seen as far and as wide as in the just-released trailer for The Watchmen movie? No? Then follow along, pilgrim!

Let’s start all the way back in 1959, when Joe Simon and Jack Kirby created The Fly for an Arch rival of ours. As especially studious ones already know, The Fly was based on an earlier Simon creation called The Silver Spider (and in a still earlier draft “Spiderman” with no hyphen). In 1963, when Yours Truly was casting about for another colorful character to add to our rollicking roster at Marvel, Jack dusted off the old Spiderman concept and drew around eight pages on the project before I pulled it and gave it to Sturdy Steve Ditko to do over. Jack’s original Spider-Man design can be seen here and below in a mock-up of Amazing Fantasy #15 by John Bryne and a spot drawing done from memory by Steve Ditko himself! Everyone knows that Steve then redesigned the character using little-if-any of Jack’s desgn and the rest was history, right? Don’t you bet on it, sunshine!

After Steve jumped ship to Charlton in ’66, he was asked to come up with a new version of their Golden Age superhero the Blue Beetle (see illo below, click to enlarge). Notice anything familiar about Ditko’s Blue Beetle revamp? That’s right — it bears an uncanny resemblance to Jack’s original Spider-Man design, all the way down to the Sandman & Sandy hooded cowl, goggle lenses and holstered pistol! Coincidence? Me thinks not.

Turn the clock forward to 1986, when Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons released their seminal serialized sensation, Watchmen, on an unsuspecting reading public. As most of us know, The Watchmen were loosely based on the Charlton Comics stable of heroes, with the Nite-Owl being mostly modeled on Ditko’s Blue Beetle, down to the goggles, belt full of scientific gadgetry and flying fortress airship. In 2008, all of this has been translated into fantastic filmic fun by Watchmen director Zack Snyder and crew. Hopefully you’ve seen the amazing Watchmen trailer by this time. For a Brand Ecch movie, it's not too shabby. If not, go here and check it out now in all its High-Definition glory. We’'ll wait for yah right here.

Notice anything about the movie’s version of Nite-Owl? Looks pretty Kirbyesque doesn’t he? Just for kicks compare the movie’s version of Nite-Owl with the King’s version of what a Marvelized Batman would look like in a sketch he did in 1982. It’s okay... take a minute, then you can say it with me. Just do your best George Takei voice and say, “Oh my...” Here's how the whole peerless progression goes (click on the individual pieces of artwork to see larger views):


So what’s the lesson here, pilgrims? The lesson is that Jack Kirby was an elemental force of creative nature, and he was always out there ahead of us mere mortals and probably will be for years to come. It’s almost as if all things begin and end with Jack Kirby. How’s THAT for a creator credit? Thus endeth the lesson, Faithful Ones!

Excelsior!
Smiley









IT WAS A DARK AND STORMY KNIGHT - AT THE BOX OFFICE, BABY!

ITEM! What can I say, except congrats to the new box office champion! Never let it be said that the Smilin' One isn't the first to give credit-where-credit-is-due! It seems that the Distinguished Conglomerate’s new movie, The Dark Knight, has unseemingly unseated Spider-Man 3 as the opening weekend champ by selling $4 million dollars more in tickets this weekend for an opening weekend of $155 million! That should be enough for them to rebuild stately Wayne Manor for the next sequel, don’tcha think?

According to CNN, the box-office Bat-buzz was what really pushed this movie over the record-breaking edge. What was already a highly anticipated portrayal of everyone’s favorite anarchist Arkham asylum-mate by the late-great Heath Ledger brought in even more box-office-bucks when folks saw the flick and found out it truly was the Academy-Award-deserving performance of a lifetime. And of course we at the House of Ideas warmed the movie-going audience up for ‘em with Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk, cause that’s just the magnanimous and munificent kind of folks we are at Marvel. Jon "Fan Fave" Favreau... I hope you were taking notes this weekend. We expect this same kind of box office for Iron Man 2 in 2010! ‘Nuff Said!

