Stan Lee: A Tribute

By Thomas Rodriguez

Let’s start with Stan Lee, the writer.

Before the creation of the Fantastic Four and the start of the Silver age of comics, the thought that a superhero would have faults like the rest of us was absurd. Before his creations were brought to the four-color world of comics, superheroes were almost perfect. You couldn’t relate to them. One reason DC Universe is having a hard time with its films is that you can’t relate to the main three. Superman is so powerful, so perfect, that he can balance life with a wife and family with the responsibilities of being the world’s greatest hero with no problem. Batman doesn’t even bother with a personal life. His life is the next murder to solve. And Wonder Woman is a warrior princess who is almost too good to be true.

Marvel didn’t have those kinds of characters, those modern mythological gods. No, they had a teenager who tried to balance school, a job, and responsibly as the friendly neighborhood Spiderman. A family of explorers where the husbandneglected the wife and the two “Brothers” constantly bickered. A teamof misfits who swore to protect a world that feared and hated them. A god ofthunder who had issues with both dad and baby bro.

With Thor and Hulk from the 80’s

This was the world of Marvel. This was the world made by Stan Lee.

Stan Lee was like McCartney to Jack Kirby’s John Lennon. Taken apart, they left anindelible mark on comics as a medium. But when they worked together, they couldmake a god weep.

The John Lennon and Paul McCartney of comics

And the crazy thing was, it almost didn’t happen.

The story goes that Stan Lee was ready to quit comics. His wife suggested he write one last book, something that he would want to read.

And out of that frustration, the Fantastic Four was born.

And an industry evolved. Perhaps even saved.

Now let’s talk about Stan Lee, the pitchman.

Stan modelled himself as the late 20th-century version of Walt Disney. He took on the role of company pitchman with an energy like the creator of the world’s most famous mouse. It was almost a way to hold on to ownership of the characters,though he created them as an employee of Marvel. He wanted to see them succeed, and so he sold the hell out of them.

He narrated books and video games. He appeared in both print and television commercials. He made cameos on almost every Marvel related film and television adaptation produced. He put himself out there as the face of Marvel Comics. When you thought of Marvel, Stan Lee was the first person you thought of. Some even thought that he still wrote the books, though he stopped writing comics with any regularity in 1972.

He believed in Marvel comics, and he did everything he could to let you know that.

Stan Lee and Spidey having fun in the office

Finally, let’s talk about Stan Lee, the innovator.

He was the first writer to truly collaborate with his artist. He achieved this by developing what was then called the Marvel Method of writing comics.

The premise was simple. Stan would provide his artist with a plot outline of the story he wanted to write (often over the phone). From that outline, it was up to the artist to break it down and draw a 22-page comic. Stan would then receive the artwork, and write dialogue based on what he saw in the panels. Marvel would publish that book, and the process would begin again. He did this to keep up with the demands of both the publishing schedule and the artist whom he was working with. Using this method, he could write five different comic books for five different artists and have all the comics come out on a monthly basis.

He popularized the use of the shared universe in Marvel comics by having most of the characters live in New York city. It was a novelty at the time to see Spider-man swing past the Baxter Building (home of the Fantastic Four) or have Dr Strange read the Daily Bugle. At DC, the characters teamed up but there was never any real sense that Batman and Superman worked on the same planet. At Marvel, it wasn’t strange to think that Ben Grimm and Matt Murdock could be neighbors.

And he allowed artists to be as famous as the characters they worked on. With his monthly “Stan’s Soapbox”, the prominent display of the artist’s name in the credits, and the use of nicknames, he was able to connect names with the art and allow the artists, and himself, to become niche celebrities. The comic conventions you go to today don’t happen if Stan Lee didn’t help popularize the people who draw your favorite funny books.

Modern pop culture wouldn’t be what it is today without Stan Lee. His creative vision and innovative storytelling in the comic book medium have been refined but never topped. Like those who followed the Beatles, the writers and artist working in comics today follow in the footsteps of Stan the Man. He has achieved a level of immortality those in the creative arts can only dream of.

