“Speaking of the Hulk I was wondering if you could shed some light where the idea of the child abuse story came from. There has been much speculation about this from different people including Barry Windsor Smith. I have never heard your side of the story.”
Barry came to me with a completely penciled and written graphic novel. It was the about the development of the “mighty, raging fury” inside Bruce Banner, who, he revealed, was the product of an abusive home. I looked it over. I thought it was brilliant, one of the best comics stories I’d ever seen. I offered Barry a contract and an advance. He turned me down — temporarily. He proposed to finish the thing — then, if I would agree to publish it as created, no alterations whatsoever, he would sign a contract and take the money. I was willing to agree to that in writing on the spot, but he said, no, when it’s finished. Okay. Fine by me. I already knew, from what he’d shown me, that there’d be no problem.
Barry showed the work around a bit to people in the office. I guess he allowed Al Milgrom or someone to make photocopies of it. Ask Al.
I was later given to understand that Al kept the copies in the Hulk drawer of his flat file.
Bill Mantlo, looking through the drawer to see what current Hulk artwork had come in, saw the copies. He then blatantly ripped the story off for a regular issue of the Hulk.
In those days, I was on the road a lot, spending time in Europe with the licensees, at our London office, in L.A., or on licensing trips elsewhere. The book went to press without my seeing it. How Al didn’t notice, or someone else didn’t notice, I don’t know.
Barry was furious. I don’t blame him. He, however, blames me, as of the last time I heard. Okay, the buck stops here, I suppose.
ASIDE: This wasn’t Bill’s first shot at plagiarism. He routinely recycled other peoples’ Marvel stories — Goodwin’s Iron Man stories, old Stan and Steve Spider-man stories…others. Many of those recyclings happened before my time as EIC.
But while I was EIC, he ripped off a Harlan Ellison story for an issue of the Hulk. That issue I signed out — but I had never seen the episode of Outer Limits (I think) that Bill had ripped it from, so I didn’t know. I remember thinking what a good story it was, and that Bill must be improving. The day the book hit the stands, Roger Stern called me and said, “Are you nuts?! This is a Harlan Ellison story!” I said, “It is?” Then my secretary told me Harlan Ellison was on the other line.
Harlan said, words to the effect, you ripped me off. I said, yes, I know, I just found out about it. That admission calmed him down. I asked him what he wanted. Should we turn this over to the lawyers and let them work something out? I assured him that there was no contention, that Marvel did it and would fess up to it.
Harlan’s damages, by statute, would have been in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, and he had us dead to rights. But, he said he’d settle for the same money as Bill was paid to “write” the script, an acknowledgement, plus a lifetime subscription to everything we ever published. Done. Thank you, Harlan.
I wanted to fire Bill, but he had a friend upstairs — the financial V.P. — who resisted. It was my call. I could have fired Bill over his objections, but I decided, stupidly, that the subsequent hostile relationship with the financial guy would be worse than policing Bill better.
P.S. Marvel had a program, in those days, that paid for college and college level courses taken by employees, up to 100% for courses directly job related. The financial officer decided what qualified, and for what level of support. He decided that helping put Bill through LAW SCHOOL qualified, but Joe Rubenstein’s painting classes justified only the minimum support.
P.P.S. Immediately after passing the bar, Bill’s first act as a lawyer was SUING MARVEL regarding issues with his contract.
If anyone is interested, they can check Bill’s Iron Man #100 against one of Archie’s Iron Man stories featuring the Mandarin. Issue #50, maybe? I don’t know. Archie was editor of the black and white magazines at that time, and I was associate editor on the color line. Archie, who seldom complained about anything, came to me and asked how I could possibly have allowed Bill to rip off his story like that. He was seriously upset. The answer was that I hadn’t read Archie’s story, published years earlier, and didn’t know Bill’s was a carbon copy.
If anyone is interested, I’m sure you can find the issue of the Hulk that was ripped from Harlan’s Outer Limits story, and the acknowledgement/apology that appeared in the Hulk lettercol a few issues later.
If anyone really wants to play detective, I’m sure you can find many other examples.
And, Barry Windsor-Smith will assure you that a ripoff of his Hulk “child abuse” story appeared with Bill’s byline, though Barry apparently doesn’t know the true story of how that transpired.
And now, once more with feeling:
I think that we comics people, fans every one of us, tend to see things in terms of good guys and bad guys, heroes and villains. It usually isn’t that black and white. Bill did some things that were very wrong for reasons known only to him and incomprehensible to me. He did many good things, too. Whatever mistakes he made, whatever flaws he had, his talent was a boon to our field of endeavor. He deserves a great deal of credit, respect and admiration. He certainly did not deserve the tragic accident that befell him.
