Tagged: Fantastic Four

John Ostrander: Quo Vadis 2017?

Well, it’s 2017. The very first day. It’s the time of year when folks look backwards into what has been, and try to give it some perspective and look forward to what may come. It’s also when some folks make resolution of what they’re going to do differently now that they have a clean slate. I don’t. It’s not that I don’t have many faults to correct (I do) but I know I won’t even remember them in a week or so, let alone keep them.

What I’m going to do is look forward, not with predictions, but what I would like to see in the coming year in pop culture.

I’d like to see the Fantastic Four published again— but only if Marvel remembers what they’re about. This isn’t just a team, it’s a family. You can’t remove one and plug in someone else. And family is often messy. One of the great things about the FF in its early years was that they didn’t always get along. That resonated. Later, it became a cliché but that’s because the squabbling felt pro forma and not organic. Squabbling became part of the formula instead of revealing character and relationships. It wasn’t new; it became rote.

The other thing the Fantastic Four was about was discovery. It bounced from one new idea to the next – Galactus, the Inhumans, the Negative Zone, Silver Surfer, Black Panther, and more. It was always throwing out new concepts. This is why it was the foundation of the Marvel Universe. It’s why it was indeed what it proclaimed on its masthead: the World’s Greatest Comic Magazine.

Which is the next thing that I’d like to see this year – more new ideas, more imagination. There’s a lot of that, for sure, in the Independents but the Big Two could use a shot of both. Changing the sex, race, ethnicity of a created character doesn’t qualify in my book especially since, sooner or later, the character will revert to who/what they were. It’s always happened in the past.

I’m not arguing against diversity in comics; I’ve always done diversity. Witness Amanda Waller, Oracle, Mr. Terrific (II) and so on. Switching existing characters isn’t the same thing; not in my book. It becomes just another stunt. Create new characters, make them cool, and put some push behind them. Add them to your comics, your movies, your TV shows, your animation, your video games.

Wait, there’s a rub and I know what it is. To do that you need Jack Kirby, Stan Lee, Will Eisner and so on. You need creative people and they would prefer to keep those characters for themselves, put on a Kickstarter, and own the rights. Corporate doesn’t want to do that; they prefer to do endless regurgitations and variations on what they already own. Slap a new coat of paint on that baby! That’s the ticket!

Why should creators sign away their creations? What the Big Two has to offer is bigger sales and possible translation into other media. Some creators still won’t go for it but others will— if they have a share of what comes in and some measure of control.

I’d also like to see a new definition of metahumans in society. Marvel made a big difference when it started up because their heroes had psychological problems, personal concerns, and often were acting out of guilt over something. Marvel became successful because they seemed new and closer to the world in which the rest of us lived. It re-defined the genre.

That was fifty years or so ago.

How about another re-definition that fits our times, our lives as they are lived now? Brian Michael Bendis certainly did that with Powers, for example. How about a whole line of comics that does that? Wouldn’t that be better than Civil War II (III,IV) or Crisis on Infinite Somewhere? Start by looking around and asking, “How can we make our universe more like the world outside? Make it mirror the questions and concerns people have right now?”

Anyway, that’s my rant. . .er, wish. . . for the New Year’s. Feel free to join in. What is your wish list for the coming year in comics? Not predictions; what do you want this year? Could be interesting.

And Happy New Year to you all.

Mike Gold Reveals The Inevitable

As the year winds down, it is common for wags to predict what is going to happen during the next twelve months. Quite frankly, I find these efforts to be almost always wrong and often ridiculous. However, that usually applies to politics and not to comic books, so this year I’m whipping out my crystal ball and I’m going to predict away.

Mind you, there is absolutely no effort behind this. Each of these are so predictable you wouldn’t be surprised to find them inside a stale fortune cookie. Which is my point. I thought I’d get that out of the way right quick.

I am going to restrict myself to Marvel Comics circa 2017. This is solely because DC Comics did the right thing and admitted The New 52 didn’t work, and Marvel has yet to own up to Civil War 2. Also, it’s about time ComicMix gave Dan DiDio a pass.

Even though they’re numbered, they are in no specific order. Ready?

  1. Steve Rogers will be the back with his round shield and some close form of his historic costume.

Sorry, Sam Wilson, but you knew this would happen. Steve Rogers is Captain America, and that has nothing to do with race or age or even skill. Just as Dick Grayson will never be the permanent Batman, even though a couple hundred other people seem to be right now (sorry, Dan; old habits die hard).

