Friday, June 24, 2011

The Secret Origin of Jim Shooter, Editor in Chief – Part 2

The Plotting Thickens the Plot

First, some backfill: 

I mentioned that, in a comic book I wrote that Stan went over with me, he asked, “What idiot wrote this line?”  It was an issue of Ghost Rider.  Gerry Conway plotted it, was supposed to write the dialogue, failed to deliver, and so Archie asked me to write the dialogue.  I wrote it literally overnight.

When I say overnight, I mean it.  Worked all day at the office.  Worked late.  Grabbed some food quick.  Arrived home to my little apartment in Queens around 9 PM.  Stayed up all night writing dialogue, no sleep.  Showered, shaved, dressed and subway-ed it to work on time.  Delivered the item to John Verpoorten.  Worked all day….

That issue was probably crap, but, hey, it was kind of a dumb story to begin with.  I think the villain was the “Water Wizard.”  Yeesh.  There’s only so much one can do with the dialogue to redeem a story with the Water Wizard in it.

I don’t remember exactly which line Stan found so banal.  It was some boilerplate line—“They went that-a-way,” or “Look! A monster!” or something equally uninspired.  A line written at 4 AM.

Hey, at least when Mantlo cranked a script out overnight, he had me backstopping him.  I had nobody.

I said there were two “bumps in the road” regarding the plots for the Spider-Man syndicated strip.  One was getting the art to match up better with the intent of the plots (and Stan’s wishes).  I failed to mention the second. 

The second bump was that, at first, in my notes to the layouts, I sometimes roughed in some dialogue.  Sometimes a little dialogue made the intent of the picture clearer in fewer words than a description of what the character was feeling or thinking. 

Stan made it very clear that he wanted NO DIALOGUE SUGGESTIONS.  It’s one thing to have a plot assistant, but every word that appeared in print HAD TO BE HIS.  If I suggested dialogue, and it was good dialogue, Stan then felt he had to come up with another way to say the same thing, which was harder than just writing it himself in the first place.  He told me “no dialogue” as emphatically as he ever told me anything.

Claremont was fussy about his words like that too.  So was Goodwin.  Me too.

About John Romita the Elder.  We might not have been on the same page at first regarding the art or the storytelling in the strip, but that was it, problem-wise.  John is one of the all-time greats.  His work on the strip was magnificent.  Once he understood that Stan actually wanted him to draw more or less what the tall, skinny kid had laid out, that it wasn’t just a suggestion, we rocked and rolled.  John’s still a choirboy, but man, can that choirboy draw.  And there’s more sex appeal in one of John’s close ups of Mary Jane than most artists could achieve with a page full of scanty lingerie shots.  Nonetheless, I wanted my Doris Day shots.  So did Stan.

P.S.  My layouts were far from perfect.  Stan would sometimes scribble changes to shots right on top of what I’d drawn.  But, it’s easier to make correx than start from scratch, sometimes.  Anyway, once communications were established we worked together smoothly, like a well-oiled 1911 Studebaker.

P.P.S.  Total speculation here, I never asked John about this, but in retrospect, I think that maybe John was bringing some of his romance comics sensibilities to the strip, whereas I was thinking action-adventure.  Whatever.  Stan wanted both, I believe.  Anyway, we found a happy place in the middle somewhere and did okay, I think. 

One other thing, in case I haven’t made it clear:  Though I couldn’t effectively edit 45 comics a month, I gave it a hell of a try.  Remember, before me, pretty much all the writers were de facto writer-editors.  As I think I have described elsewhere, not long before I arrived, plots, scripts artwork and lettering were seldom seen by anyone in the office till the books were finished, fait accompli.  It was total anarchy. 

Once I was there, everything, or nearly everything crossed my desk at every stage.  I checked everything and tried to improve what I could.  I spent the most time on the worst of the stuff, trying to shore up the bottom.

So.  Creators who had no one checking anything before suddenly had me calling them up sometimes requesting changes to a plot, corrections on dialogue, art corrections, etc.  Some of them, no, all of them were unhappy, no, snarling mad about that.  Before, there was total anarchy—they would ennoble it by calling it “freedom”—and suddenly, there wasn’t.  Not completely, anyway. 

I always checked with the creators about things that I thought were wrong, except as noted below.  I wanted to give them that courtesy, allow them to defend what they’d done, if we disagreed, and, I hoped, get them to do the re-working.  A few conscientious souls would grumble but make the adjustments.  Some simply said, “You do it.”  They couldn’t be bothered.  Some started shouting obscenities at me.  I stopped calling those guys and just did whatever needed to be done.