Once again, here is a link to a page where you can PayPal donations to help with Bill’s care:
I guess you're right, Jeff. Bill also plagiarized Stan Lee in #312 showing a scene from Hulk #1 where Bruce Banner run to save a young man from a big gamma bomb that is about to explode.
Just to finish, I'd like to know what do you think about this two links. It's in spanish, but images (and the dates) speaks for themselves.
Peter David and Bill Mantlo
Grant Morrison and Bill Mantlo
Thanks in advance for your opinion.
Actually, you proved me correct, though not in the way you intended. Apparently, Mr. Mantlo plagiarized from Mr. Stern's issue of The Incredible Hulk as opposed to Mr. Glut (writer of 'Along Came Spidey', whom I'll concede used that small episode likely from Mr. Stern as well). To each his own.
You and I may agree or disagree in Soldier case, but in the case you exposed with chemicals burst in #312 I just proved you were wrong.
I'm sure Harlan Ellison would beg to differ, Omoloc. We'll just have to agree to disagree.
You should read Incredible HulkVol 1#227 September, 1978 by Roger Stern.
And you should be quite sure before you say anyone's work has been plagiarize. It's like calling him a thief.
None of those cases are plagarism. One is a classic plot, the other continuity.
I will say that I did find this a bit suspicious. I have much respect for both Mr. Shooter and Mr. Mantlo, but I'd tend to agree with Mr. Shooter on this one. There were at least 2 plagiarisms I saw in regards to work I saw in stories Mr. Mantlo wrote that were actually predated in animated form. One was Hulk Annual #11 from 1982. It centered around The Leader poisoning New York City's water supply with gamma radiated isotopes to transform the citizens into minions like himself, the Hulk, and the Abomination… a socirty which he would rule. If that sounds strikingly similar to the plot of an episode of "Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends", that would be because it was. In the episode 'Triumph of the Green Goblin' (from 1981) the Goblin's big plan is to poison the city's water supply with his formula, which he intends to use to transform all the citizens of New York into Goblin-like creatures like himself.
Another actually comes from the infamous Incredible Hulk #312 story, "Monster". There is a scene which a high school-era Bruce Banner is experimenting and mixing chemicals when one of the students pours another chemical into the mix. The chemicals cause a mild explosion and cover Bruce's face and clothes. This also happened in the "Amazing Friends" flashback episode called 'Along Came Spidey' (from 1982). A pre Spider-Man Peter Parker was doing the exact same thing when another student poured a foreign chemical into the experiment Peter was working on (this student being the ever so troublesome Flash Thompson).
I enjoyed Mr. Mantlo's stories. The Spider-Man/Doc Ock storyline in PPTSSM was in my book, their greatest battle. But it does appear to me that he did plagiarize from many sources.
"I'm trying to imagine how law school could count as relevant to comics."
Maybe the writer would be assigned to Daredevil?
No legal issues with Marvel ripping off Marvel. It just annoys the creators whose work was recycled and generally just sucks.
As a matter of liability, it probably doesn't matter. As a matter of ethics, it matters a great deal on (at least) two fronts: first, with respect to the original artist, who may not have an ownership claim to the work, but does have a moral claim to its originality, and second, with respect to the reader, who has an implicit promise from the publisher that the work is original. Of course, ideas get recycled all the time, but there's an understanding that at least the words and images aren't just retyped or traced.
But if you're copying something Marvel published and owned in another Marvel comic, does it really matter?
Plagiarism of Harlan Ellison might get you sued. But Marvel copying Marvel?
Buckler was so notorious that a fake ad appeared I believe on the back of one of Alan Moore's '1963' books that was an art projector swiping/tracing machine that was labeled as being sold by 'Ruckler Enterprises'.
I believe the term plagiarism is generally limited to words and ideas, so copying art would not be considered plagiarism. In comics, the term used is swiping, and a lot of people do bring up the extensive amount of swiping Buckler did over his career. It's not a secret at all, and he's been much criticized for it. Google "Rich Buckler swipes" and you'll see many examples.
No one brings up the plagerism of Rich Buckler in his run on Fantastic Four I remember seeing drawings that were reminiscent of Kirby in the Frightful Four issues (147-148 I think) and then going back to the second ecounter with the evill FF and the the fight between the team was identical. This was never called into question, maybe because ten years had passed and the art may not be as memorable as ther story but this was no homage cover and I lost a lot of respect for Buckler as an artist at the time
Just working my way through this blog and wanted to say how awesome those Blue Oyster Cult stories were for me as a kid. BOC as a band has a very comic book oriented aesthetic, both in terms of being filled with exaggerated and odd characters and situations, and in terms being able to evoke real emotion and engagement with those materials, especially from readers/listeners who pay close attention. BOCs songs are like comics in that they often use the fantastic as a way of letting us see (and feel) the everyday in greater relief. those stories briefly and unexpectedly brought two of my separate worlds together. thanks DAK. I'd definitely agree that they're allusion and in no way plagiarism.
thanks for this blog JIm- wonderful to see the world of work that went in to the world of wonder I grew up on as well.
