JimShooter.com

Writer. Creator. Large mammal.

Something Groovy

Years ago, comics creator and publisher David Miller asked Mike Baron, Roy Thomas and me to contribute to the Writer’s Block #1. Each of us was given the same six pages of a story to dialogue. We weren’t even told the plot or the premise. Here’s the cover of that comic book:

Dumb title, I think, one of those reach-for-any-familiar-pairing-of-words things, no matter how much of a stretch or how inappropriate. Like the local radio station that refers to people calling in from the road as “cell mates.” Good grief.
But I think the Writer’s Block results are intriguing. I was very interested in seeing how the other guys’ analysis and execution compared to mine, and to read the short interviews in which each of us explained his approach. I guess it was interesting to readers, too, because subsequently David did the same sort of thing with Peter David, Jo Duffy, Gail Simone, Roger Stern and Fabian Nicieza.
David informed me that there’s now a trade paperback that collects all the Writer’s Block work. I don’t often plug things here, but in case this unusual, experimental book sounds appealing, you can get a copy here:

www.createspace.com/3676520


Other Groovy Stuff 

Someone asked about the effect of Spider-Man’s black costume on sales. Here’s a letter, one of hundreds sent from our national wholesaler to local Independent Distributor Wholesalers:

 

Just because it’s groovy, here’s a birthday card/gift I got from Stan:
Some crazy thing I happened to come across. Tart art?
The web site is jayjayjackson.com, now. Seriousillustration.com is languishing.

Here’s a copy of Communicadence, the parent corporation’s newsletter, from about the time I started at Marvel. I didn’t make it into this issue but there’s a nice picture of Marie Severin and also some new guy who aspires to write a sleazy novel.

NEXT:  Originals Sin, or Who Deserves Pages and Who Doesn’t?  Bonus! Rooting Out Corruption at Marvel Part 5 Starring Me as the Perp

 

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44 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    CONT – part two

    WIZARD : Have you talked to Shooter since then?

    BWS : No, I haven’t. During negotiations with Massarsky it was suggested to me that I could possibly get some insight into questions that had been unanswered by Massarsky if I spoke with Shooter, and there was a possibility that that could have happened. But I felt wholly uncomfortable calling Jim on my own behalf when I had ignored him at the time that he was fired. It seemed improper. And so I didn’t talk to him then, and I haven’t spoken to him since. I don’t know if Jim bears a grudge against me. I wouldn’t be surprised if he does, I bear him no ill will. I don’t want to work with him again. I wish him good luck and all that sort of stuff. All I know in the end is that I have to be the one who counts most for me, so as I said, I’d had enough of what I considered to be a very deleterious (and growing even more so) situation for me, and just walked. Walked as fast as I could.

    ———–

    End relevant parts of the interview. Well, there was another part about Layton telling him stuff behind Shooter's back and telling him "I apologize deeply for getting you into this, Barry" and that sort of thing.

    The interview is from 1993, and I remember but can't find another interview BWS did at the time where he had more specifics of the contract they had tried to foist on him that was underhanded and unfair, but that might just be my imagination.

    — Jay C

  2. Anonymous

    Dear Mr. Shooter,

    I realize this is late, but Barry Windsor-Smith's side of the story wasn't just on your answering machine. In Wizard #28, 1993, pages 80-81, BWS does seem to have "an apology of sorts, or at least an acknowledgement that I had been robbed and that he had helped the perps without fully understanding what was going on."

    I haven't found the interview online, so I will transcribe it here, in two parts:

    ——-

    WIZARD # 28, 1993 pages 80-81

    WIZARD: At one point, when Shooter left, were you offered the presidency of Valiant?

