Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Chris Claremont Face Down in His Mashed Potatoes


First This

Thank you very much for all the happy birthday wishes yesterday. I really appreciate it.

They’ll Always Have Paris

One Monday morning in early 1985, Chris Claremont came into my office in a foul mood. My door was literally always open. I hardly ever looked up when people came in because there was a steady parade of Marvel staffers and freelancers coming in all day to glom some free jellybeans from the gumball machine on my desk. If the visitor flopped down on my couch, I knew it was a casual, chatty visit or they were really tired. If he or she sat in one of the guest chairs in front of my desk, I knew it was business. If they stood in front of my desk radiating foul-mood vibes, like Chris, there was a problem.

Chris growled that he’d spent the weekend at a convention. I forget where. Mudville, Michiconsin or Dulltown, Ohiowa.

Dialogue represented more or less accurately:

“So, how’d that go?”

“The Avengers writer and artists got to go to a con in West Palm Beach!”

“Yep. So?”

“I write the X-Men! It’s the top book! How come I have to go to Sludge City and they get to go to West Palm Beach?!”

In those days, convention bookings worked like this: sometimes convention promoters would get in touch with creators directly. Creators were free, naturally, to go anywhere they were invited or wished to go on their own. But sometimes, requests for creator appearances at cons or stores came in through our sales promotion department, which was run by Steve Saffel. Steve would pass along any invitations to the creators who would accept or refuse as they wished.

We asked creators to let keep us apprised of con appearances they agreed to on their own, and however the appearance was arranged, Steve would try to help out with promotional support, giveaways, whatever, and coordinate things with the hosts.

Of course, there were also some appearances arranged by Marvel, like our annual expedition to San Diego. Or, for instance, that year, we were putting together an expedition to the American Booksellers Association (ABA) trade show in San Francisco. The ABA has a show every year around Memorial Day. In those days, it was held every other year in Washington, DC and in various other cities around the country in between. Chris, as it happened, was scheduled to be part of the Marvel contingent at the ABA that year.

But I’m getting ahead of myself….

I pointed out to Chris that Saffel had merely passed along the invitation to the con in Yuckburg and Chris had accepted. Just as the Avengers guys had accepted the offer from WPB. He agreed to go to Phlegmopolis. Nobody forced him. And didn’t the comics fans stuck in that gray and hopeless place deserve the sunshine of his personality to brighten their wretched lives?

That only made him grumpier. Cold…so cold.

“It’s still not fair.”

Finally, having the rest of my life to get on with, I’d heard enough.

“Okay, turkey, where do you want to go?”

“Paris,” he sneered, in a high dudgeon tone that would have humbled Magneto.

“Paris. You got it.”

“You can’t send me to Paris.”

“Stand aside, mortal,” said I in my best Thor impersonation.

I went upstairs to the international licensing department and spoke with Dominique Boniface, a great guy and wonderfully capable co-conspirator. I forget whether we called or Telexed (Telexed! That’s how long ago this was!) our French publishing licensees. I told Dom to offer them a promotional visit by the entire X-Men creative team…

if they’d do some PR and some extra publishing around the event.

A few minutes later I stopped by President Jim Galton’s office. I said, “Jim, I have a problem. Seems the French publishers would like to have the X-Men creators come to Paris and do a little promotional tour. They’ll get them on TV, get them lots of press and publish some special editions to tie in with their visit.  It would cost us about $11,000 to send them. But the guarantees alone on those specials add up to about $30,000.”

“So, what’s the problem?”

A few minutes later, I walked back into my office. Chris was still there, dark energies coruscating around him.

“Pack your bags, monsieur.”

Word spread about the miracle I’d worked. The V.P. of Promotions (“promotions” not directly related to the comics—things like character appearances by costumed actors) came to me in high dudgeon rivaling Claremont’s.

“How do you get away with these things?! I can’t get Galton to part with a dime for anything!”

Very simple. Find a way to make whatever you want to do self-liquidating or, better, turn a small profit, and Galton will approve whatever mad scheme you propose. Nyah, nyah.


Chris Claremont Face Down in His Mashed Potatoes

The tour actually took place that May. We sent the whole X-Men crew: Editor Ann Nocenti, penciler John Romita, Jr., inker Dan Green, colorist Glynis Oliver (not sure if Glynis actually went, I know we offered), Chris the Complainer, and, I think, letterer Tom Orzechowski. We did send you, didn’t we Orz? If not, I apologize. Letterers are so under-appreciated. If I didn’t, I would’a if I could’a.

The tour went well, by all accounts.
Chris Claremont, Ann Nocenti and John Romita, Jr. 
There was one unfortunate incident, however. Apparently, the dashing John Romita, Jr., international heart-throb, didn’t understand the distinction between “Madame” and "Mademoiselle.” He’ll have to tell you that story. I’m not goin’ there.

But no shots were fired and everyone survived.

Shortly after the the X-team arrived in Paris, the angry phone calls started. First it was the Spanish publisher. How dare you send the X-People to France and not Spain?!

Then it was our London office. How dare you…etc.?!

Other countries attacked me, too, but there was only so much time.

So, the tour was extended to Barcelona, London and points thereabout.
John Romita, Jr. and Dan Green
Chris was due at the ABA, so the tour had to end as Memorial Day weekend was starting. Everybody returned home except Chris, who flew to San Francisco to hook up with the Marvel ABA contingent.

