Saturday, July 27, 2013

MARVEL STAMPS (and DR. STRANGE) SAVE THE DAY!
Marvel Philatelist Promotional Swag: Part 2
-or-
The Postman Always Blogs Twice

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This is the 2nd in a duo of blog posts pertaining to Doctor Strange / Marvel swag as produced by the United States Post Office. (The first entry – featuring a solid silver “Ultimate Marvel” coin series can be found [HERE]).


As we showcased in that most recent article, Marvel (and Doctor Strange specifically, for the nature of this blog) had a series of solid silver Coin Medallions and Ingot Stamps minted by the United States Post Office to help celebrate the series of Marvel Comics postage stamps which were released at the time (2007).

From left to right; top to bottom:
Spider-Man, Hulk, Namor, Thing, Captain America
Silver Surfer, Spider-Woman, Iron Man, Elektra, Wolverine
Amazing Spider-Man # 1, Hulk # 1, Sub-Mariner # 1, Fantastic Four # 1, Captain America # 100
Silver Surfer # 1,Marvel Spotlight on Spider-Woman # 37, Iron Man # 1, Daredevil Saga featuring Elektra # 1, X-Men # 1

While the actual push was for the commemorative First Class stamps featuring Marvel Super-Heroes and Villains, as drawn by Marvel artists (in nearly every case taken directly from the comics or utilizing the cover art itself), it was the promotional material that led to the big score for this Doctor Strange fan/collector.

For while Doctor Strange was not a part of the actual US Post Office stamp sheet, he was one of the characters selected for inclusion in the ancillary offering (the aforementioned silver coins and ingots), and as such was included in the promo materials which were released by the Post Office to help sell the stamps. As many a Doctor Strange collector can attest when it comes to Marvel collector swag; “always the bridesmaid, never the bride”… or maybe to keep the Postal theme alive; “not 1st class… but Bulk mail”.

Allow me to present to you the promo material at this time.

If you were to walk into a Post Office in early 2007, you may very well have been met with this large poster, featuring many of the Marvel heroes as traced over photos – er – “drawn” by Greg Land.

Once again, left to right, top to bottom:
Dr. Strange, Human Torch, Elektra, Thing, Falcon
Mr. Fantastic [head], Hulk, Daredevil, Phoenix, (Mr. Fantastic [body])
Iron Man, Silver Surfer, Invisible Woman, Namor, Stan Lee (as a Postman), Captain America
Wolverine, Spider-Man, Spider-Woman

I don’t know who Land used as a model for Namor, but he is so disgustingly, annoyingly smug-looking that I want to punch him in the throat. So… PERFECT for Namor! Just saying.
However, like anyone who has seen any other Greg Land piece, the poses and faces are instantly recognizable as being re-used from other works. Almost any Greg Land X-MEN cover uses that same Wolverine pose. Just saying that, too.
And while I'm at it... why is Doctor Strange's head smaller than his hand(s)? Look at the GUN SHOW he's pulling off there, too! Damn... Land really doesn't care that not every male hero can be traced from "men's fitness" muscle magazines.

Anyway... it is this artwork that is utilized on all of the promo materials.

If you were to continue up to the counter at your previously alluded-to Post Office, you may have been able to see this “3D” standee dump.


With raised images of the featured stamps flanking the unit, it is printed using several overlaying layers of artwork, thus giving the appearance of being “3D”, with each row of figures appearing closer and closer, until the figures in the foreground “pop” out closest to the viewer than those in the subsequent layers. You can almost smell Wolvie’s sweaty aroma from your computer, can’t you?



At the front is a pad of tear-off contest entry forms (winner would win $10,000… good only at the Post Office Store. Dang… that’s a LOT of stamps).

However, those two items may be the only ones readily viewable by Postal patrons, as the rest were not meant for display.

The following is a 2-sided, 4 piece, over-sized jigsaw puzzle which may have been meant as a give-away to anyone who bought the most Marvel stamps (or perhaps was an intended prize in some kind of promotional contest).



On one side are 4 different enlarged Marvel stamps: Hulk, Silver Surfer, Captain America, Spider-Man (not that I can believe I’m saying this, but to have the Surfer instead of the more recognizable Wolverine makes little sense to me. Perhaps the choice was made by some aging hippie postal worker, fondly remembering licking acid off of Silver Surfer LSD stamps back at Woodstock… I dunno. But then, on a similar note, WHY would the choice of Elektra be made for the actual Stamps over any other, more worthy and responsible “role model” heroine? Certainly, Ms. Marvel [an Air Force Colonel], Storm [the first major African-American Female character], Invisible Woman [a mother – who happens to be a career adventurer] or even Kitty Pryde [youthful, genius, minority, role model] would have made more suitable choices than a returned-from-the-dead assassin?}).