The good thing about anarchy, or freedom, if you wish, is that a few, brilliant creators will rise to the opportunity and do wonderful things.  Them, I LEFT ALONE.  I wasn’t editing to make things my way, or to stifle anyone, or to interfere in any way with talented people doing outstanding work.  Lord knows, when I read a script that didn’t need a mark put on it, I was thrilled.  More sleep that night.

I can’t think of a single time when I asked for changes because of style, personal preferences or artistic philosophy. 

I worried only about mistakes, problems, crass stupidities, etc.

Please get that straight.  This wasn’t about me oppressing the best and brightest creators.  It was about me wanting incomprehensible art, writing devoid of discoverable meaning, story glitches, continuity mistakes, character misrepresentations, spelling errors and slovenly work fixed.

That’s what I was hired by Marv to do.


P.S.  Chris Claremont briefly had a similar job before me, working for Marv, but he had the good sense to acquire some writing work and go freelance soonest.  Before everybody started hating him.

Like many hated me.  The anarchy-ender is never popular with the anarchists.  And the outstanding creators who did brilliant things never really noticed that I did nothing except stay out of their way.

Whatever. 

To me, the comics were the important things.  Damn the torpedoes.     

Anyway….

My plotting the strip meant that Stan and I spent a lot of time together.

Sometime in or around November, 1977 Stan took me to lunch, ostensibly to talk about the strip. 

Stan always used to have Dubonnet on the rocks before lunch.  My beverage of choice at the time was grapefruit juice.  But I digress.

Stan had apparently discussed the state of the comics with new President Jim Galton, who had replaced Al Landau.  They felt a change was necessary.  Not getting rid of Archie, which would be insane, but letting me take on more of the administrative part of the editorial process.

I thought that was a bad idea.  I thought Archie would never go for anything like that.  Stan said they planned to offer Archie more money and a promotion to V.P.  Put him in charge of “special projects.”  Whatever that was.  Having Special Projects in your title always sounds like “kicked to the curb” to me.

Anyway, Stan and Galton made Archie some kind of offer in late November or early December.  Archie turned them down.  It had the stink of being “kicked upstairs” to it.  He preferred leaving and, like every other EIC before him, becoming a writer-editor.

After some negotiations, I agreed to become the new Editor in Chief.  The negotiations are a tale unto themselves.  I’ll save that for later.  But, finally, we agreed.  I would take over on the first working day of January, 1978.

Stan thought it best to wait till the end of December before making any announcement.  When that announcement finally came, it was…awkward?  Worse than that.  Disastrously awkward?  Ugly awkward?  Well, you’ll see.

Things you should know if you’ve followed along this far and still give a hoot:

I had never complained to Stan about the problems with the comics.  They just became obvious.  But I didn’t keep my thoughts on the subject secret from the guys in the editorial office or the bullpen.  In those days, after work, many of us would hang out together.  Marv, Len, Roger Stern, other editorial guys and freelancers.  After hours, even DC guys would show up at Marvel’s offices, since they weren’t allowed to hang out after work at DC.  Bunches of us often went out together to the local Brew Burger or other suitably cheap-but-good food place.  We played poker Friday nights, usually at the huge apartment Paul Levitz shared with Marty Pasko down on Mercer Street.  And, boy, do I have some stories from those poker games for you later.  We were all friends, or at least, reasonably friendly.  We talked.  A lot.

Marv, Len, Roger and I all lived in out in Queens and often took the same train going home, the E or the F.  Roger got off in Forest Hills, Len and Marv a bit farther out and I went all the way to the end of the line, 179th Street, the stop for Queens Village.  So, we had extra time to talk.  I wasn’t shy about my opinion of the comics, that a lot of them weren’t very good.  That all of them were late.  And that I wasn’t fond of the concept of writer-editors.  I felt that you needed a backstop no matter who you were or how good you were.  Marv and Len, needless to say, disagreed.

(ASIDE, APROPOS OF NOTHING:  One time on the F train, we had a conductor who announced each stop over the PA in unusual fashion.  He said “F-f-f-f-ith AVENUE.”  And, “L-l-l-l-EXington.”  After which Marv loudly started humming the Tonight Show theme music:  “DAAA-da-da…DA-da-da-da….”  The whole car cracked up.

Len wore a winter coat with enormous pockets and plenty of them.  Somebody needed a pair of scissors.  Len reached in a pocket and pulled out a pair of scissors.  Then we started wondering about what else those pockets might contain.  We started calling out items.  Screwdriver?  Sure.  Bottle opener?  Uh-huh.  Aspirin?  Yep.  One by one Len produced whatever was named.  Roger asked, “Big Mac?”  No.  Sadly, all Len had was a regular cheeseburger.)  

A couple of words about the institution of Writer-Editors:  Bad idea.

More on that later.

