Robbie Carosella, 1950-2016

This post currently has 2 comments.

I learned recently, thanks to Fran Grillo, who’s heart is much bigger than mine, that Robbie passed away. It seems he has been gone since mid-2016.

Not long before that, I had sought him out. I have been conducting “interviews” with my old Bullpen comrades. When you’re in the thick of the day-to-day, you don’t usually talk about childhood or upbringing. So I called him and we spoke for over an hour.

Robbie was an unlikable cuss. Short tempered, rude and abrasive – it could be that at one time, he drank too much. Would curse at you as soon as look at you. I could not say we were “close.” We did not have the tightly engaged relationship I had with other Marvel pals. But, funny thing is, he liked me and I liked him.

I had been at Marvel working in the Licensing Department’s Photostat machine room. My next door neighbor who did work for the Bullpen was Mark Rogan. About as genial a co-worker as one could have—certainly when thrown together at random. I was pretty much happy. For about 4-5 months.

Then Rogan upped and decided he needed to run away and breathe free! His replacement? One surly and glowering Robbie Carosella. He was barrel chested and bandy legged, wore a red plaid shirt and had a curly mop of hair like steel wool. For a long while he topped his 5-o’clock-shadow with a Groucho-Marx-wide moustache. He had a putty nose.

He was being shown his office by the head of the Bullpen, Danny Crespi. So I thought I’d be a smart-ass and carried in a box of filing junk lying next to a garbage can, plopped it in front of Robbie and proclaimed these all to be emergency stats needed immediately! And as I spun to leave I said, “Be sure to hold those lines!”

“Hold your tongue!” Snapped my new office comrade.

Which, believe it or not, was the last cross word he ever said to me.

I do not know what form of interpersonal magic took place, but we were on the best of terms from then on.

It’s quite possible we bonded in our mutual admiration and blind lust to the Hulk Doctor. I should explain. Marvel’s Marketing Department thought it was a great idea to have costumes made of some of our more popular characters. By far, the most elaborate was The Hulk. It was a multi-part neoprene rubber monstrosity that must’ve cost a fortune! It always needed some repair between “in-store appearances,” events or parties. In came the Hulk Doctor. This gal – who’s name escaped myself and, I found out when I called, Robbie as well– was actually a freelancer from the outfit that made the Hulk.

These were great times for the program and she would come in several times a month. The name that bubbles up is “Mary.” Alas, I am not sure. But for us, Mary it is.

It should be pointed out that Robbie is a somewhat different person when women folk are around. I imagine it must be true of most lads. But in Robbie’s case his non-women-folk persona was a marked contrast.

At any rate, in came Mary and we all did our best sort of light conversation and such. I do believe that was Robbie’s and my first day. I believe she wanted to travel and see art of all kinds as that was her original passion. Winding up in a costume was not such a stretch for an artistic person. I realized Mary had more than the regular beautiful-girl sway over us both when Robbie suggested we get her an art history book as a good-bye gift on her last day. Or that Robbie was more of a Romantic than he might let on.

Robbie was the not usual “comic person” who wanted to work at Marvel. His last position had been at a stat house. The kind where on one floor, where the big Photostat blow-ups were made, old men in their underwear waded into huge tubs of chemistry, poking at stats with brooms. He said this with an open tone of fear at this future. He responded to a blind classified ad and here he was.

For the next three years, Robbie and I were hard at work not quite side-by-side but very nearly so. Perhaps it was the fact that despite being physically close to each other we had separate offices that allowed us to get along as well as we did.

Robbie was a more sophisticated gourmand that I. Amazed that I had no desire to eat raw fish, he took me to Restaurant Nippon (the first sushi parlor in NYC!), rather close by on 52nd Street and initiated me into the wonders of sushi. It was from him that I learned to always eat sushi during the times of the lunch menu!

Robbie hated having to sign in and out of the “new” offices at 387 Park Ave—he would use the nom-de-comic “Johnny Blaze.” All devotees of Ghost Rider will remember that spirit of vengeance’s human name!

Of course his actual name was Robert. For some reason he hated that and all derivations save for Robbie.
Another thing we had in common was that Robbie and I grew up without fathers. His passed away when he and his older brother, Gary, were kids. My father had to depart from separation. But when Robbie met my mother— a single mom like his own – he could not have been more gentlemanly, polite and even sweet. Same for the time when he met my sister (half-sister, whatever that is; sister) Rana. I had to shake my head hearing Robbie who seemed possessed by the spirit of a genial Jimmy Stewart!

As time marched on I entered Editorial and soon after became a freelancer. These different functions plus Robbie’s need to get home early, kept us from socializing too much. Robbie eventually wound up using a large format scanner which he saw as a relief from screwing around with temperamental machines and gallon after gallon of chemistry. I would be visiting the office less and less but I always barged my way into his darkened sanctum to say hi.

Because as hard as it is to say, I liked him and he liked me.

Robbie Carosella

Robbie Carosella in front of Andy Yanchus and Marion Stensgard, c. 1980.

RIP old chum

Post Script: I intend to write a fuller account of Robbie. This is just what I can get through right now.

2 Responses to Robbie Carosella, 1950-2016

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • Bob Sharen says:

    Robbie and I hit it off from day one. I loved his sense of humor. Now that I think of it, he was the only one at Marvel who always called me by my last name: “Hey Sharen, how ya doin’?” I’ll miss the guy.

  • Walter Simonson says:

    I’m very sorry to hear this, Eliot. Robbie often seemed a little daunting, but he was, in fact, always nice and always helpful to me. A real part of the Marvel experience and mix back in the day. Thanks for everything, Robbie. Godspeed.