Friday, March 1, 2019

SEE THAT'S ME BARBARA FRIEDLANDER!


“SEE THAT'S ME BARBARA FRIEDLANDER!”



BY
Barbara Bloomfield
(Edited by John "THE MEGO STRETCH HULK" Cimino)  


Swing With Scooter

Ask me how I got started writing an article for this blog and I'll tell you it’s because I happened to Google myself on the internet. And so, there I was, that is, there I was under the name of Barbara Friedlander, a name I had two last names ago. So, to the world of DC Comics during 1963-1970ish, I was the Mother and Creator of the comic Swing with Scooter (not exactly the Mother of Dragons, but just as daunting) and I wrote and edited romance comics along with Jack Miller. I knew most of the editorial staff, the bullpen, and the talented freelance writers and artists. 




Let’s not forget the then President of DC (called National Periodical Publications at the time), Mr. Jacob S. "Jack" Leibowitz, the Vice President, Mr. Harry Donenfeld, and the folks in the accounting and clerical department, which is where I started. I consider myself a relic of that time. When I was nineteen I began as a fish out of water taking subscriptions and any odd job, Mr. Aurthur Gutowitz, the head of clerical, handed me. He hired me, but he often said, “Barbara, you don’t belong here. You should be married.” He echoed my Mother’s sentiments, and so there I was in the mindset of most young women of the time; get married and have kids. At nineteen, you want to find yourself, but you don’t always know where to look.

So, here I am many years later and I go ahead to find myself again, this time it's with Google. It gives me an update on just who I was back then, and it dawns on me, that the stuff I discover is amazing! I then tell my kids about my life in comics and they say, “How come we didn’t know about this?” It was very exciting to rediscover my past life so naturally, I went back on the net and started buying back some of the issues I wrote and edited. I tell my kids, “See that’s me Barbara Friedlander!” The next thing I did was go to Heritage Auctions. I had bought antiques from them in the past when I was an antique dealer and I remembered they had a comic book division. As luck would have it, I got to speak with comic aficionado, Joe Mannarino.

Joe knows all about comic books; he evaluates them and the original artwork and like all the smarties in the field, he knows everything past and present. We reminisce and I'm reminded of all the DC folks walking the halls of the Grolier Building, where DC was once located in NYC. He puts me in touch with Richard Arndt, who is heavy into comic lore and loves the darker side of the field. He knows many of the writers and artists I worked with, and more info starts flooding back to me; BINGO! Richard soon interviews me for Alter Ego, Roy Thomas’ holy grail comic history magazine which is a who’s who in the comic book world.




Roy had met me years ago in passing at DC. He even remembered me! Now I am stoked, and so I put together a kind of “Look Book” and email it to a few people who I think might find it a missing link to DC history. Along the way, the Look Book goes to Jacque Nodell, creator of Sequential Crush, an online blog dedicated to all things romance. We click and do an interview about the silver age DC romance titles, which of course are my special baby...Snap! 

I get invited to TERRIFICON in 2018, where I meet Roy Thomas again and do a Romance Comic panel with Paul Kupperberg. He had met me, quite by a fluke, years back, at an Antique Show, and he knew my name from comic book history. I was flattered but the importance of the meeting eluded me at the time. Paul, as I learned, was an editor at DC and has written romance and action stuff. He was kind and totally into comics, too. I began to notice that people are so involved in this special field and are interested in moving it forward and preserving the genre. This time my kids are there with me and I'm blown away by the sincerity of all the comic fans. My kids are astounded and wonder, “Why did you give this up?” Naturally, I have no good answer. These serendipitous turn of events lead Roy Thomas to introduce me to his manager -- John Cimino! So, I fasten my seat belt and come along for the ride because he likes driving fast. 




 We are not, and never have been, one trick ponies

More than anything, I want the readers to know what the DC mindset was back then, hell, it was the mindset of the time. So, Baby Boomers gave me my title and then there was a thing called the Korean Conflict. We were busy keeping America safe, fighting bad guys around every corner, this was what the comic books were made for -- good guys versus bad guys. DC had SUPERHEROES, and with very, very few exceptions, men wrote and drew those heroes. Lois Lane and Diana Prince may have hit home for a few females who took typing and had a smart nose for a good story. As you might have guessed, most of their actual talents were, ordering coffee, working switch boards, taking dictation and adding numbers.

