I came across a few miscellaneous pictures….
Visiting the family home in suburban Pittsburgh around my birthday, 1985. I’m the taller one. My sister Carol hooked that rug hanging on the wall.
(JayJay here – He’s 6′ 7 1/2″ in case you’re wondering.)
Someone at the local bakery was good at copying images onto cakes. This was my birthday cake from an earlier year.
A “barn shot” of the VALIANT office on West 21st Street, 1990. That’s Debbie Fix walking toward the camera. At the art tables are (I think) Jade Moede, John Cebollero, someone who might be Joe Quesada and two mystery people. In the background I’m talking with our financial and production guys.
Matt Adler asked about a Spider-Man story that was apparently supposed to be written by Alan Zelenetz based on a movie treatment I wrote. This would have been after I left Marvel, and I had nothing to do with the proposed adaptation of my treatment. Here’s the original treatment. I think it was written for Cannon Films during the Golan Globus days. Nothing ever came of it.
Soon, I’ll post the Dazzler movie treatment and tell that tale.
(Click images to embiggen)
I came across this recently and had it reframed at the Corner Frame Shop on South Franklin in Nyack, the best frame shop in this dimension.
Here’s how The ‘NAM came to be, as I recall:
Larry Hama printed a Vietnam story in one of his titles. Savage Tales? I liked it. It gave me an idea.
I had a cover mocked up by production. Production boss Danny Crespi took a G.I. JOE cover, had someone fake up a logo and pasted it on. I think it said “NAM.” Maybe not. Maybe it said “VIET NAM.”
I showed it to Larry. He took it from there. All I did after that was applaud.
Michael Golden gave me the splash page. Anyway, here it is. The one-coat (paste-up cement) has yellowed the balloons, logo and title, but it’s magnificent anyway.
PS. While going through boxes from storage Jim found the original NAM mock up cover he referred to above. Here it is:
No, no, no. You misunderstand completely.
Dick wanted the rest of the story to be DRAWN AS PLOTTED by Gerry. And then, proposed Roy as writer of the dialogue. I said no. The plot, as it stood, was beyond redemption by dialogue.
Roy REPLOTTED the story. THEN he found amazingly clever ways to use most of the panels from the first twenty or so pages that George had drawn. Some still had to be scrapped and redrawn. Many panels had to be shifted around. Roy's miracle was the way he REPURPOSED panels drawn with entirely different intent.
Sorry, that last question seems a little stupid now that I've read up on Roy Thomas, whose early marvel work I'm not familiar with.
The intent behind the question is – was Roy Thomas still to demonstrate his complete genius at this stage, so you would have no basis to believe he could pull off this level of a miracle?
So Jim, from what I understand of what you've posted… DC wanted to get Roy Thomas to rewrite the George Perez pages, and you said absolutely not, they would have to start from scratch. Roy Thomas then went ahead and did that job anyway – and miraculously managed to pull it off.
I understand why you wouldn't have approved the script without seeing it first. In hindsight though, do you think it would have better to say something along the lines of 'If Roy Thomas can pull off a miracle and make this readable, then I might approve the script.', rather than insist on brand new pages? How familiar were you with the work of Roy Thomas at that point?
I think editors like Archie Goodwin aren't appreciated enough because we readers only see the output of their input. We have no idea what the books would have been like without their assistance.
Thanks for reminding me about the fifth Kelly Green book. I had forgotten about it and confused it with the fourth book which has eluded me for years. The fifth book hasn't been released in the US.
Thank you for the background information on the series. Believe it or not, when I first read about it in 1983, I had no idea who Starr and Drake were, and I never got copies of the books until 25 years later! I know almost nothing about European comics, so I appreciate whatever I can learn.
Thanks as always for adding to Jim's reminiscences. I wanted to read the Savage Tales story myself and I'm grateful that you mentioned its upcoming reprint. I just bought the first and second 'Nam TPBs and found that I can pre-order the third through Amazon.