The other side (and the actual “puzzle” aspect of the jigsaw) features the Greg Land group shot.



Lastly, and the rarest item of all, is this Postal Bulletin magazine, meant for the eyes of the Postmaster (and maybe a few clerks) only. Within its pages are boring – er… detailed articles and charts discussing not only the Marvel stamps initiative, but those of so many others at the time.


As you can see from the cover, the stamps were made available nationwide July 26th, 2007 – which is not wholly coincidental as to why I have chosen this time to showcase these Post Office items now.

Who says this isn’t the most mind-blowingly well-thought-out, First Class blog of all? *

*
Everyone says that. Myself included. Don’t let me fool you otherwise.



Sunday, July 21, 2013

MASTER of the MINTED ARTS
- The DOCTOR STRANGE U.S.P.S. COIN MEDALLION

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With the revelation, earlier this month on July 4th, that DOCTOR STRANGE was an integral part of ensuring that our nation achieved its Independence (as seen [HERE]), it should come as little surprise that Doctor Strange was commemorated with a limited edition solid silver coin, minted by the U.S. Government (well, the United States Postal Service)!


Minted in 2008, and made of 0.7 oz of .999 Fine Silver, this coin, while not legal tender, is a limited edition of the ULTIMATE MARVEL COLLECTION.



 The coin came with a certificate of Authenticity that doubles as a character information sheet.



Unfortunately, they erroneously credited the artwork on the coin as being drawn by Dave Cockrum, when in fact it was by Bill Everett from the cover of Strange Tales # 148.



This coin was but ONE of a series of medallion coins and stamp ingots.
The ingots using artwork from the 2008 Marvel Comics stamps series (which we'll discuss in a post very soon), while the other artwork - on the coins - is from other assorted sources taken directly from the comics. Why is Doctor Strange a part of this series? Well... he was featured as a part of the Post Office's commemorative stamp promotional material (which we shall look at in that aforementioned near-future post).



Here's how The ULTIMATE MARVEL COLLECTION was advertised on the USPS site for the series:
"On July 26, 2007, the United States Postal Service issued a sheet of 20 postage stamps featuring the greatest Marvel Comics Super Heroes, including Spider-Man, Captain America, Elektra, the Incredible Hulk, and the Fantastic Four. Marvel’s Super Heroes have entertained and inspired generations of Americans … providing an escape from every day life and making the world a safer place. 
Now, for the first time, the United States Postal Service has authorized each of the Marvel Comics Super Heroes stamps to be minted as a fully colorized solid silver ingot. The collection also includes 20 officially authorized pure silver medallions that feature colorized images of famous Marvel Super Heroes and villains like Captain Marvel, Thor, Green Goblin, and Dark Phoenix. 
The Ultimate Marvel Collection is the only collection of its kind in the world, and is a strictly limited edition. It is officially licensed and authorized by both Marvel and the United States Postal Service."

I was aware of this series when it was first announced, but soon found that ordering the items was next to impossible. I eventually gave up, thinking that it was an abandoned enterprise, and it wouldn't be for another 5 years that I would see this (and a few others) listed for sale in an online outlet.

Luckily for me, Dr. Strange was cropped out of the cover art for Fantastic Four 243 (Everyone vs Galactus, by John Byrne) or else I'd have had to hunt down another of these.

However, as it is, I'm thrilled to have this piece and no matter what its actual value, to me... it's worth a "mint". (Get it? "Mint"...? Ah... the cheap coinage of puns.)

Sunday, July 14, 2013

PUTTING ON A NEW FACE
-or-
Men Call Him... DORKTER STRANGE!

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This entry is a bit of a stupid and self-serving one. So, please bear with me, and in return, I promise to try to make it entertaining (note: promises not valid outside of my own mind).
Anyway, I've been meaning to update the look of this blog for quite a while. *

Among all the items on the "to-do" list, (which is listed all at the end of this post,) I thought it would be a good thing to put a new face on the corner-box where the same pic of my ugly mug has been since this blog began in 2008!

After 5 years of an old pic (which was taken in 2006 [or 2007] - thus making it at least 6 years old), it's about time I put forth a new one.

So, take a look at some photos I took for the occasion. Some of these were taken with the idea of having me be "the host" of the Sanctum Sanctorum which, in all my dorkiness meant mostly me being "in costume", "as" Dr. Strange - really, just a "tunic" (ok... a purple, collared shirt) with my custom-made Eye of Agamotto (a blog-post dedicated to it can be found [HERE]).

I "doctored" a few of them with some "comic-art" filter and also turned a few into an animated gif.

