Thursday, November 1, 2018

MY MARVEL CAMEO



MY MARVEL CAMEO


By
"RASCALLY" ROY THOMAS
(Edited by JOHN "THE MEGO STRETCH HULK" CIMINO)  


No sense denying it: I really wanted to do a Marvel movie cameo. 

Of course, I never thought there was much chance of actually getting to do one, back during the days when it was almost solely Stan Lee making those fleeting but eagerly anticipated appearances. When Chris Claremont popped up in an X-Men movie (or two), I didn’t much mind, since Chris had been so integral to the success of the revived X-Men comic in the 1970s and beyond. But then, when other writers and artists also started showing up in the Marvel films, or at least were being scheduled to do so—well, it wasn’t that I begrudged any of those creators their time onscreen. Far from it. Each one of them deserved it. But, I have to admit, I couldn’t see why they were being invited to do cameos and I wasn’t. Maybe I’d missed my only shot when I became “just” a name on a 1940s wartime bandstand in Avengers: Age of Ultron? (Not that that hadn’t been and isn’t still much-appreciated! Thanks again, Joss Whedon!) 


THE ROY THOMAS PLAYERS written on the bass drum front from Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

Anyway, whatever my feelings, I still wasn’t inclined to be pushy about a possible cameo. I mentioned it once in an e-mail to someone at Marvel and then forgot about it. Well, almost. 

So, if you happen to spot me in prison gear in the fourth episode of season 3 of Marvel/Netflix’s Daredevil series… well, you can blame it on John Cimino.

As a friend and associate for the past few years, John’s been running the “Roy Thomas Appreciation Board” on Facebook—which he inaugurated and named. (Me, I’ve never been on Facebook in my life, though my wife Dann has to check it out occasionally in connection with her job teaching economics at a local tech college.) Of late, John has also arranged for me to attend a number of comics conventions at a fee that made it worthwhile for Dann and me to overcome our reluctance to travel in these days of arrogant airlines and the long shadow of terrorists. And somewhere along the line, John decided—even though I told him to forget it, it was never gonna happen—that he was going to “get” me a cameo. 

And he did… or, at least, he played a crucial part in my doing one. Not in a theatrical movie, as it turned out, but in a Marvel/Netflix episode, which actually was just fine by me. I won’t go into the machinations of how it happened—let’s just say that in the end the Marvel folks were very accommodating and enthusiastic about it. I particularly have to thank Marvel’s Joe Quesada and David Bogart for setting things up. 


Roy (pointing to one of his many co-creations) with his agent, manager, friend, fiend and foe John Cimino, who got the ball rolling. The rest was comicbook history.

I was given the choice of doing a cameo either in the third season of Daredevil or the second of The Punisher or maybe the third of Jessica Jones. Sure, Iron Fist or Luke Cage or The Defenders would’ve all been more logical, due to my part in the co-creation of those three concepts; but the former trio were scheduled first, and I saw no reason to worry overmuch about which series it was. After all, I had been the second regular scribe of Daredevil, back in 1969-70, succeeding Stan (Wally Wood had dialogued one issue, or I’d have been the series’ second writer, period) from #51-72, except for #71--just a bit under two years as the chronicler of the Man without Fear. My villainous additions to DD’s rogues gallery were hardly my proudest hour—the likes of Stunt-Master, The Torpedo, Crime-Wave, and somebody called Kragg—though I’ve always felt that Death’s-Head, Brother Brimstone and infamous DD informant Turk Barrett weren’t bad additions to the canon; and I think I did okay by pre-established bad-guys like Mr. Fear, The Stiltman, and a couple of others. 


Infamous Daredevil informant Turk Barrett (co-created by Roy Thomas) played by Rob Morgan in the Marvel Netflix series'.

Anyway, I had been an early partner on Gene Colan’s long and fabled run on Daredevil—so I immediately opted for DD over the other two series. I was given the choice of my cameo taking place in either one of two scenes scheduled to be filmed in January 2018 for season 3, episode 4: either as a well-dressed patron of a Manhattan bar (I believe I was told it might involve The Kingpin—they mostly insist on just calling him Wilson Fisk, but to me he’s The Kingpin—but I could be wrong about that) or else as a prison inmate in another sequence, which I assumed also involved The Kingpin, and which was to be shot in a building that had once been an actual prison. I opted for the latter, mostly because the projected time frame for its filming was “sometime between Jan. 8 and Jan. 18,” while the earlier scene might’ve required me to be flying on or around New Year’s Day, 2018—not the greatest time to be at an airport. Actually, I lucked out in more ways than one. NYC was the victim of a horrendous snowstorm during the earlier period. 

As it turned out, the cameo would require me to arrive in NYC on Thursday, Jan. 11, for a shooting on Friday, Jan. 12; I’d be able to fly back home the next day. Dann and I were planning to buy an extra ticket so she could come along, but in the end she decided she’d be better off staying back on the “farm,” since it was such a short trip and she’d have had nothing to do but sit around watching a TV monitor for several hours. Also, she was recovering from the really bad flu strain that had been going around… maybe it was even a touch of pneumonia… which, as it turned out, would hang on into March. 

Getting there was definitely not half the fun, as an old airlines ad used to say back in the days when air travel was a less horrific experience than it often is now. 

Events started piling up even pre-airport. Two days before departure, I had to drive our nearly 15-year-old dog Onslow to our veterinarian to be put to sleep. This caused me to miss an opportunity that day to have two huge round bales of hay delivered to our place, for our dozen Scottish highland cattle to feed on while I was away. So I arranged for the local hayman to deliver them the following afternoon—the last day they could arrive before the date I was to leave. But, alas, on Wednesday the 10th, he’d barely driven his big truck and its huge trailer off the two-lane Highway 6 and onto the several-hundred-foot gravel road (“Bluebird Trail”) that leads to our door than, amazingly, one of his oversize tires blew. He informed me that it would take till the following morning for him to get hold of a spare and have it put on, which meant that his truck and trailer (plus those big bales) would sit there on our road overnight. It also meant that, on the morning of the 11th, I’d have to throw out several regular bales from our sheds to the cattle, since I had no idea when he’d be able to deliver the hay the last few hundred feet from where the truck now sat to our field. 

