Writer. Creator. Large mammal.

Category: 09 Reminiscences and Tributes Page 2 of 5

Prophet of Doom

In 1992, not too long after the “Death of Superman,” I wrote the following piece for Diamond’s 1992 year-in-review issue of Dialogue:

Dialogue Year In Review Questions

What is the biggest challenge facing the comics industry today?

The recent collapse of the sports trading card market presages the biggest threat now facing the comics industry.

Collectibility is an advantage intrinsic to the comics medium.  However, during recent years, so much emphasis has been placed upon the collectible aspect of comics that the entertainment aspect has been neglected.  This trend has been fostered, promoted and exploited by publishers, distributors, retailers, fans and creators.  Lately, a great many tricks that can only be pulled once a decade or so have been used to add collectibility to comics, including new number one issues, various cover gimmicks and even the “death” of Superman!  That’s how enamored we’ve become with the short-term benefits of collectibility.

Comics are an entertainment medium first and collectible merchandise second.  We as an industry, must resist the urge to turn comics into a fad.

10 Best Comics’ Creators’ Quips and Quotes

(…that I can think of at the moment, in no particular order)

1.  Bill Gaines’ opening remark to me, each and every time I saw him:  “My ambition in life is to weigh less than my refrigerator.”

2.  Editor Carl Potts to me:  “The problem with you is that you’re stubborn.”
Me:  “Well, that’s the Potts calling the kettle black.”

3.  Editor Larry Hama to me:  “All the really creative people are crazy.”
Me:  “I’m not crazy.”
Larry:  “Exactly.”

4.  Gil Kane to Louise Simonson:  “Yes, my boy.”

5.  Jack Abel to anyone who displeased him while in polite company:  “Ingest excrement and expire.”

Look, Up in the Sky…!

JayJay here. I was going through some old stuff recently and came across this Chicago Comicon program that Jim gave me back in 1984. It inspired him to write the following. Finally my pack-rattiness pays off!

One day, I’m sitting at my EIC desk and my assistant says Mike Gold is on the phone.  Mike, among other things, was one of the organizers of the Chicago Comicon.  This was 1984 and the theme of the Con that year was Superman.

Mike asked me to do the cover art for the program book. Not could I please get John Byrne or some other Marvel star artist to do it.  He wanted me to draw and ink the cover.

Gene Colan

On Friday, I found out that Gene Colan had passed away. 

Gene was a great artist and a fine man.  He will ever remain an honored and revered giant of our industry.  I had the privilege once of visiting his home and seeing some of the non-comics art and illustrations he created hanging here and there.  Beautiful.  Masterful.  Breathtaking.  Our little business is far poorer for his absence and the wide world has lost far more than it will ever know. 


Please stop by again later today for another post.  The Origin series will continue tomorrow.

Ten More Comics’ Creators’ Quips and Quotes

1.  Julius Schwartz explaining his self-inflicted nickname:  “They call me ‘B.O. Schwartz.’  B.O.  for ‘Be Original.”

2.  Artist Paris Cullens one late night at VALIANT when we were ordering burgers, regarding his life-long love affair with cheese:  “I’d eat a baby’s butt if it had cheese on it.”

3. Marvel Production Manager Danny Crespi to peripatetic production staffer John “Squid” Morelli:  “Squid-o, I’m going to glue you to your chair.”

4.  Big poster on Larry Hama’s door:  “DOGMA IS.”

5.  Marvel Photostat Operator and comedic genius Stu Schwartzberg:  “I’m ripping the company off.  Every time someone asks for a 90% stat I give them an 89% stat and pocket the difference.”

6.  Marvel Publisher Mike Hobson, when things got out of hand (every day):  “For the love of God, man, throw me a rope!”

I have often borrowed that line….

Superman, the Playboy Club, Decorating Higgins, the Secret Theater and More Strange Tales


My first year as Marvel Editor in Chief was a tough one in many ways for everybody on staff.  We all worked our butts off to get caught up, make things better and keep Marvel alive.

I suppose I could look up the date, but I’m pretty sure it was late in the year, during cold weather, anyway, that the long-awaited Superman movie came out.

