Tagged: Jimmy Olsen

MIKE GOLD: The Curious Case of The Ghost Rider

Last week, the Internets were all aflutter with the story about how Disney/Marvel successfully defended itself against Gary Friedrich’s Ghost Rider lawsuit. This was hardly surprising. Just ask Marv Wolfman or the ghost of Steve Gerber.

Then Disney/Marvel turned around and demanded $17,000 from Gary for the Ghost Rider prints he sold at comic book conventions – you know, just like hundreds of other artists do at every artists’ alley at nearly every comic book convention held in the past decade. This was very surprising. And quite disgusting. Not to mention overwhelmingly petty.

Well, those of us who followed Disney’s Air Pirates lawsuit weren’t surprised at all, but that’s another story.

When Gary filed his appeal and the noise went into the can for a while, I whipped out Marvel Spotlight #5.  On that very first Ghost Rider story, the credits read “conceived and written by Gary Friedrich.” (Emphasis mine.) That was unique for comics at that time. The lawyers discouraged publishers for printing creator credits lest said creators pull what is affectionately known as a “Siegel/Shuster.” I remember being a bit surprised – perhaps impressed is the better word for it – back when I read that issue back in 1972. Nonetheless, Gary lost his case.

This wasn’t the only thing that surprised me. I was also surprised that Marvel plowed over the name of their western hero, first and last seen in his own seven-issue series back in 1967. It was a clever use of recycling intellectual property.

I remembered that Ghost Rider rather fondly. It was a good, solid macabre western character told in then-contemporary Marvel style featuring some of Dick Ayers’ best art in years. So I whipped out Ghost Rider #1, cover-dated February 1967. And then I took a look at the credits.

Please note that both Ghost Rider origins were edited by the same person, a guy named Stan Lee. And Roy Thomas was involved in both – as co-dialogist on the western, and as “aider and abettor” on the motorcyclist. And Gary Friedrich was a writer on both.

That didn’t give Gary any legal coverage, but it’s an interesting chain-of-evidence. Core to the issue of who owns what – in a moral sense but not legal – is the derivation of the original Ghost Rider. The first one. The one before the two published by Marvel Comics.

The one that was damn near exactly the same as Marvel’s western, right down to Dick Ayers’ artwork and design. The one that was published by Magazine Enterprises in various of their titles, including one called “Ghost Rider.” That one lasted twice as long as Marvel’s. The feature got its start in their Tim Holt title. This original version was, as noted, drawn by Dick Ayers and written – some say created – by editor Raymond Krank, who later replaced himself with Gardner Fox. Many of those Tim Holt covers were drawn by Frank Frazetta, who also illustrated a Ghost Rider text story.

This wasn’t the first time Marvel assumed the name of a character they did not create, as geriatric Daredevil fans know all too well. But that, too, is another story.

Ghost Rider has had an interesting history, one that isn’t over. It’s a good example of how the whole comics creation thing is a can of worms. Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster created Superman and Clark Kent and Lois Lane, but they did not create Perry White, Jimmy Olsen, and Kryptonite, among a great, great many other vital Superman concepts. If their estates wind up owning Superman, what happens to Perry and Jimmy and the rest?

Good grief. Back in the day, nobody was supposed to take all this seriously. But I think I know how either version of the Ghost Rider would have handled it.

Screw the lawyers. We’ve got us our six-guns, and one mother of a bike.

THURSDAY: Dennis O’Neil

MINDY NEWELL: Comics Are For Kids?

There’s a great interview with Grant Morrison on the website of Rolling Stone magazine.  The reason I bring it up is that I’ve been thinking about last week’s column.  The more I thought about Action Comics #1, written by Morrison, the more I really liked it.

But I’m an adult.

I’ve been a fan of Grant’s since his debut on this side of the pond as the writer of Animal Man back in the 80s. It was a book that I adored. But Animal Man was under the Vertigo imprint, whose aim was to bring a sophisticated, i.e. adult, audience and slant into the comics industry – at which it incredibly succeeded, of course. In fact, if I remember right, the “hook” for the entire line of Vertigo books was sophisticated horror.

But I’m an adult.

And the Vertigo books aren’t for kids.

