Monday, November 28, 2011

A Gem of a Day


Lost Weekend

Sorry I didn’t manage to post anything over the long Thanksgiving weekend. I had some pay-the-bills work that had to be done and it took longer than expected, as everything always seems to.

Speaking of Thanksgiving, I am very thankful for your kind donations, which have enabled JayJay the Blog Elf to devote the time it takes to do all the technical work on this thing. Being computer/Internet unskilled, I literally couldn’t do it without her.


Onward!

I promised a review last week. Iron Man has been one of my favorite characters since back in the days when transistors seemed new. The plan was to do a review of Iron Man the movie and also a current Iron Man comic book, but I haven’t had a chance to watch the movie yet, and JayJay and I have been waffling about which Iron Man comic book to analyze. We’re hoping to find a good one that gives me the opportunity to cover some new ground. Suggestions welcome. It doesn’t really have to be an Iron Man book. Should be Marvel. Not by Bendis. Let’s give him a break.


A Gem of a Day

First This

I’ve expressed a less than glowing opinion of the Comic Book Direct Market here recently, which I think, as things stand, is a major impediment to the comic book industry.

I also said that the advent of the Direct Market back in the mid-to-late seventies saved the industry, and for many years was a Godsend.

These days, the Direct Market is down from an all-time high of, I believe, 18 distributors to one: Diamond Comic Distributors. Diamond slowly out-competed-to-death or bought up all the rest. Diamond is the very linchpin of the Direct Market.

And founder and principal Steve Geppi is Diamond.

The current, depressed state of the comic book industry, the current stifling limitations one-channel distribution places upon it and the desperate thrashing around by publishers to survive until some new way to effectively sell comics medium entertainment develops are not Diamond’s fault. Certainly not Steve’s fault.

We, the comic book industry, got where we are honestly enough (if occasionally stupidly).

The comic book industry has few friends as good as Steve Geppi.


A Trip to Timonium

I spent most of September 11, 2008 with Steve Geppi and Herman Rush.

Sometime early on during my DEFIANT days, I was introduced to Herman Rush by Jack Hyland, a partner at McFarland Dewey & Co., the same investment banking firm that helped me get DEFIANT funded.
(ASIDE: Jack Hyland is one of the best and brightest human beings on the planet. I will tell stories about him, McFarland Dewey and all we went through together sometime soon. Here’s a tidbit about Jack: he wrote a book about his grandfather called EVANGELISM’S FIRST MODERN MEDIA STAR: The Life of Reverend BILL STIDGER. It’s not a religious book. It’s a penetrating look at an innovator who, in the early-to-middle part of the 20th Century, embraced emerging media, technology, marketing and publicity to revolutionize his field. It’s a window into the remarkable times Stidger lived and worked though: the Great Depression, Prohibition, the rise of Nazi Germany and World War II. It’s fascinating. I recommend it, and not because Jack’s a friend.)
Evangelism's First Modern Media Star: Reverend Bill Stidger


Herman Rush is an amazing man. Among his accomplishments, he served as Chairman of Columbia Pictures Television, he ran Coca-Cola Telecommunications and he was one of the original Executive Producers of The Montel Williams Show.

Sometime soon I’ll tell you about the time Montel Williams called me up to yell at me….

Anyway, Currently, Herman chairs the Board of Trustees for the Entertainment Industries Council, and is the owner and President of Rush Associates, Inc., multi-media developers and consultants. He lives out in the Los Angeles area on a big piece of land—I guess it’s proper to call it a ranch—where he keeps a menagerie of groovy critters including a doylt of pot-bellied pigs.
One of the most interesting things about Herman to me is that he bought all of the old Filmation animation cels, warehouse and all, as I recall. He sold a lot of them. I’m not sure how many remain.

Speaking of Filmation, sometime soon I’ll tell you about my experiences with Filmation founder Lou Scheimer sometime. Great guy.