A young Stan Lee

We mourn the man we lost. We celebrate the work he’s left behind. We thank him for stories he told. And we cherish the fact that Stan Lee, through the characters he wrote, showed us that those of us with flaws, quirks, and even disabilities can achieve great things.

And that with great power, comes great responsibility.

Spider-Man Finds Himself “Far from Home” in MCU Sequel

When we last left our friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man, things weren’t looking too good for him.

Thanos had acquired all the infinity stones, and with a snap of his fingers, wiped out half of the universe.

Peter Parker included.

But anyone who reads comics on the regular knows that Superhero deaths are as permanent as a Las Vegas marriage. Spider-man is far too lucrative a property to stay dead for too long.

Marvel Studios isn’t even trying to pretend that Parker’s death will be a lasting one. News has already begun to leak out about the sequel to the immensely popular (and quite entertaining) Spider-man: Homecoming. Entitled “Far from Home,” The film brings back Tom Holland as Peter Parker, Marisa Tomei as his doting Aunt May, and Zendaya as his rival/potential love interest, Michelle “MJ” Jones.

There will be some new faces, however.

Misleading Title

“Far from Home” Evokes an image of Peter Parker alone, on an alien planet, with no way off, wearing nothing but his Iron Spider Suit. One could imagine a film much like “The Martian,” and have Spider-man use his intellect to find his way back to New York.

Marvel, however, has decided to be coy about the meaning of the title. In an interview with Gizmodo, Kevin Feige hints that the film could be set BEFORE the events of INFINITY WAR. He said, “We know it’s the summer. I think it’s summer vacation. I think he’s going to Europe with his friends. I don’t know what summer.”

Whatever the truth is, it seems that Spider-man will be truly out of his element, which will provide not only a new challenge for the wall-crawler, but a nice alternative to the shots of Spider-man swinging through the city.

The Coming of Mysterio

If the setting truly is Europe, as Feige has hinted at, then it makes the choice of Mysterio as the Big Bad even more interesting. In the source material, Mysterio (Real name Quentin Beck) is a special effects wizard who uses his talents to commit crimes. In the film, he will be played by Jake Gyllenhaal and at press time, no other details have been leaked out, including what he may potentially look like (Mysterio was the villain with the fishbowl for a head. It’s highly doubtful that Marvel will go with that look).

Mysterio Jake Gyellenhaal

One interesting bit of trivia involving Jake Gyllenhaal is that this is not his first connection to Spider-man. Back when the original trilogy was made Toby Maguire had been injured while filming the movie Seabiscuit, and there was real concern that he might not be able to film the sequel to the first Spider-man. Jake Gyllenhaal was in talks to replace Maguire as the lead. Thankfully, Toby Maguire healed up and continued to play the role into the third (bad) film.

What will this iteration of Mysterio bring? one idea is that he could be a master of illusions, Ala David Copperfield or David Blain. Or perhaps he is a chemist with a talent for hallucinogens. In any case, it’s refreshing that Marvel has continued to showcase some of the lesser villains in Spider-man’s Rogues gallery, rather than attempt to rehash more popular villains.

Speaking in which . . .

Can the Sinister Six not be far behind?

There was a moment in the previous film’s post credit scene that hinted that the sinister Six is a possibility. That rumor only grows stronger with Variety reporting that Michael Keaton will reprise his role of Vulture.

Sinister Six

It will be interesting to see how they pull off the sinister six, and what characters will be used to form the villainous team. It’s still not clear what characters Marvel could use via their agreement with Sony, and it’s unlikely that Sony would allow Marvel to use the more popular characters like The Green Goblin and Doctor Octopus. Venom is staring in his own film, so he’s out. The great thing about Spider-man, though, is his vast Rogue’s Gallery. There’s still a lot to work with, including Kraven the Hunter, The Chameleon, and The Scorpion.

Spiderman vs the Sinister Six would make one hell of a capper to the “Spiderman in the MCU” trilogy. A trilogy no one thought they would ever see happen.

