Goodbye Stan

Sadly, at the age of 95, we say goodbye to Stan Lee the founder of Marvel comics as he sails off to join artists Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko in the unknown realms beyond.

I first encountered Stan Lee in the pages of FANTASTIC (UK b&w reprints of Marvel comics) when I was ten years old and he has been involved in my life in some way or another through comics and films ever since. That’s not all though. Like many millions the world over I was strongly influenced by Stan Lee’s humanistic life philosophy and that’s what I think we should recognise most. Stan Lee’s legacy of morality, accountability and good-naturedness that are needed in this modern world of terrorism and cybercrime more than ever before.  Stan Lee also realised that no matter how young someone is they have something to offer and that we shouldn’t treat anyo9ne differently because of their age, gender or anything else.  You can see this aspect of Stan Lee as early as the first X-Men comic way back in the 1960s where Bobby Drake complains of being treated like a kid compared to the others.  Later on the intelligence and skill of a young girl was well-demonstrated by Kitty Pride as she polished off a malevolent alien single-handedly.

We need Stan Lee to help us show the villains in the world that they should wake up and realise that knowledge and power do entail responsibility, that compassion is a great strength, that humanity thrives on differences and that external appearances don’t tell us what is inside. We need to see like Stan Lee did that many different skillsets are required for us to meet the challenges of our ridiculously fast-growing world population (for every 151,000 who die each day a staggering 352,000 are being born!), the pressures invoked by using up limited natural resources and the dangers of an indefinable but clearly possible threat of global human extermination as a result of our abuse of the planet.

If humanity survives the challenges ahead of us well then I think that it will be to some degree or other due to the messages that Stan Lee proclaimed all his life and we should thank him for that. I know I do.

Happy Birthday Stan!

“Mayhap the day will come when men think of truth – of right – of love for all their fellows.  I pray it will come soon! For not till then will humanity fulfil its promise – nay, not till then – will man and god – be one” (Thor 173 February 1970)

Happy Birthday Stan!

Stan Lee of Marvel Comics fame is ninety years old today, which only goes to prove that comics and staying young at heart give you a long life.  And maybe a good core of moral values helps too.

It has been several generations since kids took much notice of what their parents seriously tried to teach them and spiritual and moral values have been increasingly promoted through the media, especially children’s media like comics and films.  Not that the idea is new.  Moral storytelling is as old as the ancient Greeks if not earlier.  There have always been stories where ignorant, nasty people get their just deserts.  Nowadays the boundaries have blurred considerably to the point where nasty criminals become heroes and everything is measured with a confused bundle of values that must make us wonder what we’ve done when some fruitcake goes on a killing spree with a machine gun. All of which brings us back to Stan The Man Lee and Marvel Comics…

All those years ago Stan Lee made superheroes human.  Superman and Batman were too perfect, too far removed from the problems and sufferings of ordinary people.  It is said that kryptonite was invented to give the actor a break when Superman was broadcast on the radio but without kryptonite Superman is so invincible it is hardly worth having a villain present.  In fact, they might as well give up.  Stan Lee’s new breed of superhero were powerful but not too powerful and flawed in any number of ways just like anyone but, and it is a big BUT, when the chips are down they know what is right and the best values of human nature shine through – honesty, commitment, self-sacrifice, generosity etc etc.  Stan Lee has given several generations of kids all over the world a massive input on moral and spiritual issues and made it fun at the same time.  And it isn’t moralising us such most of the time.  Yes, the odd hero like Thor (who lets face it can be a bit starchy at times) does give forth with a slice of moralising like the one at the top of this article but mostly Stan had us think about it and decide for ourselves.  There were moral dilemmas.  Do you choose to save the one you love and allow the villain to get his nasty weapon working that may enslave all mankind or do you let your loved one die for the sake of humanity?

I’ve been reading Marvel comics since a time when I had no idea I was reading Marvel comics.  Howzat you ask?  Well, I was ten years old when a brand new comic was advertised on TV – ‘Fantastic’ it was called and I spent almost a whole day bicycling around every newsagent in the area until I found a copy.  The X-Men knocked me out.  I’d never seen anything like it in my short life so far (although not a lot since to be honest either!) and Thor and Iron Man …O Wow! … this was “Eureka” time all right!  And it was British too, it said so right across the top – “The Best of British Comics” – and it was a few years until I found out that the best of British comics was in fact American and that I’d been reading all these stories in cheap black & white print when they had originally been published several years earlier in the USA in full glorious colour.

