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Nipples On Men!

This week’s F.O.O.M. Friday gets right to the point! (Two of them!)

FOOM #14 was all about Conan … and it is full of insightful and even scholarly commentary about what makes this character so great. It’s also an interesting time-capsule of an era when Conan was one of Marvel’s top-selling books.

By Crom, it's Foom!

But we don’t care about that.

We only care about the nipples. Men’s nipples!

I know this is a divisive issue. To judge by the Superbowl, America hates seeing men’s nipples. I don’t know how opinions might differ in the United Kingdom, but David Warner considered men’s nipples a waste of God’s energy in Time Bandits:

Comics have a complex issue with sexuality in general, but in classic mainstream superhero comics, it’s generally come down to women having (barely covered) naughty bits, while men don’t have them at all. Contemporary comics show plenty of skin, of course, so it may be difficult to understand how the original run of Conan the Barbarian by Roy Thomas and Barry Windsor-Smith broke new ground by showing off shirtless heroes and scantily-clad wenches.

Even more remarkable, Windsor-Smith broke the seal on one of the more puzzling taboos in comics by having the temerity to draw nipples on men!!

Barry Windsor-Smith, Red Nails

yep, there’s some nipples, all right!

Why, you can practically hear the monocles popping out!

Not only did Barry blaze a trail, he even set a precedent!

Roy Thomas, from FOOM #14 (1976):

There were things for example, like having nipples on the male figure, which were not genrally done in comics before Conan and became part of it all. After Barry did them, I insisted that other artists like John Buscema and Gil Kane include them, even though they were reluctant to do so, or kept forgetting them. Sometimes I’d draw them on myself if the artist had forgotten, or have them added to a whole book not because I thought it was terribly important, but it was a consistency that kept the book being all of a piece.

I don’t know about you, but the thought of Roy Thomas drawing nipples on John Buscema or Gil Kane’s pages is obscurely delightful. It’s the professional equivalent of going through your comics as a kid and drawing mustaches (or … other things) on all the characters. It’s a scandal. It’s Nipplegate! And who was the poor intern who got their start in comics adding nipples to barbarian books at Thomas’ command?

But Thomas’ nipple continuity would go largely unnoticed, and it would be several years before comics would get its first genuine high-profile nipples-on-men controversy …

Bat Nipples!

That’s right — nipples on the Bat Suits, courtesy of director Joel Schumacher’s Batman & Robin! It damn near toppled the Republic back in 1997.

Somehow we survived. (It chased poor Batman out of theaters for the better part of a decade, though!)

See you next week for another F.O.O.M. Friday!

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Buscema’s Bullpen!

FOOM #13 had a one-page feature spotlighting the work of students attending John Buscema’s School of Comic Book Artists.

Buscema's Bullpen

What became of this next generation of talent, circa 1976?

Bob Hall went on to work for Marvel and DC Comics, enjoying a long run on Avengers in the 1980s, and turning in some of my favorite issues of Super-Villain Team-Up. He also worked for Valiant Comics in the 1990s.

Larry Mahlstedt went on to become an inker and cover artist for Marvel and DC.

Bob Downs became an inker for Marvel and DC, and I see he did some Ultraverse work, as well.

Mike J. McCann appears to have had no comics career, and he’s not the same as the Michael J. McCann who has enjoyed success as a crime novelist. Along with Charles Nanco and Josh Zissman, Mike appears lost to the mists of time!

Do you know more about Mike, Charles, and Josh (or any of the pros listed here?) Sound off, in comments, below!

See you soon for another FOOM Friday!

Visions Of The Past

With news breaking last week that Paul Bettany will be playing the Vision in Avengers 2, this seemed a good time to take a look at FOOM #12, which featured … the Vision!

FOOM #12

FOOM #12 cover from the unusual pairing of John Buscema and P. Craig Russell

The origin and nature of this new cinematic Vision are of great interest to Marvel fans, as it seems one of Marvel’s iconic characters of the 1970s can’t help but be a shadow of the original. With the Hank Pym story seemingly in flux for the pending Ant Man film, and with Ultron supposedly a creation of Tony Stark in the Marvel movie universe, the Vision’s origin will certainly be seeing revision (and to be fair, this is a character that’s always suffered a bit for muddled origins).

