Posts Tagged ‘Flo Steinberg’

Worlds Apart – Stan Lee and Alan Moore

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

A recent review by Bob Duggan of Clifford Meth’s Comic Book Babylon led off with the title The Real Heroes and Villains in Comic Books. It featured spot illos of a typically exuberant Stan Lee and brooding Alan Moore beautifully rendered by Michael Netzer.

The arrangement of the portraits beneath the title insinuates, at first glance, that Smilin’ Stan, with Spidey dangling in the background, represents the heroes and Scowlin’ Alan embraces the villainous dark side.

According to Duggan’s review, however, both Lee and Moore are described by Meth as victims that belong to a long list of creators that have been taken advantage of by the corporate comic book giants, Marvel and DC.

It is a huge stretch from most perspectives to imagine Stan Lee as a victim of the comics industry while Alan Moore could easily be anointed the poster child for the royal reaming that begets comic creators. This contrast added greatly to the irony of the header of the post and was a wonderfully divisive way to catch the attention of readers, especially those sympathetic and knowledgeable about creators rights issues.

Yet, Stan Lee and Alan Moore are a perfect choice to if not solely for their contributions as the most influential writers of superheroes in the industry outside of Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel. Where the creation of entire genre of Superhero comics rests on Siegel’s shoulders, Lee and Moore’s influence anchor pivotal changes in how superheroes were portrayed that redirected the entire industry at different points in its history.

Despite their similar accomplishments both men also took decidedly different roads regarding their creative achievements and celebrity. In many ways the two men are worlds apart from each other.

Jack Kirby & Steve Ditko

There is a strong argument as to how much creative responsibility Stan Lee had in regards to the creation of most of the Marvel Universe during its heyday in the early 1960’s. Lee himself readily admits the roles that Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko had in fostering the creation of Marvel’s most iconic characters that are now worth billions of dollars. But Stan is and always has been a company man and has held fast to the work-for-hire relationship that denies creators and their heirs, especially those of Kirby and Ditko from any royalties.

To his credit, however, Stan bucked the system by developing and marketing one character that no one could take away from him. He recreated himself. With the impending success of the new Marvel line of comics Stan quickly transformed from your typical clean cut, white collared middle aged editor with thinning hair to a flashy guy with a mustache, sideburns, toupee, shades and a polyester wardrobe indicating that his new image consultant was probably the young and attractive Flo Steinberg, Marvel’s own Gal Friday. He certainly wasn’t getting fashion tips from Sol Brodsky.

While he was busy scripting snappy dialog full of trendy colloquialisms that endeared Marvel characters to a hipper, slightly more mature audience and redefining the genre he was sure to build his own celebrity with his new look, lecturing at colleges, doing voice overs on cartoons, writing Marvel Origin books, and plastering his name on every Marvel comic that opened with “Stan Lee Presents.” Stan’s monthly Soapbox was exactly that, not just a tool to promote Marvel Comics but a forum to promote Stan the Man and was where his now famous slogan “Excelsior!” first buried deep into the souls of his fans.

Today at 91 years of age, Stan is as vibrant and famous as ever. He has managed guest appearances in nearly every Marvel blockbuster an tonight will appear on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.E.I.L.D.. He is worth over two hundred million dollars and in large part due to his own success at making his name synonymous with Marvel rather than royalties received from  each character he co-created.

Stan has done what he does best. He took care of himself and worked hard at it and though he has always been incredibly diplomatic, he has never stepped away from company lines regarding creators challenging the work for hire agreement. He never used his celebrity or leverage of any significance to correct or influence the draconian practices of the industry.

Alan Moore opened the doors for superheroes to engage a more mature audience. His work filled with complex themes and refined writing that raised comics to a level  recognized as literature. A true artist, his preference was to have his work speak for itself. Respect the work and you respect Alan Moore. Simple as that.

In the 1980’s when Moore’s work rose to critical acclaim and redefined the medium there was no question that he was the new Golden Boy. His trademark long hair and looming bearded persona always projected an image of the quintessential artist. His work has always spoke for itself and he is regarded by most as the greatest graphic novel writer.

For this reason alone it was with great celebration that DC penned a “creator owned” deal with him and Brian Bolland for Watchmen. A deal that would be manipulated and bastardized for decades to follow, culminating in a Watchman film that disregarded his lack of approval and the insult of a prequel series of comics titled Before Watchmen that mocked his authorship of the  greatest selling graphic novel of all time.

Moore has had a tempestuous relationship with publishers throughout his career that has led many to point fingers at him as the common denominator and has driven him into a personal exile from most comics and fandom.

Alan Moore, is a man who is more concerned about respect for his work than he is about money and has, as in the case of Watchmen, declined receipt payment as a matter of principle to protest his dissatisfaction. Few can understand how anyone could be so idealistic to reject the kind of money he has turned away, thus fueling the impression that he is an irrational man which he is anything but.

