Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Roy Thomas is lovely, dark and deep.

Avengers + Poetry = Fun!Comic books are your best educational value! It's true, ya know! Yours little stuffed truly is home-schooled, an' it's a secular curriculum that my pal John has set for me to study each day of the basic sciences, the fundamentals of mathematics, and the greats of literature! And yet, I still have plenty of time to read comic books! Why? Because (looking back up to the top of the paragraph) because comics are your best educational value! For every subject I'm assigned it's as simple as apple pie to the teacher to find a comic book that teaches me more about it! Don't believe me? Why, over the past few semesters of homeschooling I've been set several courses: oceanography (reading Sub-Mariner, Sea Devils and Aquaman has helped me there), astronomy (Jack Kirby's 2001 tells it like it is!), philosophy (the later DC work of Steve Ditko, especially The Question), law (Daredevil!), Shakespeare (pretty much any random issue of The Sandman penciled by Charles Vess), and of course, dairy farm production (Evan Dorkin's Milk and Cheese). You see? You can learn a lot from a dummy comic book! Why, I bet almost everybody who reads comic books has learned something from them they later got to use in school—whether it be a Flash Fact lesson in physics, the meaning of the word "Excelsior," or what gamma rays do when you're pelted by them. Now tell the many of you learned Percy Bysshe Shelley's "Ozymandias" not in English class, but from Avengers #57?

Avengers + Poetry = Fun!
Final page of Avengers #57 (October 1968), script by Roy Thomas, pencils by John Buscema, inks by George Klein, letters by Sam Rosen

Yep! I learned it there and so did you. (And I'm betting Alan Moore did, too.) So the next time you gaze upon an ancient ruin of once-great splendor and faded, broken majesty, who you gonna thank? Not Percy Freakin' Shelley, no no no...thank "Rascally" Roy Thomas!

A few months later, in the Avengers #61 letter column, a reader writes in to compliment in no uncertain blushing terms that poetic little touch ending the Vision's introduction saga:

Avengers + Poetry = Fun!

Roy Thomas cannot tell a lie...'twas Roy Thomas who came up with that versical little touch!

Avengers + Poetry = Fun!

Why, Roy musta had The Big Book of Poetry for Comic Book Writers by his side while he was transcribing the true-life adventures of the World's Mightest, for (as that letter-column fragment above testifies), he'd titled Avengers #61 after another famous poem! Check it out, sonneteers and sonneteenas:

Avengers #61

First two pages of Avengers #61 (February 1969), script by Roy Thomas, pencils by John Buscema, inks by George Klein, letters by Sam Rosen

(Click picture to Surtur-size)

Holy freakin' cow, John Buscema! Izzat or izzatnot the most amazing, incredible, fantastic, uncanny pages from a comic book you've ever seen? And keep in mind, this wasn't a two-page spread...the first page is the splash page, and you don't get the second one until you turn the page and it punches you between the eyes like a giant ice cube! Whoo-ee! (Seriously, I love this era of Avengers, I love Buscema, and I really love these two pages. )

Just to keep Mister Thomas the honest man he is, Marvel immediately a couple months later prints this note in the Bullpen Bulletins to remind you that while Roy Thomas knows more about the Golden Age than you ever will, he isn't Robert Frost. But did Robert Frost ever create Captain Carrot and the Amazing Zoo Crew!? No. No, he did not.

Avengers + Poetry = Fun!

Marvel readers, however, are smart enough to know their Robt. Frost, like M. Jablonski of No Address Given, who had a letter printed in Avengers #65:

Avengers + Poetry = Fun!

Oh, M. spot-on about Robert Frost, so off-the-mark about Hank Pym and Janet van Dyne.

But wait! If there's one single thing I learned in my homeschooling, it's how to make a volcano out of baking soda and vinegar. And the second thing is that Robert Frost died in 1963, not 1968 as the yellow Bullpen Bulletin above says. I demand a No-Prize! I demand a No-Prize! I demand...oh, somebody's already pointed that out. (In the letters column of Avengers #71, in fact!):

Avengers + Poetry = Fun!

Well, the person at fault? The Marvel proofreader. Who later went on to pencil naughty things about Bob Harras in Universe X: Spidey and then make Wolverine spout anti-Semitic exclamations. That wacky proofreader! He's always pullin' that stuff!

And to take the whole thing full circle, here's another letter in ish #71 to Jarvis and the whole wacky gang at Avengers verse!:

Avengers + Poetry = Fun!

Now just wait a cotton-pickin' minute! ........ (I'm so sorry, Mister T'Challa, you know that's not what I meant. Let me use another phrase.) Now wait just one darn minute! Poetry in a comic book letter column? Well, yeah, sure, why not? If it's good enough for Roy Thomas, it's good enough for Marvel fans, isn't it? If there's anything I've learned from my homeschooling it's that you can use vinegar and baking soda to make a volcano, that Robert Frost died in 1963, and that if you're going to study poetry, you oughta try to write some yourself. And if you read poetry in a comic book story...why not write poetry to a comic book? Huh? Huh? Why not, huh?

That question, and many five more, will be answered in tomorrow's exciting post, True Bullievers! Be there or beware!


Jack said...

These days, when I think of the poem "Ozymandias", I actually don't think of Watchmen; I think of Peter David's last issue on his first run on the Hulk, which quoted the same poem and was called "The Lone And Level Sands." Brilliant story, which worked on at least two different levels (one of which being David himself talking about his departure from the book) and one of those "oh wow" moments David does when he rises above his natural inclination to be funny that I so love.

Probably just me that does that, though.

Scott Bryan said...

Roy Thomas went on to write All Star Squadron. In a two parter we get an explination for all those Golden Age covers showing the JSA killing Japanize soilders. Turned out the JSA were trapped in Brainwave's machine, living a dream where they killed. At tyhe end Green Lantern atomizes all of Japan and Roy puts a famous quote; I am become Death, distroyer of worlds.

I love how he adds poetry. I miss reading his work.

Yatz said...

The Thomas/Buscema Avengers were the books that got me hooked on comics for life, but when re-reading them (which I still do, 40 years on), the groans get louder with every session. The rascally one took the whole business just a little bit TOO seriously.
But, boy, do I ever miss those letter columns... Nowadays, every runny-nosed 10 years-old (or a little wooly bull!) can put his thoughts up on the web for all the world to see; but, then? having your letter printed in Avengers or FF - man, it was magic! Also sometimes stupid or juvenile, but, still... Magic, man, magic!!
As is your particular brand of web-jotting, Bully. Thank you, and keep it up!