Stormy seas. The ship was sinking. I was the captain. It was my job to right the ship.
One big problem was that some of the sailors didn’t know I was the captain.
A little back story. If you’ve been following along, you know most of this:
Stan was the publisher, but only ceremonially. He had no business responsibilities, no day-to-day management role. His job was being Stan. He was the resident creative guru, the face of Marvel, number one pitch man and ambassador.
I’m not saying Stan was powerless. If he chose to weigh in on something, people listened. I was hired on his recommendation. But, it was the President of the company, Jim Galton, who hired me, and he was the one to whom I reported. Stan’s authority came from being Stan, not by virtue of his title.
Sol Brodsky was “V.P. of Operations.” That was a phony baloney job. When his friend Sol was out of work, Stan invented that job and convinced Cadence that it was necessary and important. Mostly what Sol did was serve as Stan’s assistant. If Stan needed presentation boards for a pitch, Sol had them made. If Stan wanted books for reference, Sol acquired them. Etc.
Sol also constantly ferreted out things to do, things he could take charge of. Anything. If a door lock needed changing, Sol had it taken care of. If a light bulb was burned out you might see Sol on a ladder. The warehouse? He took charge. No one was doing much in the way of facilities management, so Sol scooped up those duties. Anything to justify his employment.
Any vacuum of authority, Sol rushed in to fill.
Sol acted as though he had a role in the comics publishing and so he did. I don’t know about Roy or Len, but Marv, Gerry and Archie seemed to believe that Sol was the boss, or at least in charge of some areas. If Marv wanted to give a freelancer a raise, he went to Sol and asked for a raise for said person, and was happy if Sol “approved” the raise.
So…Sol had somehow wheedled his way into a de facto position similar to the one he had legitimately while working with Stan in the sixties. Just like Stan used to, the EIC would bring to Sol anything financial or legal and he would handle it.
As associate editor, I observed this and wondered why. All Sol did was pass any financial or legal issues on to the financial officer or counsel upstairs. Why the EIC didn’t do that himself, I couldn’t fathom.
During the three weeks or so before I took office as EIC, while Archie was playing out the string on his tenure, Production Manager John Verpoorten died and Art Director John Romita left staff.
Sol hired Len Grow to replace John Verpoorten and Marie Severin to replace John Romita. He also hired his son in law as assistant production manager. He had no authority to do any of that. But upstairs bosses either didn’t know that, or assumed that Sol was acting with Archie’s or my consent. No. Sol was just further reinforcing his de facto status as the business half of a two-headed publishing operation.
When I was in the discussions that led to my being hired, I found out that Sol was not only not in charge of anything to do with publishing, but he wasn’t even on the table of organization. He was a footnote.
I could have objected then to Len and Marie being hired without my consent but 1) I had enough to worry about already, and 2) Len had been a good assistant production manager. I might have hired him anyway. And Marie Severin is a genius-National Treasure-Hall-of-Famer, so….
When I started as EIC, I started making changes in procedures, most notably the vouchering procedure. Len Grow seemed annoyed. Resentful. He had this “who-the-hell-do-you-think-you-are?” attitude. Every time I went to the production department to have something done, I got that same attitude. They did what I said, but grudgingly, it seemed.
Meanwhile, Marie Severin was taking the “Art Director” title literally, and was directing the art! If you read this post (link to the “When Is an Art Director….” post) you know that the Marvel Art Director’s job, at least as constituted when I arrived, didn’t involve any direction of the comic book art.
Marie had asserted control over assigning coloring and had stopped giving work to certain people whose coloring she didn’t like, and assigned it to people she thought were better. Trouble was, we had obligations to a couple of the people she cut out. And, while generally unhappy with the coloring at the time, I didn’t think they were worse than the others.
I tried to talk to Marie and got that “who-the-hell-do-you-think-you-are?” attitude.
Later Walt came in enraged. Marie had seized one of his books that was in production and was making “art corrections.” Walt doesn’t take well to having his work redrawn. He assumed that it was being done on my orders, so his rage was directed at me.
I told Marie to stop and took the pages. I think Walt fixed them back the way they were. Now Marie, one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet, was furious and seething at me.
Lenny took me aside and told me off. Who the hell did I think I was? How dare I interfere with Marie and him? He muttered something about going to Sol about this.
So, finally, the little light bulb came on. This guy didn’t know he reported to me. Okay, I should have known, I’m as dumb as an oyster. But, hey, I had a lot on my mind then.
I went to my office, got the publishing Table of Organization Barry Kaplan had given me and showed it to Lenny. Me at the top. Director level. Little lines connecting to Lenny and Marie, below. Manager level. No Sol.
P.S. Yes, Art “Director” was a manager-level job. Go figure.
Len apologized. I went back to my room. A minute later, Marie showed up. Len had told her. She apologized.
Sol had given them to understand that he was in charge, and that we three, Marie, Len and me, were a triumvirate of equal rank under him. Which is what he hoped to engineer.
They didn’t know. No harm, no foul. All okay. Start over.
I was told that later Marie gave Sol a piece of her mind.
At least, then, aboard our sinking ship, there wasn’t a misinformed mutiny going on.
IMPORTANT NOTE! As Production Manager and Stan’s right-hand man, Sol Brodsky was an important part of Marvel Comics during its break-out years in the 1960’s. I mean in no way to diminish his contributions from that time, or to impugn him as a man. But during the mid-to-late seventies, for a while, he was a man without a real job. He was struggling to hang in and survive. As were we all. Those years weren’t his finest, in my opinion, but stay tuned. He wasn’t finished making significant contributions.
NEXT: Reinforcements arrive. And NO GREEN BACKGROUNDS!