Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Secret Origin of Jim Shooter, Editor in Chief – Part 1

This part of the story hasn’t ever been told. 

I was hired by Editor in Chief Marv Wolfman in December of 1975.  My first day on the job as “associate editor” was the first working day of the new year, Monday, January 5, 1976.

Marv lasted only three more months or so before leaving to become a contract writer-editor.  Marv said he quit.  President Jim Galton later told me otherwise.  But, be that as it may, Marv exited gracefully, or was allowed to.

The plan was for Roy to return as EIC.  At one point, we spoke.  Where I come from, it is proper that when a new boss comes in, the assistant or assistants offer their resignations.  Why?  Because a new boss is likely to want to bring in his own assistants, and would rather not have to go through a messy process of firing people or tolerating people he or she doesn’t want.  I told Roy I’d leave voluntarily if he preferred, and that if that was the case, I’d appreciate being given freelance work.  Roy said, no, I could I stay.  He told me, however, that there were a number of people who had to go, and a few he intended to bring back.  He named names.  I won’t.

At the last minute, literally, Roy changed his mind, and decided to remain a contract writer-editor.  I think that was around the time he decided to move to California.  Maybe that had something to do with it.  Not sure.

Marv seemed excited.  He reasoned that they’d probably ask him to stay.  And since it was sort of an emergency situation, that he could probably demand more money.

But, no.  Apparently, the first time Roy was Editor in Chief, Stan had promised Gerry Conway the Editor in Chief job if Roy ever left.  Roy’s first EIC stint ended in 1974, but Len Wein, not Gerry succeeded him.  According to Gerry, Marv and Len had lobbied against his being hired and prevailed.  Yes, I know that’s all hearsay, but he said it and I heard it.

Gerry quit at DC, where he’d been working since the snub years ago, and suddenly was Marvel EIC.  Much to the chagrin of Marv, Len and their buddies.

Gerry lasted as EIC for only a few stormy weeks.  Then he left to become a writer-editor.

Archie Goodwin, who had been the editor of the black and white magazines, was promoted to EIC replacing Gerry.

(ASIDE:  Gerry’s writing contract called for eight books a month!  To provide him with enough work, titles were taken away from several other writers.  They were outraged, and gathered in the office to confront Stan and protest.  Gerry got wind of this and somehow talked his way into JOINING their protest.  He went in to see Stan with them, arm in arm.  I know Mantlo and Claremont were in that group.  Who else?  There were several others.  Moench?  I don’t know.  Chris would probably remember.  Anyway, the net result was that Stan and Archie persuaded then-president Al Landau to add enough titles to make up for the work the protesters, excluding Gerry, had lost.  Remember the Marvel Classics?  That was the make-work created to keep Claremont, Moench, et al busy.)

Archie Goodwin lasted 19 months.

Shortly before Archie started, Stan had decided he wanted to be more involved with the comics again.  He had been spending most of his time upstairs on the ninth floor, home to the non-comics people and big shots, where he contributed his advice and expertise to the magazines the company published under the Magazine Management imprint (not Marvel).  MM published soap opera rags, puzzle books and what used to be called in the trade “men’s sweat magazines.”  These mostly contained somewhat lurid adventure stories like “I Was the Love Slave of the Nazi Prison Camp,” with a cover photo of some woman with her blouse partially torn being menaced by an evil guy in a WWII German uniform.  Occasionally, to save the cost of paying models, women around the office posed (clothed) for photos to illustrate scenes of various stories.  I was told that even the magnificent Marie Severin once had a picture taken for such a purpose.

If the magazines published by MM sound cheesy, well, you got that right.

ASIDE:  Early in his career, Mario Puzo worked upstairs on the magazines.  That was before my time, but I think I have an ancient Marvel phone extension list with his name on it.  If I ever come across it, I’ll show you.

Anyway, Stan started showing up regularly at his sixth floor office.  As stated previously, in another post, Stan was plenty busy being the resident genius and face of Marvel whether he was in his ninth floor office or downstairs with us, but once he settled in on the comics floor, he tried to help.

“Make-readies” used to come in from World Color Press once a week.  They were the first copies of the books off the presses, hand stapled and sent express to Marvel so we could see how bad the books were as soon as possible, I suppose.  At that stage, nothing could be changed.

Stan got in the habit of reading the make-readies and marking them up.  Then, he’d ask Archie to come to his office, flip through the books one by one and show Archie all the mistakes, problems, crass stupidities, etc.

