Archive for the ‘Comics’ Category

When Carmine Infantino worked for Marvel in the late 1970s, penciling extended runs of Nova, Spider-Woman, and Star Wars, he was frankly one of my least favorite artists, yet I am the first to admit that his contribution to the comic-book industry, without which there might never have been a Fantastic Four or a Marvel Comics as we know it, cannot be overstated.  In 1956, he and writer Robert Kanigher were given six months to turn around the fortunes of the Flash, and their revamped version (which debuted in Showcase #4 and played to Infantino’s flair for fast-paced, dynamic action) is now considered the start of the post-Wertham Silver-Age revival of the super-hero genre.  Difficult though it may be to believe today, Batman was in similar straits by 1964, and Infantino—who later rose through DC’s ranks as art director, editorial director, and publisher—worked with writer John Broome to create the character’s “new look,” which inspired the successful but divisive live-action TV series.

Margalit Fox’s New York Times obituary also credits Infantino with luring Jack Kirby away from Marvel, “a coup akin to the Yankees’ acquisition of Babe Ruth from the Boston Red Sox,” so you could even say he was indirectly responsible for my beloved Bronze Age…

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MU Alert 4/9/12

Proving that I still have a pulse, I would like to wish you all a belated Happy Easter.  It’s belated because our weekend was so overbooked with religious, familial, and social obligations that it felt more like some sort of bizarre endurance test than a holiday, which is not to say that we didn’t enjoy the activities themselves.  My wife, as usual, bore the brunt, heroically baking six cheesecakes amid all the chaos for a fund-raising church bake sale…right before which our oven died and had to be replaced about a week ago.

I would also like to draw your attention to yesterday’s Marvel University, and even had you already done so, you might want to take another look, now that my missing final paragraph has been restored. If it were just another regular weekly post to which I had contributed, I wouldn’t bother, but this is an honest-to-Stan essay by yours truly, somewhat similar to the “Snapshots” I have done in the past, but even more anecdotal and subjective. In fact, I had planned to run it here, yet the forever-young Professor Pete (aka Paste-Pot) got so boyishly excited when I told him about it that I couldn’t deprive him of the pleasure of posting it, especially when I knew he’d throw in some snazzy visuals, including one of my very favorite covers EVER.

Meanwhile, Madame BOF and I celebrate our wedding anniversary tomorrow, and we’ll be marking the occasion with a nice, quiet dinner at one of our favorite places, Bangkok Restaurant, the first Thai eatery in Connecticut.  It’s been 24 years since we were married, 31 this past Valentine’s Day since our first date, and 33 since we became friends in our high-school choir, headed by the future founder of the prestigious Connecticut Master Chorale (of which Movie Knight Musketeer Chris Blake is a proud member).  Believe me, we’re just getting warmed up.

Bradley in…love.

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Stats Entertainment

For those of you who were curious, my calculations show that I have been contributing an average of c. 1,350 words per week to Marvel University.  And that’s just the rate at which they post them; since I’m trying to work as far ahead as possible, I actually write significantly more than one post per week.  In case you were wondering why things have been a bit lean over here at BOF lately…

Just proving once again that Turafish isn’t the only one who’d like to post more on his own blog, but has trouble finding the time.

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Just a quick shout-out to the folks at Cave Comics, a moderately sized but eminently welcoming shop located in the former train station in nearby Newtown, Connecticut. Although the Silver- and primarily Bronze-Age back issues I’m seeking to fill the few remaining holes in my collection are getting ever-harder to find, Cave Comics is impressively well stocked in some of those areas, and even honored a nine-year-old gift certificate–bought for me by Madame BOF, who used to work around the corner–when I recently returned there after far too long an absence. The staff is friendly and knowledgeable; they offer graphic novels, trade paperbacks, figurines, and other tchotchkes, as well as comics old and new; they have gaming and an online store for those interested in such things (although there’s no substitute for the tactile joys of a bricks-and-mortar comic shop); and they even have two beautiful canine “Vice Presidents,” Elektra and Kirby…so what’s not to like?

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The Hole Truth

I don’t mean to turn this blog into a full-fledged promo for The Pete and John Show (although a worthier subject would be hard to find), but if you’re remotely interested in The Night Stalker or Marvel Comics, you should be reading It Couldn’t Happen Here… or Marvel University. And I say that not merely because of my own contributions to those two worthy sites, which will in fact be assuming inversely proportional trajectories from now on. Now that I have weighed in on the specifically Mathesonian aspects of Carl Kolchak’s career, I shall merely be chiming in with my little bon mots in the comments section, which always has quite a lively discussion, and whether you’re pro- or anti- a particular episode, you’re sure to find someone there who agrees with you.