Back then, high schools and secretarial schools offered typing classes, and later dictation, for those who wanted to be secretaries or bookkeepers. I don’t recall any guys in those classes, most took shop, forget about home economics. So, as a female, you were destined to be a Betty the homemaker, Marilyn Monroe Sex Goddess, or file clerk extraordinaire. Being a stinky typist, and out of the running for sex goddess, I was on the hunt for me. One thing I've learned over the years, we can fry eggs and fly to the moon, but if we’re lucky we can make our own choice. We are not, and never have been, one trick ponies. 



 DC was run like a "mom and pop" shop

There was one huge computer, it resided on the other end of the DC building. It handled all the subscriptions, and at the time, including the distribution of Playboy, and other publications. It was a very huge thingy and was so sensitive to dust, heat and bad input, let’s face it, it was a relic, but it was DC’s step into the future. Meanwhile, while the 20th century was forging ahead on the distribution, DC itself was run like a "mom and pop" shop. Printing operations and all the operation kudos with pats on the back never happened. Creators and artists were expected to hatch ideas and plot twists without exception or big Daddy would raise hell and make you feel like kryptonite kicked you in the butt. 

Most comic book groupies have heard the sad tale of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster ownership battles with DC over Superman. It ain’t pretty and it doesn’t have a happy ending. I’ve heard what I consider the “real” version of the story, and although I knew most of the people involved, you create something fresh and original, you damn well better protect it. Intellectual property is the right to claim and reap the momentary benefits that you “gave your heart and soul” to, and if you are considering a career, don’t sign your genius away. Sheer luck had propelled the Donenfelds and Liebowitz’ company into what every red blooded kid needed at the time -- red, white and blue good guys. By using capes and muscles, and a group for talent they often took for granted. They had let two, down on their luck guys, Siegel and Schuster, print what they thought was another piece of junk so that their unused printers would get a workout. For $130 bucks gold was printed in Action Comics #1. One day, I'll tell the full story in detail. 

The other comic book horror story was concerning Batman. Bob Kane was the artist and I met him numerous times. I also met Bill Finger, but even though he was the main creator and writer, he was treated like dirt by editor Mort Weisinger and a few others. Mort was not known for kindness; I think he was envious of talented people (he was a mega bad guy) and got a kick out of creating conflicts where there were none. But DC had its fair share of good editors and a few of them liked working for sales. I knew this because I worked in that division. And I knew comic books are sold by their covers and without distribution you’re dead in the water and that’s why the pressure was always on. 

You may have heard that DC stood for “Detective Comics”, I think, knowing the nature of the men behind the scene, “Donenfeld Comics” was a more accurate name. The company was a small, down on their luck (due to the Depression), lack of business, little "mom and pop" operation. This also meant they employed relatives, and guess what happened next? Skip ahead a few years and some of those lucky ducks made it to the big time at DC. 


 

Enter me

Enter me, still taking subscriptions, and as you may have guessed, mostly for the action comics. Many of a terrific adventure story knows no bounds, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that prisons and youth facilities were among our biggest fans. To no one’s surprise, they sent cash for their books and I’m sure they were never disappointed. I have never fully understood why comic books got such a bad rap. The writers were well educated and well read, and the language they employed kept the reader fully engaged. The art became more and more sophisticated and if these two factors continued to go unnoticed by mainstream educators, it’s hard for me to understand exactly why.

I was a Betty and Veronica, Archie, and Katy Keene fan, and I had never read a romance comic until I was at DC, then BINGO I was hooked. Why? Simple. I was a fan of Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Barbara Stanwick, Greta Garbo, and Lana Turner. All the glamour girls who loved and lost and learned the road to true love was one of life’s great lessons. Yes, I was hooked and I also saw the need for continuing dramas, soap operas. Who, in their right minds didn’t get so involved in all the plot twists? These cliff hangers were made for readers who wanted more from their glamorous heroines. The characters I created were career girls, reporters, and models. Some were mysterious with hidden pasts and deep dark secrets. I wanted them to be more than just pretty faces; they had to do more then go bananas over unapproachable guys with tally sheets for feelings and abs for brains. In those early days, these were just ideas that percolated in the back of my mind.

