Back in 1979 or so, when I was first getting my foot in the door at Marvel, editor-in-chief Jim Shooter came to me and asked if I’d be up for doing a Captain America story, in the then-popular Treasury Edition format, that tied in to the upcoming second Captain America TV movie, starring actor Reb Brown as a version of Cap that had very little to do with the character we know and love.
Let’s be honest: it was a weird premise. But I was brand new to the business, hungry to make my mark, and there was no way I was turning this gig down. So I went off, pondered, and came up with a pretty solid story—I’m sure Shooter had significant input—writing a detailed plot that featured Cap teaming up with Brown (not with the television version of Captain America, but with the actor himself) in an adventure that involved the making of the movie and a sinister plot by the Red Skull.
Someone up the food chain thought things through and decided that crossing over with the movies wasn’t a very good idea (they were right) and the plug was pulled on the Treasury. I was disappointed—this would have been my first printed work at Marvel—but I was paid and, by doing work that pleased Shooter, the door into the House of Ideas was opened a little wider.
Time passed and, by 1981, I was a contracted freelancer at the company. Jim Salicrup, who was editing the Cap monthly at the time, asked me about the derailed Treasury edition, wondering if I could toss out the TV movie tie-in and come up with a story that would work in the ongoing title. I went back to the Treasury plot, deleted the Reb Brown-related material, did some rewriting and restructuring, and came up with the three-part story that ended up becoming my Captain America debut, in issues 261—263.
That Red Skull trilogy became a kind of audition and, as a result, I was hired on as Cap’s regular writer: the beginning of a very enjoyable three-year run, in tandem with the extraordinary art team of Mike Zeck and John Beatty and, later, British superstar Paul Neary.
Which is why I tell my writing students that, when you’re starting out, the operative answer to any job offer is a wildly-enthusiastic “Yes!” You really don’t know where an assignment—however odd or ridiculous it might seem—will lead. At the very least, the challenge will help you learn and grow. At best…well, you might find yourself chronicling the ongoing adventures of one of the greatest comic book characters of all time.
©copyright 2023 J.M. DeMatteis
John, will be analogue of the comic book "Green Lantern: Willworld" in Marvel comics (the same surreal, with a journey through dreams, etc.)? I mean under your authorship.ReplyDelete
Nothing like that being planned, but you never know!Delete
But why? In my opinion, it's good idea!Delete
I liked how you and Zeck reintroduced Zemo's son in your runReplyDelete
Thank you. He evolved into quite an interesting character.Delete
Well Dematteis, in honor of the character, here are some points to raise your patriotism. Even if they are not the one used in the usual ways.ReplyDelete
Now you can go out and plant a Victory Garden...or something...AND keep your hippie street cred.
There's a Simpsons clip for everything, isn't there? THanks, Jack!Delete
I don't know, let's see.Delete
Here are some clips from the "Golden Age"...
Here are some from a little later, but have to do with your precious comics...
Also later, but I think we can agree is a universal truth...
Then, of course there is this...
So, what do you say, is it varied enough?
Very much so. But was that really Alan Moore...?Delete
Yes, and the real Stan Lee, Art Spiegelman, and Dan Clowes. There was an interview with Alan Moore around that time where he talked about going on the Simpsons.Delete
IN the same episode , Stan Lee also yells, "PHILIP K.DICK!" in shock.
Here is the real Harlan Ellison as well...
You know...Dematteis.... they say there will never be another Beatles. Those people are myopic, and have too limited a view.Delete
IF the Beatles are defined as a type of media that helped define aspect of a generation, both directly and indirectly. WIth identifiable traits in taste that can be identified, and traced back to how OTHER things in the same genre became popular. And with massive crossover appeal, both for that generation, as well as other... it has happened twice
Baby Boomers had the Beatles
Generation X had Star Wars
Millennials had the Simpsons
All long influential pieces of media, that changed their respective landscapes, with massive pop culture phenomena, and whose initial rebellious and subversive origins and natures have become partially forgotten and even retconned to some because of the popularity and influence leading to ubiquity.
You may say that is insane to compare, but...
Star Wars certainly had a long term effect on teh movie industry...right up to your precious MCU...and it original subversive nature forgotten.
And the Simpsons may not have been the first prime time animated show, but it was the one that most caught fire. There is a direct line from the Simpson's massive popularity, and all of the attempt to cash in to the creation of Adult Swim. A over twenty year old station within a station with older skewing animation.
