Panel from Marvel Super-Hero Contest of Champions #1 (June 1982), script by Mark Gruenwald, Bill Mantlo, and Steven Grant, pencils by John Romita, Jr., inks by Pablo Marcos, colors by Andy Yanchus and Patricia DeFalco, letters by Joe Rosen
It's a special day here at Comics Oughta Be Fun, and that means we're not gonna post a silly panel of Ben Grimm doing something for our amusement. (Until later.) No, this is a momentous occasion for celebration, mirth, and drinking chocolate milkshakes (especially the milkshake part), because on this day was born...well, let's see, let's look at my birthday book...on this day was born the miniskirted Lois Lane of them all, Dana Delaney, and my favorite actor, William H. Macy, who delighted us so much with his star turns in Fargo and the television series Maude...but as much as I love 'em both, my heart today belongs to a man whose praises I must sing as he hits the big FOUR-OH, which in little stuffed bull years is as near to the grave as you can be and not be Boston Brand. I'm talking about that beautiful, brawny blogger we all know and love, the Michael with the mostest, Mister Mike Sterling of ProgressiveRuin.com. Happy birthday, Mike!
Now, everybody who knows anything about Mike, anybody who's read his blog for any amount of time or met the man in the legendary comic book store he works in, knows at least one important fact about Mike Sterling: the man is the world's biggest fan of that famous comic book swamp creature, the misunderstood monster within whom beats the heart of a gentle, loving man, but who has by circumstances and some abracadabering been transformed into a creature of grass and moss, of vines and leaves. A recluse who lives in his southern swamp, this creature nonetheless is one of the most important characters in his superhero universe. It's no wonder Mike Sterling is this hero's number one fan. Yes, folks, as we all know,
Mike Sterling loves Man-Thing!
Yup, it's true! Mike Sterling loves and adores Man-Thing above all over comic book characters. Why, here he is reading one of his favorite issues of his champion character!:
Corner Mike next time you see him and ask him to tell you all about Man-Thing! The guy loves to talk for hours about Ted Sallis's muck-encrusted alter-ego and his place in the modern Marvel Universe. Wanna have some fun? Pounce on Mike and ask him a series of fast-paced trivia questions about Man-Thing! Mike Sterling knows them all! You can't stump this guy on Man-Thing trivia!
As we're all aware, Mike is also a great fan of the paranormal and the unexplained. He enjoys the supernatural and often is caught scanning the skies for UFOs and other extraordinary objects! Mike is well-aware you may scoff at his extra-normal beliefs, but he will patiently tell you that there is no evidence at all that extraterrestrials did not visit us and build the Eiffel Tower! be sure to show him your assortment of blurry photographs of swamp balloons and weather gas...Mike wants to believe!
Mike is also a firm believer in the power of faith healing.
In fact, Mike is so involved in the world of healing by touch that he actually once ran a faith revival in order to bring the miracle of this work to the common people!
So be sure to tell him you too believe in this precious miracle by touching him in public. His touch with heal you!
Another thing I love about Mike Sterling: he's a huge fan of seeing his favorite comic book character fight a bear!
Mike's also got a soft spot for those who practice magic! Mike is often heard to declare: "Magic has got to be real...since we haven't seen it in public, that means it exists, because only wizards and witches could keep magic hidden from us so well!" You can't argue with logic like that!
Also, make sure you wish Mike a happy fortieth birthday by giving him one of the hidden handshakes of the many secret societies he belongs to! Just don't ask him which ones...coz he'll have to kill you!
Yes, Mike Sterling is a man of many interests and talents, and yet it all comes back to the guiding center of his lifehis love for Man-Thing. Here's a special birthday video for you, Mike! I realize you know it all by heart since you're such a huge Man-Thing fanatic, but be sure to read along with the record!
Yes, it's just not a birthday celebration without Mike's special favorite pal Man-Thing hanging about! So, make sure you invite him to the birthday party!
And for your vegetarian guests, be sure to serve a festive birthday salad!
Why, when his favorite hero Man-Thing is around, Mike's birthday party is sure to be a smashing success!
