The Hero Maker – Steve Ditko

ditko-league-of-a-merica (1)Mr. A. The Creeper. Blue Beetle. Capt. Atom.  Dr. Strange. Thunder Agents. The Question… and someone named Spider-man. These are a few of the comic book characters that were created or drawn by the artist, STEVE DITKO.  All of them touched my life in many ways and I have Mr. Ditko to thank for his genius in fleshing them out.
His most famous creation was a joint venture between him and Marvel’s head, Stan Lee. Borrowing from The Fly (MLJ Comics) and the pulp hero The Spider, Ditko drew The Amazing Spider-Man. Of course, later I noticed some similarities to a hero name Spider Queen, who shot webs to capture criminals.  Spider-Man made his debut in 1961 in Amazing Fantasy No. 15, and the character’s popularity led to his own title, The Amazing Spider-Man, which Mr. Ditko penciled, inked and largely plotted between 1963 and 1966.
Mr. Ditko helped develop other Marvel superheroes, including Iron Man and the Hulk. Probably his best-known besides Spider-Man was Dr. Strange, a “master of the mystic arts,” who first appeared in 1963.
question.jpgAfter leaving Marvel, Ditko created Mr. A, a black-and-white comic aimed at adults and unconstrained by the Comics Code. Mr. A, attired in a white suit and conservative hat, was named after “A is A,” the idea in Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” that there is one unassailable truth, one reality, and only white (good) and black (evil) forces in society. Unlike mainstream superheroes, he killed criminals. For Charlton Comic Mr. Ditko created the Question, also in a suit and hat but devoid of facial features but.The Question followed the Comic Code.
In 1968 Mr. Ditko joined DC, where he created, among other characters, the Hawk and the Dove, super powered brothers of opposing moral dispositions, and the Creeper, a crime fighter with a maniacal laugh.
Ditko was inducted into the Jack Kirby Hall of Fame in 1990 and the Will Eisner Hall of Fame in 1994. In Sam Raimi’s Hollywood feature “Spider-Man,” in 2002, the opening credits read, “Based on the Marvel comic book by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko.”
Steve Ditko was one of my favorite comic book creators. He has taken his final taxi at the age of 90.

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A Great American Hero- Stanley Weston

If you ever yelled the phase “Go Joe!” or “Thunder- Thunder- Thundercats” then someone who helped form part of your childhood has taken their Final Taxi.stanley-weston-th

Stanley Weston, 84 was the inventor of the G.I. Joe “outfitted action figure” and creator of the popular animated series “Thundercats” in the 1980’s.

Weston had served in the Army during the Korean War and soon after discovered a talent for the licensing and merchandising industry. He founded Weston Merchandising.

In 1960 as Mattel introduced Barbie to the public, Weston saw a product-starved market for rough and tumble boys who thus far had been limited to playing with mild mannered Ken. After Weston read through a 23-volume Encyclopaedia Britannica set, seeking inspiration and drawing on his wartime experiences, he made repeated trips to Army-Navy stores in New York looking for ideas. He conceived of the idea of a military action figure and in 1963 sold what would become G.I. Joe to Hasbro. At the time G.I. Joe came with no backstory, no sworn enemy and no specific mission – just a pink scar across his face and a wardrobe of different uniforms. Becoming one of the most enduring toy lines in history, G.I Joe spawned hit TV shows and films as well as a Marvel comic line.

Weston went on to market action figures for the likes of “Charlie’s Angels” star Farrah Fawcett, the World Wrestling Federation and Nintendo characters. In 1967, he signed a 10-year agreement with the Major League Baseball Players Association for the likenesses of virtually every ballplayer in the National and American leagues He was also associated with marketing efforts for the TV shows Alf and Welcome Back Kotter, and films like Star Wars.

In the 1980s Weston saw how popular He-man and the Masters of the Universe had became, and approached the Rankin-Bass animation studio with his idea for a sci-fi/ fantasy cartoon called ThunderCats. It became one of the most memorable animated series for generations of kids. Weston’s company also brought Pokemon to the U.S from Japan.