Come 9:00 Thursday morning, I’d fed the cattle, as well as the other animals that needed feeding (six pigs, donkey Edgar Rice Burro, 20 goats in two fields, a horde of free-range guinea pigs, two guinea fowls, four chinchillas, and our trumpeter horn bill Barbra… plus helping Dann feed our six always-ravenous dogs)… and I took off in the Impala, leaving her the Silverado pickup, which is the way she wanted it. As I drove down our road, the hayman and his grandson were just getting to work removing the blown tire on his truck, so I said a brief hello, then headed for the airport in Charlotte, North Carolina, a bit over two hours away. I hadn’t wanted to take a chance on any missed connections either way by flying out of the airport in Columbia, SC, which was just under an hour from our place… so we’d booked a direct flight from Charlotte to LaGuardia in NYC. And I was leaving way, way early—thanks to Dann’s admonitions. 

I got nearly to Columbia on Highway 26—a little less than halfway to Charlotte—when I suddenly spotted some sort of dark object in the lane directly ahead. It looked like it might be the usual debris—part of a tire from a car or truck, a phenomenon that seems almost ubiquitous on South Carolina’s highways—but definitely not best to run over it. However, there were cars in the adjoining lanes, so I couldn’t do much more than slow down a bit, swerve slightly, and hope for the best. 

No go. A moment after I winged the object, I could tell I had an instant flat—luckily, not a blowout. I pulled over to the shoulder, got out, and saw that the right front tire was flat as the proverbial pancake. There was no sign of whatever I’d hit; I still have no idea what it was. Luckily, Dann had insisted I take my new cellphone that I’d been avoiding using (or learning much about) for months… so I called her even before I made an attempt to reach Triple-A for road service. My plan at that point was simply to get the spare tire put on and return home. Even though I’d left home a full 5 hours before my 2:00 P.M. flight to NYC, I was still over an hour from Charlotte… and I wasn’t stupid enough to try driving that far on the undersize spare. I figured I’d just drive back home and call the Marvel folks and tell them thanks but I couldn’t make it… act of Crom, and all that. 

But Dann phoned AAA for me, and the guy got there in 20-25 minutes and did a good and fast job (you bet I tipped him!)… and meanwhile, she’d reminded me that, by “good luck,” I’d had the flat only about 10 minutes away from the Columbia airport. She called Hertz there and arranged for me to pick up a rental car. She’s a truly resourceful woman, is my wife. 

By the time all was said and done, I’d lost about an hour and a half due to the blowout… but I was on the road again and made it to the Charlotte terminal gate a half-hour before takeoff… actually, 5 or 10 minutes before they even started boarding! Fortunately, traffic hadn’t been especially heavy… there’d been a light drizzle, but nothing more, and no road accidents to slow things down as there often are… and I found the long-term parking lot on first try even though I’d never driven to that airport without Dann along. Wonder of wonders, I’d even found a parking spot at the Columbia airport right off the bat. 


The lovely Dann Thomas is the living and breathing Supergirl in Roy's life. She's always there in a pinch to save Roy from whatever life throws at him.

Anyway, things went well from that point. I guess I got all the weekend’s bad luck out of the way by the time I reached Charlotte. I got to the Pearl Hotel (in Manhattan’s Broadway theatre district, an old haunt of mine in between ’65 and ’76) by 5:00 P.M. or so, and could meet David Bogart for a delicious and leisurely dinner at 6:00. 

Next morning, at 9:30 in the hotel lobby, I met up with the equally genial Brian Overton, another Marvel exec I’d met before. (He, David, Dann, and I had had dinner together for my previous trip to NYC.) It was Brian’s appointed task to accompany me for the day and help out with anything that came up, so that I wouldn’t be an undue burden on the TV people. Instead, I would be an undue burden on Brian, but he was a good sport about giving up his Friday. He’d be the one who got to watch the TV monitor much of the day. 

We got to the location—a now-unoccupied prison on Staten Island—by a bit after 11:00 A.M., in a professionally driven vehicle. A young lady named Sarah was there to meet us and escort us to one of the trailers. Hey, wow—I had my own trailer! Definitely a first. The only other time I’d been on a TV (or movie) set, excluding a commercial or two, had been during the shooting of the first Incredible Hulk TV-movie circa 1977; but there I’d just been standing around at the outer edges, watching as a green-painted Lou Ferrigno smashed his way out of a big “iron lung” in which he had supposedly transformed from the absent Bill Bixby. 

In the trailer this 2018 morning were two different-sized short-sleeved orange prison jumpsuits… they’d gotten my sizes and the like earlier, but clearly were taking no chances. Ditto, there were two t-shirts, so I could wear one under the jumpsuit, since parts of the prison were chilly. Plus fluffy white socks and the right-sized off-white shoes with no laces… I guess so they’d come off if an inmate tried to make a break for it. 

I’d brought along a book to read in case things got boring—A. Scott Berg’s big fat and very good biography of Woodrow Wilson, which I’d recently picked up at a Goodwill store, of all places —but folks showed up so quickly to take me to makeup that I decided to leave it in the trailer, along with my personal clothes, etc. Just because he’s a nice guy, though, Brian stuck that heavy book in his own pack and dragged it around all day. I never did touch it again until long after the cameo was over. 

This day’s scene and several others were being shot at an abandoned prison that, I was told, had been used as a location in previous Marvel/Netflix shows. I wasn’t sure what I’d be doing in the scene… nobody had said… but I hoped I was up to whatever was required. 

