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Farewell to a Marvel

November 16, 2018 at 9:49 am
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Unless you have been hiding in a cave somewhere… or down with the Mole Man in the bowels of the Earth… by now you will have read that Stan Lee has died, at the age of 95.

A good age, that.   Stan Lee lived a long life, and leaves a grand and glorious legacy behind him.   He has been part of my world for so long that it seems impossible that he is gone.

Not that I can claim to have been a friend.   I never had that honor.  Oh, yes, I met Stan a dozen times or so, at various San Diego Comic-Cons over the years.   Every time I did, it was like meeting him for the first time; he never remembered our previous meetings, and I don’t think he had any idea who I was.   It made no matter.   He was always genial and generous to me, as he was to all the fanboys who surrounded him at those cons.  And when I was in Stan’s presence, that’s just what I was: a fanboy, slightly tongue-tied and more than a little in awe.

I owe so much to Stan Lee.   He was, in a sense, my first publisher, my first editor.   “Dear Stan and Jack.”  Those were the first words of mine ever to see print.  In the letter column of FANTASTIC FOUR #20, as it happens.   My first published loc, a commentary on FF#17, compared Stan to… ah… Shakespeare.  A little overblown, you say?  Well, okay.  I was thirteen…

And yet, and yet… the comparison, when you think about it, is not entirely without merit.   There were plays before Shakespeare, but the Bard’s work revolutionized the theatre, left it profoundly different from what it had been before.   And Stan Lee did the same for comic books.  I had been reading comics all through my childhood, but by the late 50s I had started to drift away from them.   I was buying fewer and fewer “funny books” (as we called them back then), and more SF and fantasy paperbacks.   The DC comics that dominated the racks had become so formulaic and tired, they were no longer holding my interest as they had when I was younger.   I was “outgrowing” comics.

And then Stan Lee came along, and pulled me back in.   The first issue of FANTASTIC FOUR that I chanced on (#4, it was, the one where the FF met Prince Namor) caught my interest as nothing had for years.  A short while later, along came Spider-Man.   And then the rest, one by one, in an astonishingly short period of time.   The Hulk.  Thor.  Iron Man.   Ant-Man (and the Wonderful Wasp).  The X-Men.  The Avengers.   Wonder Man (who died in the same issue he was introduced).  Black Panther.   The Inhumans.  Galactus and the Silver Surfer.   And the villains… Dr. Doom, Dr. Octopus, the Vulture, the Sandman, Mysterio, Loki… and on and on.   (We will not talk about Paste-Pot Pete.   This is a tribute).

These characters had personalities.    Quirks, flaws, tempers.  The heroes were not all good, the villains were not all bad.  The stories had twists and turns, I could not tell where they were going.  Sometimes good guys fought other good guys.   The characters grew and changed… over at DC, Superman and Lois Lane had been locked into the same relationship for decades, but Peter Parker went through girlfriends like a real teenager, he graduated high school and went to college, people could and did die.

You had to be there to understand how revolutionary all this was.  Comics as we know them today would not exist except for Stan Lee.   They might not exist at all, if truth be told.

No, of course, he did not do it all  alone.   The genius of Marvel’s artists, especially Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, should never be minimized.   They were a huge part of Marvel as well.   But Lee was at the center of it all.

That letter in FF#20 was only the first of many I sent to Stan and Jack, and Stan and Steve, and Stan and… whoever the artist was on the book I was writing to.  A number were published, with my full address attached.   Other comics fans around the country saw the letters, and began sending me fanzines and letters of their own.  My friendship with Howard Waldrop began thanks to those letters… him in Texas, me in Jersey.   And after reading some of those early ditto’d fanzines, I began to write for them as well.  My first published stories.  Heroes of my own creation.  Manta Ray.  Garizan the Mechanical Warrior.  The White Raider (who, like Wonder Man, died in his first story).  And, then, a little later, heroes created for STAR-STUDDED COMICS by my friends from the Texas Trio, Powerman and Dr. Weird.   I could not draw so I wrote “text stories,” superhero stories in prose.   Which people liked.   Which encouraged me to keep writing.   And as I wrote, I did my best to write like Stan Lee.

These days, in interviews, I am often asked which writers influenced me most when I started out.   There were a lot of them.   For SF there were Heinlein and Andre Norton and Eric Frank Russell, for fantasy Robert E. Howard and JRRT and Fritz Leiber, for horror the inimitable H.P Lovecraft.   Later on, when I was older, there was Jack Vance and Ursula K. Le Guin and Roger Zelazny and Samuel R. Delany and Alfred Bester, and later still William Goldman and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

But the greatest influences are the earliest influences, I think, and at the beginning there was only Stan Lee.