Although their impact plays out in different ways, I think you're right. All three have had a broad, lasting reach that impacted the culture—both popular and beyond—in many ways.Delete
I don't think people give THE SIMPSONS the recognition it deserves for its impact on LIVE ACTION comedy. Live action sitcoms absorbed the speed, the visual gags, so many elements of the show. You could say that one of my all-time favorite sitcoms, SCRUBS, is SIMPSONS meets MASH.
I think there is definitely a through line from the Simpsons to the rise of New Millennium "dramedies."Delete
Mixing humor and emotions was certainly not new. MASH as you mentioned. As well as All in the Family, and every Norman Lear work. Even the Facts of Life.
The difference is, before the Simpsons, the shows that did that were no as goofy.
The Simpsons certainly had their share of heartstrings tugging moments. Some have even argued the first season was really a drama.
That is not a coincidence either. Conan O'Brien had a reunion show online with golden age Simpsons writers and talked about that.
Producer James L. Brooks had worked on TV shows since Andy Griffith. He would tell the writers it needed sappier, or schmaltzier, or hit an emotional beat. That is why the show had these great memorable endings.
Even more prestige comedies followed suit. Boston Legal for Example. Is Danny Crane really that much less of a cartoon boss than Mr. Burns? Okay... burns has a more cartoonish supply of money.
Remember we are not saying Denny Crane is evil like Burns. Just that he acts like a cartoon character. As does Alan Shore. Both could easily fit into Springfield.
I think the people making TV realized the impact though.
Shows like Malcolm in the Middle and Arrested Development certainly had DNA from the Simpsons, and Fox put them in the line-up with them, to sponge off the audience.
The most influential sitcom of the past 20 years has probably been The Office. Ricky Gervaies has even said he was inspired by the Simpsons. And when I watched it, I noticed them doing jokes from the Simpsons.
Modern Family is a show I have seen a few times. It is fine.
The point is, it is supposed to just be a safe, ultimately toothless feel good family sitcom. That is a perfectly fine thing to be.
However, the character in this grounded family sitcom are much zanier than characters in similar grounded family sitcoms from before, or even during the first decade of the Simpsons.
I think that is part of the over all of the Simpsons on comedy. It is the realization that you can amp up the things to a extreme level, but if you put heart in it as well...it can almost be more realistic than a more realistic take.
I think you hit the nail on the proverbial head, Jack.Delete
To use SCRUBS (again) as an example: here's a show that could be deadly serious, dealing with profound issues of life and death, and then go into the wildest, most cartoonish, slapsticky craziness. The SIMPSONS influence is clear there—and across so many other shows.
Scrubs. Was there ever a show more cancelled at the exact right time?Delete
Anyway. The Simpsons is so of this it has plot lines and through-lines that make sense perfectly, but are not intended. For example
1. Abe Simpson is trying to redeem himself through his grandkids. Almost every-time we have seen Abe Simpson in a flashback with Homer... at least in the early years... he is an objectively terrible father. Something many of his modern moment show as well.
Homer is a...less bad father. He still has issues, but his heart is at least in the right place and tries.
Abe was put in a home because of how he treated Homer.
He is trying to make up for that with his grandkids, who he gets along with really well. It is to redeem himself, and as an act of love, to prevent homer from his fate.
IN fact, one of Homer's faults as a father is that he clearly favors his daughters over Bart. While Abe is good to, and gets along with all three of his grandkids, he doe more with Bart, and fills in some of the mentoring roles neglected by Homer, and by him with Homer.
Speaking of which...
2. Bart is an indictment of the 30 year decline in the public education system.
Bart is smart. Every-time someone takes an interest in him, Bart excels. Whether it is school, hobbies, or the Boy Scouts. Homer, Krabapel, Chalmers, Skinner, Flanders, each one has helped Bart live up to his potential.
The problem is that interest often waivers.
The first time the show flashes ahead, Bart is a Supreme Court JUstice.
The next time, at Lisa's wedding, he is a construction worker planning on going to law school. Construction worker is a perfectly fine, and well paying job. But it is certainly not as prestigious Supreme Court Justice.
The next time he is a failed musician and beach bum, who at least can help president Lisa with unconventional thinking.
