Just go listen to this. Just do it. You won’t regret it, I promise.

Photo from the Jack Kirby Museum

Upon listening to this we felt like we were hearing a new Beatles song for the first time, or watching John, Dan and Gilda on SNL, or Stephen Colbert vs Steve Carell on the Daily Show. Or watching THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN, or CHARLIE’S ANGELS or something.

Suddenly these legendary figures were brought to life, only they seem so much larger than life. It’s all there. The jokes we still make. Stan forgetful, Jack bitter, Fabulous Flo, the lynchpin, elusive Steve Ditko. Backstabbing freelancers. ARTIE SIMEK! Artie goddam Simek.

“Stan, the fans know you have a bad memory from all the mistakes you make, but this is ridiculous!”

200610030214We’re struck by the fact that EVERYONE has a Brooklyn or Queens accent. Flo even pronounces Colletta “Colletter.” These were working class folks, working in a dingy midtown office, torn from the pages of KAVALIER AND CLAY or MEN OF TOMORROW.

This link came in an email, but Mark Evanier has more on the recording, from its origin as a Mighty Marvel Marching Society premium to Doug Pratt encoding it as an MP3. He also has Kirby’s view of the proceedings.

ME: That record seems so weird. Was it recorded in the office like it sounds?

KIRBY: No, it was in a recording studio. We rehearsed in the office. Stan treated it like he was producing the Academy Awards. He had this script he’d written. He’d written it and rewritten it and rewritten it and as we were recording it, he kept rewriting it.

Image from Bill Schelly’s
Golden Age of Comic Fandom.”

What really strikes us is how mythological those early Marvel Bullpen days were. On this record, you get a little glimpse of how big the personalities were, but it would take these huge personalities the create something as lasting and legendary as the Marvel Universe. The work being produced by these madcaps is still being studied, ripped-off, and enjoyed.

We were also struck by the generational sense. Stan was 42, Jack 47 at this time. They were well into their careers. But what are myths carved in granite to us were just cranky editors and tightfisted businessmen to the freelancers of the day.

The competition, editorial mix-ups and requests for better page rates are still the everyday stuff of Marvel and DC. When you start reading comics, it all seems so glamourous, and fun, like the Impossible Man might attack at any minute, but then you end up working there and it’s all where is that voucher and will I make it to FedEx in time?

The roles would be played out over and over. When The Beat was a beginning fan, it was the era of Marv, Len, Gerry, Dick and Jim. Later that would be swept away to the era of Jenette and Paul and Tom and now the Joe and Dan era. Some other era will come along, someday but there will never, ever be anything like the original Marvel Bullpen, for better or worse.


  1. I first heard this on a mix CD fellow blogger Mike Sterling made for me. I must have repeated five or so times, just driving around listening to these people. It is that NY world that I never personally knew but I could feel coming through in their comics, even when they took place in Asgard. You’re right, it’s that place where myth and reality meet that just sucks you in.

    And of course, now I only think of Vince Colleta as ““Colletter.”

  2. I’m Doug Pratt’s twin sister. Heidi, FYI, Steve Carrell, Doug and I all share something in common: we were all members of the Proscenium Circus (drama club) at Acton-Boxboro-Regional High School in Acton, MA! Our director was Ted Buswick, also an English teacher. Doug and I are 51, and graduated in 1973; Steve came along quite a bit later, when we’d long moved away. Doug told me that he was in the last season of the Proscenium Circus. Doug can tell you more, but that had to be around the late 70’s or early 80s. As you can see, Doug and Steve made something of themselves; I’m still s-l-o-w-l-y working on a novel.

    P.S. My twin bro’s love of all things Marvel was infectious, even to a little girl growing up in Norwalk, CT. Doug would talk for HOURS about the merits or this or that writer, inker, or artist. Intellectually, he was WAY ahead of himself for a 10-year-old kid! He knew Bernie Wrightson was cool way before Stephen King ever did.