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Archive for the category “Adventures At Marvel”

Marvel Adventures: Episode 2 – Stan Lee… LOVE MASTER!

For Over 50 Years, Making The World's Best Worst Comics!

For Over 50 Years, Making The World's Best Worst Comics!

Marvel really was a great place to work back in the 90s. They were making so much money that they just gave things away to every employee they had. Based on the success of Todd McFarlane’s Spider-Man #1, they continually re-released it with different variant covers. It seemed for weeks all I did during my comic deliveries was hand over new Spider-Man #1 variant covers. Gold metallic cover ink, silver mettalic ink cover, bronze and copper metallic ink cover; it was like the madness never ended. The Marvel Bullpen Proper were so sick of Spider-Man #1 that they half-jokingly asked me to stop delivering their Marvel books to the Bullpen. I say half-jokingly because, remember, these guys did retouches, corrections and a lot of the coloring on these books and quite frankly they could not bear to look them anymore. Marvel, on the other hand, was SO proud of Spider-Man #1 that when the issue in question officially broke 1 million copies sold, the company releasd an in-house ‘Platinum’ edition. That was supposed to mean that you only got the damn thing if you worked for the company in any capacity. A memo even got floated around to all departments that we, as Marvel employees, were being given this as a ‘Reward’ for helping to make the company successful. We were specifically asked not to sell the issue off (remember, this was the 90s and the height of the comic speculator craze that eventually bankrupted the company almost 5 years later).

This memo really wasn’t heeded by those of us reading the book. I took myself to my local comic shop, got a cool $50 for it and laughed my way home. I would imagine many of the Bullpenners did the same. It only got worse in the summer of ’91 with the release of X-Force #1 in June and then 2 months later with the release of X-Men #1 in August. For both comics, Marvel released them not just with variant metallic ink covers. No, no, no, 5 diffferent covers were created, taken from a Jim Lee drawn poster. All 5 covers could be assembled to make one whole image. As if this wasn’t bad enough, Marvel then released a triptych cover edition with the complete image as well. Now mind you, X-Men #1 was a billion times better than Spider-Man #1 but having to deliver the same book 5 times really drove me insane (imagine how the Bullpen felt?).

Anyways, that isn’t my Marvel Tale for today actually. No, I am here to tell about ‘Encounter with Stan Lee #2’ and while it wasn’t quite as meaningful to me as the first time I met him, I think it is a tad more humorous. The Autumn of 1991 was little blustery that year in New York City. I thanked God above that I wasn’t working outdoors amidst the cold, wind and rain. It was a Wednesday, I remember this because the new comics had arrived. I was going about my business of collating the comics for delivery when my boss, Joe Cucolo said “James come here, I got a job for you”. I was surprised by this because I never got selected for ‘Jobs’. “Stan is in town for a charity event” said Joe, “Take these books here and have him autograph them and then comeback here”.

Stan Lee - You'll Never Know His Savage Love!

Stan Lee - You'll Never Know His Savage Love!

My reaction to this moment was pure boneheadedness. “Stan? Who is Stan” I asked. “Joe looked at me in disbeleif and then it hit me “OH! STAN LEE!”. I was given the address to Stan’s hotel and given very explicit instructions:

1. Go to the hotel
2. Ask the front Desk Clerk that I was there to see Stan Lee
3. Take the Room number the Clerk would give me and call stan’s room to let him know I had arrived
4.Wait for Stan

I checked my package, 3 hardcover editions of Marvel Masterworks. I embarked Marvel Headquarters at 387 Park Avenue South (between 23 & 24th streets) and trekked all the way to Stan’s hotel which was in the mid-30s. The elements were cruel that day my friends. Nasty wind had been blowing since morning and it had been threatening to rain all day. Still, I made my perilous journey through the mean streets of Manhattan until I rached that hotel. I arrived, slung my bag off my shoulders and went to the front desk. The Front Desk Clerk was less than impressed with me, what with me in my sweatshirt, jeans, sneakers and goatee. “How can I help you… sir” he asked. I’ve never felt those words could be used to make someone feel so utterly inferior. “Um yes, I’m from the Marvel Mail Room. I’m here to see Stan Lee” I replied.

“Mister Lee is in this room” responded The Front Desk Clerk, as he wrote down the suite number, “Now go over there where no one will visibly see you and use the house phone behind the fern”. Apparently my appearance was so offensive to this Hotel Clerk that I needed to camoflage myself behind a plant, like some VC lying in wait for unsuspecting G.I.’s. Still, I obeyed and trudged over to the the house phone and dialed Stan’s room. “Hello” said a sweet female voice giggling.

“Um, yes… is this Mr. Lee’s room?” I asked. “It sure is sweetie” the voice replied, “You want to talk to Stan?”.