  1. Victor Von Doom will return to his tin can.

Action figures simply do not look good in Armani. I’m not saying Vic will return to his totally evil ways in 2017 – we might endure a Magneto-like moral ambivalence for a while. That’s kind of a shame as I’m enjoying the current storyline, such as it is. However, this will happen because…

  1. Tony Stark will return to his tin can.

Of course he will. Maybe not until after the next Avengers movie, but Tony Stark is Iron Man and that’s that. The movies turned him into an A-list superhero, and swapping out the human inside the can won’t work. Besides, they already gave his teenaged replacement her own code name.

 (A digression, common to ComicMix columns: why are they called “code names?” If you just said “Tony Stark” on an Avengerscom, both SHIELD and Vlad Putin would immediately know you’re talking about Iron Man.)

  1. The Fantastic Four will get back together.

There are several reasons why this will happen. Marvel Master Ike Perlmutter can’t stay in his petulant frenzy forever, and his energy will be divided when the Republican Party finally decides his buddy Donald Trump is too much of a pain in the ass.

Also, The Thing is running out of super-groups to join. Everybody is in The Avengers, and everybody is in SHIELD. But only four people can be in the Fantastic Four (duh!) and The Thing always has been the most popular.

But… Ben Grimm just might move to Israel.

  1. Doctor Strange will lose one of his monthlies.

Doctor Strange might just be my favorite Marvel character (Sub-Mariner gives him a run for his money in my fevered pantheon), but he has rarely been able to support one monthly title, let alone two. Or more; it’s so hard to tell these days. Yeah the movie was big (and great), but there’s no relationship between the number of titles a property can support and the long-term impact of a movie franchise.

Besides, there isn’t a Doctor Strange movie franchise per se. There is only the Marvel Cinematic Universe franchise, which may or may not extend to their many teevee shows. This is why you will probably pay to see the next Spider-Man movie but you will think twice about the next X-Men team movie.

O.K. These are truly no-brainers, supported by the overwhelming weight of history and a bit more logic than is safe to apply to the comics field. But comics are now acceptable and are big business, so the role logic will play in future decisions just might increase. Eventually.

That’s a shame. Legitimacy takes all the fun out.

Just ask Ike Perlmutter.

Mike Gold: The Mighty Marvel Monster Society

strange-tales-annual-1Remember back in the good old days when comic books were fun to read? Before the never-ending cascade of deaths that are meaningless and temporary, multiple characters with the same name and pretty much the same abilities, and incessant earthshattering mega-events that bring together entire universes of superheroes just so we can see how much they hate each other?

For several years before the debut of the contemporary Marvel Universe, the House of Ideas published a lot of westerns, romance comics, teen humor, war titles – and some major tonnage of monster comics. I was probably in their prime target audience at the time, having just turned 11 when Fantastic Four #1 came out. That’s the first Fantastic Four #1. But for me, there was only one problem.

I never bought those monster titles. They just didn’t appeal to me. They looked kinda dumb.

monsterbusThen Fantastic Four #1 came out, followed by Fantastic Four #2 and then the creation of the Marvel Universe as we know it today… more-or-less. And then Marvel decided to jump on the oversized annuals bandwagon, a cart already crowded by DC, Archie, Harvey and Dennis The Menace. They released their first two in the summer of 1962 – Millie The Model and Strange Tales. I was so surprised I immediately bought the latter and actually considered buying the former.

I bought it at Chicago’s Washington Avenue subway kiosk as I was about to climb down the stairs to go home. Yes, my mother let me go downtown alone: it was 1962 and we were a lot less paranoid back then. Anyway, I started with page one and got through all 76 pages before I hit Albany Park. And I had a blast.

krogarrSince then, Marvel has incorporated some of these monsters into their continuity, most famously Fin Fang Foom (my favorite, whether he’s wearing pants or not) and Groot. Editor/head writer Stan Lee later recycled some of the names for use as heroes and villains: The Hulk, Thorr, Magneto, Elektro, The Thing, Cyclops. Perhaps the spelling of the monster Thorr explains why the superhero Thor’s name was misspelled on the last panel of his debut story.

The Creature from Krogarr (the orange guy on the left) was recycled in a brief monster team-up in The Incredible Hulk. I guess he might have received greater exposure, had his name not been almost exactly the same as the mammoth supermarket chain.

So Marvel is doing a big ol’ event in January called Monsters Unleashed, recycling another Marvel name. As Captain Renault said with great insincerity, “I’m shocked.” But leading their effort is an oversized omnibus called “Monsters Vol. 1: The Marvel Monsterbus by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber and Jack Kirby.” It reprints Groot, Fin Fang Foom, Thorr the Unbelievable, the alien Hulk, the eight-foot-tall Magneto, and others. 872 pages in total. I don’t think I could carry that on the “L”, let alone finish it. The Marvel Monsterbus retails for a hundred bucks, or roughly the cost of a variant cover.

