Tag Archives: John F. Kennedy

Danny Fingeroth Interview: Stan Lee and Jack Ruby

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.

Panel from Darkhawk, Marvel Comics, (1991-1995).

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).

Jack Kirby illustrates Jack Ruby! From the pages of Esquire, May 1967.

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.

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Filed under American History, Comics, Interviews, John F. Kennedy, Marvel Comics, Spider-Man, Stan Lee

Jack Ruby: The Many Faces of Oswald’s Assassin book review

Jack Ruby: The Many Faces of Oswald’s Assassin. Danny Fingeroth. Chicago Review Press. 2023. 352 pp. $30

You enter a hall of mirrors once you dig into the many facets of the assassination of President Kennedy. We are now at the 60th anniversary mark, November 22, 1963, of the murder and there is no letting up on this mystery of mysteries. The case is closed, and yet it’s not. Enter Jack Ruby to make the rabbit hole go deeper. Who was he and what did he want? Danny Fingeroth, known for his work at Marvel Comics as well as his celebrated and critically acclaimed writing (Stan Lee, A Marvelous Life) has set his focus upon Ruby, a man who has remained both in the spotlight and in the shadows.

Jack Ruby, if you have any thoughts on him to begin with, does not exactly cut an attractive figure. He’s not famous. He’s infamous. What to make of him? Despite his less than stellar, and more unsavory, appearance, like it or not, Ruby was there at the precise moment in time to murder Lee Harvey Oswald, the man accused of murdering a president, and Ruby instantly made history. He’s more the sort of character you are repelled from than attracted to but he’s also a mighty train wreck baked into one of the greatest horrors and spectacles of modern times. I’m not sure if getting to know Jack Ruby helps us better understand some elements of the Kennedy murder or helps us come to terms with it. Ruby is another nut to crack and a pretty big one at that. What Fingeroth does is try to seek some clarity about this man by bringing out his humanity. Fingeroth presents the reader with a man who could be both good and grotesque. If only his life had taken a different turn perhaps he would never have been anywhere near Lee Harvey Oswald.

What emerges from Fingeroth’s narrative is a Jack Ruby who, and perhaps this is a bit of a shock, we can relate to. Much of what Fingeroth uncovers for the reader is a life full of twists and turns in a struggle to find a place in the world. Jack Ruby had some potential. But he squandered it. Sometimes it was bad luck. But, more often than not, Ruby leaned into a mean streak that would ultimately carry him to his tragic destiny. The most intriguing discovery that Fingeroth makes is Ruby’s friendship with a true American hero, Barney Ross. For someone so obsessed with being close to celebrity and being associated with it, to find that Ruby and Ross enjoyed a genuine connection going back to childhood is fascinating. In a sad and odd way it shows a lighter side to the dark figure of Ruby. The truth is that Ruby had a side to him that was full of good intentions and, more importantly, of grand idealism. What strikes me about Fingeroth’s book is that he ends up painting a portrait of someone who was indeed fully capable of having the will and motivation to make a point of being at the right place at precisely the right time. So, in a sense, Fingeroth makes a strong case for Ruby acting alone on that fateful day in Dallas, just as Oswald is being transferred from the Dallas police over to the state of Texas authority.

A life on a collision course with celebrity.

Ruby was not a simpleton thug. That is essentially what you learn from reading this book. This is a fascinating read that sheds new light on one of the most enigmatic and misunderstood figures in this tragic time in American history. Fingeroth masterfully relates to the reader the life of a man, the choices he made, the struggles he endured, the depths he would let himself succumb to. Yes, he was also most assuredly a jerk who mistreated people and who forced himself on anyone he could every chance he got. But he wasn’t a simpleton thug. In that respect, he shared a fair amount of the same traits as Lee Harvey Oswald, another man who, had he taken a different turn, would never have been anywhere near his own fate on Dealey Plaza.

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Filed under Book Reviews, JFK, John F. Kennedy

JFK Assassination 50 years later and Richard Matheson’s ‘Duel’

Dennis Weaver in Steven Spielberg's "Duel," written by Richard Matheson

Dennis Weaver in Steven Spielberg’s “Duel,” written by Richard Matheson

One of the great writers for “The Twilight Zone,” Richard Matheson, passed away this year. As we observe that fateful date in Dallas, November 22, 1963, I think of how one man created art out of the processing of his emotions from that event. You might find this to be a surprise but “Duel,” the short story about a man fighting for his life against a demonic semi-trailer truck, that went on to become Steven Spielberg’s first major movie, has its origins in the Kennedy assassination. It’s not a direct link. It’s more based on a significantly deep dark feeling of despair and dread.

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Filed under JFK, Kennedy Assassination, Richard Matheson, The Twilight Zone