Category Archives: Marvel Comics

Roger Answers Your Questions, Jaquandor

From the guy from Buffalo who does Byzantium Shores.

1. If they re-did the Jeopardy! eligibility rules so you could try out again, would you?

Quite possibly so. I feel ever so slightly jealous that they doubled the values a couple years after I was on. This doesn’t mean I would have won $35,200 instead of $17,600 when I played, but it made me wonder. Of course, maybe I’d suck at the game now. Certainly, I’d go in the next three years, when I’d be 60, or not at all.

Somehow I feel like one of those baseball players who came along just before free agency.

2. In retrospect: Should Spitzer have resigned?

In retrospect, no, but that whole thing wasn’t going down “in retrospect”. It wasn’t his sexual behavior that did him in, it was his hypocrisy. Truth is that he never had the patience to be governor; things he could have bullied people to do as Attorney General, with the force of law on his side, could not be achieved as Governor, where give and take is more the requirement.

No doubt that if he were not tainted, he might have continued to sound the alarm about the Wall Street fiasco, as he was working on as Attorney General. Equally true that Wall Street as happy to see him go. The truth of the matter is that I wish he had stayed as AG, but he would have had to resign that position as well, once the Customer Number Nine stuff came out.

I continue to be fascinated by sexual scandals in terms of who gets to stay in office and who has to go. I always thought that Bill Clinton got to stay because there was a general feeling that 1) he already had a reputation as a womanizer, so he didn’t have the hypocrite label slapped on him (only the “liar” label) and 2) that the impeachment over sex, and lying about it, was an overreach for something that started off as an investigation of a land deal.

3. What the hell is going on with the Catholic Church? I mean, seriously: WTF?!

The church seems to continue to be tone deaf to the scandal. Some archbishop in New York State is attacking the attackers of the Pope, as though THEY were the problem instead of the pedophile priests and the system that protected them.

SamuraiFrog had a good post about this. The church
treated it as an “internal matter”, fearing that somehow admitting it and exposing it would undermind its moral authority. Have they not learned from Watergate? It’s the COVER UP that REALLY underminds their moral authority. If they’d gotten in front of this even 30 years ago – John Paul II became Pope in 1978 – then it would have been painful, yes, but not this drip-drip-drip of scandal.

Mr. Frog notes the fact that the church feels selectively persecuted/prosecuted for its religion, that other people did wrong things. OK, and the church also claims that its first Pope knew Jesus personally, which, I’d like to suggest, places it at a slightly higher standard.

The Catholic hierarchy for years has been blaming this problem on the United States’ culture and society, as though it had been the “permissive” Americans who regularly ignore Papal dictates on issues such as birth control as the problem. Classic misdirection, but it did not “take”, given the worldwide problem.

And the “it happened a long time ago – get over it” argument, not just on this issue, but any issue, such as institutional racism and sexism, has always irritated the crap out of me. Let me say it again: the persecutors oughtn’t be able to say “Let’s move on” without the adequate response of not only apologizing for the problem, but, to the degree possible, rectifying the problem. This is why the Armenians in Turkey are still, and rightly from my POV, kvetching about the 1915
genocide that the Turkish government still denies.

As someone who protected a priest who had victimized 200 boys, the former Cardinal Ratzinger has given new meaning to “papal bull”.
Remember last month when I directed you to a link to my guest review for Trouble with Comics, then it went away? Well, as Bullwinkle J. Moose says, This time for sure!


Fred Hembeck is 57

It my friend Fred’s birthday. Not quite sure what new to say, so let me (mostly) recapitulate:

Fred Hembeck is a comic book artist/cartoonist/storyteller whose narratives often involve superheroes interacting with a character named Fred Hembeck. His early work was compiled in a magazine published by Eclipse Comics, which I remember purchasing at a comic book store in Greenwich Village in New York City in 1979.
Fred’s second collection was published by FantaCo Enterprises of Albany, NY, and I met Fred at the store in February 1980 at a signing, a couple months before I would end up working at FantaCo myself. Eventually, Fred would do seven Hembeck publications with FantaCo, including an expanded version of that first Eclipse edition.

