Monday, October 31, 2011

My Final and Eeriest October Tale

Dire Premonitions

Sometime in early February of 2001, in the middle of the night, I woke up from an intense dream. I dreamed that my father was gravely ill.


Just a dream, I told myself. 

It became a recurring dream. It happened five more times before March 14th, my mother’s birthday. 

I hadn’t been keeping in touch the family back in Pittsburgh much, hadn’t been home to visit for a while. Long story there. But I called my mother on her birthday, of course.

Fateful Phone Conversation 

While I was on the phone with my mother, in the background I heard my father grumbling to himself about stomach pains. “I hurt,” he said.

My father, Kenneth Shooter, was a man in the way you were supposed to be a man in his generation. I knew of many times when he’d been hurting. I’d never heard him admit it.

It was troubling enough so that I e-mailed my brother-in-law and my cousin, the two most responsible relatives I had who lived in the Pittsburgh area. I told them that they should get my father to a doctor, pronto.

The next morning, I got an e-mail from my brother-in-law saying that Ken was an old guy, old guys normally had aches and pains, and I was making a mountain out of a speed bump.

I replied that I was only eight hours away, if he didn’t get Ken to a doctor that day, I was coming there and whether or not Ken was sick would be the least of his problems. 

My sister and brother-in law took Ken to a doctor.

He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. 

Death Sentence

The doctors offered no hope.

He was no quitter. The doctors sort of humored my father’s will to fight but didn’t try too hard. They surrendered the first day. 

I think he lived longer than expected on willpower alone. 

My father was a WWII vet. Second wave at Omaha Beach. Awarded a Bronze Star (should have been the Medal of Honor, in my opinion). Awarded the Purple Heart for the serious gashes ripped into his flesh by a grenade. That didn’t stop him. He kept going. 

Eventually, a bullet shattered the barrel of his carbine, scattering barrel-shrapnel through his guts. That did stop him, for a while, anyway. It got him a trip back to England on a stretcher plus an oak leaf cluster to go with the Purple Heart. 

The doctor showed me his x-rays. All throughout his midsection you could see little bits of metal, pieces of grenade and gun barrel still there 56 years later.

He was so angry about the terrorist attacks on 9/11 that he wanted to get out of his hospice bed, get his shotgun and go after bin Laden. Sane people wouldn’t let him get up, but I think patriotic adrenaline kept him alive an extra six days.

He died on September 17, 2001.

During those last few months of his life, we became closer than we had in all the years before. He needed someone he could talk to, and by virtue of keeping my cool and remaining rational, I was elected.

I didn’t make it to Pittsburgh in time the day he died, but that was okay. The whole seven months of his ordeal was our good-bye.
Ken Shooter, 19

Where’s the Whetstone?

My mother couldn’t maintain the house by herself. I helped her pack up, sell the place and move to an apartment.

My father’s workshop occupied the garage. I decided to sell most of the tools, but keep those that had been my grandfather’s, my great grandfather’s and a few others that I remembered using with my father when I was a kid.

I found everything I wanted to keep—except for a whetstone. It had an unusual shape, sort of like an ironing board. My father taught me how to sharpen blades on that whetstone.

I looked everywhere. I went through that shop carefully, methodically, starting at the cellar door and working my way, literally inch by inch all around. I searched for hours.

No luck.

I sat down on a toolbox. I couldn’t believe the whetstone was just gone. He wouldn’t have given it away or gotten rid of it. I was totally frustrated.

I said aloud, “Pops, I can’t find it. You’re going to have to tell me where it is.”

And suddenly I knew just where it was.

I stood up, walked to the far right end of the workbench I’d been all over a hundred times, without hesitation or doubt slid open a little secret compartment. There was the whetstone, along with a few screwdrivers of great grandpa’s.

The little compartment was ingeniously disguised. The sliding lid appeared to be screwed into place.  No way anybody would suspect that board moved. No way anybody would suspect the compartment was there. 

Why would he build a secret compartment anyway? To hold a whetstone and some small tools? There were plenty of more valuable items right out in the open.

My father built that workbench after I had moved away from home. I had no knowledge of the existence of a secret compartment. I had never so much as touched that bench during all the years it stood there. No reason to. 

Here’s a look at the workshop before I started packing:
Ken's workshop. Click to enlarge.

Here’s the whetstone:

It was ten years ago today that I found the whetstone. 

I’ll say it again—I don’t believe in things supernatural. But strange, inexplicable things happen. Therefore, I am very open minded about such things. However I found, or was guided to the whetstone is mysterious to me. 

The story above is absolutely true, and told exactly as it happened.

MONDAY:  How to Do Continued Stories and Next or Future Issue Teases 

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Anti Gravity Room with Broadway Comics

JayJay Here. Back when Jim and I were working on Broadway Comics a Canadian TV show called The Anti Gravity Room came to film a segment with us. The episode is about how comics are made. I found an old video tape of the show a while back and got it transferred to DVD. It has Rob Liefeld and Ty Templeton. Jim and I are in the middle part (Part 2) of the show. The last part has an interesting bit about how comics are printed.

