Tag: Stan Lee

Spotlight SquadCast Interview: A Discussion with Danny Fingeroth about Jack Ruby, Comics, Stan Lee, and More

Spotlight SquadCast Interview: A Discussion with Danny Fingeroth about Jack Ruby, Comics, Stan Lee, and More

How do you have a conversation that involves historically significant murders, Stan Lee telling convention promoters to back off, Jonathan Silverman’s father, and Taylor Swift? You invite Danny Fingeroth to talk about his latest biography. That’s how!

Danny Fingeroth started working in comics back in the days when superheroes were pretty much the only game in town and he built a career of delivering high quality comics through his writing and editing. He is well remembered for creating the fan-favorite character Darkhawk and a long run writing Dazzler as well has his excellent work editing books like Spectacular Spider-Man, The New Warriors, and more. In recent years, he has produced some excellent books about comics and comics history including A Marvelous Life, The Amazing Story of Stan Lee, the acclaimed biography of Stan Lee.

Jack Ruby: The Many Faces of Oswald’s Assassin is the newest book from Danny Fingeroth and will be released on November 21, 2023. The book explores one of the central figures to a touchstone event in the lives of an entire generation. We spoke with Danny about his motivation for writing such a book and what he discovered in through his writing process. We also managed to squeeze in a word or two about his career in comics and as a prose writer.

The entire interview is on our YouTube channel and streamable below:

The solicitation for the Jack Ruby is below and the book is available for preorder now on Amazon:

Jack Ruby changed history with one bold, violent action: killing accused presidential assassin Lee Harvey Oswald on live TV two days after the November 22, 1963, murder of President John F. Kennedy. But who was Jack Ruby—and how did he come to be in that spot on that day?

As we approach the sixtieth anniversaries of the murders of Kennedy and Oswald, Jack Ruby’s motives are as maddeningly ambiguous today as they were the day that he pulled the trigger.

The fascinating yet frustrating thing about Ruby is that there is evidence to paint him as at least two different people. Much of his life story points to him as bumbling, vain, violent, and neurotic; a product of the grinding poverty of Chicago’s Jewish ghetto; a man barely able to make a living or sustain a relationship with anyone besides his dogs.

By the same token, evidence exists of Jack Ruby as cagey and competent, perhaps not a mastermind, but a useful pawn of the Mob and of both the police and the FBI; someone capable of running numerous legal, illegal, and semi-legal enterprises, including smuggling arms and vehicles to both sides in the Cuban revolution; someone capable of acting as middleman in bribery schemes to have imprisoned Mob figures set free.

Cultural historian Danny Fingeroth’s research includes a new, in-depth interview with Rabbi Hillel Silverman, the legendary Dallas clergyman who visited Ruby regularly in prison and who was witness to Ruby’s descent into madness. Fingeroth also conducted interviews with Ruby family members and associates. The book’s findings will catapult you into a trip through a house of historical mirrors.

At its end, perhaps Jack Ruby’s assault on history will begin to make sense. And perhaps we will understand how Oswald’s assassin led us to the world we live in today.

Brainiac On Banjo: Five Comics Tropes I Want Back!

Brainiac On Banjo: Five Comics Tropes I Want Back!

Get out your white suit, your tap shoes and tails, let’s go backwards when forward fail, and movie stars you thought were alone then now are framed beside your bed — “Everything Old Is New Again,” written by Peter Allen and Carole Bayer Sager

Every commercial storytelling medium that achieves any sort of longevity finds itself inventing recurring themes and concepts, often inadvertently. The kids today call them “tropes” but I’m old enough to remember when they were simply called “do that again so we can pay our bills.”

This is not to suggest comics have abandoned the trope motif. Nothing could be further from the truth — except Donald Trump. If we stopped using all the contemporary comics tropes we’d have nothing but panel borders and staples. But I miss the occasional use of a number of little used or ignored formats and concepts. I’m going to list a mere five; I’d do more if I had a functional attention-span and this wasn’t a holiday weekend.

5. Backgrounds

There was a time when most comics stories had backgrounds, unless they were inked by Vinnie Colletta. You know, stuff going on or simply being there to establish environment or allow for some foreshadowing. Some artists would drop “eyeball kicks” into their backgrounds to lighten the mood. Let us not forget that minimizing or not drawing backgrounds is a great way to pick up deadline time.

Now we have computers that deploy palettes that contain three million more colors than the naked eye can distinguish. We can go apeshit with our computers and the color artists have a lot more range and so it is intuited that the need for filling space with backgrounds isn’t necessary. Well, not to this guy. Let’s cut back on the cutting back on backgrounds. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo: Five Comics Tropes I Want Back!”

New Number Ones: One-Shots and Special Editions for December 2022

New Number Ones: One-Shots and Special Editions for December 2022

In this regular column, we collect the one-shot books, special anthologies, and original graphic novels that are being released this month. In December, there are quite a few that caught our attention. You can check out our regular New Number Ones column for the month here.

