Comic Books Posts

Cartoonist, Writer, Collaborator: What I Learned From Stan Lee

Ron Ruelle

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

The world of comics and pop culture in general lost a titan this week when Stan Lee, the biggest driving force behind Marvel Comics died at the age of 95. His impact on comic book fans can’t be measured. Neither can his impact on comics creators.

Lee started with a company called Timely Comics in 1939, working mostly with largely forgotten kids fare. The publisher struck gold with their Captain America stories, but didn’t do much to expand the concept. By the early 1960s, however, Timely rebranded as Marvel Comics and Lee was tapped to began crafting a new world of allies for Cap, as well as competitors for DC’s superheroes who had been off and running (and flying and teleporting) for a couple of decades.

stan lee spideyHis first creation was The Fantastic Four, which was an immediate hit with readers. Within a few years, Hulk, Iron Man, and of course, his biggest success, Spider-Man were spinning tales of adventure of their own.

As a cartoonist myself, (insert shameless plug here), Stan Lee surprisingly wasn’t an early influence on me. See, my Grandmother worked for Western Publishing, whose Gold Key comic books included titles from Disney, Looney Tunes, DePatie-Freling, and Walter Lantz. So that’s what I grew up on. They weren’t Marvel or DC comics, and aside from Super Goof, they didn’t include any superheroes. So I started drawing in the vein of those Gold Key titles. All by myself.

And there was Charles Schulz, whose “Peanuts” comic strip was in its creative heyday. Schulz famously said “If I were a better artist, I’d be a painter, and if I were a better writer, I’d write books — but I’m not, so I draw cartoons!” Made total sense to me. If I was ever going to make it in this business, I would probably have to go it alone. I gravitated towards becoming a newspaper comic strip artist, writing and drawing short, snappy jokes, often in the framework of a longer tale. But still a solo venture.

As I got a bit older and MAD magazine seemed less inappropriate (is MAD ever really appropriate at any age?), the idea of separate writers and artists began to appeal to me. But could someone really be a “cartoonist” if they only did one part of that equation? Did it matter if the end result was enjoyable to the reader?

stan lee marvel coversSo in a similar vein, I finally started to appreciate Stan Lee a bit later, in college, as I began collaborating with other creative types on class projects. Lee was primarily the writer of the ideas, but was still considered still a “cartoonist” in the fullest sense. Would Jack Kirby or Steve Ditko have ever drawn those dynamic action panels of The Thing if Lee didn’t feed them the idea, the character, the inspiration? Would those ideas sear such vivid memories without their action-packed art?

stan lee hulk thingSuddenly, for me, the Charles Schulz approach had some competition as a way to do comics. If a solo cartoonist could crank out 7 pages a week, a writer and artist could crank out 14 together. Same amount of work for each, just divvied up differently. And a lot less lonely.

Stan Lee was supposed to be the keynote guest at the 2013 Denver Comic Con, but had to withdraw at the last minute. Fans were disappointed, but for many, this felt kind of urgent. It seemed like he was getting up there in years and might not be able to make it to a future con, due to the inevitability of declining health or worse. We all wondered if we would ever get the chance to meet him.

But he came to Denver in 2016, and all was right with the world of superhero fandom.

I was at that Con, but didn’t get to meet him. As a cartoonist with a table full of books to sell, I couldn’t afford to step away for a few hours to stand in line for a photo, an autograph, and a brief word. As a cartoonist who was inspired by Lee, I regret missing the opportunity.

stan lee dccThese days, it almost feels like actual comic books are a by-product of the Marvel Entertainment machine. And yet comic book stores are full of fans and readers hotly debating the latest developments in new artists or writers being assigned to a particular title and whether a certain pairing worked well. Stan Lee probably would enjoy being there, watching comics being debated as such important fare.

“Marvelocity” Covers The Marvel-ous Career of Alex Ross

alex ross marvelocity

Ron Ruelle

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

It’s been 15 years since the the publication of “Mythology: The DC Comics Art of Alex Ross,” a hefty collection of his fine art approach to superhero storytelling. But in the last decade, it would seem that Marvel has overtaken DC, certainly in the cinematic world, so it’s a good time his work for Marvel to get the same treatment. “Marvelocity: The Marvel Comics Art of Alex Ross” is the latest pean to his high art. (In between, there have been several other collections of Ross’ work as well as a 2018 art exhibit of his art inspired by ideas from Stan Lee, the Marvel legend who died this week at the age of 95.)

alex ross marvelocityFirst of all, this book is huge and heavy. Even the dust jacket contributes to the heft; once you open it, the cover unfolds again and again into a long gatefold tapestry of alternate covers of super portraits. It’s like a pre-credit honor roll before you even get into the actual book. There’s even a large poster of an alternate cover concept with Spider-Man as the focus instead of Captain America.