Cameos from Street Level Heroes

While Spider-man, in the films, has palled around with The Avengers and their Counterparts the Guardians of the Galaxy, and while we have seen Parker fight bad guys in space, In his heart he’s a street level crime fighter. And though Fiege has been careful to keep the Movies and the TV shows separate, Spider-man Far from Home Sets up the perfect opportunity for the two to mix.

Imagine, Spider-man returning from his adventures in Europe. He’s swinging in the city. He then hears a crime being committed. He jumps in to attack. But he’s too late. The threat has been neutralized. And when he arrives on scene he sees a man clad in red, billy club in hand, Standing over the perpetrators.

Daredevil turns, looks at Spider-man, and says, “Where have YOU been?”

Now imagine the reaction from the Audience?

Pure pandemonium.

The Best Big Screen Spider-Man Ever

Homecoming hit all the right notes as to how a Spider-man film should look and feel. And amazingly, it did it without all the trappings of Spider-man Lore. There was no J Jonah Jameson, no Daily Bugle, No MJ or Gwen Stacy. He didn’t take pictures and his Aunt wasn’t a decrepit old Lady feeding him Wheat cakes. Still, it was probably the most accurate depiction of the character seen in film. That’s a credit to Marvel Studio’s solid storytelling. They hit a home run with Homecoming.

And there’s no reason to think that FAR FROM HOME won’t continue that stellar track record.

What is the future for X-Men?

At the height of their popularity, the X-men were selling millions of copies of comics each month. It had a hit Saturday morning cartoon running. Wolverine, the most popular character, popped up in every Marvel Comic.

So, what’s happened since then? There hasn’t been much of a push to sell X-men comics lately. Marvel heavily promotes its Avengers lines. There is as much Avengers related product now as there were in the 90’s with the X-Men.

What made the change?

It’s simple. It’s all about film rights.

With the X-men topping the sales charts, Marvel cashed in by selling their film rights to 20th Century Fox Studios. The rights sold for 3 million dollars, a paltry sum in hindsight. With Fox unwilling to re-negotiate a financially balanced deal, Marvel decided to look for another existing IP to prop up.

Enter the Avengers.

Marvel has always wanted to make the Avengers a franchise that was as popular, if not more so, than the X-men. There was a failed experiment in which Marvel leased their characters to Jim Lee and Image Comics. That created buzz but nothing sustainable. Then in the Early 2000’s Brian Bendis took over the title and turned the team into Marvel’s version of the Justice League, opening the membership to include characters as popular as Wolverine (ironically), Spider-man, and Daredevil.

That proved to be a winning combination, and coincided with the creation of Marvel Studios. Marvel cut the number of x-men titles they published, excluded them from any merchandising deals they had, and have ignored the franchise for the better part of 10 years.

What’s the idea behind this neglect? It’s in the hopes that the studio can make a deal with Fox the way they made a similar deal with Sony and the use of Spider-man. Like the X-men, the Spider-Man franchise was sold to another studio before Marvel had decided to create their films in-house. Unlike the X-men, the Spider-man deal was much fairer. He starred in three very successful films and everyone was happy.

Fortunately, for Marvel, their studio was up and running and had just culminated years of hard work with the release of THE AVENGERS at the same time Sony was trying unsuccessfully to reboot the Spider-man franchise with the release of THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN. The first of a planned trilogy made a good amount of money but nothing close to the billions that THE AVENGERS made. And unlike the Solo Avengers films, there was nothing to connect Spider-man to. Fans were looking for their films to connect to a larger universe much like the comics. It set up for a negotiation where Sony and Marvel would share the character and allow him to become a part of the larger Avengers universe.

 Marvel has attempted to make a similar deal with Fox, both with the X-men Franchise and the Fantastic Four. But Fox has no need to negotiate, with the X-men Franchise still being a successful, profitable IP for the studio. Fantastic Four hasn’t been as strong as the X-men, but after seeing with Marvel did with characters once owned by Fox, like Ghost Rider and Daredevil, Fox is reluctant to do any kind of deal for the Marvel Characters they own. It got so ugly that Marvel cancelled their longest running comic, THE FANTASTIC FOUR, to undermine any success the franchise might have with the films.

