12 Top Nicknames for Members of the 1960s Marvel Bullpen, as Chosen by Me
And now let’s go back to a simpler time, when all you needed to look like a swell bunch of guys and gals having fun making comic books was a goofy nickname or adjective for everyone on the team.
Stan Lee came up with nicknames for his staff and freelancers and peppered them throughout the credits and his regular “Bullpen Bulletins” column as a way of building the Marvel brand and giving personality to the people who put the comics together. Other Marvel editors kept the tradition alive, but no one came close to the great nicknames bestowed on the original gang. And of those original nicknames, here are the best:
1. Jack “King” Kirby
Because he is, dammit.
2. Jazzy Johnny Romita
Because I can never read a “Jazzy Johnny Romita” and not think of that classic line from The A-Team: “He’s on the jazz, man.” He is indeed, friend. He is indeed.
3. Fabulous Flo Steinberg
How could she be anything but fabulous; in March 1963, Steinberg signed on as Lee’s “gal Friday,” answering fan mail, calling freelancers and shipping pages to the printers. Soon she was just as much as part of the Marvel mystique as Lee and Kirby, and young male fans would call Marvel’s offices just to talk to the pretty lady whose picture appeared in their comics.
4. Gene “Dean” Colan
The recently passed Gene Colan was not someone who could be pressured into producing art that looked like Marvel’s house style (translation: do what Kirby does; repeat). This did not keep him from getting steady work from Lee, who obviously recognized how indispensable Colan’s moody artwork was for the subject matter he was most often asked to produce.
5-6. Jolly Solly Brodsky/Jumbo Johnny Verpoorten
The nice thing about what Lee was trying to do with Marvel was that it wasn’t just limited to the “talent” — everyone involved in the production of the books warranted a mention in a Bullpen Bulletin, or a jazzy nickname. Brodsky was Lee’s longtime production manager, responsible for taking finished art from the artists and prepping it for the printers; Verpoorten performed the same role when Brodsky moved up the corporate ladder. Verpoorten also helped produce Big Apple Comix, an early independent comic edited by Flo Steinberg, before his untimely death at age 37.
7. Merry Gerry Conway
Mainly because it rhymes. And also because it’s fun to think of the guy who killed off Gwen Stacy and the Green Goblin in one fell swoop — and then created the Punisher as an encore — as “merry.”
8. Ross “Boss” Andru
One of the underrated greats of the Silver Age, in my opinion. His Spider-Man was the definitive Spider-Man of the 1970s.
9. Joltin’ Joey Sinnott
Fans of Simon & Garfunkel will recognize the “Joltin’ Joe” reference in “Mrs. Robinson” as a salute to Joe DiMaggio, the Yankee great who was also known as one of Marilyn Monroe’s husbands. Seems an appropriate moniker for a guy who can claim 60 years as a Marvel freelancer and is often cited as the top inker in the business.
10. Happy Herbie Trimpe
He was the first artist to ever draw Wolverine, so let’s show some respect, you young whippersnappers. Though one wonders how happy he was in the ’80s drawing such forgettable pap as G.I. Joe vs. the Transformers.
11. Laughin’ Larry Lieber
Fun fact: Stan Lee’s birth name is Stanley Lieber. Fun Fact the Second: Larry is Stan’s younger brother. Not that he let a little nepotism get in the way of producing some half-decent Silver Age stories.
12. Stan “the Man” Lee
Lee is nothing if not a master of self-promotion, and it’s entirely too fitting he would give himself this moniker partly because, for a while in the ’60s, he was indeed “the man” that everyone wanted to talk to about Marvel’s meteoric rise. Then, when a bit of the fame went a long way, he turned into “The Man” (in the ’60s-revolutionary sense), squelching acts of creativity by writers and artists that he saw as disrespecting the characters and hurting the Marvel brand. Which, considering how Marvel started out promoting itself as the company that broke all the rules, is what we call “irony.”