Comics have had a lot of great writers in the half century since the Marvel Age began.   Neil Gaiman, Len Wein, Alan Moore, and more and more and more… the list goes on and on.   But if not for Stan Lee and the worlds and characters and style he created, their own careers and accomplishments would have been very different, if not impossible.

Let me close with one last letter of comment.

Dear Stan,

You did good work.   As long as people still read comic books and believe in heroes, your characters will be remembered.  Thanks so much.   Make Mine Marvel.

George R. Martin
35 East First Street
Bayonne, New Jersey

 

 

 

Current Mood: melancholy melancholy

Another Sadness

September 14, 2017 at 6:40 pm
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I’ve been trying for several days to write something about the death of Len Wein.

It’s been hard. The words stick in my throat. Len was not just a professional colleague, as Jerry Pournelle was. Len was a friend. An old, dear friend. He lived in LA and I lived in Santa Fe, so we never saw each other more than a few times a year, but I cherished all the time I spent with him and his wife, Chris Valada. I don’t have a bad memory of Len, and I doubt that anyone does. He was a sweet, kind, funny man, and a joy to be around, to share a meal with (even though he always refused to “eat anything that looked like itself”).

Len and I went way way back. We were both there when comics fandom was being born, and we met for the first time in a place called the Workingman’s Circle, at the 1964 New York Comicon. The first comicon… and Len Wein was one of the kids who made it happen, one of the organizers, while I was the first fan to send in $1.50 for a membership. We were both in high school at the time. Many years later, at a San Diego Comicon with its 150,000 members, I turned to Len and sad, “See what you did?” He just laughed and replied, “Who knew?”

You don’t need me to tell you about his career, his professional accomplishments, his creations. If you don’t know who Len Wein is, you’ve never read a comic book. He created Wolverine, the New X-Men, Swamp Thing, the Human Target, Lucius Fox, and, oh, about five hundred other characters. Maybe a thousand. Most of those were created under the old work-made-for-hire contracts so common in the comics industry when Len stared out, so he had no ownership of any of them, and made very little, if anything, from all the movies and TV shows that featured them. (Lucius Fox was the exception to that, since he was created later, under a contract that gave the creator more rights, In one of the little ironies of life in the comics biz, Len made more money from Lucius Fox than he ever saw from Wolverine). If it had been me, it would have made me incredibly bitter to see my creations making billions while I got some loose change, but Len never bitched about it. He knew the rules when he signed the contracts, he would always say. And he loved seeing his creations on the big and little screens. There was no bitterness in the man, and no anger that I ever saw.

He loved comics, and he loved life, and I’m just one of the many who loved him.

((Comments allowed, but only about Len)).

Current Mood: melancholy melancholy

Talking Over Thai

July 21, 2017 at 6:09 pm
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So a couple of months ago, while I was out at Stokercon in Long Beach, on the mighty Queen Mary, I went out with Scott Edelman for Thai food (yum), and he recorded our conversation for his EATING THE FANTASTIC podcast.

The food was great, and the talk was fun. You can check it out at:

http://www.scottedelman.com/2017/07/21/down-drunken-noodles-with-george-r-r-martin-in-episode-43-of-eating-the-fantastic/

Scott and I both emerged from comics fandom of the 60s, so be forewarned, there’s a lot of talk about the Good Old Days.

Current Mood: contemplative contemplative

Here Comes The Mystery Knight

December 16, 2016 at 3:50 pm
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The long-awaited… and much requested… graphic novel of THE MYSTERY KNIGHT, the third of my Dunk & Egg novellas, is on its way at last.

The good folks at Random House have assembled the same great creative team who gave us the comic book adaptations of THE HEDGE KNIGHT and THE SWORN SWORD — Ben Avery on script, and Mike S. Miller for the artwork.

Here’s the cover:

THE MYSTERY KNIGHT will be released in hardcover on July 4. (No, sorry, no individual issues this time around). It’s 148 graphic pages, and from what I’ve seen so far, it’s gorgeous!

This, That, and t’Other Thing

November 6, 2016 at 6:10 pm
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Another football Sunday has come and gone, with mixed results for yours truly.

