JimShooter.com

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Another Question, Another Answer

JayJay here. I was emailed these questions for Jim and relayed them to him. As I do. 

Question:

Reading the blog it sure seems that office politix and egos are as bad as anywhere else.  In Kirby’s case it seems to be driven by Roz, as whenever he is in anyone’s presence Jack seems to be gracious and all ‘o we’ll work it out somehow’ even if he laid claim to Spidey he did almost give it up when pointed out they used Ditko’s design and storyline, Comments?   Speaking of Steve, I’ve only skimmed the first of the three portfolio books about him making seem quite the eccentric, Jim hasn’t said much about Steve and I’m wondering what his impressions were of him. Overall Jim has been characterizing himself as a force to achieve two goals, to make comic books and all related activities reach their full potential and for the equitable treatment of creators so I wonder what his thoughts are on the Todd McFarlane/Venom hullabaloo from the early 90’s, he was their rising star back then from his work on Hulk and Spidey then you could hear the brakes screech and now the only time they refer to him if at all is by renaming him ‘pondscum’. What are Jim’s thoughts and is Marvel truly that petty behind closed doors? might it only get worse under Disney?

Lastly has Jim had a chance to read “Kavalier and Clay”? The comic book stuff seems loosely based on Lee and Kirby tho references are made to Timely comics of the 40’s.  What does Jim say about its portrayal of the industry?

Thx lazerbranz


Answer: 

Roz was Jack’s greatest advocate and defender.  I fault her not at all for that.  Was she bitter? Yep. I don’t blame her for that, either. Did that make things more antagonistic sometimes? Yep. Did it affect the outcome? I don’t know. Probably not, or not much. I doubt that Roz knew, or would have believed that I was doing whatever I could for Jack (and every other creator) from the inside, or that she would have cared unless the results were positive. But once the lawyers and the upper management of Marvel and Cadence were involved — six months into my tenure as EIC, immediately after Jack’s employment agreement ended — there wasn’t much I could do.

Jack was always gracious to me. Jack’s anger showed sometimes, in interviews I read, for instance, but he never took it out on me. His issues were with Marvel/Cadence, Martin Goodman and Stan, but I never got the sense from him that he blamed me, or faulted me for working at Marvel. When I was editing his books, I treated him with great respect, as a King should be treated. He was nice to me. That carried over, I guess.

Steve Ditko is a brilliant and honorable man. I plan to talk about him some, as I go along. All good. Eccentric? Depends on your point of view, I guess. One man’s eccentric is another man’s extraordinary. I betcha people thought Da Vinci was eccentric.

I hope I’m not “characterizing” myself as anything. I’m a creator. I know well that side of the desk. I think I know what is fair and just for creators and I wanted that, for me and everybody else. When I got to the company side of the desk, I did whatever I could to make that happen. Wouldn’t Walt Simonson or Trina Robbins do the same, if they got into a position to influence such things? I happened to become EIC at Marvel at a time when it was possible to effect some change. Roy never had the opportunity I did. I also believe that because Mort gave me a lot of training regarding the business side as well as the creative side, I was uniquely qualified to get some things done. I was the first EIC invited to attend executive staff meetings. I was the first EIC invited to Cadence board meetings. I was the first EIC to be promoted to VP. 

Since I wasn’t there for the McFarlane thing, I don’t really know the details. Todd is a talented guy and a nice guy. Perelman’s Marvel, I can tell you, was rapacious. It was a stock-churning scam. It was all about “playing” Wall Street and selling the company, eventually, to a Paramount or somebody for big money. The house of cards fell, however, before that could be accomplished and they went bankrupt. Don’t cry for Perelman, though, he made plenty churning the stock along the way. Then Icahn’s bondholder group took over. Long story, ugly custody battle. Anyway… How do I know this stuff? Some of this is public, some I heard from investment bankers and, most importantly, I made an attempt, along with a friend (who I want to ask before I identify), two ex-Cap Cities/ABC execs, investment bankers McFarland Dewey & Co. and equity partner Perry Capital to buy Marvel out of bankruptcy. I got Chase to agree to do the debt financing, presuming that everything passed muster. (Chase had been my debt provider and financial adviser the first time I tried to buy Marvel.) We spent several days in Marvel’s lawyers’ offices doing “due diligence.” I read the documents. Long story, but nothing ever came of it. The Trustee allowed Marvel and Toy Biz to merge and reorganize.

