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….
7. Exasperated Marvel Executive Vice President Joe Calamari to me when my wars with upper management were at their hottest, regarding their complete ignorance of the comics business they owned: “We can’t fire you! You’re the only one who could tell us who could replace you!”
Apparently, eventually, they thought they had it figured out.
8. Jim Starlin, just before driving his snowmobile off of a 200 foot vertical cliff. “Want to hear my death laugh?”
All right, maybe it was 50 feet. Seemed like 200 when I followed him over the edge on MY snowmobile. Had to. Only he knew the way home. P.S. We both survived. The base of the cliff curved outward like one of those deadfall rides at the amusement park. P.P.S. Starlin’s “death laugh” was blood-chilling.
9. A DC staffer in an interview, about, among other things, how the House of Ideas was beating the pants off of DC (or, as writer Mike Barr used to call it, “the House of Tedium”): “Jim Shooter plays hardball.”
Someone at Marvel had a brass plaque made for me with that quote on it. I hung it on my office door.
10. The worst advice Stan Lee ever gave me: “Work with the devil himself if he has talent.”
Nah. I learned that devils, no matter how talented, are never worth it. They have a corrosive effect. They ultimately hurt the team. And there are plenty of people out there just as talented who aren’t spewing poison.
The wife tells a story about a day at DEFIANT. Jim but his arm on Rod Ollerenshaw's shoulder, looked at the people in the bullpen, and said, "My Rod, my staff…they comfort me".
He also would The Wife's wedding ring once, but that, as they say, is another story.
he does seem like a good guy i've never heard anyone say anything untowards about him
Julie stories coming soon. Mostly good. A few bumps along the road but we ended up good friends.
Jim do you have any personal stories about Julius Schwartz ? i think he was probably the closest DC has ever had to a Stan Lee type eve tho he was more behind the scenes editor type
It really, really pissed me off when Unity 2000 was cancelled. I quit subscribing to comics after that. Dark Horse's handling of your new material (art, lack of promotion, coloring, etc) is the reason I've quit buying comics altogether.
Chuck's ads in Marvel Comics was why I transitioned from a reader to a collector. I'd bought X-Men #94 off the spinner rack at a drugstore when it came out. When Chuck listed it for $60 in his ads, I knew that I'd better treat my hobby a little more seriously than I had. It was worth money.
I recommended Starlin for UNITY 2000.
Someday, I'll try to get Chuck to tell the tale of those ads in Marvel Comics. Interesting stuff.
Thanks for the background details of your upstate sports adventures. Enduro bike? Made me think of Ken Connell in the opening scene of Star Brand #1.
The negative stories about you are difficult to swallow after hearing about the fun you had with your fellow creators. Some make you out to be as mean as Mort Weisinger, but I doubt Jerry Siegel, Otto Binder, Edmond Hamilton, or Leo Dorfman would invite Weisinger over for the weekend.
Did you recruit Jim Starlin to draw Unity 2000?
Chuck Rozanski is indeed in your Plasm #1 list: "Special thanks to Chuck Rozanski of Mile High Comics, who was shoulder-to-shoulder with me at the beginnings of DEFIANT, just as he was when we were building the last company." BTW, I discovered Mile High through the two-page ads that used to run in Marvel books when you were EIC.
Yeah, that's pretty much how Ron related his time at Marvel, as well. I wouldn't tell those other stories here, regardless, as…well…who knows if they are true or not? But they were very entertaining! One that he told me that was fairly innocuous was that you and Stan were arguing about something or other one day and that Stan stood up on a desk (or a chair?) so that he could be the same height (or taller) than you!
Ron and his wife, Justine, are both very nice people and, as far as I know, are still doing well in the wilds of Maine. Unfortunately, we had a falling out a few years back and we haven't spoken since. So it goes…
I look forward to The Titillating Tale of the Try-Out Book!
Ron worked under Sol Brodsky on the non-comics "special projects" stuff. Sol's people worked on things like the strips, miscellaneous jobs for licensing, PR, and Marvel Books (the ill-fated children's book line), etc. I don't remember exactly what Ron did there. Art production? He was never directly involved with the main publishing effort.
After Sol died, "special projects" became part of my department — it really always had been, but I let Sol handle it and mostly left him alone — so, technically, Ron worked for me for a little while. Again, not on the comics. On the sidebar stuff.
I don't know what unsavory stories he had, and really, I'm okay with not knowing. I know that those were challenging times for Ron for personal reasons, because he told me so. A couple of times he came to me because he just needed to talk to somebody about it. Not much I could do besides provide a sympathetic ear and encouragement, but I was happy to do that.
Who hasn't gone through some challenging times?
I heard from Ron some years — many years — after I left Marvel, and he seemed hale, hearty and happy, so I guess things worked out for him. Good. He seems to me like a good guy.
Submissions and the Try-Out Book are now on the list. Stay tuned. Thanks.
