You remain one of the more gracious people in the comics world. Your sense of fairness and goodwill towards creators have inscribed memories of one of the more engaging and steadfast people I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with.
Those were strange days indeed. And though the strangeness seems to still haunt from time to time, it channels a little more succinctly these days. Certainly drawing that Rom cover the way I did was not really intended as anything against you or Marvel, but rather brought about by other things happening around me. I appreciate that you understood that back then and let me know so.
Still, looking back on it all, it’s not clear that it could have been different, or should have been, considering the cards dealt. I suppose something about embracing extreme states when they impose themselves, is part of all of our development, each in our own way. That you can sum it up today, also with a few positive words, is an uplifting indication that it wasn’t all for naught. Much appreciated, sir.
Tue: Alan Weiss was pretty close to Neal also around that time but he never went to extremes such as this. I told the story about this cover in an article some 6 years ago <http://bit.ly/keN5y9>, which shows just how out of the box things were for me in that period.
Interesting that this should come up now because I haven’t done anything like that with art since then… at least until recently. In that I’m still on the periphery of the industry and have some thoughts about some of the goings on, I found myself burning one of my drawings last week in order to make a somewhat lighthearted statement about DC’s handling of Superman in Action 900. Here’s the video. <http://bit.ly/lrNEA0> Links in its info lead to the entire story behind it. But like I said, the entire affair is also channeled towards a more succinct benefit <http://bit.ly/iozgYf> from the incident.
You, my friend, have always been a genuinely good person, even in “strange days.” I never sensed a drop of malice in you. I am proud to know you.
I know that you meant nothing against me or Marvel. I never harbored any ill will toward you, and I’m glad we had the chance to do something together again at DEFIANT. I do understand “…extreme states….” I’ve had a few imposed upon me, too. Not sure I always handled them well, or could have.
I think you are one of the most outstanding talents ever to work in comics. I hope you’re well. I wish all the best for you.
Thanks for writing.
Pariah left the following comment on The Coming of ROM: A Knight’s Tale:
kintounkal, I do think that hacking and plagiarism are very harsh words and according to wiki he was still in a coma so if that’s wrong then I’m sorry.
I still don’t think it was very nice or honest to call Mantlo a hack or anything else especially since that’s not something that is even close to a factual viewpoint among anyone who has read his comics.
To be able to take a toy that is a complete blank slate and create a whole world and mythology around it that is still being used to this today i think bespeaks a very high level of talent and craft especially when the toy has been all but forgotten by a lot of people.
I don’t see Jim speaking honestly about any of the other creators he has worked with over the years whom i’m sure have done much less.
And as i said i’m not even coming from this as a fan of his but for someone who respects the love and hard work that he gave to the industry.
just like Jim Shooter has in my opinion who i have heard and seen a lot of people unfairly malign.
“…anything close to a factual viewpoint among anyone who has read his comics.”
Before I became Editor in Chief, from the beginning of 1976 till the end of 1978 I was associate editor. Anywhere but Marvel, the title would have been “editor,” because I was in fact the line editor, charged with the hands-on editing of the color comics. 45 of them a month. That’s about 40 more than a good editor can effectively cope with, by the way.
The EIC’s during that time — Wolfman, Conway and Goodwin — were so concerned about late books that getting books out overwhelmed other priorities, like whether they were any good or not, or even readable. Goodwin in particular was under pressure regarding the line’s chronic lateness and inclined to publish anything that was finished no matter how bad. Books out the door was the mantra.
I, perhaps naively, thought that the books ought to be good. I had no power to hire or fire creators, or have major revisions done that might “delay” a book. I would often take plots, scripts or art to Archie, show him what I judged to be egregious flaws and ask him what to do. Nobody knew comics as well as Archie, and Archie absolutely wished that every book could be good, but in all but a very few really extreme cases, he would sigh, put his head in his hands, say “Fix it up the best you can in a couple of hours, then let it go.” I know letting bad books go pained him. But he’d never even consider firing a creator who was fast, no matter how bad. Rapid delivery mattered way more than quality to him in the situation he was in.
