One day, I’m sitting at my EIC desk and my assistant says Mike Gold is on the phone. Mike, among other things, was one of the organizers of the Chicago Comicon. This was 1984 and the theme of the Con that year was Superman.
Mike asked me to do the cover art for the program book. Not could I please get John Byrne or some other Marvel star artist to do it. He wanted me to draw and ink the cover.
Why would you ask the Editor in Chief of MARVEL a lame artist at best, to create an illo for the cover of a convention dedicated to SUPERMAN?
He had his reasons, though I can’t recall any of them right now. Mike was such a slick talker he could convince you that DC Dollar Comics were a good idea. Anyway, he badgered me into it.
Now what? If I did a close up of Superman, it would be laughable compared to just about any good artist’s. If I did an action shot, it would be laughable compared to any good artist’s.
Maybe that was the point. Maybe Mike was trying to get me to make a fool of myself in public. As if that was something new….
I had to come up with a concept that my limited skill set could accomplish.
“Look, up in the sky…!”
That was the concept. Imagine walking down a New York (or Metropolis) street and noticing a man FLYING waaay up in the sky.
So, I borrowed a camera and walked south from Marvel’s offices on Park Avenue until I found some interesting architecture. It was the old armory on 24th or 25th. I waited for the light, then went out into the middle of the intersection and took some pictures.
The illustration was based on that photo. Just one guy, an out-of-towner probably, is noticing Superman flying high. New Yorkers never look up. Only out-of-towners look up.
I didn’t even attempt a comic book style. I drew and inked it in my old art school style.
INKERS! Note the depth progression! Light/high contrast – dark – very light, low contrast.
Fun fact: The guy in the suspenders is John Byrne, who happened to be passing by, noticed me and wondered what the hell I was doing in the middle of an intersection dodging taxis and taking pictures. I explained as we walked up to 387 Park Avenue South.
The finished illo was lying on my desk. Archie Goodwin stopped by my office for some reason, saw the drawing and asked who did it. I did, I said. He was amazed. He really liked it. Enough so he made a copy for himself.
Archie’s copy was lying on his desk when Bill Sienkiewicz stopped by. Bill asked who did it. Archie told him. Bill came to my office to say how much he liked it. High praise, indeed.
So, the Chicago Con used the cover and I failed to completely embarrass myself, disappointing many, I suspect.
JayJay here. Jim has been going through some old stuff too. Here are some things he scanned and also a few photos I found or that were sent to me.
Me, age 14, in 1966 standing in front of Radio City Music Hall, on my first business trip to New York.
My mother, who accompanied me.
A photo of Adlai Stevenson with Mort Weisinger. Given to me by Mort. Looks like they’ve been on an all-night bender. : )
Me with Bill Sienkiewicz, Chris Claremont, Trina Robbins and someone whose name I don’t remember. Probably taken at the San Diego Comicon.
On a visit to Marvel UK. The girl in the Spider Woman costume is the receptionist, Wendy, who was from New Zealand. Also in the photo is Tim Perkins who worked for us at Defiant. Anybody want to help identify the rest?
Some photos that were taken by the talented photographer Gilles Larrain of me and Stan for a magazine article. These are totally posed. We’re pretending we’re working.
In 1982 when I was promoted to VP at Marvel, the editorial department threw me a party and made a giant desk nameplate that everyone signed.
Wow, your cover looks great!
Yes, that's definitely a young Simon Furman on the far right. The short-haired guy behind Spider-Woman might be Richard Starkings.
I'm 95% sure that in the Marvel UK photo the guy in the black shirt all the way to the right is Simon Furrman. The smile and big head look familiar.
Might have been. Who knows? I asked Mort about it in the 70s; he laughed his ass off. Remember, Mort did a couple of JFK/Superman stories — one where Kennedy stood in for Clark, the other about the need for athletic activity. The latter was published posthumously, but the former was on the stands when JFK was killed. DC took a lot of heat for that one.
Weisinger's contacts and friendships among both the political and the journalist communities were quite considerable.
Is Adventure Comics #294 the issue in which Mort revealed the JFK-MM relationship? Until now, I never noticed that the Bizarros wearing JFK and MM masks are side by side like a couple. I wonder if Jerry Siegel and John Forte were wondering why Mort insisted that those two Bizarros be together. I'm assuming they weren't privy to the hidden meaning.
Probably some other convention somewhere. Join the comics biz, see the world.
Hey, Mike. Thanks for the comment. Now that you mention it, you did ask me in person. Where were we? I didn't know the JFK-MM thing. Wow.
Jim, the surprise in your voice when I asked you to do that cover made my week. I thought you did a great job, and the cover got a great response. So, once again, my thanks!
That shot of Mort and Adlai Stevenson reminds me of just how politically connected Mort was. He knowingly broke the story of the JFK – Marilyn Monroe relationship… In a Bizarro World story!
Yeah, you would never guess some of the nicknames. You just had to be there. lol.
Oops, John Tartag is John Tartaglione and Sandy is Sandy Schechter.
Thanks to you and Jim for the IDs! I guessed wrong on some of single names and couldn't figure out some of the nicknames at all, so I appreciate your comment.
I think "Barry" might be Barry Grossman since BWS has only worked on a single 1982 issue of Epic. But I don't know the handwriting of either Barry and BWS might've been in the office that day.