 


No one stands so tall as when he stoops to stuff

I worked with another young woman, named Jane. We were "IT" when it came to deluxe grunt work, coffee runs, filing, but then Jane had to take sick leave. This coincided with Mr. Donenfeld‘s inspiration to send out a multiple page mailer to all our comic book subscribers. This included old subscribers, and lists of lists, from well, you’d have to ask Irwin Donenfeld (Harry's son) about that. Oh, and all the pages had to be sorted, folded, stamped, and have addresses adhered. Remember the "mom and pop" mentality that existed? This was before Kinney National Services and then Time Warner expanded National Periodicals into a bigger, more professional company.

Let me just say that there were close to eight or nine hundred envelopes and papers to be stuffed and NO accountant, personal secretary, or mail boy were asked to help. I mean they had important jobs to do, so Irwin asked the Editors, you know, the men in charge of the actual books? NUTS! Why hire temporary help when you could get a bunch of “Gold Bricks” that were just sitting around reading comic books to help out with the hump work? I got together with all the editors and production department to take care of this insane task. I organized the piles of papers and we created an assembly of stuffers and folders and then I made up a motto of sorts, because this was too crazy not to give it a name, “No one stands so tall as when he stoops to stuff.”

And that is how I got to know the creative staff at DC. 

True Dat!!




If  you have questions for Barbara, please contact her at:
jewelryandsuchbyblb@gmail.com

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

THE TOP 5 GREATEST FEATS OF STRENGTH OF THE INCREDIBLE HULK



 THE STRONGEST ONE THERE IS!


THE TOP 5 
GREATEST FEATS OF STRENGTH OF 
THE INCREDIBLE HULK

By
Jason Tait
(edited by John THE MEGO STRETCH HULK Cimino)

When I first discovered John Cimino, it was an old video where he and his friends were sitting in a basement discussing Superman versus the Hulk. Powerless to resist the bait, I clicked. Unbeknownst to me, I unleashed a tornado of comic knowledge, hurricane-force winds of passion, and undying loyalty to the modern myths and legends that have forged generations of creativity. It was like my childhood had spawned a loud—very loud—personification of my imagination…in "supa-dupa" form! It was like looking in a mirror…only the reflection was better looking…more muscular…more charismatic…and…okay, it wasn’t like a mirror, at all. It was better. Bigger. More colorful. And I’ve been hooked, ever since. From his manic childhood quest to find the perfect Elastic Hulk to his friendship with living legend Roy Thomas, I’m always astonished at the adventures of John—half man, half amazement. I would like to thank John for giving me the flattering opportunity to write and contribute to “Hero Envy” The Blog Adventures. BOOM!!


You could say I spent Christmas morning in 1979 with John Cimino (aka the Mego Stretch Hulk) and I didn't even know it!?!

What better time than the dawn of a new year to delve into everyone’s favorite green goliath and his top five greatest feats of strength! Strength: it’s the great equalizer in a child’s mind, it’s the elusive trait in an adult’s. No one ever prays for weakness; no one ever wishes they were less strong. It’s a trait that has been both admired and feared. How apropos, then, that Marvel’s strongest has also been admired and feared throughout his existence. But, unlike most superhero stories, the story of the Hulk and Bruce Banner has never been about how powerful he is or how he has risen above when pushed to his limits, no, instead it is about the fact that there is no limit to his power, leaving the reader to wonder if Banner can restrain his own rage from destroying everything he loves. While most superpowers are glorified wish fulfillment, Banner’s is a curse, acquired through an act of selfless sacrifice and heroism. This really sets the Hulk apart from most superheroes and makes him unique in a genre filled with variety.




According to the official Marvel web site, right now, as of this writing, they state this about the Hulk: “His physical strength is potentially limitless, given it grows exponentially as his emotional distress grows.” Notice it didn’t say his strength grows in direct proportion to his emotional distress; no, it grows exponentially. The first ever published, in-continuity, canon description of the Hulk’s strength being “limitless” was in 1962. When this hit the stands, no one was outraged. The letters column wasn’t being bombarded by fans gnashing their teeth at the preposterousness of someone so strong.




But it seems like when fans do have a problem with it is when it’s actually shown and not just said. For example, the Hulk beats someone’s favorite hero, now it’s terrible writing. Hulk beats a villain faster or with more ease than someone’s favorite hero did, suddenly it’s lazy storytelling. The Hulk does something that a reader feels he shouldn’t be able to, and suddenly it’s “plot-induced stupidity.” 

