Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Secret Origin and Gooey Death of the Marvel/DC Crossovers – Part Three

The Urge to Kill.  Twice.

The penciling on Superman and Spider-Man went pretty fast.  John Buscema was amazing.

I drove out to John’s house in Port Jefferson on Long Island a couple of times for business reasons.  I don’t remember what the business was but I clearly remember spending time with John, meeting his lovely wife and seeing their wonderful home.

He showed me his studio.  John had a very set work routine.  Start work early.  Warm up for a while, doing little sketches just to get loose.  Work a normal length day, eight hours, he said, as I recall, with a lunch break.  And, at the end of each day, he’d have finished five or six beautiful pages.  Some artists struggled to finish one page a day.  Some couldn’t even do that much.

(ASIDE:  When a John Buscema job would arrive at the office in the mail, the first thing we’d do was turn the book over and look at the backs of the pages where John did his warm-up sketches.  They were incredible.  A lot of cowboys, horses, animals, regular, non-heroic people….  One I remember was a cowboy lying on his belly drinking out of a watering hole with his horse alongside.  Later, he did a similar drawing at one of the classes he gave at Marvel.  But that’s a story for another time.)

John had a pretty extensive home gym, all free weights and stations for same, as I remember.  He benched more than I weighed.  I wondered whether he bothered to use a jack if the car had a flat.

He was a big, strong guy with big beefy hands.  Not what you’d expect of a man who drew with such elegance and grace.

He was fond of saying that if he had it to do all over again he’d be a butcher because, “People always have to eat.”

Anyway….

John did his part.  I thought his Superman was brilliant.  I loved the nobility he gave Superman.  I loved how he drew Superman in very natural flying poses.  I loved the way he drew Superman coming in for a landing in panel 1 of page 18 and panel 2 of page twenty-five—the way most people would land, I think, rather than the traditional Superman “ballerina” landing pose, with one foot tucked up under his butt.  Stan and I used to laugh about that pose.  Who would do that? 

I think maybe Wayne Boring, whose art was very stylized and stiff, established that pose.  Wayne was great.  I worked with him on Superman in the sixties.  But, the ballerina thing…?

John’s Spider-Man wasn’t quite as good as his Superman.  I’d told John to keep Spider-Man stuck to walls, upside down, in “spidery” poses, off the ground when possible.  Leaping 30 feet rather than running.  Super-humanly acrobatic, the way Ditko drew him.  I guess that didn’t come naturally to John.  There were lots of shots of Spider-Man standing on the ground, walking and running like a normal guy.

That said, Spider-Man seldom looked better, nor did Peter Parker.  Nor did Clark Kent.

The supporting casts, the guest stars…brilliant. 

His Doctor Doom?  Fantastic.

John even made the Parasite look good.

Anyway….

Time for me to start scripting, that is, writing the dialogue.  I was usually pretty fast, but there was a lot going on at Marvel at the time, and I wasn’t setting speed records.  The deadline was looming.  As you may remember from last installment, DC took four months to approve the plot (with no comments or changes requested), so we started in the hole.

I was particularly pleased with the first sequence featuring Doom, which explained why he always talked to himself, among other things.

I am also fond of the exchange between Doom and Superman in panel 1 of page twenty-six.  I can’t believe DC let me get away with these two words said by Superman: “I know.”

I was doing my best.

But, God, we were running late.

Then, a miracle occurred.  DC was part of Warner Communications, of course, and Warner Books wanted to publish a paperback sized edition of Superman and Spider-Man.  To accommodate the WB release schedule, so the Treasury Edition and their book could be released simultaneously, the launch had to be pushed back—conveniently, four months!

A reprieve!

That didn’t mean all was copasetic.  It just meant that we were suddenly close to on track schedule-wise rather than up against the deadline with a lot of work left to go.

In spite of all the work I had as Editor in Chief, as well as Superman and Spider-Man, in spite of all the long hours and work on weekends, I still tried to have a little bit of a life.  In spite of being large and strange-looking, by dint of boundless enthusiasm and a never-say-die attitude, I usually had a girlfriend.  I went to the movies once in a while.  I did some human things.  I was a young man.  I wanted to live a little.

One of the human things was playing poker.  Most Friday evenings, a group of us comics types would gather, usually at the huge apartment Paul Levitz and Marty Pasko shared down on Mercer Street, and play what passed for poker.  For dimes, or at most, quarters and halves.  It was a social thing more than a gambling thing.  More on that mad hilarity later.

One evening, as we were playing one of Marv’s favorite, weird low-card-in-the-hole-is-wild games—dealer’s choice—Paul mentioned that he’d heard I was going to a convention in London the following weekend.  Yes, indeed.  The con was being sponsored by Marvel U.K., or British office, and I was the guest of honor. 