But I do not believe Krogarr is in the Monsterbus. At least, not volume one.

And I’ll bet volume two has a whole lotta Steve Ditko.

Mike Gold: Deadpool Invasion!

Deadpool In Times Square

I am told there are people who are sick and tired of the massive, overwhelming, unending, incessant and redundant Deadpool promotion campaign.

Yeah, I get that.

I found myself in Manhattan’s Grand Central Terminal this past Monday, on the way to a little get-together with fellow ComicMix columnists Molly Jackson, Joe Corallo and Martha Thomases. I was in a great mood – Molly, Joe and Martha are wonderful people to hang out with, and walking through Grand Central Terminal is always a breathtaking and inspiring experience. I was going to the Times Square subway shuttle, and Grand Central and Times Square combine to become one of North America’s most advertising-congested venues. Just about every square inch of building space is covered in billboards and electronic signs. Even the very steps are decked out in promotional advertising. It’s a colorful, bright, shiny, noisy, and ceaseless experience that you either love, hate or have learned to ignore.

And, last Sunday, it seemed as though damned near all of it was pushing Deadpool.

Add to this the almost-daily release of new trailers, photos, interviews and commercials and you’ve got a promotion going that’s larger than about any four movies combined. It’s pretty easy to appreciate how some folks could experience Deadpool burnout prior to this Friday’s official opening.

Some folks. Not me.

That’s odd given my always-fleeting attention span and my basic anti-capitalist worldview, but, damn it, the whole Deadpool campaign has been very, very funny. Entertaining. Sometimes stupefying, particularly when you compare the theatrical trailers and broadcast commercials to their uncensored Internet equivalents.

Of course, given my vocation and my predilections I would have gone to the Deadpool movie even if the only promotion was a black-and-white leaflet mounted on the wall above a urinal in the back of a seedy bar. However, when it comes to fans and civilians alike, this colossal campaign has inculcated the movie with “issues.”

First of all, it has raised the bar of our expectations. If this isn’t the funniest, most action-filled and visually spectacular movie ever made, some will be disappointed… or, on the Internet, apoplectic. Experience already has taught the average movie-goer that sometimes all the worthy scenes in the film were revealed in the trailers and spots.

Second, it has presented some people with quite a dilemma. You can’t mass market something without (duh!) marketing to the masses. Deadpool is rated R. That means those under 17 (you know, what used to be perceived as the comic book audience) are supposed to be excluded from admission without an “accompanying parent or adult guardian.” That’s going to make it harder for a lot of adolescents to get in, and that’s going to make it harder on a lot of their parents or adult guardians who haven’t seen South Park Bigger, Longer and Uncut.

No matter how much Marvel might despise 20th Century Fox or how much the True Believers (like myself) despised their Fantastic Four movie last year, Fox has injected a lot of much-needed levity and energy into what clearly is an oversaturated superhero media market. They might have wound up extending Marvel’s movie longevity.

If the Deadpool movie is as good as their campaign.

That’s a big if. Stay tuned.

 

#ThrowbackThursday: The Incredible Hulk vs The Ever Lovin’ Blue Eyed Thing

Now this is the way you make a Fantastic Four movie.

Trivia: this 1983 fan film was produced by Bob Schreck, who later went on to a long career for DC, Marvel, Comico, and Dark Horse, and is now the editor-in-chief for Legendary Comics. You can see him in the background and the Wookie suit.

Yes, Wookie suit.

And the guy in the orange rocks? Why, that’s Gerry Giovinco, founder of Comico and the current CO2.

We would like to hold this up as a counterpoint whenever somebody says that all you need are people who know comics to make a good movie adaptation. Comics pros are just as capable of embarrassing themselves as anyone else.

We are also now taking bets as to whether this film will end up being more profitable than the FF film currently in theaters.

Dennis O’Neil: A Midsummer Night’s Disaster

Fantastic FourIf, as T.S. Eliot would have us believe, April is the cruelest month, what’s the other month that beings with A? Is August the ecch-est month? Here in our little baliwick – and yeah, I’m talking pop culture – there’s not a lot happening. The Baltimore comic convention isn’t until late September, and I can’t help wondering what effect, if any, the violence earlier this year will have on the show. None, I hope. I’ve always liked Baltimore.