Fred would also grab the attention of both Marvel and DC. For the former, he did the Fantastic Four Roast, with Fred MCing the event. He’s possibly best know, though, for Fred Hembeck Destroys the Marvel Universe, where Fred…well, what the title says.

During this, Fred and I became friends, with shared passions for the Who, the Beach Boys, and especially the Beatles, and also television and other popular culture.
But when Fred and his wife Lynn Moss moved out of the area, I lost track of him. I know I learned about the birth of their daughter Julie in 1990 secondhand, and quite possibly a couple years after the fact.

But I’d keep tabs on Fred through various sources from time to time.Fast forward to October 2004. I’m at the Book House in Stuyvesant Plaza in Albany, where I see Fred’s and my mutual friend, going back to the FantaCo days, Rocco Nigro. Rocco says, “Have you seen Fred’s blog?” Well, no, but in point of fact, I had never seen ANYONE’S blog. I had HEARD of blogging, but like most people who had heard of it but had never seen it, I had poo-pooed it out of hand. When I actually READ Fred’s blog, however, I was captivated. Not only did I read it every day, I read all of the stories he had written from the very beginning of his blog back in January 2003. His voice was right there; it was as though he were talking to me back in the day.
Eventually, I contacted Fred and we established an e-mail friendship. I suggested a couple ideas for some blog pieces, which he used.

I also looked at his blogroll. Having gotten totally out of comics since 1994, I started reading and eventually following comic blogger folks such as Mike Sterling, Greg Burgas and Lefty Brown, all with whom I have some contact to this day.
Then I came across the now late comic book writer Steve Gerber’s blog on Fred’s blogroll and that pushed me into starting my OWN blog on May 2, 2005, which Fred generously plugged more than once that first year or two. So to say that Fred is responsible for me blogging would not be an overstatement.

Somewhere along the way, Fred and I decided to meet. There’s a MidSummer’s party in upstate New York my wife and I have attended frequently. so, for about three years in a row – but not, alas, in 2009 – the day after the party, we’d travel over to Fred & Lynn’s house for the afternoon. Fred and I would speak in some blogging and pop culture shorthand that occasionally left our wives mystified.
Ever since the folks at Image put out THE NEARLY COMPLETE ESSENTIAL HEMBECK ARCHIVES OMNIBUS in the spring of 2008, I’ve seen Fred at various comic book shows, once in Saratoga Springs, but usually in Colonie, both near Albany. Frankly, seeing Fred is the primary reason for going, along with our friend Rocco; I might even have an ADD sighting.

I do wish Fred had time to blog more often. He was a daily guy for a number of years, but he’s only posted six times the first 28 days of this month. But he’s had a good reason: he’s been compiling a new feature on his blog: Hey, Did I Tell You About That MOVIE I Saw Recently? Fred’s probably seen more movies in the past 10 months than I’ve seen in the past 10 years.

The best thing about today is that, for the next five weeks, Fred is older than I am!
So go to his page, buy his book (900 pages for $25; the FantaCo stuff is only about a quarter of it) or purchase some artwork, and then go draw a squiggle on your knee – no, the real Fred does NOT have them.
Happy birthday, effendi!

One of the things Fred and I have done in the 21st Century is to make mixed CDs to exchange. Four that Fred did focus on the late 1960s and early 1970s, and I played them all this week. One interesting song, in no way a reflection of Fred himself, of course, is King Crimson’s 21st Century Schizoid Man.


September Ramblin'

I wrote recently about music that made me cry, and I left an important piece out.

When I first joined the Trinity UMC choir in the January 1983, the lead soprano was named Arlene Mahigian. She had an amazingly lovely voice, but more than that, she took a liking to me. Though I was almost 30, she, who had a couple grown sons, decided to become my “choir mom”. Among other things, she’d take my robe home when it needed cleaning.

In the winter of 1984-85, she developed cancer. In March 1985, the choir performed the Mozart requiem. Arlene was unable to sing, but she was there in a wheelchair, not only to support the choir, but also her son Peter and her husband Leo as they performed the Adagio by Albinoni (or more likely, Giazotto.) About three weeks later, I visited Arlene in the hospital, her beautiful hair having all fallen out. She looked wan and pale and I don’t even think she opened her eyes. I didn’t know she even knew I was there until she squeezed my fingers; then I knew. She died the next day, and the Adagio reminds me of her.