Everytime after that he has some undefined low paying job, a failed marriage, and kids who hate him. At one point a joke is even made by Frink he will not find anyone ho loves him for him until right before high dies, where his brain will be put in a pauper's grave.
Unintentionally, this correlates with a complete lack of caring about funding education and trouble attracting and retaining new teachers. And failed attempts to fix that, which ended in less funding.
If you want a crazy connection...
IN the early 2000s, there was an animated show called Clone High. It revolved around a group of teenagers that were all clones of historical figures.
It was originally conceived and shopped around as part of post-Simpsons, we all need an animated series thing.
One of the "creators" of the show was Bill Lawrence. However, in his own words, was just a producer who put his name as creator to help it get picked up
The ACTUAL creators? Phil Lord and Christopher Miller. The major brains behind Into the SPider-verse.
Also, I think there may be some Simpsons DNA in the Guardians of the Galaxy films.
I knew Bill Lawrence was involved with CLONE HIGH, but I don't think I realized Lord and Miller were the creators. Fascinating!Delete
By the way, the answer is July 1980.ReplyDelete
What's the question?Delete
That was the month that 1970s comics officially ended. It actually fits together perfectly. Like weirdly.
The comic that most encapsulated the 70s was Roy Thomas Conan. As someone who was not alive at the time, I am often learning just how big and influential it was at the time.
The month before was the very last solo Captain Marvel story before he died. A character created in the 60s, but seems to always signify the 70s (that is a decade)
The Captain America story where cap is offered a chance to run for president came out, effectively ending the 70s social relevance tales. I mean... he would still dip his toe, but from there it was always "for all the people."
It is the month the the infamous Avengers #200 came out, which sort of started to chip at the Avengers relevancy, especially compared to the X-Men,
Speaking of which, that was also the month the issue after the Phoenix saga ended, and Cyclops leaves the team, and Kitty Pryde joins.
We had already talked here how the saga was the 70s becoming the 80s but Kitty was a prominent part of the team and turn over was constant.
Thor #300 came out, the end of the Eternal saga. Machine Man would have two more issues, but that Thor story really feels like a cap on 70s style Kirby. Even if he was not writing it, it feels like the wrapping up, and folding in what was mostly separated before.
Then there are the times that are not hard in that month
Roger Stern was starting, but established on SPectacular SPider-Man.
Miller was already drawing Daredevil, and in three issues would be writing.
The next month, Moon KNight would be getting his own book.
John Byrne had already done his first F.F. story, and his ongoing run was only a few issues away. July was right in the middle of the break.
After flirting with the idea of a fatalist future since Gerber's Defenders run, implying the dark future of the Original Guardians of the Galaxy would happen, August ends it. The story where the future is prevented comes out.
Deny O'Neil writes a Spider-man annual with Dr. Strange, drawn by Frank Miller This both kind of ends the upfront nature of magic at Marvel for a while, becoming more niche, but more importantly, sets up the team of the 80s. Elektra Saga, Dark KNight Returns, Batman Year One... all written by Miller, and edited by O'Neil.
Finally, the Defenders...
Okay, Conan may be the most important series of the 70s. It may have set the tone, and kicked open the possibilities, but the Defenders was THE 70s book. OT seemed to capture the vibe, with the "non-team" reflecting the disaffected nature of the decade. Nighthawk being a deconstruction of the typical superhero ideal. The gender wars played out with Valkyrie and Jack Norris. A Soviet on the team, sandwiched between two decades with a lot of anti-communist sentiment. It had mysticism and cosmic. Gerber and Englehart brought the cynical ex-hippies take. The Sons of the Serpent brought a unique take to teh social relevancy angleDelete
...besides,.. it had almost every character created for the decade march through for at least one issue.
Anyway, IN July 1980, the Defenders have the adventure that they return from in the next issue? The issue where NIghthawk loses the base to the IRS.
And from THERE it was only a couple issues until some petulant upstart named G.N. Demarcus...or something... comes in fresh off of Rolling Stone Magazine.
Not only does Demarcus gain a name in the 80s with stories like:
-Spider-MAn: Hypno-Hustler's final Groove,
-Leibowicz the werewolf,
-Justice Society: Without Borders,
-ending the Cycling Spirit comic about the flaming stuntman,
-a Captain Britain story where his ancient enemy from WWI seemingly dies while aging him, and his childhood enemy coming out as bi, and the graphic
-Dr. Strange: Three Dog Night he hoes more.