First requirement after the prison garb was makeup, in another trailer. A couple of very professional young ladies sat me down. First, one rearranged my hair… she even cut off a strand here and there, with my blessing. Then I was moved to a chair where my tattoos were to be added. Tattoos? Hadn’t thought of that…but I suppose they figured it would make a Jasper Sitwell type like me look a bit more hardened. The young lady—who sported her own very real tattoos—had a bunch of fake ones laid out before me, ready to apply, and I was given a choice. There were skulls, and knives, and knives in skulls, and a few others… oh, and a sizable black spider. Given my own hatred (if not downright fear) of spiders, plus my various associations with Spider-Man over the years, I naturally opted for that. It was applied to the back of my right hand. We all agreed it would be fun to continue the arachnid motif, so they “tattooed” a bunch of webbing on the left side of my neck, and on my right forearm. Plus another very tiny spider near my left thumb, which I couldn’t imagine anything but a telephoto lens could’ve possibly picked up. Still, it did add to the authenticity, and they seemed happy that I was so willing to go along with whatever they felt best. Oh, and they also added makeup that made it appear as if I had a slightly split upper and lower lip… as if someone had given me a fist sandwich in the mouth.

Everyone connected with the show was unfailingly polite, and they seemed genuinely happy to have me there… I’d like to think it was because I made it plain, quite sincerely, how much I enjoyed the Marvel/Netflix shows. The director, Alex Garcia Lopez, came up and said a few enthusiastic words before rushing off… the young scriptwriter, Lewaa Nasserdeen, who was on set for the day to make script changes if any were needed, was very friendly. (His official title was “Ringside Writer on Set for Episode 304.”) We both got a kick out of the fact that this was his very first time writing Daredevil—while my first DD work was just a year or so shy of being five decades ago. 

 
Roy with Daredevil episode 304 "Ringside Writer" Lewaa Nasserdeen

Also present was Mary-Margaret Kunze, listed on the sheet Marvel had sent me as “Marvel Executive on Set” for episode 304. She, too, was fantastically friendly and courteous, and, despite having plenty of other things to do all day, would check in every so often to make sure everything was going okay for me; so did one or two other people. I tried not to be a burden; the most I ever accepted, and not till sometime in the afternoon, was a bottle of water, out of which I took a couple of sips. 

To my surprise, I learned that The Kingpin (Vincent DeNofrio) wasn’t in this particular scene after all, and wouldn’t be on the set that day. I’d hoped to get a chance to tell him how much I’d enjoyed his portrayal of Robert E. Howard, creator of Conan, et al., in the excellent 1996 movie bio The Whole Wide World. I had since learned, to my surprise, that he’d even been involved in that project as a producer. He’s been excellent in Men in Black, Jurassic World, and other films as well.

Instead—but this was certainly not a disappointment—I was introduced to Charlie Cox, who plays Daredevil/Matt Murdock. Having been impressed by his work on the first two seasons, and in The Defenders, it was a distinct pleasure to meet him. I figured he’d just shake my hand and hurry off, but he had a few free minutes, and we had a chat about the show. I’ve been in a situation or two where I’ve had to fake my feelings about a movie or TV show. 

In this case, I could truthfully tell Charlie how, as a former writer and later editor of Daredevil (and as a reader of the comic from its 1964 debut), I thought he and the cast and the show had all captured just the right feeling. Sure, it’s more of a Frank Miller Daredevil than a Stan Lee/Roy Thomas one, but that’s what they were trying to do… and as far as I was concerned, they’d done it. Karen, Foggy, The Kingpin, Stick… all excellent. Plus that wonderful extended-shot fight scene in the first season, which had lasted two harrowing minutes onscreen, and which all concerned were quite proud of. They’d followed that up with another extended battle in the second season… and I learned that January day that one of the other sequences that would be filmed at the prison, although probably not scheduled to be shot that very day, would be a really extended fight scene, throughout level after level of the building. It was going to be by far the longest of the three—the projected running-time I heard was twelve minutes! I figured it would be sensational. 

I found Charlie Cox a genuinely friendly guy… either that, or he’s an even better actor than I gave him credit for. I didn’t realize at the time that I’d seen him before in TV series like Downton Abbey and Boardwalk Empire… but I did notice that he had a British accent (he’s part English, part Irish, and part Scottish, apparently) when he wasn’t playing an American attorney and a masked super-hero. For his part, he seemed pleased that a guy who’d written the Daredevil comic liked the show and wasn’t worried about any inconsistencies between comicbook and TV. He said he hadn’t been aware of the comics before landing the role of Murdock/DD, but that he’d read a mound of them since to familiarize himself with DD’s world. He half-joked that he figured that, if The Defenders had a leader, it would be Daredevil. I told him I totally agreed with him… which I did. 

I noticed that he had a sizeable scar on his forehead, partially hidden by his tousled hair. It looked pretty real, but I assumed they were courtesy of the makeup department. He smiled: “Yeah, they’re from my last fight.” Daredevil tends to get beat up a lot. His strength is that he gets back up and triumphs in the end. We shared a laugh about the scene at the start of the second episode in season 1, an aerial view of him lying badly hurt in a dumpster. We also discussed the gradual way his costume had evolved over the first episode. At first, I’d been worried that Marvel/Netflix was going to give him that early quasi-costume (mostly just a scarf wrapped around his head) permanently instead of some version of his familiar red/black outfit; but then came the line in which Murdock refers to his outfit as “a work in progress,” which had brought a chuckle. (Actually, Charlie and I discussed various things over the course of two conversations we had that day, so I’ve lumped together most of what I recall at this point.) 


Roy and Daredevil actor Charlie Cox talk shop...

...and both agree that the Daredevil character should be the leader of the Defenders.

Charlie moved on, since he obviously had other things to do. In the course of things, I forgot to introduce him to Brian Overton, who was behind me… I think I was assuming that, since Charlie knew everybody else there, he knew Brian, too… but Brian hadn’t been on the set before any more than I had. They did finally get introduced, though. I was a bit out of my comfort zone myself, but I didn’t want to neglect Brian, who was providing me with much-needed support, as was Mary-Margaret. 

