Saturday, June 25, 2011

An Answer to a Comment

JayJay here. Jim wrote the following in response to a comment from yesterday, but I wanted to post it here since it applies to more than just that specific comment.


Jeff wrote:
"For over 30 years, I have read numerous "Jim Shooter screwed me" stories in various interviews from, usually, The Comics Journal, plus other fanzines of the day..."


Jim answered:
"...numerous "Jim Shooter screwed me" stories....

I've read a few such interviews and been told about others. I'm always interested in exactly what constituted the screwing. Did I steal their money? Sleep with their wives? Give their kids drugs?  What was the crime?

Other than a few over-the-top examples, notably the Doug Moench interview in which he accused me of being responsible for Gene Day's death, as far as I can tell, these are generally the crimes alleged:

     1)  I gave the creator in question direction. That is, I told him or her what to do, or refused to allow something he or she wanted to do.

     2)  I wasn't warm and fuzzy enough. I didn't sugar coat things enough. I was "mean."

Well, it was my job to run Marvel's comics publishing operation. I was making decisions that were mine to make. I was giving direction that I was empowered to give. I was the boss. What part of the word "boss" was mysterious to them, I don't know.

I believed that I was dealing with adults and professionals. I was as nice as I could be. I was very polite the first few hundred times I explained what needed to be done, or what could not be done. At some point you have to say "do it," or "don't do it" and make it stick.

I heard that after I left Marvel, Chris Claremont threw a "Ding, Dong, the Witch Is Dead" party. I don't know if that's true, but Chris and I did have our disagreements along the way. A couple years later, I ran into Chris Claremont at the San Diego Con. He approached me to say hi, and shook my hand. My first instinct was to wonder if he was armed....

We talked. This was shortly after he's been booted off the X-Men. The book he'd written every issue of for, what, seventeen years?  The franchise he built. Chris said, words to the effect that although we'd had our disagreements, they were always about the stories and the characters -- and isn't that what writers and editors should be arguing about? He said, and this is a quote or close: "You never took my book away from me."

Chris later worked with me for a little while at DEFIANT before that ship sank.

Once, in court, in my presence, John Byrne testified on the stand that he had made over ten million dollars working at Marvel. Guess I screwed him good.

I refused to have double standards. No situations like: Artist "A" must redraw the inappropriate scene, but superstar artist "B" is allowed to get away with a similar misrepresentation of a character. It was my job to protect those characters, protect those franchises. The characters and the books came before any superstar and his or her ego.

Tom Brady still does two-a-days. Albert Pujols takes batting practice. Duane Wade studies film.  All are expected to perform with rare excellence, and they do. That's why they get paid more.

I felt that every job, every time deserved the creator's best effort. There were a number of creators who were so good that with half an effort, their work was still better than most. I would not settle for that. It's hacking, albeit at a high level. I demanded that they perform with rare excellence. That's why they got paid more.

I suspect those few didn't like me much then, and probably still don't.

Most superstars gave their best efforts always. I don't think Bill Sienkiewicz, Walt, Weezie, Michael Golden, Terry Austin, many others -- you can probably make the list better than I can -- could ever give less than their best. Even if the money were half as much. Even if there was no money. They idled at great.

Funny, they seemed to get along with me then and still do.

The truth is I allowed a great deal of creative freedom. Some took advantage of that and did great work. Others just tried to take advantage.

If I had it to do all over again, probably the same people would be denouncing me. I'm okay with that.

132 comments:

JayJayJackson said...

I just had to add my two cents. I’ve worked with Jim at Marvel and for him at VALIANT, Defiant, Broadway and now at Illustrated Media. It’s been good, but it hasn’t all been smooth sailing. There have been times when I was totally convinced I was right about something and Jim disagreed. At the time I was outraged that he would disregard my expertise and advise. Why did he hire me anyway? But that was my arrogance talking. And now that I’m older, and maybe wiser (that’s a big maybe, though) I realize that someone has to “conduct the orchestra” or there will be chaos. They were Jim’s call to make and he made the ones he believed were best. That was his responsibility, though I couldn’t always see it that way at the time. Most of the time I tried to be the best orchestra member I could.

Many people will discount what I say because Jim and I have been friends for so long. But I’ve known him to be honorable and fair at all times. The thing about Jim is that he takes responsibility seriously. More seriously than most people, and he will make his decisions based on what he believes is right. That’s why many have seen fit to place him in positions of responsibility.

Defiant1 said...

Jim,

All this makes perfect sense to me, but it makes me think you might be Myers-Briggs personality type INTJ.

http://www.humanmetrics.com/cgi-win/jtypes2.asp

Marc Miyake said...

Dear JayJay,

Thanks for posting Jim's comments as a separate post and for adding your own commentary.

I am amazed at the level of hostility aimed at Jim from fans who were never at Marvel 30 years ago (or at any other point in their lives). Such people should read this post, even if they don't agree with it.

I've never been to Marvel. Never worked for them. Never met Jim. For me, it's all about the work. The comics themselves. That feeling I got when I read Jim's Fatal Five stories for the first time 30 years ago. The feeling I got when I read the Dark Key Solar's origin last Sunday.

Some fans want to play moral crusader, fighting over events they never witnessed. Not me. I notice such fans don't talk about the actual comics much. I guess overt fiction isn't as exciting as "real-life" villainy. Note the scare quotes. I want to say to those fans, "You weren't there. How do you know what really happened?" I don't. I'll read the various accounts, Rashomon style.

It is pretty obvious from my comments here that I find the Shooter-Jackson version of events to be the most convincing. why? Because you two mention the good and the bad. You don't deify Jim. You admit "it hasn’t all been smooth sailing." And I can't imagine a lot of other creators admitting that they wrote an overnight Ghost Rider script that Stan Lee criticized. I've been up at 4 AM writing. I've been there. I can relate to that. It sounds plausible to me. Jim Shooter crushing creativity doesn't. The counterevidence was on the stands and in the public eye: Simonson's Thor. Sienkiewicz's New Mutants and Elektra: Assassin. Far from cookie-cutter corporate products and very different from Jim's own work.

Sometimes somebody has to say no. Sometimes it's been me. The easy thing, the irresponsible thing, is to say yes when you know it's wrong, just for the sake of getting along. Avoiding conflict may be good, but avoiding disasters is even better. The latter is part of any leader's mission. Marvel in the early 70s was a creative and financial mess. Somebody had to step in and provide guidance. Give me a well-conducted orchestra over anarchic cacophony any day.

thegoldenagelives said...

Always enjoy reading your thoughts Jim. You mentioned Byrne so that means one of his, what's it down to now, faithful dozen? One of them has likely posted this on his forum and Byrne is telling tale of how awful you are.

BTW, Byrne is no longer letting talk of the new Captain America movie happen and new threads get deleted if you try. I guess Steve Rogers was mean to him too so you are in good company.

Bosch Fawstin said...

I have nothing to add to Marc's comments, besides again saying thanks to Jim & JayJay for making this blog a Must read.

JayJayJackson said...

Hi Defiant1,

I took that test a while back and I just took it again and got the same result. INFJ. Still true, I guess. :)

niederklopfer said...

Considering Marvel had its best years since Stan Lee was EIC, under Mr. Shooter and that the company hasn't been the same since he left, I'd say he was justified for the decisions he made.

jimshooter said...

Dear Defiant1,

No time to take the test. To quote a wise sailor, "I yam what I yam."

davidmillerstudios said...

I know that there are some people with "Shooter horror stories" but all I can go by are my own experiences with the man. I've had some dealings with Jim and all my experiences have been resoundingly positive. I came away meeting someone who was incredibly generous with his knowledge and (more importantly) his time. Probably at a time when he didn't have a lot of time.
Now, can I say I really know Jim from a few brief business dealings? Probably not. But my experiences sure did make me want to know him more.
Dave

stephen said...

Hi Jim. Am an avid follower of your blog - it has slowly but surely become my favorite. Nice to hear your side of the story for a change.

Matt Adler said...

The tale I have always been curious about is the one Jim Owsley relates here:

"Only, Shooter disliked Peter's work intensely. I had to run interference between Shooter and Peter, and took enormous, relentless grief over every thing Peter did. Peter was one of the most brilliant new writers to come along in years, a truly gifted young man of vision and great wit, who could kill you with incredibly funny stories (like The Commuter Commeth, where PAD sends Spider-Man to Scarsdale, Long Island), only to shock us (and the Comics Code Authority) into stunned silence with the cliffhanger shot-gun blast of The Death of Jean DeWolff— a cliffhanger so intense, in fact, that we briefly considered pulling it. It scared the crap out of me, and I was 23. I was imagining soccer moms buying SPECTACULAR for their kids by rote, not realizing Sin-Eater was blowing away Betty Brant Leeds inside.

The office politics surrounding Peter were too stupid to imagine. He was disliked largely on the strength that he worked for the late Carol Kalish, a very smart woman in charge of the sales department who clashed with Shooter on occasion. There was an incredibly stupid "us" and "them" mentality, and I came under great pressure from nearly everyone in Marvel Editorial to dump David. I mean it, editors were furious with me for using him (ironically, nearly all of those staffers pursued Peter after I left staff, helping make him the A-List comics writer he is today). "

http://www.digital-priest.com/comics/adventures/spidey.htm

José Joaquín Rodríguez said...

You are not producing cars or shoes in a creative job. You are creating something (more or less original, but you are creating anyway). And you have an ego (sometimes an EGO), because you are a creator. And if you have thousands of fans, and they love your work, it is very hard don't think that you are great and your editors are stupid people.

But I think that Shooter years were coherent. In these years you could read a comic and you could understand plot, characters, everything. De Falco years? Harras years? Oh, my god, a dozen X titles and I could not understand anything. And the Clone Saga! Some friends never more read a Spider-Man comic because the Clone Saga.

Piperson said...

Jim, Doug Moench said that he quit Marvel because you asked him to kill off Shang Chi. That you had plans to kill off all of the Marvel characters and restart all of the titles. You wanted to restart Master of Kung Fu with a ninja. Can you comment on this?
Thanks for the great blog!

Defiant1 said...

Janet,

The test is uncanny. I've taken the test about 4 times over the past 13 years and the result is always the same. The girl I'm dating now walked out of my dreams. We clashed a little because we both have the exact same personality type. She dumped me for awhile, but I quit seeing a Playboy model the minute she was willing to take me back. Now that I know she's my exact personality type, we never have any complaints with one another. I'm the happiest I've been in 30 years.

Jim,
You should really consider taking the test even if you don't post the results. It provides an outline of your entire personality and it gives you insight into who is a waste of your effort and who you will collaborate with well. I think Janet's personality type is one reason you two have been friends so long and share a mutual and professional respect for each other.

One reason I suspect you are an INTJ is because people sometimes seem offended by your tactics, but later come back and confess that your decisions were still logical. They don't seem to grasp concepts which you pick up automatically.

The guy I'm training to assist me at work has the same personality as me, except he's an extrovert whereas I'm technically an introvert. INTJ can mask other personality types because the fundamental principle they care about is "does it work". INTJ's will dissect the sacred cows to understand why they are sacred and it horrifies those who want the status quo.

People who've known you have actually accused me of being you in the past when I started posting online. Most people know better now, but it's been very odd for me to see that accusation thrown at me. I think you are far nicer than I'd be if I was in your shoes.

Nicholas Yankovec said...

First time poster here; really enjoying this blog.

As others have mentioned, the proof of your editorial skill was in the comics produced at the time. Roger Stern's Avengers, Claremont's X-Men, Simonson's Thor, Byrne's FF and Alpha Flight, Englehart's West Coast Avengers, the list goes on.

I'm curious, if you were still EIC now, how do you think you would deal with the sheer volume of titles being published - are there like 4 or 5 Avengers now - it would be a mammoth undtertaking to oversee them all, would you try and limit the number of titles?

And how about the fact that Marvel and DC have both appeared to have their universes run by a single writer at times (Bendis and Johns for example). Can one line effectively produce good comics in this way? (the evidence says no in my opinion)

Keep up the good and interesting work!

jimshooter said...