As you might expect since I run Artists UK it was the art that grabbed me most but the stories were excellent and I’m sure that the moral and spiritual content was a bigger influence on me than anything that my teachers or parents said.  My big favourite was actually Dr. Strange, possibly because I like magical stuff and possibly because I found all the thumping and smashing of more physical characters could get a bit boring.  It could go something like Hulk hits Thor, Thor hits Hulk, Hulk hits Thor, Thor hits Hulk, Hulk hits Thor, Thor hits Hulk … zzzzzzzzzzzzzz.  I’m still waiting for a Dr Strange film and hope that characters like Eternity and The Living Tribunal are in it …

Anyway, what I’m trying to say amongst all this babbling is that, when you think about it, given the influence Stan The Man Lee has had via Marvel comics on so many generations of kids aged 9 to 90 all over the world, possibly we are looking here at the ninetieth birthday of the greatest superhero of them all and the true and unrecognised saviour of the world.  I doubt Stan is going to read this but if you do, thank you so much for all these amazing comics that I enjoy as much today as I did at ten years old when I had no idea they were Marvel comics.

Neil Gaiman Sandman film or TV series

Not unsurprisingly, I own all the graphic novel compilations of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman comics and am currently reading through them all yet again.  Easy to do.  The artwork in Neil Gaiman’s Sandman comics is superb, Neil Gaiman’s story writing is incredible and the characters literally out of this world … even when they aren’t.  Not only that, Sandman is often hilariously funny, deeply poignant and even tragic.  How many writers can manage that?  Neil Gaiman is truly exceptional.  Then you’ve got those amazing Sandman covers by Dave McKean as well! So what about a Sandman film or TV series?

A good adaption of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman could be the best thing ever in comic adaptions but a poor one would be deeply disappointing.  Fortunately, since 1991, Neil Gaiman has said that he’d rather see no ‘Sandman’ movie than a bad ‘Sandman’ movie made.  He said that the time of a good ‘Sandman’ movie is getting closer but feels that a ‘Sandman’ movie needs someone with the passion of a Peter Jackson for ‘Lord of the Rings‘  or Sam Raimi on ‘Spider-Man‘ to get the film through Warner Bros.

What I can never understand is why the original story lines never stand up when it comes to filming.  It seems that everyone is so frightened a film won’t work that they feel they must cherry-pick the best ideas from an entire series to make the first film.  This must cause a lot of problems for any sequels.  Then you get daft situations like the so-so Iron Man sequel when there is this amazing character The Mandarin in the Iron Man comics who hasn’t made an appearance in either film.  It beggars belief!

As far as my money goes I could imagine a series far longer than Heroes featuring Neil Gaiman’s Sandman but then maybe some daft idiot will pull the plug for no good reason like NBC did with Heroes.  So what do you think?  Film or TV series?  Should Neil Gaiman’s Sandman ever be made as a film or TV series at all?  I hope you feel the need to comment on this otherwise I guess nothing will ever happen anyway.  Oh, yes, I’d love to see a really top-notch adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman.  If it doesn’t happen then I’ll keep reading the Sandman graphic novels until my eyes give out or the Corinthian comes for them! :-)

What we learned about art from watching HEROES

Of course we’ve been sucked in to Tim Kring’s HEROES like everybody else – HEROES Season 1, HEROES Season 2 and HEROES Season 3 … and an excellent ride it has been too!  Here’s what we learned about art from watching HEROES:

  1. You can’t draw or paint until your eyes go white.
  2. Drugs are useful even if they are made from dung.
  3. Everything in the comics comes true.
  4. Just coz you’ve drawn it don’t mean you can stop it (Oh wots dis in your back?).
  5. It is a dangerous business! If you are a good guy artist you probably get the top of your head cut off or fully decapitated.
  6. Good artists with a big stick don’t die, they come back as spirit guides.

So; the final conclusion from HEROES :

Go work for Marvel, be a bad guy with a big stick and take loads of drugs full of dung.

We’re not totally sure Tim had that in mind though :-)