One little personal aside... the day they filmed this I met and ended up dating the cute sound guy who was working on the show. I later talked him into doing a film he'd been offered called Chasing Amy, though he hadn't heard of Kevin Smith, and I went down to New Jersey to be an extra in one of the convention scenes! I couldn't get our Broadway Comics booth to bring since it was being shipped to a real convention, but I borrowed David and Maria Lapham's Stray Bullets banner and "worked" the booth in the scene. One more connection... I made friends with another extra on the set, an indi comic book guy named Mike Mongillo, who has become an independent film director and I've worked on two of his films, Being Michael Madsen and Welcome to Earth, and designed his web site
My moment of fame. 

OVER THE WEEKEND:  My Final, and Most Intense October Tale

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Superman Syndicated Strips

Anyone aware of these?

More Tales to Astonish

Stan, Stan the Music Man

George Roussos, who was Marvel’s staff cover colorist during the time I was Editor in Chief of Marvel told me something about Stan.  I told a tale involving George a while back which can be found HERE

George was a notable artist, and especially notable as an inker in his younger days.  He worked for several companies, among them Marvel-precursor Timely Comics.

Stanley Lieber (who then used the pseudonym “Stan Lee,” which later became his legal name), a sixteen-year-old, comics-fanatic kid hired by his “Uncle” Martin Goodman (actually his cousin’s husband) was the entire editor of Timely comics. 

Stan reportedly was always the first to arrive at the office.  George was also an early bird.  George told me that, occasionally, when he’d come some mornings to deliver work to Timely in the early forties, the only one there was Stan…

“…sitting cross-legged atop a tall filing cabinet playing the recorder.”

Now, there’s an image for you.

George’s Office

When I first became Editor in Chief of Marvel, George Roussos was the “cover colorist.” His office was a tiny, ugly little room at the 575 Mad Ave HQ with no natural light, way in the back near “Stan’s Closet,” which deserves a post of its own sometime soon.

After early struggles, we turned around the plunge into the abyss I inherited and Marvel started to succeed.  Sales were good. We expanded. We had to hire more editors.

I needed George’s room, however crummy, for editorial types.

Aha! The perfect solution presented itself. There was a big, well-lit, corner office that, as I recall, had only two occupants, graphic designers, Davida and Nora. Lots of room. Natural light. Quiet co-workers. Perfect, one would think, for a colorist.

I moved George to the “good” room and installed new magazine editor Lynn Graeme in George’s old room. Natural light, I figured, was less important for her and her assistant.

George, the good soldier type did as ordered. But he seemed unhappy.

Production manager Danny Crespi clued me in. George had grown up in an orphanage. He’d never had his own space, never had any privacy at all growing up. He hated being in a room with other people. Nothing against them, but he cherished being alone.

Not too long thereafter, Marvel moved to custom-made offices at 387 Park Avenue South. I had some influence (not enough!) on the design. One thing I noticed in the original design was that the architect had put George in the bullpen, with lots of people around him. I objected.

I suggested that we take the planned closet next to the Stat Room and make it George’s office.

The architect and others involved, financial officer and, for all intents and purposes, operations V.P., Barry Kaplan argued that A) it was a closet! It was tiny! And B) I was insane. I conceded “B,” but pointed out that, because the closet was next to the stat room, which required water, there was no reason it couldn’t have a sink! Vital to a colorist. And I assured them that George would be happy there.

I won!

We moved in. George was pleased with his new “office.” He actually made it smaller, sort of. He put his art table in one corner, walled himself off with tall filing cabinets, kept the lights off except for the desk lamp over his table and was happy as a clam.

Not a day went by that George didn’t thank me for his office.

My remembrance of George's office (many fond memories). - JayJay

Items Possibly of Interest

Here are a few things that relate to previous posts and comments:

A memo regarding the Olshevsky Marvel Indexes:
Marvel office alleged humor, Lynn’s joke memo and an anonymous response:
One of Bob Budiansky’s Transformers character developments:
A memo about X-Factor early on:
The “Continuity Bonus” plan:
The script for a “Spider-Man’s Bachelor Party” event. Not sure who wrote it. The last line sounds like me, but…not sure:
TOMORROW: Another surprise from the archives - JayJay

OVER THE WEEKEND:  My Final, and Most Intense October Tale

MONDAY:  I Don’t Know!  I’ll Come Up With Something!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

SUPERMAN – First Marvel Issue – Comments on Byrne’s Plot

When it seemed that Marvel might get the rights to Superman, John Byrne wrote an eight-page proposed plot for the first issue. My beat-by-beat description of Byrne’s plot yesterday generated a wave of very interesting, very insightful comments, among them these: 