-The Epic Comics 12 issue series, Moon-Green Hornet
He would also start his Defenders run with a 9-part series, with a demon group called the 15-toed foot, that used many of the uique 70s characters, and ended with an epilogue where one member encounters a burned out hippie, adrift and mentally shattered by drugs, over a decade too late.
It was essentially, maybe unintended, the finale to the 70s unique era of comics.
It al came to together weirdly perfect. Craziest part? I read a book from the 90s, a while ago...perhaps even in the 90s... that said a comic took 6 months to fully make at that point.
six months before July 1980? January, 1980. Te first month of the 80s.
That G.N. Demarcus was quite a writer! What ever happened to him?Delete
I agree about the powerful influence of both CONAN and Gerber's DEFENDERS. I think Kirby's Fourth World books had a massive influence not just on the 70s, but on all comics ever since.
I view Gerber's Defenders as more of a nexus point of the 70s comics than influencing.Delete
AS for the Fourth World...
I think it is about as influential as Stan Lee's Silver Surfer run.
Personally, I view both series as more of a finale to the 60s than true parts of the 70s. They are the culmination they had been moving towards. Ultimately, that ma=y be why New Gods only made it to issue #11. Maybe.
Conan the Barbarian conversely seemed to set a tone for comics, From the Fantastic Four, to Spider-man to Green Lantern/Green Arrow to Warlock to Tomb of Dracula, there is an undercurrent. Something gritty.
Not necessarily in the meaning of dark, though sometimes, but in how you would say a working class neighborhood has grit to it.
I know Kirby came from a working class neighborhood, but the New Gods is shiny and clean. It is the 60s optimism and pushing against the horizons.
Lee's Silver Surfer was honestly a little closer to that 70s grit than the Fourth World, but even that still feels of the 60s.
So, word has it you are writing a Magneto comic. Most of their nostalo-x-books have been by people who worked on X-books at the time. CLaremont, Peter David, Nocenti, etc.Delete
You however wrote an Iceman mini series, and a stint on X-Factor. Neither bad, but also none involved Magneto. Let alone with his time in the New Mutants...as the cover suggests this takes place.
I also remember in an interview you posted on this site that you liked the X-Men, specifically the original team, but as a writer it "never quite worked out."
I would suggest you go read X-Factor #101, it may change your mind on that.
So why this mini?
I am just going to assume it was because all those 80s/90s x-writers, your former contemporaries just used a lot of peer pressure and very childish bullying to get you to write a book.
THERE! I figured it out. Cracked the case. We know why this book will allegedly come out..
I'm doing it because a) They asked me b) I love the early X-Men and those early stories will figure prominently and c) I love exploring the psyches of villains and Magneto is one of the single most interesting villain in the MU. No bullying involved!Delete
I think the Fourth World has been far more influential...on creators, on the DCAU, on the DC Universe as a whole (and the Marvel Universe, too)...than Stan's Surfer run. Don't get me wrong, the first half a dozen or so issues of that run are among my all-time favorite comics, and Stan was clearly trying to expand the parameters of the superhero genre, but I don't see it having a major influence on creators or the wider Marvel Universe. Not inviting debate, just sharing an opinion.Delete
Okay, that is your official reason fro you you are doing the mini series, BUT I don't thin you can deny my theory was at least a more unique reason to write the series.Delete
It also tracks with some of the reasons you have decided to make books in the past. After all as we discussed, your Demultiverse fantasy western was a scheme to trick me into thinking you were John Ostrander.
Or how the Ben Reilly Mini series from last year was to prevent Jupiter from becoming sentient and devouring Mars. Still not sure how that worked, but hey at least you saved Mars.
I'm sorry, Jack. All those theories are totally bogus. Except for the one about saving Mars. That's true, although I don't know how you found out.Delete
I think you are drastically underestimating Lee's Silver Surfer, and the influence it had on comics as a whole, and the 70s specifically.Delete
Remember this is not about better or worse, it is about influence. I just think you are selling Stan a bit short.
Remember our old friend Al Harper, who befriended the Surfer in issue #5. Where Al gives the run down on his life, where he implies he had some setbacks because of racism. A topic broached not as some fantastical scheme like the Hate-Monger or the Sons of the Serpent, or even as part of some obviously evil politicians secret platform. Just matter of fact cold reality of the downside on being on a planet full of stupid childish ideas.