Note: this does not mean that I wish civic unrest on towns I don’t like. Or any towns, period. It’s a cause for some uneasy notice in our house, this violence, because Marifran grew up in Ferguson when it was just another St. Louis bedroom community. This is the town, a bit west of St. Louis, where I picked up cute little Marifran McFarland for the Friday night movie ritual and returned her to her waiting father at midnight or thereabouts. Good Catholic kids – you weren’t going to catch us staying out till the wee hours. (Well, not then, and not in each other’s company.) So Marifran lived in Ferguson and it was, generally, a peaceful haven for middle class families.

Now? There was, one year ago, the shooting of an unarmed black kid by a white officer that precipitated riots and then, after an interval of apparent quiet, more unrest. The Ferguson news in the morning papers is not good.

But we were discussing ecchy August as it pertains to pop culture, weren’t we?  What else…? Movies? We’ve been dilatory theater goers of late, and I don’t exactly know why. It’s not like August – or July or June before it – has been egregiously busy. Fact is, thing’s have been kind of lazy. If its true that to get something done you should give it to a busy person, stay away from our door.

Not that we’ve been entirely remiss is our moviegoing. We did see Mr. Holmes, the story of the world’s greatest detective when he’s old and failing, and it was terrific. But the splashier entertainments, full of grandiose feats and explosions – you know: superheroes… those we’ve missed, at lest so far. We’ll probably catch Ant Man tomorrow. But chances are that The Fantastic 4 will have to find room on our television screen when it gets that far.

Bombed, didn’t it? Box office worse than The Green Hornet, which is nobody’s idea of filmic greatness. Reed and Sue and Ben and Johnny seem to be cinematically cursed. The two FF movies released in 2005 qnd 2007 did no better than okay and the FF movie before those never got to theaters. I have seen it and barely remember anything about it other than a general badness, One rumor, which I tend to believe, says that it was never intended for audiences, that it was hastily slammed together to satisfy a legal requirement. But what excuse can there be for later failures?

Let’s blame August.

Mike Gold: Pissing Off My Inner 11 Year-Old

The Thing

The newest Fantastic Four movie disaster answers one question, but raises at least one other.

From the menorah conveniently planted in a background shot, we learn that Ben Grimm was indeed Jewish. But from all of the later scenes featuring The Thing, we find ourselves asking the question “Was Ben Grimm’s mohel a raving lunatic with gardening shears?”

This is because The Thing is naked throughout the movie. He didn’t even call Fin Fang Foom to borrow some undies. He should have. Then he would have had an excuse to walk out on this remarkably tedious motion picture. In this movie, The Thing has no, ahh, man-thing.

That wasn’t the worst part and, to be fair, it wasn’t the best part either. It was just as boring as the rest of this movie. There were worse elements. A story with so many holes you’d think you were driving down Manhattan’s FDR Highway. A lead cast that would have been better deployed in an adaptation of Power Pack. A Doctor Doom so poorly designed you’ll believe Galactus looked better in Rise of the Silver Surfer, the previous Fantastic Four film fiasco.

Worse still, and, actually the worst thing to happen in a superhero movie in over ten years…

Jack Kirby’s name was nowhere to be found!

Stan Lee was noted as an executive producer. This was a contractual honorific, so as far as I’m concerned neither Stan nor Jack were mentioned. They certainly were not credited with creating even the characters.

I have a special connection to the property. Fantastic Four #1 was the first Marvel comic I ever bought. Yes, that’s the first Fantastic Four #1. Didn’t you read last week’s column? Anyway, I had just turned 11 and I had never, ever read a comic book that was half as… fantastic. It strip-mined my sense of wonder. I reread it immediately. And then, I read it again.

O.K. So I’m a fanboy. They didn’t make this current Fantastic 4 movie (that’s how it’s spelled in the credits) for geriatric fanboys. They made this movie for people who have been shooting cocaine for a week and need something to put themselves to sleep. The best part of this movie was the popcorn and, like the movie, it was overpriced.

Here’s the plot: a bunch of kids invent a machine that causes the audience to immediately zone out. The end.

Have I ever seen a less humorous movie? Yes; that would be Triumph of the Will. Is it better than the previous first Fantastic Four movie? No. Is it better than the first first Fantastic Four movie?

That Roger Corman-produced movie from a quarter century ago was Citizen Kane compared to this new waste of CGI. The Corman film is vastly superior in this release in at least one respect.

They never released that first, first Fantastic Four movie.

 (Thanks to my pal Danny Fingeroth for letting me test some of this out on him.)