Marc Miyake said...
Dear Jim, 
Thanks for summarizing Byrne's plot. I wish you had reviewed it, but maybe it's best that you didn't because we readers can then give our own evaluations without being influenced.
I wasn't terribly fond of much of Byrne's published revamp, but in some ways I prefer it to this unused plot:
1. The "searing radiation": This element is confusing and unnecessary. Could Lara have been poisoned by it? Maybe not, since Kal-El wasn't. Did it mutate them, just as cosmic rays changed the Fantastic Four? Whatever changes affected Lara -- if any -- obviously weren't enough to enable her to survive the crash ... despite Jor-El's prediction that the "additional factor [...] that will help them [plural!] survive." Maybe Byrne meant to introduce the "additional factor" in some later issue. 
2. Lara dying on Earth. Byrne has mentioned this in an earlier proposal. This serves no purpose I can see other than to differentiate this origin from the classic one in which Jor-El and Lara die as a couple. I recall Byrne saying that Lara's death would serve a purpose: she'd die from kryptonite and thereby prove that it was fatal. Maybe he came up with that after he turned in this plot. 
3. Martha's "pregnancy": IIRC, in the published revamp, Martha had a cover story: she was pregnant when the Kents were snowed in (sorry if I got this wrong). No cover story here. 
4. Jonathan's death: In the late 30s version of the origin, the passing of both Kents marks Clark's manhood. This death just seems random. I guess Martha has to survive to sew Clark's costume. 
5. The raid reminds me of Spider-Man's origin: in both case, a failure to act led to terrible consequences. Would Byrne's Superman have been perpetually haunted by this incident? Was this a conscious attempt to Marvelize Superman, to give him a psychological weak point? I don't like the idea of associating Superman with failure. 
6. The subway rescue is large in scale, but not as spectacular as the space plane rescue in the published revamp. 
It's still a decent done-in-one, though. I'm sure I'd have loved Byrne's art, and the conclusion cracked me up: "Sorry, the caped man says, he’s already given his story to someone else, Clark Kent." And I'm relieved to see that teenage Clark didn't become a football star which I've long thought was out of character. (Maybe he did off-panel.) 
I wonder how readers who have read the New 52 relaunches of the Superman titles would react to this plot. 
October 25, 2011 5:48 PM

Ben Ronning said...
Dear Jim, 
I remember hearing rumor that claimed John Byrne wanted Lara to give birth or Kal-El on Earth (and thus make him a native of Earth in a roundabout fashion) and this pitch confirms it. It would have been interesting to see the fan reaction if this agreement went through. Would other DC characters like Batman, Wonder Woman, and Green Lantern (among others) have gotten a similar "reboot"?  
October 25, 2011 5:51 PM

Ben’s question got this reply from me:

jimshooter said... 
Dear Ben, 
Byrne wrote his plot for the potential first Marvel issue of Superman without being asked. I wouldn't have accepted his plot. I have significant, fundamental problems with it. His take on Superman was just that, his take, not at all what Marvel would have done under my watch. 
There would have been a relaunch of all the characters, and some things, of necessity, would have been changed. The reboots would have not been "similar" to what Byrne proposed for Superman.  
October 25, 2011 6:37 PM 

Which inspired this from Marc:

Marc Miyake said... 
Dear Jim, 
Could you briefly describe the "significant, fundamental problems" you have with the plot? I'm interested in your take on its mechanics.  
Maybe I'm so tired of structureless and/or incomprehensible "stories" that I'm relieved to see a comprehensive story with structure, even if it has elements that just ... exist without much impact: e.g., 
- Lara's death (she might as well have died on Krypton and the story would still be the same) 
- Jonathan's death (no visible effects on Clark; cf. the impact of Uncle Ben's murder on Peter Parker) 
Also, what sorts of things about the DC characters would have to change in the revamps beyond simply restarting continuity from zero? Did you think some elements in their concepts and backstories were dated and/or somehow out of sync with 1980s Marvel standards? 
For those familiar with Byrne's published revamp: 
By coincidence, I happen to have The Man of Steel #1 (1986) and Marvel Masterworks: The Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 1 by my side right now for reasons unrelated to this post and it occurred to me that both Superman and Spider-Man publicly debut saving spacecraft.  
October 25, 2011 7:26 PM

This was my answer:

jimshooter said...

Dear Marc, 
Briefly, Marc, it's a history, not a story. More documentary than drama.  
If Marvel had relaunched the DC titles we would have made them work together as a universe. We would have started with the core concepts, everything that was good about/important to the characters and started from there. Changes and updates would have been made carefully and only as necessary. 
Byrne didn't do that in this plot. 
October 25, 2011 10:58 PM

Later, this came in:

Craig Hansen said...
It's interesting to see what Byrne's plot consisted of. It's the opposite of decompression, for sure. 
That said, I saw a lot of problems with it even before reading the comments section and Jim's remarks. 
While there is room for criticism of Byrne's choices, both here and what he actually had published later on, I must say this: 
Imagine having the kahunas to actually tackle a project like this! 
Even back in the mid-80s or so when it happened, Supes had been around for something like fifty years. Now it's closer to eighty. 
And he's the first superhero, a cultural icon and even the mildest changes ever made to him have caused people to trample baby seals in outrage, and use chihuahuas as boomerangs!
(Okay, maybe not, but close to it.) 
Yet Byrne did it. He laid his kahunas on the table, knowing a lot of people were standing around with machetes, and said, "Here it is, here's my take, it's probably not perfect but nothing is, and this is the best I can do with it." 
I was briefly contemplating a post saying, "Byrne's plot sucked, here's how I'd do it."
But really.... as I thought about doing that... it overwhelmed me a bit. Even though it's just Jim and his followers. 
I mean, to redo anything and call it Superman... that's just huge. 
One would almost be better off using those changes on an all-new, different character, rather than one as iconic as Supes. 
Are there plot holes in Byrne's plot? Sure. But I trust Jim and John would have hashed them out before anything was drawn, had it ever happened. 
October 26, 2011 6:52 AM 
The last line quoted above got me thinking…would Byrne and I have hashed out the problems I have with the plot?

I’d like to think so.

I never discussed the plot with him back then because there was no need to. When he gave it to me, the deal with Warner Communications was not yet consummated and, shortly thereafter, the deal died. As explained previously, around that time, First Comics sued Marvel on anti-trust grounds, which rendered swallowing up our largest competitor a non-starter.

As stated above, I think that John’s first attempt at an issue #1 plot feels more like a history than a story.  It’s a long and winding road leading up to a villain showing up on the last page. Not doing anything—just showing up.

Think of the difference between seeing a film documentary about a German soldier during World War I as opposed to seeing All Quiet on the Western Front.

I also think that some of the changes John made unnecessarily strayed from canon, and some of his changes would have caused more problems than they solved. Lara’s body being on Earth, for instance. No mention of her body after she dies in the plot, but we, and her son, I’d think, would want to know at some point what was done with it, and depending on what was done there would be different ramifications.

What JediJones said cracked me up:

JediJones said... 
The biggest problem with that for me as Jim alluded to is wondering what happens to Lara's body? It adds an unnecessarily creepy and alien note to the Superman myth to think that his Kryptonian mother is buried somewhere on earth. You'd have to be reminded of it many times because he would naturally want to visit her grave. It also makes the Kents a little too aware of his alien origins. On an emotional level, it badly mars the joyous moment of Kal-El's arrival on earth and the Kents' discovery of him. Perhaps even worse, it would have been too tempting for later writers to build a plot around some villain exhuming her body or dissecting it. She probably would have ended up as one of those "Blackest Night" zombies.  
October 25, 2011 8:48 PM

A super-zombie!  Good grief!
I have doubts about the “aura” that protects his clothing, more so the closer it is to the body, which was John’s way of explaining the need for the skintight costume. But, what about the cape? Can we expect to routinely see that in tatters?

I have various other problems with the logic and mechanics as presented.

Wouldn’t almost anyone report someone dying in front of them to proper authorities…? Even given the weird circumstances of Lara’s death? 

Would upstanding citizens, described by John as “…standard issue rustics, American Gothic types, salt of the earth and try (sic) believers in those things that made, and make this country great,” somehow clandestinely dispose of Lara’s body, somehow, apparently, hide the wreckage of a spaceship (!) and simply assume custody of the baby? And go as far as to create the unlikely cover story that fifty-something Martha Kent got pregnant (!) and kept it secret. No mention in the plot of anyone so much as being a little curious or suspicious of this highly unusual pregnancy, conveniently hidden. Wouldn’t someone suspect that the baby wasn’t hers? No, not per the plot.

The foundling child who grew up to be the Superman I read about in the 50’s and wrote in the 60’s had been turned over to authorities by the Kents and later was legally adopted by them. There was no body to be disposed of, and if I remember right, Jonathan kept the small ship in a shed. That seemed to work. 

It’s also hard to believe also that it never occurred to Clark before the raid to rescue the President that he might be able to do a lot of good with his powers. It is clear in the plot that it occurred to Martha Kent many years earlier. How dumb is this guy?


I had no particular plot in mind for the first Marvel issue of Superman. I had some ideas about things that could be done with the various characters, but nothing graven in stone, and nothing in the way of specific stories or plots. I was open to anything good, that worked.

All I really had for sure were the guiding principles of sorts stated previously: the titles would have to work together as a universe, we would stick to the core concepts as much as possible/practical, and changes and updates would be made carefully.

To that I’ll add that the stories ought to be good stories, that the #1’s especially ought to be wonderful, powerful, definitive stories.

So, if John was committed to his proposed plot as written, then, sadly, we would have had to get other creators. But if John had been willing to discuss the story, I think I would have been able to help him make it better. Possibly, he would have talked me into some of his ideas.

I was dead set against Phoenix coming back and several people, principally John, talked me into that. I’m not nearly as difficult to reason with as some allege.

