Tagged: Martha Thomases

Dennis O’Neil: Welcome To Clabdabalum!

O'Neil Art 131219The natives of the planet Clabdabalum use a language which is, at its purest, non-verbal – in fact, non-communicative. However, over the millennia, it has been corrupted by verbal elements. (In Clabdabalum version of the Genesis myth, Adam and Eve are tempted by a grammar text.) This pidgin lingo lacks every part of speech that we Terrans use except one: pronouns. The Clabdabians have only one pronoun and that pronoun has no tense, nor does it have a gender, which is not surprising considering that the Clabdabians themselves have no gender, which may be why they’ve never made it big. (They may or may not have tenses. It’s hard to tell.)

Having only a single pronoun to work with, the Clabdabian writers’ output is pretty sparse and so they have not yet evolved the need for editors. Some might say that this is a sign of advanced intelligence, but I’m not among them. (Editors are splendid creatures who miss godhood by only a dangling participle or two.) But, a Clabdabian might ask, what does an editor do, exactly?

You’re waiting for an answer, aren’t you?

Well, wait! I won’t offer a concise definition because mine is not a one-size-fits-all universe. There seems to be a number of ways to be an editor and I suspect that those who eventually become good at the job decide what has to be done and then find strategies to make the task doable with their own strengths and preferences. They’re also well-advised to beware of their weaknesses and devise tricks to compensate for what they lack.

Okay, now that we have that settled… I will, shyly and timidly, proffer another suggestion. It’s not a good idea to do what I did during my first brief attempt to be a DC Comics editor, way back in the 70s, and that was to make the scripts I edited resemble the scripts I wrote. Though I didn’t realize it at the time, the best I could hope to achieve with this ill-conceived ploy was to get second- or third-rate O’Neil and what I really should have wanted was first-rate (fill in the name of your favorite comics writer). That doesn’t mean give the writer total freedom to do as the writer chooses; I have great respect for people who follow their own muses and produce what they want to produce when they want to produce it. But they, bless them, do not work for companies owned by others, as do many comics writers and almost all movie and television scripters. This need to follow… let’s call them “guidelines…” does not preclude a writer becoming emotionally and intellectually involved in the work. The great Raymond Chandler said that the trick for the commercial writer is to give the boss what he’s paying you for, but get what you want in there, too. He proved it can be done and so have legions of others.

I doubt that any of them were Clabdabian but hey… you never know.

P.S.: “Snut” is the pronoun referred to above.

P.P.S.: Heres an excerpt from an e-mail I received from Jim McLauchlin: 

Hero Initiative is a beneficiary of Amazon Smile. If you sign up Hero as your charitable choice, a percentage of qualified purchases will go to Hero at no additional cost to you! Info: http://smile.amazon.com/about

An easy way to support a worthy organization.

THURSDAY AFTERNOON: The Tweaks!

FRIDAY MORNING: Martha Thomases

 

Dennis O’Neil: Superhero Haute Couture

O'Neil Art 131212We’re not always aces when it comes to accurate prophecy, we comic book pundits, though we shouldn’t hang our collective head too far down because prophecy doesn’t seem to be anybodys strong point.

Anyway, almost eight years ago, in a precursor of this weekly blather, when I was younger and less evolved – I still had fur on top – I wondered if the meme of the costumed superhero was passé. Quoth I: “…what were asking now is, are costumed heroes an idea whose time has gone? Has the genre become too sophisticated for this part of its yesterday? Apparently, those who labor in television think so. None of videos superfolk wear stuff that couldnt be gotten at an upscale mall…”

That was then and this is now and the fortune telling implicit in what’s quoted above was as accurate as your newspaper’s daily horoscope. That is, not very. But it might be accurate in a year or seven; technology has hugely accelerated pop culture and the times are always a’changin. But that may be then and this is now and now superhero costumes are in no danger of extinction.