First and foremost, love the blog. These daily stories, tales and tips really put a smile on my face.
For a time, I worked with/for Ron Fontes and he told me a good many anecdotal stories about his time at Marvel. Although his were always a bit more…unsavory, shall we say. One that always stuck with me was the handling of the deluge of samples/submissions you guys got as a result of the original "Marvel Try-Out Book."
I'd be very interested in hearing your recollections of that…might make an interesting blog post in and of itself!
"10. The worst advice Stan Lee ever gave me: “Work with the devil himself if he has talent.”
Nah. I learned that devils, no matter how talented, are never worth it. They have a corrosive effect. They ultimately hurt the team. And there are plenty of people out there just as talented who aren’t spewing poison."
Yup so true and not just in the work place.
This is not the first time I am hearing the Jim Starlin story, I am sure you told it in your column and you titled it "Jim Starlin Tried to Kill Me!.
You said he had a Ghost Rider laugh as you both went over the cliff
According to Roger Stern: Frank Miller was supposed to take over as artist on Doctor Strange (with Roger writing) in 1981. House ads appeared announcing the upcoming event. At the time Daredevil was bi-monthly and Miller had been drawing it for about a year and a half (and writing it for a few months). However, what happened was the Daredevil's sales had increased when Miller took over as writer, to the point where the title was promoted to monthly status. Miller was unable to draw more than one book a month so he had to bow out of doing Doctor Strange.
#7 More common in corporations that you think. I saw it first hand at Merrill Lynch. Funny how the comic book publishers were perceived as inferior compare to "real" companies. In this instance, Fortune 500-scale mismanagement infected Marvel. Holy Agent Smith!
#5 I love being old enough to get this. Showed a proportion wheel to my students last night … first time they've ever seen one.
David Marshall, Comics/Art/Web Guy
Creative Services Consultant
The way I remember it, Frank was drawing Daredevil and Roger McKenzie was writing it. Frank was unhappy with the way the book was going. Denny was too, I think. And it was on the verge of cancellation.
One day, Denny came into my office seemingly very angry. He growled "Read this!" and threw a plot with no byline down on my desk. Feeling as I often did, like General Halftrack ("Now what?"), I read the thing per Denny's demand. It was a Daredevil plot introducing a new character called ELEKTRA.
I thought it was great. I asked Denny who wrote it. "Miller!" he snarled.
So…what's the problem, I asked.
Through gritted teeth, Denny said "He has no right being this good on his first try!"
The above is a slight dramatization, but not by much. : )
Anyway, Frank took over as the writer of Daredevil. Maybe instead of drawing Strange. I forget.
So, we stuck with Daredevil for a while to see how the new kid worked out. Worked out okay.
Jim Starlin and his wife had a roomy house upstate near Phoenicia. Back then, early 80's he'd invite bunches of folks up for weekends sometimes. Bernie Wrightson lived in the area. So did other comics people. We'd snowmobile, ride ATVs and an enduro bike I bought that lived up there. No place to put it in Manhattan. We'd go tubing on the mighty Esopus. Or just enjoy the magnificent countryside. There are some nice restaurants up that way. Those were the days.
I hope Chuck Rozanski is on that list in Plasm #1. He was a tremendous help, and I accidentally left him off of one such list. It hurt his feelings. Chuck is one of the best and brightest ever to throw me a rope.
It seems someone took Stan's advice regarding working with the devil; unfortunately, that gave us the mess that is One More Day…
Xavier, Miller's take on Dr. Strange would have occurred a few years after he had started on Daredevil; the house ad for Dr. Strange was published in 1981, and Miller started working on DD in May '79. That being said, I'm curious about this "could have been" story too!
Louis Porter Jr.
Being french, my favorite is the Paris CullIns(no?) one! 🙂
Oh, is there any back story behind Frank Miller supposed to draw Doctor Strange (and advertised as it during several months in Marvel mags), to finally go to Daredevil? (the way you talked about it before, it seems that Frank Miller move to Daredevil was planned in advance, so was Dr strange supposed to be a second assignment?)
I found your blog last night. Your insight into the past of the comic industry is both educational and extremely entertaining. I'm an aspiring writer, young enough that I've mostly read your work as back issues when I went and tried to collect a bunch of books.
Again, it's great reading your blog. Have a nice night!
It's details like ordering burgers that make your reminiscences come to life. Even creators have to eat!
I used to think Jim Starlin just drew Death. But he's really acquainted with her, isn't he? Reminds me of the story you told in Dreadstar #1 about how he kicked your lost inner tube back to you on the Esopus River. Were you two often outdoors together?
You've gotten a lot of rope over the years. (I just happened to run across your two-page list of people who helped you with DEFIANT in the back of Warriors of Plasm #1 tonight.) And given a lot of rope too.
Extremely tame compared to my circle of friends/acquaintances/coworkers over the years.