Bill Mantlo expressed his opinions about Jim and anyone else he felt like for many years. He had many chances to air his grievances and he did so as freely as he cared to. I don't see how it's unfair for Jim to be able to talk about events that happened, that Jim was personally involved with, especially since he is doing it in a fair and balanced way. He points out positive points and negative ones. From what I've read, Jim has been fairer in speaking about Bill than Bill ever was in speaking about Jim. But if you have already made up your mind before you even read a word, that prejudice and hatred will prevent you from seeing that. To be so angry about a situation you weren't present for between people you don't know strikes me as somewhat irrational.
Omoloc seems to think it's a good thing to piss off every creative individual on the face of the planet EXCEPT the sainted Bill Mantlo.
Never feed trolls, it only encourages them.
Wow. Shouldn't that guy go back over to CBR or the Byrne site with the rest of the kids?
Jim, that Outer Limits story by Harlan Ellison is called "Soldier". The short story has appeared in at least one Ellison collection.
Ah the trolls are coming out from under the bridge.
"Apparently". So, this is great. You wanted to fire Bill without even see the episode he was supposed to had plagiarized. I hope, at least, you talked with Bill first, did you? because you haven't talked about Bill's arguments
And also, you were very frightened that Mr Ellison could sue you (how did you know if Harlan could win that sue without seeing that episode, or talking with a lawyer?, you know, Bill was a lawyer, didn't he?), but you denied any agreement with Bill in arbitration to give him the work you were contractually obligated to give him.
You say you incentivized quality work, but you have said, not once, but several times Bill was a "weak writer", and the years, and the people has proved you wrong.
You say you saw them only by his work, not names, but you have said things like:
"(Bill) was a weak writer, so he willingly created characters to enhance his value and endear himself to the company and the editors. He did it no matter what I said. (…) A few people, like Chris Claremont, just couldn’t contain themselves. It’s tough for incredibly creative people like Chris to rein it in." Can you see it? It's the same action, but Chris Claremont was a incredible creative person, Bill just wanted to endear himself to the company.
Don't bother, but I certainly wouldn't like to have a boss like you.
Thanks for your answers.
Barry Windsor-Smith apparently feels elements of his story were plagiarized. Ask him about it.
Roger Stern, a smart and knowledgeable man familiar with Harlan's Outer Limits episode, called me as soon as he read Bill's story to tell me it was lifted from Harlan's story. While I was still on the phone with Roger, Harlan himself called to tell me his story had been plagiarized. To this day, I have never seen that episode of Outer Limits, so I can't attest to the degree of the plagiarism. But, it was enough, apparently.
You say: "All science fiction is based in previous works. You can always find some similarities." The examples you cite as comparable to the stories of Bill's in question were different enough from the stories with similarities that preceded them so that no one complained to me or Marvel about them, much less threatened to sue. Barry Windsor-Smith and Harlan Ellison complained about Bill's blatant thefts, and Harlan might have sued if I had not accepted responsibility (on Marvel's behalf).
Regarding Bill not being able to "defend himself." The facts I reported are accurate. BWS and Harlan had a problem with elements of their stories being lifted by Bill. And, therefore, I did. I'm sorry Bill had an accident, I'm sorry he can't comment on what has been said here. That doesn't exonerate him.
Once again, here is a link to a page where you can PayPal donations to help with Bill’s care:
I have said plenty about Bill's positive contributions and creativity.
My dealings with Bill had no adverse effect on my position or status at Marvel.
I never attacked Bill or anyone else. I tried to do my job, which was, among other things, to oversee the creative effort. I encouraged and incentivized quality work and demanded that the editors do the same. I discouraged sub-par work every way I could. I called 'em as I saw 'em, without regard to anything but the work itself. Not names, reputations or what they might say about me in the fanzines.
Bill did some things that were very good, and I'm pleased that you love his work. As for my work, well, I'm always trying to improve.
About BWS case, there are some facts that bring me some doubts about the matter:
– BWS apparently didn’t say a (public) word about this thing until 2003. why? BWS proposal is dated in July 1984. Hulk #312 was published in 1985. Bill’s accident was in 1992… why didn’t BWS tell anything until 2003 when Mantlo couldn’t be asked? (Maybe the film based in it? It would be interesting know which were exactly the BWS words from Comic Book Artist #1)
– Looking at those two stories, the only thing in common is the childhood trauma, nothing else: The atmosphere is different. The structure is different (a unique thanksgiving day vs. different life time moments). In one the father is disturbed by war and goes wild when drunk. The other is obsessed by thinking his genius child is a Monster. We see Hulk in one as a metaphor of the child he was (from Banner’s memory), in the other we see a reminiscence of Hulk that means Hulk was always there (a flashback).