Anyway, in 2008, Herman and a partner were working on developing an Internet business that I guess I’d describe as the ultimate entertainment/popular culture portal. He was interested in a comic book component. Naturally. Which is why mutual friend Jack Hyland introduced us. Herman thought that I could be the key player for the comics portion of the site and a contributor to many others, given my diverse creative and management experience. I think he imagined something like what I’m doing here, but on a grander scale—not just me and one measly Elf—involving more contributors and more content.

He also wanted to meet Steve Geppi. Naturally. Steve is not only a major figure in the comic book business, he’s a leading historian, collector and authority on all things entertainment and popular culture-oriented. He owns and runs Geppi’s Entertainment Museum in Baltimore, at Camden Yards, which houses what must be the best collection of pop culture-related items and memorabilia in the universe.

So, I called Steve and arranged a meeting.

I met Herman at Penn Station in New York. We took the train down to Baltimore and a cab to Timonium, Maryland, where Diamond’s headquarters are located.

Steve’s assistant, super-Sammi ushered us into his office.

Herman and Steve seemed to hit it off. Steve was impressed by Herman’s credentials. Herman was impressed by Steve’s.

If you don’t know Steve’s story, here it is:
Steve gave me a couple of magazines in which there were articles about him:
Steve’s office is a trip, by the way. It’s big and posh, yes, but it’s cluttered with stuff. Priceless stuff. Strewn about among other priceless stuff. Leaning up against the walls, furniture or the front of Steve’s desk. In piles here and there.

“What’s that?” You’d say, pointing at a painting partially hidden.

Oh, that, Steve said. He pulled it out and explained. It’s the original painting for Disney’s Snow White movie poster.

Lost among many other brilliant, one of a kind, irreplaceable, pieces of movie poster art.

“What’s that?” A Windsor McKay original? A Carl Barks Uncle Scrooge painting? A Richard F. Outcault Yellow Kid strip?

You betcha.

None of these items were in any danger of being damaged, by the way. All were quite safe, carefully placed and gently handled. It’s just that there were so many of them they were parked here, there, wherever, presumably awaiting more comfortable quarters.

After much talk about the possibilities inherent in working together, Steve and Herman had gone about as far as they could pending more thought, research and work on a proposed plan, Steve said, “I have some interesting things in the closet, here. Do you guys want to see?”

Sure.

Steve took us inside his office “closet,” which is bigger than my apartment.

Steve, if I recall correctly, once owned the first drawing ever made of Mickey Mouse, a concept development piece:
  
That art now resides in the Walt Disney Family Museum. But, Steve had other irreplaceable, related items, including the storyboards for the very first Mickey Mouse animated short, Plane CrazyPlane Crazy and another Mickey Mouse short, The Gallopin’ Gaucho preceded Steamboat Willie, but never got distribution.

Wow. 

Steve showed us many fantastic things. Among his proudest possession were several books collecting original art birthday cards for William Randolph Hearst created by the cartoonists syndicated by his King Features. Each one was clever, brilliantly conceived and, of course, had amazing art.

Contributors included Hal Foster (Prince Valiant), George Herriman (Krazy Kat) and Billy DeBeck (Barney Google and Snuffy Smith). Many more. All the great King Features creators of that era were represented.

I saw a bat leaning up against the wall in a corner. “What’s that?”

A bat Babe Ruth used in 1927, the year he hit 60 home runs, said Steve. Ruth used only eight bats that year. This was one that survived.

I asked Steve if I could touch it. Sure, said he. I picked it up. Took a few gentle cuts with it.

The amazing thing was how light it was. I expected a Richie Allen-type 40 ounce bat, or better. Nah. It seemed small and very light. No way it was more than 34 ounces. He hit 60 with a toothpick?

I was in awe. Cool.

I got to swing Babe Ruth’s bat.


TOMORROW: Steve Gives Us a Personal Tour of Geppi’s Entertainment Museum

63 comments:

JayJayJackson said...

Measly!!!?

Anonymous said...

Jesus! Geppi is a man after my own Heart... I'm green with envy. Also, your prose is delightful!
Thanks, Jim!


Ed Flores.

New York Yeti (Gregg) said...

Uh-oh, Elf-pwnt!

Kid said...

Relax, JayJay. He means 'measly' as in quantity, not quality. (But I'm sure you knew that.)