And now, it's time to start Mike Sterling's 40th birthday party!:
Oh, wait, sorry. I captioned that wrong. Try this one!:
You always have to be careful when you're lighting up so many candles as Mike will have on his birthday cake, so...
Whoops, got a little bit out of control there. Luckily, we've got 40 more candles, and...
That'll happen when you're trying to get forty candles lit at once! Still, nothing that you can't fix with a little extra frosting and 40 more candles and...
Seriously, Mannie, maybe you ought to step aside and let somebody else try it this time...
Okay, Mike, we'll just have to go without the 40 candles on your cake this year. But now it's time to open your gifts. I got you something that I knew you'd love and adore, combining two of your favorite things in the world:
So, join me in wishing a very Man-Thing birthday to the biggest fan of Man-Thing around, Mister Mike Sterling, and hope that he has a wonderful year ahead full of Man-Thing and all the joy that Man-Thing can bring to you in...
Okay, so here's the first thing you have to know about Alicia Masters, even more than the fact that she's blind:
She looks just like Sue Storm.
And that's Stan-level canon, folks. In fact, she looks so much like Sue that a blonde wig can fool her own brother who's known her for 16 years:
And it takes even Reed quite a few minutes (admittedly, some very busy minutes where the Thing is busting names and taking heads) to realize that ain't Sue:
This and previous panels are from Fantastic Four #8 (November 1962), script by Stan Lee, pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by Dick Ayers
So. Keep that never-again-mentioned fact in your head: Alicia Masters looks pretty much like Susan Storm.
Flash forward many-Marvel years, during which loverboy The Thing has been dating and romancing Alicia, but has now been left behind on a distant planet in another galaxy (whatta revoltin' development!). And guess who's makin' time with Mister Grimm's girl?
Panel from Fantastic Four #270 (September 1984), script, pencils, and inks by John Byrne, colors by Glynis Wein, letters by Michael Higgins
Smooth move, flamebrain! Not merely moving in on your best pal's girl...but being attracted to a girl who, give or take a blonde wig, looks...as we've mentioned...just like your own sister. Johnny, no!
Panel from Fantastic Four #276 (March 1985), script and pencils by John Byrne, inks by Jerry Ordway, colors by Glynis Wein, letters by John Workman
That ain't creepy at all, is it? Well, at least it's just a little huggin' and kissin'...with a girl that looks just like your own sister, Johnny. It's not like it's going any further, is it?
Panels from Fantastic Four #277 (April 1985), script, and pencils by John Byrne, inks by Jerry Ordway, colors by Glynis Wein, letters by John Workman
Oh, those boys...they just love the roughhousing! Well, after all the rubble settles and Johnny gets out of traction, that's pretty much it, isn't it? I mean, it's not like it's anything more than just a little fling with a girl that looks just like your own sister, Johnny, right?
Panel from Fantastic Four #300 (March 1987), script by Roger Stern, pencils by John Buscema, inks by Sal Buscema, colors by Glynis Oliver, letters by John Workman
D'oh! Johnny, no!
Well, it all works out in the end, when Alicia turns out to be a Skrull. Well, that'll happen. Mind you...a Skrull that can look just like your own sister, Johnny.
Panel from Fantastic Four #357 (October 1991), script by Tom DeFalco, pencils by Paul Ryan, inks by Danny Bulanadi, colors by Christie Scheele, letters by Bill Oakley
Thankfully, that's all in the past and is pretty innocentit's no worse than Professor X being in love with his teenage student in X-Men #3, is it? (Don't answer that.) But that's the only family member Johnny ever felt romantic towards, right?
Panel from Strange Tales #103 (December 1962), plot by Stan Lee, script by Larry Lieber, pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by Dick Ayers, colors by Stan Goldberg, letters by Art Simek
In the mid 1980s, Marvel did the impossible: they published press releases and shipping schedules...and got us to pay for them! Well, it was only two bits (25¢) for the monthly Marvel Age, and to be fair it did publish a lot of interesting and original material: interviews with Marvel creators, histories of the company and its characters, submissions by aspiring artists, a regular two-page cartoon by Fred Hembeck...and lots of lots of Marvel ads and hype. Still, a Marvel fanbull like me ate it up like, chewy, delicious candyin those pre-internet days, it was the next logical step up from "Bullpen Bulletins" for the Mighty Marvel Marketing Machine, a way to publicize and promote their comics and to feed the fandom of frenzied face-fronters.