Later, Paul casually asked me how Superman and Spider-Man was progressing.  Well enough, I said.  Half inked, two-thirds dialogued.  Under control.

I didn’t think anything of it at the time.

A week later, I came to work with my suitcase packed, my plane ticket and passport in my pocket, ready to go to London that evening. 

Around ten AM, I was summoned to President Jim Galton’s office.  He was seething.  Enraged.

Seems that Jenette Kahn had just called him and given him holy hell about the Superman and Spider-Man book being late.  She called him, and Marvel in general, “unprofessional.”  He was furious.

At me, not her.

Galton told me that Jenette had said that if the script wasn’t delivered finished Monday morning, DC would cancel the project. 

Galton raged about potentially losing hundreds of thousands of dollars off the bottom line.  He raged about being chastised by Jenette.  And he got more than a little insulting toward me.

This all completely blindsided me.  I tried to explain.  According to the new, revised schedule to accommodate Warner Books, we weren’t late.  There really wasn’t a problem.  And I was scheduled to appear in London at our own, Marvel-sponsored convention.

I couldn’t do the con and finish the script the same weekend.  No way.  But it made absolutely no difference if the script came in a few days later!

Galton said that if I convinced Jenette and DC that there was no problem, fine.  Otherwise, I had damn well better deliver the script.  I was dismissed.

I called Jenette and asked for a meeting.  She said come right over.

Present were Jenette, Paul, Joe Orlando (who was the editor assigned by DC) and me.  I don’t remember what Paul’s title was at the time.  Whatever, he was one of Jenette’s key people.

I explained the situation.

Paul said, officiously, “The contract says that the script is past due.”

I pointed out that the contract did not reflect schedule changes required by their sister company, Warner Books.  And that DC had wasted four months at the plot stage.  

Paul didn’t care.  “The contract says….”

We went around that circle a few times.  Joe, throughout, by the way, said nothing.  He just sat there looking scared that somehow he would end up in trouble over this. 

I explained that I was supposed to be the guest of honor at a Marvel U.K. convention that weekend.  I explained that the book was being inked and colored without balloons—copy to be pasted up later, so no other work was being held up because of me.  And that I guaranteed that I would finish the script next weekend.  And, that IT MADE NO DIFFERENCE WHATSOEVER WHETHER THE SCRIPT WAS DELIVERED MONDAY OR THE FOLLOWING MONDAY.    
 
Jenette actually pleaded with Paul on my behalf!  In light of what I’d told them, she suggested that they could wait a week.

But Paul stuck to his guns.  “The contract says….”  Etc.  And, he added, words to the effect, “Jim, it’s the con this weekend, and you know it will be something else next weekend and the weekend after that.  The contract says….”

Jenette was clearly in agreement with me but unwilling to overrule her guy, Paul.  At least in front of me.

All right, I said.  I will stay home this weekend and write.  You will have the script Monday.
      
And then Paul asked, “Have you ever been to England?”

No.

He started telling me how wonderful England was and how terrific London was.  He described the Marvel U.K. offices.  Weird and quirky.  You actually had to cross a rooftop to get to them, said he.  Paul went on and on about what I was missing.

I had the urge then to go across the table at him, rip his head off and throw it out the window.  Joe would have run.  Jenette probably would have hit me with a chair, but that’s okay, I’ve been hit with chairs before.  Stings a little, but so worth it at that moment.

But I restrained myself.

I went back to my office and called Galton.  My pitch to him was going to be this:  Jenette was sympathetic.  It was only Paul with some bureaucratic broomstick up his ass.  They don’t really want to lose hundreds of thousands off of their bottom line over nothing either.  What I hoped for was clearance to go to the convention and deliver the script a day or two after I got back.  Call their bluff.

Galton’s secretary said he had gone home with a headache.

I called Galton at home.  His wife Lydia would not allow him to be disturbed.  I told her it was important.  But, no dice.

Around four, Archie Goodwin and Bill Sienkiewicz (and maybe someone else, I forget) came to my office.  They were also guests at the con.  Time to grab a cab and go.  Our flight was at six.

I told them they’d have to go without me.

That weekend, I stayed home and finished the script.  More than twenty pages.  I don’t remember exactly.  A lot.

Monday morning, I was waiting at DC when the receptionist arrived at around 8:30 AM.  I gave her copies of the script and balloon placements to give to Jenette, Paul and Joe.

I was waiting outside Galton’s office when he arrived.  He said a chirpy good morning.  No immediate questions about the script.  I think he’d forgotten about it. 

I said I needed to speak with him.  He said come on in.  I closed the door behind me.  That was his first clue.

I sat in one of his guest chairs.  Didn’t want to loom.  And told him as calmly as I could that he was welcome to question judgments I made all he wanted and give whatever orders he saw fit, but he had better never raise his voice to me again or insult my effort, my integrity or me personally ever again.  I didn’t threaten him.  Not at all.  But the thought of his head flying through the window did cross my mind.

