Friday, July 22, 2011

The Secret Origin and Gooey Death of the Marvel/DC Crossovers – Part Five, the Last

And Then Things Got Ugly

Dick Giordano asked me to meet him for lunch on May 26th, I believe. He picked an Italian place on Madison Avenue near 42nd Street, about halfway between DC and Marvel’s offices.

He had this news: Gerry Conway had quit the project. Okay. Apparently Roy Thomas, however, had expressed interest in scripting the book. Fine, I said, but he’s going to have to start from scratch. First, we needed a new plot.

By the way, the Marvel Comics of the 1980’s site has it wrong. It says that Gerry was “…asked to plot the epic story with Roy Thomas providing the script.” No. Gerry was the intended writer, plot and script. When he bailed out, that’s when his friend Roy stepped up and volunteered to take over.

The purpose of the lunch was to convince me that Roy could save it in the dialogue. No, not even Roy could do that. Think of the plot as a thing meant to be an airplane, but one look told you it had no wings, no landing gear, no engine and no cockpit. What difference does it make if you have a great pilot?

You cannot imagine how bad this plot was. Last night, Tom Breevort commented:

July 21, 2011 11:51 PM
Tom Brevoort said...

Just to confirm at least one point that Jim makes here, absolutely everybody involved on the Marvel side back in the day agreed that the plot that was submitted for the original JLA/AVENGERS book was a mess. I've heard the details firsthand from Mark Gruenwald, Tom DeFalco and others over the years, and this is a point that every telling agrees upon. And the specifics that Jim mentions were inevitably among the points that were raised. 
Tom B

Dick got pretty agitated. He told me, words to the effect that it didn’t matter if the story was crap. You put a bunch of characters together, they fight and it sells like hotcakes. Who cares if it’s crap? All of these crossovers are crap.

I said that the ones Len and Chris wrote weren’t crap. I wrote one, and I didn’t think it was crap. They all should be as good as they can be. Foisting crap upon the readers because it will “sell like hotcakes” anyway seemed like dereliction of duty to me.

Again, I heard all about DC’s in-house political squabbles. Some people were furious, some were smugly cackling and many were all over Dick about what should be done and to whom.

To Dick, the way out was for me to let it go. Just approve the damn thing. As a personal favor to him. The implication was that maybe someday I’d need a personal favor….

The jury can feel free to disregard that last sentence as my subjective impression.

My job was to look after our characters and make good comics. I would not, could not agree to approve a plot that violated our characters and sucked.

Lastly, Dick tried to claim fait accompli. Well, oops, so much of this one is done, we might as well just let it go and button up the procedures on the next one.

Nice try. No way.

We parted with Dick still urging me to reconsider.

A few days later I received the letter Dick must have written upon returning to his office, dated May 26th. Here are parts of it, from the Marvel Comics of the 1980’s site:

“The contract stipulates for example, that each company should appoint a staff editor to each project,... In this case, the editors so appointed were Len Wein (Dc) and Mark Gruenwald (Marvel) ... When the plot was delivered, you decided to become personally involved (counter to our previous team-up experiences) and forced my involvement at a hands-on editorial level.”

No, the contract designated me as Marvel’s editorial representative. And, even if it didn’t, what a disingenuous assertion! Was he suggesting that if he disagreed with Len, he couldn’t overrule him, or that if Jenette disagreed with either of them that she couldn’t overrule them? Give me a break. Besides, as affirmed by Tom Breevort, Gruenwald agreed with me.

That paragraph of his letter was designed for the audience at large, many of whom wouldn’t see through it at a glance, implying that I was going out of my way to meddle where I had no right to meddle. Does that suggest an evil agenda on my part to you? I think it would to naïve and non-business-savvy people. Dick was already teeing up the anti-Marvel/anti-Shooter PR campaign.

In fact, his whole letter was designed for PR.

“You had some problems with the plot. The motivation for the events was weak.”

Some problems? My problems with the plot were many and deep, not confined to motivations.

“I agreed with you….”

Right. You characterized it as “garbage” and agreed that it was unusable.

“When we thought we had it de-bugged, Len called you with an outline of the changes, to which you responded positively, saving you felt the changes would work.”

Nothing Len told me on the phone indicated that any of the fundamental problems had been addressed. No changes to those issues were proposed. As I said yesterday, I told him plainly to scrap it and start over.

“Len reported that conversation to me with the request from you that a new written plot be submitted.”

It wasn’t a request. It was a demand. Emphatically delivered.

“I thought this request to be logical but largely a formality and ordered George Perez to start drawing before the new plot was typed. In doing so, I had no intention of ignoring your wishes.”

It wasn’t a formality and Len knew it. I clearly, unmistakably demanded a totally rewritten, usable plot. That would entail major changes, affecting what George would eventually draw.

What Len conveyed to Dick, or what Dick chose to make of what Len conveyed, I don’t know. But the fact remains, no approval was given, tacit or otherwise. I specifically refused to allow penciling to begin.

And, personally, I firmly believe Dick had every intention of ignoring my wishes.

“I understand your conversation with Len to be a tacit approval of our modifications and desired only to keep the project moving. I have since apologized to you for this seeming breach of protocol and trust that this unintentional mistake is note one of the reasons for your rejection.”

The reason I rejected the “revised” plot was that it wasn’t any good. Still.

“Yes, there still remain some questions left unanswered in the plot, but no more or less than are left unanswered in most plots.”

Nonsense. I had never seen such a mess.

“More often than not, these questions are resolved while the work is in progress and I’m sure that you’ll agree the levels of skill possessed by George Perez, Roy Thomas, Len Wein, and myself are sufficient to resolve these plot “holes” to everyone’s satisfaction….”

Levels of skill. Yes, the individuals named had skills. But after what I’d seen to that point and heard at our lunch, I firmly believed that Dick had no inclination to produce a quality product. It would have taken a hell of a lot more than resolving “plot holes” anyway.

“Incidentally, I’m sure that you recognize the difficulty in producing a script that is truly wonderful given the extreme limitations inherent in a team-up venture of this kind; everything and everyone must be left just as we found them and all events and actions must end in a tie.”

Spin control on his “Who cares if it’s crap?” rant. And who says all events and all actions must end in a tie? Superman clearly won against the Hulk and Spider-Man clearly won against Wonder Woman. I wonder if he read my “crap?”

“There were plot weaknesses in Chris’ X-Men/Teen Titans last year, but everyone who bought the book (all those people!) seemed not to care. I didn’t.”

If the plot had weaknesses, it wasn’t for lack of trying. Does anyone think that Chris and Walt slacked off because the book was going to sell like hotcakes anyway? And DC had its shot at identifying plot weaknesses and having them corrected. We wouldn’t have stonewalled them. And many people do care. Dick said he didn’t. I believe him.

“Finally (and at a more practical level), if you insist on starting all over, we will have to name a new creative team as previous commitments will force the withdrawal of all the current team members ... Further, I must then insist that you supply a detailed, written list of changes requested.

“The storyline makes sense to me and everyone else here and our contract stipulates that ‘Marvel and DC shall jointly agree on mutually acceptable modifications’ and I can hardly agree with your modification if I don’t know what they are.”

If the “levels of skill” at DC’s command had been utilized to see to it that a good plot had been delivered in the first place, or had been applied during the subsequent three months to creating a new, usable plot, we wouldn’t have had worries about losing the creative team. But, the problem as Dick characterized it was me.

Regarding a detailed, written list: Okay. That would take a while. Being in the middle of convention season didn’t help.

By the way, they knew damn well what the problems were. Dick knew the plot was “garbage.” Could it be that he knew that but didn’t know why? Dick just wanted to make me jump through a hoop and, of course, suggesting in this PR-ready letter that the “modification” I might want was unfathomable suited his purpose: making me seem arbitrary and high-handed.

“Perhaps we should just put this back in the hands of Mark and Len and George and Roy and trust that these seasoned pros, three of whom have worked well for both companies, won’t embarrass themselves or Dc and Marvel. Whichever way you choose to go, I respectfully request that you respond as quickly as possible. TIMES A WASTIN’!”

One last stab at getting me to look away from the train wreck.

Because of the high stakes involved in this debacle, a million dollars of revenue that could be delayed or worse, I went to discuss it with Marvel President Jim Galton. I explained the situation. Dick was right that even a bad book would sell well and make money. I was prepared for Galton to tell me back off, let it go.

I presented my case: that the long term, deleterious effects of publishing “crap,” as Dick called it, outweighed the short term gains. That allowing our characters to be bastardized in a high profile book (or any book) was unacceptable. You know. All the usual arguments for quality and integrity.

Galton couldn’t even name an Avenger. He wouldn’t have known Ant Man from the Vision, so there was no point getting into specifics. By this time, though, he had come to trust me about editorial and creative matters. He told me to, in my words, stick to my guns, damn the torpedoes. You know. All the usual expressions of support.

On June 15th, I delivered a long list of objections.

On July 28th, I received Roy’s new plot. That was a Thursday, and I was off to a convention that weekend. San Diego was the next week.

When I ran into Dick at the con, August 4th, I hadn’t yet read Roy’s plot, and wanted to get comments from Gruenwald before responding anyway.

Sometime after the San Diego Con and maybe another con the next weekend, I was finally back in the office.

Roy’s plot seemed fine.

Not only that, Roy was and is King of Continuity. He’s the best ever at taking a bunch of random threads and weaving them into a convincing tapestry. He had gone over the existing Pérez pages and figured out a way to make almost all of them usable. Some small portion, I’ll guess two pages total, a panel here and there would have to be redrawn. That’s all.

But around August 22nd, word came that Pérez had withdrawn from the project.

Now what?

Back to square one.

There was communication with DC, Dick or someone, throughout this period. I was told that they had another artist in mind, Don Heck. I sent over some notes on the new plot, all Gruenwald’s, all minor stuff.

But soon thereafter, DC chose to terminate the series rather than proceed.

The Marvel Comics of the 1980’s site has this to say:

“It wasn’t hard to see why Perez would draw the conclusion that Jim Shooter didn’t want this crossover with him, especially finally approving the story after Perez had taken himself off the project.”

Wrong. I never approved the original plot. I approved Roy’s rewritten plot. George actually bailed after I’d told Roy and Dick that Roy’s revision was directionally okay.

In an interview, George Pérez said this:

“I do not want this taken wrongly because I am a fan of Don Heck’s work. But Shooter knows full well that Heck will never sell the book, not because of any inferiority in Don’s work, it’s just that he is not a fan favorite and with a fan book this is definitely important. He is doing everything in his power to sabotage this ...”