 

 

Box Office Democracy: “Fantastic Four”

Fantastic Four 4

Fantastic Four is a bad movie. Don’t go see it if you want an enjoyable 100 minutes in a theater and probably don’t see it for an ironic “so bad I want to make fun of it” kind of way either. It’s a lifeless bad, an entropic bad, a movie so bad it makes me question if there’s even a good movie based on this team to be made. Only the depths of history save Fantastic Four from being the worst superhero movie of all time (it might not even be the worst movie named Fantastic Four) but it’s certainly the worst superhero of this generation and is a top contender for worst film of the year.

Perhaps it isn’t possible to make a good Fantastic Four with the constraints that a non-Marvel studio would put on it. They need to make the principal characters young so they’re more relatable to young people, but then you have a team full of cut-rate Peter Parkers with none of the family-based charm that makes the FF work in the comics. You need to do an origin story but you also need to get Doctor Doom in there because he’s literally the only villain that anyone’s ever heard of so you end up shoehorning that character into a story that doesn’t involve him or he becomes some kind of vestigial Fantastic Fifth. There’s also an unwillingness to use the iconic costumes or codenames that aren’t The Thing, which takes a team with so much history and turns them in to a bunch of generic off-brand versions of themselves.

It’s become quite clear over the weekend that there were some serious behind the scenes squabbles over the making of this movie and it’s certainly apparent in the product given to us on the screen. After the four main characters get their super powers they are held as scientific experiments, a predicament from which Reed escapes and the remaining three are left behind. This creates a great deal of mistrust from Ben Grimm who feels abandoned but throws himself headfirst in to working as a secret weapon of the military. One such military operation is taking Reed back in to custody. When they bring Reed back Johnny is quick to embrace him, Sue feels guilty at being part of the operation that brought him back in and Ben still feels anger. Then Doctor Doom shows up and starts killing a lot of people and it feels like this is going to be the impetus for the four of them to put their differences aside and work together to stop this larger evil a few scenes later in the movie but instead this one confrontation is it. They fight Doom and at the end they seem to be the best of friends even though nothing really changed for all of them, they don’t talk, there aren’t even meaningful glances or anything. Reed goes from missing for an entire year to barking orders that everyone follows in what must have been hours. I bet there was a version of this movie that feels more complete but we’ll never see it and with the right NDAs we might never even know but this is the rare movie that’s boring at 100 minutes but might have been appreciably better at 120 minutes.

I don’t know where this property goes from here. There’s already word from Fox that their announced Fantastic Four sequel might get scrapped in favor of a Deadpool sequel. Oddly, not announcing sequels for movies that haven’t been released yet doesn’t seem to be an option at all. Perhaps this time Fox has finally stumbled so badly with the franchise that they’ll be willing to work out a deal that returns the characters to Marvel and we start seeing a slow rollout of Latverian mentions in Phase Three of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I’m not interested in seeing this version of these characters again and I’m sure as hell not excited to sit through another origin story in four years time. I want this to eventually be gotten right but maybe it doesn’t matter, there are enough super hero movies out there without another iteration of the FF taking up all of our time.

Michael Davis: A Comic Book Tale – The Director’s Cut

Fair warning: this one is long and a bit sappy. I would, however consider it a personal favor if you would give it a read and send me a hug.

I need one.

OK, another version of this article will be appearing on Bleeding Cool but this is the Mike Gold special edition, chock full of what’s not in the BC article.

A week or so ago I was writing the fuck you article to beat all fuck you articles. You would think with the year I’m having, I’d be ranting away all the time but somehow that’s not been my aspiration. Nope. Some how I’ve avoided ranting anywhere but on Facebook. I don’t have a lot of Facebook friends as I choose to police my page like Ferguson P.D. so anyone I don’t know, I shoot down their friend request like a unarmed black kid.

Even there, I’m not as rant crazy as I was once. Lately I’ve just been sad, very sad and no one wants to read that so my articles have been, well, tame. I’ve been tame where I write and sad where I live.

Then I read the comedy stylings of Kevin Maher and it was on. Man, I’m writing what I think will be my rant masterpiece. I’m so pissed at this guy’s Esquire article I could scream. Except, I don’t really feel like screaming.

What, in the world of fuck, is wrong with me?

All, it seems, of my fire and brimstone, righteous, (or not even) indignation and could give a flying fuck attitude are gone. The Facebook rants? Those are like an exhibition game; as such, they don’t count.

As I did with my Spider-Woman – Milo Manara drew her ass is up in the air, so Marvel thinks girls are sluts – article I was going to wait to put both feet in the ass of Mr. Maher after everyone else had their moment. I wait because the comics industry still does not get it. This guy blasts the industry and what does the industry do?

They agree and tweets about it.

