Yesterday, I had to take an unexpected trip to Binghamton, New York and back. After seven white-knuckle hours behind the wheel through a blinding, interminable downpour, I wasn’t at my energy-level best, and I had to put out the hottest deadline fires first.
P.S., the Susquehanna River overflowed its banks and Binghamton is largely inaccessible today. Got in and out just in time.
Back in the saddle again….
The technical illustrations in the Try-Out Book were done by Janet Jackson, an illustrator who showed me samples of tech-illos at a convention in Houston. It was her first work for Marvel Comics. I suggested many times that she might consider changing her name, for obvious reasons, to Sheena Easton or Celine Dion or something. She eventually began using the relatively pedestrian, unimaginative nom de guerre “JayJay.” Yes, our JayJay, the Blog Elf herself.
|One of JayJay’s technical illustrations, circa 1981.|
I looked into it. I’m not a lawyer, but I’m fairly good at reading. A little research told me that our “exposure” was minimal. From what I could ascertain, Marvel didn’t really run much risk reviewing submissions sent in by people freely and of their own will. Especially those involving our own characters, as nearly all did.
My arguments were sufficiently persuasive that I managed to beat back the interference from legal types every time. And, I believe, my policy endured after I was gone.
Maybe I should have been a lawyer.
Times have changed. In recent years, the pendulum has swung more to the side of people who make claims that commercially successful properties were based upon, inspired by or outright ripped off from their submissions or suggestions. The courts have looked with increasing favor upon such claims and there is ample precedent to embolden claimants. Especially in the big-money media, like movies and music.
Not long ago, virtually every single movie made precipitated a gaggle of lawsuits, mostly by people with flimsy claims hoping that the studios would pay them some small amount—say $100,000—to go away, rather than defend themselves in court, which could cost more. The costs were getting out of hand. So, the studios have become increasingly risk-averse, and these days, studios are loathe to finance films that do not have a clean chain of title for the intellectual property involved.
Printed comics aren’t big-money, but movies based on comics are, so Marvel, DC, Dark Horse and others have become increasingly unwilling to so much as look at any samples or submissions. The fear of compromising the chain of title for anything is that great.
(ASIDE: In 1995, I think, I was asked to testify by Columbia Pictures in Federal Court. Someone was suing them over the Karate Kid movies, claiming that the idea was his, that, in fact, the story was based on his own experiences and that he created the name.
You’ll notice if you look closely, that at the end of each KK movie there is a TM and Copyright notice identifying “Karate Kid” as the property of DC Comics, used by Columbia under license.
The Plaintiff asserted that he had created the name “Karate Kid” in 1968. I testified that I had created it, work-for-hire, for DC Comics in 1965, and brought a copy of the first issue of Adventure Comics in which Karate Kid had appeared, published in 1966, which was entered into evidence.
The judge told the jury to ignore my testimony as “hearsay.” He said that for all he knew, I could have printed up that comic book in my basement the night before. I argued that the Statement of Ownership, which, coincidentally appeared in that issue, a Federal document (back then) was proof of authenticity—and that half a million copies had been sold, which with pass-along readership and subsequent appearances meant, undeniably, that the criteria for national exposure had been met. DC’s lawyers submitted case law demonstrating that printed magazines (the Judge didn’t consider a comic book a “magazine”) were acceptable as evidence.
Columbia prevailed. Their lawyers told me I was the best witness they’d ever had since Clint Eastwood.
They gave me this tee-shirt as a thank-you.
Jerry Bonner said… I suggested this story about the Try-Out book. Great to read it, Jim, and thanks for posting it!
I was only 12 or 13 when it came out and used my hard earned paper-route money to buy it. It really was awesome! I tried my hand at each section, although I never sent them in…because I fully realized I was only a kid and not ready for prime time….
…JayJay, spaceeba for the reply! My own brief foray into industrial drawing involved the trusty old Rapidograph, along with the stencil sets and a french curve. The perspective shot Jim shows of the shoveldozer looks CAD enough that one would have to ask to find out the truth, although CAD renderings from that perspective angle tend to have their render settings tweaked so that there's a little bit of "fisheye" in the lines so that lines that are parallel on the object in question – in this case, the major lines on the shovel and teeth – aren't *quite* parallel, and are viewed as being more "realistic".
…As for whether Eliot used a Mac or even a CAD program, the story going around the convention circuits at the time was that he'd done the basic drawings on some sort of Illustrator precursor – one that eventually became MacDraw, IIRC – on a (cr)Apple Lisa, and then as the drawings were in living B&W, had them hand-colored using a semi-pastel highlight scheme that to this day I've used whenever I've needed to do an exploded view and/or show side cutaways where decks and compartments need to be visually distinguishable from each other. Still, I'd love one day to actually get the chance to speak with Eliot about his work on OHTMU, as I know for a fact that quite a few of the younger customers of the LCS shop I later worked at attribute their choosing CAD-based Architecture as their professions to being inspired by Eliot's work.
…Jim, mnogo spaceebat for your views on creator con attendance. If more creators took your attitude – or at least, could *afford* to – then it would really help in allowing those creators to be as accessible to the fans as you insist they are. While such a similar stance allowed me the honor of meeting Gil Kane – in-between debating with Dave Sim – quite a few other creators did not adhere to such personal ethics, and the "rule of thumb" was that "the bigger the star, the bigger the demands". Most of the time it was worth it, but as has been reported over the decades, John Byrne in particular wound up being the "big name/top dollar" creator who wound up not being worth the cost or the effort.
