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Category: 09 Reminiscences and Tributes (Page 2 of 5)

Marvel Cut-Ups

JayJay here. I’m posting one of Jim’s answers to a comment as a mini-post since it’s kind of fun and about one of everybody’s favorite, but least known, Marvel Bullpenners.czeskleba commented:

A couple people have mentioned the old rumor that Ditko uses his old original art as cutting boards. Most likely that is an urban legend, based on Greg Theakston’s misunderstanding of what he saw at Ditko’s home. Here’s an insightful analysis of the claim by Bob Heer, which credibly debunks it: http://fourrealities.blogspot.com/2008/08/curious-incident-of-cut-artwork.html

The notion that Ditko would do that to his original art is not consistent with what I’ve read about him. He may not value money that much, or be motivated by it, but he certainly does not have contempt for his own past work.

ANSWER:

I submit this to the “cut-up artwork” speculations: When I worked briefly at Marvel in 1969, I was supposed to be an assistant to Stan — assistant editor, I guess. What I actually did was anything that needed doing. It was a small group, and everybody pitched in and did whatever was necessary. Therefore, I not only proofread, checked scripts, checked artwork and did “editorial” things, but I did lettering corrections, small pencil and ink corrections (once they found out I had marginal art skills) and…PASTE-UPS.

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Ditko at VALIANT and DEFIANT – Part 3

DEFIANT DitkoIn the summer of 1992, days after I was ousted from VALIANT, Frank Miller called me. He said he’d heard what they said. He asked me to tell him what really happened.

Frank was very sympathetic and supportive.

Not too long after that, I got a call from Steve Ditko. The new management at VALIANT had dumped him in a callous and demeaning manner (my characterization of the events, not his). And it sounded like it got to him. He sounded depressed. It must have been one harsh rejection. I’m not going to try to quote him, but for the first and only time to me, he said things about people hating his work. He sounded hurt.

Maybe I read too much into it, maybe I’m coloring it all wrong. Maybe Steve would deny the above. I don’t claim to know what was going on in his mind, but that’s what it sounded like, that’s what it felt like to me.

My turn to be sympathetic and supportive.

Not much I could do to help at that point.

But, after we hung up, I gave Frank a call. At that point, Frank was doing a lot of work with Dark Horse. I said, “I don’t know whether Mike Richardson would take my call, but I know he’ll take yours.” I suggested that Frank call Dark Horse Master and Commander Mike and tell him that right now would be a great time for to do a project with Steve Ditko. I thought it would cheer Steve up considerably to hear from Mike, if there was work to be had.

Frank, a good soul, called Mike. Mike is also a good soul, has abiding respect for Steve and his work and was happy to get a heads up about Steve being available. Mike called Steve. Dark Horse indeed, did something with Steve, although as previously mentioned, Steve is pretty strict about what he’ll do and what he won’t, so as I recall, it wasn’t a very extensive project. But, I suspect it felt good for Steve to get an offer right about then.

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Power Puff Girls

Ditko at VALIANT and DEFIANT – Part 2

First This

JayJay the obstreperous Blog Elf yelled at me for not including a more personal story involving Steve Ditko Monday.

You know what? That’s just what I need in my life, more people yelling at me.

Here’s a picture of JayJay. She’s the mean-looking one at the bottom:

Anyway….

Here’s a Ditko at Marvel story that requires a set up.

Another “First Meeting” story

Bob Kanigher. In all my visits to DC’s offices from the mid-1960’s through the mid-1980’s, I never officially met Bob Kanigher. I walked past his office once, the door was open and he was in there. Whoever was with me, probably Mort Weisinger or E. Nelson Bridwell said, “That’s Bob Kanigher,” but he never even looked up from what he was doing.

I don’t remember which year, 1986, I think, DC Comics cut Kanigher loose. Thanks for everything, now, get out.

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Ditko at VALIANT and DEFIANT – Part 1

I first met Steve Ditko sometime in 1977. For the life of me, I can’t remember where.

