Saturday, May 29, 2021


My son pointed me to this video—based on the comics in the background, it looks like it was filmed in 1966—of Stan Lee in the early days of Marvel's success, before he became the larger-than-life Stan we  came to know and love.  It's like seeing Peter Parker before he transformed into Spider-Man.  Fascinating!


  1. I'm not sure this is as much Stan Lee before he was Stan lee as it is Stan doing a sales pitch to people who did not want to see the bombastic Stan we all know and love.

    I have read Amazing Fantasy Omnibus, and it shows that a lot of the great Marvel ideas were gestating for a long time before they came in

    Aside from Showing Stan was likely the brain father of both the mutants (The X-Men was not Jack Kirby's idea) and Ego the Living Planet more than people want to admit these days , it shows the classic Stan personality.

    Once those letters started rolling in from older audiences with Amazing Adult Fantasy, he was answering them in the classic Stan Lee manner.

    Don;t confuse not being his fully realized self with knowing that a bunch of TV suits would not want to see a larger than life character more than a well proposed metered statement.

    Think about your early days, and how you pitched story ideas, when you have not really gotten into the business and knew anyone. Noe contrast that with how you behaved at what ever job you had at the time to pay the bills, or how you acted with your idiot friends.

    Stan was clever. clever enough to know what personality to present to what people


  2. Well, I've tried to answer multiple times, Jack, and Blogger is fritzing out. Let's try again...

    I think this is closer to Stan as he was in the early to mid-sixties than his later incarnation. (Although I'm sure he was a little more buoyant around the office.) Once the media spotlight really hit him, I think the Stan on the page and the "real life" Stan merged into the larger than life persona we know. Check out his 1970 appearance on TO TELL THE TRUTH, complete with shaggy toupee and beard, to see what a difference a few years make.

    As for Ego, that was Jack's creation and there's even a 60's interview where Stan substantiates that.

    By the way (and if I've asked this before, forgive me), have you read my pal Danny Fingeroth's Stan bio? It's very fair, and generally admiring, look at Stan's life. Highly recommended!

    1. Well, there is no link, but I believe I saw it a few years ago on the Youtube. It is where I learned that Lee was friendly with Charles Schultz.

      Though it is still worth noting, on that game show, Lee was not literally selling comics to another medium, that did not give a shit about comics, and were old timey media executives. That has to effect things.

      I have a coffee table book about Marvel's history... up to the early 90s... and it has artist made holiday cards and joking scenes from the office, all of which implied Stan to be the bombastic guy he was to all of us.

      The truly depressing fact is... Stan will be 100 next year. Anyone who knows the truth is, for the most part dead.

      As for Ego, that is not hard for me to believe about the character. While I think the claims that the F.F. were Kirby's sole creation is ridiculous, and that in the rush to give Kirby his fair due, people have over looked some of the flaws in his work, Thor always seemed a bit more KIrby that Lee.

      Sure, the Stan elements are there, especially with the relationship between Thor and Loki, but Kirby seemed to be steering that ship.

      Though that begs the question... why did two creators, int he same office, four years apart both come up with living planets, with faces (though better detailed in Kirby's case), who trick and hate humanoids?

      But, I can not stress enough, just how X-Men that story in Amazing Adult Fantasy #14 is. A kid gets powers in adolescents, uses them, people freak out, he thinks about how he will not be accepted as long as normal people hate and fear him, then as he flees a psychic voice calls him, and says he has a place for him

      Also, Lee comes up with a logical reason for people to be afraid. The kid uses his power to read some ones mind, and prove his powers exist, and it freaks people out, Which... and I know it hurts the metaphor....if people were doing, you would be pretty freaked out. Especially if they used it as willy-nilly as Xavier does. There is a reason sci-fi authors have called the practice "mental rape" since the 50s.

      Also, maybe when you invite the racial supremacist terrorist (Magneto) onto your team, after starting off threatening nuclear attacks and babbling about how humans are inferior and should be enslaved or killed an moved on from the ere... the Avengers are not the jackasses for wondering what the hell is going on, and have some questions. Sorry, I love Claremont's X-Men like anyone else, including that Magneto storyline he wrote, but that element with eh Avengers always bugged me. Great character stories with Magneto at the at time, really great stuff. And yes, I know the order was handed down from above to not explain clearly, so the X-Men could be even more outsiders.