Why would I sabotage the project? In what way would that benefit me or Marvel?

“I am not going to let Jim Shooter get away with this, and I’m going to use every available means to let people know what Jim’s done. If people don’t believe what I say, at least I’ve gotten it out of my system.”

Get away with what? Where’s my gain?

I never spoke with George about this, during the brouhaha or since.

All that George heard was what DC people told him. Do you think they told him that I was a steadfast champion of quality and a pillar of integrity who did not want the characters that we, George and I, loved being so ill-used in such a rotten-plot story?

The Marvel Comics of the 1980’s adds this:

“Shooter in the Marvel Age article vehemently denies stalling the project to remove Perez from the book.”

Stalling the project to remove Pérez from the book?! Of course I denied it vehemently. It’s baloney. That would make no sense. Much like Gerry’s plot.

The site goes on:

“Sadly for the fans, Marvel and DC let the project die, each pointing the finger at each other, claiming that they were waiting on the other party.”

I asked for a revised plot on February 25th. A truly revised plot, not one merely festooned with a bowtie, an acceptable revised plot, arrived on July 28th. Who was waiting for whom?


The site finishes with this:

“Michael Eury in his article on the JLA/Avengers crossover in Back Issue #1, presented his conclusions: ‘If I must assign blame as to why this greatest of stories was never told, the culprit is: A clash of editorial styles. These two editorial camps were incompatible.’”
Instead of undertaking the massive revisions necessary, DC tried to jam the plot through. Get an approval over the phone with an unspecific promise to fix things. 
 
Nonsense.

That’s how those at fault usually break at least even. Some people will always split the difference.

So, to review:


  • Gerry delivered a plot that he put less thought and effort into than he did into his Team-Up story in which Hercules tows Manhattan out to sea and back again. And the plot was late. 
  • DC sent the plot to me for approval. Had they read it first?
  • I responded quickly. Plot rejected. 
  • Dick admitted the plot was “garbage.” If he’d read it, or anyone there with a brain had read it and therefore knew it was bad, why did they forward it?
  • Dick cited internal DC office politics as an excuse. Not my problem. 
  • Failing that, they had George begin penciling, going for the fait accompli gambit. 
  • I heard about the pencils being done and objected. I demanded that penciling stop and a new plot be presented as specified months earlier. I hoped that what George had drawn, which was beautiful, could be used, in part at least. 
  • Dick’s/DC’s efforts to back me down, attempts to convince me that it didn’t matter if the story sucked, and slandering me failed to budge me. 
  • Marvel President Jim Galton gave me his full support. 
  • Roy stepped in and progress was made. 
  • Too late. Pérez quit. 
  • DC’s half-hearted attempts to revive the project amounted to naught. 
  • DC canned the project and the series. 
  • In the end, the termination of the project cost both companies a lot. But I never heard a regret or a complaint from upstairs. 

Many times since I left Marvel, at conventions, in fanzines and more recently, online, there have been laments from readers to the tune of: “How can they let (name of creator) do that to (name of character)? How can they let (so and so) ruin (hero or group).

Well, when I was at Marvel, as much as possible, I prevented such things. I rank the JLA/Avengers plot I wouldn’t approve high on that list.

In other words, I did my job.

If that makes me a megalomaniac or a dictator or a Blue Meanie or whatever you want to call me, I’m okay with that.


NEXT: More Strange Tales: War at Marvel

JayJay here. Yesterday computer woes. Today a blackout. If no more disasters occur, we will be back on schedule Monday. 

109 comments:

Matt Hawes said...

Thanks for telling us your side of this piece of comics history, Jim! It's sad that Dick Giordano wasn't concerned with giving fans a true quality product. Even just going on what he wrote, it seems he really did just want to pump out the book for a quick buck and was peeved at you for demanding a decent and sensible story.

I have to say one thing though... I am glad that we got to see George Perez's pencils, at least.

Nevermore said...

Too bad Dick is no longer available for a response.

Thunder said...

Thanks for telling us your side of this story, Jim. Fascinating read.

Blok 4 President said...

Mr. Shooter

Thanks for sharing your war stories. For fans who grew up during your tenure as Editor-in-Chief, it's very fun to read.

That said, it might be nice if you tried to put a prohibition on the bashing of other creators on the site. Or at least asked posters to be respectful to your fellow professionals. The rants against Gerry Conway in the recent comments section were pretty harsh for a guy who delivered one of the most memorable stories of all time when he wrote Spidey. (Not saying people can't say they didn't like his run on Legion for example, but no reason to go after him so viciously like they did.) They have this type of rule on Millar's site, and it helps keep things fairly civil (but still passionate.)

As to the recent topic, I did have a question about the Marvel/DC crossovers. Is it true the X-men one was originally going to be an X-men/Legion of Super-Heroes crossover with the amazing Dave Cockrum drawing it? The X-men/New Teen Titans story is one of my favorites (felt like a blockbuster movie), but still hard not to wonder what might have been...

uncannyderek.com said...

You're a champion to the cause, Jim!

Thank you for sharing this incredible story.

Dale said...

Thank you for this Jim.

I always wanted to hear the other side of this story and from the other person who was intimately involved.

I like your frank and honest opinions and make this my first reading every evening when I log on

bchat said...

Personally, I find it sad that DC let months go by instead of writing a new plot when you first asked for it. It just boggles my mind that so much time was wasted defending a plot that only a handful of people apparently seemed to (not) care about. What a shame that George Perez wasted his time & talent on pages that may not have been saved, if not for Roy Thomas.

All of this fuss over the original JLA/Avengers team-up really leaves me wondering if DC was trying to sabotage the whole concept of the inter-company team-ups by derailing such a high profile book. I mean, eventually, you approved a plot DC provided. They had 20 or so pages drawn by Perez that they might have been able to publish. It's not like they didn't have any other star artists who could draw almost as well as Perez ... why pick Don Heck? No disrespect intended towards Heck (I love his work on the early Avengers issues he did), but I have to agree with Perez when he said that Heck wouldn't help sales ... but then again, given the nature of the product, he wouldn't hurt sales either. Still, an odd choice for a replacement for Perez.

Anyway ... certainly, DC could have worked around Perez's departure fairly easily by using any other artist they had on staff. You didn't kill the project, they did. How anyone could side against you on this particular team-up is beyond me. It's not like there was an expiration date regarding how quickly the book had to hit the shelves before no one would buy it.

OM said...

...After looking at both Jim's official explanation and Dick's official rebuttal, and weighing them equally, I'm now convinced that potential OM's Law regarding Occam and corporate hijinx should has enough evidence now to justify promotion to an official status as one of my OM's Laws. Or, to put it another way, Jim explains what happens by giving not only the details of what's clearly and X,Y and Z Affair, but just what values fit into X,Y and Z, while Dick simply sticks his fingers in his ears and goes "what you say is what you are, no backs!"

...In the end, the only sad thing about this is that when Kurt and George finally managed to bring JLA/Avengers to life, it wasn't edited by Jim Shooter. It would have been poetic justice, based on all the facts as presented.

~P~ said...

Don Heck's AVENGERS run is in my all-time favorite of the era. I first saw his work with the Enchantress / Power Man (not Luke Cage) storyline (via the reprint title MARVEL TRIPLE ACTION # 16) with Cap's Kooky Quartet and LOVED it.

I usually gravitate towards stylized artwork, and his was the first "realistic" comic art that I truly appreciated.

That said, artist's styles and quality of work change over the years (to some greater or lesser degree) and I would have had no idea if Heck could still deliver on this project.
Even if he did draw it, his was never a "summer blockbuster" style to draw in the multitudes, but a solid looking story would be had.

Inversely, Perez only got better over time and after seeing his 1980's A/JLA pages and being able to compare to his 2000 A/JLA... well... his later work is better (to me anyway).

Zoran said...

Tom Brevoort said...
Just to confirm at least one point that Jim makes here, absolutely everybody involved on the Marvel side back in the day agreed that the plot that was submitted for the original JLA/AVENGERS book was a mess.

Yes, and back on Wednesday 6 April, Jim Shooter reported:
DC editors thought Marvel's art, especially Kirby, Ditko and Ayers', was "crude" and child-like. [...] The DC editorial types also thought that Marvel's coloring was "garish." [...] Other idiotic stuff, too. I remember one meeting when Mort was looking through some Marvel comics. There were other people in the room. They were ridiculing the books. There was a issue of X-Men with a full page or at least a large panel of the Angel soliloquizing about the joy and glory of flying. They couldn't believe that a page was wasted like that! Someone said, "Superman flies all the time. It's no big deal." Exactly. They also were amused by a two-page conversation between Peter Parker and Aunt May. Someone said, "Two pages talking to his Aunt! The kids (!) will be bored to tears."

So, back in the ’60s everyone on the DC (or National at the time) side agreed that Marvel’s books had crude art, garish colouring and wasted space on stuff that would bore the readers to tears.

Does the fact that they all agreed mean they were right?

And, for what it’s worth, I don’t find it at all surprising that the people working for one company would all agree that their main competitor’s products were all crap. It’s more surprising to find companies where that’s not the case.

On the DC side, Gerry Conway, Len Wein, George Perez and Roy Thomas all apparently thought the plot was viable, so the notion that it’s somehow self-evident that it was garbage is not established. Either that, or we need to explain how at least four quite successful professionals don’t seem to have agreed with that assessment.

Please, don’t misunderstand: I’m not saying Mr Shooter didn’t have the right to reject the plot. He was an editor and an editor’s job is to exercise their taste and judgement to get the type of material they think their readers will like. If Mr Shooter didn’t think the plot was the sort of thing the readers would enjoy, then he had an obligation to reject it. But saying ‘I think a lot of our readers won’t like this plot and will complain about it’ is a long way from saying ‘This is garbage’. One is contingent on the preferences of the readership, the other is an absolute statement.

[continued]

Zoran said...

[continued]

So, I’m still trying to figure out what was wrong with the story. The basic structure seems sound. The two teams go chasing after a MacGuffin through time, splitting into separate sub-teams who encounter one another in various time periods, leading to a big climax in the distant past where they have a big fight, resolve their differences and deal with the problem. Sounds like a perfectly viable structure for a super-hero team story; certainly one that’s been used countless times both before and since. It allows each character to be highlighted in their individual vignettes, creates the possibility for some interesting one-on-one (or a few-on-a-few) encounters, and showcases everyone’s powers and abilities in a series of interesting settings.

