Walloping Web-Snappers! Another great Spider-Man book is swinging your way in February 2019! AMAZING SPIDER-MAN NEWSPAPER COMICS, VOL. 5: 1985-1986 brings you another two years of action-packed comic strip fun, written by Stan “The Man” Lee himself!
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Bits and pieces picked up on the road between Star Hawks Volume 3 and Steve Canyon Volume 9 …
“Now It Can Be Told” Dept: Here’s hoping you were able to tune in on Wednesday, May 16th, to see my wife, Krista, vie with two other competitors on Wheel of Fortune. Krista is an exceptional word-game player (it’s murder trying to beat her at Scrabble!), and her skills were on display throughout this episode — though the capricious Wheel can both giveth and taketh away. That said, I was — and am — very proud of her! Here’s her official publicity picture, taken by a show photographer:
Events of recent days leave me with a handful of folks to whom I owe thanks, and I might as well do it publicly (though I think I’ve already done it privately, as well — better too much thanks than not enough!) …
… I’ve previously written in this space about a group I’ve been lucky enough to count as friends for more than thirty-five years (click here). One of those friends, who has been a premier comic book artist for just about thirty of those thirty-five years, is Lee Weeks. On Thursday, August 10th Lee pointed our little band (including yr hmbl svnt) to an absolutely wonderful Vanity Fair piece: When Fairfield County Was the Comic-Strip Capital of the World. The writer, Cullen Murphy, has done us a true service in this outstanding work, which captures a place, time, and assemblage of talent and personalities that should be near and dear to our hearts. I don’t throw around phrases like “a must-read” very often, but in this case I believe it’s not hyperbole to label “When Fairfield County …” a must-read for LOACers everywhere. And after you’ve checked out what Mr. Murphy has to tell us, I think you’ll join me in thanking Lee for directing us to it.
… I’ve done a clutch of interviews this month, and so let me thank Howard Chaykin for taking time from his busy schedule to speak with me about his contributions to Star Hawks, and his mentor, the strip’s visual architect, Gil Kane. In our upcoming Star Hawks Volume 2 you’ll see more Kane, as well as sequences illustrated by both artist Ernie Colon and Chaykin himself, as this sample from January, 1979 shows. That action sequence in panels two and three is pure Chaykin:
Additionally, through circumstances that had a long gestation period and an unlikely chain of events, I’ve interviewed Lani Kida (granddaughter of Amazing Spider-Man newspaper strip artist Fred Kida) and her father, Paul. Both these wonderful persons were generous with stories and memories of their talented relative, and while I’m still putting together all the pieces, I’m confident that in the near future you’ll be learning more about Fred Kida than you’ve found at any other source (and seeing rare artwork the family has shared, too!). Be watching for the fifth volume of our Amazing Spider-Man series, and keep watching this space, as well. Meanwhile, here’s a second look at a 1982 Kida Sunday featuring the wondrous wall-crawler and the malevolent monarch of Latveria, Doctor Doom —
… Thanks are hereby extended to the handful of faithful visitors to this space who wrote to tell me they’ve bought copies of John Sayles’s mammoth novel, A Moment in the Sun. (Here’s my original review.) My fingers are crossed you enjoy this sprawling epic as much as I did!
… Finally, a thanks we never lose sight of and one we can never offer enough: a big T*H*A*N*K Y*O*U to everyone who supports our efforts and buys our books. With all the options available to you and all the competition for your hard-earned entertainment dollar, it is humbling to know you choose to invest time and money in LOAC. We hope you’ll continue to enjoy the extensive reprints and associated rarities as much as we enjoy putting them together for you!
Put together while the Red Sox were picking up their first 2017 road win, a 7-5 victory over the Detroit Tigers …
ZAM! As Dean recently posted in this space, our Star Hawks Volume 1 will soon be on sale everywhere, and this longtime Hawks fan is mighty glad to see Rex, Chavez, and their friends back in print! Even though the series never ran in any of the local newspapers I took, I was eager to see it or anything about it back in those pre-internet days. After all, by the time Star Hawks debuted I had read hundreds of Gil Kane-drawn comic books and was a B*I*G fan. I was also regularly buying the major science fiction magazines at that time, and had read many a short story by Hawks writer Ron Goulart. (I later learned Goulart had ghosted the dozen original novels starring The Avenger that Warner Books published after completing their reprint of the twenty-four pulp adventures featuring Dick Benson and his Justice Inc. team, each written by Paul Ernst; still later I became acquainted with Mr. Goulart’s extensive comics research and scholarship.)
So my appreciation for both Goulart and Kane’s talents piqued my interest about the Star Hawks — and my first acquaintance with them came not through the comics, but through the original Hawks novels Mr. Goulat wrote, and which were published with Gil’s spot illustrations, in 1980 and 1981 by Playboy Press.
As you can see, I still own those books! They didn’t disappoint me, delivering Goulart’s patented style of action and humor, plus some fine interior black-and-white illustrations that are Pure Kane.
