Tuesday, December 31, 2013

- Just What The DOCTOR Ordered.


Many people may have been wondering why my blogging has been sparse over the past few months. Well, I could say that it has something to do with a new schedule at work that leaves me tired and lacking time, but while true, in part, that's not really the whole truth.

The truth is... I've been feeling out of sorts for many months. Tired. Worn out. Despondent.

Life, at times, has simply got me down.

Add to that, the fact that I've simply been losing my interest in Doctor Strange, in whom this blog is mostly dedicated. A character who had carried my interest and fascination for much of my life, and had carried me aloft whenever I've felt down in the doldrums. But, a character whose own publisher has been systematically destroying over the past 20 years or more.

Thus, with little interest in the very raison d'etre for this blog, and having lost that, also losing a valuable therapeutic tool, I was simply finding it a chore.

With symptoms like that; losing my desire to or even care about blogging, and also, due to the loss of interest in other aspects of life, lie dangerously close to having a hard time time really caring about much at all.

I don't like thinking that way, as I've always sought to live the life of a good man, no matter what else may occur (as I have detailed in an introspective post [HERE]).

But, as such, to help make me feel more like my old self, I have been seeing
The Doctor.





Those are familiar words. They carry weight, gravitas, and a sense of comfort and hope; exactly what is desired when addressed by a Doctor.

However, those words are not spoken by any traditional physician. For those alive and even moderately possessing a nerd pulse, they are the "immortal" words of "THE" DOCTOR.

"DOCTOR... WHO?", you might ask.

For the past 50 years, since November 1963, DOCTOR WHO (a nigh-immortal "Time Lord", with the ability to regenerate a new body when dying, who ventures across time and space in his TARDIS spacecraft,) has graced the world (via the UK) with his reassuring presence - be it on television, novels, audio plays, DVDs, and yes... even comics.


Those 4 words immediately fill you with hope and tell you that you are in good hands. Four words that state that wonderful things are about to befall you. Weird happenings, and high adventure are soon to be yours in the deepest recesses of time and space.
And oh yeah... RUN! Because STRANGE things are right around the corner - and they aren't always friendly.

And yet, there was also another DOCTOR who was comforting us while confronting the bizarre dangers across space time and other dimensions. And he came first. Cover dated JULY 1963 (which in comicbook dating terms means it was on the magazine racks at least 2 or 3 months earlier), DOCTOR STRANGE (a former greedy and arrogant surgeon, whose hands were rendered incapable of performing delicate surgical ability, and when searching for a cure, found instead an aged Tibetan mystic who taught Strange the ways of magic, after the young man showed a deeper, caring nature) was first featured as a back-up story in STRANGE TALES # 110 (as celebrated [HERE]).

For the past 50 years, he also graced the world with his mysterious presence - in comics, novels, audio dramas, DVD's, and yes... even television.

Open wide and say, "AH!"

While I started reading comics around the time I was ten years of age, in 1977 (as discussed at length in this defining post [HERE]), I didn't discover DOCTOR STRANGE until 1980. But when I did, I was immediately hooked! Even though comic distribution was a spotty and haphazard affair in those days before "comic book shoppes" were the norm, and stationery store spinner racks were the only delivery system available, I still managed to score my fix. My "prescription" as it were.

Cover art by Michael Golden

It would be only 2 or three years later that I would first be introduced to "The Doctor", as local PBS stations (in my case; WLIW 21 in New York) began to broadcast DOCTOR WHO here in the USA. These would be the TOM BAKER 4th DOCTOR episodes, with some of PETER DAVIDSON's 5th DOCTOR mixed in. I was immediately hooked on Tom Baker's mad, mirthful and menacing incarnation, but Davidson's "beige-on-beige" look and style did nothing to maintain my enthusiasm. I tried to show my interest even then, by pledging monies to the station, earmarked for more episodes of this wonderful new show (and received a black plastic mug with the "DOCTOR WHO" logo emblazoned in silver ink upon it). This was besides the point, since, the episodes would soon stop being shown on those few Public Broadcasting Stations, and it would retreat across the Atlantic ocean, back to Britain, like a fog on the waters.

Soon the desire to see more would be like unto only the faintest of smoke on the waters of my memory. I KNEW I wanted to see more of Baker's 4th Doctor, but, knowing he would be replaced by Davidson, and that his episodes were finite, and impossible to view... the desire retreated to the further recess of my mind. (Of course, I had NO idea at the time that Baker was "The Doctor" for seven years! That would have been a nice cache upon which to stumble. But alas... time and tide.)

But still... I loved Baker's performance and his iconic, yet insanely long scarf, and desired one of my own. So much so, that I had, over the years purchased several overly long scarves (but sadly, not as long or colorful as his), if for no other reason, as a subconscious reminder of my love for the little I had seen.

Tom Baker (#4)

All the while, I was fully immersed in the comicbook world of Doctor Strange, and amassing what is arguably the (or one of the top 2 or three) collections of Doctor Strange comics, merchandise and eclectica the world has ever seen. Such was my love and mania for the character.

Yet, even when I first saw that Marvel was producing DOCTOR WHO stories (first in Marvel Preview and then in his own magazine), they weren't accessible in my usual haunts (although, I still vividly remember a 4th Doctor story entitled "Spider-God" written by Steve Moore and illustrated by Dave Gibbons). And thus, once again, Doctor Who would slip out of my grasp.

Years would pass. I would continue to be fascinated by the myriad worlds, the above-the-rest-of-we-mere-mortals workings of the mind of the "Master of the Mystic Arts", and the reproach with which he would admonish himself whenever he thought that he was "above-the-rest-of-we-mere-mortals". From his redemption-quest origin, steeped in dark magics and mystery, to his ability to be gentle and caring one moment and filled with righteous fury in the next heartbeat... DOCTOR STRANGE checked all my required boxes for fan admiration.

Art by Dan Adkins

But, over the years the weight, the gravitas, the things that made Doctor Strange GREAT were being lost. Lost or deliberately taken away by editorial fiat or writers who simply didn't know either what to do with him, or even understand him at all.

Notwithstanding the occasional bright gem, Doctor Strange has been left to tarnish since the early 1990's.