I can see why Mike Zeck's cover for G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero #39 ("Walk Through The Jungle") was chosen as a mock-up. There's nothing outlandish about it with Cobra absent. This scene featuring Gung-Ho, Stalker, and Roadblock venturing into Sierra Gordo with the help of the Tucaros could just as easily have been a future 'Nam cover. Anyone curious to see the original art for this cover can find it at
The Savage Tales story which Jim liked must have been "The Nam, 1967" from issue 1. It went on sale August 13th, 1985 and has never been reprinted so far. According to Marvel's September 2011 solicitations, The 'Nam Vol 3 TPB will finally include this 7 page story written by Doug Murray.
Many companies go to hell after they sell. My workplace was a much better place to work until it went on the stock market. After that, the company was more concerned about the stockholders than the people who made it work.
<> I miss the old Marvel of my childhood. Thanks for contributing to that era, Jim.
Jim – Thanks.
Archie Goodwin was possibly the best editor ever and a great guy. He was also a brilliant writer and creator, among the best of all time. Everybody loved Archie. He was, however, not a great administrator or executive, largely, I think because he had no patience for it. He had a low tolerance for paperwork, bureaucracy, and the greedy money changers in the temple. He wasn't a crack-the-whip type and couldn't, or wouldn't take the harsh measures necessary to deal with the lateness and chaos Marvel had fallen into.
I share Archie's dislike for the money changers and all their bureaucratic crap. Contrary to common belief, I am not by nature a crack-the-whip type. But I had more patience to deal with the business bullshit and the willingness to do what had to be done to allow the company survive. For a while. Then, when the greedy owners decided to sell and cash in, it all went to hell.
The scene I mentioned is on the FIFTH Kelly Green book:
I don't think it was ever published in the US, by that time, Dargaud had cut on its losses and just published it in France were it could at least be expected to pay for itself (so much that the cover seems to be a composition of inner scenes, not a completely new piece). The whole book is a big comic industry homage, with a lot of cameos by contemporary US comic artists, Michel Greg himself and even comics mogul Georges Dargaud, albeit with slight name changes.
The series was never a big seller, though, and wasn't continued afterwards, either in France or anywhere else. My copy is a portuguese edition (I live in Portugal), two books were published here without much sucess and the last one is very easy to find at second-hand bookstores for cheap, that's how I bought mine.
Greg took a lot of criticism for his failure on the US market. Part of it for having worked with people like Starr and Drake, seen (in Europe) as old creators out of touch with the american public of the time. Whatever the reasons for his ultimate failure, it was seen by many as his personal fault and, while he kept writing and drawing comics until his death, he never had an editorial position again.
That's what makes me interested to know Mr. Shooter's memories of the subject, to see how much, if any, impact his presence had at the time.
Hunter (Pedro Bouça)
When we played wheelchair basketball we used to move all of the furniture to clear a big enough space. We had these toy hoops for kids that Jim had gotten and they were shorter than a real hoop, so if you were standing up it would be too easy. Hence the chairs. As we went along with the games, we had to make up all sorts of rules… like no rolling your chair over an artist's fingers when he was reaching for the ball! lol.
We played wheelchair basketball only at the 21st street office. The Seventh Avenue office had carpet.
Jim – I keep reading your blog and I have yet to read the entire blog yet, but I'm wondering about Archie Goodwin. Your depiction of his time running Marvel is possibly counter to what I have read and heard over many years about what a great editor and nice guy he was.
I'm reading between the lines here, but I'm guessing Archie was probably a good editor and decent writer, but was maybe a nice guy and often people take advantage of that type of situation. Again reading between the lines I take it Archie was too easy going for his own good. Just curious if you could elaborate or point to a post where you have commented.
Like Gary M. Miller, I too was startled to see you dressed informally. You were even dressed in a suit as a 14-year-old! (Yes, I remember why. That photo made me wonder what people wear to Broadway musicals these days.)
Sorry about the couch question. I thought, "Could a couch really look so good after 20 years except for one arm worn off-camera?" Nah.
After I read your description of the VALIANT offices years ago, I envisioning it as an extremely cramped single room. I stand corrected. I thought the only way you could play wheelchair basketball (which JayJay mentioned in an interview) was to narrowly miss running into desks. But maybe those games were at VALIANT's second location. Glad you were able to leave the first one.
I noticed the VALIANT photo was reversed when I revisited this page last night. I guess the photo was accidentally flopped during scanning.