Archie a) knew damn well what was wrong with the books.  There was little about comics he didn’t know.  And, b) Archie didn’t have time to sit there and listen to what he already knew.

So, he sicced Stan on me.  He told Stan, correctly, that I was the one who actually did the hands-on editing of the books and that Stan should go over them with me.

So, once a week, I was called to Stan’s office.  Once a week, Stan would go through that week’s batch of books panel by panel with me, pointing out item by item what train wrecks most of them were.

Stan would say things like, “What’s going on here?  Don’t let them do these incomprehensible shots.  We need clear storytelling.”  “Is this the same room as last panel, or did we cut to Mars?”  “Where did this guy come from?  You have to show entrances and exits, or at least mention  them.”  “Pointers should be straight, and aimed at the speaker’s mouth.”  “This coloring is mud.  Tell them to leave white space.”  “This story makes no sense.”  “What idiot wrote this line?”  I’ll never forget that one.  In that particular case, the idiot was me.

I learned a few things from those sessions, mostly things Stan wanted done differently than what I was taught at DC.  For instance, DC preferred balloons “surrounded by color,” that is, off the borders.  Stan wanted balloons butted to the borders to clear more space for the art.  But, I already knew most of what Stan was preaching.  I might not have been as wise in the ways of comics as Archie, but I’m not a dummy and I had a lot of training from my DC days that applied.

After a couple of months of this, Stan started sounding more and more annoyed when we went over the make-readies.  “I told you, straight pointers!  Don’t let them do these snakey pointers.”  “Haven’t we already talked about white space?”  Etc.  I’d say I know, Stan, but sometimes things slip by.  I’d mutter something about having 45 titles to edit, and that I tried to fix the worst….

Stan didn’t seem to grok that 45 books were too many to edit properly.  One reason, is because Stan assumed that if I told someone once “no snakey pointers,” he’d say, “Oh, I see, yes sir,” and it would never happen again.  More likely, knowing that I had no power to fire him or visit any consequences whatsoever upon him, he would say, “Go to hell,” and continue doing whatever he pleased.

After many months, Stan firmly believed that I was drain bamaged or stupid beyond human imagining.  The lectures continued, but he started speaking as if he were talking to a kindergarten child.  Great.

Somewhere along the way, the Spider-Man syndicated strip launched.  John Romita was doing the art.  Stan wrote the dialogue—but he didn’t want to do the plotting.  He hired Len Wein to plot the strip.

That was considered quite an honor, reaffirming Len’s status as our number one writer, or at least number one not counting Roy, who was unavailable. 

It didn’t work out.  Stan didn’t like Len’s plots.  I don’t remember much about those strips except that there seemed to be a lot of Spider-Man dangling outside Jonah Jameson’s window exchanging snappy patter.

Stan asked Archie who was the number two writer.  The politically correct answer Archie gave was former EIC Marv.  Marv turned the gig down.  Somehow, it had gone from being an honor to being a chance that Stan would decide you were no good.

Stan asked Archie to put together a list of Marvel’s writers, ranked in order.  Archie left himself off.  He was too busy to plot the strip, though, for my money, he was obviously the best choice, having written Secret Agent Corrigan for years.

Archie’s list included 33 writers.  He put me at number 33.  I’d like to think it was because I had a staff job.  I’d like to think he didn’t want me taking time away from editing.  But maybe he just thought I sucked.  Dunno.

Anyway, Stan asked EVERYONE ON THE LIST except me.  Everyone turned him down.  Finally, in desperation, he called me to his office.  Looking as though he had a tremendous headache, he asked me if I’d plot the strip.  I said sure.

Then, looking as though his headache was worsening, he explained to me what he needed me to do.  Slowly, and in small words.  As if he were trying to prep a chimp.  Sundays had to fit in continuity, yet stand alone.  They had to add something, but something non-essential to readers who only read the dailies.  16 week arcs.  Big events mid-week.  Teasers.  Etc.  I kept saying, “I know Stan.”

I delivered my overview of the first arc in a day or two.  Stan liked it.  And seemed amazed, befuddled.  I delivered my first few weeks plots, broken down day by day and panel by panel a few days later.  Stan said, “These are good,” with amazement in his voice.  I said, exactly, “I know what I’m doing.”

Stan gave my plots to John to draw and away we went.  There were only two bumps in the road.  First, when Stan went to dialogue a daily a couple of times, he ran into trouble and called me in.  He hadn’t checked what John drew against the plot, of course, and assumed the glitches were plot flaws he hadn’t noticed.  I showed him the plots.  John hadn’t drawn what was called for.  Nonetheless, I had to do some fancy steppin’ to adjust the story.  No time to redraw the art. 