I won't go into specifics. Any reader who has experienced Doctor Strange stories at nearly any point from 1963 thru 1990 knows what I am speaking of, when I say that anywhere from 1990 onward, the quality of stories and artwork for the good Doctor was hit-or-miss. Mostly miss.

But, like any fan, we hold on to the memories of the good stories and we wait. We wait for the next writer or artist to bring back some of what made the character great. We don't necessarily want or need a retread of old works. No. Bring in new concepts, new story angles, new foes and friends and realms and dangers. Increase his abilities and decrease his abilities, as long as it's done intelligently in a way that makes sense to the story. Fine. Do it. Just do it WELL!

But, like any fan. We wait... and we wait... and we wait for it to be good again.
Sometimes it happens! Like lightning, the spark of electricity is alive in the work. It is inspired. It is all new, but with enough of the old for the character to peek out from behind years of dust and misuse. We are hopeful... and we are then disappointed as the next steward fails to fulfill his trust.

Thus it has been an arduous task for even one such as I, to continue to feel any connection, interest or even care what happens to the character, as it seems that his publisher surely doesn't.

(or an 8th, 9th, 10th or 11th)

Back in 1996, Doctor Strange was undergoing a hiatus. His "Sorcerer Supreme" titled comicbook having just been canceled, after a nearly unbroken run of 33 years of published works (Strange Tales # 110 in 1963 to the end of his 1st solo title in 1969 was only separated from his return in Marvel Premier #3 by a 4 year absence, and from thence forward, to his own "Master of the Mystic Arts" title, straight into a planned "Strange Tales v2" revamp and then directly into the "Sorcerer Supreme" masthead, was another 24 years of uninterrupted publication of his own starring [or co-starring] titles). That was after years of already poor treatment, as the Sorcerer Supreme comicbook simply wasn't all that good and was filled with lackluster periods which lasted years, interspersed with a few high points throughout, but sadly not enough to save its sales.

However, in 1996, emerging from a 7 year hiatus of its own, DOCTOR WHO returned to television (which, for many viewers in the USA was a 12 year absence) with a made-for-TV film, featuring a new, 8th DOCTOR.

Paul McGann (#8)

Certainly, it wasn't great. The story had holes. The acting was overly melodramatic (mostly by the scenery-chewing villains). But... it was DOCTOR WHO. And he was back!

I felt that old interest for the show and the character being rekindled. However, poor ratings in the USA meant that no production companies would back a return to the series (despite it doing extremely well in the UK). And so, once again, I found myself without a Doctor. (I was totally unaware that the 8th Doctor, as performed by PAUL McGANN would continue in audioplays from that point onward.)

However, as time went on, and up through present-day, Doctor Strange was/is still without a title of his own (a scant few mini-series here and there). My fandom being held together by my love of what was, as well as the few good guest appearances he would make over the years, and the quest for the collectibles. Anything to stem the ennui that was taking over in regards to my interest in the character. Even beginning a new blog - this blog - would help to keep my interest fresh.

But then, gradually... the real world wears you down. Day-to-day life drains the color from your cheeks, the strength from your stride.

You need to see a Doctor.

And then you hear it. Those four words. Four words that help you to know that help is at hand:


It was into 2008 that I found, once again via a PBS station, that DOCTOR WHO had returned!
2005 had seen a return of what is known as "NuWHO", a renewed continuation (not a reboot) of the character, and CHRISTOPHER ECCLESTON became the first face of the Doctor for many new fans, and the newest face for one renewed WHOvian - me.

While I loved Tom Baker's 4th Doctor, and felt an immediate liking to Paul McGann's 8th Doctor, this new 9th Doctor was a whole new twist! No need to retread the old, as new concepts and looks are welcome! Especially when dealing with a character who, as a Time Lord, with the ability to regenerate multiple times into a new body with a new face, is essentially immortal.

And so, I watched every episode of the 9th Doctor and wanted to see more!

Christopher Eccleston ("9")

But more would be denied me for a while, as the PBS station had only paid to broadcast that one season (or "series" as they would now be labeled).

I would watch, whenever possible, those same 9th Doctor episodes each time they would air over the next few years, knowing that there were new episodes - just beyond my grasp.

To my great pleasure, over the past few months, via the internet and Netflix, I have totally caught up with DAVID TENNANT's 10th Doctor, MATT SMITH's 11th and even delighted at the return (and regeneration scene) of the 8th as he transformed into an unknown incarnation, played by JOHN HURT.

Matt Smith ("11"), David Tennant ("10"), John Hurt ("War", but the real #9)

In the time since my current job started to abuse me even more than usual, and real life seems to refuse to get any better than it has been over the past several years, I had little sustaining energy from my love for Doctor Strange, but my renewed interest in Doctor Who was helping immeasurably. A "shot in the arm", so to speak.

I've even gone back and after sampling some episodes of the other early Doctors and am watching all the episodes from the very beginning! I'm already halfway through the 1st DOCTOR's tenure. I have so much more with which to look forward.

The 12 Doctors

My First Doctor KNOWS Me.

But now... floating above the drek of the usual poor treatment of DOCTOR STRANGE, we have writer Jonathan Hickman take on Doctor Strange in Hickman's incarnation of the Illuminati, the super-secret, big-decision-makers of the Marvel Universe, as seen in the pages of NEW AVENGERS. And while his treatment of Doctor Strange has been hit-or-miss, it is more accurately... remiss. He seemed to be deliberately holding Strange in reserve, in the darkened corner, with only the occasional glimpse of the greatness that what once was peeking out from behind the shadows.

Still, that has been enough for me to feel my interest renewed. My hope kindled.

And what is the sound of that hope?
As I said earlier, it is the sound of four words:


Words - Jonathan Hickman. Art - Steve Epting

Certainly, there have been other bright spots, but those are ironic and oxymoronic, since the brighter the indicator of great things to come, the darker the Doctor's path.

However, as we all know, it is when the Doctor strides down the darkest pathways that his magic and might shines the brightest.

Could it be that Hickman knows that whatever The DOCTOR (WHO) can do, with his all-purpose Sonic Screwdriver, then DOCTOR STRANGE with the Eye of Agamotto can do it better?
Certainly, that would hopefully be the case.

For while "The DOCTOR" can roam all across space and time, in his TARDIS ship, however haphazardly he does so, saving worlds along the way, DOCTOR STRANGE needs no external drive to step from one world, one time, one dimension to the next, and save untold worlds in one fell swoop.