The fact that both teams get duped into the MacGuffin chase allows for some interesting parallelism, as the way the Avengers and the JLA go about organising their efforts can be compared and contrasted, creating the possibility for some nice character moments.

If the basic structure is sound, then the plot is viable. From there it’s all in the details. The stuff that needs tweaking. And the specific complaints all seem to be about details. Stuff that could have been fixed.

Maybe it was that Gerry Conway’s attention to the details was lacking; the continuity, character moments, use of super powers, the particulars of historical settings, etc. was inconsistent with what had been previously established. As others have noted, Conway tended to stretch himself rather thin and (perhaps as a consequence) was a little sloppier in this regard.

If so, that’s valid. But, it’s a specific set of criticisms, not just a general declaration that the plot is garbage.

Marc Miyake said...

Dear Jim,

You did the right thing.

Fans never forget. That's why "the long term, deleterious effects of publishing" bad comics cannot be ignored. Fans are still upset about bad comics from years ago. Bad comics drove me away from the stores almost 20 years ago, so I missed out on DEFIANT, Broadway, and a lot of good stuff. (Didn't catch up with those lines until a few years ago.) Chain reactions happen. The fallout from JLA/Avengers would have hurt both DC and Marvel. When is poor quality ever okay? My answer: never.

I wish I could see how Roy Thomas salvaged the plot!

OM said...

"The rants against Gerry Conway in the recent comments section were pretty harsh for a guy who delivered one of the most memorable stories of all time when he wrote Spidey. "

...As one who made some of those rants, I stand by my assessment of Conway's writing, including whatever level of vehemence directed towards his obvious membership in the Hack Pack. I can only calls'em as I sees'em, and with the exceptions noted, the majority of what I'd read that had been written by Conway - especially his Legion hack jobs, which you did admit you hadn't read as much as I admitted never reading his Spider-Man run, so we're even - had been complete and utter drek. Were it not for artists like Al Milgrom, Joe "E-Man" Staton and Dick Dillin, there'd have been quite a bit more gaps in my 70's collection than just the Spider-Man and Bat-book sections.

Bottom Line Rash tho they may have been, they were nonetheless deserving and accurate, as further comment and study of the five related blogs of this story have tended to prove.

Tom Brevoort said...

And a few quick things that I can comment on today.

First off, everybody on the Marvel end--including DeFalco, Gruenwald and Roger Stern--agree that Roy Thomas did an incredible job in reworking the original plot in such a manner as to make it all make sense while still incorporating virtually all of the pages that had already been done. DeFalco in particular referred to Roy in this instance as "a magician", and even expressed a tinge of professional jealousy that another writer could pull something like that off.

Zoran, I don't directly have a dog in this fight. As a reader, I would have loved to have seen a JLA/AVENGERS project brought to fulfillment back in the day as much as anybody else. And I've had my own contentions with Jim, so I'm hardly a blind supporter. But every single person with whom I've ever spoken about this project (and there have been several) who was involved back in the day relates the same events and holds the same opinion. I've not read the plot in question, but this leads me to believe with some certainty that the plot as presented was fundamentally flawed. The specific problems that Jim relates are the same ones that have come up time and again from other sources with whom I've conversed first hand.

In my professional opinion--and take it for what it's worth, as somebody who's worked on a number of inter-company crossover projects in my time--the fundamental and fatal mistake that caused this project to come apart was DC giving the green light to George to draw a plot that had not been approved. I'm sure that there was no malice involved, and they thought that this was just a formality, but every problem that happened to the project from that point on stems from that decision. It was the critical mistake, not necessarily the only one on either side, but th eone that ultimately sunk AVENGERS/JLA and any other Marvel/DC crossovers for the next several years. And I say that not as a blind Marvel supporter--this is ancient history, and as I said at the top, I don't really have a dog in this fight. But the truth of it seems so obvious to me that I don't know how anybody could reach any other conclusion, unless they're simply blinded by a lust for having the finished project no matter how good or bad it would have been.

Re: Don Heck. At the time, Don was the regular penciler on JLA, and he's been a mainstay of AVENGERS in the 1960s, so while he wasn't a fan favorite at that moment, it makes perfect sense to me that DC would put him forward as a viable replacement for George on the project.

Tom B

FrankS said...

Yep, Perez given the go ahead to get started. I reached that same conclusion when it all came out in the fan press too, Tom. There was no way Giordano could explain that away, it was the major mistake DC made, among other mistakes.

Hey Jim, do remember any of the plot Thomas came up with? I loved the Thomas/Perez team back when they did the Fantastic Four together and it would have been nice to see them re-team for the crossover.

ncaligon said...

I don't think there's any doubt that Gerry/Gerard F. Conway was a very, very talented writer. Back in 1971, his first novel was published as an "Ace Science Fiction Special," one of the very few first novels in that series. (For the 99% who aren't familiar with it, it was probably the most memorable line of sf ever; its titles dominated the Nebula Awards for the three years before mismanagement hamstrung its publisher and the line editor left the company. The Left Hand of Darkness. Rite of Passage. Past Master. The Year of the Quiet Sun. Picnic on Paradise. A Wizard of Earthsea. PKDick, Zelazny, Brunner, Davidson, Moorcock. Mighty fast company. The first half or so of the book is outstanding. But, the story goes, he ran up against his contract deadline and wrote the last third of the book in a marathon all-night writing session, and it shows. His second sf novel, Mindship (from a different publisher) was solid, professional, more polished, commercial . . . but little of the promise of that first book. Make no mistake, better novels than any other comics writer of the period could turn out, putting "The Point Man" (Englehart) and "The Bite of Monsters" (Denny O'Neil) to shame. Not better than George Alec Effinger's, mind you, but George was a novelist who dabbled in comics.

ncaligon said...

And what happened with Conway's novels was repeated in his comics career. His writing got slicker, more commercial, and more formulaic. He mastered the tricks of the trade (and I do mean tricks) and turned out stories ungodly fast. That eight-books-a-month contract he had with Marvel still left him time to work on screenplays and teleplays. And he got good at them, too. Real good. And his work grew more and more disposable as his output got slicker and slicker. And developing the TV writer's habit of using fast action and visuals to paper over outlandish plot holes. A habit not unknown to film scripters, too, and Conway's first major film script went into production at about this time.
I've got no doubt the folks at DC had seen Conway turn equally lousy plots into "viable" scripts. Scripts that kept people buying books. But not growing the audience.

Anonymous said...

Is Gerry Conway the genius who had Aquaman kick Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, and the Flash out of the Justice League so they could be replaced by the superior characters Vibe, Gypsy, Steel, and Vixen in order to police the streets of Detroit?

Anonymous said...

I don't think the Busiek/Perez JLA-Avengers comics were very good either. Half of it made no sense. So perhaps they might as well have gone with the Conway/Perez version that made no sense. Or just dropped the whole intercompany team-up idea altogether after Wonder Woman met the Hulk.

czeskleba said...

Blok4President wrote:
Is it true the X-men one was originally going to be an X-men/Legion of Super-Heroes crossover with the amazing Dave Cockrum drawing it?
**********************
According to Dave (in his interview in The Legion Companion) that is indeed true:
http://tinyurl.com/3f4m8od

jimshooter said...

Dear Blok4,

Maybe I'm inured to it from being bashed so aggressively for so long, but it doesn't seem to me that anyone has really gotten too nasty here. I'm uneasy about a "prohibition" on comments. But I'll talk to JayJay the Blog Elf about it. She knows more about these things than I do.

As someone pointed out to me after I'd screwed it up, X-Men/LSH was originally set to be the third crossover, but was replaced by X-Men/Titans which had become DC's hottest book by the time the third crossover came around.

JayJayJackson said...

Jim and I have discussed some of the comments that are harsh or contentious, but in dealing with moderating forums I've run into these types of problems quite a bit. Some comments make me feel uncomfortable or sad, but everyone certainly has a right to their opinion. I guess I think about it somewhat the same as if two people began an argument near your table at a comic convention. Is it really your place to moderate conversations that you aren't a part of due to sheer proximity? I don't know the answer. I'm somewhat shy, so I tend not to interfere with people unless I absolutely have to. (On a forum death threats can, possibly, require my interference, though.) I'm sure other folks handle things differently. As always, I welcome input and opinions. Because in this instance, I'm not sure what the right answer is or how to advise Jim.

TheWriteJerry said...

Dear Jim,

I agree. Nothing has been too terrible/bashing in the comments here to require a rule/prohibition. Everyone has been pretty civil, if sometimes pointedly direct. I was the one who threw in the "here are some good things about Conway" comment yesterday to balance out the criticism, and I didn't do so because I felt we were being unduly harsh. I did so because as somebody who has been through the politics of this business, I wanted to remind people that there is no such thing as "all good" or "all bad."

When I was young and first starting out in the comics industry, I let people's opinion of you shade my own opinion, even though I had never met you and even though the track record of your work and what you accomplished for this medium creatively and executively spoke volumes that the opinion was wrong. And in my own ambition and youthful lack of wisdom I ended up with a pretty bad reputation at DC.

I would urge you to leave it to your community of commenters here to slow down the "bashing" momentum naturally as part of the flow of the debate.

pete doree said...

Agreed. Actually, compared to a lot of comments you see on the net, everybody's mostly polite here and willing to listen to the other guy's opinion. There's certainly none of that trolling / personal insult stuff going on. By definition, anybody interested in reading Jim's recollection's on this blog has presumably been reading comics a while, and is old and ugly enough to be even-handed in their comments. I would hope so anyway.

