Monday, August 22, 2016

The Marvel Age of Merchandi$ing : 1965-1977

Probably more than the other comic publishers of that era, Marvel produced, licensed and sold self-promoting products.  This included sweatshirts, stationary, fan club membership, books statues and much more.  Here are over fifty ads from 1965-1977, including a few Hostess Cup Cake pages, complete with Spider-Man and Captain America!

The scans are from the original  comics.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Start Spreading the News: Marvel Wants to be Part of It, New York, New York!!!

Start Spreading the News:
Marvel and New York

“Start spreading the news
I am leaving today
I want to be a part of it
New York, New York”

Stan Lee: Instead of having them live in a fictional place like Metropolis or Gotham City I’d plant them right down in New York City because I knew New York City. I would write about New York City and I figured why not let them live in a real place.

Let’s start with a fun quiz: Simply, at the beginning of the Marvel Age, from Fantastic Four #1 to the period before expansion (January 1968) which Marvel Age title characters had NOT lived in New York? (Title characters include those who had their own comic or their own series in the anthology comics, such as Iron Man in Tales of Suspense. This excludes the western and romance comics)

To have all the characters, good guys and bad guys, interact with each other in the Marvel Universe, Stan Lee placed them all in the same city. This was uncommon in the comic books of the Silver Age. In DC comics, for example, every hero lived in his own city with his own villains. While there was an occasional guest star in a DC comic, in the early 1960s joint appearances could be found only in World’s Finest and Justice League of America.  In Marvel’s new universe, their heroes guest-starred in each other’s comics all the time both in cameos and in full length stories.  It was not only one Universe and one city, it was a real city: New York, where Stan Lee was born and bred. This, too, was unique for its time.

It didn't exactly start out that way. For their first issue (August 1961, I am using the actual street date of the comic, not the cover date), the Fantastic Four lived in Central City. In issue #4 (February, 1962), however, they were in New York. They hadn’t moved and nothing else changed but the name. From this point on, ALL the new super-hero comics written by Stan Lee had their characters living in New York. As super-heroes took over the lead spots in the four anthology titles—Journey Into Mystery, Strange Tales, Tales to Astonish and Tales of Suspense— their stories were mostly written by Robert Bernstein, Ernie Hart, and Larry LieberJerry Siegel, co-creator of Superman even wrote two Human Torch stories. But just where these new Marvel super-heroes lived and fought crime was rarely disclosed.

When the Human Torch was spun off from the Fantastic Four, beginning with Strange Tales #101 (July 1962),  his solo adventures were written mainly by the aforementioned trio. Instead of living with the F.F in N.Y.C.  Johnny Storm lives with his sister Sue, in the town of Glenville in the borough of Queens, which is part of Long Island. Further disconnecting him from the original series, the Torch has a secret identity in Glenville although that disappears in issue #106 when the Acrobat and Sue tell Johnny everyone knows he is the Torch.  When Lee takes over the writing (issue #114, August 1963), Johnny is shown more at the Baxter building than in his own home. Sue moves out in issue #122 (April, 1964) and the town of Glenville is never mentioned after issue #127(September 1964).

An interesting note:  Central City was used again in 1978. Jack Kirby used it as the home of Machine Man!

Queens was a busy place for super-heroes in the early 1960s. The first story in Amazing Spider-Man #1 (December, 1962), written by Lee, has Peter Parker present at the launch of a manned space rocket (carrying Astronaut John Jameson) into outer space. In 1962, this only could happen at Cape Canaveral, Florida, implying  that Peter Parker lived there. However, in the second story of the same issue, Spider-Man visits the Fantastic Four, who, since the previous February, had been living in New York.  At the beginning of Spidey’s second issue, February 1963, Stan establishes the setting as New York City. Parker is a student in a school in Manhattan called Midtown High.In New York, Midtown would only refer to mid-Manhattan.  This implies that he lives in Manhattan. Forest Hills, located in Queens, is not mentioned until issue #7 (September 1963). (A map of New York is included in Amazing Spider-Man Annual #5 (1968).

Queens is where Iron Man also resided. In his initial stories, written by Bernstein and Lieber, Iron Man—that is Tony Stark—was often in Washington at the Pentagon but his home residence and his Industrial Plant were in “secret” locations within an unnamed metropolis. In Tales of Suspense #49 (October 1963), the Angel, who lived in Westchester, flies over LaGuardia Airport in Queens and encounters Iron Man. In issue #55 (April 1964), Stan Lee, now scripting, places the factory in Queens. In issue #65 (February 1965) he becomes more specific and places it in Flushing, Queens.

