This comment got me into full honking mode:
srp has left a new comment on your post "Regarding What Has Gone Before and a Modest Propos...":
With regard to the earlier discussion of writing and decompression (much of which I agree with), I would like to emphasize a particular pet peeve about modern superhero comics: Lousy action sequences.
To me, action sequences in a superhero comic are like musical numbers in a musical or fight scenes in a martial arts movie. They are not disposable interludes that can be kissed off to advance the story. You'd think, in a decompressed environment dominated by fanboy aesthetics, that the action sequences in modern comic books would be awesome. But they aren't, in what I consider a lamentable lack of craftsmanship.
Typical fight scenes now lack clear spatial relations, identifiable figures, logical and continuous flow across panels, and any semblance of consistency in who wins and why. All the characters are superimposed on each other in melee fashion with no sense of perspective. Mutant comics seem to be the worst offenders these days, but it's a pervasive problem. (Something similar has happened in the movies, with many action films using quick-cut close-ups during fight scenes that make it difficult to tell what's going on, but it doesn't always happen.)
Lack of attention to superhero action scenes undermines sales to both the youth/new-user market and the established older market, since what is cool about superheroes, especially of the Silver Age type, is their distinctive visual and kinetic properties. I don't mind the later "realistic" style that stressed winning with the first blow and mostly portrayed mismatches (e.g. Ellis and Moore) because a) there's a certain logic to those choices, since even super people wouldn't tend to pick fights they might not win and b) they usually depicted these swift battles in a clear and compelling visual manner. But if you're decompressing, a long, high-quality set of battle scenes seems like a legitimate mode of storytelling because one thing superheroes are ABOUT is the skillful exercise of their powers under stress.
I suspect that modern creators take a somewhat "adolescent" attitude toward action sequences--they don't want to be seen as "childish" by playing up the fantasy aspect of the characters, preferring to dwell on various extrinsic shock stimuli to seem more "adult." But getting to see Iron Man use his resourcefulness to figure out and defeat the Raiders for an issue (to take a typical mediocre example rather than a classic) was a lot more entertaining and satisfying than much of what gets printed now.
Posted by srp to Jim Shooter at January 11, 2012 7:44 PM
I absolutely agree. Too many writers leave the action scenes entirely up to the artist. The scene description often is two words: "They fight." The writer takes a few pages off, the artist draws, generally what he or she likes to draw, often the easiest thing to draw, and with relentless consistency, what you end up with is two people punching. No choreography, no innovative use of powers. No use of powers at all, often, except strength and durability.
I always write the action scenes carefully. I try to think it through. If a character can fly and strike from a distance, is he or she really going to get into a bare knuckle fistfight on the ground? I think about how the characters would use their powers to best advantage, and whether there’s some new, logical application of power that I can show. I try to work out each move and make sure the characters’ positions make sense, that the in-betweens are easily imaginable, and that the movements flow realistically.
Then the artist ignores what I wrote and draws nonsense. Or butchers it. Or otherwise screws it up. Every once in a while, they actually do what I ask. Once in a long time, an artist will actually add a thought, an insight or two.
Here's a bad example of really bad action storytelling. Sorry, Sanford Greene:
Here’s the script:
Scene: Full figure on INVISIBLE KID, though only the top half of his figure can be seen—i.e., he’s becoming visible. Make it very clear that he’s on the Central Temple Terrace, but no need to show Ikilles, Light Lass, et al. IK’s facing them, and our POV is facing IK—i.e., Ikilles, Light Lass et al are behind the camera. FYI, IK’s about 40 feet away from Ikilles, here. Some Ikonns may be seen in the background, but none too close to IK, please. It should be clear that no one is in position to clock IK on the back of the head and take him down.
IMPORTANT: Invisible Kid has, in his non-Flight Ring-hand, the PIECE OF BARK that was described in Panel 2 of Page Nine of last issue and picked up by IK in Panel 4 on the same page. The Piece of Bark has a Magsteel Vine looped around it. Too hard to describe. Here’s a sketch:
The Magsteel Vine extends off panel to either side of IK (and is securely tied to the Fallen Statues—see Panel 3 of Page Sixteen).