Excelsior!
Smiley

Friday, July 18, 2008

MISRENDER ON THE MASTERWORKS EXPRESS

ITEM! Holy Skrull-Cow! Where’s Miss Marble when yah need her? Yours Truly just discovered that the Mighty Marvel Original Art/Recreated Art Mystery runs a lot deeper than most of us probably suspected. Apparently my amazingly monolithic alma mater has been hiring artists to “recreate” covers, interior pages, and in some cases, entire issues of Marvel’s Silver Age classics for the Marvel Masterworks and Omnibus reprint books. And by recreate I mean trace. And by trace I mean forge. It seems that they’re doing this whenever stats or film of the original issues turns up missing. Let’s go over that again so it has chance to really sink in. Rather than scanning original print copies of the missing pages or books and print that (as was done in GTI Corp’s dramatic-but-now-nearly-departed DVD collections), they’ve elected to go to special recreation artists that would never otherwise be hired to draw a Marvel comic and have them make fastidious forgeries of classic Kirby and Ditko art. And if yah don’t believe the Smilin’ One, then see 20th Century Danny Boy’s excellent examination of this egregious exercise in ersatz engraving.

Far be it from your Uncle Stanley to cast the first stick at anyone for faking something, but there should at the very least be full disclosure in these books so that readers know exactly when and where they’re not really getting the genuine article. Here’s Danny Boy’s short list of known recreated art in these high-end reprints. Go read that and then come back here for more!

Back? Good! It’s not like we didn’t face this same problem back in my day. An entire issue of The Amazing Spider-Man went missing from our files way back in the late 60s — Spidey #29 to be exact. Never reprinted until Marvel Tales #168 (Oct. 1984), the Marvel production department had to reshoot the entire ish from a print copy and then clean up the resulting stats via knife, white-out and some re-lettering. But Marvel did two things back in’84 that kept it all on the up-an-up: 1.) They told readers what they had done to restore the Ditko art, and 2.) They restored the Ditko art from stats, they didn’t redraw it. That’s at least two ethical lines that have been crossed in the current reprints. Full disclosure, disclaimers and discourse is the way to go with these Masterworks and Omnibus reprints that contain recreated artwork. You hear that, Joltin’ Joe Quesada? Is it real or is it Memorex? True Believers want to know! 

P.S. Can you imagine the poor sap that gets sorely saddled someday with recreating Vince Colletta’s inks on classic issues of The Mighty Thor? Will Marvel supply the artist with his own whisk broom to ink with, or will he they have to buy their own? Yeesh! I just gave myself cold chills with that one, pilgrims. Now if someone wants to hire Mike Royer to re-ink Jack’s entire Thor run from his pencils stats, I’m sure that’s one recreation we could all get behind! Your Fearless Leader (Emeritus) hath spoken!

Excelsior!
Smiley

Thursday, July 17, 2008

THE MYSTERIOUS CASE OF THE PRISTINE PAGE

ITEM! If you haven’t been keeping up with this on 20th Century Danny Boy’s blog, then shame on you pilgrim! It seems that an ebays seller offered up the splash page to Avengers #1 for sale, and shortly before the auction was suddenly and mysteriously cancelled, the current bid of $49,999 had still not met the reserve price. Wowsir! That’s a lotta schenkels for one page of classic Lee-Kirby magic.

But the most alarming thing about this particular page of original art is its suspiciously pristine condition. Your Uncle Stan looked at the scans and there’s no way in Odin’s green Midgard that any art that was once in Sol Brodsky’s grubby hands 45 years ago is that clean and white today. I’m here to tell yah that its either a fantastic recreation or it’s been restored to within an inch of its life. My pencilled dialogue balloons — gone. Jack’s margin notes — gone. Any trace of rubber cement, pasted-up additions or white-out corrections — gone. But you know what is in the art as scanned? The production code for that ish (X-337) is present where it normally should be at the lower left corner of the art. There’s just one problem with that. Not every single splash page back in those days had its production code included inside the panel... sometimes it was floating out in the margins, where the printers would crop it off while shooting the plates. That must have happened to Avengers #1 because my original copy (leather-bound down in my hermetically-seal vault, natch) doesn’t show any production code in the printed splash page (see pic below).

