Jens wrote: “I used to think that there was roughly a 10 year turnover in comics creators — every ten years or so, some new names would appear and some established names would phase out. What’s your observation in that regard?”
Most of the people I worked with were lifers, especially those who started before I did, and those who started after pay and benefits got better. There was a time, from the late sixties till the late seventies when the pay was so bad that a lot of creators who could get other kinds of work — illustration, storyboards, animation, copywriting, advertising, or writing anything but comics — jumped ship. Many came back when things got better. When I have time I’ll give you a list of a few notables who left for other work, and some who came back. You guys probably can make a better list than I can.
kintoun has left a new comment on your post “Secrets of the Secret Wars”:
That’s fascinating trivia that certain Masters of the Universe items were planned to be used for the Secret Wars toyline at one point. It’s easy to imagine accessories like He-Man’s Jet Sled being piloted by Captain America and maybe the Wrecking Crew all using Stilt Stalkers. How awesome would it be to see Mike Zeck draw Ultron atop Night Stalker or Wolverine behind the seat of a Land Shark?
By the way, I’d be curious to know if Jim read Mark Millar’s 1985 limited series which was pitched as “Marvel’s Narnia”. This project dealt with well known Marvel villains like the Mole Man, Doctor Doom, and the Red Skull invading the real world so it’s sort of a tribute to that era. In fact, the story begins with the protagonist named Toby Goodman visiting his local comic book store and reacting with enthusiasm to a summary of Secret Wars #9 (“Death to the Beyonder!”).
Never read it. Sorry.
Tim has left a new comment on your post “The Spider-Man Musical That Might Have Been”:
Mr. Shooter, I’m wondering if you could expand a bit on your mindset working on a Marvel script shortly after being fired by Marvel. For me it would seem like a difficult task to undertake so soon after being let go. At this point had you and Mr. Massarsky already discussed buying Marvel?
Thank you for writing the blog. Each post is fascinating, and I am looking forward to next week’s entries on comic creation. I’m also enjoying the Dark Horse series that you’re writing, and hope that the scheduling issues are worked out soon. After reading about your first year at Marvel and your focus on getting books out on time that this must be frustrating for you. Fortunately each successive issue is better than the one before, and I have great anticipation for the Magnus origin issues coming soon.
I actually never thought of it as being fired by Marvel. I thought of it as being driven out by the corrupt bastards who were running and raping the place at the time:
President Jim Galton, who came to Marvel after being fired as president of Popular Library (a division of Fawcette) subsequent to the company being acquired by CBS Books in 1977. He replaced Marvel President Al Landau who had been caught embezzling. Galton was glad to have any job. He never had any interest in comics. His intent was to segue out of the comics business and into “real” businesses — children’s books, animation, magazines. I altered his plans a little by spearheading the turnaround of the comics publishing sector. No, it wasn’t just me, but I certainly played a part. Galton, instead of embracing the success of the comics, used the profits we produced to finance his ill-considered schemes. Marvel Books was a financial disaster, as was Marvel Productions, the animation studio — known at Cadence as “Galton’s Folly.”
Executive Vice President Joe Calamari. Calamari was hired right out of law school, as I recall, by Shelly Feinberg, chairman of Marvel’s parent company, Cadence Industries, as a hatchet man. Cadence was a failed conglomerate. Feinberg was recruited to dismantle the conglomerate and get the shareholders out alive. He engineered a miraculous life-support financing deal with the Bank of Boston that is legendary in corporate financial circles. Calamari and another lawyer, whose name escapes me at the moment, were sent into the various companies Cadence owned to fire people, strip the units down to saleable remnants and dump them. His reward for being a good traveling executioner was a job at Marvel as Executive VP of Business Affairs.
There were other villains. Tell you later.
Both Galton and Calamari were members of the “Gang of Seven” who took Cadence private, the first step in their plan to cash in. They were “CMI,” Cadence Management Incorporated. Corporate Raider Mario Gabelli sniffed out their scheme and tried to usurp it. Remember all the “junk publishing” Marvel did in the early 1980’s? The No-Prize Book? The Fumetti Book? All the reprints? They happened because I was commanded to generate cash — some millions of dollars — any way I could, to fund the anti-takeover battle against Gabelli. Long story.