Look no further than the nearest movie screen. Superman, Iron Man, Batman, Thor, Green Lantern, The X Men. Spider-Man, Catwoman and, waiting in the wings, truth-inducing lariat at the ready, Wonder Woman. None of these people buy their business wardrobe at Marshall’s. Can’t get to the movies? (Yeah, well, ten bucks a ticket is kind of stiff, especially if you’re a fast food worker or a Walmart employee.) Go to the television set. There are currently two comic book-derived prime time shows on the tube, not counting cartoons, and one of them, Arrow, puts characters in costumes – maybe not costumes as blatant as the comics incarnations of those characters sport, but not what you’d wear to Sunday services, either. And more costume-wearers are in Arrow’s future, among them The Bronze Tiger and The Question. (I’ll plead that The Question’s mask is a costume as Will Eisner apparently thought The Spirit’s mask and gloves qualified as a costume.)

The Flash, who currently appears in Arrow in his alternate identity, will have his own show soon and, boy, The Flash – now theres a costume-wearer! (Minor trivia note: The Flash was the hero of an earlier television program that ran in 1990-1991 and was largely written by comics’ own stalwart Howard Chaykin.)

The other comic book show is Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and there is no spectacular apparel on view in it, but maybe there ought to be. We find the program, well…okay. If we want an action show with a twist of heroic fantasy, S.H.I.E.L.D. does the job. But if we yearn for a superhero fix, the show doesn’t deliver. Mentally bracket it with Covert Affairs, globe-trotting adventure stuff that has a slightly different vibe than the fantasy-melodrama that’s the realm of the super folk.

Next week, a different topic, but I can’t foresee what it will be.

THURSDAY AFTERNOON: The Tweaks!

FRIDAY MORNING: Martha Thomases

 

Mike Gold: The Man Who Didn’t Save Krypton

gold-art-131211-148x225-3279509I’ve gone on record many times about how I enjoy much of DC Comics’ digital line. I’ve even been snotty enough to note that, unlike much of The New 52, these titles are quite readable and are DC’s saving grace. So I’ll take it one step further.

One of these weekly digital titles is called Adventures of Superman. Yes, I realize it’s not the first comic book (let alone teevee or radio show) to employ this name. This doesn’t matter. Like DC’s digital Legends of the Dark Knight weekly, each story is by a separate creative team and said stories usually run across several “issues.”

If you’re thinking about sampling, let me strongly recommend the three-part story that was just completed (Adventures of Superman numbers 31, 32 and 33). The story is called “The Dark Lantern” (yes, I will not be surprised when DC does “The Dark Sugar and Spike”) and it was written by Jim Krueger and drawn by Neil Edwards and Scott Hanna; a fine pedigree. I single this story arc out for three reasons: its concept, its execution, and its timing.adv-supes-33-150x115-9844960

The concept is first-rate. It figures that Krypton must have fallen within some Green Lantern’s sector. Clearly, that GL didn’t save the planet and presumably it went blooie on that guy’s watch. How does he feel about that? Does he think he should atone for his failure to prevent the incident? And what happens when he learns there was a survivor?

The execution is first-rate. The story is well told and complete within its 60 half-page bandwidth. DC reprints some of this stuff in trades or pamphlets and stacks the half-pages, so let’s call this a 30-page story. Simply put, we rarely see so much story within 30 pages.

I mean, we used to. Hell, Ditko and Lee took 11 pages to introduce Spider-Man and tell his origin. 38 years later, it took Bendis and Bagley about 136 pages to tell that same story. Times change, and not always for the better. Mind you, I enjoyed their retelling and we no longer rely on nine panel pages to get through a tale, but my point remains. It is quite unusual to see so much story from DC or Marvel in so few pages, and if “The Dark Lantern” is a throwback, then let’s throwback some more.

However, nobody can take credit for the timing. Take a good look at the two panels above. “I failed to save his people and threatened to kill those he now loves. I fought him and brought poison to him. And still he forgives me. Still he thinks of me.”

