Blah Blah Blog – G-Day 2009

A post from my old Marvel blog on Mark Gruenwald on the anniversary of his passing. That date, August 12th, has in more recent years become known as M-Day, as in later years both artist Mike Wieringo and legendary creator Joe Kubert also happened to pass on that date.

G-Day 2009

August 11, 2009 | 1:00 AM | By Tom_Brevoort | In General

I’ve been terrible about updating this blog the past few weeks, as all sorts of crises have been popping up to monopolize my time. However, it’s that special and tragic time of year once again, and I could not let it go by without marking it.

Thirteen years ago today, August 12th, Mark Gruenwald, Marvel Executive Editor and the “Patron Saint of Marveldom” passed away at the too-young age of 43. Two years ago, Mike Wieringo, award-winning artist of Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, the Flash, Tellos and a bevy of other series, similarly passed away too soon at the age of 44.

Each year that goes by, it seems that fewer and fewer people remain in the industry who knew Mark firsthand. I’m one of the handful left at Marvel who worked with him in any sort of direct capacity. Mike, his demise more recent, is better remembered by the current generation of creators and fans, but over time that’s likely to diminish as well.

So G-Day is a moment of observation in remembrance of the passing of these two talented gentlemen, both of whom loved comics to an extraordinary degree, and to other like them. This is a business and an art form that can have a short memory, so it’s important to recollect the fact that there were those who came before us, and we stand upon the foundation of their accomplishments.

Unfortunately, our gateway for posting images to this blog still seems to be loused up, so I can’t upload any examples of Ringo’s artwork; I’ll try to get something put up within teh next day or so. But since I can still do text, I thought I’d leave you all with one of the most popular columns that Mark wrote for MARVEL AGE Magazine. For that publication’s 100th issue, Mark wrote up 100 observations about himself and life…and then he added another 68 to the list for the final issue of the run. It’s as close as I can come to giving you some insight into what it was like to have Mark around the place.

Here then, are 168 things about Mark Gruenwald:

  1. Gruenwald’s first rule of comedy: Anything more annoying to someone else than it is to you is funny.
  2. Gruenwald’s second rule of comedy: If something is not funny the first time, by the fiftieth time you repeat it, it will be hilarious.
  3. Gruenwald’s third rule of comedy: Rules, like comedy, should always come in threes.
  4. If your hobby becomes your profession, find a new hobby.
  5. My three most common dreams are flying, appearing in public without clothes, and forgetting to finish an important homework assignment.
  6. People read comic books to be entertained, not to feel stupid. Therefore, writers should always strive to make things clear lest readers feel it’s their fault they can’t understand what’s going on and give up on comics.
  7. I jog quite a bit but I’m not sure if I’ve ever experienced a “runner’s high.” Sometimes, though, I feel like I have so much energy I will never have to stop.
  8. Beauty is only spirit deep.
  9. I have no problem believing in the afterlife, it’s the afterdeath I’m not so sure about.
  10. A mutant deliberately creates conditions for himself so severe he must either adapt or perish.
  11. I could never live somewhere that doesn’t have dramatic changes in the seasons.
  12. A person must be ready at all times to entertain three things: one’s self, a guest, and a new idea.
  13. I know who writes the Bullpen Bulletins page. (It’s not me. I edit it.)
  14. Never give up on anything you truly like, just keep adding new things on top of it.
  15. Whenever I think of Voyager hurling out of our solar system with a Chuck Berry laser disc on board, it brings tears to my eyes.
  16. There is no excuse for leading a boring life.
  17. Will somebody please make comic books told in the first person narration go out of style?
  18. To be able to love someone else, you must first love yourself. To love your own work, you must first be able to love someone else’s.
  19. Once upon a time it was possible to be knowledgeable about every single facet of popular culture.
  20. If I didn’t exist, I’d have to invent me.
  21. It takes an equal amount of work to make an enemy as it takes to make a friend, and enemies won’t take in your mail when you’re out of town.
  22. My autograph is different from my signature.
  23. The quality I most value in men is a sense of humor. The quality I most value in women is some acknowledgement of the acceptability of my continued existence.
  24. Different people are driven by different things. I’m driven by the need to discover what drives me.
  25. As a young child, I used to go to my friends’ houses and reorganize their toys.
  26. I have found that whatever mood I’m in on New Year’s Eve tends to define the tone for the whole year.
  27. Though you have to keep an open mind about things, you shouldn’t keep it so open that what’s already stored in there blows out.
  28. All my old girlfriends have virtually identical handwriting. Sure glad my new girlfriend doesn’t.
  29. A hack is a person with contempt for his audience. A hack says the audience doesn’t deserve any better work than this so that’s all the effort I’m putting into it.
  30. Life is filled with pleasure and pain. Sometimes it can even be experienced simultaneously.
  31. I love my VCR. I have taped hundreds of hours of television shows I intend to watch someday when I get caught up on my work.
  32. To attain true happiness in your career you must convince people to pay you to do things you would do regardless of pay.
  33. I’m really getting into hiphop music, but I think there should be a federal statute limiting the number of notes that may be “sampled” from one source while assembling a song to ten.
  34. Sometimes I wonder if the haircut I wear now is going to embarrass me when I look at a picture of myself ten years from now.
  35. One of the things that makes life worth living: good bread.
  36. True love exists between souls, not bodies, but one’s body influences the character of one’s soul.
  37. Kids: never get rid of a toy you like that you’ve outgrown. Your adult life will be haunted by it.
  38. There are certain comic writers who don’t know how to begin or end their stories, but have the middles well worked out.
  39. My small Manhattan apartment is filled with books, computers, exercise equipment, video paraphernalia, toys, clothes, and dust. It’s great to live alone.
  40. When in doubt, leave it out.
  41. Everything ultimately succumbs to entropy, but until it does, enjoy it.
  42. The writer’s job is to give the readers what they want, not what they say they want, and to give it to them in a way they don’t expect.
  43. What is the evolutionary advantage to emotions?
  44. Writing comics for a living is like having homework to do every night for the rest of your life.
  45. I take humor seriously. If you haven’t laughed so hard you thought you’d vomit at least once a year, there was no point in living that year.
  46. Another of the things that makes life worth living: hearing your child say something she learned from you.
  47. Placed in a single stack, my published work in the comics medium is longer than my arm from fingertip to armpit. Once, in Chicago, a fan brought me all of my work to autograph.
  48. I thought I’d found my soulmate once. Unfortunately, at that moment, I’d misplaced my soul.
  49. Another of the things that make life worth living: the night sky far away from any manmade source of light.
  50. Are all writers frustrated performers?
  51. Mythology researcher Giorgio de Santillana once wrote, “A god outgrown becomes a life destroying demon. His form must be broken, his energy dispersed.” I wish I had written that.