Regarding Marv and Len:

Marv is a brilliant creator.  He’s an idea man.  He can truly create.  Many can create things out of other things, synthesis.  Marv often creates entirely new things, genesis.  That’s rare.  His writing at its best is fresh, surprising, unpredictable and intriguing.  There’s a spontaneity to it that’s wonderful and engaging.  Spontaneity livens up his dialogue.  People talk in a crazy stuff-popping-out-of-their-heads way just like real people often do.  He has a gift for character.

All that said, he has some problems with the language.  He mangles grammar.  He misuses words.  Once he used “noisome” as if it meant loud.  It was in a caption.  One can excuse many things in dialogue as the mistakes of the character’s making, but the captions ought to be right.  Marv argued that most people think noisome means loud, and it went to press that way.

When not at his best, Marv’s spontaneity becomes lack of planning and confusion.  Sparkling dialogue becomes glib patter headed nowhere.   

And, by the way, with his knack for coming up with words, Marv would be the world champion Scrabble player if he could spell.

Len is a brilliant writer.  Yes, he has created things, some out of whole cloth, but he’s more deliberate about it than Marv, and more often he springboards off of established conceits.  Witness his great run on Swamp Thing.  Marv is a machine gun, albeit sometimes un-aimed.  Len is a sniper with one hell of a scope on his M39. 

Len is a linguistic technician of the first water.  He ponders things like the rhythm of each phrase, the way the words look (!), and other nuances that would make my head explode.  He is also a master of the form.  He is wise in the ways of everything that goes on in the panels and everything that goes on in the readers’ heads in between.  He can craft compelling scenes and compose dialogue with poetic power and subtlety. 

He can also give you a lot of “Hulk smash” scenes in which the shock waves bowl over all the soldiers.  Again.  For the thousandth time.  Which is what he thinks the “kids in Fudge, Nebraska” want to see.
     
So.  My opinion was and is that each of them would benefit from a good editor.  Writer-editors.  Feh. 

Roy, Gerry and Archie?  I’ll get to them later.  Uh-oh.

The company had no Christmas party that year, 1977.  At the last minute, someone arranged for any editorial and production people so inclined to gather at a local tavern.  It was Friday, December 23rd.  We even invited Stan.  He had a prior commitment, but he said he’d try to stop by.

It was a nice joint and we had a room to ourselves, just off the main dining room.  The turnout was surprisingly good.  Most of the comics staff, many freelancers.  And a good time was had by all.  For a while.

Then Stan came in with his wife Joan, fresh from some upscale soiree, judging from the way they were dressed.

Stan decided it would be a good time to make the announcement.  And he did.

There was dead silence.  Archie and his wife Ann were shooting straight razors at me from their eyes.  I believe that Archie thought I had thrown him under the M57 Crosstown.

Everyone else seemed to be thinking: “HIM?  HE’S in charge now?  Uh-oh.”  Fear and loathing permeated the joint.

Stan didn’t seem to notice.  People finally started talking again.  Or muttering.  Mostly curses.

The old guys each came up to me, congratulated me and wished me well.  Sincerely, I think.  Danny Crespi, John Tartaglione, Morrie Kuramoto, a few others.  Newly appointed Production Manager Lenny Grow also shook my hand and wished me well.

Later, Lenny and I, and I think one other person stopped at some other place and chatted for a while.

I got home in the wee hours.

At seven AM the phone rang.  I said “Hello.”  The voice on the other end said, “What are you going to do?”  It was Marv, I recognized the growl.  I told him I planned to sleep for another two hours. 

He wanted to know right then and there what my intentions were, especially regarding the writer-editor situation.  I had no plans at that point, just my general philosophy.  I honestly didn’t know what I was going to do, or what I would be able to do, what I’d be allowed to do.  I asked him to withhold judgment, to give me a chance.  After I while I convinced him to get off the phone, at least.

More calls started coming.  Lots of them.  I ignored them at first, then unplugged the phone.

The next week, a short week, the office was like a pressure cooker about to blow its top.  I kept my head down, nose in my work.  People avoided me.  That was fine by me.

Then, on Tuesday, January 3rd, my first day as EIC, things got really bad.

NEXT:  Apocalypse Now

48 comments:

Bosch Fawstin said...

I used to get really excited to pick up my weekly comics. No more, almost the only comics I'm buying these days are older ones, many from the time you were EIC. Fitting, since I can't wait to read each new post on your blog. Thank you.

Jeff Zoslaw said...

I came to this blog with an anti-Shooter bias based on comments by Wolfman, Thomas, Byrne etc. I think I'm gradually being won over. In any case, it's more than refreshing to see your side of things in such detail. Finding out the inner business workings of creative industries makes for really great reading! Thanks for sharing all this (and for free!).

Marc Miyake said...