-There is a point no one seems to notice: 312 is the end of an argument arch. In 312 one of the main things Mantlo tell us is the origin of the Triad, an arch that started several months before, and had nothing to do with BWS story.
-One weird thing is, BWS story was titled “Thanksgiving”… Mantlo story was titled “Monster” and played with “Who was really the Monster?” theme. But now, BWS’s graphic novel, that uses his original story… is titled “Monsters”!! That doesn’t make any sense to me to put your Graphic Novel the title from the story you say is a plagiarism from yours…
I think it’s very difficult to determine that Mantlo conscientiously plagiarized BWS’s story, and I think it’s unfair to say it since he can’t answer.
About Hero: I've seen both, and there is very little in common. All science fiction is based in previous works. You can always find some similarities. Mantlo's Hero story is about "hero of the day" (not in Ellison's Story) and Kang (obviously not in Ellison story). I mean… Byrne had an obviuos inspiration, for example, in X-men 143, wich was a evident copy of Alien. Why did you act so different in this case? or Alpha Flight's Gilded Lily (AF #20, 1985) a woman who transforms men into gold by touching them and die with his house… quite similar with Bill Mantlo's "People In Glass Houses Shouldn't Hurt Hulks!" (TIH 262, 1981) story about a woman who transforms men into glass boy touching them and die with his House. Or we could say that Star Brand (which I loved, by the way) is an obvious plagiarism of Green Lantern, couldn't we?
I think it's fair also that those who read this text of yours also know what Bill Mantlo used to think about Jim Shooter. This is what Mantlo said about him, before his accident:
"(Shooter) had been trying to destroy me as a writer ever since he became an editor… He would attack me either directly, or through the editors, by making it miserable for the editors who had to edit my stuff. Some of the editors did not want to work with me because Shooter would be so hard on them"
"Shooter breached my contract at Marvel by refusing to give me the amount of work they were contractually obligated to give me. I took Marvel to arbitration over this. Shooter bitterly opposed any settlement with me… In the course of our negotiations, it became apparent that Jim Shooter was irrational, and I think this was the first time for management to see this. They basically kept it in mind when his contract came up"
This text of you Mr. Shooter match Bill's words. Trying to destroy him as a writer, even now, that he can't defend himself.
I keep loving Bill's work, but now, Mr. Shooter, I like your Star Brand or your Secret Wars plot a bit less.
Once I nearly — only nearly, thank goodness –accused a writer of plagiarism, and it turned out to be an interesting lesson in how memories are malleable.
Once I was watching Showtime's Outer Limits and saw a story about a dystopian future in which earth was overpopulated, and the government's solution was to have only half the population awake every other day, and they would rotate out. People on the odd days of the year were Alphas and the others were Betas. The story was about an Alpha who fell in love with a Beta and was trying to figure out how they could be together. I remembered from childhood that my father had years ago owned a book that, judging from my reading the summary on the back of the book, was about *that very story*, but the Outer Limits episode didn't have anything in the credits saying, "Based on the story 'such-and-such' by so-and-so." So I found the screenwriter through his sister — the internet is a wonderful thing — and asked him whose story was the basis for his screenplay. He said it was an original screenplay. I wanted to call B.S. on him, especially since I was very interested in reading the original story on which his screenplay was based. But I gave him the benefit of a doubt and instead started asking sci-fi forums and Q&A forums if they knew, and making random searches. Finally I hit upon the book: "Dayworld" by Philip Jose Farmer. And it was only *superficially* like the Outer Limits story! Yes, the earth was overpopulated, but people were split up over all 7 days of the week, and the story was about a detective who illegally lived in all 7 days by maintaining 7 different identities. I was mortified! I had seen the Outer Limits episode and had unconsciously rewritten my memory of the summary on the back of the book I'd seen in my father's library years ago so that it matched every detail of the Outer Limits episode! So I took that as a lesson that not everything I remember really happened…scary thought, but true.
And it's also a good example of how two people can come up with nearly the same idea (e.g., basically timesharing the whole planet to avoid overpopulation) independently, even if the idea is so off-the-beaten-path that you think, "No way did they both think of that!"
Not calling into question any of the recollections in this thread, just giving my own cautionary example. –MikeAnon
Gary M. Miller
Terrific to see David Kraft gracing this page with his presence! My head is swimming with all the terrific company.
Tue, the website link's in my profile and you can click my name to get there. Alternately you have mail.;-) I enjoy going through old Marvel history mainly and have some fun stuff coming up. (Jim, I'd love to see the "secret" story of Secret Wars II, reviled though the story and all its tie-ins may be in some circles!)
What a joy to read this stuff!
Honestly, I don't remember the Death of Jean DeWolff, though I think it ran under my watch.
Just to be clear, Eric Bloom is the guitarist/lead singer of Blue Öyster Cult (along with Buck Dharma), not the drummer. Their original drummer was Albert Bouchard.