  52. I have this recurring dream where a friend of mine falls from a great height and I am unable to save him or her. Will somebody please tell me what this means?
  53. To be as alive as it’s possible to be, you must wonder like a child, feel like a teenager, and think like an adult.
  54. Men: if you can find a woman who really likes the Three Stooges or old Twilight Zones, don’t let her out of your life.
  55. I never set out to write a bad story, but sometimes when I haven’t thought out the initial premise enough, no amount of good plotwork will make it rise above mediocre.
  56. Theodore Sturgeon is renowned for saying “Ninety per cent of everything is crap.” But very little crap is one hundred per cent pure.
  57. Becoming really good at something — anything — is one of life’s greatest pleasures. Don’t let the possibility that there may be somebody better than you at whatever it is you do deter you from striving for excellence. With any luck, you’ll never have to have lunch with that person.
  58. Qualities we like in other people are qualities we either like or lack in ourselves.
  59. My favorite foreign film is Fellini’s “8-1/2.” It took great will power on my part to walk out of the film halfway through the ninth time I saw it, so I can say to this day I’ve seen it 8-1/2 times.
  60. When you’re a comics fan, there’s a month gap between the adventures of your heroes. When you’re a comics pro, they just go on and on without a break.
  61. It’s possible to learn how to be cool.
  62. Why do I find bathroom humor funny, but bedroom humor unfunny?
  63. Sometimes I wish I’d been working in the comics industry in the 1940’s, back when all the good character names hadn’t been taken.
  64. Another of the things that make life worth living: music.
  65. With every single issue of every single comic book, a writer owes his first time reader a fighting chance to be able to understand what’s going on, and owes his regular reader something he or she has never seen before.
  66. Beware of people who don’t own dictionaries.
  67. The best line Ian Fleming ever wrote: “Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. The third time it’s enemy action.”
  68. Right now I’m older than I ever imagined being, but I still feel exactly the same way I did ten, even twenty years ago. No matter how old I get, it feels like the right age to be.
  69. Life goes on, whether we’re in it or not.
  70. I’m not a natural storyteller. A natural storyteller can take the trivial and tell it in such a way as to make it seem momentous. I have to work with the momentous and keep it from seeming trivial.
  71. I can’t stand missing the first few minutes of a movie.
  72. The second best things in life cost money.
  73. My Latin teacher used to tell me that what you get out of an experience is in direct proportion to what you bring to it.
  74. Hard to believe but every single comics character has its fans. Even It the Living Colossus, Turner D. Century and Captain Hero.
  75. I admit it. The fiction I write is primarily intended for juveniles. But just because it’s for juveniles doesn’t mean it has to be valueless. I try to imbed my juvenile adventure stories with values I believe in, values that transcend the genre. Sometimes I succeed.
  76. The problem with life is not that it’s too short, it’s just that it’s too thin.
  77. No joke is an old joke to someone who hasn’t heard it.
  78. Beware the professional who tries to tell you what professional behavior is.
  79. I caution people against meeting writers whose work they admire. Once you find out the guy’s a slob in real life, how can you not let that color your impression of his work?
  80. The best line Voltaire ever wrote: “Men will cease to commit atrocities when they cease to believe absurdities.”
  81. I’ve always felt lucky in that I don’t believe in luck.
  82. The best guitar riff in rock history can be found in the opening bars of Roy Orbison’s “Pretty Woman.” Or maybe the Doors’ “Break on Through.” Or Eric Clapton’s “Layla.” Or Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard it Through the Grapevine.” Or…?
  83. I love New York.
  84. I wish that when I was young somebody had told me that time goes by more quickly the older you get. Not that I would have lived my life any differently, just that I wouldn’t have been caught unprepared.
  85. Be good to people who care about you.
  86. Gruenwald’s first rule of Halloween costumes: A costume should totally disguise one’s appearance.
  87. Gruenwald’s second rule of Halloween costumes: A costume should have something to do with the persona of the wearer, reflecting what he or she’d like to be or the exact opposite.
  88. Grunewald’s third rule of Halloween costumes: A costume should be comfortable enough to wear the whole night without having to take any of it off.
  89. If we can’t kid each other, who can we kid?
  90. I began drawing comic books at five years old, but even by age 18, I could tell my stuff didn’t look as good as the stuff printed in the comics. That being the case it never occurred to me to send my artwork to the professionals. Now that I’m in the business, it’s always astounding to me when I’m sent samples that aren’t even in the ballpark.
  91. I’m not superstitious. Stitious, maybe.
  92. Jim Kelly’s best line in “Enter the Dragon”: “Mister, you’re like something out of a comic book.”
  93. Another of the things that make life worth living: falling in love.
  94. If I had my own rock band, I’d call it “Cognitive Dissonance.”