…You know who, in my experience, was worth the cost to bring down to attend what turned out to be a pissant local convention despite all the hype and advertising? Mike Carlin, attending one of Cliff Looney's cons in the Mid-80's. Mike was a consummate professional who never passed up the opportunity to take advantage of a straight line, and we'd had a rather enjoyable two+ hour conversation over the status commercial broadcast radio and the fact that we'd both DJ'd at the same type of station – AM Oldies – and had both worked overnight shifts, just like the one I'd just gotten off from the previous morning.
…Now that I think about it, our conversation did have a bit of an effect upon an editorial decision regarding the soon-to-be premiered X-Factor. At the time of the con, Cyclops was going to be wearing the Mimic's X-shape goggles, which looked even worse on him than on Calvin Ranking. I ventured the observation that even if the X-Factor team were supposed to be in disguise, Scott wouldn't resort to wearing a pair of goggles as obvious as the Mimic's, the fact that ruby quartz lenses themselves were unique notwithstandin. He'd wear a pair of ruby shades just like he did often during the original run of X-Men. Mike took this argument into account, and the next thing we knew the advanced art samples began showing that Scott was once again wearing normal-looking eyewear instead of something even Mark Mothersbaugh of DEVO wouldn't be caught dead *or* devolved in.
And all that from a personal observation made during a conversation at a con between a physically exhausted and wired on Jolt Cola fan and one of Marvel's newer editors. Go figger 😛 😛
Usually, if I go to an out-of-town show, the convention promoters or the company I'm working for will pay for the hotel and basic expenses. It still ends up costing me money for parking at the airport or a car service to same and other incidentals. I suppose I could demand that they pay for that, too, but I haven't ever done so. Seems petty. "Hotel and dining perks" are no incentive for me. I'd rather sleep in my own bed. I have never asked for or been paid an appearance fee to attend a con or a signing. I have never asked for or accepted payment for an interview. If I go to a show, it's to promote what I'm working on, to see people in the business I would otherwise never see, to pitch in and help the con out a little. I don't go to many shows these days. I just can't afford to take the time. Artists go and make money selling art. I don't sell anything, ever, so instead of turning a profit it costs me days of work time. If you see scripts or what have you on my table, they're either for display only or they're give-aways. In the last couple of years, besides a few big-city shows, I've gone to cons in Minneapolis, Ithaca, and a one-day show in Pittsburgh. I've also done signings and appearances on Long Island, central New Jersey and upstate New York. I also gave a lecture at a grade school in Charlottesville Virginia. By the way, at that lecture, I gave away 250 comic books, on me. I try to do right by my employers, by the audience and the people who care enough to come to a con or appearance. I try to support the industry as much as I can. I figure we're all in this together.
Thanks for asking! My first real, full-time job in graphics was working as a cartographer when I was 19. I had started to go to college, but lost my college fund, that my grandfather had saved, through family difficulties during my second semester. So I never got the education I would have liked, but I was talented enough to get a job at Gousha/Check Chart working on highway and street maps. It was very technical work and developed my coordination quite a bit. I went on to work for 2 more map companies and segued into oilfield maps and diagrams and then into drawing oilfield equipment. At the time I was very into Alphonse Mucha's art and tried to apply the elegance of his line work to the technical drawings I worked on which kind of set them apart. Eventually I worked for a couple of different graphic design companies and did various types of illustrations, but maps and technical drawings stayed a part of my repertoire.
All my work was done with a rapidograph pen on a frosted acetate material. That technique was a holdover from map making. This was the 70's and 80's and I didn't start using a computer until the 89 or 90, I think. I was mostly unaware of CAD programs for a long time. I think Eliot's drawing were done by hand, not on a computer. Macs didn't come out until 1984 and Illustrator not until 1987. I actually didn't learn Illustrator until about the mid 90's.
…And just so Jim isn't feeling neglected either:
"Creators go to cons. They're accesible."
…Potential new OM's Law: You can go to a hundred conventions a year, but the one creator you really want to meet will never go to the same conventions you go to.
…And sadly, this is based on personal experience. There's been a massive decline in comics and/or genre conventions in Texas since the early 90's, and when there's the rare one locally there's usually either no creator I've got this unshakable urge to meet, or the convention holders are charging ridiculous prices for admission. However, when you look at where creators for the Big Two tend to visit over a year's time – excluding SDCC because it skews the data exponentially – it seems as if the majority of the "big name" creators only attend the largest cons, with the higher attendance percentages going towards cons based in the cities between NYC and Chicago, with some forking towards Atlanta. Ergo, you simply don't see the likes of Geoff Johns, or even someone like you attending a convention in a town of less than, say, 500,000. SO…
Q: What's your take on attending a con at a guest? Is it all about the attendance fees and hotel & dining perks? Or is it more of a desire to expose yourself to larger concentrations of fans that are expected at larger cons, so as to reduce the number of trips and/or the total travel time you'll be away from home and/or work?
…I've actually got a question or two for JayJay, and not just to keep her from feeling neglected:
Q: Where did you learn to do mechanical drawings? Was your educational background in architectural/mechanical drawing prior and/or during your working for Marvel?