It is simply amazing that this issue was released within hours of Nelson Mandela’s death.

THURSDAY MORNING: Dennis O’Neil

THURSDAY AFTERNOON: The Tweaks!

FRIDAY MORNING: Martha Thomases

 

Martha Thomases: The Pesky Dreams Stuff

Thomases Art 131206The dame walked into my office just before closing. An older woman, dressed like every other woman in this city in a black leather jacket and black pants. You wouldn’t look twice at her unless you were allergic to cats, because she was covered with cat hair.

“I require your services, Mr. Spade,” she said, a trace of the midwest in her voice. “I’ve lost something very precious. Perhaps it was stolen. In any case, I must have it returned to me. I’ll pay you anything if you can find it.”

I looked here up and down, paying attention this time. Did she have money to spend? “Tell me about the case,” I said, motioning to the chair across from my desk. “Let’s start out with your name.”

“Thank you. I just don’t know what to do.” With this, she wiped a tear away from her eye, using the sleeve of her jacket.

I handed her my handkerchief and waited while she pulled herself together. After a few minutes, she took a deep breath and spoke. “My name is Martha Thomases. That’s ‘Thomases’ with an e-s on the end. Like it’s plural.” She said this as if it was something she had said a million times before.

“My story. I can’t find it anywhere. I think it’s stolen.”

“Can you give me a description,” I said, taking out my notebook.

“It’s been with me since I was a child,” she said, as if that give me any idea what she was talking about. “I really must have it back.”

I looked at her with the pen in my hand. “A description,” I said. “What is it like? When did you last see it?”

“Well,” she said. “I don’t know that it has value to anyone but myself. It’s a story about a girl who grows up, her relationships with other people, the things she has to do to get ahead.”

“That’s describes a lot of people’s stories,” I said, still not writing anything down. “How would I recognize yours?”

“It’s mine,” she said, as if that gave me any clues. She saw my stare, and stammered, “Usually there is something about fathers in it.”

“That gives me something. Anything else?”

“And there’s super-powers,” she said. “Someone will be able to fly or read minds or something. And there will be capes. Dark blue capes.” She tried to repress a shudder of pleasure at the memory, but couldn’t keep the smile from her lips.

Why hadn’t she told me that first. “Now we’re getting somewhere,” I said. “When did you last see it?”

“Just the other night,” she said, crossing her legs. It might have been a sexy movie if she hadn’t been wearing sneakers. “We stayed up late with a bottle of wine. In the morning, there was no trace.”

“Perhaps your story left?” I said, trying to be diplomatic.

“No, never,” she said. “We’ve been together more than 55 years. Someone must have stolen my story.”

“Who would do that?” I said. “Do you have a list?”

“There’s a lot of writers out there who need stories,” she said. “I just don’t know who would take mine. What good would that do them? It’s my story.”

I stood and put out my hand for her to shake. “Let me make some calls,” I said. “I’ll get back to you with an estimate, and we can proceed from there.

She walked away, and I watched her go. Not a bad caboose, but she was old enough to be my mother. What did a woman her age need with a story, anyway?

Still, a job is a job. I made a few calls that afternoon, but they didn’t tell me much. I was going to have to go out on the street. I put on my coat and headed for the bookstore. They’ve got a lot of stories there. Maybe someone heard something.

I went up to the clerk at the information desk. “I’m looking for a story,” I said. “Something with capes. Flying. Maybe a father.” I didn’t want to give away too much.

The clerk pushed a few buttons, and a long list appeared on her monitor. “You want the graphic novel section,” she said to me, pointing to an aisle at the back of the store.

I walked back, looking over my shoulder to make sure I wasn’t followed. I wasn’t prepared for what I found. Shelves reaching to the ceiling, filled with books that had spandex-clad characters with capes on the cover. I picked up a few that had dames on the cover, but there were so many I couldn’t tell if any of them came from my client.