The Giants won, hanging on by the skin of their teeth to defeat the Iggles of Brotherly Luv. Gifted with an early 14-0 lead by two Carson Wentz INTs, they still almost managed to blow it. Eli threw his own INT just when it looked as if Big Blue was about to put the game away, but fortunately the defense saved him. Biggest worry coming out of the game was an injury to Victor Cruz, which I hated to see. He’s one of my favorite players. I hope he’s back next week.

The Jets, meanwhile, managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. After trailing for most of the game, they seemed poised to take the lead in the fourth quarter, only to have Fitz throw a devastating pick in the end zone. Yet somehow they managed to get the ball back, and this time Fitz redeemed himself, tossing the go-ahead touchdown. But the joy did not last for long. On the ensuing kickoff, the Dolphins ran the ball all the way back for a TD, and that was that. Gang Green now has as many losses as they did all last year. The season is effectively over. Bryce Petty looked pretty good in the short stretch they had him in after Fitz got clocked. I hope we get to see more of him in the game to come. Much as I like Fitz, we have to start thinking about the future.

On other fronts…

The election still has me in a state of high anxiety. I am not sleeping well, and I think I check 538 about three dozen times a day, hoping for some good news. Tuesday cannot come fast enough for me. I think I speak for a lot of Americans when I say that I desperately want this thing to be over. It has been SO ugly. Come Tuesday night, I will either be relieved or suicidal. I think I speak for a lot of Americans about that as well.

Oh, and speaking of that: the Trump PACs have rolled out two new television ads in New Mexico this weekend. Both attack ads, natch. One is a cartoon with animated Bill and Hillary characters rolling up to the White House unpacking boxes of scandals. The other features an actress badly made up to be Hillary, in wig and pants suit, destroying phones and hard drives with hammers, drills, chain saws, and the like. Both ads are stupid and offensive, and both confirm and underline the main point I made in my “Simple Observation” post. Hillary’s ads feature real footage of the real Donald J. Trump saying the things he really said. These Trumps ads, on the other hand, have to resort to cartoons and over-the-top impersonators because they can’t actually find any real footage of Hillary saying or doing anything reprehensible, comparable to the stuff Trump has said.

I cannot possible imagine that any actual voters will be swayed by this stuff. “Hell, damn, I’m going to vote for Trump, did you see what Cartoon Hillary was doing?” But what the hell. Even Honest Abe admitted that you could fool some of the people all of the time…

I’m still excited about Emily St. John Mandel coming to the Jean Cocteau tomorrow. If you’re in the neighborhood, come join us.

The crowds at Meow Wolf of late have been astounding. Since we first opened in late March, more than 300,000 people have visited the House of Eternal Return. It’s become one of Santa Fe’s premiere attractions, and I am so pleased to have played my small part in creating it.

Oh, and last night Parris and I went to see DOCTOR STRANGE at the Violet Crown (in part to escape the crowds seeing TRUMPLAND at the JCC). ’twas fun. As many of you know, I’m a Marvel fanboy from way back, and Doctor Strange was probably my favorite single character… well, him or Spider-Man, both drawn by Steve Ditko, whose art I loved. (I say single character because I always loved the group books as well, the FF and Avengers and X-Men). How much did I love Doctor Strange? Well, let me just say, one of the characters I wrote for the comic book fanzines of the 60s was called Doctor Weird, so…

The movie is NOT the best Marvel superhero movie, as I was hoping it would be… it’s more middle of the pack, I’d say… but it looked great, did justice to the character, and had some scenes that were downright Ditko-esque. Of course, they had the obligatory Stan Lee cameo. Now, if they had managed to include a Steve Ditko cameo, that would really have been something. (Yes, I know, I know). I do hope that Ditko saw at least a little money out of this. He was a genius in his own way, and Doc would never have been half as interesting without Ditko’s unique and idiosyncratic vision.

Me and Ant-Man

July 21, 2015 at 1:06 pm
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Speaking of movies…

… I saw ANT-MAN last night at the Violet Crown down the street from the Cocteau, and loved it.

(It’s not playing at the JCC, though I wish it was. Alas, we have only the one screen).