I hadn’t heard it in quite a long time until it was on public radio one morning in the past 10 days. I heard it, and about 2/3s of the way through, I just wept. Here are three versions; none are as plainspoken as Leo and Peter playing, which I can still hear in my mind’s ear.
Version 1
Version 2
Version 3
William Safire died, and I’m a bit sad. It’s not that I liked his politics; often, in fact, I loathed them. Nut he at least had some intellect to his position. The current crop of the right-wing, Glenn Beck, et al, are better inciting the crowd, but Safire had miles more candlepower.

But I once appeared in his On Language column. I can’t believe it was so long ago: December 19, 1982. In a piece called Vox of Pop Sixpack, He talked about “Who speaks for the average man? Out of whose mouth comes the voice of the people? A bit of doggerel in the Presidential campaign of 1920, sung by the supporters of James Cox and Franklin Roosevelt, used the Latin term vox populi, for ”voice of the people”: ”Cox or Harding, Harding or Cox?/ You tell us, populi, you got the vox.” At that time, the chorus of voices that intoned ”Harding and Coolidge” went under the name of John Citizen for highbrows, Joe Zilch for lowbrows…” Then he cites my suggestion of Joe Sixpack.

I also wrote to him about my suggestion of the term lunaversary to note the marking of the celebration of a month; e.g., if you were married for a month, you might celebrate your first lunaversary. Far more accurate than “one-month anniversary”, anni- referring to year, and far shorter to boot. Safire did not use it in his column, but he did type me a response suggesting that the idea had merit; I still have that blue postcard somewhere in the attic.
I find myself agreeing with Mark Evanier over the fate of Roman Polanski. The VICTIM has suffered enough; would it be “justice” if she were forced to testify at a media frenzy of a trial? I find her position paramount. She said six and a half years ago, when Polanski was up for an Oscar: “And, honestly, the publicity surrounding it was so traumatic that what he did to me seemed to pale in comparison.”
Nova: Darwin’s Darkest Hour – Tues., October 6 at 8 p.m. (but check your local listings)

This two-hour scripted drama presents the remarkable story behind the birth of Darwin’s radically controversial theory of evolution and reveals his deeply personal crisis of whether to publish his earthshaking ideas or to keep quiet to avoid potential backlash from the church.
How to make a grilled cheese sandwich
What happens when the world’s most popular comic book company is assimilated by the Mouse Factory


The 1987 San Diego Comic Book Convention

The San Diego Comic Convention starts today, or maybe started yesterday. I’m not going, but I have gone in the past, on behalf of the retailer/publisher FantaCo. For the first of two times I attended, the details had left me. However, I seem to have written it down in painfully precise detail, only some of which I will share with you now. If the details are wrong, it’s not from a failing memory, as much of this is verbatim from my journal. [The stuff in brackets are asides from a more current perspective.]

Day One (August 11)
The first session I attended was for retailers. It was called “Fear and Loathing in San Diego – the Chain Store is Coming!” It was about how to survive the onslaught of regular bookstores carrying comic books and how to position comic stores to look more like “regular bookstores.” [I was thinking that as long as FantaCo is selling horror comics, this model won’t work for the store.]
After lunch, I went to an exhibit room and talked to a number of distributors. I kept coming back to the Marvel Comics table because Lou Banks, Dale Kanzler, and Ann Eagan were such a fun bunch. [Hey, they were!] I helped the Marvel crew learn how to run a cash register.
I saw Denis Kitchen of Kitchen Sink Enterprises, and I’m afraid I thoroughly gushed when I talked to him about the Chronicles.
I got into a debate with Bob Wayne of DC over the $2.95 Dark Knight format going to $3.50. His point was that if we knew our customers better, we wouldn’t have a problem. [This really ticked me off.] I also complained about the Millennium and crossovers.
Met Mike Friedrich, who is very instrumental in supporting the comic industry’s self-examination. Talked Chronicles with him as well. The Malibu people acted as though they were on the beach – lawn chairs, and laid back. I took an immediate dislike to Ron Turner, who owns Last Gasp, especially when he said, referring to FantaCo, “You still around?” But he bought three cases of The Amazing Herschell Gordon Lewis.