Both live lives where things are "bigger on the inside" (The Doctor's TARDIS, and Doctor Strange's Sanctum Sanctorum merely two such indicators of the depths within these two men).

Still, as is the case with both of these DOCTORS... the brightness of heroism is forever the other side of the darkness wherein he walks.

No matter what good they do, each of these men are forced to bear the weight of ensuring others live in the light - despite each victory tinging these men with darkness. They live bearing their sadness in order to bring hope to others.

New Avengers v3 # 12/13
Writer - Jonathan Hickman. Art - Mike Deodato


So here I am. New Year's Eve. The dark night before a bright new year.
And here I am, typing in the darkness, with the hope that this act, this promise to continue my own administrations, is in essence a way to say in my own mind, "DOCTOR... HEAL THYSELF!"

For it is with this, act, and the hope that it fills within me, to strive to not let the darkness or drudgery of life wear me down. I have done great things in the past. I will do great things again, be it now or in the future.
Time is never run out when you have hope that things will get better.
And so, I stay hopeful.

Hope is the one thing that can help anyone do heroic things.

And every life made better by my hopeful and helpful actions is a great thing as well.
So to that purpose, though I strive to do the work of the light, while I stride in the dark, I shall not let life turn me grey.

And hope is what I feel that the adventures of my long-time fan-favorite characters will once again obtain a level of greatness.

But that's not even where I hang all my hopes.

For while I do have a "real" life, and many other interests and goals aside from those detailed in this blog, even taking the pleasure to do something as silly as enjoy a TV show, read a comic, write a blog post or share my enthusiasm with others... all those little things, and the other day-to-day activities we all undertake, as long as they are undertaken with joy and hope, help to make everything seem worthwhile.

To that extent, I am renewed in my enjoyment for making plans for new projects, personal and professional.
I am rejuvenated in my desire to work on this blog.

I am prescribing a new regimen for myself; STAY HOPEFUL!

For it only takes four words to remind myself of that goal, four words that remind me that I am the administrator of that change...



Sunday, December 29, 2013


It may be seen as anachronistic, or even retro-throw-back for modern computer-gamers (or are they predominantly "console gamers" now?) to want to play PINBALL, but it seems that they do, and because of that, pinball (or at least a virtual version of it) is seeing a resurgence in popularity not seen since the 1970's.

Now, while I do confess to rocking the flippers back in the arcades of my youth, I haven't had any real interest in playing in recent years until MARVEL started releasing platforms based on their characters and event storylines.

Perhaps it is fitting that ZEN Studios (makers of ZEN PINBALL) have just days ago released a DOCTOR STRANGE themed pinball table!

Check out some game-play!

This isn't the first time the good Doctor has been featured on a Zen Pinball game. He was also showcased in previous outings, such as the INFINITY GAUNTLET table (where he is seen pictured on the board, along with Strange-themed characters like ETERNITY, among others) and the PLANET HULK table  (where he emerges as a 3D character [in his ZOM-Possessed form from the story] to do battle with the Hulk.

However, NOW we have a solo board that features exquisite details, multiple characters and even event details and dialogue taken from various storylines from the comics and even his animated film.

Battle against BARON MORDO (the conjuring of mystic swords for a swordfight between STRANGE and MORDO is taken directly from the animated film), and NIGHTMARE! In a story taken directly from the first few issues of the SORCERER SUPREME title, DORMAMMU takes over the body of DOCTOR STRANGE while Doc is in his astral form! The mystic battle continues with each in their own form should you get to that level. And of course, the big bad of the board is SHUMA GORATH, seen looming over the background, and activated by reaching certain in-game criteria (hit the right lighted targets, get the right point-range, etc...)!

Personally, I only played a few rounds, and was able to access all the baddies EXCEPT SHUMA (argh!), but I will continue trying.

There are several in-game niceties to help ensure you come back for more; the EYE of AGAMOTTO is a section of the board that rises up to form its own mini-table, with smaller and quicker game-interactivity against which to battle, STRANGE interacts with the ball, conjuring forth an ORB of AGAMOTTO ball to send into play and plenty of flashing lights and sounds to tickle the ADHD/OCD centers of the brain.
Mentions of the ANCIENT ONE and DEFENDERS as well as dialogue from WONG, and CLEA doesn't hurt either.

For a few bucks you can download on a variety of platforms, including Xbox LIVE Arcade, Steam, Playstation Network (PS3 with Playstation Vita free, and PS4), iOS, Google Play, OSX and Kindle Fire!

I'm not sure if the price is the same across the board, but I DL'd for my PS3 (which came with a FREE DL for the Vita) for a scant $2.99!

This is ZEN Studios first table for their newly released ZEN PINBALL 2 (which has 3D capability, if you have a fancy-schmancy 3D TV or something). ZEN PINBALL 2 is a FREE download, so you have no excuse not to get it.
And fret not, if you've already purchased tables for the previous MARVEL PINBALL platform, you can import your purchased tables and sets to the ZEN PINBALL 2 interface free and easy.

On a personal note, I did find the game to be less pleasing than other, previous MARVEL PINBALL tables (but to be fair, as previously stated, I did only play a couple of rounds on a non-HD, non-3D, non-flatscreen TV, so perhaps I didn't get the full experience). I've really liked the PLANET HULK table, the BLADE table is awesome, GHOST RIDER is appropriately wicked-cool, and the INFINITY GAUNTLET board is challenging good fun.

What the DOCTOR STRANGE board has going for it (aside from the obvious DR. STRANGE lure for me), in addition to the intricate background details, or even the ability to battle classic foes is... almost more than anything else... the ability to TRULY be...


(By the way, knowing that I would write about this game when it was released, I have been DYING to use "Pinball Wizard" as the title for this blog-post since the first announcement was made back in October. You can't imagine my shock that NO ONE used that title for any of their articles - then, or now. Perhaps, like many gamers of today, they just aren't old enough to make the immediate connection to a classic 1969 album by THE WHO.)

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A Not-So Nativity Scene

I just want to take this time to wish everyone all the Happiness of this
Holiday Season!

And to help celebrate your 

...I present to you this scene that we are ALL glad is not 
MARVEL canon.

