Thursday, July 25, 2019




It's the small things in life that can sometimes be the most meaningful. The memory from a simple smile, a good laugh or a sweet kiss can last a lifetime, even a thousand lifetimes. People lose sight of that and it's a shame. True magic is everywhere and in everything no matter how insignificant. Look. Feel. Listen. Open yourself up to the world and do it honestly and you will see that magic is all around you...

Blog entry: April 25th, 2019

I’m sitting back and thinking of Stan "The Man" Lee after returning from Marvel’s exclusive New York AVENGERS: ENDGAME premier last night and seeing his final cameo appearance. It was a surreal feeling as I went to the event with another comic legend, my good friend and mentor Roy Thomas and his wife Dann who was invited and flown in from South Carolina. Hanging with all the Marvel creators and staff (past and present), watching the movie and having a good time was a great experience. Standing there at such an important event mingling with everyone I realized, I've come a long way since reading comicbooks in my bedroom as child.

You see, I've been into Stan Lee and his Marvel Universe all my life. Despite what age I was or where I stood, Stan Lee was always there. Whether it be in comicbooks, television shows, cartoons, movies, comic cons or floating in my head when I looked to the stars and dreamed, Stan Lee was always a presence to make me happy and put my mind in a better place. His characters and words somehow guided me along and brought me to where I stand today. But now living in a world that no longer has him in it leaves me heartbroken. And maybe, I'm a little more saddened by this than most because I was with him and Roy Thomas right before he passed.

Roy and Dann Thomas with me at the exclusive Marvel Avengers: Endgame premier in New York.

Me, Roy (with his big bucket of pop corn) and Dann.

Marvel's Chief Creative Officer Joe Quesada gives a speech on the passing of Stan Lee and thanks all the early pioneers of Marvel Comics that helped Stan create the universe that has taken over pop culture (of course Roy is honored in that exclusive club). And FYI, that bald head on the left is Frank Miller.

You should know that it wasn't easy to get those two legends together -- it was actually a three-year debacle. The bad handlers around Stan made it impossible for me to set up a meeting or dinner between the two because they wanted Stan for his money and their own evil agendas. Shady shenanigans were always used to keep them apart. It was frustrating because Roy wanted to see him and he knew Stan wasn't doing well health-wise.

In 2018, things finally changed when the state of California stepped in and most of the leaches were out of Stan's life. But now, he wasn't the Stan Lee of old that always had a sparkle to him; he was tired, missing his wife Joan (who passed almost a year earlier), sick with Aspiration Pneumonia and looking every bit of 95 years in age. For months he was depressed, didn't want to see anyone and ready to leave this Earth. But I knew if he saw Roy Thomas; his protégé and respected colleague, it would bring some happiness and light back to him (and make Roy happy as well). 

I had a connection and friend named Chandler Rice help me get in touch with Stan's new handler Jon Bolerjack, this time a good kid who truly cared about Stan and his well being. Jon would go out on daily lunches with Stan and talk about life and the good times from Stan's past. When he found out Roy wanted to come by for a visit, Stan instantly wanted to see him (I knew I was right). Roy and Stan only saw each other sparingly within the last decade and the last time Roy had been to Stan's house in Beverly Hills, CA was back in the 80s and that was only for a few minutes, so this meeting was long overdue. And the timing couldn't have been better, I made this Roy's birthday (November 22nd), Thanksgiving and Christmas gifts all rolled into one. BOOM!

Fast forward to a quick flight and drive on November 10th and the first thing Stan did was flash a BIG smile when Roy walked into the room where he was sitting overlooking the view of his backyard. "Roy!" Stan said, "Hello Stan." Roy answered. I got so emotional because of the looks on their faces. Through my relentless persistence and dedication to make this reunion take place, I was able to give them that pure tender moment -- a much needed moment of happiness in Stan's life. It was like my gift back to him for all the moments he gave to me throughout my childhood and through my tough times. The whole thing seemed surreal, but when my mind came back to reality I felt proud -- very proud of what I managed to accomplish. Some people may say magic doesn't exist in the real world, but that's exactly what happened in that moment.