That opened the door for O'Neil's Green Lantern/Green Arrow and countless stories afterwards, and the ability to go there.
Silver Surfer's condemning violence...even if he did not always follow this creed...is something you see all over Steve Gerber's work in the 70s. For that matter it was the first deconstruction of action stories.. or rather reexamining the deeper elements. YES! Gerber was all about that, but that also makes it the fore bearer to Gruenwald's Squadron Supreme, and thus Kingdom Come. And from there fall more.
Lee was also the first to se...in comics at least.. that there was a natural connection between cosmic heroes and a philisophical bend That has been a common element ever since.
Starlin for instance has doe this ever since, This is why despite being an avowed Kirby Disciple, who borrowed some ideas from the Fourth World, feels so different.
Also because Starlin adopted another Lee Silver Surfer trope... internal meditative thoughts on deeper universal truths. Admittedly, this is connected to the previous.
It also may have been the genesis of Marvel's horror series. So, let's get not the bigger point.
You see, I am not sure what you mean when you say the Fourth World is not Superheroes. They are heroes, and they are superpowered. Doesn't that fit the bill?
Is it because there are gods at war? So did Thor.
But, let's say I understood. Let's go off that. Do you think the reason you think of one is a superhero and one is not is because the Silver Surfer premiered the F.F., and the Fourth World did not? Okay, sure Jimmy Olsen, but who REALLY counts that?
I would actually say that the Silver Surfer under Lee has more in common with Conan than any Marvel "superhero"
For starters, he is a questing hero. He has a clear cut goal, to escape Earth, and return to his beloved Shalla-Bal.
Which is a staple of fantasy writing far more than superheroes. His desire to leave his peaceful home also harkens to fantasy adventure, not unlike Frodo.
He is a wanderer, without set place, going from adventure to adventure, as he moves towards his goal.
What about his main antagonist in those days... Mephisto. A literal demon who wants not to conquer the world, but claim his soul. First through simple temptation. Again, a fantasy or mythological idea far more than a superhero.
Mephisto is the antagonist in no fewer than five comics on that run. That is almost a quarter of the issues. This almost 1/4 of the stories depreciated to a demon trying to claim a righteous man's soul. A Renaissance era morality play. The wages of the soul and the heart.
The final issue of the six issue stories... Silver Surfer goes into the future where the barrier is gone. There he finds a new overlord, with dancing slave girls. He thinks he kills the surfer with his might, but the lone survivor of his people, not enslaved. saves him. After we learn once the overlord gained power he waged a war on conquest.Delete
If I did not use any space or Silver Surfer oriented words, that would sound like a Conan the Barbarian story.
Where lands the Saucer is far more of a classic sci-fi premise, as is the Doomsday Man in #13.
We are now halfway through without anything traditionally superheroey.
Other stories include Witches who conjure a monster. YES, it is the Abomination, but that is not relevant to the story.
There is a decedent of Frankenstein, that essentially makes a golem of the surfer. Not so much the one from Jewish folklore, but rather the type adopted into fantasy stories and games that lack the religious elements.
That along with Mephisto being a deomon, and his soldier being a ghost. Is both fantasy and Horror injection.
Silver Surfer #10 has him go to a far off land, to try and talk folks out of a war. Common in fantasy and sci-fi. But it also has Shalla-Bal
It is a classic tragic love among great distances.
For a second clear your mind and think about these things. Then ask yourself if the Silver Surfer is really more of a superhero story than the Fourth World, or if it is just because the Surfer started off by being kicked around to other more superheroey books before he got his own
FYI: I said Stan was trying to expand the parameters of the superhero genre, I wasn't drawing a line between NEW GODS and SILVER SURFER saying one was superhero and one wasn't. And you don't have to convince me of the greatness of the SS series (the early issues, at least; I think Stan got stuck in a repetition loop around issue seven or eight. Still fun stories, but without the breakthrough power of the early ones). As noted, I LOVE those first six or so issues and the third issue, which introduced Mephisto, is one of my two or three favorite comic book stories ever.Delete
As for which is more influential: As noted, I don't feel a need to debate the point. But I appreciate your enthusiasm for both Stan and the SS. I love 'em, too!
It is also interesting that you brought up the DCAU.Delete
Look, I love the DCAU, I grew up on the DCAU. Superman: The Animated series was the first place I even heard of the Fourth World. I have a huge soft spot in my heart for it.