(near Invisible Kid)
Invisibility and imperceptibility
Ikilles! Surrender now…or I’ll kick your scut first and your crew’s next.
Scene: Cut to Velmar V. Long shot of the Terrace of the Central Temple to establish the huge, FALLEN STATUES to either side of the Terrace, as described in Panel 1 of Page Six of #43:
“IMPORTANT: There are two huge, toppled statues on street level very close to the Central Temple’s Terrace, one on either side. We’ll be using them as props later. Make them especially massive.”
It’s okay to crop the Statues, as long as it’s clear what they are. Also establish the tableau—Invisible Kid is calling out Ikilles. Remember, IK isn’t close to Ikilles (or any other Ikonn) at this juncture. Remember also all the stuff on the Terrace—bound prisoners, various wreckage, Ikonns, Slaves, party stuff and, of course, the Central Temple. You don’t have to draw all of that, but remember that it’s there, and include whatever would logically be seen in the shot you choose. In my scribble of this, I shot from just below Terrace level—that is, you can’t see the floor of the terrace, but you can see people standing on it sticking up—with one Fallen Statue close, cropped, in the foreground and the other partially visible at the far end of the Terrace. The advantage of that was that, with one Fallen Statue close to the POV, I could clearly show that the Magsteel Vine was securely wrapped around it several times and tied. But whatever. Please do it your way. Be brilliant. As usual.
(NOTE: The ends of the Magsteel Vine Invisible Kid swiped before are securely fastened around the huge Fallen Statues to either side of the Terrace. What we’re setting up here is this: IK intends for Ikilles to get close to him, and therefore into position roughly between the Fallen Statues, whereupon IK will fly upwards and let the amazing vector-gravity power of his Flight Ring pull the Statues up into the air with him. Once the Statues are high enough to clear the edge of the Terrace, they’ll CLAP TOGETHER and smash Ikilles. The thick, strong, metallic Piece of Bark is to protect IK’s hand from the Magsteel Vine. If the Vine was against IK’s bare hand, it would simply rip through his flesh and bone rather than raise the huge Statues.)
Well, Ikilles…? Are you going to fight me…? Or are you a chickamouse?
Scene: Focus on Ikilles, talking sotto voce with Sadistic Ikonn, established in Panel 6 of Page Three. Other Ikonns might be seen in the background. This is a somewhat tense situation, even though it’s just Invisible Kid confronting them, so any Ikonns seen are tense and poised to act, waiting for orders. Ikilles, however, looks calm, almost amused. Sadistic Ikonn looks eager for blood.
Yeah. He’s called Invisible Kid. He must have some stupid trick planned. Get your gunners ready.
I’ll play along till they’re in position. He’ll probably turn invisible, so when I give the signal, pattern-blast the whole area.
Scene: Ikilles has strolled toward Invisible Kid—but has paused several meters away, being cautious but looking casual. IK is tense, ready. He’s not stupid. He can guess that snipers are getting into position—and if you can give a hint of that, terrific.
IMPORTANT: IK has placed the Piece of Bark with the Magsteel Vine wrapped around it on his Flight Ring hand so the ring is pressed firmly against the inside of the Bark.
That’s close enough.
Why? Are you a chickamouse?
INVISIBLE KID (2nd)
Nah, you’re just…close enough.
Scene: Action shot. And a little complicated. What else is new? : ) Invisible Kid is soaring straight up into the air, his ring hand held out in front of him rather than directly above him, to keep the Magsteel Vine away from his body. The Magsteel Vine is still slack, at this point, draped out toward the Statues, but will soon go taut. Ikilles is yelling “Fire,” and a bunch of Ikonn gunners are firing at the general area where IK had been a fraction of a second ago, so that anything in that general vicinity (including above where IK was standing) would have been hit. IK, at this point is just above the highest of the ray blasts; i.e., they just miss him, or possibly just graze his foot—harmlessly, thanks to good ol’ Carmine. Make it seem that if he’d waited a split second longer to act, he would be a cinder.
