I’m busy pitching woo with the one I love, so to tide you over here are a bunch of comics or semi-comics pictures celebrating love and the Holiday That Hallmark Built. Enjoy!
As a preview to their upcoming Comic Book Comics #5 by Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunlavey, Evil Twin Comics has posted a 6-page excerpt titled “The Grabbers”. It does an excellent job encapsulating and presenting copyright law and how it has effected the history of comic books. The piece focuses on Superman, so this is a great prequel to that BBC Superman documentary where we see Superman’s creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster a few years after the events depicted at the end of this comic.
The comic also covers the legal shenanigans involving Bob Kane (Batman co-creator), Bill Finger (Batman, Robin and Joker co-creator), Jerry Robinson (Robin and Joker co-creator), Joe Simon (Captain America co-creator), and Jack Kirby (co-creator of Captain America and half of the rest of the Marvel Comics superhero universe).
What’s amazing (and kind of sad) is that a lot of these legal battles are still being fought.
Once again trolling Amazon, I’ve discovered a pair of listings for heavy duty hardcover omnibus collections of work from two seminal comic book artists and creators, Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko. Most of the material hasn’t been available since it was originally published 30-50 years ago, but next Summer we’ll have it again.
Between the two of them, Kirby and Ditko co-created (in some cases, it’s been argued they solely created) and established the core Marvel Comics universe with Spider-Man, Iron Man, the Hulk, Fantastic Four, Thor, Captain America, Dr. Strange, the Silver Surfer, the original X-Men, and many, many more.
Wait, keep your seat. This isn’t that stuff.
You see, both Kirby and Ditko worked at one time or another for Marvel’s primary competitor, DC Comics, on lesser known comics. This is that stuff.
But despite being lesser known, it’s still worth some excitement. So maybe just attentively lean forward in your seat.
You see, before Jack Kirby returned to Marvel Comics to help create the Fantastic Four, he created what many believe to be the proto-Fantastic Four, a quartet of adventuring explorers called the Challengers of the Unknown. He also worked on a Green Arrow strip, which appears to make up the bulk of The Jack Kirby Omnibus Vol. 1, according to the current product description:
In 1957, following the dissolution of his partnership with Joe Simon, Jack Kirby returned to DC Comics. Among his new assignments was the Green Arrow feature that ran simultaneously in ADVENTURE COMICS and WORLD’S FINEST COMICS, pitting the Emerald Archer and his sidekick, Speedy, against a plethora of foes.
For Steve Ditko, he left Marvel Comics in the late 1960s after an insurmountable run on The Amazing Spider-Man and trippy Dr. Strange stories, and headed to rival publisher DC Comics where he created characters like the Creeper and the duo Hawk & Dove. The Steve Ditko Omnibus Vol. 1 listing is scant on details but judging from the cover image above, the book looks to consist of his 8-issue series Shade, the Changing Man from 1977. The character and concepts were significantly revamped for an acclaimed series of the same name by Peter Milligan and Chris Bachalo in 1990, as part of the newly created Vertigo imprint, along side Neil Gaiman’s Sandman and Grant Morrison’s Animal Man.
Now you may be wondering to yourself, “What in the world is an omnibus?” And it’s an excellent question. In this instance, it’s not a type of vehicle for transporting a large number of people. Apparently it’s also a publishing term for an anthology or collection of multiple works. The comics world picked it up a few years ago. I think maybe Marvel was the first to use it for an ultra-huge hardcover collection of work that’s usually on the pricy side. It’s like a normal graphic novel on steroids. Now you know!
The 2008 hit Iron Man, starring Robert Downey, Jr. and Bridges apparently relied on the actors and director Jon Favreau improvising scenes out based on a plot outline.
“They had no script, man,” Bridges exclaims. “They had an outline. We would show up for big scenes every day and we wouldn’t know what we were going to say. We would have to go into our trailer and work on this scene and call up writers on the phone, ‘You got any ideas?’ Meanwhile the crew is tapping their foot on the stage waiting for us to come on.”
“You’ve got the suits from Marvel in the trailer with us saying, ‘No, you wouldn’t say that,’” Bridges remembers. “You would think with a $200 million movie you’d have the shit together, but it was just the opposite. And the reason for that is because they get ahead of themselves. They have a release date before the script, ‘Oh, we’ll have the script before that time,’ and they don’t have their shit together.
“Jon dealt with it so well,” Bridges continues. “It freaked me out. I was very anxious. I like to be prepared. I like to know my lines, man, that’s my school. Very prepared. That was very irritating, and then I just made this adjustment. It happens in movies a lot where something’s rubbing against your fur and it’s not feeling right, but it’s just the way it is. You can spend a lot of energy bitching about that or you can figure out how you’re going to do it, how you’re going to play this hand you’ve been dealt. What you can control is how you perceive things and your thinking about it. So I said, ‘Oh, what we’re doing here, we’re making a $200 million student film. We’re all just fuckin’ around! We’re playin’. Oh, great!’ That took all the pressure off. ‘Oh, just jam, man, just play.’ And it turned out great!”