It doesn’t take Hercules Parrot to figure out that something’s up with this art. And amid the controversy addressed on Danny’s site over the last few days, the auction itself (which can still be seen right here) was pulled without warning. As Alice Cooper once said, “Curiouser and curiouser, man.”

Excelsior!
Smiley

BATTLE OF THE BOX OFFICE FRANCHISES

ITEM! Somtimes even Yours Truly has to give credit-where-credit-is-due. Not often, but I do what I can. Today, it seems that the Distinguished Conglomerate’s tentpole movie for the summer has already set one record before it even leaves the Batcave. According to The Hollywood Reporter, The Dark Knight will open tomorrow in a record-breaking 4,366 domestics playdates, which could be double and triple-screened into over 9,200 screens in the U.S. and Canada.

They really should thank us at Marvel Studios for getting the crowd all warmed up for ‘em. You’re welcome, Warner! See? That’s how we do things here at the House of Ideas. Since we have the swingingest super-heroes on the scene, it behooves us to be gracious and magnanimous to our less-fortunate brothers and sisters over at Brand Ecch. Lord knows they have enough to deal with as it is. Word has even leaked out that they think they have a shot at beating Spider-Man 3’s opening weekend. If anyone over there really wants to bet your Uncle Stanley on that one, I’ll take the bet with the same table stakes I used winning my last box office bet. Loser has to get a Spidey body-paint job and parade around naked up and down Sunset and Vine in broad daylight! But you might want to ask Avi Arad how that bet ended up for him before you call.

So until The Dark Knight opens up at 12:01 am tonight, here's a little something to tide you over. This is what would really happen if the Dark Knight tangled with Ol' Greenskin! It's got a certain Bambi Meets Godzilla appeal that I think you'll enjoy!


Excelsior!
Smiley

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

ANOTHER EXCELSIOR AWARD HAS FLOWN UP, UP AND AWAY!

ITEM! Well it’s that time again, gentle readers... time to award this month’s Excelsior Award for Comic Shop Excellence! And it's congratulations to Up, Up & Away of Cincinnati, Ohio for winning this month's virtuous virtual validation. July’s winsome winner was notably nominated by local MMMS member #7324 L. Starkiller who says to say "hi" to someone at the store named Leia, and then goes on to say:

"Up, Up & Away is far and away the best comic book shop in the greater Cincinnati area. For starters, the owner Kendall Swafford sometimes doesn’t even wait for you to put a book on your pull list. If he knows that you’re a Kirby fanatic for example, he’ll have the next issue of The Jack Kirby Collector saved for you behind the counter before you walk in the door. And if the last copy of something you desperately desire is his personal reading copy, he’ll sell you that one. Now that’s service! Plus he has the biggest selection of comic-related props, statues, t-shirts and other assorted goodies you’d ever want to spend good plastic on. No need to mail-order an Iron Man helmet, he has TWO in stock! They even have a life-size dancing Homer Simpson statue that sings behind the counter. All-in-all, it's a solid 10-out-of-10 on the geek meter...”

So, congrats to the captain and crew of Up, Up & Away! The score so far: two Exy winners from the West Coast, and two from the Mid-West. What's up, East Coast? Great Britain? Outer Latveria? How can your local comic shop qualify for the ever exciting, never biting Exy Award, you ask? It's all too easy, Tiger. The conditional criteria are: 1.) While there are thousands of good comic shops, is yours one of the truly great ones? Do you stand a little taller and walk a little prouder just goin’ into the place? If so, then 2.) Submit your noteworthy nomination to our rollicking review board (that’s Yours Truly and whoever else happens to be standing around at the time). No postage required, some side-effects may occur. Swelled heads lasting over four hours are not normal and you should go see a doctor. So what are you waiting for? I’m not getting any younger, yah know! Send your Exy Award nominations to the ol’ Sock It To Stan email box today!