    BWS : Yep. That was it on the face of matters. When Shooter left, the idea was to recreate the company with Steve Masarsky, Jon Hartz, Bob Layton, and myself as the controlling foursome. Yes, the word “presidency” was [batted around]. I spent a year trying to negotiate my contract with Massarsky. All that while, I was producing Archer & Armstrong and Eternal Warrior, teaching the kids up there how to color, how to letter, how to ink. I put an enormous amount of work into that company, and yet it took about a year for me to finally throw up my hands and say, “This guys doesn’t want to negotiate.” It was a take-it-or-leave-it proposition from Massarsky. I felt in the end that my integrity was [put in jeopardy] by associating with these people. They were using my good name to buffer the firing of Jim and to give credibility to the company.

    WIZARD: If you’re going to be president, you should actually have some power, I imagine.

    BWS : Precisely. When I started asking questions about how the company was run, like “What is the financing situation around here?”, I was just given a runaround. Nothing made sense. All the numbers didn’t work. I still have no idea how the company isrun, because they wouldn’t tell me, my accountant, or my lawyer. I think I was treated very badly.

    WIZARD : Did you come out of this with more sympathy for Shooter?

    BWS : Yes. I always did have sympathy for Shooter, and I gained some perspective myself. I always regretted that I went for the whole thing hook, line, and sinker. When Shooter was fired, Massarsky and Layton . . . were all so dead set against him, saying that he was ruining the company, and I just kind of went along with it. I never even gave Jim the courtesy of a phone call. I just perceived him as the enemy, suddenly. There had been two camps created overnight, and I was in this sort of chummy camp with Massarsky and Layton, and there was this guy left out in the middle of a field somewhere with no bullets in his gun. I should have called Jim, to get the other side of the coin, but I just fell for the whole damn thing. I gotta admit, I was pretty naïve to fall for it that way. Not to hold a halo over Shooter’s head, I’d been told on more than one occasion whilst I was doing the Solar story that Shooter wanted to fire me because I wasn’t following his story. I never follow anybody’s story; I tell my own stories. But this is what I was told, and I said, “Oh, that jerk! He pretends to be my friend and he wants to get me fired.” I don’t know what’s true and what isn’t true, to be honest with you. I listen to this side, I listen to that.

    CONT — Jay C

  3. Barry was lied to, conned, manipulated and used by the white-collar criminals who stole VALIANT. He told me so himself in a long, long message left on my answering machine (remember those?) late one night when I was out, shortly after they screwed him over, too. It was an apology of sorts, or at least an acknowledgement that I had been robbed and that he had helped the perps without fully understanding what was going on. Whatever issues he may have with me, I don't know, but I have none with him regarding what happened at VALIANT. We are very different people and unlikely to be close, but we've been cordial when we've run into each other in recent years. Layton is a different story. He was knowingly in league with the crooks. Since I found out what he is I have no use for him, and never will.

  4. Yesterday I picked up an issue of Valiant's Magnus Robot Fighter, as I was under the impression the issue in question was written by Jim. Turns out, it wasn't – I already forget the number (sorry) but it must have been right after or about the time of the events described above, re: Mr. Klaczak. I flipped to the back and read Steve M's editorial about Jim's no longer being there. Unsurprisingly, no mention was made at all about their tactics, just a "hey, we wish Jim the best, but we just had a disagreement over the future of the company."

    To say it angered me is an understatement. Between the circumstances described by JayJay and Jim and from the CBR interview with Jim where he discusses the ouster from Valiant in great detail, I was just disgusted with the whitewashing of events. They made it sound like a quiet disagreement among professionals and not the complete-and-utter-screwjob/dishonorable pettiness it was.

    I know you'll get to the Valiant-era stuff sooner or later, so I don't want to go on too much about it. But did your friendship with Barry and Bob survive the cataclysm? If so, how did they justify their complicity in all that? I'll give them the benefit of the doubt, of course (and of course, I wasn't there/ don't know anyone personally) but still! Just shameful.