My super-secretary, Lynn Cohen was there in SF, coordinating things and as part of the man-the-booth staff. Steve Saffel was there. Two or three others of the comics and sales department staff were there. I asked Lynn to organize a dinner for us the evening we arrived, the day before the show started.

As we were gathering in the lobby of the hotel, the Mark, Chris came limping in, fresh off the plane from London. He was exhausted, lagged, and far more wretched than the wretchiest wretch in Mudville. Somehow, summoning all his remaining strength, with the last shreds of his heroic stamina, he said, “You guys going to dinner? Can I come?”

So we all went to an excellent steakhouse in the neighborhood.

It was great.

Our server was a beautiful, wonderful young woman named Julia. It was her birthday and she had laryngitis. She was communicating with us using gestures and mouthing words, though no sound came out. Steve Saffel, who is apparently very good at both charades and lip-reading translated for the rest of us. Especially me, because I am clueless.

I got to know Julia a little on a subsequent trip to San Francisco, but I’m not telling you that story. I’m not goin’ there.

No shots were fired and everyone survived.

Okay, okay, she showed me around town, took me to spots tourists don’t usually find, we walked to the middle of the Golden Gate Bridge….  Wonderful, lovely person, generous with her time. It was fun. At least she was a Mademoiselle. John? Are you paying attention?

So….

About Chris going face down in his mashed potatoes. I made that up. It’s a lie. But he almost did. Missed it by thaaat much! He was so wiped from his journeys that he absolutely, positively did fall asleep at the table!

Ask Lynn. Ask Saffel. Don’t ask Chris, he’ll probably deny everything.


NEXT:  More Items of Interest

81 comments:

EilisFlynn said...

Well, they couldn't complain that you wouldn't listen to their concerns! (Well, they COULD complain, but they'd be wrong!)

David S said...

Interesting story Jim, I seem to recall Chris writing an X-Men story set in Paris (or France, at least), but can't drag any other details out of my work-frazzled brain right now. Of course, that just proves that the team were working on and researching story ideas while in France, and not just enjoying the Gallic hospitality! ;)

I wonder if any of Chris' promotional trips took him to Scotland, as I remember an X-Men issue (drawn by Marc Silvestri, I think) being partly set in some very accurately drawn and recognisable Edinburgh streets.

Jerry Novick said...

"Steve Saffel, who is apparently very good at both charades and lip-reading translated for the rest of us."

Knowing Steve, this was surely handled with absolute class, hilarity, and much pantomime of his own!

niederklopfer said...

Dam fine story. Happy belated birthday.

Jerry Bonner said...

Hey Jim,

I want to work for you. You sir, have class. Christ, most employers today begrudge you a standard "cost of living" raise. Don't even get me started...

If I'm recalling correctly, "Madame" is a married woman and "Mademoiselle" is a single lady (cue the song), right?

Best,

Jerry

Dusty. said...

The Claremont/Romita Jr. era is one I liked at the time, and grew to love as time went by. I have been planning to reread it for awhile now. There is just something about that early-mid 80's Jim Shooter Marvel era that can't be beat, and it all holds up great!

Hey, Jim, incase you didn't know, I see the Marvel December solicitations have a new TPB printed of Secret Wars 1-12 and a first time ever printing of a Secret Wars II TPB collecting issues 1-9 without the crossovers.

uncannyderek.com said...

This was a hilarious story, Jim!

Was Chris satisfied about the Paris trip? What was his reaction to now having to travel Europe? I'd assume he'd be happy - but it's Chris - so maybe he'd find something to complain about still?

Thank you so much for doing these as often as you do. They are the highlights of my week.

Pj Perez said...

Seriously, how did you ever get such a rep for being a green meanie?

William said...

All I got out of that story is that Chris Claremont is a whiny little bitch. ;)

Marc Miyake said...

Dear Jim,

As I read your post, I was wondering how Chris Claremont could have been face down in mashed potatoes (or should I say purée de pommes de terre?), a dish I normally don't think of as the epitome of French cuisine. But then I got to the end which was set in San Francisco and ... what, no face-in-food scene?! I wonder if you've ever scripted one ...

Seriously, I forgot you had mentioned this mashed potatoes story before.

Dear David S,

Magneto's trial was in Paris. The comic was released in September 1985, so it was probably created circa June 1985, shortly after the ABA show around Memorial Day. I haven't read #199-254 yet, so I wonder how much on-site research the creators got to do while they were there.

Dear uncannyderek.com,

Jim's posts are the highlights of my day!

Dear everyone,

Does anyone know anything about the French "special editions" that were tied into the X-trip?

Simon Williams said...

Jim.... do you have any stories about any of your visits to the Marvel UK offices? I saw this picture of you on Facebook, which was taken at the Marvel UK offices, and would love to know the story behind it (and who the lovely young lady in the Spider-woman outfit is!).

Hope all is good with you, and that you had a very happy birthday :)

Matt Hawes said...

A belated Happy Birthday, Jim! Yayy!!!

I recall reading about the "X-Men" group trip back when it occurred. Was it mentioned in a letters page, or a Bullpen's Bulletin? Maybe in "Marvel Age"...? I forget, but I do remember reading about it. Also, "Uncanny X-Men" #200 had the team in Paris for the trial of Magnet, if memory serves me. I assume JRJR got his references for the city from that trip.

-- Matt Hawes

Xavier Lancel (SCARCE) said...