I figured the editorial and production people deserved a perk.  An early Christmas present, if you will.  No, I’m not going to say “holiday present.”  I’m old.  I get the senior citizen discount.  Give me a PC break.

Anyway…the movie opened strong.  It was a hit.  With a large group, the only sure way to get in without standing in line for hours, at least for the first few weeks after the premiere, was to go to the first show in the morning.  No, I’m not going to say “standing ON line.”  I’m from Pittsburgh where one stands IN line.  I get the Allegheny Plateau discount.  Give me a west-of-the-Hudson break.

More Strange Tales


Len Wein Teaches Me a Lesson (and, oh, by the way, Roger Stern, too)

Roger Stern started working at Marvel in December of 1975, two weeks before I did on the first working day of January 1976. 

Rog came from Indiana.  He had previously published or co-published a slick fanzine called CPL (Contemporary Pictoral Literature, I think.) that had been devoted to Charlton Comics.  He had been hired as an assistant editor.  Among his first duties, I think, was editing letter columns.

(NOTE:  Letter columns were commonly put together by the writers of the individual books, who would sort through the fan mail, select letters to be printed and write the answers or comments.  A few lettercols were written by someone other than the book’s writer.  If that person couldn’t or didn’t want to do his or her own letter column, a staffer or other freelancer would do it.  For instance, lettercols for the Kirby books were done by someone other than Jack.  Writing a lettercol in those days paid $25, I think.)

I had been hired as associate editor.  Rog and I both sat in the big editorial room outside the Editor in Chief’s office, which took up a corner of that room.  We were the two new guys.  We became friends, and remain friends…at least until he reads this.

More Strange Tales – San Diego Comic-Con Memories

West and Woody

At the 1980 Comic-Con I met Adam West.

I was a judge for the costume contest. Judges sat in a marked-off section of the front row. I arrived early. I’m almost always early for everything.

As the audience was streaming into the auditorium, a little girl came wandering down the aisle. I’m not good at guessing kids’ ages, but she couldn’t have been more than seven. All the seats near the front were already filled except for two judges’ seats next to me.

The little girl asked me if she could sit in one of the seats. I said that those seats belonged to two other judges who would probably show up soon, but she could sit there until they did.

I asked her name, which I forget, sorry, and where her parents were. She said her parents couldn’t come because they had to take care of their table in the dealers’ room until the room was locked up. But she wanted to see the costumes.

I asked if they knew where she was. No.

More Strange Tales – San Diego Comic-Con Memories

One of the Worst of Times – Slighting Russ Manning

I met Russ Manning at the Con in 1979, I think. I didn’t really have much of a chance to talk to him, just long enough to tell him how much I loved his work, how I relentlessly tracked down every issue of Magnus Robot Fighter. How many times had he heard that in the previous half-hour alone?

Anyway, just meeting him and shaking his hand was a great honor. He was very busy. Inundated by fans like me. He always took time to look at aspiring artists’ work and give them pointers and encouragement, so he was always mobbed.

Next year, I was at the Con again, as usual. I remember it had been a particularly long and tiring day. I was exhausted. As the show was closing, I dragged myself across the street from the old Convention Center to the Executive Hotel and shambled wearily into an elevator that was conveniently waiting. Or being held….

More Strange Tales – Read ‘em and Weep

It’s Friday.

Friday evenings used to mean poker. Or something vaguely resembling poker. As close as we comic book people could approximate it. Unsophisticated, and yet charmingly buffoonish in its utter lack of skill.

Thirty-five years ago, almost every Friday evening, a bunch of us would gather at somebody’s place to play poker. Usually, early on, it was the vast apartment Paul Levitz shared with Marty Pasko down on Mercer Street.

That place was terrific. It was really like two fairly spacious apartments with a common kitchen and living room, which was the size of a football field. All right, maybe the living room was only the size of tennis court. The point is it was big. It was in the middle. Paul’s rooms were to the right as you walked in and Marty’s were to the left. It was a nice, new building and a nice, comfy place. And they had a big table, perfect for cards.

Regular attendees in the early days included Marv Wolfman, Len Wein, Steve Mitchell, Mike Barr, Paul and Marty, of course, and me. I’m probably forgetting some people.

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