Excelsior!
Smiley

TRAPPED IN AN OMNIBUS HE NEVER MADE!

ITEM! Without a doubt this week’s comic shop cherry-pick is the deluxe Howard the Duck Omnibus — over 808 pages of web-footed waddling and waughing that is sure to please even the most discerning finely feathered fanatic. Everyone’s favorite anthropomorphic antisocialite was Marvel at it’s Bronze Age best (not to mention some of the late-great Steve Gerber’s very best sardonic and satirical scripting), and this two-ton tome contains it all. You get all of Howard’s first appearances, the entire 33-ish run of his original series, and even his Marvel Treasury Edition appearance plus Marvel Team-Up #96! And it’s all yours for a mere $99.99, which let's face it is like two tanks of gas these days. As Doctor Bong might say, ask not for whom the ominbus tolls, pilgrim, it tolls for thee!

Excelsior!
Smiley

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

BABY BRO GETS A WELL-DESERVED FINGER

ITEM! In case you haven’t already heard, Mrs. Lieber’s second-most famous son is about to be the proud recipient of the much-coveted Bill Finger Award at this year’s Comic-Con in San Diego! Besides being one of the greatest utility in-fielders of the Silver Age of Marvel Comics, little brother Larry Lieber probably wrote more scripts for Jolly Jack Kirby than anyone else this side of Yours Truly and Joe Simon. You see, unlike big bro, Lare could do it all — he wrote, he drew, he inked. Heck, if we’d of let him, he probably woulda delivered the comics to newsstands too! Not to mention he’s my current co-plotter/artist on the Spidey daily syndicated newspaper strip! Whatta guy! Well done, little bro! Lunch at The Grill is on me next week!

Excelsior!
Smiley

Monday, July 14, 2008

HULK CUPCAKES (INSERT HOMER SIMPSON DROOL SOUND HERE)

ITEM! While we’re on the subject of Ol’ Greenskin, Val “Occasional Superheroine” D’Orazio’s always gregarious Cool Aggregator blog has a great post up on the Top 10 Weird Hulk Toys. Wouldja believe that the Hulk Cupcake (pictured at right) only came in #4 on the list? I mean what is that thing anyway... guacamole flavored with brocoli frosting? Maybe if you keep it refrigerated long enough, it eventually calms down into a nice, vanilla Bruce Banner cupcake... Yeesh! Go check out the rest of the list at Val's site! Tell 'em Smiley sent yah!

Excelsior!
Smiley

HULK ONLINE FOOTAGE STILL M.I.A.

ITEM! You read the headline right, pilgrims... and your Uncle Stan has no earthly idea why the exciting Captain America cameo excised from The Incredible Hulk movie still has not shown up online (as both Louis Leterrier and the studio promised). I think the suits are still arguing over how posting the footage online will improbably impact future DVD sales. Since A.I.M. stand for Advanced Idea Mechanics, maybe in this case M.I.A. stands for Mercantile Ideas Advancement...

Still, to tide you Frantic Ones over in the meantime, here’s a nifty li'l preview of the upcoming direct-to-DVD Hulk Vs. Wolverine animated movie, slated for a January 2009 release. Note the timely tributes to both Wolverine’s original introduction to Marvelites everywhere in Hulk #181 (Nov. 1974, natch) and to Todd “MacMillionaire” MacFarlane’s classic Hulk #340 cover (Feb. 1988, ...and whatta yah reading these nutty footnotes for anyway... go get these puppies if you don’t already own one!). And if you can't wait until January 2009 for this one, sunshine... come join Yours Truly for the screening at Comic Con in San Diego in a couple of weeks! Enjoy!



Excelsior!
Smiley

Sunday, July 13, 2008

SECRET INVASION #4: THE BUTLER DID IT!