Over at M.U., due to the holes in my collection, the number of issues/stories I can comment on varies from post to post; for example, yesterday and in the next two posts (which will be running on 1/18 and 1/25), I’m commenting on eight individual issues/stories apiece. But in the posts for 2/1 (for which I’ve already written my contribution) and 2/8 (which I’m working on now), I will actually be up to ten, so if you want maximum Bradley for your buck, you may look to those. As we progress, my collection will become more complete, and the number of titles that Marvel puts out will generally increase (except for their periodic contractions and cancellations), and so—for whatever it’s worth, if anything—the Bradley-percentage trend will continue broadly increasing.

A tantalizing tidbit: in November 1965 (to be covered on 2/15), after a frustratingly variable mix of Vince Colletta and Chic Stone, a seismic shift occurs in the pages of Fantastic Four when one of comicdom’s true legends, Joltin’ Joe Sinnott, takes over as inker. His tenure will last a decade and encompass the pencils of Jack “King” Kirby, “Jazzy Johnny” Romita (briefly, I presume, as his apotheosis over on Amazing Spider-Man was imminent), “Big John” Buscema, Rich “Swash” Buckler, and “Gorgeous George” Perez. A more welcome development cannot be imagined, and while it can be argued (say, by some at Bronze Age Babies) that his inks sometimes obscured the pencils, Sinnott provided continuity that gave the FF a uniform—and uniformly excellent—look.

There’s been a passel of discussions at M.U. over the fact that Fantastic Four, Marvel’s longtime flagship title (which they once immodestly billed, and perhaps still do, as “The World’s Greatest Comic Magazine!”), didn’t actually live up to its hype initially, and of course everyone has his or her own theory about when the period of its true greatness began. In advance of re-reading those actual issues, I’m gonna nominate the advent of The Sinnott Era. Meanwhile, and I hope I’m not giving away any confidences, Peter tells me that, although the announced cutoff date of M.U. is still December 1969, he’s personally determined to take it right through the 1970s, which is my own favorite comics decade, so you know I’ll still be contributing, and I hope you’ll be reading.

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Allow me to offer a mix of holiday greetings and sincerest apologies for the extended silences around here, but since the other blogs that are kind enough to post my musings have far greater readerships than this one, it seems logical to reach as many readers as possible, and then direct you there; more on that in a moment. We have been de-emphasizing gifts lately in the extended BOF clan, so I don’t have a big haul to report, but my darling daughter and her boyfriend did get me two singularly suitable DVDs: an Eddie Izzard documentary and the Criterion edition of one of the great films, Clouzot’s The Wages of Fear. We had a crowd of 15 chez nous on Christmas, and between that and socializing with visiting family members since then, it’s been pretty hectic.

Madame BOF and I are not sorry to see the back end of 2011, with all of its natural disasters, but the changing calendar also highlights the transitions in our lives. Among the most conspicuous, in my case, is the shift in my area of current concentration from the James Bond books and films (themselves a welcome change of pace after 13 years devoted to Richard Matheson on Screen) to Silver and Bronze Age Marvel Comics, actually the resurgence of a lifelong love affair. Yes, my obsessions with Matheson, 007, and the nexus of film and literature continue dominating my life, yet maintaining a day job to support us in the humble style to which we are accustomed severely limits my writing time, so for now, you will likely find me more often over at Marvel University.

As mentioned, because I will be contributing to their regular Wednesday posts on a weekly basis, I won’t bother alerting you to those, but today they are featuring a solo piece (the first written for M.U. specifically), the latest in my series of Snapshots. I fear even these may be an endangered species, not only because of the considerable time involved, but also because as I look over what Marvel published while the ’70s drew to a close, I see less and less that excites me, so if I’m not feelin’ it, there’s no point in forcing it, especially for free. Luckily, I actually took the time over the past couple of weeks to excavate my comic-book collection, which I conservatively estimate at around 3,000 issues, thus giving me plenty on which to weigh in with those Wednesday posts.

