Once the mystery of the benevolent lapping scam was solved, Financial V.P. Barry Kaplan made attempts to recover some of the money. A few creators who had benefitted from the advance-vouchering that had been going on actually worked off their debt, or paid the money back. Very few. Barry judged many to be hopeless cases, gave up on them and wrote the debt off. One creator allowed us to publish a story to which he owned all rights as a make-good for what he’d been advanced. A few of the clever and sleazy types, including one artists’ studio owner, realized that with John Verpoorten dead, she could simply deny everything, insist that all the work that had been paid for but never done had, indeed, been done and delivered. She couldn’t help it if inept Marvel comics had “lost” the work. She got away clean.
But anyway…. We thought voucher scamming was done with. Under the new rules, editors signed vouchers and accounting handed out the checks. No more opportunity for lapping.
Ah, but we were dealing with creative people, remember. And a few of them got creative about ways to circumvent the safeguards.
Some freelancers vouchered jobs as they went along, two pages here, three pages there. Some delivered in small batches but waited till the issue was finished to voucher. So, of course, it occurred to a few, especially fill-in guys and one-timers, to do both. Voucher a few pages at the beginning, and then voucher the whole job at the end. It was easier than you think. An editor who is signing off on small batches of work from dozens of different freelancers, including writers, pencilers, letterers, inkers and colorists for as many as seven titles with three or four issues of each in progress at any given point could easily lose track of how many pages had already been vouchered when a job trickled in three pages at a time over the course of a month.
This happened often enough (a few times by accident—somebody forgot they’d vouchered part of a job. I did that once.) so that we made it policy that all work had to be vouchered when delivered. Deliver three pages, voucher three pages.
Oh, and by the way, even I couldn’t sign my own voucher.
Nonetheless, one guy, a hall-of famer who shall remain nameless, who did a lot of work for Louise Jones (later Louise Simonson) managed to pull some trickeration on me. Louise, like most editors, usually came in a little late. Creative people, I think are more often the up-late type than the early riser type. Anyway, she’d come in around ten (then work way more hours than a human should have to). The freelance artist in question used to stop by the office early. I was always there early, and usually I was the only one. The artist would claim that he had to rush to the dentist/doctor/bank/dry cleaner, whatever, and couldn’t wait for Louise. Would I please sign his voucher? Sure. He would show me a batch of pages. I’d count ‘em. Yep. Twelve. I’d sign the voucher and put it in the interoffice mail to accounting. He’d say, “I’ll put these pages on Louise’s desk,” and hurry off.
After a while, I finally figured out that he wasn’t putting the pages on Louise’s desk, and had been showing me the same twelve pages week after week.
Some extra devious types forged (or traced) editors’ signatures. One submitted vouchers with forged signatures for several no-existent jobs as “inventory,” which, being unscheduled, wasn’t easily checked. One artist, after his voucher had been signed, sometimes managed to sneakily write “redo” on vouchers for pages he was vouchering for the second time. Accounting usually didn’t question redo’s.
In an effort to shore up the defenses, we took steps to ensure that freelancers had no access to vouchers once delivered to the editor. All checks were mailed, eliminating shenanigans with the voucher hard copies. Eventually we got it under control.
From the above, it may sound like there were many cheats and scammers, but, really, it was only a few out of hundreds of freelancers. The same hall-of-famer who pulled that trickeration on me was responsible for half of what I mentioned above.
Barry eventually told me that while I could, in theory hire anyone I chose, and, in theory, Marvel was bound by my contract with the guy, he simply wouldn’t allow a check to be cut for that guy ever again. Could I have forced the issue? Yes, well, that would have gotten ugly. And he was right. Enough is enough.
(NOTE: I didn’t have time to finish “The Secret Origin of the Transformers” last night. Please tune in tomorrow.)