Thursday, March 17, 2011

A Leap of Fate

Some time around the summer of 1969, I was taken off of Adventure Comics, my one regular title, because the Legion of Super Heroes, my regular feature, was reduced to a second feature in Action Comics. That move made no sense to me. While other National titles had fallen precipitously, Adventure had remained fairly constant during my tenure, according to the statements of ownership printed in one of my first issues and in my last (the way I figured it, the ol’ “Marvel writer” had come through) -- but Mort explained that falling sales on Superboy had prompted the shuffling. Supergirl would be put into Adventure, and presumably would hold the half million readers buying the title, while as a back-up, the Legion (which starred Superboy) would no longer “dilute” the sales of Superboy. And, it might shore up declining sales of Action. Meanwhile, I would be given Jimmy Olsen as a regular assignment along with the Legion back-up to fill my schedule.

Since Jimmy Olsen was not one of my favorite characters, I was somewhat disappointed by all of this. I was also very tired of working for Mort. He was a great man who taught me a great deal, but by his own admission he was not an easy person to work for.

Finally, at age eighteen, thanks in large measure to Mort’s teaching, and in spite of his frequent, brutal, often cruel criticism, I felt fairly confident in my ability -- confident enough to dare approach Marvel.

I called Stan Lee. Miraculously, I got him on the phone, even though he’d never heard of me. Even more miraculously, I got him to agree to see me. He told me he’d give me ten minutes.

I flew to New York, and at the appointed time walked into his office and spread dozens of the comics I’d written out on his coffee table. He wasn’t impressed. “You see,” he said patiently, “we don’t really like the kind of stuff they do at National.” I told him I didn’t either -- including my own stuff, insofar as it was constrained by the givens and rules imposed by Mort. Then I told him what I thought the secret was.

“Yes!” he shrieked, and he jumped up onto his chair. Hmm.

We talked about what comics should be for two and a half hours, after which he hired me as a staff writer for a cool $125.00 per week. Big bucks in 1969. The “Marvel writer” had come home at last. There was a catch. I’d always been able to work through the mail for National. The job at Marvel meant moving to New York City. Uh-oh.

Whatever. I showed up for work on the appointed starting day fresh off the seven A.M. plane from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with no idea where I was going to stay that night.

9 comments:

Vinnie Bartilucci said...

Ah youth. That wild period of time where one has little enough baggage (literal and figurative) to try new things, having no idea where the road would lead, only being sure that it felt right.

As we grow, we gain more knowledge about how crazy we were and likely how close to death we were at any period. And yet somehow, those choices made as a younger person never seem wrong.

PC said...

Wait! You spent your salary on plane tickets and NY hotels?

niederklopfer said...

This really should be a book. I'm enjoying this blog so much that I provided a link for it on my facebook page. Great stuff! Everyone should read this.

Marc Miyake said...

Jim,

The one Weisinger title you never wrote was LOIS LANE. You weren't happy with JIMMY OLSEN. How would you have felt about LOIS?

"Then I told him what I thought the secret was."

I hope you tell *us* someday! Or is the secret just between you and Stan Lee? But if you revealed it, it wouldn't be a secret anymore, would it? Ha.

Vinnie,

I have read the first two parts of your interview with Jim many times online. It's very much appreciated. I hope to see the rest someday.

Bosch Fawstin said...

I really appreciate your willingness to bring us all into your story, it's a Great one. I Love your first encounter with Stan Lee and how you won him over after you agreed with him and were in on Marvel's "Secret". I can't wait to read how it all led to you becoming the best damn editor in chief Marvel ever had.

KlausNordby said...

I love these writings of yours, Jim! And this latest one, with your Stan Lee meeting, is the most exciting one yet. Please keep them coming -- this is classic comics history.

FWIW: It's my birthday today, I'm 53, and it's now almost exactly 40 years ago since I, as a 13 year old kid in Norway, discovered Marvel comics -- when my Dad brought home three issues from America -- a momentous event in my life which made me, eventually, become an artist instead of an engineer.

Alejandro said...

Great read as always. This one felt like there were a few gaps but I assume that was intentional. Can't wait for the next installment!

uncannyderek.com said...

I really hope this is going to become a book. I literally am anxious to see where this story goes next!

Erik Bruhwiler said...

Okay, keeping me anxious for 'the secret', uh?

Okay. I'll wait. I have to.