Thank you very much for all the happy birthday wishes yesterday. I really appreciate it.
They’ll Always Have Paris
One Monday morning in early 1985, Chris Claremont came into my office in a foul mood. My door was literally always open. I hardly ever looked up when people came in because there was a steady parade of Marvel staffers and freelancers coming in all day to glom some free jellybeans from the gumball machine on my desk. If the visitor flopped down on my couch, I knew it was a casual, chatty visit or they were really tired. If he or she sat in one of the guest chairs in front of my desk, I knew it was business. If they stood in front of my desk radiating foul-mood vibes, like Chris, there was a problem.
Chris growled that he’d spent the weekend at a convention. I forget where. Mudville, Michiconsin or Dulltown, Ohiowa.
Dialogue represented more or less accurately:
“So, how’d that go?”
“The Avengers writer and artists got to go to a con in West Palm Beach!”
“I write the X-Men! It’s the top book! How come I have to go to Sludge City and they get to go to West Palm Beach?!”
In those days, convention bookings worked like this: sometimes convention promoters would get in touch with creators directly. Creators were free, naturally, to go anywhere they were invited or wished to go on their own. But sometimes, requests for creator appearances at cons or stores came in through our sales promotion department, which was run by Steve Saffel. Steve would pass along any invitations to the creators who would accept or refuse as they wished.
We asked creators to let keep us apprised of con appearances they agreed to on their own, and however the appearance was arranged, Steve would try to help out with promotional support, giveaways, whatever, and coordinate things with the hosts.
Of course, there were also some appearances arranged by Marvel, like our annual expedition to San Diego. Or, for instance, that year, we were putting together an expedition to the American Booksellers Association (ABA) trade show in San Francisco. The ABA has a show every year around Memorial Day. In those days, it was held every other year in Washington, DC and in various other cities around the country in between. Chris, as it happened, was scheduled to be part of the Marvel contingent at the ABA that year.
But I’m getting ahead of myself….
I pointed out to Chris that Saffel had merely passed along the invitation to the con in Yuckburg and Chris had accepted. Just as the Avengers guys had accepted the offer from WPB. He agreed to go to Phlegmopolis. Nobody forced him. And didn’t the comics fans stuck in that gray and hopeless place deserve the sunshine of his personality to brighten their wretched lives?
That only made him grumpier. Cold…so cold.
“It’s still not fair.”
Finally, having the rest of my life to get on with, I’d heard enough.
“Okay, turkey, where do you want to go?”
“Paris,” he sneered, in a high dudgeon tone that would have humbled Magneto.
“Paris. You got it.”
“You can’t send me to Paris.”
“Stand aside, mortal,” said I in my best Thor impersonation.
I went upstairs to the international licensing department and spoke with Dominique Boniface, a great guy and wonderfully capable co-conspirator. I forget whether we called or Telexed (Telexed! That’s how long ago this was!) our French publishing licensees. I told Dom to offer them a promotional visit by the entire X-Men creative team…
…if they’d do some PR and some extra publishing around the event.
A few minutes later I stopped by President Jim Galton’s office. I said, “Jim, I have a problem. Seems the French publishers would like to have the X-Men creators come to Paris and do a little promotional tour. They’ll get them on TV, get them lots of press and publish some special editions to tie in with their visit. It would cost us about $11,000 to send them. But the guarantees alone on those specials add up to about $30,000.”
“So, what’s the problem?”
A few minutes later, I walked back into my office. Chris was still there, dark energies coruscating around him.
“Pack your bags, monsieur.”
Word spread about the miracle I’d worked. The V.P. of Promotions (“promotions” not directly related to the comics—things like character appearances by costumed actors) came to me in high dudgeon rivaling Claremont’s.
“How do you get away with these things?! I can’t get Galton to part with a dime for anything!”
Very simple. Find a way to make whatever you want to do self-liquidating or, better, turn a small profit, and Galton will approve whatever mad scheme you propose. Nyah, nyah.
Chris Claremont Face Down in His Mashed Potatoes
The tour actually took place that May. We sent the whole X-Men crew: Editor Ann Nocenti, penciler John Romita, Jr., inker Dan Green, colorist Glynis Oliver (not sure if Glynis actually went, I know we offered), Chris the Complainer, and, I think, letterer Tom Orzechowski. We did send you, didn’t we Orz? If not, I apologize. Letterers are so under-appreciated. If I didn’t, I would’a if I could’a.
The tour went well, by all accounts.
|Chris Claremont, Ann Nocenti and John Romita, Jr.|
|John Romita, Jr. and Dan Green|
Chris was due at the ABA, so the tour had to end as Memorial Day weekend was starting. Everybody returned home except Chris, who flew to San Francisco to hook up with the Marvel ABA contingent.
My super-secretary, Lynn Cohen was there in SF, coordinating things and as part of the man-the-booth staff. Steve Saffel was there. Two or three others of the comics and sales department staff were there. I asked Lynn to organize a dinner for us the evening we arrived, the day before the show started.
As we were gathering in the lobby of the hotel, the Mark, Chris came limping in, fresh off the plane from London. He was exhausted, lagged, and far more wretched than the wretchiest wretch in Mudville. Somehow, summoning all his remaining strength, with the last shreds of his heroic stamina, he said, “You guys going to dinner? Can I come?”
So we all went to an excellent steakhouse in the neighborhood.
It was great.
Our server was a beautiful, wonderful young woman named Julia. It was her birthday and she had laryngitis. She was communicating with us using gestures and mouthing words, though no sound came out. Steve Saffel, who is apparently very good at both charades and lip-reading translated for the rest of us. Especially me, because I am clueless.
I got to know Julia a little on a subsequent trip to San Francisco, but I’m not telling you that story. I’m not goin’ there.
No shots were fired and everyone survived.
Okay, okay, she showed me around town, took me to spots tourists don’t usually find, we walked to the middle of the Golden Gate Bridge…. Wonderful, lovely person, generous with her time. It was fun. At least she was a Mademoiselle. John? Are you paying attention?
About Chris going face down in his mashed potatoes. I made that up. It’s a lie. But he almost did. Missed it by thaaat much! He was so wiped from his journeys that he absolutely, positively did fall asleep at the table!
Ask Lynn. Ask Saffel. Don’t ask Chris, he’ll probably deny everything.
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