Sorry, I forgot about your Dazzler treatment with Donna Summer, Cher, et al. Would love to see that. Back in the 80s, I thought a Dazzler "movie" graphic novel was odd. Without having read it, it sounded like an adaptation of a nonexistent movie, though now I know better.
I was embarrassed to ask you about Heavy Metal because to this day I've never touched, much less read an issue. Closest I ever came to it was the movie which I can hardly even remember. I guess I didn't miss out on much. EPIC was more my style. Story-driven, as you said. Don't get me wrong, I love good art, which is why Stan Drake's name lights up my eyes, but I buy comics to read. Happy to hear that he and the other elders were honored at VALIANT.
Looking forward to the VALIANT story. "The thefts" could have a double meaning. You lost more than computers. Your DEFIANT and Broadway editorials about losing VALIANT have stayed with me. Those lines of comics symbolize the homily your grandmother McDonald taught you. "Rise up and strive again," indeed. Again and again!
Thanks for the info on the DEFIANT and Broadway offices. I never met anyone at your companies, but the photos of the creators and staff in the comics made those lines feel warm and inviting, and it's nice to know where you and your co-workers were. I recognized Debbie Fix from her photo in Powers That Be #1 (was Broadway inspired by the old Marvel split books of the 60s?).
That's the couch that replaced the couch that I wore out.
The 21st Street VALIANT office was a loft, 55' by around 40'. We had two "rooms" built, a conference room at one end and Massarsky's office at the other end, since he demanded privacy. The walls of the rooms did not go all the way to the ceiling, eliminating HVAC concerns, but that made them noisy.
By the way, the photo was first printed here flopped. JayJay and I realized that while trying to identify a couple of background people. Therefore, that's not my "office" in the background, it's the other end of the loft where the financial and production guys sat. The enclosure seen is Massarsky's office, not the conference room, which was at my end. JayJay is making the adjustments.
P.S. The conference room was a popular place because that's where the TV with the Nintendo System was, and where the troops watched that new show, the Simpsons when it came on. Yes we were always there that late. Much later, even.
P.S. We think the background people are Rachel Rockwell (a relative of Norman Rockwell's, who colored for us), and Kenny Lopez.
By mid 1991, because of the problems JayJay cited, we claimed "constructive eviction," broke our lease and moved to an office at 27th and Seventh. It was bigger.
I wrote the Spider-Man treatment while EIC. The adaptation came after I was gone.
My Dazzler treatment had nothing to do with the graphic novel. Unrelated.
Heavy Metal was about the art. The stories were often thin to nonexistent excuses for the art. Heavy Metal ventured into X-rated sex and violence. Heavy Metal's reach extended well beyond the comics market. Total civilians who were art fanatics and shock-graphics fans bought Heavy Metal. EPIC was story driven. EPIC was R-rated at most, restrained with regard to violence and sexual content. EPIC sold to the comics market. More, but you get the drift.
I'll tell the VALIANT story, including all about the mice and men, the thefts, etc. soon.
Stan Drake was wonderful. Soon I will tell of "Old Timer's Day" at VALIANT, a celebration of the oldies but goodies who worked for us.
Okay by me.
Thanks for responding to my earlier question about Assistant Editors' Month.
If it's okay, I'd like to quote some of your reply on my AEM blog. Please let me know if that's okay, thanks,
I'm enjoying your blog and hope that one day you can pull together a history of comics during your time and tenure in them into a book format. This is great behind the scenes material and comes off as straight forward and as honest as any single viewpoint. I found in my business career that often people wanted to hear that any thing being proposed was going to work out. If you said anything negative (even if you are right) they wanted to stone you. Never tell the Emperor he has no clothes. Professionalism and accepting honest criticism is a lost art, now everyone gets a gold medal. In one corporation we always had diversity training, but I laughed at it because while everyone could look different they wanted everyone to think the same. For what it's worth I love the blog, have always enjoyed your comics and I certainly respect your views. – Thanks
Gary M. Miller
Jim, I must say that after all the years of seeing you in a suit, that first picture of you visiting family all dressed-down is something of a shock. (Then again, I look back on one of the old Bullpen Bulletins pages where you were wearing a cowboy hat, shades and a suit, looking just like a "corrupt oil baron," I think is how you put it, and surrender to raucous giggles. Alas, Weezie Jones redeemed the hat the next month!)