Dear Piperson,

Nah. One proposal for the 25th Anniversary that was floated and shot down instantly was the "Big Bang." The idea was that we'd end all titles and start again, keeping what was good and ignoring things that were bad or out of date. We'd get Reed Richards out of fighting with the French Underground in WWII, get Iron man's origin out of Viet Nam, the Hulk's origin away from being due to an above-ground nuclear test, etc. The concept was briefly bandied around, and in fact, I had recommended it to Jeannette Kahn for DC years earlier. Turns out Gerry Conway had also recommended such a thing to DC before I did. They needed it more than we did. I think that notion became part of the basis for Crisis....

But back to the point. That idea was never more than chatter, it was opposed stridently by circulation (who cited our sales and said why fix it if it ain't broke?) and therefore, nixed by Galton. It had nothing to do with the cancellation of Master of Kung Fu or Moench "quitting" Marvel.

I used to get occasional pressure from the circulation and financial people to cancel our lowest-selling titles and replace them with something that might do better. At one point -- I don't remember which year,1983? 1984? -- Master of Kung Fu had fallen off to the point that it was one of our three lowest selling titles, about 100,000 copies an issue. (ASIDE: That would have made it a top seller at DC, but at Marvel, that was a death knell number.)

Most of us in the office liked MOKF and thought it was Moench's best work. I tried to save it.

Years earlier, when Daredevil was similarly on the chopping block, I was able to forestall cancellation by making the case to upstairs that there was a reason to hang in with it. In the case of Daredevil, my pitch was, "Let's wait a little while and see how this new kid Miller works out."

I called Moench and asked him to help me come up with some rationale for keeping MOKF alive. Some event, some change, some bold new direction. It almost didn't matter. I just needed something to pitch. Some reason to give the suits hope that MOKF would turn around. At minimum, we'd get a stay of execution for a while. Moench didn't seem interested in any changes, new directions, etc. He wanted to keep doing what he was doing.

I seriously doubt that I ever suggested anything to do with Ninja. But, so what if I did? If I did, it was just an opener to get the conversation started. I was wide open to anything Moench had to offer. He offered nothing.

So the book was cancelled.

Moench lived far away in Pennsyvania and rarely came into the office. He got most of his information in the form of gossip, generally from people like assistant editoirs and other freelancers who weren't privy to what was really going on.

jimshooter said...

Dear Nicholas,

I'm not sure what I'd do with Marvel as it is now. I'd have to study, think, plan. They've "segmented the brand" way too much.

Tue Sørensen said...

Jim, thanks for mentioning some of the original ideas for the 25th anniversary. I'd love to hear more. Do I remember correctly that I read an online interview with you several years ago, where you said that the New Universe project was opposed by people left and right, and produced under severe constraints of all kinds (financial, creative)...?

jimshooter said...

Dear Tue,

Coming soon.

Tue Sørensen said...

:-D

jimshooter said...

Dear Matt,

First, let me say that Christopher Priest who was, of course, Jim Owsley way back when, has been one – one of the few -- to publicly say positive things about me and what went on at Marvel during my time there, and I greatly appreciate it.

In this particular case, he’s dead wrong.

Owsley/Priest's assessment that I "...disliked Peter's work intensely." is wrong. If I disliked his work intensely, I wouldn't have let him keep writing for us. And Owsley flatters himself that he could have “run interference” between me and anybody.

Peter was/is gifted, as I pointed out in other posts. He did some remarkable things.

At that early point in his career, he also did some things that weren't up to snuff. He had the "vision" and the "wit" all right, but he lacked some basic skills. My complaints were less about Peter’s work than about young Mister Owsley’s work. I expected Owsley, as editor, to see to it that Peter introduced characters, provided the reader the germane and necessary info to understand the story and make the high-impact scenes he refers to above as meaningful to a first-time reader as they were to him, and all others who were steeped in comics lore (including veteran fans). Owsley, however (and others, to be fair), were so dazzled by the "funny," the "shock" and the "intense" that he forgot to do his job and make Peter do HIS job better.

It is aggravating to see something funny/shocking/intense not delivered as well as it might have been.

I remember the day when very young Frank Miller grasped what I'm talking about -- that eureka moment of clarity. To wit, we're telling stories. We need to TELL the story. To EVERYONE, not just those in the know.

I'm pleased to report that both Peter and young James Owlsley grew up, eventually had their eureka moments and did okay. Owsley/Priest was/is an outstanding talent. And a class act. And a great guy.

Peter is pretty groovy, too.

As far as office politics go....

Carol Kalish and I didn't always agree. That had nothing to do with the politics involving Peter’s writing. Those political issues stemmed from the fact that Carol's predecessor, Mike Friedrich, was very much anti-war (I'm with him there) and somehow that translated into his being anti-G.I. JOE (I'm not with him there).

It came to light that Friedrich was actively, discreetly discouraging distributors and retailers from ordering G.I. JOE #1 and urging them to buy/promote the Elric Graphic Novel instead, in which he had a stake. Ask him. He's not a liar. He'll cop to that.

Larry Hama was outraged. Larry's many friends in editorial and production were outraged. I was outraged. Mike’s Friedrich’s boss, Ed Shukin, Director of Circulation was outraged. Publisher Mike Hobson was outraged.

Mike Friedrich was fired, or asked to leave over that.

When Peter started writing for us, the notion of another salesperson in a position to promote his own works over other books was anathema to many in editorial and production. Understandably, I think. They expressed their concerns, shall we say.

jimshooter said...

Owsley wasn’t privy to a lot of what went on with Friedrich, Elric and G.I. JOE, or he wouldn't have misunderstood/misrepresented the situation.

I was in the unenviable situation of wanting a promising new writer to get the help he needed from Owsley and continue, while totally understanding (and sharing) the ire and legitimate concerns of many editorial types.

I certainly didn't want to lose Hama over the situation, a real possibility.

Owsley makes it sound like the rest of editorial was a bunch of drooling nincompoops irrationally, childishly behaving in an "incredibly stupid" manner, like emotionally damaged kindergarteners.

Nope. Those were/are smart people, and they felt the way they did for good reasons.

Owsley should run his take on the situation past Larry Hama to his face. Remember Larry, among other things, is an explosive ordnance expert. :)

Or, perhaps Owsley should understand more deeply the true nature of the situation and speak more charitably of Hama and others.

Anyway....

Somehow we finessed the situation, somehow all survived, and as I said, Peter and whathisname ended up working out pretty well.

Again, I thank Mister Owsley/Priest for his support, for which I am very grateful. I mean no offense to him by this comment. It’s simply that the record in this case needs to be set straight.

Brett Breeding said...

As someone who was around Marvel and Jim during much of this time, as well as a person that has heard many of the "Jim stories" directly from many sources over the years, I felt now was a good time to add my two cents. You may find it to be worth less.

Around 1977-78 while in high school, I sent a letter and a sample page of my pencils to Marvel Comics in hopes of getting some advice. This was around the time that Jim had just taken over as EIC at Marvel, and as his blog attests, he was very busy managing the company. Still, he found the time to personally respond to my letter, critiquing my pencils and outlining a number of things I needed to do and work on if I hoped to break into comics. I was amazed then, and still now, that anyone, let alone the EIC, would take the time to respond. Hell, today seasoned pros can't get an editor to return their phone calls, much less expect the chief to answer the mail. That letter inspired me tremendously, and showed me that dreams are attainable, you just have to work for them.

A few years later I found myself working for Marvel, fresh from DC Comics. When DC tried to get me back by offering me a Garcia-Lopez job, Jim asked me what he could do to keep me at Marvel. My idol was John Buscema, I always wanted to ink John's pencils. When he heard this, Jim walked me down to Weezie's office and asked if she had any John Buscema work for me to ink. I went home that day with a full Conan job. To this day I feel I butchered that job as I was just not ready for John's brilliant pencils, but I did learn a lot. I'm not sure what Jim saw in my work back then that made him want to keep me at Marvel, but I will always be grateful for his support. There were many other times over the years where Jim did right by me and I was far from a superstar. I hope I never forget all the good things he did for me.

A handful more years later I found myself in a bad situation with an editor and Jim eventually was pulled in the middle. This editor was a guy that if I saw him today I would run him over with my car, so you know it was not a good situation. To my complete surprise Jim sided with him. I was angry about the decision, I felt it was clearly the wrong one, but I never felt it was a personal one with Jim. A short time later Jim was gone from Marvel. At some point he let me know that he realized he had made a mistake. He sided with his editor because he felt that he had to believe and support his people, but at some point he discovered he had misplaced his trust is some of them. Again I was surprised, as number of years had passed and it was water long under the bridge, but it meant something to me that he did it. Ironically, twenty five plus years later, Jim and I are still working in comics and this editor has been MIA for decades. Good thing, as the last thing this industry needs today is another bad editor.

I guess after more than 30 years in this business I'm still a little naive, but it never ceases to amaze me how many people will ignore their personal experiences with someone and jump on the bandwagon of rumor and gossip. I am aware of a number of people who have issues with Jim and would be counted among his detractors, many based primarily on the experiences of others. It baffles me. And some of them are baffled by me. I have chosen to remember my experiences as whole with Jim and not forget all the wonderful things he did for me in favor of a few bad experiences. Shouldn't that be the way we all would hope to be treated?

My best to you Jim,

Brett Breeding

jimshooter said...

And my best to you, Brett.

Be well,

Jim

Will said...

In the spirit of this quote - "I am always ready to learn, though I don't always like being taught. - Winston Churchill"

I think this concisely sums up a sizable chunk of the animosity towards you Jim. Sounds like you were doing a lot of cat herding give instruction and direction to those that did not want/respect/grok were you were asking.

Their loss..

Matt Adler said...

"I expected Owsley, as editor, to see to it that Peter introduced characters, provided the reader the germane and necessary info to understand the story and make the high-impact scenes he refers to above as meaningful to a first-time reader as they were to him, and all others who were steeped in comics lore (including veteran fans). Owsley, however (and others, to be fair), were so dazzled by the "funny," the "shock" and the "intense" that he forgot to do his job and make Peter do HIS job better."

Apropos of that, Owsley relates in another post an amusing anecdote about the editorial process:

"Adam [Blaustein, Owsley's assistant editor] once made Peter David jot down scenes from his comic book plot on flash cards. Over lunch, Peter ran through the plot, with Adam routinely plucking out “Peter Scenes”—usually moments of brilliance ruined by Peter either not trusting the readers to get it or congratulating himself on his brilliance—out of the deck and tossing them on the floor. By coffee and desert, Peter had a leaner stack, “There ya go, Go write that!” We both loved Peter. We both thought Peter was brilliant, and felt awful about the manhandling we, well, really, I, had to do Because The Boss Said So."

http://www.digital-priest.com/blogs2/dpdc/2008/12/maddie.html

padguy said...

Well, here's the good and the bad from my perspective.

1) Back in my fan days, before I was even working at Marvel, I submitted a proposed storyline for "What If--?" involving "What if Gwen Stacy had lived." I wound up hearing back from Jim himself who told me that they already had a story coming up along those lines, but that he liked my concept and I should definitely keep going with the whole writing thing.

2) When I read Owsley's recounting of my time on Spec Spidey, I was a bit surprised (and I've told him this, so it's not like I'm telling tales out of school). The notion that the demands upon me were extremely harsh was not shared by me. He kept coming back to me with various changes, yes, but they were nothing that seemed extraordinary to me. I just saw it as part of the process: I'd already written news stories and novels; this was simply learning the ropes of a different medium. None of the requested rewrites seemed arbitrary or absurd or even all that difficult. It was like, "Okay, I can see why I'd need to do that." "Ah, got it, I hadn't considered that. I'll fix it." I came up through newspapers. Try pounding out a rewrite at your desk in the middle of a noisy city room because your editor decided you buried the lead in the fifth graf while your deadline of 12 noon is ticking down (on a manual typewriter, kids). Poor Owz seemed to feel he was putting me through ten kinds of hell, but really, rewriting a Spider-Man story was a cakewalk in comparison.