I grew up during the Silver Age of comics. When Lois was constantly getting into jams thanks to her penchant of trying to discover Superman’s secret identity. When Jimmy was constantly being exposed to some weird amulet that turned him into Elasti-Lad or a giant turtle or a bearded man. When Perry smoked cigars and yelled “Great Caesar’s Ghost” all the time. When Supergirl was alive and acted as her cousin’s secret weapon. When Superboy was a teenage Clark Kent living in Smallville and had a secret passageway and robots to cover his “tuchas” when he was away on a mission and his parents were alive and Lana Lang was his sweetheart. When Kandor was in a bottle.  When the Legion of Super-Heroes travelled through time in a bubble. When the “editor’s note” would inform me that the sun was 93,000,000 miles away from Earth.

Okay, it was a more innocent age. Well, not really. There was the Cold War and the U-2 incident and the Korean War and the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missile Crisis and Barry Goldwater and the John Birch Society and “advisory troops” in a country named Vietnam. The Suez Canal crisis.

It was the Mad Men age.

And then we all grew up to be Mad Men.

The assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy. The assassination of Martin Luthor King. The assassination of Robert F. Kennedy. Women’s rights. The Black Panthers. Newark, New Jersey in flames. The Weatherman. The Vietnam War. Tricky Dick. The Chicago Democratic Convention. Dan Rather being manhandled and dragged off the floor of the convention center. Cops in riot gear beating up college students. The Pentagon Papers. Pot. Hash. Timothy Leary. Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters. Tune in. Turn on. Drop out.

The thing is, I think all those people marching and rioting and fighting and reacting to what was wrong in the world, what they did, what we did, was because we were raised on the ideals of what America was supposed to be about, what we really did believe, growing up, America was about.

I look around now, and I wonder, why aren’t people out on the street marching in the hundreds of thousands protesting? Angry people march. Angry people riot. Angry people force change.

Six out of 10 children are living in poverty in this country. In fucking America, man! Why aren’t their parents out there marching? We were lied into Iraq more blatantly than we were ever lied to about Vietnam. Why the fuck aren’t we out there marching? We’re building infrastructures and schools in Afghanistan while our own bridges and roads are collapsing and our school buildings are rotting. Why the fuck are we not out there marching? Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, the Koch brothers and about 10 other Wall Street operators are speculating in oil prices. Why the fuck aren’t we out there marching? The President lets the Republicans walk all over him and the Republicans can’t stand that the black guy in the White House isn’t the valet. Why the fuck are we not out there marching?

What has changed?

I don’t know. I honestly don’t.

But I’m sad, and I’m scared. Really scared.

Superman used to be written for kids. As was Superman’s Girlfriend Lois Lane, and Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen, and Supergirl, and Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes.

Grant is a great writer. Grant is a brilliant writer.

Grant is not a writer for kids.

And Action Comics #1 isn’t for kids.

TUESDAY: Michael Davis

If I rebooted Superman

For background on Superman’s look, try SupermanPage and Superman’s Symbol, Shield, Emblem, Logo and Its History!. Part of what I like about them is they disagree. For example, was the original Superman meant to have red boots, and the printer or the colorist screwed up? No one seems to know. Blue boots are plausible:

So are red:

What’s clear is that Superman was meant to resemble a circus strongman. And that’s what’s wrong with DC’s current attempts:

Is he supposed to look like a kid playing superhero by tying a towel around his neck?

The amount of blue and the high neckline makes it look like a he’s wearing a uniform, and the hints of armor make it worse: a superman doesn’t need armor.


MIKE GOLD: The Superman Rebus

If my calculations are correct – and that might be a first – the comic book advertised in the house ad above was released 53 years ago this week. DC fussed with the cover dates since this book was published, but I think I’m on this one. The house ad itself was designed so that the production department could easily swap out the covers, and here’s three of the others to appear in that slot:

(Don’t be concerned about Superman having a different cover date; DC had different schemes for monthlies, 8x yearlies, and bimonthlies.)

In 1958 those were four extremely compelling covers. Superman having a new power was a big deal, and rainbow covers always sold better than the norm. “Jimmy from Jupiter” was a very strong concept back at that time, and it was one of the first of the famous Jimmy Olsen transubstantiation stories.

The same thing is true for the Superboy story. It introduced Bizarro, the first super-villain to become an adjective. Editor Mort Weisinger knew he had a good story after its Superman-oriented dry run in the newspaper strip: he hyped it in the previous issue of the title, which was a rare event.

