Once upon a time, while I was associate editor at Marvel, a bunch of us were hanging around the office after work. This often happened during that brain-dead hour or so when the words you were trying to edit started swimming around on the pages.
Often, DC guys showed up to hang out with us. Staff and freelancers weren’t allowed to hang out at DC’s offices after work.
Mostly, it was just guys hanging out. Occasionally, a woman or two joined the slug-fest (in the sense of a festival of slugs). There weren’t that many women in the biz then. Fewer than now. Weezie was among us sometimes…maybe Mary Jo, once in a while…Glynis…not many.
For some reason, besides talking comics, arm wrestling had become a popular goofing off/horsing around activity. I remember that few men could beat Glynis. Petite (relative to me, anyway), sweet, gentle Glynis! Who’d have thought? She’d win or draw, usually.
But on the evening in question, it was all guys, I think. Len Wein, Roger Stern, me, of course, and a few others. Anyone care to identify himself?
It occurred to me to ask why comics people couldn’t stay after hours at DC. Len Wein, abetted by witnesses and wags adding details and derisive humor, regaled us with the tale. It seems that Len and Neal Adams got into a wrestling match one evening, and in their thrashing managed to knock down the wall of a cubicle and do other minor damage. A small price, says I, for the glory of the sport.
Anyway, we got around to arm wrestling. I guess Len and I comprised the heavyweight division. As I recall, I beat him right handed and he beat me left handed. Whatever. It was pretty even.
In our second round, after much grunting and striving to no advantage on either side, Len decided to escalate the conflict. He started to pull me across the desk. Dived on me. Going for the pin.
Len was and may still be part grizzly bear. He was…hmm…stocky conjures the wrong image. Robust? Pretty big, even relative to me. Strong. (And, for your information Neal Adams was, too. I would have loved to have seen their match.)
You should have seen Len hit when we played softball. Talk about power. But he was a line-drive doubles guy. If he had gotten some loft under the ball, he would have hit a lot of homers.
I was in pretty good shape. Not as sturdily built as Len, but because of my height, the weights came out pretty even. And I’m a damn good wrestler. Could’a been a contender.
Roger Stern was standing near the open door to the wrestling venue, watching King Kong take on Godzilla with amusement.
I got a sort of cross-body grip on Len and managed to yank him off his feet. Did I mention that he was heavy? My plan was to put him down on his back gently enough so as not to break the floor. Len, meanwhile, was working on removing my head from its moorings.
As Len’s feet came up off the floor, one thrashing leg swung out and whacked Rog. Rog was/is no lightweight piece of fluff. He’s average height, but rock-solid. If you bump into him, it’ll leave a Rog-shaped dent. Anyway, King Kong kicked him, sending him reeling backward…
…and out the door…
…and slamming into the wall across the hall…
…narrowly missing Stan, who was on his way out.
Stan always walked fast, with long strides, so he was, as usual, making excellent time.
Stan’s head swiveled and his gaze followed Rog’s trajectory as Rog careened across his path. Thump. Into the wall.
While Rog melted down the wall (now marred by a Rog-shaped dent), one rapid stride put Stan even with the door and his head swiveled again to look into the editorial room/gladiatorial arena to see what might have propelled the human cannonball.
What he saw was me holding Len almost upside down at this point, ringed by hooting and honking wrestling fans. Who abruptly fell silent when they saw Stan. Oh, no! An adult!
Nah. It was Stan.
Stan just kept going. As he rounded the corner heading toward the rear exit, without looking back he exclaimed, exactly, “Stay alive, men!”
So we started laughing, I lost my grip, Len fell on his head, and that’s why he is the way he is.
Oh, all right, I’ll tell it straight. Though off the floor, Len still had a death grip on me. We, meaning I, since at that point I was responsible for vertical stability, were/was way off balance. All fall down.
Laughing hysterically eased the pain of impact.
We stayed alive, called it a draw and we all went off to Steak & Ale or some such food place, got as soused as one can get on Diet Coke and ate heartily.
I think when Stan arrived the next morning he probably checked for bodies.
No after work bans were imposed. But I think we stuck to arm wrestling after that.
NOTE: I know I’ve got this one right. Rog and I, along with an unsuspecting volunteer from the audience acted this event out at more than one convention. And at the World Con in Philly, what was that, 2002? Len and I were on a panel together and we acted it out for the amusement of a large crowd.
NEXT: The Secret Origin and Gooey Death of the Marvel/DC Crossovers
It's on the list. Thanks.
Regarding the female superheroes, there was concern that Universal might spin-off a distaff version of the popular Hulk TV show. To secure Marvel's position, Stan Lee came up with a plot overnight, which went to John Buscema to draw. There was no time to put together a character bible, arc, or indeed, anything. In Stan's treatment, the She-Hulk had an alter ego, an attorney named Jen Walters, but beyond turning green and growling, that was it.
I saw it as a challenge, and thought it would be fun to create a major Marvel character almost from scratch. Fortunately, Jim agreed and gave me the assignment. He was always good about giving me work and agreed it needed the DAK touch.
Stan's start was simple and straightforward, so I developed it like an early Marvel series, beginning with mostly one-issue stories and one-off villains, compressing the arc of a Marvel character into the first 25 issues. By the end of it, I pretty much had She-Hulk where I wanted her, as exemplified by her crossover with the Thing in Marvel Two-in-One. She sipped cocktails and drove a pink Cadillac convertible and had decided to remain the She-Hulk (who wouldn't!) A firm foundation was created to build She-Hulk into a major Marvel character.
Thanks, in some tall part, to Jim.