Today also marks the long-awaited debut of It Couldn’t Happen Here…, the blog in which M.U.-meisters Peter Enfantino and John Scoleri will analyze an episode of Kolchak: The Night Stalker a day, just as they have previously done with Thriller, Outer Limits, and Batman. As if their own erudition and witticisms weren’t enough, they have solicited the daily contributions of Kolchak’s greatest chronicler, Mark Dawidizak, who is also a hell of a guy and was extremely helpful to me in the research and writing of RMOS. And, since I am not entirely unacquainted with the pair of Matheson TV-movies that spawned the series, they have kindly invited me to provide a spotlight article on each of those, which you’ll be able to read starting Tuesday…and yes, I’ll remind you.

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A Guy Named Joe

Joe Simon, who created Captain America with then-partner Jack “King” Kirby in 1940, has left us at the age of 98, which in my book is all the cause of death anybody needs (although it was said to be “after a brief illness”). Since I know very little about Simon beyond that, I have nothing in particular to add to the blathering about Cap that I have already done here and at Marvel University. But although I don’t know if Simon saw and/or enjoyed the recent Cap film–which I loved–I think it’s wonderful that he was around to see its success, and salute the life and career of the man who co-created one of comicdom’s most enduring heroes.

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Özone Lair

This past weekend marked our year-end Movie Night festivities in Özone Park (as our host Tom, the world’s biggest Motörhead fan, writes it). Tom recently made some interesting comparisons between the directorial careers of Clint Eastwood and Woody Allen, so I figure if he can do that, I can compare the Movie Night Musketeers with my second favorite band, Talking Heads. There were four core members—David, Chris, Tina, and Jerry—that made up the Heads proper, but on certain occasions, most notably the tour documented in Stop Making Sense, they added personnel and became the “Expanded Heads” (love that moniker); similarly, those of us present this time—Tom, Gilbert, and myself—are almost always there, sometimes joined by Joe, Chris and/or Drax.

As usual, the Villa Flynn is an excellent place to take refuge from the vagaries of the real world, and although I committed the cardinal sin of omitting my pre-emptive coffee strike before we got underway, which left me running out of gas earlier than usual, I think I can safely say a fine time was had by all (when conscious). Viewing included Destroy All Monsters, The Vampire Lovers, and documentaries on both Eastwood and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, plus I even inspired the Host with the Most to watch The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. Not as much comic-book talk as I’d have liked, since that’s not really Gilbert’s bag and many of the heavy hitters in that department were absent, but the conversation never lagged, and Tom seemed to like the gifts located by Madame BOF, especially the Kansas City Chiefs pillow and hat.

Lately I’ve been telling anybody who would listen that I have felt myself very distinctly moving from a Richard Matheson to a James Bond to a Marvel Comics phase. Which is not to say that I have lost interest in the first two, or ever will, but after spending more than a decade writing and editing several books about Matheson, and almost six months going through Ian Fleming’s entire Bond series on page and screen, I’m ready to surrender to the seduction of the Silver and Bronze Age comics that are never far from my thoughts. So I told Tom and Gil that Friday was a perfect time to celebrate, since I had just achieved closure on both facets of my Bond project: I’d posted the final installment of my series here at BOF, and turned my Blofeld article in to Cinema Retro.

Lo and behold, when I happened to check my e-mail at Tom’s (pursuant to my duties on behalf of Marvel University), I found that Retro’s Lee Pfeiffer—himself an acknowledged 007 expert—had already responded to the article I’d sent him only that morning. I think I can be forgiven if I quote verbatim, and at some length, from Lee’s e-mail: “Matthew—what can I say? We think it’s superb….never expected this much detail. It’s too long for one issue and we don’t want to cut anything…thus we’ll make it a two-parter if that’s okay with you. [Hell, yeah!]….The article really pleased us because we’re sitting on a treasure trove of rare photos we’ve been looking for an excuse to use! Thanks again—and keep those ideas coming. This one is truly outstanding…”

Just to prove that he’s an equal-opportunity mensch, Lee recently gave a nice plug on the Retro website (as he had with my Bond series here) to the latest in Peter Enfantino and John Scoleri’s series of ’60s TV blogs, To the Batpoles! This worthy successor to their sites on Thriller and the original Outer Limits covers the campy Batman show with perhaps more scholarly devotion and wit than it deserves, and with its comic-book roots, it may be regarded as a perfect companion to their Marvel University. I’m now contributing to M.U. on a regular basis, a trend that I expect to accelerate, although I must say I have also been spending a lot of time reading and commenting on Bronze Age Babies, since M.U. is still back in the Silver Age and Bronze is my true favorite.