Eventually Stan looked at me and said, "Hi John." Which totally shocked me, but I had my game face on so I stood firm. I walked over to Stan and knelt down in front of him. He then held my hand (I remember his touch being very cold) and said, "Take care of my boy Roy." It was bittersweet because of the chaos he had to go through in the last few years of his life from all the deceptive people around him, he didn't want that to happen to Roy. I promised Stan that I would always protect Roy, have his back and that I loved him. Stan, still holding my hand, smiled and said "God bless you, John."

The rest of the time was like a blur to me, I cannot remember what they were talking about because I was in awe sitting at Stan and Roy's feet thinking "I'm literally sitting at the top of Mount Olympus right now, how the hell did I get here?" It ended when we took a few photos together with the last one being Stan, Roy and myself. When Roy and I started to leave Stan waved at us and said once again, "God bless you guys." I got a little choked up as I whispered to Roy while walking out of Stan's house, "I don't think he'll make it to the end of the year." Less than 48 hours later on November 12th Stan "The Man" Lee was dead.

The last photo ever taken of Stan Lee. It was an absolute honor to be in it with these two legends.

Here is a picture of Stan Lee's backyard. What's interesting about it was when Stan was a little kid living in Manhattan, he would always look out his windows and see the brick buildings right next to it, which he hated. He always dreamed to one day have a place of his own that when he looked outside he would have a beautiful view. When Roy and I visited Stan at his home in Beverly Hills, Stan was sitting in his big comfortable chair overlooking his backyard and staring at his incredibly, beautiful view. After Stan passed less than 48 hours after we left, Roy told me that he remembered when Stan told him about that dream and he thought it was ironic that when we walked into the den where Stan was sitting, he was doing just that. Yes, Stan was tired and ready to leave this earth, but it's comforting to know he was in good spirits doing what he wanted just hours before his passing. Looking out at his beautiful view and laughing along with Roy Thomas talking comics. As for me, it was a thrill to sit back and watch it all happen.

As sad as that was, it reads like a fairy tale.

Or should I say -- a comicbook.

But there's still a little bit more to this "last gathering" I haven't mentioned yet.

As I said earlier, most people don't believe in magic in the real world, but it's funny how some things work out that can be considered a little more than coincidence.

The XXL Taschen book THE STAN LEE STORY came out as a special "limited edition" of only 1000 copies and was released in early 2019 (almost two months after Stan's passing). While there were many other books on Stan's life available and coming out that he knew about, this was THE book that Stan SPECIFICALLY chose Roy Thomas to write. It took Roy about 5 years to complete with some added assistance from Rhett Thomas (no relation, but a super-talented guy nonetheless), and Roy and Stan looked through a finished copy when we visited so Stan could see it before it got released to the public (watching them flip through the pages together was incredible). To look back in retrospect, when you think about the perfect timing this all went down and the fact that it could well be the last book Stan ever saw, it's absolutely mind-boggling.

Magic? I think so. 

 THE STAN LEE STORY "limited edition" copy is a ginormous book which celebrates the life of Stan Lee. It could well be the last book Stan ever saw when he was alive. That's what I call a Mighty Marvel Magic Moment at its finest.

When I got the news of Stan's passing, I quickly called Roy and told him. We talked for over an hour about the crazy timing of it all. While Roy thought it was coincidental, I thought of it more as spiritual. I guess we'll never know for sure, but Roy quickly wrote out a page about it (a shortened version) and asked the Managing Editor of Taschen, Nina Wiener to include it in the upcoming "mass-market" edition of THE STAN LEE STORY as an afterword. That edition of the book was still in production at the time and became available on July 2019. Even the last photo of Stan and Roy I took was included and was a great last minute tribute to both of these legends and made a perfect bookend to Stan's life.

So glad to see the last picture of Stan Lee and Roy Thomas together included in the "mass-market" edition of THE STAN LEE STORY.