Thank you for all of these wonderful discussions. I agree with all of the posters who have suggested this go into book format. I think you might be surprised how many people would be interested in it.
Now they get stories in major newspapers for killing an alternate universe Spider-Man!
Peter expanded on the notion of Bruce Banner being abused as a child, and posited that it resulted in a form of Multiple Personality Disorder, of which his various personalities (Banner, the early tough-talking Hulk, the childlike Savage Hulk) were all manifestations.
You were around for The Death Of Jean DeWolff, right? Did you dig that story?
I stand corrected. I apologize.
A press release? For the first one? Really? I couldn't get a press release for the Spider-Man black costume.
I think you do me a disservice, regarding the Blue Oyster Cult inspired issues of Defenders. Those were all-original stories with the added whimsy of allusions to some of the songs, not in any way rip-offs. Ed Hannigan and I labored lovingly on them. Perhaps you don't remember, but the issues carried a dedication to the band, and a press release went out from Marvel to the media drawing attention to the homage. I'd already met Eric Bloom backstage at concerts in Toronto and New York City, and I was the one who invited him up to Marvel to see the Bullpen and to meet you. It was something of a coup, and I don't deserve to suffer guilt-by-association with rip-offs in a thread labeled plagiarism.
It was? I think only a few of Peter's Hulk issues were published while I was still EIC. I don't remember much about them except that Peter's writing was clever and glib. I didn't read any of his Hulk stories after I left Marvel.
Jim, what did you think of Peter David's Hulk run, which was significantly influenced by Bill's?
Gary M. Miller said:
"Actually Assistant Editor's Month was the issues cover-dated January 1984 (issue #291)"
Yes, you're right, of course. I was checking the Unofficial Handbook of Marvel Creators (a fabulous resource, and still being updated!), which doesn't show covers, so at first I assumed the soldier story had to be #291, the title of which was "Old soldiers never die!", but on checking the covers I found out it was "Hero" in the earlier issue. But the Assistant Editor's Month factoid must have stuck in my mind when I made the previous post… Grr, I hate making mistakes! 🙂
I'm interested in your blog – I think you linked to it in a previous post, but I've been looking through the past posts to find it, without luck. You can also just send the link to me at sorensonian(at)gmail.com. Thanks!
Thanks for your reply. I'm thrilled that Barry Windsor-Smith was able to work for VALIANT and put the past behind him at that time.
Whoever initiated the continuing education program did the right thing. More knowledge, better products, happier readers, higher sales. Everyone wins!
I love your reply to Piperson concerning how to write original stories. A skill I don't see enough of in American comics. In manga, every creator has to do their own thing. Not much caretaking of other creators' legacies. But in the US, one can coast for decades using other people's characters. My respect for you skyrocketed after I discovered the universes (plural!) you created while I wasn't paying attention. (Early Image drove me away from comics in the early 90s and VALIANT took off while I was living in Japan where American comics are hard to get.) The realism of VALIANT, DEFIANT, Broadway and now Dark Key is to the modern "mainstream" what Marvel realism was to DC 50 years ago. I get the feeling that a lot of comics writers are lifelong fans whose brains are stuck in the long box. You've been outside the box for years, doing everything from Levi's ads to Baby Animals on the Farm. Even reconditioning cars just like Ken Connell in Star Brand! I would love to see you discuss the early 70s at length. The incident in "The Word" at the beginning of the Star Seed #10 script in the sidebar intrigues me, to say the least.
A Marvel T&A: Friday All-Fan Q&A column posted on November 19th, 2010 over at Comic Book Resources brought up the subject of whether or not Barry Windsor-Smith was working for Marvel.
A fan named gryhpon asked "In 2006 Barry Windsor-Smith announced that he was in talks to work on a graphic novel starring the Thing. Did anything ever come of these talks or did they just go nowhere? Is there any chance BWS may one day soon do new work for Marvel?"
Tom Brevoort replied "All right, this is officially the difficult question of the week, Gryhpon, but I'll try to give you a straight answer. The honest truth is that back when Barry announced that he was working on that project to the general internet public, he hadn't actually spoken to anybody here at Marvel about it. And, when contact was made, he said that he didn't want to show us any of the work or even an outline until there was some deal in place. Now, I have to tell you, I'm not about to buy a story blind without knowing what it is, even from a talent as great as BWS. So that's where things stand on that. I don't know if Barry is still picking away on the project or not, but if he wants to have another conversation about it, we're always open to listening."
So there's a big difference between Jim's faith in Barry's storytelling ability and Tom's wariness.
Dear Marc (from your first comment),
I suppose Barry Windsor-Smith might have harbored feelings of ill will regarding the plagiarism incident during the VALIANT days, but I don't recall it being mentioned. Barry had pretty much burned his bridges elsewhere and VALIANT was a decent landing spot. We were very glad to have him, and I guess he chose not to bring it up then.