So, instead of turning in written plots, I started doing scribble-sketch layouts, like I used to do at DC, along with notes for clarification.  Stan loved it.  He wrote the dialogue from my scribbles!  Then John couldn’t very well give us a big close up of Mary Jane when an establishing shot was called for.

ASIDE:  I included this note to artists in several of my Dark Horse scripts.  It’s germane:

(NOTE:  Stan always told me never to crop a pretty girl so high that you couldn’t see her bust.  Or at least some cleavage.  I used to have tremendous problems with John Romita, Sr. when I was plotting and laying out the Spider-Man syndicated strip.  John would always crop the girls extra-tastefully at the shoulders, even if I laid the panel out properly, per Stan.  John actually considered becoming a priest when he was young.  What a choirboy.  Then Stan would go honking at John, then John would get annoyed with me for getting him in trouble.  What did I do?!  Then the redo would make the strip late.  Then…well, it’s a long story.  Anyway, show her charms.)

I once scribbled a panel of Peter Parker approaching a bus stop.  Several people, including a pretty woman wearing a skirt were waiting at the stop.  I chose a low angle, which showed a little of her thighs.  Nothing too racy.  Not lewd, not flirting with the limits.  Not in bad taste.  Just a smidgen of sex appeal.  Remember the Doris Day/Rock Hudson movies?  Like that.  Very Doris Day.  John squared up that perspective in a hurry.  Stan was appalled.

Anyway….

Stan started to figure out that I wasn’t an idiot.


Tomorrow:  The Plotting Thickens the Plot   

Note (in response to comments): Just to be clear, Stan was never abusive to me, like Mort was. And he was very polite the first 500 times or so that he told me about snakey pointers and what have you. Even his patience got stretched when week after week there was no apparent progress.

Stan could be critical, but he was never mean or mean spirited. The "happy" side you know of Stan is real. He's a great guy. Resident genius, creative guru, an icon who deserves to be one.

31 comments:

Chris said...

This is probably my favorite blog entry so far, Mr. Shooter. I find your "secret origin" much more interesting than that of the Transformers. I would like to echo what so many others have said that you should publish a book with all these fascinating recollections.

Kid said...

It would be a fascinating book sure enough - but I'm kinda glad I can read these great stories here for free. Keep 'em coming please.

Marc Miyake said...

Dear Jim,

Thanks for the inside look at Marvel.

We fans only see Stan Lee the public image. I wish I could see more of Stan Lee the private comics critic. DC and Marvel could use his advice.

I wonder what kind of advice he gave to Magazine Management upstairs ... and if anyone listened.

I've long known about how mean Weisinger was, but some of the things that happened to you years after you stopped working for him sound almost as bad. Being dead last? Being talked down to? Ouch! An ascent to the top is never as easy as it looks from a distance.

What really baffles me is Gerry Conway's contract and its ripple effects. Writing eight books in addition to his duties as editor-in-chief? I guess it's technically possible, but how could so many books be any good? Adding more titles to appease the protesters regardless of market demand (and adding to Conway's workload)? Conway joining the protestors? Whoda thunk it?

In this entry, you wrote that Jim Galton became president after CBS Books acquired Popular Library in 1977. How would he have known about Marv Wolfman leaving the EIC position a year earlier? Maybe he heard about it from someone on the ninth floor.

I wonder what the story behind Marvel Classics is. The first year of issues have writers not normally associated with Marvel during this period: e.g., Otto Binder. But then familiar Marvel writers take over starting with #13. I can understand the comic's life being prolonged to serve as make-work, but I don't understand what the original raison d'être for the comic was. Was it a cheap way to fill the stands using public domain source material? A tie-in with someone else's educational program? I know that the genesis of Marvel Classics was shortly before your time - it came out on the stands shortly after you were hired - but I remain curious.

Your blog makes me think that every title has a story, and I don't just mean the stories printed in it. You make the business side of comics come alive. I found Dan Raviv's Comic Wars to be tough reading at times, but I'm sure your $uper Villains would be a blast!

Dale Bagwell said...

Good stuff, really good stuff! Can't wait to read part 2.

Nice to read about the other, not-so happy side of Stan Lee. I feel this adds more realism to him then how he's portrayed nowadays.

jimshooter said...