The Hulk’s madder/stronger dynamic has been referenced more than Batman’s cape…but no one would ever say that Batman doesn’t have a cape. Marvel has repeated the Hulk’s limitless strength dynamic ad nauseam for well over 50 years but do a Google search and you’ll inevitably find some guy on a random message board saying that it’s not true or that it doesn’t “make sense."



 
Believing that a man could get bombarded with so much lethal radiation that it causes him to gain 900 pounds, turn green, and then turn back to human again is no problem at all…but saying that he gets stronger when he gets madder—and there’s no limit to his anger—is suddenly far-fetched, juvenile, and silly?

If you subtract every single time the Hulk has ever called himself the strongest, there still is no character in the history of comics that has been cited as the strongest (by narration, other characters, and creators) more than the Hulk. And yet, ironically enough, no other character has been cited as *not* being the strongest (by angry fans on the internet) more than the Hulk. 

The bottom line is, Marvel has made it abundantly clear that the Hulk has no limit to his strength, so whether some like that or not, or agree with it or not, they just have to just accept it (and in case you couldn’t tell, not only do I accept it, I love it, revel in it, lather up in it, and generally sprinkle my day with reminders about it).




Another aspect of the argument is the obligatory, “If the Hulk has limitless strength, why didn’t he beat (insert favorite hero name here)?” It’s been established in the comic that Banner is so afraid of the Hulk hurting innocents that he is constantly reining him in. When the Hulk fights a hero, Banner knows that despite any disagreements, they’re on the same side; his opponent is not innately evil or wanting to kill. This explains why the Hulk and Thor locked up for an hour in Defenders #10 (1973), yet when the Abomination had his strength doubled and was going from planet to planet killing entire populations (including women and children…you know, like that thing Thanos does), it made the Hulk so angry that he beat down the Abomination in a mere few panels (The Incredible Hulk #270 [1982]). This was a character that almost killed the Hulk at one point…who now had his strength doubled…but the killing of innocents caused the Hulk’s strength to escalate exponentially in an instant and he beat the Abomination so badly that years later, he was still terrified at the thought of ever fighting the Hulk again.






There’s another aspect of the argument, something to the effect of, “What’s the point of making a character so strong that he can’t be beaten?” To agree with this would be to agree that the only thing one needs to defeat another is superior strength. But as we’ve seen many times in comics (and the real world) superior strength does not guarantee victory. Some say a character that powerful loses any hope of drama in storytelling, but to me, it would be much more fun (and a creative challenge) as a writer to put a character that strong into situations where his strength was meaningless. One example was when Jim Wilson (the Hulk’s one-time sidekick) was dying of AIDS (The Incredible Hulk #420 [1994]). Despite the Hulk’s immeasurable power, he was helpless to do anything to save his friend. It was quite an emotional tale and one where those big muscles gained him nothing. Here is a superhero with the power to save people…who wants to do the right thing…but yet is powerless to save who he wants to. It's the tragedy of the incredible Hulk. 

Getting back to his physical strength, the Hulk is used more than any other character to show a benchmark of strength. He’s the gold standard by which all other strongmen and women are judged. There are numerous entries in handbooks and character biographies that mention “Hulk-like strength” and use examples of said character fighting the Hulk as evidence of their power. The very fact that there are myriad message boards littered with posts trying to prove that he isn’t the strongest may be the greatest indicator that he, indeed, is. There is a big difference between, “haven't found a limit,” “no known limit,” and "limitless". Many characters haven't found a limit to their strength, power, etc., simply because they haven't engaged in formal, limit-finding tests.




But those characters aren't described as having "limitless strength". The Hulk's limitless strength has been referenced in-continuity every year since his creation. As world renowned comic historian Peter Sanderson said, "The Hulk is the standard of physical strength for the greatest comic characters." And now, without further ado, here are the top five feats of strength of the ever incredible Hulk: 



5. The Hulk Saves His Allies from an Entire Mountain Range Being Dropped on Them 

Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars #4 (1984)




Many consider this the Hulk’s greatest feat of strength ever, but it just barely makes it into the top five. During Marvel’s first major limited-series superhero crossover, Secret Wars, the appropriately named Molecule Man (who has the power to control, you guessed it, molecules) levitates a mountain range “which would dwarf the Andes” and hurtles it at the good guys. The shock of the mountain range landing could be felt on the other side of the planet they were on. While most of the heroes were hurt or knocked out from a recent battle, the responsibility (and the mountain range) fell upon the Hulk to prevent the miles of rock from killing his crony. The classic cover says it all: “Beneath one hundred and fifty billion tons, stands the Hulk--and he’s not happy.” Iron Man estimated that there were two miles of rock above them. Hawkeye stated that they couldn’t dig out of it in a month. 