Moore, lately, has a new take on superheroes calling them a cultural catastrophe.’ The man that elevated the horizon for an entire medium is now denouncing the genre that he is responsible for transitioning. He is now receding from public life to work uninteruppted. In his wake is an entire generation of creators that are watching their greatest influence turn his back and walk away from them.

Alan Moore has been a high profile victim but he has often been in a position to capitalize tremendously despite his abuse. He has chosen retreat and rejection of compensation as his defense where he could have redirected that “tainted” money toward a fund to champion creators rights that seem dear to him, personally, yet he chose not to.

Stan Lee and Alan Moore both had the amazing ability to change the course of an entire genre. Their lofty positions gave them both an opportunity to make a difference regarding the rights of creators and neither took up the mantle. In Clifford Meth’s book, apparently they are both portrayed as victims of sorts, clearly Moore has received the shorter stick, but neither are in a position to cry poverty like so many others.

These are two men that made a career out of defining heroes but never found the hero in themselves.

This issue of creators rights is an important one in the comic book industry and should never be taken lightly by any fan or professional. Any book like Comic Book Babylon is a must read and Meth should be applauded for its compilation as well as his personal efforts in defense of the late Dave Cockrum.

In the end, this is a story about David and Goliath both with an opportunity to make a difference. As usual it is the Davids of the world like Clifford Meth that stand up and fight while the Goliaths like Lee and Moore draw all the attention but, in the end, are ineffectual when it matters most. Worlds apart in more ways than one.

Making Comics Because We Want to,

Gerry Giovinco



Where Have all the Women in Comics Come From?

Tuesday, April 9th, 2013

women in Comics Interview vol 2

It is amazing to see the number of women that attend comic conventions these days. Maybe their inclusion is more pronounced to those of us that were attending comic cons thirty years ago when seeing a woman at a comic con was akin to spotting a Yeti on the beach.

Women abound at cons these days and though those that participate in cosplay seem to get all of the media attention because of their skimpy costumes and exhibitionistm portrayals of sexy characters, it is more than comforting to see the growing numbers of women that are comic creators, readers, bloggers, and collectors.

At the Asbury Park Comic Convention, two of the many highlights for me involved the presence of women at the show.

Meeting the extraordinarily talented illustrator, Stephanie Buscema was a thrill. She carries on the tremendous legacy of her grandfather, John Buscema, and great uncle, Sal Buscema, both gentlemen legends in the comic book industry. Though she bears the mantle of comic book royalty, she does so while maintaining her own individuality with her unique and refreshing retro style.

Lining up to meet Ms. Buscema was the other surprise of the show, a parade of female fans of all ages. They were not there just for her but her beautiful art was a magnet that attracted the ladies like a moth to a flame. Those same women soaked up everything at the show with the same enthusiasm that was once only expected from the old “boys club.” Mothers with children in tow, Grandmothers wearing Batman swag, teenagers, tweens and toddlers of the female persuasion were all there genuinely showing an interest in comics and not because they were dragged there by a dad, husband or boyfriend.

I don’t know why I am always surprised to see waves of women at conventions. I guess I fall prey to the stereotyping as easily as anyone because I do remember quite vividly those early days of comic conventions that were attended so sparsely by women. I am well aware, however, that women have played a significant role in comics for decades and it is about time that they share the limelight with the men.

Comics_Interview_Volume_2_Standard_cover

Our newly released second volume of David Anthony Kraft’s COMICS INTERVIEW The Complete Collection is a testimonial to the efforts of some of the women that played pioneering roles in the history of comics featuring a long list of interviews that were originally published in 1984 and 1985.

Harking back to the earliest days of the Silver Age,  Marvel Comics’ very own Gal Friday, Flo Steinberg gives us an intimate look at what life was like in the fabled Bullpen and talks about her own attempt at independent publishing with the anthology Big Apple Comix.

Maggie Thompson, one of the earliest pioneers of comic fandom along with her husband Don, describes the dawn of fandom through her experience evolving fanzines into trade periodicals as she chronicles the early history of the recently retired Comics Buyers Guide.

Marvel Sales Director, Carol Kalish, discusses Marvel’s role in the structuring of the young Direct Market and revolutionary marketing programs that she was responsible for implementing that impact the industry to this day.

A young Colleen Doran talks about the development her comic creation A Distant Soil that is still in publication twenty-eight years later!

Influential editors Karen Berger, Jo Duffy and Cat Yronwode give their take on their responsibilities guiding creators at DC, Marvel and Eclipse respectively.

Round it out with creative insight from T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents writer, Mary Bierbaum and American Flagg colorist Leslie Zahler and there is clear evidence to the significant roles that women played in comics for a long time.

Of course these special women are just a percentage of more than seventy subjects who’s interviews are packed into this one volume but they stand out dramatically among the scads of men that are generally associated with comics.

So next time the question is asked, “Where have all the women in comics come from?” Remember that their numbers have risen from a strong foundation of pioneers that have been in the trenches for a long, long time.