Scene: IK reaches the right altitude. The right altitude would be just a few meters more than half the width of the Terrace (and therefore, half the distance between the two Fallen Statues). The immense Fallen Statues have been drawn into the air above the floor-level of the Terrace and just starting to swing, each one toward the center like two pendulums attached to the same pivot. Ikilles is realizing, too late, what’s about to happen. Make it clear!
Scene: The massive, ruined, Fallen Statues CLAP TOGETHER on Ikilles with tremendous force. These things are huge. So we probably can’t see much of Ikilles here. Maybe just a hand sticking out, to indicate that he’s being mashed between them? Whatever. Again, make it clearclearclear what is happening. E-mail me a sketch?
Scene: The Fallen Statues would rebound a little, one would assume, so thoroughly-busted-up, unconscious, ain’t getting’-around-much-for-a-while Ikilles is visible lying on the Terrace between them, his body a bleeding skin-bag full of mashed flesh and bone shards. Okay, maybe not quite that bad, but you get my drift. : ) Please shoot this from above Invisible Kid, looking down past him to see the aftermath of what just happened, including bunged-up Ikilles. Any Ikonns seen should be momentarily in shock, stupefied by this turn of events. IK has unwrapped the Magsteel Vine from around the Piece of Bark and has dropped the Vine, which is cascading down toward Ikilles. IMPORTANT: IK is keeping the Piece of Bark (because, FYI, it has a message from Karate Kid scrawled on it).
NOTE: Oh, by the way, all mashed-flesh-bone-shard kidding aside, Ikilles will be back someday. Very peeved.
I love the laws of pendular motion.
Scene: Cut to where Light Lass is bound. Cropped figures, medium close on LLass’s guard, Gunner 1, and seen past him or her, LLass. We should have a good look at their faces. The very thorough flattening …heh…of Ikilles has distracted Gunner 1, who is looking up agape at Invisible Kid, above and off panel, and has stupidly allowed his or her nasty-looking weapon’s muzzle to drift slightly away from LLass for a second—that is, it’s no longer stuck into LLass’s ribs or neck, and isn’t quite pointed at her. She’s looking at Gunner 1 with an angry, fierce, determined expression one wouldn’t expect from a drop-down-dead beautiful girl, which goes with what she’s thinking—now that the gun isn’t on her, this is her chance! Snarrrllll….
And another one. This one is a fistfight. Atom Girl had been established by Mark Waid and others as being bothered by her small stature and compensating by being over-aggressive and feisty:
Scene: Cut to inside the Flagship. Establish the FLAGSHIP BRIDGE. The Flagship Bridge would be larger and more spacious than the other command decks we’ve seen. I see it as about the same size as the bridge of the Enterprise on Star Trek. There are five people on the Flagship Bridge: the COMMODORE, the FIRST OFFICER, the HELMSMAN, the NAVIGATOR and the COMMUNICATIONS OFFICER. The Commodore is female and human. She’s a 30-something, 5’ 11”, athletic, strong-looking, handsome woman. She’s attractive in her robust-figured way. She’s not quite the over-the-top specimen that Cazhmir (Big Barda, She-Hulk) is, but she’s imposing. I see her as something like Laila Ali, (who’s 5’ 10”) though the Commodore is Caucasian, of Ukrainian descent, as we’ll find out later. We’ll be seeing her again, so please make her groovy:
The Navigator is a female, humanoid alien. The rest are human, all male. Only the Commodore is a continuing character.
NOTE: The First Officer, ala Mr. Spock, can be standing. The Navigator and Communications Officer should be seated at stations that look appropriate to their functions. The Helmsman should be sitting at a station, centrally located, that clearly is the “driver’s seat.” Here are a couple of pictures of submarine helms that may be useful:
The Commodore is railing at the First Officer, who is looking futilely at some instruments, unable to determine where the shots that downed their Sky-Cycle escorts came from (because, FYI, Atom Girl blew them apart from the inside). He’s doing one of those helpless, “beats me” kind of shrugs.