This is probably the most oft-cited strength feat of the Hulk and perhaps one of the most controversial. While the Hulk does state that he is bracing the weight, critics like to pull real-world physics into the argument and state that the Hulk simply couldn’t support the entire mountain range, as it would collapse under its own weight. This kind of argument is actually self-defeating, because if we bring physics into the equation, then the feat is actually far more impressive than even what the cover stated. A mountain range which dwarfed the Andes was dropped on them from miles above. The Hulk didn’t just brace the weight…he caught it, multiplied by the mass plus speed equals force of its decent from the sky. 




Once you bring actual physics into the picture, the amount of weight that the Hulk prevented from hitting the ground far outweighs the 150 billion tons that was advertised on the cover. A gargantuan object like that would create an astronomical amount of force while traveling at that velocity. The Hulk didn’t just brace that weight; using only his body, he stopped miles of rock from crushing everyone else. If you bring real-world physics into the argument, then you have no choice but to calculate the speed/force equation that reveals that the Hulk didn’t just catch the weight of the mountain (150 billion tons), but the weight of the mountain multiplied thousands of times.




I’ll gladly be the first to admit that the Hulk didn’t catch the full force, weight, and momentum of the entire mountain range. But there were two miles of mountain above their heads (which even calculating a fraction of the range would still far outweigh the stated 150 billion tons). And this wasn’t a loose mound of rock and dirt; Thor was standing on top of the mountain range, hitting it to try and rescue the heroes. It was dense enough to cause Thor’s “mightiest blows” to sound like a slight tapping to the heroes below.




The people that want to discredit this feat by using real-world physics end up making it even more impressive than originally thought. Add to this that the Hulk incarnation that performed this feat is the fan-named “Banner-Hulk” (while in Hulk form, Banner had control), which is universally considered one of, if not the weakest incarnations of the Hulk, and you’ve got yourself one giddy, cackling writer sitting at the keyboard. 



4. The Hulk knocks out Pre-Crisis Superman 

Marvel Treasury Edition #28: Superman and Spider-Man (1981)







To truly appreciate how such an event could be ranked ahead of the senses-shattering Secret Wars mountain feat above, one must understand the magnitude of Pre-Crisis Superman’s abilities. Ask most diehard comic fans about Pre-Crisis Superman and the responses usually include variations of “ridiculously overpowered,” “no way to hurt him without Kryptonite,” and “thank God they de-powered him over the years.” There are three strength feats that Superman fans have cited most when trying to best any of the Hulk’s strength feats. The first is Superman bench pressing 5.972 sextillion metric tons from Superman #13 (2012). In the second example, he’s pushing against the equivalent of 200 quintillion tons in All-Star Superman #1 (2006). The third example shows him towing 13 planets on a chain from Superboy #140 (1967). All three are impressive, mind-boggling feats, to be sure (these feats will be referenced later in the list, so bring a pencil, just in case there’s a quiz). Anyway, after first meeting in Superman vs. The Amazing Spider-Man: The Battle of the Century (1976) the duo met again, years later, and they brought the Hulk and Wonder Woman with them (undoubtedly due to the popularity their respective TV shows garnered). Inevitably, the Hulk and Superman get into a fight and the Hulk K.O.’s the Man of Steel. Without using Kryptonite. Wow! Who else can actually lay claim to knocking out Pre-Crisis Superman?




However, for years, I really disliked this issue. The knockout was very underplayed in the issue and the rest of the fight looked like a low-end showing for the Hulk. I couldn’t understand why Marvel would allow their top strong guy to have such a poor performance against their distinguished competition! But after years of ignoring the book, I finally went back and, under careful analysis, realized that this was one of the Hulk’s better showings. Here’s why: If you look at panel 1, Superman is looking at the Hulk, and talking to him. Also, you’ll notice that the artist, legendary Big John Buscema, specifically drew “motion lines” around the Hulk’s hand to show that the Hulk is, indeed, moving (these details will be important later). 