  95. If something’s worth doing, it’s worth doing with all the energy you can bring to it.
  96. Listen to everybody. A good idea is a good idea, even if an idiot said it.
  97. When I die, I’m really going to miss me.
  98. I have two cat, one of whom sits on my lap whenever I’m at the computer. She’s there right now.
  99. One of the main things that separates Man from the other Animals is that only Man needs to make lists.
  100. This is the oldest the universe has ever been.
  • 101. Pain plus time equals funny.
  • 102. When brushing my teeth, I take an extra three seconds to brush the germs off my tongue.
  • 103. No life is exactly like anyone else’s, so it is virtually impossible to learn from others’ mistakes.
  • 104. Comic artists improve by the page, comics writers by the story. That’s why artists leave titles more rapidly than writers do. They feel they’ve done all they can sooner.
  • 105. Always give as good as you get. No — give better than you get. Make it a point of honor.
  • 106. I have talent. Big deal. I want genius.
  • 107. We all draw the line somewhere, and we all draw them in different places. Take eating: I won’t eat my own species, genus, family, order, or class (mammals), but I will eat within my own subphylum (vertebrates).
  • 108. If they tell you they’re not worthy of your love, believe them.
  • 109. Know how old you are in days. Your 10,000th day on Earth is important. No matter how old you get, you will never get more than 5 digits. (Right now I am 14,916 days old.)
  • 110. Tread lightly. The Earth is alive.
  • 111. Koko the sign-language proficient gorilla’s greatest insight about humanity: “People frown sometimes.”
  • 112. The job of those in the arts is to help people connect with life experiences of people other than themselves, thereby expanding upon their concept of humanness.
  • 113. My friend Mike Carlin once told me his theory that every American movie since the ’70s rated PG or above has at least one scene where a man suffers a groin injury. Thereafter, whenever I see such a scene in a movie, I shout out in the theater, “Mike’s Maxim!”
  • 114. Know something? Share it.
  • 115. You can’t love another person unless you first love yourself. It’s not difficult. Find something you and yourself have in common and learn to appreciate it until that appreciation turns to love.
  • 116. Sometimes it takes more creativity to not create something but utilize well something that already exists.
  • 117. You can have any dream you wish, but you’d better strive to be worthy of that dream.
  • 118. When my daughter was two, she asked me why things have to die. I told her something to the effect that things have to make room for new things. At two, you don’t want your parents not to know the answers to the hard questions.
  • 119. Do not marry any person whose breath you cannot stand first thing in the morning.
  • 120. There are good accients and bad accidents, but everything — even your ability to disbelieve what I have just written — is an accident.
  • 121. A bald man once told me he had only so many male hormones and he had better things to do with them than to grow hair.
  • 122. Love something that’s unloveable by most people’s standards. It’s good practice for your spirit.
  • 123. Gruenwald’s formula for lunch length: Four people equals one hour. For each additional person add on 10 minutes.
  • 124. We are all cover bands, playing songs composed by our species, our culture, and our time era. Take the trite songs and do an original arrangement. Make good art out of bad by the insight and energy and passion of your specific life force.
  • 125. It’s amazing to me that we may learn the ultimate fate of the universe in my lifetime, but we’ll never really know if Marilyn Monroe fooled around with JFK.
  • 126. Back when there were still “relaxation centers,” I used to rent sensory deprivation tanks. Having never taken hallucinogenic drugs, I was hoping that the chemicals in my brain would provide me with an hallucination. No such luck — though I believe I could hear the distinctive ticking of my grandfather’s mantle clock…
  • 127. Life is slime. It begins in slime. It thrives on slime. It ends when the slime inside you dries up. Let’s keep our slime as clean as possible under the circumstances.
  • 128. Which will come first: the comics medium will gain mainstream respect or there will be a real-life costumed super-hero?
  • 129. Rule #1 of good relationships: Never get involved with a person more messed up than you are.
  • 130. Rule #2 of good relationships: Never get involved with a person who has such little interest in your inner life that (s)he’s not willing to read everything you write.
  • 131. Rule #3 of good relationships: Find someone who wants you, not someone who needs you.
  • 132. Hemingway once said, “Writing is dangerous. Few survive it.”
  • 133. If God only helps those who help themselves, does He also only hurt those who hurt themselves?
  • 134. I hate the smell of the inside of my nostrils.
  • 135. You are not entitled to anything. If you get something you did not work for, you’ll pay for it in other ways.
  • 136. It takes a while to learn how to deal with a gift you don’t want. I recycle them. I have a friend who has difficulty throwing anything away. I send him everything I do not want. Recycling is better than junking.
  • 137. Ask an astronomer the significance of the number 137.
  • 138. You don’t have to be a bad person to make good art, writing, music, etc. There’s not a negative correlation between niceness and creativity.