That having been said, I actually think they are where the uniqueness of the Fourth World started to fade.
I know, I know, Bruce Timm is admitted huge Kirby fan. It is part of the reason I am so confused as to why he has not pushed to do a big screen New Gods film.
However, by his own admission, the reason they used the Fourth World was to have a powerful enough to fight Superman. That carried over to the Justice LEague, and JLU.
This does not mean they were not loved or respected, just that they were using them as a means to an end.
That really seems to be what DC has decided for the Fourth World. I think it was a complicated road to get there.
While books like LEGENDS and Mr. Miracle joining the JLI could certainly give the impression that the Fourth World had lost its spark, and just become another superhero book
HOWEVER, the Forever People mini series the late 80s ongoing New Gods book got to be more something different.
Cosmic Odyssey by Starlin was kind of both.
It showed that when they were in their own space they got to be their own thing. Which is basically how ever DC property works.
I think it got a little revival in the 90s with Rachael Pollack's underrated New Gods series, Byrne's Fourth World, and Simonson's amazing Orion run.
I think Star Wars had something to do with those making a comeback. It was once a gain near the head of the pop culture landscape, with the releases, and expanded universe comics and novels coming out. I always figured DC decided to bring back THEIR space opera.
Of course the biggest user of the Fourth World was Morrison's JLA, which was again making it seem like a JLA plot point, or whatever. Even when he tried hard to do bring it to life in Final Crisis... he still used the Justice League as the ones fighting Darkseid, so no matter how out-there it got... it still seemed like a JLA story. Therefore bound by the limits of JLA stories.
Of course Fourth World influence certainly popped up. AS discussed earlier, Starlin kind of combined the Fourth World with Lee's Silver Surfer as influences, along with his own unique madness.
I actually think the best example of Fourth world INFLUENCE was Simonson;s Thor. Both in turning it into a sweeping epic, and using more parts of actual Nordic myth and Scandinavian folklore.
Oddly enough, I think the Surfer...despite being more easily mixed into Marvel...was able to keep his uniqueness more intact.
I don;t think anyone would call Silver Surfer: Parable a traditional superhero story, and even out of stan it kept chugging.
Stan Lee's ban on use made sure the character would not get too overly used and watered down. It also meant that when he was finally brought into the stable
it had to be something special.
Englehart's run was not very superheroey. with its politics, fantasy elements, conceptual beings, and plant-messiahs, elders of the universe, and Cosmic-Kerouac philosophy
Starlin was mostly a prelude to the Infinity Gauntlet, with its journey into the mind and would...and soul gem...going up against death itself and reflecting Starlin;s fear of getting an office job in one story.
MArz is probably the most superhero like, but even that is not really true.
Geirge PErez was basically a space fairy tale
G,N, Demarcus seemed to make the book more like a sci-fi spiritual quest.
The 2000s series did not even have him as the main character, but rather the mother of a child who was abducted as a way to save mankind. Silver SUrfer: In Thy Name was about a species that viewed the surfer as a god.
Even Dan SLott did not make him very superhero like. Unless you consider Doctor Who a superhero...because it had a lot of Doctor.
The point is, both were nitch series, with a unique take, but only one was able to be used as a threat or challenge for other characters.
However, as I said, the bigger point was that both the Fourth World and Silver Surfer feel more like a culmination of what both creators had been moving towards for the whole 60s.Delete
Interesting id how similar both histories are. Silver Surfer, as well as the fourth world books both had to retool themselves to at least appear more traditional to sell books. Stan Lee with the shorter length books, and Kirby's Mr Miracle after the other books got cancelled.
Also, perhaps shinning a light on those two books being the capping of the 60s, the Fourth World is the inverse of Conan.
The Fourth World starts with three new comics and tang over Jimmy Olsen.
Books get cancelled, or retooled. Other books are created to fill the intended slot. Was Demon to replace New Gods?
Conan however was the complete opposite.
Savage Tales was headlined with Conan stories, and premiered only a year later. That became Savage Sword of Conan, which was Marvels most successful adult oriented series.
Kull the Conqueror spinoff in 1971. Red Sonja in 1975.
IN 1980 he got future adventure as King COnan.
Is Conan better than the Fourth World. That is opinion, but I would not necessarily say yes.
