|Photo by Eliot Brown. http://eliotrbrown.com|
Today is Pearl Harbor Day. “A date which will live in infamy,” said Franklin Delano Roosevelt. I’m sure it will. It also lives in the memories of Marvel staffers back in the early 1980’s as Morrie’s Day. Morrie Kuramoto, that is.
It started as a joke, or rather as a barrage of jokes. Morrie was Japanese, of course, and an older guy—so the wits and wags who worked in the Bullpen alongside Morrie made outrageous use of the occasion to tease him. Leave it to the likes of Elliot R. Brown, Jack Morelli, Stu Schwartzberg and the rest to suggest that Morrie pasted up recruiting posters for the Japanese Army, was Japan’s spy at Marvel Comics or flew 35 Kamikaze missions.
It wasn’t mean-spirited. It wasn’t nasty. It was funny. Morrie was just about everybody’s favorite human being. Everybody loved Morrie. P.S. Morrie could banter with the best of them. And he laughed at and with the clowns.
With the jokes out of the way, a party ensued—pretty much spontaneously the first Morrie’s Day, more and more planned and organized every year thereafter. A party to honor and celebrate Morrie Kuramoto. Strange how when you have a crew of people working together who really bond and have that sense of family, how love and ribbing go together, but so it seems.
The truth is, if I recall correctly, Morrie served in the U.S. Army during World War II. In Italy, I think.
I’ve told stories before about the first time I worked with Morrie in late 1969 back in the old 635 Madison Avenue offices, and about his quick-n-tricky paste-up techniques—necessary when you’re a one man department. Those tales can be found here: Marvel Cut-Ups.
Here’s a tale I didn’t tell before—Morrie’s fistfight with Rick Parker.
For those of you who don’t know Rick, he did lettering and art production for Marvel. He is also an accomplished fine artist. He had a gallery on Grand Street called the Barking Dog Museum which featured his work and was recognized as a New York City cultural attraction. Rick does a lot of conceptual art (my term, not necessarily his) some serious, some a little whimsical, like this item, which he gave to friends during the 1986 apparition of Halley’s Comet.
Back in the late 1970’s, smokers could light up almost anywhere, restaurants, bars, even at work. There was no law against smoking in the office. Morrie smoked. Rick Parker didn’t. He and Morrie sat near each other, more or less back to back, separated by a narrow aisle, Rick doing mostly lettering corrections and Morrie doing paste-ups. Rick constantly complained about the smoke from Morrie’s cigarettes.
If I remember right, Morrie hardly ever took a puff. But he almost always had a lit cigarette sitting in the ashtray on the tabaret next to him, sending a sinuous column of blue smoke ceiling-ward. I think that infuriated Rick even more. If Morrie wasn’t even going to smoke the thing…!
So, one afternoon, after complaining for the millionth time futilely, Rick stood up and knocked Morrie’s ashtray and offending cigarette off of his tabaret.
Morrie jumped up and punched Rick!
Now picture this: In this corner, Morrie, affectionately known as the “Ancient One,” a short, slight, older-than-dirt guy…
…and in this corner, “Rick-o,” a tall, strapping, young man.
Rick, I suspect, was more surprised than anything.
Other Bullpenners rushed in to separate the two.
Rick walked out. Just left.
Production Manager Lenny Grow sent Morrie home.
And the whole incident was reported to me. Ai-yi-yi….
The next morning, Morrie came in and Lenny sent him to see me. Sort of like being sent to the principal’s office in grade school, I guess. Morrie was very apologetic. I told him we couldn’t have stuff like that, if he had a problem he should come and talk to me, blah, blah, blah….
There is something weird and surreal about a twenty-something kid, as I was then, lecturing a man well more than twice my age.
Morrie assured me that it wouldn’t happen again and went back to his table in the Bullpen.
Then, Rick came in late on purpose for the sake of a grand entrance, wearing a neck brace! I absolutely assure you, it was strictly for drama, strictly to boost Morrie’s ego and to amuse the rest of the Bullpen. That’s the kind of guy Rick is. They both apologized and made up, and all was well. Especially since the next day I moved all the smokers to a different room and left the non-smokers in the main Bullpen room.