  5. OM

    …Is it safe to assume that with that particular hairstyle, Donny Dean was *not* a smoker? But then again, if Phineas T. Freakears could get away with it as much as Gilbert Sheldon and Dave Sheridan did, anything's possible 😛

  6. One of the many reasons Dan Slott's current run on THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN is so enjoyable is that it splits the difference, so to speak, between the "young" Peter and "older" Peter being discussed in this thread– age-wise, he's still in his late twenties, but he's gotten a great job at a Steve Jobs/Bill Gates-like think tank, so the (excellent) question of "When is Peter's science brilliance going to pay off" finally gets answered. In answering it, Slott not only lets the character grow, but is smart enough to see that sometimes getting everything you seemingly want can also lead to problems you hadn't yet imagined (to say nothing of allowing Slott to add some good new supporting characters, while rearranging relationships with older ones). And I guess that's what I mean by splitting the difference–it's a take on the character that lets him mature without cutting off the questioning, insecurity, and uncertainty that made him so relatable as a teen. I'd argue it's a run that wouldn't have been out of place in the Marvel of Jim's tenure.

  7. Gregg H

    I don't think that you need to 'EPIC-ify' Spider-Man in that way to tell stories of him as an adult. There is plenty of room for stuff that can go over the heads of the kids (although looking back as an adult, there was a lot of stuff that went over my head that shouldn't have as well as a lot that you would think would have but I got it fine even as a kid) in a regular, all ages mainstream book.

    WHat I am talking about in my suggestion is that we should have room for the 'adult' Peter, who really has been portrayed as an ACTUAL adult for at least the thirty plus years that I've been reading him, but still have something there to offer the people who for some reason don't want to let go of the fifteen year old version that really only a handful of them actually remember.
    If they wanted a younger, more simple 'kid-friendly' Spider-Man that they couldn't give us with a married Peter Parker, then they probably shouldn't have kicked off the 'brand new day' with showing him waking up in bed with some girl he picked up the night before.

  8. Gregg H, sort of a Spider-Man and Spider-Boy pairing of titles? I think that's a fine idea and makes a lot of sense, but I would take it a step further. I think the "adult" Spider-Man title should be sort of "Epic Comics"-style, geared for mature readers. Perhaps somewhere between the maturity level of the Chris Nolan Bat-movies and Dark Knight Returns/Watchmen. It should be a direct appeal to get back former readers who were kids in the '70s-'80s but now have more grown-up tastes.

    I don't just mean for that to be an excuse for more sex and violence, which would of course be fair game, but also for more depth on politics, psychology and the unique problems an older adult has in life as opposed to a teenager. There would be freedom to include stuff that would go over the head of a kid just as Watchmen and Dark Knight Returns went over my head in the '80s. This way they'd have a Spider-Man kids could enjoy and another version of Spider-Man they could read when they grow up.

    This could be done for other Marvel characters as well. There could be some changes made to the characters just for fun and to differentiate these time-shifted "universes." Some of the heroes may have become villains by this time, or vice versa.

    What I don't get about the new DC Universe launch is why they're not telling me how these titles have changed. How is a renumbering to #1 issues and various costume and continuity changes going to be enough to get people who aren't comics readers to jump on board? Tell me that they're bringing a different creative and artistic sensibility to the books in order to attract new readers, and then maybe I'd be interested. Without that, it just sounds like more of the same in new window dressing. I do like that they're trying to bring some non-superhero genres into the mix.

  9. Dear Chris,

    Production techno-wiz JayJay and I started out to talk about printing and production a while back and somehow let it fall to the wayside. We'll get on it.

  10. This blog entry was, indeed, groovy.

  11. Interesting, if understandable, insight as to the positive effect, in the short term at least, that the change of costume for Spidey had back in 1984. I'd hazard a guess, however, that, as he has had so many different costumes by now, any given costume change would not produce as marked an increase in sales any more, as such a thing has become "old hat", whereas, in 1984, discounting makeshift costumes such as the padded outfit worn against Electro as a one-off, the idea of Spider-Man getting a new costume would have been big news.
    (As an aside, for all the various costume changes, most in the last few years, it seems that only the original red and blues (or red and black, as per discussion on another thread) and the black costume have really "stuck" to gain iconic status. That said, it really is too early to tell whether or not, say, the "Iron Spider" costume may not mean a lot to younger comics readers in a decade or more)

  12. Hi Jim, I really love this blog – especially the insights into how the books were produced.

    Would you have any commentary on the change over to flexographic printing back in 1985 or so? I remember when the printers were 'working out the bugs' in this process, resulting in some very bad printing and handling of color.