The Navigator is chiming in with a suggestion. The Communications Officer is paging through a copy of the holo-book entitled GUIDE TO THE LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES, first established in Panel 4 of Page Eleven of issue #3. Angle this shot so that the Communications Officer is close enough to the camera, and therefore the holo-book is close enough to the camera, so we can see the book’s title.
Inside the Science Police Flagship.
(to the First Officer)
…well, something shot down our escort cycles! Find it!
Commodore, isn’t there an Invisible Boy in the Legion? Maybe….
(studying the holo-book)
That’s Invisible Kid. Intel says he’s not here. I think our bogey is Atom Girl. She shrinks…
GUIDE TO THE LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES
Scene: Focus on the First Officer as Atom Girl grows to full size in front of him, using her growth to help propel a heel-of-the-hand strike to his jaw (use her standard size-changing-blur technique, please). It’s like getting clocked by Bruce Lee, clearly a knockout blow. Please remember that at full size, Atom Girl is 5’2”! Everyone on the bridge is six inches or more taller than she is! Also remember that AG is petite, trim, wiry, solid, strong, small-busted and narrow-waisted, with curvy hips and curvy buns of steel. She has a figure skater’s build.
…member of the Legion Espionage Squad…can sub-microscopically penetrate any enclosure….
Scene: Chaos on the Command Deck. The First Officer has fallen (or is falling) in a heap, knocked out. Atom Girl is shrinking down to doll-size (blur technique, please) as she evasively zips (flying) between the Navigator and Communications Officer who, as they futilely try to hit or grab her, are slamming into each other! Yes, it’s Three Stooges time. Make sure their collision looks head-to-head/bad/painful enough to put them both out of the fight for a few minutes. At the end of AG’s blur-trail she’s slamming feet first into the Helmsman’s face (she’s still doll-sized!), clearly hard enough to knock him out.
NOTE: Position the Helmsman so that he will fall backwards onto the helm controls!
Scene: The Helmsman is slumped unconscious on the controls (and, FYI, is causing the vessel to move and turn!). I’d put him in the foreground, as sort of a “framing” element, but whatever. Give some indication that the Navigator, First Officer and Communications Officer are also down, and if not unconscious, hurting enough to be out of the fight for a while. No need to show full figures—a limp hand or other cropped bits might be indication enough.
The focus of this panel is on the Commodore and Atom Girl squaring off as if to fist fight. Atom Girl is growing (blur technique) to her full 5’ 2” as she zips into fighting position facing the Commodore. The Commodore is seething with anger, fists clenched, ready to pound this little batwitch’s face into hamburger. Remember, the Commodore is 9” taller than AG, and tough-looking.
You’re nothing without your size trick. Come on, you little batwitch!
Little? I hate that word.
ATOM GIRL (2nd)
And I love it when big foobs like you think they can take me.
Scene: Cut to a Sky-Cycle with a Sidecar that’s flying well above the Flagship. CYCLIST 5 is looking down at the Flagship, noticing that it’s slowly flying in big, aimless circles—obviously, something’s wrong. He speaks with his SIDECAR GUNNER, who’s hailing the Flagship on his futuristic communicator.
NOTE: Show some of the Tower in this shot. What’s going to happen is that the Flagship is ultimately going to slow-crash into the Tower several stories down from the top—each circle it makes takes it closer—so try to set that up here.
What the zork’s going on with the Flagship…?! It’s drifting in circles!
Flagship, this is Sky-Cycle Kono-22. Acknowledge, please.
Scene: Cut to inside the Flagship, to the Flagship Bridge. Atom Girl and the Commodore are in the midst of a brutal fight. Action depth on them, please. Both the Commodore and Atom Girl are on the floor, here, and the Commodore is on top! It isn’t over yet—but it should look like the Commodore is well on her way to winning this fight! Both the Commodore and Atom Girl are substantially mussed up. Both have disheveled hair and bleeding knuckles. The Commodore’s uniform is disarranged and torn, revealing some skin and military undies—wicked sexy but not over the top, please. Atom Girl’s uniform cannot be torn, but should be disarranged. Each of them has sustained some damage—the Commodore has a bloody nose, Atom Girl has a split and bleeding lip, and both have scuff-marks and a small cut or two on their faces.