Day Two
Met the people from Comico, CBG (Ann Goetsch, who had just recently married John Koenig). They’re both charming. I also met Chet Krause, who was in San Diego for a car show. He indicated that CBG was a lot bigger project than he thought it would be. He suggested that he probably paid Allen Light too much money for TBG and that CBG was losing money until two years ago. He has nothing but admiration for Don and Maggie, who I unfortunately didn’t meet, and Ann and John. I had just missed meeting Billy Mumy [who I wanted to meet not so much for Lost in Space, but for a couple episodes of The Twilight Zone}.

Day Three
Talked with Cat Yronwode and Dean Mullaney (Eclipse Comics) and Walter Wang (comics distributor) and others. Also met artists like Tina Robbins, Steve Leialoha, Scott Shaw! Hung out a little with Cat’s bored 16-year-old daughter. Saw bits of a couple of movies, and went to a panel on how to break into comics, which was really lame.

Day Four
Caught a snatch of a panel on social relevancy in comics.
Went to Stan Lee’s soapbox. He and Tom DeFalco had an embarrassing interlude when DeFalco reminds Lee that Lee and Jack Kirby DID sign some papers when Marvel was sold in the early 1970s.
Met Steve Webb, who used to write for the Knick News in Albany but who now writes the entertainment insert for a Phoenix newspaper.
There was a panel on gentrifying the ghetto of comics narrated by Gerald Jones. The panel included Joyce Brabner (Real War Stories, Harvey Pekar’s wife), Max Allen Collins (Ms. Tree), Carol Kalish (Marvel), Art Spiegelman, Heidi MacDonald. It occurred to me, and I told Art later, that it is the ghettoization which has allowed these good things in comics to flourish unobserved, and that the good stuff will show through. [I had forgotten this, but I had talked with Art before because FantaCo was buying RAW comics, this oversized comics he was involved with.]
Gerald Jones then moderated “Black and White Comics: The Gray Future.” with Denis Kitchen, Scott McCloud, Gary Groth, David Olbrick, Wendy Pini, Stan Sakai, and Will Eisner, who took exception to the observations (including mine) that the marketplace should have some standards. [I was in an argument with Will Eisner?] Groth and Collins were defending the standards when I left. Other people I saw at the convention: Leonard Rifas, who I met back in ’83 when he was traveling the country – he gave me some African comics; Tom DeFalco; Ward Batty (he and I hit it off instantly).



I went to see Iron Man at the Madison Theater in Albany. There were 4 people in the theater – four – on a Sunday afternoon of Memorial Day weekend. This breaks the previous record for second smallest audience I’ve been in for a film. Worse than the six people with whom I saw both “Raising Arizona” and “Requiem for a Dream.” The only movie I ever attended with the worst audience numerically was when I sat alone for a matinee showing of “Spy Kids.”

Just before I saw the movie, I was playing an album by Pete Townsend called “Iron Man”, which was the basis for the animated film “The Iron Giant”, which I love. There’s a character in the “Iron Man” movie that looks not unlike a malevolent “Iron Giant.” But you’ll have to see that for yourself.

This movie theater showed six previews. One was for the new Indy Jones movie, which had opened nationally, but not yet at that location; maybe I’ll see it. The M. Night Shyamalan movie “The Happening”; the title reminds me of a dorky Supremes song that did better on the pop charts than it did the R&B charts; since I still have the Andromeda Strain to watch on the DVR, taped from A&E, I think I’ll pass. I’m mortified to note that I laughed, just a little, at the preview for that Adam Sandler Zotan film. There was the Incredible Hulk; I never saw the Ang Lee version from five years back, but this looks interesting. There was The Dark Knight, which seemed to feature the Joker more than Bruce Wayne and Batman combined; I might catch it. The sixth movie I forget; Prine Caspian? The Stranger? I don’t remember.

I should note that Iron Man was never my favorite Marvel character. I came to superhero comics in the early 1970s, but I went back to know well the origins of characters such as Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, the X-Men and the Hulk. Yet I wasn’t that involved in Iron Man’s, save for its Viet Nam roots. Actually, I’ve just reread it, and it’s just not all that interesting. (What IS interesting is that it took Marvel to Volume 20 to put Shell-Head in a Marvel Masterworks, whereas characters such as Spidey and even the Silver Surfer had already warranted multiple volumes.) So, I always felt Iron Man was a minor player, even though he was an Avenger.