Q2: Eliot Brown provided a lot of mechanical and "exploded" diagrams for the first run of The Official Handbook of The Marvel Universe. IIRC, much if not all of those drawings were done on a Mac using one Illustrator and of the few CAD programs available – whose name and manufacturer escape me at the moment. Were you working with the same tools at the time, or were you using the old traditional methods of drawing table, straight edge, french curve and stencils?
I welcome your heads up about the man whose Superman collection was stolen. What a terrible thing to do to someone. I'm looking through the items I have for something suitable to send that fellow. I encourage everyone who can to help.
Jay Jay could appear on that CBS show due to Janet Jackson but not MTV VJ JJ Jackson as he passed away a year or so before the 25th anniversary of the network.
Under the copyright law of 1976, Karate Kid and company would not be work-made-for hire. Under the law in effect at the time, 1965, it's debatable. You can make a good case that an over-the-transom submission could not have been done under the direction and control of the publisher, etc. The publisher would argue that by adhering to their well-known, established guidelines, you were. They would argue that you were merely making a contribution to a collective work. They would argue that the finished work, as published and presented, had gone through a direction and control process involving other hands as well as your own. They would point to the fact that you eventually signed documents (the backs of checks) verifying their position. And, they would point out that you did not object right off the bat, which of course you would if the property was really yours. There is also a "standard practice" test — if it is well-established that a company's policy is W4H, absence of documentation in a particular case, or other failings can be overlooked.
It's all iffy enough to launch a fleet of lawsuits….
Regarding the creation of Karate Kid (and Projectra, Ferro Lad and Nemesis Kid)… would they actually be considered works-for-hire? My (admittedly limited) understanding of the concept is that for a character to be considered work-for-hire the creator must be either:
1. an employee of the company working on company time
2. a freelancer who is working regularly for the company, and who creates the character with the likely expectation that the company will publish it, or
3. a freelancer creating a character in response to a specific assignment from the company
None of the above applied to you at the time you wrote your first script. It seems like the circumstances under which you created those characters were more analogous to those under which Siegel and Shuster created Superman. In which case, those four characters wouldn't be works-for-hire, but creations you owned whose copyright you transferred to DC. Or am I misunderstanding something here?
They gave me this tee-shirt as a thank-you.
Just the shirt and a dinner? Not even tickets to the movie or a complimentary VHS tape of it?
I can clearly remember hearing on the radio in the early 80's that the Jackson Five had a sister named Janet who was releasing a record. I was instantly sooooo crushed. I knew a family that powerful would promote ANY sibling to fame and losing my name was only a matter of time.
I started going by JayJay around the office back in the Marvel days, but my work was still credited as Janet for ages since that was how I was known and I was afraid it would be confusing. We even had a problem at Marvel because of MY name (Janet Jackson)! Jim is telling that story on Monday! That was yet another factor in the switch though really took me until I got out of comics to go completely to JayJay. To this day, the name change is still confusing, so that's unfortunate. I've been friends with Richard Pini on Facebook for ages and he just realized recently who I was! I've known Richard and Wendy since 81.
I also go by JayJayZee sometimes, which is the nickname Maria Lapham (Reezee) christened me with long ago. lol. But I started getting into computers in 89 and got into the internet in about 91 or 92 by signing up for Compu-Serv! So on the internet I've been JayJay for a very long time.
"Unimaginative nom de guerre aside, at least I can be googled as JayJay Jackson, sure can't be as Janet."
See, she was using a nom de guerre so that we could find her more easily on the web! She was thinking Google even before the Internet existed!! True visionary!
All kidding aside I really liked what I saw of your work on your Illustartions Site, so I actually think you're talented.
I was the first comment that Tony Isabella deleted for those of you that see him making the comment in the first post. I told him that his anti Shooter blog entry looked like nothing but a cry for attention (which it is…), and I then told him that Jim's blog was the most entertaining blog on the net and very popular, while his was struggling to find an audience, just like his career in comics.
He didn't care for the truth, I guess! He replied that it was his party and he was the host and all trolls would be shown the door. Does he really think that's much different than throwing a party in a ghetto and thinking anybody cares if he doesn't want them there or not? lol
"Not long ago, virtually every single movie made precipitated a gaggle of lawsuits, mostly by people with flimsy claims hoping that the studios would pay them some small amount—say $100,000—to go away, rather than defend themselves in court, which could cost more. The costs were getting out of hand. So, the studios have become increasingly risk-averse, and these days, studios are loathe to finance films that do not have a clean chain of title for the intellectual property involved. "
…How do you kids think Harlan Ellison makes the majority of his income these days? If it involves time-travelling soldiers, sci-fi ripoffs of The Wandering Jew, or big stone donuts, Harlie'll claim he invented it and sue you for whatever he can get.
JayJay, for bringing this up YOU'RE FIRED!
Okay, that's long enough without you, you're hired again.
Too bad those figures are not repeating themselves these days.
No wonder Byrne was producing such an amount of work during those days (AF, FF, The Thing, and other side projects)– and no wonder he was able to afford that house with some historical value in it.
Thanks for the answers.
It sounds to me like the makings of an epic trilogy of guest blog posts!
Part 1: You're Fired!
Part 2: You're Really Fired!
Part 3: You're Really, Really Fired and Don't Come Back Because I Really Mean it this Time!
Hah! Which one? He fired me twice at VALIANT and once at Broadway. I really, really deserved the one at Broadway, though. I was going through difficult stuff. It wasn't good. Jim and everyone I worked with put up with a lot. Oh, we can all laugh about it now, right? Right? Um…
"Jim and I have had our ups and downs… good lord, he fired me three times! Once for almost 24 hours!"