Instead of black lines filled with garish colors, Alex Ross’ work is more of a realist painting. While the traditional comics style is full of wonder and fantasy, his more photographic approach actually makes the characters seem more human and possibly vulnerable and relatable. The heroic nature of his style might play more effectively with heroes instead of villains. In fact, the vast majority of the book is devoted to the good guys.

alex ross marvelocityComics critics have always struggled to classify Ross’ art style. To say he’s a cartoonist seems to sell him a bit short, as he’s almost a portrait artist who happens to work with incredibly dynamic subjects. On the other hand saying he’s NOT a cartoonist is kind of an insult to him (and everyone else in the industry as well.) Let’s just say Ross is a fine portrait artist working in a different medium. For several years, his illustrations have been used only on the covers, although the almost photographic quality ensures that the drawings inside will be consistently designed and composed. Beyond the covers, he’s always been heavily involved in the development of the look and the storylines of his comics.

alex ross marvelocityNowhere is his talent better illustrated (literally) than a spread which shows the iconic cover of “Captain America” issue 1, where Cap punches Hitler while Nazis futilely fire back. Next to the original is Ross’ recreation of this cover for “Captain America: Sam Wilson” number 7 in 2016. The overall composition is the same, right down to the vintage look of his costume and the inset of “Captain America’s Young Ally BUCKY.” Except the distorted artistic license of comic characters gives way to a more physically real arrangement. And instead of speed lines and crosshatching and bursts, the rendering looks more like a photo of that historic moment.

alex ross marvelocityThere are several other side by side comparisons that also serve as appreciation for how Jack Kirby and countless other artists had to work with older printing technology that made all those black lines and bright colors necessary. Ross was particularly busy with this sort of homage around Marvel’s 75th Anniversary.

alex ross marvelocityThere are a lot of sketches included, which really helps you appreciate Ross’ talent as a panel composer. The dynamic poses that Kirby pioneered come to life bit by bit, side by side. It’s not just pretty pictures, of course. Chip Kidd and Geoff Spear spells the story behind the art with the knowledge that only comics insiders like them can tell. Add in some outsider perspective with an introduction by J. J. Abrams, as well as reflections by other comics dignitaries, and there’s a pretty broad base of tribute and expertise.

alex ross marvelocityRoss has always been deeply involved in the overall creation and writing of his comics characters and stories. And his talent for composing a panel has been put to good use not only in comics, but also in storyboards for some of Marvel’s movies. Anyone with an appreciation of the Marvel universe in any form – comics, action figures, movies – should appreciate this book.

A Beginner’s Guide to the Green Arrow

A Guest Blog Post by 
This article was originally written for Rareburg, who in 2016,  joined forces with hobbyDB to provide an excellent source of collectible knowhow for the community. 

As the Arrow TV series has been back on our screens for a while now and I am a big fan of the hooded vigilante I thought it would be appropriate to write a beginner’s guide to the Green Arrow. 

More Fun Comics Vol 1Green Arrow is older than he looks! He was created by writer Mort Weisinger and artist George Papp and first appeared, with his partner Speedy, in More Fun Comics #73 (Nov 1941 VF/NM $24,000). Readers were introduced to wealthy Oliver Queen and his teen buddy Roy Harper, who lived with him and was later revealed to be Oliver’s ward. It was said Weisinger was inspired by a series of movies called the Green Archer which, in turn, were adapted from a series of books by Edgar Wallace. Taking his inspiration from the movies and the books, Weisinger created a new hero whilst also borrowing a lot of ideas from another DC character, Batman. There are a lot of early similarities between the two characters. Green Arrow had the Arrow Car and the Arrow Plane which were kept in the Arrow cave, Batman had the Batmobile and the Bat Plane which he kept in the Bat cave. Green Arrow had an Arrow Signal to call him and Batman had the Bat signal. Both were billionaire playboys and had teenage sidekicks. Weisinger even created a Joker-like arch villain for Green Arrow called Bull’s Eye.