I went back to the clerk. “These are all the same story,” I said. “How am I supposed to tell them apart?”

“Not at all,” she said. “All of the stories are different. Every writer takes the elements and makes them his or her own. It’s like meatloaf. Everybody makes it differently, and everybody makes it the best.”

I went back to my office, no closer to the truth than when I left. As I unlocked my door, I saw a package on the floor. I took it to my desk and unwrapped it. It was a statue of some stupid black bird from the Thomases dame. I picked it up, and saw an envelope underneath. Inside was a check and a note. “Dear Mr. Spade,” it said. “I’m sorry to have wasted your time. I just needed a walk to clear my head and my story came back to me. It is the stuff that dreams are made of. So easy to misplace. Thank you so much for your time.”

I’ll say you’re welcome when the check clears.

SATURDAY: Marc Alan Fishman

SUNDAY: John Ostrander

 

Dennis O’Neil’s Tales From Texas

oneil-art-131205-150x193-1413425One of those, you know, jangly weeks: we arrived in Austin wearing the winter garb appropriate for Newark, where we began the journey, and stepped from the airline terminal into 70 degrees and regretted our bag full of long sleeves. Looked like it was going to be a sweaty few days, maybe, but not to worry: the temperature dropped thirty degrees overnight and by daylight, my cold weather jacket was appropriate and when we again moved into the outdoors we got our first bite of winter. No big problem: our destination, the Austin convention center, was just across a narrow street.

The convention was what conventions are, these days, with maybe more television actors than comics folk. We did manage to raise a few bucks for The Hero Initiative, always a good reason to go someplace, but the chill kept us close to the hotel and so we didn’t see much of Austin which, I’m told and still believe, is a righteous city. Maybe next time.

I didn’t speak to any of the celebs, either, though some of them have done work I enjoy. Never do chat with the thespians, even though I’ve been sharing con programs with their ilk for decades. Probably never will. (Maybe not next time.)

I’m the anti-fan I won’t approach VIPs, even when I could jury rig a reason to. Mari and I were sitting in a bakery during our first visit to what is now our home town and, I’ll be darned, who walks in but Alec Baldwin and his then-wife, Kim Basinger, and another woman, a nanny, I’d guess, holding a baby whose last name undoubtedly was Baldwin. They sat nearby. Now – small world – our son had recently spoken with Alec during a visit to Hollywood about a project they might have shared, though they didn’t, and so we had a great conversational opener, and Mari looked like she’d use it. But not grumpy me. I shook my head no and pretty soon we left.

Another instance: Larry Hama and I were playing video games in a California hotel and in comes TV’s Kojak, Telly Savalas. He stands between us, kibitzing for about five minutes, being ignored by the comic book guys from New York.. He leaves. Who could blame him? (Who the hell did we think we were?)

Why does my nose rise into the air when I encounter the renowned? The answer does me no particular credit. What it comes down to is, I’m afraid that they’ll be jerks and I won’t like them, or, worse, it will be obvious that they don’t like me, and this emotional frisson will get between me and the venerable person’s work. I won’t be able to enjoy it and that could be regrettable.

The weather in Austin continued to be iffy and for a while, there seemed to be a possibility that we’d be snowed in. The flight was late taking off and we were cramped for hours – were the new airline seats designed by Torquemada? – and I was thinking Oh just, please, let me get to my cozy home. We got here and found the house cold. The heating system had failed and we were a pair of icy oldsters. But a savior drove in from Orangeburg past midnight and got the heating machine working and I later thought What a great job this guy has…driving alone through the night making people warm…

Well, between the jangly week’s beginning and a major holiday a few days later, and some mild sore-throat/cough/sniffle action, we didn’t see the new Hunger Games movie. If I were into idolatry, I might adore the film’s star, the splendid Jennifer Lawrence. As long as I didn’t have to meet her.