Diacanu said...

Re: Iron Man.
Does the book have to be BRAND new?
Cuz, even though it's a couple years old, "Iron Man: The End", about a retiring Tony Stark passing the torch to his successor, is a good contrast to Iron Man the movie.

evanmcb said...

Another Iron Man suggestion from several years ago (2007):

Iron Man Hypervelocity, written by Adam Warren, better known for his American manga series The Dirty Pair and Empowered.

Ray Cornwall said...

The current Invincible Iron Man series is some of the best Iron Man I've ever read. Matt Fraction gives us a great Iron Man, and even navigates the character through some of the big Marvel events (Secret Invasion, Dark Avengers, and Fear Itself) very well. And the first issue, to me, is textbook on how to handle a major comics launch.

Roger Owen Green said...

When you talk about Geppi's entertainment museum, I'll try NOT to think of Jughead Jones. There was a Free Comic Book Day book a few years back with Archie and Jughead as security guards there, which I've read to the daughter more than a few times.

Defiant1 said...

I was at a friend Sean's comic book store back in the 90's. I was with my friend Lee also. Sean had to go move his car which he'd left parked at the car. he asked me and Lee if we'd watch the store until he could get back. The minute Sean steps out, the phone rings. Lee looks at me. I said "I hate phones. I can't stand them." Lee shrugged and answered the phone. With a professional tone he told the caller that Sean was unavailable. He say "May I get your name?". I hear Lee say "Steve". There is a pause. Lee says "Steve Geppi. Okay, I'll give him the message," Lee hung up and I burst out laughing. Lee didn't know who he was, but I did. If I didn't hate phones so much, I might've actually talked to Steve Geppi. As it is, I've never seen him or met him. It's not as good as my story about the time I hooked Greg Allman up with a girl... well... that's my perspective.

Anonymous said...

Just a suggestion, Jim: Iron Man #500.1 (Marvel: Point One initiative) by Matt Fraction, an easy jumping on point’ for new and old readers alike.

Defiant1 said...

I meant to say "car parked at the curb", not "car parked at the car".

Anonymous said...

I would like you review the issue in which Tony Stark finally faces Obadiah Stane in his Iron Monger suit after ruining his life. A very, very good Marvel comic.

Lawton said...

May I suggest Extremis as the book to review? I'm new here, so I don't know what you think of Warren Ellis (huge fan, personally). I hate to admit I felt jealous when I read about all the priceless cultural treasures Steve had. Any idea where that stuff is now?

Rich said...

Yeah, read Extremis and see if you can spot the gaping hole in the plot. It's a few years since I read the book, perhaps I imagined it; nobody else seems to notice.

Anonymous said...

Jim,

You really have led a very interesting life. You have met and worked with many,many iconic people. What a journey! I look foward to every post.

Neil

Anonymous said...

A break for Bendis? Oh boy...

Nice reading about Geppi. Amazing man. Not unlike yourself, Mr. Shooter.

R.

Joseph Tages said...

For the Iron Man comic review, I would suggest either issues #169 and/or or #199, my favorite cliffhangers in the series' history. (Yeah, I loved the Rhodey Era.)

Great story about Steve and his collection, btw.

DJ said...

Why not go for the Bob Layton/David Michelinie Iron Man, that had Bob swear he would never work for Marvel again? Or would that be too hot a potato? :)
Cheers.
David J.

Sonofspam said...

yeah i am gonna go with Extremis too it was well received critically and commercially(even tho i personally found it lacking) it's pretty much this era's "demon in a bottle" as far as being influential.

Jerry Bonner said...

I've always liked Kurt Busiek's work and thought Iron Age was pretty cool. That might be interesting to review, Jim.

Jerry Bonner said...

Also, I came across this during my interweb travels: http://geektyrant.com/news/2011/11/28/5-wtf-comic-book-covers.html

And I think the #1 selection here needs an explanation (which, I'm sure, is hilarious...) of some sort. It seems to have been produced during your tenure as EIC, Jim, so any insight or anything you'd like to share in regard to it?

Anonymous said...