Frogs assembled! :)
Ok, they did go to Paris but they shouldn't have! they should have gone to Lyons, my city: it was where Marvel french publisher, Editions Lug were (Lug is short for Lugdunum, roman name of Lyon). Instead they went to Paris... Pfff :p
I remember that ther was an article of something like 4p about that in Special Strange (the mag where the X-men comic was translated) and that it made clear that they were here strickly on business, to prepare X-men 200...But there was no special editions from Lug related to that.

Xavier Lancel (SCARCE) said...

Happy Birthday Jim! Bon et joyeux anniversaire! :)

JayJayJackson said...

Awww, William, Chris is a sweetie. And I remember being sooooo jealous of those guys getting to go on that fabulous trip! Whine! lol.

Xavier Lancel (SCARCE) said...

And we would have to wait until November 1987 to actually read X-men 200 because the french translation was so late compared to the US (more than 3 years late, which cause a lot of trouble when New Mutants was translated way too early in french). Here is the special strange cover related to X-Men 200
http://www.comicsvf.com/scans/vf/lugsemic/specialstrange/53.jpg
(not the best one, for sure)

Pariah said...

I love these stories

Anonymous said...

Dear Jim,

First of all, given my birthday wishes were posted on Facebook and i didn't post here yesterday, Happy Birthday to you!
I perfectly remember the article the french publisher (LUG)did at the time, they were very happy to have the whole X-Men creative team here, and Cyrus Tota (writer artist of the french Super-Hero series Photonik) even did a caricature of them all that was joined to the article. The meeting was apparently very friendly.
The X-Men was everybody favorite series, and that was pretty cool to see photos of the folks behind it. Before that they were just names, and cameos of themselves drawn in the books. We knew lot of creators had beard, and more or less how they looked, but a photo that was something new.
I'll look to see if i can find the issue were all this was published.

Xavier: They did go to Lyon too, and visited the Editions Lug, rue Emile Zola.

Stéphane Garrelie.

JediJones said...

Jim, do you get royalty payments when Marvel releases a TPB of Secret Wars? Or when they are included in a toy package? In the past two or three of years, Hasbro reprinted all 12 issues of Secret Wars and included them in 12 action figure sets.

eye-melt said...

Loving your blog sir, this is a great little tale! I made the same mistake as JRJR when I visited paris. Zut Alors!

PS Belated Birthday wishes!

William said...

Oh, I was just kidding around triple J. (Implying that that was all I took away from that charming tale).

Hey, I just realized you have the same initials as J. Jonah Jameson. Cool.

Shelby said...

I remember when the X-Men crew went to Patis, it was around issue 200 if I remember correctly. One of m favorite eras in the X-Men history.

jimshooter said...

Dear uncannyderek,

I think Chris was happy with the trip, though they wore him out over there.

jimshooter said...

Dear PJ,

When I was talking to Bill Bevins, CEO of Marvel after Perelman bought it, I mentioned that a some people there didn't like me. Bill, who came out of the TV business, said that meant I had done my job well. Creative people don't like hearing the word "no," but if you're in charge and doing your job right, you have to say no a lot.

jimshooter said...

Dear William,

Oh, come on. I may have exaggerated a tiny little bit for the sake of humor.

Not much, though. : )

jimshooter said...

Dear Simon,

Tales of my visits to the London office coming up. The very pretty lady in the Spider-Woman costume is Wendy. She was the receptionist. She was from New Zealand. Somewhere on the blog (and/or on Facebook) we've already chatted about that photo and commenters have helped identify some of the people.

jimshooter said...

Dear Xavier,

Editions Lug, run by the wonderful, brilliant Claude Vistel. I don't know what special editions were published, or whether there were merely increased print runs on existing publications, but revenues from the two French publishers paid for the trip.

Hisham said...

An awesome tale! The only thing that would make this even more awesome was if Chris, JRJR, Dan, Ann, etc fought Fenris when they were in Paris.

jimshooter said...

Dear JediJones,

I used to get payments regularly from Marvel for reprints. Somebody, Brett Breeding, I think, said Marvel had stopped paying reprint money. I don't know, but I haven't gotten a check from them for a long time -- except for a royalty check for about $14 a few months ago.

JayJayJackson said...

Oh I know, William, I saw the wink, but I just used the opportunity to put in my two cents about Chris. I've always liked him and I think sometimes he gets a bad rap. :D

ja said...

I go away for a day, and I miss being on time with wishing you a happy birthday.

I hope you had a good day for yourself.

Many many many more.

Happy birthday!

ja said...

I go away for a day, and I miss being on time with wishing you a happy birthday.

I hope you had a good day for yourself.

Many many many more.

Happy birthday!

Cory said...

I remember at the time it was stated either in the letters page or some other Marvel note that they were being sent to Paris to do research for Uncanny X-Men #200...at the time, I remember thinking "Why don't they just say the books sells a metric tonne of copies, just say you're sending them there as a reward for having the #1 comics?"

Nice to know the behind the scenes of that story...and if it WAS research, they could have charged it all off as a business expense.

Matt Hawes said...

Jim Shooter wrote: "...When I was talking to Bill Bevins, CEO of Marvel after Perelman bought it, I mentioned that a some people there didn't like me. Bill, who came out of the TV business, said that meant I had done my job well. Creative people don't like hearing the word "no," but if you're in charge and doing your job right, you have to say no a lot..."