THURSDAY AFTERNOON: Yep, More From The Tweaks!

FRIDAY MORNING: Martha Thomases

 

0

Tweeks Get Their Whovian Geek On For The 50th

Doctor-Who-The-50th-Anniversary-Wallpaper-doctor-who-35308700-1920-1080The Tweeks enjoyed the Day of the Doctor in Los Angeles and today recap the Dr. Who 50th Anniversary, giving us their review and reactions.

And yes, they  manage to keep their squeeing over both their Doctors being onscreen at once to a minimum.

***Spoilers Alert!***

The Tweeks will return Tuesday morning with their special Hunger Games: Catching Fire review!

FRIDAY: Martha Thomases

SATURDAY: Marc Alan Fishman

 

 

Dennis O’Neil: Men of their Hour

oneil-art-131128-121x225-7575123Is Hourman Lance Armstrong’s patron superhero? Does Jose Conseco cherish his copy of All-Star Comics #1, featuring Hourman? Did Alex Rodriguez have his own special version of the Miraclo pill, Hourman’s after dinner mint of choice?

Ah yes, Hourman: one of the second (or third) string superheroes created just as the nation was edging into World War Two and decades before the athletes named above and other sports stars were accused of using steroids to enhance performance.

Hourman is not a character who has ever occupied much of my attention. I’ve been aware of him for a long time, and that could mean that I encountered him when I was very, very young, or that I came across him when I was working for DC Comics. I may have even considered reviving him. I wouldn’t put it past me, the editor who, quite briefly, resurrected the original Vigilante, because I remembered liking him when, again, I was very, very young, and Air Wave because I thought I could give him a quirky spin. (These were not my most glorious moments as a DC employee, these flings with yesteryear.) But now, there he is, camping in my psyche – Hourman is back (should we rejoice?) thanks to our brethren in videoland, who are planning an Hourman television show. If the news item I read was accurate, they have ideas for a fresh take on the man of the hour.

The original Hour-Man (he later lost the hyphen) was Rex Tyler who, while working as a research scientist, discovered a drug that would give him super strength and super speed but only, darn it, for an hour. He made two decisions: he would limit trials of the drug, dubbed Miraclo, to himself, presumably to spare innocents possible side-effects, and he would use his awesome but temporary powers for good. As origin gimmicks go, this isn’t bad: it’s novel, and it builds into the premise the venerable ticking clock plot trope. And in the innocent forties, readers probably weren’t bothered by the notion that problems could be solved by swallowing something; anyone who’s ever struggled with addiction knows that the notion is dangerous. To their credit, later writers acknowledged this danger and gave Hourman a druggie’s woes.

The television Hourman’s power will be a form of prophecy. He will be able to see into the future – but, alas, only a single hour into the future. Extremely useful at the race track, but not much good at questions of geopolitics. But it might facilitate some interesting storytelling, especially if the writers are allowed to do heavy character stuff. How would being able to glimpse the future twist a man’s psyche? Would the man become addicted to the facilitating drug and/or the powers it gives him? In popular fiction, it’s always the recipe that matters most, not the ingredients. The Hourman show, if it ever gets onto a television screen near you, might be worth – yes! – an hour of your time.

Meanwhile, you can watch a game.

THURSDAY AFTERNOON: The Tweaks!

FRIDAY MORNING: Martha Thomases

SATURDAY MORNING: Marc Alan Fishman

 

Dennis O’Neil: The Mustache and the Movies

O'Neil Art 131121I’ve gone into hundreds, maybe thousands of theaters, but entering the Regal Cinema last week was a bit unique. This Regal had only been in business a few days – to all intents and purposes it was brand new – and so everything about it was clean and pleasant and orderly, the rugs unspotted, the air untainted, the seats deep and sumptuously padded. And I think I felt a slight tingle of anticipation as I crossed the lobby.

