Marvel moved from 575 Madison Avenue to 387 Park Avenue South in June of 1981 (I think. Anyone know for sure?).
The Mad Ave offices weren’t great. They were cramped and dingy and not well-suited to our purposes. And quickly becoming too small. We were growing fast.
The new offices were custom designed for us. Or, rather, for what the architect thought we were. I forget the guy’s name. I remember that he was completely bald, that’s about it. Anyway, he had his “vision” of what comic book publishing offices ought to be that was based on, I don’t know, maybe the offices of the Harvard Law Review. I was given a few opportunities to raise objections and make suggestions, and I headed off a few calamities, but when we moved in, there were still some problems and issues. Things that had to change.
For instance, the filing cabinets all around the perimeter of the Bullpen had planters on top of them filled with lovely, lush greenery. How charming. You can’t imagine how many action figures and vehicles were soon roaming that jungle. Actually, maybe you folks can.
But we didn’t need a jungle. We needed counter space. Getting the planters removed was a major battle. It became a little easier after the defoliation of the Ho Chi Minh Trail rendered areas of the jungle as bald as…you know.
So we eventually won that one. But there was a basic disconnect between the “vision” and the nature of the nine-to-five inhabitants. Make that ten-ish to all-hours inhabitants.
It was never clearer than that first evening at the new place.
You see, there was a pillar in the middle of the Bullpen, and mounted on that pillar seven or eight feet above the floor was a clock. There were also electrical outlets on the pillar at about waist height. No, not my waist height, a normal human’s.
That first evening, when Galton left, he walked down the stairs connecting the executive floor, the eleventh, to the comics floor, the tenth, and passed through the Bullpen on his way to the back exit. I guess he was just taking a walk-through to bask in the wonderfulness of our portion of the vision. I didn’t witness this, but I was told that he stopped, looked at the clock…
…noticed that the cord didn’t quite reach the electrical outlet…
…and stormed out in a huff.
The next day, Galton had the architect summoned, in high dudgeon led him to the Bullpen and showed him evidence of his piss-poor planning concerning the clock cord and the outlet.
And this I did witness.
The architect seemed befuddled. He said, “But it’s a BATTERY POWERED CLOCK!”
Galton turned purple.
The Bullpen wags responsible for attaching the bogus cord to the battery clock kept real busy and somehow restrained laughter. Causing internal injuries, I suspect.
Galton stormed away with the confused architect in his wake.
|The Marvel Bullpen at 387 Park Ave. South|
After a few days in the new offices, the production people in the Bullpen were settling in.
Again, one evening, Galton passed through on his way out. Again he stopped, looked at the walls, the filing cabinets, the pillar…
…noticed the zillion or so Post-Its, stickers, cartoons, notes and scribbles of all types that were stuck all over everything…
…and stormed out in a huff.
The next day, Joe the mailroom boss came to me. He said that Galton had yelled at him because he was furious about the crap stuck up all over the Bullpen walls. I knew that Galton really wanted to yell at me, but he knew I reacted badly to that sort of thing, so he yelled at Joe and told him to pass it along.
Okay. So, I went into the Bullpen and told everyone Galton’s New Rule. All the “crap” had to come down. Nothing was allowed on the walls except framed pictures. Per the vision.
That evening, Galton passed through again, stopped, looked….
Every single scrap of paper on the walls had a neat paper frame around it.
Even the clock had a frame.
Galton turned purple and stormed out.
He gave up on that one. I never heard another word about it.
Snow in July or It’s Curtains for You, Pal!
One feature of the architect’s vision was that all of the editors’ offices, and all of the smaller-fry business types’ offices upstairs should have glass walls.
The editors’ most of whose offices were arrayed along the main aisle that went past the Bullpen, hated “working in a fishbowl.” The glassed-in upstairs people hated it too, so that was a relatively easy fight to win. The architect chose some lovely curtains for the fishbowls and had them installed.
A year later, workmen came to remove the curtains. There was weeping, wailing and gnashing on blue pencils until we found out it was temporary. The curtains were being sent out to be cleaned, even though we hadn’t finished dirtying them yet. The editors’ curtains, we were told, would be back in a week, and then the upstairs curtains would have their turn being cleaned.
There was still grumbling and unhappiness.
So I asked my assistant Lynn Cohen to buy a carton of spray snow. Now, other people might have trouble finding decorative spray snow in July, but not Marvel-Lynn. She found a place that sold Christmas goods all year and soon came back with a case of the stuff.
I told her to put it out in the Bullpen. Just leave it on one of the handy counter tops that were where the jungle used to be and say nothing.
A little later, I ventured into the Bullpen and saw that people had discovered the spray snow, intuited its purpose and were festooning the fishbowl windows. Ah, but remember, these were no ordinary festooners. Besides our talented Bullpen crew, artists passing through had joined the cause. Bill Sienkiewicz’s contribution was amazing. It ran down the window, off the bottom and continued onto the carpet.
I was pleased to see that, respecting the fact that tours came through periodically, no one had gotten too adult. (In the x-rated sense. Not much danger of most of them getting too adult otherwise.)
So…the glass walls weren’t covered entirely, but they were better.
That evening, Galton passed through, stopped, looked….
…noticed the display of creativity…
…and stormed out in a huff.
The next day, Joe came to me. He said that Galton had yelled at him because he was furious about the glass walls. Window cleaners were coming just before the curtains were to be rehung, and they would surely charge extra for cleaning the mess we made.
So, I wrote Galton a memo saying, no worries, that before the window cleaners arrived, on their own time the editors and Bullpenners would remove all traces of the snow. And that, if he wished, our troops would cheerfully come upstairs and decorate the eleventh floor glass walls while their curtains were out being cleaned.
Funny, I never got a reply.
NEXT: Gerber and the Duck