Sounds like you've got another story to tell there, JayJay! Maybe you can get that one ready as a fill-in post to use the next time Jim is away on a mission. 🙂
I noticed the deletion on Isabella's blog, too, which was disappointing– his blog, of course, but having read the post before it was deleted, I didn't think it was particularly "trollish," just critical, and I thought it was too bad he chose to get rid of it instead of just engaging with it (a better way for Isabella to convince of his POV, I'd think). The funny thing about the blog post is that Isabella's 1001 COMICS YOU MUST READ is a delightful, generous book– catholic in its tastes, enthusiastic in its passions and exactly the kind of fun, beautifully illustrated thing I'd give to someone looking to get into the art form. And his CBG column is good, too, in the same ways. I don't know why he feels the need to be a bit more curmudgeonly in his online persona.
Yeah, what he said.
Well, put, JediJones!
Tony Isabella even mischaracterizes what Jim wrote in his blog. All Jim said was that Stan showed him Tony's letter and said he finds one of them taped to his door every day. How in the heck does Tony have the credibility to claim Jim is lying about what Stan said? Not to mention the detail is so inconsequential Stan could have been exaggerating for effect, especially about the "every day" part.
The bottom line for me is this, or Gary Groth's harping on whether or not Kirby's lawyers actually "sued" Marvel vs. doing their own legal wrangling out of court, are such petty details. Is this all they got? Where's the beef? If Jim is such an evil force in the universe, I am still waiting to hear anyone tell those tales.
Other reasons for the criticism of Jim seem more plausible to me. Some people have sour grapes over being overruled on creative matters by him. In other cases, as the highest-ranking visible Marvel employee, he got blamed for anything done at Marvel, either stuff the company's owners insisted on or by way of people under him telling people under THEM that "Jim made me do it." The bottom line is I haven't heard anything that lessens my respect for Jim.
There may also be issues of basic personality clashes. Jim reminds me a bit of James Cameron in that they are both often called geniuses, they both have a rare combination of strong artistic and logical tendencies, they appear at times to be obsessive workaholics and perfectionists, they have very specific and well-defined creative visions, they are concerned with getting good results sometimes no matter what it costs to get there, there are a fair number of reports of some pretty noisy clashes with the creative people they work with, and they also work with people who have complete respect for them to the point of almost undying loyalty. All I can say after that is that people with this kind of creative force driving them are rare and valuable. Their contributions to our culture are of far greater significance than whatever mistakes they might make along the way.
There's one other point to make on the subject of honesty. People have said Gary Groth deleted comments they posted defending Jim on his site. I just saw Tony Isabella delete one on his site. Since Jim and JayJay haven't deleted anything posted on this blog besides two spam posts, what does that tell us about who is really interested in seeing the full truth come out?
By the way, I estimate that 1% Byrne gets for Alpha Flight amounted to over $4,000 of the $32,000 Byrne received for Alpha Flight #1. P.S. He also got paid top rates for writing and art, amounting to some thousands of dollars in addition to the royalty. Pretty good for one issue of one comic book.
I see. Well, I guess I still come out on the side of rewarding creative effort, whether it's by means of the artist cutting the letterer in on the revenues from the sale of the page or whatever. I think it would be better if the incentives were handled by the publisher, but, as with Claremont's personal policy, whatever works.
Oh, the tale about the Michael Golden pages is priceless. I would hope that Dumb and Dumber were appropriately embarrassed, but I'm guessing they were not.
the thing about memories is they are always clouded by emotion, and that changes the meaning of the words and the intent of the person we end up being mad at. So I think in that regard, Jim and Tony's account are both true, to them. We live in our own heads, not each others, and as a result I'm convinced that half the things we go through life pissed off about are our own invention. Because of this, we also tend to rewrite the things we should be pissed off about but aren't. Either way, it's totally human. As years go by, justifications build up until they become the story instead of defining it. So it's hard for anyone, anywhere, to ever give a 'true' accounting of anything, only THEIR accounting of it.
So I tend to take all complaints with a grain of salt. All praise, too. There is an emotional truth in all memories, but not an exacting, historical truth.
Sorry, I may have been a bit vague in my last comment. What I meant was that when the artists received their artwork back from the publisher (after publication), if they then sold it privately, a particular letterer received £1 for each page sold (if he had lettered it obviously). This was something agreed between the artists and the letterer, but I don't know if the artists did it gladly, or simply agreed to it to placate the letterer. It wasn't a decree by the company (IPC.)
For myself, I felt I had already been paid for my work, so never bothered looking into it. Although the lettering gives the page its finished look, I took the view that it was the artist's name (or the character he drew – or a combination of both) that was selling the page, not the lettering – regardless of how well it had been done.
On a similar note, Simon Bisley once offered me £100 for putting a well-paid album cover job his way. (It landed the band a record deal.) I declined on the grounds that as he did all of the work, he was entitled to all of the money.
Dick Dee? How did that happen?
Wow. That is pretty damn good. And to think he didn't want to do the book at all…
Thanks for the answer.