Looking back on this experience now, to actually become a small part of a major event in comics history and more importantly; the last few happy moments of Stan's life was something I could've never imagined. Being uncompromisingly persistent and determined to get those two comic icons (and my two real life heroes) together despite the obstacles, so they could simply sit back and celebrate their gift of friendship was well worth the trouble. Plus, it's a great story that can inspire my daughter and show her that real magic is out there in the world and if she tries hard enough, she can grab it and make impossible things happen.

Roy writes me a heartfelt message in a "limited edition" copy of THE STAN LEE STORY that he gave to me as a thank you gift. Just knowing how much it meant to him and Stan is really the greatest gift I could ever receive.

Blog entry: July 4, 2019

Independence Day!

Time to celebrate the birthday of the greatest country in the world with my daughter Bryn! What could be better than to go see SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME at the theater with her? This was IMHO the best Spider-man movie ever made and the first solo Spidey film since Stan passed. Yet another bittersweet moment because out of all the characters he co-created, Spider-man was Stan's favorite. After the movie ended I told my daughter it was a little sad knowing that Stan never got to see this, especially since it captured the magic of Spider-man and his world so well (a major shout out to movie writers Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers and director Jon Watts). Stan would've loved that. Plus, the little homage at the very end of the credits giving a dedication to both co-creators; Stan Lee and Steve Ditko was a great tribute.

SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME was an absolute blast that perfectly captured the essence of what Stan Lee and Steve Ditko put into all those Spider-man comics they produced together. I know Stan would've enjoyed it...

  ...But I'm not so sure about the Spider-man colored popcorn that was released with the movie. Even my baby girl was staying away from that and she has a major sweet tooth.

Ah, such is life. People pass on and time moves forward. That's the way it works whether we like it or not. All we can do is keep collecting memories, do the best we can and put love into the world. I guess that's what I'm trying to do here with this write-up.

God bless you, Stan.

Blog entry: July 25, 2019 

My daughter's birthday!

I released this write-up today as a special gift of inspiration to my baby girl. As she grows older and the world gets bigger may she never forget the special moments she creates in her life. I'm sure she'll have some great stories to tell.

And while this Stan Lee story is personal to me, we all have a little Stan Lee story because his magic managed to touch every one of us in some way. Whether it was watching a Marvel movie, laughing at his cameo appearances, meeting him at a signing, taking a picture with him, or just reading his work and becoming inspired, "The Man" was able to give us all a bunch of smiles and leave his mark on the world.

Epilogue: November 6, 2019

The all Stan Lee tribute issue of ALTER EGO #161 hits shelves on 11/6/2019 which is an amazing coincidence.

I had to make an addition to this blog because a little more of that magic I've been going on and on about sprinkled me with a little more storybook favor. As the faiths would have it, the new all Stan Lee tribute issue of ALTER EGO #161 was released today at comic shops everywhere (you can order it in the link below). And believe it or not, it got released almost exactly a year to the day since Roy and I visited Stan at his home on November 10th, 2018 and his passing on November 12th. Okay, you may chalk that up to a pretty cool coincidence. But did you know that the issue was supposed to be released in late October? Okay, okay, maybe you're still saying it's just a coincidence so calm down John, but coincidence or not, Roy Thomas surprised me by putting my story on getting them together for the last time and making it the introduction to the issue --that's something that doesn't happen everyday! BOOM!!!

I did the guest editorial in the most respected comic magazine on planet earth on one of the most important topics in the history of the magazine; "The Death of Stan Lee." And considering all the legends that are in that issue celebrating Stan's life, you have to believe magic had something to do with it. What an absolute honor. Bleeding cool also picked up the story, check it out in the link below.

Wow. Somewhere in the ether Stan Lee and ALTER EGO founder Jerry Bails are smiling.

Wow. I'm still doing my best to inspire my baby girl and showing her that magic is truly out there in the world. And if she can reach high enough to grab it, anything is possible.

Wow. Thanks for the memories comicbook gods now and forever.

The Mighty Stan Lee

Dedicated to:
Bryn Cimino
Roy Thomas
Dann Thomas
Stan Lee
Chandler Rice
Jon Bolerjack
to those who never believed in me and my dreams
(because I'm doing just fine)















Dann Thomas, Roy Thomas, Jeff Goldblum (who play's the Grandmaster in the MCU movies, a character Roy co-created in The Avengers #69 (1969)) and me.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019



 (Edited by John "THE MEGO STRETCH HULK" Cimino)

The "Rascally" one has his say...