But back in 1975, the Vision was still a new(ish) kid on the block, and one of the most intriguing characters in Marvel’s line-up — intriguing enough to warrant an issue of Marvel’s in-house fan magazine mostly to himself.

This issue of FOOM dates to a time when Steve Englehart was developing the married relationship of the Vision and the Scarlet Witch, having taken over Avengers scripting duties from Roy Thomas. Most interesting to me were little tidbits offered by Thomas and Englehart in separate interviews about the origins and nature of the Vision.

FOOM #12

Roy Thomas, on the pragmatic origins of the Vision:

“The Vision was created because, at certain periods, I was not allowed, because of editorial policy, to use Captain America, Thor and Iron Man as much as I wanted to … I wanted to create an Avenger that I could play around with … and I wanted to bring back a new version of Jack Kirby’s Vision character … Stan, at the same time that I went over it with him, wanted an android character. He wanted the name Android Man or something like that … since I really wanted to get the Vision I talked Stan into having the Vision but as an android …”

Thomas, on John Buscema’s character design, which in Thomas’ estimation was heavily linked to Jack Kirby’s original:

“I explained to John what I wanted and sent him a picture of Kirby’s Vision … one of the early issues where he looked very grim … and I said I wanted that but I wanted kind of a helmet feeling. And I think I probably drew a picture of the head and mentioned the jewel and mentioned the diamond on the chest and so forth. John came up with it and we changed it between the first and second book only in how the cape fastened on the front. But it was basically a combination of sort of Kirby’s and mine and Buscema’s.”

Jack Kirby, the Vision

the Vision, by Jack Kirby

Steve Englehart, referencing Roy Thomas on the original nature of the character:

“The Vision was created, as far as I could determine from talking with Roy, to be Marvel’s Mr. Spock. He was going to be the mysterious guy that everybody fell in love with … the sort of untouchable but super man. You know, the guy that everybody wants because he’s so unapproachable … (Now) he’s sort of like at Stage Two, having totally abandoned the pure concept of Mr. Spock. We’re into the stage now where we see what happens when Mr. Spock gets married.”

Englehart, on the Vision’s anatomy:

“It’s always been my opinion that the Vision could not be a natural father. I had played with the idea and rejected it as being impossible to explain in a code approved comic book … that the Vision could drop around to his local sperm bank and pick up a liter of stuff … it became very logical to me that Ultron-5 would not have endowed the Vision … given the fact that he was trying to build a sort of ‘son’ … you never think of your son as being a sexually together individual. A son is not thought of in terms of his sexual prowess.”

FOOM #12, back cover

The Vision of the mid-1970s is “my Vision,” and I’ve always resented how the character was handled by later creators … but as we prepare ourselves for this new, cinematic version of the Vision, it’s worth remember just how much these characters owe to the variable and sometimes accidental confluence of necessity, convenience, pop culture influences, and collaboration by creators who may have seen their original … uh, vision … only part-way realized — and yet somehow the whole was greater than the sum-of-the-parts. Here’s hoping Paul Bettany’s Vision catches a little magic of its own!

See you again next week for another FOOM Friday!

The Power And The Prize!

Longbox Graveyard #110

Welcome back to The Dollar Box, where I look at single-issue stories or short runs of comics with an original cover price of one dollar or less. After reviewing a Nick Fury story and a Spider-Man book that cost all of twelve cents each, this time we soar into the stratosphere with a book that cost an astronomical twenty-five cents when it was published in 1968 — Silver Surfer #3!

Previously here at Longbox Graveyard, I looked in detail at The Silver Surfer, and concluded that the series went off the rails after the first four issues… but those first four issues are very good, and I think issue #3 is the best in the run. Many fans point to issue #4, featuring a battle with Thor as the high point of the series, but I prefer this cosmic tale in issue #3 — “The Power and the Prize!” — as it showcases the Surfer at his melodramatic Silver Age best.