The last Cadence company, Curtiss Circulation was sold for receivables, a tidy profit for the Six (by that time they had screwed over and gotten rid of one of their own). Marvel had always been a DIVISION of Cadence, rather than a subsidiary, so it didn’t have to be SEC-reported independently. That was a way of burying the Crown Jewel, hiding Marvel’s true worth by laying off corporate expenses against it. After stripping out $12 million in cash for themselves, the six sold Marvel to New World Pictures at the beginning of 1987 for $45.5 million. All into their pockets. The shareholders received, as I recall, $17 a share, less than half of their real worth.
The CMI group created nothing. They built nothing. They accomplished nothing. But they got very rich off of Marvel, Curtiss and the pathetic remnants of Cadence. Welcome to American business. Bilk the stockholders, get rich.
I was fired from Marvel NOT because, as virtually EVERYONE thinks, because of anything that happened that had anything to do with the comics, the comics department, the staff or the creators, contract or freelance. I WAS FIRED BECAUSE WHEN MARVEL WAS SOLD TO NEW WORLD PICTURES I BLEW THE WHISTLE ON MARVEL’S CORRUPT MANAGEMENT. I wrote a letter to Bob Rehme, our new, New World CEO, telling him a few of the totally corrupt, self serving, potentially illegal things that the Marvel top brass, see above, had done/were engaged in. (Note: After acquiring Marvel, New World Pictures changed its name to “New World Entertainment.”
A couple of months later, I was fired. That’s the chance you take as a whistle-blower.
I was flown out to LA for an exit interview with Rehme. He had looked into the charges I’d levied. He had found that I was absolutely correct, that everything I’d told him was true — but, he said, how would it look to NWE’s investors if they fired top management for being corrupt right after buying the company? Much easier to get rid of the squeaky wheel, and deal with the scum at their leisure.
Rehme said that he had instructed Galton to offer me a deal similar to the kind of deal that studio chiefs get when they leave a place like Paramount or TriStar — they were going to set me up as an “independent producer.” They would fund offices, a staff, and all costs so that I could produce my own line of comics — which Marvel would distribute and to which, Marvel would have have a package of licensing rights.
Galton and cronies however, were sufficiently annoyed by my whistle-blowing, which caused them serious problems, that they managed to obstruct my “independent producer” deal till it was dead. All I got from Marvel was screwed.
Again, it was evil people, not Marvel doing me wrong. I had nothing against Marvel, the conceptual entity. Still don’t.
The idea of buying Marvel came up later, after I’d written the show, at a party at my friend Clark Smith’s house. He introduced me to an executive from Chase. I’ll tell that story later.
After my bid for Marvel came in second to Perelman’s, when I was being interviewed for the job of President of Marvel by CEO Bill Bevins, I expressed my low opinion of Galton et al. His response: “If all of Marvel’s upper management drowned in the East River, no one would notice they were gone for at least a month.” That’s a real quote. We hit it off. I might have been hired, except for the fact that there would have been a bloodbath the day I walked through the door as new boss. I admitted to Bevins that a few I would have to fire, and others would quit or jump out the windows. He told me that they, Perelman’s company, intended to take Marvel public, and couldn’t afford any drama. Like Rehme, he wanted to filter his guys in quietly and get rid of the scum slowly and quietly. And he did.
JayJay here. As some of you may be aware, Jim’s latest project is a relaunch of the Gold Key characters for Dark Horse Comics.
Magnus: Robot Fighter
Turok, Son of Stone
A fan web site has been going strong since just before the launch of the line. It includes an active forum and was gotten together by long-time fan, John Rosas.
And excellent complete checklist compiled by long-time fan George Warner is here:
The Complete Illustrated Dark Horse Comics/Gold Key Heroes Checklist
Also, on May 7th, Jim and co-writer Jeff Vaughn will be going on a signing whistle-stop tour of Long Island.
Do you recall whatever happened the Sub-Mariner miniseries you were writing waay back in 1982? I recall Alan Weiss was supposed to draw it.
Thanks in advance!