Jeff Clem said...

ncaligon,
Really! Really? Conway's "Mindship" is better than Englehart's "Point Man"? OK, that's your informed opinion and I won't try to change it, but almost everything you post on this blog makes sense, even if I may not agree with it. And yet I have a hard time believing that anyone could rate Conway's writing, in ANY way, above Englehart's, especially in that specific instance (not that "Point Man" is perfect, by any means, but I still remember it being a lot better than "Mindship"). I think I'll have to dig up "Mindship" and re-read it, because, seriously, I do respect the info and opinions you've shared on this blog and now I'm questioning my own opinion of a book that I have not, admittedly, read in many years.
To, Conway's book being included amongst that stellar line-up doesn't automatically guarantee respect or quality because a lot of really fine lines like that will often include new, promising writers who they feel deserve exposure along such talents. Hey, even Harlan Ellison might have liked something about the young Gerry Conway's writing: one of Gerry's short stories written at, I believe, a Clarion Writing Workshop Ellison taught at was included in a Clarion paperback collection. And he did buy a Conway story for the as-yet-unpublished "Last Dangerous Visions". And yet, Ellison pretty much bashed Gerry's abilities in the infamous Comics Journal (#53) interview from the early 80s.
And let's not forget Wallace Moore's "Balzan of the Cat People" series of the mid-70s, written by one Gerard F. Conway, writing as Mr. Moore.
But, like I posted elsewhere on this blog, he has written a handful of good stuff and is not without talent; it's just what he chooses to do with his talent. And none of these posts have attacked Conway personally - just his product. Actually, after reading his Comics Journal interview (#69) from the early 80s, I've always wanted to meet him at a show because he came across in that interview as a sincere, well-meaning, nice guy who had some valid opinions and criticisms of his own.

ja said...

Zoran: Jim Shooter characterized the plot as "garbage", qualifying his statements in his posts, as he did to the people at DC Comics, and Mark Gruenwald. You shouldn't conflate that small 'nothing' into some kind of harsh invective on Jim's part, as it wasn't.

Jim was conducting serious business with (supposedly) serious people. They were big boys. They spoke just as frankly in return. I'm sure a great editor such as Tom Breevort speaks frankly to his people also, with no malice or rudeness perceived.

You thought the maguffin plot was okay? Why backseat edit this after all this time? Complaining about why it wasn't used seems like you're just complaining just to fill space.

When you defend the "garbage" plot by saying, "Sounds like a perfectly viable structure for a super-hero team story; certainly one that’s been used countless times both before and since.", you just confirmed why Jim stood his ground; to avoid ending up with the 'same old, same old' hackneyed crap story.

I personally respect and admire anyone who stands his ground to demand improvements on something that started out to be one big loaded radioactive diaper of a story.

The comics industry in many ways is like being in high school. Very 'cliquey'. All you need to do is piss off one key person, and then suddenly you have a whole group of people playing an angry game of Telephone, who will come down upon you most likely in an unfairly harsh way, demonstrated by how George Perez ended up reacting to Jim Shooter, as if Jim were the anti-christ.

I never liked it when certain people did everything they could to vilify Jim, just because they felt the need to throw a 'nutty' because they didn't get their way. It speaks not very well of these people who went out of their way to be willful assholes, just because they didn't like him.

John Byrne's blowing Jim Shooter's legs off in effigy in a DC Comic, and his totally disrespectful dismantling of Star Brand comes to mind. What a hateful person.

I enjoy this blog. It brings me back to happier times in an even more interesting way, now that I get to learn about what happened behind the scenes.

Akilles said...

I like the Secret wars-story that you wrote/dialoged Mr. shooter. That`s the only story from you I`ve read. And you also seem to be a great editor. Nothing else really.

jimshooter said...

Please remember it was DICK GIORDANO who used the word "garbage" to describe Gerry's plot.

Anonymous said...

Interesting stuff, just as an insight into how editors, writers, and artists work.
As is almost always the case the story of creation is far more interesting than the story created.
I'd be willing to bet if the Conway/Perez book had been published just as first intended the vast majority of comic book fans would have been thrilled with the book. The plot sounds pretty much the same as many other teams of heroes meet up and fight plots. You just take the poor little Christmas tree, and hang a bunch of lights on it, and people love it.

Glenn Greenberg said...

"Actually, after reading (Gerry Conway's) Comics Journal interview (#69) from the early 80s, I've always wanted to meet him at a show because he came across in that interview as a sincere, well-meaning, nice guy who had some valid opinions and criticisms of his own."

Having recently interviewed Gerry at length for my article in BACK ISSUE #50, I can say that he is all of the above, and much more. Talking to him for 90 minutes was a great experience--fun, educational, and enlightening--and I was looking forward to keeping the recording of our conversation for posterity. Too bad the tape recorder malfunctioned and captured absolutely none of it. (I'm glad I was taking notes!)

Slade Grayson said...

Mr. Shooter:
Thank you for your blog, which has become my new daily addiction.
Question about a statement you made early in your column: You refer to Roy Thomas as a "friend" of Gerry Conway's. However, I had thought there was always a general dislike between the two, specifically on Roy's end. In fact, I remember a Comic's Journal interview where Roy cited Gerry as one of the reasons he left Marvel for DC. (One of many reasons, to be fair.)
Did they become friends later? Or am I remembering it wrong?

Caped Crusader said...

Thanks for another fascinating tale. Your blog is the first I've ever felt compelled to read every day, and I'm already looking forward to the next installment.

And for whatever it's worth, thanks for feeling uneasy about a prohibition on comments. Even if people are overly critical on occasion, other perspectives can be interesting.

DJ said...

Hi Guys,
In regard to the moderation issue.
I think it's all been pretty well mannered and adult in discussion so far, especially in relation to some parts of the interweb.
I certainly wouldn't want to have some sort of censorship imposed on someone's strongly held views/opinion, just as long as they are civil in their voicing of it, and their responses to others maybe not so positive responses are also level headed. I do feel there are an awful lot of aliases, and anonymous people commenting here, and it would be nice to put a name to the many and varied opinions we do see.
Remember, you may know who you are, but we don't :)
David Johnston.

Glenn Greenberg said...

Slade Grayson wrote:
"I remember a Comic's Journal interview where Roy cited Gerry as one of the reasons he left Marvel for DC. (One of many reasons, to be fair.)
Did they become friends later? Or am I remembering it wrong?"

***********

You're remembering it wrong. Gerry was already at DC when Roy went over there. So if Roy said that one of the reasons he went over to DC was Gerry, it's because he wanted to be where Gerry was. Roy and Gerry were great pals and frequent collaborators in the 1970s and 80s.

Matt Hawes said...

Jay Jay Jackson wrote (on the subject of moderating comments): "...Jim and I have discussed some of the comments that are harsh or contentious, but in dealing with moderating forums I've run into these types of problems quite a bit...

...I'm somewhat shy, so I tend not to interfere with people unless I absolutely have to. (On a forum death threats can, possibly, require my interference, though.) I'm sure other folks handle things differently. As always, I welcome input and opinions..."

So far, what I've seen isn't that vicious, it's just people offering their opinions on some professionals and their work. The people getting offended seem to be doing so selectively. They are getting offended when it's a creator they like and/or respect being criticized, but not so much when it's another creator whom they don't like, or don't care about one way or the other.

I like reading everyone's opinions, and I don't think anything I have read so far crossed any lines, or was too hateful or harsh, really. I agree with David Johnson's comment on the matter above.

Glenn Greenberg wrote: "...Having recently interviewed Gerry at length for my article in BACK ISSUE #50, I can say that he is all of the above, and much more. Talking to him for 90 minutes was a great experience--fun, educational, and enlightening--and I was looking forward to keeping the recording of our conversation for posterity. Too bad the tape recorder malfunctioned and captured absolutely none of it. (I'm glad I was taking notes!)..."

Man, when you realized the tape had malfunctioned, you must've felt sick! I'll have to check out that article!

Glenn Greenberg said...

Matt,

I was close to tears.

bmcmolo said...

@JA I agree with this 100%, well-put: "I enjoy this blog. It brings me back to happier times in an even more interesting way, now that I get to learn about what happened behind the scenes."

re: moderation - I agree with JayJay and with the majority of other readers. Byrnerobotics regularly stealth-edits, deletes posts, blocks users, etc. I'd hate to see that happen here. (I'd also hate to see the comments thread turn into something like an AV Club comments section, with everyone trying to one-up everyone and be as obnoxious as possible. But so far, so good. It doesn't seem like anyone's going out of their way to bash people or stir up trouble.)

re: Gerry Conway. I think it's more than fair to say that he wrote some good stuff and he wrote some bad stuff. In this particular case, it sounds pretty bad, for all the reasons described. No big whup. For decades he earned a professional living as a writer; I tip my cap to that accomplishment. One doesn't take away from the other.

Chris Hlady said...

Just chiming in, to say "cool stuff."

On the debate about comments, it is good to have a place to shoot the breeze, as it were (sorry). it can get a bit unwieldy, and there's always the risk of libel, in print, but on the whole, in the new multi-media age, this kind of thing is really welcome.

Blogs that don't have comments are places I would check out every few months, as opposed to every few days. As much as possible, it's good to self-police, but to take action if things are getting out of hand.

That said, their will always be a bad stuff/genius ratio that may as well be addressed. Who knows? Green Arrow and Hawkeye creating the universe may have been a hoot. I mean, even the Marvel Bullpen was laughing.

Cheers

Chris Hlady said...

Editor in me says:
their will REV there will

I know, for anyone who cares, you understand.

czeskleba said...

Slade Grayson wrote: However, I had thought there was always a general dislike between the two, specifically on Roy's end. In fact, I remember a Comic's Journal interview where Roy cited Gerry as one of the reasons he left Marvel for DC.
************************
To add to what Glenn posted... You are most likely confusing Roy Thomas and Steve Englehart. Englehart is the one who left Marvel because of Conway, after Conway became editor in chief and took the Avengers assignment away from Englehart. Englehart says Conway did it because he wanted "A-list" books for himself to write (he was returning from DC and had no regular assignments). Conway says he did it because Englehart was having deadline problems.

Piperson said...

I find ncaligon comments very well said.

"And what happened with Conway's novels was repeated in his comics career. His writing got slicker, more commercial, and more formulaic. He mastered the tricks of the trade (and I do mean tricks) and turned out stories ungodly fast." " And his work grew more and more disposable as his output got slicker and slicker."

I can remember seeing a lot of work in the late 70's, early 80's that was sub-standard, silly superhero fare. I think this was more true of DC than Marvel at that time which is why I was always more attracted to Marvel. I liked it when writers didn't patronize the reader but rather challenged them with intelligent material.
After reading this blog I have a better idea why this stuff was getting published. I can also see why Jim would be very unpopular with other creators. When someone is trying to write 8 books a month, a picky editor could be pretty annoying. Add to this fact that the page rates were not super high, at least not high enough to justify the hours it takes to actually write intelligent scripts. I can imagine other people thinking, "Jim, chill out! After all we are only writing comics! Nobody really takes this stuff seriously! You just care too much!"
After reading this blog for some time I can begin to comprehend the influence Jim had on Marvel, and explains the super strong continuity that Marvel books had in throughout the 80's and even into the early 90's.
I think DC started to really turn things around and put out interesting/intelligent work with Crisis on Infinite Earths and Moore on Swamp Thing.

