Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Son of Items of Interest

Here are some more things that turned up recently.

What If George Pérez Drew the Legion of Super-Heroes…?
George gave me this. This is the original drawing done for George’s beautiful book PÉREZ* * ACCENT ON THE FIRST ‘E’.
It was published in 1977, I think. Marvel gave George a license to use its characters for no charge (or, maybe a dollar). I presume DC did the same. George autographed a copy of the book for me.


Forget Byrne, Here’s the Art Team for Superman
Fred Hembeck gave me this.  I don’t remember what the occasion was. Inks by star Joe Rubenstein and colors by the amazing Marie Severin.

Speaking of Hembeck
This, I believe, is Fred’s first letter to me.  I think this was done before he was being published by the Comic Buyer’s Guide and Marvel.  Cool, huh? 

Cover Girl
Someone brought up Marvel photo covers a while ago and I mentioned that we had done one for Dazzler early on.  I found one of the test shots taken during the shoot.  The model was a young woman from Canada.  This was probably her only job ever playing a super heroine.

NEXT:  Animal House


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Items of Interest

I came across some things that relate to previous posts and comments. JayJay, the brilliant Blog Elf will provide links to the discussions.


The Famous ROM #1 Cover That Wasn’t

Here is the unused cover for ROM #1 penciled by Michael Netzer:

The note on the back was a personal message to me and wasn’t meant for public display, so we won’t show that. I’m pleased to report, however, that, as I remembered, Michael’s description of what he drew includes the phrase “…people admiring the magnificent robot.” 

Note to Michael: This drawing is yours, of course, and I will cheerfully return it to you, if you wish.

Some Pertinent links:
The Coming of ROM: A Knight’s Tale (The first ROM post)

ROM Comments and Answers (Jim's post in response to Michael & others)



Jim Owsley’s Alleged Humor

The lovely and talented Christopher Priest, who in days long ago when he was an editor at Marvel went by the even less-likely name “Jim Owsley,” imbued the expression “funny business” with several new meanings. His sense of humor was irreverent, scandalous and outrageous before he got warmed up, then look out.  Marvel was a pretty enlightened place with regard to respect for humankind of all descriptions and inclinations, however, Owsley…well, this is how I described his jokes earlier:     
Jim Owsley/Christopher Priest, who is African-American, was fond of making jokes with racial overtones. Nothing hateful. More the Saturday Night Live irreverent humor style than the edgy-to-nasty National Lampoon style. People laughed. He was funny. There was no malice. Did anyone else ever make a non-PC joke? I'm sure. I'm also sure that if they were "utterly and deliberately extreme," I would have heard about it and taken appropriate action. 
   
Keep that in mind, please, as you read this memo he sent me for no reason except to satisfy his own twisted sense of nonsense, that it is allegedly humor. Owsley humor: 
One of Jim's comments (in part about Jim Owsley)


The Devil’s Due

There was a good bit of discussion about an issue of Ghost Rider that had religious overtones as originally written by Tony Isabella that then-Editor in Chief Marv Wolfman had then- associate editor me rework. Here are my layouts for a couple of pages that were redrawn, where the “devil” gets his due. The balloon placement indications tell me that I had already written the dialogue, probably working from even scribblier roughs on scrap paper:

A comment by Jim discussing the issue (the comments and answers before and after Jim's are pertinent to the discussion as well.)


A Related Tail?
Speaking of the devil, here’s a cartoon of Roberta “Dickie” McKenzie who was in charge of artwork return:
I suppose Dickie drew this self-portrait, but I suspect she had some help from Dave Cockrum. I have no idea why Devil Dickie gave herself the tail and horns.  Is that a Moon Pie she’s eating?  

NEXT:  What If George Pérez Drew the Legion of Super-Heroes…?  And, Forget Byrne, Here’s the Art Team for Superman.  And More….



Monday, August 29, 2011

A Comment and an Answer About Gene Day's Death

czeskleba commented:
Dave Sim tells the story about Gene Day's health problems and death here:
http://tinyurl.com/4c8cw75

To summarize... Day came down to Manhattan to do a rush ink job on an issue of Master of Kung Fu. Marvel put him up in a roach-infested hotel, and when he complained he was told he could either stay there or sleep at the Marvel offices. He chose the latter, not realizing the heat would be turned off in the office at night. It was winter, and sleeping in the very cold Marvel offices caused him to develop a kidney infection, which was the beginning of serious health problems that culminated in his tragic death by heart attack.

I haven't read Moench's comments, but I would assume he blamed Shooter for the above incident with the infested motel/cold Marvel office (though Shooter was not directly involved in the situation or even aware of it as far as I know). Chronic kidney problems can be a contributory factor in heart disease, so I assume he then blames the situation for ultimately causing Gene's death.

Added to this I guess is the fact that Day and Shooter locked horns over the layout style on Master of Kung Fu, with Day wanting to do elaborate Sterankoesque panel layouts and Shooter feeling it impaired the storytelling and wanting him to stick to a more conventional grid layout. Ultimately Day was fired by Shooter for refusing to modify his layout style, and was quite broken-hearted over this. 



ANSWER:

Gene was flown down to New York at Marvel's expense to meet with Denny O'Neill and other people.  Such visits were normal. We often brought in artists and writers just to have face to face meetings and to wine and dine them. It was a perk. Denny picked the Chelsea Hotel for Gene because it had "literary history." He thought it would be an interesting place to stay. Ask him. The second or third day of Gene's visit, I took him to lunch. He wasn't one to complain and he didn't mention roaches, but he said the hotel was sort of shabby. I had my secretary, Lynn, move him to a good hotel right away.

No one would have asked Gene, or anyone else to sleep in the office.

If Gene worked late at the office -- and I wouldn't put that past him, because he was a near work-aholic -- he wouldn't have gotten cold. I spent many an all-nighter at the offices at 387 Park Avenue South. It was a modern, completely custom built space. We had control of our own HVAC. The heat was not turned off at night and it didn't get uncomfortable. The same can't be said for the old 575 Madison Avenue office, by the way, but that's not where we were.

Gene may have done some inking while visiting, but he wasn't there to ink a rush job. If he had to ink in a hurry, wouldn't he do it faster in his own studio and without wasting time flying to New York?

For sure, Gene ate well while on his visit. I took him to a couple of nice places and editors loved such opportunities to exercise their expense accounts.

I did find some of Gene's layouts confusing and spoke more than once to the editor about it. I spoke at least once to Gene about it directly. The story in the issue in question was about clone duplicates of Shang-Chi. There was one instance in that story, a spread or a full page, in which Gene used a continuous background sliced into many panels with a figure of Shang-Chi in each panel as he made his way along some stairway or some such. Were all those Shang-Chi's the same one?  Or were there clones following Shang-Chi? You guys are wise enough in the ways of comics to figure it out, but what about a new reader or a casual reader? Gene understood. He said he really hadn't thought about such ramifications. He was only thinking about cool Steranko layouts. I asked him to focus more on making stories clear.