ITEM! Well we warned yah, Marvelites. When Joltin’ Jim reviews a comic, he doesn’t pull any premeditated punches! That’s part of what made him such a great editor at the 4-5 companies he once worked for. I just wanted to add my own two sense and say that I’m still campaigning Brian Michael Bendis to reveal Aunt May as a Skrull agent. I know, I know... that may sound kinda corny to some, but it’s not any cornier than revealing that the butler did it... which is exactly what happened in Secret Invasion’s #3 and #4, as the Avengers’ gentleman’s gentleman Jarvis delivered the Skrull’s surrender ultimatum one whole downed SHIELD carrier. What’s next? Colonel Fury did it in the Library with the Candlestick? But I kid, I kid. Still, dont’cha think Aunt May would make a great reveal as a Super Skrull with all of the combined powers of her Tuesday Night Bridge Club? No? How ‘bout postal carrier Willie Lumpkin as a Skrull? I could reprise my cameo as Willie in the next Merry Marvel Movie! Or it could be revealed that Millie the Model was laying the groundwork for a Skrull invasion way back in the 60s! The mind boggles! Yah know, I really should be writing this series...

Excelsior!
Smiley

Saturday, July 12, 2008

SECRET INVASION VS. SECRET WARS: TO PLOT, OR NOT TO PLOT

Welcome to The Hype Box, and thanks to the Smilin’ One for allowing me this opportunity to both dip my toes into the blogosphere and to write publicly about the state of the art in comics today. My respect for the Man know no bounds, and as I once told Steve Englehart, in many ways Stan is the father of us all. Thanks, Stan. And without further ado, on with the show...

July brings us issue #4 of Joe Queseda’s and Brian Michael Bendis’ bastard summer crossover love-child, Secret Invasion. When the best thing you can say about this series is that at least it’s better than Final Crisis, you’ve still probably set reader expectations a little too high. I’m not even going to get into the ridiculous plot-holes that wouldn’t have even passed muster back in Stan’s day — he’s covered all of that quite well here and here and here. I’m going to compare and contrast it with the Gold Standard of all cross-over comics, my own Secret Wars. Let’s keep it simple and just start with this month cover, shall we? Secret Wars #4 (Aug. 1984) may not have been the best art directed cover in the history of comics (we were going for high-concept with the whole Molecule Man dropping a mountain on the Hulk and him holding it up), but you know what we didn’t do? We didn’t let the cover artist obscure so much of the title logo that you couldn’t even read it!

I'd critique Bendis’ plot... but there really isn’t one to critique, is there? If this story had been discussed with artist Leinil Francis Yu “Marvel Style,” the conversation would’ve gone something like, “In this ish we touch back on Reed — he’s still captured. We touch back on the exploded SWORD orbital HQ, which is still exploded. We touch back on the Super Skrull invasion of New York which Nick Fury showed up at with his forces last ish, and they still show up..." Well, you get the idea. It’s decompressed storytelling at it’s finest, and by decompressed storytelling I mean listless, lazy-ass storytelling that feigns realism with maudlin character moments as a substitute for actual plot development. There's about one-third of one issue’s worth of Secret Wars plot development stretched out over the course of the first four issues of Secret Invasion, with no sign of the pace picking up anytime soon. I swear reading this issue was like watching a Will Ferrel movie; it’s 15 minutes of my life I’m never getting back and I feel like my IQ just dropped 10 points.

And how exactly is a reader supposed to enjoy the torment of the heroes never knowing who’s a Skrull when even the readers aren’t given enough information to tell shape-changing head from shape-changing toe? That’s not creating suspense, Bendis, that’s called creating story confusion.

That’s enough for this blog, dear reader. Take my advice and don’t encourage these guys by giving them your hard-earned $3.99 a month. Save that money and after eight more months you can buy half a tank of gas with it and use that to drive to the comic shop and thumb through the trade paperback. You’ll get the whole story in about 3 minutes’ time, which is just about what it deserves.

