Congratulations, you got through my four-post diatribe on the Vietnam War. Sorry to put you through the wringer. In exchange for taking up so much of your reading time, today we're going to be addressing something a bit less taxing. Marvel Comics.
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IMAGE CREDITs: Captain America by Joe Quesada
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STOP READING, TURN OFF THE LIGHT AND GO TO BED!
One thing my parents never had to worry about when I was growing up was getting me to read. I was absorbing the English language faster than they could provide me with stimulus. I read everything I could get my hands on. Part of it was my natural curiosity about this life, this perspective and this country I was not privy to. Sure I went to the American School in Vientianne but, I really didn't fit in — I was the perpetual "new" kid.
The American kids talked about TV shows that never showed up on my television and they ate processed foods my mom never brought home. The closest I ever got to processed foods was Coca-Cola, Cornflakes, hot dogs and tuna fish. These treats were verboten unless I was having a birthday party or some other event which required the attendance of other kids who would not eat Lao, Thai or Vietnamese food.
Let me put things into perspective for you — I did not discover cheese until I was ten years old.
I remember once coming home and regaling my mother about this new food called "potato chips." I just had to have some in my lunch. Never-mind that my mother made my lunch from scratch with fresh ingredients that were wholesome, delicious and good for me. I had to have those potato chips. So while I was fast asleep my poor mother peeled and deep-fried the type of gourmet potato chips one now finds at food emporiums such as Whole Foods or Balducci's. Needless to say, the next morning I regaled her with all the reasons I could not take these homemade and inferior chips to school for fear of losing face. (In actuality I didn't use the word inferior— I used one of those "get your mouth washed out with soap" words that ryhmes with "shmitty") All I can say is thank god my mother is a patient woman — otherwise I might have been smacked so hard I'd be the only kid in grade school wearing dentures. I have other processed food stories but, lets get back to Marvel Comics.
For me Marvel Comics gave me social currency, it addressed all the father-son dynamics that existed in my relationship with my father and — they were just fun to read. Remember being a kid in the 70s meant you rode bikes and you went swimming and played with toys that required a heck of a lot of imagination. There was no one sitting around at Kenner or Hasbro at that time insisting that kids needed an action figure with poses and outfits for every occasion. You had GI Joe and that was it. He had a million accessories but, only one kung-fu grip. There were no extended hours in front of the TV. Video games as we know them today had not even been invented yet.
Between the library books, the translated Tintin books and Marvel Comics I was never without reading material. I came to know characters like Captain America, the Submariner, Thor, Spiderman and the Silver Surfer. Over time I was able to distinguish between drawing styles and writing styles. I gravitated towards the work of Jack Kirby and eventually John Byrne.
Without a steady stream of material (my father used to bring them back with him in sporadic intervals after "business" trips) I eventually began to imitate the illustrators and over time — design my own comics. That planted the seed, that somewhere out in the undiscovered country known as America, people were getting paid to draw pictures in little boxes with word balloons. Thats what I wanted to do for a living. In the end I didn't end up at Marvel or DC, I ended up in design, advertising, PR and now mobile/app design for iphone, ipad, android, blackberry etc. But, there are days when I would drop everything for a gig at Marvel Comics — should they come knocking.
Until then here's what I promised you in the headline, the arcane and sometimes intriguing facts about Marvel Comics (the Company):
- Michael Jackson once came close to owning Marvel. According to Stan Lee's former business partner, Peter Paul - who was jailed in 2005 for stock fraud - Jackson agreed to buy Marvel on Lee's behalf. Paul had met Lee in 1989 and had brought him onboard the American Spirit Foundation, a charitable organisation he ran with the actor James Stewart. Spotting the worth of Marvel's superhero properties, Paul hatched a plan to bring in investors to buy Marvel and install Lee as company's head. In 1991-92, he put together a Japanese/American investment group and approached Marvel's owner, Ron Perelman. with an offer to buy the company for about $28 million. Perelman decided instead to take Marvel public. Paul tried again several years later, this time lining up Jackson as an investor. Jim Salicrup, a former Marvel editor who was present at the meetings Jackson had with Lee and Paul, remembers Jackson saying to Lee: "If I buy Marvel, you'll help me run it, won't you?" Paul said that Marvel's owner at the time, Ike Perlmutter, was unwilling to take less than $1 billion for the company and Jackson eventually lost interest. Stan Lee has a different take on Jackson's interest in Marvel. "I had been to his place in Neverland ... and he wanted to do Spider-Man," he told MTV News in July. "I'm not sure whether he just wanted to produce it or wanted to play the role, you know? Our conversation never got that far along." Lee said that the singer had hoped to buy the rights to Spider-man. "He thought I'd be the one who could get him the rights and I told him I couldn't, he would have to go to the Marvel company."
- Casablanca Records helped to create the X-Men hero Dazzler. The record label, which produced hits for Cher, Donna Summer and the Village People, had approached Marvel with the idea of a Disco superhero that they could cross promote. According to Marvel editor Louise Simonson, Casablanca said, "Hey, you make a singer and we'll create someone to take on the persona." However, the collaboration proved fraught and ended with both parties walking away from the deal.
- The Pet Shop Boys singer Neil Tennant once worked for Marvel. Between 1975 and 1977, Tennant was an editor at Marvel's UK division, a job that required him to anglicise American spellings and indicate when the more scantily dressed superheroines needed to be redrawn decently.
- Jack Kirby, the artist who co-created the Fantastic Four with Stan Lee, was removed from the cover of the Fantastic Four's 20th anniversary issue. The issue's artist, John Byrne, had originally included both Kirby and Lee among the cast of characters squeezed onto the cover but at the behest of Marvel executives Kirby was erased from the final artwork. This may have had something to do with arguments Kirby was having with Marvel at the time over the ownership of his artwork.
- The Hulk that appeared in the classic TV series starring Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno was almost red in colour. In an interview with film website IGN, the show's executive producer, Kenneth Johnson, said: "I asked Stan Lee, 'Man, what's the logic of green? Is he the envious Hulk? Is he green with envy or jealousy?' The colour of rage is red, which I was pushing for because it's a real human colour - you know, when people get flushed with anger." Lee told him that the Hulk had in fact started out grey but due to problems with colour separation, the colour printed differently each time it was used. "Our printer came to us and said we can do a pretty consistent green, so we decided to go with green," Lee said. Thus the Hulk was coloured green from issue two of the Incredible Hulk onwards, although without any explanation. On hearing this, Johnson remembers telling Lee: "That's not really very organic! But that was a battle I could not win. I couldn't make the Hulk red because he was just too iconic already in the comic books."
- FOR THE BALANCE OF THE FACTOIDS:
Enjoy the work of the Designers at the Online school who have illustrated some of the 70 Facts You didn't Know About Marvel Comics (below) and if you can put down the processed food long enough to click the mouse a second time read the full list at the Sunday Times.