John might have been willing to talk. He was enthused enough about writing and drawing Superman to write a plot on spec. It must have been important to him. Maybe he would have been willing to accept input.

In those days, at least as far as I knew, John and I got along well enough. Creators disgruntled about this or that here and there is normal in any operation where there’s a boss who sometimes says no. It’s background radiation. I don’t know exactly when all his animosity toward me went into high roentgen levels, but at that time it didn’t seem as toxic.

I’ve never had animosity toward John. When I saw him a few years ago when both of us were witnesses at a hearing, I offered my hand. He stared at my outstretched hand for a few seconds, then said, “Only because we’re temporarily on the same side (of the case pending),” and shook my hand.



John is one of the most talented people I’ve ever been around, and I’ve been around a Hell of a lot of comics Hall-of-Famers and great creators outside of comics. He’s brilliant. Doesn’t mean he’s perfect, or that he gets it right the first time every time.

We hadn’t spoken about what my intentions for the potential new DC universe were. He couldn’t possibly have known all the parameters I had in mind.

He took a shot in the dark, and in my opinion, missed.

Maybe you like my opinion, maybe you don’t, but at the time, I had Stan Lee’s old job, and my opinion was the governing one.

If John and I had talked about the story, I believe we would have worked out the disagreements.  I suspect he would have nailed it.

And wouldn’t the art have been nice….

NEXT:  Really, More Tales to Astonish

Marvel Layoffs - 1996

JayJay here. Jim is taking care of other business today so I found another old news article for you. I thought it was an interesting aspect of Marvel history in the wake of some of Marvels' most recent layoffs. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

SUPERMAN – First Marvel Issue – Byrne’s Plot

JayJay here. Jim wrote, in a previous blog entry, about the time in 1984 when Marvel Comics was negotiating with DC to publish Superman comics among others. Read that original entry here. John Byrne had submitted a plot to Jim for the first Marvel issue of Superman. Many of our readers have been curious about that plot, so as he promised last week, here is more information.

It Isn’t Fair…

…to show the actual plot here. Sorry if you’re disappointed. Though he gave me a copy (in 1984), it’s Byrne’s story. Maybe he’ll publish it.

Doesn’t mean I can’t tell you the tale in my own words, as faithfully as possible.

The Story

The first chapter is entitled “KRYPTON.”

As in the classic origin, scientist Jor-El has discovered that his world, the planet Krypton is going to explode sometime soon.

Could be today, any day, but surely within a month.

Jor-El is a member of Krypton’s ruling “Council of Twelve.” Warning tremors shake the Council room, but the other members refuse to believe the danger is real. Jor-El is angry. Let them all die, then! 

At home, Jor-El talks things over with his wife, Lara, who is six months pregnant. He has a plan to save her and their unborn child, at least, to which she tearfully agrees. 

He was hoping that a large spacecraft might be built, big enough to save a “major portion” of the population, but time has run out. He has built a small “model” of the big ship he proposed, just large enough to hold one adult. He intended to pilot it himself on a “test flight,” but forget that. The untested little ship must carry Lara off world and safely away from Krypton’s catastrophic demise. There is no other way. 

Jor-El makes preparations with frantic haste. As Krypton is rocked by its violent death throes, Jor-El and Lara say their last good-byes. 

The launch must be timed perfectly.

Jor-El knows that Lara and fetus will become super-powerful as they are affected by the rays of the yellow sun where they’re headed. He also knows of an “additional factor” as well that will help them survive on the world that is their destination. Timing of the launch is critical to this mysterious factor.

At the perfect moment, Jor-El waves to Lara in the little ship and launches the rocket. Lara looks back at dying Krypton—which explodes, sending forth a burst of “searing radiation”—the mysterious, additional factor, maybe? John doesn’t say. Lara feels the radiation affecting her just before the rocket enters hyper space.

The hyper-light-speed journey takes three months.

The second chapter is entitled “SMALLVILLE.”

Earth, the USA, somewhere out in the sticks, fifty-something Jonathan and Martha Kent are riding along in their pickup truck. They’re farm people, good people. They witness the little ship launched months ago by Jor-El crash in a field.

They run to investigate.

Jonathan pulls badly-injured Lara from the wreckage. Right then and there, with the Kents’ help, she gives birth. The child, a boy, yelps when Jonathan slaps him on the butt. He seems unharmed and healthy. Just before she dies, Lara names the boy Kal-El. 

The childless Kents decide to keep the baby as their own. They name him Clark. 

They successfully convince friends and neighbors that 50-some-year-old Martha had been pregnant, but they’d kept it secret.

No mention of what became of the wreckage of the ship or Lara’s body.

At the age of two, at Clark’s birthday party we are introduced to the Langs, friends of the Kents, and their infant daughter Lana.

Clark begins to demonstrate fantastic strength, but only the Kents see.

At age ten, Clark is attacked by a bull while crossing a pasture. The bull does its best to kill him, but cannot harm Clark. His clothes are not so lucky. They’re shredded. Clark flips the 1,000 pound bull over his head, then runs home to tell mom and dad about the event. The bull, by the way, is okay.