Also nearby, I spotted a trio of my fellow “inmates”—as evil-looking a mixed-race threesome as I’d seen—well, since the circa-1960s day I’d been on a college “field trip” to an actual, operating maximum-security prison in southern Illinois. I sure didn’t want to share a cell with any of those guys. I figured they were “in” for murder and/or rape, while I was clearly just an embezzler. If I was guilty at all! 

About this time, someone came by to ask if everything with the jumpsuit, etc., was working out. I replied that I was a bit worried about the shoes… they were the right size, but they seemed loose and my heel sometimes slipped out when I walked, so that I could keep them on only by kind of balling up my toes. Quickly, another pair was brought… the same size, but somehow just different enough that they stayed on throughout the day. These guys clearly came prepared, which didn’t much surprise me. The Marvel/Netflix shows didn’t get to be as good as they’ve been because a bunch of amateurs were working on them. 

Soon, I was escorted to the main set, where, as it turned out, the cast and crew would spend the entire afternoon up till roughly 5:00 shooting and reshooting a single scene that would run, at most, two or three minutes on-screen. Realizing this as things rolled along made the process even more fascinating to me, because it meant that, if I stuck around the set instead of running off to the restroom or the caterer or to watch the TV monitors or just to lounge around until we extras were next needed, I could see every single take that would later show up in the aired episode… always assuming, of course, that the entire scene didn’t wind up on the cutting-room floor (along with my cameo) or need additional shooting later. So that’s what I did. 

I soon learned that the scene involved Matt Murdock (who for some reason was pretending to be Foggy Nelson) talking to an inmate who’s brought into the visitors’ room where prisoners are allowed to talk across tables to family members or friends. The scene was to be shot in what were basically two rooms, which were basically open to each other… except for a partial wall (maybe 8 or so feet long) at one end, which enabled various crew members to keep out of the camera’s line of vision when they weren’t needed. In the main room was the table to which a uniformed prison guard escorted the inmate to talk to Murdock (he was a fairly lean, bearded guy who reminded me of an old comicbook buddy from the 1970s, artist Russ Jones), plus another table (which had its own inmate-and-visitor pair) a few feet away, in Murdock’s direct line of sight. 

In the other, same-size “room” were the rest of us—but at four tables, at each of which sat a different grouping. I was at a table almost to Charlie’s right, maybe 15 feet away from him. Across from me, wearing a “little black dress,” sat a dark-haired woman named Marie (I could kick myself for not remembering her last name!). I learned over the course of the afternoon that she did this TV “extra” work part time. For her regular job, she worked in a bookstore and did quilting, she said. She lived in New Jersey… Hoboken, I think. I mentioned I was going to be at a comics convention in Secaucus at the end of April. She was very amiable, and gave me pointers on what we’d be doing: silently pretending to talk as husband and wife, as background to the main scene being enacted at the table with Charlie and the bearded prisoner. I was more or less parallel with Beard (the bearded “prisoner”)… Marie with Charlie. A few feet to my left was a table where an African-American “inmate” faced a couple of members of his own family. Directly behind me, back to back, was another prisoner, whose real name was Dave, facing his leather-jacketed male visitor… and there was another such table-grouping directly behind the African-American group. A couple of “guards” moved among our four “inmate” groupings, obviously to keep order. There were several warning signs on the walls posting the prison’s rules, not all of them visible on this day to the filming cameras. So my “cameo” was basically going to consist of work as an “extra”—but that was about what I had expected. Sure, I’d have loved it if they’d made me the prison guard who brought in Beard… but I’d take what I could get, and was appreciative for it. Marvel hadn’t had to give me a cameo just to humor me, after all.


Roy watching how things get done on the Daredevil set.

The Daredevil scene shot that afternoon begins with a guard escorting in the bearded inmate, who seems happy to see Murdock, though he’s a bit confused because he’d been told he was going in to meet with Matt’s one-time law partner, Foggy Nelson. Matt gives a vague explanation for telling the prison staff that he’s Nelson, then tries to elicit some information from the inmate. Their faces move closer together, and their voices get deliberately low… so low that I couldn’t make out what they said for a time, though I was later assured that mics would pick it up. After a minute at most of this, Beard suddenly leaps up angrily and slugs Murdock in the jaw across the table, screaming: “I don’t know this man! Get me out of here!” A couple of burly guards rush up and pull Beard backwards, down the 15-to-20-foot length of that room—and past near where Dave the prisoner sits, turning to stare (like all of us had been told to) at this explosion of violence. Beard manages to gasp out to Dave: “I told him nothing! I told him nothing!”—clearly concerned for his own life if someone (The Kingpin, probably) thinks he’s been squealing to Murdock. (In one of the earliest takes, Beard’s shoes came off when he was dragged away. I wasn’t the only one who had problems with those prison shoes!) Matt sits at the table a moment, rubbing his chin where Beard had struck it. Then a guard comes in to escort Matt out, but tells “Mr. Nelson” that he’ll have to sign a paper before he leaves, due to a blow having being struck. Matt tries to wave it off, but the guard says he can’t let him go until he signs it. Murdock mulls this for a moment—after all, he’s going to have to sign this paper as Foggy Nelson—then resignedly says “Okay” and walks out behind the guard. 


A layout of the Daredevil set drawn by Roy.

And that was it. Obviously, all I knew—all any of us extras knew—was what we saw happening at that time, and there was no need for us to know more. I had a suspicion, based on that extended fight-scene that I knew was a part of the episode, that Murdock was walking into a Kingpin-set trap… but I’d have to wait till the series debuted before I’d know for sure how everything hung together. 

Since before the sock in the jaw we weren’t supposed to be paying any attention to Murdock and Beard at the nearby table, but only to each other, Marie and I “talked” away silently, sometimes smiling, sometimes frowning, occasionally gesturing slightly. One bit she came up with was pointing at my spider hand tattoo, as if it was a new thing. At other times, she referenced my split lip with a slight gesture, and I shrugged it off… just one of those things that happen in prison. 

