RIP Stan Lee … thank you for (literally) everything!

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Yesterday we lost a giant in the comic book industry – indeed the entertainment industry. Stan Lee passed away at the age of 95. Love him or dislike him, his impact on comic books cannot be understated.

Mike Barnes of the Hollywood Reporter wrote a superb article about his life (with contributions by Duane Byrge and Borys Kit): https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/heat-vision/stan-lee-dead-marvel-comics-real-life-superhero-was-95-721450

Stan Lee, the legendary writer, editor and publisher of Marvel Comics whose fantabulous but flawed creations made him a real-life superhero to comic book lovers everywhere, has died. He was 95.

Lee, who began in the business in 1939 and created or co-created Black Panther, Spider-Man, the X-Men, the Mighty Thor, Iron Man, the Fantastic Four, the Incredible Hulk, Daredevil and Ant-Man, among countless other characters, died early Monday morning at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, a family representative told The Hollywood Reporter.

Kirk Schenck, an attorney for Lee’s daughter, J.C. Lee, also confirmed his death.

Lee’s final few years were tumultuous. After Joan, his wife of 69 years, died in July 2017, he sued executives at POW! Entertainment — a company he founded in 2001 to develop film, TV and video game properties — for $1 billion alleging fraud, then abruptly dropped the suit weeks later. He also sued his ex-business manager and filed for a restraining order against a man who had been handling his affairs. (Lee’s estate is estimated to be worth as much as $70 million.) And in June 2018, it was revealed that the Los Angeles Police Department had been investigating reports of elder abuse against him.

On his own and through his work with frequent artist-writer collaborators Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko and others, Lee catapulted Marvel from a tiny venture into the world’s No. 1 publisher of comic books and, later, a multimedia giant.

In 2009, The Walt Disney Co. bought Marvel Entertainment for $4 billion, and most of the top-grossing superhero films of all time — led by Avengers: Infinity War’s $2.05 billion worldwide take earlier this year — have featured Marvel characters.

“I used to think what I did was not very important,” he told the Chicago Tribune in April 2014. “People are building bridges and engaging in medical research, and here I was doing stories about fictional people who do extraordinary, crazy things and wear costumes. But I suppose I have come to realize that entertainment is not easily dismissed.”

Lee’s fame and influence as the face and figurehead of Marvel, even in his nonagenarian years, remained considerable.

“Stan Lee was as extraordinary as the characters he created,” Disney chairman and CEO Bob Iger said in a statement. “A superhero in his own right to Marvel fans around the world, Stan had the power to inspire, to entertain and to connect. The scale of his imagination was only exceeded by the size of his heart.”

Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige also paid tribute. “No one has had more of an impact on my career and everything we do at Marvel Studios than Stan Lee,” Feige said. “Stan leaves an extraordinary legacy that will outlive us all. Our thoughts are with his daughter, his family and the millions of fans who have been forever touched by Stan’s genius, charisma and heart.”

Beginning in the 1960s, the irrepressible and feisty Lee punched up his Marvel superheroes with personality, not just power. Until then, comic book headliners like those of DC Comics were square and well-adjusted, but his heroes had human foibles and hang-ups; Peter Parker/Spider-Man, for example, fretted about his dandruff and was confused about dating. The evildoers were a mess of psychological complexity.

“His stories taught me that even superheroes like Spider-Man and the Incredible Hulk have ego deficiencies and girl problems and do not live in their macho fantasies 24 hours a day,” Gene Simmons of Kiss said in a 1979 interview. “Through the honesty of guys like Spider-Man, I learned about the shades of gray in human nature.”

(Kiss made it to the Marvel pages, and Lee had Simmons bleed into a vat of ink so the publisher could say the issues were printed with his blood.)

The Manhattan-born Lee wrote, art-directed and edited most of Marvel’s series and newspaper strips. He also penned a monthly comics column, “Stan’s Soapbox,” signing off with his signature phrase, “Excelsior!”

His way of doing things at Marvel was to brainstorm a story with an artist, then write a synopsis. After the artist drew the story panels, Lee filled in the word balloons and captions. The process became known as “The Marvel Method.”

