Writer. Creator. Large mammal.

Some Marvel Tales and Other Horror Stories – Part 2

Mean Old MarvelThere were many battles between Marvel and creators over creators’ rights and creators’ wrongs. But, lest you think that it was all battles all day every day at Marvel, here are a few instances where big old, mean old Marvel actually resolved potentially contentious issues peacefully.


Howard Cruse sent me a letter sometime in the mid-1980’s asking about the rights to some Barefootz stories he had created for Marvel some years ago. On his website his is how he describes how that came about and how it went:

Post-’70s Sightings

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Even though I stopped drawing Barefootz in 1979, I remained haunted by my awareness that if all of the Barefootz strips and stories I had drawn for Marvel’s Comix Book in 1974-75 were to be gathered together, I would have the makings of a fourth Barefootz comic book. Original copies of Comix Book had grown hard to find in the 1980s, and I hated for those stories from Barefootz‘s peak years to be forever lost. When Deni Loubert launched Renegade Comics in the mid-’80s, I mentioned this to her. She liked the idea. Jim Shooter at Marvel Comics graciously granted us one-time rights to put the still-trademarked Comix Book name and logo on our cover and cleared the way for me to regain all rights to the stories I had drawn for Marvel’s short-lived experiment. In 1986 Renegade released Barefootz: The Comic Book Stories and I breathed a sigh of relief.

All of the above is copyrighted and trademarked by Howard Cruse and scurrilously “liberated” for this one post. I’ll take it down if he asks. I mean no harm.

This is Howard’s site where many groovy things, including much about Barefootz, which is charming, weird and funny, can be found: http://www.howardcruse.com/

Stewart the Rat

In late 1979 or early 1980, Steve Gerber wrote a graphic novel for Eclipse Comics entitled Stewart the Rat. Steve had been threatening to sue Marvel and engaging in legal sparring with Marvel since sometime in 1978. Marvel had fired him when the legal saber-rattling started. I didn’t do it, if anyone cares, though I suppose I would have if ordered to. The one time while I was Editor in Chief when a creator was fired by “upstairs,” by President Jim Galton, was when Gerber was fired. I wasn’t even consulted.


By late 1979, it was clear that Marvel and Gerber were going to end up in court.

Stewart the Rat, I imagined, was a close cousin of Howard the Duck. I also imagined that insofar as Marvel came up or might be alluded to in any way said allusions wouldn’t be full of sweetness and light.

Then Gene Colan told me he’d been asked by Gerber to draw Stewart the Rat. Gene was under exclusive contract to Marvel.

I thought about it. Obviously, to some extent it would be giving comfort and aid to someone who did not have the good of Marvel at heart. Helping Gerber make money to pay his lawyers. And there was the nagging thought that it was the Duck only it’s a Rat, see?

But Gene reallyreallyreally wanted to do it. Gene Colan. A great artist, a great guy and a long time, loyal and faithful contributor to Marvel’s success.

How could I say no to him?

I deliberated not long and wrote Gene a letter granting him an exception from his contract so he could draw the Rat, and allowed Tom Palmer the same so he could ink it.

If it benefitted Gerber, I was okay with that. His conflict with Marvel notwithstanding, he was still a creator trying to make a living—a condition for which I have always had great empathy and sympathy.

I suppose I was taking a chance of drawing some heat from the Marvel brass, but none ever came. Probably they never knew, not being very aware of things to do with the comics, who was who and who was under contract.

Somehow, I never got around to mentioning it.

Don Newton’s Last Job

Outstanding artist Don Newton died in August of 1984. He had worked for both Marvel and DC, but was working exclusively for DC when he passed away.

Joe Rubinstein had worked with Don as an inker both on New Gods at DC and on the Avengers at Marvel. They were good friends. Joe was under exclusive contract to Marvel and Marvel wasn’t on the best of terms with DC right about then. Joe asked for an exception to his contract so he could ink Don’s last job, Infinity Inc. #13.

I had no problem with that.

Up Against the Wall

The battles fought at Marvel were not always about creators and books. Most of them were more like this one:

NEXT: Morality in Comics


Some Marvel Tales and Other Horror Stories – Part 1


Some Marvel Tales and Other Horror Stories – Part 3


  1. The story represented in the overview was originally planned to run through issue #56. I had nothing to do with issue #50, in which they truncated the story and ended it. I've never read issue #50, but that's what I've been told.

  2. i've seen those i was wondering about what was supposed to happen after issue 50. i've read somewhere that it was plotted out to issue 58 but it got cancelled.

  3. Hey Alex,

    If you mean the Legion series from 2007, Jim did post the plot overview in 3 parts on the blog a while back. here is the link to Part One and each part has a "continued" link at the bottom. The Legion of Super Heroes #38 script is also available for download in the "Downloads" sidebar that is on the right side of the blog right above the "About Me" section. There some other stuff there you can download, too, if you're interested.

  4. hey jim will you ever tell the story of how legion the last series vol 5 was going to end b4 didio cancelled the book on you? i'm very curious to see how you would have ended that plot and a few others as well.