Fighting is ugly. Without being too horrific about it, I want to get that point across.
Atom Girl was holding the Commodore’s wrists to stop her rain of blows, and is trying to squirm out from under the Commodore, here—but the Commodore has yanked one fisted hand free of AG’s grasp! Uh-oh.
If any of the other Flagship Bridge personnel are seen, they’re still down. Angle this to include the Communications Officer’s Station. From a futuristic speaker there comes the Sidecar Gunner’s voice.
Come on, Flagship! Acknowledge! What’s going on there?
Scene: Atom Girl makes a vain attempt to block, but the Commodore hits her hardhardhard right in the eye! This is a fight-ending punch, it seems. Close, intense, dramatic, here, I think. AG loses her grip on the Commodore’s other fisted hand here.
Scene: Sensing victory, the Commodore rears back to embark on a really cruel face-pounding. Atom Girl is a Legionnaire, though, and she just doesn’t have any give-up in her. Though she now has a cut under her eye and her eye’s already beginning to swell shut, AG has her left raised in an attempt to block (probably in vain again) and her right cocked and ready to further smash the Commodore’s nose—this with one eye closing, tears blinding the other, a dazed, semi-conscious brain and pain aplenty. It should look like there’s a one-in-twenty chance that AG will pull out the win—partially because, in her premature flush of victory and her haste to administer a really vicious, vengeful beating, the Commodore is leaving herself open. Both of them have that grimacing look of intense insanity on their faces that people in desperate fights get.
(NOTE TO FRANCIS: I know what you’re thinking:
“Why can’t this Shooter lunatic just write ‘…and they fight’ instead of all this complicated crap? Why is he calling for all this subtlety? IT’S A FIGHT! Why, oh, why didn’t I get myself hooked up with a normal writer?”
I’m sorry. But, I do think that if we pull off the subtlety—even in a fight scene—it’ll pay off. Please bear with me, or at least humor me. I believe in what we’re doing with all my heart and soul and wallet. And, by the way, this intense little fight sequence is the beginning of a sea change in Atom Girl’s personality. Very important!)
Scene: Suddenly, there is a TREMENDOUS JOLT! (FYI, the Flagship has slammed into the Tower!) Everything inside the Flagship goes flying—most notably the Commodore, who is thrown headfirst into something solid—say, a console or a wall. She’s damaged enough by this so she’s knocked out and not going to be up and around soon. Atom Girl is buffeted, too, but having been UNDER the Commodore isn’t flung as far and suffers no more major damage.
Scene: Cut to outside. Clearly show that the Flagship has hit the Tower—lots of angles would work—pick a good one. I figure it’s not a total direct hit—the Flagship has sort of sideswiped the Tower, but hard. Both the Tower and Flagship are plenty damaged by this tremendous impact.
Scene: Cut to inside the Tower. The walls and ceiling around Saturn Girl, the unconscious Colossal Boy and wounded, still Parabolic-Energy-Mirrored Chameleon are collapsing. They’re going to be buried. Saturn Girl reacts. Her body language should suggest that she’s trying to protect helpless Colossal Boy from the falling debris. Fat chance.
Scene: Cut back to inside the Flagship, which is listing a little. Reset. Atom Girl is unsteadily on her feet, leaning heavily on some item of Bridge equipment, looking at the fallen, unconscious Commodore. AG is hurting bigtime, one hand over her painful, battered eye. She’s a mess, dripping blood. The Flagship Bridge is a mess, too, from the fight and from the collision with the Tower. The lights went off when the collision happened—only emergency lights provide illumination—and there’s some smoke in the air. This vessel, BTW, is going down, albeit slowly. The other Flagship Bridge personnel, to the extent they’re seen, are still out cold. They, too, were flung around by the crash, and even if they had been starting to come to, they would have been battered unconscious again.
I tried to find an example of good action storytelling. I flipped through a bunch of my recent comics—The Legion of Super-Heroes and the recent Dark Horse/Gold Key books.