Claremont's mother was (is?) a pilot. Yes, he said he bought her an airplane for Christmas once. Yes, Byrne made $32,000 in royalties for Alpha Flight #1. I personally handed him the check. I don't know what a 1% royalty on Alpha Flight is worth. That 1% is the "title creation royalty," by the way, meaning that even if he is no longer doing any work on the book, he still gets a royalty. Assuming the lowest royalty tier, that means that for having originated the title he's receiving a fourth as much as the writer and artist(s) combined are getting. And that royalty was on cover price, in my day, not sales (that is, the wholesale price, which in the Direct Market was under 40% of cover price). Not bad, I'd say. He also owns a stake in the individual characters, and in the group as a licensing property. The stake was 20% of the "adjusted gross" in my day. Again, pretty damn good I think.
"When two contradictory reports of an event are given, I tend to think the truth must be somewhere in the middle".
When party A says "red", and party B says "blue", I don't assume "purple".
Sometimes, it's green.
What do Tony Isabella, Doug Moench and John Byrne have in common? They all quit Marvel. I see a lot of guys complaining they quit Marvel because of Shooter, or they were made to quit because of Shooter.
For the record, Isabella did not quit Marvel because of problems with Shooter, but because of problems with Marv Wolfman.
Isabella does not help himself by resorting to personal insults, but I'm surprised people are so quick to completely dismiss what he says out of hand. None of us were there.
There are instances in which Byrne, Moench, Thomas, Isabella, Colan, or others remember things in a different, or even contradictory way from what Jim Shooter recalls. I don't feel confident dismissing all of the above as liars, just as I likewise wouldn't accuse Shooter of lying. Memories fade over time. When two contradictory reports of an event are given, I tend to think the truth must be somewhere in the middle.
I heard that Chris Claremont once bought an airplane with royalties from X-Men, and that John Byrne made $32,000 in royalties from Alpha Flight #1.
Speaking of which, Byrne says that he owns a whole 1% of Alpha Flight. Is that really worth something?
"…the wall between fans and creators seemed permeable." You are so right.
First of all, we're all fans. Almost nobody gets into the comics business who wasn't a fan/reader who hadn't always wanted to become a professional. Nobody graduates from school, reviews various career opportunities and says, "Hmm. I believe I'll take a stab at this 'comic book' thing."
Creators go to cons. They're accesible. You can pretty much approach any comics creator and sound off about his or her latest. Some answer letters and they generally all read them. Walk up to Steven Spielberg and try to engage him in a chat about his latest movie and his bodyguards will toss you to the curb.
We all love this stuff. I've heard a creator here and there say he's not a fan, he doesn't like fans, he's only doing comics for the money until his agent gets him illustration gigs, etc. But the same guy, and I have a particular one in mind, can be found hanging with his friends, also comics creators, talking about, guess what, comics. Just like the fan he (secretly) is.
This is the most collaborative mass medium ever. We all talk, we all listen. The Internet has only magnified the scale of the discussion, thank you Al Gore or whomever. We're all in it together.
"It's amazing how some people only remember the negatives and never the positives. Just like a marriage and divorce."
That's a very interesting observation. Jim and I have had our ups and downs… good lord, he fired me three times! Once for almost 24 hours! (Grr) But I tend to remember (and focus on) the good things he's done and how much he has helped me and mentored me. And how much he still does! He's editing a story I wrote, right now.
I haven't always been the easiest person to deal with and Jim has put up with a lot of my guff. But I truly believe we are both better for being friends. But, I'm good friends with most of my exes, too, so maybe I'm just weird. Or maybe I'm just lucky enough to recognize good people and want to keep them in my life.
I just wanted to note that I think that this
"Printed comics aren’t big-money, but movies based on comics are, so Marvel, DC, Dark Horse and others have become increasingly unwilling to so much as look at any samples or submissions. The fear of compromising the chain of title for anything is that great."
Is a sad symptom of the economic rationalization of the comics industry as kind of natural resource for generating profitable toys and movies. At the same time, I know that it isn't quite that simple, that these help support comics as an industry, provide revenue opportunities for creators, etc. And I have to be honest: as a kid, well into young adulthood, I would have traded a lot to live in a world where the comics I followed were brought to the big screen with big budgets.
Still, one of the things that I always loved about comics was that the wall between fans and creators seemed permeable. Marvel's visual and verbal aesthetic and various fan outreach programs emphasized this, and JIm Shooter's career bio always seemed inspiring in this regard too. This is probably to some degree a necesary trade off, or at least one that's hard to get around: industries with low wages and low profit potential are easier for amateurs to get a break in. Seen in that perspective, Jim, your work in this era, which seems to have included efforts to maximize both acess and potential creator profits, are particularly important.
I suspect that judge was technically right about "hearsay," which is an ungodly complicated legal rule. Anybody who's worked directly on the firing line when their employer's been in court knows that there are a series of hoops to jump through to get any document introduced as evidence, and it sounds like the Columbia lawyers hadn't done their homework on the book you brought with you. They needed to have somebody from DC verify its business records that Adventure #xyz was published on such-and-such date and that you wrote the script. Then you could say the physical comic was written from your script. Or they could have brought Carl Collector in to say he bought the book in 1966 when it first appeared and kept in his collection ever since.
If I remember the news story right, a writer who claimed Rowling had stolen Harry Potter from her ended up getting caught with faked editions of the books the ideas were supposed to have been stolen from.
What do Tony Isabella, Doug Moench and John Byrne have in common? They all quit Marvel. I see a lot of guys complaining they quit Marvel because of Shooter, or they were made to quit because of Shooter. I don't see anyone complaining they were fired by Shooter, except Adrienne Colan regarding Gene.