This corresponds with the Avengers’ location, a series Lee was also writing.  The team‘ met to be in Tony Stark’s home library on Long Island. In the Avenger's second issue, September 1963, Giant-Man mentions that it is just across “The Grand Central Parkway” which travels through central Queens. In fact, since Stark’s factory is in Flushing, it is at the Jewel Avenue Exit.  Turn north and you go into Flushing, turn right and you wind up in Forest Hills and you can visit Peter Parker! In Avengers #3 (November, 1963), the team is shown to be close to the Fantastic Four’s Baxter Building.

This is the real Grand Central Parkway that Giant-Man will jump over.

The early Thor stories in Journey Into Mystery, written by Lieber or Bernstein, have Dr. Don Blake living in a nameless, but familiar city. That is, in issue #85, August, 1962, we see a subway and the Statue of Liberty and in issue #88, November, 1962 there is a Center Park (not a Central Park). Sandu attacks the U.N. in issue #91, but Don Blake is in “another city.” In issue #93, The Radioactive Man arrives “in (Times Square) the heart of Manhattan, but there is no indication that Don Blake lives there.

Lee takes over the scripting of the book with issue #97 (August 1963). In issue #101 (December 1963), Thor meets with the Avengers, who are established in N.Y., in his own office. In issue #107 (June 1964), the local airport which had been nameless becomes JFK which is in New York.

   The early Ant-Man/Giant Man stories in Tales to Astonish were written mostly by Lieber or Hart and they were a bit inconsistent. In his second adventure as Ant-Man, Pym operates in a “vast metropolis” which can only be New York because the defeated Egghead ends up in “a dingy Bowery flophouse" (Tales to Astonish #38, September 1962). In issue #39, insects led by Scarlet Beetle steal dynamite from the 9th Regiment Armory (which is on West 14th Street in Manhattan). Seven issues after his premiere, Henry Pym is said to live in Center City (Tales to Astonish #42 and 43). In issue #44 (March 1963) an “alien thing” advances on the George Washington Bridge and Manhattan is being evacuated! Ernie Hart implies that Pym lives in or near New York City in  issue #47. When Stan Lee takes over the writing with issue #49, August 1963, Pym is shown is his home in the New Jersey Palisades overlooking the Hudson River and New York City. This is near to the Avengers, which premiered the previous month.

In their first appearance in July 1963, Lee places the X-Men in Westchester County, a suburb just north of the City. Also, in his first appearance in February 1964, Daredevil is placed in New York’s Lower East side. 

Dr. Strange, one of the few anthology series Lee scripted from its beginning, had to wait for his third appearance to be placed into Greenwich Village, in Strange Tales #114 (August, 1963). Much later, in Strange Tales #147 (August, 1966), Strange would even get an address: 177A Bleecker Street. So all the books Stan wrote had his characters in the Big Apple, and when Stan Lee took over the writing of the heroes in the anthology books they all got moved to New York.

Nick Fury (who was born in New York, by the way) and S.H.I.E.L.D. would emanate out of New York when they weren’t flying above it on their Helicarrier. 

The Sub-Mariner was a New Yorker, too. He spent years in the Bowery, with amnesia. Johnny Storm finds him in Fantastic Four #4  Maybe that’s why he always attacked New York.  

The Hulk, in between his failed series of six issues and his run in Tales to Astonish, apparently lived at the Avengers mansion in New York (Avengers#1-2). He had to move out because Captain America moved in during Avengers #4 (January 1964).  

The Inhumans had their own series in Thor #146-152, and even then, Medusa and Crystal lived in the Baxter Building. In fact, the only series Marvel had from 1961 until their expansion in 1968, that didn’t have a New York-based character was “Tales of the Watcher,” in Tales of Suspense #49-58! (1964).

Not as distinct as artists, writers nonetheless have styles. Stan Lee gave a specific location within a few issues of every series he wrote and Larry Lieber didn’t.  Lee used alliteration for his characters’ names: Matt Murdock, Peter Parker, Sue Storm whereas Lieber didn’t: Tony Stark, Henry Pym and Don Blake.  Stan’s dialogue was introspective and stressed characterization, and Lieber’s dialogue usually just advanced the plot. So with the Dr. Droom series, in Amazing Adventures 1-6, which was published without credits, we can surmise that Lee, was editor, came up with the plots, but Lieber probably wrote the stories. This is because the stories took place in an unknown part of the “mid-west” and the dialogue was never reflective and only advances the story.

Even in the 1940’s, when DC used fictional cities such as Gotham and Metropolis, Martin Goodman often placed the original Human Torch in New York.

Of course westerns did not ignore the big apple!

And if I can make it there
I'm gonna make it anywhere
It's up to you
New York, New York, New York

A HUGE shout out goes to Carl Thiel who worked super hard on this blog too!  And to Nick Caputo who supplied the Kid Colt scans and Decaffeinated Coca Cola.