It might have been at Continuity, Neal Adams’ studio. Continuity was the crossroads of the comics industry. Besides the people who actually worked there, a lot of artists would show up looking for freelance advertising or storyboard jobs, which paid way better than comics. Some comics creators—Cary Bates, Jack Abel and Howard Chaykin come to mind—sublet studio or office space from Neal. Continuity was a Mecca for young artists. New kids trying to break into the business like Frank Miller and Bill Sienkiewicz would turn up hoping that Neal would look at their samples and give them advice.  Other comics people, like me, for instance, would show up once in a while to see someone who worked there, talk business with Neal or just hang around the crossroads for a while and catch up on the industry gossip.

As far as I know, Steve Ditko never worked there, but, like I said, almost everybody stopped by at some point for one reason or another.

Anyway, I met Steve, probably there. What an honor. I loved his work. When I was a kid I tried to emulate his style.

Drawing by Jim Shooter when he had just turned age 13

By the way, Neal was at his crusading best in those days, leading the fight to get Siegel and Shuster recognition and compensation for creating and establishing Superman—and winning. He also was one of the prime movers of the Comic Book Creators Guild. A story about the Guild which includes an anecdote involving Steve Ditko can be found here.

After I became Editor in Chief of Marvel in 1978 and therefore had the power to offer him work, I told Steve that if he ever wished to work for Marvel he was welcome. Anytime. He was a Founding Father. I couldn’t rectify all the past injustices (though I was trying), but I could and would keep our door always open to him.

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Thanksgiving in Newark


David Michelinie’s check didn’t come.  It was the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, 1978, I think.

Marvel Comics was still sorting out its payment procedures, which went through several changes during the first year I was Editor in Chief. You can read about it here and here.

The deal was supposed to be if your voucher was received by the cutoff day one week, your check would be mailed Monday of the next week. By Wednesday, surely, you’d have your check.

But, no.

Dave lived in Newark, Delaware. He called me at the office that Wednesday to…umm…gently express his…umm…disappointment? What’s the politest way to say murderous rage?

Most of us lived hand to mouth in those days. The business was struggling. Most of us were struggling.  Dave was more responsible than most. A solid citizen. He owned a home. He managed pretty well, compared to some of us.

But he needed that check. It was the day before Thanksgiving. He had no cash and hadn’t been to the grocery store lately. What was he supposed to do, eat cat food for Turkey Day?

I looked into it. Somehow his voucher hadn’t made it into last week’s batch. Bookkeeping had put it aside because of some question about it.

Great.

I went upstairs and calmly, rationally, at the top of my lungs convinced the money tweezers to cut that check. Right now would be lovely.

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My Final and Eeriest October Tale

Dire Premonitions

Sometime in early February of 2001, in the middle of the night, I woke up from an intense dream. I dreamed that my father was gravely ill.

Dying.

Just a dream, I told myself.

It became a recurring dream. It happened five more times before March 14th, my mother’s birthday.

I hadn’t been keeping in touch the family back in Pittsburgh much, hadn’t been home to visit for a while. Long story there. But I called my mother on her birthday, of course.

Fateful Phone Conversation 

While I was on the phone with my mother, in the background I heard my father grumbling to himself about stomach pains. “I hurt,” he said.

My father, Kenneth Shooter, was a man in the way you were supposed to be a man in his generation. I knew of many times when he’d been hurting. I’d never heard him admit it.

It was troubling enough so that I e-mailed my brother-in-law and my cousin, the two most responsible relatives I had who lived in the Pittsburgh area. I told them that they should get my father to a doctor, pronto.

The next morning, I got an e-mail from my brother-in-law saying that Ken was an old guy, old guys normally had aches and pains, and I was making a mountain out of a speed bump.

I replied that I was only eight hours away, if he didn’t get Ken to a doctor that day, I was coming there and whether or not Ken was sick would be the least of his problems.

My sister and brother-in law took Ken to a doctor.

He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

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Uncanny Divinations and Premonitions

First This

This is the post that I meant to have up Saturday. Tomorrow’s will be today’s. You know what I mean. Sorry.

Stellar Horoscope 

Early on during my time at Marvel, at a convention in New York City, I met a comics fan who was a part-time astrologer. He had a regular day job, some bookkeeping or accounting-type thing, but on the side, he did horoscopes. He liked what I had to say at some panel I was on, thought I seemed like an interesting subject and volunteered to do my chart. Free. Okay. I gave him my date and time of birth and the city where I was born.