Soon thereafter, Morrie quit smoking, at least as far as I was aware. And, eventually, smoking in the workplace was outlawed.
Now don’t get the wrong idea about Morrie. That incident was completely an aberration. It’s so out of character for Morrie that, being a comics guy, it is easier for me to believe that “Morrie” that day was really a Skrull than it is to accept what occurred. Morrie was the sweetest, gentlest man you’d ever want to meet. He had some fire in him, though, I guess.
And, he was pretty sturdy and determined for a guy who probably should have been retired years ago.
The Transport Workers Union went on strike in 1980, and for eleven days there were no buses or subways running in New York. Morrie lived in Astoria, Queens, about five miles away, across the 59th Street Bridge. He walked to work and walked home every day except one, when he asked me if he could spend the night sleeping on the couch in the reception room. I lived even farther out and I’d done exactly that the night before. Sure, no problem.
Morrie liked to bet the horses and could often be found at the local Off-Track Betting (OTB) location. Vince Colletta, an amazing handicapper, who freely gave out tips and was known as “the Saint” to his betting friends because he gave them winners with uncanny frequency, tried to help Morrie. But Morrie was stubborn. He insisted on making his own picks. He seldom won. But everyone knew when he did, because the next morning he would come in with donuts for everyone.
I understand that Morrie belonged to an organization that was a worldwide network of people willing to provide a safe, decent place to stay for travelers—mostly students and young people, seeing the world on a budget. Morrie was kind and generous to all. He enjoyed meeting and helping out people from all over.
Marvel in the early to middle 1980’s was a pretty good place to be. We had weathered the really tough, grueling times and were succeeding pretty well. It wasn’t that there was no stress, but it was manageable. It was an “Era of Good Feeling” for the most part.
Which was great for Morrie. During his last few years things weren’t so hectic that he couldn’t spend some time schmoozing with the young pups, or joking with Elliot and company, or giving the occasional, Kuramoto-patented shiatsu shoulder massage to knotted-up production types. The girls, especially, loooved it.
Or, Morrie would doze off once in a while….
He’d earned it. A thousand times over.
Production Manager Danny Crespi would occasionally spoil the fun by asking Morrie to work. “Did you finish pasting up that lettercolumn, yet, Moishe?” Danny called him “Moishe.” He claimed Morrie was really Sephardic. Truth is, they might as well have been brothers. “Leave the girls alone! Moishe, you’re killing me!”
Mock arguments and banter would ensue. Those two guys had the greatest honk-fests. All in fun. They loved each other. What a pair.
And, you know, it was never really about the lettercolumn. It was about the fun. Morrie always did his job, did more work than most of the kids and never let us down.
Morrie passed away in 1985. I gave a eulogy. I had trouble getting through it. Then again, I cry when I hear “The Little Drummer Boy” at Christmas.
But, Morrie was very special to me. I couldn’t and can’t believe he’s gone.
Danny died not too long thereafter.
Somewhere, in that Great Bullpen in the Sky, Danny and “Moishe” are still bantering. Morrie wins at OTB every day and there are donuts for all the production angels in Heaven.
Happy Morrie’s Day.
|Standing: John Romita, Morrie Kuramoto, Mary MacPherran, Arthur Goodman, Gail Munn, Jim Galton, Barbara Maier (Boris Vallejo’s cousin), Barry Kaplan. Seated: Dorothy Marcus, Millie Shuriff, Nora Maclin.|
NEXT: Winner! – Part 2: The House of Harryhausen, or a Day with RayJayJay here. I remember many, many of my fellow Marvel staffers telling wonderful stories about Morrie. If any of you guys read this, please tell a Morrie story in a comment! I seem to recall a Pearl Harbor Day incident involving a recreation attack with paper airplanes… Eliot? Jack? Kenny? Nel? Anyone remember this or am I crazy?
