Flo Steinberg, Marvel Comics stalwart, dies

Flo Steinberg

UPDATE II (5:55 p.m. ET) The New York Daily News says Flo’s age was 78.

UPDATE (5:30 p.m. ET): I don’t have a specific age for Flo. Apologies.

ORIGINAL POST: Florence “Flo” Steinberg, at one point Stan Lee’s “Girl Friday” at Marvel Comics and later a comic book publisher, has died, according to the Newsarama website.

Today, Marvel is a part of Walt Disney Co. and known mostly for its movies. When Steinberg worked there in the 1960s, Marvel was a modest operation. It had nearly gone out of business in the 1950s. It actually relied on a sister company of much larger rival DC Comics for distribution.

She gained the nickname “Fabulous Flo.”

Steinberg departed Marvel in 1968. Here’s an except from the Newsarama obituary about what happened next.

Steinberg was also a key figure in the independent comics scene, launching what many consider to be the link between “underground” comics and modern-day “alternative comix” with the 1975 one-shot Big Apple Comix. Featuring work by such luminaries as Neal Adams, Wally Wood, Mike Ploog, and Marie Severin, Big Apple Comix broke ground in employing “mainstream” comics creators in stories featuring more sexual and real-world elements than most typical fare of the time.

Another website, The Comics Beat Culture, also posted a tribute. Heidi MacDonald wrote, “Flo returned to Marvel in the 90s as a proofreader, where I met her, as did many Marvel staffers of the era and she become an icon all over again.”

Flo didn’t receive regular credits in Marvel Comics published in the 1960s. But she was a presence in a 1965 record. That year, Marvel started a fan club, the Merry Marvel Marching Society. The record was part of what you’d receive if you joined.

The record is part of this YouTube video:

Some tributes to Steinberg were posted Sunday afternoon by comic book professionals past and present.

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Spider-Man: Homecoming and the art of the twist

Spider-Man: Homecoming poster

No spoiler unless you consider mention of a plot twist a spoiler.

Spider-Man: Homecoming, this weekend’s big movie opening in the U.S., has a lesson about how to spring a plot twist on the audience.

We’ll avoid details here. However, this paricular plot twist may be a bigger surprise to those familiar with the original source material, i.e. the 1962-66 original comics run by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko.

The movie’s creative team does take some creative liberties with those Lee-Ditko stories in updating them for a 21st century setting.

That’s not a surprise in and of itself. Ever since Marvel began making its own movies, it has picked and chosen among comic story lines going back decades. The first Marvel Studios film, 2008’s Iron Man, moved the site of the character’s origin from Vietnam (as in the 1963 comic book) to the Middle East.

In any case, Spider-Man: Homecoming’s plot twist works.  Viewers who know the original stories may not see it coming.

One other non-spoiler note, the movie also adapts a major sequence from the original (plotted and drawn by Ditko and scripted by Lee). That will probably also catch the attention of fans of the original comic stories.

RIP, Joan Lee

Joan Lee, the wife of long-time Marvel Comics editor Stan Lee, has died at 93, according to an obituary published by THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER.

Joan Lee, 93, in some versions of the story, encouraged Stan to try different comics ideas in the early 1960s, when Marvel began creating its line of super heroes.

By other accounts, Joan Lee was an influence in different ways.

Writer Gerry Conway, in Sean Howe’s book Marvel Comics: The Untold Story, described why it made sense to kill of Peter Parker’s girlfriend Gwen Stacy in a 1973 story.

“Only a damaged person would end up like a damaged guy like Peter Parker,” Conway told Howe. “And Gwen Stacy was perfect! It was basically Stan fulfilling Stan’s own fantasy. Stan married a woman who was pretty much a babe — Joan Lee was a very attractive blond who was obviously Stan’s ideal female. And I think Gwen was simply Stan was replicating his wife.”

A more detailed examination of all that is best left to another time. For now, here’s a sequence from a 1971 Daredevil comic by Conway, Gene Colan and Tom Palmer. Not only did Stan Lee make a cameo, but so did Joan Lee.

 

Cameo by Stan Lee and Joan Lee in Daredevil 79 (1971).

Rich Buckler, comic book artist, dies at 68

Rich Buckler

Rich Buckler, part of the second-generation of Marvel Comics artists, has died, according to an announcement by Marvel on Twitter. He was 68.

In the 1970s, writers and artists who had been fans a decade earlier, were brought on by Marvel. Buckler was among them, as well as artists such as George Perez and writers such as Len Wein, Marv Wolfman and Steve Gerber.

Buckler, during the 1970s. was the artist on the Fantastic Four, the title that began the Marvel revival in 1961. Buckler also created a cyborg character, Deathlok, as well as doing work for DC Comics, according to the Bleeding Cool website.

Cover to Fantastic Four (vol. 1, No. 142), drawn by Rich Buckler

In the 1970s, Marvel was in transition. Stan Lee moved to an executive position. Jack Kirby, who created or co-created much of the Marvel Comics Universe, was away. Roy Thomas, initially Stan’s successor as editor-in-chef, would soon give up the post.

During this time, younger talent took on many of Marvel’s main titles.

Sean Howe, author of Marvel Comics: The Untold Story, provides many more details in his book. Suffice to say, former fans were now actually coming up with the new stories that would sustain Marvel.

Buckler (born in 1949 in Detroit) was among those newcomers who made a mark. The Fantastic Four was among Marvel’s flagship titles, and in 1974 (13 years after the FF’s debut) Buckler was its artist.

His run on the FF lasted about two years. Still, it was a sign that Marvel — and comics in general — were now in the hands of a new generation.

