My fantastic comic book relationship with Stan Lee

(Originally posted recently from my sci-fi/fantasy news site, strangerworlds.com)

Stan Lee, a brilliant creative genius whose heart and soul put into comic writing, editing, publishing ignited a new generation of comic books, inspiring beyond with no limits. His Marvel Comics brand became an essential modern myth to our culture, expanding beyond the printed page into every other medium possible. Though he passed away recently at age 95 after living a full and awesome life, his inspirations shall continue to awaken our inner superheroes.

Yet, there is something more to his work, in the ongoing limited series run that is my life. That is my connection to Stan the Man through the pages with his spirited philosophy on awakening the incredible, the uncanny, the fantastic to my yearning for some amazing fantasy. Such would inspire me to better create, adventure, embrace my geekish side, leading me to maintain my love for comic books for the decades ahead. And with all that, build a sense of duty toward helping many in need, especially when great power and privilege comes my way.

My first true exposure to Stan Lee’s Marvel Comics brand came at a turbulent time for me during age 9. I was in the middle of a difficult transition, moving to the big city of San Francisco from the suburban/rural life of Fresno, California. In that, I would also be reunited with my mother after separation for most of my early childhood, with a new stepdad I would hardly know at the time. I had already begun to miss my old friends and felt a bit overwhelmed by my new loud, confusing big city life.

Still feeling on page 1 of this new adventure, I would eventually visit my first comic book store, where my life would forever change. It was a small little store in the North Beach (aka Little Italy) area on Grant Street near the Coit Tower landmark. I think the store name was  “Best Comics” or something like that (not the nearby more famous, Comix and Comix, which I would discover later spend many afternoon school hours in). Within, I walked into the next giant splash page of my life, rich in detail and dramatics. Rows of comics books around me, with boxes of more below. Some stacks were stray, and come loose on counters.

There and everywhere inside, were some familiar friends from TV and toys. All with much more vivid color and detail, speaking in word balloons, in combat poses, expressing action. I saw the Amazing Spider-man, as known from my beat-up stuffed plush doll. I would see the X-Men, recognized from some comics in a waiting room at the last eye doctor visit. I saw the Iron Man, Thing, Captain America recognized..and more from a Marvel Super Heroes card game played often in the library of my early grade recess hours. So many familiar faces in colorful outfits; waiting for me to get to know them; take an adventure with any back home.

But, I had a little money to pick something. After some browsing, I gravitated to a spinning rack of paperback digest-sized comics. Such was not common for the comic book-sized format, but I wanted something with more pages, and easy to carry around. And eventually, I saw this small paperback book… Stan Lee presents The Incredible Hulk (#2).

Hulk

It was a 159-pages of full color, 1979 reprint stories of the older Tales to Astonish (mid-1960s, #85-99) stories of the continuous adventures of Bruce Banner, a scientist who would become the Hulk under very stressful circumstances. I knew the green goliath from TV live-action series, starring Lou Ferrigno. But here, he was different and greener with stories far beyond anything the TV show would offer, with more expression, more action, more Hulk! I would buy this with some pocket change, and then witness the pain and the power, the man-brute at his best!

Inside, the Hulk would prove himself as the strongest, against the US military, super-villains, aliens, the High Evolutionary, the Abomination, the Silver Surfer. Each chapter seemingly more excited than the last. Between the action, we got interesting internal struggles, especially within the Hulk and his other self, Bruce Banner. Both would conflict against each other as much as the outside world.  This drama is as exciting as the action itself was all written by Stan Lee himself, a name I would never forget.

Stan Lee, through passionate exposition and character building, would give me a message that would stick far beyond the printed pages. Inside, we have trapped within, some incredible greatness waiting to be released through some incredible circumstances. The greatness can be so outstanding and wonderful, that we struggle to recognize it when it’s upon our weaker selves. But in reaching that, we don’t want to look back, until the power becomes a troublesome burden. Then, yearns a return to innocence and normalcy until we need that power for greater responsibility.

That’s what I got out of this Hulk anyway. The difference in the Hulk from other super-types is that his heroism is more on a subconscious level. The Hulk would often find himself protecting the weak while crushing those stupid enough to try to exploit him. He is selfless, never looking to harm others. He would prefer to be left alone, and in that when there is no reason to fight, there is peace for the Hulk and Bruce Banner.

All that, presented by Stan Lee. A name I would first notice more in my next few rereadings of that awesome paperback.