Eliot Brown also has some nice remembrances and photos of old Marvel on his web site: http://eliotrbrown.com
Back on the Shooter blog, after a few days, family crisis etc. How can your Father go in for routine mesh hernia surgery and end up on a ventilator fighting for his life? These are the days that I have always dreaded, when I am so old that my parents are even older and I may one day have to ponder their mortality. Your post, Mr Shooter, about your dear Father – his workshop and the inexplicable discovery of the ironing-board shaped whetstone – has been in my thoughts somewhat during this crisis.
Okay, a few adult beverages have been taken, but I'm back in the game, and I'm thrilled to have a couple of comments to respond to. Would you begrudge me a glass of egg nog? At this time of year?
Dear Jerry Bonner,
I took a look at the Mr Grinch video, and it's pretty groovy, but I have to say – Dandys smash puny Dervishes. For the straight story on the Dandy Warhols, watch Ondi Timoner's documentary, 'Dig,' about the feud that got out of hand between the Dandy Warhols and Anton Newcombe, the megalomaniacal frontman of The Brian Jonestown Massacre. The BJM being probably the best band in the world. Listen out for the best quote in all of world cinema -"You broke my sitar you motherfucker!"
Dear Jay Jay,
Quizzical face? The video is absolutely revolting. The last thing I need in my life is a pair of soiled y-fronts thrust in my face buttfirst. But the boy Courtney is a heck of a good looking guy isn't he?
Jay Jay, if I were not such a total deadbeat, that Magnus page would be hanging on my wall right now. The way you burnished the perspective of that shot, with the skyscraper climbing up like that, you probably could have swung by Continuity and given Neal a lesson in foreshortening.
Could I ask you a question about colouring? Out of every colourist that ever coloured a comic book with Dr Martins dyes (including the genius George Roussos, who contributed more to the creation of The Batman than Bob Kane ever did), three of them seem to me to be particularly distinctive and brilliant: Petra Scotese with her olive and earth tones; Lynn Varley with her reastraint and effortless minimalism; and Richmond Lewis, with those outrageous purples and lilacs. I was thinking of Richmond Lewis when I saw that Magnus page of yours on ebay. I probably didn't frame this question very well, but it is nearly Christmas, and I have had a few English beers. And here in England we drink our beer so hot it could scorch your tonsils.
Joy to the world etc…
Of course, there would have been the smoking issue.
It was at least six months since I had made the offer. When my girlfriend handed me the phone, I told Morrie I was sorry, but that my situation had changed, that I was now living with someone and it wouldn't be possible to accommodate him. I think he said, "oh… all right." Looking back on it now, in light of all that what was to come from that relationship, I wish I HAD let me come live with me!!
@Rick: Ack! You can't end the story there! Were you put in the unfortunate position of having to tell him that you no longer had the space?
These stories are great fun and I know we all appreciate you guys sharing.
Rick Parker Cartoonist
Another slightly amusing "Morrie Storrie"….not long after I met Morrie, I tagged along with him after work one day to the Carnegie Theatre in New York City to see Akira Kurosawa's "Seven Samurai."Before and after the film, we walked along the streets and talked for quite some time. I was surprised how culturally sophisticated he was and impressed by his broad range of knowledge on a wide variety of topics. After a while the talk became somewhat personal and he told me that he was "having some trouble with his landlady" and may have to find another place to live. I was single and had my own place downtown and told him he could come "live with me for a few weeks" until things settled down or he got his own place. A few months went by and though I saw him every day at the office, nothing more was said about it. After a while I met a young woman and we began spending a lot of time together, and in a few months she moved in with me (…shocking, I know). One night as we were preparing to go out for the evening the phone rang. It was Morrie. He said, "Well….I think I'm going to have to take you up on your offer….
Yes, Jim Shooter. One December 7th, the other staffers went to far. I can't remember exactly who was there (possible witnesses might include Jack Morelli, Joe Albelo, Ron Zalme, Barry Shapiro, Andy Yanchus, Janet Jackson, Ron Fontes, Marie Severin, Nel Yomtov, Ralph Macchio and maybe Jim Salicrup….others have passed away (Nora Maclin, Danny Crespi, Jack Abel, George Roussos) I do not remember exactly what prompted it or what was said– the exact details– except that it happened in the bullpen. But the shit really hit the fan–and he let us have it with both barrels. He let us all know in no uncertain terms that he's about had it with the teasing on Pearl Harbor Day. I'll ask a few of the ones who worked side by side with him if they remember the details. This should be interesting…….