Panel 2 shows the Hulk talking to Superman and punching him. Now, all of the Superman apologists like to say that the Hulk sucker-punched Superman. This is THE "go-to" argument for Superman fans (and, strangely enough, Thor fans when talking about The Incredible Hulk Annual 2001 and other fights). Superman was looking at the Hulk and talking to him before the Hulk punched him. Superman was suckered? This is obviously not the case, as we saw Superman looking at the very hand that punched him...before the Hulk even clenched it into a fist. Shouldn't Superman's Super-Hearing allowed him to hear the rubble give way as the Hulk reared back for a punch? And what about his Super-Reflexes and Super-Speed? This is a guy that has tied Flash in a footrace. The Flash. The freaking Flash. Can’t Superman let him have anything? Anyway, Pre-Crisis Superman got clocked by the Hulk. Faster than a speeding bullet, indeed. 

Moving right along to panels 3 & 4: why would anyone that could fly, "slam brutally into the concrete of a bustling pier" as his "limp body plunges to Earth" unless they were knocked out? And it wasn't the force of the punch that knocked him into the pier; the Hulk punched him straight up. Miles away, he came down and slammed into the pier, full of innocent civilians. If Supes was anything other than unconscious at the time, he would've moved, braced, recovered, not risked property damage, human casualties, etc. The fact that he didn't, clearly indicates that he was knocked out. 

Superman wasn't seen again until two pages later. Let that sink in…two pages later. And it was two pages of the Hulk wreaking havoc, by the way, not two pages of “while at the same time” exponential action shots like Lois Lane shopping for Batman-themed pajamas or something.



So, to recap: 

A. Superman was trying to protect innocent people from the Hulk's rampage. In other words, he was trying to stop the Hulk. 
B. Hulk punched him. It took two PANELS for Superman's “limp body" to travel from where the Hulk punched him, to where he landed. 
C. It took two PAGES for Superman to get back to the Hulk. 

This can only mean: 

A. Superman can't fly back to the fight faster than the Hulk can punch him away from the fight, or 
B. Superman suddenly stopped caring about the innocent people he was originally trying to save and took his sweet time coming back to the fight, or 
C. Superman took so long walking back because he was scared of the Hulk, or 
D. Superman was knocked out.

Superman finally recovers and comes back. Take note of the brilliant wording chosen for the end of the fight. The key words here are “but” and "and". The narration says of Superman, “He does not budge. But the Hulk grows ever more furious, his strength growing geometrically with each passing second--and the outcome of the strange duel is in doubt.” So, the Hulk's blows have no effect, at first. To the reader, the Hulk is getting owned; the end of the fight looks obvious. Then, the narration says the outcome is in doubt (by the way, so much for those fans that say the Hulk needs sufficient time to "ramp up", since his strength was growing geometrically by the second). Superman fans will also point to the text as proof that Superman is stronger than the Hulk. The text in question says the Hulk can shatter mountains and Superman can move (not shatter) planets. How are you supposed to move a planet if you can't fly? Add to that, Superman’s cool telekinetic power that assists him when moving large objects, and you've got one cool little power that Ol' Purple Pants doesn't have. So, Superman fans that use this argument aren’t proving that Superman is stronger than the Hulk, they’re proving that he’s a better flyer than him. The Hulk can't fly...and when he can, people get mad and call it "bad writing" (i.e. a weaker base-strength grey Hulk smashing an asteroid twice the size of planet Earth in Marvel Comics Presents #52 [1990]).




Furthermore, other than the clear knockout, Superman fans point out that the Hulk’s blows later were having no effect on the Man of Steel. This is neither proof of superior strength nor assured victory. For example, in The Incredible Hulk #283 (1983), the Hulk breaks free of a plastithene trap. The Leader’s plastithene humanoids has taken direct hits from Thor wielding Mjolnir, unharmed. Would anyone even consider for a second that those humanoids are stronger than Thor? No way. And Thor later defeated said humanoids, so one panel of a character hitting another unharmed does not constitute greater strength or guaranteed victory. This argument can also be countered by the expertise of master draughtsman John Buscema. Remember those “motion lines” he drew around the Hulk’s hand while Supes was pontificating about something goody-two-shoesy? Well, he also drew them around Superman’s head and body after Superman said he couldn’t be moved, and in the same panels that talked about the Hulk’s escalating strength forcing the outcome of the duel to now be in doubt. *insert school-girl giggling here* 


*Check out the complete "Hulk vs Superman" rivalry here:
http://hero-envy.blogspot.com/2013/04/hulk-vs-superman.html



