Tag: Stan Lee

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”

Steve Ditko: Inside His Studio Sanctum Sanctorum

I wrote my first letter to Steve Ditko in early 1973, while I was still in high school. It was the typical letter, the type a budding fan-artist back then might send to a seasoned professional comics artist — full of effusive praise, capped with a request for some secret kernel of artistic knowledge that would magically transform overnight a fan’s crude artistic efforts into professional-level artwork. Ditko did his best to answer, giving what was, in retrospect, a solid list of advice.

Two years later, I wrote Ditko again, and this time, I asked if I could stop by his studio for a visit when I was in New York City later that year. He politely declined, and I pushed that idea into the dustbin of history – not realizing that 28 years later my request would become a reality.

More than two decades passed before I wrote Ditko again in 1997. In the interim, I joined the Air Force, learned to be an aircraft avionics technician, got married, had kids, opted to be a career Airman, traveled and lived abroad for nearly a decade, earned a bachelor’s degree, retrained into public affairs during the early 1990s military drawdown, kept drawing, and kept publishing my fanzine, “Maelstrom.” In fact, my third letter to Ditko was a request for what I knew was an extreme long shot: An interview for an upcoming issue of my ‘zine. Again, he politely declined.

I wrote a few more letters during the next two years about nothing in particular – including a couple while I was stationed in the Republic of Korea in 1998. In one of them, I included some terrifically supple Korean-made brushes that were ridiculously cheap, but feathered ink like a Winsor & Newton brush costing 30 times as much.

I retired from the Air Force in 1999 and published “Maelstrom” #7, and dutifully sent Ditko a copy. Our correspondence continued off-and-on until 2002, when I started preparing a Steve Ditko article for “Maelstrom” #8 – along with a cover I drew featuring many of Ditko’s more notable characters. When the issue was published, I sent him a copy, and something about it obviously struck a chord as he sent me several letters of comment. Suddenly, the correspondence was a regular back-and-forth, and as my letters got longer, so did his. Some of Steve’s letters were 10, 12, or even 16 pages long.  Continue reading “Steve Ditko: Inside His Studio Sanctum Sanctorum”

With Further Ado #031: Kirby and Lee: Stuf’ Said  by John Morrow

With Further Ado #031: Kirby and Lee: Stuf’ Said by John Morrow

“It’s complicated” is a simple term that’s creeped into all facets of our lexicon. It’s now become something more than just a placeholder of a particular status category on social media. But let’s face it; whenever we deal with real people who live on planet Earth, things tend to get complicated. There are no simple answers.  Even the shades of gray have shades of gray.  And that’s the proper mindset for jumping into John Morrow’s phenomenal new book Kirby & Lee: Stuf’ Said.

This book is a fascinating deep dive into contentious relationships between the men, and women, who would shape what pop culture now regards as the Marvel Universe.   There are so many questions: Who contributed what? Did the writer actually write the stuff? Who came up with the ideas originally? Why didn’t everyone get along better? Marvel now generates billions of dollars in business, so we have to wonder if all involved had been compensated fairly? (Spoiler alert: “no”.)

There seems to be a lot of excitement for this book.  “John Morrow has done it again,” said Emil Novak, Sr, a pioneering comic book retailer since 1969.  Stuf’ Said chronicles the perplexing conversation of who fundamentally created most of Marvel’s comic book characters.  And the results will change your thoughts and history forever.”  Continue reading “With Further Ado #031: Kirby and Lee: Stuf’ Said by John Morrow”

Brainiac On Banjo #019: Raymond Loewy, Jony Ive, Bill Maher, and Stan Lee…

Brainiac On Banjo #019: Raymond Loewy, Jony Ive, Bill Maher, and Stan Lee…

Back when I was knee-high to a grasshopper, from time to time my friends and I would gather in the schoolyard and call out the makes, models and years of the cars driving by. You could do that back then, as damn near every car had its own identity, its own look and style. They were so distinctive that I think we could have ID’ed most of these cars by their silhouettes, as though we were World War II Civil Defense car spotters.

Between The Great War and The Great Vietnam Fiasco, the concept of “style” was critical to our culture. Movie theaters weren’t simply big rooms with white sparkly screens – many were cathedrals of film designed to inspire you to appreciate the entirely of the moviegoing experience. Drug stores had soda fountains that were overrun with chrome-plated art deco machinery. Designers unleashed mountains of energy defining the environment shared by four generations, led by the brilliant Raymond Loewy, who created the look of cars, refrigerators and other household appliances, furniture, corporate logos and packaging, and airplanes. In fact, he teamed-up with President John F. Kennedy in 1962 to design Air Force One.  Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #019: Raymond Loewy, Jony Ive, Bill Maher, and Stan Lee…”