(click to make YULE-SIZED)

SCARLET WITCH as MARY, SPIDER-MAN refusing to play any part of it, let alone the role of JOSEPH,
and HOWARD the DUCK as... oh, I can't even type that out.

Oh, I KNOW... really. I know.
But you have to believe me when I say that THIS was meant in ALL good fun, with no blasphemous intent. Spidey, of course, being the moral compass (sorta) - to keep us out of it.

Still, I did have OTHER ideas for this year's action figure fumetti card. (Some were even worse!)

Others included DOCTOR STRANGE letting LUKE CAGE interview prospective casting calls for the roles of MARY in the Sanctum (with all my super-women action figures, ranging from MAGIK, ZATANNA, SPIDER-WOMAN, MOONDRAGON, DAGGER, SNOWBIRD, PHOENIX, BLINK, MOONSTONE and MORE, including... oh yeah... SATANA, all auditioning).
The jokes were to have been CLEA trying to use her relationship with STRANGE to garner the role, MOONDRAGON demanding it since she was almost the Celestial Madonna and LUKE just looking at SATANA and saying "No... NO WAY!"

Perhaps a panel of MAN-THING being shot down for the role, as LUKE tells him flat out: "Dude... it's in your NAME! "MAN"-Thing!" To which the silent Man-Thing thinks, "But...LOOK at me! I AM a virgin."

Also a single shot of LUKE standing next to DOCTOR STRANGE, looking at all the beautiful, sexy, super-women and exclaiming "SWEET CHRISTMAS!" (as he used to do).

These next jokes might actually get used some other time as they ARE pretty cool...

The ILLUMINATI all arguing over who should be the "3 Wise Men" (with BLACK BOLT, BLACK PANTHER and NAMOR insisting it should be the "3 KINGS")...
Originally, it was to be DR. STRANGE, PHANTOM STRANGER & either JOHN CONSTANTINE or SARUMAN (or GANDALF) as the "3 Wise Men", but I couldn't decide on which.

...and/or the ASTRAL FORM of DOCTOR STRANGE, DEADMAN and the Marvel villain, GHOST, all portraying the "Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present & Future" to a SCROOGE figure (maybe HOWARD the DUCK, so as to riff on the Scrooge MacDuck thing), with the transparent variant of the MUPPET's "UNCLE DEADLY" as JACOB MARLEY.

Now... technically the Scarlet Witch DID give "virgin birth" to twins (you think theVision can reproduce?)... so... oh, whatever.

SO you see, the wheels WERE turning, and I had all the figures posed and ready to go, but just lacked the time to get it all together. So, I went with my first concept - for better or ill - and hope that you find it at least moderately amusing (and not overly offensive).

Of course, this was all inspired by my similar action-figure Christmas fumetti from a couple of years back [HERE].

So... once again,
Let's all sing a chorus of "O Man-Thing Tree"...
"O Manny-Thing, O Manny-Thing, Thy leaves are always burning..."

Peace on Earth, Good Will to Men-Things.

WAUGH, indeed!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

The KING and I


Jack Kirby at his drawing board, as seen in the documentary:
"With Great Power - The Stan Lee Story"


Yes, I know… no sooner do I post a 5th Anniversary Special, than do I seemingly vanish off the face of the Earth. No new posts for over a month – missing both; Halloween and Thanksgiving.

But what if I tried to make up for it by presenting a blog entry that is part “ghost story” as well as a testament of my deepest thanks? – Both aspects given to me from Jack Kirby – 20 years apart.

This blog entry is a true life story about how I met Jack Kirby, gave him a small gift, and how, over 20 years later, his “ghost” showed up and returned the favor.

JACK “KING” KIRBY was not only one of the founders of the comic book medium, but perhaps its greatest talent as well.

The worlds that burst like lightning out of his mind, the fantastic imagery that exploded like a volcano from his hand, likened him to a god; a true “CREATOR”.

But this tale is not one that focuses on the myth of the man, nor on the legend that spawned such descriptors, but instead on a small personal history... and a mystery, sparked by a moment or two in time – one forever in amber within my memory – the other… captured forever on film.

Take a look at the photograph atop this post, of Jack Kirby at his drawing table.
Do you see the drawing of Captain America atop the King’s board?
The one with which he is posed, pen in hand, as if upon which he is putting some finishing touch?

That… is MY artwork.

Ah… I hope that got your attention.

Yes. That is MY drawing of Captain America, one that I gave to the King, when I had the pleasure to meet him at a comic convention back in (late) 1990  (or early 1991).

Not only that, but if you look even closer, you’ll note that the artwork is inside a black matt frame.

That is because when I frequented comic-cons during the late 1980’s and early 1990’s it was as a professional artist (having had some pro work with a few indie publishers) and I would sell my work – some; original art, drawn at request, and some; hand-colored photocopies of previously drawn illustrations, framed in those mats. It was one such piece that I gave to Jack Kirby.

I will provide PROOF of which here.

Here is a photograph of myself, taken expressly for this post, with not only a similar, colored photocopy… not only one in the exact same type of matt… but one that was taken from my flatfile archives, where it was stored away after being colored, matted, signed & dated in 1990! In my other hand is the ORIGINAL pencil artwork, drawn in 1989 (which shows what was obscured by the mat: the Shield & Eagle atop the flagpole and the rest of Cap’s left foot, as well as the remainder of the flag).

Just so you don’t think that I merely photoshopped my work into the photo (or drew it after the fact), please note that I discovered the Kirby photo while watching a documentary, on Netflix, this month: “With Great Power; The Stan Lee Story”, which was produced in 2010.

Here’s the pertinent clip from the show that shows the image shown in the photo atop this page:

Obviously, I could not have altered the image in an already-filmed documentary, which anyone can now go and verify. The Kirby photo is near the end of this clip (but around the 20 minute mark in the full video).

Now allow me to turn the clock back, for a moment of explanation as to the origins of how Jack Kirby came into possession of my work, and then I’ll turn the clock forward again, to early this month, when I discovered that the photograph of the King with my art even existed…

While I have already written of my meeting with Jack Kirby, back in an old post a few years ago [HERE], I’ll recap and continue the tale now.