I tried to imagine I was saying things like “How’re the kids?” or “How’s my mother?”—things like that. Early on, I had a tendency to actually let some of the words come out in a very low whisper, but Marie warned me against that, as you couldn’t be sure some sensitive mic might not pick it up, so I quickly broke myself of that. In between takes, she told me at one stage that part of what she’d been “saying” to me was “I’m sorry I had to turn you in to the cops, but like, we needed the money.” I thought that was funny, so later I would mouth words about how I was going to wring her neck when I got out in 25 years. (By which time I’d be 102; I’d told her she was far too young to have an oldster like me for a husband, and she seemed a bit surprised at my age, bless her heart.) Of course, it was only Marie’s and my personal conceit that we were husband and wife; probably more realistically, she could have been playing my daughter… or just some weirdo who liked to visit guys in prison. Whatever. We had a good time. Marie had been an extra in other series, including one I like, The Americans. She said that on that one, she had once donned two different sets of clothes for two different scenes… and when the TV people cut things together, it turned out she was in one group of people who were looking at another group of people… which also included her. 

The first shot of Roy's cameo talking with fellow extra Marie with "dubbed" line (seen here with sub-titles). The second shot of Roy was a quick pan shot from this perspective.

The third shot and perspective of Roy's cameo. Look at that intensity! Somebody get this man an Emmy Award--he's a natural!

Marie soon noticed that I was being treated a bit differently from the other extras, and she asked about the situation. I explained I’d been a Marvel writer and editor for many years, and still worked on a Spider-Man newspaper strip… so I was doing a sort of cameo, which they’d graciously invited me to do. Because she was a bookseller, at some point I mentioned the big 2014 book 75 Years of Marvel, and she seemed to recall seeing a couple of those at the store where she worked. I told her I was working on another big book, this one about Stan Lee, which would probably hit her store sometime later this year. (I didn’t know at the time that only the deluxe $1500 edition of Taschen Publishing’s 444-page The Stan Lee Story would debut at the end of 2018, with a more general-audience edition scheduled to follow only after that one has sold out.) 

I earlier used the phrase: “in between takes”—and man, there were a lot of takes. I can’t imagine that every two-or-three-minute sequence takes five hours to shoot, counting coverage… but the director clearly wanted to get this one just right. The entire scene, or bits of it, was shot dozens of times. At least some of the cameras were apparently focused on us at the same time as they were covering Matt and Beard… or perhaps were sweeping between us. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have had us be acting while the other scene was being filmed. Sometimes they just concentrated on the two-man scene while the rest of us just sat there watching… and at a couple of times during the day, we were all dismissed while shooting between Charlie/Matt and Beard went on. On those occasions, all the other extras who’d been in that room/area left, and it was just me sitting there, watching the shooting and re-shooting. (I had asked if that was okay, to make sure I wouldn’t be in the way.) I found it anything but boring. It was intriguing to see seven, eight, or even more guys (not counting the actors and extras) each doing his/her thing… sometimes an appearance of chaos, but of course each person was doing his/her job, whether filming, maneuvering a boom mic, etc., and the end product would be a brief scene that would look as if it had all happened in a couple of minutes, instead of being stitched together from footage shot over a period of something like five hours. 

They even brought in a dolly track at one point, just so the camera could move in for a closeup of Matt solo, musing—perhaps before the bearded prisoner was brought in. Or else while he was rubbing his chin, after he'd been slugged. I forgot.

At one point, when they were filming just him, rubbing his chin after being slugged and the bearded inmate dragged away, Charlie called out my name—I had no idea he’d known I was even there, let alone remembering my name—and asked if I’d mind moving to the bench where the inmate Dave had sat. I think that Dave had been his “eye-line” reference, or some such thing. (Forgive me if I don’t get all the nomenclature right; I was just picking this up as I went along, and had never made any attempt to study filmmaking terminology, not even when I was co-writing and selling screenplays back in the 1980s.) Later, I realized from comments made between the crew that at some point in the scene the “eyeline” was me, then switched to Dave. Glad to be of service. 

On at least two occasions during the day when there was a more general break, members of the crew approached me rather diffidently, not wanting to bother me, but to express their appreciation for my work. One guy particularly mentioned Conan the Barbarian. There wasn’t time for much of a real conversation, but I tried to make it clear how much I was enjoying seeing Daredevil transformed from a comicbook into a successful TV-style series. It was nice to feel appreciated by a bunch of pros, each of whom was clearly good at their job, or they wouldn’t have been there. 

At some time during such a break, when the other extras were off at the caterer a door or two away (they were serving noodles, which I didn’t find too tempting anyway), Charlie came over and sat down and engaged me in conversation again for a few minutes. Among other things, he wondered if I was enjoying sitting through the same scene over and over. I assured him I was… it was easier for me to watch it than it must be for him to do it over and over, acting as if each time was the first time something spontaneously happened. Then he went back to work… as did I, in my lesser way. 

A few minor things went wrong. Unfortunately, from the leftover snow of a few days before, some slush and ice had worked its way inside. I learned during my one brief absence from the visitors’ room (a trip to the bathroom, which was a considerable distance away) that the floors of the old prison were wet and slippery in places. I got by okay, but when Marie returned from one of the breaks, a couple of the crew were solicitous of her. Turned out she’d slipped and fallen on some of the icy slush, though fortunately she was only slightly bruised, and she carried on as if nothing had happened. 

For me, the closest thing to an unpleasant happening occurred with one of the burly guards who would drag off the bearded inmate. He was a big guy with a mustache and a deep voice, quite articulate, and we exchanged a comment or two about the music that had been played off and on that day. Earlier, in the part of the prison where I first met Charlie, the writer, and the director, they’d played a few bars of “Jailhouse Rock” by Elvis—always welcome to my ears. Someone remarked about that song and movie being from a long time ago. “November 1957,” I responded. The cover date of Fantastic Four #1 isn’t the only bit of historical trivia I know. Later, early on in the set area, there’d also erupted some “Fulsom Prison Blues” by Johnny Cash, and everybody started singing along with it spontaneously. 