Lee collaborated with artist-writer Kirby on the Fantastic Four, Hulk, Iron Man, Thor, Silver Surfer and X-Men. With artist-writer Ditko he created Spider-Man and the surgeon Doctor Strange, and with artist Bill Everett came up with the blind superhero Daredevil.

Such collaborations sometimes led to credit disputes: Lee and Ditko reportedly engaged in bitter fights, and both receive writing credit on the Spider-Man movies and TV shows. “I don’t want anyone to think I treated Kirby or Ditko unfairly,” he told Playboy magazine in April 2014. “I think we had a wonderful relationship. Their talent was incredible. But the things they wanted weren’t in my power to give them.”

Like any Marvel employee, Lee had no rights to the characters he helped create and received no royalties.

In the 1970s, Lee importantly helped push the boundaries on censorship in comics, delving into serious and topical subject matter in a medium that had become mindless, kid-friendly entertainment.

In 1954, the publication of psychologist Frederic Wertham’s book Seduction of the Innocent had spurred calls for the government to regulate violence, sex, drug use, questioning of public authority figures, etc., in the comics as a way to curtail “juvenile delinquency.” Wary publishers headed that off by forming the Comics Code Authority, a self-censoring body that while avoiding the heavy hand of Washington still wound up neutering adult interest in comics and stereotyping the medium as one only kids would enjoy.

Lee scripted banal scenarios with characters like Nellie the Nurse and Tessie the Typist, but in 1971, he inserted an anti-drug storyline into “The Amazing Spider-Man” in which Peter Parker’s best friend Harry Osborn popped pills. Those issues, which did not carry the CCA “seal of approval” on the covers, became extremely popular, and later, the organization relaxed some of its guidelines.

Born Stanley Martin Lieber on Dec. 28, 1922, he grew up poor in Washington Heights, where his father, a Romanian immigrant, was a dress-cutter. A lover of adventure books and Errol Flynn movies, Lee graduated from DeWitt Clinton High School, joined the WPA Federal Theatre Project, where he appeared in a few stage shows, and wrote obituaries.

In 1939, Lee got a job as a gofer for $8 a week at Marvel predecessor Timely Comics. Two years later, for Kirby and Joe Simon’s Captain America No. 3, he wrote a two-page story titled “The Traitor’s Revenge!” that was used as text filler to qualify the company for the inexpensive magazine mailing rate. He used the pen name Stan Lee.

He was named interim editor at 19 by publisher Martin Goodman when the previous editor quit. In 1942, he enlisted in the Army and served in the Signal Corps, where he wrote manuals and training films with a group that included Oscar-winner Frank Capra, Pulitzer-winner William Saroyan and Theodor Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss). After the war, he returned to the publisher and served as the editor for decades.

Following DC Comics’ lead with the Justice League, Lee and Kirby in November 1961 launched their own superhero team, the Fantastic Four, for the newly renamed Marvel Comics, and Hulk, Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, Daredevil and X-Men soon followed. The Avengers launched as its own title in September 1963.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Manhattan’s high-literary culture vultures did not bestow its approval on how Lee was making a living. People would “avoid me like I had the plague. … Today, it’s so different,” he once told The Washington Post.

Not everyone felt the same way, though. Lee recalled once being visiting in his New York office by Federico Fellini, who wanted to talk about nothing but Spider-Man.

In 1972, Lee was named publisher and relinquished the Marvel editorial reins to spend all his time promoting the company. He moved to Los Angeles in 1980 to set up an animation studio and to build relationships in Hollywood. Lee purchased a home overlooking the Sunset Strip that was once owned by Jack Benny’s announcer, Don Wilson.

Long before his Marvel characters made it to the movies, they appeared on television. An animated Spider-Man show (with a memorable theme song composed by Oscar winner Paul Francis Webster, of “The Shadow of Your Smile” fame, and Bob Harris) ran on ABC from 1967 to 1970. Bill Bixby played Dr. David Banner, who turns into a green monster (Lou Ferrigno) when he gets agitated, in the 1977-82 CBS drama The Incredible Hulk. And Pamela Anderson provided the voice of Stripperella, a risque animated Spike TV series that Lee wrote for in 2003-04.