I vote for Extremis as well, especially since you plan on reviewing the first film too. The movie pulls a lot of material from the book, it would be interesting to hear which you thought pulled it off better. I don't read many new comics, but I did like that one. Tony's character seemed a few degrees off plum from the canon, but it worked for the story.

- Randy

paul howley said...

Hey! I'm quoted in that Success Magazine article about Steve Geppi!

Diacanu said...

Tch, looks like i'm gonna get voted down by Extremis.

Eh, I just thought he'd dig "The End", cuz it was a dude from the old school (Michelinie)telling Iron Man's last story.

I still recommend it, even if he ain't gonna review it.

Anonymous said...

My favourite issue of Iron Man is a Kurt Busiek one (the first issue of his run in fact) - Volume 3 issue 1. It was the first comic that made me a proper Iron Man fan.

Benoît Leblanc said...

I think Extremis would be a good idea as well, if only because it totally mangled what makes Iron Man work.

"What??? What???" say the disagreeing Warren Ellis fans. Let me explain. A big difference between the early Marvel Universe and other comics at the time was how it was based on science-fiction rather than fantasy. Sure, there was Thor who was mythological in nature, but all the other biggies were grounded in science, or a believable facsimile thereof. Cosmic rays had turned the FF into heroes, gamma rays had turned Banner into the Hulk, an irradiated spider had turned Peter Parker into Spider-man. Granted, Stan and Jack played it fast and loose with the actual science, but basically the Marvel heroes at least sounded as if they could exist in our real world.

Now in that bunch, Iron Man was probably the most grounded in technology. He was NOT granted superpowers by some odd accident, science-based or not. He was a regular Joe, albeit a brilliant one, who used his own ingenuity and skills to build himself a super-weapon, a suit of armor. And during decades, that's the way he was handled: a mortal man who invents things, a regular guy using tools of his own invention.

Now with the Extremis virus, Stark loses what makes him different. He gains magical powers. Magical? Yes, magical. Scratch the technobabble behind the nanotechnological carbon nanotube whatchamacallit macguffin, and you find magic. Not even the Arthur C. Clarke type of magic that's science beyond our ken, no; a true-blue, honest magical plot device that "rewrites" the blueprint of Stark's brain and body and turns our mortal hero into someone capable of talking with machines. Not just his own armor, mind you, which could have been tweaked to respond to his brainwaves or some such. No, apparently, anything with a microprocessor in it is fair game. Stark turned off Happy Hogan's life-maintenance device just by THINKING at it, and at a distance, too! Could Tony talk to a toaster, too, using Extremis? Practical, to be sure, but why in heaven would the toaster listen? This may make for fun stories (which is good, of course!) but we're far into science-fantasy territory, here. Into Transformers turn-a-normal-coke-distributor-into-a-robot concepts.

Now I'm not saying that the Extremis story itself is bad, because I can appreciate a good dose of impossible pseudo-science just like any other comic-book fan. Had this been Tony's first appearance, I would have enjoyed it; a technobable virus turns a normal man into a super-hero is no weirder than an undefined cosmic ray that does the same thing. But Tony Stark, since his creation, has NOT been a man who gains quasi magical superpowers; he's always been the tinkerer, the inventor. And Extremis takes that away from him.

As for Adi Granov's art... it's drop dead gorgeous. I'm glad his designs were used for the movies!

Diacanu said...

Yep, I'm with Benoit.

Tony's power comes from his mind, he's not an X-Man.

AtomicShop said...

For non-Iron Man Marvel to review, I'd suggest anything written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning. I thought their Nova and Guardians of the Galaxy books were very entertaining.

Chris Calloway said...

Jim,

I would also recommend Iron Man 500.1. I would be curious to know you thoughts on how successful it was as a jumping on issue.