He apologized.  And he never did again raise his voice or get insulting as long as I worked at Marvel.

I told him, by the way that the script had been delivered.

P.S.  I’m not a violent person.  I wouldn’t really seriously contemplate ripping anybody’s head off.  Or any violence.

P.P.S.  The book shipped on time.  Easily.

P.P.P.S.  I later went to London and points east quite a bit.

P.P.P.P.S.  I never did get to see the Marvel U.K. office that one had to cross a rooftop to reach.  I’m sorry I missed that.

P.P.P.P.P.S.  I cannot account for what Paul did.  He was always okay by me before that and after that.  We have never talked about it.  I let it go after a while.  But it still puzzles me.


NEXT: Batman/Hulk, Titans/Mutants and Are You Kidding?

62 comments:

TheWriteJerry said...

My guess on Paul's stance? Somebody at Warner's wanted the project to go away for whatever bug was up his/her posterior (probably a "why should our Superman be associated with their Spider Man? Why should we do Marvel any favors?). A person who didn't know comics. A person who told DC to use the contract deadline as a way out. A person who could make things difficult for the comic book people and didn't care that the Warner Books people wanted to do the book as well. In other words, a suit with an agenda that had nothing to do with the actual comic books or creative process. Paul was merely made to play the heavy.

Patrick Daniel O'Neill said...

My guess...knowing Paul pretty well for more than 40 years...was that Paul was then in some business-only position at DC and was getting crap from an immediate superior about sticking to the letter of contracts.

ROCKWITZ said...

Great story Jim! I too loved seeing John's pages when they arrived in the offices. He was so nonchalant about his talent. The drawings on the backs of the pages, depending on his mood, were sometimes better than the front! He was such an amazing person too. Thanks for sharing this.

jimshooter said...

Dear Jerry,

No way. Paul was just a minion of Jenette's at that point. Jenette was the power at DC. No upstairs person would have messed with Jenette using one of her underlings. Probably no one at Warner above Jenette knew about, much less gave a damn about a DC publishing project. Maybe Sarnoff knew, but no way he would have tried to manipulate through an underling. If he didn't like it, he would have just said no.

jimshooter said...

With all due respect, Patrick, nonsense. Jenette was his immediate superior. She wasn't giving him crap. This was Paul, on his own.

czeskleba said...

In 1980 Paul Levitz's title was simply "editor." Specifically, he was editor of DC's Batman titles. Both Jenette Kahn (publisher) and Joe Orlando (managing editor) would have been above him on the org chart. Levitz would have been parallel to Julie Schwartz (Superman editor at the time). It is curious Levitz was even at this meeting, since Batman wasn't involved.

jimshooter said...

Whatever Paul's title, he was far more than an editor. He was, in effect, Jenette's right hand man, more of an assistant publisher than anything. He was an up-and-coming exec. He, for instance, dealt wth contracts.

NOTE: Mort was also an editor but dealt with all manner of licensing and business matters. Not unusual there.

Dale Bagwell said...

Wow! Levitz sounds like a real dick here. WTF was his problem anyway? Especially to rub it in on how nice England was and all....that's not very professional at all. I don't personally know the guy, but after seeing him on a bio piece about the JLA, he seems like he'd be a dick. I'm glad you didn't have any other problems with him, but seriously what was his deal? Jerry pointed out that some suit might have been responsible for his being so hard on you, but then if he was only an editor, what was he doing there at that meeting then?

I know the world's full of people like this, especially in the business world, but still I feel bad that you had to put up with crap like this.

Brett Breeding said...

I am thoroughly enjoying this story. For me, John Buscema and Garcia-Lopez were, and still are, my all-time favorite artists. It is wonderful to hear of John's reaction to seeing Jose's art for the first time. It would have been a real treat to see Jose ink John's pencils. IMHO not enough good things can be said about the artistic skills of these two men.

If you recall, I am curious to hear how it came to be that the background art on this project was officially divvied up amongst some of the best inkers in the business, including Terry Austin, Klaus Janson and Bob Layton, each doing 4 or five pages. I was Bob Layton's assistant back then, so I actually inked all of his allotment of the backgrounds. Bob got the credit and bulk of the pay, I got my first chance to work on John's pencils and was given the originals I worked on when they were returned. From my perspective, I got the better deal. I still have those originals, though some are just sections of pages or individual panels, and still enjoy looking at the figure work. John drew a great Wonder Woman too.

Dale Bagwell said...

Nevermind, just read your response to Levitz being more than an editor, and he was indeed Jeanette Kahn's right hand during that time period. I guess he was there to learn and listen, but still he didn't have to be such a jerk about the whole situation. Especially with Kahn sitting right there, sympathizing with you, he should have just shut up after she spoke up in your defense. It's almost like he enjoyed dissing you in front all those people. Maybe not, but it just seems that way.