As some readers of this blog may know (as detailed in several other old posts), I was a professional writer / artist for a few independent comic companies in the late 1980’s – early 1990’s (1987 – 1991 to be exact).
I had started out just as a guy with a rented table in the dealer’s room, who would either draw your custom art on the spot, or sell pre-drawn samples and even hand-colored photocopies of my work.
It was in that manner that I was “discovered” by some publishers and garnered assignments for published work. With actual published credentials, I then graduated to a free table in “artist’s alley”, the professional’s room.

Still, I was a young and inexperienced 20-something year-old “kid”, and every once in a while, a “real” pro artist would walk over to (or past) my table and we would get to talk about the industry.

At one weekend show in New York City, I met Jack Kirby. (I also met Stan Lee at the same show, but I've already told that tale [linked to HERE]). Jack was walking through the “artist’s alley” room, with his wife, Roz. I saw him, and immediately felt that I should say something… DO something… to express my gratitude for his immeasurable contribution to the field.

Suddenly, I KNEW what I could do. Like the tale of the “Little Drummer Boy”, I had a gift for the King, and while it wasn’t much, it was all that I had.

I looked at my artworks which surrounded and covered my table, and thought that, most of those characters were co-created by Stan Lee, and would not make an appropriate gift, as they might instead serve to rekindle the heated feelings that Jack Kirby may have had towards Lee and Marvel. No. Instead I would make a gift to him of the one character thereupon that was his – with no ties to Stan Lee…

Captain America.

I quickly grabbed a hand-colored copy of a drawing of Captain America that I had done, and vaulted over my table to go and meet this iconic industry giant.

I tried to gently shake his hand, but his wife, Roz said he was under strict orders by his doctor, not to do so. Understanding this, I then gave him the illustration of the comic character that HE had created - and bestowed upon the world - as a gesture of my thanks and admiration.

I embarrassingly asked for an autograph, but his wife explained that the doctor's orders to rest his hands carried over to this as well, and that if I gave my name and info, he would mail one to me at a later date.
I happily did so, saying that autograph or no, this was indeed an honor that I would never forget

While I never did receive the autograph, I took some small, humble hope that a piece of my work was in possession of the man. Although, truthfully, even that thought was fleeting, as I wondered why a giant such as he would even bother to keep such an offering. Looking at the illustration with the eyes of a more mature artist, I know that the illustration really isn’t very good. Sure, it has good qualities, but overall, it’s just not all that good. Not good enough for someone like Jack Kirby to keep it for long.

I thought that maybe he’d have tossed it in the back of a closet, out of a kind sense of thankful obligation, sort of how one might keep a received birthday card in a drawer and promptly forget about it for years. Such was the fate that I imagined for my artwork; gently forgotten in the back of a closet, until it would eventually be discarded.

Sadly, within 4 years of our meeting, the King was dead.
I couldn’t help but wonder over the years… Did he keep it? Did he like it? Would it be thrown away with the assorted junk that accumulates on the periphery of our lives?

A gift given. A memory made. And a mystery… in my mind.

Now please indulge me as I flash-forward to the present and my viewing of the documentary.

While flipping through the selections on Netflix, I was in the mood for some comicbook goodness, and thought a documentary would be perfect.
The selection; "With Great Power - The Stan Lee Story" sounded familiar, but I knew I had never seen it. Surprising since it was released in 2010.

It would be less than a half-hour before a point in my life of 20 years prior would leap into my present-day living room.

When the scene in question came on screen, it felt like an electric jolt went through my body. My body went rigid, my eyes opened wide, and my mind… my mind reeled.

I immediately recognized my work. But more importantly than anything, I immediately knew that Jack Kirby had kept my gift.

It was as if I were seeing a long lost friend, contacting me from beyond the grave to answer a question, long thought unanswerable.

To see that the great artist not only kept the piece, but had it close enough at hand for use as a prop in some photo-shoot truly brought a shock to my mind, and a sense of peace of mind as well.

But then it also brought further questions:

WHEN was this photo taken?
WHY? For WHAT purpose?

I can only imagine that when asked to pose for some photo opportunity (a magazine shoot perhaps), the photographer may have thought that a piece of Jack's own original black-pencil artwork might not have "popped" (which is unthinkable), or simply lacked the visual impact that a full-color illustration would instead provide. So the (ignorant) photographer just had Jack place an already-colored piece on the desk.

So, looking around his studio for a suitable image, of a character that would be recognizable, not only for who it was, but that it was one of his characters, my artwork simply fit the bill. Nevermind that it wasn’t drawn by Kirby, as his hand is positioned to block the view of my signature (a ~PCK~ in a scroll with the year beneath it) which I would guess was the photographer's direction; "OK, Jack... just move your hand over a bit...there!" Authenticity may have taken a back-seat to necessity.

I knew that there would only be a few people who could shine any light on these tiny mysteries (perhaps John Morrow from TwoMorrow's Press - publishers of the Jack Kirby Collector magazine, or someone from the Jack Kirby Museum project). However, I also knew that there was one other man who would not only have the best chance of knowing, but who might like to discuss this story with me, and so I contacted Jack Kirby’s long-time assistant & friend, Mark Evanier (who you'll note was shown being interviewed at the start of the video clip I presented above).

Mr. Evanier told me that Jack Kirby kept EVERY drawing that he was ever given by fans. He would keep them nearby in his studio, some hung up on the walls, some down leaning against the walls of the room, and that he would frequently interchange what was displayed on the walls and/or the floor stacks. Everyone got time to shine, and he didn’t judge the works on artistic merit more than the fact that he was thrilled that someone actually took the TIME and ENERGY to CREATE something. He was humbled, and gladdened that he was able to inspire anyone to do so, but it was the act of creation that he most admired and by which he was delighted.

Most others sent him drawings OF him WITH his creations. My gift, however, was one of an impromptu nature, given on a chance meeting, and as such, was only of one of his creations.

THAT, it seems is what might have been the reason that my artwork was placed upon his table for the photo. It would be unlikely for a drawing OF Jack and his characters to be drawn BY Jack, wherein my piece featuring only Captain America might have been a better fit for the photographer’s direction. That and/or the fact that without any other figures on the page, the one figure is full-sized and instantly recognizable to the viewer, if not the actual style or the fact that it wasn’t a Kirby drawing.

