(Thanks to @Geeky_Vixen for sharing this one.)
When I was an avid reader and collector of comics, John Byrne, Chris Claremont, Dave Cockrum, Arthur Adams, and Frank Miller were the rock stars. I was not aware of what was going on at the corporate level–I was a kid, I just liked reading comics–but “Marvel Comics–The Untold Story” slices it all open and lays it out there for all to see. If you ever wanted to know how the sausage got made at Marvel Comics, this book describes it in detail.
As I’ve grown older and kept a peripheral eye on the comic industry, I grew to know the plight of the original creators such as Jack Kirby and Joe Simon, but their story is so much worse when you learn the details about how they have been treated by the company they basically built. After reading this book, I’m fairly certain that no one leaves the comic industry happy–nope, they are all disgruntled, angry, and shaking their fists at the corporate beast that swallowed up all their creative years. Seriously, this is a brutal industry.
Jack Kirby is one of the very few sympathetic characters in “Marvel Comics–The Untold Story” but even he comes off bitter (and rightly so) at the end. John Byrne is painted as a traitor to the other artists for actually sticking with Marvel and doing as told, Steve Ditko is a reclusive “Atlas Shrugged” follower who thinks Marvel can shove it, and Todd McFarlane’s middle finger is probably permanently lodged in the upright position whenever he faces Marvel HQ. The life of a Marvel creative is not the zany, fun-filled image that was portrayed in all those Bullpen Bulletins.
It was interesting to read about the early days of Marvel and it’s struggles before hitting its stride. The artists and writers were basically freelancers who bounced around between Marvel and DC and other publishers. There wasn’t much loyalty and people had no problem jumping ship when they were unhappy or if they thought their books were sinking.
Stan Lee is the one person who stayed with Marvel from the beginning, and the most surprising revelation to me was seeing where he ended up in the whole Marvel universe. This might be common knowledge to comics followers, but Stan Lee gets paid millions just to be Stan Lee, and hasn’t been involved in comics in ages. There have been thoughts to oust Lee, but he has been kept on solely due to his image being such an integral part of the early comics, in the days of the famed Marvel Bullpen. He was given a big office and a paycheck to match, but his involvement in the business ended long ago.
The book does not paint Stan Lee in a very good light at all. Only Lee and Kirby know the truth about who created Spider-Man and other Marvel heroes, and now, only Lee is around to tell his side. With age comes regret, and it’s a shame that Lee and Kirby could never work out their differences, but “Stanley” (as Kirby called him) just refused to admit that Kirby was the driving force and creator of many of the iconic Marvel characters. It’s just a sad story all around.
The most interesting aspect of the book to me, was reading how the company evolved after the 90’s. The crash of the collecting community is well-documented, and all the gory details are spelled out in the book. The millionaires running the show don’t care about comic books, they care about making money, and they squeezed every penny out of their collector base, and burned all the bridges with the comic book shops across the country. Marvel Comics will never be the same.
Comic books aren’t nearly as lucrative as the merchandising, TV shows, movies, etc., which led to the role of the comics to be “Don’t hurt the property” rather than to be creative and cutting edge. I honestly don’t know what the future holds for the comic industry. It seems like there has been a boom and bust cycle every 10-15 years, so maybe happy days are ahead, but it will be interesting to watch.
I think this passage sums up the book pretty well:
“In early 2009, Len Wein, who created Wolverine with John Romita, attended the premiere of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, starring Hugh Jackman. “I have not seen a dime off of any Marvel stuff, nor do I have a credit on the Wolverine film,” said Wein. “Hugh Jackman is a lovely man, and at the premiere he told the audience that he owed his career to me and had me take a bow. It was very gratifying and very nice. I would have preferred a check.”
If you’re looking for a light-hearted read, recalling the glory days of Stan “the Man” Lee and his pals, steer clear of this book, but if you want the real Marvel story, this book does a damn good job of digging up the dirt. Now I need to go wash my hands.