In my experience — I worked for Disney for about a year — Disney runs a tight ship. Petty?  I don’t think so. Pettiness, especially regarding creators, is usually — usually — confined to the editorial department. With a few exceptions, upstairs is all about the money. Example: When John Byrne got mad, quit Marvel and went to DC, he called (or wrote a letter? I forget) President Jim Galton and demanded that I be fired — or so Galton told me. Then Galton asked me who John Byrne was.

P.S.  Then Mike Hobson, publisher, ordered me to fire Denny O’Neil, who he felt was responsible for the Byrne fiasco, which he absolutely was. So I did.

P.P.S.  Denny landed on his feet at DC, did well, apparently, and lived happily ever after.

I own a copy of Kavalier and Clay but have yet to read it.

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29 Comments

  1. The GIT Corp DVD-ROM collection is still an affordable option for reading Byrne's run on F4 as well as most of the F4 series from its inception. GIT Corp lost the rights and they're out-of-print, but "44 Years of the Fantastic Four" is still on Amazon (or eBay) for only about $30. The rerelease that added in Silver Surfer costs a little more on Amazon, about the same on eBay.

    Ghost Rider's another cheap one. Unfortunately, most of the other "complete" Marvel DVD-ROMs that GIT Corp did appear to have climbed higher in price. EBay would be your best bet for those. Amazing Spidey and X-Men seem to go for around $65, Iron Man and Cap for $100 and Hulk and Avengers for even more. Still not bad considering the cost of buying printed versions.

    GIT Corp DVD-ROMs on Amazon

  2. A tiny note on lazerbranz' original question about Todd McFarlane: You may be confusing the usage of the nickname "Pondscum" with a longtime Bullpen production artist who goes by that handle.

  3. Anonymous

    "The John Byrne book that blatantly insulted Chris Claremont" wasn't FF #258, was it?

    http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/2009/12/22/meta-messages-1/

    Because that was hilarious! And let's face it, nobody did the FF or Doom better than John Byrne — not even Stan & Jack, in my opinion (having read Essential FF Vol. 1 and the whole Byrne run). I just found out that Byrne's entire FF run is being collected in a single volume. If only I had $100 to spare and didn't already own 99% of it in the original comic form…but I highly recommend it to anyone who hasn't had the pleasure of reading Byrne's take on the FF. It's been a while since I read it, but I remember it as just prime FF, with an enormous amount of character development, and a still-unrivaled portrayal of Dr. Doom: "This Land Is Mine!"

  4. Love these Inside Baseball posts! It's enlightening to get a different version of some of these events – not just another rehashing of some popular creator's story of how he was done wrong by an uncaring editor or EIC.

  5. No. I guess I wasn't there, and I don't recall hearing about it. Sorry.

  6. Speaking of Denny O'Neil and John Byrne, this reminds me of another controversy that was raised not too long ago; John has frequently told a story alleging that Peter David, who worked in Marvel's sales department at the time, took it upon himself at a convention to hand out xeroxes spoiling Guardian's death in Alpha Flight.

    Peter responded thusly: "Number one, it wasn't at a convention; it was at a get-together for retailers. Number two, it wasn't Guardian's death. It was an unlettered two page dream sequence in which Heather was seeing a dessicated Guardian tearing out the ground. Number three, it was part of a package of about two dozen photocopied highlights from assorted Marvel titles. Number four, the material in question was handed to me by Denny O'Neil, the book's editor when I–in my capacity as sales manager at the time–was going around collecting material to put into the package. And when I said to him, "Are you sure you want me to include this in the material?" Denny replied, "Sure, what's the harm?" Number five, retailers at the get together had no idea that the sequence actually indicated that Guardian really died. I know this because when John showed up at the get-together, he looked at the material, screamed at me at the top of his lungs, "How could you be showing this to retailers?!? It gives away the fact that Guardian dies!" and stormed out of the room, slowing only long enough to kick over a standing ashtray on his way out. At which point stunned retailers said, "Guardian DIES?," started looking at the xeroxes again, and were muttering, "I thought it was just a dream sequence…"

    http://www.peterdavid.net/archives/004716.html

    John replied: "Well, not surprisingly, Peter David's version is nearly completely wrong.