I mentioned to this guard/extra that those two prison songs came close to exhausting my knowledge of that kind of music, and he mentioned a song by Merle Haggard. I said I hadn’t heard that one, though I think I’d seen Haggard with Willie Nelson when I lived in New York. I said, though, that I wasn’t really a country music fan… I was more interested in Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis. “That pedophile!” he spat out with genuine, sudden anger. 

I responded, lightly, that there are indeed those who think he actually murdered one girlfriend in Memphis some years back (I’m not one of them)—but pedophilia? I quickly realized he was referring to Jerry Lee’s marrying his 13-year-old (second?) cousin back around ’58. I opined as how that was a romance, if a bit unorthodox… and not totally unusual, especially at that time, in the South. But he was having none of it. He went off on a brief but impassioned rant about how Jerry Lee had “traumatized” that poor girl, how she’d be screwed up for the rest of her life, etc. I didn’t feel it would help much for me to mention that she had later authored (or co-authored or whatever) a book about their life together a couple of decades earlier, titled Great Balls of Fire, and she seemed to have come through it reasonably well, or felt she had. By then, the guard/extra was off on a tangent about the ruling class of some east-European nation who had used up all of some edible foodstuffs grown there for some other profitable purpose, leaving the country’s people to starve. I ceased trying to follow his train of thought. He said at some stage that he enjoyed pointing out things (like the “foodstuff/starvation”) bit to people and watching their eyes as they learned something new and unexpected. I guess he included me. I nodded, and that pretty much ended that conversation. He did fine playing one of the guards dragging the bearded guy out of the visitors’ room, though. 

Eventually, it was all over. Marie came in to say they’d told her that they wouldn’t need the extras (the inmates and their families) anymore in that scene, but that she wanted to say goodbye, and we each said, truthfully I think, that we’d enjoyed working together. She was sticking around, because there was to be more shooting in the evening of another scene, and she might be called on to do extra work in it as well. 

I left, rejoining Brian. He’d been outside with other crew members and the like for these past several hours, often watching what was going on via monitors. I apologized for spending the whole day on the shooting set, but I’d gotten intrigued. I know the old saying: “The most exciting day on your life is your first day on a movie set. The most boring day of your life is the second.” I think it would take a bit longer than that for it to get to me, though. 

Anyway, then it was back to the trailer to change back into civvies, and I said goodbye to the actually rather comfortable orange prison outfit. Then I was taken back to makeup so the ladies could remove my four tattoos. They took off the webbing on my neck and arm (it took more than just soap and water)… we all forgot about the tiny spider near my left thumb, which remained… but when they came to the spider on the back of my right hand, I told them I’d like to keep that. “Really?” they said. “It’ll take a couple of weeks to fade off… it won’t just wash off real easily with soap and water.” I said that was fine, and they seemed pleased that I was going to keep a souvenir of the experience. Or maybe they just thought I was gonna go back home and pretend I was this spider-tattooed badass. 


A close up of Roy's "faded" spider tattoo a few days after shooting his scene.

Then, into the van and back to Manhattan. It had taken an hour and a half to get to the prison on Staten Island, but it took a bit longer (it being rush hour) to get back. Brian, Mary-Margaret, and I shared the van, driven by an amiable guy named Bob. Mary-Margret answered a few of our questions about shooting these Marvel/Netflix series… and Brian gave me the hot-off-the-presses news that Marvel had just recovered the rights to publish Conan. (I had mixed feelings about that: on the one hand, it would probably at least mean a better reprinting of my 1970s material than I felt had been done at Dark Horse; on the other hand, DH publisher Mike Richardson had been talking to me about doing a Conan series at Dark Horse, and now that possibility was out the window. Oh, well, c’est la vie.) 

I was the last to be let off by the van, right outside the Pearl Hotel (and across from the theatre where The Book of Mormon was playing). Brian still had a couple of hours’ trip back to his home in Connecticut. He deserved some kind of medal, by my lights. 

I didn’t feel like just heading back to my room, though, even if I had to make an 8:00 flight the next morning and Dann had made me promise to leave a wakeup call for 3:00 A.M.. I had a very good cheeseburger at a grill next to the hotel (it’s hard to get bad food in NYC, since there’s so much competition), then wandered down Seventh Avenue to 42nd or 41st. I had been all over this area back in the day, especially between 1965 and ’68 when I’d been a 20-something single guy living in New York… and mostly loving it. I passed the Winter Garden Theatre and remembered seeing Barbra Streisand there in Funny Girl… twice, once from a box seat. I remembered The Odd Couple with Art Carney and Walter Matthau… Man of La ManchaThat Championship Season… the 1972 revival of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum with Phil Silvers… Pippin, also circa ’72, when Martin Goodman took a bunch of us to a preview (he hated the musical; my date and I loved it). The “Great White Way” is much brighter now than it was then—there are but for a little while I was 25 again, just wandering around in my own personal Wonderland, much as I’d done two-thirds of my life ago. 

But hey, being in New York, then L.A…. working in comics, and for a time in movies… it’s all been a Wonderland. 

And, hopefully, it’s not nearly over. 

Thanks, Marvel. You made an old comicbook writer/editor very happy. 


Late October 2018 Addendum 


But wait—there’s more! 

Since Marvel had requested that I not post this mini-memoir or any photos related to my cameo until a week after its Netflix debut on Friday, October 19th, that means I had time to add a couple of reactions to the cameo as aired. I saw at least the first part of episode 3 the night it “opened,” thanks to Dann—who streamed it for me even though she was hard at work with the final preparations for our big annual Halloween party, which would take place the following night. (John Cimino and his daughter Bryn were flying down to the party from the Boston area—hence the photo of John and me with a freeze-frame of the cameo on our upstairs TV, taken on the 20th… well, actually, in the wee small hours of the 21st.) 