Anonymous said...

"Low-hole" stud poker. One of my favorites, too.

Philip K

OM said...

...Jim, there's one fact to consider: This was the same Warner Communications that caused the "DC Implosion" and almost cancelled Detective Comics without knowing it's significance as the original Bat-book. That's why someone would suspect that some corporate k'hest'n ghuy'cha in a suit at Warners, trying to do *something* to make it look like they're doing their job, would pull a stunt like cancelling the book on the grounds of "saving the company money". From my own experience I've seen at least two dozen projects cancelled by such corporate trash, using the same excuse, that had those projects been allowed to come to completion would have *made* the company more money than they put into development. One such project was a personal one that, had it been turned loose on the market, would have beaten TiVo by almost three years.

...Or, to put it all another way, here's a potential new OM's Law: where corporate backstabbing and conspiracy is concerned, Occam's Razor easily becomes dull as a pinball.

Marc Miyake said...

Dear Jim,

It must have felt great to see your creation the Parasite rendered by Big John Buscema. (Now I understand why he was called "Big" -- great art was only half the answer!) When you designed the Parasite, what did you intend the stripe down his chest to be? Was it part of his body? It reminds me of the stripes on some leeches. I wasn't sure what his face was supposed to be like. Did the radiation accident cause skin to grow over his eyes, nostrils, and mouth?

I've seen reproductions of your designs for Validus and Tharok in The Legion Companion. Have your other designs from the 60s survived? Did you typically draw a standalone design before doing your layouts, or did you often design characters as you drew the layouts?

I've heard your account of JLA/Avengers and I thought that was the only bump on Crossover Road. Whoa, the ride turned out to be rocky from the beginning! A couple of tense moments there.

I am amazed you found time to have a life and do everything you did for Marvel.

Dear czeskleba,

I'm impressed by how Paul Levitz managed to be at the same level as Julius Schwartz after only a few years. I would like to read his account of his rapid ascent and his insider's view of the history of DC for the last 35+ years.

moklerman said...

Jim, thanks a lot for this recent series of blogs on this crossover. Superman vs. Spider-Man was just a bit before my time but Superman and Spider-Man is one of my earliest, fondest and still one of my favorite comic books of all time.

I had it as a paperback sized edition and it's just one of the best examples of what a comic book should be. And it isn't just nostalgia speaking. I have re-read this story many, many times and it has staying power.

Buscema drawing Superman is just too much. The painted cover was gorgeous. And it had the best, most epic, NON-fight in comics history. I don't want to give too much away but the Hulk/Superman confrontation is possibly my favorite moment in comics.

jimshooter said...

Jenette was a "suit," a very high level, well-connected suit. No one above her was trying to get rid of the project using her underling Levitz as a catspaw. Trust me. No offense, but that's nonsense.

DC and Warner books stood to make nearly half a million dollars from the project. There was not and could not be any "saving the company money" motive. Only Marvel was out of pocket at that point, anyway.

czeskleba said...

Marc wrote:
I'm impressed by how Paul Levitz managed to be at the same level as Julius Schwartz after only a few years.
****************
It sounds like he was actually at a higher level than Schwartz at that point, by dint of responsibilities if not actual job title. And amazingly, he was only 23 at the time. Not that it's any excuse, but I would bet immaturity played a role in his actions here.

It sounds like the major reason for his fast rise to power would be Jenette Kahn. She was the one who was giving him responsibilities and authority beyond his official job title, and the one who eventually promoted him up the ladder.

kintounkal said...

I'm curious to know under what circumstances Jim was hit with chairs. I'm guessing an incident like that had nothing to do with the comics industry but it sounds like a story that needs to be told nonetheless.

Anonymous said...

I wish that some of the key players in this story would read the blog and chime in - not to see a fight between Jim and others, but just to get more pieces and perspectives.

-Dave

DJ said...

Ah, Big John.
I used to have this book - memories.
I think he was going for a God-like pose with his Superman amongst mere mortals - much like his good self amongst mere artists.
Did Joe Sinnott ink it right enough? I can't remember off hand.
Interesting to see how similar Kerry Gammill's interpretation of Superman was to JB's, although Gammill's was more down to earth.
Love this stuff.
Cheers Jim.
David J.

Shiai Mata said...

Mr. Shooter, your blog has become one of my 'Must Read' sites...I never fail to be entertained by your recollections, and I've learned some great tidbits about how the comics I read and love are made, so thank you for that!

I was particularly impressed by your statement as to how John Buscema wanted Jose Luis Garcia Lopez to ink his work on the book. Knowing how much Big John disliked other people inking his pencils (with the exception of his brother, Sal), the fact that he wanted JLGL to ink it is the highest praise possible, I would think.

gn6196 said...

it does sound like Dc was trying to sabotage the project. A 4 month delay and Levitz being a D#$iK sure looks hostile to me.