Bridges says those “suits” keep telling him, “It’s just a comic book. Maybe we’ll bring you back.”
He also talked about it on his own site in his Making Iron Man photography book, which includes some great images of one of the “script sessions”.
As I said, we were lucky to have Jon as our director. His skill as a writer/improvisor was welcomed, indeed. While the story of Iron Man was pretty much in place, the actual scenes often had to be written on the day we shot them. Once the panic subsided, it was kind of fun, really – sort of like making a multi-million dollar student film. After all was said and done, I think we came up with some good stuff.
Yay! Improv saves the day! (Sorry for the not-so-stealthy plug.)
Now Hollywood, that doesn’t mean fire all of your screenwriters. This worked because fantastic actors and improvisers were able to pull it off by collaborating with a uniquely talented director who also had a knack for improvising. So, cool trick, but use with discretion.
What’s interesting is that this method of movie-making is eerily similar to the mythic “Marvel Method” of making comics in the 1960s. Marvel Comics’ primary writer and editor then was Stan Lee, who became so overwhelmed writing nearly every book put out by the publisher that he started to similarly jam with his better artists like Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko. According to legend (some of it still hotly debated today), Stan and the artist would talk out a story idea for an issue over the phone or in person. Stan would then write up a 1 to 2-page plot outline, which would be fleshed out and expanded into a full 23-page (sometimes more) comic book. Stan would then go back and fill in dialogue and narration captions. Eventually Stan got so overworked, and the process became so reliable, that Stan let his best artists turn in full issues of their own stories with plot cues written in to help Stan script. While this resulted in the wildly successful heyday of the Fantastic Four and Amazing Spider-Man comic books of the ’60s, this process led to a lot of intense debate and resentment over who should be credited (and receive royalties) for what.
Now looking back to today, IMDb lists Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby, Art Marcum and Matt Holloway as the screenwriters for Iron Man. Did they just write the outline? I’d be curious to hear their version of this story.
Your Brad Link of the Day is provided to me by my friend Brad Beacom via Google’s Gmail chat. It may or may not actually occur on a daily basis. You may or may not have already seen it. (But in those instances, some classics are worth revisiting.) You may or may not find some enjoyment in it. Essentially, I take no responsibility for anything.
So, how ’bout that Iron Man movie? Pretty cool, huh? You bet it was!
It is so totally the best superhero movie ever in the history of ever since ever first started.
Yeah, it was tons of fun. You know what’s not fun? Liver failure.
Sorry, I know. Bummer seque.
Sadly, one of the comic book artists that made Iron Man so memorable for hundreds of thousands is suffering. His name is Gene Colan.
Yes, yes. Funny last name. Go on, get it out of your system. I’ll wait.
Yes, okay, where were we? That’s right, Gene Colan.
In late 1965, Gene Colan took over drawing the Iron Man stories in an anthology comic called Tales of Suspense. He replaced Iron Man co-creator and artist Don Heck, who is credited in the Iron Man movie along with fellow Iron Man creators Stan Lee, Larry Lieber (Stan Lee’s younger brother) and Jack Kirby. Gene Colan’s time with the character proved so popular, that in 1968 the character graduated to starring in his own comic book series, The Invincible Iron Man.
Gene Colan also had a significant run of drawing Daredevil in the mid-1960s to early-1970s, but most people don’t really have fond memories of the Ben Affleck movie, so we’ll just gloss over that part. He also made his mark on Howard the Duck, which was an even worse movie, but the comics were great satire.
Anyway, on May 10th, writer Clifford Meth announced that Gene Colan was sick and because people in comics back in the 1960s and 1970s didn’t get health insurance or 401K plans or anything else beyond a simple flat rate per page, Gene and his wife are facing immense medical bills. As the Iron Man movie rakes in over $200 million worldwide, it seems a shame that some of that financial gratitude can’t be passed on to one of the first artists to portray the character. Without his hard work and talent, it’s possible the character never would’ve lasted long enough to make it to the big screen. So, if you would like to help out in some small way, there are a few ways you can help:
- Donate to The Hero Initiative – This not-for-profit organization exists for the sole purpose of helping establish a safety net for comic creators like Gene Colan who did not financially benefit from the success of the comics and characters they worked on. And there are many. Make a donation and ask that your contribution be directed to help out Gene Colan.
- Bid on a fundraising auction item – Writer Clifford Meth has begun an auction to help raise money for Gene Colan. The auction started today and includes (or will include) lots of fun stuff by Stan Lee, Harlon Ellison, Neil Gaiman, Gene Colan himself, and lots of others.
- Buy cool Gene Colan stuff – Marvel Comics and The Hero Initiative have teamed up to help raise money for Gene Colan. If you’re going to any comic book conventions this summer (I’ll be at Comic-Con in San Diego), be sure to look for limited edition art prints. Additional Gene Colan-themed items will be released by Marvel in August and September.
Okay, that’s my spiel. And if you haven’t seen Iron Man yet, go see it!