JimShooter.com

Writer. Creator. Large mammal.

Thinking About Jack

All this talk about Jack Kirby recently has brought to mind so many of my experiences with him, every one of which was pleasant and positive. I edited the four books a month he wrote for Marvel for the last year and a half he worked there (with some help from assistants sometimes). The pages all smelled like cigar smoke. He wrote the dialogue and captions right on the penciled pages, sort of rough-lettering the book. He used exclamation points in bunches, sometimes a dozen at a time at the end of a sentence!!!!!!!!!!!  He misspelled some things — like everybody else — and occasionally misused a word. He used tons of bold words. He’d slightly over-estimate the size of the balloons, which meant that the inker sometimes had to extend backgrounds around the balloons, but it was insignificant, never a problem.

After I read each issue, I would call Jack and go over the corrections I proposed to make, mostly punctuation, spelling, grammar and such. I never messed with his intent, though a few (very few) times I caught a significant mistake and proposed a solution. I was as respectful and deferential as could be, as everyone should be when dealing with a King. Jack was the easiest-to-deal-with creator I ever worked with. He seemed to sincerely appreciate my help. He thanked me. He complimented me on my “catches.” Technically, by contract, he was the Editor of his own books. He could have refused any of my suggestions, but he never did.


Those were great times.

And let me state this loud and clear: In a couple of my tales, Roz was the one who shut down the conversation, but I NEVER FAULTED HER FOR HER ANGER AGAINST MARVEL. I completely respect the fact that she was Jack’s champion, defender and staunchest advocate in his later years. I’m just sorry that things got to the point that there was no redeeming the situation. Martin Goodman could have set things right 40-some years ago. Maybe Stan could have influenced things if he’d fought as hard for Jack as he might have.  By the time I came along, there wasn’t much I could do.

I tried. When I succeeded in getting royalty participations for creators of new characters and series, I proposed that we INCLUDE Jack, Steve, Dick and everybody else, yes, Stan, too, from the founding fathers group — so Jack would get participations and creator percentages for the FF, the Hulk, everything — from the inception date of my plan onward. (I knew that making it retroactive was a non-starter.)  Ask Louise Simonson. I remember sitting in the X-Men office discussing this idea with her. 

Couldn’t get the board to agree. Part of the problem was that Kirby’s lawyers were sending Marvel threatening letters with fair frequency, and Marvel’s lawyers judged that anything we did along those lines — revenue participations — could be used against Marvel in court, as a “tacit admission” that the characters belonged to Kirby. Sigh.

When I formed the Marvel Acquisition Partners, then with financial advisor/debt provider Chase and equity partner Shenkman Capital tried to buy Marvel in 1988, part of our business plan was to include the founding fathers in a royalty/revenue sharing plan. It wouldn’t even have been a financial burden, because eliminating the money-pit animation studio and the money-pit children’s book line President Jim Galton saddled the company with would have dropped plenty of money to the bottom line, more than enough to do right by Kirby, Ditko, et al. Perelman, of course, won the auction and bought Marvel. First things he did?  Close the animation studio and children’s book company — but he didn’t extend any offers to the founding fathers.

I was interviewed by Marvel’s new CEO, Bill Bevins, for the job of President, but that’s a tale for a different time.

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8 Comments

  1. "What if Jim Shooter had bought Marvel?" – now that would have been the best issue of that series ever!

  2. Speaking of Jack Kirby, I wonder if there was any controversy between him and Claremont concerning Sprite. The Eternals #9 was published in December 1976 where Kirby introduced a boy thousands of years old named Sprite. Later in October 1979, Kitty Pryde made her debut in Uncanny X-Men #129 by Chris Claremont and John Byrne.

    When she officially joined the team in issue 139 (on sale August 1980), Professor X suggested "Ariel" as her codename but Kitty didn't like the name at all. Storm proposed "Sprite" and Kitty agreed that's better than "Ariel" as long as no one makes a crack about pulling her tab.

    For some reason, Kitty was labelled "Ariel" again in Marvel Graphic Novel No. 5 ("X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills") in November 1982. Finally, Claremont settled upon "Shadowcat" as her new name after overcoming Ogun's brainwashing in Kitty Pryde and Woverine #5 (on sale December 1984). Jim, do you remember any debate over Kitty adopting the "Sprite" codename when a Kirby character already existed with that name?

  3. Hi Jim. Thanks for posting such great material. Its a treasure trove of information on Marvel and also the comics industry.

    I truly appreciate the work your doing, and hope to read more in the future.

    Eric

  4. Great blog! Thanks for clearing up the record regarding your views towards Jack's wife Roz. It saddens me to think that although we consider Jack to be comic book royalty, he wasn't always treated as such.

  5. Dear Jim,

    Kirby's books were my favorite 70s books from Marvel. Thank you for describing what it was like to edit them. I should have guessed what they smelled like. I'll think about your recollections when I get around to rereading them.

    And thank you for setting the record straight about your views toward Roz. As I see it, she had a right to be angry, and that doesn't make her a bad person. Not at all. But as you've said elsewhere, "People who read comics want heroes and villains."

    I look forward to reading about your interview with Bill Bevins. I've read about him in COMIC WARS and Stan Lee's EXCELSIOR, but don't know much about him. The world of comics executives is unknown to most fans and I appreciate how you shed light on it so we can see a fuller picture of the comics industry. I do hope to read $UPER VILLAINS (or at least the material written for it) someday.

    Organized Readers of Comics Association,

    An occasional error cannot dethrone the King! He still rules.

  6. Very good read, Jim. I was especially taken with how Jack Kirby made a slight error here and there, and why not? He was human…and a terrifically talented and generous soul.

  7. Wow, it's great that you have such fond, happy memories from working with Jack — and also that you almost sympathize with Roz' anti-Marvel attitude. Please keep the tales coming, Jim!

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