Jeff Clem said...

Anonymous said...
I wish that some of the key players in this story would read the blog and chime in - not to see a fight between Jim and others, but just to get more pieces and perspectives.

Yeah, but Paul Levitz probably wouldn't be one of the "chimers," because he may not come out of it looking very good.

Tom Brevoort said...
Nevermore,

K.C Carlson's extensive article on the history of the original AVENGERS/JLA crossover (which I still have a copy of in my files) was spiked by Paul Levitz, who reportedly said, "This thing doesn't make anybody involved look good."

Suzanne de Nimes (suedenim) said...

I wonder if perhaps you were just the innocent victim of a turf war between DC Comics and Warner Books?

Not sure what the parameters of that might be, but from everything I've read, Time-Warner has this really bizarre corporate culture that basically *encourages* subdivisions to see each other as rivals and enemies rather than part of the same team.

The Warner Books paperback project might have seriously ticked off some people at DC who wanted the book out 4 months earlier for whatever reason? Though even if that's the case, it still sounds puzzling, since Jennette didn't seem all that upset by the situation.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps Levitz simply thought DC was getting ripped off. It seems that he had the problem. And it seems to he had some odd need to rub Jim's face in it a bit...so perhaps he felt Jim was taking advantage of DC or something along those lines. Just a thought.

Enjoy the blog and that particular DC/Marvel crossover was always one of my favorites.

bchat said...

Just my opinion, but Levitz's actions come across to me as an attempt to show his boss (Jenette) that he could "get the job done", and deserved whatever promotion or pay raise he was gunning for. After all, if he could order the EIC of the competition around, he shouldn't have any problem telling the DC staff what to do, and therefore his value to DC would be higher than his current position/salary.

Dimitris said...

That was another very interesting post Mr. Shooter, thanks.
I'm not a violent person myself but when I feel I'm getting crap for something others are responsible while I've been OK on my part, I do fantasize going "Hulk" on them. Never do of course so I can relate.
About Levitz's behavior, maybe he was just showing off to his superiors (not that that's a decent thing to do). I mean, he did get you to finish the book earlier. Jenette Kahn might not have had a problem to get the script next weekend, but she sure must have felt even better to get it on Monday. These could have been extra points on Levitz's way up.
Finally, Buscema drew indeed a fantastic Superman. I also get the feeling that he was a little influenced by Christopher Reeve's face, or at least that's how I see it, especially on the third picture on this post.

Dimitris said...

While trying to post, bchat beat me about the point of Levitz's attitude. Ah, I'm too late!

jimshooter said...

Dear moklerman,

Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Here is my theory:

Paul Levitz is obviously a good writer/editor and a very business-savvy fellow, especially when it comes to comics.

Levitz had taken notice of the deal with Warner books and, possibly, the fact that Superman II was scheduled for release that year. Levitz had noticed that, with the Superman/Spidey book deal and the latest movie, people at WB who might not otherwise be looking DC’s output were scrutinizing this book.

Taking that into consideration, Levitz realized that the best Superman comic book of at least the past decade was about to come out. This high profile comic, instead of being the creation of DC staffers, was being put out by the EIC and top artist at...Marvel Comics.

Levitz was probably thinking he had to kill the book before someone at Warner’s had a good look at both it and the sales and started asking, “Why isn’t that Shooter guy running our company? Why isn’t that Buscema fellow working for us?” The contract seemed, to Levitz, the best way to kill it and to discredit Jim Shooter before he ended up running DC.

As I said, it’s just a theory but I know if I were working at DC when those Marvel pages started coming in I’d be nervous about keeping my job.

Tim MacIver said...

Jim,

I enjoy reading your articles. I love they way they are written- very suspenseful!

Brian Doan said...

Mr. Shooter, I am absolutely loving these stories about the Superman/Spider-Man crossover, which was one of the first superhero comics I read. My very first comics were the Marvel STAR WARS adaptations, and then I'd read whatever was in the comics my brother had, or that we'd find in those "three-packs" at convenience stores. But when I was eight, and home sick from school, my Dad came home with the Superman/Spidey paperback, and I devoured it eagerly, lying in bed and turning page after page to see what happened next.

I'm sorry you had to go through these hassles to produce it, but please know that your work made an eight-year old kid very, very happy.

Anonymous said...

The latest Anonymous theory about Paul sounds about right. He was Editorial Coordinator at the time and had alot to do with scheduling and book assignments. (He insisted on Tom Yeates doing Swamp Thing or no book at all.) He had a lot of power since Jenette's regime took over. He had to stick to his guns.

Enjoying all the accounts.