In case you’ve not aware, he thinks comics are just the lowest form of shit and Hollywood should treat them as such. He didn’t say that exactly but it was real close.

That was the start of the article. I went to town. Then Mike Gold sent me an email, just asking how I was. Out of the blue he did the one thing I needed at the exact time I needed it.

That’s when I needed to stop what I was writing and write this…

A True Story

My mother threw out a very good-condition copy of Superman #1.

She did not throw out the copy of John Byrne’s Superman #1; I did that after I met John. He turned out to be a dick. I kid! I joke! John has always been nice to me, although each time I see him I have to explain to him I’m not Denys Cowan.

It wasn’t John’s Superman or any of the who-knows-how-many #1’s and reboots the Man Of Steel has had. This was the granddaddy of the Superman #1’s. My mother threw out Superman #1 from 1939.

This, as it says above, I assure you, is an absolutely true story.

My mother Jean Davis, the inspiration for Static’s mom Jean Hawkins, was an incredible woman.

Raising my sister Sharon and me in what is considered one of the worst housing projects in New York City would have been a superhuman task for a full-time stay-at-home mom, even with support from a father.

A father? In the projects? You’d have more luck finding a black, gay ex-marine pastor at the Westboro Baptist Church. There was no father in my house. I knew one family with a dad, they were the Harrison’s – they were strange.

By herself, my mother was working seven days and two jobs to get us out of there.

She and the other single mothers in the hood were bona fide Superwomen. They knew well the one rule that may keep your kids alive in a crime-infested community: keep them off the streets.

One thing above all kept me off the streets: comic books.

“I don’t think so.”

That, in my most grown-up serious way, was what I said to my then-best friend Julian Butler. That was the very day I became a playa in the comic book world.

Julian wanted me to trade him my favorite comic book ever, Fantastic Four #73, guest-starring Thor, Spider-Man, and Daredevil, for a Batman comic that featured Batgirl.

This was a big deal because Batgirl was on the Batman TV show and this book was something everyone coveted. No way anybody would have traded that book except for something so cool you couldn’t resist.

That was Fantastic Four #73. The same FF #73 I almost broke a bully named Ronnie Williams’ back for. That’s another absolutely true story I wrote about some time ago. That should tell you how important that comic was to me.

Nowadays, characters show up in each other’s books so often you forget which book you’re reading. Not so back in my day – one guest star was a big deal, so imagine three, and the book was drawn by Jack Kirby. I was 10 years old and a huge comic book fan, and it’s all I thought I’d ever want in life.

Julian asked for FF#73 because he knew how badly I wanted that Batman comic. I did, but that wasn’t my real objective. My real objective was Fighting American, a another comic he had. This book was not put out by Marvel, but it was drawn by Jack Kirby in what looked like a new style. How could that be? All my comic book trading buddies could not believe weak-ass Harvey Comics was able to get Jack Kirby away from Marvel.

They didn’t. The book was a reprint of Fighting American stories drawn in the 50s by the King. But for all we knew, it was a new comic and new Kirby style. I wanted that book bad, and was willing to do what it took to get it.

And I got it, and I have my mother to thank for it.

“I’ll trade you FF#73 for Batman and Fighting American,” I said to Julian.

Fighting American was Julian’s favorite, Fantastic Four #73 was mine, and we both knew it. This deal was our AOL buys Time Warner, Disney buys Marvel – this was a deal no one ever thought would get done among my comic book pals. These two books were Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle, and they weren’t going anywhere.

But, in a trade heard around the world (that world being P.S.105), we did it.

Julian traded me Fighting American and the Batman for FF#73.

That was the moment, even at 10 years old, I knew I would always get what I wanted in a comic book trade, all thanks to Jean. Yes, I called my mother Jean, it’s a black thing. That trade made me the Donald Trump of comics, at last claiming the best-trader title from my hated archenemy, Karl McKenzie.

From now on Karl would never stand a chance against me. He would fall just as Julian did because my mother told me the meaning of “ace in the hole.”

Earlier that day, my mother brought me home another copy of Fantastic Four #73 along with some other comics someone left at her nursing home job. I was going to give my copy to Julian, but she told me to trade it and not tell anyone about having two copies.

That brilliant, brilliant, brilliant, woman.

She knew how important my comic book collecting and trading were to me, and she helped with building my comic book empire. She became very interested in my hobby a few before, when she watched a news report about the comic she threw away, Superman #1.

The day I returned from spending the summer in Alabama, I made a beeline to my room looking for my prized possessions: Golden Age comics I had paid a cousin one dollar for. They included Captain Marvel, All-Flash, Superman, Daredevil, and a Justice Society.