His name would return again and again, in many more Marvel Comics I mostly gathered from cheap quarter bins, flea market finds, more bookstores. The later eighties and early nineties, I spent many hours growing up in the comic stores after school. There, always peeking into the comics of Marvel, and eventually other companies (DC, Gladstone, Mirage, Archie being my top favs).

But often coming back to Marvel, there would be new favorite stories from Stan Lee’s design stemming his creative work, and groundwork messages. The X-Men, heroes living a parallel of the fear and prejudice in today’s world. Spider-Man, a hero whose personal issues would be set aside to defend New York City. Daredevil, a hero for justice whose blindness is both his greatest curse and strength. The Fantastic Four, a family whose cosmic radiated superpowers would lead them into deeper explorations of the unknown. And, many more would follow.

Among them, my personal favorite, the Silver Surfer, after finding reprints of the earlier stories written by Stan Lee (#1-18, 1968-1970). This above all is Stan’s most philosophical, poetic storytelling of all. Every page full of Stan Lee’s presentation, dialogue, exposition of the lonely cosmic traveler in a constant struggle to understand the worlds around him, is awesome.

Over the years, the spirit of Stan Lee would carry on through countless cherished comic stories. Then beyond the cartoons and TV shows. Sometimes, Stan Lee would do some introductions or narration; bringing his passion for storytelling along. Eventually, would come to the movies, which he would have some hand in producing. And, there would be the cameos…always welcome to his fans.

And his presence would be felt at many conventions, often in person. I would attend a few of his panels, looking back to his past of promoting some collaboration on projects. I would even meet him, once by pure luck, while resting nearby his booth in the early 2000s at the San Diego Comic Con. He signed a Spider-Man collected stories paperback I happened to have in hand, and then we shook hands. “Excelsior!,” Stan Lee said with a blessing. That cherished memory, I would look back upon as the greatest echo of my comic book relationship with Stan, since seeing his name for the first time many years ago.

I still feel his work throughout my life, and sometimes it helps keeps the best parts of me going. I sometimes need the attitude of the Hulk on a bad day, the curiosity of the Silver Surfer in my travels, the energy of Spider-Man in keeping up with responsibilities, the leadership of Professor X for group organizing, the patriotic duty of Captain America when I join a protest. Stan Lee’s work continues to inspire me through the foundations of the fictional heroes he shared.

And much like the Marvel Comics that continue on through the comic stores and extended media, there never really is an end to it all. We carry on through reboots, cliffhangers, spinoffs. Though sometimes, we may not get some things right in interpretation.  And sometimes, there is are rediscovering of his lesser-known creations through better presentations, like the recent Black Panther and Ant-Man movies.  meanwhile, the presence of Stan Lee will carry on, reminding many of us of his original groundwork laid down for readers to grow from.

Thanks again Stan the Man, and Excelsior!

The Game Lights at PAX West

6da6a884-9b1c-40a2-b915-34c0aa5581d4

I did nothing worth writing about for this passing weekend.

But the last weekend before through Labor Day, I did heavily geek out to my side passion for a big event of digital interactive entertainment, or video games as normals will call it.

Here in the Pacific Northwest, we have this annual PAX West convention, a big gathering for video game entertainment and tabletop gaming enthusiasts. Fans, publishers, developers, merchants…all mingle, promote, share, discover, collect, and most importantly to play. All held at and around the Washington State Convention Center in downtown Seattle.

It was all good fun, which is the least I ask for in a successful PAX West.

For me, it’s mostly the discovery and exploration of what’s fresh and exciting for my gaming desires. Here at the PAX West, the indie game scene is growing with new developers, presenting fresh spins on traditional platforming styles, shoot-em-ups, complex thinking and problem-solving.

Of the presented games, I am looking most forward to Gris, a stunningly visual platformer focused on puzzle elements and abstract storytelling. Here is a trailer on that…

Other upcoming games I anticipated above others at PAX West: My Friend Pedro, Megaman 11, The MessangerPraey for the GodsIndivisible. All of which, are not games that require much of my time, with beautiful visuals, concepts, storytelling pull…yet using gameplay mechanics from the classics (mostly platforming), and mixing them with new tech and innovation.

Here are some colorful LED backed moments from PAX West. All part of a loud, colorful jungle of new tech and consumer splendor.

And that’s all for here. But, I did write a bit more on it for another site, strangerworlds.com. Click here to read my full report.