So, please take a moment to point and laugh - er - see which of these YOU would have selected for the dubious "honor" of being my "by-line" photo.


Animated gif - complete with lens-flare special defects... er... effects.
Yup. Nothing but the best of the early 1990's grafix for this blog!

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Me posing all "Doctor Strangey".

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Me posing all "Doctor Strangey"...
(but with a "comic art" filter tossed on it to help hide my ugliness... er... tie it in with the comicbook theme of the blog.

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Me posing all "DORKTER Strangey".

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Yeah. Same pic. Same obfuscating er... authenticating filter.

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Now, at this point in the process, I took a look at the OLD pic and saw that it was really just me sitting, looking only vaguely "Strange-like" - with a slightly altered background.

See? This is the old one.


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SO... I thought, that concept would be fine for the new one.
Just me looking at the camera and looking like myself  (which, I'll admit, IS a little "Strange-y".


And there we have it.

(note: the lighting is shading some of my hair's natural grey-streaks. A few bright strands can be seen, but sadly... they're in there.)

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I may recycle some new ones now and again, and if I ever DO decide to do an "in costume" photo, I'll probably try to emulate the illustrations from the classic corner-boxes from the comics.



We'll see...

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* As for the "to-do" list, I want to add another side-column so the assorted features there can breathe. I also need to design a few special buttons and point them to a few special, indexed landing-pages of blog-post series', and update a commerce-section (Amazon, eBay, a Sanctum-storefront, etc...) and whatnot.

All of these things ARE being worked on, albeit at the slow-but-sure pace that has been a hallmark over the past few years, between my spending time blogging (including working on blog-posts waaaay in advance [you wouldn't BELIEVE the assorted data, images, and rough-drafts I've got stockpiled]).

New stuff will happen all the time.
Well... every so often.
Y'know... when I can.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

50 YEARS of DOCTOR STRANGE!
STRANGE TALES #110 - JULY 1963

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And LO! - 'Twas FIFTY YEARS AGO that strode into our midst a sorcerer unlike many (or any) who had preceded him... 
No top hat or stage-magician's tuxedo.
No basic "Abra-Cadabra" spell-casting.
No earthly foemen.

No.

For he was like his heralded marquee announced...
"MEN CALL HIM DOCTOR STRANGE!
NEVER HAVE YOU KNOWN HIS LIKE!"

Cover-dated JULY 1963 behind an unassuming cover featuring the Human Torch battling old Fantastic Four foes; the Wizard and Paste-Pot-Pete would quietly, and without fanfare, lurk the introduction of the character to whom I (and many a Mighty Marvel Mystical Maniac) would follow with eager anticipation...

So, please enjoy reading his very first chronicled adventure - and while I could have used flashier and more vibrant scans taken from a later reprint, I thought it better and more authentic to use scans taken from a vintage copy of
STRANGE TALES # 110
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THE FIRST STORY STARRING...
DOCTOR STRANGE: MASTER OF BLACK MAGIC!



*RIGHT-CLICK into a NEW TAB or WINDOW to be better able to READ*






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Of course, truthfully, comics back then were post-dated at least 2 or 3 months ahead, so that a month's old issue would not look as such on the newsstands, most likely STRANGE TALES # 110 would have been released in at least by MAY... but the cover says JULY so in JULY do I post my official commemorative post.

Now, while Stan Lee may like to lay claim to creating most, if not all of the characters that he wrote, in point of fact, he did NOT create DR. STRANGE!

Certainly, in later years, Lee would repeat an oft-told tale of how when he was a youth, he would thrill to the radio-show adventures of a magician named; Chandu the Magician (replete with resounding gong sound effect), and that was what he used as inspiration in the creation of the Master of Magic.

However, while he may have used Chandu's exploits as inspiration in his scripting of the first few issues, it was well known that STEVE DITKO was the true creator of Doctor Strange!

I'll leave it to the plethora of comic historians greater than I who have already laid out the copious details of Ditko's mind-works in the storylines and visual references therein, and how these would have been far removed from LEE's usual stock-in-trade.

Better I merely let the words of Stan Lee himself  serve as proof.

Taken from a letter to a die-hard, early "professional" fan; Jerry Bails - in fact dubbed the "Father of Comic Fandom" - Stan Lee says all that need be said:

"...'TWAS STEVE'S IDEA..."



 Of course, without the Awesome Alliterative Assistance of Stan the Man, Doctor Strange may not have become the complex comicbook conjurer that he would turn out to be.

As the letter also reveals, the character was originally going to be called "MISTER STRANGE", but wishing to avoid confusion with "Mr. Fantastic" Stephen Strange was made a Doctor.
There's no telling if or how the lack of the "Doctor" title would have affected Strange's story, but it would seem likely his origin tale would be slightly altered.

