I came across some things that relate to previous posts and comments. JayJay, the brilliant Blog Elf will provide links to the discussions.
The Famous ROM #1 Cover That Wasn’t
Here is the unused cover for ROM #1 penciled by Michael Netzer:
The note on the back was a personal message to me and wasn’t meant for public display, so we won’t show that. I’m pleased to report, however, that, as I remembered, Michael’s description of what he drew includes the phrase “…people admiring the magnificent robot.”
Note to Michael: This drawing is yours, of course, and I will cheerfully return it to you, if you wish.
Some Pertinent links:
The Coming of ROM: A Knight’s Tale (The first ROM post)
ROM Comments and Answers (Jim’s post in response to Michael & others)
Jim Owsley’s Alleged Humor
The lovely and talented Christopher Priest, who in days long ago when he was an editor at Marvel went by the even less-likely name “Jim Owsley,” imbued the expression “funny business” with several new meanings. His sense of humor was irreverent, scandalous and outrageous before he got warmed up, then look out. Marvel was a pretty enlightened place with regard to respect for humankind of all descriptions and inclinations, however, Owsley…well, this is how I described his jokes earlier:
Jim Owsley/Christopher Priest, who is African-American, was fond of making jokes with racial overtones. Nothing hateful. More the Saturday Night Live irreverent humor style than the edgy-to-nasty National Lampoon style. People laughed. He was funny. There was no malice. Did anyone else ever make a non-PC joke? I’m sure. I’m also sure that if they were “utterly and deliberately extreme,” I would have heard about it and taken appropriate action.
Keep that in mind, please, as you read this memo he sent me for no reason except to satisfy his own twisted sense of nonsense, that it is allegedly humor. Owsley humor:
The Devil’s Due
There was a good bit of discussion about an issue of Ghost Rider that had religious overtones as originally written by Tony Isabella that then-Editor in Chief Marv Wolfman had then- associate editor me rework. Here are my layouts for a couple of pages that were redrawn, where the “devil” gets his due. The balloon placement indications tell me that I had already written the dialogue, probably working from even scribblier roughs on scrap paper:
I suppose Dickie drew this self-portrait, but I suspect she had some help from Dave Cockrum. I have no idea why Devil Dickie gave herself the tail and horns. Is that a Moon Pie she’s eating?
NEXT: What If George Pérez Drew the Legion of Super-Heroes…? And, Forget Byrne, Here’s the Art Team for Superman. And More….
From Priest, posted with permission:
[OK to post]
Thanks for the heads up, but I'll give this a pass. Memory is extremely selective as different people interpret events in different ways. Much of what's posted on my old website (http://digitalpriest.com) was written, more or less, on the fly with certainly no malice intended toward anyone. The report is accurate from my point of view and my unique experience, but for others, mileage may vary.
Over the years I've heard from pros and fans, some angry at me because I said Danny Crespi ate my pizza. Well, he did. I was there. Now Danny (who, sadly, passed away many years ago– I'm being facetious, here) may not recall that event or may remember it differently. I have no problem with that. But our most basic possession is our own experiences. My site is not about journalism–it makes no pretense of being fair and balanced or even researched. It's just me yakking.
If Jim remembers some event differently, my money is on him. He is a brilliant guy who changed this business is incredible and positive ways. He is one of my first mentors and friends. I'd rather not waste his time or mine–just take his word for it. What do I know.
Thanks for the heads up.
Please note new domain name: digitalpriest.com (no hyphen)
– Posted by Dave Young
The letter Marv refers to was published in Green Lantern 136 (cover-dated Jan1981). Then, Marv and Len outlined the idea to Dick Giordano — and then Jenette. DC hired Eliot Brown (who worked for Marvel in some capacity) to read, catalogue and take notes from every comic published by DC since the 1930s. Crisis and its companion book, Who's Who, were first mentioned in December 1982, with plans to start the series in the Summer of 1983. Brown's research was not completed in time and it was decided to wait until 1985 to coincide with the 50th anniversary of DC Comics.
Initially, Crisis was to stand alone. The cross-overs came about because of internal politics — Crisis had no original characters so it was using characters from all books and the creators were making money from other books.
At San Diego Comic Con 1983, I remember a reporter asking if Superman was going to get a new uniform as there were rumors that DC was going to change him. There were already house ads for Crisis under the name DC Universe.
Although Crisis was supposed to give way to a brand new DC universe, Wolfman didn't say this until halfway through the series. It was Dick Giordano who said there was no time to plan the reboots.