The Marvel/U.N.C.L.E. crossover (sort of)

Cover to Tales of Suspense No. 80

As a result of some banter on Twitter (thanks @AgentSoloUNCLE), we discovered how Marvel Comics and a popular line of Man From U.N.C.L.E. paperback novels shared a similar McGuffin.

That would be a cube. But not any cube. The Cosmic Cube (introduced in Tales of Suspense Nos. 79-81) and the Power Cube (in the U.N.C.L.E. paperback The Power Cube Affair) were sought after bad guys seeking world domination.

The Cosmic Cube came first, in 1966 in a three-part Captain America story by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee.

The story brought the Red Skull, a Cap villain from World War II, into the “present day.” The villain is such a part of Cap history, he was made Cap’s foe in the first Marvel Studios Captain America movie, Captain America: The First Avenger, in 2011.

In the 1966 story, the Skull was found by a villainous organization (Adanced Idea Mechanics, or A.I.M.) and revived from suspended animation.

The group is developing the Cosmic Cube, an “ultimate weapon,” which can generate objects from mere thought. A.I.M. thinks the Skull is working for them but, being a Nazi, has his own ideas how to use the cube.

Eventually, Cap has a showdown with the Skull. Despite the fearsome weapon, Cap prevails. The Skull appears to have drown while wearing golden armor he wished into existence while wielding the cube. But Stan Lee, understandably, couldn’t resist bringing the Skull back in other stories.

The Power Cube, based on reviews by David Munsey of the U.N.C.L.E. tie-in paperbacks on The Fan From U.N.C.L.E. website sounds very similar.

Cover to The Power Cube Affair

The Power Cube Affair was the 19th of 23 U.N.C.L.E. paperback novels published by Ace. The novel, one of three in the series written by John T. Phillifent, came out after the Captain America story.

Here’s how David Munsey described the proceedings in his review:

In this one there is a hunt to find and assemble 27 parts of a power cube that would give the possessor-what else?- world domination. This is familiar enough, it reminds one of Dr. Who’s hunt for the six segments of the Key to Time and the Red Skull’s quest for the Cosmic Cube. (emphasis added)

By the time the novel was published, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. television series was running out of gas (it was canceled in January 1968). The Ace novels were published in the U.K. and The Power Cube Affair was the 15th published there.

Wally Wood’s influence on Daredevil extends to 21st century

Excerpt from Wally Wood's definitive 1965 Daredevil story, In Mortal Combat With Sub-Mariner

Excerpt from Wally Wood’s definitive 1965 Daredevil story, In Mortal Combat With Sub-Mariner

One of the most acclaimed comic book adaptations on television has been the Netflix series Daredevil.

The show, which has run 26 episodes over two seasons, is violent. If it were a movie, some episodes would definitely receive an R rating.

But one person who doesn’t get mentioned much in connection with the series is comic book artist Wally Wood (1927-1981).

Wood worked as an artist on seven issues of the original comic book and did uncredited story work. He did not work on the first issue, which was done by Stan Lee and Bill Everett. However, Wood designed Daredevil’s distinctive red costume (which debuted in issue 7), which has mostly continued on to this day.

But Wood’s primary contribution goes beyond that. In a 1965 story, Wood’s Daredevil tackles a much more powerful foe, Namor, the Sub-Mariner (created in 1939 by none other than Bill Everett), the half-human ruler of Atlantis. Namor had super strength and wings on his ankles.

Marvel (via The Fantastic Four title by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby) revived the Namor character in the early 1960s and established that he wanted to conquer the surface world.

Wood’s take on Daredevil was how the hero (who was blind, but had whose other senses were heightened following an accident) never, ever gave up. In Mortal Combat With Sub-Mariner was issue 7, the first issue with Wood’s red costume.

Wally Wood's cover to Daredevil No. 7 in 1965

Wally Wood’s cover to Daredevil No. 7 in 1965

Over the course of the 1965 comic book story, Daredevil absorbed a beating at the hands of Namor. But DD always kept coming back for more until he finally fell exhaustion. But DD was more heroic in defeat than Namor was in victory.

The Netflix Daredevil series relies on those who followed Wood, especially artist-writer Frank Miller, who worked on the title in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Oddly, Wood is not included among the writers and artists who receive a “special thanks” credit in the end titles of the Netfilx series

Those who do receive recognition (among them Miller, artists Gene Colan, John Romita Sr. and John Romita Jr.) do deserve the credit they receive. But it’s strange that Marvel’s television arm doesn’t note Wood’s contribution. The Facebook page Wally Wood’s Daredevil has called for Marvel to recognize Wood.

Regardless, aging comic book fans who remember Wood’s short, but influential, run on the title are aware of his contributions to Daredevil that have extended into the 21st century.

Happy 94th birthday, Stan Lee

Stan Lee's cameo in Captain America: Civil War

Stan Lee’s cameo in Captain America: Civil War

Stan Lee turns 94 today.

Over the past few years, Stan’s legacy at Marvel Comics has been re-examined in books such as Sean Howe’s Marvel Comics: The Untold Story and a detailed article in New York magazine early this year. This blog even did a modest post on the subject a year ago.

Today’s post is merely intended to wish “Stan the Man” (one of his many nicknames when he was Marvel’s editor-in-chief) a happy birthday.

Marvel was a lot more than Stan Lee. But he is one of the few survivors of the 1960s when the stories were done that laid the foundation for the Marvel Comics film universe.

That doesn’t mean Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko (another survivor), Wally Wood and others weren’t important. Their contributions were enormous (their plotting in addition to their art) and they should be better known than they are.

Still, for many fans, Stan remains endearing. He still shows up in cameos in Marvel films. Comingsoon.net said in September said Lee has filmed additional cameos in advance.

So, once more, excelsior, Stan Lee.