I never fired Gene.

When it became apparent that MOKF was going to be cancelled, Gene was indeed, bereft. He loved that book. I looked around for other work for him. Many editors were eager to offer Gene work. Louise Simonson was the editor of Indiana Jones, I think, and wanted Gene to pencil that. Ask her. Whoever was editing Star Wars (maybe also Louise?) also wanted Gene to pencil it. I called Gene and asked him if he'd be interested. He was thrilled. Both were big favorites of his. Switching from MOKF to those books would have effectively quadrupled Gene's income, because of the royalties.

Gene died right around then. I was told he had a heart attack. His brother Dan, I think, was the one who called me. Like too many of us comics people, Gene had a sedentary lifestyle -- too many hours at the board -- his diet wasn't the healthiest and I believe he smoked. It was a tragic loss.

A benefit that Marvel provided to freelancers was life insurance. Gene's family received a substantial payment, which I hope was useful for dealing with some of the practical burdens that accompany tragedy.

Gene was a good and gentle man, and an immense talent.



JayJay here. David Day, Gene's brother, was kind enough to leave a comment today and try to set the record straight. Click to read it. 

Saturday, August 27, 2011

A Recent Question and an Answer

ja commented on yesterday's post:
"I must say it's very impressive that you've saved so many items from your tenure at Marvel, and I assume, the rest of your career.

Is this some sort of an Obsessive Compulsive Disorder-kind of thing, or did you one day make a conscious decision to save everything for posterity?"


Toward the end of my time at Marvel, Marvel's upper management duo, Galton and Calamari, along with Shelly Feinberg and a few other Cadence bigwigs (as "CMI" -- Cadence Management Inc.) had taken Cadence, Marvel's parent, private and sold the Marvel division to New World Entertainment (NWE).  Throughout the process, as they furthered their quest to cash in and line their own pockets on what we, the comics people had built, they took certain unethical and, I believe, illegal steps.  
 
I was senior enough that all I had to do was keep my mouth shut, help them sell my troops down the river and I would have been handsomely rewarded. One executive on a lower level than I ended up with a $3 million payoff. Mine would have been bigger, if I had merely cooperated.  
 
I chose instead to become a "labor leader."  As the pension plan was cashed out, benefits were withdrawn, health coverage was diminished, etc., all done to fatten cash flow to increase the value of CMI's sale-price multiple, I resisted. They even tried to retroactively eliminate the royalty plan. That battle I won -- by threatening a class action lawsuit. At the top of my lungs.
 
While all this was going on, to marginalize me as much as possible, Marvel upper management did their best to undercut me with my own people and destroy my credibility. They didn't have to work at the latter too hard -- I was already being blamed for the Kirby mess, the Gerber mess and everything else that cropped up by the fan press and the comics community in general. They simply allowed that to happen and threw fuel on the fire when possible.
 
They would have simply fired me, but, as I learned, I was a "key man," and they couldn't get rid of me without jeopardizing the deal. I would have simply quit, but I kept thinking, perhaps naively, that I could do more good staying and fighting.
 
I couldn't do much in my own defense downstairs. Should I have told Walt that they were deliberately not paying his (or anyone's) foreign royalties? Then he would have quit and gone to DC, and the buzz would have been that Shooter had driven away another talent.  
 
Anyone on staff who supported me was subtly punished for it. Anyone who opposed me was rewarded. Not much I could do. Telling them I was the good guy and it was the evil suits who were doing all the bad things and taking away their benefits wouldn't have done much to cheer them up.
 
When CMI closed the deal with New World, I wrote a letter to Bob Rehme and blew the whistle on Marvel upper management, whom the new owners had left in place. But NWE was even more corrupt than they were. As it became clear to me that there was no future for me at NWE/Marvel, I took home some files. A lot of files. I thought I might need them if things got really ugly and ended up in court.
 
Shortly before my last day, I took a walk around the tenth floor. I hadn't spent much time there during the war with CMI. There were more than a few people on "my" staff that I didn't even recognize.
 
Ultimately, I was fired. They let cretins who particularly hated me pack up my office. They did things like twist the head off of a statuette I had, shattered the glass on the Sienkiewicz portrait (I had to have the painting restored later), and crumple or damage anything they could.
 
So, the bad guys won. They got away with the money, I was no longer there to hassle them, and bonus, I was the pariah of comics. I couldn't get a job. No one would hire me. The phone never rang.
 
So, I started all over again.
 
Details on the above coming eventually.

Friday, August 26, 2011

SUPERMAN – First Marvel Issue!

Sometime in February, 1984, my secretary (it was okay to say “secretary” in those days) the wonderful Lynn Cohen told me that Bill Sarnoff was on the phone. Not his secretary, Bill Sarnoff himself, holding for me.

Great Scott!

Bill Sarnoff was the Big Cheese, I forget his exact title, of the publishing arm of Warner Communications. Among the operations under his purview was DC Comics.

Bill introduced himself, as if that was necessary. What he wanted to talk about was licensing the publishing rights for all DC characters to Marvel Comics.

Holy hegemony, Billman!

Bill said, more or less, that Marvel seemed to be able to turn a substantial profit on publishing comics, as opposed to DC, which consistently lost money, a lot of money, and had for a long time. On the other hand, LCA (Licensing Corporation of America), Warner’s licensing arm did very well with the DC properties, while Marvel “didn’t seem to do much licensing.”

I guess the few million a year we made from licensing, mostly from Spider-Man, seemed paltry to him, what with the fortune that just their big four, Superman, Batman, Robin and Wonder Woman brought in.

I told him I thought Marvel would be very interested, and that I would discuss it with Marvel’s President, Jim Galton.

So, I did. I told Galton about my conversation with Sarnoff. Galton said he’d give Sarnoff a call.

The next day, I went upstairs, poked my head into Galton’s office and asked whether he’d called Sarnoff and, if so, how that went?

Galton said he told Sarnoff we weren’t interested.

I was stunned. Why not?!

Galton said—and this is prima facie evidence of the fact that he missed Comic Books 101 in publishing school—since DC books weren’t selling, “those characters must not be any good.”

Great Krypton!

Trying not to sound too crazed, I explained that they were great characters and that the DC editorial people were, frankly, doing a pretty poor job with them. And that we could do better. A lot better.

I talked him into calling Sarnoff back and telling him we’d give it some thought.

I left his office with instructions to put together a business plan and present it to Joe Calamari, Executive V.P. of Business Affairs.

It took me about three days to put together a presentable plan.