I don't know what Stan told the MM guys. Basics, I guess, re: covers, logos, stories, etc.

Gerry got the eight book writer-editor contract AFTER leaving as EIC (a few weeks after he took the EIC position). Archie was EIC after Gerry left. Sorry I didn't make that clear.

You caught a MAJOR GOOF. It was AL LANDAU who was President of Marvel then. Sorry. I never had aught to do with Landau so without thinking about it I defaulted to Galton. Sorry, sorry, sorry.

Some of the "Classic" material was old, like the Binder stuff, which I guess we somehow had the rights to. The new stuff was done by Claremont, Moench et al. No profound reasons for the Classics. Somebody thought we could sell them.

As far as I know, the Marvel Classic came out during 1976, when I was associate editor. It was started right after Gerry stepped down as EIC to take the eight-book contract. That would have been in April, I think. What is your info on this?

jimshooter said...

(Also noted above)
Just to be clear, Stan was never abusive to me, like Mort was. And he was very polite the first 500 times or so that he told me about snakey pointers and what have you. Even his patience got stretched when week after week there was no apparent progress.

Stan could be critical, but he was never mean or mean spirited. The "happy" side you know of Stan is real. He's a great guy. Resident genius, creative guru, an icon who deserves to be one.

NatePiekos said...

Having lettered all of Jim's books for Dark Horse recently, I can confirm that he does indeed include Stan's note about cropping a pretty girl. It made me smile every time I read it.

I learned quite a bit from Jim's scripts, and the conversation we had at the Dark Horse booth signing at NYCC last year is among my industry highlights.

Thanks, Jim. Hope I lettered to your approval.

~Nate Piekos

Richard Guion said...

As a fan, I remembered this period of "rotating EICs" very well and wondered when the heck it would settle down. It was also a big mystery to me how Gerry Conway came back to Marvel in 1976, had a one month stint as EIC, etc. I was amazed that the new Peter Parker Spectacular Spider-Man book seemed to be created just for Conway, which he only wrote for 2-3 issues and went back to DC.

Thanks for clearing up much of this mystery!

Bosch Fawstin said...

Stan Lee is James Jonah Jameson?! But seriously, Stan Lee could not have become "The Man" without demanding that creators at Marvel do the best work they could with the monthly deadlines they had. I love reading this, that Stan had an edge to him when it came to the work at Marvel, makes perfect sense, considering The Man's towering career.

Marc Miyake said...

Dear Jim,

Sorry for my misunderstanding about Gerry Conway. Mea culpa, since you wrote "Gerry's writing contract," not "Gerry's contract as EIC." Eight books still sounds like a lot to me.

I didn't know the early Classics material was old. Perhaps inventory originally intended for an earlier educational project that didn't materialize? Aha, according to GCD, #1 was "a Vincent Fago production" and reprinted from "Pendulum Press, 1973 series." Ditto for #2-12. #13-up are by Moench, et al. #13 has "All New" and "Never-Before-Seen" on the cover.

I used to have Moench's the Alice in Wonderland issue of Classics but somehow lost it! Argh! I still miss it after over thirty years.

My source for the dates of Classics is Mike Voiles' site which lists on-sale dates. I don't know what his source is. According to that site, #1 was on sale on January 27, 1976, so I presumed it was in the works before you started on January 5, 1976. The sale dale for #13, the first Classics entirely created in-house, is listed as October 26, 1976, so it must have been in production shortly after Conway took the eight-book contract.

I struggled with the part of my comment about Stan and Archie. I did not intend to criticize them and I shouldn't have compared "the things that happened to you" (notice how I refrained from naming names - I was referring to actions, not people) with Weisinger's abuse. I must be more careful about what I write. I did not and do not see Stan and Archie as bad guys. Otherwise I wouldn't have written, "DC and Marvel could use his [Stan's critical] advice." I did not like most of Marvel's output during this period, so I don't blame Stan for not thinking highly of it. I just wish I saw more of this "edge," as Bosch put it. And I did not mean to imply that Stan's public persona is fake. But I still do think being talked to as if you were "a kindergarten child" and a few other things sound painful. Not malicious. You experienced hard times. Things would get even harder when you dealt with truly malicious people: e.g., 1987 and 1992. But you didn't merely endure; you rose above it all.

kintounkal said...

NatePiekos,

I noticed a minor lettering discrepancy while reading Dark Horse's Solar, Man of the Atom #6. The table of contents listed the first story as "Revelation Part Two: That Dreadful Day" while page 1 adjusted the title a bit to "Revelation Part Two: ...That Fateful Day..." Was there any behind the scenes reason for that incongruity?

jimshooter said...