I could not find a single example of an artist adding to or improving an action scene. I could find very few examples of an artist even satisfactorily executing what I asked of him and making an action scene as clear as it ought to have been. Mostly, I saw hard-to-understand, poor storytelling. Lots of panels and sequences that you can stare at all day and still have no idea what’s going on.
During the course of my career, I’ve had the privilege of working with many artists who gave me all I asked for and then some. Long ago, Curt Swan, Wally Wood, Gil Kane, Steve Ditko and other greats, more recently, Don Perlin, David Lapham, a few others. I could show you some of the action scenes they did with me, but I don’t have the scripts for comparison. You know their work anyway.
There are good and capable artists around. Not enough. Good storytelling in comics in general is becoming a rarity, and especially in action scenes. As you put it so well, srp, there’s a lamentable lack of craftsmanship.
And now, back to our regularly scheduled program….
As briefly described yesterday, in late 1996, Broadway Video sold its Broadway Video Entertainment division to Golden Books Family Entertainment. Broadway Comics, my 50/50 venture with BVE, was included in the deal along with BVE’s film library and various properties such as Lassie and the Lone Ranger.
Broadway Video was working on the deal to sell BVE, including us, for a long time before they let me know.
I never signed a contract with BVE. A handshake with Eric Ellenbogen, then BVE boss, is better than a contract, anyway.
We actually negotiated the deal, had a meeting with our lawyers present….
That was funny. Eric and I explained our mutual understanding to the lawyers. BVE’s lawyers immediately started trying to add in terms favorable to BVE. My lawyers immediately started trying to wangle advantages for me. Both Eric and I reigned in our respective lawyers and insisted that they stick to what we had agreed upon—which we both remembered exactly the same way. It was weird, Eric fighting with his lawyers to preserve what he’d offered me, me fighting with my lawyers to honor my obligations to Eric and BVE. That’s how it ought to be.
Anyway, we never got around to finishing and signing the contract. It didn’t really matter.
When Eric’s bosses decided to sell BVE, and Eric with it, by the way, they did it the evil way. They kept me in the dark. Eric knew, but couldn’t say anything.
When the news was sprung upon me, Eric’s bosses perpetrated a “cramdown.” Even though there was no signed contract with me, they feared I might trot out the lawyers and delay the deal, possibly even torpedo it, or threaten to do so and try to extract some money from them for cooperating.
Cramdown, as in “cram it down your throat,” is a Wall Street term. Party “A” wants party “B” to do something, or not do something, doesn’t want any complications or interference, so they use every possible means to force their will upon party “B.” They try to eliminate every way forward but their way. Tactics vary. Haranguing and verbal beat-downs are popular. Various legal and financial threats are common.
Using people I care about as hostages has always worked against me. The ol’ “do what we f***ing tell you or this very day, all your employees, your pals JayJay, Debbie, Joe—all your little buddies—will be fired, out on the street, no severance, no nothing.”
New York is an employment-at-will state….
So Broadway Video honchos, not Eric, mind you, threatened my friends and I signed their damned documents.
Golden Books Family Entertainment bought BVE for $95 million. What portion of that, if any at all, was for our little comic book company (or more likely, our intellectual property assets) I do not know.
When I saw which way things were headed, I called Bill Bevins, CEO of whichever Perelman entity controlled Marvel Comics and asked for a meeting. Marvel was failing spectacularly at that point, on the brink of bankruptcy.
I met with Bill. Told him I thought I could turn things around in the comics publishing area, given control of comic book creative and business operations. He seemed interested. We agreed to talk more.
BACK TO BROADWAY….
Once Broadway Comics was part of GBFE, they soon pulled the plug and closed us down. Early 1997, as I recall. As I said yesterday, Dick Snyder, CEO and Chairman of GBFE apparently had no interest in publishing comics.
Broadway Comics was actually on the verge of making money, I think. I actually considered trying to raise the capital to buy Broadway Comics out of GBFE and try to make a go of it on our own. But, the comic book market was very bad—in fact, it still hasn’t recovered from the collapse that began in 1994—and raising significant money in that business environment would have been hard.