There was very little interaction between us zoo animals downstairs and the business people upstairs. Why Barry Kaplan defended and supported Bill so strongly, I have no clue. But he did.
I cannot account for Law School qualifying for reimbursement. Barry's call, and only he knows why.
It would seem to me that a company that bought cover paintings and some painted interior art on a regular basis would consider painting classes job related, but Barry didn't aee it that way.
I did not initiate the continuing education program. Don't know who did.
Gary M. Miller
Actually Assistant Editor's Month was the issues cover-dated January 1984 (issue #291).
I'm currently in the process of reviewing Mantlo's work for my blog, and I'm a pretty big Hulk fan besides, so a lot of what Jim's been going over here is grist for the mill. I'm also tracking down some other sources. It's really illuminating stuff. 286 really is the lesser of the infractions with regard to an impact on the character's history. 312…it's a dark stain on a run that's otherwise still remarkable.
The soldier from the future issue is Hulk #286 (cover dated August 1983 – Assistant Editor's Month, no less!), apparently based off of episode 2×01 of The Outer Limits (1964).
There is indeed a very fine line between plagiarism and using someone else's idea in a different way. Lots of writers use variants on other people's ideas, usually changing them enough that no one notices. Shakespeare himself used existing stories or histories as the basis for most of his plays. And one could argue that all superheroes are rip-offs of Superman. Some stories are so distinctive that they can spawn an entire genre unto itself, consisting only of stories of that sort.
John Byrne has relayed in interviews how several of his FF stories (incl. mindblowing stuff like FF #236, and the story that crossed over into Avengers #233) were based on episodes of Doctor Who, except he didn't realize it when he wrote them, but only found out about it later. That doesn't stop those stories from being quite magnificent. Hulk #312 has always stood as a beacon of quality storytelling for me, and I doubt anything can change that. It is sad in several ways if Mantlo plagiarized the story, but the story itself is still great, and makes a ton of sense in its universe.
Gary M. Miller
When this answer was initially provided a few weeks ago, I remember thinking about all the implications. While it's true Bill Mantlo did a lot of good things in the industry–I consider his Spidey/Dr. Octopus/Owl battle in Spectacular Spider-Man #72-79 to be the best tussle between the two, ever–I can't help but feel the three (minimum) acts of plagiarism bring my overall opinion of his work down a few pegs. It seems with his interest in the legal profession that developed into his having become a public defender in the late 1980s, he should have known better.
I've been about as big a proponent of his Hulk work as anyone out there (and in fact, current Hulk writer Greg Pak cites Mantlo as a major influence and it's easy to see why). To see the inner workings of Marvel and how they applied to the situations in both the Hulk projects, well, I scoff at the work that was done. In my mind that one story, "Monster" in #312, seen by many as a watershed moment in Hulk history, is now forever tarnished because it really should be Windsor-Smith and not Mantlo who should have contributed those ideas in print form to the mythos. That Mantlo, all these years later, gets the lion's share of the credit for a story that was blatantly aped from another creator…it's despicable.
I do know Windsor-Smith must have reconciled with Marvel in some fashion, as in 1985-86 he contributed a few stories with Chris Claremont on X-Men (including "Lifedeath" 1 & 2). Then in the early 1990s he also wrote and drew "Weapon X" depicting the definitive origin of Wolverine. And of course, he still worked with you in the Valiant days. Can you say any more of the aftermath of what I'm sure was a very unpleasant situation?
I've heard for years now that Windsor-Smith has been working on a version of "Monsters" divorced from the Marvel and Hulk continuity as a 300-plus page project. It's good to see the story hasn't died, although I wonder since the project was announced around 2003 if it's ever going to see the light of day.
Thanks for taking the time to share your brilliant insights, Jim. From a fellow native Pittsburgher…
That's interesting. I just checked the issue and you're right. The script refers to him as "Old Man Mur". The name of Torque's foster father is only Sonny Mur according to the VALIANT Entertainment web site. That's based on the panel in Harbinger #4 ("Where The Love-Light Gleams…") where readers see Sonny's Garage in Decatur, Georgia from above for the first time. A scan can be found here:
When Torque first appeared in issue 1, the garage wasn't visible from that angle. So I guess David Lapham named the garage on his own. I always viewed Harbinger #21 ("Resolution") as one of the most undeniable examples that VALIANT jumped the shark. It established that Sting's dad was an alcoholic belt whipping dad too. Years later, Maurice Fontenot created yet another violent father for Sonix's origin. That strains believability a bit that 3 of the most powerful Harbingers grew up being smacked.
Having comic-book characters react like real people in uncommon situations has always provided the finest stories. My favorites in that vein are Jim's Molecule Man story in Avengers (the one drawn by Alan Weiss) and Frank Miller's Purple Man story from a Marvel Team-up annual.
