Free Comic Book Day is Saturday, May 4, and we talk to Scott Russell of Pastimes Comics and Games in Asheville, North Carolina about the business of running a comic book shop, how Free Comic Book Day affects it, and the overall health of the comics industry.
Scott is also The Podcass’s first interview! Hopefully, the first of many that eventually become a key part of the podcast. I want to talk to friends, colleagues, contemporaries, and others who I admire and make for compelling conversation. Thanks to Scott for his time, especially after an attempt to interview him for The Amusement Park Podcast fell through last November. I guess I have to keep giving him my money.
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On the latest Amusement Park Podcast, we pay tribute to Stan Lee and the Marvel icon’s role in pop culture. Also, George R.R. Martin’s struggles with The Winds of Winter, Hallmark Christmas movies update, and what we’re enjoying this week.
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Writing a tribute to Stan Lee was something I’d been thinking I should do for quite some time. After all, (Stan) the man was 95 years old and there were various reports about his deteriorating health. Just as a newspaper would get an obituary ready, I thought I should get something ready — whether the piece was written for another site or my own.
Sure, laziness and procrastination were probably the primary reasons for not getting that done. But the idea of writing something in anticipation of Stan Lee’s death was also very upsetting. He still appeared to be lively and vibrant in his many Marvel movie and TV cameos. It seemed as if Smilin’ Stan might just live forever.
Thanks to those movie cameos, even my sister knew who Stan Lee was. She grew up with me endlessly reading and collecting comic books, of course. But when I pointed out the guy who co-created Spider-Man on the screen, she recognized him every time he popped up in the handful of Marvel movies we saw together. She’ll never be able to escape superheroes entirely.
(By the way, will Lee’s last live-action cameo have been in Venom?) Unless he’s in Avengers 4, his final on-screen appearance may well be in the animated Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, which hits theaters in mid-December.)
There will and have already been so many tributes, eulogies and obituaries dedicated to Stan Lee that I’m not sure I could possibly add anything. All I can contribute is what Lee and his many iconic creations mean to me to this day. So often when people write a tribute to someone, the piece ends up being about the writer more than the subject. As much as I’d like to avoid that, I don’t think it’s possible here.
“Overzealous recycling” could be a good name for a newsletter if we ever take thing that way. That could pop in people’s inboxes, yes? Still aiming to get this out on Thursdays, or at least early Sunday mornings.
Since seeing Bohemian Rhapsody last week (my review here), I’ve been obsessively consuming all things Queen. I listen to their songs while working or driving. I’ve spent hours on YouTube, watching almost all of their music videos — some of which are legitimately terrible (surely a product of the time) — and lots of documentary footage.
One of their good videos was for “Radio Ga Ga,” made when Queen apparently steered into their sci-fi fandom after doing the Flash Gordon soundtrack. Finding some behind-the-scenes footage from the video’s production was a happy discovery.
To feed that hunger, I put together a list of my favorite Queen songs. It was supposed to be a top 10 list, and I thought I’d have trouble getting to 10. But my nostalgia trip reminded me of how big a Queen fan I’ve been since childhood and the list boiled over to 16. It probably could’ve been 20.
Reading For You
** Bohemian Rhapsody was released in theaters last weekend, but it took eight years for the Queen biopic to be made. That includes, as many likely know, Sacha Baron Cohen wanting to play Freddie Mercury but clashing with Brian May and Roger Taylor over the story. [Vulture]
** In my review of Bohemian Rhapsody, I said the mouthpiece Rami Malek had to wear for playing Freddie Mercury was distracting, especially early in the film. But maybe that was an accurate portrayal of Mercury trying to hide his teeth when younger. Here’s a fun interview with the man who made those teeth, Chris Lyons. [New York Times]
Friday night brought some sad news for longtime comic book and superhero fans with the news that Steve Ditko, who co-created Spider-Man for Marvel Comics with Stan Lee, had passed away at the age of 90.
Ditko’s death (along with Harlan Ellison’s recent passing) is a reminder that many of the creators responsible for the stories and characters which established the geek culture we currently enjoy did so 50 to 60 years ago. Each time Stan Lee pops up on news alerts for lawsuits, estate disputes or elder abuse allegations, my initial instinct is that he died. The man is 95 years old, though he seems spry in his continued Marvel movie cameos.
Of course, it means we’re getting old too. I probably first read Ditko’s Spider-Man stories 30-plus years ago. When I began reading comics, John Romita Sr., Gil Kane and Ross Andru were the guys drawing Spidey. Marvel’s reprints of the original Spider-Man comics led me to Ditko.
Steve Ditko’s Spider-Man was a marvel of clear storytelling and clean rendering!He was bringing Stan full issues of pencils, which Stan ‘’wrote to.” No story conferences:) pic.twitter.com/FwQpesyUVI
Sure, maybe I just wanted more Spidey stories back then. But this was probably also an early example of appreciating artists by going to the beginning, like listening to a band’s first album or watching a director’s early films. What were those original Spider-Man comics like and how did they compare to the stories I first read?
Ditko’s art fit the idea of Spider-Man so well. A superhero with the powers of a spider would be a bit creepy, right? And Peter Parker was a nerd who got bullied, crushed on girls, was adored by his uncle and aunt, and was a brilliant student. Romita’s version of Spider-Man was a bit too polished, though fit the post-high school version of the character. But Ditko’s version, in addition to the world these characters populated, looked a bit unusual.