Sometime in the first few months of 2000, I dropped Stan Lee a line saying I'd love to do some work for Stan Lee Media, Stan's well-publicized and multi-staffed dot-com company, if he could ever use me.  He replied that, while he'd like to work with me again, I would've had to be around L.A. to work for SLM, but that, by coincidence, he really needed a writer to work with him on the SPIDER-MAN comic strip... to plot out and do the first-draft script of the seven-days-a-week King Features strip.  I said that sounded fine to me (even though I'd never really been wild about writing Spidey compared to the F.F., Avengers, Conan, etc.).  He replied with a chuckle that maybe I should wait till I heard his offer, because the money was so minuscule... just $300 a week.  I laughed, and told him that he had no idea how little money it cost me to live on my 40-acre place in the middle of South Carolina.  The mortgage and both our vehicles were paid off, so Dann and I had no expenses except what we spent month-to-month.  So a deal was quickly struck, and I went to work, with my first strip (a Monday, of course) appearing on July 17, 2000.  

As it turned out, although I never got a raise in 18 1/2 years I basically ghost-wrote the strip (though, until recent years, with his often hands-on editing), it was a great gig.  I spent maybe two days a month writing four weeks' worth of strips, and another day 2 or 3 times a year doing outlines for upcoming storylines.

After Stan cut back his activities a few years ago, following installation of his pacemaker, etc., I worked primarily with his longtime assistant, Michael Kelly, with some indirect verbal input from Stan, and in some ways I liked that even better, since Stan and I were only about 80% on the same page as to what made a good comic strip. Despite his well-known (and correct) views on how important the writing was to the success of Marvel Comics from 1961 on, he would often talk about how it was the artwork that sold the strip.  I didn't think that reflected the realities of the situation, particularly after John Romita left the strip a few years after it began, and as the printing of the strips grew smaller and smaller.  Stan's brother Larry Lieber was a good journeyman penciler (and Alex Saviuk considerably better), but the artists didn't really have the scope, especially in the dailies, to do the kind of artwork that was going to excite readers the way, say, Milt Caniff once had in Terry and
the Pirates.  The sight of Spidey or Dr. Octopus in a strip might draw people in, but the writing had to bring people back, day after day, since Spidey and Peter and MJ and Doc Ock would always look basically the same, squeezed into small panels--with no "full-page spreads" like in the comicbooks.  And yes, I wrote a bit more text and dialogue than he did... but that was partly because, otherwise, I wasn't sure people could really follow the  strip from day to day... or at least, no new readers would be brought in if it was hard to start reading the strip at any given point.  

Mostly, though, Stan and I got along fine.  For the most part, he liked what I submitted, accepted most (not all) of my ideas for stories... and until a few years ago often "suggested" (or insisted upon) alterations in them.  For some years, he would rewrite a panel or balloon here and there, or even more... while other dailies or Sundays would sail through without a single word change.

The major change I tried to effect, after the first "Spider-Man" movie, was to go back to a time when MJ and Peter weren't married.  Stan agreed, and seemed halfway enthusiastic about the change at first, and we did one whole storyline (involving Electro) that way.  But then Stan changed his mind, and I saw at once that I wouldn't be able to change it back.  So I wrote a "Dallas"-type scene in which Peter woke up (after going to sleep in Aunt May's apartment as a single young man) to find himself married (again) to Mary Jane... and that's the way we kept it from then on.  Actually, I was increasingly happy with that, as an alternative to the bouncing around of the comicbooks, in which MJ and Peter totally forgot each other and their marriage, and who-knows-what occurred.  Left increasingly to my own devices, and building on MJ's modeling career in the comicbooks, I gradually took her from working in a computer store to becoming a Broadway star and movie actress, playing a super-heroine called "Marvella" (before the female Captain Marvel was a big deal, or maybe even was around at all)...but I kept her and Peter, somewhat incongruously, in their relatively small Manhattan apartment (except when they were in L.A., of course)... although they occasionally shopped around for something bigger.