In 1989, he was among the inaugural class for the Licensing Industry Hall of Fame, which includes notables Walt Disney, George Lucas and Jim Henson. Now you know Stanley Weston’s story and as they say “ Knowing is half the battle….”

10 fingers on the fender!- Clifton James

Clifton James, 96, actor who appeared as Sheriff J.W. Pepper in two James Bond films has taken his Final Taxi.
Film credits included “Cool Hand Luke,” “Eight Men Out” and “The Bonfire of the Vanities.” He appeared in two James Bond films opposite Roger Moore: “Live and Let Die” (1973) and “The Man with the Golden Gun” (1974). He portrayed the a Louisiana sheriff, J.W. Pepper . James would play similar Southern lawman in numerous other roles during his career, including “Silver Streak” and “Superman II”

The Tragedy of Audrey Munson, America’s First Supermodel

Taudrey-munson-mourning_victoryhe image of Audrey Munson is still on display in museums from Hartford to San Francisco. A statue of her, America’s first supermodel, presides over Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord, Mass. She holds a Bible as Evangeline in the Longfellow Memorial in Cambridge, Mass. She was even in mass circulation for decades as the model for the Winged Liberty Head Dime and the Walking Liberty Half Dollar.
She was so ubiquitous in New York she was nicknamed ‘Miss Manhattan.’
Audrey appears atop the Municipal Building, at the entrance to the Manhattan Bridge, on the Pulitzer Fountain in front of the Plaza.
Her fall was as swift and as spectacular as was her rise to fame. By the time the coins bearing her image were taken out of circulation, she was completely forgotten, confined to an insane asylum and then buried in an unmarked grave.
READ THE FULL STORY::
http://www.newenglandhistoricalsociety.com/tragedy-audrey-munson-americas-first-supermodel/

Alan Rickman – More Than Just Snape

I really hate how the media sometimes summarize someone’s life in a few words.king-louis

Many times they will look at an incredible actor and only see a few of the more popular roles he played and miss the greater body of work. They are doing that now with Alan Rickman.

Actor Alan Rickman took his Final Taxi at age 69 because of cancer. He has done so many wonderful films that have touched our lives but the news mostly focuses on the franchises, Harry Potter and Die Hard.

I first took notice of Rickman as an actor in the movie “Truly, Madly, Deeply” in 1990. This was two years after Die Hard. In it he plays Jamie, a dead musician so in love that death cannot keep him apart from his lover. It was kind of a thinking man’s “Ghost.”

 

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One of my daughter’s favorite Rickman films is Ang Lee’s ” Sense and Sensibility” from 1995. This adaption of Jane Austin’s book has Rickman playing Colonel Brandon as a rich and worthy suitor for Marianne, played by Kate Winslet. This would not be the only time Winslet and Richman worked together. In 2015 Rickman directed ” A Little Chaos” with her as his lead ( He gives a great portrayal of King Louis XIV.)

Many fans will remember his role in 1999’s Galaxy Quest. Playing Alexander Dane, a Shakespearean actor who had found himself trapped and most fondly remembered for an alien on a silly sci-fi TV show. He did not hide the fact he hated it and we all thought it was hilarious as it echoed reality with a great spoof of Star Trek’s Spock. ( “By Grabnar’s Hammer!” )

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I will always remember Rickman’s voice. It conveyed a wide range – from dripping sarcasm to great comic pomposity. He proved that in one of my favorite roles as Marvin the paranoid robot in 2005’s “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”. With a brain as big as a Volkswagen, Marvin was utterly depressed by having to hanging out with other life forms that were less intelligent than him. Rickman was actually one of the best at that kind of deadpan comic delivery. He used his voice only again in 2010’s Alice In Wonderland as the Blue Caterpillar a role that he repeated for the 2016 sequel.

There are so many other great films by Rickman you should see- The Cohen Brother’s “Gambit,” “Bottle Shock” Lee Daniel’s “The Butler” and “Something The Lord Made”. Alan Rickman will be missed for many reasons — his dry wit, incredible English humor, and most importantly for his ability to completely capture our attention on the big screen with his incredible performances. ..and that unforgettable voice.