It is interesting to note that in their debut appearance in More Fun Comics #73 Green Arrow and Speedy had been operating as costumed heroes for some time as Speedy mentions a previous adventure they had together, “The Case of the Golden Mummy”.

After only three appearances in More Fun Comics, Green Arrow and Speedy start appearing in Leading Comics #1 (Winter 1941 VF/NM $4,200) where they join the Crimson Avenger, Shining Knight, Star-Spangled Kid, Stripesy and the Vigilante to form The Seven Soldiers of Victory. Such is the pair’s growing popularity, they also begin appearing as a back-up strip in World’s Finest Comics #7 (Fall 1942 VF/NM $2,100), along with Batman, Superman and a number of other Golden Age DC characters. Long after all but Batman and Superman have left the title, Green Arrow and Speedy remain until #140 (Mar 1964 VF/NM $100) – a full 22 year run!

In More Fun Comics #89 (Mar 1943 VF/NM $1,200) and “The Birth of the Battling Bowmen” the readers are told, via flashback, the origin of Green Arrow and Speedy. This would prove to be the first of a number of origin stories over the years.

Our heroes’ run in More Fun Comics comes to an end with #107 (Jan/Feb 1946 VF/NM $900). Their loyal readership were not to be disappointed, however, as they were given a slot in Adventure Comics beginning with #103 (Apr 1946 VF/NM $3,400) starting another long run, similar to their stint in World’s Finest Comics, that lasted until Adventure Comics #269 (Feb 1960 VF/NM $320). So, very much due to Mort Weisinger’s strong editorial influence, when all other super-heroes were falling by the way-side Green Arrow was one of the few DC characters, along with Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and, surprisingly, Aquaman, to keep going after the Golden Age of Comics came to a sad end. Most of the Green Arrow stories during this period were written by France E. Herron who was the character’s main scripter between 1947-1963 and really these stories hold nothing more than a quaint, nostalgic curiosity value for a more innocent and naive form of comic story-telling and art that has long since disappeared. Well worth trying to track down, though, is a small run of Green Arrow stories illustrated by the great Jack Kirby from the 1958/1959 period – Adventure Comics #250-256 and World’s Finest Comics #96-99 (VF/NM $340). The stories are nothing special but the artwork is Jack Kirby at his best and would make a collectable little run.

Interestingly, Adventure Comics #256 (Jan 1959 VF/NM $850) re-tells Green Arrows origin in the story “The Green Arrows First Case”. Green Arrow learns of a scientific expedition heading for Starfish Island which gives him cause for concern because Starfish Island is where Oliver Queen first became Green Arrow. In the Arrow Plane, on their way to stop the expedition, Green Arrow tells Speedy the story of how he became the Emerald Archer in a flashback sequence – all courtesy of Jack Kirby.

With the coming of the 60s, Green Arrow and Speedy moved from their mainly back-up story role to becoming more of a main feature and grew into very much a fan favorite. In Justice League of America #4 (Apr/May 1961 VF/NM $1,200) Green Arrow becomes an official member of the Justice League of America. When Brave and the Bold #50 (Oct/Nov 1963 VF/NM $250) introduced the idea that would see out the remainder of the run – team-ups – it was Green Arrow, along with the Martian Manhunter that DC chose to star in the first team-up. What a great cover to that issue – well worth checking out!

Big changes for Green Arrow took place towards the end of the 60s when writer Bob Haney teamed Green Arrow with Batman in Brave and the Bold #85’s “The Senator’s Been Shot” (Aug/Sep 1969 VF/NM $150) and artist Neal Adams introduced not only a new costume but also a goatee beard and mustache which ever since has been known by many fans as the definitive look for the Emerald Archer.

No Evil Shall Escape My Sight!Writer Denny O’Neil followed up on Green Arrow’s new appearance by completely remaking the character’s attitude in the pages of Justice League of America #75 (Nov 1969 VF/NM $110) giving his personality a rougher edge. This complete revision was explained by Oliver Queen being stripped of his fortune through forged documents of him engaging in corruption. He then became an outspoken supporter of the underprivileged and displayed strong liberal views. O’Neil saw this new Green Arrow as the perfect counter-balance to Green Lantern’s “Mr Establishment” character. Under the editorship of the legendary Julius Schwartz, Green Arrow and Green Lantern were given equal billing in Green Lantern’s own series that was re-titled “Green Lantern co-starring Green Arrow” from #76 (Apr 1970 NM/M 9.8 sold for $31,811 in Aug 2014) – an issue that is one of the most sought after and key Bronze Age comics. In a ground-breaking run of 14 issues Green Arrow and Green Lantern tackled a number of relevant social and political topics and it was in #85-85 (VF/NM $160) that one of the most controversial story-lines in comics took place. It was revealed that Speedy was addicted to heroin and the cover of #85 (Aug/Sep 1971) actually shows Speedy in the process of having injected – a ground-breaking move by DC.