Cheers,
rd

jimshooter said...

Dear kintounkal,

I'll tell a chair story soon. I wasn't kidding.

jimshooter said...

Neither DC nor Paul had any reason to sabotage the project. Paul, ostensibly, was trying to make certain it got done in a timely fashion -- though, as I pointed out, the contract due date was irrelevant at that point.

If we're into conspiracy theories, I suppose Paul could have been trying to get me off the book for some reason. Jenette showed no hint of such an inclination. But, maybe Paul actually had talked himself into believing that I wouldn't get it done in time.

Or maybe he thought I wouldn't get it done in time unless forced to do so.

Or, maybe he was just trying to take me down a peg. I don't know.

czeskleba said...

Anonymous wrote: As I said, it’s just a theory but I know if I were working at DC when those Marvel pages started coming in I’d be nervous about keeping my job.
***************
Geez, all you guys and your theories. I sure wouldn't say Superman and Spider-Man was "the best Superman story of the past decade" at the time it came out. No offense to Jim or to John Buscema, but I don't think it's among the very best work either of them did.

At any rate, the relative quality wouldn't matter to the corporate bosses at Warner's anyway... the sense I get is they couldn't tell a good comic from a bad one. All they cared about was the sales reports.

If Levitz wanted the project to die for some inexplicable reason, he wouldn't try to kill it by setting an unreasonable but still easily-achievable deadline for Shooter. That makes no sense. That doesn't kill the project, it just inconveniences Shooter. Levitz was certainly smart enough to know that.

Frank Fradella said...

I know it's a small footnote in a greater story, but I really appreciate hearing a little about the home/studio life of John Buscema. I lived on Long Island for 25 years and the first art book I ever owned was The Art of John Buscema; that great saddle-stitched little gem of a book. It wasn't until after he passed that I learned that he lived just a few towns over in Port Jeff. Broke my heart.

Great artists didn't live on Long Island. They were sequestered somewhere, weren't they? Weren't they on an island of their own, wearing smocks with oil stains and the traces of graphite permanently embedded under their nails.

So thank you, sir, for giving us a glimpse into worlds of gods and men. Thanks for showing us some of their humanity.

William Noetling said...

I wonder Mr, Shooter, why not just ask Mr. Levitz? It's 30 years ago, obviously there are no longer any hard feelings, just more of a trivia question really.

Tue Sørensen said...

Dang, 37 comments already! Well, Jim, hope you're still reading:

Your mention of "When a John Buscema job would arrive at the office in the mail" made me think of something I've often wondered about: Was original art sent through the mail, or were they xeroxes? And if it was original art, didn't it sometimes get damaged in transit? I work at a mail center, and order lots of stuff from Amazon every month, and there always something that gets a little bruised. Did that happen with the art, or was it mailed in a very protective way...? Just always wondered.

Craig Hansen said...

Well, I'm "just this guy, y'know?" and know none of the folks involved personally. So take this comment for what it's worth, but...

Considering someone mentioned Paul was only 23 at the time and being groomed as a fast-riser by Jeanette...

I don't necessarily agree that Paul couldn't chime in here and come out "not looking very good" at the end of it, as one poster suggested.

I suspect the truth is probably pretty pedestrian. Paul was young and probably trying a little too hard to show his superiors that he could bring a big project in on time.

Even with Joe saying nothing and Jeanette sympathetic, I think it could just be that he was young and trying too hard. Under pressure, but much of it self-inflicted.

I've met the sort of person Jim describes Paul as being ... detail and procedure-centric. Concerned with the letter, rather than the spirit, of a contract.

Back in my college days, I attended a budget meeting with the editor of the student paper. Not sure why I was there, other than I was her friend and one of her top writers.

The meeting was a monthly one, but they'd shifted it up a week and it took the paper's editor a little by surprise. A printer had broken down, so she couldn't print out the budget report.

So she hand-filled out the 10 copies she needed, finishing it up about 2 minutes before the meeting started.

The administrative overseer (university suit) went ballistic.

"This isn't in the proper form or format," he ranted. "This needs to be printed out. You can't manually fill it in. This is meaningless to me, it could be anything. I wouldn't even know how to read it."

On and on. Needlessly insulting. Purposely obtuse. Upshot, a real dick. Didn't care about the broken printer, or the effort it took to copy everything by hand. Only cared that the end result wasn't "standard." Whatever.

I later learned the university suit was under 30 at the time. A bit insecure, possibly. Overly concerned with how such mishaps would reflect on him.

I don't see why it couldn't be the same sort of deal here, with Paul. Youth, inexperience, self-inflicted pressure to impress his bosses, prove he belonged and could deliver results. A bit too tightly wound.

So, if that, or something like it, were the case, I think all Paul would have to do is show up here and say, "Yeah, I was young at the time..." or something like that.