That said, all the reviews I’ve seen talk about how great Robert Downey, Jr. is as the snarky Tony Stark, and I have to agree. As a long-time comic book reader, I thought the character was dull, and boring, and a tad bit fascistic. So to see Tony Stark evolve in the movie was a gratifying, rewarding evolution. The change from Southeast Asia to Afghanistan was well-conceived. Jeff Bridges, Gwynneth Paltrow, and Terence Howard were all very strong in their roles. One movie reviewer has suggested that there was more sexual tension between Downey’s Stark character and Paltrow’s Pepper Potts than you might find in your recent lame movie romances such as “27 Dresses” or “Made of Honor.” Not having seen either of those films, I can’t speak to the comparison, but there was definitely chemistry there.

Apparently my three compatriots in the theater hadn’t heard about the big reveal at the end of the movie credits, for a couple left as soon as the end credits began, while the other woman departed after the snazzy outro that utilized the music of Black Sabbath. If you somehow haven’t seen the movie yet, just wait for it.


Roger Answers Your Questions, Scott and GayProf

Happy Easter! Appropriately, I’m answering questions from a couple of good eggs.

Scott, who I recently offered a few questions to, has responded in kind.

1. Who do you think will win the NL East this year?

Why, the M-M-M-M-Meh-Meh-Meh-Meh. I’d rather not say; I don’t want to jinx them. They have a new front-line pitcher which should avoid that near-record collapse from last year.

2. Who is your favorite singer?

Gee, that’s hard. I like lots of different singers for a lot of different moods. People such as Nat King Cole and Sam Cooke certainly would be on the list, but so would a lot of rockers. I find it difficult to separate the vocal from the material. Mike Love of the Beach Boys has a bit of a nasally sound to his voice, yet those BB songs on which he sings lead work for me. Other living singers? Cassandra Wilson immediately comes to mind.

3. Who is your favorite comic book hero? (Gay Prof adds: “I hope the answer to question number 3 from Scott is Wonder Woman.”)

Oh, GP, I so do hate disappointing you. Let me explain how I got into comics in college. A new friend of mine collected them. I thought he was crazy, then I started looking at them. The first one I bought was Luke Cage, Hero for Hire #1. I thought he was pretty cool. (Later, he decided to change his name to the boring Power Man, and my interest waned.)
Luke Cage appeared in the shadows of Amazing Spider-Man #122 and was on the cover of #123, which got me interested in the webslinger. At about the same time, I was interested in Sub-Mariner #50 (or so) at a point when Bill Everett, the golden age artist who had created Namor, returned to the book. In fact, Sub-Mariner was the first book I sought out back issues of. I got into the Defenders because Namor was in it, then the Avengers because of the Defenders-Avengers war. So I was a Marvel zombie. I’d say my favorites are Spider-Man, Namor and Luke Cage, but I discount anything that might have happened in the last decade or so.
Conversely, I really wasn’t interested in the mainline DC superheroes that eventually bored me in my childhood (Superman, Batman, Flash). By the time I DID look at Wonder Woman, she wasn’t even wearing the star-spangelled garb. These stories were so damn EARNEST – they marketed some of them as “Women’s Lib” issues – their term, not mine. I owned this particular issue, maybe my first, but didn’t stay with it long, I’m afraid, GP.

4. What was your favorite subject in school?

Spelling. Eye wuz allwayz a gud speler. And math. I always liked arithmetic and algebra. I like how if you have a long number and the digit adds up to nine, then it’s divisible by nine. Numbers are magic. I’m more likely to remember someone’s phone number than someone’s name.

5. What was the toughest subject for you in school?

Shop. I had it in seventh and eighth grade – wood, ceramics and something else. The wood items never came out evenly; the ceramic things kept blowing up in the kiln. Strangely, ninth grade metal shop wasn’t so bad, maybe because the tools were more precise so I couldn’t muck things up so much.

GayProf: My question would be what food is your ultimate “comfort food?”

Mac and cheese. My wife makes it, grating the cheese. We’re not talking blue boxes of Kraft here.