There is an alphabetical list of these special books below by release date, and don’t forget to check for our PCS NOTES to find out what we just have to tell you about these comics.

There are books on the list from: DC Comics, Marvel Comics, Image Comics, AfterShock Comics, Scout Comics, and Boom! Studios.


Dark Web #1
Marvel Comics
Written by Zeb Wells
Art by Adam Kubert
Cover Art by Kubert

ONE-SHOT SPECIAL

DUSK! The two most famous clones ever are back to take what’s theirs. Ben Reilly and Madelyne Pryor have had enough and are reigniting the INFERNO! Spider-Man and the X-Men are not ready for what’s coming, and what role does Venom have in all of this? The sun is setting, dusk is approaching, and it’s going to be a long night.

Release Date: December 7, 2022

PCS NOTES: The event of the winter at Marvel entwines the worlds of the web warriors and the merry mutants. This is the official starting point for the adventure that spans a bunch of other titles.


Impossible Jones: Naughty or Nice #1
Scout Comics
Written by Karl Kessel
Art by David Hahn
Cover Art by Hahn

ONE-SHOT SPECIAL

A Very Special Holiday Special! Holly Daze threatens to blow up the city, forcing IMP to play hero just as she’s planning her own Holiday Heist! And IMP thought they were friends! 🙁 Added Bonus: a seasonal Even Steven story where his insistence that everything be equal is tested when he receives an anonymous gift-and returning the gesture is, well, impossible!

Release Date: December 7, 2022

PCS NOTES: This is a treat just in time for the holidays. The Impossible Jones stories have been curated on Kickstarter for the last few years and having this character show up in regular solicitations is an excellent surprise. Continue reading “New Number Ones: One-Shots and Special Editions for December 2022”

With Further Ado #141: Discussing “Invisible Men: The Trailblazing Black Artists of Comic Books”

With Further Ado #141: Discussing “Invisible Men: The Trailblazing Black Artists of Comic Books”

At Ithaca College, I teach a business course called Hidden Entrepreneurs. In this class, we explore and dissect entrepreneurial lessons from the lives and activities of non-traditional entrepreneurs.  These are the folks who are NOT on Shark Tank. These people are the often unrecognized entrepreneurs who nonetheless “make it happen.” Their stories are amazing, and there is so much to be learned from studying them.

Author Ken Quattro has done me one better in his brilliant new book, Invisible Men: The Trailblazing Black Artists of Comic Books. This new book details the lives and careers of black comic book creators.  Some are astonishing, some are heartbreaking, and they are non-traditional artists.  Their stories, for the most part, have been forgotten in the mists of time. So, it’s all the more important that historian Quattro, a real life comic book detective, has hunted down all the information and connected all the dots.

Quattro has done this all in a fun, engaging book. The stories of these artists’ trials and tribulations are almost all more interesting than the short comic stories included in this volume.   It shouldn’t be a surprise to any of us, though. His The Comics Detective site is brilliant and always informative. Continue reading “With Further Ado #141: Discussing “Invisible Men: The Trailblazing Black Artists of Comic Books””

With Further Ado #139: Uncle Lev Made Comics

With Further Ado #139: Uncle Lev Made Comics

Much has been written about comics legend Stan Lee lately.  Casual fans and hard-core comic aficionados have been debating which authors are ‘getting it right’. Was Stan a brilliant creator that fans of current cinema (and streaming platforms) recognize as the guy who started it all?  Or was Stan a rotten, self-promoting glory-hound that elevated his own story to the detriment of his partner and co-workers?

After enjoying John Morrow’s Stuf Said, Danny Fingeroth’s A Marvelous Life: The Amazing Story of Stan Lee and Abraham Reisman’s True Believer: The Rise and Fall of Stan Lee I think I have a pretty good understanding of it all. Maybe you do too.

Now that we’ve got that one solved, I must admit I didn’t know much about comics publisher Lev Gleason. In some ways – he may have seemed like a proto-Stan Lee.  Gleason was, among other things, the publisher of Lev Gleason Publications, producing comics like Daredevil, Silver Streak, Boy Comics (this one starred Crimebuster and is one of my dad’s favorites) and the wildly successful Crime Does Not Pay.

And like Stan Lee, Lev Gleason made it clear was the big cheese behind these efforts. He even plastered his  name (and the company name) on his comic covers.

I have learned that Lev Gleason’s personal story is a fascinating one. He was an entrepreneur and a crusader. He was flamboyant and generous. He learned how to pivot and how to do it quite often.

But unlike Stan, Lev’s extended family didn’t really celebrate or even understand his connection to comics.  And that’s why it’s all the more incredible that Lev’s great nephew, Brett Dakin just wrote AMERICAN DAREDEVIL: Comics, Communism, and the Battles of Lev Gleason.