Dear Jim,

What Bosch said. Gave up on weekly comic store trips in '92 (and missed out on DEFIANT and Broadway ... sorry!). But I've been catching up on your work. Just got Essential Dazzler vol. 2 in the mail today with the issues that you and Archie wrote and your Dazzler: The Movie graphic novel. Am considering getting your Ghost Rider and Daredevil next.

Having worked all night many times, I know what it's like to write at 4 AM. I appreciate your honesty about your work. I think the Water Wizard issue was #23. GCD lists Gerry as plotter and you as scripter.

And having also worked on the other side of the creative table as a proofreader and editor, I have some idea of what you went through as associate editor. Some, because I had it easy! There's nothing better than thinking, "Wow, this is so great I can't do a thing to make it better. Perfect as is!" That kind of work isn't about me; it's about me trying to help the other person do their best and look good.

Your descriptions of Marv and Len made me think about how the comics industry manages to attract such talented people. Not bad for a medium that never got the respect it enjoys in Japan.

Your short paragraphs enabled me to stop and savor every sentence before scrolling down. I felt like a fly on the wall watching history unfold. Consider this comment my buzzing. Don't swat me.

Richard Guion said...

Wow. This is more thrilling than the Korvac saga--what a cliffhanger! Even though I know the broad strokes this memoir is fascinating. Can't wait to see what happened next.

Will said...

(In my Best Peter Falk)

So you were given a job no one else really wanted, one that had no genuine enforcement authority, was outspoken on some *unpopular* topics the status quo was afraid of ... and THAT garnered resentment and distrust?

So they were mad you got the job they didn't want?

They were afraid of change to a policy that would have no teeth?

Didn't they realize there no teeth to the job when they turned it down?

Hello rock, meet hard place..

Jeff Clem said...

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. I've never put a lot of stock in them, primarily, because even though they are interesting behind-the-scenes stories, ultimately, I focus on the work rather than the gossip. Was marrying Soon Yi morally wrong for Woody Allen to do? I don't know all of the facts and I refuse to let innuendo/gossip color my perception of the work; Woody Allen wrote "Crimes and Misdemeanors", among other great films (although, oddly enough, his output since then HAS been pretty lame - but I digress). What does it matter what he did or didn't do to someone else, when I should judge only the man's talent and work. So, even if those anti-Shooter stories are fascinating, I know I was hearing just part of them, and I decided to go on reading Jim's stuff without letting those stories color my perceptions of the work. In the early 90s, Jim was kind enough to briefly answer a few of my letters and I met him in '92 at San Diego. Very nice and gracious and classy behavior, considering he had just been ousted from his own company. I have met and interacted with some of the folks Jim mentions in these fascinating blog entries and I have heard various Jim Shooter stories from them and I believe that smaller minds will continue to play the game of choosing sides, as if this were all a simple, black-and-white issue. And I say: read the man's comic book stories and forget about the faulty and negative perceptions of others. Jim, please keep writing these kinds of entries - it's about time we heard your side of the story.

Marc Miyake said...

Dear Jim,

Len Wein's winter coat sounds like a predecessor of Shaman's pouch. There's probably a Cosmic Cube in one of those pockets. And an Ultimate Nullifier. Don't mess with the co-creator of the "All-New, All-Different" X-Men!

What did you mean when you wrote that "He ponders things like [...] the way the words look"? That he was concerned with word length? Letter shapes: e.g., "This phrase has too many words with descenders"? I can understand a concern with the appearance of words in a script like Chinese in which graphs may vary from one stroke (一) to, say, forty-eight (龘 - not even the record holder which isn't in many fonts), but not the Roman alphabet in which there is less variation in letter complexity.

bmcmolo said...

I second all the comments above.

I've seen some of the Gary Groth wannabes out in force today, trolling Gene Colan's RIP notices. Truly sad.

There are always three sides to every story. That being the case, it behooves one to make up one's own mind when trying to objectify events where one wasn't present. In my own case, I'm biased towards these blog accounts - why? Simply because many of those who can't stop blaming Shooter for everything/ need to bring anti-Jim-Shooter into everything don't have anything nice to say about ANYONE. Whereas here, even when relaying unpleasant information or unflattering events, Jim has been gracious and praising even of those who take every chance to piss on him.

Bravo, JS - keep 'em coming.

(And again, so sorry to see the Dark Key titles go - I was really sorry to see them go!)

bmcmolo said...

(oops - that last sentence should read "So sorry to see the Dark Key titles go - I was really enjoying them!")

(You know, in the interest of clarity and all.)

Dale Bagwell said...

Really enjoying these stories there Mr.Shooter. Such insight into very popular and famous creators like Len Wein and Marv Wolfman are deeply appreciated. I honestly can't wait for part three!