Marvel would love to do the same with the X-men at this moment and have tried to push the Inhumans as a surrogate to the X-men in some stories. But the television show (that was once supposed to be a film) hasn’t made the same mark culturally as the X-men has. The X-men are a universe unto themselves now, and Fox has been much more forward thinking with the franchise than Marvel ever would.

They have rebooted the franchise once, while also connecting it to the previous incarnation. They have already released two R Rated X-men films, Deadpool and Logan, to financial and critical acclaim. They have infiltrated television, with LEGION and THE GIFTED doing well in the ratings. And with the upcoming NEW MUTANTS film release, they are now Genre melding (superheroes and Horror).

The film franchise is doing strong. And the comics are still making enough money to continue to be published. The future of the X-men seems very healthy. And for Marvel the publisher, that’s a very good thing. 

For Marvel the Film studio, not so much.

Ten Gift Ideas For The Spider-Man Fans In Your Life

Like Ned Stark looking out at the horizon, a warning. Christmas is Coming. And if that special someone in your life is a Spider-man fan, it makes sense to start thinking of the right gift for them. It’s never too early to be ready, right?

But there’s SOOOO much stuff out there, right? Spider-man has been in the public eye for over 50 years now. That’s a lot of Spider-man underoos, you know.

So, I’m here to help. Presented below is the kind of stuff I would dig if I found it under the Christmas tree. And if I dig it – I’m sure that special person in your life will dig it too.

We’ll start with one of the most popular brand of toys going today: LEGO. They have their own movie now. Although Spider-man hasn’t started in a Lego film yet, he’s got plenty of material out there. Available at all major retailers and at Lego.com.

Now, if you’ve been to one of those Build-A-Bear Workshops at a mall you know the joy of a lifeless bear getting stuffed. Now imagine it’s a SPIDER-BEAR! You can find it at the Build-a-Bear workshops or online.

Given that it’s going to be cold during the holiday season, hoodies and sweaters are going to be very valuable. This Spider-man Hoodie is cool because you can zip it up to the top, creating a Spider-man mask. You know, in case you’re called to heroic action.

Or you need to rob a bank. Your choice. Personally, it would be ideal for cosplay party.

If full faced warmth doesn’t cut it, you can always aim to be the coolest dude, or dude-ette, at the office Christmas party. These guys have a good collection of Ugly Christmas Sweaters will make you the talk of your next “Ugly” Christmas sweater party. You’ll be a lot more popular than Bob, from accounting.

For the youth in your life (or the adult who acts as a child) fidget spinners are still popular. This Spider-man Themed one will help them stand out.

One place that has a lot of unique gifts for the Spider-centric fan is Etsy.com. There you can find His and Her pillows, Cufflinks, and even earrings. These gifts are off the beaten path and would be a great addition to any collection. I’m particularly fond of the cufflinks. At the very least, they are a conversation piece at any formal event.

And if there are any grille masters out there, this Spider-man Apron will leave no doubt who is the hero of the cookout.

Finally, for someone who appreciates comic art, “The Amazing Spider-Man Artist’s Editions” would look great on any coffee table. The John Romita and Gil Kane editions are most notable. You can find them on IDW.Com.

There’s plenty of things out there that can please any Spider-fan in your life. But the most unique, the most thought out gift, the one bought with love, are often the ones that win out.

Happy hunting and good luck.

Spider-Man’s 5 Best Team-ups

Ever since Spiderman swung through the pages of Amazing Fantasy #15, he’s never stopped amazing us. But, we can’t give all the credit to Peter Parker – there were plenty of heroes who helped him along the way. So here are five of the best team-ups Spider-Man got into over his half a century of splurting web in the funny books.

Spider-Man/Superman

Marvel and DC’s rivalry has become one of nerdom’s most enduring cornerstones that the industry would be rendered unrecognizable if it didn’t exist. However, there were times that the stars aligned and these two purveyors of capes and tights decided to profit together. One of the results of these ever so rare unions is 1976’s Superman vs. The Amazing Spider-Man, written by Gerry Conway and illustrated by the dream team of Ross Andru, Neal Adams, and John Romita, Sr. The story is exactly as it sounds: it’s the Last Son Of Krypton fighting Webhead, because who needs drama when you get to see two men in tights beating the snot out of each other?