Scott, I’ll answer your other question soon; it’s tied into Nik’s, and should best be answered together.


French military victories in the Arabian Gulf

You may recall that Google was, for a time, “fooled”, when typing in miserable failure, into linking to George W. Bush’s biography; now it links to the controversy over that Google bomb.

I have learned recently that the first site that loads on Google when you plug in the term French military victories is a faked Google page offering a “did you mean?” option. Searching for Arabian gulf gives you a site similar to the defused “cannot find weapons of mass destruction” fake IE error page. (Thanks, Amanda from Charleston.)
Wonder Woman shows that fighting crime is not always easy.

I went into a comic book store last week and actually bought two items: the Overstreet Price Guide (do people still call it the Overpriced Street Guide?), because my boss has started asking me about prices of old comics; and the magazine Alter Ego (July 2007), featuring a long interview with ’70s Marvel editor, and Alter Ego founder, Roy Thomas. His ascent to editor pretty much corresponded to the time I first started looking at comics again after a large gap when I had “outgrown” them; big-time nostalgia for me, I was surprised to discover.
There’s a new reality show being developed and I know all about it.
Numbers lie: I’m loving the Wall Street Journal blog, The Numbers Guy, which I write about here.
My monthly plug about the Underground Railroad conference here.

Yeah, I’m repositioning my own pieces from my other blogs for this post. Hey, it’s Labor Day weekend; cut me some slack!
Instead of watching Pedro Martinez’s pitching debut for his beloved Mets, what Fred Hembeck will be viewing (September 2). I’ll be alternating between the Mets and the U.S. Open (tennis), bumped from the local our CBS affiliate by what Fred is watching, but showing up on our CW affiliate.


Daredevil Omnibus

ADD wrote to me a couple weeks ago:
Hey Roger,
I have a question for you that I just posted to my blog
Let me know if you have any info at all.
Hope all is well!

As I may have mentioned, it was rather strange to see in the pages of the Daredevil Omnibus the pages from FantaCo’s Daredevil Chronicles, a magazine I worked on, though Mitch Cohn was the editor. The intrepid Alan David Doane asked me if Marvel had asked permission to appropriate pages directly from the FantaCo publication, and whether they paid the contributors.

The short answer, as far as I know, is no. The long answer is a little more complicated.

When FantaCo put together the X-Men Chronicles, a fanzine about the uncanny mutants edited by me, Marvel was very pleased. SO pleased that they gave us permission to use the Marvel Comics Group strip on the top of the page of the Fantastic Four Chronicles (cover by John Byrne, edited by me) and the Daredevil Chronicles (cover by Miller/Janson, edited by Mitch). In other words, they were licensed products of Marvel. Therefore, my guess is that Marvel believed they had a right to appropriate the DDC for the DD Omnibus, as it was their product, so there was no need to give permission.

Fred Hembeck tells me that Peter Sanderson, whose FantaCo interview of Frank Miller and Klaus Janson, appears in the book, was given a copy of the book, according to Sanderson’s Quick Stop column. Fred, whose illustration accompanies that interview, is still waiting for his copy. You’d have to ask John Byrne and George Perez whether their Daredevil drawings earned them a copy, or something more.

Incidentally, at least one “independent comics” publisher loathed the DDC, because of the emphasis on Miller and Janson, to the exclusion of the rest of the canon (Wally Wood, e g.). I won’t tell you who he is, but you know when the sun or moon temporarily disappears?

I asked Mitch about all of this. He wondered about the copyright issue too when I first mentioned the project to him. I agree with him that would depend on how the copyright was done, which he recalls was all FantaCo except for trademarks owned by Marvel. While he notes that Tom Skulan (the FantaCo owner) might have a case against Marvel, we both would think Marvel would have run it past their legal department before committing to do it. “It’s not like they needed that stuff in there,” Mitch opined.

You should know that the subsequent Avengers Chronicles, which Mitch edited, and the Spider-Man Chronicles, which was my baby, no longer had the Marvel Comic Group strip. That’s because of something that happened, a decision I made, that caused Marvel editor Jim Shooter to call with a profanity-laden tirade that poor Mitch got to hear. But that’s a story for another day.