I worked… well, still work in a department with about 12 people. Back when the faces were different, a young girl filed a sexual harassment complaint against everyone in the department except me and the boss. One guy's crime was the way he just walked up to the door and looked at the girl for a couple of minutes at a time. Getting him to say anything was like pulling teeth.
Regardless, as everyone filed back to work after their hours worth of HR meetings on the topic, everyone would look at me and say "you're the most vulgar person in the department, why aren't you listed on her complaint?" I can only guess that she liked me as a person and didn't feel threatened. For some reason, the people that like to complain the most at work all like me. There's one Christian woman at work that everyone avoids like the plague because she's offended at everything. When I walk by she shouts out
"I love you. I'll climb the highest mountain, I'll swim the deepest sea." I'll yell back "What about the Jellyfish? Aren't you worried about them?" Not one other person can figure out why she likes me. They are completely dumbfounded.
When I hung out at comic shops, there were customers that'd pass two or three other stores to shop where I did because they like the rapport my friends all had with one another. There were of course customers that didn't like me. In almost all cases it was customers that the store was hoping would shop somewhere else.
Urk wrote: "This is sideways of this post, but the combination of the well-intended and taken jokes about Morrie being a spy, and his actual heroic service for the USA, makes it hard to not think about the Japanese internment camps where many innocent, loyal Japanese Americans spent several years, for no reason at all except racial hysteria."
Well, at least we can be glad we've learned our lesson about profiling.
Eh. My manager is Korean by heritage, and I've tweaked her in the past by wishing her a Happy New Year around the end of January/beginning of February. Now, she's been a good friend for years, so I know where the lines are. Also, I don't repeat the same joke every year (let's face it, it's only funny once) and I don't make such jokes except within groups of people who understand the ironic undertone. I mean, she actually does get annoyed, appropriately so, when people non-ironically expect her to speak Japanese. (Yes, this happens.)
The reason employers are more "PC" is because the working world is lousy with rude, often bigoted, idiots who are either clueless or indifferent to what's socially and morally acceptable. Yes, some people are too sensitive. But many people–mostly women and minorities–had to put up with ridiculously unacceptable behavior (for instance, the "hilarious" "jokes" listed in this case) for years because they had no recourse. If ending that rubbish means having to put away our gut-busting gynecology jokes, I'm okay with that trade.
I recall Todd McFarlane getting sued by the real Tony Twist (an ex-hockey player for the St. Louis Blues) for using his name in the Spawn comics and HBO animated series. Todd actually lost, if memory serves. He would have been better off if he just used Tony Twist's real name (Antonio Twistelli) which very few people knew…maybe not even ol' Todd!
Wow. I don't remember Morrie ever objecting to Morrie's Day. Can anyone confirm? Maybe Larry knows. Or Elliot. It always seemed like good, clean fun to me, and it always seemed to me that Morrie appreciated the attention. People like Archie, Carl Potts, Louise Simonson and Larry, me (and many others) wouldn't have tolerated anything that offended Morrie. When did you leave Marvel, Rick? Were you there for this?
Basing characters on people in the office or in the business was a time-honored tradition in comics. A number of DC villains and bad guys were modeled after Mort Weisinger, with his full approbation. He was proud of it. People used Julie Schwartz as a model sometimes. Mark Gruenwald, Neal Adams, Bob Kanigher, Jack Kirby, Woody, Starlin, Gerber and many, many other creators, including me, used bits and snippets of real folks in the biz as character inspiration. No one minded if it wasn't mean-spirited or vicious. Wonderful, gentle, sweet Mary Mac was indeed a smidgen of the basis for Titania, who was a willowy young woman who became uber-robust and Hulk-level strong. If MM minded that I had a tough bad-girl inspired by her, and made the nod in her direction, she never mentioned it. And wicked-smart Volcana had a bit of Mary Jo Duffy at her core. It was a thing we did back when. Now, I suppose the creators would be sued.