The first part of the business plan was the publishing plan. I decided that we should launch with seven titles and build from there, if all went well. The titles were:

SUPERMAN
BATMAN
WONDER WOMAN
GREEN LANTERN
TEEN TITANS
JUSTICE LEAGUE
LEGION OF SUPER HEROES

I projected that we would sell 39 million copies the first two years generating a pre-tax profit (gross revenues less cost of goods sold, royalties, staff, SG&A, etc.) of roughly $3,500,000.

That was huge money for a comic book publisher in 1984.

That was with just the original seven titles—no expansion of the line—though if we were doing that well, obviously, we’d add titles. Slowly and carefully, if I had anything to say about it.

I anticipated adding one editor, two assistants and one production person to start.

I presented the plan to Joe Calamari, as ordered. Here’s my cover memo:



Calamari enthusiastically endorsed my plan.

Galton was still skeptical. He thought my projections were crazy high. He sent the plan to the circulation department to review.

Somebody leaked. Rumors spread.

My first clue was when John Byrne showed up in my office one day with his cover for…



It wasn’t a sketch. It was a cover. Might even have been inked, I forget. I don’t have a copy of the thing, but I’ll bet Byrne still has the original. Somebody should ask him to display it on his site if he hasn’t already.

He had a story worked out, too, as I recall. He reallyreallyreally wanted to do Superman.

I think I remember Byrne telling me once that he had watched the first Superman movie over 1,100 times.

Anyway….

When the circulation department said they had completed their analysis of my plan, Galton called a meeting to discuss it. Besides Galton and me, Ed Shukin, V.P. of Circulation and Direct Sales Manager Carol Kalish were present. I don’t think Calamari was there. V.P. of Finance Barry Kaplan might have been.

Galton asked what Shukin’s take on my numbers was. Shukin said the numbers were “ridiculous.” Galton sort of smirked at me.

“We’ll do more than DOUBLE these numbers,” Shukin said.

Oh, my stars and garters!

And so, negotiations with Sarnoff began in earnest. I was a spectator at that point. The suits took over.

However….

Very soon thereafter, First Comics launched a lawsuit against Marvel Comics and others, alleging anti-trust violations, among other things.

One test of anti-competitive market dominance is market share of 70% or more. At that time Marvel held a nearly 70% share, 69-point-something. DC was around 18%.

I think it’s safe to say that when you’re being sued under anti-trust laws, it’s a bad time to devour your largest competitor.

On the other hand, there is the “we-have-a-clue-and-they-don’t” or “superior acumen” defense. We considered arguing that defense and pressing on with the deal.

But, no. Ultimately, the suits and lawyers decided to play it safe and backed away from the DC deal.

Jeepers!

P.S. First’s suit was nonsense. They alleged that we had flooded the market. Our actual increase in releases published during the “flood” year from the year before? Six. Six issues, not series. They alleged that we had used our dominance to fix prices with World Color Press to inflate their costs. In discovery, it came out that we were paying more than they were! (And that news made Galton and the print production people very peeved!) Etc.

Anyway….

I’ll write more about the First suit someday. Enough about that for now.

Net result, no SUPERMAN –First Marvel Issue! Too bad. It would have been fun.


MONDAY: The Famous ROM #1 Cover That Wasn’t, Jim Owsley’s Alleged Humor and the Devil’s Due

Hurricane Delay

JayJay Here. Jim will be a bit late with the blog today. He's helping out a friend with hurricane preparations. And he has to do his own! So, later today. 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Some Marvel Tales and Other Horror Stories – Part 4

My Favorite Hap Kliban Story

The Hap Kliban story took place in San Diego, but the back story begins in Chicago. I believe this was in 1981. Could be wrong. Anyway, that year, the Chicago Con was the weekend before the San Diego Con. Because the trade show part of the San Diego Con started Wednesday (I think) it made sense to go directly from Chicago to San Diego, rather than return to New York in between.

The San Diego Con was new Marvel Publisher Mike Hobson’s first convention, I believe. He was going to join me and the Marvel con-tingent there.

Chicago was a terrific show that year. Among other things, I remember meeting this aspiring young artist, a kid named Mark Silvestri. I liked his stuff. Claremont heard about it and swooped down on him like a mutant hawk.

When at conventions I often took con people and creators, especially Marvel creators, to lunch or dinner on Marvel. It was a little thank you for all they did, for representing Marvel at the con, for general good will and PR. You know. So, one afternoon, I asked a couple of Marvel guys if they’d like to have dinner at Lowry’s. Lowry’s is a classy Chicago joint famous for its prime rib, in case you are a vegan and therefore unaware of notable carnivore hangouts.

LenWein and Marv Wolfman overheard me and asked if they could come along. Well…both were DC guys at that point, but, why not? They’d done plenty of dinners’ worth of work for Marvel, and…why not?

Then, later, someone else came up to me and asked if they could come. Then someone else.

Apparently word was spreading that Marvel was throwing a party at Lowry’s. Uh-oh.

That evening, 33 “guests” of mine showed up at Lowry’s. Lowry’s is not a cheap joint.

So, I had a choice: squelch the event. Just say it was a misunderstanding and walk out. Or insist that Marvel wasn’t paying for some of them and they were on their own…but how do you draw that line? “You and you are on the company, but you and you, no.” Or ask everybody to follow me down the street to some cheaper joint….

Or, I could roll with it. And possibly have to pay for part of it or all of it myself. I wasn’t sure how “dinner for 33” would play on the expense report, but….

I rolled with it. Everybody ate drank and was merry. Rick Obadiah of First Comics was among the guests. He sent a bottle of champagne to my table….

It came out to something over four thousand dollars. Thank God for the American Express Card. Don’t leave the Marvel booth without it.

Several days later, Mike Hobson arrived in San Diego. I was already there. We were staying at the same hotel.

Mike was the first approval on my expense reports. I explained to him what happened in Chicago and offered to split the bill with Marvel. He said no, it would be okay, but “…just don’t let it happen every week.”

Around six I met him in the lobby. We planned to go to dinner. He said, “Why don’t you invite a couple of our guys to come along?”

Famous last words.

I saw Terry Austin, I think, in the lobby and someone else. They agreed to come. But the free-dinner vibes pervaded the area and soon several others came bopping over and asked to join us. Mike shot me a so-that’s-how-it-happens glance and said, sure, fine.

Then Hap Kliban saw the group gathering and came over. You guys going to dinner?

As our throng headed out the door, Larry Niven popped up. Hey, are you guys going to dinner?

I introduced them to Mike. I believe Mike was pleased and honored to have Hap, a world famous non-comic book cartoonist and Larry, a notable science fiction writer join us. He also wanted to get the hell going before anyone else, famous, notable or just hungry glommed on.

