Tuesday, January 26, 2021

The Marvelous Work of Lin Carter

"Spins a web, any size."

The Internet is the world's largest rabbit hole. Sometimes, while looking into some topic or other, I find a link that leads me elsewhere, resulting in the discovery of another link – and then another and another – until, before long, I have wandered far from my original intention, assuming I even remember what it was. This happened to me the other day, when I was reminded of the 1967 Spider-Man cartoon that I inexplicably loved as a child. I vaguely recalled that Ralph Bakshi was involved in the second and third seasons of the show and wanted to confirm this fact. In doing so, I stumbled across something I'd never know or, if I had, my age-addled brain had forgotten it: L. Sprague de Camp's frequent partner in crime, Lin Carter, is credited as a writer for 52 episodes of the series. 

The extent of Carter's writing on these episodes is unclear, as there are multiple writers credited for them. Furthermore, many episodes consisted of two stories, so it's possible, perhaps even likely, that his contributions were small. Nonetheless, the idea that Carter, whose skills as a writer paled in comparison to his as an editor (and that's being kind, despite my fondness for some of his output) was in any way involved in this train wreck of a show makes me grin. About the only thing I can charitably say about the cartoon, which I should again stress I loved as a kid, is its theme song, memorably covered by the Ramones in 1995.


Carter's association with Marvel didn't end there, of course. Apparently, before Roy Thomas successfully licensed Robert E. Howard's Conan the Cimmerian – a milestone in the history of the character's mass media popularity – he approached Carter about using his Thongor of Lemuria as the basis for a comic book. Carter balked at the low licensing fee that Marvel offered and Thomas sought out Conan instead, eventually leading to one the most successful comics of the 1970s. Carter later changed his mind and a story featuring Thongor would appear over eight issues of Creatures on the Loose! between March 1973 and May 1974. 

Plans to produce more comics featuring Thongor were announced but they never materialized, probably due to poor sales. Unlike DC, which had to make due with an ever-changing rogues gallery of knock-offs, Marvel had the real deal in Howard's Conan. There was understandably little interest in Carter's pastiche work, no matter how enthusiastic he was in writing it. The same fate likely befell plans to adapt Jandar of Callisto (Marvel would, a few years later, go on to produce a comic starring John Carter of Mars). Some of the Conan stories written by De Camp and Carter would eventually be used in the pages of Conan the Barbarian and The Savage Sword of Conan, a testament to the need for new material featuring the Cimmerian, no matter how uninspired it was. 
The '70s were a hell of a ride.

8 comments:

  1. A post for my birthday! Wonderful post as well.

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    1. Happy birthday! The shade of Lin Carter raises a glass to you!

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  2. Have the DVD collection of the entire series. Loved it as a Kid. Introduced to both of my Kids at a young age, and taught them the song while bouncing them on my knee. We all still love it to this day.

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  3. The jazzy background music was excellent on the show.
    Check out Power Drive
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y5KIXMZV62Q

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  4. I remember watching Spider-Man and Rocket Robinhood back-to-back as a kid. Even then it was a bit off-putting when the two shows reused the same background art.

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  5. I had no idea Lin Carter was involved with Spider-Man. You do indeed learn something new everyday.

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  6. Great stuff. I wrote a little about Lin Carter, and 1960s Spider-man with reference to early D&D - you might find it entertaining. The Evil Sorcerer

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    1. Thanks for the link! I would likely never have seen it otherwise.

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