It's interesting to see Jim mention Mike Hobson's name. While reading Marvel's June solicitations list, I noticed they're going to publish the first ever Impossible Man trade paperback. The part that's relevant to Jim and Mike is that they each had appearances in "Scavenger Hunt" from The Uncanny X-Men Annual #7. This story written by Chris Claremont has been reprinted previously in black and white within Essential X-Men Volume 5 but it's never been collected in a color TPB.
Given the rampaging success of the comic book film, those execs have to be feeling a bit like the guys that passed on the Beatles.
Great blog, fascinating reading, and thank you for leading Marvel during my favorite era as a kid. Lots of great memories from Uncanny X-Men #137 to Miller's Daredevil to Micheline & Layton's Iron Man.
As a huge Captain America fan, I would love to hear your story about the 1979 Cap movies. Joe Simon wrote in his book about how Timely gave away the rights to Cap for the 1940s serial because they thought it would be good publicity for the book. And the 1990 movie fell short for various reasons but, mostly, the investors pulled out and they ran out of money. But the Universal TV movies I don't have much information for. So I'm really curious for any information.
Thanks for all the great books!
Or The Spiderman TV attempt where PP looked like a Hardy boy Clone. Spidey had something that resembled tea strainers for eyes and shot white cotton ropes to swing on.
Yes. Back then, film people still didn't take our work seriously, at least Marvel's work. That was reinforced by Marvel management, because THEY didn't take the comics properties seriously, or bother to learn anything about them.
ASIDE: Once, several Marvel execs and I had a meeting with Gary Gygax and several of his top D&D execs. All of Gygax's people knew the game, played the game and liked the game. Other than me and publisher Mike Hobson, who actually read the occasional comic book, none of our execs had any familiarity with the comics or the characters. They were proud of that! They BRAGGED that they had never read a comic (so as to appear very adult and important, I suppose).
Anyone with $5,000 could option film rights to any Marvel character. No need to show any credentials as a producer, or any ability to actually make a film — and the Marvel media licensing types thought they were stealing the money and giggled all the way to the bank. It's no wonder little was produced, and what was produced was crap. Sometime I'll tell the story of the first Captain America TV movie. 1978? 1979?
When you left Valiant it was stated that you left because you wanted to go in one direction and everyone else wanted to go in a another direction. Can you talk a little bit about when you left Valiant?
I've always been curious why so many Marvel movie deals fell through in the 80s, or became made-for-TV instant to video fare. I remember Stan would announce all these huge upcoming projects in his Bullpen Bulletin that never came to pass or shouldn't have. (The 90s Captain America film comes to mind.) Was there a lack of belief in the comic book movie on the part of investors?
No, we had no policy regarding strategically naming titles for rack position. When I was there, Marvel's sales increased to as much as 70% of the market. DC, for comparison's sake had as little as 18%. We didn't need to resort to such tricks. Our circulation VP, Ed Shukin, used to say that DC had better production values, out-advertised us, out-promoted us, out-spent us and had longer-established, household name characters that had, at that point, much more exposure on TV and in movies than ours did, but we "beat them between the covers."
Thanks for the kind words.
Jim, For future post I hope you talk a little about some of Marvels other efforts like Epic, Star, and the new universe.
Thanks for all the great blogs!! I'm loving them and find them vastly informative! They are opening up a world to me, a side of comics, I had no idea existed!
Such an insightful fever-reading blog! Thanks to share with us all those stories, Jim!
Perhaps you'll remember us, we did an interview of you in issue 46 + 47 (1995-1996). We are a long running (since 1983) french magazine on US comics called SCARCE.
I'm xavier, its current editor. I do have a question (among many others):
Was there any policy on the name of the Marvel serie, taking in account by which alphabet letter it should begin with to be at the right place on the racks (and perhaps next to another title)?
And congrats on the Dark Horse relaunch of the Gold Key/Valiant characters. I wasn't sold on the Dr Solar series because I wasn't thrilled by your recent Legions issues but it almost instantly became one of my favorite current comics. And I took Mighty Samson 1 mostly because of the good deal (48p with old reprint) and now find myselfaddicted to this one also! Good job! 🙂
Thanks for your reply. I was guessing that you would have done something like VALIANT if the independent producer deal had worked out.
I'm sorry you have so many unfulfilled dreams. I think of all the stories that could have been. But watching you "rise up and strive again" – a phrase I learned from one of your DEFIANT editorials – has been inspiring for me. Those aren't just words in a comic book. They're advice for life from a man who's truly lived it.