Written by Stan Lee, with pencils by John Buscema — at the top of his superhero game here — and adequately inked by Joe Sinnott, this tale opens with the Surfer exiled to earth by his former master Galactus. Finally having enough of man’s prejudice and violence, the Surfer steals a page from The Day The Earth Stood Still and lashes out with his Power Cosmic to bring our world to a halt.

This gets everyone’s attention, of course, but also attracts the gaze of Mephisto, making his first Marvel Universe appearance. Mephisto is Satan in all but name, and upon seeing the Surfer he is reminded of the martyrs that humiliated him in the past, and immediately determines he must bring the Surfer to his knees.

Mephisto decides to strike at our hero through Shalla-Bal, the Surfer’s lost love. In Devil-like fashion Mephisto tricks Shalla-Bal into pledging herself to him that she and the Surfer may be together again, setting off a direct conflict between Mephisto and the Surfer in Hell itself, battling for love and souls.

Stan Lee’s script is cartoonish and over-the-top and even a little corny at times, as was much of his Silver Age work, but it fits especially well with the Silver Surfer, who is a kind of doomed, star-crossed Shakespearian character prone to long, emotional soliloquies about his shortcomings and longings. These characters really chew the scenery as they fight through Hell, with Mephisto trying to tempt the Surfer with wealth and women and power, and the Surfer nobly resisting and battling various demons from the pits.

It’s all very exaggerated and overwrought, almost like an opera, and not a little surrealistic — at one point Mephisto shrinks the Surfer down to the size of the palm of his hand, and swallows our hero, only to reject him because he cannot abide the Surfer’s goodness. Finally Mephisto demands that the Surfer swear him allegiance, or he will send Shalla-Bal back to Zenn-La, and the Surfer refuses, knowing this will trick Mephisto into sending his beloved to safety, even though it will break his heart.

It’s high adventure for the highest of stakes, made more personal for the relationships at the center of the story, and it’s full of powerful visuals from Big John Buscema, who seemed to especially relish drawing the devilish Mephisto, with his grasping talons and Satanic expressions and flowing cape. Stan Lee really cuts loose, too. Arguably the greatest Marvel story of all — Fantastic Four #48-50 — pit heroes against God in the form of Galactus, and here we have a similar level of ambition, as our hero battles Satan himself.

This issue represents all that I think is best about the Silver Surfer. Modern readers may find the story a little childish but I think as a fantasy it holds up well, and if you’ve attuned your ear to the rhythm of a Silver Age story, this is superior stuff. The art is tremendous and you get to see the first appearance of a major Marvel villain with Mephisto. The only downside is that the Surfer never says, “To Me, My Board!”

An original copy of Silver Surfer #3 in “Fine” condition can easily run a hundred dollars or more, so readers desiring to own this fun tale in print are advised to track down one of the many affordable reprints — but if you find an original for cover price, be sure to send it to me!

This article original appeared at StashMyComics.com.

IN TWO WEEKS: #111 The Pedigree Collection

By Any Other Name: Sub-Mariner

Longbox Graveyard #91

How do YOU pronounce, “Sub-Mariner?”

Sub-Mariner #1, John Buscema

My inaugural “By Any Other Name” post about Darkseid drew record traffic to Longbox Graveyard last month, so I figured I’d go back to the well.

This time I’m asking about Prince Namor, the Sub-Mariner.

How do YOU pronounce the name of Bill Everett‘s signature comic book creation?

Bill Everett, Sub-Mariner

“Revenge is his motive and evil is his intent!” Cool! But confusion is also on Namor’s agenda.

He’s another one of those characters … the kind where you’re not quite sure how to say his name out loud.

proof?

I guess the above panel tells us what Roy Thomas thinks … but what do you call him? Sub-MARINE-er, or Sub-MAREIN-er?

at your service!

I’m not terribly concerned about rules or pronunciation or how Bill Everett said it (though both those things would be worth learning) — I’m more interested in how you’ve always heard the name of this character in your head while reading comics.

How do YOU pronounce this legendary anti-hero’s name? Take the poll!

Defend your choice in comments, below!

NEXT WEDNESDAY: #92 Top Ten Spider-Man Battles, Pt. 1

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