Dakin, who isn’t really a comics fan, aggressively researched Gleason’s life. The pursuit of truth took him everywhere -from newspaper articles to old comics to FBI files!

I enjoyed Dakin’s book so much that I invited him to speak to one of my Ithaca College classes. As Gleason was both a tireless entrepreneur and a pillar of the Golden Age of comics, he fit right in to the topics I teach.

The students seemed to get a lot out of meeting him (via ZOOM) too.

But I don’t have to explain that you. Check out what some of my Ithaca College students had to say:

“Hearing about Brett Dakin’s experience of writing his book and learning more about his great-uncle was very interesting!” said Alexis Davis. “He is a prime example of how with dedication and passion, you can accomplish a lot even if it isn’t within a profession you are familiar with.”

“”Something that Brett said that stuck with me was ‘there is learning through doing and experiencing’ and I think that’s something so important to remember,” noted Jade Rynar.

“Learning more about Brett’s investigation into his great uncle’s life, through searching archival publications and reconnecting the pieces of his personal life, really made me realize the importance of historians in the documentation of our pop culture,” said Quinten Hernandez, who is in his senior year.

“Brett gave an inside look into the comic book world with an outside perspective”, wryly observed Tess Kneebone , who is also a senior.

This is great book for folks who love the Golden Age of Comics and for those who enjoy entrepreneur’s stories. And who knows ? Maybe American Daredevil- the Lev Gleason story will make it to Netflix one day- just like all those Marvel characters. Wouldn’t that be something?

 

 

With Further Ado #134: Believing the Truth – A Look at the New Stan Lee Bio

With Further Ado #134: Believing the Truth – A Look at the New Stan Lee Bio

Maybe it is all about the marketing. I’ve been very surprised by the vehement reaction of many fans to Abraham Reisman’s new Stan Lee bio True Believer: The Rise and Fall of Stan Lee. The cover, designed by Barbara M. Bachman, showcases a less than flattering photo of Stan*.  The whole look, in fact, seems to evoke the feeling of dread that fills us when we realize there is an exposé of a beloved figure, designed to shock us with all the awful disclosures.

In fact, the pre-publication reactions I’ve seen to this book in some online fan groups have resulted in online cat fights. Some fans say they have no need to ever read that trash, while other collectors and fans, who may already think of ill of Stan Lee, are eager for more fuel for their ire.  I interjected a few times with posts like, “I’m reading it now. That’s not really what it’s about”.  But when a person is in the heat of an argument, they don’t want to listen to that sort of thing.

I’ve read it and enjoyed it quite a bit.  Like 99.9% percent of people of who have walked the earth, Stan was a guy who did some good things and did some less-than good things.  And while I will say this book isn’t a tell all, it does provide a frame of reference to better understand motivations at different stages of his life. If anything, I would say that the book shines a new and harsh light on many of Stan’s family members and business associates.

I’ve recently reviewed a few other books in the rapidly growing “Stan Lee Book Category”. Danny Fingeroth’s A Marvelous Life: The Amazing Story of Stan Lee was an exceptional and balanced read. John Morrow’s Kirby & Stan: Stuff Said was exceedingly well-researched and presented a detailed crazy-quilt of the public statements by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby as a way to better understand who did what and why they said all the (often-contradictory) things they said.

Riesman’s True Believer takes a deep dive into Stan’s Marvel years, the time that most fans, I imagine, want to know more about.  It’s clear he’s engaged in exhaustive research. He’s also a clever writer. But to me, the most fascinating parts of Riesman’s book are the details about Stan’s later years. This was “new information” to me. Riesman paints a picture of a man struggling on many fronts and seemingly, to an outside observer, making so many bad decisions and engaging in (so many) unfortunate relationships.

I remember when Leonard Nimoy died, and his frequent co-star Bill Shatner didn’t make it to his funeral.  To casual fans, this was unthinkable!  Their onscreen characters would have done anything for the other in the name of friendship. In reality, Shatner and Nimoy, were at a stage in their relationship where they were again feuding.  It probably wouldn’t have been appropriate for Shatner to attend the funeral. I believe he sent his daughters, which was deemed the right thing to do for those who really know about these things.

Likewise, with a man like Stan, it’s often difficult for fans to reconcile his humanity with the overwhelming goodness, sense of justice and heroic decisiveness that many of the characters he created and co-created embody.  But for those of us who are eager to learn more, who want to know what made our favorites tick, and who aren’t afraid to better understand their failures, shortfalls and humanity, True Believer is a must read.

***

*I kept thinking about what my favorite book designer, Chip Kidd, would’ve done with a cover like this.