3) This is what Owz told me when he fired me off Spec Spidey: that he was under tremendous pressure to remove me from the book because it was felt he had no business assigning a novice comic book writer to Marvel's flagship character. He said he was taking me off the series basically in order to save his job; that Shooter wanted me gone. That's how he saw it. All I can tell you is that, not long after I was let go, Bob Harras hired me to write "Hulk," so I couldn't have been THAT radioactive. If the EIC doesn't want you writing for Marvel, then no one's going to come near you. The fact that Bob brought me onto Hulk with no problem should tell you something.

PAD

Glenn Greenberg said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JayJayJackson said...

I worked with Owsley on a few things and hung out with him and Adam some, too. What I remember most is he seemed to feel under tremendous pressure. His usual bouncy, fun demeanor was warring with the pressures of the job and the enormous responsibility he felt. He was young (heck, weren't we all?) and he was keenly aware of some (few, I think) opinions that were against him and he was understandably nervous, at least that's how it seemed to me. I adored him and he could not have been more wonderful to me, personally. If his recollections seem off at all, it's probably due to the pressure he felt, but for me, a lot of his blog rings true and is generally what I remember as well.

Matt Adler said...

Whenever these discrepancies come up, I tend to think of the old saying; it's not so much about one side telling the truth and the other lying, it's that everyone is the hero of their own story.

Dennis said...

Jim,

Most of the interviews I've read over the years boiled down to "Jim Shooter wouldn't let me do what I want" which roughly translates to either creative differences or creator egoism. I guess it's all down to how loudly the interviewee howled.

The most disheartening interviews, though, were ones with Gene Colan and his wife, who seemed absolutely convinced you were out to make their lives as miserable as possible.

For that one I would very much like to read your side of the story, esp your feelings on his work on TOD, another of Marvel's true epics in those days.

Not today, of course, given Colan's recent passing. Any hint of negativity (assuming there is any) would just give the detractors reason to complain you were being unfair to another creator in no way able to "fight back." But something to file away and respond maybe a couple months down the road.

As I've said, the bulk of anti-Shooter interviews come off as sour grapes. But the Colan interviews --- which frankly bordered on libelous at times IMO -- are the only ones where I wondered whether you were the ogre people made you out to be.

Until I found your blog, however, and finally got to hear the other side told in an honest, plain manner.

Dennis

Gary M. Miller said...

Very nice to see so many creators chiming in with their thoughts on the Owsley/Priest editorial period, and a good reminder there are two sides (minimum!) to every story. There were a lot of intricacies that you, Jim, brought to light that just weren't there in Priest's retelling of events, that he probably couldn't have known--a whole lot of context. (Somewhat ironically, the first issue of Spectacular Spider-Man I ever bought on a regular basis was #103, Peter David's first. Blaze was one strange villain, wasn't he?) Ultimately, in spite of his lack of awareness of "the big picture," Priest does still seem to retain a favorable opinion of you, Jim, and that's something.

Wonderful also to see some insights on the New Universe (can't wait for more...any truth to the connections some have drawn between the Beyonder's death in SW2 #9, and the White Event in the New Universe?) and also the conditions behind the cancellation of one of my favorite (and sadly unreprintable) titles, Master of Kung Fu.

~G.

kintounkal said...

Barry Dutter chose Amazing Spider-Man #267 ("The Commuter Commeth!") as one of Marvel's silliest moments in Marvel Vision #26. The article titled 'Stranded in the Suburbs' highlights all the best panels and reveals the little girl named Shana who offers Spidey her Big Wheel is Peter David's real-life daughter.

Barry also pokes a little fun at the credibility of the plot. The story's one unbelievable twist is that a taxi happened to be driving by at the exact moment the Commuter hopped into his Volvo and drove off. Even Spider-Man was aware how coincidental this looked. He reacted by saying "I don't believe it. Something going MY way for once!" How Peter Parker expected to pay for this cab ride was never explained, nor was the presence of a taxicab on a suburban street.

By the way, Marvel Vision #28 also has a section dedicated to the greatest comics never seen. This time, it provided a brief synopsis for a completed yet cancelled Spider-Man story written by Jim Shooter and Alan Zelenetz labelled "The Manhattan Project". It's an understatement to say this story would have changed the life of Spider-Man forever. Could this be the subject for an upcoming blog some day? I'm eager to hear more about it.

jimshooter said...

Dear Matt,


No, it isn't.  That's very facile, but far from universal.  In a tale told by an honest man who's reasonably self aware, he is the student, the teacher, the smart one, the doofus, the wise adjudicator, the maker of bad judgments....  You get the drift.  I was all of those things and each side of many more such couplings.  I've cited some less than stellar moments.  So have others.  Brett Breeding's comment mentions a bad judgment I made as well as good ones.  There are plenty more of both.  Stay tuned.
 
I'm trying to be that honest man.  I think I am reasonably self aware.  I tell it like it was to the best of my ability.
 
And by the way, thanks to you and all of our correspondents who catch slip-ups, provide additional info, offer cogent thoughts and help out in general.

Daniel Best said...

You stated that, "John Byrne testified on the stand that he had made over ten million dollars working at Marvel." What Byrne said, under oath, was the following,
Question: "You have earned over ten million dollars at Marvel?"
Byrne: "That's probably fair."
He then qualified that with the following, after stating that he made less money doing Alpha Flight than any other book;
Question: "During your career you earned 20 million from others than Alpha Flight?"
Byrne: "Right. I should point out that did not earn 10 million specifically from Marvel. I would say ten million probably in the course of my entire career, I have made four or five million doing the Next Men, which I created to own at Dark Horse."

Matt Adler said...

Jim,

I definitely recognize and appreciate your candor. What I meant by that is not that everyone deliberately tries to paint themselves as flawless, but that I think it's human nature to see oneself as well-intentioned. But we don't necessarily see others that way, so two people may relate the same set of events, both striving to be honest, and yet they may differ significantly. Of course that's not the only reason accounts may differ, but in these situations, where you have honorable, accomplished people, it's what I tend to think.

kintounkal said...

Gary,

The rumor that "the New Universe begat by the Beyonder's power" in Secret Wars II #9 ("God in Man, Man in God") could be the same New Universe inhabited by Ken Connell popped up a lot in Marvel Age #50. Three fans presented very intelligent reasons in the letters page why this would fulfill the desire of the one from Beyond. Sue Flaxman A.K.A. Sue-Hulk addressed these possibilities by saying "Thanks for some great ideas, guys! The official word (from Big Jim Shooter, himself, and he should know!) on the topic of The-Beyonder-and-The-New-Universe is that the two events are completely unrelated. The New Universe is just that - a NEW Universe, having nothing whatever to do with the original Marvel Universe."

jimshooter said...

Dear kintounkal,

RE: "The Manhattan Project": Can you give me a few details to jog my memory?

Matt Adler said...

As I recall, it involved Peter Parker marrying a girl named Lynn, joining a pro sports team, and the Kingpin discovering his secret identity.

FrankS said...

Byrne's the one who held a party after you were fired and burned you in effigy.

FrankS said...

"the New Universe begat by the Beyonder's power"......... wow, that's a cool idea and one I heard nothing about!

kintounkal said...

Sure. The Manhattan Project was going to be a Spider-Man graphic novel that changed his status quo in the following ways:

1) Spider-Man gets shot.
2) Peter Parker gets engaged to a girl we've never seen before. Her name is Lynn and she's described as filthy, stinking rich.
3) Peter Parker signs with the New York Knicks to play pro-ball.
4) Aunt May and Peter's fiancée get kidnapped.
5) Spider-Man's identity is revealed to the Kingpin and Bullseye.
6) Vanessa leaves her husband, the Kingpin.
7) Spider-Man watches his Aunt May and his fiancée gunned down before his eyes.
8) The Kingpin kills Bullseye.
9 Spider-Man, moments before his climactic battle with the Kingpin, discovers his aunt and fiancée are very much alive.
10) The Kingpin is killed in a fight with Spider-Man.
11) At the end, Peter and Lynn begin planning their wedding.

Readers who find these developments too abrupt should keep in mind the story takes place over a period of about three weeks. Heritage Auctions sold all of Larry Lieber's 67 pages and the original typewritten plot on 2003 for $1207.50. I don't collect original art but that sounds like a bargain to me. Pages 6-15 from The Manhattan Project can still be seen at
http://comics.ha.com/c/item.zx?saleNo=808&lotNo=5334

Seven more black and white panels can be found in Marvel Vision #26. My favorite pic spotlights Peter shaking hands with 3 tall members of the New York Knicks. In comparison to them, Peter looks really puny. :)

I'm impressed that Jim and/or Alan decided Bullseye should target Spider-Man back in 1985. Those original art pages would grab my attention most of all.

Readers only got a taste of this confrontation in 1999 when Howard Mackie wrote Peter Parker: Spider-Man Vol. 2 #6 ("The Whys Have It!"). The first real battle between Spider-Man & Bullseye finally happened 3 years ago in Amazing Spider-Man #572 ("New Ways to Die Part Five: Easy Targets") written by Dan Slott. Jim was way head of his time. :)

thegoldenagelives said...

It only took a day but as I predicted in my first comment yesterday, one of Byrne's faithful ran back to master to tell him what a meanie Jim is. Byrne of course denied it and made this snippy reply.

Byrne:
"I'll have to send Shooter a note asking him to forward to me the checks he must have withheld, then, since that figure in no way tallies with my bank account. Does he owe me interest, do you think?

(Anyone who wants to test Shooter's math can do so fairly easily. The Statement of Ownership in the books was usually accurate. The royalty payments were 4% of the cover price, divided among the creative team as 1.5% to the writer, 1.5% to the penciler, and 1% to the inker. An additional 1% was paid to the creators of books, such as on ALPHA FLIGHT. This was paid only after the first 100,000 units sold, so a book that sold, say, 150,000 would pay royalties on 50,000. Royalties started to kick in some time in 1983, as I recall. So, figure out which issues I worked on during the time Shooter was EiC after the royalties arrived, calculate the payments based on the sales, cover price, and jobs I did, and see how close you come to $10,000,000.)"

Tue Sørensen said...

OK, that is getting silly. Did someone report to Byrne that anyone said he made 10 million on Alpha Flight alone? That's exactly what *wasn't* reported. Read that court statement again. Byrne says he probably made 10 million all told during his entire career at Marvel, and that Alpha Flight was one of the books he made *least* money from.

As for the Beyonder and the New Universe; I seem to recall that I definitely made the connection back then that the New Universe *was* created by the death of the Beyonder. But if that was supposed to be the official version of event, I don't remember. Seems not.

thegoldenagelives said...

Byrne is just being an ass as usual. They have a whole thread about Jim, currently 5 pages long.

http://www.byrnerobotics.com/forum/forum_posts.asp?TID=39001&PN=0&TPN=1

The recent comment is from page 4

Gary M. Miller said...

As the late Pittsburgh Steelers announcer Myron Cope would say, "Yoi and double-yoi!" I had my own experience with John Byrne's fantastic ego over a 4-part series of articles I wrote about his aborted first run on the Hulk. (A series where, actually, Jim provided some interesting details that served as corrections, as he discussed Byrne here well after I'd finished the series.) Although I was largely paying him a compliment for his ideas on the book that never saw the light of day, he wouldn't stop dwelling on the negative. I'll say this for his fans, though: they sure do drive the traffic to the sites!

~G.

czeskleba said...

In the testimony quoted above, Byrne initially answers "that's probably fair" to the question of whether he earned 10 million at Marvel. But he later clarifies that he meant he has earned 10 million over the course of *his entire career*, not just from his employment at Marvel. So he did not testify that he earned 10 million from Marvel.

jimshooter said...

Dear kintounkal,

This is loosely based on a Spider-Man film treatment I wrote for one of the studios, working title "Operation Z." I didn't have anything to do with this extrapolation from my treatment. I'll run the treatment as written soon. Have to figure out which box it's in.

kintounkal said...