In recent years, I had taken increasingly to using guest stars:  Wolverine, Iron Man, Thor, Black Widow, Ant-Man, Namor, Iron Fist and Luke Cage.  We never bothered to try to follow the current Marvel continuity, which Stan didn't want to do... the more so, I suppose, as from time to time it was given increasingly to violent wrenches and re-starts, such as when MJ and Peter were abruptly uncoupled.  If there were eventually several Spider-Man universes in the comics (with different Spider-Men, a Spider-Girl, whatever), well, our comic strip universe was yet another one... just about the only one, in recent years, in which Peter and MJ were a married couple, continuing the original direction of decades of the comicbooks.  We were all kind of proud of that.

When the strip died (i.e., was killed), the Mammon Theatre where MJ's hit play was running was shuttered by damage (in a Spidey-related fight, of course), and "Marvella II" had flopped, so the two of them took off to Australia for a vacation, and I wrote a couple of weeks of a continuity (along with a full outline approved by Michael Kelly) involving the villain the Kangaroo.  Then Marvel decided to kill the strip and not print the final couple of weeks, and I declined to rewrite the last published strip or twoto turn it into a "goodbye" strip.  My feeling was that I had accepted the snuffing of the strip, and didn't takeit personally... it was just a business move (although when I was told the strip was being killed I wasn't told—perhaps because those who informed me didn't know--that Marvel was planning to either revive the strip with a new team or to start a new strip that might not be a Spidey strip per se, but more the equivalent of DC's latter-day successor to its Superman strip, The World's Greatest Heroes, which had featured the whole panoply of DC heroes).  I felt that I had written what I had written for the strip, and they were welcome to do whatever they wanted to with the script (as long as I was paid for what I had done, naturally), but I preferred never to touch it again.  When I'm done with something, I'm done with something.

Alex Saviuk, bless him, graciously reworked the final strip to show the two of us in it, and to add a "'Nuff Said!" headline on the Daily Bugle.  He was perhaps a better sport about things than I was... and I admire him for that, since he had spent well over two decades penciling the Sunday Spider-Man and then had only recently been promoted to seven-days-a-week penciler... only to see the strip almost immediately canceled so that he was out of a regular gig.  I hope he finds one.  He deserves it.

Naturally, I was sorry to see the strip end (the more so because it signaled the finale of the only long-lasting adventure strip launched in the past half century), just at the time when I could finally have begun to receive on-strip credit for the work I did... although of course I did have that for two years on the Conan the Barbarian comic strip at the end of the 1970s.  But at least, once Stan wrote vaguely, maybe a decade ago, in his introduction to the hardcover volume Marvel Visionaries: Roy Thomas, that I "help[ed]" him with the Spidey strip, everybody with half a brain knew what I was contributing to the strip anyway.  That didn't bother Stan, and it didn't bother me. The strip was Stan's, and I was happy to co-write or write it under his name... although I wouldn't have been willing to go on writing it anonymously once he had passed on, had that alternative been suggested to me.

Working with Stan and Michael Kelly (as well as with Larry, Alex, and the ever-amiable Joe Sinnott--with Joe spelled occasionally by Jim Amash or Terry Austin) on the Spider-Man strip was an enjoyable experience, and I'm grateful to Stan for offering me that "pittance" back in 2000.  The strip became the last of our many collaborations of one sort or other, which began when, in early July of 1965, I inherited a Modeling with Millie story that he had previously talked over (I suppose) with penciler Stan Goldberg.  

Take it away Alex...