Iron Man is one of my favorites characters too, in fact one of the first I ever read. Fraction and Larocca created some great stories. I still like their work. Iron Man was the last Marvel title in my hold box. Yet I had to drop that Marvel title too. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on one's point of view) it was tied in with the Fear mini-series. I guess when I bought more Marvel titles, the cross overs weren't that much of a problem for me (e.g. Civil War). However buying just this one Marvel title created a problem. There are gaps in the story between issues that make it necessary to buy the Fear mini series to fill in these gaps. Enriching a mini-series through cross-overs or weaving a connected universe among titles can bring more depth to a story. But leaving gaps in the action between issues? No, I had to drop it at that point. The title should be able to be read alone and make sense.

Anonymous said...

Ruth's bat was 34 oz? Everywhere I've read is that its closer to 42. He had a mammoth club for a bat, as did most players of that era.

Anonymous said...

Off topic: Mr. Shooter, do you have any information or involvement with The Marvel Super-Hero Role-Playing Game? Could you tell me how much Marvel was involved with the game itself?

Thanks,
James Roberts

Don Alsafi said...

This is 2+ years old, rather than new, but I'd recommend Invincible Iron Man #1 by Matt Fraction & Salvador Larroca. At a time when I was actively looking to drop things from my pull list, I was astonished at how effortlessly they sucked me in to the story.

Anonymous said...

It is generally spouted that Ruth used a 40oz bat the year he hit 60...Though I don't know what the proof is behind that. Maybe Shooter is stronger than he knows?

Matt Hawes said...

I always said that Diamond Comic Distributors virtual monopoly of direct market distribution has strangled the comics market, and as a comic shop owner and retailer, I have firsthand knowledge on that subject. BUT, I have also said that I do not blame Diamond Comics (or Steve Geppi) for the situation, or even taking advantage of that situation. Diamond did what was best for its growth, even if that wasn't in the best interests of the entire comics industry.

I blame the publishers for the distribution fiasco, Marvel being the main culprit. When Marvel bought Heroes World back around 1995, that set off a chain reaction where the other publishers chose up sides. DC, Darkhorse, and Image made exclusive agreements with Diamond Comics, and Caliber, Kitchen Sink, and other of the "big" small publishers became exclusive to Capitol Comics Distributors. Basically, of the big three distributors at that time -- Heroes World (selling Marvel only and exclusively), Diamond, and Capitol -- Captitol got the "small straw," so to speak.

I opened my shop early in 1996 during one of the worst periods for the industry. The market had all ready crashed, and though it wasn't yet known, Marvel was headed toward bankruptcy. I was a new, small shop in a city with two larger and more established shops, and I HAD to deal with both Heroes World AND Diamond if I wanted to get both Marvel AND DC comics, thanks to those idiotic exclusive deals. I also went through Capitol because I was trying to carry as many varied publishers as possible.

I opened in 1996, but I had a good knowledge of the market for many years prior to that. I knew that once upon a time pretty much all the distributors in the direct market carried the major publishers, and at one time a retailer only had to choose the best distributor for his or her needs.

How these people running the publishers thought signing exclusive agreements helped the industry as a whole is beyond me. Such stupid, short-sighted thinking is what has led these publishers and this industry to the deplorable state it suffers from to this very day.

Anyway, I remember Capitol falling first out of the big three. And I remember how I, and many other retailers, learned of Capitol being bought out by Diamond: I was calling Capitol to report a problem I had with a delivery and the person answering the phone there greeted me with, "Diamond Comic Distributors." I thought I had called the wrong place! The representative I spoke with informed me of what had transpired.

Eventually, Marvel file for bankruptcy protection, closed Heroes World, and returned to Diamond Comics for distribution of its product.

I keep hoping that somebody at Marvel or DC (and the other bigger publishers) will cease agreeing to the exclusive contracts so that some new distributor can come along and break Diamond's hold on the market. Of course, reading on your blog, Jim, that DC does have a stake in Diamond, with an option to buy the company, I guess DC won't be stopping with the exclusive deal anytime soon.

-- Matt

Jeff Clem said...

Does anyone know anything about an alleged theft of some original Sad Sack art drawn by Fred Rhoads? I seem to remember reading about it somewhere (maybe Robin Snyder's "The Comics")and, supposedly, Steve Geppi was the culprit. Just curious...

JC said...