Gary,

I forgot to mention earlier that the chances of Master of Kung Fu being reprinted aren't so slim after all. On December 22nd, 2009, the Marvel Mastwerworks message board invited a Marvel editor named Cory Sedlmeier to participate in a Q&A. At one point, he was asked "Have you heard anything through the grapevine about possible Omnibus/Masterworks of any licensed properties like Master of Kung Fu?"

Cory replied "I'd love to get MOKF back in print. I was talking to Doug Moench about my interest in it a few weeks ago. That said, we'd obviously need to have legal dig into the licensing details related to the series, and that adds a layer of work, time, detail, energy and possibly cost to a project. Lately, I've been far too busy between overhauling the film archives, launching the TPB line, etc. to even consider investing time into making a case for licensed series. There's only so many hours in a day. We'll see how things go for me next year. It's certainly a series that warrants collecting."

Later, he was asked "Are there any plans for re-acquiring any licensed properties? Some of Marvel's best comics in the late 70s early 80s were such titles as Rom, Micronauts, etc."

Cory referred to his previous answer for the most part adding "I think the chances for MOKF are much better than Micronauts and significantly better than ROM."

Three months ago, David Gabriel, the Senior Vice President of Sales at Marvel, volunteered to hint at Marvel's reprint schedule. In most cases, he said a TPB was in the works or there are no plans for an Omnibus. When someone asked about Master of Kung Fu, he paused and wrote ".... Wait and see" Nothing else was given a vague answer. I interpret that as a positive sign.

Kid said...

Jim (if I may be so familiar?), on the question of Shang Chi, Master of Kung Fu, don't you think it would have been easier and less costly for Marvel to have made him the son of the Yellow Claw rather than Fu Manchu? I know you weren't responsible for how the character first appeared, but I wonder if you had any thoughts on the matter?

jimshooter said...

Dear czeskleba,

I remembered the "That's probably fair" part, if not the exact quote. The point is he made a lot of money.

thegoldenagelives said...

czeskleba,

Thanks for posting that information. It's been years since I read that transcript and couldn't find my copy.

Are you the same czeskleba who posts on Byrne's forum? You should post that information there as well. I would but I made a thread about the new Captain America trailer and then couldn't find it. Made a second thread and it was gone too and suddenly I could no longer post. I found out since then it's one of Byrne's not to be mentioned subjects.

I wonder why Byrne plays the poor man? He made 10 million by 1999. He has written he was getting double the normal pay rate at Marvel his last time there. His commissions add up to a couple hundred grand a year income and add IDW money? Guy is loaded.

jimshooter said...

Dear Kid,

I can't guess at their reasoning back in 1972. They certainly didn't go with the Sax Rohmer characters and the Kung Fu TV show as source material for lack of creativity of their own. They must have felt there was some advantage.

Dennis said...

Jim --

Most likely answer was the success of Conan and the hope that lightning would strike twice in the minds of fandom. Remember, Killraven derived from WOTW, Lovecraft and Lovecraftian ideas permeating books like Dr Strange, not to mention Thongor, Planet of the Apes, Doc Savage, and the like.

Never having read a Fu Manchu book, though, any continuity hints (characters, hints, etc) were forever lost on me. The letter pages seemed to reveal few hints as opposed to the amount of information one could find in, say, the Conan titles.

MOKU definitely succeeded solely on the strength of the writing and the strong Gulacy artwork.

Ah those heady days when nostalgia itself was still a craze.

Xavier said...

Looking as all the gratuitus bashing on the Bleeding Cool forum, I feel this is as good a time as any to share a little preview of a giant Ernie Colon interview I made, due to be published in french mag SCARCE next month:

ME:What was it like, working for Marvel during the 90's, compared to the lates 70's or the 80's. Was there a big difference in the way they treat you? (I know some others long-term artists said that the young guys incharge back then had no respect or knowledge for "ancient" people, was it the case?)

ERNIE: Marvel--for me--was very much like DC in that it held great promise, then didn't deliver on that promise. Jim Shooter was chief editor and he had great, sweeping concepts for the entire line. Jim was incredibly, cinematically creative. The young guys you mention not only had little respect for the ancients--they actively sabotaged the project. As with any corporate structure, there are always factions, envy and power plays. For a hermit monk illuminator like me--I just want to be left alone to do my work.

ME: -You were part of Jim Shooter Valiant company, on a new version of Magnus Robot Fighter, following not only Russ Manning, but also Steve Sitko who worked on the title around the same time as you. Did you met him? What were your feelings on Jim Shooter? He was praised and despised at the same time after his tenure at Marvel Comics, some people swearing never to work for him ever again.

ERNIE: I enjoyed Magnus and working with Jim. Following Manning and Ditko was disconcerting.
As to Jim Shooter, I have always been put off by the weird conspiracies of large corporations. Cliques, discontent, power issues, are all counter-productive. Shooter had a complex, fascinating vision that encompassed the entire Marvel Universe. I thought it was rich and full of great promise. The dwarfs who envied him and whose sole talent was encyclopedic trivia, did all they could to sabotage the project and eventually succeeded in doing just that.

Marvelman said...

Y'know Jim, as I get older there are some comics that just don't stand the test of time. But there are four runs from your reign as EIC that stand out: Frank Miller's Daredevil, John Byrne's Fantastic Four, Walt Simonson's Thor, and... Louise Simonson's Power Pack. What a great series! It was a shame what happened to it after you were no long EIC. Weezie, June, Carl, Jon, and anyone who cared about the book left! One of the great things about Power Pack was that it was a book about kids but not a book just for kids. It's unfortunate that the current Marvel comics seems to be averse to such creative risks. I think it's important that companies sometimes do things just because they're good and not just because they're going to be top-sellers which Power Pack definitely wasn't. So, how about writing a column about Power Pack and the creators who worked on the book?

Rich Johnston said...

I write Bleeding Cool and even I rarely read the comments. It's the internet, people are going to say shit, as long as you have your version in there somewhere, that will satisfy future Google archeologists.

jimshooter said...

Dear Marvelman,

Roger wilco. With Luck, I'll get Weezie to chime in.

Will said...

Simonsons' Thor run is on of my all time faves.

Bought them all new off the stand when I was in HS. I have gone thru collection downsizing several times... parted out my x-men for beer money one spring break ect.

ALWAYS kept those. I even put them in Mylar along with my block of Silver age Thor's an JIM books.

The frog of thunder? It dont get no better than that..

Tony said...

Jim,

I've literally been waiting 10 years or more to read this post! You said exactly what I'd hoped you'd say.

I've noticed that not too long after you left Marvel, it seems like practically every title started during your tenure was canceled. NEW MUTANTS, CLOAK & DAGGER, MARVEL FANFARE, POWER PACK, to name a few. Do you think this was vindictive, or just a coincidence?

Steve Englehart has said on his website that around 1990 or so, Marvel editorial decreed that character development should basically stop, since the characters had evolved "too far from their roots." I think the implication is "under Jim Shooter." They more or less turned back to continuity clock to the mid-'70s. Do you think there was a conscious effort to undo your contributions to the Marvel Universe?

Thanks for the fascinating blog!

jimshooter said...

I wasn't paying much attention to Marvel then. I was pretty busy with VALIANT. I do know that I was persona non grata to some people at Marvel -- far from all, by the way. I had plenty of friends there. But the haters were in charge.

George Caragonne, who went to Marvel's offices once in a while told me that Ralph Macchio had erected a "wall of shame," ridiculing me and everything I'd ever done. DeFalco and company conspicuously avoided reprinting any of my work, lest I get a nickel of reprint money. Meanwhile, it seemed like everything DeFalco and cronies had ever worked on was being reprinted. They did their best to avoid mentioning me or crediting me with anything. I was virtually expunged from Marvel history, though I had worked there for twelve years and been EIC for more than nine of Marvel's 29 years since FF #1. Yes, I think it's fair to say there was a "conscious effort." "Vindictive" works, too.

The reasons for the above are not what people have been led to believe. It's so easy to think "He must have been a really nasty guy for people to hate him so much." Not so. We'll get to that in the blog soon. I'll tell what happened. People can take it or leave it, but I think most will be surprised by what really went on.

RE: Englehart's comment: The funny thing is that during my tenure, I made a great effort to evolve the characters back TOWARD their roots. I dug through old comics and found character-defining scenes in the sixties books. I used them to try to get creators to embrace the essences of the characters. I usually had a sit-down or lunch with a new writer of a character and the editor to discuss just who the character was.

It was, as the cliche goes, like herding cats, of course. For example, some people just couldn't grasp the concept that Captain America was a noble champion of FREEDOM, not Captain USA or Captain Republican.

Roger Stern got it. In a story wherein Cap was trapped on Moloch's island being pursued by Moloch's creatures, Cap ended up fighting FOR the enslaved creatures and, ultimately leading them in a rebellion to win freedom from their evil oppressor. That idea wouldn't occur to Spider-Man. When in Avengers #4, Sub-Mariner had picked Cap up and was about to smash him headfirst against the rocks, Cap's thought was, words to the effect, "He's stronger than me, but I'll find a way to outmaneuver him." Freedom. Unruffled under any circumstances. "...find a way...." That's Captain America.

Avengers #4 is chock full of character-defining scenes by the way.

Some people only think in terms of developing characters onward, that is, advancing their situations. They don't think about developing a character INWARD, and especially, toward the core. They should.

Marvelman said...

One more thought about the Pack... The recent series have been well-intentioned but not to my taste. The problem with the all-ages Power Pack is that it is a book about kids FOR KIDS, and the characters' personalities have been appropriately dumbed down; they have become types.

Alas, Jack, my favorite, has suffered the worse from this re-make. He has been reduced to being a jerk. He lacks the nuance that Weezie gave him. I'm not sure if it was her intention but while Jack could be a pain, he was, on re-reading all of Weezie's run, probably the bravest of the pack and often the quickest thinker. I'd love to hear Weezie's thoughts on this.

stephen said...

thegoldenagelives -

I love how Byrne usually picks up on a trivial detail that doesn't really counter the gist of the argument and runs with it as if he's Hercule Poirot and he's just unraveled someone's alibi. And his faithful fifty (probably literally fifty people these days) guffaw along with him. "Oh that Shooter! What a blowhard! You're so right JB, etc etc."

Case in point: the gist of Jim's argument is that Byrne did well out of Marvel - maybe not $10,000,000 well, but well enough. To say he never made $10,000,000 doesn't negate this point, just that his figures are wrong. I think he also pulled a similar trick when he was "debunking" Jim's version of the why they killed off Phoenix.

As a side note, I did try signing up to his forum, 'cos I read it all the time and I had the urge to contribute to a positive discussion about the great British comic illustrator Frank Bellamy. But I don't have any kind of email account that the forum trusts, so I couldn't sign up. I'm kind of glad, as I'd probably end up getting in an argument with someone on there.

czeskleba said...

Regarding Englehart's comments... he has generally positive things to say about working for Jim Shooter; he says that it's when Tom DeFalco took over that he started experiencing problems. The feeling was not that characters had strayed from their roots in terms of personality, but that they needed to be returned to and then maintained in a specific status quo in terms of formula. Englehart had done an extended storyline in which Reed and Sue had quit the FF; he was ordered to bring them back. He says he was also told to emulate the unsuccessful Silver Surfer book of the 60's by having stories with a moral and making the Surfer moan about his lost girlfriend.

thegoldenagelives said...

Stephen,

You are so right, Byrne loves that tactic. He's also the master of changing goal posts which is funny because that's what he accuses others of doing when he can't counter something.

Like his new arguement is this.

Byrne:

"Hey, has anybody bothered to do the math on my vast earnings at Shooter's Marvel, yet? I did a real quick and dirty calculation, and it looks like each of my titles would have had to have been selling around a million units a month to accumulate the $10mil he claims."

Notice he says, "Shooter's Marvel". So if you proved Byrne said he made 10 million in his career, Byrne would say he didn't ask for his career income. He wants to prove he didn't make 10 million during the years Jim was EiC, which isn't what Jim said in the first place.

I hope that made sense. Byrne changes stuff around in such a confusing way that it makes it hard to explain.

So the whole thread for context: http://www.byrnerobotics.com/forum/forum_posts.asp?TID=39001&PN=1&TPN=6

Tony said...