(ASIDE: I’d met both Hap Kliban and Larry Niven the year before at San Diego. I explained yesterday the circumstances of my encounter with Hap. Larry was at some function and we got talking about science and pseudoscience in comics. I said that some guys just didn’t have the real science background to do convincing stuff, but that I tried to encourage logic and consistency. Larry volunteered to help! He said that if ever we needed some coaching on science or reasonable pseudoscience, I should call him. Nice.

At some point Chris Claremont joined that conversation and Larry gave him hell about an X-Men story Chris written in which a space station falls to Earth. Chris had carefully calculated the acceleration of gravity and had come up with whatever fantastic speed this thing was moving when it struck—but, Larry pointed out, Chris had forgotten all about atmospheric resistance. Chris looked appalled with himself—but Larry, good guy that he is, offered the comfort that “There are some mistakes that only an intelligent man can make.”)

Anyway….

In five cabs, me, Mike and our thirteen guests drove to the Reuben E. Lee, a nice restaurant made to look like an old-fashioned, paddle-wheel river boat. The main reason we picked it was because it was big, and we figured we’d have a good chance of getting a table.

Because our party was so large, we had to wait in the bar for a while. They gave us a long table. The bar was a very spacious room and it was packed.

Hap and Larry were sitting next to each other, against the wall, facing into the room and I was across the table from them. Larry was explaining who he was and what he did.

Larry, in case you don’t know him, is justifiably proud of his work and his accomplishments. He’s pretty sure he’s…oh, come on, let me get away with this cliché in honor of Hap—the cat’s pajamas. Because he is.

And Larry was pretty full of himself that evening. I don’t know why. Maybe because he was trying a little to impress Hap, or because after another typical day of fan adulation he was feeling pretty good about himself. Whatever. He was bragging a little.

And Hap was egging him on. “Really, Larry? Tell me more!”

Hap was a very down to Earth guy. Very solid. Low key. For a humor cartoonist, he was pretty saturnine.

Hm. I had a feeling something was up.

Finally, our table was ready. We got up. Hap scooted out from behind the table and Larry right after him. But as soon as Larry was out from behind the table and standing, Hap clamped his arm around Larry’s shoulders, effectively holding him in place, facing the crowd. Hap said, as loudly as he could, “LARRY…I DON’T KNOW YOU WELL ENOUGH TO TELL YOU THIS, BUT YOUR FLY IS DOWN.”

And it was.

All ten million people in the bar turned and stared.

Hap had Larry anchored so he couldn’t turn away. Larry didn’t know what to do. So he turned red.

The hissing sound you heard was a punctured ego balloon. I don’t know why, but I guess Hap just felt he had to do it. Or couldn’t let such a wonderful opportunity for his unusual brand of humor to go unskewered.

There was much laughter.

Hap turned Larry loose, the zipper got pulled up and we made our way to the dinner table.

Hap apologized sincerely and drew Larry a big, wonderful cat to make up for the embarrassment. Hap nearly almost had a sketch pad with him. After dinner and the ride back to the hotel, they parted laughing, as friends.


Surreality Check

This is a letter sent by the lawyer for Conan Properties to Marvel President Jim Galton, who forwarded it Mike Hobson with a comment, who added a comment and forwarded it to me. I guess not everybody likes Barry Windsor-Smith’s work:

A fan letter from David Michelinie. Don’t remember for what:


No idea. A doodle of Terry Austin’s I think:


NEXT: SUPERMAN – First Marvel Issue!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Some Marvel Tales and Other Horror Stories – Part 3

Morality in Comics

In 1980, or around then, at the San Diego Comic-Con there was a panel discussion on the program entitled “Morality in Comics.” I had no conflicting obligations so I went to see what that was all about.

Usually, when I went to panels, I found a seat in the back somewhere. The room was almost full when I got there, though, and it was a big room…! Who knew “morality” would be such a hot topic? I found a seat six or seven rows back from the front. Not ideal.

I’d learned that, being Editor in Chief of Marvel, if I attended a panel, often I was asked to participate, though usually I just wanted to listen. So I tried to be inconspicuous.

Yes, it is difficult to be inconspicuous when you’re six-foot-seven. Stop laughing.

On the panel were Marv Wolfman, Len Wein, Scott Shaw, a young woman writer whose name escapes me and maybe one more person. Can’t remember. There was also an empty chair on the stage. One panelist hadn’t yet arrived.

The moderator was Mark Evanier. He called the room to order and started introducing the panelists. About then, the missing panelist showed up. He was B. Kliban, who did cartoons for Playboy, among others. He was also well known for his book of cartoons featuring cats shockingly entitled Cat.

Evanier started by singling out and denouncing the works of Michael Fleisher, which he apparently found particularly immoral. Then he turned it over to the panelists.

Marv agreed that Fleischer’s stories were vile. Horror without the redeeming noble or positive qualities present in his Dracula stories.

Len talked about how super-hero comics should be upbeat and positive, with only happy violence. (NOTE: “Happy violence” is my term for what Len was talking about. I don’t remember his exact words.) He also spoke about the virtues of more cartoony comics and funny animals, which had largely gone out of vogue.

Scott Shaw condemned super-hero comics in general, with special emphasis on the violence. Then, he proceeded to ridicule a Stan Lee super hero story plot.

The young woman wasn’t familiar with Fleisher’s work, as I recall, but spoke about the obligation comics creators had to provide good moral content and positive values in their work.

Everyone agreed with those sentiments and echoed them. Everyone condemned Fleischer as the worst example of what not to do.

Except Kliban, who sat there silently.

The audience seemed to be buying this crap. Some listeners raised their hands and made supportive comments, or told anecdotes about the horribleness that came from immoral comics, or joined in condemning Fleisher.

Finally, Evanier asked Kliban to comment.

“I think you’re all a bunch of Nazi book burners,” he said.

Well, that stirred things up.

The “book burners” tried to hold their ground. Kliban kept ripping them a new one.

The audience seemed to waver a little.

Finally, someone noticed me in the audience. Aha! Right around then, I was thought to be a champion of “morality in comics” because of the Dark Phoenix thing. Word on the street was that I wanted her killed on moral grounds, that because Phoenix had killed a starship full of Shi’ar and a planet full of broccoli people, my moral sensibilities compelled me to sentence her to death.

Baloney. Do I think of killing billions of sapient beings as immoral? Of course. But, hey, these are comics, and honestly, that’s nothing new. Galactus, anyone? My own creation, the Sun Eater? My objections to Chris Claremont’s original ending to the Dark Phoenix Saga had a lot more to do with the fact that it was a cop out. “Oh, she’s okay now. Let’s all go home to Long Island.” What a limp letdown.

There was a lot wrong with the original ending. Don’t get me started. But, I digress….

Anyway….

Someone called upon me to weigh in.

