The forge of creativity & business that was Marvel Comics was a synchronic chord sounded by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko and all the authors and artists and inkers and colorists who worked there. It all started during the early 1960’s when the Fantastic Four and Spider-man and the X-men (The Uncanny X-Men) were formed from the imagination of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.
X-men was a box office smash last summer. I’m sure you also remember the highly successful Hulk TV show.
The earliest X-men consisted of Jean (Marvel Girl) Grey (who later became the extremely popular Phoenix), Professor X (Xavier), Cyclops (Scott Summers), the intelligent Beast (Hank McCoy), and Iceman (Bobbie). Mutants born with special “super-mutant” abilities.
Later came the New Mutants with younger characters possessing mutant powers that sometimes seemed to possess them (the only type of comic book story I don’t like).
These characters from X-men including (Nightcrawler, Wolverine, Storm, Banshee, Kitty) evolved with the advent of the creativity of John Byrne (starting in issue #108 of X-men) and Chris Claremont (Giant Sized X-men #1 and Uncanny X-men #94 now valued at $500. up in “mint” condition. The most popular character was the main star in the X-men film–Wolverine. There is sure to be a sequel for this box office smash.
X-men Comics taught kids that prejudice is evil. People who live in fear and thus greed try to destroy that which they don’t understand.
Interesting that both the most recent Star Wars film and X-men film took a hard look at politicians (Congress). If power corrupts absolutely is it possible our system is absolutely corrupt? The Senator in the X-men film learned his lesson a little late.
Spider-man–the new Marvel film in the works–is about a kid who with usual teenage angst (bullies beating him up, not getting any babes, acne and so forth is mild stuff compared to today’s school experiences–such as not getting shot & killed while going to or attending school or being seduced by a deadly drug or infected by a killer disease) is merely bitten by a radioactive spider (radical stuff for the early 1960’s).
This gives Peter Parker super powers–insect powers–if amplified a man could lift a truck and carry it 20 miles as ants do. (Don’t get me started talking about Henry Pym the Antman who became Giant Man in the Marvel’s Avengers ((Capt. America, Thor the Thunder God etc.))). Add to that Peter Parker was also a brilliant student who was able to invent a web shooter and other great inventions. And Spider-man was born as a bi-product of the bi-product known as radioactive material (which Science still doesn’t know how to get rid of). (Try telling that to the Bush administration). Everything is energy! Remember Tesla coils.
But Marvel was not the only place parading superpowered characters.
D.C. Comics (Time Warner), too, utilized mythology and stories of Biblical proportions to entrain, energize and excite generations of teenagers, kids and adults from the 1940’s to present.
Some characters such as Superman, Atom, Flash, Batman, Green Lantern, JLA and others & even D.C.’s version of Capt. Marvel may have been inspired by spiritual literature which told of Hindu Gods and Goddesses and even Biblical personages who could stand in fire etc.
Scripts & Wit
Super Heroes: originating through human imagination and from literature, mythology, religion.
Though probably comic creators just made up their wondrous stories.
Once when I interviewed Gerry Conway for the Comics Journal he admitted to me that he had researched some of the comics he wrote. Conway’s friend partner Roy Thomas no doubt researched Conan and Thor and other material while writer & editor at Marvel. They worked together on the great animated Fire and Ice film. (Ralph Bakshi/Frank Frazetta).
And initially Thomas got the Conan property over to Marvel from Edgar Rice Burroughs in Tarzana, CA. (Tarzana–Tarzan…get it? Yep, it too is a comic.)
Older folk know and love the countless Films and TV shows and serials featuring these and other favorite colorful characters: Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon, Commander Cody (which may have inspired the Rocketeer comic and film).
COMIC BOOKS — Born by the sheer exhurberance of the Universe itself through the vehicle of the Human Being!
The Comic Industry is a metaphor for life. A cosmic drama unfolding. But not to put old wine into new bottles: Many times in the past Marvel and D.C. have teamed to do specials that benefits the play of creativity. I first met Stan Lee while I was the manager of a Comic Book Store in Studio City, California in the 1970’s.
Or, more accurately, I met him through his works at Marvel Comics — his extraordinary scripts & wit in 1961.
Very clever interaction with the fans through clubs and letter columns in the good old days made one feel as though one was a part of something. With Merry Marvel “we belonged.”
Stan Lee’s stories contained real life character’s, complete with dilemmas and the germ of great new ideas and principles for living a good life.