    Let's check the details. First, it was a convention. I was sitting at my table signing books and doing sketches when a fan came up to me and said "So Guardian is the one who's gonna die, huh?" I smirked my best smirk and said "That woud be telling." The guy smirked back and thrust the xeroxes at me. "No, I know it's Guardian. Peter David is handing out xeroxes."

    I then sought out David and discovered that he was, indeed, doing just that, sitting behind his table and handing out xerox copies of the death scene (which did have Heather in it. He got that much right.) I exploded. I threw a fit — but nothing else. I demanded to know what the %#$@ he was doing sabotaging a story I had been working on for more than a year. A story whose Big Reveal the Alpha office had somehow managed to keep out of the fan press. David did his best deer-in-the-headlights impression, and said it was his "job" to promote the books. "BY GIVING AWAY THE ENDINGS??" By this time I was pretty much on the verge of having a stroke. To prevent myself throttling the little sh*t I left the room, in the process stumbling and falling over a chair. Howls of laughter in the room. (This became, in earlier iterations of the story, the chair "Byrne threw at Peter David.")

    When I confronted Denny, later, he professed complete ignorance of the whole thing. And, of course, he absolutely assured me there was no way in hell he would ever have authorized David handing out xeroxes of the end of the story.

    It's a typical tale that has grown in the telling, but this is the true version. And, as noted above, there are witnesses who support this version.

    Post Script — I notice David leaves out of this version of his tale the bit of embroidery where he and Tom DeFalco had to come up to my room to "calm (me) down." It's a tangled web. Hard to keep track of all the strands."

    http://www.byrnerobotics.com/forum/forum_posts.asp?TID=13964&PN=1&TPN=3

    When asked to reconcile these accounts, Denny said he truly didn't remember. Can you shed any light on this, Jim?

  7. I can confirm that Dennis O'Neil was only credited as the editor for Team America #2. "The Origin of Team America" from #1 was indeed written and edited by Jim. Issue #2 ("Fear and Loathing in Montana") and #12 "The End of Team America") were also written by Shooter. Number 3 ("Dial M for Murder") and #4 ("Dark Machine") were edited by Jim and written by Bill Mantlo.

  8. Denny also let pass the John Byrne book that blatantly insulted Chris Claremont, resulting in major headaches for me and consternation in all quarters. I was out of town at the time.

    And dozens more.

    All that said, for his work with Miller alone, Denny earned his keep for years. I don't know what Frank would say about it, but I think Denny was important in his early development. And Frank was the only one, I think, who really woke Denny up and brought out the genius in him. I mean that. Genius.

    The two assistants who privately complained to me about Denny each said that not only was the editorial work, by and large, left to them, but that they were forbidden to talk or ask questions while Denny was writing his freelance scripts. They also said that when freelancers came in, they, the assistants, had to meet with them outside Denny's office, so as not to disturb his writing. Their accounts were identical.

    One of the two, both decent, honorable people to my knowledge, is married to someone who for reasons I'm not quite sure of doesn't like me, and therefore probably would never speak up and support my story. The other might, but I won't name that person. It's not appropriate. So take my word for it or don't. It is the truth.

  9. Dear Matt,

    First of all, as I said, most of the disasters were fixed. I had to sign off on the books before they went out and, therefore, caught a lot of mistakes and substandard stuff.

    The two examples that leap first to mind are Team America #1 and the adaptation of a Bond movie, I think it was For Your Eyes Only, but I don't have time right now to look it up.

    Team America was such a train wreck that I had to assemble a crew to rework it literally overnight, it was that bad, amateurish and embarrassing. It was a toy license, and I could not allow it to go to the licensor for approval in the state Denny left it. I took the book away from him. I doubt that his name appeared in the crediits. Probably the original writer's name was taken off, too, since what he wrote was unusable.