I think it was just Conan;s time. He was what readers wanted, if not needed, at that moment.
I have heard the 70s referred to as the hangover decade by a lot of people who lived through it. I can;t say, I was not there.
If it is true... bright shiny space gods...well brightness is rarely openly accepted the morning after drinking.
It's extraordinary, isn't it, that these books, published more than 50 years ago, can still inspire us and provoke thought and debate? Speaks the the power of the work and the brilliance of Kirby and Lee.Delete
I think it is more a sign of how many people put how much emotion into fiction characters instead of real people.Delete
Oh, I made myself sad.
Dematteis, it was not really about debate, but rather a dialogue and a clarification about a certain claim you made. That the Silver Surfer is expanding superheroes, and the Fourth World being something different.ReplyDelete
Why are they not both Superheroes? Why aren't neither in your mind?
What even is a superhero?
Is the Spirit? The Phantom? Is John Carter or Flash Gordon? Adam Strange who was being published by DC only a few years earlier than teh Fourth World was an attempt to do that type of story.
Superman is considered the first superhero, but he did not come out of nowhere. There was a large amount of inspirations, and when do they become superheroes.
-Doc Savage? He was the biggest influence on the man of steel. However, he was more of a scientist adventurer. However, according to Stan Lee, he was also a major influence on the Fantastic Four.
-Hugo Danner? That is where Superman's powers came from. But... while a super protagonist, most would not call him a superhero.
-The Green Hornet? Superman's early stories are far more of a departure from "traditional superhero fare" of the 60s than the Fourth World, and largely because of the Green Hornet influence. A newsman finds out about a crime, sops the immediate issue, and uses the paper to take on the larger problem.
-Lois and Clark's dynamic comes from the genre of witty-banter newsroom comedies of the 30s. Certainly not superheroes.
-IS the Shadow a superhero? That is likely where Siegel and SHuster came up with the vastly different secret identity. ZOrro and the Scarlet pimpernel did it first, but it was probably the Shadow here.
The Shadow was also ripped off to create Batman. Head to toe rip off. If so, is he so different from the Punisher...well, a more interesting version of the punisher? The Punisher was inspired by Mack Bolan Executioner which was a Men's Adventure book character. A vigilante, who was absolutely not supposed to be a superhero.
Or what about where Kirby was coming from? 60s MArvel.
As previously mentioned, the F.F. were far more adventurers. Dr. Strange actually was tried to be made more superheroey at the end of his first series to sell. Before that he is a wizard who goes to other dimensions, has no secret identity, rescues maidens and fights monsters.
When NAmor got his own book back it was a straight up quest.
How about Thor. It was ALSO about literal gods. And realms, and monsters of myth in the modern world I think Kirby even once said his initial thought was to end Thor and raise the Fourth World in its place. IF so... you know.
Blade is considered a superhero. Does that Make Dracula a supervillain? Actually makes sense. However, would that make Frank Drake, Rachael Van Helsing, and Quincy Harker powerless superheroes?ReplyDelete
That seems wrong. Lest you think I am just making a point that there should be no lines... Hannibal King and Janus... two literally superpowered characters...don't seem like superheroes either.
Of course, series like The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Planetary both drew similarities to "superheroes" and many 19th century and early 20th century (Victorian) British literary figures as well as characters like James Bond and even 50s atomic monsters. All being just manifestation of human psyche and need to focus themselves and experiences into larger concepts.
OF course, both were notably written by non-Americans. So, that may complicate the views.
This is not a debate it is a dialogue. It is not confrontational, it is a legit query. What is a superhero, and where is this line drawn and why? To say to like things are different there has to be a basis for the different classification.
It is an interesting topic
Ready Dematteis? Hold....hold....hold...and thoughts...GO!...
P.S. that mixture of things that make superman are why he could not come from any place other than Ohio. Not New York, Chicago, L.A. New Orleans, Detroit, Miami, Atlanta, Philadelphia, New York, Seattle, Baltimore, Newark, Des Moines, Kansas City, Charleston, or New York.
And I do mean that for honest and for true, as they say.
Didn't feel "confrontational" in the least, Jack. And, in the end, "superhero" is a blanket word applied to many different things (isn't Tom Cruise's character in the MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE movies a kind of superhero? Isn't John Wick kind of Batman without a costume?).ReplyDelete
So, yes, you could call Kirby's NEW GODS superheroes...or simply a new mythology (are the ancient gods of myths superheroes? Looked at one way, they are).