I have read many, many interviews with several different creators from Marvel during the period you were in charge, Jim, and one thing I noticed was that, for the most part, what these creators were fussing about was that you were the boss and told them what to do. I figured from those interviews that it was basically a bunch of Bohemian-types who weren't used to having someone make them tow the line.

All I know is that Marvel seemed to be at its best creatively since the Stan Lee/Jack Kirby/Steve Ditko era, and sales-wise on a consistent basis during your tenure as Editor-In-Chief. I'm sure you weren't always right, but you must have been doing something right most of that time.

-- Matt Hawes

Hunter said...

Chris can't complain about his foreign trips nowadays either. He is scheduled to be next month in a con at my old place: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil!

Hopefully he won't fall asleep at the feijoada...

JediJones said...

That's too bad about the royalties, Jim. I was hoping you were getting at least some small piece of the action when I bought those new Secret Wars action figure sets. I could understand if they kept character merchandising royalties to themselves these days but I would hope a writer and artist would still get paid when a book they actually worked on is reprinted.

At least it was cool to see some Secret Wars merchandise pop up for the 25th anniversary and to see another one of the stories you worked on be remembered. Heck, Hasbro just this year has been putting out in their G.I. Joe toy line a direct resculpt of the original Cobra Trooper that you insisted they make back in 1982, and it's selling out everywhere it shows up. Your influence continues to stretch pretty far and wide!

Dusty. said...

I think I recall John Byrne, who hates New Marvel and would never say anything good about them, saying he gets royalties for reprints from Marvel. If that's true, Jim, Marvel owes you some money.

Defiant1 said...

I don't think it's so much that creator's hate being told "no". Most people do hate being told "no". The problem is that the act of creating is a task that requires thought. If they are focusing on the "no", it takes their mind off of what you are paying them to do. I think you do have to knock down the roadblocks that interfere with the creation & thinking process to get a truly inspired work.

Freelancers have a different mindset than people who punch a clock. They make their own schedule. They have to be seeking next months work while they are finishing this months work. If they only focus on the job they've promised "now', then they may not have a check next month. When creators first started communicating with me about my web site, I was stunned by how many offered favors and then just wandered off never to be heard from again. I didn't deserve any special favors and anything offered to me was surely a very low priority, but in my world and where I work now.. "I will" mean "I will" rather than "I'll try". Some products we sold where I work had a million dollar a day penalty in the contract for every day we shipped late. It didn't matter what the excuse.

When I've communicated with creators, the state of mind is completely alien to what is allowable in my occupation. Everything seems very "tentative" as opposed to "clearly defined".

I can grasp that it takes a completely different type of mind to effectively manage a workforce that is tasked with being imaginative and creative. I don't think it's entirely possible to avoid conflict because the imagination can only run free when the walls are removed. The corporate world likes walls.

JediJones said...

Dusty, I googled a little and found a recent thread on a Marvel Masterworks forum where several creators are quoted as saying they did not get royalty checks from Marvel reprints. Someone did quote Byrne as saying he got a "small check" for something reprinted. Someone mentioned that Marvel only pays royalties for a few years while DC does it forever, even to creators' estates after they pass away. The conclusion on Marvel seemed to be that they are neither generous nor consistent with the royalties they pay on reprints.

Who knows, with something like a comic book being packed with a toy, they would probably try to claim it's just a free giveaway and not generating any revenue.

Here are links to pictures of the Secret Wars action figure collection that Hasbro put out in 2009:

Secret Wars 2009 Hasbro Collection: Issue #1
Secret Wars 2009 Hasbro Collection: Issue #2
Secret Wars 2009 Hasbro Collection: Issue #3
Secret Wars 2009 Hasbro Collection: Issue #4
Secret Wars 2009 Hasbro Collection: Issue #5
Secret Wars 2009 Hasbro Collection: Issue #6
Secret Wars 2009 Hasbro Collection: Issue #7
Secret Wars 2009 Hasbro Collection: Issue #8
Secret Wars 2009 Hasbro Collection: Issue #9
Secret Wars 2009 Hasbro Collection: Issue #10
Secret Wars 2009 Hasbro Collection: Issue #11
Secret Wars 2009 Hasbro Collection: Issue #12

A group shot of the characters.

Payton G. said...

Jim...I'm surprised that Tom hasn't chimed in yet, I'll have to tell him to drop by.

JayJayJackson said...

You know, Defiant, your comment really resonates with me:

"The problem is that the act of creating is a task that requires thought. If they are focusing on the "no", it takes their mind off of what you are paying them to do."

I've always thought of myself as a strong problem solver, but there are times when I have gotten very stuck in a certain mindset and clashed with my boss (sometimes that was Jim) because I was so sure I was right. I think that there's a tendency in creative people to follow a thought process so far that you become very committed to it and very loathe to change it. I've fallen victim to that mindset and the only way to deal with a boss telling you to change things is to really put your trust in that boss. It's not always easy. And Jim has put up with some ill treatment from me that I'm not proud of. But being creative also involves ego and that struggle is one of the most difficult of all.

jimshooter said...

Dear Cory,

As a promotional tour, it was already a company business expense. I suspect the idea to use France as a setting came during the trip, not before.

Dusty. said...