Lee launched the internet-based Stan Lee Media in 1998, and the superhero creation, production and marketing studio went public a year later. However, when investigators uncovered illegal stock manipulation by his partners, the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2001. (Lee was never charged.)

In 2002, Lee published an autobiography, Excelsior! The Amazing Life of Stan Lee.

Survivors include his daughter and younger brother Larry Lieber, a writer and artist for Marvel. Another daughter, Jan, died in infancy. His wife, Joan, was a hat model whom he married in 1947.

“J.C. Lee and all of Stan Lee’s friends and colleagues want to thank all of his fans and well-wishers for their kind words and condolences,” a family statement read. “Stan was an icon in his field. His fans loved him and his desire to interact with them. He loved his fans and treated them with the same respect and love they gave him.”

“He worked tirelessly his whole life creating great characters for the world to enjoy. He wanted to inspire our imagination and for us to all use it to make the world a better place. His legacy will live on forever.”

Like Alfred Hitchcock before him, the never-bashful Lee appeared in cameos in the Marvel movies, shown avoiding falling concrete, watering his lawn, delivering the mail, crashing a wedding, playing a security guard, etc.

In Spider-Man 3 (2007), he chats with Tobey Maguire’s Peter Parker as they stop on a Times Square street to read news that the web-slinger will soon receive the key to the city. “You know,” he says, “I guess one person can make a difference … ’nuff said.”

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About the author: Michael Curry is the author of the Brave & Bold: From Silent Knight to Dark Knight, The Day John F Kennedy Met the Beatles and the award-winning Abby’s Road, the Long and Winding Road to Adoption and How Facebook, Aquaman and Theodore Roosevelt Helped.  Check his website for more releases! Thanks for reading!

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National Adoption Awareness Month Spotlight on …Angelina Jolie.

Oh, mother…

Angelina Jolie; born Angelina Jolie Voight, June 4, 1975) is an American actress, filmmaker, and humanitarian. She has received an Academy Award, two Screen Actors Guild Awards, and three Golden Globe Awards, and has been cited as Hollywood’s highest-paid actress. Jolie made her screen debut as a child alongside her father, Jon Voight, in Lookin’ to Get Out (1982). Her film career began in earnest a decade later with the low-budget production Cyborg 2 (1993), followed by her first leading role in a major film, Hackers (1995). She starred in the critically acclaimed biographical cable films George Wallace (1997) and Gia (1998), and won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in the drama Girl, Interrupted (1999).

Jolie’s starring role as the video game heroine Lara Croft in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001) established her as a leading Hollywood actress. She continued her successful action-star career with Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005), Wanted (2008), and Salt (2010), and received critical acclaim for her performances in the dramas A Mighty Heart (2007) and Changeling (2008), which earned her a nomination for an Academy Award for Best Actress. Her biggest commercial success came with the fantasy picture Maleficent (2014). In the 2010s, Jolie expanded her career into directing, screenwriting, and producing, with In the Land of Blood and Honey (2011), Unbroken (2014), By the Sea (2015), and First They Killed My Father (2017).

In addition to her film career, Jolie is noted for her humanitarian efforts, for which she has received a Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award and an honorary damehood of the Order of St Michael and St George (DCMG), among other honors. She promotes various causes, including conservation, education, and women’s rights, and is most noted for her advocacy on behalf of refugees as a Special Envoy for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). As a public figure, Jolie has been cited as one of the most influential and powerful people in the American entertainment industry. For a number of years, she was cited as the world’s most beautiful woman by various media outlets, and her personal life is the subject of wide publicity. Divorced from actors Jonny Lee Miller and Billy Bob Thornton, she separated from her third husband, actor Brad Pitt, in September 2016. They have six children together, three of whom were adopted internationally.