“Well ma’am, I’m from the Marvel Mailroom” I said nervously, “I’m here with the books for Mr. Lee to sign. “Oh! We’ve been expecting you” replied the voice, “Stan will be right down, he just has to get his pants on. He was a little busy when you called”. It was 3:30 in the afternoon and Stan Lee was busy without his pants?

Hey Idiot!;, screamed my brain, “You’re missing the point! Stan Lee WAS BUSY WITHOUT HIS PANTS!. “Thank you ma’mm” I quickly replied, “I’ll be in the lobby waiting by the fern” was all I could muster to say. The voice giggled and said Stan ‘The Man’ would be down in a minute. It was more like 15 minutes. I imagined Stan Lee, proud like a lion not satisfied, lurking in his suite, stalking his prey and when he was done, deciding that once wasn’t nearly enough. I also imagined Stan shouting “EXCELSIOR!” more than he normally would while this was going on. I took a seat at the least luxurious chair by the fern, for fear of th Front Desk Clerk scolding me that the chairs were ‘not meant for the likes of you’. I waited and finally Stan came down in the elevator in a style that was so awesome that it was a pure miracle that I didn’t get down on my knees and worship him like the Golden Calf.

He was the only person on the elevator, as he should be, I mean he was Stan ‘Fucking’ Lee (and as far as in my mind went, he had been just that right before I called). He was in satin pajamas and the most awesome smoking jacket a man has ever worn. He was like Hugh Hefner as he stepped off the lift in his slippers. I stood up immeadiately. He saw me and walked over with an easy smile. “You must be from Marvel” he said grinning as he shook my hand, “I’m Stan Lee!”. “I know Mister Lee” I replied, “We met once before”. He nodded, still smiling “Excellent!” he remarked, “I would’ve been down sooner but… well, I was…”

I waited for it, I really was hoping Stan Lee was about to tell me he was getting his freak on. I mean he is Stan Lee, can you imagine what deviances he could possibly have? Does he tell Mrs. Stan Lee to “Kneel before Doom”? As he puts on his mounting face does he shout “IT’S CLOBBERIN’ TIME!”? Could he possibly dress as Captain America and she Sharon Carter (or even worse… BUCKY?)?

My mind raced for a moment until Stan flashed that winning smile at me and winked “I was indisposed… if you know what I mean!”.

That cinched it! I totally caught Stan Lee gettin’ some sugar from Mrs. Stan Lee. I had interrupted Stan Lee’s post-coital bliss.The man all but came out and said “This is Stan Lee! Have you ever had sex with a woman? WELL STAN LEE HAS!”. Stan chuckled to himself after winking and then asked me where the books to sign were. I fumbled with the plastic wrap and opened the covers. “What should I write I wonder?” Stan asked aloud.

What should you write? my brain shouted, How about “I’m Stan Lee and I am a STALLION IN BED! EXCELSIOR!” or How about “This is Stan Lee and you will NEVER know the pleasures of sex with my wife! Nuff’Said! EXCELSIOR!”.

Stan Always Leaves The Ladies Smiling & Satisfied!

Stan Always Leaves The Ladies Smiling & Satisfied!

Finally Stan scribbled smething on the inside front cover and flashed that smile again. “I think this will do” he said as he shook my hand again, “Thanks for coming down”. “No thank you Mr. Lee” I replied, with the same dopey smile I had on my face the first time I met him.

“Oh please, call me Stan” he said through those shining teeth. He then turned and walked back to the elevator, looking ever the part of millionaire playboy. As for me, I put the books back in my bag, slung the bag over my shoulder and began the long trudge back to the office. I never looked at the inscription Stan wrote. I didn’t care. I just discovered, on that day, why he is Stan ‘The Man’ Lee!

Marvel Adventures – Episode 1 “The Time I Met Stan Lee”

The Best Worst Place To Work!

The Best Worst Place To Work!

April of 1991 was a magical time in my life. I had been asked to take an ‘Academic Leave’ from Drew University in January due to achieving the impossible, an actual 0.0 GPA. I wasn’t ready for College, I realize that now. I had gone from the very rigid, structured life of Boarding School to the flexible schedules and theoretical option of not being forced to attend my classes. I simply wasn’t ready. I don’t blame my boarding school for this, I blame myself. I should’ve prepared for it better. Taking a year off of academics to travel probably would’ve served me better than jumping into the fray of College life. Instead I discovered a group of geeks and spent all my time playing Role Playing Games and reading comics and the works of Michael Moorcock.

Thus being, in reality, expelled from school I was back at home living with my father. Did I mention my father was kind of a brainiac that graduated Cornell University while still in the womb? No? Well, that is obviously selling my Dad short. He was working on a Doctorate in the womb, so obviously I was somewhat of a disappointment to him. The comparison to my sister was Dad’s favorite weapon of choice against me. My dear sister had proudly graduated from Johns Hopkins University somewhere close to the top of her class. To compare me to her was unfair. My sense of pride and accoomplishment came from actually owning a copy of Fantastic Four #5. What? It was the first appearance of Doctorm Doom!