John_Dunbar said...

I don't think the comments have been too overly harsh. I feel people should be free to express their opinions here, even negative ones, as long as it's not libelous.

I love Jim's honest assessment of the creators and the situations in this blog. I haven't agreed with everything he's had to say, but IMO, he hasn't bashed anyone. Jim has been vilified by so many people since January 1, 1978 (and maybe before) and certainly has a right to have his say about how he saw things go down. I have yet to see anyone contradict Jim's version of events with facts of their own or their version corroborated with another reliable person. Look at what George Perez said about Jim, obviously not something he witnessed himself. I love Perez's work, but he clearly - at least to me - was told second or third hand the JLA/Avengers project being derailed was all Jim's fault. George should have saved his anger for the person who told him to start drawing pages from an unapproved plot.

Daniel Kalder said...

The blog is great, nobody so far has been over the line as far as I am aware. In fact, the quality of the comments on this blog keeps me coming back to it for a day or two after each post originally appears, to see what other folk have added to the conversation.

Jeff Zoslaw said...

It seems that DC didn't take too seriously the "formality" of involving another company in the creative process of the project. The Batman/Hulk project that DC handled went smoothly and occurred before Giordano went into Management there. DG did not seem the type to impose direct control over DC's output and most likely resented seeing control imposed from outside. By giving the go-ahead to proceeed, he was likely hoping to circumvent Marvel/Shooter's contracted role only to see it backfire in his face. The Fantagraphics perception of Shooter made it plausable when it became necessary to assign blame for the crossover's demise. It's amazing that it took nearly three decades to get the other side of the story, which, up until now, had allowed DC to have the prevailing rebuttal. A shame that it had to wait until Dick had passed.

jimshooter said...

Dear Slade,

Gerry wasn't at Marvel when Roy left to work for DC. As far as I know, they were friends.

jimshooter said...

Dear czeskleba,

I can confirm that Englehart had significant deadline problems.

Kris Brownlow said...

Don Heck rules!

kintounkal said...

Blok 4 President,

They do? As far as I'm concerned, Millarworld rule is an oxymoron. The moderators over there are so full of anger and contempt at newbies that those guidelines are a joke.

Slade Grayson said...

Yes, I believe I may have gotten my stories confused:
I do remember Englehart complaining that Gerry took Avengers away from him. In a different interview, I remember Roy Thomas saying that he developed a story called "I, Werewolf" and that Stan Lee took it away from him and assigned it to Gerry (which became "Werewolf by Night"). From what I recall, Roy was upset with Stan, not Gerry (who I believe had no knowledge that it was Roy's concept).
As far as Gerry and his work quality, I must agree that when he was on top of his game, he could write some first-rate stuff. But when he was over-extended, my God, he wrote some drivel.

Christopher Daley said...

Jim -

fantastic blog. I really appreciate reading your recollections. The blog has inspired me to go back and read lots of '80s Marvel through Marvels' online service. I've been having a blast.

Two things I'd like to add to (or second on) your growing list for future posts:

1. More about the development of the Marvel graphic novel program. I know you've written a little about the Epic GNs and I'd love to hear more about how successful the mainstream marvel books were and whether they helped to reach new readers.

2. The Sienkiewicz tenure on New Mutants fascinates me. I know you've written a little bit about this already. It was his addition to the book that drove me away from the title. Now (25+ years later), those are some of my favorite issues from the 80s. Any additional insights would be great.

In terms of the moderation of comments issue, I do think things have gotten more harsh in the comments to these DC/Marvel posts. It's surprising to me how the internet has normalized rude behavior to the point where some of the comments left by other readers about Paul and Gerry (in particular) seem okay in comparison. (Although, I'm sure from your experience the rude behavior started long before the internet.) Not sure what, if anything, can be effectively done about this but thought I'd chime in nonetheless.

ja said...

Jim,

Apologies for not remembering properly that it was Dick Giordano that characterized the plot as "garbage", and not yourself.

It was the way that they acted toward you, and in the context of their jobs that was "garbage".

Lee in Limbo said...

I think these comments are moderated quite well.

I'm not the biggest fan of either Don heck or of Gerry Conway, but I have no bones to pick with them either. They were lesser lights in an age when it was difficult to shake things up and really raise the roof, unless you were enormously talented and had a lot of fire in your belly. Journeyman work skills might meet deadlines, but they don't necessarily yield genre-defining brilliance.

That said, what I read here of the plot outline smacked of formulaic hack work, and that as superior writer like Roy could turn that around is more a testament to his monster chops than to anything else.

It's a true shame George got such a raw deal, and it truly is a shame that he was lead to believe You (Jim) had been out to get him. I'm sure that, if the project had been handled better, it would have been fantastic.

demoncat said...

you stood up for making sure marvels characters did not get wrecked by doing your job and refusing to approve a plot that was crap even after dick was using approve it any way as a favor for me and maybe i will have to return one for you some day proving Dick and the then president of dc only wanted the money they could get from the sales of such a crossover even if it screwed the core of the characters. glad you stood your ground and refused to let that happen even with it ending up jla avengers did not happen.

Xavier said...

Still such a pleasure to read your blog, Jim.
If I'm not mistaken, you were at Marvel when the page count jumped to 22 per issue. Any back story on that? Was it difficult for the staff to produce more pages?

Craig Hansen said...

I loved Jim's tale this week of the Avengers/JLA crossover. Hopefully, one day soon, he'll write about an equally contentious event from his EIC tenure: the death of Phoenix!

Now, I've noticed a trend developing in the comments section, which is this:

A few people (usually anonymously, which of course takes real courage, LOL) will be contrarian and post comments like, "I don't see why the original plot was so unusable, it's as good as any other comic book plot."

Respondents then point to Jim's specific objections and try to get said poster to read what they skipped over the first time Jim wrote it.

I don't think anyone's an idiot here. It's somewhat clear to me the true intent of these anonymous sentiments is to simply look down one's nose at comic books as a storytelling format. To take a bad plot and say, "It's just as good as anything else in comcis" is not really an argument in favor of Avengers/JLA. It's an argument against comics.

That being the case, I don't think such posts are worth responding to, people. But I can say I'm glad folks like Jim, and others in the comic book industry (though clearly not all) never adopted that attitude.

Comics are at their best when companies are helmed by folks like Jim, who know and care about story, and their editors actually edit. Not just for typos, but for storytelling, structure, etc.

Jim's era is a good example of that sort of era. Stan's, too. No one seems to really "oversee" all DC books the way Jim did at Marvel, not really...but I can think of some strong editorial runs at DC by folks who oversaw a "family" of books. Such as Mike Carlin's run overseeing Superman.

But comics have, at times, lived down to a poor reputation when the companies were run by marketers rather than real editors.

For example, I think the EIC in charge of my least-favorite era in recent Marvel history was Bob Harras. (Sorry, Bob.)

All that catering to the collectors' market, holographic covers, etc. And he truly tolerated some utter rubbish.

The worst of this was a mid-90s Sensational Spider-Man run by a writer I'll choose not to name, but who I completely disrespect because of what he tried to pull.

I can't recall the specific issue number, but in one issue toward the end of this fellow's run, joined by a VERY popular artist of that era, he wrote a Lizard story...

...a Lizard story that was, story-beat-for-story-beat and almost line-for-line, a straight-up carbon copy of an old Stan Lee Lizard story.

And I noticed only because I had JUST read the exact same story, by Stan, in an ESSENTIAL SPIDER-MAN collection. And I compared them, side-by-side. There was NO question about this, no leeway for, "well, maybe..." excuse-making.

All this writer did, that was original, was update the subplots so it fit in with current continuity.

Is it the P-word when you're work-for-hire and you blatantly carbon-copy the work of another Marvel writer from the same company, and the company owns both scripts?

Yes.

Craig Hansen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Craig Hansen said...

I've enjoyed Jim's tale tremendously.

But I've noticed a disturbing trend toward anonymous posters (that takes guts...) coming on here and defending the plot Jim rejected.

All I can say is, pay attention to how they're saying it. Not that the plot was good, but that it was as good as any other comic book plot.

That's not defending Gerry's JLA/Avengers plot. That's dissing comics as a medium, saying that low expectations is all one can hold out for "comic books."

All I can say is, thank goodness that not everyone in comics thinks like that. Thank goodness that folks like Jim actually care about story.

Comic books are at their best when folks like Jim are in charge, and surround themselves with folks who care similarly about story, even when they disagree with each other.

Jim's era is a good example of an era where people cared. But sometimes this is not the case. Sometimes marketers are in charge.

Sorry if this rubs anyone the wrong way, but "marketers in charge" is how I'd characterize my least-favorite era in recent Marvel history, the Bob Harras era.

Bob came off more like a marketer, trying to sell 2 million copies of a new X-Men #1 with 10 variant holographic covers, 3D covers, etc.

And during his tenure, he tolerated some things that were... rubbish.

I have a particular incident in mind. I won't name the name but it happened in a main-line Spider-Man book in the mid-1990s and MAY have been part of the Clone Saga/Ben Reilly takeover of the Spidey titles.

This spectacular scripter did a "Spider-Man/Lizard" story during his run. And it seemed familiar. Too familiar. I pulled out an ESSENTIAL SPIDER-MAN volume I'd recently picked up, and realized why: it was a complete rip-off of an old Stan Lee "Spider-Man/Lizard" tale.

Story beat for story beat. Even a lot of the dialog was the same. There was NO doubt. This wasn't a "re-told tales" magazine. This was one of the main Spider-Man titles of that era.

Never have I felt SO ripped off.

END OF PART 1

Craig Hansen said...

START OF PART 2

Anyway, I was much like I am now, a nobody who read the book. But I hopped on Marvel's AOL forum (which is what they had at the time) during a live chat and found someone who worked for Marvel and blew the whistle. Don't know if they listened or not, but this writer's run didn't last long thereafter.

But when all you're thinking about is how to sell 20 versions of a new Wolverine #1 with various 3D and halo covers, I guess there's no time to stop and make sure that a current writer's script is not a rip-off of one of Stan's.

(And no, this was not a "retold tales" book. This was one of the four "main, current-continuity" Spidey-books of the time. And, in fact, may have been part of the Clone Saga era, so maybe the writer thought, "well, that happened to Peter, this is now happening to Ben." But I could be wrong; the Ben Reilly era may have been over by the time this issue came out...

