It's only right that Stan Lee's memoirs arrive in comic book form. The 93-year-old ambassador/mascot of Marvel Comics has been in the funnybook business since 1939 - back when they still were called funnybooks. Back then, the medium was seen as silly at best, vile at worst. But today, comics, or graphic novels as some highfalutin folks call them, have attained a status of near respectability. People of all ages read and love them, and their characters generate billions of dollars via their appearances on TV and in films. Lee, along with other key figures, has been at the forefront of this evolution. And though he's interviewed almost daily, it's interesting to hear what he has to say about his career and all the changes he's seen.
Amazing, Fantastic, Incredible: A Marvelous Memoir by Stan Lee, penned with the help of veteran comics writer Peter David and zippily illustrated by Colleen Doran, does a fine job of charting Lee's trajectory to the top of his field. We see how the stories of Edgar Rice Burroughs and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle seized Lee's early imagination, making him want to become a writer. And we observe him in his early years at Atlas Comics, the company that became Marvel, and how he, in collaboration with artists such as Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, helped create the Marvel Universe.
Lee is often criticized for stealing the spotlight and not giving due credit to Kirby, who co-created the Fantastic Four, Avengers, X-Men, Thor, Captain America and many others, and Steve Ditko, who co-created Spider-Man, Doctor Strange and more. Read the rest
Justin Green is the author of the classic Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin Mary, an underground comix autobiography about growing up Catholic and OCD. Sadly, creating brilliant underground comix doesn't provide the most stable of incomes, so in the mid-1970s – with a family to support – Green went into business as a commercial sign painter.
Sign painting, or "commercial brush lettering," evolved over hundreds of years and is probably the earliest form of advertising. But by the 1980s – when Green was seriously devoting himself to the business – it was being eclipsed by computer type and cheap printed vinyl signs. Master sign-painters were aging out and few young craftspeople were taking up the brush, so Green started his monthly comic strip "Sign Game" (collected here) to record some of this hard-won knowledge before it disappeared.
The early strips tell how Green found his footing; including the one-thousand hours required to brush a perfect "O." In later strips he requested techniques and stories from veteran brushmen. They offered priceless knowledge like how to mix your paint so it stays put under the hot sun or how much arm-twisting to apply when a client lets an invoice sit for too long. Some of these sign painters became recurring characters in "Sign Game," and a few died during its run leaving these strips – and a few fading signs – as their final memorial.
Like a great sign, Green's strips are dense with information, lettered in classic historical styles, yet easy to follow. Read the rest
This is wonderful. When Stoney Emshwiller was 18 years old, he filmed himself interviewing his older self. Thirty-eight years later a 56-year-old Stoney completed the interview by answering his younger self's questions. He's funded the production of a movie, called "Later That Same Life." Read the rest