Now, I have to confess, as an old — VERY old — Marvel fanboy (I was once a member of the Merry Marvel Marching Society), I was a little disappointed going in when I heard that this would be the Scott Lang Ant-Man and not the original Hank Pym Ant-Man of my youth. Scott Lang came in just about the time when my regular comics reading was falling off, so I did not know the character very well, whereas I knew and loved Hank and Janet, Ant-Man and his winsome Wasp. I was there at the dawn of time when they first started adventuring through the pages of TALES TO ASTONISH, after all. They were never as popular as the other heroes that Stan Lee created back then — Iron Man, Spider-Man, Thor, and such — but Lee always seemed to have a soft spot for Ant-Man, and I did too. Ant-Man was the ultimate underdog, after all, the little guy in a very literal sense who somehow held his own with gods and monsters whose powers dwarfed his own. The ants were cool too, and gave him a definite edge in my mind over his rival itty-bitty hero over at DC, the Atom.

And I loved his partnership with the Wasp. At a time when every other comic was playing the endless “romantic tension” card, or the older and hoarier “I must hide my secret from my girlfriend” trope, here was a man and a woman who adventured together, who loved each other without question, who even helped found the Avengers together… that was revolutionary in the early 1960s, like much of what Stan Lee did… (and sad to say, it would even be sort of revolutionary today).

The original Ant-Man had a short run compared to the other first generation Marvel heroes like Thor and Iron Man. In an effort to make the character more popular, Lee and his successors began to fiddle with the concept, giving Hank Pym the power to grow as well as shrink. Ant-Man became Giant-Man became Goliath (same powers, different costumes) became Yellowjacket became “Hank Pym, Scientific Adventurer” (I did you not). Truth be told, I never liked any of those revamps half as well as I liked the original Ant-Man, and when the writers (not Lee, new people had come on board by then) decided to make Hank mentally unstable and then turned him into a wife-beater… well, I really hated that. (I did, however, like some of what happened subsequently, when the Wasp came into her own and became the leader of the Avengers). After that was the Scott Lang era, I guess… and then a couple more Ant-Men after him… none of which I followed, or gave a damn about.

Given all this history, I had a lot of trepidation when this movie was announced. Would they do it right, would they capture the original Ant-Man from TALES TO ASTONISH and AVENGERS #1, the character I’d loved… or would they fuck it up?? I was eager for the film, but apprehensive about it as well, especially when I heard it would be about Scott Lang, not Hank Pym.

I am relieved and delighted to report that they did it right.

Scott Lang is the featured Ant-Man, yes, and Paul Rudd makes him a sympathetic and engaging protagonist, but due honor is done to Hank and his own career as the first Ant-Man as well, with Michael Douglas turning in a fine performance as Pym. There’s a lot of humor in this film, but it is not a farce, as I feared it might be. There’s a lot of action too, but not so much that it overwhelms the plot and characters, which was my problem with the last AVENGERS film… and the one before it, to think of it. A superhero movie needs a fair share of smashing and bashing and stuff blowing up, of course, but IMNSHO that stuff works best when it is happening to people we actually know and care about, and if you jam in too many characters and don’t take time to develop any of them properly, well…

ANT-MAN has a proper balance of story, character, humor, and action, I think. A couple reviewers are calling it the best Marvel movie ever. I won’t go that far, but it’s right up there, maybe second only to the second Sam Raimi/ Tobey McGuire Spider-Man film, the one with Doc Ock. I’ve liked most of the Marvel movies, to be sure, I’m still a Marvel fanboy at heart (Excelsior!), but I liked this one more than the first AVENGERS and a lot more than the second, more than either THOR, more than the second and third IRON MAN and maybe just a smidge more than the first (though I liked that one a lot too).

Oh, and I loved the ants!

Quibbles? Yeah, a few. Where was the Wasp? We got a few glimpses, and a set up for the next film. But I wanted more Wasp, and I loved the old original Hank/ Janet dynamic (before they got to the wife-beating stuff). Also, while Yellowjacket makes a decent villain here (in the comics, of course, he was actually one of Hank’s later identities, after Giant-Man and Goliath), I am tired of this Marvel movie trope where the bad guy has the same powers as the hero. The Hulk fought the Abomination, who is just a bad Hulk. Spider-Man fights Venom, who is just a bad Spider-Man. Iron Man fights Ironmonger, a bad Iron Man. Yawn. I want more films where the hero and the villain have wildly different powers. That makes the action much more interesting).

But those are quibbles, as I said.

Overall, I had a swell time. For a few hours I was thirteen years old again.

And did I mention that I loved the ants?

Looking for Some Colorists

April 17, 2015 at 1:16 pm
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I am looking for the colorists who worked on the HEDGE KNIGHT and SWORN SWORD graphic novels.