  5. Anonymous

    According to John Byrne himself, he didn't do Untold Legend of the Batman #s 2 and 3 because Len Wein was terminally late with the plots/scripts. The window in his Marvel schedule only allowed him to do ish #1.

    –Rick Dee

  6. Dear Jim,

    Your path intersects with those of so many other greats — even those I'd never guess. I discovered Cruse in this gay comics anthology and didn't know his work had been published by Marvel. According to Denis Kitchen,

    "Marvel would have first serial rights [for material in Comix Book] with copyright reverting the artists after a set period."

    I can understand why Cruze needed "one-time rights to put the still-trademarked Comix Book name and logo on [his] cover" since they never belonged to him, but I'm surprised the copyright on Barefootz hadn't reverted to him by the mid-80s.

    Sorry to hear Mark Gruenwald had trouble getting the wall he needed. Marvel Universe was enormously helpful when I was first getting into current comics and trying to catch up.

    Dear Bosch,

    I had no idea you were Cruse's student! Or that Cruse even taught at SVA. So many intersections come to light online.

  7. Dear David J.,

    I don't remember exactly when Byrne became a contract creator for Marvel. Possibly the DC story was before he was under exclusive contract. I have no idea why he didn't finish it.

  8. David Alistair Hayden! Your narration of your novel was cool! Wassup, baby?

    That's like a Bullpen Bulletins on gamma rays, Jim! I don't find myself with hard feelings for anyone in your stories. I never forgot how much fun they gave me. Would be fun to find you sitting in the back of a seminar in SD next year, but would've been the most memorable part of the con that year for many a fan in that fire-code approved room!

  9. DJ

    Still enjoying the Blog, it's very addictive, thanks for sharing.
    On the subject of opt-outs, can you explain how John Byrne was allowed to draw the first issue of the Untold Legend of the Batman min series in 1980? If he received some sort of special dispensation from you to do so, why didn't he complete it, after all, it was only three issues.
    David J.

  10. Dear Ray,

    It's in the queue.

  11. Sanjiv Purba

    looking forward to hearing that story. But the unfairness of how you were treated at several companies in the past really upsets me. It wasn't right. It wasn't fair.

  12. Dear Sanjiv,

    Short answer, no. I'll tell the whole story soon.

  13. More on Secret Wars coming up. Thanks.

  14. Dear Jerry,

    I don't remember whether Gruenwald's office ever got a second corked wall. I know I never was asked to pay for any damages.

  15. Dear David M.,
    "I enter the Computer Age" is now in the queue. Thanks.

  16. Hi Matt,

    There's a lot of Jim Starlin art in the title sequence to "Once A Hero", isn't there? The Warlock pieces jumped out at me immediately (and not just because the style of art is so jarringly different to the style they've used to depict their superhero character). I wonder if the art director was maybe a big Starlin fan?

  17. demoncat

    how classy for gene even though if he wanted to he could have proably inked stewart any way given how legendary he was. nice of gene to ask the okay to do so. even as steve was getting ready for the legal battle. plus real classy of you jim to let don have his final work inked by who he wanted.

  18. Hey Jim, can I put in a request for your thoughts on Vince Colletta? There's a great TwoMorrows book about him that came out last year, and it included his memo to Marvel brass that supported you after you were fired by Marvel. Of course, for some of us, Colletta's always going to be thought of as the guy who erased Kirby drawings in Thor while inking, but I'd love to know what you thought of him, both good and bad.

    Thanks for this blog!

  19. Hi Tech,

    There is a table of contents in the sidebar of the blog and a section called Storytelling Lecture. The post you are looking for should be one of those.

    Possibly the Storytelling Structure posts?


    Or maybe the $1.98 Storytelling Lecture?



    Both of those cover the topics you mention.

  20. Hi Jim, I was trying to locate a post you had written on what should be in a good story, laying foundation, introducing characters, plot, etc, but I can't seem to find it. Would you mind reposting or letting me know what post to reference too? Thanks.

  21. Jim,
    i was reading somewhere about the bad contract the Valiant board put in front of you when you were a 25% shareholder of Valiant. The 2 year non-compete clause they wanted you to sign was unconscionable and it was good you didn't sign. They should have offered you at least a $million a year to be fair. However, how were they able to get your shares from you at a low cost (you said that the buyout didn't cover the legal fees)? Could you not have held onto the shares even if the Valiant board took your position away?

  22. Anonymous

    Jim, will you ever do some articles about your minset as to the creative process behind Secret Wars 1 & 2?

  23. Just want to add that Howard Cruse was an excellent teacher at SVA, The School of Visual Arts. Very demanding, but quietly so, and I learned a lot about how to make comics.

  24. Mark's work on The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe series was one of the greatest undertakings in comic book history. It was informative and entertaining. A really fantastic project that was executed with great creativity. And it proved invaluable to many of us working in comic books at the time. Just think – for the want of some cork board, the series could have been an even bigger editorial task… had Jim not been willing to take responsibility for the damaged wall.

    How bad was the damage? Did it cost more than some cork board to repair? Or did you guys just never remove the pages from the wall?