But that Adventure Comics cover was the killer: crossovers were few and very far between, and time travel crossovers were all the more rare. This issue must have sold well, as Mort endlessly repeated the stunt with other characters. Today we’d think that a no-brainer, but back in 1958 it was a very big deal.

So it was a good week or two for the Superman Family. And it was a very good week for me, as I had just turned eight years old and was at the optimum age for these stories.

Even then, my father was concerned about my obsession with comics. He didn’t have a problem with comics per se, just the fact that it became my religion. It was sort of a Jazz Singer thing. But we were visiting a relative and my father wanted to keep me occupied, so we stopped at a drug store next to the relative’s apartment building and he told me I could pick out three. I already had the Superman, so I had to pick from Action, Jimmy Olsen, Adventure, and Superboy. Of course I begged for all four – I would have anyway, but this time I was as insistent as I was ineffective.

Problem, problem. I had been waiting for the Bizarro story for at least a month, and the Superboy – Robin crossover was more important than life itself. So the choice came down to “The Jimmy From Jupiter” and “The Shrinking Superman.”

I chose Jimmy.

The problem is, even though that issue of Action Comics was redistributed two weeks later I never found it on the newsstands. In fact, I didn’t find it until nearly 15 years later, and it cost me over ten bucks.

I told that to my father, thinking I could guilt-trip him by exploiting his deep appreciation for the buffalo. But, as usual, he outwitted me. Dad said that I was eight and I would have not kept the book in good condition and, therefore, would have bought it on the collector’s market anyway.

He nailed me.

One thing more. This house ad? It spawned a deep love for rebuses. A teevee game show called Concentration where the gimmick was getting the contestants to solve a rebus took to the air the very same week as these various Superman titles were released. To add insult to injury, the original run of the show ended 14 years later, roughly the same time as I bought “The Shrinking Superman” at a comic book convention.

THURSDAY: Dennis O’Neil 

ComicMix Six: Celebrity Team-Ups

ComicMix Six: Celebrity Team-Ups

[EDITOR’S NOTE: In previous editions of ComicMix Six, our contributors have given you their lists of comics’ top political campaigns, the best and worst movies based on comics, and even a few reasons why a Skrull invasion isn’t anything to worry about.

This week, we have a special guest contributor, Vinnie Bartilucci, whose name can often be seen in the comment sections here on ComicMix. We thought he had a great idea for this week’s list, so without further introduction… Take it away, Vinnie! -RM]

Comics work fine all by themselves, in their own little universe. But at some point, just like on television, someone always says, “Hey, let’s bring in a guest star!” 

Maybe it’s because the star in question is a comics fan, or they thought it’d bring the book some publicity if the star help it up on The Tonight Show, or any of the other inspirations that come after a late night of pacing the floor with a stomach full of pastrami. But the real world and the world of comics clashed a lot of times over the years.

Sure, comics creators would often put themselves in the books – Julie Schwartz made more than a few appearances in the DC titles after the discovery of Earth-Prime, and Stan Lee almost deserves his own ComicMix Six for all the times he appeared in the books. Bob Hope and Jerry Lewis even had their own titles for many years. But it’s the one-shot, “Hey, did that just happen?” crossovers I’m honoring in this article today.

So here they are, in no fixed heirarchy, my ComicMix Six list of the The Best Celebrity Team-Ups in Comics:


SUPERMAN AND ORSON WELLES: One of the earliest examples I’m aware of, the creator of Citizen Kane and later spokesman for the Paul Masson Wineries Orson Welles appeared in Superman #62. While working on his latest film, Black Magic, Welles accidentally stumbles across the launch site for an unmanned rocket to Mars, and while exploring the ship, it varooms off to the red planet, not as unmanned as previously presumed.

On Mars, he is confronted by the Martian’s tyrannical leader, “Martler.” Martler had taken that name because of his admiration of the Earth Dictator, and patterned his armies after the Nazi example. Apparently he didn’t get the last few news items… Welles naturally refuses his offer to become propaganda minister of Earth, and forces them to show him how to broadcast to Earth. He beams an impassioned plea home with news of the coming invasion, but you guessed it, thanks to his little prank a few years earlier, people don’t believe him this time. Well, nobody but Superman.