Creative differences. "Shooter wanted me to change stuff. Shooter changed my stuff without telling me. Shooter had stupid ideas." What part of "not your money, not your company" didn't they get? What part of having a boss that was responsible for everything that Marvel put out didn't they get?
I'm more surprised with Isabella's attitude. I've heard the guy actually had a job in the "real world" as a teacher before writing comics. Did he have "creative differences" with the school principal?
I really don't understand why some of these writers thought they were writing for themselves, especially when they were freelancers. Shouldn't their job be to provide work according to the client's specifications?
No, not part of THAT contingent. Just a comic fan that appreciates Jim's contributions.
I didn't even know that Tony had a blog until I saw a link to it on the CBG site and it's the first thing popped up.
It's amazing how some people only remember the negatives and never the positives. Just like a marriage and divorce. Years of happy times and a few years of shit before the divorce and all they remember is the shit.
Tony should take the time and respond to the story here but I don't see that happening.
Just curious as to what Jim thinks about it.
that's a very generous royalty program, and in addition to their salaries & regular rates. I bet it and you made a lot of people very, very rich.
At Marvel, only writers, pencilers and inkers received royalties. Same with DC, and I believe most other places that offered royalties. While he was writing X-Men, Chris Claremont used to give the colorist (Glynis Oliver) and the letterer (Tom Orzechowski) a part of the royalties he, Chris, received as writer. Therefore, they stuck with the book and it maintained a consistent look for many years. Can't argue with the results there.
Most other writers and artists I polled were in favor of the company giving letterers and colorists royalties, but absolutely against any such royalty, no matter how small, coming out of their shares. Because we used a sliding scale, which increased royalty percentages as the sales increased, the royalties at Marvel were already as high as 10% of cover price (!!!) on some books, so the company was adamantly against enlarging the royalty pool. It was, in fact, plenty big, more than fair, and unmatched by any other company.
(Top Marvel royalty divided among writer and principal artists = 8%, new title royalty to the original creator(s) of the title [to Byrne for Alpha Flight, for instance] = 1%, editorial incentive = around 1%.)
I don't know what the "right" answer is. I like George Lucas's concept — he gave "points" in the film to everyone who worked on Star Wars in a significant capacity, including many, many who would ordinarily get a paycheck and that's all. Even a tiny fraction of a percent of the adjusted gross of Star Wars, of course, turned out to be a lot of money. If it had been all up to me, I would have had a system that rewarded all significant players on the team.
P. Craig Russell didn't need an Exacto blade. The job was lettered on overlays (at his request) and the balloons were pasted up. We used rubber cement in those days (as opposed to one-coat or something stickier) so the balloons came off easily. I always gave my share back to the artists, one page to the penciler, one to the inker. The whole artwork return story is coming up next week.
(Not that I think Anonymous, above my comment, is part of the aforementioned contingent – just to be clear.)
Just clicked on that link to see what he's saying now. It's telling that 90% of that Isabella blog is just insisting Jim's a liar, over and over, providing no proof. Like most of these things, (Gary Groth's endless invectives come to mind) they focus on one detail, usually something that Jim has said "I may have the date wrong, but whatever," and from that spin their fantasies and loathing. It's really sad.
Got to agree with JayJay, too, from a few blogs back – what's even sadder is this contingent of comic fandom that passionately attacks Jim based on events they never witnessed and in contempt of the demonstrable evidence to the contrary.
Any comment on Tony Isabella's blog post from this morning? He really, really doesn't like you.
By the way, I love your blog. Freakin' awesome!!
Back when I freelanced for 2000 AD (British Comic) one letterer was given £1 (one pound) for each page of artwork he had lettered that the artists sold after being published. I was advised that I should do the same, but I never bothered. What do you think, Jim? The lettering gives a page its 'finished' look – did he deserve his pound? I'm supposing the artists thought so, but don't know for sure.
Roger Owen Green
You had business in BINGHAMTON, of all places! My hometown. yes, you're lucky to have departed when you did.
Here's what Jim wrote previously on that subject:
"By the time I became editor in chief at Marvel in 1978 (and therefore was in a position to have a voice in the Marvel management), both Marvel and DC had instituted art return policies. Marvel's, set up by Roy Thomas, gave writers a share of the pages. Go figure. As soon as I could, I changed that — one reason why a few writers like Moench and Thomas didn't like me. Tough. I did what I believed was right."
Speaking of original art, I wonder if you would comment on the concept of writers being given a portion of the original art on stories they wrote. I've heard this was done at Marvel sometime in the 70's, when original art began being viewed as something of value and artists started asking for their originals back. The idea was that since the writer had contributed to the story that the artist drew, they "deserved" to get some of the original art too.
Obviously, the artists were not happy about this, and some writers (like Don McGregor) made a point of giving their "share" of the art back to the artist. I've heard that in one instance, Craig Russell got ahold of his pages for Doctor Strange Annual #1 and used an exacto knife to cut out all the word balloons, which he then gave to writer Marv Wolfman as his share of the art.
Anyway, I'm wondering when this practice was finally stopped?
I never heard that story before and I doubt that it's true. Nothing like that happened while I was at Marvel, either as associate editor or Editor in Chief.
There was a case once that went as follows: An artist who shall remain nameless was in the room where the artwork returns were done. He was left alone there for a moment while the artwork return person went to the ladies room. The nameless artist apparently grabbed a book's worth of Jim Starlin originals and shoved them into his portfolio before the artwork return person came back. Jim Starlin later caught the guy trying to sell the pages at a convention and took his pages back. You don't mess with Starlin.
