Posts Tagged ‘Marvel Comics’

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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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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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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Marvel University Alert 10/16/11

Well, the good folks at Marvel University have done it again:  they’ve dressed up my first “Snapshot,” for 1974, with a number of historic covers, including several for issues that would command a hefty price today, e.g., Incredible Hulk #181, the first full issue featuring Wolverine, and Amazing Spider-Man #129, the debut of the Punisher.  (Not surprisingly, I obtained both of those stories through affordable reprints in later years, since my acquisitions were still hit-or-miss in ’74.)  They also depicted Avengers #125, the Captain Marvel crossover that culminated what may be my single favorite comic-book saga, and–just as important for any writer–they restored the “R.” to my byline, even correcting the previous post retroactively.

Now, that’s what I call service–thanks, guys!

I hope I’m not breaking any confidences by revealing this (although I don’t recall being asked to keep it under my hat), but Peter and John have also recruited me to contribute to their next TV blog after they wrap up with the Caped Crusader on To the Batpoles!  They’re going to tackle The Night Stalker, and want someone slightly knowledgeable to tackle the two Richard Matheson TV-movies before they cover Kolchak’s all-too-brief twenty-episode weekly career.  Just hope I can make them seem fresh after all I’ve written about them, not only for Tor.com but also, of course, in Richard Matheson on Screen, yet if anybody can inspire me, it’s those two guys, who make one feel uniquely appreciated.

Meanwhile, back at the Bond ranch, I’ve recently finished reading Ian Fleming’s You Only Live Twice, featuring the final showdown between 007 and nemesis Ernst Stavro Blofeld.  Thus, there is actually light at the end of the tunnel with my Cinema Retro article, although true to my anal-retentive m.o., I’m going to see the series through with the posthumously published The Man with the Golden Gun and Octopussy, just in case there’s some nuance that will shed extra light on my piece.  So in a couple more weeks you will see those here before I put the finishing touches on my article, which I hope Retro sees fit to publish in 2012, marking James Bond’s fiftieth anniversary on the big screen.

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Movie Night 10/14/11

Yes, it’s Movie Night at the Villa in Ozone Park, and Hostly and I are kicking off with the most natural choice imaginable:  Martin Scorsese’s documentary about George Harrison.  The trip here was, fortunately, uneventful and, unfortunately, as long as always; almost three hours from home to Staging Area Two in the Sports Authority parking lot.  After errands and lunch at the Esquire Diner (first visit; reuben–quite satisfactory–and bagel with lox and cream cheese to go), he’s cooking up the Irish soda bread, now with chocolate chips, while George’s story unfolds.

The Beatles began their career shortly before I was born, so I literally grew up with their music, and the songs and events interspersed skillfully by Scorsese really evoke those bygone days.  As is widely known, their music has affected me like no other throughout my life, and although there are songs I love on every single one of their albums, if I had to pick a favorite album overall, it’s gotta be Sergeant Pepper.  I’ve rewritten the lyrics to many a Beatles song in my day, but I took a special satisfaction in rendering the title tune from that one as “General Bradley’s Movie Knights Club Band.”

On a side note (but one I consider a public service), not long after noting on my expanded “About” page that I like the Bronze Age Marvel Comics of the 1970s and early ’80s, I stumbled across Bronze Age Babies.  The site focuses primarily, but not exclusively, on comics, with a nice pop-culture range in the non-comics stuff.  The tag-team bloggers, Doug and Karen, are knowledgeable and eloquent, and seem to inspire lively discussion with their posts, which are quite well illustrated.

All of this stuff pulls me back strongly to that era I’ve written about here before, those pre-cable, pre-VCR days when our lives were ruled by TV Guide, plus the Marvel Comics that occupied us between genre films.  Each of the local channels had its own personality, exemplified by the selection of movies that made up so much of its programming, be it a network affiliate or an independent.  Powerful associations that will last a lifetime were formed between certain films and the stations and/or programs (e.g., The 4:30 Movie, Creature Features) on which we watched them.

As savvy readers know, George was also a film producer who worked with the members of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, and it’s a joy seeing and hearing them in the documentary.  Watching them with my Dad on PBS when I was a kid was another formative experience; much of their dialogue is now everyday conversation in the BOF household.  How six men could be so brilliant both as performers, enacting so many roles within a single film or episode, and as writers, mixing high-, low- and middlebrow humor with a unique slant on the world, is quite beyond me.

Gilbert has joined us, following his flu shot, and boy, is he lucky:  not long after his arrival, the skies opened up in a virtually Biblical fashion for a fierce but short-lived cloudburst.  After finishing the Harrison, we’ve shifted over to Gil’s birthday present for Tom, a compilation of Trailers from  Hell, which we’re watching with the commentaries by Joe Dante, Guillermo del Toro, Jack Hill, Roger Corman, et alia.  Right now they’re discussing John Frankenheimer‘s Seven Days in May, and it doesn’t get any better than that.

Now we’ve segued into a Japanese anime based (how loosely I do not know) on Marvel’s Tomb of Dracula, written by Marv Wolfman and pencilled by the late “Gentleman Gene” Colan in what I believe was a record-setting ’70s run.  Although I only bought the book twice–when it crossed over with Dr. Strange and guest-starred the Silver Surfer–seeing this version of Colan’s Count again takes me back to those glorious pop-culture days of my youth.  As usual, much talk of Marvel creators ensues, and then we come full circle by shifting over to the recent Green Lantern, followed by the Tim Lucas commentaries for Mario Bava’s Baron Blood and Lisa and the Devil.

Morning-after addendum:  After Gilbert headed for home on Saturday, Hostly and I got through a few Simpsons episodes and most of The Creature from the Black Lagoon before I reluctantly had to head home myself.  Boundless thanks to The Host with the Most for another fine gathering of food, films, fellowship, and fun.

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Had occasion today to plug my name into Google Books, where in addition to the usual Matheson fare and The Nativity–one of several picture books I’d forgotten adapting from animated versions by my erstwhile employers–I discovered Anne Francis: The Life and Career. Laura Wagner, the author of this just-published McFarland title, thanks me in her acknowledgments…which was civil of her, especially considering I had no idea she’d quoted from my Filmfax interview with the late Ms. Francis no fewer than six times. Not that I mind per se, since she cites them all quite properly, but it does seem strange that I was unaware of this, after the hoops McFarland made me jump through getting permission to use previously published material in Richard Matheson on Screen.

Additional random updates/observations:

  • I see NBC has already cancelled Free Agents. Glad I didn’t invest myself in that one–although, considering my track record, can the shows I liked enough to stick with be far behind?
  • Not sure how soon I’ll get to it myself, given how packed my next two weekends will be, but I urge everyone within the sound of my voice to go see Real Steel. It opens tonight and is based on Richard Matheson’s story “Steel,” which he also adapted into an excellent Twilight Zone episode with Lee Marvin, plus it stars Hugh Jackman, so what’s not to like? More on that after I’m able to see it personally, but here’s a nice Matheson-centric piece in the meantime, for which I thank the mighty Turafish.
  • Recognizing boundless enthusiasm and free material when they see it, the good folks at Marvel University have decided to make me a “substitute teacher,” first by re-presenting some vintage Marvel-related BOF posts (if anything from a blog that launched in January 2010 can truly be called “vintage”). They’re supposed to be running my stuff on Sundays starting 10/9, of which I will of course keep you apprised, and then, God willing, once the dust has settled on my epic Bond project, I’ll start churning out new material for them. As I recently told President and Dean of Students Peter Enfantino, he and his partner in crime, Professor John Scoleri, make me remember why I started writing for little or no money in the first place!

Bradley out–and about.

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