Wednesday, November 21, 2018

STAN LEE, 1922-2018, R.I.P. ~~ A "Comical Wednesday" Post

I've had several friends contact me recently about the recent death of yet another comic book legend, the one and only Stan Lee. Most assumed I'd already heard, while a few simply asked if I had. But all of them know that I'm a fan of comic books (and comic strips as well), not to mention pop culture in general, and so they knew that his death must have affected me in some way.

How could it not?

The fact that most of these friends were not comic book readers now, nor in many cases, ever, says quite a lot about how important Stan was in the creation or co-creation of countless well-known characters that have indelibly etched themselves in our world's pop culture.

Heh. Reading that last paragraph, I'll admit it sounds rather overstated. But it's not.

 Stan with his wife Joan, who predeceased him.

 Stan with unidentified fan. Heh.

Stan in front of many books which he wrote, as well as many he did not.

Stan and Roy Thomas.

Since I'm not about to launch another lengthy multi-parter like my recent Insect Man series, I will not even attempt an actual biography of the man who gave us –- either singly or with one or more collaborators –- such heroes, villains, teams, and supporting characters as Spider-Man, Thor, the Hulk, Iron Man, Daredevil, the Fantastic Four (Well, three of them, anyway!*), Nick Fury, the Black Panther, the Avengers, the Inhumans, Dr. Strange, Dr. Doom, Dr. Octopus (Uhhh, what the %$#!& is the fixation with doctors here?!?), the Green Goblin, Magneto, Loki, Baron Zemo, Groot (yes, that Groot), Kraven the Hunter, Kang, the Mandarin, the Puppet Master, the Lizard, the Sentinels, Stilt Man, the Owl, Gwen Stacy, Rick Jones, Wyatt Wingfoot, Aunt May Parker, Mary Jane Watson, Ant Man, Odin, the Mole Man, Mr. Hyde, the Grey Gargoyle, the Watcher, and scores of others, including a monster called – I swear – Fin Fang Foom! And I just gave you a partial list of Marvel characters from the 1960s!

(Over the next few weeks, I do plan to write a few more blog posts about Stan... But none of them will be labeled as Part Two or Three or whatever. Just more stand-alone articles.)

By the way, two quick notes here about that list above:

1. When I say Lee created or co-created Thor, Loki, Odin, and other characters (unnamed here) who obviously came from Norse mythology, I only mean that he had a hand in the crafting of Marvel's versions of these characters.

2. You may have noticed the admission of one major Marvel hero, one major Marvel villain, and even one major Marvel hero/villain, namely Captain America, Cap's bitter enemy the Red Skull, and Prince Namor (better known as the Sub-Mariner) respectively. Well, before Lee even came on board at what was then (“then” being the late 1930s and early 1940s) called Timely Comics, Subby was created by artist/writer Bill Everett, and both Captain America and the Red Skull were created by the team of Joe Simon and Jack Kirby. In fact, the teen-aged Stan Lee's very first story was published in Captain America Comics #3!

Anyway, as told here, I hadn't been reading very long before I discovered Marvel Comics. In other words, I hadn't been reading very long before I discovered Stan Lee and his writing. It may not be apparent in the stuff I write, but his writing was an inescapable influence on my own, and, dare I say it, some of the actual attitudes that I live by to this day.

My first Marvel comic.

I'll bet Bill Maher would have gotten a chuckle out of my saying that Lee's writing influenced me as a person. Maher recently wrote a brief but highly controversial article about Stan Lee, which many have interpreted as a personal attack on Stan. I've read it – and no, I'm not going to link to it – and I see it more as an “attack” on those who, like myself, lament and make a fuss about the passing of someone who created stories purportedly meant for kids. Maher's piece seemed to make fun of all the men (and women) who still enjoy so-called “kid stuff” in any way shape, or form.

(I wonder if Bill Maher, as an adult, has ever visited Disneyland or Disney World? I do know that he frequented Hugh Hefner's Playboy Mansion, which was pretty much the same thing.)

If you've bothered to follow any of the obituaries flooding the airwaves and the internet, you're reading articles which give the man either too much credit for his accomplishments, or not enough. It depends on the sources various writers turned to in order to write their articles, and in some cases, whether or not said writer had a particular “angle” he or she wanted to espouse.

You're probably going to read (or maybe you've already read) that Stan was a prolific genius who created practically everybody who appeared in the Marvel Comics of the 1960s. On the other hand, you may hear that he was just a glory-grabbing company man who signed his name to everything and took credit for the hard work mostly done by artists like Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Dick Ayers, Don Heck, and so many others.

Neither extreme is true, of course. Such black and white portrayals rarely are. And a lot of comic history is uncertain, relying on the memories of participants in said history whose memories may be faulty. (Stan himself always said he had a bad memory.) Also, most of the men and women who created comics in the Golden Age and even early Silver Age are now gone.

Two or three years ago, I had a conversation with my friend and former writing partner, Skip Simpson, in which Skip informed me (and I'm paraphrasing, of course) that “Stan Lee is so over-rated. All he did was write dialog for the stories and characters Marvel's artists created. Then he took most of the credit.”

Well, forgive me a moment of arrogance, but my reply was basically along the lines of “You've read one book about the entire history of Marvel Comics, and you want to tell me some 'new' details about Marvel and Stan Lee? Really? Seriously?” (And yes, I even discerned which book Skip had read, but I'm not going to link to that, either!)

Long before he became the guy who appeared in all the Marvel films, and even before Stan became the figurehead and public “face” of Marvel Comics, I knew Stan the writer/editor. (Okay, when I say “I knew Stan” I'm not being literal. Never met the man. But by reading so many of his stories – hundreds, at least – I felt like I kinda/sorta knew him, at least a little bit.)