Take Care,
Shooter

Thursday, July 10, 2008

GOOD ADVICE 101: DON'T TRADE YOUR HOT WIFE TO MEPHISTO

ITEM! Hoo Boy! I saw this and laughed until St. John’s Wort came out my nose! For those Marvelites unfamiliar with the titanically talented Mr. Fred Chao, by all means go to his website and knock yourself silly. He’s got an original style all his own, and if reading this Spectacular Spidey cartoon doesn’t make you laugh out loud (or LOL, as the kids say these days), better check your pulse pilgrim, cause yer in need of some serious medical attention! Merci Beaucoup to Kevin Church for posting this li’l gem for all to see! (NOTE: if your eyesite is as sorely lacking as your Uncle Stanley's, you may have to click on the image to embiggen!) 


Excelsior!
Smiley

JON FAVREAU SUITS UP FOR IRON MAN 2

ITEM! Good news, everyone! It looks like David Maisel and Marvel Studios have recovered from their brief case of Rectal-Cranial Dislocation and have closed a deal with Jon “Fan Fave” Favreau to direct Iron Man 2... at least according to Nikki Finke’s Deadline Hollywood Daily. No word yet on my bestest biddy buddy Robert Downey Jr. or if the 2010 date the studio wanted has been pushed back as Jonny-Be-Good wanted. Still, this is great news and methinks a sign that cooler heads at Marvel are prevailing. And of course all you Frantic Ones that rang out your opinions loud and clear on the Intrawebs should take a well-deserved bow as well. Congratulations, pilgrims! The Second Golden Age of Marvel is just around the corner and you helped make it happen! Watch for it!

Excelsior!
Smiley

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

STAN'S SOAPBOX - NOW WITH MORE OPINION AND LESS EFFORT

ITEM! It’s True Confessions time here in Soapbox-land, pilgrims. As faithful readers of this blog already know, Yours Truly doesn’t do everything around here, especially anything technical, graphical or more temporal-lobe taxing than rebooting my old Dell. Much of the web-wizardry that you see is accomplished by my adopted great-grandson, the Imitable Irving Forbush III. What you may not have know is that I have also occasionally used an anonymous co-columnist to cover for me when other obligations have kept me scripting away on pressing projects. Your Uncle Stanley taking complete credit for a collaborator's work... whatta shocker, right? In my defense, we did it Marvel Style, with me giving him the gist of what I wanted to go on and on endlessly about, and my collaborator would actually write up the occasional blog entry based on our brief “plotting session.” Usually all I had to do afterwards was a brief edit to crank the adjective count and hyperbole up to truly Stan-worthy proportions!

But this system didn't always work. A good example was this open letter blog to Marvel Studios Chair David Maisel. We both talked about how we hated the direction Daring David was heading the studio into with his recent antics, and then off my co-conspirator went to write up our “plot.” The only problem was that what he wrote didn’t exactly sound like your ol’ Uncle Stan... as much as I may have agreed with his rant. 

Well good news, Frantic Ones! I’ve finally convinced my clandestine contributor, convivial compatriot and comic-creating cohort to come clean and contribute some columns all by his cranky self. His only condition? Your Uncle Stan has to let him call ‘em as he sees ‘em. And when you read his blogs, you’ll know what he means! Who is this mysterious maverick of all things Merry and Marvel? A nebulous non-sequitur No-Prize to the first commenter who can guess his identity before his first column appears, which should be any day now. I know, I know... it’s a tall order based on the few clues given, but so is our guest columnist! So get going and start guessing, Tigers and Tigrettes! Those No-Prizes don’t grow on No-Trees, yah know!

Excelsior!
Smiley

SIDEWALK ART FOR THE MERRY MARVEL MASSES

ITEM! Apparently some enterprising art majors from the University of Washington decided to decorate the sidewalks of the Kirkland area of Seattle with some gratuitous graffiti depicting their favorite comics blog — which was Stan’s Soapbox, natch! Thanks to MMMS member-in-good-standing T. Morrow for sending this one in. Consider yourself promoted to F.F.F. (Fearless Front Facer) Mr. Morrow! After ogling  this breathtaking photo, one only has to wonder how long it will be before this craze sweeps the nation! Could some sizzling Stan’s Soapbox sideways sidewalk art in front of the White House or the Met be far behind?

Excelsior!
Smiley

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

...AND ALONG CAME A SPIDER-FLY!