David Anthony Kraft
I'm reposting my comments with a new last line, Craig, inspired by you.
LOL, no one's the same height as Jim! 😉
David Anthony Kraft,
You're absolutely right. There's an article titled "Origin of The Species: She-Hulk" in Marvel Vision #26. Pat Jankiewicz points out 'She-Hulk owes her creation partly to the success of the Bill Bixby/Lou Ferrigno "Incredible Hulk" TV Series. Its popularity made others want to rip it off.
She was actually created for copyright purposes. Marvel had to establish a female Hulk to protect themselves before someone else did. (Spider-Woman was created for the same reason, a cartoon company called Filmation was preparing a Spider-Woman cartoon so when Marvel unveiled theirs, Filmation had to change her name to "Web Woman.")'
By the way, it's fun to note She-Hulk was established to be 6'7" tall which is the same height as Jim.
To Craig Hansen: Stan Lee doesn't write any of the Boom titles bearing his name. He only came up with the concepts, all of the series are written by modern writers, including Mark Waid and Paul Cornell.
And a very entertaining one, Jim! 🙂 So glad you're doing this running bio, talking about the glory years at Marvel. Many of my high school years as a comic book reader were taken up by your reign as Marvel EIC, and the flood of talent you nurtured in your tenure is very impressive.
And unlike current Marvel, which often adopts superstars in other mediums and brings them into comics, you culled folks like Miller and Sienkiewicz and many others from unknown hopefuls to superstar level, and these folks are still respected today.
Following your reign, there was a long stretch at Marvel without that kind of rep for discovering/developing talent. Well done!
I never made any claims to that dubious distinction. I am very happy not to be the oldest of the old. I merely reported what the audience member said. I immediately doubted the allegation, remember? And I reported what Sergio said. My remark stands: It's been a long road.
Ooops, one other thing, Jim.
I was one of the elite who collected and enjoyed every single issue of Team America.
If I remember right, that was all your deal, right?
I'd love to hear that story eventually. Whose idea was it to make them a collective mutant? Original plan, or attempt to fit them closer in to X-Men craze because of lagging sales?
Anyway, it was fun for as long at is lasted. (12 issues.)
In the post on Sergio Aragones, you mentioned that at a panel, someone pointed out that you're the oldest living active comic book writer.
Not sure when the panel took place, and certainly not to take anything away from you, but Stan Lee is currently active and writing three monthly titles: The Traveler, StarBorn and Soldier Zero.
I suspect Stan has a few years on you. But you're still among the elite "elder statesmen" of the craft!
I'll get to it soon. It's officially on the queue.
Wonderful post! These kind of things say as much or more about Marvel than all the details about our favorite books!
I have a request for a future blog. I have a particular interest in women heroes and it occurred to me that many if not most of Marvels great women heroes had titles that started under your EIC-dom. There was the She-Hulk, and Dazzler and Ms. Marvel, while starting before your time, it was not much more. Would you talk a little about the great Marvel women heroes for us. What was the public perception of them at the time? What was the creators take on them? Was there a stigma toward them in this male dominated world of comics? Was it hard to get writers to write for them? After all this was the time of the women's liberation movement!
Very funny! Like I said, there is a movie in this…all these little tidbits strung together.
Emilio Torres Jr.
You crazy kids. This one is a rare gem.
Jim.. I absolutely love your blog. To me, it has more of a Marvel feel than anything Marvel has published in years. Would have loved to have seen your titanic bout with Len (I could imagine Stan on colour commentary as well!)
Very best wishes,
Interesting note: "Super Comics" was what Stan intended to rename DC Comics when, for a brief time he was in negotiations to leave Marvel to head DC. This was when his Uncle Martin was selling the company to the precursor of Cadence Industries in a deal that would have made Martin's son Chip the President of Marvel and left Stan where he was, no promotion, no compensation. Long story, but Stan ended up as President of Marvel, no Chip involved. Stan hated being President and became publisher instead. Like I said, long story. For later.
I can't wait for the DC/Marvel crossover story.
I can't wait for the DC/Marvel cross over.
Marc – I still can't figure out the problem on my end. I'll try again tonight, hopefully with more luck!
FYI, I am getting a kick out of reading this blog on a daily basis! I'm glad to hear the bullpen was as wacky as I imagined as a kid! The bullpen bulletins alone were very offbeat. I loved it, and loved reading Stan's column every month (with the Excelsior! at the end) What did he call that column?
I heard this story from you once, along with one about an 'electric' floor and a straw seated desk chair…
I'm with pete. The Marvel creators were characters in their own right and deserve their own comics feature.
Imagine if Stan wrote a comic strip inspired by his workplace experiences. Move over, Dilbert and The Office, here comes Super Comics, the scintillating saga of the goings-on at America's leading comic company! Are you ready for it, o True Believers?
If the sight of Len Wein upside down didn't faze Stan, what would? What wit! No wonder Stan scripted the teen humor comics himself during the years between the Atlas Implosion and the Marvel Age of Comics.
Sorry you've had so much trouble posting. Glad to see you here at last!
I read someone else tell that tale before; can't remember who, though. Cheers.
That was a genuine laff out loud..
The only thing that could have made it funnier is if you added in a gratuitous "This is how we do when you miss deadline, Son! Don't be late again"
JayJay, looks like I was finally able to post. I can't imagine why it wouldn't let me log in and post. I went through every setting change in my account I could find… and still no luck.
Should'a been a strip in Marvel Fanfare. I can just see Al Milgrom's version of Stan doing a double take as Sterno goes sailing by!
And for our next match: Dan Didio vs Dick Ayers!
Man, that's hilarious. Thanks for sharing.