    Among those who worked all night were Frank Giacoia, Vince Colletta, several production people, a few pencilers, and I think — guessing here — colorist Max Scheele pitched in. Others, too. There were a lot of us. I did the rewriting. It was literally an all-nighter.

    Miller drew the cover and Layton inked it. The book wasn't great when we finished, but it was better than before. If Denny were not the hall-of-fame guy he is, I would have fired him. I let it go because he was doing great work on Daredevil with the new kid, Frank Miller. I figured he just wasn't interested in Team America, a "toy book."

    On the Bond book, Denny approved the design and final art for the cover, painted by Howard Chaykin. We sent a copy to Pinewood Studios for approval. They rejected it on the grounds that it didn't represent the movie. They also said the likenesses of the actors were way off. Chaykin refused to make changes. I stepped in. Finally, I got Chaykin to make an attempt to fix the likenesses. No good, Pinewood still hated it, and said it should be done over, with better likenesses and a more accurate representation of the movie. What? Chaykin refused to make any more changes. I had John Tartaglione do the likenesses on patches, so we weren't altering Chaykin's painting, merely pasting corrections over. Pinewood said the likenesses were fine, then, but the painting was still not "appropriate." The Pinewood rep happened to be in New York, so I walked with the (large) painting over to his hotel and demanded that he explain exactly what was "inappropriate." He pointed out that the women on the cover who were in tiny string bikinis should actually be wearing ski clothes. I hadn't read the film script. I assumed that Denny, the editor, had, and that the painting actually represented the movie. Nope. Apparently not. More patches, more Tartaglione changes — possibly John Romita took a hand in those changes, too, I forget. Ask him. Anyway, Pinewood then approved the cover and we made shipping.

    P.S. Chaykin was furious that his cover had been changed. There was much drama. Brand new Publisher at the time, Mike Hobson, and I talked it over. Mike, who fancied himself an expert on dealing with and mollifying difficult people, said maybe we can calm down this situation with a few hundred dollars. Against my judgment, but with my reluctant consent, Mike authorized payment of $500, I think, to Chaykin to "make up for" Marvel's alteration of his painting, which, Howard argued diminished the sale price of the original, patches removed. Howard took the money — but Mike was wrong, as I'd told him, it accomplished nothing. No "mollifying" occurred.

    P.P.S. Later, Louise Simonson (possibly she was still Louise Jones at that point) said to me — in her nice, sweet, Louise way — that because Chaykin and I were both strong-willled, who was right was probably somewhere in the middle. What?

    Isn't that the way it goes? You can be entirely in the right, and people will still split the difference.

  10. Dennis O'Neil repiles;

    Wow. Not how I remember it at all. I don't want to revisit old pain, and as Jim said, I did okay, but…I'd already told Mike Hobson that I'd had an offer from DC and asked for a reaction, because for a lot of reasons, Jim and I were on a collision course. Mike said I was valuable, etc etc yadayadaya…and he'd play peacemaker at lunch later that week. Jim told me we'd have to "part company" before we could have that meal. I take full responsibility for rejecting the Byrne job–maybe I was right, maybe not–and I don't recall Jim being in the mix at all. But maybe he was.
    I did occasionally do freelance in the office. That was sleazy, and I deeply regret it. But I don't recall slighting editorial work to do it. And I guess I'm willing to stand by my output.
    I'd be interested in seeing an answer to Matt Adler's question.

    I had no reason to make particular note of anything that happened so long ago and I unhappily admit that my memory is lousy. And I am way past my feuding days. But…memories other than mine are faulty, too.

  11. Jim, do you recall any of what made it out of Denny's office that was particularly egregious?

  12. Sending my support over the Dark-Key Loss Mr. Shooter, It's really heart-breaking as a fan to have to see you go through this yet again.

  13. Nice to read something explaining the dark horse delays, appreciate it.

  14. I think this is a case where you might want to be careful what you wish for. Keep in mind Steve Massarsky's comments about Bart agreeing to do an X-O Yearbook in Wizard: The Beginning of The VALIANT Era Special Edition. The plot was described as "kind of designed for Bart, too, because he loves barbarians and stuff like that." Unfortunately, Bart didn't contribute a single page to "Blood Oaths". Stefano Raffaele became the artist for that story.