Spider-Man/X-Men

Back before Len Wein (god speed, sir) and Dave Cockrum put their spin on the Children of the Atom, the X-Men franchise was at the bottom of the popularity pile, which means readers just aren’t picking them up. So, to boost sales for the property, what better way than to pair Marvel’s mutants with their #1 franchise? Hence, Marvel Team-up #4 was published in 1972. In the issue, penned again by none other than the legendary Gerry Conway with the incomparable Gil Kane on art duties, Spidey and the original X-Men go up against Morbius the Living Vampire (and even Frankenstein’s monster!). The team-up proved to be quite a charm, as X-Men comics’ sales went up after this was published.

Spider-Man/Iron Man

Long before Robert Downey, Jr. decided to conscript child soldiers for his war against Captain America, Spidey and Iron Man have been on adventures together in the funny books. It all started in 1973, when Marvel Team-up #9 was published, which had Tony Stark and Peter Parker going on a romp to the future. Now, what makes this issue interesting aside from its historical significance is the way the two characters’ relationship was established, where Iron Man and Spidey have more of a partnership than an apprenticeship.

Spider-Man/Human Torch

The Fantastic Four and Spider-Man are two Marvel properties that have had close ties to each other ever since they came out of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s minds. Even further, it’s the Spider-Man and Human Torch’s dynamic that shines here, given that the two characters are roughly the same age. This relationship just became more of a classic when Marvel Team-up #1 was released in 1972. It’s a Christmas story where the two heroes duke it out with the Sandman, who was just on his way to deliver some presents to his mom. Yeah, superheroes can be jerks too.

Spider-Man/Deadpool

All the other entries here are iconic, but none are as perfect as when Your Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man teams up with the Merc with a Mouth. So much so, that a whole series dedicated to this holiest of pairings was published in 2016 on the pages of Spider-Man/Deadpool #1. It’s about them doing what superheroes do, but it’s the banter which makes it so appealing. Come on, we’re talking about two of mainstream comics’ greatest quippers here.

 

Spider Man’s 5 Greatest Enemies

There’s a reason that the cliché, “a hero is only as good as its villain” will never lose its meaning: it’s simply true. Now, when it comes to villains, there’s no denying that Spider-Man has some of the most colorful and richest adversaries in all of the mainstream comics. Here are five that are just a cut above the rest.

Venom

If there’s one villain that truly sits right at the opposite end of Spider-Man, it’s none other than Venom. Apart from being one of those rare characters that were able to outgrow its 90s roots and remain more or less relevant to this day, the Venom character is also a property that’s pretty impressive when you consider that it’s one of the youngest additions to the Spider-Man franchise. Created by Randy Schueller, David Micheline, Mike Zeck and Todd McFarlane in 1988 and first appearing in Amazing Spider-Man #299, the black symbiote from space has proven time and again that it’s one Spidey villain that isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

Kraven the Hunter

Not a lot of comic book characters are lucky enough to become iconic based on one story arc alone, and Kraven just happens to be one of those. A classic Stan Lee and Steve Ditko creation that first appeared in 1964 within the pages of Amazing Spider-Man #15, it wasn’t until the 1987 storyline Kraven’s Last Hunt by J.M DeMatteis and Mike Zeck that the property propelled itself into one of ol’ Webhead’s greatest nemeses. Not bad for a guy wearing leopard print tights and whose only actual superpower is being a great huntsman.

Doctor Octopus

There’s a reason that Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man II is considered one of the greatest superhero movies ever created, and its thanks in huge part to Doctor Octopus. A brainchild of the short-lived Lee and Ditko partnership, Doc Ock’s trademark design and tragic origin story makes it one of the most empathetic characters in mainstream superhero comics. Plus, the property has come a long way ever since first appearing in 1964’s Amazing Spider-Man #3, even taking on the Spider-Mantle (zing!) in 2012’s Superior Spider-Man series.