Whatever. Still inexcusable. (And it was not Dan Jurgens.)

The point being, I admire EIC runs like Jim's, where the people in charge still seem "awake at the wheel."

I mean, who needs a 30-year-old (at the time) fan boy to tell them their current writer's ripping off an old Stan Lee script from Amazing Spider-Man?

That should fall to the book/group editor or, at least, to the EIC. It is an issue that should NEVER have been shipped as-is.

All I can say is, Harras' run was mercifully brief and I'm far happier as a reader with how the Joe Quesada and Axel Alonso eras have gone by comparison.

But even they aren't quite Jim... ;) I am a bit tired of these company-wide mega-story-arcs where you have to buy 200+ books over a six-month span at $4.00 a pop just to know what the #(*@ is going on. Do I want to spend $800 on a storyline that's just going to be collected into trade paperbacks for $50 a pop or whatever and still won't make much sense? No, I do not.

I miss the days of $0.99 comics... at least if an issue stank you weren't out a fortune...

Matt Adler said...

So much interesting stuff to respond to. Jim, I know you said you haven't read the modern JLA/Avengers crossover, but I, and I'm certain many others, would love to hear your opinion of it. I'd be willing to send you a copy.

It's interesting to hear this view of Gerry Conway; I was introduced to his work on Spectacular and Web at the age of 8, and I loved it, but perhaps that was a function of my age. The Death of Gwen Stacy is also an undeniable classic. As an adult, I started hearing criticism of his work, but it was mostly on books I never read. That said, I am against banning criticism of creators; critical discussion is an essential part of any comics conversation.

I understand why Tom B wouldn't feel comfortable releasing the KC Carlson article, but since it's KC's article, maybe he could release it himself?

Jeff Zoslaw said...

Harras was editior for X-Men #1 but wasn't E in Chief. That was DeFalco. I doubt that Harras had any major part in the decision to go with so many covers for that comic after the success of Spider-Man #1 started that ball rolling. Harras' time as Editor in Chief was in the late '90s, not the early '90s. A lot of the figures from his stint are now evident in the DC reboot which Harras is now helming as DCEiC (Bobbie Chase, Scott Lobdell, Rob Liefeld, Jim Lee-who is actually now Harras' boss-, Paul Jenkins... ) One person who's pretty much guranteed to not show up in Harras' DC is Al Milgrom, who caused an Eath X Spider-Man special to be pulped when, as inker, he sneaked in a note celebrating Harras' removal from Marvel in the early 2000s. Something similar happened in an FF issue when the mailboxes outside Molecule Man's apartment house indicated that Jim Shooter had been "evicted". That seems like Macchio's doing now that Jim has revealed Macchio's style...

Kid said...

Craig Hansen said:

"...But I've noticed a disturbing trend toward anonymous posters (that takes guts...) coming on here and defending the plot Jim rejected.

All I can say is, pay attention to how they're saying it. Not that the plot was good, but that it was as good as any other comic book plot.

That's not defending Gerry's JLA/Avengers plot. That's dissing comics as a medium, saying that low expectations is all one can hold out for "comic books."..."

Well, that's one way of looking at it, but by no means the inevitable conclusion of what was actually said - nor is it what those who said it necessarily meant to say, in my humble opinion.

They may well have considered the comics they were using for comparison to have been relatively well-written, enjoyable, entertaining reads (and perhaps they were)- and that, to them, the BASIC plot of the proposed crossover does not sound that outrageous when measured against them. This is a far cry from Craig's conclusion that "That's dissing comics as a medium, saying that low expectations is all one can hold out for "comic books."..."

I'm quite sure that not even Jim would claim that any other plot (in another comic) which in any way resembled the one he rejected should likewise have been rejected because it must have been below par. That would very much depend on the details of the finished result.

Dimitris said...

Regarding Perez's opinion, with the power of hindsight, on the whole brouhaha and Jim Shooter in particular, here is what he said in an interview in "Back Issue #1" (December 2003):

"I mean, Jim became the center of my ire only because it had to do with the Justice League/Avengers
book being done at the time. I know now that there's more than one person to blame, but to my knowledge at the time, I was blaming Jim. I know that Len Wein made a major mistake in having me go on and do the book before Marvel got a chance to see the final plot, and it just escalated. It was a lot of personalities just getting the better of a project. I was so upset because it was such a personal project to me, and since Jim was the most vocal of the combatants, and the one who had actually, by his anger, stopped the project – everybody else was saying, “No let';s forget about it. Let's just keep going.” Whatever his decisions were, (they) seemed to be stopping the project. Because I was working on JLA/Avengers, I missed two issues on Titans, which I could have done and kept a longer unbroken streak. And I had drawn 21 pages (of JLA/Avengers) that I was proud of. I mean, all these things made it a very personal slight to me, so I remember I was dealing with (Marvel Fanfare editor) Al Milgrom, who was, at the time, printing my “Black Widow” stories that I had done years before. I was drawing new covers, and I told him at that point, “For the last cover, I just don't want to work at Marvel any more, so I'm signing an exclusive contract with DC”. And that ended my association with Marvel for as long as Jim Shooter was editor-in-chief. And my decision allowed Art Adams to get his first printed work because he replaced me on the cover. But again, with the vantage point of years and history, I can see that Jim Shooter wasn't the sole ogre there, and nor was he the sole person to blame. I just think he made a bad situation worse. But I think every one of us, at one time or another, might have done that too...so I mean, again, I have no resentment or ill feelings towards Jim. In fact, when he was doing Broadway Comics, I volunteered to do a cover for him. It just never came to be. The company died before I had any chance to do anything. But I have absolutely no ill will towards Jim. I just disagreed with his decisions and his reasoning at the time. And that was part and parcel of the incredible amount of negative feelings on the project then."

Dimitris said...

Sorry for not making paragraphs on the above post. I was copying from the issue and I didn't see paragraph distinctions in the answer, but I see that it now looks tiresome to read.
Anyway, Perez probably still doesn't know all the facts but he admits it was DC's fault to give him the get go and he doesn't feel any resentment at Jim Shooter anymore

Matt Adler said...

It's a shame that Jim and George couldn't have talked at the time so George wouldn't have gotten the wrong impression.

Matt Hawes said...

Dimitris, thanks for posting the quotes from George Perez's interview!

kintounkal said...

Craig Hansen,

To be fair, crossovers aren't anywhere near that expensive. For example, preludes, core titles, and satellite minis for Blackest Night were estimated to cost about $145.55 according to Newsarama. That article can be found at
http://www.newsarama.com/comics/070912-BlackestCost.html

The new trades on sale this month divide this event into seven volumes. They're each priced at $19.99 US which brings the total to $139.93 US in that format. That's a far cry from $800. If anyone can provide numbers proving a Marvel or DC crossovers has ever cost $250+, I'll be very surprised.

Likewise, only a handful of trade paperbacks exist which cost $50 US a pop. It's almost unprecedented for a DC TPB to be priced above $29.99 US and I can't think of a single Marvel TPB priced above $39.99 US.

jimshooter said...

Dear Christopher,

RE: your suggestions: Roger wilco.

I think the harsher comments regarding the DC/Marvel posts are largely my fault. I have been blamed for many years for the Avengers/JLA mess and very routinely and aggressively bashed about it. Therefore, my telling of the true tale, was more emphatic, shall we say, than is my wont. For a long time I thought, "Surely any rational people out there can see that the accusations are absurd. Surely anyone who gives it a moment's thought must realize that there is no conceivable purpose, no credible motive for my sabotaging the series I was partners in creating. Surely people must grok that if I were the lunatic my critics describe, if I had cost Marvel millions of dollars on some psychotic whim, that I wouldn't have lasted as long as I did." But, no, people remember George's naive "I'm not going to let Jim Shooter get away with this," Dick's disingenuous rebuttal and other blatant nonsense. So, I said my piece very plainly, which may have upped the sturm und drang level.

jimshooter said...

Dear Xavier,

The page count had traditionally been in the 20's. Marvel had cut back to 17 pages as a cost-saving measure. When sales began to increase I got my budget for the additional cost approved and brought the page count back up.

jimshooter said...

Dear Matt,

Gerry Conway is one of the smartest people you could ever meet. He's also a tremendously skilled and talented writer. He can write brilliantly. Why doesn't he always do so? I believe that sometimes he doesn't care and sometimes he thinks it doesn't matter. That belief is informed by things Gerry said to me during the brief time he was my boss. Of course, also, I suppose, there are times when he's been up against a drop-dead deadline and delivered overnight something that does not reflect his world-class abilities. Sometimes, I think, it's all of the above at once. I suppose, also, that like most of us, he occasionally has one of those days....

JayJayJackson said...

We have had more anonymous posters lately because so many people have had problems with signing in via Google or OpenID to be able to comment. Since it's a problem we apparently can't fix on our end at the moment I set the blog to allow anonymous comments for now so that we don't exclude anyone from commenting. I'll have to change it if we have problems, but I'm hoping for the best.

Craig Hansen said...

Kintounkal,

Fair enough on Blackest Night, but I was thinking more about things on the Marvel side.

Like Fear Itself, which is something like 40 comics so far and maybe coming close to half-finished?

Sure, I exaggerated a bit for dramatic effect, but let's say that by the time it's played out, Fear Itself runs twice its current length.

That's 80 comics at $4 each = $320.

Yet when I was growing up, Chris Claremont and... I think... David Cockrum or John Byrne told a much more interesting story, Days of Futures Past, in what... one issue?

Or whate about the whole Shi-ar/Brood War? Never left the pages of UNCANNY X-MEN to tell it, and what was it? Six issues? 12?

My point is, these modern "every friggin title is involved" crossover events are hella-expensive, and are the products of group-think, multiple creators, and rarely make sense in the end anyway.

By comparison, Jim's own 12-issue Secret Wars series seems tame.

There are similar monstrous-length crossovers, but FEAR ITSELF is the one annoying me right now.

Anonymous said...

Hello, All.

Interesting comments all around. As a suggestion,could we hear the oft-told story (at Byrne Robotics, anyway) about the single-issue story mandate that prompted Byrne and Stern to quit Captain America?

Cheers,
rd

kintounkal said...

Craig,

You're also simplifying things a lot by pretending all Marvel comics cost $3.99 US. Plenty still cost $2.99 US. That changes things enormously. Acting as if crossovers cost $800 is a ridiculous exaggeration and I challenged anyone to provide proof that an event cost a penny more than $250 US. You didn't do that.