      AS for teh book. NO, I have not read it. UNlike many people, during some issues during teh pandemic, I actually got to read less than normal. I probably will ot be able to get ot it right now.

      Though, I believe he wrote the book "Superman on teh Couch," which I read as a n o-good teen.


    2. I find that, when people credit Stan at the expense of Jack, I get all riled up; and when people say Jack did it all and Stan did nothing, I get all riled up.
      It was the magic between those two guys that made Marvel. (And lets throw Ditko in there for good measure.)

      But I've always said that, even if Ditko and Kirby plotted every single one of those stories alone (and I don't think they did, at least not in the beginning), Stan's contribution as editor/scripter/PR man was incalculable.

    3. No mention of Romita or Buscema? Who knows what crazy concepts those Italians were pitching, all hopped up on oxygen. Don't pretend you weren't locked in a room taking in all the O2 you could as you wrote Moonshadow, Death of Harry Osborn, Savior 28, and ESPECIALLY Dr. Fate. I would be surprised if there was a single issue of Spider-Girl written while Defalco wasn't flying high on Oxygen the whole time.

      Anyway, the nice thing is that you can kind of figure out who did what... to a degree. Kirby and Ditko actually did solo work, and Lee worked with other people.

      Neither Kirby or Ditko were particularly strong on characterization, Kirby was particularly lacking with dialogue, and Ditko really loved prostalatizing in his work (and not just Mr. A, which lacked and subtlety).

      The New Gods perhaps was able to garner a place because as Gods they could be focused on a sort of elemental personality for each character... set in an epic backdrop.

      There is a Ditko Blue Beetle story that is just essentially him complaining about hippie art. And the character was kind of a self-important bore until those two guys... Kevin Garrett and G.N. Demarcus, I think were there names...basically created a new character.

      However, Stan had his own issues. Regardless of whether it was his idea or not... and I truly don;t know... I doubt Stan would have seen the full potential of where Thor could go in his series. Did Stan come up with Galactus? Maybe. The contest where Thor ends up losing Jane Foster, I can see itr? Likely. But throwing Thor into deep space...? Okay. But, the people breeders?

      Silver Surfer is the best example of the nature of the two. Lee was always upfront that the Surfer was a thought of Kirby. Showing his ability to go off the plan.

      However, Kirby's idea... a robot who learns to be human... was already done to death by 1966. Kirby even did the idea as Machine Man a decade later to... fun, but not groundbreaking results.

      Which is why, despite technically being Kirby's idea,, by the time Stan got done with 18 issues of groundbreaking Surfer comics, the mold was set and it was his now character in many a way. It created an interesting reality, The Silver Suffer was Kirby's baby, but Norrin Radd was all Stan's (and Buscema), with no one really able to argue either point.

      Of course... Dematteis... I once read one of Kirby's proteges (maybe family members) saying that the idea that Stan did the human element, and Kirby the cosmic was wrong. Both had plenty of each to their credit.

      I think it is more appropriate to say Stan started at the human, and Kirby with the cosmic, then built off of each other. That is after all how good partnerships work, they pull things from each other and build off each other's strengths, even opening paths they are usually not aware of in themselves.

      And the point you make about Stan's editing is an oft forgotten one. He did what few editors are able to do... create a cohesive voice through different titles, and eventually creators... making it a an instantly recognizable collection of books. Remember, Roy Thomas, Denny O'Neil, and Gerry Conway all worked with Stan as an editor, and show their voices off and still remained true to the Marvel Universe vibe.

      Literally, The ONLY other example of an editor pulling that off I can think of is Karen Berger. Deal with it. But, Stan never had the courage to ask out Captain America... that we know of.

      Of course, people always get so caught on the split, they forget some key facts. Kirby returned to Marvel, because he did not like how DC was working with him. He and Stan reunited (unlike those damn limey mop-tops)in one of the first Graphic Novels ever. Stan went against his own editorial instincts to protect Kirby (despite being higher up now)... when he told writers at Marvel to stop rewriting Kirby's dialogue. Which probably was a smart idea on the part of those young folk.


    4. Sorry, Jack. Blogger has been wonky again. I’ve tried to answer this several times with no luck. Let’s try again.

      ”I think it is more appropriate to say Stan started at the human, and Kirby with the cosmic, then built off of each other. That is after all how good partnerships work, they pull things from each other and build off each other's strengths, even opening paths they are usually not aware of in themselves."