On a similar note, I wonder if either Wein or Wolfman would do us the honor of gracing us with their presence in this blog to either agree or dispute your recollections. It probably won't happen, but it'd be nice.
Who else would love to see this?

kintounkal said...

Jim remembered the name of the former soldier named turned criminal mercenary correctly. Peter van Zante first appeared in Ghost Rider #23 ("Wrath of the Water Wizard") which hit the stand on January 11th, 1977.

Thirteen years later, he changed his name to Aqueduct and joined Terraformer, Skybreaker, and Firewall as 'Forces of Nature' in New Warriors #7 ("The Heart of the Hunter"). This remains Peter's persona when he appears nowadays in titles like Thunderbolts and Avengers: The Initiative.

Xavier said...

What a cliffhanger! Writer/editor...sure was akward. That means there is no editor, except if you're skizophrenic!!
The only situation were I would see it work would be for creator owned work.
Did you receive any nickname about your height? (I'm 6 feet 43 myself)

Marc Miyake said...

I can see how people might think "noisome" means "loud." "Noisome" looks like it should be a cognate of "noise," but in fact the two words are unrelated. "Noisome" is cognate to "annoy," and "noise" has been derived from "nausea," though the Oxford English Dictionary objects to this etymology on semantic grounds.

"Nausea" in turn is not cognate to "sea" even though it originally referred to seasickness; its true cognate is "nautical."

kintounkal said...

Speaking of Water Wizard, his origin involved being badly wounded in American military engagements in Southeast Asia. I'm curious if Jim had a similar origin in mind for Rexo from Harbinger #3 ("One Small Step..."). I doubt it.

When Rexo first appeared, I got the impression he was about the same as age as Ax. However, Bob Layton later established that Rexo was a quadriplegic Vietnam veteran. In my opinion, half of Rexo's dialogue in Harbinger clashes with that type of background. If he was capable of walking most of his life, does it make sense for him to say "I always wanted to skewer people who could walk"?

Incidentally, I think killing Rexo in X-O Manowar #12 ("Seed Of Destruction Part II: Moonstruck") was the first really dumb move made after Jim was ousted. Rexo looked really frightening and he had a ton of potential. He could have been one of the VALIANT Universe's most recognizable villains. Eliminating Rexo so soon after Unity was even more incomprehensible to me than killing Willow Talltrees.

Defiant1 said...

In my opinion, the editor's job is somewhat that of a quality inspection role with the EIC is more of a a quality management role. The EIC should establish a set of processes and the editor should be the one who does checks in the process to verify that the output meets the necessary form/fit/function requirements of the product.

As a quality inspector, I see huge shortcoming in letting people check their own work. I've seen to many instances of people not catching their own errors. One thing I learned working in the world of high tech electrical and electronics parts is that new ideas rarely start from scratch. Most innovation and product advancement comes from tweaking what is already invented. Tweak it enough with the right changes and you create something that looks new and innovative.

Gary M. Miller said...

I distinctly recall upon looking in comics that came out around '78-ish that the Writer/Editor appellation was disappearing left and right. No coincidence it was shortly after you took the reins, Jim! Like Defiant1 and others above, I agree there's a HUGE conflict in being editor over one's own work as one can seldom look at one's own work as objectively as is necessary in such a case. An editor makes you work harder, and at best even achieve greater results than without. (At least, that's the way I was always taught...seldom ever had an editor that did more than rubber-stamp my work...or worse, correct misspellings & bad grammar that really weren't! Arrgh.) I could probably edit people I know under the table; alas, I still wouldn't profess to edit my own work as last effort prior to professional publication. As they say, four eyes are always better than two. (And if you wear glasses, then six are better than four, and between two people, eight are better still!)

The puzzle is coming together. Can't wait to see the later Marvel days, although by sharp smirking contrast, I'm in no real rush. This is the stuff!

I find it funny that the creative talent really seemed resistant to you taking the EiC position. I know the resentment didn't dissipate over the years but perhaps only grew. After all, when you left, Jim, they did decide to radically change the direction of your New Universe line, with John Byrne and Mark Gruenwald co-writing a story in which they had your character, Ken Connell, blow up your hometown (and mine) of Pittsburgh. Them's sour grapes for you!

(On that note, I'd love to read about the 25th anniversary of Marvel & the advent of the New Universe, including the decreasing budgets & other rumors out there!)

~G.

Daniel said...

"Hey, at least when Mantlo cranked a script out overnight, he had me backstopping him. I had nobody."