I let it go.
GBFE was fairly nice about outplacement services, modest severance and the like. Not that outplacement services were much good for comic book people. In this little industry, there are only so many doors to knock on.
The outplacement counselor wanted to help me write a resume. I told her, first of all, people in this business and pretty much all related businesses know who I am. Second, if an allegedly creative person writes a resume, and it’s one of those Microsoft template deals, then they aren’t very creative, are they? I asked her, in the patently absurd circumstance of Robin Williams having to write a resume, what kind of resume would he write? If it wasn’t funny, people would think it wasn’t the real Robin Williams. I’m not comparing myself to Robin Williams, but you know what I mean.
So we were all cut loose.
GBFE was actually already plummeting toward bankruptcy even when they were buying BVE. Eric Ellenbogen, who was, I believe, named President of GBFE at first, left not too long after we Broadway Comics types were shown the door.
I had friends on the board at Marvel. My former partner, Winston Fowlkes, my former boss at Disney, Michael Lynton. I thought I had good chances there.
Eric set up a meeting with for me with Scott Sassa, Chairman and CEO of Marvel.
In the meeting in which he told me he’d arranged for me to meet Sassa, Eric praised my creative capabilities but criticized me for not being able to make Broadway Comics successful (in a lousy market, under strenuous conditions, with none of the help he had promised—movie, TV and licensing deals—materializing. Hmph).
He thought I was a good Editor in Chief candidate, but not a businessman.
I met with Sassa in the bar at the Carlyle Hotel. I tried to make a good impression.
Sassa left Marvel not too long thereafter.
Then Eric became Marvel Comics’ CEO!
Eric was not able to make Marvel Comics successful (in a lousy market, under strenuous conditions, with none of the help they theoretically had pending—financial and otherwise—materializing).
Marvel went bankrupt.
Not a good time to do a staff shakeup….
Then, Carl Icahn and his bondholder group ousted stockholder Perelman and all his troops.
I still had friends in high places there. Still had a shot, I thought.
Nah. Icahn and his brain trust honchos never returned my calls, never answered my letters.
My friends at investment banking firm McFarland, Dewey & Co. helped assemble an acquisition team consisting of Chuck Rozanski, two ex-Cap-Cities/ABC top execs and me. We were promised debt financing by my friends at Chase and equity investment by Perry Capital. We made a run at it.
We spent days in the Marvel document room at their lawyers’ offices in Newark? Jersey City? I forget. I read all the executive contracts. My God, they were paying lightweights like Bob Harras a lot of money! Plus perks like 24/7 car service, retirement/estate planning services…. Lord, God Jeezus.
I read all of their major contracts.
The problem was that Marvel and Toy Biz were hopelessly intertwined and suing each other like crazy. The only clean way to buy Marvel was to buy Toy Biz too. The Cap Cities guys looked at me and asked, “Can you run a toy company?” They couldn’t. Me neither, though I know a good bit about the industry. I suggested we bring in a toy company partner. Mattel.
I called Jill Barad. She sent her V.P. of business affairs to look into the deal. Seymour something, or something Seymour. His take was “let it collapse and pick up the pieces.” I told him no way the bankruptcy trustee would “let it collapse.” Nitwit.
I was right. The trustee merged Marvel and Toy Biz, the new company reorganized, and that’s where we are today, with Toy Biz boss Ike Perlmutter in charge.
God help us.
I’ve had my ups and downs since all of that. Many of us Broadway Comics folks have struggled along the way, and some of us are still struggling.
GBFE eventually went bankrupt. Up until then, Dick Snyder didn’t exactly tighten his belt. Limos, private flights, big money, perks better than Bob Harras’s.
No $15,000 umbrella stands that I know of….
As someone still receiving royalties for the books I’d written for Western Publishing /GBFE, I was a creditor and I received mountains of bankruptcy documents. I know the gory details.
GBFE died an ugly death.
NEXT: Not Sure Yet. So Many Choices….