Most frightening was the great and growing hostility the creative people felt toward the companies. Many had entered the business as starry-eyed fans. First they were stunned by the rotten conditions. Then their disappointment turned to anger.
Shortly after I arrived, Stan returned. His attention had been on other aspects of Marvel’s business, but now he decided to turn his full attention back to the comics. During my tenure as Archie Goodwin’s associate editor, Stan had got to know me pretty well and, I think, had a good bit of faith in me. Since I was the one who directly oversaw the plots, scripts and art, Stan had come straight to me with his comments about the books. We began meeting once or twice a week to go over the proofs. Stan would critique each issue line by line, panel by panel, just the way Mort used to critique my work–but less brutally. Through these discussions I got the best how-to-create-comics course imaginable. I was amazed at how similar Mort’s and Stan’s theories were about the fundamentals of writing. Often Stan would explain some point of storytelling in the very same words Mort had used. They differed not at all on the principles of the craft.
I also worked closely with Stan as his assistant on the Spider-Man newspaper strip. I’d plot and layout the stories which he’d script and John Romita would draw.
A month and a half after being promoted to editor in chief, I asked for and received approval for an incentive plan for artists and writers based on sales of the comics and a profit-sharing incentive plan to encourage the creation of new characters. Unfortunately, a lawsuit caused a legal logjam which delayed the implementation of the new character revenue sharing plan for years, though eventually it did become a reality. As for the sales incentive, while the concept was approved, coming up with a fair, workable plan proved more difficult than I’d imagined. It took time. But in the meantime, I obtained rate increases for the creators, which drove up rates at other companies as well. In addition to raises, I asked for improvements in benefits such as adding life insurance and major medical coverage for regular freelancers. We improved reprint payments, began to cover business expenses for creators and to provide all materials.
With the improvements, we accomplished a major change in the previously hostile relations between the creators and the company. As it became possible to earn a decent living as a creator at Marvel, tensions eased and creators who had left began returning. Sales of Marvel Comics turned around and began to climb.
By this time I was out of the “Y” and living in a nice apartment.