Making Comics Because We Want to,

Gerry Giovinco


Comic Art, Trash or Treasure?

Monday, May 21st, 2012

You sure wouldn’t know that the world is in an economic crisis by looking at the prices that have been paid recently for original art. Both Christie’s and Sotheby’s auction houses, who’s  recent auctions collectively tallied $266,591,000, established record sale prices for pieces of art including the most expensive work ever sold at auction, Edvard Munch’sThe Scream’ which garnered a whopping $120 million!


Fans of comic art began to scream themselves when Roy Lichtenstein’s painting, ‘Sleeping Girl,’ sold for $45 million, a record price for any of his works. Lichtenstein is often criticized by comic art enthusiasts for not having credited the long list of comic artists whose work he used as subject matter for his paintings. Comparisons of ‘Sleeping Girl’  and the Tony Abruzzo panel which it is derived from, as well as dozens of other comparisons,  can be seen here. David Barsalou deconstructs Lichtenstein with a vengeance and it is well worth following his crusade on the internet and in his facebook group.

The good news is that, though comic art has been generally viewed by the fine art community as “low brow” and is still not in a position to command the kind of money that Munch or Lichtenstein’s pieces do, original comic art is beginning to command some very respectable prices. It has long been known that there is value in collecting comic books. The highest price paid so far for Action Comics #1 being $2.16 million. The same comic book is estimated to be currently worth about $4.3 million.


Original comic art, on the other hand, is now gaining in value as well. The most expensive piece of comic art ever sold is reportedly a full page panel by Frank Miller and Klaus Janson from ‘The Dark Knight Returns.’ The piece sold to an anonymous collector for $448,125 as part of Heritage Auctions’  Vintage Comics and Comic Art Auction in 2011.

In the past week Heritage auctioned two more significant pieces that collected big bucks. Contradicting the earlier report Heritage claims that a Jack Kirby, Joe Sinnott original from Fantastic Four #55 featuring a half page splash of the Silver Surfer and signed by scripter Stan Lee achieved the highest price paid for a page of panel art selling for $155,350, roughly one third the value of the Batman piece.

Another work of original comic art that proved its muster was the first ever drawing of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird that fetched $71,700.

Forbes recently ran an article on their site that lists good reasons for investing in comic art  but neglects the obvious: Supply and Demand.

Though it may seem that there are tons of original comic art proliferating in the market, and there are, how many show significant images of major characters drawn by masters of the industry or are pages from historic works? Not as many as you might think and now that a lot of art is created digitally, the chances of hard copy future original art surfacing for sale are dwindling.

The idea that there are over seventy years worth of original art numbering in the millions of pages trafficking around the collectors market is false. Most comic art that was created prior to the mid sixties was simply destroyed by the publishers, considered by them as nothing more than waste once the printable films were made.

Flo Steinberg

Flo Steinberg, secretary at Marvel during the early years of the ‘House of Ideas,’ was quoted in David Anthony Kraft’s COMICS INTERVIEW #17 saying, “We used to throw it out …when the pile got too full…it was like ‘old wood’ to us.” Likewise, there are stories of Neal Adams dashing across the office at DC to rescue original art that was about to be destroyed in a paper slicer! Any art that survived that slaughter was generally given away as gifts or just managed to filter its way out of the office as random souvenirs. The scary part is that most of the artists just accepted this practice as the norm!

By the late sixties when fandom started to prove that there was a secondary market for the art through the establishment of comic conventions and comic shops, artists began to demand that their art be returned. This was a tricky process since several people generally worked on any given issue. The art would be split up among the writer, penciler, inker, and even the letterer. Colorists usually would get back the color guides that they made for the color separator.  Because of this practice entire issues are nearly impossible to acquire.

By the 1980’s the independent movement gave creators many more rights and more creators were responsible for their work in its entirety but still, usually, would sell off pages at conventions, one at a time,  to support themselves economically.

Today more and more comics are being created digitally and hard copy originals don’t even exist. The work and creative talent  that goes into creating a comics page is once again being trivialized as an unfortunate part of the process. Instead of ‘old wood’ it is now just a collection of magnetic data hogging up a hard drive, facing obsolescence with the next wave of new technology.

The printed version may remain as the only collectable hard copy of future comic works and even that is challenged by digital delivery of comics. The art of making comics is finally being recognized as something of value yet its new found respect is threatened with its own potentionally temporary creative process.

Criticize Lichtenstein as much as you’d like, but his copy of a single panel, swiped from a forgotten romance comic, will exist for a long, long time and will only become more valuable while the original line drawing it was lifted from has probably been trashed for fifty years. How can we come expect the art world, or anybody,  to respect comics as more than source material for pop art parodies when we continue to allow the originals it to be disposable.

Is comic art trash or treasure? As comic artists, we need to decide for ourselves.

Celebrating Thirty Years of Comics History!

Gerry Giovinco



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