John watching Roy reenact his legendary cameo in Daredevil. The man's a natural and can perform his own stunts.

When the sequence came onto the screen, I was prepared for the worst: that all the visitors’-room footage had wound up on the cutting-room floor, in favor of just closeups of Matt Murdock talking to the bearded inmate. Or, since we in that room were only extras, after all, for the editing to be done in such a way that even I couldn’t spot myself. And I knew where to look!

So imagine my surprise—no, my shock—when I found myself the sole person focused on in the first glimpse of the visitors’-room, past Matt’s blurred head. What’s more, as I realized only when John pointed it out to me later, I even had a line of dialogue! Well, it was a word, and then a sort of "hmmm," spoken by someone else, “dubbed” in as my response to a line from the extra across the table… but they’d actually made the prisoner I played into a character with a “speaking part.” I didn’t notice “my” dialogue at first, because both voices speaking in that scene were male—and I’d been sitting across the table from an attractive woman named Marie, remember. But Marie wasn’t seen in that shot—Matt/Charlie’s head hid her—so the film folks had opted for having two male voices rather than introducing a woman’s voice into that scene. Sorry, Marie. Hey, the camera didn't pick up any of my tattoos, either.

Anyway, there I was, sitting lumpily at a table, pretending to talk, with words put in my mouth by a voice actor I’d never meet. It reminded me of the Marvel method of dialoguing comics after the pictures were drawn: Gil Kane once referred to that system as being “a bit like adding sound to a silent movie.” Which is pretty much what’d been done in that Daredevil shot. 

A few seconds later, there was a fleeting glimpse of me again.

There was even a third shot, which took in most of the visitors’-room, myself included—all of us standing and gawking at the aftermath of the punch. This is the only shot, really, that made much use of the dozen of us who’d played inmates, visitors, and prison guards in that area. In that one, at least you could see Marie's definitely feminine hand on the table opposite me.

The scene was a kick for me to behold--even if I couldn't watch the whole episode that Friday night. I've still only had time to watch the entirety of the first five episodes.

Thanks, one and all, for indulging me in writing down these words, phrases and thoughts at length, while they’re reasonably fresh in my mind. 


Roy Thomas cameo appearance full scene.


                                                   Epilogue
                                                          By
                                         John "THE MEGO STRETCH HULK" Cimino


At a dinner with Roy Thomas and Steve Englehart back in the summer of 2017, I made a promise to them that I was going to get Roy a cameo appearance in something even if it was the last thing I ever did. A little more than a year later, Roy is seen in all his glory in HD on Daredevil season 3 on Netflix. It felt really good to accomplish such a goal because I had to battle the "Rascally One" all the way. 

Talking with Roy for countless hours on the phone, in e-mails, on road trips and even as bunk buddies into the wee hours of the morning, I think I have a pretty good understanding of what makes the man tick and how he gets through his daily life (a BIG shout out to his wife Dann for helping him out with the latter). I know Roy well enough by now to say he's EXTREMELY humble and a little--dare I say it--pessimistic. So sometimes I gotta twist his arm to make him see the plans I've drawn out for him. It can be a little difficult, but he's--ever so slowly--beginning to see the light as many of my predictions have been coming true... much to his surprise. And when he complements me on my promoting, marketing and "dragon tongue" negotiating skills, I always tell him it's easy. I'm just selling the Roy Thomas brand and his legacy speaks for itself.

But I digress.

I had to include this little "epilogue" because I'm not only proud to see Roy's amazing cameo and "dubbed" spoken word on the screen--I'm also emotional about it. Yup, I get a little choked up every time I watch it. I have to say that it was really well done and much better than I expected. A big thank you to the Marvel head-honchos Joe Quesada, David Bogart and Brian Overton who made this happen, you guys were a class act.  

My job is now to get Roy a cameo on the movie screen because let's be honest, we all want to see him there. With more of his co-creations making their way into the MCU with upcoming movies such as; Captain Marvel, Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 3, Morbius, The Living Vampire (yeah, I know that's being made by Sony), and many more in the works, the world will be craving for more. So don't blink an eye because you just might see "Rascally" Roy Thomas with his beautiful golden locks pop up again.  

I promise...




SPECIAL THANKS TO BRIAN OVERTON AND CATHERINE RIVERA FOR TAKING SOME OF THE PHOTOS IN THIS ARTICLE


LINKS TO OTHER "MEGO STRETCH HULK" AND
 "RASCALLY ROY" HERO ENVY ARTICLES...

Roy William Thomas, Jr. 
 Roy Thomas is a legendary comic-book writer and editor, who was Stan Lee's first successor as editor-in-chief of Marvel Comics. He is known for co-creating some of comics' greatest characters including Wolverine, Carol Danvers, Morbius, Iron Fist and Ghost Rider. He introduced the pulp magazine heroes Conan and Red Sonja and sci-fi fantasy Star Wars to Marvel Comics. He's also known for his championing of Golden Age comic-book heroes -- particularly the 1940s superhero team the Justice Society of America. Roy had lengthy writing stints on Marvel's X-Men and Avengers, and DC Comics' All-Star Squadron and Infinity, Inc., among many other titles, books and a couple of movies. He was inducted into the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame in 2011 and currently edits the comics-history magazine Alter Ego and works with Stan Lee on the Spider-man newspaper strip.

John Cimino
John Cimino is a Silver and Bronze Age comic, cartoon and memorabilia expert that runs a business called "Saturday Morning Collectibles." He buys, sells, appraises and gives seminars on everything pop culture, so if you got something special, let him know about it. He contributes articles to ALTER EGO, RETRO FAN, BACK ISSUE and THE JACK KIRBY COLLECTOR from TwoMorrows Publishing and has appeared on the AMC reality show Comic Book Men. John also hangs with Roy Thomas, bringing him to a Comic Con near you. Contact him at johnstretch@live.com or follow him on Instagram at megostretchhulk.