Despite the strong, relevant story-lines and dynamic artwork by Neal Adams, the title was cancelled with #89 (Apr/May 1972 VF/NM $110) leaving Green Arrow to take up the all-too familiar back-up story role – this time in Action Comics starting with #421 (Feb 1973 VF/NM $15) – as well as continuing his appearances in Justice League of America where he had started a relationship with Black Canary. The Green Lantern/Green Arrow title was re-launched with #90 (Aug/Sep 1976 VF/NM $26) and Green Arrow remained there until Green Lantern went solo with #123 (Dec 1979 VF/NM $12). A quick switch to World’s Finest sees Green Arrow appear in #259-284 but he has to leave when the title becomes a Batman/Superman team-up title. Further appearances in Detective Comics and Justice League of America for six months finally lead to Green Arrow getting his first solo series, albeit a four issue Mini-Series in May 1983, by writer Mike Barr and artist Trevor Eden.

Green Arrow: The Longbow HuntersThe series did not really fire the public’s imagination and Green Arrow meandered along for another four years until he appeared in another Mini-Series, the hard hitting three-issue prestige format “Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters” (May 1987 VF/NM $10). Writer/artist Mike Grell did not pull his punches. This was not the Green Arrow of old. He crosses paths for the first time with Shado, a female Yakuza assassin but more importantly after Black Canary is captured and badly abused, he is pushed past his breaking point and kills her assailant. As a result, Green Arrow begins a new stage in his comic career – one that now sees him as a main player in the DC Universe with his own ongoing series. For anyone interested in the Green Arrow character, The Longbow Hunters, is an important read.

The ongoing series begins where The Longbow Hunters ended with Mike Grell continuing the development of Oliver Queen’s character. What is of note was that the series was for mature readers allowing writer Mike Grell to continue his adult and more violent treatment of the Green Arrow character. After Grell left the title with #80 (Nov 1983 VF/NM $4) the storylines started to drift away from their mature reader themes and Green Arrow became more focused in the main-stream DC Universe. Issue #0 (Oct 1994 VF/NM $3) introduces the character of Connor Hawke, who is later revealed to be Oliver’s son by Sandra Hawke, an old college sweetheart.

Before Grell left the main series he still had time to write “Green Arrow: The Wonder Year”, a four-issue Mini-Series that, amongst other topics, expands on the re-telling of Green Arrow’s origin begun by Grell in The Longbow Hunters. Two years after “The Wonder Year,” DC published yet another origin story in “Green Arrow Annual” #7 (Sep 1995 VF/NM $4) in which both Ollie and Connor were deemed ‘metahuman’ with the potential for super-powers.

At the same time as the Annual, in Green Arrow #100–101, (Sep-Oct 1995 VF/NM $10/$30) Green Arrow is killed while trying to prevent the detonation of a bomb by a group of eco terrorist. Connor adopts his father’s role and becomes a second Green Arrow and he remains the central character of the series, now written by Chuck Dixon, until it is cancelled with #137 (Oct 1998 VF/NM $15).

Green Arrow QuiverConnor Hawke had his own fan following but most readers wanted Oliver Queen back and it was left to writer Kevin Smith to pull off the impossible and bring back Green Arrow from the dead. This he duly did in “Quiver” a ten issue storyline in a new ongoing Green Arrow series that debuted with #1 in April 2001 (VF/NM $16). It turns out that Hal Jordan returned Oliver to life – but without a soul. The soul is eventually returned and Green Arrow is alive and whole again. The Quiver story arc is well worth a read! As well as bringing Green Arrow back to life, #2 (May 2001 VF/NM $7) introduces the character of Mia Dearden, a former prostitute on the streets of Star City. Mia eventually took the name Speedy and became Green Arrow’s new side-kick. What she is best known for though is being one of the few super-heroes with HIV due to her early days in prostitution.

