One morning in mid-1980, Jenette Kahn called and asked me to lunch to discuss an idea she had.
In those days, I usually came to work wearing a sport coat with an open-collar shirt. When I knew I was going to have civilian visitors (“civilian” means non-comics people, in case any of you civilians out there don’t know) or there was a business meeting on the docket I wore a tie. Sometimes a suit.
This particular warm, sunny day however, I had come to work with no tie, no jacket. Nice clothes, presentable enough. Like what we used to call “school clothes” back in the sixties.
Anyway…I met Jenette at the restaurant she suggested, a place only a few blocks from 575 Madison where Marvel’s offices were and near 75 Rockefeller Plaza where DC was located.
They wouldn’t allow me in! Jacket and tie required. They actually had a few loaner ties and jackets for barbarians like me, but, wouldn’t you know it, no jacket even close to a 48 extra-long.
That was embarrassing.
So, we went elsewhere. Another nice place, not quite as snooty.
We talked about various things, the business in general and our common goal of bringing comics back to the forefront of American entertainment media. Jenette was all in favor of the two big companies being friendly and cooperative. I didn’t mention the fact that many DC-ers came over to our place after work to hang out and socialize, but I did mention that if the weather was decent, Marvel and DC people would usually meet in Central Park after work to play volleyball. She didn’t know that. I also mentioned that we had a publisher’s league softball team and wondered why DC didn’t. She said they might put together a team, if only just to play us in a “Championship of Comics” game. More on that later.
Finally, we got to the main subject. Jenette brought up the first Marvel/DC crossover, Superman vs. the Amazing Spider-Man, published in 1976, which she thought was a wonderful idea. Why not do it again?
We talked about who might be the stars. On the DC side, the leading candidates were Batman, Teen Titans and the Justice League of America. On our side, the Hulk, X-Men and Avengers. Jenette proposed doing one each year. I agreed. That way, we could eventually feature and gain exposure for lesser-selling but great characters like, on their side, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, the Flash, the Legion of Super-Heroes and more. On our side, Thor, Captain America, Iron Man, the Fantastic Four and more. I suggested that if it was going to be a series, we ought to relaunch it with a second book starring our headliners, Superman and Spider-Man.
The deal was simple, and we agreed on the key points right there. The companies would take turns producing the books. The non-producing company for each would have editorial approval. After costs, all revenues would be split 50/50.
For some reason we decided that Marvel should produce the first one, Superman and Spider-Man.
I went back to the office, wrote a budget and a deal memo and walked the proposal through the vetting process. The sales and accounting people estimated that Superman and Spider-Man would add $300,000 to the bottom line. Not bad in those days. President Jim Galton was thrilled. Our business affairs people called DC to confirm and codify. DC was already drafting the contract.
Joe Orlando was to be DC’s editorial representative for approvals. I picked Marv Wolfman to write it, John Buscema to draw it and Joe Sinnott to ink it. I intended to supervise on our side.
And, away we went.
P.S. For the rest of my time at Marvel, every single day I wore a jacket and a tie to work.
NEXT: Plan “B”