In 1979, Archie Goodwin and Walter Simonson collaborated on a comic based on the movie, Alien. Luckily for us, Titan Books has just released a reprint of the original in a snazzy new glossy format. Alien – The Illustrated Story is a must-read for any fan of the Alien movies.
Movie adaptations can be hit or miss, but this one absolutely works. Frank Miller is actually quoted on the back saying it “might just be the only successful movie adaptation ever done in comics.”
The skilled creators effectively condense the 2-hour movie into a svelte 64 pages. Much of the dialogue has been cut but Simonson’s artwork does more than enough to fill the space.
The tense moments of the film have been graphically conveyed in a manner that keeps you turning the pages, even though you know what’s coming.
If you’re a fan of Alien or if you just enjoy visual storytelling, grab a copy of this book and prepare yourself for some great face-hugging action.
I had a fun weekend filled with vintage toy hunting and comic books — there are certainly worse ways to spend a couple of days. On Saturday morning, I went to a “Baseball & Sports Card Show & Comic Book & Nonsports Card Show” put on by Shoff Promotions. Earlier this year, I went to the DC Comicon, which was quite a different beast than this show. This one was a nice calm, sedated affair with soothing ambient lighting and a bunch of old dudes like me — my kind of comic show!
I don’t typically walk in the comic book collecting circle, and the only reason I heard about the show was though a bunch of posts on CraigsList for LEGO and minifig collectors. LEGO is a pretty big deal in my household, so I took it upon myself to conduct some research and go seek out the toys. Here is what I found…
Classic Plastic Bricks brought a great assortment of minifigs and LEGO sets, ranging from Star Wars to cowboys, and their prices were really good. I spoke with the owner and his wife (who also had an adorable little one in a walker) and was happy to hear that the collector base for LEGO minifigs is growing by leaps and bounds — not a real shock to me, since I have two boys, and know how fiercely they snatch up those figures. This is one collecting area that I have been watching closely. I’m still on the fence as to whether LEGO is going to overproduce the figures to the point where nobody cares anymore. Minifigs are hot, no doubt, and I would love to see display cases full of them at collector events 20 years from now. They are the perfect collectible — small, inexpensive, and there are some rare ones you need to hunt for.
I also enjoyed these guys, and may have to try building that Mr. T:
Of course, one of the big draws for the show was the comic books. There really weren’t too many vendors, maybe five or six, but a couple of them were chock full of gold- silver- and bronze-age goodness. I saw some comics that I have only seen on high-end collector sites, and I was able to browse through long boxes filled with vintage titles.
Gene Carpenter of All-American Treasures had these great comics on display along with plenty of boxes of pulpy-goodness to browse.
If you read my blog, you know that I tend to buy the smallest, cheapest things I can find when I go to shows like this, and this show was no exception. I just don’t like spending a lot of money in a high-pressure setting, sorry. Tomorrow’s Treasures had some truly unbelievable comics for sale. I can only dream about those, but luckily for me, they also offered stacks and stacks of older comics at a reasonable price. The three dollar table was my best friend — all comics for $3 a piece. That is where my money was spent at this show. I proceeded to find probably the most worthless books, but ones that appealed to me and my spaceman obsession:
I know absolutely nothing about these comics, other than the fact that I really like the covers. Does that make me a bad collector? I DO remember absolutely snubbing Gold Key comics as worthless when I was a kid, but I’ve “matured” since then.
The were lots of sports card vendors, and it appears that was the biggest draw. I had trouble finding many non-sports trading cards, and would have loved seeing some vintage movie or TV cards, but they just weren’t there. There was a single coin dealer, and I actually bought something from him for my son. I was such a fish out of water, not having a clue what to look at, or if there was proper etiquette for handling the items, but had a good time regardless.
I’ve been to two comic book shows this year, making a total of two shows in the last 20 years. This kind of setting will be the kind of show I would attend again. Who knows, maybe I’ll start collecting comic books again — I’ve been known to collect a few things in my day!
Anyone else have any good advice or tips on attending shows like this? What makes you keep going back (or staying away)?