Either way, there have been many writers and artists who have built upon the firm ground laid by STEVE DITKO and STAN LEE - and who knows... maybe in 50 more years, some other fan may look back and wonder at the magic and follow where it leads...

And don't forget to continue to follow my blog, dedicated to detailing many of the Master of the Mystic Arts adventures, history and swag...



Tamam Shud!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

HAPPY BIRTHDAY AMERICA!
...THANKS to DOCTOR STRANGE!

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TODAY is JULY 4th!
And for those of us in the UNITED STATES of AMERICA...
INDEPENDENCE DAY!

Today marks the 237th anniversary of the formal signing of the Declaration of Independence, which forever made us our own independent Nation - no longer under the yoke of Great Britain!

But... what would you say if I were to reveal that this (and other monumental historic) event(s) almost NEVER happened - if it were not for the "timely" intervention of DOCTOR STRANGE!

Such is the revelation told within the pages of the most unlikely of historic volumes...

SPIDEY SUPER-STORIES # 17

Jim Salicrup - writer
Winslow Mortimer - pencils
Mike Esposito & Tony Mortellaro - inks
A.J. Hays - Editor
John Romita - Art Director


SPIDEY SUPER-STORIES was a comic tailored to young children, who were learning to read - ostensibly via the aid of the children's television show; "The Electric Company" (with whom Marvel teamed in the production of this series).

So, it was to those children in 1976 - the Bi-Centennial of the USA - that this truth was made evident.

Behold as we go back in time (and where THEY also go back in time)... from 2013 to 1976 to 1776... and back again.

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We start at a Birthday Party for America, where many Super-Heroes (and Electric Company members) were in attendance.

(click pics to make FREEDOM-SIZED!)

Doctor Strange looking to use the culinary skills he picked up at the Learning Annex, if only IceMan wouldn't glom all the glory.


 While Captain America regales Spider-Man with a list of the forefathers in his "list of heroes", Doctor Strange can't help but overhear...

(The penciller, using issues of Defenders and/or Avengers as reference, seems to think Doc needs the "Evil Eye" in his hand to cast the spell - ala the Avengers/Defenders War)

For some weird reason, even though Strange says he will send the two heroes back 200 years, be ends up over-shooting the mark somewhat, and drops Cap and Spidey back in 1773 - December 16th to be exact. Right in time for the BOSTON TEA PARTY.

However, they are not the ONLY super-folk time-jumping in that era, for KANG the Conqueror has also jaunted back in time as well. However, KANG's impetus for doing so is because he is fed up with parades, fireworks and having the "MR ROGERS NEIGHBORHOOD" show (no joke) being pre-empted for July 4th news. If there was NO fight for America's freedom, then Kang would be free to be KING of the COLONIES (and make sure that he wasn't bothered by those irritants).

However, as heroes are wont to do, Cap and Spidey foil Kang's plan of preventing Samual Adams and his men from tossing English Tea into Boston Harbor. And as villains are wont to do, Kang beats a hasty retreat - just in time for DOCTOR STRANGE to bring the two heroes back to the (then) present.


However, while it may say "The End", it is only the end of the first act, as soon, via the Orb of Agamotto, DR. STRANGE spies Kang smashing lanterns in Boston's Old North Church! With no lanterns HOW with Paul Revere know whether the British cometh by land or by sea? So... Strange sends his impromptu Defenders back in time to April 18th, 1775 to save the (yester)day!


After stopping Kang's act of sabotage, Spidey uses his "Spidey signal" to act as a stand-in for the single lantern which would alert Paul Revere!


However, as soon as that historic event was preserved, Dr. Strange sends the two heroes to follow Kang as the time-lord journeys (finally) to JULY 4th, 1776!

Kang has arrived at Philidelphia's Independence Hall to attach a bomb to the Liberty Bell which will destroy all of Philly and prevent the signing of the Declaration!

Luckily, Cap and Spidey beat back Kang, disarm the bomb and make it in time to witness the historic signing of the document.


With that, Doc brings the heroes (and their captive foe) back to the party where they seemingly torture Kang with a Bicentennial party (the likes of which he sought to prevent) and cake (seemingly iced by IceMan's own "icing").


So, this issue of Spidey Super-Stories not only sets up the formation of the SECRET DEFENDERS long before their formal formation, but also sets into motion much of the time-travel shenanigans which could be what started the breaking of the time-space continuum that is leading to all the INFINITY-related breaking of the universe that is being seen in current MARVEL comics NOW!


HAPPY BIRTHDAY, AMERICA!
It's been a Long... STRANGE Journey!