Jonathan and Martha caution Clark to keep these things he can do secret, lest government or military people find out and come to take him away for who knows what purposes.

At age fifteen, while playing with his dog, Clark discovers he can defy gravity. The dog playfully leaps at him, knocking him backward a few steps. Instead of falling into the drainage ditch behind him, though, Clark finds himself hovering over it. After a little practice, he learns to fly.

Meanwhile, Jonathan (in his late sixties at this point) is trying, with two other men, to physically pull a tractor out of some mud it’s stuck in. The exertion triggers a heart attack and Jonathan dies.

The third chapter is entitled “METROPOLIS.”

Years later, after graduating at the top of his class from “journalism school,” Clark is hired as a reporter by Perry White, Editor in Chief of the Daily Planet in Metropolis. He meets “brash” Jimmy Olsen, a cub reporter, and Lois Lane. Byrne describes her as “…beautiful, but in a city-slick, used sort of way, tousled and vaguely rough at the edges.” She’s the type who would curse a lot. Clark is “instantly infatuated.” She welcomes Clark.

Lois and Clark, both superb reporters, become not-so-friendly rivals, despite Clark’s infatuation. He allows her to win, to get the story first sometimes.

Perry White urges Clark to try harder. Women and children first is for lifeboats (or little rockets, I suppose). White somehow knows a big story is about to break and tells Clark to go get it.

The next day the President is taken captive by terrorists. Lois investigates by traditional means. Clark surreptitiously uses his super powers to locate the farmhouse where the President is being held and alerts the authorities. They storm the place. Five people die in the raid and the President is gravely injured.

Clark realizes that if he’d handled it himself, he could have saved the President without any loss of life.  The little light bulb goes on….

He talks it over with his adoptive mother, Martha. They agree that he should stop hiding his powers and use them for good. To protect those close to him he has to keep it secret that he, Clark, is the hero he now means to become.

When he was a kid, Martha made him wear glasses he didn’t need to make him “more human.” (?) He’ll start wearing glasses again to help disguise himself when he’s Clark Kent. A point of difference from his hero self. 

Martha, anticipating this day, long ago bought red, blue and yellow cloth from which to make a costume.

Apparently, as Clark aged, he developed…something…an “aura,” perhaps, that more and more protected his clothing when he did super things. So, she will make him a skin-tight uniform to take best possible advantage of that. 

The fourth chapter is entitled “THE MAN OF TOMORROW.”

Sometime later, a caped, costumed figure breaks up an armored car robbery and frees hostages. Bullets bounce harmlessly off of his chest. He turns the miscreants over to police and flies away.

The caped man spectacularly rescues a stuck tramway car.

Then he pulls subway cars full of people from a collapsed tunnel. Lois Lane is there, reporting. She reaches the caped man before he can fly away. She doesn’t recognize him as Clark.

She is as attracted to this caped hero as Clark was to her. 

Lois wants to tell this mysterious hero’s story. She asks him questions, which he answers. This will be her greatest coup ever as a reporter. Sorry, the caped man says, he’s already given his story to someone else, Clark Kent. He flies away.

Elsewhere, later, a shadowy figure watches television news accounts of the exploits of the caped man.  He reads the Daily Planet article by Clark Kent, which has the bold headline: “SUPERMAN! MYSTERY HERO PROMISES TO BATTLE FOR TRUTH, JUSTICE AND THE AMERICAN WAY.

The shadowy figure is criminal mastermind Lex Luthor, who decides that he’s going to have to get rid of this Superman.


Combat Pay, Quota Fulfillment 

Here are a couple of memos from way back that address issues of creator compensation brought up in the comments:

NEXT:  More Tales to Astonish

Uncanny Divinations and Premonitions

First This

This is the post that I meant to have up Saturday. Tomorrow’s will be today’s. You know what I mean. Sorry.

Stellar Horoscope 

Early on during my time at Marvel, at a convention in New York City, I met a comics fan who was a part-time astrologer. He had a regular day job, some bookkeeping or accounting-type thing, but on the side, he did horoscopes. He liked what I had to say at some panel I was on, thought I seemed like an interesting subject and volunteered to do my chart. Free. Okay. I gave him my date and time of birth and the city where I was born. 

A couple of weeks later, he stopped by the Marvel offices to deliver his work, a hand-drawn astrological chart and his analysis of same.

The chart was beautiful. Framable. I still have it, packed away somewhere in the storage space. 

The analysis? 

What he came up with was startling. His analysis detailed things about me that nobody knew but people very close to me, and a few things that only I knew. Things that, I assure you, would have been nigh impossible to find out.

Like what? Well, he knew that I almost died shortly after being born. Something to do with blood, he supposed. Yes, because of Rh factor problems, I needed seven complete transfusions in the first three days of my life. One of my parents’ neighbors, one Adam Corcoran, donated the blood that saved my life. 