During my so-called formative years, I experienced and/or read about the little innovations Stan Lee brought to the comic medium as a writer and editor. Just two examples, then I'll shut up for today:

1. Back in the mid-1960s, Stan had to personally communicate with Marvel's printer so they would stop coloring Gabe Jones (an African-American who appeared in  Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos) like just another Caucasian. He also used Gabe (and other characters from minority groups) as the focus for various stories that spoke against racial prejudice, religious intolerance, and other forms of ethnic-based hatred. More on that some other time.

2. Stan fought the Comics Code Authority in the early 1970s because they refused to permit any mention of recreational drug use, even to say that drugs were bad. Stan asked, "Then how do we reach these kids?" and when the CCA stood their ground, so did he. He published a trio of Spider-Man stories without that precious Comics Code seal of approval.

Over the years, eclipsed by the image of the ever-smiling company mascot (if I may use the term “mascot” so cavalierly) who didn't take himself too seriously, some of Stan Lee's more courageous stands have been downplayed, if not outright forgotten.

Not by me.

Thanks for your time.

Goodbye, Stan.

*Stan Lee and Jack Kirby co-created Mr. Fantastic, the Invisible Girl (later the Invisible Woman), and the Thing. However, the Human Torch was created by Carl Burgos... although “human” was a misnomer for an android superbeing! The Torch's 1960s Johnny Storm persona was developed by Lee and Kirby.

Friday, November 16, 2018

The Unofficial Biography (Originally Posted on 11/16/2011, Edited and Expanded)

(Most of what appear to be photographs in the following post are actually cave paintings. Yes, they're that old. Just sayin'.)

Many years ago -- many, many, many years ago, fellow babies -- on this very date, a foxling was born in a building many referred to by a brand new word: "hospital."

The fox-child was precocious, to say the least. To the doctor whose hand smacked the newborn baby's pink buttocks, the child said "You do that again, and I'll run you over as soon as I get my first tricycle." There is also an unsubstantiated report that the young lad inappropriately touched at least one of the hospital's prettier nurses.

The following photos cave paintings are not in strict chronological order!

In the above shot, the boy's older sister restrains him
from chasing after an attractive young married woman.

Sister Kathy has a "Boy, this is fake, but I don't wanna tip off my liddle
brudda!" look on her face. "Liddle brudda," I must say, looks kinda stoned.

Remember this coat...

Mom sure could get her money's worth when it came to clothing!

The not-yet-Silver Fox had early, solid crushes on at least two of the young girls pictured. Susan (top left), Linda (roughly
in the center of the middle row), and -- maybe -- Sharon (bottom left, right next to him). And I can still name almost every kid shown!

"Stick with me, baby, I'm goin' places!" (Note the unscripted hand-holding!)

Making nice with an alien invader on Christmas Day!

The alliance fell apart, however, when the lad joined the ranks of the superheroes!

"Sam" would have to do until the Fox grew old enough to ride The Lone Ranger's Silver, or Zorro's Tornado!

"I'll remember you, sucker. And someday..." (A private joke for my 2011 readers)

What a charmer!

Every year we'd stay at my Uncle Al's shack cottage on Cape Cod.

Don't ask. No, really. Don't ask.

I was nine-and-a-half here. The puppy is "Freddie," named after the lead singer of the 1960s
British Invasion group Freddie and the Dreamers, even though our Freddie was a female.

A brief stumbling block on the young superhero's road to fame!

Don't ask. No, really. Don't ask.

Uncle Ebeneezer in "The Ransom of Red Chief"

Dressed as a 1950s-style "greaser" for "Dippy Day," a high
school tradition every April 1st. This is from 1974, senior year.

"School's... out... for... ever!"

First band, the stupidly-named SHUDR.

Second, much better band. No groupies due to first fiancée.

Wonder what the song was...

Los Angeles, 1982, traveling in the footsteps of Jim Morrison, kinda/sorta...

26th birthday, 1982. The Doors. Of course.

"Put the camera down and come over here..."

"Now will you put the damned camera down?"

Hallowe'en, mid 1980s

In recent years, illustrations have largely replaced actual photographs. I could do a whole post on the story
behind this one. Our bakery transferred Emily's sketch to a going-away cake when I quit Shaw's Supermarket in 2000.

In recent years, illustrations have largely replaced actual photographs. (Welcome to South Park!)

In recent years, illustrations have largely replaced actual photographs. (Right, Pat?)

As I've said somewhere before, "In recent years, illustrations have
largely replaced actual photographs." (Sketch by Skip Simpson.)

Not sure how this ominously-lit Polaroid sneaked in here...

*  *  *  *  *

The changing
Of sunlight to moonlight
Reflections of my life
Oh how they fill my eyes
The greetings
Of people in trouble
Reflections of my life
Oh how they fill my eyes
All my sorrows
Sad tomorrows
Take me back to my own home
All my cryings
Feel I'm dying, dying
Take me back to my own home
I'm changing, arranging I'm changing,
I'm changing everything
Oh, everything around me
The world is a bad place
A bad place, a terrible place to live
Oh, but I don't wanna die
All my sorrows
Sad tomorrows
Take me back to my own home
All my cryings
Feel I'm dying, dying
Take me back to my own home
All my sorrows
Sad tomorrows
Take me back to my own home

* * * * * 

So sorry if you feel like I lured you here under false pretenses, folks! Thanks for attending my birthday party, fellow babies, and thanks for your time!

P.S. ~~ COMING SOON! (Watch for it!) A Re-Posting of One of the Best (and Longest) Stories I Ever Posted on This Blog!


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