Rick Marschall & Ralph Macchio

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Rick Marschall & Ralph Macchio

“Rick and Ralph” — Marvel Comics at 575 Madison Ave, NYC 1979 — in a strange office area facing the Bullpen with a half-height wall of glass, this is how I best remember Rick and Ralph. At a local convention, Marvel had whomped up this marquee sign with sequencer lighting. After the con, they parked the sign in the short corridor between the mailroom and Rick’s office door. Rick and Ralph dragged this lightweight sign in and propped it up where you see it. It had a clickety-clack mechanical device that drove the lights.

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Seeing this sign and knowing those two people right at that point… that was when I knew I was “home.”

Mr. Rick is an expert about the history of newspaper strips and to a lesser degree, comic books. He was ostensibly hired to spiff up the aptly named “Black & White” Dept. This was an interesting holdover from newsstand magazine days where the interior of the stapled magazine was on low-cost newsprint and only printed in one “color” which was black. The cover was a glossy paper and in 4-color. His task was to improve that and uplift that department with a deluxe, four-color well-printed magazine. Called “Weird World.” But that is a much longer story!

Mr. Rick seemed more comfortable in the newsprint world of 1902 than today. I now know that Rick Marschall is the largest private collector of strip art and ephemera in America. It was he, showing me hundreds of old newspapers– still in good shape (!)– and dozens of gigantic sheets of full color newsprint, who ingrained my dislike of modern Sunday Funnies. They are weak tea compared to way back when.

“Mr. Rick” got his official nickname from typesetter extraordinaire, Stan Aaron, who affected a mock regimental air from time to time. Even Mr. Rick’s late wife, ethereally beautiful Nancy called him that.

Ralph Macchio (I know! The Karate Kid star; well he fell on hard times and had to work for a living…) never had a “real” nickname. “KD” was the closest, coined by long-suffereing production man, Morrie Kuramoto. Kiss of Death– because every book Ralph worked on was cancelled. Ralph had always been a comics devotee, even having written in to the letters collumns as a kid. To me, Ralph is better known as Mr. Cool. So easy-going and mellow– you’d never know he was a supporter of land preservation causes and an extraordinary prankster.

TV exercise guru, Jack LaLanne at age 70, swam Long Beach, CA harbor towing 70 boats– this was 1984. Not long after, Ralph managed to find the LaLanne people, posing as someone’s lawyer, claiming his client’s boat was missing and wanted them to do something about it! (They promised to get back to him… !)

Despite the fact that Rick was let go in under a year, he, Ralph and I are still close friends some 37 years later.

Rick is a prolific author with over 60 books in print and many more due at the publishers that are so late I shudder to think of it! Ralph is a more laid back comic writer, so laid back he’s only written about two dozen books. The ones he co-wrote with Mark Gruenwald, specifically a few issues around Thor 300– are seen as cult favorites in Marvel fandom to this day.

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