I loved those books.

I looked everywhere for those comics only to discover my mother had thrown them out “because they were old.”

“Because they were old.”

I was devastated. Those books were irreplaceable, and at 10 I knew that. No 10-year-old should know what irreplaceable means. Knowing something you love is irreplaceable at 10 years old is a terrible cross to bear. My mother never really understood what those books meant to me. To her, they were just… old.

For months I was miserable and mad at my mother. One day we were watching the news when, during the broadcast, a report on how much Superman #1 sold for prompted my mother to ask me “How come you don’t have a comic like that?”

I said, “I did a comic like that, I had that comic.” My mother turned from the TV as quick as I’d ever seen anyone move. “What? You did? What happened to it??”

“You threw it away.”

She didn’t.

Superman #1 was not one of the Golden Age comics thrown away by my mother. I lied and didn’t feel one tiny weeny bit guilty. Over the years that became my get-out-of-jail free card for anything and everything. Anytime I needed some emotional ammo, I’d pull out the ol’ Superman #1 guilt.

I had every intention of telling her that it wasn’t Superman #1, but time ran out for me to do so when she died June 21st of last year. For three weeks my mom hung in there after having both her legs amputated due to a leg aneurysm, and I told her everything I could to keep her spirits up, saving the Superman story for when I really thought I would need it.

My mother Jean Davis was the real life inspiration for Jean Hawkins. Static’s mom had a great sense of humor and would have gotten a kick out of an almost 40-year old joke.

Joke’s on me. I waited too long.

The night before my mother died, she called me and left me a message telling me that I should let her go. She clearly knew I wanted her here. If I had not been asleep when she called, I’m sure I would have pulled out the Superman #1 guilt as a reason she couldn’t leave me. My mom would have gotten the irony and maybe stayed a while longer. When I got the phone call telling me she passed, I flashed back to packing up her apartment during the three weeks she tried, I’m absolutely sure for my sake, to stay on earth. The plan was to take her back to L.A. to live with me.

That was the plan, and as we all know, the best laid plans…

While going through a closet my childhood, which I thought I’d lost, hit me in the face. There, where I’d left and forgotten it 30 years ago, was my trunk. My trunk was a real WW II army footlocker given to me by my Uncle Red. I kept all my important possessions in there. I thought I’d lost it forever when a New York storage company sold the contents of my storage unit, in error.

I must have been a real asshole in my last life because karma is kicking my ass: I’ve lost the possessions I valued most three times. The things I own that I value most have no value to me monetarily, even if it’s a copy of Superman #2, which is the actual comic my mom threw away and must be worth, although I never checked, a great deal of money.

The value I assign to material things is always memories. Three times those things which preserved my strongest memories were lost to me.

The first time I’d felt that heartbreaking loss and despair was when my Golden Age books were thrown away. The second was when my complete Silver Age collection of Marvel and almost complete DC were, among other things, sold from that storage company. Sold because my credit card info was credited to another account. I found this out when I got a check from the storage for $123.00, which was what was leftover from the sale.

My collection was appraised in the high six figures. Because of a mistake, a near complete Marvel Silver age collection was gone, just like that. Most of the important books from DC’s silver age, including complete runs of the original Teen Titans, Doom Patrol and AGGHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!

Let’s just say some great shit was in there. That was in 2001, and that was the last time I set foot in the dealers’ room at the San Diego Comic Con. I can’t bring myself to see my remembrances hanging from a dealers wall.

I could care less about the monetary value – gone was most of my childhood and a great deal of my teenage and young adult years. My comics, school records, most of my artwork from when I was a kid, thru the High School Of Art & Design and Pratt Institute as well as tons of books, toys, and a great deal of my personal written history.

But with the discovery of my trunk, maybe some of my childhood could be salvaged.

It was.

Inside were about one hundred silver age books, including both Fighting American and Fantastic Four #73. How incredibly cool and just wonderful was this?

I forgot about the trunk again while planning my mother’s funeral. After the service I went back to L.A. I was in NYC for a month and there was nothing left for me to do until probate was done. I couldn’t go back to the apartment until I could prove I was legally able to remove my mother’s belongings.

Months passed and with each month I dreaded going back to Rochdale Village where my mother lived for 40 years. When the courts finally declared me her sole heir, NYC was hit by a blizzard and there was no way to get there, so I was unable to clear her apartment then. My second attempt was met with similar weather.

When I was ready for my third attempt, I’d managed to talk myself into a fairly decent place. After all, my mother was gone, but she left me a massive amount of love and would want me to try and be happy. Then, as if confirmation that she wanted me to try and be happy, I remembered waiting for me was a big slice of my childhood, secure in my trunk.