The astrologer knew many other things about my family and childhood that spooked me out.

Did he fly to Pittsburgh and check the records at Mercy Hospital? Did he call and interview my mother and my sister?

Mother and sister said no, he didn’t. I didn’t enquire of the hospital.

I showed the chart and analysis to my girlfriend, JP. (Has anyone noticed that there are an awful lot of “J’s” in my life—right, JayJay Jackson?) JP loved horoscopes and such. So I asked the guy do her chart. Paid him. Not cheap. The first one’s free...then, you’re hooked.  : )

The guy did her chart and our chart together

The analysis of her chart, like mine, was spooky-accurate. He correctly said she was divorced, two kids, a boy and a girl, and he got their ages right. He described her perfectly. He nailed things about her personality and a few personal things that only she could have clued him in on. She didn’t.


I met JP in another city, where she lived, a couple of hundred miles away. We had a long-distance relationship. I kept my personal life private. No one I knew in New York had ever met her. Not one person among my New York friends and acquaintances so much as knew her name, much less knew her personally.

And remember, this was long before the World Wide Web.

The analysis of our chart together was troubling. It said that our relationship wouldn’t last. It said that she would have two affairs “…with men who earned their livings using sticks or weapons.” 


We laughed about that.

Because of the distance between us, which meant that we couldn’t see each other as often as we wished, we had agreed that we’d keep things casual. No commitment. No strings. Que serĂ¡, serĂ¡.

But, the fact was, we were both into it big time. When we were together it was…you know. When we weren’t, it was difficult.

As my job became more and more consuming, we got together less and less. 

I was lonely. Once in a while, I went out with other girls.

She was lonely. She met, and had a brief fling with a professional hockey player for the Buffalo Sabres. No, I won’t give you his name.

Then she met and dated a ranked pro tennis player.

Sticks or weapons….

That second fling developed into a relationship that ended ours. 

If she had tried to fulfill the prophecy, I think it would have been difficult. 

The chilling accuracy of the astrologer’s work still haunts me.

Telling Tarot Readings 

At a party at someone’s house shortly before I was promoted to Editor in Chief, Chris Claremont’s new bride, Bonnie, a New Age type (my characterization, probably not what she would say), did a Tarot card reading for me. I had never heard of Tarot. It was a lark.

The reading proved to be eerily accurate, foretelling of success, but great difficulties and great strife. Okay, that all was a reasonable guess, considering the stressful times.

Many years later, post-VALIANT, a friend, the Fulbright Scholar “hedge witch” mentioned in a previous post, wanted to read my Tarot and I acquiesced. She knew me, and so some of the things she said weren’t shocking, but she didn’t know me that well, so a few things about me that she brought up, things that even her husband who knew me better didn’t know, surprised me.

Yeah, yeah, whatever.

Years later, at a time when I was unemployed and struggling, the hedge witch called me and asked, no, insisted that I have an “ifa divination” done by a Dutch South African man named Jaap Verduijn, who, she said, was remarkable. Ifa divination would take too long to explain here, but if you’re interested, here’s the Wikipedia article: 

It cost $55. I told Hedgy I really wasn’t interested and didn’t want to waste the money. She volunteered to pay for it. She thought it was that important.

To please her, I agreed to do it, and no, I did not let her pay.

The drill was the same as with the horoscope—date, time and place of birth.  September 27, 1951, at the stroke of noon, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, if anyone was wondering.

The divination, more of an analysis of one’s life and specific instructions for how to improve it, actually, was interesting overall and amazing in places. 

One thing he said, right off the bat, was that I wore too much black. I should put more color into my life. I did wear black a lot. Still do. I got in the habit when I was travelling a lot on business. Black is very forgiving. Get a spot on a white shirt with no time to get back to the hotel and change and you look like a slob all day….

Here are a few passages from the very long document. The underscores are mine:

“This client has the capacity to survive just about anything….”  Yes, I guess I’m a survivor.  “This Odu speaks of skills with the language.”  Hah!  Lord knows I try. 

Story of my life.

I was just about to move to Nyack, which is on the Hudson. Plenty of forest handy. And, I was about to start a new job with Phobos Entertainment.

Jaap suggested a number of ritual things to do in his “prescription” for me. One involved sacrificing a sheep, but he realized that probably wouldn’t be practical.
So, I didn’t sacrifice a sheep. I also didn’t cook a soup of tete atetedaye leaves or eat dried mudfish, touch eight fresh eggs to my forehead and smash them in the street. I didn’t actually do any of the recommended rituals.

However, the fact was that I was drinking more than I should have around that time.  And not eating right. Largely due to lack of money. Too much pizza, rice and beans, hot dogs…cheap stuff. About that, I listened to him.

This passage in the texts he used even he couldn’t figure out:
This was encouraging:
So was this:
This was close to home:
And here’s the conclusion:
What’s it all mean? I don’t know, but I admit I find it fascinating that from halfway around the world this guy had things to say to me that were pertinent. And there were no clinkers. 