Once a year, just like most of the other regular Marvel mags, you could find a double-sized annual on the racks for Marvel Age (double-prized at 50¢, too!) which gave you a breathless peek at the year ahead in Marvel Comics through teasers, interviews with the books' teams, and specially-created promo pages by the regular writer/artist teams of the books. Most of these pages remain lost to timealthough several of them told a story of sorts, as promotional pieces they have seldom been reprinted and I'm not certain I've ever seen one show up in a later Marvel trade paperback. So, even if you're a huge fan of 1980s Marvels, you may not have seen these pages at all!
One of the powerhouses of Marvel for that time was Walt Simonson's much acclaimed lengthy run on Thor, which revamped the Thunder God back to his Asgardian basics and brought Simonson's love of Norse mythology into the book. It didn't hurt that Simonson was a great writer and artist, and even after he stopped pencilling the book and Sal Buscema took over, Simonson's power and strength kept the mighty Thor rolling right along. It's still remembered fondly as one of the top runs in Marvel Comics, probably Thor's single most popular and influential run.
Simonson produced two promo pieces for Marvel Age Annual, first this one-page comic in 1985. The ringing telephone is a continuing plot-point from each of the promo pieces in the annualthe Beyonder is ringing up every one of the Marvel superheroes and asking them, I dunno, if they're considered switching their long-distance carrier to Sprint.
EDIT: Kurt Busiek sets me straight in the comments...it was Kurt phoning up all the heroes, not The Beyonder. Thanks for the correction, Mister B! (And say, is Loki's number unlisted or does Stan have him in his Rolodex?)
Just bask in that Simonsony goodness:
Promo page from Marvel Age (hey! that rhymes!) Annual #1 (1985), written and drawn by Walt Simonson, lettering by John Workman
Clickety-click to frost giant-size
In the following year's 1986 Marvel Age Annual, Unca Walt pulls out all the stops to give us a grand, epic, widescreen thunderous battle between the heroes of Asgard and the Frost Giants of Jotunheim, boldly declaring what happened then began a legend that will live as long as stories of valor are told by the human heart. Whoo-whee! Now that's adventure. Sadly...whether or not my little stuffed satin heart is allowed to tell stories of valor...Simonson's long run on Thor ended in 1987, and all we have of this epic battle that would shake the mythological heavens is this two-page spread of What Would Have Been. But by Heimdall, what a two-page spread:
Promo spread from Marvel Age Annual #2 (1986), written and drawn by Walt Simonson, lettering by John Workman
Click picture to Odin-size
Y'know, looking at these promo pieces just whets my appetite for the full epic grand opera-on-the-page, so you'll excuse me if I pull my Simonson Thor issues out of the shortbox, crank up the Erik Korngold swashbuckling soundtrack on the BulliPod, and hoist a flagon of mead hot chocolate to the Mighty Thor, and the Mighty Walt: long may their hammers (and pencils) swing straight and true!
Letters! I get letters! Also, lots of spam. (And not even the good kind!) But I do get plenty of lovely emails, like tonight's howlin'-good arroooo entry by Blissful Brian Hughes of Again With the Comics!
Brian brings on the arroooo by pointing my little be-ringéd nose in the direction of Batman #162, to bring us the horror and the wonder that is...The Batman Creature!:
Howlin' wolves, Batman! Fresh from the wonderworld that was 1964, it's an arrooooin' Batman! Keep in mind it would still be two whole years before the debut of the TV series. Yep, the same TV series that fans still complain turned the Batman silly Ah ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Seriously, I loves me the Batman Creature, and I demand he appear post-haste on The Brave and the Bold.