I wonder if I felt a similar tingle the first time someone, almost certainly my mother, took me to the picture show. I would have been just past toddlerhood and so my world would have still be surprising and numinous and I’d be into a strange place, my hand in another, familiar hand, stepping into a semidarkness full of strangers, looking up at a big white thing that suddenly brightened and was full of motion and I was in the presence of something new and wonderful. Remember – this was in the early 1940s. In that era, a boy barely past infancy would never have seen even a television, nor would anyone else he knew because the video invasion was not happening until after the war, so pictures that moved? And talked? Magic!

What did I see? Maybe a newsreel – they still showed newsreels, back then – and maybe a Three Stooges or a Pete Smith Specialty. And a cartoon? Woody Woodpecker or Bugs Bunny or Mighty Mouse or Donald Duck? (If it was a Donald Duck, I would have also seen, the first of many such sightings, the name “Walt Disney,” though, of course, the letters would have been only incomprehensible shapes, reading being as yet an unsolved mystery.) Then, the feature, probably a double feature, long pictures about… cowboys? Or people who did funny things, like the Three Stooges? Or both? Might have been both! Why not both?

Marvel superheroes didn’t yet exist when I toddled into the land of cinema, though they sure as shooting exist now and it was a Marvel movie that I saw last week at the Regal: Thor: The Dark World. Enjoyed it, the wife and I, and since I never worked on the Thor character during my employment at Mighty Marvel, I brought no particular baggage to the event. I left my (sumptuously padded) seat thinking that Thor was Marvel’s answer to the Tolkein adaptations – those Hobbits and their quest and their adventures – and that the filmmakers were doing something some science fiction writers were doing about about 50 years ago, conflating mythology with sf, and doing it pretty well, too. And they’re doing it under the aegis of the company started by Donald Duck’s boss.

I saw Walt himself when he appeared on the Disneyland television show in 1954, when I would have been about 15 and, well… something about him bothered me, just a tiny bit. What? Could it be his mustache? It was like the lip hair sported by a recent presidential candidate, Thomas Dewey, who my parents didn’t vote for, possibly because he was a Republican and his opponent, Harry S. Truman, came from our home state of Missouri. Something else, though? Hey… the bad guys in the cowboy movies – not the bad guys out on the trail who got shot or punched by the good guys, but the sneaky bad guys who lurked in back rooms and schemed – they often had those kinds of mustaches.

And all those years past, sitting in the darkness next to a parent – did I see a mustached bad guy on the screen and is that why I didn’t instantly like Walt Disney? You tell me.

THURSDAY AFTERNOON: The Tweaks!

FRIDAY MORNING: Martha Thomases

 

Dennis O’Neil: DC’s Wandering Boot-heals

oneil-art-131107-150x177-4470100Our good times are all gone

And I’m bound for moving on…

Ian Tyson

I doubt that anyone who cared was surprised when, last week, Diane Nelson, the high honcho of DC Comics, announced that the company was relocating to Burbank in about a year. The move had been rumored for a long time, particularly afterDC became part of a movie making company, Warner Bros., of which you may have heard. It was only logical: Manhattan real estate comes with a mighty price and so it seemed to make sense to leave New York and go where the parent company already owned property.

Once, on a business trip, Dick Giordano and I established very brief headquarters on the sprawling Warner’s lot, which had vacant offices we could use. So: empty space, huh? Interesting. And a publishing venture no longer much needed to be located in New York: electronic communications largely eliminated the required treks writers and artists made to midtown. No need to endure the subway when you could pop your work into a fax machine and, later, discuss it with your editor by telephone, all without changing out of your pajamas. And yeah, yeah, I know: fax machines – stone age stuff. But not to us, not then. And pretty soon, the technology got really nifty.

Sure, once in a while, usually when contemplating a complicated stunt, I thought it best to get some creative people together in a room and that was always possible – you know, airplanes and the like – and I always preferred to discuss plots with the writer and me breathing the same air, but that wasn’t strictly necessary. Mostly, editorial chores could be done with someone who lived in the United Kingdom as easily as with someone who lived in Brooklyn.