On a less happy note, the entertainment world has just lost two very distinctive figures, the first being Bill McKinney, who made seven films with Clint, but is best remembered as the mountain man who rapes Ned Beatty in Deliverance (1972). Soon after, I learned of the passing of Harry (aka Henry) Morgan, and since I’d grown up watching him as Colonel Potter on M*A*S*H, that was a more personal loss; his credits include such classics as The Ox-Bow Incident (1943), High Noon (1952), The Glenn Miller Story (1954), and Inherit the Wind (1960), plus a BOF fave, The Big Clock (1948). McKinney’s oeuvre was just as diverse, mixing films for Peckinpah, Huston, Pakula, and Siegel with First Blood (1982), Against All Odds (1984), and The Green Mile (1999).

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For many reasons–not all of them voluntary–I’ve taken it easy on these alerts while Marvel University was “merely” re-presenting some of my BOF posts, albeit with snazzy visuals, and I was commenting irregularly on their own impressive work, but from now on, I’ll be taking an increasingly active role. Starting today, and for the foreseeable future, I’ll be one of the actual “talking heads” on several of the strips that I’m revisiting in a variety of paperback collections (to which, unlike my actual comic books, I have ready access at the moment), so you’ll be able to see my musings there every Wednesday. If, as planned, M.U. continues past its original 1960s mandate, I will actually take the point by providing synopses for Marvel Team-Up and Marvel Two-in-One, as well as weighing in on various other books; meanwhile, once Bond is behind me, I hope to write at least three more of my Sunday “Snapshots” as well.


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My Favorite Year

I was so busy working on You Only Live Twice on Sunday that I forgot to check out my Snapshot for 1975 on Marvel University, and for me not to swoon narcissistically over my own work is pretty serious, especially when it’s so beautifully illustrated.  A gentleman named Jack Seabrook–and you know he’s a good guy, because he’s chosen to represent himself onscreen with a photo of Tony Randall as Felix Unger–is a contributor to and enthusiastic commentator on the many fine Enfantino/Scoleri blogs.  He begins by saying, “WOW!  Now I know what my favorite Marvel year was.  I turned 12 in 1975 [as did this writer] and I guess that was the prime age for loving these comics.”

Jack segues into a rant about Frank Robbins (whose disastrously cartoony pencils blighted the pre-resurgent-Kirby Captain America and, worse, the first few years of Roy Thomas’s cherished Invaders), which is then echoed by none other than Peter Enfantino himself.  Other than to express my appreciation and agreement, and without meaning to turn this into some sort of self-referential circle-jerk, I have a reason for bringing this up.  These Snapshots represent my favorite era of Marvel Comics, but in reading them over before submitting them to M.U., I started to wonder if I could pinpoint an actual favorite year.

Certainly in terms of creators represented (e.g., Englehart, Mantlo, Wolfman, Buscema, Conway, Wein, Thomas, Andru, Claremont, Gerber, Buckler, Brown, Byrne, Cockrum, Starlin…God, what a crew) and new books introduced, I might have to agree with Jack.  Peter and John lead off with the cover of what was, in retrospect, surely the most important release of the year, Giant-Size X-Men #1, which introduced the new team whose popularity eventually dominated the whole Marvel Universe.  But 1975 also saw the advent of such BOF faves as The InvadersThe Champions, Super-Villain Team-Up, the Claremont/Byrne Iron Fist, and Starlin’s revived Warlock solo title, and the frissons I was getting from seeing some of these books illustrated certainly supported the ’75 thesis.

It should be noted, however, that many of these books were just getting off the ground by year’s end, meaning that 1976 was when they were first in full swing, and sadly, many outlived it barely or not at all (like don’t-blink-and-you’ll-miss-it ’76 newcomer Black Goliath).  Also, I’m fairly certain that ’76–at least in terms of the calendar year, if not necessarily cover dates–marked the seismic shift between my buying comics at convenience stores on a catch-as-catch-can basis and getting them religiously via subscription.  Add to that the fact that I associate 1977 with such disappointing debuts as Godzilla and The Human Fly, and I think I have to give ’76 the edge, but you can read all about that this coming Sunday at M.U.

In closing, I would also like to thank Cinema Retro for linking to my Live and Let Die post, and all of the Retro readers who were kind enough to visit this site.  I hope my series of Bond posts will whet your appetite for my Retro article about his nemesis, Ernst Stavro Blofeld, on page and screen, which–God willing–will run next year during the 50th anniversary of 007 on the big screen.  In the meantime, y’all come back, now, hear?

A grateful Bradley out.

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