Jeff Clem said...

Craig,
You make some valid points in your postings, but I believe that the exaggeration "for dramatic effect" might hurt the credibility of your case. Also, your simplifying of certain facts also damages your arguments: "marketers in charge" didn't start and end with Harras' reign - it still exists under Quesada and Alonso. It existed to a lesser degree under DeFalco and even during Jim's reign. In the mid-80s, buying Secret Wars, Secret Wars II and all of its crossovers was expensive for that day. Same thing with DC's Crisis and the "Red Sky" issues.
Also, and maybe I am wrong here, but I get the feeling that these expensive, inter-company mega-crossovers that annoy you so much are MAYBE being purchased by you? I see nothing in your posts that flatly affirms that, but it seems like they've got you angered enough that your pocketbook is feeling the damage? Possible solution: don't purchase them.
When Dwayne McDuffie explained the behind-the-scenes machinations of his Justice League of America run, he did not blame DC editorial. He recognized that the various mandates to tow the line on countless cross-overs (which would de-fuse any momentum he had built on storylines) is what DC (and Marvel, for that matter) HAVE to do to keep sales up. His conclusion: as long as the majority of the buying public keeps buying these things, DC and Marvel are gonna keep making them.
If you are buying these costly cross-overs, then just stop and if enough comic book purchasers feel that way, then this too shall pass.
If you are not buying these things, then I apologize for wasting your time. I feel your anger and frustration at what's happened to the comic book industry, but the best decision I've made in my recent life is to walk away from the weekly/monthly habit of buying most of the mainstream comics that end up being crossover fodder.

czeskleba said...

RD: There is discussion of Stern and Byrne leaving Captain America in the comments section of this post (including comments from Shooter):
http://www.jimshooter.com/2011/07/more-strange-tales.html

Nevermore said...

Just wanted to point out this post to the webmaster of George Pérez's website, but then I saw someone else had already done so, and Vu had posted it on the site. So we might get a response from George soon.

Craig Hansen said...

Kintounkal,

First of all, you were the one who used Blackest Night as the example. I ceded the point that Blackest Night might have cost that. Don't know, cause that was your example, not mine.

But whether it's $800 (exaggerated amount, by my own admission) or what's adding up to be potentially around $400 for Fear Itself (don't know for sure yet because it's still going on) or whether we're going to just use your example of $250 just to avoid nitpicking...

The point is that whether a comic is $3, $3.50, or $4 per issue these days, the cost of grabbing every single semi-related issue in a mega-cross-over event is well beyond the budget of most kids and families these days.

I'm nostalgic for $0.99 comics. Truth is, when I started reading comics in the early/mid 70s, they were "Still Only $0.25!) on the cover.

I grew up with a 30-comic a month comic book habit. Mostly Marvels, plus Batman, back then.

At $0.25 an issue, a 30-comic a month habit cost my dad (and later, me) $7.50 a month.

Now, some people will say "oh, but all prices have gone up since then."

Not as much as comics, they haven't.

Around the same time, Atari launched the Atari 2600 at a price of $199. In late 2005, Xbox 360 launched at $299 for the core system, $479 for the Elite version.

Comparatively, Nintendo launched Wii a year later at $249.

And Sony launched PS3 in 2006 at $499 and $599.

So let's take the highest-priced console for comparison. $199 to $599 is three times the price, 1977 to 2006.

In 1977, comics had moved up to $0.35 across the board. If we only TRIPLED the price like happened to consoles? Then by 2006, comics would only be costing $1.05.

More to the point: paperbacks in 1977 cost anywhere between $1.99 and $2.50 on average. They cost $6.99 and $7.99 these days.

So at most, paperbacks have gone up by a factor of 4.

Inflate $0.35 by a factor of four and maybe comics cost $1.40.

But comics were typically $2.99 in 2006, with some costing $3.50. And now they're pretty typically $3.99 with some exceptions if they cut back on the page count.

The ONLY point here boils down to this:

That $7.50/month comic book habit in 1975-76 would cost, today, $90 to $120 today.

END PART 1

Craig Hansen said...

START PART 2

And companies wonder why their best-selling titles sell only maybe 125,000 copies or so? And even comics moving 50,000 units aren't necessarily canceled.

In Jim's era, comics that dropped below 100,00 units was enough to merit a title being cancelled. I remember a lot of titles in those days sold in excess of 1M units and more.

At $3 - $4 per copy, (about the price of a yearly subscription back then!) a 30-book-a-month habit is not sustainable, even for most adults. Let alone kids.

And yet current Marvel pretends that all the continuity-destroying stuff they are doing is to serve young readers.

Yet what young readers... preteens like me in the mid-1970s.... can afford $3 - $4 per book?

A crossover that required buying 60-80 books back then would have been bad enough. Doing it now where it requires spending $180 to $320, is just insane.

But I'm not just a complainer. There is a solution.

Print is costly. For comics to survive, they need to go toward digital deliver, on devices like nook Color and the forthcoming Kindle Color Tablet.

And then the per-issue price needs to go down. To $0.99.

What's lost in per-issue price would be made up for, eventually, if the average title could sell a whole lot more units.

Making it possible for KIDS to buy 30 books a month is what creates a life-long reader of comics like me. $3-$4 will not get anyone there. $0.99 - $1.50 might.

And going digital is the ONLY way to maintain a price level like that, these days.

Wow... this really strayed... but with all the responses to my simple nostalgia for $0.99 comics, well... had to respond.

A couple other notes to others:

I never suggested the Harras era started in the early 1990s. Harras' era started in '96, I believe.

And the plagiarized Stan Lee script in Spectacular happened sometime in the second half of the 90s, some time after Dan Jurgens left the book.

And since a couple people wondered out loud, price has driven me away from my old buying habits, too. But since I'm over 40 now, I doubt Marvel cares... :) My love for the characters I grew up on hasn't changed... but my ability to afford them? That has...

kintounkal said...

Craig,

You said crossovers cost $800. I politely pointed out Blackest Night which is the latest big crossover to be available in TPB format cost way less than $150. I never claimed it was the most expensive crossover ever created. It was just an example. I then expressed doubt that any crossover surpassed the $250 plateau which lead you to list a bunch of random and incorrect numbers off the top of your head. That's hardly evidence. I wasn't wrong about anything. If you think any crossover costs more than $250, you'll need to share your math and prove it.

Craig Hansen said...

Kintounkal,

Then you haven't been reading my subsequent posts. I used the $800 figure once. The rest has been based off real costs.

'Nuff said. :)

kintounkal said...

Craig,

I tried not to be obnoxious in correcting you but you keep denying you're wrong. Your Fear Itself calculations are 100% faulty and I already explained why. Furthermore, we already do know what issues will be part of this event.

Anonymous said...

Most of the minis relating to Fear Itself are coming out at the $2.99 price point. I know because I've been pleasantly surprised by their cost. I read all of them and write about them in my column at my favorite comic book website (but I'll skip the plug for now). Anyway, I would doubt the mega-event is going to cost me upwards of $250 but it's kicking into high gear this last month, straining my limited funds, so I guess we'll see.

And, yeah, it's been an underwhelming event so I feel the pain.

The comic industry seems to be calling an end to the supply and demand rules and, instead, are charging more and more money for their comic to a dwindling fan base. It's not sustainable but it's a hard downward spiral to get out of. I've also noticed that MANY of the last year or so worth of comics have been STRETCHED out to incredible degrees. Stuff that could easily fit one comic (even in a decompression style) is not spread out over four. It gives a sense that nothing is happening and it's happening as slowly as possible.

I'm not someone to complain about decompression, either. Sometimes I love it when a story gets some breathing room. What we're getting now is like a telephoned version of that where writers without the skill to USE that "style" try it anyway. The results, combined with increased prices, looks like something that I'll just get frustrated with.

Dirk Manning recently said on a podcast that his approach to storytelling was to get in as late as possible and leave as early as possible. It makes me wish that more writers would make these three plus dollar books as dense as they are able so I feel that I might get my money's worth.

But that's just me.

-SuperginraiX (can't figure out the log in <_<)

Daniel Kalder said...

Judge Dredd scripts from the early 1980s to 1990s on average contained more story in five pages than your average modern US comic.

Anonymous said...

That there Craig sure got a lot to say fer himself!
Mouthy git!

Christopher Daley said...

Jim -

not sure I agree that the style in which you wrote the Marvel/DC crossover posts opened the door for some of the (what I think were) less gracious posts by your readers; it's ridiculously generous of you to write that, though.

Thanks again for the great stories (both here and in the books),

Chris

ireactions said...
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ireactions said...

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

Will Jim ever talk about his time with Jim Owsley/Christopher Priest? Here are some selections from one of Priest's blogs on Jim and Spider-Man:

"Jim's greatest flaw is his inability to communicate with us non-genius types. Jim is a guy who's always been several laps around the track ahead of us, and, like most truly gifted folk, his People Skills sucked."

"He encouraged me to turn the screws on the talent the way he did. The problem, though, was Shooter was the EIC. He could get away with being a bastard because he held the keys to the kingdom. All I held was the key to the men's room."

"Shooter disliked Peter David's work intensely. I had to run interference between Shooter and Peter, and took enormous, relentless grief over every thing Peter did. The office politics surrounding Peter were too stupid to imagine. He was disliked largely on the strength that he worked for the late Carol Kalish."

"Jim was never satisfied. Nothing we did pleased him. He disliked Peter's work, he disliked Michelinie's work. He totally thought Silvestri would never amount to anything, and I was 'nuts' to have him on the book. Kyle Baker was not an inker, he said, he had no clue what he was doing."

"I had been told to fire Tom. A stunned Shooter appeared at my door the next day, and asked me, and I quote, 'Why'd you do that? [fire Tom]' I said, 'Because you told me to. We talked about this beforehand.' To which Jim replied, and I'll never forget this, 'Yeah— but I never thought you'd actually do it.'"

jimshooter said...

Dear Craig,

Here's my 17 cents (two cents in 1951, adjusted for inflation): Considering what comics cost these days they ought to be better. : )

ireactions said...

Just want to add -- I'm not looking for dirt or to bash Jim with Owsley's recollections. I've learned more about storytelling from reading this blog than I did in journalism school. I'd just be interested in seeing Jim's side because, as we can tell from this blog, Jim likely had good and reasonable purpose behind every decision and directive he gave -- but for whatever reason, the reasons were misunderstood, not accepted or not well-communicated.