What we may not have been properly mindful of was that our most reliable product, superhero stories, weren’t about print and paper anymore; they had become about images on screens large and small, most serviceable in theaters and on television. They still have a place on paper and, I’m pretty sure, will continue to do so, and maybe one of you savants out there will write a monograph explaining why print is the proper venue for our characters but, bite the bullet, flicks and the tube are where the major action is. In the best superhero tradition, they’re going where they’re most needed,

My reaction? It’s never a good idea to get into a scrap with what is.

A few years ago, DC relocated some people, some of my former colleagues, from New York to California. In retrospect, that was the opening move, the fulfillment of an event long anticipated. Then the Mad Magazine offices became a suite of empty rooms: move number two. And now… amen. An era quietly ends.

THURSDAY AFTERNOON: The Tweaks!

FRIDAY MORNING: Martha Thomases

Dennis O’Neil: The Mighty Marvel Movie

originalHey there, true believer, when you book to the multiplex to see the new Thor flick, you won’t be seeing just a movie, or even just a superhero movie – you’ll be seeing a Marvel movie! And you’ll know it almost from the moment the feature begins to unreel. How? Easy! The word MARVEL will be splashed across the big screen, white letters against a red field – no point in being subtle, here. There may be references to other Marvel movies as the drama unfolds and, count on this, after the end credits – and you are going to stay for them, aren’t you? – there will be a brief final scene that hooks you into another Marvel movie! Or two, maybe.

Almost like it was all planned from the beginning, this creation of the Marvel brand, and in a way, it was. And by “beginning” I don’t mean…oh, say 2002, when Tobey McGuire put on the Spidey suit and began slinging webs. No, we’re referring to the 1960s when Stan Lee was busy revolutionizing the comic book biz. He once told me that he wanted everything Marvel to support everything else Marvel, and he made that happen, insofar as it could happen back in the dark ages. (No Internet? No smart phones? iPads? Google? Facebook? Not even – you gotta be kidding me! – fax machines?)

So Smilin’ Stan Lee created the Marvel Universe, a mirror image of our universe, but a universe not quite so beholden to life’s drearier realities – one in which superheroes could and did exist. Characters from one title popped up in another title and all the costume wearers seemed to know, or at least know of, each other. It was a cohesive fictional construct, this Marvel Universe, and it was given to us almost whimsically; footnotes and text pages and even cover copy emphasized fun and hinted that we didn’t have to take anything in a Marvel book too seriously. Y’know, just hunker down and enjoy. Oh, and you didn’t have much doubt that you were reading, not just a comic book, but a Marvel comic book.

The movie and television folk seem to have learned from the smilin’ one. They’ve taken Stan Lee’s paradigm, adapted it to their media, and achieved marketing success and, recently, a fair degree of artistic respectability. What Stan might call “the Marvel manner” has survived metamorphosis from cheap pulp magazine filler to the stuff of hugely elaborate and technologically sophisticated cinema.

Those cheap pulp magazines? Well, they’re not pulpy anymore and, let’s face it, not so darn cheap, either. But they’re still comic books – Marvel comic books. Somehow, the publishing arm of the Marvel empire has preserved some of its identity though decades of varying ownership and turnover of personnel in both the marketing and the editorial offices. And a lot of artists and writers, including your humble correspondent, have worked for and/or at both Marvel and its rival DC, and still at least a ghost of Stan Lee’s vision persists.

I haven’t mentioned Marvel’s television show, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Well, the lead character has mentioned his appearance in Marvel’s big screen Avengers and the word on the street is that S.H.I.E.L.D. will have some connection to the next Captain America flick. ‘Nuff said?

THURSDAY AFTERNOON: The Tweaks!

FRIDAY MORNING: Martha Thomases