When we think about pop culture matters, and we seem to do this nonstop, how often do we bring together Marvel Comics superstar Stan Lee and infamous killer Jack Ruby? No, this is not a trick question. Having given careful study to the last two books by Danny Fingeroth, one on Stan Lee and the most recent on Jack Ruby, I make my own connections. Read my review of the Ruby book here. As is my want, I do my best to dig deep and I believe we ended up with a lively and informative interview. My many thanks to Danny Fingeroth for being so gracious and willing to go with the flow. For those who are perhaps new or unfamiliar with comics, Danny Fingeroth is known for his work as an executive editor and writer at Marvel Comics (Spider-Man, Avengers, Dazzler). He is also known for being a cultural historian. His books include Superman on the Couch, Stan Lee: A Marvelous Life, and his latest title, Jack Ruby: The Many Faces of Oswald’s Assassin, published by Chicago Review Press.
Stan Lee. Jack Ruby. Of course, there’s no direct connection and yet the two share this: both men were Jewish; both men were raised in troubled households. both men were Americans and patriotic in their own way; both men created larger-than-life personas; and both men grabbed the world’s attention. Each had their own set of strengths and weaknesses. One succumbed to his failings. And the other blossomed from his talents and skills. There is no intersection where the two had anything to do with each other beyond sharing the same colossal stage of notoriety. Both became pop culture icons: one could bring a smile to your face while the other was a grotesque figure that managed to both repel and intrigue.
I posed some questions to Danny Fingeroth specifically on the Jack Ruby pop culture phenomena as well as the fact that here he was with a book on Ruby and a book on Lee. I invited him to connect any dots. And, as the saying goes, we were off to the races. The conversation inevitably focused in on Stan Lee, as well as it should. My goal was to find a middle ground, a way to balance both Lee and Ruby, which Fingeroth, an excellent raconteur as well as an excellent listener, tuned into right away. We cover a lot here and our conversation demonstrates we could have gone on talking. Maybe we’ll just need to revisit topics and bring in new ones for next time. For now, I even managed to include some discussion on Fingeroth’s writing run on Darkhawk, a fan favorite from the ’90s (relaunched in 2021).
I will leave you here with one of the most fascinating collisions of pop culture energy that I have come across. This is from the May 1967 issue of Esquire magazine. Jack Ruby had passed away earlier that year and so the gloves were off and the time was right to examine, through the surreal lens of comics, some of Ruby’s activities shortly after the Kennedy assassination based upon the Warren Commission Report. The kicker here is that this comic was illustrated by none other than the King of Comics himself, Jack Kirby! As Stan Lee would say, “Enough said!”
I certainly hope you enjoy the video podcast, just one click below. These things don’t make themselves. It’s a lot of behind-the-scenes hard work, a true labor of love. As always, your loyal viewership, LIKES and occasional COMMENTS are very welcome and appreciated. That said, I find all the material here quite compelling to say the least. As Fingeroth himself is ready to point out, the magnitude of these subjects, namely Stan Lee and the Marvel Universe and the tangled web of conspiracy theories behind the assassination of President John F. Kennedy add up to stimulus overload! We take these colossal subjects one step at a time in order to make some sense out of them. And that is why, dear friends, books like the ones by Danny Fingeroth are essential reading. For me, as a storyteller and a journalist, this interview was quite a treat.
Lastly, I asked Danny if there was anything else he’d like to add for now. And he asked if I’d share with you JewCE, the Jewish Comics Experience, in New York City, November 11th and 12th, 2023. It is a wonderful opportunity for everyone to get one more comic-con fix before the end of the year. You can see an impressive lineup of talent, including none other than comics legends Frank Miller, Trina Robbins, and Jules Feiffer, just to name a few.