Mr. Shooter, you attempt to do some sort of modified honesty/ soul searching on this blog, so maybe in a future post you can explain to all of us what is behind your intense hatred of Bill Mantlo. The plagiary allegations, the strange memories of how he took advantage of a Marvel education plan only to sue Marvel, the barbs and jabs here and there...what is up? Isn't it enough that the man is in a permanent vegetative state? Can you not see how some observers might view Bill's current reality as an ultimate equalizer to all of his past "sins" against you and see your continued picking at Bill as the worst kind of bullying? What did the guy do to you? Why continue to pick scabs in public, especially when it concerns a man who can no longer defend himself? Let's have a few answers.

Will said...

Daniel,
Don't forget JS also posted a link to contribute to BM's care. How dare he...

Lighten up Francis

J.A. Morris said...

Mr. Shooter:
I've got a question here, but first let me thank you for all the great stories that you've shared on this blog.

I recently started a blog dedicated to 'Assistant Editors' Month'. Since Rom has been discussed here several times this week, here's my post about Rom's AEM issue:

http://assistanteditorsmonth.blogspot.com/2011/06/romspaceknight-50.html

And speaking of AEM here's my question(s):
Do you have anything you would like to say about AEM that you haven't expressed elsewhere? Were there any AEM ideas that you rejected? Was it as fun to produce as it was to read?
I know the whole thing was a joke, that the issues that came out during the Comicon had been finalized earlier. But it was one of my all-time favorite comic "events". Since you were EIC at the time, I'd like to thank you for the role you played in making AEM happen.

J.A.

jimshooter said...

Dear Marc,

All caps in comics, no descenders or ascenders poking out. I'm talking about one choice of words means three lines and a rounder balloon versus two lines and a long, flat balloon. Word groups theat "fit" better. Placement of bold words. Other stuff. You'll have to ask him. Or my head will explode.

jimshooter said...

Dear Dale,

Me.

jimshooter said...

Dear Xavier,

Nicknames never seemed to stick. Occasionally, I'd get "Big Guy."

jimshooter said...

Dear kintounkal,

I didn't have the origin for Rexo all worked out, but I had in mind that he was young, more or less Ax's age or a little older, quadraplegic from a young age. Vietnam vet? Good grief.

They killed Willow? So many characters are killed as a cheap way to drama. But it's false drama unless it means something.

By the way, in case I haven't mentioned it, thanks for all the info and insights you add.

davidmillerstudios said...

As I read this I keep reminding myself that at the age of 23 you had 10 years of experience in comics. And as a provider for your family. I don't think your fellow 23-year-olds could see things in the same way.

Dale said...

Daniel

Shooter gives a honest assessment of someone he dealt with using instances that he himself witnessed and also provided a link to contribute to Mantlo's care and you interpret it as "intense hatred of Bill Mantlo."

Hands up everyone who has interpreted what Shooter has posted here about Bill Mantlo as Shooter intense hatred ofMantlo.

Phew !!

Pastrami said...

Daniel is overreacting a bit. I grew to like Mantlo more after reading these Blog posts, but to each his own.

There is a correction that needs to be made in the paragraph that begins "Please get that straight..."

It reads: "It was about me wanting incomprehensible art" which I had to read three times just to make sure it wasn't me. I'm pretty sure that I read somewhere that you're down on bad art. :)

The way you tell these stories really brings them to life. Thanks.

jimshooter said...

Dear Daniel,

I'm not doing any soul searching. The "modesty" is genuine. I know my weaknesses and failings. I also know my strengths, and I'm proud of what I do well.

Bill's plagiarism instances aren't allegations. Enough of them are well documented. There is nothing strange about a memory of someone suing Marvel. Bill committed no sins against me, personally. What happened to Bill is tragic. It "equalizes" nothing, no matter what some observers choose to think. I don't hate Bill, never did. Bill and I got along okay. Bill, what he did that was good and otherwise are a part of Marvel's history. I tell it like it was. If it offends you, I'm sorry. Bill never denied what he did at the time. He expressed regret for much of it. There is no "defense" and none needed. What happened, did.

There are your answers. Take 'em, leave 'em or whatever.

Tue Sørensen said...

I feel it is in order to repeat that Mantlo's pre-1980 work and post-1980 work are probably quite different. The former was sloppier, the latter was tighter. Most of what fans remember is the post-1980 work, but the pre-1980 work seems to stand strongly in Jim's memory. (Personally, I also feel that the level of writing - and esp. of characterization - was rather higher back then than it is now, so even sloppy work back then was pretty good by current standards.)

A Painter said...

"They killed Willow? So many characters are killed as a cheap way to drama. But it's false drama unless it means something."

I'm in the middle of rereading the Valiant Magnus series and just came across that scene the other day. It's been awhile since I read the whole series and remembered nothing about Willow, so I was surprised she was a fairly major supporting character for awhile. Then the Malevs came and cleared house. Willow and her Father had a rather gruesome death, incinerated right down to the bone.