 

Days of the San Diego Comic Con 2018 past…

img_6387

Since last reported of my arrival in San Diego, I attended the San Diego Comic Con for the 24th year in an annual row. Much happened there, mostly fun and networking among creative work appreciators and proprietors..

Some of my experience is shared through strangerworlds.com, another site I write for. You are invited to read Part 1 of my commentary with pics. Check it out here.

That’s all for now. More happened since the Comic Con, which I will eventually get around to sharing.  That’s a promise.

– Orion T

 

I don’t want to grow up…

Photo Mar 22, 5 33 12 PM

Since my childhood, a part of me was always a Toys R’ US kid.

Then, the realities of adulthood will constantly break in to that innocent little world many of us keep inside. It’s a world of cool little action figures, cartoon nostalgia, board games, brick building, weird collectible nonsense. But, we grow up whether we like it or not, and now the best toy store chain ever has been eaten alive by vulture capitalists.

So goes the final end of Toys R’ Us retail stores over the weekend, in the United States (In Canada, I hear some will remain open), an excited place for kids since 1957. No more rows of tall aisles of childish joy, filled with colorful products with silly gimmicks meant to amuse and sometimes educate. There was odd feeling of privacy one can feel, in browsing the shelves of the large spaces of Toys R’ Us. The connection to that customer service, smiling and sometimes sharing in the simple joy of new toy product trends, is treasured. We can gawk and admire the great craftsmanship of classic Saturday morning commercialism. So much, left to memories now…

I brought myself to the Bellevue, Washington location last week to pay my final respects to the great toy store era now gone. I couldn’t bring myself to take pictures of the stripped down walls of a once great world of Geoffrey Giraffe. So, I share the pic above of a time earlier this year of a better time for such nostalgic joy.

I recently discovered this fun video of Toy’s R Us ads over the years of its long life. Here, exhibits a showing of the variety and odd ways the store helped develop our youth and still appeals to our inner child…

Forward, I move on to more growing up. Yet, I think I will always be a Toys R Us kid.

– Orion T

Recently, Back in Time…

photo-mar-03-12-35-51-pm.jpg

Over the weekend, I attended the 2018 Emerald City Comic Con. I love the comic cons and geeky pop culture convergences, as I have written often expressing such. This one was no different, though not too special either. I did a lot of the usual stuff one can do at these shows with an emphasis on shopping, attending panels, admiring cosplay, discovering new stories and creative talent, meeting friends old and new.

The best hour for this convention was attending a special Back to the Future movies Q&A panel with special guests Christopher Lloyd (Doc Brown) and Tom Wilson (Biff Tannen), answering questions and telling fun stories about their experiences from playing the key roles in the classic trilogy. Both had great energy and humor, entertaining a large crowd of fans, including myself.

And if you love the Back to the Future movies, then you should listen to Tom Wilson’s little special bit he played for the ECCC panel. He is a funny guy, and this is that from his official Youtube channel:

– Orion T

The Star Wars Togetherness

img_7954

I much enjoyed the new Star Wars: The Last Jedi movie.

It’s not a perfect movie, but it’s got all the stuff I ask for in a Star Wars movie; awesome visuals, big space and ground battles, dueling light sword wield wizards, interesting characters with great development and interaction, light humor, and a lot of answers to fictional questions.

The picture above (Rebel Pilot and Biker Scout) are of two dressed up persons in front of the Cinerama theater in downtown Seattle on Friday Night. I saw the movie yesterday, and was not dressed up (though I wish I was).

That’s all for now. May the Force be with you.

– Orion T

 

Do Androids Dream of Living Computers?

img_7794

I’m much excited for the new Blade Runner 2049 movie coming out soon, but also a bit worried it may not live up to the grandeur of the original, a cinematography and storytelling work of art.

With that in mind, I attended the “Do Androids Dream of Living Computers?” event at the awesome Living Computers: Museum + Labs in the SoDo area of Seattle, last weekend. the event was an homage to the classic 1984 Blade Runner classic movie with its influence on tech, AI, and cyberpunk culture. With that were live performances, Voight-Kampff tests, cosplay, origami foldings, cosplay, AI developments examples, and much more. I had a good time and took a few pics…

 

Also, big thanks to the Living Computers: Museum + Labs for putting this on. The entire place is super great, with many preserved computer machines and new innovations on display. Much of which I plan to focus on with another write-up someday with another visit to the awesome museum. Visit www.livingcomputers.org for more information.

– Orion T