So, I started down the panel from left to right. I said, no I ranted words to the effect:

“Marv, do you mean to tell me that it’s more ‘moral’ for a character to suck the blood out of a victim’s neck than it is for Fleisher to have a heinous criminal turned into a board and sawed in half?”

“Len, do you think we should all be forced to create only warm fuzzy stories and that the readers should be forced to read only warm fuzzy stories?”

“Scott, you can do what you did to Stan’s plot with anything by anybody. You can ridicule Shakespeare just as easily.”

“Evanier, why did you make this a personal attack on Fleischer?”

To the young woman I said, more or less, “Who gets to decide what constitutes good moral content and positive values?”

And, to Kliban, I said, and this is a real quote, “Mister Kliban, you I respect.”

And then it was on. Much honking and hooting ensued. Eventually, the time was up and the thing was over. No conclusions were drawn.

But Evanier and company had lost the acquiescence of the audience, big time. In my judgment, the book burners, how shall I say it? Went down in flames.

After the debacle, as I was leaving, Kliban sought me out and introduced himself. He liked to be called “Hap.” He said, “You’re the only other sane one here.”

I said, “I think we gave the crowd something to think about.”


Cockrum Cartoons

These were done while Dave was on staff at Marvel for a short while, working mostly on covers.
Cover sketch based on an idea I suggested:
The actual cover:
A Dave and Paty collaboration after I bought lunch for the whole crew (on me, by the way, not expense account, if you were wondering):
I don’t remember the genesis of the joke, but…it’s a charming birthday card:
NEXT: Surreality Check and My Favorite Hap Kliban Story

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Some Marvel Tales and Other Horror Stories – Part 2

Mean Old Marvel


There were many battles between Marvel and creators over creators’ rights and creators’ wrongs. But, lest you think that it was all battles all day every day at Marvel, here are a few instances where big old, mean old Marvel actually resolved potentially contentious issues peacefully.

Barefootz

Howard Cruse sent me a letter sometime in the mid-1980’s asking about the rights to some Barefootz
stories he had created for Marvel some years ago. On his website his is how he describes how that came about and how it went:


Post-'70s Sightings
Even though I stopped drawing Barefootz in 1979, I remained haunted by my awareness that if all of the Barefootz strips and stories I had drawn for Marvel's Comix Book in 1974-75 were to be gathered together, I would have the makings of a fourth Barefootz comic book. Original copies of Comix Book had grown hard to find in the 1980s, and I hated for those stories from Barefootz's peak years to be forever lost. When Deni Loubert launched Renegade Comics in the mid-'80s, I mentioned this to her. She liked the idea. Jim Shooter at Marvel Comics graciously granted us one-time rights to put the still-trademarked Comix Book name and logo on our cover and cleared the way for me to regain all rights to the stories I had drawn for Marvel's short-lived experiment. In 1986 Renegade released Barefootz: The Comic Book Stories and I breathed a sigh of relief.

All of the above is copyrighted and trademarked by Howard Cruse and scurrilously “liberated” for this one post. I’ll take it down if he asks. I mean no harm.

This is Howard’s site where many groovy things, including much about Barefootz, which is charming, weird and funny, can be found: http://www.howardcruse.com/

Stewart the Rat

In late 1979 or early 1980, Steve Gerber wrote a graphic novel for Eclipse Comics entitled Stewart the Rat. Steve had been threatening to sue Marvel and engaging in legal sparring with Marvel since sometime in 1978. Marvel had fired him when the legal saber-rattling started. I didn’t do it, if anyone cares, though I suppose I would have if ordered to. The one time while I was Editor in Chief when a creator was fired by “upstairs,” by President Jim Galton, was when Gerber was fired. I wasn’t even consulted.

Anyway….

By late 1979, it was clear that Marvel and Gerber were going to end up in court.

Stewart the Rat, I imagined, was a close cousin of Howard the Duck. I also imagined that insofar as Marvel came up or might be alluded to in any way said allusions wouldn’t be full of sweetness and light.

Then Gene Colan told me he’d been asked by Gerber to draw Stewart the Rat. Gene was under exclusive contract to Marvel.

I thought about it. Obviously, to some extent it would be giving comfort and aid to someone who did not have the good of Marvel at heart. Helping Gerber make money to pay his lawyers. And there was the nagging thought that it was the Duck only it’s a Rat, see?

But Gene reallyreallyreally wanted to do it. Gene Colan. A great artist, a great guy and a long time, loyal and faithful contributor to Marvel’s success.

How could I say no to him?

I deliberated not long and wrote Gene a letter granting him an exception from his contract so he could draw the Rat, and allowed Tom Palmer the same so he could ink it.

If it benefitted Gerber, I was okay with that. His conflict with Marvel notwithstanding, he was still a creator trying to make a living—a condition for which I have always had great empathy and sympathy.

I suppose I was taking a chance of drawing some heat from the Marvel brass, but none ever came. Probably they never knew, not being very aware of things to do with the comics, who was who and who was under contract.

Somehow, I never got around to mentioning it.

Don Newton’s Last Job

Outstanding artist Don Newton died in August of 1984. He had worked for both Marvel and DC, but was working exclusively for DC when he passed away.

Joe Rubinstein had worked with Don as an inker both on New Gods at DC and on the Avengers at Marvel. They were good friends. Joe was under exclusive contract to Marvel and Marvel wasn’t on the best of terms with DC right about then. Joe asked for an exception to his contract so he could ink Don’s last job, Infinity Inc. #13.

I had no problem with that.

Up Against the Wall

The battles fought at Marvel were not always about creators and books. Most of them were more like this one:






 NEXT: Morality in Comics

Monday, August 22, 2011

Some Marvel Tales and Other Horror Stories – Part 1

John Byrne Is Ruining the Fantastic Four

Near the end of 1980 or very early in 1981, Stan turned up at my office door as he did occasionally, usually when there was something bothering him. He closed the door—always a bad sign—and sat down in the guest chair. He had a letter in his hands.

He said it was a complaint about what a terrible Editor in Chief I was. The main crime alleged was that I was allowing an artist named John Byrne to ruin the Fantastic Four.

Though Byrne had been working for Marvel for a few years and I know Stan had seen a good bit of his art, Stan wasn’t involved enough in the comics at that point to remember who was who and who did what. Byrne, also, at that point, hadn’t quite achieved full-blown superstar status, or at least not to the point that Stan would know who he was.

Stan said that the complaint was that Byrne’s Fantastic Four were off-spec, un-Kirby-like, wrong and that my judgment about such things was—how to put this politely?—inadequate.

I knew the letter had to be from someone in the office, someone who had seen the original art or photocopies being shown around, because at that point, Byrne’s first Fantastic Four hadn’t seen print. It was only penciled, in fact. The reference to Kirby gave me a pretty fair idea of who wrote the letter.