A couple of weeks later, he stopped by the Marvel offices to deliver his work, a hand-drawn astrological chart and his analysis of same.

The chart was beautiful. Framable. I still have it, packed away somewhere in the storage space.

The analysis?

What he came up with was startling. His analysis detailed things about me that nobody knew but people very close to me, and a few things that only I knew. Things that, I assure you, would have been nigh impossible to find out.

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Stan Meets a Mobster and Other Tales to Astonish

Stan meets Frank Costello

Vince Colletta told me this story. Vince told me a lot of wild stories. At first, I thought he was, as my grandma Elsie might say, “full of potato soup and monkeys.” Like the time he told me he was cast for a major role in The Godfather. Long story, but ultimately the role was taken away from him and given to a big-name actor who had big-time clout with the director. Vince said that the casting director quit because of that.
Yeah, right.

1981-ish. Mike Hobson, relatively new publisher at Marvel asked me to go to lunch with him one day. No agenda, just lunch. Mike was making an effort to get to know the creative troops and told me he wouldn’t mind if I brought someone along. Vince happened to be in the office, so….

I don’t know how it came up, but at lunch, Vince told his I-was-almost-in The Godfather story. It so happened that Mike had been working at the William Morris Agency at the time, was fully aware of the casting dust-up and verified everything Vince said.

Later, Vince showed me a videotape of his screen test, in which he played a mobster being questioned by a Senate subcommittee. He was good.

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October Tales: Spooky or Inexplicable Events – Part 2

Directory Assistance

Toward the end of my teen-age stint as a writer for DC Comics, I took a part-time job washing dishes at a restaurant.

It wasn’t that DC wouldn’t give me all the work I could handle and fill every minute of my time—the fact is that working for Mort Weisinger was killing me. His abusive keep-the-creators-under-his-thumb editorial “style” had worn me down.

Early on, when the big, important man (said he) called me from New York to yell at me about every little flaw and mistake in my latest script I felt terrible. After four years of this, I’d finally figured out that DC wouldn’t keep sending me checks if what I did wasn’t any good, and Mort’s rants about what a moron I was for misspelling a word or some such became just noise. Grating, irritating noise. Mort still made writing comics a pain, an ordeal—even if he no longer had the ability to make me feel bad about myself.

I found myself less and less interested in the work, less and less enthused about doing something, that at first, I loved. My productivity fell off steadily.

So I looked for something, anything else to do to make some money for my family. Options are limited when you’re eighteen. So, that year, and for several years after quitting DC, whenever any creative work I got wasn’t steady enough, I took various less glamorous jobs.

Washing dishes at the Viking Restaurant in Banksville, just through the Fort Pitt Tunnel and down the road a ways from Pittsburgh, I met Sam, a fellow kitchen grunt. We became friends.

At one point, I needed in the worst way to make a long distance call and had no money for the pay phone. Sam gave me his last five bucks with days to go till payday. As long as I live, no matter what I ever do for Sam, there’s no way I can ever repay that five bucks. You can’t give more than all.

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The Dead Can’t Pay the Paperboy

First This

You probably noticed the Contributions request in the sidebar. I was reluctant to ask you for money, but economic reality has a way of asserting itself. To those of you who have already generously donated to help us keep going, thank you. To all who participate in this wonderfully collaborative blog, thank you. Together, I think we’re building something really special here, a tapestry of views and opinions from different perspectives. To everyone who stops by, thank you. All of you make a difference.

Who Can Explain It, Who Can Tell You Why…?

This is the introductory paragraph of the series overview I wrote for Dark Horse’s prospective re-launch of the Gold Key title Spektor (formerly Doctor Spektor) that, sadly, never made it to print.

“Have you ever met anyone who, at some time in his or her life, hasn’t experienced something inexplicable? Knowing the phone was going to ring a second before it did? A premonition that proved true? A horoscope that was uncannily accurate? Next time you’re at a party, ask if anyone has a “ghost story,” a tale of something spooky that happened to them. Almost everyone does.

“I have several “ghost stories,” and I’m the second most skeptical man on Earth.”

If you’re wondering, the most skeptical man on Earth, at the beginning, at least, was going to be Spektor.

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