 

Saturday, September 1, 2018

THE SECRET ORIGIN OF THE JIM STARLIN THANOS BUST


 THE SECRET ORIGIN
OF THE JIM STARLIN
THANOS BUST




BY
"RASCALLY" ROY THOMAS
(cautiously edited by John "THE MEGO STRETCH HULK" Cimino)


Jim Starlin was clearly a formidable talent, filled with energy and ambition as well, from the beginning, showing the influence of guys like Jack Kirby and Gil Kane yet with his own style forged from that and other elements.  So when he wanted to bring in some new characters and brought drawings to me as editor, I was interested.  I remember he showed me 2 or 3 of them at once... not sure what I thought of the others, or whether one of them might have been Drax the Destroyer or whatever... but one of them a guy called "Thanos."  I loved the name, since I knew it meant "death," and as an English major and later English teacher I had read the poem "Thanatopsis."  "Thanos" was a better name.

The character, as I recall, was leaner, less bulky than he became... he was kind of vampiric, actually. But I saw him--even if Jim didn't--as being the kind of character Darkseid was at DC... who in turn, of course, had owed something to Kirby's earlier characters like Dr. Doom and (an evil) Odin, etc.  So I told Jim I'd really like him to beef up Thanos and use him... I saw him as a leader of villains, but otherwise I was content to let Jim chart his own course.  Jim had conceived the character, so I'd let him decide how to utilize him within that slight verbal framework I'd given him.  I was never disappointed.


Iron Man #55 (1973): First appearance of Thanos and Drax the Destroyer

Not too long afterward, probably in 1973 or '74, certainly before I resigned late the latter year as editor-in-chief, Jim surprised me in my office one day by bringing in a bust he had sculpted of Thanos' head and neck.  It was 6 to maybe 8 inches tall... and heavy.  I'm not sure to this day what it's made of, but it feels like a rock.  I was startled and touched.  I wanted to take it back to my apartment as soon as possible, both so nothing could happen to it and so that it couldn't be stolen, as some of the bound Golden Age Timelys had been, etc.  So that afternoon, with the bust in hand, and quite probably with some packaged original artwork or some such "homework" as well, I hailed a cab right outside Marvel's Madison Avenue offices.  Alas, as I was trying to maneuver everything inside the cab (it may have been raining), I hit the cab's open back door with one of the two "mask-ears" on the Thanos statue...and it broke off. I was mortified... but there was no hope of finding the missing piece in the busy NYC street, and I was too embarrassed to ask Jim to re-do anything. So I took the Thanos bust home and have displayed it with other items ever since, in NYC and Los Angeles and now in my office in our home near St. Matthews, SC, where it shares space on a cabin which contains various memorabilia including Patty's Marvel chess set (see more about that in ALTER EGO #154), various items related to the original Captain Marvel and the 1939-1940 New York World's Fair, etc.  I've turned down a few offers for it, as you can imagine.  And now it's the image of the main villain in one of the most successful films of all time!


"He who speaks to Thanos... or is it Roy Thomas?"

On August 18, 2018, I brought it to TERRIFICON in Uncasville, Connecticut, where I had a panel with Jim. This was the first time, that I know of, the Thanos statue was ever seen in a public forum.  Earlier in the day, I was able to surprise and show it to him in the lobby of the hotel. Jim told me that he made a few busts and he still has the only two he casted in bronze.  Sadly, the other "mask-ear" broke off before I could make it to the panel...Just my luck.  But thankfully my pal John Cimino found the piece and gave it to my wife Dann along with the bust after the panel. She will glue it back together and it will sit in my office proudly once again.  Hey, at least no one can mistake the others for mine. 

Thanks again, Jim!  You're one of the greats!


Showing Jim Starlin the Thanos bust he gave me almost 45 years earlier.  And is that Joltin' Joe Sinnott photobombing us??

Looking to destroy the cosmos with my buddy John Cimino and Thanos!  Luckily, John was there to retrieve the other broken "mask-ear" before it got lost.

At a TERRIFICON panel about the Marvel Cosmic Universe in 2018 with Jim Starlin, hosted by John Siuntres with the Thanos bust in the middle of the chaos.


HISTORY OF MARVEL COSMIC PANEL WITH ROY THOMAS AND JIM STARLIN AT TERRIFICON (2018)



LINKS TO OTHER "MEGO STRETCH HULK" AND
 "RASCALLY ROY" HERO ENVY ARTICLES...


Roy William Thomas, Jr.
Roy Thomas is a legendary comic-book writer and editor, who was Stan Lee's first successor as editor-in-chief of Marvel Comics. He is known for co-creating some of comics' greatest characters including Wolverine, Carol Danvers, Morbius, Iron Fist and Ghost Rider. He introduced the pulp magazine heroes Conan and Red Sonja and sci-fi fantasy Star Wars to Marvel Comics. He's also known for his championing of Golden Age comic-book heroes -- particularly the 1940s superhero team the Justice Society of America. Roy had lengthy writing stints on Marvel's X-Men and Avengers, and DC Comics' All-Star Squadron and Infinity, Inc., among many other titles, books and a couple of movies. He was inducted into the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame in 2011 and currently edits the comics-history magazine Alter Ego and works with Stan Lee on the Spider-man newspaper strip.

John Cimino
John Cimino is a Silver and Bronze Age comic, cartoon and memorabilia expert that runs a business called "Saturday Morning Collectibles." He buys, sells, appraises and gives seminars on everything pop culture, so if you got something special, let him know about it. He contributes articles to ALTER EGO, RETRO FAN, BACK ISSUE and THE JACK KIRBY COLLECTOR from TwoMorrows Publishing and has appeared on the AMC reality show Comic Book Men. John also hangs with Roy Thomas, bringing him to a Comic Con near you. Contact him at johnstretch@live.com or follow him on Instagram at megostretchhulk.

 www.heroenvy.com