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Angelina-Jolie-and-kidsOn March 10, 2002, Jolie adopted her first child, seven-month-old Maddox Chivan, from an orphanage in Battambang, Cambodia. He was born as Rath Vibol on August 5, 2001, in a local village. After twice visiting Cambodia, while filming Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001) and on a UNHCR field mission, Jolie returned in November 2001 with her husband, Billy Bob Thornton, where they met Maddox and subsequently applied to adopt him. The adoption process was halted the following month when the U.S. government banned adoptions from Cambodia amid allegations of child trafficking. Although Jolie’s adoption facilitator was later convicted of visa fraud and money laundering, her adoption of Maddox was deemed lawful. Once the process was finalized, she took custody of him in Namibia, where she was filming Beyond Borders (2003). Jolie and Thornton announced the adoption together, but she adopted Maddox alone, and raised him as a single parent following their separation three months later.

Jolie adopted a daughter, six-month-old Zahara Marley, from an orphanage in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on July 6, 2005. Zahara was born as Yemsrach on January 8, 2005, in Awasa. Jolie initially believed Zahara to be an AIDS orphan, based on official testimony from her grandmother, but her birth mother later came forward in the media. She explained that she had abandoned her family when Zahara became sick, and said she thought Zahara was “very fortunate” to have been adopted by Jolie. Jolie was accompanied by her partner, Brad Pitt, when she traveled to Ethiopia to take custody of Zahara. She later indicated that they had together made the decision to adopt from Ethiopia, having first visited the country earlier that year. After Pitt announced his intention to adopt her children, she filed a petition to legally change their surname from Jolie to Jolie-Pitt, which was granted on January 19, 2006. Pitt adopted Maddox and Zahara soon after.

On March 15, 2007, Jolie adopted a son, three-year-old Pax Thien, from an orphanage in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. He was born as Pham Quang Sang on November 29, 2003, in HCMC, where he was abandoned by his biological mother soon after birth. After visiting the orphanage with Pitt in November 2006, Jolie applied for adoption as a single parent, because Vietnam’s adoption regulations do not allow unmarried couples to co-adopt. After their return to the U.S., she petitioned the court to change her son’s surname from Jolie to Jolie-Pitt, which was approved on May 31. Pitt subsequently adopted Pax on February 21, 2008.

Jolie is also the mother of three children born to her: Shiloh Nouvel Jolie-Pitt, female, born May 27, 2006 (age 12), in Swakopmund, Namibia; Knox Léon Jolie-Pitt, male, born July 12, 2008 (age 10), in Nice, France; and Vivienne Marcheline Jolie-Pitt, female, born July 12, 2008 (age 10), in Nice, France.

 

Jolie’s adopted children

Maddox Chivan Jolie-Pitt

male, born August 5, 2001 (age 17), in Cambodia

adopted March 10, 2002, by Jolie

adopted early 2006 by Pitt

 

Pax Thien Jolie-Pitt

male, born November 29, 2003 (age 14), in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

adopted March 15, 2007, by Jolie

adopted February 21, 2008, by Pitt

 

Zahara Marley Jolie-Pitt

female, born January 8, 2005 (age 13), in Awasa, Ethiopia

adopted July 6, 2005 by Jolie

adopted early 2006 by Pitt

Shiloh Nouvel Jolie-Pitt

female, born May 27, 2006 (age 12), in Swakopmund, Namibia

***

frontcover“Abby’s Road, the Long and Winding Road to Adoption and how Facebook, Aquaman and Theodore Roosevelt Helped” leads a couple through their days of infertility treatments and adoption. It is told with gentle (and sometimes not-so-gentle) humor from the perspective of a nerdy father and his loving and understanding wife.

Join Mike and Esther as they go through IUIs and IFVs, as they search for an adoption agency, are selected by a birth mother, prepare their house, prepare their family, prepare themselves and wait for their daughter to be born a thousand miles from home.

WINNER: 2015 Reader’s Favorite Book Award Finalist, Non-Fiction Humor

WINNER: Honorable Mention, 2015 New York Book Festival!

WINNER: Honorable Mention, 2014 Great Midwest Book Festival

Abby’s Road is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and at Smashwords.