In the end, no one remembered the big crisis nor the characters who'd died. History would have been altered so that the big crisis would not have happened but, paradoxically, it had happened. Clear as mud — which is what eventually happened with all the re-writing.
This info comes from several interviews I read at the time and the Absolute Crisis Companion, which has dated notes and memos.
Through various interviews I've read with Marv Wolfman I've gotten the impression that it was DC's unwillingness to restart every DC title that counted, and not any lack of time. He pretty much said that DC balked at the thought of cancelling the whole continuity of all the books, even the successful ones like The New Teen Titans, and so they ended up with that bastardised version of a reboot.
You're right that the way the Crisis ended, it was against the concept of nobody remembering it, but that was the result of DC's decision, during the creation of the series, to not do a complete reboot of their Universe and that decision shaped the ending. The original ending was supposed to be the creation of the new DC Universe.
Sadly, I can't provide links for those statements, because I don't remember the exact sites that I read them, so feel free to not take them for granted.
One thing that doesn't make sense to me about Marv's claims: If he was really planning Crisis for something like three years beforehand, then why didn't all the creative teams have the time to reboot *every* comic to #1? I've also heard they "didn't have the time/coordination to do it" but this would seem to fly in the face of that. (I guess it's possible both things could be true too).
I also don't get why he claims he put so much thought into it all and nobody would remember the Crisis–then left it so Wally West would remember Barry dying during Crisis! (Or was Barry just supposed to have died *somehow* and they would've left it vague?)
W. A. Patterson
Dear Mr. Shooter,
I just discovered your blog about a week ago. Since then I've read just about every entry, fascinated by the details and information given here about the background of what I was reading while growing up. You truly have a great talent and keen mind with which to apply that talent to a medium you love. Thanks for all the hard work over the years as I think your hard work is why I love comics 35 years later!
As for the details of the artists, the problems with the office and the other things, all I can say is you acted like a regular boss, a manager, and I'm really surprised at the levels of immaturity I've seen not only here, but in other blogs and interviews around the internet.
If I worked in any other business where the employees were constantly late with their work/deliveries(missed deadlines), stole from the business (fake vouchers), or refused to do the work they were paid to do (constant edits and fights to get the artists and writers to follow directions), I'd be shocked if the employees weren't fired for even one of these offenses.
It seems in comics, that's been the norm and the accepted practice since the 70's and the status quo is to let it be. I need to start improving my comic writing and art skills right away! Let me have a job where I can miss deadlines, do what I please and steal without repercussions! It seems you are despised by those who resent you forcing them to grow up and act like adults.
Thanks for your views, and your memories. They are a great way to spend my time. Also, thanks for the lectures, they help and your sharing is appreciated greatly!
I'd tell you "don't change a thing" but its obvious that you don't intend to and don't need that advice, so I will beg you- Please Keep Posting More Stories!
Thanks for the links, but, nah, no point in responding. I've addressed elsewhere the fact that Secret Wars came first by a long shot. It's not worth honking about. Marv and DC also claim that they thought up the "branching" into regular titles concept I used in SW II, which they introduced into their series mid-way through, long after our plans were announced and our first few SW II issues and branches were solicited. Apparently, once again, us quick-and-shifty Marvel types stole their idea and beat them to the punch by many months.
Robert Stanley Martin
This is OT, but there's a piece in the new Village Voice where Marv Wolfman claims Crisis on Infinite Earths was the beginning of the crossover-event titles. I brought up Secret Wars in a thread about the article over at The Beat, and Wolfman responded with some interesting historical claims about the two series.
The VV link is here.
The Beat link is here.
This seems like something Jim might want to respond to.
pough, what I'm trying to say is that there's an apparent gap between the two sides, not that one is right and the other is wrong, although from Jim's comment, it seems that Priest must consider it to be water under the bridge. In retrospect, I should have worded that better.
That's a little odd, like he needs to be more understanding of Jim's lack of intent where Jim doesn't need to be understanding of Christopher's feelings. Also, offense doesn't need to be meant to be felt, does it?
I think that sometimes you just need to ignore your own lack of understanding of the offense and just understand that you offended. Sure, there are times when "I think you're overly sensitive" is an appropriate thing to say. But there's also a place for: "It doesn't matter whether or not I meant any offense. What matters is that you didn't deserve it. And so I'm very sorry."
Thanks Jim – I did send a link to this post to the e-mail address on Priest's blog, not sure if he'll see it or not. Not trying to cause trouble, but for some reason it bothers me to think that he took offense when none was meant.
Also, though I'm somewhat ashamed to admit this as a 37 year old man, the fanboy in me is excited to see a reply to my comment. It's like the old days of getting a letter published.