Superman arrives in the traditional nick of time and helps stop the “Solazi” invasion fleet, while Welles keeps the soldiers on the ground spooked with a few cheesy magic tricks, a skill that would serve him well later in life on Merv Griffin. He eventually knocks out Martler, and using him like a puppet, fakes a broadcast (irony!) to the people of Mars telling them to stand down. Martler is banished to an unpopulated asteroid, where we must assume he remains to this day.



The Many Loves of Jimmy Olsen

The Many Loves of Jimmy Olsen

Over at ISB (otherwise known as "Chris’s Invincible Super-Blog" for you late-arrivers), love is in the air this week, as Chris Sims casts the spotlight on some of comics’ questionable romantic storylines and dialogue.

Among the highlights of ISB’s "Romance Special" series are a few scary/romantic encounters by Superman’s pal Jimmy Olsen, including an experience that gives new meaning to the term "male enhancement" and a tryst involving Jimmy Olsen Jr. and none other than… his super-cousin?

Seriously, it blows my mind every time I see this thing that this cover went through at least three people–including Jerry Siegel, Kurt Schaffenberger and editor Mort Weisinger–saw this and thought it would be a fine idea to just slap up a cover with two people in the throes of passion while their mothers–who are sisters–look on with emotions that are far more mild than the situation warrants. And what’s more, not only isn’t it mentioned on the cover, but nobody even thinks to bring it up in the actual story, either. Truly, 1961 was a different time.

Ah, Valentine’s Day.


Comics Links & Reviews

Comics Links & Reviews

Beaucoup Kevin thinks this (to your right) is the greatest comics panel of all time. (It’s possible…after all, malt does more than Milton can to justify Kirby’s ways to man.)

The Beat reports that Too Much Coffee Man will be debuting in a new form at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con: as an opera.

Todd Allen of Comic Book Resources collates all of the various statements about DC’s big Zudacomics world-domination scheme, and tries to explain what to expect from it.

The Nichei Bei Times asks the loaded question: what is manga?


MARTHA THOMASES: That’s What Friends Are For

MARTHA THOMASES: That’s What Friends Are For

Over the weekend, I read the entire trade paperback collection of The Amazing Transformations of Jimmy Olsen. I had anticipated a rollicking journey through my childhood, since I’d read most of these stories as a kid.

Alas! It was not to be.

The stories are fun, don’t get me wrong. Jimmy Olsen, the Everyboy of the DC Universe, is transformed from a working guy into a futuristic genius, a fat man, a werewolf, a porcupine, a turtle boy, a giant, a Bizarro and more. He travels to the future with the Legion of Super-Heroes, and he’s courted by two separate beauties from other worlds. As a kid, even a girl-type kid, I identified with Jimmy, and wanted to be Superman’s Pal.

Now, reading these stories as an adult, I still find them funny, but also oddly bleak. Jimmy Olsen is a lonely, lonely man. Superman may be his pal, but their interaction in these stories seems limited to story set-ups. Superman brings Jimmy a collection of stuff he found in outer space, leaves it for the young reporter to write about, and mayhem ensues. Sometimes Superman saves him, sometimes the bad stuff wears off, and sometimes Jimmy is sharp enough to save himself. In every case, he’s terrified that he won’t fit in, and his friends will shun him.

Professionally, Jimmy is on thin ice. He gets fired time after time, and often is forced to go and join a carnival freak show to earn a living. For some reason, there is always a freak show conveniently in town, with a side-show slot for him. Maybe things were different when these stories were written, but I thought most newspapers required at least a high school diploma to get a job. Doesn’t Jimmy have any other marketable skills? Why doesn’t he consider a related career, maybe in advertising or public relations, where his writing ability and photography skills would earn a more reliable income?


Palmotti talks Countdown

Palmotti talks Countdown

Can we handle another weekly comic? Countdown writer Jimmy Palmotti tells us why this will be the series to watch over the summer. Plus – the excitement from Free Comic Book Day has just settled, but we’ve got the behind-the-scenes action as we debrief some of of the nation’s better retailers on just what happened in their stores. All this and your weekly comic & DVD wish list, news on the girl who will end up in The Hulk’s hands – and a little ditty from the Blondie who isn’t married to Dagwood!

The 37th Big ComicMix Broadcast is in the air! Press The Button… or Jimmy Olsen dies!