Some similar case, I assume.
Jim, your mention of the Michael Golden art getting mixed up with the submissions reminded me of a story I first heard some years ago, which may or may not have been true. I'm hoping you can clear it up.
Supposedly, there was a Marvel staffer (or freelancer…it changes from telling to telling) who "collected" original artwork; some would say, less charitably, that this unnamed fellow stole art from the office every chance he got. Everyone knew it, but no one seemed to be able to do anything about it, for some reason.
Anyway, as the story goes, he appropriated an entire story's worth of pages one time and left the office. As he was walking down the street, someone from the production office came running up behind him and snatched the pages out from under his arm. "At least wait until we get them printed before you swipe them!" he said.
It's an amusing story, but also depressing, when one thinks of all of the artists who never saw their original work returned to them…if indeed this story is true. Any confirmation?
Jim, any idea why Clint Eastwood was a witness for Columbia?
A friend and neighbor who takes care of her invalid brother needed repairs to a piece of medical equipment, a lift that moves him from his chair to his bed, etc. The manufacturer is near Binghamton. It's a long drive especially in bad weather, I'm a more experienced driver and also, being large, am more suited for carrying the mini-crane (it's heavy!) and lifting it into and out of the vehicle. We got the thing there, they fixed it and we escaped in time.
As I said, I'm not a lawyer, but the Judge, an elderly gentleman, did indeed instruct the jury that the comic book was to be ignored and used the word "hearsay."
In 1982, we were succeeding, expanding and we needed more talent. I don't remember if we got any keepers as a result of the Fanfare column, but it was sincere.
JayJay is incredible. She can do an amazing number of things amazingly well.
The Columbia testimony might have been in 1994.
I think John Romita, Jr. designed the Try-Out Book cover. Not sure. Wasn't me.
May I ask what you were doing in Binghamton? I'm in Ithaca.
Dear Jim (and everyone else for that matter),
I just read a heartbreaking story about a man with cognitive disabilities whose Superman collection was stolen by a man he thought was his friend. The story is here:
I found out about it through the Comics Should Be Good blog (goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/2011/09/07/a-chance-to-do-something-nice-for-a-comics-fan-who-could-use-a-little-niceness/#more-88253) and found the story heartbreaking. The CBR story has an address to which sympathetic fans can send donated items.
I apologize, Jim, if this is not the appropriate forum in which to get the word out.
– Mike Loughlin
p.s. I'm enjoying the Submission Saga, and I hope that Golden kid caught a break somewhere down the line.
Thanks for continuing the "saga" and using my comment as an example. The Try-Out book was an exceptionally cool piece of work!
Now that we have dispensed with the pleasantries I will expect a doctor's note the next time this blog is late. It will be here or you will DIE!
I discovered this blog from io9 last week…I love it. The writing is witty and the stories are very entertaining. Thanks so much for sharing all of them.
I'm a lawyer. I've said some stupid things in court. I've heard some incredibly stupid things in court, many of them by very intelligent people who suffered uncharacteristic lapses in intelligence.
But that comment by the judge–"Hearsay"–"an out of course declaration to prove the truth of the matter asserted"–what the hell was he thinking? How could you saying "I wrote this" possibly qualify as hearsay? Is that judge still on the bench?
I finally had to say something. Thank you for publishing so much of real SUBSTANCE. The Internet is great—lotsa showy pictures and opinions—except when you're looking for substance, and then it turns into smoke in your hands. But, Mr. Shooter, your stuff has SUBSTANCE, actually has something to say, is well written, and I'm addicted to reading it. Thanks for taking us so seriously as your audience and working so hard to put out ACTUAL CONTENT, the product of real thought. That is so rare these days, and I'm not trying to be sarcastic at you or give you a backhanded compliment. It's just so unexpected nowadays, to find a blog with real writing about real adventures—and you have paperwork to back it up! A professional thinker with life's assorted scars to prove it!
Thanks again for a solid read, offered so frequently. As a 60s kid, I was starting to read comics just about the same time you were starting to work in the business. I probably read quite a bit of your stuff…
"On my shift, I heard two of the assistants, Dumb and Dumber, talking about a penciling submission, debating its merits or lack of same, saying things like it’s a little cartoony, it’s not “there” but pretty good, etc. I went over to take a look.
“These are Michael Golden pages,” I said. “His package must have gotten into the subs pile by mistake. Give them to Larry Hama.”
Sometimes I wonder if that says it all 🙂
"On my shift, I heard two of the assistants, Dumb and Dumber, talking about a penciling submission, debating its merits or lack of same, saying things like it’s a little cartoony, it’s not “there” but pretty good, etc. I went over to take a look.
“These are Michael Golden pages,” I said. “His package must have gotten into the subs pile by mistake. Give them to Larry Hama.”
Laughing my ass off right now.
"Mostly, however, I came to realize that I was and never would be a Marvel artist."
I meant to write …I wasn't and never would be a Marvel artist.
Very nice post. Thanks for the history.
JayJay's tractor is beautifully drawn.
I posted earlier that I felt the Try-Out Book was like taking a test. I guess that was the point. Mea Culpa 🙂
Seriously, everytime I looked at those pages I felt that this was it. It's now or never. Eventually, however, I just set it aside, except for the times I would look it over. At some point it fell apart and disappeared somewhere.