Dear Marc,

Alice in Wonderland with Frank Bolle art, right. Very nice.

Pastrami said...

Another terrific post Jim. I love the way you tell these stories. When Stan's headache began to grow worse! Your way of telling it makes me feel that I'm right there in the room.

NatePiekos said...

Kintounkal, I'm responsible for the lettering on the interior pages only. The covers, table of contents, credits page, letters pages, compiling of the trades, etc. aren't my area. You'd have to ask whomever did the production on the issue.

Nate

czeskleba said...

Eight books a month is a crazy amount for one person to write. Did even Stan ever script that much in the 60's?

It's interesting to note that Gerry Conway's writing assignments caused problems before that also. When he was first hired as EIC he had no assignments (since he was returning after a year at DC), so he took Avengers from Steve Englehart and Defenders from Steve Gerber, ending two of (IMO) the best runs of the 70s Marvel. Englehart was so angered that he quit Marvel entirely and went over to DC.

czeskleba said...

@Richard Guion
From what I've heard, the Spectacular Spider-Man book was created in large part to accommodate Gerry Conway. He wanted to return to writing Amazing Spider-Man, but was unable to take that book away from Len Wein because the writer/editors all had contracts that made them answerable only to Stan, so the EIC had no authority over them (at least that's what I've heard... Jim can correct me if I'm wrong).

Gary M. Miller said...

Great to see the story behind the story, Jim. It's particularly interesting to see the news about Gerry Conway who, as others have mentioned, came back from DC, went from EiC to writer/editor again, only to soon shuffle off to DC again within months of starting those writing gigs.

I've read some accounts in recent Marvel Masterworks about Gerry Conway and his EiC-ship wreaking havoc with certain titles, although czeskleba above and the comments about 8 titles a month seem to contribute to the idea that somehow he got those books following his fallout as EiC but it seems logical to believe Englehart, who states it was Conway's editorial policies that led to his leaving the book and ultimately Marvel for years (until Archie Goodwin lured him back with "Coyote" for Epic).

Similarly I think it's stated in Jon Cooke's intro to the second Warlock Masterworks that Conway's suggestions on the direction of that book led to Starlin leaving for the world of animation for some time (although again, Archie Goodwin lured him back for his 2-part Thanos/Warlock swan song in the 1977 annuals). And without Starlin, apparently the book fell through the cracks.

It seems Conway landed on his feet over at DC, creating Firestorm in '78 (one of my favorite characters) alongside Al Milgrom, who of course ping-ponged between DC and Marvel before landing in Marvel editorial in the wake of the DC Implosion and enjoying a lengthy career there.

~G.

Graham said...

Re: Marvel Classics.....when I was in upper elementary school, I remembered seeing the stories that made up the early Marvel Classics in paperback form (B&W) in some of the classrooms of my school. I think they might have been designed originally for educational purposes. I definitely remembered several of them when Marvel started publishing them. One was drawn by Nestor Redondo, another by Alex Nino, etc....

jimshooter said...

Dear czeskleba,

True, mostly. The writer-editor contracts did, indeed, make them responsible only to Stan...OR WHOMEVER HE DESIGNATED. Shortly after I took office, Stan sent a letter to the writers-editors designating me. Stan asked me to write the letter for him, and to make sure it was proper and binding. He hated doing legal-technical stuff like that. So, I wrote it, he signed it and sent it. More about the genesis of that later.

And, yes, Spectacular Spider-Man was created for Gerry.

jimshooter said...

The biggest single problem with Marvel editorial in those days was lateness. There was a steady stream of unscheduled reprints and outright missed issues that caused tremendous problems, cost a great deal of money and ultimately severely impacted sales.

Englehart was a major contrbutor to the problem. I believe that he was assigned three books a month, but he rarely delivered even two. One of his assigned titles was the Avengers, a monthly. There was a year...1975? during which Englehart delivered only six or eight Avengers scripts, meaning that the rest of that year's issues were reprint or non-existent. Remember the "Dreaded Deadline Doom?" It struck frequently back then.

Gerry tried to address the problem by cutting the number of assignments each writer had down to what they were actually capable of producing and by commisioning fill-in stories in droves. Neither of those moves were popular. Writers, even non-writer-editors, felt very proprietary about "their" books and wanted no interference.

