Since Jimmy Olsen was not one of my favorite characters, I was somewhat disappointed by all of this. I was also very tired of working for Mort. He was a great man who taught me a great deal, but by his own admission he was not an easy person to work for.
Finally, at age eighteen, thanks in large measure to Mort’s teaching, and in spite of his frequent, brutal, often cruel criticism, I felt fairly confident in my ability — confident enough to dare approach Marvel.
I called Stan Lee. Miraculously, I got him on the phone, even though he’d never heard of me. Even more miraculously, I got him to agree to see me. He told me he’d give me ten minutes.
I flew to New York, and at the appointed time walked into his office and spread dozens of the comics I’d written out on his coffee table. He wasn’t impressed. “You see,” he said patiently, “we don’t really like the kind of stuff they do at National.” I told him I didn’t either — including my own stuff, insofar as it was constrained by the givens and rules imposed by Mort. Then I told him what I thought the secret was.
“Yes!” he shrieked, and he jumped up onto his chair. Hmm.
We talked about what comics should be for two and a half hours, after which he hired me as a staff writer for a cool $125.00 per week. Big bucks in 1969. The “Marvel writer” had come home at last. There was a catch. I’d always been able to work through the mail for National. The job at Marvel meant moving to New York City. Uh-oh.
Whatever. I showed up for work on the appointed starting day fresh off the seven A.M. plane from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with no idea where I was going to stay that night.