STOCKTON, Calif. — You might say Joe Field is an unsung super hero of Stockton.
When the comic book nut realized Marvel Comic's Fantastic Four didn't have a "real life" home, Field came up with the idea of making Stockton the super hero team's birthplace.
"Marvel Comics was going to be coming up on their 25th anniversary in 1986," said Field, who was doing promotions for Stockton's KJOY-AM radio. "So in October of '85, I got the idea [to] petition Marvel to name Stockton the home of the Fantastic Four because all their other characters were in real cities."
The Fantastic Four was officially from mythical "Central City" in California. So that's when Field put his promotional juices to work.
"If you stick your finger in the middle of a map of California, you're going to hit Stockton," said Field.
Using the radio station he worked for as a launching point, Field's idea got the attention of local media. Soon, the Stockton City Council made a proclamation naming Stockton as the official birthplace of the super heroes.
After news wire services picked up the story, the Los Angeles Times did a story, too, contacting Marvel Comics creator Stan Lee about the idea. Lee loved it.
"And, with Stan saying he was behind it," Field said, "there was no way that the people running the comics division in New York were going to say no."
Field said Lee told the Times reporter: "Well, Marvel Comics is used to saving universes on a daily basis, this is the least we can do for little ol' Stockton."
On February 26, 1986, Lee paid a visit to Stockton. On the steps of city hall, with a large welcoming banner as a back drop, Lee made it official.
Next to Lee — and a costumed Spider-Man — there stood Field with a 102-degree fever, but beaming that his idea had come to fruition. Field said Lee signed autographs at Al's Comic Books store in Stockton. He then had lunch with the comic book legend.
"Stan loved the attention," Field said. "He loved being interviewed. It was a really fun day."
The mention of Stockton first appeared in Fantastic Four comic book issue #296. A few months after the historic day, Stan Lee called Field and asked him if he would help promote his wife's new novel.
It eventually led Field to becoming the advertising director for WonderCon, Northern California's largest comic book convention. The move changed Field's career path forever.
Today, he owns Flying Colors Comics in Concord. He has owned the store for over 30 years.
"His legacy for me is that he was good to me and was nice to me all the way through doing two events there," Field said. "Always writing a nice encouraging note. But his legacy for the entire pop culture is just unfathomable."
The public will get a chance to memorialize Lee at a public ceremony in Hollywood on January 30.
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