Where I work, everyone wants to be serious all the time, but I won't let them.
I tell everyone that one of the guys I work with has had a sex change operation so many times that the doctors refuse to do it anymore.
At one point another guy looked at me and said "That's it, I'm taking you to HR!" I thought about it for a second, my face glowed with joy. I said "Please do! I want to see the look on the HR lady's face when you repeat what I said. It'll be worth a suspension for a few days." Unfortunately, he was just bluffing to see how I'd react. Back then I would've enjoyed an extra day off.
I'm not sure of the details but if I recall correctly, Morrie finally got fed up with all the teasing every December 7th and "exploded". That put an end to all the teasing. He may have been in one of those internment camps or perhaps his immediate family members were. He was born in 1920 and would have been 21 when the bombing of Pearl Harbor took place. The property of many United States citizens of Japanese descent was confiscated and never returned to them. Morrie was a talented artist and after he died, his daughter gave one of his watercolor paintings of a vase of flowers to Phil Felix.
I remember the fish tail, but I didn't know the fish tale behind it. It didn't smell noticeably. Maybe if you put your nose right next to it.
Dear R. martens,
Depends on the job, what they were offering and the state of the place at the time. If I were asked to take a position in which I could accomplish some good, it would be worth considering.
That was a pretty cool story Jim and Morrie seemed like a very cool guy. It's nice reading the other posters' stories as well.
Also, I see there's a Mary McPherran in the pic. Was the Titania character named after her? I wonder whether other Marvel characters were named after Marvel staffers.
Well said and I was thinking exactly the same thing as I was reading this story. Unfortunately, my "real" job is an environment like you describe…where nothing is a joke and you have to watch every syllable that comes out of your mouth. It's, in a word, intolerable. People have skin as thick as leaves these days…it always makes me wonder why (and when) as a culture we lost our collective sense of humor?
Great post. I remember doing paste-up on a university newspaper back in the eighties, and there was a great old guy working the camera in the print shop, who smoked these wretched Rothmans cigarettes. Vile things, but you gather a taste for them after a time.
But oh, to be near the stories at those times. I've long since quit the smoking, and I only started because of those late-night production nights, but it was magic.
This is sideways of this post, but the combination of the well-intended and taken jokes about Morrie being a spy, and his actual heroic service for the USA, makes it hard to not think about the Japanese internment camps where many innocent, loyal Japanese Americans spent several years, for no reason at all except racial hysteria.
@Rick Parker: And the cigarettes bugged you?!?! I would have thought you and Morrie would have been constantly fighting off the rest of the Bullpenners defending that stinky jumbo tail!
Wow. Another great glimpse of the inside workings of the Bullpen during that great "golden age" of the early to mid-80's. I often pictured the Bullpen as a magic place, and Jim's first-hand account of it has, if anything, exceeded my own heady visualizations of it.
If there is any cosmic justice in this universe, then there will be a "Bullpen in the Sky" after we die. Jim will still be EIC. All of the great talent and stalwart "Bullpenners" will be there, working and joking and loving each other and putting out what, IMHO, constitutes some of the greatest pop cultural products that have ever graced our great society. And in the lobby of that great celestial bullpen will be an eteranl spinner rack which I can browse and borrow from at will, depart to my old home where I am eternally 12 and my late father is still there at his "most fatherly" and we can debate which titles are better – the Stern ASM, the Miller Daredevil, the Byrne FF, etc., etc., etc.
To quote a country music artist somewhere, "if heaven ain't a lot lot that, then I don't want to go."
Morrie once caught a 38-pound striped bass in about 1977 while surf fishing on Long Island. He brought in the tail and so I mounted it for him in a large cake pan with a painted plaster base to simulate water and a splash–as if the fish had just dived back into the water and all that was showing was the tail. It stayed next to his desk in the bullpen for years. It stunk, but he loved it.
great blog! ive been reading for quite sometime now. I was curious, and perhaps this question has been asked before but. If given the chance would you ever work for marvel again?