This long after the fact, most people could see that and forgive. I suspect. We all make mistakes. Especially when we're younger and trying to prove we belong where we are. :)

Shiai said...

Suzanne...your theory of 'turf wars' reminds me of a funny anecdote told some years back by, ironically, Paul Levitz.

He said that in the wake of the huge success of the first few Batman films, he took a meeting one day with a Hollywood executive who was anxious to lock up further DC characters for his studio, waxing rhapsodic on how well the studio would treat the characters, how much money everyone would make, and the number of backflips he would do if only DC would sign with his studio.

When he was done, Paul wryly said, "You work for Warner Bros. We're owned by Time-Warner. You already have the film rights to all of the characters."

Proof positive, I suppose, that in a conglomerate of that size, the left hand not only doesn't always know what the right hand does...it may not even know there is a right hand.

VagueRant said...

So that was it for the crossovers...?
Personally I think you should have just gone on the trip, used the flight to create some dialogue on a notepad and turn it all in when you got back, but that's just me and who knows what kind of hell it truly was to fly in the 80's? Not I.

jensaltmann said...

I've never been fond of John's Spider-Man, simply because he made him look too heroic. If anything, that was his one flaw as an artist: his characters always had an incredible nobility about them, in the way they carried themselves.

But by Crom, his books were always on top of my to-read pile every month.

HemlockMan said...

That story pretty much matches up to everything I've ever heard about Paul Levitz.

I did like John Buscema's run on The Amazing Spider-Man. He was better on Fantastic Four, but his Spider-Man was good.

Carl said...

Clearly Levitz has precognitive powers. He was taking foresighted revenge because many LSH fans still rate Shooter's run more highly than his own.

(I've met both for like five minutes a con. They were both nice to me, personally.)

robcasting said...

Jim,

Loving the blog! Is there any chance in the future you are going to write about the origin and what a reader actually received if they earned a "no prize."

jimshooter said...

Dear Tue,

Early during my tenure and before, artists either hand-delivered or mailed originals to the office. When express delivery services started becoming more prevalent and cheaper, sometimes, when necessary, artists would use one of them. Marvel had an account with Airborne, and later switched to Federal Express/FedEx. I initiated the policy under which Marvel paid for postage and shipping. Before me, the artists paid.

Most artists would pack their work up with care, to protect it.

During my entire time at Marvel, to my knowledge, no original art was lost or significantly damaged in the mail or during shipping. Once, a Don Heck job was temporarily lost, but arrived a month or so after it should have.

jimshooter said...

Dear Craig,

A reasonable take on it.

jimshooter said...

Dear robcasting,

If others don't beat me to it. A lot of in-the-know commenters pass this way.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jim,

I'm finding your website to be a great read.

The 70s and 80s do not seem that long ago... it makes me feel old!

Not sure if you've already covered this, but is it true that at some point during the 80s there was going to be a deal that would have seen Marvel publish DC's comics? If it is true, how did this come about, and what happened? Is this something you are going to cover/talk about in the future?

Zoran said...

Well, since others are speculating freely, I figure I might as well add my own take on what Mr Shooter describes.

Paul Levitz was the designated bad cop.

I mean, Jenette Kahn calls up Jim Galton. She’s “furious”, gives him “holy hell”, calls him “unprofessional” and threatens to cancel the project unless the script is delivered the following Monday morning.

Then, later that day, when Mr Shooter comes over for the meeting, she’s the sympathetic one, “pleading” with Paul Levitz to allow Mr Shooter an extra week. Pleading with her subordinate; her right hand man, the guy whose position, apparently, is reporting to her and only to her.

This raises a couple of questions.

First, what happened between the phone call to Jim Galton and the meeting with Mr Shooter?

Second, how come Paul Levitz was wielding so much power that his boss couldn’t simply tell him that they’re going to give Mr Shooter and Marvel another week? Mr Levitz may not have liked that decision, but (and I speak as someone whose been in that situation – both sides) he would have gone along with it. If he actually disagreed with it, he may have seethed privately, but he would have publicly gone along with it.

My answers – and this is speculation – are: one, nothing happened between the phone call and the meeting; and two, Paul Levitz was the designated bad cop, leaving Jenette Kahn to be the nice, sympathetic and understanding good cop.

Just my interpretation based on the information given.

It’s not an uncommon management style. The boss is nice, but their subordinate is the enforcer. That way people are... “motivated” (bullied)... into working harder, faster, longer, but the boss still gets to be everyone’s friend and confidant.

It’s even found outside human groups. Many wolf packs run on this basis. The male alpha is the leader, but the male beta is the enforcer, the one that keeps all the other male pack members in line (the female wolves have their own separate hierarchy).

Of course, this may be all wrong. That may not have been Jenette Kahn’s management style. And I wasn’t there and don’t know any of the parties involved.