The series continues until #75 (Aug 2007 VF/NM $4) during which time, Green Arrow plays a key role in DC’s “Identity Crisis” (2004) storyline, helping to investigate the murder of Sue Dibny, the wife of Ralph Dibny the Elongated Man. The month after the series is cancelled, writer Andy Diggle provides yet another version of Green Arrow’s origin in the six issue Mini-Series “Green Arrow: Year One” – as if we had not had enough “origin” stories already!

In spite of all this frenzied activity Green Arrow somehow manages to find time to marry Black Canary in the “Green Arrow and Black Canary Wedding Special” #1 (Nov 2007 VF/NM $5). But there had to be a twist! Black canary kills Green Arrow on their honeymoon as he attacks her. This shock ending leads into a “Green Arrow/Black Canary” ongoing series where it is revealed that Black Canary killed an impostor and the real Green Arrow had been kidnapped by Amazons. It could only happen in comics or EastEnders!

As if Green Arrow had not been through enough in his checkered comic career he is turned into a Black Lantern during DC’s huge cross-over event of 2009, “Blackest Night and, surviving that, he then finds himself putting an arrow through the head of the Justice League villain, Prometheus after he destroyed Star City, in the “Justice League: Cry for Justice” Mini-Series. He is tried for the murder, found not guilty and exiled from what remains of Star City.

Green Arrow Brightest DayBeing a Green Arrow fan – which you might have guessed from this article – I am pleased to say that Green Arrow was one of the chosen 52 titles. He is based in Seattle, has fallen out with Roy Harper and his relationship with Black Canary and his friendship with Hal Jordan have not happened – nor has he ever fathered any sons. He is also one of the main characters in The New 52! Justice League of America series that began in 2013.

What the future holds for Green Arrow, who knows? One thing is for certain, whatever the script writers have in mind the Emerald Archer will continue to play a central role in the DC Universe. The days of him being a character relegated to back-up features apprehending rather tame – and lame – villains are long gone. But even those early adventures with the Arrow car, the Arrow Plane, the Arrow Signal, the boxing glove arrows, are all part of the rich comic tradition of one of DC’s longest and most enduring super-heroes. I hope you can find time to read and enjoy – as I am doing – some of that rich history surrounding Green Arrow. You will not be disappointed.

 

Take a Trip to America’s Largest Comics Store, Mile High Comics

Young Christian Braun

Musings By Joschik

Christian is one of the founders of the hobbyDB project and his musings share some of his collecting experience.

The other day I spoke to Chuck Rozanksi, the owner of Mile High Comics about meeting up.  He suggested that I should come to the Mile High warehouse, America’s Largest Comics Store- and am I glad I did!

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It might not look much from the outside but it is just enormous inside and every nook and cranny is filled up with cool stuff.

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And there are tons of things to see, like what is probably the largest Lego Minifig ever:

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The best thing is that it’s open to the public with more than a million comics to chose from…

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…as well as lots of other things such as posters, action figures, Lego Minifigs etc. – if it is comics related you can probably find it here!

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I had a fantastic time and Chuck is our kind of guy, not only is he nuts for comics; he also has an awesome collection of Native American pottery (we look forward to document those!).  I have the feeling Chuck just doesn’t do small, there are shelves and shelves full of them – and he knows the story behind every one of them!

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Take an afternoon off and venture down there!  You will find the address on milehighcomics.com.

Join hobbyDB at Time Warp Comics for Free Comic Book Day!

Time Warp Free Comic Book Day Galactus

Do you collect comic books? Action figures? Super hero stuff in general?

Have we got an event for you! Yes, Free Comic Book Day 2016 is coming to a comics shop near you on Saturday, May 7, 2016. In our case, that’s Time Warp Comics in Boulder, Colorado. In addition to all sorts of costumed crusaders, and well, free comic books, hobbyDB will be there giving demonstrations and signing people up to use our site.

In fact, sign up on your way in (there’s usually a line, which goes past our booth, and registration only takes a few minutes, so why not?) And on the way out, we plan to have another table where you can shoot a photo of your item and add it to our database. That only takes a few minutes too!

Time Warp Free Comic Book Day

Time Warp Comics is located at 3105 28th St, Boulder. Free Comic Book Day runs from 10am to 6pm, with the line forming early outside. Everything in the store will be on sale, too! See you there!