I remember talking to Morrie about cats. I had recently discovered that I liked cats and Morrie said he had one. But in typical Morrie fashion, he always complained about the wee beastie, claiming the cat just moved in on him. Maybe it was because Morrie like to fish. If he didn't put his catch away, the cat would steal it and run away. I'd say, "Oh, it was that small?"
He's laugh at that. I always thought Morrie made any cat look like an amateur when it came to nap time in the Bullpen.
If I recall correctly, Jack Kirby created the character Sonny Sumo as an homage to Morrie. I believe I read somewhere, something along the lines that he had always promised Morrie he would create a Japanese hero, and so Sonny was for Morrie.
Great story & comments…thanks to everyone for sharing.
To Mr. Budiansky: as someone who has collected Transformers since 1984, a sincere thank you – your work on those toys & comics have brought a great deal of joy to my life.
A wonderful story about what was obviously a happy man who gave from the heart. What saddens me is that in today's politically correct/watch out for lawsuits environment, any one incident in this piece would now lead to a multi-million dollar lawsuit and hours of mandatory sensitivity training for the entire company staff. The suit wouldn't have even necessarily come from any of the direct participants; it could have come from an offended bystander. Oh how I long for the days when a joke was a joke and it was known to be a joke because it was delivered from one good natured person to another in an environment of camaraderie.
Just seen that Bob Budiansky has posted further up the thread. Bob, as someone who started reading comic books (as distinct from the humourous comics we have over here) due to the ongoing Transformers series (via the Marvel UK reprints/original material), those first two years or so were mostly good stuff, thanks! As for later stories, I defy anyone to cope with having to introduce ever more gimmicky characters to help sell toys and still tell compelling stories: Simon Furman shook up the parent US title at first, but his work suffered in comparison with what he was knocking out for Marvel UK back around 1986/87.
Great stuff. So nice to hear all these other stories, as well – thank you.
For a bit more on the 442nd: http://www.the442.org/442ndfacts.html
(Essential American history, in my opinion.)
What a terrific bunch of stories! Thanks, Bullpenners! And thank you, Morrie!
I never met Morrie, but he was so beloved by the folks up at Marvel that when I started out as an intern in 1989, a full four years after he had passed away, one of his old jackets still hung, untouched and unmoved, in the coat closet where he'd left it.
"Shades of '57!"
Getting to experience an actual Morrie Day must've been fun as all hell.
Hearing the stories and praise from his friends, co-workers and fans is a real treat for those of us who weren't lucky enough to know him.
I was working at Marvel at the time of "the punch," although I missed the actual punch since I worked in an office down the hall. What I remember most about the incident was the aftermath–the small, glass-walled room that Jim delegated for smokers. Sometimes the smoke got so thick in there it looked like fog had rolled in from the mountains. I'm sure if any of those people quit smoking, it was to get out of that room!
Roger Owen Green
Apropos of something else:
From Mile High Comics – Big news this morning, as I have a tentative agreement with comics legend, Jim Shooter, to sign autographs for fans at next week's Christmas Gift Auction at our new Jason St. Mega-Store! We do still have to work out the travel arrangements, but presuming that we can make all the logistics work, Jim will be signing autographs for us at Jason St. next Saturday (December 17th), from 10 AM -3 PM. There will be an initial limit of 3 free autographs per person in line, but once we get everyone through the line at least once, we will let folks get back in line. Having Jim Shooter visit us here in Denver again will be great fun! Jim was last here in 1992, when he helped us open our first Mega-Store, in Thornton…
Marco, the music video for the Dandy Warhols version of Little Drummer Boy is tear-free, but it made me make my quizzical face.
Thanks, Larry. Morrie was a hero to many in many ways.
This is a sweet tribute. It's kind'a hard to pick *one* thing to mention. After Morrie had passed, some of us Bullpenners were gathered in his area, unchanged within the short period of time. We were charged with breaking up the collection of doodads and serious work stuff.