 

Copyright 2018 Michael Curry

National Adoption Awareness Month Spotlight on … the lovely and wonderful Diane Keaton!

Diane Keaton (née Hall; born January 5, 1946) is an American film actress, director, and producer. She began her career on stage and made her screen debut in 1970. Her first major film role was as Kay Adams-Corleone in The Godfather (1972), but the films that shaped her early career were those with director and co-star Woody Allen, beginning with Play It Again, Sam in 1972. Her next two films with Allen, Sleeper (1973) and Love and Death (1975), established her as a comic actor. Her fourth, Annie Hall (1977), won her the Academy Award for Best Actress.

Keaton subsequently expanded her range to avoid becoming typecast as her Annie Hall persona. She became an accomplished dramatic performer, starring in Looking for Mr. Goodbar (1977) and received Academy Award nominations for Reds (1981), Marvin’s Room (1996) and Something’s Gotta Give (2003).

Some of her popular later films include Baby Boom (1987), Father of the Bride (1991), Father of the Bride Part II (1995), The First Wives Club (1996), and The Other Sister (2001), The Family Stone (2005). Keaton’s films have earned a cumulative gross of over US$1.1 billion in North America.[2] In addition to acting, she is also a photographer, real estate developer, author, and occasional singer.

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Keaton has two adopted children, daughter Dexter (adopted 1996) and son Duke (2001). jml9xVFO8uswAF2zHer father’s death made mortality more apparent to her, and she decided to become a mother at age 50.

“Adopting my son and daughter late in life – and single – had a transformative effect on me,” she explains. “I’m not doing what seems to be the normal route of being 71. I have a 16-year-old son and a 21-year-old daughter. They’re still forming in some way, so you have to stay really interested and energetic and open to new thoughts and ideas all the time because of them.

“The fact I never married makes me unusual and then to go and have a family on my own… I don’t think that a lot of people do that.

“At one stage Diane didn’t think she would either. Speaking recently she said: “I remember when I was about 40, somebody told me about someone who adopted a baby at 50 and I remember saying, ‘Well that’s just ridiculous!’ I feel like that was a lesson in itself. Don’t judge… just don’t judge, because here I am, having done something that I said was horrible, or wrong, or a mistake. You do these things and they change your life and attitudes.”

Thanks to Yours for the adoption quote. https://www.yours.co.uk/features/celebrity/articles/movie-star-diane-keaton-on-why-she-decided-to-adopt-in-her-50s

***

“Abby’s Road, the Long and Winding Road to Adoption and how Facebook, Aquaman and Theodore Roosevelt Helped” leads a couple through their days of infertility treatments and adoption. It is told with gentle (and sometimes not-so-gentle) humor from the perspective of a nerdy father and his loving and understanding wife.

Join Mike and Esther as they go through IUIs and IFVs, as they search for an adoption agency, are selected by a birth mother, prepare their house, prepare their family, prepare themselves and wait for their daughter to be born a thousand miles from home.

WINNER: 2015 Reader’s Favorite Book Award Finalist, Non-Fiction Humor

WINNER: Honorable Mention, 2015 New York Book Festival!

WINNER: Honorable Mention, 2014 Great Midwest Book Festival

Abby’s Road is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and at Smashwords.

 

Copyright 2018 Michael Curry

The 400th issue of … everything! My 400th blog!

This is my 400th blog. Not a big deal to people who blog everyday – they would hit 400 by the second month of their second year. My 300th blog was two years ago.

The 400th issue (or any anniversary issue) was a big deal in comic books, too. It’s a chance to celebrate an anniversary with a special issue (and increased sales) featuring the end of an epic story arc – or the beginning of one. It could be the final issue and/or debut – or a new creative team or character.

Note I say “was”. The last #400 was seven years ago; and in this age of reboots and renumberings we may not see another #400 for decades!

Getting to #400 takes time. If published monthly, a comic book would reach its 400th issue in 33 years.

I honestly believed I found all of them – American comics only of course … let me know if I missed any. Enjoy!

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As with my 300th blog, the only golden age comic to reach #400 was 4 Color Comics, from 1952.