  15. 100% with blackjack concerning Rags… How about Rags on Turok, Paris on Magnus, Bart on Samson!!! Lets push the idea towards DARK HORSE now.

  16. Rags Morales on Turok again would be incredible. In my opinion, no one captured the character like he did.

  17. Bart Sears is okay by me, and Paris is a friend. I wouldn't mind working with either of them.

  18. Thank you for answering back. Means a lot to older fans like me. On a side not, now that Bart Sears is working for Dark Horse it would be nice to see him on Turok. Unless you don't like working with the guy! Paris Cullins back on Magnus would be nice as well.

  19. Some of it is my fault, I guess. But, generally, I've stayed ahead of the artists — that is, they usually weren't waiting for script. It hasn't been hard to stay ahead of them. One artist took four months to draw an issue of an every-six-weeks book. At this moment, however, I have THREE artists waiting for script, so excuse me, I have to get back to work. : )

  20. Present day question… The Gold Key relauch you are doing at Dark Horse is having major delays. As readers/buyers we would appreciate if explanations were given for the delays, and what is getting done to fix things. SOLAR is a few issues behind, Magnus is very far behind, Samson does not advertise monthly so I am not even sure what # they should be at. Talking with Dark Horse on Facebook or Twitter gets you nowhere, so maybe you can help us understand. Thank you,

  21. These things are like crack to someone who is in love with comic books from this era.

  22. Jim

    I am enjoying your posts and stop in regularly to catch up. Living in Jamaica isolated my from all the "rumors, fan news, suss, etc." of the US comic book industry. I would read various tit bits here and there and the local fans would discuss it.

    The coming of the internet exposed my to loads of information and I started pretty early on John Byrne's message board. On thing always rubbed my wrong was John's characterization of you, if one was to take it literally, it would mean that you were almost mentally unstable. Its great reading "the other side" and putting things into perspective. I totally believe you when you say (paraphrasing) "John got mad and resigned…." as Byrne has provided ample evidence of his ego and knack of going ballistic.

    It doesnt stop me from still being a huge John Byrne fan and now an even bigger Jim Shooter fan

  23. Thanks for the commentary, Jim. I just ran a series about some of this at my site, and I'd really been wondering what happened in mid-1986 with the end of Byrne's run on Incredible Hulk. I thought it unusual that the end of his tenure coincided with O'Neil's last issue on the title. Now, in quite the unlikely place, I've found the most likely answer.

    Glad as always you started blogging.

    ~G.

  24. Wow Jim, after all these years, it's interesting to hear what really happened with Denny at Marvel. I was around the Marvel offices frequently during that time period, and had one assignment that Denny edited. It's no secret to you that I struggled with deadlines in those days and took longer on my assignments than I should have. However, after being offered the assignment by Denny, I never again spoke with him, he never took any of my calls and wasn't available when I came into Marvel. Everything was handled through his assistant. Well before the deadline came there were problems with the job that you would expect the editor to deal with, though the assistant was the only one who responded. In over thirty years of working in comics, this was the only time I had no contact with an editor of a project I worked on. It was a miserable experience and I always wondered how he got away with being so uninvolved with his work.

    Years later, when I was on the Superman books, Denny was the editor on the Batman titles. Similar stories about Denny were told among the freelancers, and some of the staff there. Denny seemed to have a habit at DC for keeping prime Batman projects for himself to write and apparently spent more time working on those stories than editing his other books. I once asked another editor about the situation and was told the company probably looked the other way because of Denny's long history with the company.

  25. Jim, thanks a bunch for this detailed explanation! I agree that Denny should have been doing his job – but I am also under the impression that creators often have a tendency to like editors who don't interfere much with what they're doing. From what I have heard, Nocenti basically let Claremont do whatever he wanted on X-Men, and it is well-known how much Alan Davis loved working with Terry Kavanagh as editor, because (as I understand it) Kavanagh never changed or questioned a thing Alan did.