Sure, when I first saw the documentary photo, my mind had let fly with fanciful notions that maybe Jack Kirby had liked my work... and maybe had it on his desk because he wanted to send me an overlay drawing showing me the correct way it should have been drawn (as I know that it wasn't a great piece)... Or maybe, he saw some spark of talent in the drawing and wanted to mentor me... or maybe someone, somewhere saw this one piece and maybe wanted to contact me for some project...

All fanciful dreams...

The truth is most likely what I and Mr. Evanier both concluded; Jack was a class act and kept all things that fans gave him. His hands wouldn't allow for him to draw anything for that photo session, and maybe the color drawing just fit the bill as a prop.

That I had always sort of wondered whether he kept it, whether he liked it, whether it was lost in time... all those questions were answered by one photograph, over 20 years later. For that I am grateful. For the fact that he used my drawing, my tiny gift, for the photo (even if by random chance)... I am humbly honored.

And so, I just want to say once again, for all the wonders he has given the medium, all the enjoyment that he has given to me, and for the gratitude that I feel knowing that he liked and had my work near to him… THANK YOU, JACK KIRBY.

It is my pleasure to state that John Morrow of the aforementioned TWOMORROWS PRESS, has expressed an interest in publishing this blog entry in one of his publications! Most likely The JACK KIRBY COLLECTOR magazine!
He has asked for high quality images for reproduction of all the images seen in this post, so it should look quite nice.
I'll be sure to make the official announcement when the article is published.

After months of trying to orchestrate an open spot in the JACK KIRBY COLLECTOR, (because, as anyone with even a smidge of publishing understanding knows, space is a premium and stories crop up and drop off constantly,) my tale was published, in a truncated form, in the letters pages of issue #64.
While not the big feature story I was hoping for, it did contain most of the information from this post as well as photos seen in this post. Not too bad.

While flipping around YouTube a day ago, I found ANOTHER documentary that shows the same photo of Jack Kirby with my artwork. This time, MORE of the photo is shown.

From the 1996 documentary:
 STAN LEE: The ComiX-Man
 (that it seems was broadcast in two segments on A&E)

The photo is at the 14:52 - 14:55.5 mark.


A brand NEW documentary (series) has begun to air last night on AMC (American Movie Classics) titled:
and on the first episode:
The Mighty Misfits Who Made Marvel
,at the 28 minute mark, that image was used, yet again, when speaking of the mistreatment of Jack Kirby, and how, ironically, he wasn't being acknowledged for his artwork.

The episode can be watched for free on either YouTube OR the Google Play app/site.


HOW many documentaries used this photo?
Now, more than before I am determined to find out WHAT this photo was for and WHY Jack chose MY piece with which to pose.
I may never know the answer, but I am filled with wonder.

Thanks, Jack!

Friday, October 11, 2013

The "BEST OF" vol 5: 2012-2013



With limited time (and zero talent), I’ve somehow managed to make it to FIVE YEARS of producing a fair-to-middling amount of "content" (all of varying quality) for this blog!
(This, on top of the many years - since 1997 - of my being an omni-present commenter/ know-it-all loudmouth on others’ blogs, message boards and random street corners.)  

So, now, in the vein of anniversary episodes of various television shows or GIANT-SIZED ANNUALS of old, I would, once again, produce a “best of” post - thus revisiting a few of the "high-points" of this past year's blog-post entries.

Disclaimer: What might constitute "High-Points" may differ from person to person. I'm sure we can ALL agree that when the average content level is a mere "meh", anything above snore-inducing is a "high-point".

OK, seriously...
Well... seeing as how I began my official blogging on one random October day in 2008, any semblance of a calendar-year can be tossed right out the window. So, we will focus on what I blogged from OCTOBER 11, 2012 to OCTOBER 11, 2013.

Feel free to use this opportunity to peruse some of these old posts - whether you have read them already or not, there is actually some really good stuff in here.

Let's see:


As a (primarily) DOCTOR STRANGE blog, I wrote several posts detailing the many aspects of his origin, history and subsequent treatment by Marvel – for good – or (sometimes, unfortunately) ill.

And since this is my 5th bloggiversary, let's begin with a tribute to the 50th Anniversary of the character.


And to keep the fun in a more... current timeframe:


And what could be more fun than battling against death itself? Alright, so it's NOT fun, but unlike most heroes, Dr. Strange has fought against the actual embodiment of Death several times.


Not that WE as mortals don't also do so (at least once), but it should be known that many times, when we do, Doctor Strange is there fighting with and for us.

- 12/12/12: IF THIS BE DOOMSDAY - [HERE]
- 12/21/2012: IF THIS BE DOOMSDAY (Revisited): Weep for the Soul of Man- [HERE]

Although, as a blog that ALSO shows love to a few other heroes, my "Founding Fathers" (ROM; Spaceknight, MAN-THING and DR. STRANGE), I would be remiss if I didn't highlight when all 3 of them helped us from fiery death from the sky:

- ASTEROID 2012 DA14 - Armageddon Outta Here! -or- Kiss Your Asteroid Goodbye! - [HERE]

While some discussions were about those who stand by the Master of the Mystic Arts, those who help him BE who he is.


Or an entry (the first of a new series) looking at the foes who also do so, yet from an... inverted perspective.

- When Black Smoke Turns White, is Then Forged a SILVER DAGGER - [HERE]


There were also other articles and entries to long-running series, as well as revisits to previous discussions.

- STRANGE CLOTHES Make the Man... STRANGE (Revisited) - [HERE]
- STRANGE CLOTHES Make the Man... STRANGE (Revisited - REDUX) - [HERE]

After a two-year dry-spell, there was a return to a titillating, long-running favorite series, which saw two entries this year!
*(While not necessarily N.S.F.W., I'd probably wait til you got home to open these next two links)

- CLEA LOVES SEX: Ménage à Trois x3 - Three Three-Ways to Sunday - [HERE]
- CLEA LOVES SEX: Mother’s Day MILF Special Edition- UMAR LOVES SEX- [HERE]


Interested in collectibles and comic swag? Sure! In fact, that was the main reason for my even starting this blog in the first place! We saw a return to my blogging about my collection this past year, and as such, there were a few nifty entries.

Several such entries were about various forms of Dr. Strange comic-themed apparel, which are a part of a long-running series of such posts (links to which can be found within the Supplemental Entries).