4 Color printed several comics per month, sometimes weekly and at times even six per month! #300 was published in 1950, #400 in 1952. One hundred issues in two years…

2592772-fourcolor400

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The Silver Age (roughly 1955 – 1970) had NO 400th issue of any comic!

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The Bronze Age (1970 – 1986) had its share of 400th issues. By this time the most popular comics were reaching their 30+ years of existence … starting with two of the longest-running comics at the time …

Adventure Comics from 1970 – the Legion of Super-Heroes long gone and the comic dedicated to solo Supergirl stories.

Detective Comics also from 1970 with superb art by Neal Adams and this issue featuring the debut of Man-Bat!

The Man of Steel book-ended the Bronze Age with two of his starring comics …

Action Comics was from 1971 and Superman was published in 1984.

The other 400s from DC in the late-Bronze Age were …

Batman (nor surprisingly) from 1986 and Sgt. Rock (not surprisingly to Silver or Bronze Age fans – DC’s war comics were very popular) in 1985.

WDC&SThe only other Bronze Age #400 was not from the Big Two nor was it a superhero comic: It was from 1974 …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The rest of the 400s belong to the Modern Age (or whatever one wishes to call the period(s) after 1986.

Speaking of DUncle scroogeisney, other than WDC&S, only Uncle Scrooge reached #400, not Mickey Mouse, not Donald Duck… Most Disney comics were published by multiple companies over the years, but only Uncle Scrooge kept its numbering intact.

From 2011:

 

 

 

 

 

Only two other publishers (other than DC or Marvel) had comics reaching #400, including one of the longest running series of all time … from 1990.

Big boy

The other was Archie Comics …

Pep from 1985, Laugh from 1987 and Archie from 1992

This was Laugh’s last issue … he who Laugh’s last … and Pep Comics would only have 11 more issues to go before cancellation.

The rest of the 400s belong to Marvel.

Uncanny X-Men – 2001, Thor – 1989, Amazing Spider-Man – 1995, Incredible Hulk – 1992,  Fantastic Four – 1995, Captain America – 1992, Avengers – 1996

***

See you at 500!

Special thanks to Lone Star Comics for searching their data base and using their photos!

Michael Curry

 

 

National Adoption Awareness Month Spotlight on … Madonna (the singer, c’mon … )

Madonna Louise Ciccone was born in Bay City, Michigan, on August 16, 1958. In 1981, she went solo as a pop singer. By 1991, she had achieved 21 Top 10 hits in the United States and sold more than 70 million albums internationally. In January 2008, she was named the world’s wealthiest female musician by Forbes magazine.

Her biggest hits include ‘Papa Don’t Preach,’ ‘Like a Prayer,’ ‘Vogue,’ ‘Secret’ and ‘Ray of Light,’ among many others.

For more information, go to Biography.com. https://www.biography.com/people/madonna-9394994

***

On February 1, 2017 Madonna confirmed on Instagram she’s adopted orphaned twin girls from Malawi.

“I can officially confirm I have completed the process of adopting twin sisters from Malawi and am overjoyed that they are now part of our family,” she captioned a photo of herself holding hands with her daughters. “I am deeply grateful to all those in Malawi who helped make this possible, and I ask the media please to respect our privacy during this transitional time.”

The singer, 58, also expressed her gratitude to those who have supported her on this latest adoption journey. “Thank you also to my friends, family and my very large team for all your support and Love,” she added.

Although Madonna had initially called the girls Stella and Esther in a previous post, she has most recently referred to her daughters as Stelle and Estere.

Prior to this, Madonna was already mother to four children: Lourdes Leon, 20, and Rocco Ritchie, 16. Two other children, David Banda, 11, and Mercy James, 11, were also adopted from Malawi.

The singer has a long history with the people of Malawi: She adopted David and Mercy from the African country in 2006 and 2007, respectively. And she’s worked to fight against poverty amongst the nation’s orphaned children for more than a decade with her Raising Malawi charity. This year, the philanthropic group will build Malawi’s first pediatric surgery and intensive care unit, the Mercy James Institute for Pediatric Surgery and Intensive Care.