Englehart was supposed to deliver the script for Avengers...hmm...#150? I think. It was a "landmark" issue. The script didn't arrive by the date promised, which was months late already, by the way. Gerry asked me to dialogue the issue overnight. I did. The issue with my dialogue went into lettering and production the next day.

That led to a rather dramatic phone conversation between Englehart (who lived in California) and Gerry. Though his office door was closed, those of us in the big editorial room outside could hear clearly Gerry's side of it. Gerry tried to reason with Englehart. Gerry was as sane, reserved, respectful and nice as he could be under the circumstances. Englehart was obviously irate. Make that enraged.

I think that's when Englehart quit. Or soon thereafter. "Editorial policies" had nothing to do with it, unless you consider "Deliver the damn thing already" an editorial policy. As I recall, Starlin left soon thereafter, to some extent, in support of friend Englehart. Again, I don't believe the "direction" of Warlock had much to do with it, though it wasn't selling and possibly Gerry offered some suggestions.

P.S. Englehart's dialogue for Avengers #150 finally arrived, long after promised. Though it cost even more time, Gerry had Englehart's script quickly lettered and pasted up, and that's what we ran with. Was it better than my overnight effort? Maybe, I don't know. But the real reason for that was as a gesture of goodwill to Englehart. Gerry didn't really want to lose him. Too little, too late.

Everybody loved Archie. Even people with giant grudges against Marvel would do jobs for Archie.

czeskleba said...

FWIW, Steve Englehart's version of the story is that Gerry Conway took the Avengers assignment away from him first, because he (Conway) needed writing assignments for himself. Englehart says he then deliberately turned in his dialogue for Avengers #150 late to force them to use a reprint for part of that "landmark" issue, as revenge on Conway. A few pages of Englehart's story appeared in issue #150, and the rest was a reprint. The rest of Englehart's story appeared in issue #151, padded out by additional pages scripted by Conway and Jim.

So it must have been prior lateness that caused Conway to take away the assignment, rather than lateness on #150. There actually were no unscheduled reprints at Marvel during the 8 months Marv Wolfman was editor, but there were two fill-in issues on Avengers during that time.

kintounkal said...

On November 5th, 2010, Brian Cronin focused a 'Comic Book Legends Revealed' article on the original art for the last page of Avengers #149 ("The Gods and the Gang"). It can be found at
http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/2010/11/05/comic-book-legends-revealed-285/

You can tell Steve Englehart was enraged as Jim described because he added a footnote in the last panel informing "Dear Bullpen -- Stick it in your ear." Likewise, George Pérez added a lot of comments in the bottom margin of the page. Unfortunately, both sides were cut removing words here and there but the gist of what he's saying is clear:
------------------------------
REASONS FOR LOSING IT ON OTHER-EARTH). THESE ARE JUST SMALL ITEMS, BUT WE HAVE TO KEEP THIS

ROWING—AND #150 IS THE PERFECT ISSUE FOR THOSE NEW

SCHEDULE, I NEED THE AVENGERS ANNUAL IMMEDIATELY WITH TWO MONTHLIES LIKE AVENGERS AND IF, ANY DEL

AL MAY BE TOO MUCH AND I COULDN'T DO IT WITHOUT CONFLICTING WITH THE TWO MONTHLYS
-------------------------------------

Kevie said...

These are so unbelievably great.

kintounkal said...

According to The Art of Jim Starlin: A Life In Words and Pictures from IDW Publishing, Gerry's art suggestions were the main cause for Starlin quitting.

Chapter 3 focuses on Adam Warlock and Jim Starlin wrote "After some problems with editorial changes on the Warlock series early on, I'd come to an arrangement with both editors Wein and Wolfman that any post-production alterations they might feel needed would be discussed before implementation. This worked out well until suddenly Gerry Conway became editor and all previous agrements were then apparently null and void.

Warlock #14 had a number of art changes done at the editorial office without consultation.

When Steve and I received the coloring stats and saw what had been done, I called the office to complain and was informed all editorial changes were now final and no longer open to debate. It didn't matter what had been agreed upon before. This was the way it was going to be now that Gerry Conway was in charge. If I didn't like it, I could always quit.

So I did.

Then Gerry quit as editor two weeks later, and Archie Goodwin's name was put on the issues that Conway had gotten me to leave the series over. By then I was already commited to other work.

As it turned out, there was a serious paper shortage around this time and several Marvel books had to be cancelled (whether they were selling well enough or not) because there just wasn't anything to print them on. Warlock was among this group that also included Killraven and Luke Cage, Powerman, if I recall right. So no one followed me on Adam Warlock."
---------------------------------------
That paper shortage situation sounds interesting to me. Was it really such a big obstacle in 1976?

jimshooter said...