Too many to list.
Thanks for the kind words.
R: the independent producer deal with Marvel, I had no plans at the time, but I think I would have led off with a VALIANT type super-hero line — with better art, if Marvel had financed it as promised. Then, I would have branched out into other genres and tried to revolutionize the business — probably tilting at windmills, but if I had some free swings of the bat, why not? And I would have offered the best deal in the industry to creators.
Jim, are any dreams unfulfilled for you?
It still burns my rear-end whenever I think about Perelman beating the Shooter bid. I was just getting my start professionally in comic books in 1988 and by 1990 I transitioned from staffer at DC Comics (marketing dept) to freelancer, mainly for Marvel. I did some Marvel Age articles, back-up stories, Disney Afternoon stuff – things were looking up. Had a few new things in the pipeline, feeling that "big break is coming now" feeling and that's right when Perelman showed just how little he cared about comics by gutting the company and taking his profit. If a real publishing man was at the top, there would not have been the implosion of 1994.
Of course, today's economy and comic publishing contraction is probably not the best time to try to make a comeback, but I was never good with timing anyway…
Thank you very much for using my question. 1985 is full of references and praise towards early eighties material like the Proteus storyline and Spider-Man's romance with Black Cat. Mark Millar even included a minor character in his script described as a "Gary Groth wannabe" who's mortified that his life is saved by Iron Man at the end. 🙂
When asked about the significance behind choosing this year, Mark Millar said "1985 was probably the final year before the complete deconstruction of the super hero took place. It was happening elsewhere prior to this—most notably guys like [Don] McGregor and [Steve] Gerber—but [Alan] Moore and [Frank] Miller really, really made this mainstream in 1986 and so '85, for me, was the last year we looked at the heroes with the same innocence we looked at our parents. They just seemed utterly faultless at this stage and that's the way they're written in this story."
Later on, he adds "It also marked a high watermark in Marvel books. I couldn't afford or find most of these at the time and read them later, but we had Miller on [DAREDEVIL], [Walt] Simonson on THOR, [John] Byrne on FF and so on."
Even though I won't have the chance to attend any of the Long Island signings, I'm guessing J.C. Vaughn might be signing Gemstone Publishing's Overstreet Guide to Collecting Comics FCBD 2011 Edition too. Since the cover features Doctor Solar, Turok, and Magnus, it's one of only 2 silver sponsor issues I really want this year.
I learned a long time ago, that when a dog craps in your yard, trying to stomp on it to get rid of it stirs up the smell and causes it to get all over you. It's best to let some things dry up and go away on their own.
Thank you for distinguishing between Marvel and the monsters who were in power in the 80s. We fans know almost nothing about the latter. I wouldn't have known anything about Galton and Calamari if I hadn't read your interviews. I appreciate learning about the backgrounds of those real life $uper Villains.
I remember the "junk publishing." Never thought of it that way. I bought and loved 'em: THE NO-PRIZE BOOK, THE FUMETTI BOOK, the reprints. I had no idea what their real purpose was.
Did you have any plans about the comics you'd create if the "independent producer" deal had materialized? If you did, did any of them see fruition at your other companies?
I feel just like bmcmolo. This story is so sad. And yet you overcame this hurdle and many others over the years, creating good comics along the way. I read SOLAR #5 this morning, just started on MAGNUS #3, and am looking for SAMSON #2.
Thanks for linking to George Warner's blog. I've been enjoying his writing here and elsewhere and his detailed guide to the "Dark Key" line is very much appreciated.
It makes my blood boil to think of all this crap that went down in the 80s. While I was innocently consuming Marvel comics, the dark forces were swooping in behind the scenes to dismantle it all. Wish I (and the comics community at large) had known at the time. It must have been hell to see the same bad stories and misrepresentations passing around in the comics press and from the usual-cranky-suspect-creators who are happy to pass along falsehoods out of spite.
The revolting part is all of these crooks got rich and are probably living great lives now, with nary a thought to the human (and superhero) debris left in their wake.
You are a survivor, sir – still fighting the good fight. I appreciate it!
(These blogs are the REAL "torpedoes of truth," Mr. Sheen!)