More good stuff. Y'know, that does remind me, I'd love to see all your Bullpens columns in one big collection from the folks at the Hero Initiative, who bound Stan's Soapbox columns some years back. Before the age of the internet, B.B., along with Stan's missives and letter columns, really fostered a sense of community in the medium, a kind of "personal touch." Sort of like you do here, so by all means, keep it up!
It's so funny… I asked Jim the same question about the couch when I saw that photo. But it's a new couch. By 1985 Jim was doing well and had helped his parents a lot.
The Defiant office was great, not as open as VALIANT, but beautiful and we had that spectacular terrace overlooking the Empire State building and nude sunbathing girls. For a long time at Broadway we worked out of temporary office space while they were building/decorating a new office space for us but once we got into it, it was gorgeous. However we weren't in the new office very long before they sold us. Sigh.
We had great times at VALIANT, though. Great bunch of artists.
PS. I was crazy about The 'Nam, too! And still in awe of Michael Golden's art. AWE, I tell you!
Is that the couch on which you wrote and drew for DC in the 60s in the first photo?
Best birthday cake I've ever seen!
The VALIANT office is actually bigger than I expected. So much open space to walk in – at least as of 1990. By coincidence, I just got a copy of Nintendo Comics System #1. Now I can see where it was produced. Did the office become even more crowded by 1992? You're easy to recognize in the background!
Thanks for the Operation Z treatment. Could you clarify if "[t]his would have been after I left Marvel" refers to the treatment and its adaptation, or just the adaptation (i.e., you wrote the treatment while you were still EIC)?
I was shocked to hear that the adaptation involved Peter Parker being engaged to an all-new character and becoming a football player. However, your treatment is different from the descriptions of the adaptation that I read, and I was relieved to read your version.
I also just got a copy of the Essential Dazzler reprinting your run on the title including the "movie" graphic novel. I assume your treatment led to the GN instead of Marvel's first mutant movie – before X-Men!
I consider The 'NAM one of the highlights of your years at EIC. It, like Star (looking forward to your post on that!), is an example of your interest in comics diversity. Glad to see the first page is in your hands. Okay, your frame. Close enough. Makes me want to dig out my set of issues in storage. I had loved Michael Golden's GI Joe art and he was perfect for The 'NAM, the only war comic I've ever collected. A realistic antidote to the Rambo fantasy that was popular at the time. Didn't know it had been reprinted. Vol. 2 came out last year. I've added both to my wish list.
Lastly, could you explain the differences between EPIC Illustrated and Heavy Metal?
I've read the mouse story before but didn't know about the robberies! The last thing you folks needed when money was tight. I hope there were backups of the stolen data. Hardware, though expensive, is easier to replace than data. And true camaraderie is rarer than either. I hope your working conditions at DEFIANT and Broadway were a lot better.
Was the SDCC scene in the fourth volume of Kelly Green? I have #1-3 but have never been able to find #4, and I don't see any such scene in #1-3. Got them three years ago but still haven't read them yet – sigh. Gorgeous art, though! As you may know, Stan Drake worked for Jim at VALIANT. According to Jim,
"But he was desperate for work. And couldn't get work from anybody in the comic book business. Can you imagine."
No, I still can't!
According to the GCD, Drake inked the pencils of none other than Jim himself in the WWF book "Wait Till I Get My Hands On… which is another comic I'm looking for.
Mike Leeke & Rags Morales where my 2 favorites from the early Valiant days.
I'll write more about this soon, but briefly:
The publishers of Metal Hurlant approached us to be their North American publisher. Stan and others were worried that their material was too violent and explicit, so we passed, but that was the beginning of the genesis of EPIC Illustrated. The Lampoon people picked up the rights to MH and began publishing Heavy Metal. We never saw EPIC as a challenge to, or competition for Heavy Metal. The two magazines were very different.
On my first trips to the Frankfurt Book Fair, 1978 and 1979, I was exposed to European publications, and yes, they influenced me to launch graphic novels. Other than that, our GNs were not a "reaction" to anything, and certainly no anti-Dargaud maneuver. We did not crowd Dargaud's publications or anyone else's off the shelves. At that time, the American Direct Market was VERY hungry for product. There wasn't enough. "Independent" Direct-Market-only publishers eventually filled the void.