ITEM! Speaking of Jolly Jack Kirby, look-see what Yours Truly found while unpacking some old files down in The Crypt (my hermetically-seal comics vault deep beneath stately Lee Manor). I believe this is Jack’s original design for Spider-Man before I stuck a hyphen in the name and gave the project to Ditko to do over! I musta signed off on this one before Jack turned in his legendarily rejected pages (see this Sunny Soapbox Story for more on that). It’s interesting what 45-plus years of hindsight will do for your eyes, pilgrims. This doesn’t look all that bad to me these days, though of course I stand by my editorial decision to use Sturdy Steve’s design instead. Jack’s Spider-Man was a little bit of lots of prior Simon-Kirby heroes. I can see some Sandman and Sandy, a little Fighting American, and of course some Archie-comics-style Fly in this design. And as we all know, that’s Joe Simon’s logo work that Jack had hung onto all those years.

And if Jack’s version of Spidey also looks a little Ant-Man-like, that’s no accident either. I gave Ant-Man to Jack as a consolation prize for taking him off of Spider-Man, though he protested both decisions. Yah see, Ant-Man was one of my ideas (heck I was on a whole insect-themed run back in those days). Jack told me that a hero with the power to shrink and control ants was lamer-than-lame, but I didn’t listen to him... and as usual Jack was ultimately proven right. It wasn’t the first time nor the last. Any-hoo, enjoy this little piece of unearthed apocryphal arcana. Remember Frantic Ones, you can't get the goods anywhere but here at Ol' Uncle Stanley's Soapbox & Sundries! Tell 'em your Aunt Petunia sent yah!

Excelsior!
Smiley

JACK'S BACK — AND WE GOT HIM!

ITEM! That’s right, pilgrims! Jolly Jack Kirby is back from the Great Beyond, and someday soon we may all see new art and stories from the King. At least that’s the story according to the late, lamented Weekly World News (April 16, 1996 issue). Many thanks to MMMS member-in-good-standing J. Sitwell for sending this in, which originally appeared in John “There’s Always To” Morrow’s always excellent Jack Kirby Collector (ish #13, Dec. 1996, or The Collected Jack Kirby Collector Vol. 3). Click on the image at right to embiggen it for your reading pleasure.

By my calculations, the subject of the story, 10-year-old Roger Falmaton, should be about 22 these days. It’s probably just a matter of time before he pops up at the Marvel offices with a portfolio full of even-Newer Gods or more Fantastic Fours ready to be unleashed upon an unsuspecting public! The mind boggles at the possibilities! Let’s all just hope that Vince Colletta’s ghost isn’t out there somewhere teaching some poor kid how to erase penciled backgrounds!

It’s also given your Uncle Stanley a great idea. While I’m still walking around in the mortal world, I really should be auctioning off the haunting rights to my nearly-departed ghost so that the next Stan Lee can have a helping hand writing the swingingest soliloquies and creating the craziest comic characters conceptually possible in the next century! Kind of like the Ghost and Mrs. Muir only with a typewriter instead of a telescope. The floor is officially open, True Believers! I’m now accepting any and all bids to see who I’ll be haunting in the next life! The ebays probably has some kind of bizarre policy against this sort of thing, but I’ll figure something out. Avi Arad... no need for you to bid. I plan on haunting you for free anyway! 

Excelsior!
Smiley

Friday, July 4, 2008

SAMMY — HAPPY BIRTHDAY, GET WELL SOON.

THE FOUNTAINHEAD OF STEVE DITKO'S ART

ITEM! Welcome back to “Things You Must Buy At Your Local Comic Shop This Week, Part III.” Next up is the best up! Though not featuring Yours Truly per se, there’s lots to read about how ol’ Sturdy Steve and I collaborated, co-plotted and collided in Blake Bell’s scholarly study, Strange and Stranger: The Worlds of Steve Ditko!

