Tag: William Shatner

With Further Ado #157: A Kiss is Just a Kiss…?

With Further Ado #157: A Kiss is Just a Kiss…?

I just had Ken Quattro, the Comics Detective, come speak to one of my summer classes. You may also recognize his name as the recent recipient of an Eisner Award for his ground-breaking book, Invisible Men: The Trailblazing Black Artists of Comic Books. It’s an enthralling and important deep dive into the lives of several black artists.

And just like every time Ken rolls up his shirtsleeves and gets down to business, it’s meticulously researched. Ken brands himself as a comic book detective, but like so many focused writers, he’s an exceptional historian.

I love writing about comics history for publications like TwoMorrow’s Back Issue Magazine and Overstreet’s Comic Book Price Guide, but I’m not in the same league as a historian like Ken.

But having written that, I think I found something new in the pop culture milestones to which historians usually refer.

Kiss Me, Captain

The original Star Trek TV series was groundbreaking in so many ways – everything from thoughtful, allegorical episodes to anticipating devices like cellphones and voice activated smart speakers.

Star Trek was also gutsy enough to debut the first interracial kiss on network TV. Granted, the characters, Captain Kirk and Lt. Uhuru did not kiss of their free will – the bad guys made them kiss one another. But still, Captain Kirk and Lt. Uhura’s kiss was a milestone.

Back in 2016, Hollywood Reporter reflected on the milestone this way:

There were reasons for the cast about this TV first – the show was in its third season, and cancellation was imminent. But it was NBC that was reluctant to pull the trigger. Network execs were worried that the interracial scene would upset Southern affiliates, so an effort was made to shoot coverage where Kirk and Uhura don’t actually lock lips. “We did a few takes, but Bill was deliberately trying to flub it”, recalls (Nichelle) Nichols. “At one point, he even crossed his eyes to make me laugh.”

(To be fair, as a kid seeing Shatner behave like a horsey was the part that really bothered me, but that’s another story.)

In comics, the first interracial kiss was in Warren Publishing ‘s black-and-white horror-comics magazine, Creepy #43, published in January 1972. The kiss was part of the story, “The Men Who Called Him Monster” by writer Don McGregor and artist Luis Garcia.

For color comics, the first interracial kiss is generally considered to be in Marvel’s Amazing Adventures #31 from July 1975. This comic showcased a “War of the Worlds” series, where a hero named Killraven and his merry band adventured in a post-apocalyptic world of which H.G. Wells could only dream. Don McGregor wrote this series too. It’s illustrated by the alarmingly talented P. Craig Russel. Don recently told the story behind the story here.

It makes sense that Don McGregor wrote these stories. He’s a brilliant writer who always looked forward and delighted in writing about the human condition. He’s a kind guy full of warmth, enthusiasm and all the attributes that make good men become great ones.

He’s also a hopeless romantic. For my money, he’s written some of the very best love scenes in comics. And if you have the good fortune to meet him in person, he brings the definition of charming to a whole new level.

You might get the impression that I’m gushing about Don McGregor. And you’d be right. I think the absolute world of Don McGregor as a writer and as a person.

An Unrecognized Milestone

Even so – I think I uncovered a historic milestone. It’s in DC’s color comic, Korak, Son of Tarzan #54 published October-November 1973.

This series was all about Tarzan’s son, Korak, on a long quest to find his abducted girlfriend, Miriam. As you can imagine, he had many adventures along the way. In issue #54’s story, “Blood Brothers”, written by Robert Kanigher and illustrated by Murphy Anderson, Korak makes a new friend, Mnumbo. After a few close scrapes together, Mnumbo introduces his lovely sister, Salamma, to Korak.

It’s easy to see that Salamma is smitten with Korak. And either she or artist Murphy Anderson read a lot of Prince Valiant comics, because she performs a fetching campfire dance that may have been inspired by Aleta’s (Valiant’s girlfriend and eventual wife) most famous dance.

And as the adventure ends, and Korak is getting ready to ride into the sunset (well, to walk into the sunset, but you know what I mean), they share a passionate kiss.

I believe that this is the first interracial kiss in color comics.

And you know what? I think there was almost the second interracial kiss in color comics in the very next issue. In that adventure, an Asian woman, Lotus, is embracing Korak and is about to plant one on him until a bad guy interrupts them.

Let’s Get Serious for a Moment

I think this is important. In the early 70s, as a kid, it was important to me to be shown love ought to be colorblind. We didn’t say “love is love” back then, but that was idea.

And to a young fan like me, it was important that my favorite creators, guys like Don McGregor and Murphy Anderson, showed the way. There wasn’t a lot of fanfare. There were no cover blurbs proclaiming these were special collectible issues. It was more about measuring the true worth of someone and following your heart.