Stan said that he wasn’t really concerned. He knew I was doing the best I could with the artists who were available. He only wanted to bring up the complaints to me so he could tell the letter-writer that he had done so. That’s all.

I asked Stan if he wanted to see Byrne’s pencils. No, he didn’t. He started to get up to leave. I insisted. I had the pencils in my office, as it happened. I think Editor Jim Salicrup had brought them for me to look over, it being Byrne’s first issue and all.

Stan looked through the pages. He said, sincerely, words to the effect, these are terrific. He thought the characters looked great. He couldn’t understand why anyone would complain. And, once again, he told me what a wonderful job he thought I, “Marvel’s entire editor,” was doing.

As he left, Stan tore the letter in half and threw it away in my wastebasket!

As soon as he rounded the corner out of the editorial room and disappeared down the hall, I fished the letter out of the trash.

It was, as I suspected, from Paty. Paty Greer, or maybe by that time, Paty Cockrum. I’m not sure exactly when Dave and Paty got married.

I still have the letter, both halves, around here somewhere. It’s in one of the many remaining, unexplored boxes from my storage space. I wouldn’t post it even if I had it in hand, though I suspect Paty would cheerfully make it public any old time, if she had a copy. If I come across it, I may regale you with a few lines from it at some point.

Paty also posted a pretty vicious, vituperative denunciation of me on the window-wall of her office.

I figured that everyone is entitled to his or her opinion. Not likely that everyone is going to agree with my judgment or tastes. The insulting, public declaration posted in Marvel’s offices, however, I felt was over the top. I had it taken down.

Paty did art production work for Sol Brodsky in the “special projects” department I had created for Sol to run. I never interfered with Sol. But, I could have insisted that Sol fire her or fired her myself, but I let it go.

My opinion about characters being “on spec,” by the way, is fairly liberal. I make a fairly large allowance for different artists’ styles. Get the general look of the character correct. Get the important distinguishing features right. Captain America, for instance, is a handsome man who has a cleft chin. Walt Simonson’s Thor isn’t exactly like Jack Kirby’s, but the size and proportions are right, he’s god-like good-looking, god-like noble, and no one would mistake him for anyone else. John Romita’s Spider-Man was different than Steve Ditko’s, but both versions work for me. Todd McFarlane’s version tested the limits a bit, but fell within range I think. The eyes of the mask got a bit too big sometimes, but otherwise okay.

Spider-Man drawn by Steve Ditko, John Romita Sr., and Todd McFarlane

Paty’s opinion, as I understood it, was that only Jack Kirby’s, John Romita’s and, not surprisingly, Dave Cockrum’s versions of the Marvel characters were acceptable. I forget where she stood on John Buscema. I think he got mixed reviews. 


Captain America drawn by Dave Cockrum and Jack Kirby

I have occasionally wondered, what if I had thought that way? What if I had insisted on every artist adhering exactly to certain “acceptable” presentations of the characters? What if I’d been as strict about “on spec” as, say Disney or Warner Bros? Wow. As is, some people think I was a dictator….


NEXT: Mean Old Marvel

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Writer/Editors – Part 6

Years Later

In the spring of 1984, Roy and I exchanged several letters about various topics. In one dated May 14, he said the following:
“Dear Jim,
Despite disagreeing considerably with a number of points you make in your letter of April 9 (as you obviously did with some of mine, made in the previous letter), I was glad to see we’re not really all that far apart.
For my own part, as I tried to make clear, I have made a solemn vow (to myself) to let bygones be bygones, and if possible, to avoid adverse comment on Marvel and its policies. I’ve even long regretted the fact that your elevation to the position of editor-in-chief, in which you’ve obviously done a fine job, came at a time after I’d moved to the West Coast. Perhaps if we’d had more personal communication from 1977 to 1980, we could have come to some sort of agreement at that time or at least parted under more amicable circumstances. I leave it to you to decide if we should ever make any attempt to rectify that situation; certainly I’ve never been a grudge-carrier in other cases, and our differences-- if we ever sat down and talked about them -- are hardly insurmountable, even if we never happen to work for the same company at the same time again.”
The letter goes on to further discuss several matters, including Marvel’s reprint policy, the pending X-Men movie, and others.

I have no doubt that Roy and I will always have a number of points of disagreement, but I agree with his sentiment that we’re really not all that far apart. I think we are both men of good will who wanted the same thing, the best for the task at hand—making comics. His experiences made him dubious about ceding any control. Mine made me dubious that an editor of his own work, especially on the opposite coast, without a backstop, was a workable situation.


I have long regretted the fact that I wasn’t able to keep Roy with us and work with him. I have imagined myself “paving the road” for him, as I did to some extent for Archie Goodwin, and all of the great things that might have come as a result.


Maybe if, as some have suggested, I had argued with President Jim Galton in favor of letting Roy work at DC while still doing the Conan books for us, and prevailed, I could have used that as a way to prove to Roy that what I’d proposed would work, and that his best opportunity was still with us—and he would have come back full time when his DC deal was up. Maybe, if I’d handled things just a little better at various steps along the way he would have never left in the first place. Maybe if I hadn’t been so young. 

But there you go.
Jim Shooter and Jim Galton from a promo photo for the St Francis comic book,
Francis Brother of the Universe, circa 1980.
Among the comments so far, some have debated how good this or that piece of Roy’s work was and drawn conclusions about him and about what transpired. Somebody suggested that he was overrated.

No way. Underrated, if anything. Listen, I know what he does. I know how hard it is. I know that he does it better than almost anyone else, and faster to boot. I know what a difference he made, and all of the myriad ways he contributed, some of which don’t show on the printed pages. The man was a mighty force in our industry.

Even if you don’t like something he wrote, let me assure you, it was impeccably crafted.

Give me a hitter with a level swing and I’ll win you some goddamn games.

Has my respect and admiration for Roy, which never changed during all the years, come through well enough in these writings? I hope so.

Here’s a snippet from a letter Roy wrote dated March 11, 1987:

“Dear Jim,

Ever since late last year, when…Dann and I began working for Marvel, it’s been my intention to tell you how agreeable it is to be doing some writing for Marvel again.

The letters never worked out quite right, though, so they were never sent. Until now, finally, I decided to just sit down for a few minutes and let whatever comes, come.

I’ve long regretted that our different (and both quite reasonable in their varying ways) objectives in 1980 led-- perhaps inevitably-- to a break ‘twixt Marvel and myself, and I regret some of my own more extreme actions at the time. I’ve been impressed by your professional ability to let bygones be bygones, including letting Stan’s Soapbox “plugging” me to be printed, and I’d like to think I’d have done the same, were our positions reversed.”

The letter goes on to discuss work going on and future plans, just like in the old days.

That’s where we left it, and that’s where it still stands, as far as I’m concerned.

