The Fantabulous 50s Weekend, Part 3: How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way

Amazing Spider-Man #252 cover!

I was 11 when Amazing Spider-Man #252 debuted his black costume and blew my mind. Art by Ron Frenz and Klaus Janson.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

In addition to our annual road trips, my wife Anne and I have a twice-yearly tradition of spending our respective birthdays together traveling to some new place or attraction as a short-term road trip — partly as an excuse to spend time together on those most wondrous days, partly to explore areas we’ve never experienced before. We’re the Goldens. It’s who we are and what we do.

I’ve just now lived to see 50, and after weeks of research and indecision, we planned an overnight journey to the next state over, to the capital city of Columbus, Ohio, which had cool stuff that this now-fiftysomething geek wanted to see. Columbus, then, would be the setting for our first outing together as quintagenarians…

Now we’re to my favorite part of the Marvel exhibit at Columbus’ Center of Science and Industry. The statues were fun and the MCU film props and costumes were quite a sight to behold up close, but original comics art is a rarity for me to see in person. Growing up, buying original art was something rich comics investors did for fun and showiness, nothing a poor kid like me could ever afford. In adulthood I’ve climbed up the ladder high enough that I now own a few modest pages, nothing fancy.

The Marvel exhibit features over six dozen pages drawn by the original artists across 80+ years of the medium’s history — not just reproductions, the real thing, largely loaned by private collectors identified below each frame for provenance and gratitude. Some were autographed by the artists; in a few of the older pieces, you can see where artists (and Stan “The Man” Lee) autographed them years after the fact. The following gallery, less than half the total works on display, is a selection of those that stuck out to me for various reasons and didn’t succumb to blurry photography. One of them even has color. (Painted, at that!) A few have behind-the-scenes Easter eggs, such as our lead photo — if you click on the cover to ASM #252 you can read Klaus Janson’s notes in the margins addressed to George Roussos, the colorist who handled all Marvel covers at the time. For me, the little details add to the thrill of comics art appreciation.

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The Fantabulous 50s Weekend, Part 2: Mighty Marvel Cinemania

Iron Man Mark I armor!

The Iron Man Mark I armor, the very first costume in the official Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

In addition to our annual road trips, my wife Anne and I have a twice-yearly tradition of spending our respective birthdays together traveling to some new place or attraction as a short-term road trip — partly as an excuse to spend time together on those most wondrous days, partly to explore areas we’ve never experienced before. We’re the Goldens. It’s who we are and what we do.

I’ve just now lived to see 50, and after weeks of research and indecision, we planned an overnight journey to the next state over, to the capital city of Columbus, Ohio, which had cool stuff that this now-fiftysomething geek wanted to see. Columbus, then, would be the setting for our first outing together as quintagenarians…

…so we old folks had fun roaming around a kiddie museum, Columbus’ Center of Science and Industry, immersing ourselves in the all-ages roadshow exhibit “Marvel: Universe of Super-Heroes”. As you’d expect from a mainstream celebration of a massive multimedia corporation with an audience of hundreds of millions, many vitrines were devoted to keepsakes from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Costumes and props worn and touched by the actors (and/or stunt doubles) were all around the hall, imbuing onlookers with that keen vibe of authentic Hollywood proximity. We’d previously seen MCU items on our Atlanta trip back in 2019, but I was gratified to notice very little overlap between the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library & Museum’s collection and this one.

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The Fantabulous 50s Weekend, Part 1: The Merry Marvel Museum Menagerie

Spidey and jazz hands!

I began collecting Amazing Spider-Man at age 6, around the first time Aunt May died. 44 years later, one of us has aged better.

In addition to our annual road trips, my wife Anne and I have a twice-yearly tradition of spending our respective birthdays together traveling to some new place or attraction as a short-term road trip — partly as an excuse to spend time together on those most wondrous days, partly to explore areas we’ve never experienced before. We’re the Goldens. It’s who we are and what we do.

Whether through a lot of lucky cosmic dice rolls or by divine interference, I’ve just now lived to see 50. We’d had to keep Anne’s own 50th-birthday outing modest because the pandemic curtailed our options. It was her wish that we wouldn’t have to compromise the same way for mine. After weeks of research and indecision, we planned an overnight journey to the next state over, to the capital city of Columbus, Ohio. We’ve driven through them several times on our way to other states, we’ve checked out their As-Seen-on-TV giant burgers, we’ve twice attended the most awesome indie comics show in the Midwest, and we’ve even been inside their capitol dome. We dug a little more deeply and learned they have still more to offer, especially in my fields of interest.

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Yes, There Are Scenes During and After the “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” End Credits

Dr, Strange 2 IMAX Poster!

We don’t always pay extra for Marvel movie upgrades, but this time…eh, why not.

A coworker of mine was invited to see Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness on opening weekend despite the fact that she’d never watched a single Marvel product in her life. While I chuckled for a few minutes and mentally judged the invitee for his selfish chutzpah, another coworker generally on the same pop-culture page as me graciously tried to recap both the first Doctor Strange and Spider-Man: No Way Home in hopes that it might give her the slightest help before being dragged into the 28th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s kind to show someone how to dog-paddle at least a little before they’re shoved into the deep end of the pool by some dude eagerly looking forward to giving her swimming lessons while she’s drowning. Oh, the gleeful countdown he probably kept in his head for days until that heroic moment when he could point at Benedict Cumberbatch onscreen and proudly, loudly whisper to her, “That’s Doctor Strange!”

