I first met Jim Ivey about 20 years ago when I stumbled into his former comic book store on South Semoran Boulevard in Orlando, Florida. When my family walked in, he was sitting behind the counter puffing on a cigar as he greeted us. He had new comics, back issues, toys, action figures, memorabilia and original art; so much that his small space was overflowing and he mentioned that he was thinking about expanding into the space next door.
Jim was a former editorial cartoonist for the Washington Star, St. Petersburg Times, San Francisco Examiner and the now Orlando Sentinel. He was also the driving force behind and founder of OrlandoCon, which brought top cartoonists from around the country to Central Florida, was a founding member of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists and active with the National Cartoonists Society. In 1979 he was the winner of the Silver T-Square Award.
But I didn’t know any of that when I walked into his store. It was all information I would learn later.
The thing I remember most about that first visit was that he gave each of my children a toy or action figure and, when I mentioned that I enjoyed drawing comics and cartoons, gave me a piece of original art from a late 1960′s issue of Green Lantern and one of his own original editorial cartoons. Just gave them to me! I still have them safely stored away,
I frequented his store many times after that, buying my weekly fix of comics and picking up some back issues, until he eventually closed down.
Happy Birthday, Jim Ivey. And many, many more.
As much as we love the medium, we all know that there are some things about comics that just bug the heck out of us. Most of the time we just write it off as something that HAS to be done to move the story forward or is the result of a different writer or artist or even editor coming onto a book and wishing to place “their mark” on a character or plot. But still, those little things (and sometimes big things) just get under our skin.
Over at Comics in Crisis, which is fast becoming one of my favorite comic book blogs, Brian Reaves’ latest post, 6 Annoying Things About Comics, speaks to all of us when it comes to those kinds of things in the comics we love. I especially identify with #6, because I remember wearing a homemade costume and cape under my clothes when I was 10 years old and wondering how the heck Superman and Batman got theirs to lie down flat instead of lumping up their shoulder and upper back like Quasimodo, much less get into and out of their costumes so quickly.
Brian also has a previous blog post from about 2 years ago that he posted in a similar vein titled Comic Book Pet Peeves that you might enjoy as well.
Check out Comics in Crisis at your earliest opportunity. There’s some good stuff there.
Writer: Stan Lee
Penciller: John Romita, Sr.
Inker: Mickey Demeo
Cover: John Romita, Sr.
“Spider-Man No More”
The Amazing Spider-Man #50 is cover-dated July 1967 but, as was common in those days, was probably on the stands in May of that year, just before I turned 12 years old. The story was written by Stan Lee, pencilled by the greatest Spider-Man artist ever (in my opinion), John Romita, Sr., and inked by Mickey Demeo (an alias of Mike Esposito). If you’re curious as to why Mr. Esposito would use an alias, it was a common practice with many people in the industry who did not want to anger their current employer, even if they were working on a freelance basis, to use an alias if they did work for another company. It was a pointless exercise in most cases since an individual’s “style”, especially apparent if the person in question was an artist, was pretty obvious to both professionals in the industry and readers who could be classified as comic fandom. But it saved face for all involved and kept everything “legal”.
For me, of course, it was the cover that grabbed my attention that summer 44 years ago. Even though I was a regular reader of the web-slinger’s book, the cover was especially riveting. And I have to point out a big difference between Marvel and DC comics as it relates to their covers during this period in time. For the most part, Marvel comic book covers were usually representative of the actual story within the pages of the book, while DC’s were usually less so. If you found something “outlandish” on the cover of a DC comic, you could usually count on it being either an imaginary story, dream or alternate timeline story. But Marvel’s covers were usually adapted right out of the story inside.
So, even though I was familiar with all the trials Peter Parker had endured in his personal life because of his becoming Spider-Man, I was still shocked (as I was supposed to be) to see this cover indicate that Peter was walking away from being Spider-Man with the title, “Spider-Man No More” thrown in to make sure we understood what the cover art was depicting. I usually bought several different books each week and if I got this one with some other books, I’m sure I read it first to find out if Spidey was really quitting.