In the first, the incredibly powerful Molecule Man is brought to reason by someone… talking to him. That was quite suspenseful, and also so much more believable than a fisticuffs with a guy who can rearrange his opponents' molecules. In the second, a once-costumed villain who can get people to do anything he says decides that it doesn't make sense to put on a cape and trade knuckle sandwiches with superheroes. He just tells people to give him the best room in the hotel, the best dish on the menu, and to give him the next dance. And isn't that what any sane real-life villain would do?
Almost any story can benefit from its characters acting like real human beings. That's a lesson too easily forgotten nowadays in comics.
I don't remember calling Mur "Sonny." It's not a name I would choose.
I hinted at Torque's being mistreated, but other than the reference: "Used to get locked in the smokehouse if they caught me playin'…" I don't think I ever cited any specifics.
Torque was a troubled kid. All Harbingers were. But I didn't spell his problems out.
Speaking of child abuse, was it ever explicitly stated in early Harbinger comics that Torque was physically hit by his foster father named Sonny Mur? Even though it's not 100% trustworthy, Wizard: The Beginning of the VALIANT Era claims "A lifetime of abuse had made (Jon Torkelson) very apprehensive about trusting others." Likewise, Torque's official VALIANT Entertainment character page says:
"Orphaned at a young age, John Torkelson grew up hoping to be strong enough to get even with everyone who wronged him since he was a child, a wish that came true when Pete Stanchek awoke his great strength.
The most blatant hint towards child abuse I can find is given in Harbinger issue 5 ("All For One…") when Zepplin & Torque talk at the zoo. It established that Sonny locked John in the smokehouse when he caught him playing. Was anything worse than that mentioned pre-Unity?
I don't remember that well enough to shed any light.
I try to extrapolate my stories from real life and real people. Start with something that happened to me, or that I read about or heard tell of and magnify it. Get a foundation conceit going and run with it, build it. Think it through! No glib answers, no stock bits. Throw down and dance upon cliches.
I think about what it would really be like to have the amazing abilities we comics people take for granted. What would a real person do with a power ring? What would I do? Tell you one thing, I wouldn't be on my way to the kitchen right now to get a beverage. It would be coming to me.
Where was I? Oh, yes….
It's a dangerous course. I fail a lot.
Some great things are done in comics these days. But an awful lot of what's offered is derivative. Make that derivative of derivative of derivative…etc. Too many plastic characters. Too many canned emotions made of artificial ingredients. Too many people vowing vengeance through clenched teeth. Too many characters holding the dead girl's body so as best to display her breasts while screaming "Noooooo!" To which I can only say, "Noooooo!"
Ahem. You get the drift. I'm all right now. Really, I'm calm.
Very interesting post, even if I find you a little harsh regarding Bill (but I wasn't there so…).
That's what I love about Bill, and about Bill work also. He is a man of contradictions. I mean, he was studying law, so he knew for sure he would get caught with the Soldier/hulk story… His law background in contracts helped Coleen Doran regain the rights to A Distant Soil.
I really think he had some of the bests ideas, but was not the best of dialoguist…
BTW, Jim, would you know what happened to the Epic Derangers series project, with Buth Guice on art? It was announced 2 years in a row and finally nothing and Bill used the characters in alpha Flight 53, almost killing them all in the issues he introduced them (except Goblyn).
I am not an IP lawyer, so as a layman, I wonder where to draw the line on how similar is too similar. Coincidental similarity can't be helped, but deliberate similarity is all over comics. Big Bang Comics might as well be DC with another name. Having not read the Hulk story or seen the Outer Limits episode, I can only say that "warrior from the future arrives today" doesn't sound very unique to me. It's not as common as "a hardboiled detective in a raincoat," but I bet one could find similar elements in other SF comics. Off the top of my head, I recall an early 80s story (in this issue of Mystery in Space?) about an assassin from the future arriving in the 20th century. Details matter: if the appearance and/or behavior of the future soldier are similar to Ellison's, I'd guess that such a degree of resemblance would be actionable.
"Copyright does not protect facts, ideas, systems, or methods of operation, although it may protect the way these things are expressed."
– U.S. Copyright Office
I'm ordering those BÖC-themed Defenders issues. The story titles took me aback. I like BÖC and want to see the extent of DAK's homage. Official BÖC-based stories might have been fun. Oh well …
Rip-off and plagiarism in comics is a very subjective thing. Some people say that it's impossible to be original because everything has been done before. Even the original Batman was a take-off of the pulp heroes like the Spider who was a rip-off of the Shadow. It's what you do with the subject is what differentiates a great creator from another. Alan Moore, arguably the greatest writer comics has ever had (beside Jim of coarse), usually does take-offs of other work. His 1969, and Supreme are 2 of the most obvious examples, but while a lesser artist would do uninspired stuff, Moore's stuff is often very clever and inspired.