Thanks again Jim for the stories, and being involved with the fans.
A few other relevant comments from that Priest article. Firstly regarding general levels of prejudice.
'I don't think comics are any more or less racist than any other corporate environment. It's just that, as a field, comics is terribly small compared to other publishing. So even five racists in comics is a huge demographic, statistically, as compared to, say, racist accountants or racist short order cooks.'
Secondly I think this speaks a bit to what Jay Jay and Jim were saying about different perspectives.
'Ask any white professional in comics who the racists in the business are, and you'll likely get a shrug or a denial that there are any. Ask almost any black pro in the business, and you'll get the same five names. We all know who these people are (some of whom have, bless God, moved on to other fields). Many of us have suffered directly or indirectly from these people. But mentioning the names will get you blacklisted and, likely, sued. These are people whose racist tendencies are largely ignored by white PTB's who probably don't even notice them, but these tendencies ring the alarm bells of any blacks within their orbit. It's the dirty secret of comics: the commonly accepted short list of racists every black pro knows and almost no white pros do.'
I have to say Jim, my eleven year old self did not find you remotely scary looking the time I took the tour of the Marvel office.
Then again, I was already six foot myself at the time, and my dad is six-five, so I may be a bit biased in favor of us vertically superior types.
I had a similar reaction upon seeing this cover. The bolts added to Rom's midsection and the sleek design of the torso matches the toy perfectly. It's also important to note Rom's arms were supposed to be out of proportion with the rest of his body.
The toy has really skinny arms. Michael Netzer deserves kudos for capturing the look of the toy so precisely. Miller probably made the Spaceknight look more threatening but I think Netzer depicted him as more alien.
Back in 1998, Jim Calafiore redesigned Rom for a proposed revival. Unfortunately, a lot of the character's appeal is lost when he's given normal fingers and feet.
Dear Dave Y.,
Jim and I will run into one another somewhere and gab like we always do. Maybe this will come up, maybe not. We always have more than enough to catch up on.
Thanks. Insightful thoughts.
I haven't read those things. I'll try to get to them at some point and comment, if I have anything to say.
Re: Okay – let's put the "Jim Shooter is a big mean bad guy" debate to rest once and for all…
… it's always a good thing to lay all the facts on the table. Especially when you're right as rain.
I first became aware of Jim Owsley reading some Batman books that he'd written, and I think he was really the first comic creator that I became a fan of, rather than just being a fan of a character. For whatever reason, I thought of him as a white guy too. I really don't know why, perhaps because as a white guy I projected my own race onto those I couldn't see. Anyway, not sure that's relevant, but he always impressed me. IIRC, he was one of the first creators to be on the internet, and I recall e-mailing him in '96 or '97, and being impressed that he replied. I wish I still had the e-mails, but I was seriously flattered that he took the time to answer my messages. I made the effort to follow everything he wrote for DC, up until I stopped reading comics, anyway. I really loved The Ray, and felt like that character and series got the shaft. Found his blog a few years later, and read everything, much like I did on this one, but had forgotten about the post referenced above. It's interesting reading both sides of the story, seeing how interpretations can be different. Has anyone tried to e-mail Priest the link to this post for his .02? Jim, do you ever feel the need to talk to people in situations like this?
Thanks, Mike. You're very kind. I'm going to have the page restored as well as it can be. There's a gentleman here in Nyack who does excellent work. It's a beautiful piece.
I was always talking story and storytelling to everyone, trying to pass on what I'd learned from the Masters I'd worked for and with. Jim heard plenty from me.
Sometimes, the writer can be foiled by the artist's work, if the artist doesn't bear his or her part of conveying information well.
Jim — all right, I'm going to try to remember to call him Christopher from here on — Christopher also tends to attempt difficult things. His Quantum and Woody stories, for instance. I'd never seen anyone try to do blackout sketch storytelling in comics before. It's damn hard. But, I think he pulled it off pretty well — with the help of a good, skilled and simpatico artist, you'll notice, the amazing Mark Bright.
Thanks for reminding me about the IBM Selectric and finding the Wikipedia article! I haven't seen one since the 70s. I was fascinated by the one in my father's office as a child.
My pleasure to reunite you with your work, if only online.
I second your suggestion for a post on Vince Colletta.
I bought a complete set of ROM including all annuals and crossovers known to me for about $80 a few years ago. Well worth the money. I assume the series is still affordable today.
Dear David J.,
I also like Vince Colletta's inking of Kirby. I was totally unaware of any disdain for Colletta until I read fanzines. I think a lot of fans adopt attitudes from what they read and dislike Jim, Colletta et al. simply because other people do. Second-hand emotions.