    Did they ever work those out, or was the process abandoned after a while? I remember thinking that the printing/color 'got better' after a year or two.

    I'd worked in pre-press for several years from 1986-1997, where we always used metal plates – so I'm interested into any of the history of what went on with comics printing in the mid-80s such as this.

  13. Urk

    "In this day and age, I can't see why they are passing on a perfect chance to really make everyone happy. They have several Spider books out (and have for years). WHat they need to do is have one book with the contemporary stories of a grown up, confidant, successful, married Peter, and a series set in the past showing the younger more uncertain Peter Parker as loser who keeps on trying."

    I love that idea. I think that a good writer that was knowledgable about and had a feel for history could really do a lot with a historically placed Spider-Man series.

  14. Gregg H

    I constantly see the argument saying that 'long time fans want charachters to age with them' and it seems to hold absolutely no water.
    I don't want Spider-Man or anyone else to age 'with me' but I DO want to see them progress passed certain issues that seem to be some sort of sacred cows to the self styled PURISTS.
    I think that charachters can get to a certain stature where you can't look at them as if they were Bart Simpson or Charlie Brown or Archie, they way so many straw man arguments try to say that we should. Peter Parker is written like a real person, with all of the problems and issues that go along with that. THAT is what struck the chord with the readers leading to his success. The fact that he was a 'real person' that was a teenage high school dork is simply window dressing.
    On the idea that it was his status as a teenager that made him relatable, this is partially accurate, but very incomplete.
    Look at the demographis that they are saying liked Spider-Man becuse he was 'like them'. Do you think the socially awkward 14 yr old male wants to see Peter constantly in angst over 'Flash is picking on me again, making me look bad in front of Liz. If only they knew I was Spider-Man!'? That is great, up to a point. What they really want is to see Peter get PASSED that, showing them 'Hey kid, I know it's rough now but hang in there. Life gets better. Just look at ol Pete here. Remember how rough he had it in high school? Now look at him! He's got a good job, a hot wife, AND he gets to be Spidey! It worked out for him, and it can work out for you too if you don't give up.'
    I am convinced that THAT is what the teenagers secretly want and what hooked them in the past.

    In this day and age, I can't see why they are passing on a perfect chance to really make everyone happy. They have several Spider books out (and have for years). WHat they need to do is have one book with the contemporary stories of a grown up, confidant, successful, married Peter, and a series set in the past showing the younger more uncertain Peter Parker as loser who keeps on trying.

  15. Anon wrote:
    I never thought this was a mistake (as I thought they were a perfect match). What was a mistake was making MJ a super model rather than a struggling model/actress.
    *******************
    Even if they'd done that, the bigger mistake was aging Spider-Man to the point that he was old enough to get married. It may be appealing to longtime fans to see a character age along with them, but it dilutes his appeal for new fans. Spider-Man should always remain 20 at the oldest, a perpetual young man and student. That's an essential part of his original concept. We expect a 20-year-old to be somewhat confused and to struggle in life, but a 30-year-old Peter Parker who is still just scraping by as a freelance photographer, unable to attain success despite his scientific abilities… that seems kind of pathetic.

  16. Thank you for the compliments!

    As far as my prices go, they are pretty reasonable. I do a lot of work for indie bands (and friends), so you know they can't be too bad. lol.

  17. Wow, JayJay. Your stuff is so good I'm almost afraid to ask what you charge for logo design…

  18. Dear JayJay:

    **Seriously** good art on your site! To say I'm impressed would be a major understatement! Not only are your technical skills amazing, but your imagination seems to stretch in every direction! (The C'thulluh-Leviathan thing had me laughing out loud).