A Premonition

I’ll keep this one short. I had my tonsils removed when I was 22 years old. On the way to the hospital (on my Yamaha TX750, by the way) I had the near-irresistible urge to turn around, call it off. No reason at all.

I was prepped for surgery. Lying on a gurney amid a horde of five or six year olds, also on gurnies, also there for tonsillectomies, all staring at me, wondering what the giant was doing there, that feeling came back. If I hadn’t been on pre-op tranks that made me woozy, I would have gotten up and left.

In the operating room, the anesthesiologist began administering the sodium pentothal or whatever. He told me to count backwards from 100. I got as far as 99…

then I felt my heart stopI stopped breathing

I had the sensation of falling down a well into blackness. I could hear chaos, shouting, but it seemed father and farther away every second.

Then suddenly I was wide awake. I sat bolt upright. They’d shot me full of epinephrine to counter the anesthetic.

I felt like playing football! Or running a marathon!

The doctor loudly growled at the anesthesiologist, “SHALL WE TAKE IT FROM THE TOP?!”

They did. The tonsils came out. I lived.

A Tarot Reading Scene from a Screenplay I Wrote

The title of the screenplay, written for Plan Z Productions long ago, is The Omega Point. Never produced, though for a while New Line was interested. Then the head of production got canned, and, well, that ended that. 

It’s actually a science fiction story. A scientist finds a way to make a fundamental change in the universe which effectively makes him godlike. The change he engineers unintentionally causes one man, John Michael, to become chaos-empowered, leading to apparent psychic phenomena happening to and around him, though at first he doesn’t understand or believe what’s happening.

The cast of characters closely parallels certain Major Arcana of the Waite deck. In this scene, after John has had an inexplicable premonition that enabled him to save his mother’s life, his New Age-type secretary reads his Tarot.  

John is working. Ruthie enters carrying a pack of cards. 
Can I throw your Tarot, Mr. Psychic Hero, sir?
Sorry. Not interested. The famous Nannet King herself told me that fortune-tellers are bullshit.
I’m not a fortune-teller. With Tarot, you influence the cards and I only tell you what they say. And I can’t wait to see what they say about you!
All right. What the Hell.
Ruthie has John shuffle. She’s using the Waite deck. 
Contemplate whatever you want to know about. 
She lays out a Celtic Cross. As she turns up the cards (which have the names on them) we see them clearly.
(Turning up the Hanged Man)
The first card represents you. You’re firmly attached to your beliefs, but they’re being challenged. Love and desire have led you to suffering. You’re at the end of your rope...
John gives Ruthie a suspicious look. 
That’s what it means. Really.
(Turning up the Fool)
This represents someone trying to help you. The Fool puts himself and his pleasure first, but he can be a brave, if foolhardy ally.
Huh. Vinnie.

(Turning up Death)
This means, well, death, or maybe a big change.

(Turning up the High Priestess)
Ah. She represents your roots, your support, or whatever makes you who you are. She’s spiritual power, inner strength and the source of luck.

(Turning up the Hermit)
This guy’s a hidden but important factor. A problem-solver, but someone you wouldn’t expect.

(Turning up the Magus)
This card represents what used to be. The Magus is the energy, the power in everything, everywhere.

(Turning up the Devil)
This card represents what’s ahead. The Devil means bad times,or a revolutionary new situation.

(Turning up the Tower)
The Tower stands for a struggle between extreme opposites.

(Turning up the Lovers)
This one stands for your dreams or fantasies. Um, moving right along...

(Turning up the Empress)
She represents an outside influence. She’s beauty, sensuality, eroticism, willfulness and material power.

(Turning up the Hierophant)
The Hierophant, or High Priest. He’s an opener of doors, an enabler.

(Turning up the Universe)
The twelfth card, which represents the key element, is the Universe.

(Turning up the Judgment)
The thirteenth card, signifies an impending decision or outcome. Amazing. Every single card is one of the Major Arcana. I’ve never seen that happen before.
So what’s it mean?
I think it means that you’re going to agonize over making a career change and you’re going to meet a really pretty but stuck-up girl.

(Trying to sound sincere)
Thanks for the reading, Ruthie.

In the end, John overcomes the enemy and the universe is restored, as it was—with no one but John left aware of what transpired. He is not yet sure who survived the reversal and who didn’t.

His secretary again wants to do a reading. Three cards are missing—those that represent the three major antagonists.
INT. JOHN’S OFFICE - DAYRuthie enters with a wrapped deck of cards.  
John, look what I got. A brand new Tarot deck. Let me do you a reading.
Do I have a choice?She opens the pack and sorts through the cards.
Heyy! The Devil...the High Priest... and the Empress are missing!
Hmh. Bliss, Luse and Monica...
I got a defective pack!
Maybe not. Maybe that’s my reading.
John flips through the deck. He comes to the Fool. 
I guess he’s still with us.
 Vinnie walks in.

No autographs.


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