As when Spider-man didn’t stop a Burglar — the same Burglar who later killed his kind Uncle–Peter Parker (Spider-man) got the message — serve mankind. With great power comes responsibility.
And responsibility is the ability to respond.
Exciting fictional stories full of adventure and excitement with morals. Illustrated profusely.
Marvel Super characters were at first looked on by society as bad guys. Even after saving human butt thousands of times.
J. Jonah Jameson (cheap Editor of the Daily Bugle newspaper) has hated Spider-man for over 30 years. Jameson actually tried to destroy Spider-man by becoming a super villain.
Daredevil (blind Attorney yet Batman-esque in abilities & physical strength and agility–but with heightened senses) the Man without fear was often branded a villain too at first.
As was the ever popular Incredible Hulk — first immortalized as a comic book during the 1960’s. Who ranged from dull and stupid to near genius depending on the decade in which this enduring character is read.
What we fear we often regard as evil.
Comics have tried to teach us that the means are as important as the ends they produce.
What we do along the way determines the end result we will get. Comics are published because a word sounds good to the publisher. But some of these new young independent publishers need to know more about the meaning within these words (and so do their customers). But more power to these enterprising youngsters.
What is Yoga, Meditation, Tai Chi, Mantra? What is Zen? (One young upstart publisher of “Zen — intergalactic Ninja” had never heard of Alan Watts — great promoter of Zen until I told him Alan Watts was a famous and popular theologian turned beatnik Philosopher & Author (one of many) responsible for introducing Eastern Religions to the spiritually starved West–often heard on KPFK radio. Alan Watts is possibly the foremost promoter of Zen. Watts’ book ” The Wisdom of Insecurity,” mentions, of all things, Comic Books. What are Chakras? The Tao means what? When kids grow up and learn about Meditation will they be tainted by our stupidity and greed?
Buzz words usually lower consciousness and cause confusion. Of course when I use to publish stuff as a youngster I made up names that sounded good but had little or no meaning such as: Beyond Infinity, Eon the Magazine of Graphic Illusions. I know less now than I did then. What is craft, art, Love, Truth?
I held several autograph parties with Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in the 1970’s and 1980’s. I threw over 50 successful autograph parties with many wonderful comic book artists and writers. I’d host the event, provide refreshments, do all the advertising, graphic art, press releases, etc. It was an exhilarating experience. It was fun to interact with pros and fans. I gave away a lot of free promo stuff.
Ninth Nebula’s first autograph party was held with Stan Lee, publisher of Marvel Comics. For ten years my shop endured in North Hollywood, CA next door to the world’s oldest Science Fiction Club (a built in audience of friends and fans and computer fiends).
The Stan Lee event evoked long lines of Comic Book fans of all ages drooling for Stan’s signature on the splash page of their old and new comics. Nowadays professionals sign comics on the cover of their title en mass which I don’t approve of. (But who listens to me).
Comics forms are often abused by aspiring young publishers who use several unnecessary full page splashes when the effect could be achieved in a tiny panel — waste of money, ink and paper if you ask me. Unlike the good old days when Steve Ditko gave us our money’s worth in the form of about 6 panels per page — he in his way was like a Zen Master — the precision of his work rivaled the art of Chinese Calligraphy (see his unique style in old Atlas Comics from the 1950’s). Some of the recent experimentation’s by Frank Miller & other talents have all done exceptionally creative work too.
Stan Lee’s arrival in a Limosine exemplified the style and pizzazz in which he lived his life. He was the spokesperson, promoter and Publisher of Marvel Comics at the time.
Stan has more energy than many men half his age. Did you catch the Hitchcock-like cameo in the awesome recent excellent X-men film where he was a Hot Dog vendor (on the beach).
Ninth Nebula was a context for many things but few know it was my 2nd book shop. My first store was opened in 1978 in the Santa Monica area and was called Beyond Illusion: New Age Book and Comic Shop. But comic books paid the rent even back then.
From 1985 through most of 1986 I threw over 19 successful mini Comic book Conventions (the San Fernando Valley Comic Book Convention). This show allowed me to open Ninth Nebula–the Complete Comic Book Store. Small in size, yet packed with all the best stuff.
Jack Kirby appeared at one of my autograph events too. Kirby was Lee’s partner on all the important Marvel titles in the early 1960’s when they were formed such as Fantastic Four, (Strange Tales) Nick Fury Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., Hulk, X-men, Daredevil, Avengers, Journey Into Mystery) Thor, (Tales to Astonish) Ant-Man, (Tales of Suspense) Iron-man, Capt. America, etc.