One thing I'll guarantee you about Starlin. He's honest. If he says something, he believes it. That doesn't mean that working mostly from a distance he got all the straight dope from whomever at the office.

I don't recall any major art changes to Warlock issues while I was there. There could have been some. A couple of the assistants were absolutely fanatic about consistency with costume details, background details and such. I was busy enough, overwhelmed in fact, so I couldn't keep track of everything the "proofreaders" were doing.

One change I do recall is that Jim had carefully, artfully worked the word "fuck" into the ornate frame of a doorway. You'd miss it if you weren't looking for it. One of the assistants caught it and had someone, Marie, I think, change it so it said "ha-ha jim."

It is true that the general lateness of everything caused Gerry to go full court press with regard to getting books out. No time for niceties or consultations. Was Warlock late? I'm pretty sure it was, though Starlin is one of the most reliable, hard-working guys you'll ever encounter. Maybe it wasn't. Ask Jim, he'll tell you straight.

If Jim says that art changes were the reason he quit, it is.

Back to getting the straight dope. On occasion, Gerry told people whatever necessary to manipulate them. Sometimes for no real reason. For instance, in the Bullpen Bulletins, he wrote about the "Brillo Coffee Shop," where all the Marvel people hung out, and actually chortled about the notion that some fervent fans would come to New York and scour the city desperately looking for a coffee shop that didn't exist. He flat out told me that he was trying to maneuver and manipulate certain creators to quit. I actually considered resigning. Couldn't work for that man. But in no time he was gone, and Archie was suddenly EIC.

I know of no books being cancelled due to a paper shortage or the price of paper. Ever. The three books mentioned, Killraven, Warlock and Power Man were poor sellers. Absolute bottom of the list, though they were in many ways wonderful, interesting books. Poor sales is why they were cancelled. "Paper shortage" sounds like a facile, inarguable excuse.
P.S. Jim came into the office occasionally. Once he was there when an issue of either Captain Marvel or Warlock was about to go off to Chemical Color Plate. He got ahold of the cover and cut-and-paste altered the Comics Code Authority seal so it said "Cosmic" Code Authority. Nobody noticed and it was printed that way.

Gary M. Miller said...

Aha! Thus is solved the secret story to the cover of Strange Tales #179.:)

Interestingly, while Killraven and Warlock were canceled, I believe at that point Chris Claremont was allowed to bring in Iron Fist, a book that was canceled then, and have him join forces with Luke Cage. (Might IF have been the series on the bubble, not Power Man?) Thence, following a two-part story in Marvel Team-Up where the ongoing Steel Serpent storyline from Iron Fist's book was resolved, Iron Fist became a permanent fixture in Cage's book, with the book retitled "Power Man & Iron Fist" in early 1978.

You remind me, Jim, how many books during the 70s (and 80s) were canceled but had their plots resolved in other books, as Claremont did with Iron Fist in the above case, and as Englehart did with the Beast, etc. What a lost art is picking up the toys employed by another creative team in mid-run. Everyone today would rather start with a "clean slate," and everyone would rather have their own "#1" than continue the numbering and status quo from the creator from which they inherited a book. While there's something to be said to have a creator reach the ending he/she wanted to tell, there's also something to be said for rolling with adversity and using what might be construed as a bad situation to make a good one. From lemons, lemonade, and all that. Do you have some thoughts in that regard, Jim?

Best,

~G.

czeskleba said...

Starlin must be mistaken (or thinking of another title) since Killraven and Warlock were cancelled at the end of 1976 but it was more than a year later when Iron Fist was cancelled and its storyline merged with Power Man. Incidentally, according to John Byrne Iron Fist had a spike in sales over its last few issues and was selling better than Power Man by the time of its cancellation, but by then the merger was already a done deal.

OM said...

...Two points, Jim:

1) On the subject of fill-in books, what was the story behind that one fill-in during the "Korvac Saga" arc? IIRC, wasn't that scripted by Li'l Harlie Ellison as well? Was that assignment in any way tied iin with the kerflufful over Mantlo's swiping an Outer Limits plot and the way Harlan was reimbursed? And was there any special story to tell about how that fill-in came about, or did George Perez simply get behind?