3. The Hulk overpowers Thor who was enhanced to be ten times stronger than normal 

The Incredible Hulk #440 (1996) 




Who’s stronger than Thor? How about Thor when he’s boosted ten times his normal strength! In this issue, the military come to Thor in an attempt to get him to end “the menace of the Hulk” once and for all. The issue explicitly states that Thor has entered into the "Warrior Madness", which amplifies Thor's strength 10 times his usual strength level. Before entering Warrior Madness, Thor says that he will not hold back, that he will end the Hulk’s menace, and that it will be their last fight ever. During the fight, Thor tells the Hulk that he is going to kill him. The Hulk holds Thor down using only one arm. The Hulk ends the fight at the exact time he wants to; he sees a nuclear bomb coming toward them and punches Thor to safety. Also worth noting: the Hulk in this issue was unable to get overly angry--if he got too mad, he reverted back to Banner.





So, to recap, a Hulk that was unable to reach levels of strength that he was accustomed to reaching, defeated (via battlefield removal) and overpowered a Thor that was ten times stronger than he had ever been in any previous fight with him…a Thor that admitted he was not holding back and was trying to kill the Hulk.



"Trying" being the operative word, here. 

This, as they say, is the proverbial mic drop. 


* Check out the complete "Hulk vs Thor" rivalry here: 



2. The Hulk overcomes the weight of a star 

Infinity #6 (2013) 



In speaking of the Hulk, an intergalactic Mary Sue named Thanos gave the order, "Kill this beast for me...make it suffer." So, Proxima Midnight (a member of the glorified Thanos Boy Band “The Black Order”) conjured the weight of a star onto the Hulk. She did this from behind the Hulk, while he was running, taking him completely by surprise. But this did not crush the Hulk or even cause him to fall flat on the ground. Instead, he was supporting all of that weight on his hands and knees (meaning he overcame the weight by preventing it from laying him flat). And then he raised himself up. Even if he wasn't standing completely up straight (which he may have been, but it is hard to tell with absolute certainty from the art), he was still overcoming the weight of a star, going from his hands and knees (horizontal) to just his knees (vertical). And not just any star, but a supernova. Our sun is not even close to having the mass of a supernova. In order for a star to go supernova it has to have a mass greater than at least 8 solar masses. 

The mass of our sun is approximately: 2,327,400,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 tons. Now multiply that by *at the very least* 8 and you have the minimum amount of weight that the Hulk overcame. 

Yeah, you’re going to need to get that pencil, now.




This is far greater than the aforementioned Superman feat of 5.972 sextillion metric tons. It’s also more than Superman’s 200 quintillion ton accomplishment. Actually, it's undoubtedly even greater than the infamous Pre-Crisis Superboy towing planets feat. There are 13 planets visible in the Superboy panel versus a mass that is 8 times greater than our sun. Keep in mind, it would take approximately 1.3 million Earths to fill up our sun (for those of you not good at math, 1.3 million > 13). And the Hulk overcame the weight of something at least 8 times greater than our sun. And what does that say about his durability, too? Remember, the Superboy feat was a flight feat aided by strength. The Hulk didn't have the luxury of relying on a second power to help him out; he had to do it with raw strength alone. 

Now, put your pencil down and grab a pillow and place it on the ground, because your jaw is about to hit it. If you combine all three of those titanic Superman feats and add them together into one colossal weight, the Hulk feat dwarfs it. 

And (drum roll, please), the Hulk did all of that...and he wasn't even *that* angry. No one killed Betty or Rick Jones (insert other battle board minutiae here). He didn't "go World Breaker". And he did it immediately upon getting the weight dropped on him. In other words, there was no "significant time to ramp up" required. He was taken by surprise—he didn’t see the threat coming. He didn’t have time to make himself angry by punching himself in the face or by thinking about drivers that don’t wave after you let them into your lane. He simply did what he always does—be the strongest. 

And that's not even his greatest feat of strength! 

And now, a pause, as I take the rest of the day off and spend it rolling around on the ground hugging myself. 



