Jack’s work had become somewhat unpopular when I started at Marvel in the mid 70’s. On the one hand, Jack was revered by a lot of the Marvel people; Len and Marv would just marvel at the pages. Basically, the fan in everyone who was old enough to have read FF #1 had this awe of his work and loved it. On the other hand, there was a lot of stuff that just wasn’t quite right about it, and it wasn’t selling. It was a disaster; we had single-digit sales figures for Captain America, and at that time the Marvel line average was up near 50%. Jack’s popularity had declined to amazingly low levels in terms of the new generation of comic book readers. Newsstand readers had a lot of turnover, and new readers coming in weren’t buying it.
The San Diego Comic Con used to do this thing where artists would do drawings on stage, and then auction them off to raise money for the con. I remember Jack Katz had set a minimum bid on his of $200, and somebody actually paid $200 for it. Then the auctioneer gets this wonderful, huge drawing of Captain America that Jack had been drawing live on stage, and the auctioneer looks at it and says, “Am I bid $5?” I was so offended; it just cut me like a knife. He, like a lot of fans, didn’t like Jack’s work at that point, and that was his honest assessment of what somebody might pay for this. I offered him $200; I wasn’t a wealthy guy in those days, but I thought, “No way is this selling for less than what Jack Katz sold for.” This auctioneer got so excited that when other people started bidding against me, he wouldn’t let them! So I bought it for $200, and Jack wrote a really nice inscription to me, and I still have it. It’s a fond possession.
In 1986, again at San Diego Comic Con, I met with Jack. After that meeting — both Jack and Roz were there — I said, “Y’know Jack, we’re having our 25th anniversary party tonight. It would mean a lot to me if you would come.” He said he’d see, and Roz didn’t look too happy about that idea. Anyway, the party’s in full swing in this huge hall in the U.S. Grant hotel. Stan and I are standing way in the back, fairly near the doors. All of a sudden I look up, and in the door come Jack and Roz. I ran over to them and shook his hand and escorted them over to where Stan was standing. I have to tell you, it was Stan Lee’s finest hour. Just a moment before they arrived–you know how Stan does the big gesture sweeping his hands around? He had a glass of wine in his hand, and he whacked it against a pillar, and the glass broke, and his hand was slashed; he was bleeding buckets. So here’s Stan; he’s got his handkerchief pressed over his right hand, bleeding, probably going into shock, and I walk Jack over. Jack sticks out his hand, and this panic goes over Stan’s eyes. He sticks out his hand, and Jack shakes his hand — and then Stan has to wipe the blood off of Jack’s hand with his handkerchief. He’s clutching this handkerchief in his right hand, having this conversation with Jack, and it was a really cool moment.
Obviously these guys hadn’t had a real chat for a long time, and I felt privileged to witness it. He invited Jack to come up to his house, and Jack said, “Why don’t you come down?” It was really cool; I felt like they were becoming friends again after a very long estrangement. Then Stan says, “Just once more — I don’t care who owns it or gets credit — I’d like to do a story with you sometime. It doesn’t even have to be Marvel; you can publish it.” And Jack said he’d like that–and Roz said, “Bite your tongue.” Then she kind of led Jack away, and that was the end of that.
I at least felt good that Jack had come to the 25th anniversary party. He was mobbed; people just swarmed him. That was very nice.