My understanding is that “Team Kandora” from “Transparency Digital” did the colors for the HEDGE KNIGHT, for the Dabel Brothers/ DB Pro, and that Rob Ruffolo did the colors for the SWORN SWORD, again for the Dabels.

Googling the names turns up references to all of the above, but no contact info.

So if any of you out there know Rob Ruffolo or anyone from Team Kandora, tell them to get in touch with me privately via email, or LJ messaging.

Thanks.

Amazon Stocking Stuffers

December 19, 2014 at 8:00 pm
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Amazon is running a special "Stocking Stuffer" sale on selected items for the month of December.  10% off.

The selected specials include the HEDGE KNIGHT and SWORN SWORD graphic novels from Jet City Comics.

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Go here for details.

And happy shopping to all.

Windhaven Comes to Comics

November 4, 2014 at 9:14 am
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Maris of Lesser Amberly, hero of the popular (Hugo-nominated) series of Windhaven novellas that I wrote with my friend Lisa Tuttle back in the late 70s and early 80s, will soon be taking wing again.  I am delighted to announce that we've closed a deal with Random House to adapt WINDHAVEN as a graphic novel.

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Lisa Tuttle herself will be scripting the book, based on our original stories.

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Lisa has already delivered the script… and we're excited to reveal that we've just signed the amazing French artist ELSA CHARRETIER to illustrate the graphic novel.  Check out her website at http://elsacharretier.blogspot.com/  for links to her work.  She's fantastic, and we cannot wait to see how she brings the world of Windhaven and its fliers to life.

Comicon Is Coming

July 21, 2014 at 10:43 am
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It seems like I just got back from France and Switzerland… maybe because I just did… and now San Diego Comicon is on top of us.

I'll be there for the whole weekend, doing promotion for HBO, Bantam Spectra, and my various other publishers.  Flying in Wednesday, departing on the following Monday, so if you're going to comicon, you should have plenty of chances to see me, hear me, and get me to scrawl illegibly on your book, graphic novel, Blu-Rays, or body parts.

My schedule:

Wednesday evening, 6pm to 7pm, I will be doing a signing at the AVATAR PRESS booth, autographing copies of the SKIN TRADE graphic novel and IN THE HOUSE OF THE WORM comic.  (Only those, please.  There will be other places and times to get my other stuff signined).

Thursday, 2:30 to 3:30, I will be appearing in the main autograph area (the Sails) at Table 3, with DONATO GIANCOLA.  The two of us will be signing copies of the 2015 Ice & Fire calendar, which will be making its debut at the convention.

Thursday, 4:00 to 5:00 pm, you can catch me in the Indigo Room, where I'll be joining William Christensen of Avatar to talk about THE SKIN TRADE and IN THE HOUSE OF THE WORM.  (No signing here, this is just a talk).

Friday, we have the GAME OF THRONES panel in Hall H.  I'll be there, with showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss and various members of our cast.  This year CRAIG FERGUSON will be moderating.  Hall H seats 7,000 people… but of course 150,000 people attend comicon, so if you want to see the panel, best get in line… ah… now.  Afterward I will join the cast for interviews and a poster signing and more interviews.

Saturday, 11:00 am to 12 noon, I return to the Sails for a Random House autograph session.  This time I will be at Table 7.  This is the time and place to get your books signed.  Copies will be on sale in the autograph area, if you don't want to drag your old ones to San Diego.

Saturday, 4:15 pm to 5:15 pm, I'll be in Room 6A for a panel on epic fantasy, part of an all-star lineup of panelists with Patrick Rothfuss, Joe Abercrombie, and others.

Sunday, 12:30 to 1:30, back to the floor for another signing.  This time I will be signing copies of the HEDGE KNIGHT and SWORN SWORD graphic novels at the ComiXology booth, on behalf of Jet City Comics.

Sunday, 2:00pm to 4:00pm, I will be judging a costume contest sponsored by Courtyard Marriott.

Monday I go home.

Given the sheer numbers of people in San Diego for comicon, I regret to say that I will sign autographs ONLY at the designated signings.  There are, you will note, five of them, which means I'll be scrawling my name for five hours at various points through the weekend.  That's about all I can manage.  So if you should happen to see me walking the floor, riding a pedicab through the GasLamp, having a drink or eating my dinner, feel free to smile or wave or say hi, but PLEASE do not ask me to sign anything.  I can only do so much, and I do need some time just to enjoy the con and chill with friends.

Thanks.

See you in San Diego.