Meanwhile, I’m unhelpfully daydreaming how this exchange might’ve been twice as entertaining, but only half as helpful, if at all helpful, if coworker #2 had delivered the recap in the style of Ant-Man’s pal Luis. I am arguably an enabler of the problem here.

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Yes, There Are Scenes During the “Morbius” End Credits

Morbius!

The Matrix Resurrections skewered the whole “bullet-time” fad, yet here we go again.

I thought Morbius the Living Vampire was scary when I was 6 or 7 and he showed up in a 1977 comic I picked up at the toy store. In a time when the Comics Code Authority was still touchy about allowing comics to show the undead because they might turn young readers into rampaging juvenile delinquents, Morbius exploited a loophole with an origin that revealed him as not an actual vampire, but as a scientist who conducted questionable experiments to cure his own rare blood disease, which went awry and turned him into a science vampire, with many vampiric powers and few-if-any vampiric weaknesses. He was a forerunner of the irritating horror sub-subgenre Vampires Who Ignore Vampire Rules and Who Therefore Aren’t Vampires by Definition So Maybe the Writer Should’ve Made Up Their Own Monster Instead of Misusing the Word “Vampire”.

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My 2021 at the Movies, Part 2 of 2: The Year’s Best

Scarlett Johansson IS Black Widow!

Yeah, I know, superhero films with only one timeline in them are so 2018.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: In 2021 I made 22 trips to the theater to see films made that same year. In Part 1 we ranked the majority from “this film is pretty keen” to “this film is my mortal enemy” but in reverse. And now, the countdown concludes with the ten most relatively awesome films I saw at a theater in 2021 that were released for general audiences in 2021. Exactly those dates. Exactly those dates.

EXACTLY those dates.

Onward!

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My 2021 at the Movies, Part 1 of 2: The Year’s Least Best

Spider-Man: No Way Home!

“Our billion-dollar movie made six whole people grumpy! Let’s ask Doctor Strange to overwrite their brains!”

It’s listing time again! In today’s entertainment consumption sphere, all experiences must be pitted against each other and assigned numeric values that are ultimately arbitrary to anyone except the writer themselves. It’s just this fun thing some of us love doing even though the rules are made up and the points don’t matter.

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Yes, There Are Scenes During and After the “Spider-Man: No Way Home” End Credits

Spider-Man No Way Home!

It wouldn’t be a true Spidey film if Peter didn’t unmask for the final battle.

Here’s the Too Long, Won’t Read version: despite some wonderful interplay among the main cast and the special guests at the heart of the film (and one beautifully meta performance in particular), Spider-Man: No Way Home is my least favorite Marvel Cinematic Universe film since Thor: The Dark World. I’m in the minority on this, but no other 2021 film has aggravated me as much as this box-office leviathan did.

Hope that helps? You’re now free to go. Thanks for stopping by. I do understand. I just need to get the following 5000 words out of my system. Imagine it’s Martin Scorsese’s rapid voice so it’ll move faster.

Still here? Cool, but fair warning: it’s been a long time since I front-loaded a movie entry with a courtesy spoiler alert. There’s no way I can adequately express my reactions without moving beyond the trailer-approved plot points and into its numerous surprises, some of which were foretold on various geek clickbait sites and some of which I predicted from the trailers. Really, the courtesy spoiler alert is for real, anything goes. You might find plenty of reasons for irritation with me, but by venturing beyond the courtesy spoiler alert guard post you hereby forfeit the right to count “AAAHH! SPOILERS!” among them.

Once again, for those just joining us: courtesy spoiler alert. Thank you.

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Yes, There Are Scenes During and After the “Eternals” End Credits

Celestial Arishem!

“Kneel before your new god, the great and powerful d6!”

Hi, I’m a longtime comics reader who always thought the Eternals sucked.

Among the tenets of staunch dogma handed down by elder comic book fans is: Jack “King” Kirby was a saint and every page he breathed upon was perfection incarnate. To find fault in anything Kirby ever did is to sound like an edgelord poser and betray Comics. Kirby indisputably drew legendary comics and was one of the most significant co-inventors of one of our greatest American corporate mythologies, but his heyday largely ended a few years before my time. His pages could be wondrous panoplies of dynamic, majestic, blockbuster imagery, all the more mind-blowing if you can see the original, full-size art in person.

Then there were the other components, from the peculiar scripting in his post-1970 Stan-Lee-less bombastic productions to his predilection for pun-filled character names that could sound like their own MAD Magazine parodies. Multiple short samples of his mid-’70s Eternals, arguably a rehash of his DC “Fourth World” work with new nametags, left me cold. Later revivals by the likes of Walt Simonson and Neil Gaiman — yes, that Neil Gaiman — likewise did nothing for me. I didn’t even finish reading Gaiman’s version. I tried. Alas, I’m not proud to be a longtime heretic barred from the Eternal Orthodox Church of King Kirby the Konsummate Kreator.

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Yes, There Are Scenes After the “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” End Credits

Shang-Chi!

If Shang-Chi throws less than 50 punches an hour, the bus will explode.

Midlife Crisis Crossover has dozens of unwritten rules and three or four written ones. Among the latter that longtime readers might recall: every film I see in theaters gets its own entry. Some entries get procrastinated longer than others, but sooner or later their turn will come, no matter how much I curse myself for establishing that stupid rule.

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