Just watched the last episode of Spider-Man and his Amazing friends. The villain is a Shield agent named Buzz Mason who goes bad and wants to rule the world, the animation model looks alot like Jim Shooter, anyone else see the resemblance?

Dusty. said...

Hi, Jim Shooter

Nobody did Iron Man like Dave and Bob did, but Extremis is what I would like you to review, and here is why. I have tremendous respect for your story sense. Extremis is yet another very average offering from Warren " the A.D.D. hack" Ellis, and even after 7 years, I still see Tom Brevoort trying to pimp this story as a modern day classic. NuMarvel has certain writers that they try to manipulate readers into thinking they are much better than they actually are, and Warren Ellis is right at the top of that list.

You get the benefit of reading the story all at once, which might take you all of 40 minutes for the entire 6 issues, but as a customer, we had to put up with Marvel allowing the stuff that Ellis works on to come out...whenever. It took a year and a half for the complete story to come out.

Give it a read and see if you like it well enough, think it's very average, or have the same story sense as Tom Brevoort, who acts like it's as good as any Iron Man story ever produced.

bcolflesh said...

RE: JC - I totally see it:

http://marvel.wikia.com/Buzz_Mason_(Earth-8107)

Marc Miyake said...

Dear Jim,

Your description of Jack Hyland's book sounds like what comics in this country need now: "an innovator who [...] embraced emerging media, technology, marketing and publicity to revolutionize his field." Did you learn anything from that book that would be applicable to comics in the 21st century?

I am now imagining a team-up book featuring different people your paths have crossed: e.g., Lou Scheimer animating Montel Williams. It could have happened if Montel were big in the 70s!

I had no idea Geppi's interests went far beyond comics. Thanks for the description of an office almost none of us will ever see. His life story is incredible. He and you got back into comics at around the same time (1974).

PS: Call JayJay "measly" again and she might post "measly" parts of your writings ... and only fragments of your photos!

Dear Jerry,

Iron Age was one of the few "modern" comics I've read that made sense and pleased my eyes to boot. I got an issue for about a quarter when a comic book store was going out of business and bought the other half later. Well worth the money.

The Rick James cover you linked to is photoshopped. I'd like to know what the symbol in place of the issue number is supposed to be. It resembles the hiragana お and it's superimposed over a shape that reminds me of New Jersey. Perhaps it's the photoshopper's symbol?

Aaron Scott Johnson said...

Since Extremis is a 6 issue run and more than a couple years old, I'll also vote for Invincible Iron Man 500.1. When I was sifting through my pull recently and trying to decide what I couldn't live without, 500.1 convinced me I had to keep Iron Man.

Jerry Bonner said...

Mark,

Thanks for the heads up on the cover. I'm guessing it was originally "What If Rick Jones Was the Hulk?" Still though, you gotta love the Rick James version...

I'm glad you dug Iron Age as well. I enjoy the majority of Busiek's work, especially his "retro" stuff and IA fit right into that mold.

COMICSTOCK said...

Jim,

I'm very impressed that you mentioned Richie Allen and his 40oz. bat. He was my baseball idol when he played with the Phillies in the 60s. I think he still lives at his horse ranch in Wampum, PA. Is that close to where you grew up, Jim?

Defiant1 said...

Jeff,

Steve Geppi won a lawsuit over Sad Sack art. He had bought the art, but I think the son didn't know it'd been sold. Don't quote me on that, but you can find articles if you do an internet search.

jimshooter said...

Dear Anonymous,

Like you, I thought Ruth hit with a telephone pole. Maybe my guess at the weight of the bat was off. Could be. It seemed light to me. Then again, I'm huge, so it could be that what seemed light to me was actually pretty big for a guy five inches shorter and fifty pounds lighter. And, I hadn't had a bat in my hands for years, so it's not like I had any recent comparison.

jimshooter said...

Dear COMICSTOCK,

Wampum is a bit north and west of Pittsburgh. I'm familiar.

Craig Hansen said...

Wow. "Measley." ;)

Steven R. Stahl said...