Greygor said...

Sounds like Paul just had a bad day at the Office.

These posts are really interesting and a good reminder to some that in the Comic Business both words come into play.

And yet in Business weird s#$t happens

TheWriteJerry said...

(Sorry for the dupe comment - this is more relevant here than where it was initially posted)

By the time I arrived on staff at DC in 1990, Warner's was in full "meddling" mode with the business side of DC. Rules such as "marketing people are not allowed to write comics" and "employees are not allowed to make internal moves to other departments within the same company" were in full effect (these 2 personally tripped me up) along with a variety of other "suit-imposed" regulations. Thus the rope I threw Paul; it was an extension/projection of my experience there.

Ironically, the 80s and 90s were a terrible time for DC when it came to shipping books on time, so choosing to play hardball on one project but not on others does seem to be a personal move/bug up somebody's butt. I could see the "Paul flexing his muscle/making an impression" theory being a very viable one without Warner prodding.

ROCKWITZ said...

@Tue Sørensen

When I worked with John on Savage Sword of Conan, he would send all 64 pages via UPS or DHL. The packaging was classic-brown butcher paper wrapped around the pages. No boxes-just a piece of cardboard making sure the pages didn't bend.

ncaligon said...

Sounds like you got caught up in intra-Warner corporate politics. In this just-post-Implosion period, DC Comics was said to be on a pretty tight financial leash from Warner (I think they were still releasing comics only twice a month, rather than weekly), and for Marvel to make a deal with a different division of WarnerComm that delayed a big chunk of anticipated revenue into a later financial reporting period, or maybe a later fiscal year, might not exactly have gone over well at DC, especially if they were planning on using that revenue to finance new projects. They also wouldn't have been too happy if the change meant that a chunk of profits was booked to a different division of the company.
I'm really surprised that Marvel/Cadence's legal department wouldn't have been involved enough in this to insist on the proper clearances at the time the schedule was changed. But not as surprised as I would have been before reading your account of its failure to insist on getting the work-for-hire contracts fixed before the legal deadline.

jimshooter said...

The tale of Marvel taking over DC's publishing is in the queue.

jimshooter said...

Dear Scott,

Possibly we didn't apply for second class postage privileges for the years that no Statement of Ownership appeared, so no SSO necessary. No SOO could result in 2nd class being revoked.

OM said...

I'm curious to know under what circumstances Jim was hit with chairs. I'm guessing an incident like that had nothing to do with the comics industry but it sounds like a story that needs to be told nonetheless.

...Perhaps he was the stunt double for Geraldo Rivera during the infamous "chair in the face" event? :P

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S1KT1QoSCT8

jeff said...

I think there might also be a story about Paty Cockrum going after Jim with an umbrella once...at least that's what Paty said around 33 years ago...

jimshooter said...

Dear Marc,

I don't remember why the stripe. Your "leeches" guess makes me sound smart, so let's go with that. : )

The idea was that the radiation made the Parasite an inhuman, somewhat amorphous semblance of a human being. I did some crude shading to indicate a concave areas where a mouth, eyes, etc. should have been. The artist took it too literally.

I came across my Fatal Five designs recently. I'll post them soon. The designs for some characters I did as I drew the layouts.

Marc Miyake said...

Dear Jim,

Thanks for replying to my questions about your early designs. The Parasite is so simple yet so recognizable like the Hulk. I can't think of any other characters with his face, and the only other purple comics character with a stripe down his chest that comes to mind is Batroc. Who would ever confuse Batroc with the Parasite? Needless to say, Batroc is wearing a costume over regular human skin and the Parasite isn't.

I look forward to seeing the designs of the Fatal Five and of any other characters. Since you still have the designs, I wonder if you just drew them for your own reference. Or did you also mail them to DC for artists to use and get them back later?

jimshooter said...

Dear Marc,

I drew the Fatal Five (and other) designs for my own reference. Sometimes I provided sketches along with my layouts/scripts, but usually the layouts themselves provided clear enough reference. I'll post a couple of sketches today.

Cary said...

Seeing what you've written here about John Buscema brings back such a flood of memories for me personally. My friends and I grew up on the Marvel and DC books of the early 70s and 80s, and couldn't get enough of any of them to be honest, no matter the hero or the story. But I remember a serious distaste for John Buscema's art, mostly because it wasn't like Neil Adams or John Byrne, and it seemed...old, maybe? We liked the newer styles, the flashy stuff the new guys were doing, and we were in LOVE with Frank Miller. I think back to then, and my take on that art now,as an adult with well over 35 years of comicbook reading behind me, and can't believe we couldn't see how incredible John's work truly was. I want to invent a time machine and go back to those days so I can shake myself for being so clueless. Buscema stands as a true master, and that he was fast as well is just icing on the cake.