 

 

 

Edited by Lesa Rosato Burson

Rock and Roll’s Chameleon – David Bowie

Ziggy Stardust. Halloween Jack. The Thin White Duke. Thomas Jerome Newton. Aladdin Sane. Major Jack Celliers. The Cracked Actor. The Elephant Man. The Goblin King. These are just some of the many faces of David Bowie. Bowie was a chameleon of an artist – always changing his looks, his musical style and his outlook on life.

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I was awoken on Monday morning January 11th 2016 by a text from my youngest son telling me that David Bowie had taken his Final Taxi because of cancer. He knew what Bowie’s music meant to me. How the music Bowie made took me through difficult times – growing up an oddball in a small Southern town to surviving heart surgery. It seemed like whenever I felt like an alien, David Bowie understood and had already put the feeling into words.

Being a pre- teen in the early 1970’s I was stuck somewhere in the middle of the 60’s hippy movement and punk rock scene of the late 70’s. David Bowie was making rock music that was mainstream enough to get airplay but strange enough to be interesting.

David Bowie was born David Robert Jones in London in 1947. He changed his name to Bowie as to not to be confused with The Monkees’ lead singer Davy Jones. The first song I remember hearing on early FM radio was Bowie’s “Space Oddity” which introduced the recurring character Major Tom. It was his striking androgynous looks as well as the music from “Ziggy Stardust” that launched Bowie as leader of the early 1970s glam rock era. The stuttering rock sound of “Changes” gave way to the disco soul of “Fame,” co-written with The Beatles’ John Lennon. Other collaborators included Freddie Mercury, Marc Bolan, Brian Eno, Trent Reznor and Pat Methany but his closest partner in music would have to be Iggy Pop. Together Pop and Bowie molded a new direction for each other as well as helping each other out of their respective drug addictions.iggybowie-624-1360253656

Bowie had some of his biggest successes in the early 1980s with the “Let’s Dance,” an LP that took the world by storm with pop hits and MTV music videos. My wife, Lesa, worked at Captial records at the time and she recalls the huge promotion campaign for the record.

I also loved David Bowie as an actor. I could not wait to see “The Man Who Feel To Earth” when it was released. I don’t know how I did it but I got in to see it even though it was rated “X” and I was 15. (This film is very tame by today’s standard and was X because of pubic hair being seen.) In it Bowie plays Thomas Newton, an alien trapped on Earth trying to get home to his family. This spoke to those of us who felt like we were all aliens too, in a world of Legionnaires’ disease ,Tomahawk cruise missiles and Gerald Ford politics.

david-bowie-cracked-actor
The ‘cracked actor’ emerged again in several films including ‘Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence’ playing Major Jack ‘Strafer’ Celliers and as the goth vampire John Blaylock in ‘The Hunger,’ both from 1983.  It was 1986’s Labyrinth that struck a chord with most people as Bowie was both actor and singer in the family musical. Playing Jareth- The Goblin King Bowie wrote and sang most of the music for the film.

He also had film roles including historical figures Nicolas Testla, Andy Warhol and Pontius Pilate.

Returning to music it is fitting that David Bowie’s last single, Lazarus, was a ‘parting gift’ for fans – a skillfully craftedfinale. The producer of his new CD Blackstar confirms David Bowie had planned his poignant final message, with videos and lyrics show how he approached his death- as a work of art.

As a friend of mine posted on Facebook, ” Rock and roll used to be for outsiders, rebellion against the mainstream.. he(Bowie) helped embrace alienation. That meant you were more accepting of the different. Rock isn’t like that anymore. It’s heartbreaking. Bowie’s gone and we’ll never see a combination of rebellion, innovation and art like that again...”

David Bowie was 69.

The generation before me asked “Where were you when JFK died?” Will Bowie’s death be as poignant to my generation?

 

 

 

Thanks to Marlesa Burson for editing this and to Marjorie Boykin for the quote.

Cemeteries get creative to draw visitors