I wonder how Jim's critics explain all the improvements you listed. Do they deny them or attribute them to others?
I didn't know Priest was black until a few years ago. After 26 years, I still think of him as a Transformers editor!
To echo Pastrami –
I had no idea Priest was black either, until I had the pleasure of working with him in his Jim Owsley days at DC Comics. But, and no insult is intended here because I know CP is rightly proud of his heritage, I never thought of him as "black." I never thought of Marv Wolfman or Jim Shooter as "white" either.
Jim/Christopher was the "really funny guy who edited some really great comic books," Marv was the "one of my favorite writers from when I was a fan who I was lucky enough to edit and become friends with when I turned pro," and Jim Shooter was "the really tall guy from Marvel who oversaw a great line of comic books but for some reason a lot of people spoke very badly of him and I was too young and stupid to just go meet the guy and make up my own mind."
People really have to get over this race thing. If a writer wants to celebrate/examine any particular culture (whether his background or any other) in his/her work, I only care that the depiction is based in reality, well thought out, creative, accurate and not insulting or a parody unless there is a clear creative reason for doing that.
To underscore what Marc mentioned earlier: Reading this Post is how I learned that Priest was African-American.
I only judge the work, who cares about the rest?
Okay – let's put the "Jim Shooter is a big mean bad guy" debate to rest once and for all…
Comic book industry before Shooter: creative but lacking focus, spotty distribution through a corrupt newsstand/indirect distributor system, creators treated like disposable cattle with low pay, no rights, and few if any benefits.
Comic book industry during Shooter as EIC: Expanding sales, better sales tracking, creative growth, some of the most enduring comic books ever produced (as proven by TPB, Masterworks, and Omnibus sales), creator-owned properties, royalties, benefits for freelancers, expanded participation in ancillary product profits and so much more.
Comic book industry today: shrinking rapidly, creatively redundant, fewer creators making less money…
Unless Jim Shooter took an actual piss on somebody's breakfast or caused the death of a person (yes, I went there and referenced the Gene Day issue), or hung one of Jim Owsley's freelancers from a tree, people need to remember the good he did for this industry and stop crying in their soup because he "made the creators kill Phoenix" or demanded a certain level of quality from all Marvel writers, artists, letterers, colorists, editors, staffers that may have caused them to have to work a bit harder/diligently/thoughtfully for the fruits of profit they were enjoying under his tenure in charge.
It looks as if Vinnie was a better writer than most of his editors, and writers.
"For all he did for you…you repayed him by attacking him like a pack of yellow, prickless faggots. Ripping away his flesh from his body and laughing and pounding your chest like conquering ghouls and long after his bones were dry you continued to pour salt on them to squeeze every ounce of pain out of him."
That is high class vitriol.
If it's any consolation Vince, I liked your inks, over Kirby, on Thor. So there.
That's a great memo–it really belongs on Letters of Note alongside Vince Colletta's epic rant. Speaking of which, any thoughts on that letter, or on Vince Colletta's conversation that was posted on Daniel Best's blog?
The Rom cover reminds me that my biggest regret in collecting was selling off my complete set of Rom. Oh, college.
Yesterday was one of those days that make me wonder about life. Earlier in the morning I was skimming through your blog and for whatever reason, it suddenly struck me that you might still have the unused and torn Rom cover. It was scheduled to be a busy day outside of the house with a wedding to top it off into the late hours. So, I thought I'd drop you a note about it when I got back. You can imagine my surprise upon seeing the ever diligent Marc Miyake's link to this post on my Facebook page. I've long stopped trying to explain to myself how things like this could happen.
It's pretty amazing to see the cover considering that it's gained somewhat of a mythological air from exposure of the story. Now that memory has been jogged by the reality, it's easier to see how disassociated I was from the task at hand when doing it. Tony's right in that I remember working from photos of the toy itself, which I apparently felt no need to adapt to the Marvel look, within the volatile state I was in at the time.
Your posting it closes a big circle of this story. I've never been good at holding onto artwork, and it seems much more appropriate, and well earned, that it stays in your good hands. The scan satisfies the curiosity well enough. Many thanks for holding onto it, piecing it together and digging it up to post here.
To Marc: As always, thanks for the heads up on this.
To Hunter: The halo notwithstanding, I think Jim's previous memory of the cover should be understood within the collective memory of that period and the impression that everyone in the comics community had about me. The religious undertones were visible in most everything I did back then. In this case, I took it to an extreme that left no room for compatibility with what Jim asked for. I think that redrawing this cover today, maybe with an effort to bring it closer to the original request… well, it would certainly be a challenging commission and also hold some nostalgic value.