- MYSTIC GARB (Supplemental Entry #5) : GRAIL ITEM - [HERE]
- MYSTIC GARB (Supplemental Entry #6) : CUSTOM CONJUROR's CAP - [HERE]
- MYSTIC GARB (Supplemental Entry #7) : FCBD INFINITY shirt & poster - [HERE]

and even begun a new sub-series of the MYSTIC GARB series; ARTIFACTS of FLAIR...


Along with some of the FLAIR entries, here is another One-of-A-Kind item which also features a glimpse within my Sanctum:


While not quite 1-of-a-Kind, this Strange 2-part entry of official Doctor Strange swag from the U.S. GOVERNMENT feature UBER-RARE items:

- Part 2: The POSTMAN Always BLOGS TWICE – [HERE]

I am elated that I have resumed cataloging entries in my long-running (and sadly long-absent) series of Action Figures, Statues and assorted "IDOL PURSUITS" (get it? the Pursuit of IDOLS? Idols are statues, and... oh heck... just check them out)...

- MASTER of the PLASTIC ARTS # 5 : Dr. STRANGE "Spider-Wars" figures- [HERE]

That Dr. Strange Board Game entry was but one of several posts wherein I gave "GIFTS" of a sort to my readers.

Here are two more entries wherein I give swag to YOU:

- BIRTHDAY GIF(ts) from ME to YOU - [HERE]

And lastly in the SWAG category, let’s not forget my New Year's Day addition to my long-running - MARVEL CALENDARS SERIES – [HERE]


And speaking of “New Year’s Day”, while not quite as extensive (or always as serious) as my essays, there are also a bunch of HOLIDAY POSTS wherein I might display a little razzle-dazzle (or a facsimile thereof) for your general enjoyment. (I won’t list them all, but will showcase the best of them here)!

- (Thanksgiving)  DO's & DONT's for a HAPPY THANKSGIVING - [HERE]
- (St. Valentine’s) – DOCTOR LOVE; Master of the Mystic HEARTS - [HERE]
- (Earth Day/Arbor Day: Green Week)   Be GREEN, Like MAN-THING - [HERE]
- (Independence Day) – HAPPY BIRTHDAY AMERICA, Thanks to DR. STRANGE [HERE]


Of course, SOME comic-blog readers actually like to read about... oh, I dunno... comics!
So, here are some reviews:

- DEFENDERS # 12 - ...and THEN...and THEN... The IMPOSSIBLE END - [HERE]

- NEW AVENGERS v2 # 31 : END TIMES Part 1 - [HERE]
- NEW AVENGERS v2 # 32 : END TIMES Part 2 - [HERE]
- NEW AVENGERS v2 # 33 : END TIMES Part 3 - [HERE]
- NEW AVENGERS v2 # 34 : END TIMES Part 4 - [HERE]


And, of course, we here at the Sanctum Sanctorum Comix blog also have our own "Awards Show", the "SANCTUM AWARDS".
I present "Sancty's" to deserving "Best of" and Worst of" categories of the previous years’ releases (so the Sancty post of 2013 is for 2012 releases).
Sometimes this is the only place where I may discuss certain titles, storylines or collectible products.
Other times, I am revisiting older posts with my votes.
Either way, a thorough overview of the year's official product output is reviewed.
- The 5th ANNUAL SANCTUM AWARDS - can be found - [HERE


And lastly, submitted for your approval are three posts featuring more intimate looks at the INNER SANCTUM...



The last (but not least) being an illustration that was a commission which I drew for a reader/fan/friend.



I would be remiss if I didn't thank the many friends, fans, readers, followers, fellow-bloggers and wonderful souls out there who have helped, inspired, cajoled, cudgeled and commented. Thank You all!

And creators without whom this blog would be about my collection of rare molds, spores and fungus':
- Steve Ditko -
- Jack Kirby -
- Stan Lee -
- Steve Englehart -
- Gene Colan -
- Marshall Rogers -
- J.M. DeMatteis -
- Steve Gerber -
- Dan Green -
- Michael Golden -
- Paul Smith -
- Mike Ploog -
- Dan Adkins -
- Steve Rude -
- Bill Everett - 
- John Byrne -
- Peter Gillis -
-Roger Stern -
- Frank Brunner -
- Kevin Nowlan -
- Chris Warner -
- P. Craig Russell -
- Gerry Conway - 
- Sandy Plunkett -
- Alan Davis –
- Jeff Parker -
- Mike Allred -
- Mark Buckingham -
- Howard Chaykin -
- Kurt Busiek -
- Mike Weiringo -
- Al Milgrom -
- Rudy Nebres -
- Tom Sutton -
- Steve Mellor -
- Ian Akin and Brian Garvey -
- Sal Buscema -
- Bill Mantlo -
and many, many, MANY more!

And that should do it.
Sure, there are more blog entries - but not all of them are merit-worthy, or while they may be good, are just silly hit-and-run style posts.
Some are to showcase new products or comics that were to be released, and others are tongue-in-cheek bits of whimsy, or tips of the hat to various holidays. 
I have a lot like that - some quick Photoshop, an Action figure or comic scan and what passes for "wit" = a quick blog post.

But if you like that sort of thing, open up the blog-history drop down lists and just jump around.

I'll catch you all in a few.  I have lots more planned for YEAR 6!
Join me, wont you?

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Part 5: 1996 DR STRANGE “Spider-Wars” Action Figure
(Spider-Man Animated Series – ToyBiz)


Welcome to another entry in the long-running “IDOL PURSUITS” series (and of the “Master of the PLASTIC Arts” sub-series {a complete run-down of previous entries can be found [HERE] or individual links can be found at the end of this post})!

Today’s entry features the DOCTOR STRANGE Action Figure from the “Spider-Man: the Animated Series” line. (AND all its VARIANTS!)

Released from ToyBiz in 1996, as a part of the “Spider-Wars” assortment (along with BLACK CAT, HYDRO-MAN, DOPPLEGANGER SPIDER and CYBORG SPIDER-MAN), this is the first true DOCTOR STRANGE action figure! *(See footnote below)

This figure, like most in the "Spider-Man Animated Series" line, is based upon the guest-appearance of the character (in this case, Doctor Strange) in an episode of the 1990's era Spider-Man animated cartoon. Doctor Strange appeared in the first episode of the "Sins of the Fathers" story arc, appropriately entitled; "DOCTOR STRANGE".