      Beautifully said, Jack!

      And, yeah, I adored that Surfer graphic novel they did in the 70s. Lee, Kirby, and Sinnott were firing on all cylinders for that one.

    5. The Silver Surfer graphic Novel... one of the craziest things to fall down the memory of comicdom. It is one of the first graphic novels... coming out the same year as a Contract with God. It was taken seriously, and had a sort of unique vibe to it. It was a return of the classic team, but many people don;t know about it.

      It not being reprinted... as far as I know... does not help. Maybe because it was published by Simon and Shuster there is some legal issue? I don;t know

      And two years later, Lee and Buscema reunited for a Silver Surfer story in Epic Illustrated #1.

      Now I just need to ...

      1) con you into writing another Silver Surfer story.

      Though, I do think Romita's mention is necessary in that mix. Lee and Ditko's chaotic partnership had a very cool vibe to it, giving the feeling of being a teenager in over your head as the world throws everything at you, but I think the calmer give and take really allowed the world of Peter Parker to unfold and blossom.

      And let us not forget Bill Everett... who I believe was Stan's inspiration for what could be done with comic characters, given how Marvel the character could get.... even in the Golden Age. I have always felt bringing Namor in so early int eh F.F. was sort of a nod to Everett blazing the path Stan would later master

      ALso, he did a decent amount of work with Stan on Dr Strange and Hulk. HMMMM, Dr Strange, Hulk, and the Sub-mariner? The father of the Defenders

      Come to think of it, the best example of the partnership was listed here, Everett and Eisner.

      Stan and Eisner were friends, Will even said so, and given his push for creator rights, I doubt he would have palled around with a guy who stole credit and cheated people.

      Everett notoriously had trouble with authority (an booze and deadlines) and he kept coming back to Stan and Marvel. Granted, he did owe Stan for always hiring him, and Lee allowed Bill to spend his final days working on the character he created.

      Still, given his anger at authority, love of booze, and how small the comic community was at the time, I feel something would have come up. That is not a great recipe for hiding resentment.


    6. I know the Surfer gn was republished at least once (I think it was the 90s) because I have a copy on my shelf.

      Can't say enough good things about John Romita, Sr, as an artist, storyteller, and a human being. The man knows and understands story and his input on the Spidey tales he did with Stan was vital.

      I'd write another Surfer story in a heartbeat.

    7. What about John Romita as a father... you seem to be fond of his son. How many creator families can you claimed to have worked with two generations of?

      Are you sure Silver Surfer: The Ultimate Cosmic Experience was reprinted? I could not find any evidence of that. That if course does not mean it didn't happen... just that I can not find it.

      Now I just need to figure out how to get you to pitch a Silver Surfer story.

      Oh SIlver SUrfer... the series that should have kicked off Marvel's Vertigo, multiple times.

      I would argue, it kind of did by launching the experimentation of the 70s.

      However, he also was in Epic Illustrated #1, which kicked off...well... Epic Comics. Which is closest thing MArvel truly had Vertigo. Though was not quite the same for various reasons. Also, SIlver Surfer Parable.

      The series had always been (and correct me if I am wrong) a place where creators brought their A-game.

      Stan Lee said it was some of his favorite stories. John Byrne (and Stan Lee's words) gave us a pretty heavy 1- shot. Then, when they relaunched in 1987 (about the time Vertigo was getting going at DC) Steve ENglehart really was bringing dome surprisingly lofty ideas (even given his impressive resume), Starlin dived deeper into Thanos and Death than he had before, and looked at soul world and gave the Surfer a more complicated look at his origins.

      I think MArz was hampered a bit by events, but when allowed to do his own thing had some interesting things to say. Mike Lickey's run was short but interesting.

      I was not the biggest fan of George Perez take... but tit WAS original and tried new things.

      Thay guy after him... G.N. Demarcus, I think... seemed to have some heady ideas about the soul and identity.

      The 2000s nseries I liked, but many did not, but was again something more than just superhero fare.

      Greg Pak certainly had interesting things to say. And and Surfer fan should read Silver Surfer: Requiem.

      SIlver Surer" Black was pretty great.