Thanks for the link, JediJones. It's not surprising to me that Quesada, who has pretty much slammed the door in the faces of veteran writers in favor of his buddies, hasn't cared to try to get the royalty thing changed for reprints of their work. My goodness, that would mean he couldn't overpay Bendis and Millar for their reprinted works! It's disgraceful, especially with the collection explosion that happened under his watch.

No wonder Stan Lee wanted no part of New Marvel and had his "Stan Lee Presents" removed. That says volumes!

Tom Brevoort said...

Well, y'know, Payton, I edo have other things to take care of as well.

Marvel still pays incentives on all of its reprinted works. So if you've not received payments for recently reprinted stories, Jim, contact us and we can get to the bottom of it--you may very well be entitled to some cash. And you should definitely be getting payments for the new SECRET WARS and SECRET WARS II editions once they go to press.

Tom B

Daniel K said...

A belated happy birthday Jim. Like everyone else, I love this blog. I'd also like to make a small request, if I may- I have always been perplexed at how so strange a comic as Strikeforce Morituri got commissioned as an ongoing series in the mid 80s. Peter B. Gillis had already done weird things to the Micronauts, resulting in cancellation, and this was such an out there concept for the time... well, it baffled my 12 year old self and it still confuses me to this day how this non-Marvel U SF series about auto-exploding superheroes ever saw print. Not that it was bad, mind you. Just deeply odd. Like Peter B. Gillis.

Firestone said...

I'd think the little something-something Byrne gets a check for is probably Alpha Flight-involved.

That being said, how many people can sigh resignedly to Chris Claremont and say, "We'll always have Paris..."

More seriously, I have to say this story exemplifies my personal motto on getting things done. Find a way to define a project in a way that everyone involved has something great to win, and you'll get it done. Provided, of course, they're rational actors. Not all people are, sometimes about the strangest things.

It's also how you can sometimes break people out of that negative headspace JayJay mentions. Build up a dynamic tension between their irrational contradiction to a project and their desire for the tasty, tasty result. It's like leaving a pie on a windowsill. They can see it, they can smell it, all they have to do is ask and they can have it.

Dusty. said...

Yay, Tom Brevoort! My faith is restored since Jim is getting his due!

Xavier Lancel (SCARCE) said...

Jim: Yes, Claude Vistel is really sweet. She's like a big mother for a whole generation here! I remember she was invited for the release of the movie "A la recherche de Marvel 14" (seeking Marvel 14, a very smart 52 min french documentary, about censorship and history of éditions Lug and translation of US comics in France). She was there and everybody from the audience could ask questions to her. Even if she does not have any interest at all in comics now -she said it to me when I offered her a subcription to life to our magazine, after I apologized for the rude words we were printing about Lug on the first years of Scarce (she said everytime they received a new issue of Scarce, they would fear what nasty things we would have to say about Lug) - so even with comics totally out of our mind now, you could see she was really touched and surprised when,one after one , huge grown men in their 30s congratulated her for her work, saying she shaped their childhood with her publications and provided them with a world of dreams and a way to learn reading easily. Really, that was touching and funny to see: all thos men, so sweet when talking about her and what she made...
It really has shaped a whole generation into reading Marvel instead of DC in France. And this generation also pushed their children into reading Marvel. DC totally missed it here, and nowadays, with the poor state the peiodical industry is in, it's too late for them. That's why even Superman or Batman hasn't been able to sustain a monthly magazine here.
We can see it at SCARCE: everytime we propose to do a big feature on a DC character to our writers, you can hear the wind... :p We just proposed a big coverage of Superman history and series.... only 1 has Read engouht Superman US titles to write a little about them.

Defiant1 said...

Payton,

If you are talking about Tom O., he tried posting here under the old options and was unable. He has mentioned the blog elsewhere and the problems he was having.

I'm sure it would work for Tom now because I too was unable to post unless I clicked my heels three times, cupped my left hand under my right armpit (while moving my right elbow down), and recited "there's no place like McDonalds"

Defiant1 said...

Janet,

I usually talk in absolutes & extremes because absolutes and extremes define the parameters as well as strengths or weaknesses of a system. Obviously, there are a wide range of approaches to mitigate a problem. Some methods are obvious, some are abstract.

In my Quality Assurance job, people are always jealous of what I do. I make it look easy and I tell people that all I do is get paid to complain. The fact is that I'm usually the gatekeeper and messenger of bad news. I'm always in the crosshairs of some critic. Regardless, people ask how to get a job in quality and want to know what training is require. My answer is the same. You can't train people in quality because quality is an attitude. A person has to want quality or it doesn't matter how much you teach them in processes.

In the creative process, a creator has to want quality. Sure you can overlook details and spit any uninspired product out, but to make a real impact you have to want it to stand out and make a positive impression.

Only when a creator has a passion for making something right does it really amaze people. Bands like Fleetwood Mac & U2 almost broke up in the studio while making their best albums. Each member wanted the product to be "right" and they were at each others throat to make sure their insight was not ignored.

In a way, I think that is why Jim's work at Valiant is so highly regarded. I think everyone was passionately invested in the company being a success that everyone was picking up the slack when they felt another person had a weak spot in the process. I've heard rumors about some of the battles in the background and I think the important thing to walk away with is that people cared and tried to get the portions they knew how to do... they passionately wanted it right.

If you balance all that with business principles, you have a shot at being a financial success and having something that will last in people's mind.

Craig Hansen said...