If you think that's all the arroooo content Batman #162 has for us tonight, hoo boy, you gotta another think comin'! Here's The Batman Creature giving a love hug to a howling wild rhinoceros! Oh, wait, maybe it's not the rhino howling but Batman. Whatever: feast your peepers on bat versus rhino!:
For his arroooo times two, I hereby award Brian the much-coveted Bull-Prize, Rhino-Tossing Division. Enjoy it as you well deserve, Mister H., and may your Batmen never buckle!
Wanna join in the arroooo fun n' games by sending me in your own arroooo? Just email me a panel or panels featuring the sound effect arroooo (or a similar sound effect) scanned from any comic book we haven't covered here yet. Make sure you tell me what comic book it comes from, and email your scans to this address:
Or, you can post it on your own blog and send me a link so I can link back and properly credit you for your arroooo!
But first, be sure to click on over to Brian's site to check out his post! Why, even my Uncle Toro makes a special guest appearance!:
Hey there, suckers! It's me, The Irredeemable Ant-Man, poppin' up here to let you good folks get in on the ground floor of my latest, sure-fire, can't-miss, money-making, cash-for-nothing scheme! I mean, opportunity! This sort of chance comes along only once or twice in a lifetime, so get your credit card or checkbook out and pay attention. And don't contact the Better Business Bureau! You wanna keep this golden chance all to yourself, doncha? Of course you do!
So I betcha you're asking yourself...how can giving cash to Ant-Man help me make even more money? And that's a very good question, bucky. You see, I'm going to let you in on a little secret that only the big-wig TV execs and Hollywood moguls know about: people love to get their entertainment for free. Millions of you are downloading entertainment for free from the internet! Why spend ten bucks to go see that Watchguy movie when your hard-earned cash is just gonna line the pockets of a rich Hollywood producer? Instead, why not just download that movie! Six hundred nineteen hours fifty-five minutes later, you've got a computer file of that movie, complete with audience applause and laughter, to call your very own. Possession is nine-tenths of the law, bud...look it up!
While surfing on the internet looking for naked photos of Jewel Straite, your kindly Uncle Anty here discovered the miracle way to make cash...by sharing comic books online! I discovered online communities of dedicated, hard-working, passionate and devoted fanatics who are doing a better job marketing comic books than the companies themselves do...by scanning the comic books and posting them on the internet! But make sure you only post a percentage of that comic. Don't post the whole thing! It's the best alibi in the world: "I'm not doing anything illegal...who would want less than half of a comic book?" Darn straight, pal! So count the pages, divide by two, and subtract one. Then post those pages, punk!
How does that make you money? Here's the next step, kids! Open your own comic book store! Because (so the argument goes) posting half the comic book online makes people want to buy the full thing! Once you got your comic book shop open, lean back, kick up your feet, and watch the cash roll in! It's the easiest money made since they opened an Arby's down the street from Kirstie Alley's house!
But here's the kicker: just how can my patented shrinking technology make you even more money? Well, according to these folks online, no company can complainheck, they should be thanking youbecause you're increasing their business while only posting a minute percentage of the comic book! So, it goes to figure, the more minute the taste of a comic book, the more comics fans will want, right? That's why I've used my shrinking powers to invent
Tiny_Scans_Daily is the only comics-sharing technology that gives you the whole comic but still leaves you hungry for more! How does it work? Well, here's an ordinary comic:
Now, if you tried to post more than a few pages of that comic book, you'd have a whole lotta trouble on your hands. But, through the miracle technology of shrinking, Tiny_Scans_Daily brings you the full comic book, every exciting page, every thrilling panel...shrunken to 10% its original size!! No, those ain't thumbnailsthat's the actual size of the scans!
There ya go! Legally that's only ten percent of a comic, but it's still the whole banana! (Ten percent is well within fair use laws, or so legal experts on LiveJournal swear!)
So, doesn't that make you wanna rush down to your local comics store and buy, buy, buy more comics? Heck yeah, it does! But before you do, send your checks, money orders, credit card numbers or loose gold to firstname.lastname@example.org. Remember, you gotta spend money to make money, but as I've been told, sharing comics is our best and brightest way to make money for those hardworking folks in the comics industry! And me. Don't forget about me...the Irredeemable Ant-Man. So long, suckers!