So after a a few temp jobs working in NYC, my Dad set-up an interview for me with a man named Bruce Slovin. Bruce Slovin worked for Ron Perlman. Ron Perlman owned Revlon which owned Marvel Comics. From that meeting Bruce Slovin got me an interview at Marvel for a job in the mail room. I never wanted a job so badly in my life and killed at my interview. Three weeks later I found myself being introduced to my boss Joe Cucolo. Joe was a great boss and genuinely nice guy. He probably wished I hadn’t spent so much time reading comics on the job. Honestly, I was a terrible employee. I spent way to much time cavorting with the crew in the Marvel Bullpen. There was also the time I ended up talking with Ralph Macchio (Marvel Editor, not The Karate Kid) for an hour about our mutual love of both Thanos & Darkseid as villains.

Part of my duties as a mail carrier was to deliver the new comics to everyone in the building every week. Boxes of the week’s new comics arrived every Wednesday & Thursday. I had to open and breakdown the boxes, collate everything and then deliver it to 2 of the 4 floors that comprised the Marvel offices. Wednesday saw delivery of the Marvel books and Thursday the DCs. That is right kids, both major publishers got handed out. Marvels arrived on Wednesday and got distrubuted on Thurday and DCs got delivered Friday. The Marvel Bullpen hated me on Thursday because those were the books they worked on and for the most part they hated them, especially if it was drawn by Rob Liefeld. Fidays however I was welcomed warmly by the Bullpen because Friday was the day they got their DC Comics and they loved their DCs. There was even one Bullpenner who eagerly awaited the old DC licensed Dungeons & Dragons comics (Actual Quote: “They are utter crap but the artwork is masterful”).

But the day I treasure above all others was the day I met Stan Lee. Now understand, Stan Lee is one of my personal heroes. Sure there are those that bash Stan and not give him his due as a creator. Those people really don’t get that the ‘Marvel Method’ of making comics truly was a collaboration between artist and writer. Stan may have just put words in the character’s mouths to fit the action that Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko drew but it was those words that worked so well. So Stan Lee is one of my heroes and the first time I met him only furthered my worship of him.

Wise In Years, Young At Heart & Utterly AWESOME!

Wise In Years, Young At Heart & Utterly AWESOME!

It was a Thursday afternoon and I was about to make my afternoon mail delivery. I had a very specific route that I ran and followed it as a circuit every day. I always left via the back door that led down the hallway to the film library and some cubicles. It was a narrow strip and when I had my mail cart it was impossible for 2 people to walk in it, it was that wide. I made my first stop and got thanked for the mail and was ready to shove off for my next stop. Then like some smiling saint… HE WAS THERE!

‘Smilin’ Stan Lee himself was standing right in front of me and he was… well he was smiling. I was struck stupid for 3 seconds as I was unable to speak a word and believe me I was trying to talk to him. I’m stunned I wasn’t struck deaf and blind as well. Stan asked how I was doing and then finally I said “I’m fine Mr. Lee”. He winked and said “That’s swell” and tried to squeeze past the monstrosity of my mail cart. I couldn’t just let him walk away without telling him what his stories meant to me, it just wasn’t going go down with me just saying “I’m fine Mr. Lee”. I made myself heard!

Stan 'The Man' Lee - My Hero!

Stan 'The Man' Lee - My Hero!

“Mr. Lee” I said,”I… I just have to say thank you! I grew up reading your stories, in fact they are one of the reasons that I actually learned to read. I just have to say thank you”. Having said my piece I held out my hand which he immeadiately shook. He then drew me in closer, smiled and said in that trademark Stan Lee voice “The smile on your face says it all True Believer!” and then squeezed past me to walk to to the mail room.

I stood there absolutely numb. I just met Stan Lee. It was processing in my head… “I JUST MET STAN LEE!” my brain was yelling, “I JUST MET STAN LEE & HE CALLED ME A TRUE BELIEVER!”.

I stood there for 2 minutes longer, shaking and smiling like a goon. I met Stan Lee and he was just as awesome as I imagined him being. I could’ve gotten fired 5 minutes later and wouldn’t have cared at all. Why? Because I just met Stan Lee that’s why! I met Stan Lee and he confirmed for me what I always knew in my heart, I was a True Believer! Stan Lee said so and therefore it was, without a doubt, true. I met Stan Lee and all was right in America and The World. I finally nodded my head and smiled and finished delivering my mail…

Stan Lee called me a True Believer. Fuck all the haters, that is what I say. But after the story I just told there is only one fitting way to end this entry…

EXCELSIOR!

Next Brave Blog: How Can I Top That Story? SERIOUSLY!!

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