That was my understanding of Englehart's point, as well. It's the difference between staying true to character and "The Illusion of Change." There was real character development/evolution during Stan Lee's reign, and that continued through Jim Shooter's tenure. Englehart felt that Reed and Sue leaving the team at that point was the natural evoultion/progression of these characters. Suddenly, Reed and Sue HAD to be on the team, Ben and Alicia HAD to be a couple, Franklin HAD to stay six years old, etc. Same with Wolverine, he not only suddenly dressed like he had in the '70s (yellow & blue costume), but started acting like he had then, too. A decade of character development thrown out the window. Englehart was frustrated, and so was I. We both quit Marvel, in our own ways.

Alfred said...

I will read anything Jim puts out. The quality of the story and the deep rooted realism of the characters and their actions is what keeps bringing me back. I have grown weary of all the Valiant reboot attempts. Now there is another. What happened with Dark Horse and what does the future hold for Jim and the new Valiant. I am sure they have, at the very least, reached out to Jim.

jimshooter said...

According to Daniel Best:
What Byrne said, under oath, was the following,
Question: "You have earned over ten million dollars at Marvel?"
Byrne: "That's probably fair."
He then qualified that with the following, after stating that he made less money doing Alpha Flight than any other book;
Question: "During your career you earned 20 million from others than Alpha Flight?"
Byrne: "Right. I should point out that did not earn 10 million specifically from Marvel. I would say ten million probably in the course of my entire career, I have made four or five million doing the Next Men, which I created to own at Dark Horse."

I remembered the "That's probably fair" part.

The qualification that follows is confusing. Where did the "20 million" number come from? How did Alpha Flight come up?

It doesn't matter. My point was that he and others did pretty well at Marvel.

kintounkal said...

I'm disappointed to hear Ralph Macchio created that wall of shame. I noticed he wrote the introduction to Avengers: The Korvac Saga in 1991. This collected edition was added to the Marvel Premiere Classic library a while ago as Volume 38. As a bonus, Thor Annual #6 ("Thunder in the 31st Century") written by Roger Stern was added as a prelude. Here's some of what Ralph wrote for the introduction:
-----------------------------------
The impassioned epic popularly referred to as "The Michael Saga" was the brainchild of two of the premier talents of the Second Marvel Age: scripter James Shooter, and co-plotter and penciler George Pérez.

Shooter's comics-writing career spans decades. His work on DC's Legion of Super-Heroes series is a highwater mark that paved the way for his distinguished scrivening on Avengers. Shooter's crisp style and fine ability to juggle many characters made him, in some ways, the perfect writer for the world's mightiest super-team.

Pérez seemed to thrive on drawing as many characters as possible within the enlarging scope of a storyline, and Shooter's complex concoction was the perfect vehicle.
-------------------------------------
Macchio had plenty more good things to say about The Korvac Saga in general. Those are just the sentences specifically mentioning Jim's name. Speaking of The Korvac Saga, has Jim read Brian Michael Bendis' Oral History of the Avengers chapters encapsulating those issues?

stephen said...

Hi Jim

I'm sure most people got the point. Mr Byrne's fans can think what they want to think (or if I'm going to be cruel, they can think what Mr Byrne wants them to think) - I usually take his recollections with a pinch of salt, possibly a tablespoon of the stuff. If he's to be believed, most people in comics are either outright villains or blundering fools.

My opinion (for what its worth) is that sometimes we're heroes, sometimes we're villains and sometimes we're fools. Mostly, we're all muddling about in the grey areas between all those categories.

But anyway, I'm with Rich Johnston on this - you keep telling your story and we'll let the future be the judge of all our pasts. Or something like that.

Dale Bagwell said...

Here's some more trash talking by John Byrne:

"It should be noted that Shooter's method of "teaching" basically consisted of constant badgering with little or no positive input, and the only way you would ever know you'd finally figured out what he wanted was when he would suddenly start badgering you about something else!

Another of his charming habits was attacking everybody for doing something he didn't like in a single artist -- whether they were doing it or not! One of the small triumphs of my days under Shooter was when he had a bee in his bonnet about Ross Andru. Ross was then drawing AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, and was considered untouchable, but Shooter did not like the way he drew punches. Truth to tell, Ross' figures were a bit stiff, and when someone threw a punch as he drew it there was not much follow-thru from the rest of the body. The punch seemed to come from the shoulder, and the rest of the torso stayed stiff.

To address this, one day Shooter cornered me in the middle of the editorial bullpen, and started haranguing me on this point in front of everyone there. "When somebody throws a punch their whole body has to follow thru!" Luckily, as chance would have it, on the wall of covers of books that came out that month, this was prominently displayed:

I pointed to it. "You mean like this?"

Shooter turned red in the face, and stumped back into his office. I heard no more about how poorly I drew figures throwing punches.

The rest of the bullpen applauded."

Damn, kick a man when he's down huh? I'm starting to only appreciate the art of john byrne, not his views particularly. Shame.

Bosch Fawstin said...

The work that John Byrne did under Jim Shooter at Marvel was the best of his career. It seems almost everyone except Byrne thinks that. His refusal to give credit where it's due says a lot about him. And when I read how nasty he can be, even to his fans, it's evident that he himself is his biggest problem.

Defiant1 said...

I was a huge Byrne fan as much as anyone else when he started at Marvel. As I look back on Byrne's work, I feel that his best work shined under the inking of Terry Austin. When I think of Byrne, the Austin inked work is what I measure everything against. I feel that Jim had (and probably still does have) a knack for putting the right inkers with the right artists. I'm not a fan of Frank Miller's art, but Frank could do some incredible layouts with captivating perspectives. Klaus Janson's inking balanced out Frank Miller's work to where I didn't care about Miller's shortcomings. I've never liked anything Miller has drawn since he moved past his Daredevil work. In my opinion, Byrne would be just any other comic artist if he hadn't been given the shot he had at Marvel drawing the hottest series. With modern digital processing of artwork, I'll go so far as to say I don't like the final product I see with Byrne's name of it today. He's moved beyond the stage where he's growing as an artist and it all looks extruded out of a mold now. He uses the same stock faces, hairstyles, and expressions. I'm actually tired of even seeing his work. He's regressed and it's only a slight step above cartoon art. In defense of Byrne, a great deal of the crispness is being lost when his original art is reproduced today. At some point though, the art has to compensate for the limitations of the reproduction process and it needs to find a way to shine. EC comics mastered the process of printing on newsprint and the work of Wood, Williamson, and the other legends that earned their fame at EC still shines today.

All in all though, Byrne has his own forum and I'm really not interested in his perspective here. As far as I'm concerned he's washed up. I'll probably skip reading anymore replies talking about Byrne, because I simply don't care what he thinks. He's had over 25 years to produce something as nice as the X-Men work that Terry Austin inked and nothing in the past 25 years holds a candle to that work. I wasn't really wild that he took a stocky Fantastic Four team and turned them into scrawny looking wimps in the 80's. My collection is fine without purchasing anymore of Byrne's work. I'm mainly here to read Jim's take on things. This is Jim's outlet to speak. People can wander over to Byrne's forum to read his whining and temper tantrums.

stephen said...

Dale,

I know what you mean. John Byrne IS a great storyteller and I should really stop reading his posts on his forum. I know its his forum and I know he's angry about the state of the comic book industry, but I just wish he didn't have to be so mean spirited at every given opportunity.

How many more times can he snipe about Chris Claremont's X Men or colorists who dared to color Superman's hair blue or how terrible it was to work for Jim Shooter before even HE gets bored of it?

Still, this isn't the Byrne Bashers Forum, so I'm going to shut up about him now.

stephen said...

Defiant1,

Wow, you haven't liked anything Miller's done since Daredevil? I don't share your opinion, but I admire the hell out of you for having it!

jimshooter said...

Dear kintounkal,

Ralph is a classic Eddie Haskell, proper when he has to be, snarky-to-vicious when he can get away with it. When talking on the phone to various people, Ralph's voice would be dripping with sincerity while he was miming his disdain for whomever was on the line to amuse any cronies hanging around his office. Even John Buscema got this treatment.

Ralph didn't like the ending of the Korvac Saga, so in the reprint volume you refer to he added three new pages at the end to "fix" it. I've been told his revision was dropped from subsequent reprintings, but I don't know for sure.

That volume was one of very few of my works reprinted during those years. Under protest, probably.

No, I haven't read the Bendis stuff. Sorry.

Slentz said...

There seems to be two camps of people. Byrne fanatics and the rest of us. I like Byrnes stuff, Next Men included but his art definitely benefited from the inking work of Austin.

I like Jim and his I think his posts are worth reading. As for Byrne...it's best just to read his comics and not his private words.

Dale Bagwell said...

I believe Slentz said it best folks; You can appreciate Byrne's art, and sometimes his stories when they're spot on, but feel free to skip out on his personal views/philosophy on certain topics.

I myself would love to know if the story I posted from Byrne's recollection was even half-way true.

What's your take on that particular situation Mr.Shooter? I'm not trying to continue fanning the flames of discourse mind you, merely asking for your side of the story, if this even happened at all. Mr. Shooter?

jimshooter said...

Never happened.

Ask people who know me if the tale as he relates it rings true.

Those of you who have read my lectures, do they sound arbitrary and irrational?

If I were such a madman, could I have survived as EIC nearly 10 years and been well rewarded for outstanding service until the company was going through the ugly process of being sold, which put me at odds with owners who were selling us down the river?

I liked Ross Andru and his work. I hired him to do at least one job for me at VALIANT. He was at the end of his career, then, so if he did more it wasn't many.

Bosch Fawstin said...

I do recall Byrne saying in an interview that writing is easier than drawing. (It's Not). By that token, I suppose he also thinks that making up stories is easier than being honest. The way he tells the story really smells and is so self-serving that even without having been there, I just know it ain't so. Making you look bad seems to be THE point of his story.

Larry Hama said...

The Marvel bullpen applauding John Byrne?? I think not. I've had my differences with Mr. Shooter, but he gave me my job and he backed me when others turned against me, so I owe him a modicum of loyalty. Jim had at least a unified vision for Marvel AND the will to carry it out. A lot of people who vilify him made a ton of money in those days, and they wouldn't have done so with a less forceful personality in charge. Just my two cents.

jimshooter said...

Thanks, Larry. I hope you're well.

XSaraXPoeX said...

hey, reading the comments here is almost as good as reading the blog. (And better than most comic books nowadays, IMO.)

Mr. Shooter, thank you for some of the best comics ever published!

~Sara<3

Defiant1 said...

Stephen,

I can honestly say that Frank Miller's art looks more like ink slung at a page. Whereas someone like Sienkiewicz can seemingly scribble and etch out a masterpiece. Miller's art is incoherent blobs. It has no refinement. Without a good inker,there is no definition to his use of light and dark. His Daredevil layouts were stunning, but for me, the only thing that made the Daredevil comics readable was Janson's inking. I'm not particularly fond of his writing. I find most of his work to be misogynistic with really messed up portrayals of women. The most annoying thing I've ever seen introduced into comics was ninjas and all my recollections are that his overuse of them (and poor rendering) led to me being sick of them. If I never see another ninja in comics, I'd be extremely pleased. I had a friend that trained in ninjutsu and dated a CNN anchorwoman that he met at the dojo. I loved talking to him about his training, but comic renditions of ninjas repulse me greatly. Sloppy lines and blotchy artwork are a pet peeve. I find it to be extremely distracting. I'd honestly rather read a lousy story with tightly rendered clean lines than attempt to read a great story with lousy art. I collect EC comics, stuff by Neal Adams, things along those lines.

Gary M. Miller said...

Just a few words about the "Korvac Saga":

kintounkal, the Thor Annual (#6) that prefaces the most recent reprinting of Jim's Korvac storyline was actually written (and edited, for that matter) by Len Wein, not Roger Stern. Great stuff, though, that set the stage for what followed in Avengers.