It's funny, but in the pictures of that VALIANT office, it looks nicer than it was. The building was old, dusty, stifling hot in summer, freezing cold in the winter and overrun with thousands of mice. Jim has mentioned this story before somewhere, but one evening he went to pick up his jacket that he had laid on the credenza behind his desk that morning when he came in and a mouse had crawled into it and had babies sometime during the day! At night they scampered all around the place while we worked late!
We were also robbed constantly. Thieves broke in and took the computers on a pretty regular basis. The police did nothing more than give us the name of a place that fenced stolen computers and tell us if we matched up the serial numbers we could get them back. They wouldn't even take fingerprints or anything. Oh and there were usually one or two homeless people sleeping downstairs in the lobby or in the doorway (sometimes BLOCKING the doorway). And sometimes they were scary drunk ones so we usually went out at night in pairs or groups.
But we had a great group of guys to work with. That part was really fun.
With rare exceptions, any artist who needed a gig welcomed my offer. A few were afraid they'd be blackballed by Marvel if they worked for me, and that may have been true. Mostly, money was the issue. We couldn't afford the stars, so we used the best we could find. Sometimes that meant guys just out of the Kubert School or off the street, like David Lapham. He worked out okay, by the way.
Our only freelance star was Barry Windsor-Smith. As previously stated, he was on the outs with Marvel and DC, so we were a good soft landing spot. We paid his rate and more, sometimes, but it took us to the limit. On several occasions, in order to pay Barry, I had to get cash advances on my credit cards. (Thank God that, left over from more prosperous days, I had high credit limits.) Barry never knew about that. I didn't want him to know just how broke and fragile we were.
Depends. But they have no interest, I think.
JayJay- That actually sounds like all kinds of fun. Comic books, guerilla-style! God I wish I was my age now 30 or so years back, in pre-digital times.
Your posts are always deeply interesting and fascinating. You have been one of my heroes in the comic book world. I would love to see you back at Marvel and I am sure you could do wonderful stuff, getting rid of all these new comics which can't tell a story in one issue anymore!
Yesterday's post made me remember something I've had on my mind for a while now. The late 70s/early 80s period when you became Marvel's EiC was also pretty much the only time when european comics made inroads on the US. Heavy Metal magazine begun and reached its peak by that time. Also, France's giant comics publisher Dargaud sent Michel Greg (a famous belgian comics writer/artist/editor, he's a legend in Europe) to New York to start its north american branch.
He did hire Leonard Starr. And Stan Drake since he was at that, I have a book from a series done by both gentleman (which, interesting enough, shows an early incarnation of SDCC – with the presences of both Milton Caniff and Jack Kirby! – during the story, but I digress).
At the same moment, however, Marvel released a line of graphic novels that shared the distinctive characteristics of european comics (oversized format and high quality presentation) that pretty much crowded out the european stuff out of the shelves. Greg was called back to France a few years later with nothing to show for his efforts except a huge expenses bill for Dargaud and the US comics remained unchallenged on their home countries for another couple of decades until the rise of manga. The Marvel Graphic Novel line fizzled out not much later.
Considering your position at the time, I've no doubt you masterminded Marvel's graphic novel line, I would like to see a post describing the thought process behind it, in particular if it was or not in reaction to that inpending foreign "invasion".
We had so little $ at VALIANT! I brought my own drawing table, books and shelves from home. We got cheap drawing table sets on sale for the freelancers. And Jade and I used to walk around the neighborhood early in the morning or late at night and find furniture people were throwing out and we'd drag it back and clean it up! It didn't look fancy but hey, it worked. Real recycling!
I love seeing pictures of this! I would never have figured that, for example, the Vailiant offices would have looked this this. I would have pictured something nicer :p
I'm wondering: how did you choose the artists you wanted to work with at Valiant? I suppose, after all those ugly stories and urban legends about you once you left Marvel, you probably did not know who would welcome your offer or not. Were you pleasantly surprised by people you think would refused it, or the opposite (people you think would follow you and didn't?)
thanks for sharing all of this and answering the comments 🙂
Great stuff as always sir. I was just wondering if there was any way you'd ever go back to Marvel? Either as a editor or as a writer?