I was gone from Marvel about a month later, so sadly, I never really had the chance to do much for Roy or with him.

Too bad. With his bat in the lineup…well, we would have won a lot of games.
Roy Thomas
TOMORROW OR MONDAY: Some Marvel Tales and Other Horror Stories

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Writer Editors – Part 5

“I’ll Never Doubt You Again.”

One afternoon toward the end of April, 1980, I got a call from Marvel President Jim Galton. He said that Roy Thomas had asked for a meeting with him to discuss renewing his contract with Marvel.

Roy had written a letter dated April 10 (I have the original) to Galton informing him that he had not been able to work out a new contract with me and that he was leaving Marvel. That prompted the call I got from Galton immediately thereafter. He said, among other things, that he thought I’d told him Roy and I had worked out a deal. What happened? What went wrong? How could I lose Roy?

Do you know how important to Marvel Roy must have been for Galton to even know who he was? Galton, the same man who once asked me who Gene Colan was. Galton, who didn’t know who John Byrne was. Or John Buscema. Or anyone else, except Chris Claremont, who had an uncanny (←heh) knack for running into Galton on the elevator and introduced himself.

But Galton knew Roy, the man who had gotten us the Star Wars license among many other things.

In fact, Roy and I had worked out a new contract. On April 1, he sent me a letter that starts:

“Dear Jim,

I’m returning the copies of the contracts you sent me. I will sign them if each of the following changes is made:”

The changes were few and entirely reasonable. No problem. We made them immediately.

I also reassured him regarding his concern that the staff editor who would henceforth be responsible for overseeing the editorial work on his books would not be summarily “overruling” him, that if any disagreements came up, no action would be taken without his consent. If no agreement could be reached, he had outs.

I thought the contract would work well. It brought the logistics in house. No more “branch office” coordination problems, exacerbated by the fact that Roy lived on the West Coast. Central fire control.

Roy would still have in his hands every meaningful, creative part of editing. And was going to be paid better. But I was going to have someone responsible on hand to head off calamities, prevent problems and eliminate the falling-between-the-coasts glitches. By “calamities” I’m speaking mostly of schedule calamities.

It was fine by me for Roy to keep his editor credit. It wasn’t about “demoting” Roy, it was about engineering a system that would work—that would give Marvel full advantage of his super powers with fewer problems.

But Roy had reneged. He changed his mind.

I explained all that to Galton. I suspect he thought, as many people still think to this day, that it was my fault. That I bungled it, or let it drift away from business into ego-rassling or personalities.

One thing about Galton, he was proper about business things. Roy went over my head, and normally, Galton wouldn’t tolerate that. He would have refused the meeting. But, A) Roy was that important, B) he had already quit, so one could argue that this was a new negotiation, and C) Galton’s way of observing proper protocol was by inviting me to the meeting.

So, the next morning, Galton and I were sitting in his office upstairs waiting for Roy to arrive. Galton asked and I explained my position and some of the contentions we’d encountered. Galton had become more adamant than I was about the no-writer-editor thing by this point. As I said, he’d never liked the idea and had hardened against it. However, since Roy had asked for the meeting Galton was confident that a deal could be made. I took that as an instruction to be as reasonable, businesslike, dispassionate and ego-free as possible and make a deal!

Roy arrived. As he entered Galton’s office, he seemed taken aback that I was there. I guess he expected that going over my head was going to keep me out of it, but like I said, that wasn’t Galton’s style.

Roy expressed his interest in continuing to work with Marvel. Galton said he was pleased and hoped we could make that happen. And, again, in keeping with protocol, Galton turned the conversation over to me. I, too, said that we sincerely wanted Roy to stay with Marvel and wanted to work things out. I laid out the terms we proposed. Nothing different than what had been offered before, really, but I tried to reassure Roy that he and I could work together.

Roy agreed to everything. He even seemed comfortable and content with having a staff editor overseeing things.

Galton looked at me as if I must be crazy. It was a look that said, “This is the most reasonable man on Earth. Why couldn’t you work out a deal?”

Galton said it seemed that Roy and I agreed on everything. Why didn’t the two of us go downstairs and sign the contract?

Roy said that there was just one thing…he’d already signed an exclusive contract with DC Comics, but it had an exception that allowed him to keep writing Conan, so what he wanted now was a contract with Marvel to do the Conan books.

Galton looked at Roy as if he must be crazy. It was a look that said, “Suddenly I understand the problem.”

Being ‘exclusive’ at DC but working part-time for us…. What message does that send? We’re the losers in the Roy Thomas sweepstakes but he’s so wonderful and we’re so desperate that we need to cling to any shred of him we can get?

Annoyed big time, Galton told him that we weren’t interested, that Roy had wasted our time and basically, to get out of his office.

Once Roy had been chased away, Galton told me, and this is a quote, “I’ll never doubt you again.”

P.S. And he didn’t, in any significant way. During the JLA/Avengers mess, for instance.

Then why did I walk out of that room feeling like I’d lost?


NEXT: Years Later

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Writer/Editors – Part 4

Roy

The tale of the contract negotiations with Roy is too long to tell in blow-by-blow detail. I’ll tell you a bit of what I understand to be his side and a little of mine.

I think we both sincerely believed in the validity of our positions. I think each of us handled things badly at some points. I don’t think there ever was any malice on Roy’s side and there was none on mine, though Roy apparently felt otherwise sometimes.

Yesterday, I showed you a stack of contracts and drafts of same and a file full of letters from Roy. The contracts are what they are, no shocking revelations there.

The letters break down into four categories, basically:

  • Business stuff – regarding vouchers, contracts, schedules, policy matters and the like; also his side of any debates or controversies. 
  • Ideas for new books, including some suggestions for other people, like Jack Kirby. Lots of ideas. 
  • His plans for upcoming issues of each series he was working on. He was the only writer/editor to offer that courtesy. The only writer, for that matter. 
  • Complaints about mistakes. 

There were lots of the latter.

Roy’s letters aren’t simply business documents (as were Mike Hobson’s letters regarding the Gerber script posted here a while ago). They’re business related, but written person to person—one coworker to another, with informality appropriate to addressing someone you know. They weren’t written for public display, and I will respect that. I will quote a passage here and there.

Here’s a cover Roy complained about:
“For what must be the hundredth time…the cover copy was screwed up…” 

He points out that “Norse” was indicated to be as large as “Inca,” for one thing. He also has issues with the coloring. The main complaint was that “as usual” it wasn’t sent to him to check.

In a letter dated April 21, 1978, he encloses a printed copy of this cover:
The title on the bottom was supposed to read “FIENDS of the FLAME KNIFE,” not “Friends.” Roy again mentions that “only sporadic” covers arrive for him to check, and that a half dozen errors in cover copy have crept by in a period of a few months.