1. The Hulk finally stops holding back 

The Incredible Hulks #634-635 (2011) 




Bruce Banner’s greatest fear is that he would lose control of the Hulk and that his unleashed fury and power would destroy the world and everything he holds dear. In writer Greg Pak’s storyline Planet Hulk (2006-2007), readers got to see a Hulk angrier than ever. It was a justified, righteous anger, but it was still, at times, frightening and never without consequence. In its follow up, World War Hulk (2007), we see a Hulk returning to Earth to face those responsible for events that came from his banishing to outer space and led to the death of his loved ones. At the end of World War Hulk, readers got a tiny glimpse of an incarnation of the Hulk simply known as The Worldbreaker. Overcome with emotion, the Hulk begins to walk forward, and one single footstep (not a stomp, mind you, just the beginning movement of walking away) almost snaps the Eastern Seaboard of North America into the ocean. The Hulk immediately stops himself, knowing his greatest fear is not only a real, palpable possibility, but also mere steps away from coming to fruition. In Pak’s magnum opus, The Incredible Hulks #630-635 (2011), each issue features the Hulk stronger than the issue before. Fans gave witness to the Hulk facing familiar foes who were once peers, but were now elevated magnitudes more powerful than they once were…and a Hulk dispatching them with relative ease. But the pièce de résistance came in Pak’s final two issues where it is revealed that during Planet Hulk, World War Hulk, indeed, even the prior issues in the story arc, the Hulk was holding back

So. Um, take all those feats above…and put them into the context that they were performed with restraint.

The Hulk, wishing no harm to others, is mystically transported away from Earth and into the Dark Dimension, a place in which no innocent beings reside. The Hulk, at last, could stop worrying about collateral damage and harming others and forego restraint. But he wasn’t there alone; notice there were no innocent beings there. Also present were Hulk enemies Armageddon, the Bi-Beast and the Wendigo, who were both augmented exponentially beyond their normal operating levels, and a mystically-enhanced Fin Fang Foom, who was called the most powerful creature on Earth at the time (which included the aforementioned trio above). Add to that gruesome foursome an entire army of Mindless Ones that was so powerful that the combined power of Dormmamu and Umar could not defeat, so they simply constructed a mystical barrier to contain them. 

Also present is Red She-Hulk, whose power has been mystically augmented to match the Hulk’s, meaning that the Hulk may fight her with no fear of harming her at all. The Hulk starts fighting the Red She-Hulk and the radiant force of Worldbreaker's blows against someone else—a collision—literally vaporizes all of the abovementioned baddies…and the entire planet they’re standing on. 

You still got that pillow? 

So, the entire army of Mindless Ones, Armageddon, Bi-Beast, Wendigo, and Fin Fang Foom, and the planet they were on were destroyed instantly—flash-fried—because the Hulk punched someone else. He didn’t punch them or the planet directly; he jumped up above the landscape and the force of his colliding blow with someone else broke the world.




It's the physically strongest we've ever seen a character be. Sure, characters have broken worlds before, but no one has ever done it by punching someone else. That distinction, and that level of strength, belongs to the Hulk and the Hulk alone. What having unlimited rage and strength means, though, is that he can become even stronger than that. And, in fact, we see him do just that merely a few pages later. Thinking this is surely the zenith of the power level shown in this story, the reader is proved wrong as we see the Hulk increase exponentially beyond what was just shown and grow hundreds of feet tall, while seething with gamma energy. There was no telling how powerful he was at this level, but it served to prove that no matter how powerful the Hulk gets, he can potentially keep getting even more powerful. This is because there is literally no limit to the scope of his rage & power. It's a level that takes him past any & every conventional superhero by exponential leaps and bounds into abstract realms of strength that have never been seen on a comic page before or since.




Alas, like all good things, we’ve come to the end of our incredible list. But don’t make the mistake that others have. Some fans can read the last item on the list and cite it as the cap or limit to the Hulk’s strength. But even a feat as astounding as that one is simply the farthest we’ve seen the Hulk’s strength go down an infinite road.

Until next time...




Agree? Disagree? Let's hear it fanboys!



Check out other Hero Envy "Top" Lists:

Top 50 Greatest Marvel Slugfests of All Time (1961-1999)
Top 10 Most Evil Villains in Comics

Top 10 Superhero Capes of All Time
Doctor Who: The Top 5 Greatest Doctors Ever
The Top 20 Greatest Stretch Figures of All Time




Jason Tait has been a fan of comic books as long as he can remember. His special talents include drawing, playing guitar, and the ability to break his left hand with almost any object. Mr. Tait has a preoccupation with the Incredible Hulk that some might call borderline psychosis, but he likes to think of it as cute and endearing. While he does possess one of the largest Hulk collections on Earth, he insists that he has, indeed, kissed a girl before.

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.