So, there we were, ticked off that this was what was left of the man's material stuff in the office, when we remembered his file cabinets!
Morrie had fought for years to get a set of filing cabinets. What he finally, finally! got, was a two-drawer model– which he kept locked as securely as any military facility's Top Secret cabinet. None of us knew what was in there– so what could it be?
We looked around Morrie's area… everything he would ever have needed was piled in heaps all around his drawing board… pots of rubber cement, vile brush water with many high and low tides marked, Two-Gun Kid logo originals in a wobbly pile… so what could he possibly have kept in there!?
From somewhere a key was procured, the time to reveal the innards was at hand. Inside was the neatest, cleanest, most efficiently arranged gathering of file folders. In the entire two drawers, only 6 hanging folders with vegetable juice recipes.
We laughed and wept over our friend's funny ways. Of course we recounted any number of Morrie's health recommendations involving raw vegetable juices and the benefits of high colonics!
Ha!! Great story, Jim Shooter! (Note to readers: This is more than a "comment" but is offered in the hopes that perhaps someone will find it interesting or amusing). Morrie Kuromoto was one of the first people I met at Marvel in 1976 when I finally succeeded in getting past the receptionist, who, incidentally, was none other than Stan Lee's daughter.(Morrie was 56 and I was 29) Anyway, Morrie was very nice and gave me some pen points and told me to go home and practice. I had initially visited the office in 1973 in the company of a young woman I was dating who worked as a freelance letterer. I had always liked to draw, but my only published artwork was a cover for SCREW. Subsequently, I tried to get work as an artist at Marvel and my portfolio was reviewed in the reception room by Dan Adkins who was less than impressed. It probably didn't help my cause that one of my large drawings on illustration board depicted a cemetery scene in which there is a granite headstone with the name PARKER on it. There was a realistically drawn ostrich stuggling to pull what can nicely be described as a very large "worm" from the dirt a few feet from the headstone, in the approximate location of where the body would have been. I can still see the look on Dan's face as he examined that drawing. Have you already guessed that he was not amused?
So…. I tried lettering and that's when I met Morrie.
Hahaha…is it as good as the Whirling Dervish's version of "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch?" If so, I'm in!
For tear-free listening try the Dandy Warhols version of Little Drummer Boy, it rocks like a maniac.
A few quick thoughts…
When I was still a teenager (I started at Marvel when I was 15), Morrie took me out to lunch and introduced me to the wonders of sushi. It was very kind of him.
Many years later, I had helped create a magazine called DAVID ANTHONY KRAFT'S COMICS INTERVIEW, and I interviewed lots of comics folks for it. I had hoped to interview Morrie, but he insisted that I wait until he retired, so that he could "name names." Unfortunately, we never got to do that interview, he passed away just a few months shy of when he planned to retire.
Morrie had worked for Marvel since MARVEL COMICS #1, published in 1939,and the joke was that Morrie probably left the word "MYSTERY" of that historic first issue, since the second issue was titled "MARVEL MYSTERY COMICS."
Morrie had "nicknames" for just about everyone in the Bullpen, and called me "Saurkraut." Having been called that since I first went to school by kids teasing me, I was amused that this grown man would call me that. It never bothered me, so I never said anything to him about it. Then one day he heard someone call me Salicrup and was confused. He said he really thought my name was Saurkraut and apologized to me. I just laughed and said he could call me whatever he wanted.
Thanks for posting the pics of Morrie and the other Bullpenners, Jim! It's great to see them again.=
Great story, Jim. Also glad to see that there are other grown men who get choked up when they hear "The Little Drummer Boy."
Morrie served with the 442nd Regimental Combat Team in Italy and Germany. The unit saw a lot of heavy fighting and was the most decorated unit for it's size in the US Army. He is buried at Punchbowl National Cemetery in Hawaii.
Morrie sounds like one of these really nice people who makes a positive impact on the lives of everyone they meet. You were lucky to have worked with him.
Oh, and by the way, I don't cry at it or anything, but the Crosby/Bowie version of "Little Drummer Boy" does kind of get to me, connects with that little side of me that's still innocent…