With Further Ado #107: The Marvelous Mister Beard

With Further Ado #107: The Marvelous Mister Beard

I’ve known Jim Beard for a while. He’s a dedicated creative writer with a plethora of passionate interests . He’s got his fingers in many pies, and I’m always excited when he teases new projects. We’ve worked together a few times, and I’m especially a big fan of his Sgt. Janus series.

With all that as background, there’s another writing gig that keeps Jim busy.  He’s been a writer for Marvel.com for years. It’s fascinating stuff, and I had to corral him and find out the story behind these stories.

Ed Catto: How did you get involved with Marvel.com?

Jim Beard: I tried to approach Marvel about writing for the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe series from back in the day, and they replied they didn’t currently have any openings, but did I possibly write press releases? I thought, huh, doesn’t sound too hard, and lied and told them yes. So, for about a year or so I wrote Marvel press releases for a variety of things and eventually they moved me over to the “dot com” to write content for that. Been there ever since.

EC: And how long have you been doing the “Didja Know?’ column for Marvel? 

JB: Every single week for, oh, I believe at least sixteen-seventeen years now? Longest job I’ve ever had, come to think of it now. Continue reading “With Further Ado #107: The Marvelous Mister Beard”

With Further Ado #070: 2019 Yuletide Gift Guide

With Further Ado #070: 2019 Yuletide Gift Guide

It’s been a busy year and it’s time to either (a) help spread the word or (b) reward yourself for getting through another year.  And either way, my Annual Yuletide Gift Guide  is here to help. Here’s a few ideas for you to chew on, after you’ve chewed on your turkey.

 

BATMAN: THE DEFINITIVE HISTORY OF THE DARK KNIGHT IN COMICS, FILM AND BEYOND

By Andrew Farago and Gina McIntyre

Insight Editions

This is the type of the book that you start in the morning, and when you look up again it’s bedtime.  This lovingly thorough history of Batman touches all the bases, provides new information and is loaded with goodies.  I must admit it’s a thrill, for example, to be reading about the Batmobile from 1950s comics, and then to fold-out a set of Batmobile blueprints.

$75.00 • 400 pp. • hardcover  • ISBN-10: 1683834372

 

A MARVELOUS LIFE: THE AMAZING STORY OF STAN LEE

by Danny Fingeroth

This one might be the comic-lovers go-to gift for the 2019 season.  Danny Fingeroth takes readers on a deep dive into Stan’s life, stuffing this book with balanced analysis and long-lost stories. It’s a page turner and there’s something for everyone inside.

$29.99 400 pp. • Hardcover  • ISBN-10: 1250133904

 

 

 

Continue reading “With Further Ado #070: 2019 Yuletide Gift Guide”

With Further Ado #068: Stan the Man by Dan the Man

With Further Ado #068: Stan the Man by Dan the Man

I’ve had a problem with the recent biographies I’ve read. They have left me feeling a depressed. I understand that we’re all just people, and no one is perfect.   

But, after reading Zoglin’s Bob Hope Biography, I was really bummed out by Hope’s infidelity, and the disastrous results it had on the lives of some his girlfriends.    Jay Jones’s insights into the life of Dr. Seuss in Becoming Dr. Seuss: Theodor Geisel and the Making of an American Imagination, were fascinating, especially when viewing his creative output through the lens of entrepreneurism. But again, I had a sourness left in my mouth as I learned about the ending of Geisel’s first marriage. Florent Silloray’s Frank Capa: A Graphic Biography left me confused about the paths taken by a man with such a great creative talent.

So, you can understand how I was I was especially worried as I jumped into Danny Fingeroth’s A Marvelous Life: The Amazing Story of Stan Lee, fearful this biography too might be a downer.

The stakes were, in fact, high for this book. Sometimes it seems like there are two extremes for comics (or Marvel) fans. There are those that hold Stan Lee in the highest regard for his incredible creations.  On the other hand, there are those that hold him in great contempt as a privileged, boastful promoter who ended up wealthy while so many of his collaborators were not able to benefit from their creativity and hard work.  Continue reading “With Further Ado #068: Stan the Man by Dan the Man”

Brainiac On Banjo #050: Comics and the Cost of Doing Business

Brainiac On Banjo #050: Comics and the Cost of Doing Business

The price of a comic book jumped 267% during the 1970s, from 15 cents to 40. The pace slowed down by half between 2009 and 2018, from $2.99 to $3.99. It’s that last number I am going to discuss, and I’ll start with Stan Lee.

(For the record, price points differ between publishers and, sometimes, titles so the above reflects the “typical” Marvel/DC title. Your statistical analysis may vary.)

Back in the 1970s, Stan was making a signing appearance at my buddy Larry Charet’s iconic comic book store on Devon Avenue in Chicago. It was cool, as seeing Stan at a store back then was rare – so rare that it was long before people started charging for autographs and selfies. One fan asked the question “Why are comic books so expensive all of a sudden?” Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #050: Comics and the Cost of Doing Business”