Jim, although Ralph Macchio wrote the introduction to the first edition of the Korvac collection, it was Mark Gruenwald (R.I.P.) who wrote the four-page epilogue onto the end of the edition. (It was illustrated by Tom Morgan.) I know Macchio & Gruenwald used to be a team writing Marvel Two-In-One back in the late 70s, but if the credits in the recent hardcover are any indication, it was definitely Gru's finale, venturing into abstract entity territory with Death's appearance on the final page & getting all existential with Moondragon for a page.

It all reminds me of "Ill-Begotten," the "Son of Korvac" saga that should have seen print at Marvel in the early '00s. I've seen the outline out there on the 'net. Although Marvel has brought back Korvac both before (in Mark Waid's Cap, where he kept up with his tradition begun in Ka-Zar of setting up the most human opponents against the most extraordinary/overpowered villains) and after (in Christos Gage's Avengers Academy series). To see you return to Korvac and the concepts you set forth in the 70s, Jim, would have been a real treat and I wish it had come to fruition. Unfortunately, in the era of self-contained stories with no signs of continuity with Marvel's illustrious past whatsoever, that project was fated to fail.

~G.

kintounkal said...

Gary,

Actually, I'm not wrong. Roger Stern really was the scripter and co-plotter for Thor Annual #6. I just double checked. Admitedly, Len Wein was also credited as co-plotter.

The official solicitation for Avengers: The Korvac Saga Premiere HC claimed it would be penciled by GEORGE PÉREZ, SAL BUSCEMA, DAVID WENZEL & TOM MORGAN. That fourth name indicates Marvel was planning to add the 4 page epilogue to the hardcover and someone changed their mind.

According to the Marvel Masterworks message board, Tom Brevoort was once quoted saying "That epilogue was done years after the fact, written by the otherwise-saintly Mark Gruenwald, and it basically revealed that the story you had just read was fundamentally flawed, that Korvac's plan could never have succeeded based on things Mark had decided about the Marvel Universe after that story had been done. I thought it was terribly unnecessary and disrespectful when it first came out, so given the opportunity to correct it in the current printing, I asked that it be taken out."

kintounkal said...

It turns out the 4 page epilogue was included for the sake of completeness in Marvel Premiere Classic Volume 38 after all. For some reason, Tom Morgan & Mark Gruenwald aren't mentioned in the table of contents.

Zoran said...

"What part of the word 'boss' was mysterious to them"

When reading comments from various creators complaining about
how they were treated (not just by Mr Shooter) my response has frequently been to mutter to myself "What part of "editor" don't they understand?"

However, it's occurred to me that perhaps the question should be "What part of "editor" don't I understand?"

That may seem odd, but my understanding of the editorial process comes from the book and magazine trade and through friends in journalism. Maybe things are different in comics and what I think of as the job of an editor may not be how it works there. Maybe my reaction has been prompted by a misunderstanding of what a comics editor is.

To clarify: to me an editor sets direction, either telling the writer what they want or accepting a writer's pitch or, most often, some combination of the two -- they accept the basic pitch but modify it or ask for revisions (if it's already written). They lay down parameters -- do they want action-adventure? Romance? Mystery? Science fiction? Satire? Melodrama? Is the emphasis on plot, character or incident? What's the tone? Do they want an authorial voice or transparent prose?

Generally these things are understood rather than explicitly stated. The writer knows what the editor has bought in the past and the presumption is they want something similar; the editor knows the writer's work and has hired them because that's the sort of material they want.

Below the editor is the copy-editor or subeditor. They go through the submitted material (the "copy") to ensure that it's acceptable. Specifically they check the five Cs: they make sure the copy is Clear, Correct, Consistent, Concise and Complete. If there any problems, they either send the piece back with notes asking for revisions or simply re-write the offending passages themselves, depending on circumstances and individual preference.

Finally there are the proofreaders. This isn't really an editing function -- it's checking the material just before it goes to press to catch any mistakes introduced in the production process -- but it often gets conflated with copy-editing.

This division is, of course, ideal and only found in large organizations. In practice people often fill multiple functions.

From what I can gather (and this is all inference, so may well be wrong) at DC in the sixties editors such as Julie Schwartz and Mort Weisinger combined the functions of editor and copy-editor. They would discuss stories with their writers (often in great detail, according to some accounts) and rewrite parts of the scripts when they came in Roy Thomas's Alter Ego has reproduced some of Gardner Fox's script pages with Schwartz's changes on them -- words and sentences crossed out, some sentences rewritten, notes to the artist added and so. Kurt Schaffenberger says in "Hero Gets Girl" that "it didn't much difference who wrote (the scripts) because Mort would get the script and work it over until it came out a 'Mort Weisinger' (...) he rewrote everything to fit his mold." -- which sounds like a description of (possibly excessive) copy-editing to me.

I don't know who did proofreading, though I gather that Mort's assistant E. Nelson Bridwell may have done that as well as some copy-editing on the Weisinger books.

[continued]

Zoran said...

[continued]

Over at Marvel, Stan Lee was basically a writer-editor. When he did use other writers in the early sixties, he doesn't seem to have gotten what he wanted out of them, so he just did all the writing himself. In the later sixties, when other writers did start coming in, he seems to have edited and copy-edited with a much lighter hand than Schwartz or Weisinger. That is, he doesn't seem to have been consistently involved in the plotting and his copy-editing seems to have been more educationally oriented, training the writers to do things the way he wanted rather than simply rewriting them. Also his authority seems to have derived more from reputation than position; that is, people would do what he asked because he was STAN LEE, not because he was the editor. The problem with this, of course, is that any successor would have the position, but not the reputation; why would writers take direction from someone who isn't Stan Lee just because they happen to be the editor? (I've read interviews where creators have pretty much expressed that exact sentiment.)

No idea who did proofreading at Marvel at the time. It seems to have been whoever was available.

Some of the above is inference based on the anarchy that developed once Stan moved on to being publisher. There wasn't any structure in place to prevent anarchy, just the force of personality exerted by individuals such as Roy Thomas (while he was editor) or John Verpoorten (as production manager).

I know Marvel developed a structure of editors, assistant editors and an editor-in-chief, but I'm not really sure what responsibilities each of those positions entailed. I would assume that editors would set the direction as I described above, assistant editors would copy-edit and the editor-in-chief would co-ordinate the editors and set broad policy, while filling some of the functions of publisher -- making (or at least participating) in business decisions on what titles to launch, which ones to cancel, what rates to pay, etc. However, all that's an assumption.

So, could I ask Mr Shooter to devote some time to describing the structure, powers and responsibilities of Marvel editors? Perhaps a post on what it was like before he took over and another on what changes he made and what it became under him.

If nothing else, I think it would help me (and perhaps others) create a context for the "The Secret Origin of Jim Shooter, Editor in Chief" which would help us understand things better.

This may not be the best place for this request -- at the end of a long thread of comments where it can get lost amidst all the other subjects being discussed, but there really doesn't seem to be anywhere else to put it.

Dale Bagwell said...

I agree, and I'm sure Mr.Shooter will cover that hopefully with his Secret Origin series.

jimshooter said...

Dear Gary,

I didn't say Ralph wrote it. I said he "added" it, as editor. It was written at his behest.

Thanks for the kind words. Waid did some nice work on Cap. I'm making "Ill-Begotten" available for download (in the sidebar).

jimshooter said...

Dear Zoran,

Your analyses are pretty good.

Your description of the editorial process is accurate for comics (where I'm EIC, anyway) as well as the examples you cite. Of course, comics editors have to deal with art as well, pretty much according to the same drill.

I always likened the editor's role to a film producer-director's. Part business, managing the practical aspects of creating each issue, and part creative. Ideally, you find the right creator for each job and not much creative hand-holding from the editor is required. If the creator was Walt, Archie, Larry or one of many others, all the editor had to do was process the book through and smile. Some creators, even excellent ones, needed or simply enjoyed a more collaborative approach. Claremont, for instance -- and you all know by now how much I respect his efforts -- seemed to like having Weezie or Ann's involvement. Also, Chris will admit, I think, that he sometimes got carried away and was better for being reeled in a little by those wicked smart, capable editors. New people and some lesser lights needed a lot of help.

I delegated a great deal of power to the editors. That worked well when the editorial staff was the Who's Who of Comics Editors. Less well later, when, as they do, many had gotten older, gotten married, moved to the burbs or country and were replaced, in some cases, by not-ready-for-prime-timers. My fault, I guess, for not being able to pick the next Great Editor from among the candidates.

At Marvel we had no proofreader (other than assistant editors who often weren't good at it) until I created the position and hired Jack Abel. He was great.

During the four years I worked for Mort, he changed very few words of mine. Under a dozen total. He asked me to rewrite only two and a half pages during that time, and that was because he had changed his mind about a scene previously approved in the plot stage. He contributed an occasional idea to the occasional plot, but more often I came up with the stories on my own. Sometimes he gave general input like, "Go see the Dirty Dozen and write me a Legion story like that." Mostly, he said things like: "Supergirl, twelve pages, by next Friday."

Thanks for your thoughtful comments.

Matt Adler said...

"DeFalco and company conspicuously avoided reprinting any of my work, lest I get a nickel of reprint money. Meanwhile, it seemed like everything DeFalco and cronies had ever worked on was being reprinted."

What was your relationship like with Tom? I figure you guys must have gotten along at some point if you made him your executive editor.

I also wonder about Ralph Macchio; he seems like such a mysterious guy. You NEVER see him doing or any saying anything public as almost every other Marvel editor/creator does, and yet he's managed hang on with the company longer than anyone else. What's the deal with him?

Marc Miyake said...

Dear Jim,

John Romita Sr. has said that Jerry Siegel was a proofreader for Marvel. I think that was in the late 60s after Siegel stopped writing for DC and Archie. I presume that he and his position were gone by the time you first worked for Marvel in 1969. If you had met him back then, I assume you would have mentioned it. If you did meet him at any time, please let us know. Thanks.

czeskleba said...

Speaking of Jerry Siegel, according to Gerard Jones' book Mort made Jerry do tons of rewriting on his scripts when Siegel was working for him in the early 60's. It was actually hurting Siegel's income, because he was spending so much time rewriting that it limited the amount of time he could work on new scripts. So it sounds like Mort treated different writers differently, or perhaps he was singling out Siegel for "special" treatment as a way to keep him intimidated.

Pete Dutcher said...

Jim,
I have heard that people have complained, but I have to say...never once did I NOT want to work for you. As a writer, I would view your input as a chance to grow in my craft.

To this day, I would jump at the chance.

kintounkal said...

Gail Simone's view of the job sounds on the button. This morning, she tweeted "I think I would be the worst comics editor in history. The job seems way hard and impossible. Like juggling badgers. With rabies." :)

jimshooter said...

Dear Marc,

I was aware that there had been proofreaders -- real ones -- before my time, but not that Jerry was one of them. I met him once. He came up to the 387 Park Ave. offices once to pitch stuff he'd developed. Nothing came of it, unfortunately, for various reasons. Nice guy. It was an honor to meet him. That's such a pathetic understatement. He and Joe Shuster were the fathers of us all.

Gary M. Miller said...

Yikes, do I have egg on my face, kintounkal! I looked at the first credits box without looking right next to it at Sterno's name there. The facts, they shall be double-checked henceforth!

Great to see the overview of the aborted Korvac sequel here, Jim. And yes, Mark Waid did write Cap well! Somewhere around here I have his script for issue #14, the notorious Red Skull story that was rewritten by editorial. (I hear it's finally being presented as intended in an upcoming collection, so that's some vindication.) But Ka-Zar vs. Thanos? Ehhh...

Hmm, any insights on one of the more notorious Avengers efforts? Of course I'm talking about Avengers #200.

~G.

kintounkal said...

Walt and Larry each getting cameos in the live action movies based on Thor and G.I. Joe proves they had an indelible impact on those titles. If Paramount Pictures does release a Harbinger film one day, I hope they find a creative way for Jim to appear in it.

jimshooter said...

Dear Matt,

Tom and I always got along well while we were both at Marvel. We were friends. My girlfriend and I invited Tom and his wife to come with us to my home town, Pittsburgh, for a weekend, and we took them to see the Steelers (I had season tickets, even though I lived in New York) play the Jets (Tom had season tickets for the Jets). (The Steelers won big, by the way.) He invited me and others to his home for Thanksgiving one year. You get the drift. We were friends.