Also appearing in the episode are Wong, Baron Mordo and Dormammu (who, while Doc and Wong are in but this one episode, the two baddies both reappear numerous times over the story arc).
While neither Wong nor Mordo ever got a figure, Dormammu would indeed (at a later time, and not quite as a part of this line, which we'll get to in a near-future post).

I’ll confess, while there have been several other Dr. Strange action figures released after this one – some with far greater detail and points of articulation - this figure is my personal favorite. **(See the 2nd footnote below)

Doctor Strange possesses 10 points of articulation (neck, shoulders, waist, hips, knees, ankles) , a dynamic sculpt and clean, crisp paint applications. This figure also features a “super-power”: via a specially-designed Cloak of Levitation, due to a clip that fits around his waist and a hidden metal wire in the base of the cloak (billed as a “Mystical Morphing Cape”), the cloak can support the weight of the figure, allowing for “gravity-defying” poses.

Also included are two accessories: a plastic pin / standee, and an “Orb of Agamotto” crystal ball.

The “pin” features a Doctor Strange logo superimposed over the Doc’s head and hands, and a clip on the back that pivots out to act as a stand (or clips back down for use as a pin {one of the many pins and buttons showcased in a previous post [HERE]}).

The “Orb” is a clear ball on a sculpted base that features a demon’s head (as if being scryed upon or summoned by the good Doctor).

Early versions had a monochromatic all-yellow "demon" head in the orb.
The final version had a green head with a full paint scheme.
But I'll get to that in a moment while discussing "VARIANTS".

While variants are a common and popular practice today, they were seldom seen in 1996. Some variants are intended as such; “chase” figures which are short-packed in assortments. Others are the by-product of mid-run alterations. This is the sort of situation that garnered this figure not one, not two, but THREE additional “variants”!

The original-run figure had clear/white joint-pegs in the articulation points of his limbs and the “orb” included a yellow base-color demon-head.

The first adjustment saw the arm joint-pegs colored blue to match his tunic, but the legs pins in his knees and ankles were overlooked and they remained the original clear-white. It still had the one-tone yellow demon head in the “orb”.

The next alteration gave the figure joint-pegs appropriately colored to the paint application where they were located; blue for his arms, black for his legs. However, it still had the yellow base-colored demon head in the “orb”.

The final tweak had not only the appropriately colored joint pegs, but a new green plastic mold and a colored paint-application for the demon head.

Of course… I have to have all four... both IN package as well as loose.
Such is the collector-monkey on my back.

The paint application seemed to start off excellent (the face is exceptionally detailed in the 1st run; his eyes have been outlined and the mustache is perfectly painted. Each subsequent alteration saw a decline in paint apps. By the 3rd version, the paint application is a spotty mess. Luckily, by the final version, they seemed to care again and with the appropriate colored pegs, and the painted demon head, the paint application for the main figure also saw a raise in quality.

Designed by famed artist Michael Golden, the figure was originally intended to have an additional accessory: snap-on magic spells, made from translucent vac-formed rubber. In the design notes, Golden also suggests light-up hands and a glow-in-the-dark Eye of Agamotto amulet (both of which would have been awesome additions to an already great figure).

With design drawings by an illustrator of Michael Golden’s magnitude, why his illustrations were not used for the package - instead of the sub-par artwork that did make the card - is a mystery.

I have seen notations that the design of this sculpt won awards, yet I have yet to discover what awards that might be. Most likely, some toy industry award of which I am unfamiliar.

*Footnote # 1 (FUN FACT: )

After multiple entries in the IDOL PURSUITS series (and of the “Master of the PLASTIC Arts” sub-series {a complete run-down of previous entries can be found [HERE]}) we are FINALLY able to showcase a Doctor Strange figure that is BOTH an ACTION figure AND made of PLASTIC (as opposed to rubber, metal, or paper as have come before). Sure, the 1991 Doctor Strange PVC figure (seen [HERE]) is technically made of plastic, but it is in no way an “action” figure. Oh, I hear you matter-of-factly reminding me that the MEGO Doctor Strange figure was both “action” and plastic, but sadly, while it was originally intended to be a Doctor Strange figure (to cash in on the hopeful success of the Dr. Strange TV movie pilot in 1978), it was never released as such, and became instead (in 1981) a Jordache Male Fashion Model figure (as sadly related [HERE]).

As opposed to the failure of the Dr. Strange TV pilot securing an ongoing series, Spider-Man has always had better luck at mass media exposure. Thus, when the 1990’s SPIDER-MAN: The Animated Series was on the air, it was able to secure a plethora of ancillary wares of the star and his numerous villainous and heroic guest stars – which luckily for us included Action Figures!

**Footnote # 2 (FUN FACT of  a FUTURE FEATURE):

As a testament of how much I love this particular figure, come back NEXT time to see all the CUSTOM action figures that I made using it as a base. Back in the late 1990’s I was dead-set on producing a custom of every costume and appearance of Doctor Strange. While not every custom used this figure as a base, many did. Come check them out – NEXT TIME!


Previous entries in the

Part 1) - 1979 Ben Cooper “dangler-jiggler” figure – [HERE]

Part 1a) - ADDENDUM:  The pre-“Action Figure” figures
(Marvel World standees and "Rub-n-Play" standee) – [HERE]

Part 2) – The DOCTOR STRANGE MEGO figure that almost was – [HERE]

Part 3a) – Gaming figures: TSR Standees – [HERE]

Part 3b) – Gaming Figures: TSR Metal Figurines – [HERE]

Part 4) – The PVC Figurines: DOCTOR STRANGE – [HERE]

Part 4a) – The PVC Figurines - addendum 1: “MAN-THING” – [HERE]

Part 4b) – The PVC Figurines  - addendum 2: “DEFENDERS” – [HERE]



Idol Pursuits: ROM SPACEKNIGHT "action figure" toy – [HERE]

Idol Pursuits: ROM SPACEKNIGHT model kits: full size and bust - [HERE]

Idol Pursuits: DR. ORPHEUS bobblehead - [HERE]


Of course, there were OTHER entries in the IDOL PURSUITS series (mostly ancillary and preview posts), but if you want to see ALL of the entries in the series (in reverse order) just click [HERE].