This well-researched recount of the life and times of everyone’s favorite raconteur and randy Randian makes an ideal coffee table companion to Mark Evanier’s Kirby: King of Comics. And it’s in comparison to Madcap Mark’s Kirby book that Blake Bells’ work really shines! As much as I enjoyed Evanier’s Kirby book, it contained little that I hadn’t read, heard or seen before. Blake’s Ditko book is a much denser and more complete essay on its subject than Evanier’s. (That's review pull-out quote #42 in a series, by the way... collect 'em all! — Studious Stan) Bashful Blake really delivers the goods on Sterling Steve Ditko, including details of the Lee-Ditko collaboration that even Yours Truly had either forgotten or never knew. For example, I never knew that when Ditko quit Marvel he wrote Kirby a letter trying to get him to leave at the same time! Fascinating.

My only nits were the ones that you’d expect from an editor-type like moi. At one point in the story, Marvel apparently released a “title wave” of books onto the newsstands, which is either a typo or one really titanic pun! And speaking of titles, I kinda wish Sturdy Steve hadn’t thrown a fit and more-or-less forced Mr. Bell to change the title from his original “The Mysterious Traveler: The World of Steve Ditko.” Steve Ditko was a mysterious traveller, and Blake Bell’s doctoral dissection of the Ditko dichotomy is well worth your discretionary-income dollars! Go get this one pilgrims!

Excelsior!
Smiley

Thursday, July 3, 2008

THE WORLD'S GREATEST LOST ADVENTURES!

ITEM! As if an entire magazine daringly devoted to your Uncle Stanley wasn’t enough bombastic comic bookage for one week, be sure and grab a copy of the deluxe hard-bound Fantastic Four: The Lost Adventures! In this 200-page timely tome you’ll find my re-re-dialoging of Jolly Jack Kirby’s original art for the never-published FF #103 (in which I still don’t exactly stick to his margin notes — what can I say? I’m a stinker!). Also included are John “Ring-A-Ding” Romita Jr. and Yours Truly’s Fantastic Four, The Last Adventure, and two or three other insightfully scripted past FF efforts of mine that all bear re-reading again and again! You know you’ll want to own this one, pilgrims... it’s got my name on the cover in 72 pt. type! That’s as close to a guarantee of par excellence in sequential art as you’re gonna find in this lifetime!

Excelsior!
Smiley

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

GET THEE TO A COMIC SHOP WRITE NOW!

ITEM! Yowsir, pilgrims! This was one good week for comics, starting with the best-of-the-best, issue #18 of TwoMorrow's Write Now! – the magazine title that you can only really use if you place it at the end of a sentence! This ish features a trembling tribute to everyone’s favorite textual titan — Yours Truly! They have testimonials on what a great guy your Uncle Stanley is from everybody from Rascally Roy Thomas to Fabulous Flo Steinberg. That Flo... what a gal! And you won’t wanna miss all the other frantic features like side-by-side comparisons of how my script completely changed Jack's intent on the Silver Surfer graphic novel, or “Stan Lee’s Top Ten Tips for Writers” (No. 1: Write about things you know. If you don’t know, Google the stuff and start learning. Or else be so vague that no one can pin you down...). I know! Normally you have to pay some University thousands of dollars for little tips and tricks like that!

There’s even a tribute from Dan Didio, whoever that is...

So what are you waiting for, sunshine? Latverian New Year? Don’t walk, don’t balk — run to your local retailer and snag this sizzling Stan-centric special before they’re all sold out! You’ll be glad you did!

Excelsior!
Smiley

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

AND SPEAKING OF SHAMELESS SELF PROMOTION...

ITEM! Would yah believe that Yours Truly has received literally thousands of requests for a nice Stan’s Soapbox graphic that could be used to spread the word to the faithful across the bellicose blogosphere? Would you believe hundreds of requests? How ‘bout a dozen? No? Hookay then... in response to a single request from Myron Eleutherae of Oakland, California, we here at Stan’s Soapbox humbly present you with a glamorous and glitzy graphic that anyone may freely use as they see fit. Printed out on nice inkjet paper, it’s equally suitable for framing, target practice, or lining parakeet cages! Enjoy!



Excelsior!
Smiley