  19. Anonymous

    Re: Spidey marrying MJ.
    I never thought this was a mistake (as I thought they were a perfect match). What was a mistake was making MJ a super model rather than a struggling model/actress.

  20. You should see some of the things I call her.

  21. It's funny, but back when I decided to start going by JayJay it seemed like a girly spelling to me, but many people don't think so. It wasn't an easy decision to switch… even though my friends have called me Jay or JayJay or somesuch my whole life, it took years before I felt comfortable introducing myself as JayJay. I kept feeling like I was lying… so weird! I think being friends with Joe James finally got me comfortable with it and made me see that there can be good reasons for having a professional pseudonym.

    It never once occurred to me to go by Claire. I've always had issues with my middle name. Though, at least it's not like "Lowel"!

  22. To Jay Jay: I probably shouldn't admit this but, it wasn't until I visited your website a while back that I realized you were a woman. Great art by the way. Dynamite!

  23. Tom Brevoort

    It's perhaps worth mentioning that Jim "Ski" Sokolowski who wrote that memo about the upcoming Spider-Man wedding still works up at Marvel today.

    Tom B

  24. Dear Mike L.,

    I can't think of any other benefit books like Heroes for Hope done by Marvel back in my day. I think the 911 book, Heroes was great. I wrote a piece for that. I'll talk some about the anti-child abuse book soon.

  25. Dear Gregg,

    Good question. That's part of the post about Spider-Man getting married coming up soon.

  26. Dear John E.,

    The comic book people did the foundation work for the G.I. Joe and Transformers cartoons, but we had almost no involvement with the network Saturday morning cartoons.

  27. Dear Hunter,

    The Secret Origin of Spider-Man's wedding is coming up soon.

  28. Ken Klaczak just happened to be visiting Jim when we were all fired from VALIANT. I had brought in my own furniture, books, art supplies and much more to the office (since money was always too tight to buy what we needed) and they gave me an hour to get all of it out when they fired me. If it hadn't been for Ken I don't know what I would have done. He helped me move as much as I could take out to the sidewalk and pack it into 2 cabs that we took to my home. I had to leave some stuff behind, but Ken is the sole reason I got to keep what I did. Great guy.

  29. Dear Rick,

    Ken Klaczak is one of the best people I have ever had the privilege to know. He is talented, creative and smart. He could have achieved great things in the comics industry, but his career and responsibilities led him elsewhere. He helped me out many times. He is a man of courage, honor, and integrity. He does the right thing with reckless disregard for himself. If Ken has your back, you need only worry about what's in front of you. I am honored to count him as a friend. I wish we had gotten to work together more.

  30. John, just to add some background to your question, I don't recognize any of the Amazing Friends screenwriters as being former and/or current writers of Marvel comics. However, the G.I. Joe animated series did have a lot of former and/or current Marvel writers working on scripts, including Steve Gerber who was a story editor for at least the entire first season. In addition, Gerry Conway, Marv Wolfman, Roy Thomas and Dennis O'Neil are credited writers for the show. Most of the screenwriters though were not names I recognize from the comic book field.

    This seems kind of ironic, because this was 1984-1986 after I think most if not all of these guys had left Marvel and some had been doing work for DC. That lends credence to the theory that the Marvel comics staff had very little to do with what the animation staff was doing.

    I also wonder if Stan Lee was involved with getting some of those guys to write for Marvel Productions. Many were at Marvel Comics while he was more active and I think Jim has said Stan was based in Hollywood by this point. So I wonder if he suggested comic book writers he knew to the animation producers.

  31. Wow! Denise Bové- major awkward nerd crush on her back in the day. Now it can be told!

  32. Gregg H

    I hope you don't consider this an unfair question Jim, but what would you have done if Stan himself came to you with an idea regarding a serious change in status quo of a charachter (on the level of Spidy getting married) and you just weren't feeling it?
    I could honestly see you going either way
    A) He's Stan! He's forgotten more than I'll ever know. That's good enough for me.
    B) Sorry Stan, but I just can't do it. I need to follow my best instinct here and do my job as best as I'm able. I just can't approve that.