Don't really have much more to say about this at the moment, but thought provoking, as always, Jack!
I think there is an inherent difference between the gods of old and the New Gods, or superheroes as a whole. Namely, they were part of an actual religion. Interestingly enough, in Greece, before the mass conversion of Christianity, they were moving to a more monotheistic religion based around Zeus. So there could be some elements there.Delete
I think the mistake is looking at superheroes a thing.
There are two quotes I remember, from writers you respect.
One is Tolkien saying that the Middle Earth saga was an attempt to create a mythology for his people.
The other, Denny O'Neil, who said that he was, as editor of Batman, the keeper of American folklore.
I hate the idea of Superheroes as modern mythology. I think it is nerd trying to justify what they like.
Ray Bradbury of all people called this out in Superman #400, referencing the then current idea of calling Flash Gordon and the like modern mythology. Scuffing at it saying he did not need justification, readers already knew it had importance.
Folklore however, that is usually thought of as more malleable. Word of mouth. A more direst look at what a culture holds value. More of the moment.
Maybe the clue is there.
I don't think anyone can deny that Superman was indeed a game changer, but that those who directly proceeded him than say... Paul Bunyan or Johnny Appleseed.
However, The 20th century is sometimes called "The American Century." The 1920s are also called the first modern decade, in large part to the advent of mass media, such as radio and movies.
Perhaps folklore is no longer told around a campfire or in a bar, but published in pulps and comic books. Broadcast on the radio and television. Shown in flickering lights at the movie theaters.
Sure, in this case there is monetary element. That having been said, do you really think nobody told those stories back in the day for a free meal or drink?
The stories only got repeated because they were popular. That is ultimately what determines that Spider-man comics sell.
One of the definitions of folklore is, "a body of popular myth and beliefs relating to a particular place, activity, or group of people." That does sound somewhat like a lot of things.
However, if we accept that superheroes belong in this, then so do Gort and Klaatu. Bugs Bunny. Archie Bunker. Luke Skywalker and Captain KIrk. The Twilight Zone. Homer Simpson. Shaft. Foxy Brown.
Which may seem it muddies things however different the types of stories superheroes inhabited Before the Marvel revolution it could be just about anything. Even during though, Captain America was a spy book. Spider-man a soap opera. Thor high fantasy, etc.
The 70s just made it more so at times.
Perhaps the key is to accept that Superhero is not a genre, it is a plot device to get people caring about characters and what you can represent and do with it.
Maybe the problem is that for the past several decades we have been too obsessed with labels, and not able to see that all stories are trying to do the same thing. Make their authors money. However, that money is made by certain connections made. to the audience.
Perhaps superhero is just another word for manifestation of American psyche.Delete
I like that!Delete
Well, feel free to use it, Dematteis.Delete
I think that superhero media, especially the films, but also more than a few times comics, get to boxed into a broad, but limited definition of what it means to be a superhero, or have a superhero story.
So we have gotten to the point that "superhero" is not necessarily just the literal term "superhero" as it traditionally used.Delete
This leads to the interesting question of.. what them makes that traditional superhero so much more notable?
I think the answer may be found in the "first Superhero."
As pointed out, Superman was inspired by a wide array of previously existing characters. I also made the claim that he could not have been created anywhere other than Ohio. I meant that.
Ohio has its own mythic nature in our society, as being average. Not in a bad way, more baseline. It is part of why there have been more presidents form Ohio than any other state, and why until very recently it was considered a political litmus test for the country.
It is between New York and Chicago, which has historically brought a lot of traffic. It has an industrial base in the north, but also a lot of agriculture. The South borders Ohio, and partially includes Appalachia.
Columbus, the largest city, has less personality than Cleveland or Cincinnati. It is why it became short hand for "normal" or "average."
Especially in media. Don't believe me. You said you liked Scrubs a lot. It takes place in California, and yet at least two characters...including the main character... are from Ohio.
Mild mannered Bruce Banner was revealed to be an Ohio native. It was where Howard the Duck landed,
It is where "A Nightmare on Elm Street" takes place...despite palm trees being in the background.
It was where 3rd Rock from the Sun took place.
It just became short hand for Americana, and for a reason. As such, it where a lot of media has had initial expansions to, and allows for it to be a perfect melting pot.