Was I sorry I didn't finish it? Nah. I wasn't ready at that point. Many times I thought I was but realized I wasn't. Some people aren't meant to be wunderkinds.
Luckily, I got older and realized what it is I like about comics: that it's a wonderful medium for storytelling. I got all that crazy panel layout stuff out of my system, realized that "hot" styles come and go and today's artist of the moment generally has the popularity span of a tween pop star, came to love the artists that have proven themselves to be great storytellers (Pratt, Toth, Caniff, Kirby, Robbins…).
Mostly, however, I came to realize that I was and never would be a Marvel artist. And it didn't bother me one bit. I probably would have been more at home with Gold Key Comics.
Just my two cents…
And at Defiant we had James Brown working for us! lol.
I cannnot believe that judge. What a complete and utter prat. "Hearsay"? From the ACTUAL person making the claim, not a second hand telling? I repeat – what a prat. His first day on the job perhaps?
Ah… That's who "JayJay" is! 🙂 I remember her name as Janet Jackson in the comics from the time, and it stood out for the very reason who mentioned in the blog, Jim.
Hmmm… Marvel had both Janet Jackson AND Ralph Macchio working for the company in the 1980's. Heh. And speaking of Ralph (well, the other "Ralph")…
It's crazy that the judge at the trail over "Karate Kid" would suggest that a 1960's comic you had was printed the night before!
Looking forward to the next segment!
— Matt Hawes
Before the Try-Out Book in 1983, you wrote a 2 page column in Marvel Fanfare 4 (Sept 82) where you wrote that how you always welcomed submissions, but now you were asking for them. From writers to colourists. How did that go?
The Marvel Fanfare call for submissions is historically significant as one writer submitted his idea for the black Spider-Man costume.
Just think, JayJay…you can appear twice on the CBS series "Same Name", once with the R&B diva, and then with the former MTV VJ. Lucky you! 😉
BTW, you owe us nothing, Jim. Thanks for sharing your experiences.
Hey! Submission-a-thon II was on my birthday! (Jack Kirby's, too, but who's counting 🙂
There's really no such thing as being "late" for one's own blog, but I admire your dedication to publishing one long article almost every single weekday (and even often on weekends). Having striven to blog daily for nine years, I've missed a lot of self-imposed deadlines.
I didn't know JayJay used to do technical illustrations. That front loader picture reminds me of Eliot Brown. I was impressed by his technical illustrations for Marvel Universe. I'm surprised I didn't see her work in the Deluxe Edition. Is there anything she can't do?
Lawsuits by people who claim they were ripped off but in reality want to rip off the real creators make me sick. Do the claimants actually come to believe they are the real "victims"?
If Columbia wanted to represent DEFIANT, you must have testified in 1993 or 1994. You've told that story elsewhere. Did you mention that in your DEFIANT column at the time? Maybe I'll check.
The partly blank cover of the Try-Out Book is sufficient to scare away pencilers who could never make the cut. It's hard to complete that perspective shot. And the folks who enjoy drawing superheroes and supervillains might balk at having to draw buildings. Did you lay out the cover?
Your final anecdote about Michael Golden (one of the best Marvel artists during your years as EIC, IMO) made me wonder: what greats wouldn't be able to get a job in the comics industry today? I saw the commercials for DC's New 52 and wondered if DC would hire Jack Kirby or Alex Toth if they were unknowns submitting samples in 2011.
"what if somebody sues us claiming something we’re doing was lifted from their submission?"
That was one of my all-time favorite issues of "What If."
In all seriousness, that reminds me of a Monty Python sketch called "Stake Your Claim," specifically this part:
—–> quoted material begins here
Game Show Host (John Cleese): Good evening and welcome to 'Stake Your Claim'. First this evening we have Mr Norman Voles of Gravesend who claims he wrote all Shakespeare's works. Mr Voles, I understand you claim that you wrote all those plays normally attributed to Shakespeare?
Voles (Michael Palin): That is correct. I wrote all his plays and my wife and I wrote his sonnets.
Host: Mr Voles, these plays are known to have been performed in the early 17th century. How old are you, Mr Voles?
Host: Well, how is it possible for you to have written plays performed over 300 years before you were born?
Voles: Ah well. This is where my claim falls to the ground.
Voles: There's no possible way of answering that argument, I'm afraid. I was only hoping you would not make that particular point, but I can see you're more than a match for me!
Host: Mr Voles, thank you very much for coming along.
Voles: My pleasure.
—–> end of quoted material
No need to apologize for the late blog posts. Your missed days are the only ones where I don't fall behind on my own work.
I forwarded a link to Michael. I think he'll get a kick outta this! LOL
"Be there or die."
OMG, all the horror stories about what a terrible person Jim Shooter was are TRUE! EXPOSED BY HIS OWN HAND!!!! ON HIS OWN BLOG!!!!!111eleventy!!!!!
[Um, it's pretty clearly a joke, dude.]
*I* don't think it's funny, so it proves that Shooter is EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEVIL!!!!!!
There, that should cover the John Byrne contingent. 🙂
I really can't express in words as succinctly how enjoyable your blog columns are to me. Amazing how that Judge that you could cobble together a book with Karate Kid in it in your basement the night before. I am still chuckling over that bit of stupidity on his part. Good legal pary there on your part.
Unimaginative nom de guerre aside, at least I can be googled as JayJay Jackson, sure can't be as Janet.