Simon,

Very nice London offices photo you linked to. While the lady in the Spider-Woman costume was indeed quite lovely (and I imagine still is), since I suspect it was taken in the 1980s, I'm not sure "young" still describes her today.

Then again, it doesn't describe any of us today who were around back then, does it?

In 1985, as Claremont was "face down in his spuds," I was graduating high school and riding a high off a personalized rejection letter Jim had sent me a couple years earlier. (Personalized, rather than form! That's something!)

And back then, I still weighed enough to wrestle at 119 lbs.

Not so, today! ;) LOL

cease ill said...

I was a fan of the times (reading the X-Men my friend David bought, sneaked in Trapper Keeper folders home from school) and thought this Paris trip made comic book creator sound like the very best job in the entire world.

I really what like JJJ said. I'd like to take every praise or silent reception that comes my way and feed it to my creative process without ego. Sometimes, I suppose my ego's there to let me know, this is, indeed, me, in the middle of my creative process1 I am terrible about wanting everyone to get their way, wins all around, but so long as the creative vision is the first intention, that is, after all, what forgiveness is for.

jimshooter said...

Dear Defiant,

I tried to knock down every roadblock I could for creators. For creators who had earned their spurs, like Miller, Sienkiewicz and Simonson, I generally stayed out of their way and encouraged them to spread their wings. Even for creators less accomplished and less capable, I tried to say "yes" to whatever if possible. Sometimes it had to be "yes, but...." Sometimes, though, it had to be "no."

Net result, in my opinion, we had a lot of truly inspired work.

The question that brought this up was words to the effect, why do people think of you as a "green meanie?"

Creators who are not up to the level of Miller, Sienkiewicz or Simonson usually don't know or believe that. They often believe they're as good or better. Tell them "no" and they think you're playing favorites, that if they were your buddy, like Frank, Bill and Walt, you'd stay out of their way, let them do whatever they want (To characters they don't own. No matter how boneheaded.) and then everyone would realize their genius. So they go to the fanzines and accuse you of thwarting them, murdering Gene Day, or whatever. There was enough of that, plus the W4H situation, the Kirby situation, the Gerber situation, the Avengers/JLA situation, the fall of First Comics supposedly engineered by me and even some legitimate disagreements that boiled over so that I was "controversial" at best. Then, toward the end, when Marvel itself started actively trying to undercut and discredit me, well...there you have it. Green Meanie.

As you point out, freelancers have different forces acting upon them than regular employees. I know. I've been a freelancer for well more than half of my 47 years doing creative work. Believe me, I know.

It isn't easy doing what I tried to do, and I had some extenuating circumstances that complicated it up some. But, again, I think we had a lot of truly inspired work.

jimshooter said...

Thanks, Tom. Good news. I'll give the folks in accounting a call.

jimshooter said...

Dear Daniel K,

Chalk it up to the dogged persistence and relentless persistence of Carl Potts. I can't say I was the biggest Peter Gillis fan, sorry, Peter, but I have a great deal of respect for Carl Potts. His choices were sometimes puzzling, but sometimes genius.

JayJayJackson said...

I'm a big fan of odd. Strikeforce Morituri was my favorite comic at the time. Now you've made me want to reread it!

Xavier Lancel (SCARCE) said...

Daniel: I'm like Janet a big fan of strikeforce Morituri. For sure, his relaunch of the Micronauts was a little painful (good intentions, boring execution) but I really recommend to you his run on Dr Strange (divided beetween Dr Strange, Strange Tales vol.2 and Dr Strange Sorceror Supreme). A nightmarish descent into hell for the poor Doctor, who, at one point, even commit suicide!

Brett Breeding said...

A happy belated birthday to you Jim.

Though I was no where near the level of Miller, Sienkiewicz or Simonson, you still listened to my ideas and offered to let me create a four issue mini-series of those ideas along with David Michelinie. Unfortunately we couldn't get it done while you were still at Marvel, and the new EIC axed it, but you still went out of your way to give a new guy a lot of opportunities. I still have the box of Dr. Martin dyes you gave me when I wanted to try my hand at coloring. From my experiences with you, you were the antithesis of a "green meanie."

Brett Breeding said...

Jim - You are correct, it was I who mentioned to you that Marvel no longer pays reprint fees. This should not be confused with incentive, or royalty, payments which are very different. Back in the 80s, under your watch, Marvel paid a per page rate, teens or twenty-something dollars, for every page that was reprinted. After the reprinted book sold, creators were then paid a royalty based on sales, just like regular titles. Marvel liked to call them "incentives" as that had the connotation that they were 'giving' you something as opposed to "royalty' which implied you were 'entitled' to it. Or so I was told at that time, I believe by Barry Kaplan.

Within the last few years a few issues of Spider-Man that I both pencilled and inked were collected into an edition and I received a ridiculously small incentive payment that was clearly wrong. That is another thing that has changed since your watch, Marvel no longer reports ANY pertinent information to the creator on their incentive/royalty statements, only the title of the project and the amount being paid. They no longer give you cover price, number of your pages included or units sold, so there is no way to know what their figures are based on. Correcting this mistake took several months, and many conversations with Marvel's comptroller and others. When I asked about reprint fees for the pages, I was clearly told "Marvel no longer pays reprints." I can tell you exactly who told me this and when, but won't publish it here.