2) RE: "Cosmic" Code Authority. Actually, a lot of fans caught this, and many felt that it should have been retained for all of Marvel's "cosmic" titles and events. It would have added the subtle hint to the CCA that a lot of their people were really "out there" and "out of touch" with reality, based on some of the censorship they imposed in total disregard for changing times and social mores.

jimshooter said...

There was no fill-in in the course of the Korvac Saga. There was an issue for which Bill Mantlo did a draft of the script which I polished. It was my plot. Are you saying that issue resembles an Ellison story?

Mantlo was not asked to reimburse Marvel for the Hulk script he lifted from Ellison's Outer Limits story. The issue he worked on was in no way tied to the "kerflufful." George Perez left in the middle of the Korvac Saga because DC offered him JLA, a book he'd always wanted to draw. He had been running late, but that had nothing to do with it.

The Comics Code Authority didn't have a lot of people. It was one guy in an office, sometimes with an assistant. I think that Leonard Darvin was the Code Administrator back then. Laurie Sutton may have been the assistant at the time.

The Comic Magazine Association would have eventually objected if Marvel kept messing with the Code Seal.

Maybe I can get Laurie to tell some tales of the CCA. Or you guys can ask her.

Chris K said...

Ellison's Avengers issue was #101, years before the Korvac saga. It's an easy mistake to make though, because the cover blurb on that Shooter /Mantlo issue (#169) cribs the title of the Ellison story: "Five Dooms to Save Tomorrow/ Three Dooms that Threaten Tomorrow." The interior title is completely different in #169, however ("If We Should Fail, the World Dies Tonight!"), and, IIRC the two stories are not in any way similar.

Also, the chronology is close, but not quite right re: Perez leaving Avengers for JLA. Perez left for JLA after Mr. Shooter's Ultron two- parter in 1980. He was still exclusively at Marvel during the Korvac storyline, though I am not sure what assignment pulled him off Avengers. The Beatles comic maybe? Speaking of which...

Mr. Shooter, do you have any recollections of that Beatles special? Or the scuttled Sgt. Pepper movie adaptation? (also by Perez, which certainly would have been the strangest Marvel project ever had it apppeared...)

Jeff Clem said...

czeskleba said: "There actually were no unscheduled reprints at Marvel during the 8 months Marv Wolfman was editor, but there were two fill-in issues on Avengers during that time."
This is correct. #s 145 and 146 were fill-ins, written by Tony Isabella. Actually, they were intended to be one story for Giant-Size Avengers, which ended up going reprint, so the almost double-length story was split in two and put into #s 145 & 146. I believe the non-Don Heck pages were created to bring the page count up to snuff. I remember asking Englehart why those stories were inserted right in the middle of his ongoing storyline and he says it had nothing to do with missing deadlines; maybe Marv just had this inventory tale sitting there and he wanted to use it.
Now, going back a bit further in time, there were a few chapters of Englehart's Celestial Madonna story that had to be dialogued by Roy Thomas because Englehart was too busy, but no reprints resulted from that. #136 was a reprint of Amazing Adventures #12, featuring The Beast by Englehart, priming fans for his appearance in #137, but I don't know why that issue was a reprint. Most likely, it was the Dreaded Deadline Doom, but due to what or who, I can't say.
Steve's side of the story of Avengers #150 & 151 was revealed in various interviews he gave during, I think, the summer of 1980, when he was publicizing his novel, "The Point Man". It's quite a bit more complicated and detailed than Jim discusses above. I am not saying that Jim is wrong; after all, he was there. I'm just going by: a)stuff I read in the fan press and b)discussions I've had with some of the pros involved at comic book conventions throughout the years, and c) the published evidence. I just don't see a lot of reprints in Englehart's titles at that time. Super-Villain Team-Up #4 was supposed to be Englehart's first issue on that title, but it ended up being a fill-in by Mantlo. Why, again, I don't know.
Those Dr. Strange reprints from '74 were not due to deadline problems - they were extra summer issues designed to cheaply get the title more rack/stand exposure. No reprints in Captain America, except for a fill-in in #168, by Roy Thomas and Tony Isabella; maybe that was due to Englehart missing a deadline?
Anyway, the next time you all are at a comic book convention, look through those cheap magazine-sized boxes under the table on the cold, cement floor. In there you might find back issues of fanzines from the day, and if you want to hear Steve's side of things, look for: Comics Journal #63 (the phone-book issue - you'll understand when you see it), Comics Feature #5, or Comic Times #2. Those old fanzines have a lot of interesting things in them; check out Comic Times #4 for a great Jim Shooter interview!