I made Tom my second in command because he earned it.

When they fired me, they gave Tom the EIC job. For the first two weeks he seemed really upset that I was gone. He'd call me and say things like, "I feel like I'm sitting in your chair. This is your job." I kept telling him it was his job now, and that was okay.

After two weeks the calls stopped and Tom was decidely hostile to me after that. I have no idea why. Check out this for example: http://www.jimshooter.com/2011/04/spider-man-musical-that-might-have-been.html

He's been cordial when I've seen him during the last several years. I'm always polite. The friendship is long gone though.

jimshooter said...

I said this about Ralph in another answer:
Ralph is a classic Eddie Haskell, proper when he has to be, snarky-to-vicious when he can get away with it. When talking on the phone to various people, Ralph's voice would be dripping with sincerity while he was miming his disdain for whomever was on the line to amuse any cronies hanging around his office. Even John Buscema got this treatment.

Ralph didn't like the ending of the Korvac Saga, so in the reprint volume you refer to he added three new pages at the end to "fix" it. I've been told his revision was dropped from subsequent reprintings, but I don't know for sure.

I almost fired Ralph several times for his weasel-y behavior and his egregious, chronic lateness. I didn't because during each 30-day probation he always put on just enough of a show of improvement to squeak by, and, contrary to common belief, I was loathe to damage anyone's livelihood and career. Even his. That's exactly the kind of sentiment that Ralph would snicker at, exactly the sort of compassion -- he probably thinks of it as a weakness -- that he exploits. Keeping him was a mistake. I should have fired him the first time he showed his colors.

jimshooter said...

Dear Gary,

I'll get to that in a while.

kintounkal said...

Gary,

Don't worry about it. It was an easy mistake to make since Marvel Premiere Classic Volume 38 neglected to include Stern's name on both versions of the cover. Evidently, it was a last minute decision to add Thor Annual #6.

Ironically, the solicitation for an upcoming MPC volume credits Roger Stern by accident. Uncle Rog himself caught this gaffe on the Marvel Masterworks message board. On March 21st, he pointed out "A small CORRECTION to the solicitation for the Fantastic Four: Overthrow of Doom Hardcover: the credits should list Roger Slifer, not me." It'll be so weird if this hardcover is printed with Stern's name on it.

I'm looking forward to Captain America: Red Glare Premiere HC too. I'm always pleased when these volumes contain extra content like Marvel Age articles and Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe profiles.

Marc Miyake said...

Dear Jim,

Thanks for sharing your recollection of meeting Jerry Siegel. Since Marvel was at 387 Park Avenue, I guess that happened in the early 80s. Those were hard times for him according to Gerard Jones' Men of Tomorrow. Have you read that book?

jimshooter said...

Jerry gave no indication that things weren't okay with him (though maybe they weren't). We talked about ideas he had. We agreed to talk again, but that never happened. I haven't read Men of Tomorrow.

Marc Miyake said...

Dear Jim,

Jerry Siegel writing comics for Marvel -- what a PR coup that would have been!

As you may know, the accuracy of Men of Tomorrow has been questioned. I've seen even harsher criticism. I found the book hard to put down. But was it real? Dunno.

As far as I know, there's no full-length Jerry Siegel biography. There should be. He touched the lives of so many -- including us.

czeskleba said...

Things were (relatively speaking) okay for Jerry Siegel in the early 80's. He was receiving a pension from Warner Communications/DC and had health insurance provided. So he was not destitute and desperate for work (as he had been at points in the 50s and again in the late 60s/early 70s), but he certainly wasn't wealthy either. At that point he was still hoping to supplement his pension income with writing jobs, hence his contact with Jim Shooter.

Siegel did write a few things for Marvel in the mid-60s, as "Joe Carter" (a couple of Human Torch solo stories in Strange Tales) but he wasn't able to adapt his style enough to get regular work from them. That seemed to be the usual story with him... he wrote excellent Superman stories, but when he tried other things it didn't seem to work.

Marc, I'm curious what about MoT has been criticized as inaccurate. The link you provided mentions his attempts to put together the sketchy history of the Donenfields. Is there anything else?

Marc Miyake said...

Dear czeskleba,

Sorry, I don't have the book with me. Here's
the section about the hard times I mentioned that I thought referred to the early 80s. It's followed by a paragraph on the Superman movie sequels and other 80s adaptations. Maybe the episode at the top of p. 333 was in the 70s. If you have the book, I'd appreciate it if you could check p. 332 for me to date that incident.

The general criticism of the book is that it relies too heavily on hearsay instead of primary sources. But what if there are no primary sources left?

Regarding Siegel's non-Superman work, I read his Archie stuff in digest reprints as a kid and never really got into it. Going through his Strange Tales stories was like a chore. Nothing like the stories he was writing for Weisinger at the same time. But I was impressed by the Starling stories he wrote in the 80s. Very different from anything he'd done before. In one word, dark. Not for kids. Not a hit, but it haunts me years later.

czeskleba said...

I've been readin MoT and just read the page in question earlier today. You are correct that the incident where Siegel submitted the script with fleas on it was in the early 80's. I guess I still came away with the sense that things were much better for him post-1975 (when he started receiving the pension) compared to the years immediately before. He was able to support his family without scrambling for work, though he obviously didn't have a great apartment at that point.

The criticism on that amazon review you linked strikes me as incredibly nitpicky. As you noted, sometimes hearsay is the only source available. The things he faults Jones for are silly... not verifying rumors that Donnenfield smuggled whiskey and condoms? How could that be verified if Donnenfield and his associates are deceased and they were never caught and arrested?

It is hard to reconcile the Siegel who did great work on Superman stories in the early 60's with the one who wrote awful, corny, campy stories for anything else he tried. I mean, some of his early 60's stories are among the best Superman stories ever.

Zoran said...

Weisinger said that he considered Jerry Seigel the most competent Superman writer. "Seigel was the best emotional writer of them all" he said. And I agree. The stories Seigel wrote for Weisinger in the late '50s - early '60s are among the best Superman stories ever. DC really should put out a "Superman by Seigel" collection of them. Maybe if the upcoming "Superman's Girl Friend Lois Lane" archives does well they might consider it.

If Weisinger pushed Seigel hard it might have been because he knew what Jerry was capable of and wasn't going to settle for anything less than his best work.

jimshooter said...

Dear Marc,

I have read only one of Gerard Jones's books, supposedly a "history," because the publisher asked me to. It was fiction. Jones defended it as his "subjective take" on events. Subjective, as in explaining the thoughts and motives of people he had never met, apparently.

Matt Adler said...

Ralph sounds like the kind of guy who is skilled at sliding by under the radar, which I guess is why we see and hear so little of him compared to other editors. You've got to sort of admire the skill that allows him to not only skate by through the years of your admin, but through Tom DeFalco's admin, the mass firings of the late '90s, Quesada's admin, all the way through today where he still edits top projects. He must be able to connect with whomever is in charge. I know he was close friends with Mark Gruenwald, but I hear Mark was kind of a practical joker too so maybe that accounts for that. I always remember Ralph (jokingly?) being nicknamed "The Waste" in editorial notes and lettercols.

What would you say were Tom's skills as an editor/manager, and conversely, as a writer?

thegoldenagelives said...

Jim and others,

I'm sorry to bring up Byrne again but since I can't post there for the crime of not knowing the Captain America movie is a secretly banned topic, I can only reply here.

This thread was posted at Byrne's forum. Byrne claims there must be a transcript error. You know, because it couldn't just be that Byrne is wrong about something.

John Byrne:

"??!!

I think there must be a transcription error there. I could say with confidence that during Shooter's time at the company, I GENERATED more than 10 million dollars in income FOR MARVEL, but for me to have EARNED ten million myself would have required my receiving a MUCH larger share of the sales than was the reality.*

Same with NEXT MEN. Altho that book was a HUGE seller when it started (outselling any other direct sales only book by something like a factor of ten), even the (by then) high cover price and larger share of the sales would not have put $5,000,000 into MY pocket.

I can only have been talking about what the PUBLISHERS were earning from the books I worked on.

–––

* Do the math, and you will see my run on FANTASTIC FOUR probably pulled in close to $9,000,000 FOR MARVEL, but since the first half of that run was done without royalties, my own share would have been around $180,000."

http://www.byrnerobotics.com/forum/forum_posts.asp?TID=39001&PN=1&TPN=6

czeskleba said...

Zoran said: "If Weisinger pushed Seigel hard it might have been because he knew what Jerry was capable of and wasn't going to settle for anything less than his best work."

I'm skeptical of that. Based on what Jim Shooter and others have written about Weisinger, I think he was simply power tripping, being a bully and keeping Siegel intimidated. Weisinger did get great work from Siegel (as well as Hamilton, Binder, and others) but I think it was in spite of, rather than because of, his abusive style.

Marc Miyake said...

Dear Jim,

I was reluctant to mention the "history" book you refer to. It needed a fact-checker.

I am wary of "history" books and biographies with seemingly telepathic writers projecting fantasies rather than recording reality. When reading a claim, I ask myself, "How does the author know that?" And if the easily checkable facts are wrong, how can I take the speculations seriously?

Dear czeskleba,

The, uh, stories told about Jim Shooter make me skeptical of hearsay. What "everybody knows" ain't necessarily so. I have no idea what Donenfeld et al. did or didn't do, but it's too easy to pin outrageous charges on the deceased without evidence. Conspiracy theories are based on the unobserved and nonexistent.

I agree with you and Zoran about Siegel's early 60s DC work. I was amazed to learn that he wrote the far poorer Archie superhero stories. This was the same guy? I wonder if he was under pressure from Archie to imitate Marvel. I also wonder how he felt about everyone but him getting credit. The cover of Mighty Comics #43 mentions "Dick [Goldwater], Vic [Gorelick], Bob [White?], and Paul [Reinman]" but no Jerry. Oh, wait, Mighty Crusaders #4 is credited to "Rick Gee," "Jerry Ess," "Paul Are," and "Vic Torr" (cf. "Stan Lee" from "Stanley"). I bet Siegel told Archie during his job interview that he had written for Marvel and could imitate the Marvel style -- though his Human Torch stories never sounded like this: "Only the incredibly inspired MIGHTY COMICS GROUP jolly whackos could've had the genius, the power and the glory, and the downright NERVE to concoct an epic masterpiece of such dazzling, unforgettable splendor!" Did Sam Rosen cringe when he lettered that? Were any readers fooled?

So why was Siegel's early 60s DC work better than that? I agree that the quality of those stories "was in spite of" Weisinger. Maybe Siegel gave his all to his own character.

Dear Zoran,

Given the current legal situation with DC and the Siegels, I don't expect a Superman by Siegel collection appearing any day soon.

jimshooter said...

Dear Matt,

Most other Marvel editors handled between 60 and 70 or so releases a year. Tom handled over 100. Easily. He always had 'four in the drawer" of each title -- four issues complete and ready to go, finished far ahead of schedule. (NOTE: We were doing so well that no one minded the inventory cost.)

For comparison, my second most prolific editor was Louise, and while she never missed shipping her books every month, she didn't usually have many books done ahead of schedule and occasionally had some down-to-the-wire nail biters.

Tom was sort of a throwback, editorially, in that he played the tough guy. He even chewed on a cigar sometimes. He was pretty demanding, hands-on and strict.

(ASIDE: I used to give funny Christmas presents to the crew. One year I gave Tom a cute little white plush baby seal and a baseball bat. Poor baby seal....)

Tom's tough guy editor ways had positive and negative effects. As stated, he was on time and generally produced solid stuff. Some"stars" wouldn't work with him though, because they found his style off-putting. That said, he got better work out of the journeymen and lesser lights than anyone else. He was especially good with the old guys who had worked with Mort, Julie, Kanigher and their ilk, and sort of expected an editor to be a hardass.