I questioned this at that time, inquiring as to how that current policy could effect work that was created back in the 80s when reprint fees were the policy. How could they retroactively change the policy for work completed twenty years ago without notice? It shouldn't matter what they are now doing, at the time the work was created part of the deal was we would receive reprints fees AND incentives on the books sold. Again, I was simply told it's not Marvel's policy to pay reprint fees. Ironically, one of the problems with my payment was that the department issuing the check said I was not entitled to incentive for penciling because i was just the inker. I explained that I was clearly listed as the penciler as well on all of those issues, and I still had my original vouchers to prove it. Even after forwarding copies of those vouchers there was push back, but eventually they had to agree I was right. It turned out that the problem was the current editor on the reprinted edition kept insisting I was only the inker, in spite of the credits on the work. Come to find out the guy wasn't even born at the time I created the work. Yikes!

Recently, DC Comics changed their policy on reprints too. They sent a letter to everyone giving the creator the option to choose choose between reprint fees and regular royalties or just royalties from the first copy sold. Not so with Marvel, but then DC has always functioned more like a real publishing company than Marvel, with the expiation of your tenure there.

Brett Breeding said...

If you're not already aware, you may be interested to know that Marvel has stopped having creators sign and submit vouchers for their work, instead having the editor fill all that out in the office on their behalf. I keeping waiting to hear of someone challenging the work-for-hire policy on work created under this new practice as there are no more signatures, nothing in writing and no clear terms spelled out on paper. Sooner or later it is bound to bite Marvel in the ass.

Additionally, within the last year or so Marvel attempted to retroactively change their existing character agreement contracts without the consent of the individual creators. Apparently Marvel doesn't understand the basics of contract law, but some creator's balked and they had to rethink their position. i am amazed at how unprofessional they have become, constantly hearing complaints from freelancers as to how they do things. I find it hard to believe that Disney is aware of these circumstances, as I have always believed Disney to be very professional in their business practices. I guess time will tell.

Jerry Novick said...

To The Business People at Creative Content Producers

RE: Some of the things the very talented artist Brett Breeding has said.


Why do you treat the creative talent as if we're complete business idiots?

Dusty. said...

Brett, you have always been one of my favorite inkers, and seeing you stand up against the evil empire like you just did was beautiful! You definitely have my respect! I usually refer to them as New Marvel out of contempt for what they have become. And you're right about the lack of professionalism. If Disney only knew some of the stuff that goes on. From the lies that are told to the customers, to the insults toward customers online from certain creators that are supported by those in position to make sure that never happens, to the immature bashing of DC that comes from Quesada and his cronies. I am a Marvel guy, buy I am laughing hard about how DC is currently bending New Marvel over in front of the world with their very successful 52 relaunch! lol

Now we find out that some shady business practices are going on in terms of money owed. Quesada's pals are getting theirs for reprints, but enough people who produced classic material have said that they aren't getting paid that a red flag needs to go up. Who's putting that money in their own pocket? I guess price gouging the customers wasn't enough for them, they also need to rip off creative talent that are not a part of the Shangri la they've created for themselves! Somebody in the publishing division needs to fix this. Now that Tom Brevoort has been made aware of the problem, I guess the ball is in his court to get it into the hands of the people who can straighten it out so creators who aren't a part of the inner circle can get paid for reprints, too! It's only fair.

Anonymous said...

Dear Jim & folks,

Here is the Special Strange article + the cover of the issue. If you were a fan of super-heroes in France during the 80s, you generaly bought Strange and/or Special Strange. The friendly caricatural drawing i remember of Chris, JRjr, Ann & all by Tota isn't included here, so i suppose that ever they published it later in an aniversary issue,or that there was also an article in Strange.


http://i82.photobucket.com/albums/j252/StephaneGarrelie/img005.jpg

http://i82.photobucket.com/albums/j252/StephaneGarrelie/img006.jpg

http://i82.photobucket.com/albums/j252/StephaneGarrelie/img007.jpg

Stéphane Garrelie.

Ferran Delgado said...

Back to Claremont's trip to Europe, it's a really nice surprise to learn what happened behind Claremont's visit to the Barcelona Con in 1985 after so many years.

I have fond memories of his visit. In that age I was a very big fan of his work in X-Men and in New Mutants with Sienkiewicz, which left a big mark on me. He showed his deeply admiration for Sienkiewicz's work when he signed my comics of the Demon Bear Arc.

This is the poster of the V Barcelona Con, which took place from 1st to 9th of June:
http://imageshack.us/photo/my-images/263/salocomicbarna5.jpg/

And here there are a few pics of him:
https://picasaweb.google.com/ferrandelgado/SaloDelComic#
I went to the airport to take more pics of him because I learnt with horror that I had the film of my camera bad placed, and mostly of the photos I took of him at the Con didn't exist. I was 16 years old and very enthusiastic.

Feel free to post any pic if you wish.

There is another curious story about him. Claremont used as a X-Men character the woman who was the representative of PromoVIP (the company which owned the spanish rights of Marvel Characters) and occasionally his translator.

You can read the whole story in english here (scroll down):
http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/2008/06/05/comic-book-urban-legends-revealed-158/

And this is the article which I wrote after an interview with her. It was included in a spanish X-Men comic:
http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/06/158ul2-4.jpg

Ray Cornwall said...

Well, I'm glad to know you'll get a check for my purchase of the Secret Wars II Omnibus.

Also, Jim, I haven't been to Paris, either. Can you help me out?