      Point is, there is a gravity most understand to the character. Along with Man-Thing, Marvel could use him as way to really embrace that part of comic stories.

      Hope you keep that in mind with your pitch.


    8. As previously noted, that Lee-Kirby Surfer reprint is sitting on my shelf. Came out in the mid-90s (the copyright in the book says 1996/1997).

      Those early Lee-Buscema Surfer issues remain some of my favorite comics of all time. I think, after a certain point, Stan wasn't sure where to go and the stories became redundant. But those first six or so issues were groundbreaking and magical.

      So you're saying I should write a monthly Man-Thing/Silver Surfer team-up book...?

    9. And here's the book itself:

    10. That is weird. I wonder why In could not find it. I assume some kind of I assume some kind of conspiracy involving the Irish, A Wisconsin Senator, and under ground mole people. The only thing that makes sense,

      Interestingly, I bought that first printing of that book on that very website for $15 in 2005, and saw it at a comic show for $20 in 2015. That goddamn MCU.

      An ongoing Surfer/Man-Thing series, eh? I would read it. Though.. I must say, there aren't really any ongoing series anymore. Since renumbering begins as soon as a new creative team comes on, I would say there are just really long mini series. Especially since there is a move towards 50-100 [page story arcs. Kind of sad really.

      Though, I must say I think SUrdy would have a better time with SWAMP Thing. The two could spend two pages defeating a foe, and the rest of the time discussing philosophy. Surfer espousing the glories of space travel, and Swampy the Green. Old Moss-face saying how humans are terrible for ruining the balance, and Norrin agreeing they are wrong to do it, but trying to convince him of mankind's innate good.

      Is it weird that I now want to read this?

      An epic for OUR time!


    11. Is it weird that I now want to WRITE that?

    12. Well... the current month-long X-Men event (part of one of those multi-year arcs I mentioned), is pretty much just a cocktail party with all the X-characters.

      SO... this might not be that far fetched of an idea for a comic.

      SO... it is weird that you are not coming up with a proposal right now.


    13. A cocktail party? Sounds like an issue of JLI!

  3. J.M., I have a silly question about BROOKLYN DREAMS. In it your teenage self kept listening to the song "I Am the Walrus" over and over again. Is this still your favorite Beatles song?
    My favorite is "Yellow Submarine." It always brings a smile to my face.

    1. I still love "Walrus," William. It may not be my number one Beatles tracks, but it's unquestionably in the top ten.

      Here's a list of favorite Beatles tracks that I did way back in 2009. I might move some songs around now, but it's generally accurate:

  4. That's a great list of songs. The Beatles put out so many classics, it's hard to narrow it down to just a few. Here's my top 5 that did not make your top 20.
    1. "Yellow Submarine"
    2. "Eleanor Rigby"
    3. "Lady Madonna"
    4. "The Ballad of John and Yoko"
    5. "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds"

    I agree that so much of their music is about hope.

    1. Great choices! But, really, there aren't many bad choices where the Beatles are concerned. I could probably pick twenty different songs for the Top Twenty, all as good as the ones I chose!

  5. I have a funny story about the Beatles. I have schizophrenia and back in 2005 I was going through a rough patch and needed to spend about two months in a mental hospital. I received treatment at the hospital and one of the treatments was music therapy. In it each of us patients would pick a song among the many choices they had on CDs and then tell the rest of the class why they picked that song. Then the whole class would listen to that song. When it was my turn I picked "Hey Jude" and when asked why I just repeated the lyric "Take a sad song and make it better..."

    Also, one of the nurses was a huge Beatles fan. On Sunday mornings one of the local radio stations had a program called "Beatles Brunch" in which they talked about the Beatles and played a lot of their music. Because the nurse was such a fan she always tuned the radio to that station on Sunday mornings and the whole ward would then listen to the Beatles. The Beatles' music helped to give me hope that I could recover from my schizophrenia and to a large extent I have.

    1. That's a wonderful story, William. Deep thanks for sharing it. "Take a sad song and make it better..." One of my favorite lines ever.

  6. A funny thing about the mental hospital I stayed in was how they numbered the wards. I was in ward 69, so you would think that there would be at least 69 wards, but there weren't. There were only two. It was like something out of Monty Python where Arthur "Two Sheds" Jackson only has one shed. :)