JayJayJackson said...

Jim did comment about Jim Owsley in this comment in response to a question about the blog. There have been a few other mentions as well, but Jim liked Owsley very much and I thought he was wonderful. He was one of my favorite editors to work with.

ireactions said...

Christopher Priest has always made it clear that a) Jim is a genius, b) Jim cared very much about making Marvel comic books offer excellent quality for the money, c) Jim saw to it that creators and Marvel made more money than ever before and d) Jim worked very hard to make all of the above happen. Unfortunately, interpersonal conflicts and unclear communication seems to have muddied the waters, resulting in unfair situations like Jim being accused of sabotaging JLA/AVENGERS. As we can see here, he was trying to save the project, but he cared about quality, and I can't help but think there's an equally reasonable explanation for Jim Owsley's recollections of Jim with Spider-Man. And also -- people are human. People do not always communicate effectively. And people do not always respond ideally.

I'd be interested, that's all, especially since so much is coming out now. However, if Jim prefers never to get into that stuff, well -- it is private information until he chooses to make it public.

Dimitris said...

@ireactions: Jim also talks about the Peter David situation in these comments:

http://www.jimshooter.com/2011/06/answer-to-comment.html?showComment=1309098355294#c5629338549097704539

http://www.jimshooter.com/2011/06/answer-to-comment.html?showComment=1309098373859#c1577465978450905285

Firestone said...

Ah, Christopher Priest. I never knew the man, but a gentleman I've known for maybe 20 years online was in fairly good contact. (Dvandom, that is. Mike Chary, you there? Either of those two fans might be able to at least shed some light based on their recollections of the era.)

That being said, I've been trying to figure out how to ask Mr. Shooter a question about circulations, and since it's been brought up in the comments.

Mr. Shooter, do you have any plans to do an article about circulation numbers? If not, I've been thinking a lot about webcomics. They make... not as much as a comic, I gather, but the top of the line ones are enough for someone to live on. (Something*Positive, for example) The very top, apparently, enough for two families to live well. (Penny Arcade) And yet, the Big Two haven't done the incredibly obvious step of dipping a toe in the water and doing an All Ages DCAU/Marvel Adventures style strip. One page MWF. The real trick would be the editorial control, but... it would bring the comics to a new range of viewers, bring some back into the fold, bring some new eyes in as well.

Course, a nonzero amount of the money made is on merchandise... there would have to be some fun with contracts. But it's a valid and clear space to work in that just hasn't been populated.

The biggest seller, of course, is that since it's being given away (ad supported), it's relatively immune to piracy concerns.

Still, neither of the two have stepped forward to fill this space, there must be some reason. Any thoughts?

ireactions said...

Ahhh, thanks. Sorry -- I have read every blog entry but I have not read all the comments. Thanks for the links!

jimshooter said...

If Jim/Christopher and I were to sit in a room with you and review all the stories we tell involving each other, he would tell them honestly but with outrageous humor, excessive drama and much irreverence. And I would roll my eyes, make hand gestures of appeal to the heavens and mock him mercilessly. Then, I would tell the same stories honestly and sincerely while being punctured and pummeled by his rapid-fire, hysterically funny heckling. And we would both laugh until we were Jell-o. You would find that we agreed on all the particulars. You would find that we even agreed on the nuance -- he would admit to going for drama and shock value in the telling sometimes and I would acknowledge that I was hard on him sometimes. And more honking and hooting would precipitate from that.

And then we'd go off somewhere and get a root beer and talk about old days, good and bad and what we missed about them, and new days, our lives and what we were hoping for.

I fired Jim one day. He thanked me. The creative part of the editor's job he loved. Making the trains run not so much. I also told him I thought he was brilliant, and that as long as I had anything to say about it he'd always have work creating and writing, which he loves through and through. He never, ever let me down.

Friends always.

jimshooter said...

Dear Firestone,

I'll get to it. It's on the list.

Rob London said...

I'm really not sure what Lizard story everyone's talking about - Dan Jurgens worked on Sensational Spider-Man, not Spectacular, and the Lizard never appeared in Sensational.

ireactions said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
kintounkal said...

Rob London,

Craig Hansen originally hinted at the Lizard story saying it occured in "a mid-90s Sensational Spider-Man run by a writer I'll choose not to name" but he also specified in another post that "it was not Dan Jurgens".

Craig also identified the culprit as "this spectacular scripter" which leads me to believe he might be referring to Spectacular Spider-Man #239 ("Sudden Sacrifices") written by Todd Dezago. The only problem with that theory is Luke Ross pencilled this story. Craig claimed the mytery writer was "joined by a VERY popular artist of that era"? Mr. Ross has never received much praise or recognition. Is it possible Craig misinterpreted his style for someone else?

The rest of the clues fit perfectly. Craig mentioned "this writer's run didn't last long thereafter." Dezago's run ended with the very next issue ("Revelations Part 1: Walking Into Spiderwebs"). In fact, that remains Mr. Dezago's last Marvel comic to this day.

Mark Luebker said...

RE: Gerry Conway, my only encounter with him was at a NY Comic Art Con at the old Commodore Hotel in Manhattan, back in 1973, and he came across as pretty full of himself. Met dozens of other pros there, from Bill Gaines to John Romita to Vaughn Bodé, and none of the others seemed to be carrying around that kind of attitude, even the ones who probably had earned the right to do so. (Got a weird Barry (pre-Windsor) Smith photo there, as well.)

As for moderating, whatever you're doing, keep it up. This is a lively forum, differences are expressed, and it's both informative and entertaining.

czeskleba said...

Conway's another guy that was successful quite young. In 1973, when Mark L. got the impression he was full of himself, Conway was only 20 years old. As I said in the thread about Paul Levitz, that's not necessarily an excuse, but it helps us understand a bit why he may have acted like that.

Rob London said...

kintounkal,

That isn't true at all. After leaving Spectacular, DeZago immediately went on to write Sensational Spider-Man for two years, and has recently written a ton of books for Marvel's all-ages imprints.

And yeah, the artist thing doesn't fit either - Luke Ross drew the last issue of that arc, and the preceding issues are by Sal Buscema, whose work I love, but he definitely wasn't "a VERY popular artist of that era".

Pulling out those issues, the plot (the Lizard has to fight a totally animalistic duplicate of himself) doesn't seem terribly similar to any Stan Lee issues I can recall.

kintounkal said...

Rob London,

I concede that you are right about Todd Dezago after all. The resource I was referring to had incomplete credits for Mr. Dezago. I didn't notice mainly because his name didn't appear on Marvel covers until 1997. In hindsight, I should have known he contributed more Spider-Man stories. I appreciate the correction.

Anonymous said...

Jim thank you so much for this blog and thank you for rejecting that awful plot! I wish more editors cared like you do, then we wouldnt have to suffer through stories like Gwen sleeping with Norman Osborn! What travesty!

Matt Hawes said...

JayJay wrote: "...We have had more anonymous posters lately because so many people have had problems with signing in via Google or OpenID to be able to comment..."

I have had the same issue when using Internet Explorer for my browser. In Firefox, though, I have n no problems signing in and commenting.

kintounkal said...

Anonymous,

You raise a great topic bringing up "Sins Past". As you probably know, J. Michael Straczynski originally wanted to make Peter Parker the father of Gwen's kids but Joe Quesada vetoed that idea. Instead, Norman Osborn was suggested as the dad for Gabriel & Sarah Stacy.

The parallel to Jim comes from an interview with Marty Grosser in Previews Vol. III, No. 6. At one point, Jim discussed a time when a guy came into his office saying "I want to do a story where Spider-Man fathers an illegitimate child."

Jim replied "Well, we've licensed Spider-Man to people who make fuzzy toys for infants. We can't do that. By licensing that character, we've made a commitment to observe certain standards with Spider-Man. What if it's a slow news week and we get on 60 Minutes, and for one solid week, nobody has anything better to talk about than Spider-Man's morals. And the guy who makes the fuzzy dolls starts getting them back from Toys 'R' Us by the container load? We can't do that to him; that's not fair. We have a debt of honor to this person, and we have to observe it."

Jim told the writer "Do the same story - even make a character that everybody really knows is Spider-Man, but call him something else, and we'll do it for Epic Comics." The writer stormed out in a huff complaining about Jim Shooter denying him his creative freedom and Jim remarked "Well, I know I will again. I will do it every time without fail."

I think that anecdote nicely emphasizes the smart way to channel a writer's creativity. Letting J. Michael Straczynski do whatever he wanted at first only to pull the rug out from under him was dishonest and counterproductive.

DJ said...

Hi Guys.
Firestone asked Jim if he was going to do an article on circulation, and mentioned webcomics in the passing.
The biggest stumbling block I can see to the big two being successful with this is format. For some reason they seem to have blinkers on when it comes to ditching the pamphlet style format. For years some creators have been trying to break out of this straitjacket, but Marvel and DC continue to clutch to it like a precious object. Okay there have been digests, Treasuries, Magazines, but to all intents and purposes they are larger, or smaller, versions of the traditional comic format.
I'll cite Barry Windsor Smith here, with his Storyteller debacle. Kirby dreamed off comics being Six Feet tall, and apparently wanted to try different formats at DC with his Fourth World stuff.
Chris ware has thrown the rule book out the window and been very successful, Miller managed to get 300 out in landscape format, again very successful.
I don't know about everyone else, but for me reading online, or from a disc on computer, is intensley annoying, scrolling up and down, side to side, tiny double page spreads, and then huge pieces of incomprehesible art.
If they go down this road, they need to realise that they have to present the artwork for the technology. Most computer screens are landscape, mobile (cell) phone screens may vary, but most have a flip feature anyway.
Looking back at the old (Was it Ace) paperback reprints from the 60s Thor, FF, and the Conan paperbacks from the 70s, they seem to have the right idea - cut the pages up into individual panels, or series of panels, to suit the format.
It's very effective, and gives an added impetus and drive to sometimes pedestrian sequences.
Phew, this was going to be a short post, got carried away.
Sorry :(
David J.

Pj Perez said...

YES: "They all should be as good as they can be. Foisting crap upon the readers because it will “sell like hotcakes” anyway seemed like dereliction of duty to me. "

Sanjiv Purba said...

Thanks for clearing that up Jim. There was a lot of misinformation in the fanzines about what happened with the JLA/Avengers teamup. Your description makes a lot of sense.