I'd be interested in an analysis of Iron Man, Mr. Shooter, mainly because I don't think the character works well. He's a combination of two characters: an inventor of a suit of armor and a millionaire playboy who has a vague desire to do good. There have been moments when the combination has done well, but not many, and Stark's identity as a corporate chieftain is very thin. His various businesses have never existed in any substantive sense, except to cause trouble or to be attacked.

There's also nowhere for Stark to go as a character if he doesn't age. A playboy becomes repulsive if he ages to the point that he's unattractive. Stark's no exception.

I wouldn't call Iron Man a failure as a character, given the movies' successes, but he is a failure as a literary character. A novelist might separate him into two characters and then proceed.

SRS

Anonymous said...

Dear Jim:

I'd like your opinion on the Earth X miniseries. You may have heard something about it, so I will not go futher explaining why. But I think I would be very interesting to heard your point of view on that one.

-Freyes2011

Jason said...

Steven R. Stahl: People have different facets, often seemingly contradictory ones. Characters should, as well.

Take Steve Jobs for example. Head of several successful or influential tech companies, he would seem to have been committed to a very realistic view of the world. And yet, through his life, he held a series of variably irrational views. In his late teens, he believed that a vegan diet would eliminate body odor and keep him from needing to bathe, despite several people telling him that he was walking proof otherwise. When he was diagnosed with cancer, he delayed western medical treatment for some months in favor of some sort of "alternative" treatment.

And yet, he was not two separate people.

Harry said...

Wow! That Buzz Mason character from the Spidey cartoon sure looks an awful lot like Jim did back in the 80s...coincidence? I somehow doubt it!

Steven R. Stahl said...

People have different facets, often seemingly contradictory ones. Characters should, as well.

Real people are different in countless ways from fictional characters. I've read many IRON MAN issues over the years, and his playboy persona has never amounted to anything more than a distraction, an excuse for a writer to pursue romance subplots that won't amount to anything because having Stark get married, much less have kids, would be practically inconceivable.

One test for whether a fictional character works as a concept is to consider writing a single close-ended novel (or set) about him and develop his major aspects. I can do that easily with my favorite characters (Vision/Witch duo, Dr. Strange) because they're fantasy fiction characters who happen to be in comics stories. With other comics characters (FF, Hulk, Iron Man) that's difficult because their usefulness depends on them being in static states and not aging.

Developing characters, contra the illusion of change policy, doesn't ruin them; it just makes them more complex and more difficult for writers reliant on formulas to handle. In the case of Iron Man, if he focuses on either his business or his love life, he doesn't get into his armor.

SRS

bmcmolo said...

Dear Freyes2011 - I second that.

Anonymous said...

I actually think TOny Stark is pretty interesting character and more so the last ten yrs.

No separation of characters needed

Rob

jimshooter said...

Dear Steven R.,

This subject has just become the post for tomorrow.

Matt Adler said...

I'd rather you review a current comic, and given that there aren't a lot of current Iron Man comics to choose from, that'd probably narrow it down to Invincible Iron Man (currently at issue #510).

If you have to review something older, I'd be interested in hearing a review of one of the more recent Michelinie/Layton collaborations... perhaps 2009's Iron Man: The End (with art by Bernard Chang) or 2008's Iron Man: Legacy of Doom (with art by Ron Lim).

Gregg H said...

I have to say that Iron Age was not only the best Iron Man I have read in probably ten years, but one of the very gew REALLY good reads of recent years. I'd love to see Jim break it down from a technical standpoint, so I can see if it really was that good or am I just getting too used to the mediocrity of the genre to know the difference any more.

adg3825 said...

I don't blame Diamond for having a monopoly, I blame Diamond for hiring warehouse staff who seem to be unable to pack an order properly. At my comic shop, we routinely get damaged books, the wrong books packed in the boxes, and other sorts of blunders. We once got a Spider-Man bank that was WRAPPED in some of our comics for the week; another week, our entire order of one book was replaced with another book that had come out a year earlier, despite the proper book being on the invoice.

Speaking with other comic shop owners and managers, I hear similar stories all the time. We actually make note of it on our calendar if we get a week without any errors in our order. This past week was a banner one--we were only shorted four comic books.

jimshooter said...