Compare Louise, again. Stars loved to work with Louise. Everybody loved to work with Louise. Everybody loved Louise. Even Alex Toth loved Louise, and Alex didn't like anybody. That's why she handled more books than she had to -- creators would come to her with projects and plead with her to take them on. She was perfectly capable of standing up to anyone, including me, and wasn't by any means a rubber stamp editor, but she found it hard to say no to some of those projects. She was particularly good working with Chris.

Tom was the only editor ever to coax a monthly book out of Kerry Gammill. He'd call Kerry every day and prod him, sometimes not gently. Then he'd get Kerry's wife on the phone and plead with her to prod Kerry!

When Mark Gruenwald was Tom's assistant, Tom turned him from a superfan with amateurish instincts into a superpro. Tom taught Mark how to channel his fannish zeal usefully, professionally and effectively. And as you may have noticed, Mark went on to do wonderful things.

The reason I made Tom executive editor was in hopes that he would help others improve schedule-wise. Easier said than done, and no, he never really made a dent.

As a manager, while working for me, I felt that Tom could be too intrusive. For instance, he thrust more direction and input on Sid Jacobson (editor of the STAR line) than necessary or wise. Sid didn't need any help. The only reasons I had Tom overseeing Sid were A) Sid was new to Marvel and didn't know the ropes, and B) Tom desperately wanted more management responsibility. It was a mistake.

After I left and he became EIC, I was told and had the sense that anarchy returned to Marvel. Go figure.

I think Tom is an average to somewhat above average writer.

Bosch Fawstin said...

Jim, did you ever meet Alex Toth? If so, I imagine there's a story there.

jimshooter said...

I met Alex, hung out and chatted with him a few times. Tell you later.

Bosch Fawstin said...

Excellent

Will said...

Dag... the comments are almost as good as the post and add some extra texture to the reading.

Some are mindbogglingly tedious, but by and large QUITE entertaining.

Zoran said...

czeskleba said: Weisinger did get great work from Siegel (as well as Hamilton, Binder, and others) but I think it was in spite of, rather than because of, his abusive style.

I didn't mean to suggest that Weisinger wasn't tyrannical and a bully. There's far too much evidence from too many sources that say he was. But I, in turn, am deeply sceptical that the quality of the work he put out was despite that. That requires too much of a sustained series of coincidences. We have to accept that all the creators who produced first-rate work under him did so despite him and that just doesn't fly.

My experience is that writers write primarily for the editor. The editor is the audience they have to satisfy because the editor is the one -- and the only one -- that can authorise the cheque. The writer is aware, in theory, that there are readers out there on the other side of the editor who have to be satisfied (otherwise everyone loses their job), but in practice that entire audience boils down to the editor.

The editor's job is to figure out what the audience wants and to get that from their writers. A writer's job is to give the editor what they ask for. If the editor gets it right, everything's great; if they get it wrong, the whole thing fails. That's why good editors -- those who can figure out what an audience will pay for and can get that out of their creators -- tend to be so highly prized. It's a rare skill set.

(Or, at least, that's how things work in the book and magazine trade. As I said above, maybe in comics things are different.)

As far as I can tell Mort Weisinger had that skill set. The sustained success of the Superman family of titles under him certainly suggests that he did. Or we have to find some other variable to explain that sustained level of success.

As for bullies and tyrants, I've worked for a couple of bosses like that. I don't know how they compare to Mort Weisinger since I never worked for Weisinger, but the descriptions match. Both have a fairly high turn-over of staff because most people generally don't like working for them, but both also run very successful and growing operations.

A work colleague told me that the second of these bosses used to be a football coach, as if that explained everything. And in a way it did. That's what football coaches are like (around where I am, anyway). They're tough, demanding and abusive. Not unlike military drill instructors. It's a management style. Not one that many people like (especially not those on the receiving end of it), but it survives because it's effective.

Weisinger may have been a bully and a tyrant, but I think he channelled that into his job. He may have made Jerry Siegel rewrite his scripts partially because he just enjoyed tormenting him, but I don't think he let that get in the way of getting the best material that he could.

Bullies and tyrants who put the power-tripping ahead of producing effective material or making the organization successful end up surrounded by sycophants and lickspittles. That may satisfy their egos, but produces fading niche businesses, not profitable enterprises.

Mort Weisinger produced over a decade's worth of highly successful Superman comics. People talk about Marvel's sales success, but Weisinger's Superman always outsold them. When Weisinger retired, Superman was selling around 500,000 copies an issue, Spider-Man was selling around 330,000. Given that, I think the safer assumption is that Weisinger was channelling his abrasive personal style towards getting the best work out of the people under him. Or, put another way, he was doing his job to the best of his ability, if not in a way everyone liked.

jimshooter said: Given the current legal situation with DC and the Siegels, I don't expect a "Superman by Siegel" collection appearing any day soon.

I agree, though I've always thought that kind of legal reasoning comes across as very small-minded and petty.

Marc Miyake said...

Dear Zoran,

It was I, not Jim, who said that a Superman by Siegel collection wasn't likely to be published in the near future.

There's speculation that the DC relaunch is fueled by a desire to abandon all things Siegel and Shuster, but I'm not convinced because Jim Lee's redesign still resembles the Shuster original (even if his origin is totally different, as some have speculated).

It's hard for me to even guess how much value Weisinger added to the work of Siegel, etc. I haven't read much of Binder and Hamilton's non-Weisinger scripts. Leo Dorfman's later work for Boltinoff seemed about the same to me. Siegel's Archie work could have simply suffered from a directive to imitate Marvel. Weisinger trained Jim but it's not clear what he did for the veteran writers. I don't know what went on in those days, but I am certain of one thing: the Weisinger era is my favorite era of DC.

Zoran said...

Marc Miyake said: It was I, not Jim, who said that a Superman by Siegel collection wasn't likely to be published in the near future.

Ah, sorry. Right you are. Not sure what happened there. I think I saw Jim Shooter's name right underneath the comment and didn't click that it was actually identifying the source of the next comment.

See, this is why we all need copy-editors.

As for Weisinger's contributions:
It's always hard to say what an editor (or a producer) adds to a project. After all, it's the actual talent (the writers, artists, etc.) who produce the actual work and it's always possible that it would have been just as good under a different editor or producer. I just know that there are many editors who have produced consistently good work over sustained periods of time, so either they're incredibly lucky in just managing to be in the right place at the right time when the creators just happen to be really good, or we have to assume they are contributing something to the process and that something is encouraging that outburst of quality.

The Weisinger era is also one of my favourites at DC. I'm equally fond of the contemporaneous Schwartz era. The two were very different, but equally enjoyable.

czeskleba said...

Zoran: Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying Mort was an untalented editor. His books were very successful both in terms of sales and quality, and he deserves a lot credit for that. I get a great deal of enjoyment out of the titles he edited, and so does my 8-year-old daughter. I just don't think that his verbal abuse or power tripping was necessary or that it contributed anything to the success of his books. Note that I didn't say Siegel's work was good in spite of Mort, I said it was good in spite of Mort's abuse.

I don't think abuse is ever an effective motivational tool or that it's ever necessary to get the best out of people. Ask Jim if he thinks he would have done lesser work if Mort had not been abusive.

Siegel is an odd case... I don't know why his work for Mort is head and shoulders above the other stuff he wrote at the time. But certainly Edmond Hamilton, Otto Binder, Jim Shooter, Cary Bates, Leo Dorfman, and many others were able to produce amazing work for other editors besides Mort. I think in the case of Siegel it was simply that he had the greatest affinity for Superman, and put more of his heart into it than anything else.

czeskleba said...

As to whether Mort would ever put power tripping ahead of quality, I can think of one example I've read. Sometimes when one writer would come in and pitch a story idea, Mort would reject it, then he would turn around and feed the same plot to a different writer, claiming it was his own idea. That kind of mixing things up is not going to foster quality.

Zoran said...

czeskleba said: I don't think abuse is ever an effective motivational tool or that it's ever necessary to get the best out of people.

Bear in mind that the abuse we are talking about is asking for rewrites. He may have done so in a particularly obnoxious and demeaning way -- I don't know, but given how his personality is generally described, I expect that's how he did it.

So, I agree with you that if he was obnoxious and demeaning, he didn't need to be and that was not helpful to getting the best work out of people.

However, I must admit, given my experience of various editors, I have trouble thinking of asking for rewrites as being abuse at all. And I think we can link rewrites to the quality of the material.

If Schaffenberger was right and Weisinger would just rewrite scripts, then the fact that he asked Siegel for rewrites rather than just doing it himself means either:
i) he was specifically picking on Siegel and deliberately wasting his time;
or
ii) he felt that Siegel was capable of better and wasn't going to settle for less.

At this remove, I don't know which was the case. However, given that asking for rewrites is a legitimate editorial function and that the resulting quality was outstanding (I think they are among the best Superman stories ever written by anyone), I think it's valid to assume that to a significant degree, it was option two.

As for Weisinger's habit of rubbishing one writer's story ideas and then turning around and presenting those ideas to another writer as if they were Weisinger's own, I agree with you: that was pure power-tripping. And it's something that makes me seriously dislike Weisinger. I can handle abuse, but I really dislike dishonesty.

The two abusive bosses I mentioned earlier, one thing I will say in their favour: both were completely up front and honest with me at all times.

czeskleba said...

Honesty was apparently not Mort's strong suit. Julie Schwartz once quipped that Mort's gravestone should read "Here Lies Mort Weisinger... as usual."

You're right that asking for rewrites is of course not abusive in and of itself. It is only abusive if it is done unnecessarily, for reasons other than to improve the work. The more I think about it, it could have been a bit of both in this case... perhaps Mort sometimes asked for rewrites to improve the scripts, but other times did it just to waste Siegel's time or show him who was boss. Without knowing what was in Mort's mind or what was in Siegel's first, second, or third drafts we can only speculate. I guess, knowing the type of personality Weisinger had, I don't find it much of a stretch to suspect he might have sometimes asked for an unnecessary rewrite. Especially given the context of the situation, that he and Liebowitz wanted to make sure Siegel knew his place.

jimshooter said...

Dear czeskleba,

I've heard that Mort did that, but as far as I know, it didn't happen with me. That is, I know of no instance of a plot of mine being rejected by Mort then given to Cary Bates or someone.

Julie ripped me off that way once. He used a cover suggestion (sketch) of mine, pretty literally, took the general idea of the plot and gave it to some one else. I got paid nothing. The issue was JLA # 63.

Mort once suggested a plot idea to me that I'd sent in previously as if it were his idea. He hadn't rejected the plot, we just hadn't gotten to it; I was busy with other things. I assumed then, and still believe he'd simply forgotten I'd suggested the idea and thought he came up with it on his own. Happens.

czeskleba said...

IIRC, Alvin Schwartz has confirmed it happened to him (plot stealing by Mort).

OM said...

...Jim, one thing I've come to notice over the years - especially in the past decade of Byrne's whinings - is that Shooter fans tend to be amateur to near-professional comic book historians, while the majority of Byrne fans tend to be brownnosing little sycophants, as someone else has already essentially noted in this thread. Something everyone should keep in mind whenever Byrne' brought up around here in the future, natch.

A Side Note To JayJay: Until the issues with logging on with a Google account are fixed, I suggest everyone who can't log in normally use the Name/URL method instead of the Anonymous login. This allows you to at least use your name/handle/alias, and you don't need to enter anything for a URL if you don't have one to share. It's how I log in as "OM" all the time with no problems.

David S said...

Quoting Jim Shooter "Ralph (Macchio) is a classic Eddie Haskell, proper when he has to be, snarky-to-vicious when he can get away with it. When talking on the phone to various people, Ralph's voice would be dripping with sincerity while he was miming his disdain for whomever was on the line to amuse any cronies hanging around his office. Even John Buscema got this treatment."


Wow. I know I shouldn't be shocked, there are people like that in all walks of life, sadly, but the fact that someone with a love for comics, who is fortunate enough to make a career in the industry, should have such little respect for someone with the talent and stature of John Buscema really amazes me.

Judging from my experience with similar people that I have encountered, I would guess that this editor would not have dared behave like this had Big John been in the office with him!