And Tom Brevoort's a good egg, y'all. We're both alumni of the University of Delaware (though we went different years). I've met him once or twice at conventions, and he's always very generous with his time. Fighting Blue Hens forever!

JayJayJackson said...

Stéphane that's so cool!

JayJayJackson said...

And Ferran, great pics!

David S said...

Dear Marc Miyake,

Thank you for the X-Men info, I just couldn't place the story last night, your kind help in jogging my memory is much appreciated!

Daniel K said...

Xavier, thanks for the recommendation re: Dr. Strange. Micronauts is a special comic for me because I lived in Scotland and it was very hard to get American comics- only reprints. I owned two issues of the 1982/3 Mantlo/Guice run which I read into the ground before access to comics became easier around 1986. By that point, PB Gillis had already killed the series off with his well meaning but pretentious stories.

S Morituri still seems weird to me. PBG would build up characters and then off them... I think it gave him pleasure. Next time I'm home I'll crack it out of my storage and check it out.

Carl Potts' name was usually a sign that a comic was worth checking out... I enjoyed Alien Legion. Epic went off the boil once he took over, though.

Neil Anderson said...

Wonderful story, Jim. After years of hearing bad stuff about you, it's eye-opening to read your blog...and it's not so much your writing style that makes me think you got a bad rap (although of course, you write very well)--it's that the results speak for themselves. The X-men creative team did go to Paris, Marvel did start the Epic line with creator-owned comics, and the comics themselves during your tenure were consistently strong, even the less inspired stuff was attractively packaged. All undeniable facts. I became particularly aware of how much I'd taken for granted in the early '90s. By then I was in college, then law school, and didn't read comics as much, but every time I looked at the current Marvel comics, I shuddered. Ghastly stuff. Spider-Man, during the endless "clone saga," was one of the most repellent titles I'd ever seen. Hate to nag, but again, I'd love to read your comments on Squadron Supreme!

Neil Anderson

bcolflesh said...

Ferran, awesome pics -

Chris Claremont, International Man of Mystery/Bon Vivant:

https://picasaweb.google.com/ferrandelgado/SaloDelComic#5256342004594416370

Defiant1 said...

Jim,

I think there were definitely some inspired books produced during your tenure. I collected up until the 1983/84 era and at that point it appears you were pressured to release more one shots and "filler" books to generate capital. I don't necessarily like every book produced, but the comics were connected, the events evolved organically, and in their own context... the events mattered. Eventually, the volume of titles, the expense of living on my own and dating added up top the point that something had to give. I don't know how much you were involved during assistant editors month, but I was never pleased with the disruption it caused and it was ultimately the reason I quit buying. At the time, I had no idea what the San Diego Con was or what it had to do with anything that warranted such a disruption to the standards I wanted to see. I got back into comics around the time VALIANT had started publishing superheroes. I was so frustrated with the quality, that had I not been directed to VALIANT around the time Magnus #8 came out, it's likely that I would have immediately quit collecting again. The entire industry would have lost 8 years worth of my purchasing new comics if not for VALIANT keeping my interest.

kevo said...

Shouldn't you refer to "John Romita, Jr." throughout as "John Romita, Jr. (Marvel Hunk of the Month, January 1985)"?

Thanks to you, whenever I see his name or hear him mentioned what I think of is that old Bullpen Bulletins.

Jasper Greek Lao Golangco said...

Happy birthday, Jim!
Great blog. Reminds me times when comics werent all about money and collectibles.
Thanks!

Jack said...

My impression after reading pages like this over the years is that there are very few writers who can edit themselves. Kirby did his best work with Lee's editorial input, no matter what happened between them later. But every one of these writers seem to think that he is the Ernest Hemingway of fantasy fiction. And there is that evil human itch that hates submitting to any authority figure, anywhere, at any time.

Jack said...

in fact, I would bet that Jim Shooter doesn't like being told "no", or having to do things he doesn't want to do!

jimshooter said...

If the person saying "no" is the boss, I respect their right to make the call. If they want me to do something I don't want to do, but is not anathema to me, roger wilco. I will, of course, if permitted, argue my position. If the "no" or what they ask for is unacceptable, they'll have their way but they'll no longer have me.

Jack said...

I figured that would be true. I also simply figured you too could sympathize with that horrible little itch in every human breast that would like to be "Q", except that you seem to have mastered it better than some (or so it appears to me, not knowing you personally).

Anonymous said...

Re: the last few comments

The refusal to recognize authority is not "evil", it's the greatest thing humans can say for themselves. If we had more of it, we'd have a heavenly world here. Capitalism is a world of bosses and hierarchies, altogether unnatural. Art is inherently anarchistic, and it's little wonder that artists, politically, are by and large of the far left. There doesn't always have to be "a boss". That's a very modern invention. Very, very little great art has been produced with a boss involved - see TV and studio movies for proof of this. An editor who COLLABORATES, however, can bring out the best in a writer. But then that's not hierarchical, that's not bossing. That's - anarchistic, egalitarian, mutual. The ideal in society as well as in art.

Anonymous said...

And I'm sorry to have left that comment preaching, but seeing someone (twice) describe the refusal to obey authority (which is the greatest thing) as something "evil" just - rankled. A bit.

Anonymous said...

Anon-
I'll bet you are a raging success in life.

I hate the corperate world as much as you do, but Capitalism works, Socialism does not. The bottom feeding, no talent, warts on the ass of society ruin it every time.