Mimsy ("Mimsy"?!) was also killed. However, that actually seems tame compared to what you did to her! (Getting an eye scooped out by a spoon! And Magnus wanted to live with these people? The "cloud-cloddies" were spoiled, but not barbaric like the Gophs.)

Faleena (or however you spell it) got her head lopped off.

Oh, and all the members of the Mars asylum were killed too, except for Izhak.

John Ostrander wrote most if not all of those stories. They're not terrible, wanton death or not.

jimshooter said...

Dear Jeff Clem,

"...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.
(cont. in next comment)

jimshooter said...

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.

Davis Dewsbury said...

This is getting good!

DD.

kintounkal said...

Thank you very much for confirming that Rexo theory of mine. I'm pleased to hear I wasn't the only one who found Rexo's Vietnam vet origin to be peculiar. Rexo's comments on girls make a lot more sense if he was quadraplegic before he hit puberty.

In X-O Manowar #12, Rexo said "When I came back from the 'Nam in '68; my "fellow humans" spit on me. Spit on a cripple! Scream 'em all." That means Rexo would probably be 45-50 years old in his final 1993 appearance according to Bob Layton. That's definitely not how I view him whenever I read Harbinger.

Yeah, John Ostrander & Tony Bedard wiped out most of your supporting cast within a year or two. Willow, Senator Harlan Talltrees, and Felina were killed in the opening days of the Malev invasion in Magnus, Robot Fighter #22 ("Holocaust 4002 Part 2: The Invasion Of North Am"). In other words, Willow's third appearance was her last. Talk about an hasty decision. :( She was reduced to a skeleton and the elements were recycled.

Felina's death was more gruesome with her head getting chopped off. You can tell from reading this issue Ostrander didn't pay much attention to who these characters were pre-Unity. As proof, look no further than the name he provided for Willow's father. All of a sudden, North Am Senator Talltrees is known as Professor Talltrees. That's just sloppy.

Did Jim have any input into the creation of M'ree? Maybe not. She was Leeja's telepathy mentor introduced by Roger Stern as soon as Unity ended. M'ree died in Rai and the Future Force #14 ("Warring Factions"). Next, Timbuc gave his life defending one of South Am's mainbrains from a Malev attack in Rai and the Future Force #15 ("The Battle For South Am -- Chapter One: One For All").

kintounkal said...

In 1994, Tony Bedard became the new writer for MRF and Rai. Soon afterwards, Tekla gave her life to save Leeja realizing she was Magnus's true love in Rai and the Future Force #20 ("Blood Oath"). After being given an insect-like robotic body and power staff to serve as the Malev Emperor's new vizier, Mekman killed Dr. Lazlo Noel, maimed Elzy, and finally died at Magnus' hands in MRF #35 ("Champions Are Born, Not Made").

1-A has a very complex VALIANT history. Suffice it to say, 1-A managed to escape destruction by leaving Grand One as a virus and reconstituting itself into a new body. The Aerial Sensor Array unit called ASA which housed 1-A's intelligence was destroyed in MRF #37 ("The Last Day, Part 1: Mindlock!").

During the Chaos Effect crossover, Kazuyo Nakadai A.K.A. X-O Commando was murdered by her own son in RaI #26 ("Homecoming - Chaos Epsilon - Part 3"). In 1995, the Immortal Enemy murdered the future Geomancer called Rockland Tate in MRF #43 ("The Geomancer Quest - Part 1: A Snake in The Garden").

Coinciding with 'Birthquake', Bedard brought Tekla back online but it didn't last long. Keith Giffen killed her a second time in MRF #59. Surprisingly, Giffen resurrected 1-A from his second death by giving him a human form. Other than Magnus & Leeja, I think Gilad Anni-Padda, Icespike, Makiko Minashi, Rentaro Nakadai, Slagger, Takashi Nakadai, and Xyrkol were the only classic 41st century VALIANT characters sparred a horrible fate.

Defiant1 said...

The dad of Tony Bedard's childhood best friend worked with me for awhile and I couldn't remember anything he'd writen. I only recognized the name.

I think it's quite evident that Mr. Layton didn't want to live with Jim getting any credit for the success of Valiant under his helm. He reversed or screwed up every seed of a plot that Jim had created. If Valiant had run with even 10% of the seeds Jim left behind, I might have been entertained.

blacjack said...

"A couple of words about the institution of Writer-Editors: Bad idea."

I never understood a writer being his own editor. Doesn't that kind of defeat the whole purpose behind an editor?

Makes about as much sense and sounds very similar to Congress voting on their own raises.

jimshooter said...

Dear kintounkal,

Wow, They really cleansed the Earth of pre-Unity characters.