There are more letters specifically about cover problems, but you get the drift.

More letters citing missing text pages, including one for an issue in which the story contains a footnote referring readers to the text page that isn’t there.

There’s a note about dropped letter columns including a few angry words about the bookkeeping department. Seems that when a letters page Roy delivered was, for some reason, no fault of his, left out, the bookkeeping people deducted his payment for it from his next check! P.S., in the same letter, Roy points out that the bookkeeping department consistently misspelled its own name for years (“bookeeping”).

There are many more letters regarding many mistakes in many issues. Art “corrections” that change things from right to wrong. Missing or unaccountably changed copy. Everything imaginable.

The Grand No-Prize goes to Savage Sword of Conan #38. First, the proofs were sent to Roy too late, by regular mail and to the wrong address. Mistakes in the book include, but are not limited to:

  • A map on page four that shouldn’t be there, and is, in fact, taken from a copyrighted source. 
  • An instruction in the page description being printed as if it were actual copy: “INTRODUCTORY BOX,” page 56. 
  • Missing halftones. 
  • Design nightmares, poor layouts. 
  • Misspelled names. 
  • And more, but the corker is this one…. 
  • Commas drawn in by hand in a typeset text piece. Talk about amateurish…. 

If anyone out there thinks I’m citing these things to belittle them or make them seem petty, you are so wrong. I don’t see things like the above as insignificant. NO PROFESSIONAL PUBLISHING HOUSE SHOULD ALLOW CRAP LIKE THAT TO MAKE IT INTO PRINT! It is pathetic. It is unacceptable. Things like that drive me crazy. Roy may be fussbudget #1, but I’m first runner up, and neither of us is Miss Congeniality to the incompetent nitwits who screw up.

It just ruins your work. You don’t need extra copies of issues that have idiocies like that in them, because you’re certainly not going to give any away as samples.

P.S. The examples cited above are only some of the ones Roy wrote letters about, and the ones he wrote letters about were only a small portion of the grand total. I can absolutely assure you that Roy had a telephone and wasn’t afraid to use it.

The above was our, Marvel’s fault, or, if you wish, my fault, going with the buck-stops-here theory.

I tried to help the situation by assigning a staff assistant editor to be Roy’s on-site agent, to look after his books and follow up for him. I picked Ralph Macchio. That didn’t work out so well. See “Friends of the Flame Knife,” above. I tried Mark Gruenwald. Strike two.

So, Roy had legitimate issues with the quality of Marvel’s editorial and art production effort. So did I.

Anyway….

You’re probably wondering, what were my issues with him? Or, more accurately, with his being a writer/editor.

  • Lateness. Roy was chronically late delivering his work. Roy’s problems keeping on schedule caused major headaches. Not all of the art production and proofreading/corrections failures were caused by the lateness of his books, but it certainly didn’t help. I will add that Roy was obligated to deliver over 100 pages of script a month, in addition to all the text pages, cover designs, cover copy, line-ups and miscellaneous work; in addition also to the administrative tasks that were part of his arrangement—things like inventory reports and dealing with artists. That’s a tremendous amount of work. He was merely late. Anyone else except Stan in his prime would have keeled over dead in a month. 
  • Occasional lapses in judgment with regard to content. The only one of significance I can recall in the comics was the “whipping scene” in Savage Sword #41, for which we drew some heat. Of greater concern to me were a few discussions about his personal life in text features that I thought were inappropriate. 
  • Using other writers. Apparently, Roy thought it was okay to do so. I saw nothing in his agreements that said so, and Marvel was paying for him, not someone who wasn’t nearly as good as him, whether or not he tried to fix up what they wrote. In one letter, Roy admitted that one such writer’s story was “…almost unintelligible as a plotline.” 

Huge workload or not, the quality of the work Roy did personally was never, ever an issue. His stories were solid and his writing was top shelf. I had nothing but admiration for his creativity and skill.

Making a poor choice once in a blue moon considering the vast number of issues Roy produced is evidence of humanity, not incompetence or lack of discernment.

Farming out work to other writers…? I don’t know….

Other problems inherent generally in the writer/editor concept, I think, include:

  • Coordinating the in-house work with theirs. 
  • Coordinating between or among writer/editors, writers and editors.
  • Accountability and responsibility issues. 
  • Gaps in process management. 

Practical matters.

In Roy’s case, I had no real concern about the quality of the writing. As has been said here many times, if you can get a guy who doesn’t need any creative handholding, who can write and gets it right, that’s ideal. That’s Roy. But you still have to make the words and pictures into a book.

Discussions with Roy about what would happen when his contract came up in 1980 started in more than a casual way right after Stan notified the writer/editors that I was empowered to act in his stead, which was in mid-May, 1978. Roy responded swiftly, saying that regardless of Stan’s letter, he intended to proceed as always, “…with full power over the books on which I work,” and would not tolerate interference.

He continued to go directly to Stan about things occasionally. I know because Stan simply passed his correspondence on to me and came to me with whatever.

Things got contentious between Roy and me a few times.

Roy spoke with a New York Times reporter, a friend of Rick Marschall’s, who was doing a hatchet job on me after I fired his buddy. I took Roy’s remarks to be negative and inappropriate.

Later, I removed Roy from Thor because he was terminally late. I couldn’t reach him to tell him so I sent a telegram.

The telegram arrived at 10 PM his time. He called me angrily at 1:30 AM my time, at home. Nice.

I, idiotically, talked about that incident to the Comic Buyer’s Guide. (See “Making a poor choice…evidence of humanity…” above.) Roy was upset.

Blah, blah, blah….

Somehow throughout, we kept making comics. He kept doing good work, kept sending in plans and ideas. I did everything I could for him.

Slowly, I improved the editorial and art production crews. We got rid of the weakest links, editors Rick Marschall, as mentioned above, eventually, smart-but-too-inexperienced Lynn Graeme, production manager Lenny Grow and others. We brought in good people: editors Louise Jones (later Simonson), Larry Hama, Archie Goodwin, Carl Potts and more; production manager Danny Crespi and some excellent art production people.

Eventually, Roy’s contract came up. I had always told Roy I thought we’d be able to work something out. And, I thought I had a good scenario worked out.

The idea was to relieve Roy of the non-creative baggage, free him to do creative work and contribute editorially in every way he could or wanted to. Have an editor on site keeping track of the schedule so that problems could be dealt with at earlier stages. Have the editor on site managing all the nuts and bolts of art production and seeing to it that things were done right.

Practical matters.

That, and provide a failsafe system. An editor not to interfere with Roy, but to backstop him. In case a glitch in the story ever did crop up, or to at least raise the question of appropriateness if the equivalent of a whipping scene came along.

I almost sold him on my plan.


NEXT: “I’ll Never Doubt You Again.”