Thank you People Magazine for the information. https://people.com/parents/madonna-adopts-twin-girls-malawi-breaks-silence/

Original article by MELODY CHIU and JEFF NELSON, February 08, 2017

rs_650x650-170819094212-650-madonna-children-081817

***

“Abby’s Road, the Long and Winding Road to Adoption and how Facebook, Aquaman and Theodore Roosevelt Helped” leads a couple through their days of infertility treatments and adoption. It is told with gentle (and sometimes not-so-gentle) humor from the perspective of a nerdy father and his loving and understanding wife.

Join Mike and Esther as they go through IUIs and IFVs, as they search for an adoption agency, are selected by a birth mother, prepare their house, prepare their family, prepare themselves and wait for their daughter to be born a thousand miles from home.

WINNER: 2015 Reader’s Favorite Book Award Finalist, Non-Fiction Humor

WINNER: Honorable Mention, 2015 New York Book Festival!

WINNER: Honorable Mention, 2014 Great Midwest Book Festival

Abby’s Road is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and at Smashwords.

 

Copyright 2018 Michael Curry

Kobra #5, December 1976

bronze-age

“The Eye of the Serpent”

Cover Artists: Rich Buckler & Frank McLaughlin

Writer: Martin Pasko

Penciler: Rich Buckler, Inker: Frank McLaughlin

Colorist: Carl Gafford, Letterer: Ben Oda

Story Editor: Paul Levitz, Managing Editor: Joe Orlando

I contributed this description to DC Wikia:

Kobra lands his ark in San Francisco. His surveillance overhears Jason Burr and Randu Singh back in New York discussing Melissa’s disappearance.

We then meet Jonny Double, a private eye from DC’s past who questions his current assignment – helping a secretary accused of murdering her lover/boss. His suspicions are aroused when police records confirm the murder, but there is no evidence of the existence of the boss … that and Double spots his client leaving a motel with her supposed victim.  Before he can trail them in his borrowed cab, he is flagged down by a fare. The customer leaves his valise; Double deduces it contains explosives – this WAS a set-up! Double escapes the destruction of his taxi. He finds remains of the case containing the bomb – marked with a strange cobra symbol…

Double returns to the office building at which he dropped off his murderous fare and is attacked by three hoods. Dispatching them, Double takes an elevator to a computer control room, where he gathers as much information as he can about the murder of Ricardo Perez and something called Operation: Chrysopylae … Through his contacts, Double learns of Perez, Horst Buchner and … Jason Burr. He calls Jason …

Double complains about the heavy traffic on the Golden Gate Bridge due to construction while on his way to testify to a trial. One of the construction workers has a cobra symbol on his hand-held radio.

Double hopes to meet Mack, his CIA contact, at a Chinatown theater, but finds Mack murdered. The killer fires on Double Meanwhile, Jason Burr cannot find a flight to Frisco. The booking agent helps find a flight on a smaller airline. She reaches for her walkie-talkie … which has a cobra symbol on it.

The gunman who killed Mack runs for it and Jonny Double gives chase. He also takes out two more Kobra hitmen before escaping onto a cable car. Kobra confronts Double directly and disengages the cable car, causing it to plummet downhill.

After several hours of delay, Jason finally boards his flight to San Francisco. The pilot’s hand-held radio is marked with a cobra-symbol.

Jonny Double jumps from the cable car just before it crashes, knocking him unconscious on the street; his limp form rises slowly in Kobra’s anti-gravity beam.

The engines of Jason Burr’s plane catch fire; it plummets into the Oregon wilderness.

Double awakes to find himself strapped to the Golden Gate Bridge. Kobra reveals his plan – he will destroy San Francisco with an earthquake! To use his words: “… an earthquake created by one of my devices … which is implanted in the beam to which you are tied. The mechanism is constructed of a material that disintegrates when it vibrates. The earthquake’s shock-waves will destroy the machine and no evidence of its ever having existed will survive! The device extends down through the support beams – into the bay – forming a needle which penetrates the earth’s crust! The needle will cause the San Andreas fault to shift! … The action of sunlight on the solar panel triggers the mechanism. At dawn – approximately 20 minutes from now – the bridge will be the first casualty. And you, Mr. Double, will be …. the second!”