    But I also understand that Byrne was probably one of those who sometimes benefitted from editorial interference (just as Claremont himself has admitted to being, in an interview that me and a friend did with him), rather than being allowed to indulge himself fully. Most people agree, for instance, that X-Men #137 was a better book because of the changes you demanded.

  26. Again, Denny was hired by DC after he left Marvel, apparently did very well there, and lived happily ever after I'm pleased to say.

  27. During the nine plus years that I was EIC at Marvel, only three times did an assistant editor come to me privately to complain about the editor he or she worked for. Two times, it was an assistant of Denny's, two different assistants. The complaint from both was that Denny left too much work to them, and spent the day writing his freelance scripts. Some books, therefore, went out unedited by Denny, and by that I mean he hadn't read and approved the plot, hadn't read the script, hadn't reviewed the art and never even looked at the finished job.

    I generally read every book before it went to the printer, and signed off on it. Many times I walked down the hall to Denny's office to ask him how he could possibly have missed some egregious mistake, or let something pass that was amateurish or otherwise patently unacceptable. I knew why, thanks to his assistants, but I was hoping he'd get the hint.

    I was frequently out of the office in those days, traveling on business, in which case DeFalco or Gruenwald signed off on the books. What they were thinking sometimes, I cannot fathom, but a number of issues from Denny's office made it into print that had serious flaws or things that were unacceptable — including several by John Byrne.

    After one particularly bad incident, I finally confronted Denny and told him he'd better start doing his job. That very day, I think, a John Byrne Hulk job came in, finished, lettered and inked, that was all splash pages. Denny thought I'd go ballistic when I saw it, so he rejected it! And he told John it was because I, Jim Shooter, didn't approve.

    John was the one who went ballistic. He quit, contacted the President of Marvel and demanded I be fired. The President called me and asked who the hell John Byrne was, and to please keep these people from bothering him.

    DC, indeed, made John a great offer — he told everyone all about it. DC constantly made great offers to our stars — and John was a star of the first magnitude — but most creators stuck with us because they were already making very good money and enjoyed great benefits at Marvel. John was making a bloody fortune at Marvel. Every Marvel book paid royalties, some very big royalties, while only a few DC titles paid any royalties at all, and relatively small ones at that. One time I handed John a $30,000 royalty check for one issue of one title. That was by far not the record, by the way. Meanwhile, a DC artist once showed me three DC royalty checks that did not total a dollar! We were outselling DC better than three to one. If the DC deal was better for John, good for him. He deserves top dollar. But I suspect that, long term, Marvel was a better deal.

    At any rate, as previously stated, when the above happened, Publisher Mike Hobson ordered me to fire Denny, and I did.

    Here's the twist ending. I never even saw the rejected book! I assumed that Denny had given it back to John. I didn't even know why Denny had rejected it, only that he did. I didn't know it was all splash pages. Months later, Al Milgrom found the rejected book in a drawer and brought it to me. He liked it. So did I. I thought it was great. Al looked into the situation and found out that Byrne hadn't been paid for it, got him paid and ran the job in Marvel Fanfare. (Fanfare jobs paid rate-and-a-half, so it turned out to be a good deal for John.)

    Know this: John and I weren't on the best of terms before all of the above happened. I had objected to some things he'd done in the books, and nixed a few things he'd wanted to do; and he had objected to my objections. So, maybe he would have left Marvel eventually anyway because of me.

  28. General comment:

    I wasn't surprised by your answers, Jim. Again, I came to some of these same conclusions from what I'd read early on. It isn't always what the hammering vocal few say. I only met Jack Kirby once in my life. It was his last trip to NYC. He was kind enough to autograph one of my X-Men #1 issues that he created. A truly nice man. Sincere in dealing with people.

    I did find your comments on Steve Ditko inspiring. He's been mis-characterized a bit over the years, I think. Looking forward to further reading. Thanks.

  29. Interesting reading.

    I haven't heard about the Denny O'Neil thing before – what's the story on that? I thought Byrne left for DC because he was given an offer he couldn't refuse: to revamp Superman. What was O'Neil, or Marvel, supposed to have offered Byrne that could have competed with that…?

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