The issue begins on a bad note for Peter. He breaks up a payroll heist and handily stops and captures the four gunmen who have terrorized the office staff. But the editorials by J. Jonah Jameson in the Daily Bugle have so influenced the public that even the people he just saved from the gunmen think of him as a menace. It’s a demoralizing moment for him and he begins to seriously question being Spider-Man.
The bad news continues when he returns to the apartment he shares with Harry Osborn to be told by Harry that his Aunt May is ill. He rushes to her home to find that Dr. Bromwell has given her a sedative to let her sleep because she was so worried about not knowing where Peter was that it aggravated her heart problem. Now Peter feels guilty for being gone all the time fighting crime as Spider-Man and he is in no mood to study for one of his college exams the next day. This leads to his professor warning him that his grades are dropping and he needs to spend more time studying, and he subsequently turns down an invitation from his beautiful girlfriend to go out together. He goes out for a walk in the dark with all the recent events swirling through his mind. As he walks, he spies the latest headline of the Bugle which shows Jameson offering a $1000 reward for Spider-man’s capture and conviction. This is the straw that breaks the camel’s back for Peter and leads to the panel that follows.
In one of the most effective pieces of comic book art ever drawn, John Romita Sr. depicts Peter walking out of the alley where, in the foreground, he has thrown his Spider-Man costume into a trash can, vowing that he will be Spider-Man no more.
The next day a young boy comes running into Jameson’s office with the costume that he had found in the alley in his hands. Jameson puts the costume on display in his office and publishes the headline in his paper that Spider-Man is gone. In a hidden headquarters somewhere, a portly, bald-headed man who calls himself the Kingpin is contemplating that, with Spider-Man out of the way, this is the perfect time for him to take over the city’s crime gangs and form a syndicate. Soon, crime is up all across the city as the Kingpin escalates his control on the gangs and criminals. Meanwhile, Peter is following through with his intentions to spend more time with his aunt, his girlfriend and his friends as well as studying for his courses. Soon, things begin to reach a level of normality in Peter’s life with his girlfriend happy for the time with him, his aunt’s health improving and his grades reaching the high levels he is capable of achieving. However, Peter finds he is feeling restless, as if something is missing or not right in his life. One night on his way home he sees a night watchman struggling with two thieves and, while keeping himself in the shadows so his face cannot be seen, thwarts the crooks plans and rescues the guard. When he realizes the night watchman’s face reminds him of his late Uncle Ben, he remembers why he became the crime-fighting Spider-Man; that his inaction caused the death of his uncle and because “with great power comes great responsibility”.
Soon, Jameson steps into his office to find Spider-Man sitting at his desk in the costume that was on display. Peter has climbed the wall to Jameson’s top floor office and broken the glass on the display case to retrieve his costume. He lets Jameson know in no uncertain terms that Spider-Man is back!
If you’ve seen the Spider-Man 2 movie, you can see how much of the story was lifted from this issue, especially, as I said earlier, the very dramatic scene of Peter throwing the costume into a trash can and walking out of the alley. This issue was important for one other reason; it was the first appearance of the Kingpin, who would go on to become one of Spider-Man’s greatest foes, and would later be Daredevil’s biggest nemesis.
As a 12 year old, I was of course happy to see that while Peter DID give up being Spider-Man for a time, he came to realize that because of his abilities he had a responsibility to use them for good whenever he could (otherwise there would be no more Spider-Man comics to read each month! lol). That is the central theme of the character that Stan Lee created and what has contributed, in a large part, to it’s success and popularity. And it helped me to know, even as a 12 year old, that while we may sometimes drift off the road of doing right, we can always get back on. That there is no shame in failing, but that there is in quitting altogether. That is sometimes a hard thing to remember.