The LAST SPIDER-MAN Daily newspaper strip! It’s been a fabulous time for me being part of such an iconic character for so long. I’ve drawn Spider-Man in comics and newspapers for 32 years in a row and unless I get another crack at him NEXT year that run will come to an end. But I am digressing a bit; I’m here to talk about the newspaper strip which for me OFFICIALLY started in the spring of 1977 probably around April-May. I say OFFICIALLY because back in 1980, John Romita, Sr. who was still drawing the entire strip at that time called me and asked if I had the time to ghost lay out some Sunday strips for him since he was incredibly busy with everything else he had on his plate for Marvel. John lived (and still lives, I believe) in the town next to mine on Long Island when I was there and I actually met him about 10 years earlier since I was in high school with his sons. (that’s right, I went to high school with JR, Jr.— he IS four years younger than me to the day and when I was a senior he was a freshman and today looks 20 years younger than me!) I was in a club in school with the older son Victor who over time found out I was interested in drawing comics and came to me one day and said “… my father draws comics — would you like to meet him?” Of course I knew that but I would never impose. We met soon after that. What happened after that is another story!

BACK TO THE STRIP: I did at least 4 Sunday layouts for John on vellum tracing paper and he took it to the next level and beyond yet saving him a ton of time. I was really happy and excited just to be called to assist him, first of all, and then get the privilege and honor of working with one of my comic book artist “heroes." IDW just recently published that volume of reprints and it was fun to see our collaborations again.

FORWARD to 1997: Ralph Macchio at Marvel calls me up and asks if I would be interested in penciling the Spider-Man Sunday strip since fill-in penciler, old time artist Fred Kida wanted to leave. Of course I agreed — I would get to work directly with Stan Lee and Joe Sinnott! I put a package together of my Web Of Spider-Man and Spider-Man Adventures books and sent them to Stan. His assistant Mike Kelly called a few days later and said Stan liked the work but wanted to see how I would handle a “horizontal” strip in a six panel grid format. I admit, I was a bit surprised by that request since with my 20 years of experience at that time I figured I showed what I can do in just the comic books. But I went ahead and penciled a six panel episode of an encounter with Spider-Man saving J Jonah Jameson from a few muggers with the end panel having an ungrateful JJJ waving his fist at Spidey as he swung away from the scene. I sent that in and a few days after returning home from running errands I found a message from Stan Lee on my answering machine. “Hi, Alex… this is Stan Lee. I LOVE your work and I’d love to work with you. It doesn’t pay that much but think of the GLORY!” Actually the page rate was as much as I was making at the time so I couldn’t complain. No raise in 22 years (but from what I understand things haven't changed that much for mainstream freelancers even today.) I got my first script a few days later and in May 1977 I penciled a Sunday in the middle of a Kingpin storyline which was inked by Joe Sinnott , lettered by Stan Sakai and was published in August 1977. Sundays were always drawn 3 months ahead of publication. What a rush to see those preview Xeroxes and then the colored version in the newspaper (which I had to hunt down! There were no papers in Florida where I lived carrying the strip but the local Barnes & Noble sold out of town newspapers so I managed to find one that published the Sundays).

FORWARD to Feb 2003: Got a call asking me if I could ink a week of Dailies drawn by Larry Lieber because inker John Tartaglione needed to go to the hospital for a procedure. John ended up being OK after that week but I had a blast inking Larry’s pencils since I really never inked anybody else other my own pencils for my Web Of Spider-Man covers. Sadly that November, I got a call that John Tartaglione had passed away at 82 because he lost the fight with his particular illness. At the same time I was asked if I would be able to take over the inking of the Dailies. Affirmative….

FORWARD to July 2018: Larry Lieber wants to retire at 87 after 25+ years (maybe 30+?) and I inherit the penciling duties! Pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. I thought the Stan Lee would live forever especially since a few years ago when he got his pacemaker. He said he was the next Tony Stark and felt stronger than ever. Unfortunately and sadly as we all know, that didn't happen and Marvel decided the strip shouldn’t go on without STAN LEE at the helm. But I am forever in Stan Lee’s debt for having me join him, Joe Sinnott, Roy Thomas and letterers Stan Sakai, Kenny Lopez, and Janice Chiang for all these years in bringing our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man to our readers each and every day for these months and years! It’s been a joy, an honor and privilege which I will never forget!

The final published Sunday strip of Spider-man (3/17/19)

The final published strip of Spider-man (3/23/19)
Can you spot Roy and Alex?

John Cimino, Roy Thomas and Alex Saviuk in 2018.