  25. Jim,
    any chance you could comment on how the development of the word processor computer made writer's lives easier. (at least in the physical sense)

  26. Jim, this is off-topic but a friend of mine was asking me if I remembered a TV show from the 1980's which was a sitcom about a real-life superhero who came to life from a comic book. It was not "The Greatest American Hero," and it was a prime-time show.

    Well, my friend tracked it down; It was a show called "Once A Hero" from 1987. Apparently it only ran three episodes. Also, apparently Marvel had some involvement with the series. The title credit sequence even features a few Marvel villains, including Thanos:


    Do you have any recollections about this series? It would have been toward the end of your stint as Editor-In-Chief at Marvel.


  27. Jim,

    Thanks for clearing up a lot of nonsense that's been sputtered about for 30 years. I wish there was blogging back in 1990! Not having the honor of meeting you, I always felt your EIC period was Marvel's most professionally-run era since Stan and Marty. Some of the static about you is unbelievable.

    In many ways, I think of you as Michael Corleone (not as a gangster, stick with me). You both followed popular predecessors. You both matched your predecessors' business acumen, but lacked that extra one-of-a-kind charisma. Finally, you both did wonderful things for your organizations, but were ultimately hated by a sizable faction of the rank-and-file.

    BTW: The Godfather novel was even better than the movie. Not perfect, but better.

    Anyway, I hope you keep pumping out the "Nice Jim Shooter" stories as objectively as possible. Thanks for putting up the site. I know there are better things to do with one's free time than stare at a Blogger.com screen.

    Dave Marshall
    "Inky Stories" is my web comic.
    "Art of the Comic Book" is my traditional ink-on-paper comics class.

  28. Dear Andy,

    Yes, the memo refers to the Marvel Universe Handbook. I haven't seen the current ones. It's good that they have a tribute to Mark.

  29. Dear Freyes,

    Actually, no. Once the comics started making money — a lot of money — I was generally able to get what we needed, give substantial raises, and even spend money on some crazy stuff and call it promotion or whatever. The cork board issue had more to do with Galton resisting any "alteration" of our nice, relatively new space. Believe it or not.

  30. Dear Justin,

    It's in the queue. Thanks.

  31. Jim: is the reference to the Universe book in the correspondence the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe? The timing sounds about right, since the back pages of Contest of Champions in 1982 had Handbook-like capsule entries and the Handbooks started the next year. Have you looked at any of the current Handbooks? They're incredibly detailed, and the final volume of the hardcover series had a nice tribute to Mark.

  32. Jim I just wanted to pop in and say thanks for this blog. My main comic reading years were roughly 1975-1996 or so (although my first comic ever purchased was Spiderman #88). By the time I graduated high school in the early 80s I was buying all of Marvel and DC's titles (you could actually do that back then!). The Marvel stuff, with few exceptions, always outshone the competition and you were a big part of that I believe. This blog has made me start digging out the old longboxes (50 or so in storage!) and begin re-reading some of these classics. Thanks again.

  33. Jim,
    Didn't you get tired of writing all those memos? It seems there was very little cooperation and a general lack of common sense in a lot of instances.

    Why was Marvel Operations being so difficult with something as simple as a cork-board which increases productivity at a low, low cost? It's all good for the company and the bottom line.

  34. Anonymous

    Wow! a battle over a cork-board. Marvel sounds like a cheap place to work during the Cadence years.


  35. Justin Fairfax

    I remember COMIX BOOK–an amazing experimenyt by Stan to bring the Underground Comix revolution under the Marvel umbrella…Stan, though was unsure whether to have his name attached to it (since there was naughty words and sex involved) as Publisher, so Denis Kitchen obliged by listing Stan in the credits as "Instigator"…

  36. Justin Fairfax

    Jim, it's a shame that in later years Gene Colan never mentioned that Stewart story amongst all the negative stuff about you he related in many interviews about his departure from Marvel. While we're on the subject of Gene, anything forthcoming in the queue regarding Gene's claims of "harrassment" from you for requesting what he considered excessive revisions on his artwork during his latter days at Marvel? I know it's a sensitive subject since Gene recently passed on, but I suspect there's another side to that story…

  37. 1984 ???? damn I'm getting old.

    I remember when Don Newton died.

    First time I cried when a creator died.

  38. Mark Gruenwald. I really miss him.

  39. Holy cow! Mark Gruenwald needed some cork-board for his wall. Jeez, there's the crisis of the century. What other Earth shattering problems did you encounter and solve that week. Did the ladies room run out of toilet paper? Did somebody steal Sal Buscema's lunch out of the break-room fridge. Stay tuned! 🙂

    And what the hell is a "Barefootz"?

    I can't believe that was ever in any kind of way a Marvel Comic. No wonder there was no problem giving this guy the rights back to it. Who the hell cares about the rights to something that hardly anybody even remembers existed.

    Now if he was claiming rights to Mindworm, well that would be a different story I'm sure. 🙂

  40. Love the internal correspondence, especially once I checked the dates.

  41. Kid

    The lighter side of Marvel.

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