A few creators, Chris Claremont notable among them, had pride in their work and would fix problems I pointed out themselves, rather than have me do minor rewrites or touch-ups. Many other writers and artists didn’t have such integrity. They were on to the next script or art job, couldn’t care less about the last one and were not about to waste a minute doing correx I requested. Remember, it was page rate only in those days. The more pages churned out the more money they made. So, often, I was forced to put a band-aid on a bad book and, as Archie commanded, let it go.
Bill in particular exploited the situation. He soon sussed out that Archie wouldn’t fire him no matter what, as long as he brought in words on paper for each book in a hurry. And that’s pretty much what he delivered, words on paper — some of the worst crap ever written. Granted, his scripts were done overnight sometimes, and granted, that sometimes kept us from missing shipping.
Bill knew I couldn’t do anything about his hacking except fix his scripts up a little. That was fine by him. He was actually kind of smug about it. Once he delivered words on paper and got the check, he had no interest in what happened to the book subsequently. It amused him, I think, that I took jobs of his home and late into the night worked to make them readable and make him look better! While he was churning out the next words on paper and making money hand over fist.
The one area I was really able to improve Bill’s work effectively was at the plot stage. I doctored up his plots as much as possible, always quickly, often with John Verpoorten looming over me, demanding the plot for an artist who was standing beside him waiting to get the thing so he could go home and start drawing. However, I was often able to fix some of the most inane plot points and eliminate the most outrageous mistakes in the plots, saving work later.
Starting sometime in mid-1976, I put every script and plot page of Bill’s that I completely rewrote into one of my desk drawers. If as much as one line of Bill’s remained on a page, it didn’t go into the drawer. By the end of 1997 their was well more than a ream of Bill’s pages in that drawer.
When I became EIC on the first working day of January, 1978, one of the first people to walk through my office door was Bill Mantlo. His opening remark was, exactly, “Well, I assume I’m fired.”
I said no, that today was day one for everybody. Fresh start. I asked him to bear down and use his obvious talent to produce a reasonable amount of good work, rather than lots and lots of bad work.
Bill did bear down, and subsequently produced some remarkable things. Micronauts and ROM, I think, are notable among them. He was the one who suggested I license Micronauts by the way. He created characters like crazy. He contributed. Did his own correx. And he was still fast, still made a lot of money. When I introduced royalties and other incentives, he made money like never before, doing less work.
“To be able to take a toy that is a complete blank slate and create a whole world and mythology around it…”
It wasn’t a complete blank slate. A few small elements came from Parker Brothers. And I mean small. I wrote the foundation treatment and the back story. Bill elaborated on those things and did wonderfully well, I think.
“I don’t see Jim speaking honestly about any of the other creators he has worked with over the years whom i’m sure have done much less.”
I have spoken honestly about every creator I have mentioned. Good and bad. Archie, for example, see above, and elsewhere. I don’t remember who brought the subject of Bill Mantlo up, but I have absolutely told the story fair and square. Remember, I have been accused of responsibility for Bill’s plagiarisms. How do I set that straight without telling what really happened?
Thanks for your sincere sympathy for Bill. What happened to him is tragic. I think anyone who knew him back then and those who know him still share your feelings. Yes, he did some things that were not admirable. I suppose the same can be said of most people. However, his talent was remarkable. The industry benefitted greatly from his presence and suffers greatly from his absence.
P.S. In January, 1978, when I took office as EIC, there were books still in house that should have already been on sale — that means they were four months or more late. Marvel was supposed to ship 45 color comics that month. We actually only managed to ship 26.
By April, we had caught up to the point that we were shipping the correct number of books each month.
By the end of the year, we were completely on schedule. I have a letter from the president of World Color Press that says, “Congratulations. For the first time in its history, Marvel Comics is on time.”