  • 139. You can become a good person. All of us are presented with opportunities every single day to be a jerk or a nice guy. If you train yourself not to choose the jerk option, doing the right thing might become a reflex.
  • 140. What doesn’t kill you only makes you funnier.
  • 141. Gruenwald’s infallible guide to dream interpretation: 1. Every character in your dream represents some aspect of you. 2. Every event in your dream is something you do or don’t want to have happen to you. Sorry, Freud.
  • 142. We live in a “ketchupist” society. Everyone assumes that everyone uses ketchup.
  • 143. Jack Kirby first wrote about the Anti-Life Equation. I figure there’s a Life Equation, too. It took me three and a half decades to figure out what the factors were in my own Life Equation. Now I’m working on solving it.
  • 144. I sometimes wish I had never heard music. Now I have a soundtrack going on inside my brain at all times that only turns off when I’m listening to outer music. Ask me at any moment what song is going through my head and I can tell you!
  • 145. Writers take note. All stories boil down to one single plot: Somebody wants something. All you have to do is figure out who that somebody is, what that somebody wants, and what’s keeping that somebody from getting it.
  • 146. People’s energy determines what happens to them. Some call it luck, some call it karma, some call it vibes. It’s just energy.
  • 147. How to get the person of your dreams to fall in love with you: (1.) Make sure s/he is the person of your dreams. (2.) Make sure you’re a person worthy of dreaming about. (3.) Don’t pretend to be anything you’re not.
  • 148. Gruenwald’s Principle of Laughter: The more obnoxious a laugh a person has, the more things that person finds funny.
  • 149. The only way to ever find something is to consciously stop looking for it.
  • 150. Every comic book could be somebody’s first. Every comic book could be somebody’s last.
  • 151. I can go for months without having a self-revelation. Sometimes.
  • 152. Just because the female characters in the two series I was writing a few years ago were traumatized for months doesn’t mean I was then having problems with women. Really. In both cases it was part of their character evolution and it resulted in them becoming more empowered.
  • 153. I’m the perfect audience. I give all media experiences a fair shot. I want to like things. You’ve got to go out of your way to lose my interest, irk me, make me tune out. Just do your job as well as you can and you’ll wish your audience was filled with me’s.
  • 154. I recently cut off my ponytail after having one for four years. While most of the women I know told me they like me better without it, this homeless guy to whom I always gave change told me he liked me better with it. I still give him change.
  • 155. My grandfather told me this joke dozens of times: Two carpenters building a house, one kept throwing half of his nails over his shoulder. First one said, “Why are you throwing away perfectly good nails?” Second one said, “The heads are on the wrong side.” The first one said, “You idiot, we can use them on the other side of the house!” It was funny every time. Still is.
  • 156. We live in a “dressingist” society. Everyone assumes everyone else wants dressing with their salad.
  • 157. Common comic creators’ fantasy: To travel back in time and start working in the industry before all the good hero names were taken.
  • 158. I wasn’t raised Catholic but it still came as a shock to me that certain saints — like Saint Nicholas — had their sainthood taken away from them by Vatican decree. Is there a quota? In Saint Nick’s case, I’ll bet the Church got irked because he appropriated the name Kris Kringle, which is a corruption of Christ Kinder or “Christ child.”
  • 159. Speaking of Santa, it’s tradition in my house to give one another at least one “Trasha Claus” gift — something you know you’ll like better than the recipient does, but you give it anyway.
  • 160. If your child grows up to have different values than you, you have no one to blame but yourself.
  • 161. Even if I’m not doing it for a living someday, I will never outgrow my love for heroic fiction. Why should I?
  • 162. I am certain that if I became rich, it would not corrupt my values. I would love to test this theory out.
  • 163. It took me years to peel away self-consciousness and find my natural writing voice. It can be done.
  • 164. Comedian Steve Martin said, “I feel very lucky in that I always knew what I wanted to do…I don’t think you have a minute to spare.” I feel the same way. By the time I realized I would probably not become a super-hero, I wanted to spend my life making up stories about them.
  • 165. Meld the scrap of the old bar of soap to the body of the new one. Then you can say that cleanliness is next to infinity.
  • 166. I’ve recently acquired property of my own for the first time in my life, and I am amazed by how fulfilling it is to tend your own land. I’m giving every one of my trees a name from mythology. So far there’s Daedalus, Kali, Yggdrasil, Huitzlopochtli, Nicodemus, Shango…
  • 167. Ideas are tools to transform brains. Ideas are weapons to combat ignorance. Ideas are friends to comfort you when you’re bored.
  • 168. Someday the universe will tire of me and will break me down into the components I came from. Right now I’d mind if that happened, but when the time comes I imagine I will welcome no longer being separate from the rest of reality.

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