Mwah-Ha-ha-ha-ha!!!!!

To be continued!

***

The letter page mentions a new approach and welcomes Rich Buckler as the new penciller. The magazine was saved by an “avalanche” of positive mail!

***

Jonny Double previously appeared in Showcase #78, Challengers of the Unknown #74 and Wonder Woman #199-203.

Note the cover date – December? Three months since issue #4. Was it scheduled for cancellation but given a reprieve with a new direction and new art team? The opening splash says “The story originally scheduled for this magazine will not appear.” Hyperbole? Did the story exist and crumbled to dust in someone’s file cabinet telling us of the “Panic on Pennsylvania Avenue” (as hyped on the final panel of issue #4)?

Regardless, the quality of this comic’s plot increased 1000%. DC hyped this issue and the next – these last three issues (and the “conclusion” in DC Special Series #1) were some of the best pulp-inspired comics ever published. Seriously. I love them, I f’ing love them!

***

About the author: Michael Curry is the author of the Brave & Bold: From Silent Knight to Dark Knight, The Day John F Kennedy Met the Beatles and the award-winning Abby’s Road, the Long and Winding Road to Adoption and How Facebook, Aquaman and Theodore Roosevelt Helped.  Check his website for more releases! Thanks for reading!

Metal Men #49. January 1977

 

BEHOLD!

bronze-age

“The Dark God Cometh”

Cover: Walt Simonson; Editor: Joe Orlando, Story Editor: Paul Levitz

Writer: Martin Pasko; Penciler/Inker/Plotter: Walt Simonson

Colorist: Carl Gafford; Letterer: Ben Oda

Robert Kanigher is given a creator credit.

The god Umbra increases Eclipso’s power and he unleashes it on the Metal Men, turning Lead to molten slag! Eclipso captures Mona, but Gold and Iron mold Lead into a magnifying glass and aims him at Eclipso. The bright intense light changes Eclipso back into Bruce Gordon.

We learn that ancient aliens landed in Peru and were considered gods by the prehistoric natives before being banished by white magic. Generation after generation of witch doctors kept the alien cult alive until the last servant/priest Mophir died battling Bruce Gordon. Mophir scratched Gordon with the Black Diamond – a segment of the jewel in Umbra’s forehead – used in their Umbra worship, turning him into the Umbra’s new servant, Eclipso.

Back in the cave where Gordon first fought Mophir, the Metal Men find another parchment, this one a Spanish translation of the Incan scrolls. Magnus reads what he cans, reviving Umbra who attacks!

Umbra sends death bolts to kill off the human companions – bolts that criss cross to get to their intended targets and … eclipse each other. Gordon changes to Eclipso who joins the Metal Men in battling Umbra. Magnus orders the Metal Men into specific configurations to create a giant laser beam emitter to focus Eclipso’s Black Diamond beam into Umbra’s forhead jewel and shatters it. Umbra explodes and sloughs back into the ocean.

The bright light from the explosions turns Eclipso back into Bruce Gordon. Doc Magnus uses the parchment to recreate Umbra’s undersea prison and, with the Metal Men’s help, trap Umbra again.

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The letter column explains that Gerry Conway has moved back to Marvel with most of his books going to Joe Orlando and a series of assistant editors. The letters were positive with suggestions of guest heroes and villains.

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Walt Simonson’s dark and gritty style was perfect for Umbra and his brethren – Cthulhu-esque kaiju but of mezzo-American design. Pasko did a fantastic job finishing this semi-revival of Eclipso.

The comics really is getting better and better! This is Simonson’s last issue as the series artist …

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About the author: Michael Curry is the author of the Brave & Bold: From Silent Knight to Dark Knight, The Day John F Kennedy Met the Beatles and the award-winning Abby’s Road, the Long and Winding Road to Adoption and How Facebook, Aquaman and Theodore Roosevelt Helped.  Check his website for more releases! Thanks for reading!