But it wasn’t waiting.

Once again the joke’s on me, and yet again everything thing I valued was gone.

Somehow Rochdale managed to evict my mother, treating her belongings as trash.

Seven months earlier, and every month since, management was made aware she was dead, I was her son and I gave them all manner of how to contact me.

They never contacted me, although I’d been in touch with them the entire time regarding the apartment. They were informed in writing, and I spoke to the management confirming my arrival each time in addition to the email.

Why?

Because I’m just fucking anal, nothing beats a paper trail, and just in case the other guy is an idiot. They evicted a dead woman, the other guy was.

Last year, my entire home flooded. State Farm, who I’ve paid for 20 years, filing only two small claims, one which was rejected, at first balked at my claim. Treating me as if it was my fault or my idea to flood my fucking home. After a month I got all up in their asses, then they paid.

Then they canceled my policy.

That was pretty bad but just the beginning of a series of unfortunate events that got worse from there. 2014 was the worst year of my life on a personal level – on the business side, could not have been better and that stopped exactly zero tears.

I start 2015 off with high hopes for a great year! This is the year a number of my long term projects will finally see the light of day.

So far in 2015, the agony that was Milestone 2.0, the end to a friendship I thought would never end, a betrayal of unimaginable scope, impending surgery and now my mother’s belongings thrown away like she meant nothing, have killed that high.

What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger? Who comes up with this shit??

This is now the longest article I’ve ever written and damn if I don’t feel a little better after having written it. Writing this comics tale has kept me off the street and kept alive, albeit bittersweet, memories of a good friend, good times, and a mother who outsmarted her smart ass kid every single time, save one, but I needed Superman’s help that one time.

Speaking of Superman, I know I said this was a true story and except, Superman #1 was actually #2 it was true.

Please forgive me if put off by my fib, I’ve had a rough year. ;)

Thanks Mike.

 

 

 

Mike Gold: Fantastic Four Is Fantastic For…?

You may have seen the trailer for the new Fantastic Four movie, due from Fox this coming August. Seeing as how you’re reading this on ComicMix, you probably have.

You may be familiar with all the rumors about how Marvel is pissed off at 20th Century Fox because the movie violates, well, everything fantastic about the Fantastic Four.

At the very least, it seems to ignore much of the origin and the history of the subject material. Anyway, many people believe that’s the reason Marvel cancelled their Fantastic Four monthly, the flagship and cornerstone of the Marvel Universe. This may be true, as there’s a lot of bad blood sloshing around this deal. Not to mention a lot of bad movies as well.

Here’s the curious part.

Human Torch & Silk 4You may have been to your friendly neighborhood comics shop today and picked up a copy of the new Marvel Previews… their promotional comic that tells us what they’re going to publish in a couple months. If you’ve seen the trailer and you’re familiar with the conflict and you’ve seen Previews, you just might be confused by the cover for Silk #4, pictured to the left.

Your confusion would be well-founded. Right there on the cover is Johnny Storm, of the Fantastic Four, sharing a meal with Silk. If you’re not confused, take a look at Johnny’s costume.

You’ll note that the “4” on his chest is pretty much the one in the new movie. It’s the same as the one in the final issues of the Fantastic Four monthly, except for the logo on Mr. Fantastic’s polo shirt. But with the monthly cancelled, if Marvel wanted to distance itself from the movie this would be a great time to revert to any of the previous logos – or create a new one.

Hell, if I were really pissed, I’d spell out the word across Johnny’s chest!

The logo for Fox’s new movie is depicted at the top of this column, unless I broke the Internet once again. That movie “4” is just about the same “4” we see on the cover of Silk #4, to be released this coming May 14th.

If you’re not confused, let me explain why I am. If Marvel hates the new FF movie (or the FF movie deal) to the point of cancelling their flagship title… why does the return of the Human Torch to Marvel’s cover stock promote the Fantastic Four movie?

I’ve always taken this story with a grain of salt. Given my somewhat skeptical nature, that grain of salt usually is big enough to make the Morton Salt girl wince. But people have looked into this, and I’ve asked a couple friends who labor in the Mouse House of Ideas. I had grown to accept this story and have even tagged Marvel’s response as petty. Not horrible, just petty.

And now they’ve changed the Fantastic Four uniform to comply – imitate, actually – that worn in the upcoming movie. The one they ostensibly hate.

Curiouser and curiouser, as Alice famously said.

Then again, the answer might be as simple as this: why let a multi-million dollar feud get in the way of making some money?