On the VP Name Plate, Jim and I were trying to figure out all of the signatures. We got most of them. I wasn't at Marvel until '84, but most of these people were still there. Here are the signatures that we figured out so far:
Nel Yomtov, John Tartag, Klaus Janson, John Morrelli (Squid), Louise Simonson, Morrie Kuramoto, Joe Albelo, Larry Hama, Linda Grant nee Florio, Archie Goodwin, Bob Layton (Blob), Jaz = Carol Jazwinski, George Roussos, Bob Wiacek, Rick Parker, Jim Owsley (J.O.), Barry? (Maybe Windsor-Smith or Grossman), Mark Gruenwald, John Romita (Sr), Virginia Romita, John Galvin, Jack Abel, Paul Becton, Rick Bryant, Jo Duffy, Mike Harris, Stu Schwarzberg, Ron Fontes, Joe is probably the Mailroom boss, Al Milgom, Danny the Fing (Danny Fingeroth), Sol Brodsky, Harry Eisenstein, Scunge = Christie Scheele, Bob Harras, Ron Zalme, Ann Nocenti, Lynn Cohen, Mike Carlin, Ralph Machio (Ralphio), Ken Feduniewicz, Brian Postman
Thanks for explaining why you were drawing in the 80s. As is often the case, you've taught us about the value of a work ethic. About what it takes to get things done. I've read your descriptions of working at VALIANT. I used to have no idea what went into the comics I read, but now I'm grateful for all your efforts.
At that point in my career, I didn't want to draw, and I had too much work already. Usually it went something like this: An issue absolutely, positively had to be laid out or broken down over a weekend. Or we'd probably miss shipping. There was no one better available that I could count on to deliver in that time frame. So I did it.
During my tenure as EIC at Marvel, there was never an unscheduled reprint — several times because I stayed up all night and worked to prevent that from happening.
In a few cases, like the Killer Shrike piece, an editor (Gruenwald, that time) had some reason that they wanted me to do a drawing. I think with Gruenwald, it was just because of the novelty, and because he was trying to get everybody to do at least one character.
I was the "artist" of last resort. When we absolutely couldn't get anyone else, a few times I did more-or-less breakdowns on a book and prayed that we could find a good finisher.
Senior. J.R. Jr. was a freelancer, and not in the office that day.
$uper Villains could have an epilogue covering the aftermath of DC's 2011 relaunch. If DC is making headlines – for better or for worse – in 2012, Jim's book(s) could ride the wave into public consciousness.
If Jim has a Kickstarter page, he can count on a generous donation from me.
Yesterday, I ordered an issue of Marvel Fanfare with a Hulk pin-up you drew in it. Oops, I forgot to order your Peter Parker issues (thanks to Benoît for the reminder) and the Ghost Rider you drew. But I do have Essential reprints of the Super-Villain Team-Up issues you wrote or drew. Were you drawing fill-ins? I'm amazed you could draw full comic books (or even just single pages like the Fanfare pin-up and Marvel Universe profile pic) while performing all your other duties.
I'm looking for the Nintendo and WWF books you drew.
JayJay, I can't speak for everyone of course, but if you guys did the fan funding thing on kickstarter.com to help Jim finance a book, you can count on me to make some kind of a financial contribution. Because you're right, it WOULD be an amazing book.
Pretty good-looking cover, Mr. Shooter! I recall how surprised I was, way back when, to see you were also an artist (there was an issue of Peter Parker and at least one page of the Marvel Handbook, both featuring a bad guy called Killer Shrike).
Thanks for sharing memories and insights like this!
Another daily visit, another great post, thanks for bringing all of us in, Jim, JayJay….and that's a Solid cover.
Marc and JB, You just don't know how hard I keep trying to get Jim to write this book! Or at least finish "$uper Villains, The Decline and Fall of the
Comic Book Industry." I'm hoping to talk him into to it someday soon. And, of course he has to be able to cover bills while writing, but I was wondering if maybe a fan funding site like kickstarter.com might not make it possible. It would be an amazing book.
Stewart Kenneth Moore (Booda)
You know, this is all very beside the point, but I recall reading terrible things about the way artists were treated at Marvel, I also recall when that began to change. I'm pleased to read you were instrumental in that change. Bravo.
You're not alone. I dream of reading a full-length autobiography by Jim interweaving the personal and commercial, the private and the corporate. This blog is the next best thing and it makes me yearn for more.
JayJay could write the foreword. Design the book. Create the logo.
The fine print for The Chicago ComicCon 1984 Program Book is pretty funny. Who knew copyright info was necessary for a flying guy illo drawn from so far away?
It seems Bob Harras had a sudden growth spurt and reached his 6'7" goal last year. 😉 By the way, does that John Romita signature belong to Sr. or Jr.?
I love posts like this. I am probably not alone when I say you are like a walking history book on our modern age of american comics. I don't know if you have considered this in the past, but if you ever write a history book on american comics according to Jim Shooter, you can count on my purchase (and again, I am sure I am not alone!).
It didn't? Ouch!
The troops assumed that the promotion meant a raise.
Look, on your blog … !
I love your CHICAGO COMICON cover! Nothing to be embarrassed about. A brilliant way to work around your limitations and play up your strength: realism. When I first saw the cover, I wondered if you had drawn an actual Chicago street.
I bet some comic book artists (and way too many wannabes) would have a hard time pulling off such a street shot.
I'll have that photo of you as a 14-year-old in mind the next time I look at your early Legion stories.
Your mother's custom outfit looks great. Gloves! I'm too young to have seen them in real life. '66 was a different place.
The positive energy from the signatures on the nameplate (why the big dollar sign?) is heart-warming. Who could have guessed attitudes would change so much in just a few years?
Great Marvel UK photo. Guy at the front on our left in flashy shirt is John Tomlinson. I'm pretty sure he went on to edit 2000AD, the UK sci-fi weekly.