Green Goblin

The Green Goblin is undoubtedly the perpetual thorn on Spider-Man’s side, and is arguably the our hero’s greatest enemy. Ever since menacing Spidey in Amazing Spider-Man #14 (published in 1964), the green-skinned maniac has been featured in some of the wallcrawler’s most important stories. For one, this is the villain responsible for killing Gwen Stacy, one of Peter Parker’s most famous love interests. If you go even deeper, you’ll find out that the Green Goblin even had sex with that same woman. ‘Nuff said.

J. Jonah Jameson

Who says you need superpowers to become a great villain? Whereas all the other characters on this list can destroy Spider-Man, only J. Jonah Jameson has enough juice in the Marvel universe to destroy him for everybody. That’s the power of bad publicity for you, folks. Additionally, this Stan Lee and Steve Ditko creation predates each and every other villain here by having been present ever since 1963’s Amazing Spider-Man #1. And there’s no sign whatsoever indicating that he’s about to throw in the towel just yet.

Five Graphic Novels that Deserve their own Film or TV Show

In a time which is dominated by one superhero film after another, it’s hard to believe that there actually still plenty of great graphic novels which haven’t been adapted for big screen or TV.  In no order of importance, here we are with five graphic novels that deserve their own film or TV series adaptation.

1. Batman: The Long Halloween

What it’s about: This 12-issue long maxi-series written by Jeph Loeb and drawn by none other than Tim Sale sees the Dark Knight Detective going back to his roots by solving murders that fall upon significant holidays in each month of the year.

Why it should be a movie: From iconic villains like the Joker to C-list foils like Calendar Man, this yarn has no shortage when it comes to the Caped Crusader’s Rogues gallery. More importantly, though, haven’t we had enough of Batman beating the crap out of bad guys? I for one think it’s time we bring him back to his pulp roots, solving crimes instead of punching them in the face.

2. Daredevil: End of Days

What it’s about: Serving as a sort of closing arc to Brian Michael Bendis’ memorable run on the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen, Daredevil: End of Days presents readers with the end of Matt Murdock’s career as the horned vigilante. Equal parts thriller and drama, this is perhaps one of the most heartfelt superhero comics to have come out in the last decade.

Why it should be a movie: If nothing else, the way Daredevil: End of Days’ plot is told makes it potentially one of the most unique superhero movies out there. No, I won’t tell you all about it; go get your own copy and marvel (pun unintended) at it. I cannot recommend this miniseries more.

3. Pride of Baghdad

What it’s about: Brian K. Vaughn and Niko Henrichon provide us with one of the most realistic depictions of the effects of war in this graphic novel by Vertigo Comics. Oh, and did I mention it has a family of lions as its main characters? Well, there you go.

Why it should be a movie: Up to this day, mainstream animated features have been more or less focused on family-friendly content. That could all change with Pride of Baghdad, though, where I can just imagine a CGI – or better yet, a traditionally animated style that emulates Henrichon’s style – movie that could make even the stoniest members of the audience weep.

4. Plastic

What it’s about: Ever heard of Bonnie and Clyde? Now, imagine if Bonnie was an inflatable sex doll and Clyde was a mentally unstable murderer. Alright, so what if a certain mob boss’ son decides to steal this latex Bonnie? Image Comics’ Plastic is what happens.

Why it should be a movie: Sure, the whole lovers-on-the-run trope has been overplayed at this point, but I’ll be damned if I said I didn’t want something like Plastic to be turned into a movie. Blood, explosions, hilarity: this comic has it all.

5. Black Kiss I

What it’s about: Howard Chaykin’sinfmous graphic novel about sex, drugs, and violence centers around what happens when a smack-addicted Jazz man, crooked cops, a transsexual escort and just a dash of heresy cross paths with one another. That’s all I’ll say about that.

Why it should be a movie: With its outrageous plot and even more outrageous characters, Black Kiss is the kind of comic that just begs for a big screen treatment. To even become closer to the spirit of the comic, this could even be done in black and white a la Sin City.