    Did you ever get requests for certain things like that by people you respected a ton but had to turn them down and feel bad about it?

  33. John English

    Great "Amazing Friends" card…which brought to mind a question for ya Jim…

    How much, if any, involvement did the comic book team have in any facet of the creation of the TV cartoons, like Amazing Friends or (I think before your Marvel days) Herbie Fantastic Four, etc?

  34. Hunter, I was too curious about the question to wait for Jim's answer. I found this link to some interviews on the topic. Here's the part that answers your question…

    MARV WOLFMAN: In Spidey’s case I’m sort of a purist. Peter Parker is the everyman, the loser who stammers, never says the right thing, and has trouble going through life. You can’t play that all the time because he’s also brilliant, but that’s his life. Once he marries a supermodel, you can’t ever feel sorry for him again. I prefer the original concept.

    SHOOTER: I obviously went along with the idea, but in retrospect, I agree with Marv.

  35. Jim,

    The Spider-Man marriage reference makes me wonder. Spidey got married during your tenure as EiC, in hindsight did you think it was a wise decision? Shouldn't it have been kept single in the comic books instead of following the marriage route the strip took?

    Best,
    Hunter (Pedro Bouça)

  36. Since we're already in a plugging mood, here's another plug. Doctor Solar, Man of the Atom #8 written by Jim Shooter and published by Dark Horse Comics came out today. Here's a link to the cover and synopsis.

    http://www.darkhorse.com/Comics/16-973/Doctor-Solar-Man-of-the-Atom-8

  37. Anonymous

    Hi, Jim:

    If I may, an unrelated question: Who is Ken Klaczak (hope I'm spelling it right)? I saw his name in the credits box for Superboy/LSH 219 and somewhere else at Marvel, both in collaboration with you.

    Thanks for the time.

    Cheers.
    –Rick Dee

  38. The rollergirl illustration was originally done for a Texas Rollergirls show poster. I repurposed the art into a postcard for myself since I really liked the drawing. My originals are all different sizes, but the are usually on 9 x 12" or 11 x 14" Graphics 360 paper.

    I still have a bunch of these postcards so if anyone would like one, just email me your address and I'd be happy to send one to you.
    You can either use the blog email or the email link on any of my web sites.

  39. Dear Marc,

    The JayJay illo I scanned was large post card sized. No idea how big the original was. Jay?

    Marvel received few, infrequent mentions in Communicadence.

  40. Man, Rick Jones is everywhere!

  41. Dear Jim,

    I wish to publicly thank David Miller for THE WRITER'S BLOCK. I bought #1 from him last January. It's a great idea. I'm going to order the paperback once I get a CreateSpace account set up. I'm curious to see his original script.

    It's letters like Jim Sokolowski's that I want to see more of in accounts of comics history. Hard data from someone in the publishing business, not just more fan speculation and opinion.

    I bet some animation expert might be able to ID the exact Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends episode(s) from which that cel and background painting (?) were taken. But it would be cool if that art were custom-made for you.

    I've never seen balloons lettered by Stan Lee before. The tail of Spider-Man's balloon is odd but inevitable because the text couldn't have gone anywhere else.

    What's the size of the seriousillustration picture?

    How much of CommuniCadence was devoted to Marvel?

    Roger Stern got to write three novels after all!

  42. Gary Dunaier

    Interesting that the memo refers to Amazing Spider-Man #252 as "the May 1984 issue" with no mention of the issue number. I've always wondered why/how the custom of comics being known by their issue number, and not their cover date, came to be.

  43. Might be worth pointing out that one of the very first editors of Marvel UK (or British Marvel as it was then) was Neil Tennant, who later became famous as the singer of the Pet Shop Boys

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