On a personal level, one of my favorite uncles, (he was actually a great-uncle), was my Uncle John. He was Italian by way of Sicily, and married my Aunt Ruby, a wonderful Jamaican woman. He was white and was black. As an adult, I’ve learned that he suffered, and fought, bias and prejudice. But he never let the struggles show. He was consistantly confident, fun-loving and in love with his wife.

I hope that 20-somethings reading this think “what is the big deal?” And I hope that their kids think it’s even less of a big deal, and the next generation thinks it’s even less of a big deal.

For my part, I’m so appreciative I had folks like my Uncle John, Murphy Anderson and Don McGregor to help me get my head on straight at an early age. And I’m grateful now for guys like Ken Quattro researching and spotlighting the lives of brave creators who often suffered discrimination.

One last thing: go find someone you love and kiss ‘em!

* * *

Just to be thorough, there is one technicality: some consider the very first interracial kiss in a color comic to be in a Golden Age Blackhawk story where the a dying woman’s request, a kiss from the hero Blackhawk, was platonically granted. The woman was Asian, and Blackhawk seemed pretty WASPy (even though he was really Polish).

 

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.

Brainiac On Banjo #102: Will Wonder Woman Destroy Life As We Know It?

Brainiac On Banjo #102: Will Wonder Woman Destroy Life As We Know It?

The answer to my headlined query is “yes, but don’t blame it on her.”

In eight days or so, I suspect the majority of Pop Culture Squadsters will be plopping our quarantined asses on our couches and watching Wonder Woman 1984. We might be eating microwaved popcorn and chomping the heads off of gummy bears. Some will be bitching about how they miss the magnificence of the shoebox movie theaters out by the Applebee’s, and to these folks I mutter the immortal words of William Shatner: Get a life!

Movie theaters were puking up blood long before The Joker weaponized Covid-19. The whole idea behind the contemporary movie theater was to motivate people into driving 10 miles, parking in a lot and walking 3500 icy feet to a gaudy poster-laden building, wrestling with an obstinate ticket machine and a debit card to ransom the tickets for which you’ve already paid, standing in a ridiculously long line to procure a 55-gallon drum of soda pop and a vat of popcorn upon which somebody hosed glow-in-the-dark oil, maneuver all that into the one theater out of maybe two dozen that is showing your movie in the format you paid for and juggle your way into your assigned seat, which, of course, is right behind the one occupied by The Incredible Hulk.

(Fun Fact: Those ever-rotating hot dogs at the candy counter? Yup, you’re absolutely right. They have been twirling in vain since Jimmy Carter announced his presidential run. I wouldn’t bite into that shit if it was sprayed with the Covid vaccine.)

Portal to portal, including gas, you’ve blown your kids’ college fund on a night out which, in December 2020, might kill you. Remember the good old days when all you had to worry about was getting an STD?

Yeah, I’m not a fan of the multiplex movie theater. I love seeing movies with a bunch of my friends. If some asshole is talking in my home theater, most likely that asshole is me. But with 65-inch 5K televisions now available in boxes of Honey Nut Cheerios, I can invite those same folks to my home to watch a streamer and charge less than half the theater rate for well-greased popcorn.

There’s lots of stuff from my youth that I miss. Restaurants that aren’t themed. Bars with less than a half dozen television sets all tuned to El Ocho. Cars with fins. Parking meters. Lime Lifesavers. Glittering movie palaces that inspire awe and put you in the mood for magic. The only thing these shoebox theaters give me, aside from a maxed-out credit card, is the thrill of listening to two movies at once to the light of dumb people’s smartphones.

So, now, the theater chains are screaming about streaming. I get it: their future is on the line, and that sucks. Pardon me if I’m just a bit more concerned about the neighborhood bars and other family-owned businesses that do not force me to go to a nearly-abandoned shopping mall where three of the four anchors went blooie because Macy’s doesn’t understand that buying up the local department store chains undermines the shopping experience.

Like I said, times change. Geriatrics bitch about how great the good old days used to be, and we’re often right about that. Childhood experiences are habit-forming. But tomorrow’s good old days will look a lot like a big parking lot that houses a Best Buy, a Denny’s, a Costco, a Pizza Hut, and maybe a Bed, Bath and Beyond. You know, the folks who are keeping the postal service alive.

Before you know it, the streamers will have gone the way of Blockbuster. They will have been replaced by something else. I’m hoping for that phone company brain implant chip predicted in 1967 in that truly wonderful movie, The President’s Analyst.

You probably can catch The President’s Analyst on one of the streamers.