I don't have the Manning Magnus ref handy, but I think -- could be wrong -- that Manning introduced M'ree back in the 60's. Anybody know for sure?

jimshooter said...

I never read any Valiant/Acclaim stuff published after I left until I was forced to read some of it during my seven and a half months working for Valiant Entertainment a couple of years back. I'm glad I managed to avoid much of what you mention.

If anyone is interested, Tekla was named after my grandma on my father's side. Tekla is a Russian name. It was her real name, but I only found that out after she died. She'd always said her name was Kate. Turns out that back in the first years of the 20th Century, girls named Tekla were often nicknamed "Tillie." Grandma didn't like "Tillie," decided she was "Kate" and stuck with that for the rest of her life.

Elzy was named after my maternal grandma, Elsie. She was born in 1888!

kintounkal said...

Good point. You're right. I own all the Vintage Magnus comics reprinting Russ Manning material but nothing beyond that. Hopefully, I'll get the Dark Horse hardcovers someday.

It seems M'Ree first appeared in Magnus, Robot Fighter 4000 A.D. #7 ("The Power of the One Thousand"). That was her only Gold Key appearance but this story was also reprinted as issue 29. An odd fact about M'Ree just occured to me. She never appeared on a Gold Key or VALIANT cover.

George Wilson's cover for issue 7 featured Magnus trapped on a monsterous planet defying the evil Xyrkol and flame-throwing robots. When she came back in MRF #17 ("The Trouble Below"), the cover by Joe St. Pierre & Ralph Reese depicted Magnus fighting Talpa with Leeja in the background. In total, M'Ree showed up in 8 different stories. It would have been nice to see her on a cover or two.

Xavier said...

Since we are into names, I'll dare ask the question: who came with each of the names for the Team AMerica members? (I knew you were part of the brainstorming team)
- Honcho
- Wolf
- Wrench
- Cow-boy
- R.U. Reddy (my favorite, I'll eager to know who find it! )

jimshooter said...

R.U. Reddy is most definitely an Al Milgrom creation. Possibly the rest are, too, though I may have chimed in. Don't know. Somebody ask Al. He'd know for sure.

Suzanne de Nimes (suedenim) said...

Something I actually noticed at the time, reading comics in the early-to-mid '80s, was that Marvel stopped having a lot of writer-editor credits, and DC *started* having them. Cary Bates on *The Flash*, Roy Thomas on his books, Mike W. Barr... Then DC seemed to run like hell AWAY from that idea, en masse, at some later point.

I always wondered what the deal was, and whether the two were related (like DC wanted to lure talent with "Hey, we LIKE writer-editors here!" Until they actually experienced what that meant, and changed their minds real quick?)

jimshooter said...

Sounds like a good theory.

czeskleba said...

I don't think DC started allowing writer/editors in the 80's to *lure* talent, since Roy Thomas and Marv Wolfman (both of whom left Marvel in large part because they could no longer be writer-editors) were already there before then. My guess is that maybe Thomas and Wolfman (or others) lobbied for the position to be allowed, and eventually persuaded Levitz or Kahn or whoever to do it.

DC had writer-editors from the late-60's through most of the 70's. It was only around 1977 or so that they stopped having them. I read an interview with someone (Gerry Conway maybe) who said he was told the problem was that there was a writer on staff who wanted to be a writer-editor, and DC didn't feel he was qualified. Rather than anger him by telling him this, they eliminated writer-editors altogether. That remained the case until 1982 I think when the position was reinstated.

Suzanne de Nimes (suedenim) said...

I'd forgotten about DC having writer-editors in the late '60s/early '70s period. Were they all actually writer-editor-ARTISTS? Kirby and Mike Sekowsky had that status, I know, but who else?

czeskleba said...

Robert Kanigher was a writer-editor on Wonder Woman from the late forties through 1968, and then again when he briefly returned to the title in 1972. I believe he was writer-editor on some war titles also. Denny O'Neil was writer-editor on the 1973 Shadow title, as well as the short-lived Justice Inc in 1975... maybe some other books too. Archie Goodwin was writer editor of Detective Comics in 1974-75, when he was doing his legendary Manhunter series with Walt Simonson. Gerry Conway was a writer-editor on several books when he went over to DC in 1975. As you noted, there were also a few writer/artist/editors... Kirby, Sekowsky, and Joe Kubert.

Emilio Torres Jr. said...

I'm really enjoying your origin tale Mr. Shooter. Waiting patiently for the next chapter.

jimshooter said...

Dear J.A. Morris,

I'll write more about AEM in a while. I don't think I rejected any AEM ideas but the individual editors surely nixed a few. I wasn't much involved with the issue by issue production, but I thought the whole thing was an appropriately wacky idea for Marvel.

Thanks for the kind words.