Dear James,

Marvel wasn't much involved with the Marvel Super Hero Role Playing Game.

jimshooter said...

Dear Jerry,

I don't remember much about it. DeFalco used to work at Archie Comics. He probably arranged it. It was, I'm sure, just another crazy done-for-fun thing. We did a lot of those.

Marc Miyake said...

Dear Jim,

Iron Man is the major early Marvel character I'm least familiar with. I've read most Silver Age Marvel stories, but most of my "ferrous" knowledge comes from his first two years of adventures and his Avengers appearances. So I was interested in your take on him. It would be interesting to see you write your views on various DC and Marvel characters. I loved this interview with Vinnie Bartilucci in which you explain what makes some of the biggest heroes tick. You described Magnus, Batman, Superman, and Spider-Man as "primal." Is Iron Man primal? If not, how can he become primal?

You said,

"We look at every character and ask, 'Who is this guy? What is it about him that makes him interesting? And would he still be interesting if we took it away?'"

Let's ask those questions about Bucky. I thought his death made him interesting. His absence shaped Cap. For years, I thought of Bucky as the one person in the Marvel Universe who would never come back. But now ... can he remain interesting if his death were taken away? Brubaker's answer seems to be, yes, if Bucky becomes BINO -- Bucky in name only -- a bionic Soviet super-assassin.

A bigger question: how can writers make existing characters interesting? How should human props be upgraded to full-blown characters?

Marc Miyake said...

Back to Tony Stark: Steven R. Stahl objects to what he sees as Stark's dual nature. I think they can be viewed as two sides of the same coin. Here's how. (Keep in mind that I barely know the character, so this probably violates decades of continuity.)

What defines Tony Stark for me is his ability to invent under fire. Yes, Henry Pym was also an inventor -- like Stark, he gave himself powers -- and of course Reed Richards is an inventor. But only Stark empowered himself under less than ideal conditions. He's a super-MacGyver.

But maybe this facility with technology does not translate to smooth dealings with people. Hence his playboy persona. He can't settle down with someone because he doesn't know how. This differentiates him from other brilliant men like Peter Parker and Reed Richards. Stark knows his suit better than he knows people. This blind spot could sometimes be an advantage. He lacks the mental baggage that would keep others from making the tough decisions. But at other moments, his detachment from humanity could impede him in battle. He might have better tech than his opponent, but the latter could (accidentally) take advantage of his naivete. The suit is his refuge from a world he doesn't understand. He studies Happy and Pepper to try to get a handle on how people work -- to learn lessons he never got as a child prodigy.

He thinks alcohol could humanize him. Loosen him up. Playboys drink, right? It's just a liquid. Molecules. He knows all about molecules. Maybe not as much as Reed but certainly more than Reed. He can control his drinking. It's just an inanimate fluid. Something he should be able to understand better than people who are even more fluid. Unpredictable. But he doesn't even understand himself! He overestimates his ability to control his new ... habit.

Stark's blind spot also affects him in business. He may delegate nontechnical things to others who might not be the best people. A weakened company is vulnerable to rivals like Hammer and Stane. Business problems distinguish him from another playboy vigilante: Batman. Has Bruce Wayne ever had financial problems? Lost his wealth? Stark can lose his wealth as long as he doesn't lose his mind.

Stark is the man you can count on to rise again from what seems to be certain death. Troubled yet triumphant. Demons in bottles, boardrooms, even armor -- he can conquer them all. He has an iron will that sometimes gets rusty, but always remains solid. The reader can empathize with him while also seeing him as a model to emulate.

Jim, my view of Stark reminds me of how I see you: as an unstoppable self-made man. Rising to the occasion when your family needed money. Rising again and again. Returning to superhero comics in the 70s. Starting VALIANT, DEFIANT, and Broadway.

Marc Miyake said...

Oh no, I posted the above two comments in the wrong post! I meant them to go here. Sorry, Jim and JayJay! At least Steven R. Stahl's comment is here, so this isn't the worst place for my Iron Man comments.

jimshooter said...

Great questions, Marc. I'll do a post with my thoughts soon. Thanks. Again. As usual.