Another great writer who uses the comics to get ideas is Kurt Busiek. Astro City is all original takes of stuff that came from comics.
Having read Mantlo's Hulk's, they were not the most inspired of stories that I've read.
Interestingly Jim, your stuff is often very original. It seems that you don't use the comic book medium as a springboard take your ideas from but rather get ideas from other sources. Would you care to elaborate on that?
Excellent analysis, compelling theory. I'm inclined to agree.
David Kraft did one of those "homage" ripoffs based on the lyrics of a Blue Oyster Cult album in Defenders. He didn't think he was doing anything wrong, apparently. I found out about the ripoff when Eric Bloom, the BOC drummer, paid me a visit. He wasn't angry. In fact he loved it. He was (is?) a big comics fan and we discussed some possibilties about doing other BOC based stories. Nothing came of it, but we remained friendly. I haven't seen him for years.
Aha! That makes sense. Thank you very much.
Thanks, Jim, for pointing out that the world isn't peopled by one-dimensional good guys and bad guys. Considering the very public nature of the deed, I'm pretty sure that Mantlo didn't consider what he did plagiarism. I do not know him, but even if he was (for the sake of argument) the most ruthless plagiarist in the world, there is no way he could have thought that ripping off Harlan Ellison (of all people!) could be done without anyone noticing.
Maybe he thought that the "warrior from the future arrives today" theme had been seen so often that it had become a common storytelling device, akin to a hardboiled detective in a raincoat. Maybe he thought that recycling a part from a beloved TV show was a homage to Ellison. Maybe he just didn't remember where that idea had come from. It's hard to tell. That doesn't excuse using someone else's story, but there are many reasons, not all of them nefarious, why that could happen.
BWS's story might have been pilfered for a similar reason. Since the Marvel universe is built on the conceit of a unified, coherent continuity, perhaps Mantlo saw the BWS pages (which were no doubt gorgeous), assumed that Bruce banner being abused as a kid was now "in continuity" and decided to work with that, not realizing that he was pulling the rug from under many people's feet. Again, I find it unlikely he could have stolen the story outright thinking no one would notice.
Not to belabor the point, but the nature of comic-book storytelling might also be to blame. How many times were the same stories told again and again? Mantlo's story about Tony Stark losing his company was reused by Denny O'Neil (who combined it with Michelinie's "Tony Stark is a drunk" story, so it was a double retelling). "Matt Murdock is outed as Daredevil" was told many times, including by Miller, Chichester and Bendis. Morrison's run on the X-Men was like rereading Claremont's through a glass darkly.
Even the theme of a super being coming from the future was told long before Harlan Ellison's stories; if only in the original concept for Superman.
Just a historical point — Carl Potts had been editor of THE INCREDIBLE HULK for more than a year when the child abuse issue (#312) was produced. That issue was actually Mantlo's next-to-last, before he moved over to ALPHA FLIGHT and John Byrne took over the Hulk.
So while Al Milgrom may have been the editor who put the photocopies of BWS's pages in the flat file, perhaps it was during Carl's tenure as editor that Mantlo looked through the file and stumbled upon them, if indeed that's what happened.
Which could explain how TIH #312 saw print without the editor knowing about the BWS situation. I know full well that when a title changes hands from one editor to another, ancillary/unscheduled projects can sit in the drawer for months or even years before the new editor even knows of their existence.
Thanks for responding to the requests concerning plagiarism. I apologize for not having seen your original posting. Your comments section is very active and it's hard to keep up. I constantly check for new comments in previous posts and find gems.
I never knew Bill Mantlo. I only read his work. None of your revelations have made me any less willing to uphold his Micronauts and ROM as examples how creative licensed comics can be.
I recently bought the Hulk origin issues, having read good things about them. I thought they might be examples of Mantlo at his best. I am disappointed to learn otherwise.
If BWS was upset at you about the Hulk incident, did that lead to tension years later when he worked for VALIANT?
I thought that Marvel executives other than you didn't deal much with creative people. I never imagined a friendship upstairs could have consequences like the ones you described.
Did you initiate the Marvel program paying for college courses?
I'm trying to imagine how law school could count as relevant to comics. Maybe it would seem that way if the VP didn't read comics. Superheroes are fighting for justice, so it couldn't hurt to pay for a better knowledge of the justice system? Comics aren't generally painted (?! – never mind all those painted covers!), so painting gets only "minimum support"? Bizarre.
I appreciate your closing paragraph about heroes and villains. You sum up the way I see Bill Mantlo. I cannot deny what he did wrong, but I continue to appreciate what he did right.
I bought his biography in February:
"Best of all, the proceeds from MANTLO: A LIFE IN COMICS are being donated to help with the costs of Bill's daily care."