Eventually Star Hawks was reprinted and I was on hand to plunk down my money every time a new edition was released. This latest incarnation of the Hawks is my favorite — after all, this time I got to play a small role in putting it together! Aside from the hands-on fun, our layout prints one two-tier daily per page, making this book read like one of our Essentials volumes on steroids! It’s a fitting showcase for Gil Kane’s always-delicious artwork, and Goulart’s stories remain as frothy today as they were in the late ’70s, when they were first published.
Yes, I’m pardonably prejudiced, but I heartily recommend Star Hawks Volume 1!
HIIII-YAA-A-A! Anyone currently purchasing Marvel Comics’s complete reprinting of 1970s/80s sensation Master of Kung Fu — which is back in the marketplace in the form of four thick hardcover Omnibus editions (the first three of which are already on sale, with the fourth slated to complete the series later this year) — will also get a taste of LOAC a’borning, though at the time neither Dean nor I had an inkling of what the future held in store.
That inkling comes because Crafty Cory Sedlmeier, editor for this Omnibus project, is including not just the story content for each reprinted issue, but the letters page(s) as well — and both Dean and I cut our milk teeth writing letters of comment that appeared in many Marvel mags of that era, including MOKF. I’ve read the first two Omnibus volumes and for the most part enjoyed getting reacquainted with Shang-Chi, Sir Denis Nayland Smith and his coterie of once-and-former MI-6 agents, and the broad range of nefarious criminal masterminds they opposed; the series is at its pinnacle when writer Doug Moench and artist Paul Gulacy are shaping the material. Volume three is sitting on my “To Be Read” shelf, slated for a summertime perusal, and I find myself looking forward to re-reading the issues in which Moench and Mike Zeck combined to produce solid monthly extensions of the foundation built by Moench/Gulacy.
Dean’s first letter to MOKF shows up relatively early in the run; my first contribution to “Missives to the Master” appears in Omnibus Volume 3. So if you’re looking for some of the earliest-planted seeds of LOAC, or you’d like to experience some of the best comics storytelling of the ’70s and early ’80s, you’ll find both in the Master of Kung Fu Omnibuses.
THWIP! We have The Amazing Spider-Man Volume 4 at the printer, getting ready for its post-Memorial-Day on-sale date. Fred Kida and Floro Dery spearhead the artistic efforts on display in these comics from 1983 and 1984, as that friendly neighborhood web-spinner teams up with the Sub-Mariner, battles The Eliminator, learns how deadly the female of the species can be, and faces shock after shock when an impostor makes the scene!
Former Marvel Comics editor-in-chief Jim Shooter generously allowed me to interview him for my text feature for this volume. In an extensive and wide-ranging discussion, Mr. Shooter talked candidly about his work assisting Stan Lee on plotting the early Spider-Man strips; what he has to say will add a new dimension to your appreciation and understanding of this series.
As is often the case with the best interviews, Mr. Shooter gave me more interesting material than I could fit into the space available. Let me share with you one very pleasant anecdote, dealing with Mr. Shooter’s encounter with Marvel impresario Stan Lee years after their Spider-Man collaboration.
Shooter said, “I was in Denver for a convention and Stan was also there. He’s in this area, like a curtained fort. He’s got like a hundred helpers and he gets his picture taken all day, and he signs autographs all day.
“I’m walking to my table and I’m walking past this line of a thousand people waiting to have their picture taken with Stan. I told myself, ‘I can’t bother this guy, he’s in a full court press, just leave him alone.’ But Stan heard I was at the show, and he sent folks over to me and they said, ‘Look, if you stick around a little bit after the end of the show, once all the pictures are taken, Stan would really like you to come over and see him.’ I said, ‘Sure.’ So I stuck around after the show. His person came and brought me over and took me inside the curtained fort. I could just see through a little space in the curtain, and there’s Stan with the last twenty or thirty people, getting their pictures taken. He sat in his chair and there were all his people, and they would say, ‘You! Here! Look! Go!’ ‘You! Here! Look! Go!’
“Finally the last bunch of them are done and I was taken into the photo room of the curtained fort. I walked in and he was so happy to see me. I’m telling you, sharp as a tack. We picked it up as if we’d just left, but I haven’t seen him for I don’t know, fifteen years, but it was like yesterday. We just started talking and we couldn’t talk fast enough.
“The thing with Stan is, every night at a certain time he calls his wife, Joan. So he has to get back to the hotel room to make the phone call. We’re gabbing away and his folks are screaming at us: ‘Stan! Gotta go! Right now! Come on, Stan! Right now!’ But we’re jabbering away like crazy and then he says, ‘Wait! We have to have a picture!’ So he stood up, put his arm around me, and we took a picture. He said, ‘Print two of ‘em and give one to him right now!’ (Usually they print the pictures overnight.) Then they literally dragged him away.
“The next day his person came over to my table and said, ‘Do you have that picture you took with Stan?’ I said, ‘Yeah.’ He said, ‘He wants to sign it.’ I said, ‘OK, sure.’ One of my friends went with Stan’s guy and they interrupted Stan and said, ‘Stan, you know, here’s a picture, for Jim.’ They said he sort of stared at it for a while, then he signed it and sent it back with my friend. She said he was having this nostalgic moment, you know?
“Well, I can relate, Stan, because I had one, too.”
For more from Mr. Shooter, you know where to turn — our upcoming Amazing Spider-Man, Volume 4!