I've seen you a number of times up close and personal. You're not scary at all. I do understand how people have their own nonsense reactions to anyone who is different than them. Don't you just love the fearful and ignorant?
People see a very tall man, they use that as an excuse to act stupidly, because they don't wish to pay attention to you, the person. Being a short fat man, way too many people don't care to see me, the person either.
Yes, it's a stupid thing to have had to hail a cab for someone like Dwayne McDuffie, because he's black. The whole concept is aggravating, and I agree, appalling.
I did not mean for you to feel I was attributing the characterization of the various pros in Owsley's office as a "black nightclub office party" to you. I thought I had successfully paraphrased what I believed to be what the (to use JayJay's term) "someone"'s characterization of Jim Owsley's office gathering was. Not that you said that in any way. So, apologies for that.
Also, I was only referring to that nameless "someone", and not to the editorial & staff people you mentioned.
I also thought it applied to Owsley's perception and/or interpretation of what that "someone" had meant when you relayed his/her’s 'concerns' on to him, based upon my friend’s viewpoint from the beginning of my last post.
Whether it's your experience with ignorant fools, or mine, or Owsley's, our perceptions or reactions or presumptions all stem from our histories of having to deal with this crap over and over again, to the extent that when something even SMELLS like it's the same old bullshit, then the immediate conclusion to draw is that's what it must be. Like it’s what our instincts bring us to most of the time, even though we try our best to be as objective as possible.
That's my impression of what prompted Jim Owsley to write that memo. Just the mere mention of any kind of concern could have sent his mind and perception directly to that dark corner (so to speak) that he's all too familiar with in his life experience.
Jim did you ever give any tips or lessons to Jim/Christopher? as far as story telling and such?
i've tried to read a lot of his books and unless it's someone instantly familiar i get lost and confused.
Me too. But that was normal for him. He always was upbeat and positive. The vorpal blade of his wit went snicker-snack, and he laid low whatever nonsense stood in the way.
RE: Drawing: Thanks for the kind words. I seldom draw anymore. Never had the time to develop whatever small talent I have.
Regarding Jim's comment about people reacting negatively to his height and looks, I can relate (in regards to the looks thing). I have had women do similar things as well as people acting like I'm up to no good (when I'm minding my own business). All because I have strong features… it's good to know people really do judge a book by its cover.
Okay, whatever. 🙂
Ah, thanks. That makes sense now. 🙂
I'd seen that Owsley memo and read the story behind it years ago on his site. Whatever "really" happened, given that that is how he felt I thought he actually went about responding to it in a pretty funny way.
Jim, those Ghost Rider roughs are terrific. Do you still draw? One of my biggest personal regrets is that I stopped sketching after high school; I wish someone had told me that it's not like riding a bike.
As Moloch points out, Pickerel didn't create him. Moloch broke out of some hellish place where he'd been trapped and sensing Pickerel's power, came to our world.
I'm six-foot-seven and, apparently, scary looking. I lived in Manhattan for many years. Frequently, at night, even on Madison Avenue in Midtown, where I lived, people walking on the same sidewalk toward me would cross the street and recross back to my side after I had passed. On many an occasion, if I got into an elevator a lone woman already aboard would get off and wait for the next one. On other occasions, if I were already on an elevator alone, people sometimes would wait for the next one. It's troubling. So I can relate in a tiny little way, at least, to your friend's experiences.
On the other hand, cabs stop for me and I don't think a policeman has ever hassled me for no reason.
Several times I had to get cabs for Dwayne McDuffie. He'd stand back, I'd hail the cab, and when one stopped, he'd walk over and get in. I'd tell the driver I was writing down his hack number. And so, Dwayne would get home. P.S. Dwayne, if you don't know, was a distinguished looking man who was always well dressed. That there was a need for me to flag down a cab for him, I found appalling.
"Black nightclub office party?" That doesn't sound like me. I can't imagine ever stringing those words together. I seriously doubt that I said that.
"…how (Owsley) dealt with the Marvel situation." Sorry, but there wasn't much of a situation to deal with. Walk down the hall and you pass people like Archie Goodwin, Louise Simonson, Carl Potts, Larry Hama, Mark Gruenwald, Danny Crespi, JayJay Jackson, Paul Becton, John Morelli, Ron Zalme, Denny O'Neill…and you get the drift, I hope. Scores of good people who were not only not racist or prejudiced, but wouldn't tolerate such behavior or anyone who demonstrated it for a second. Marvel was a pretty good situation. Not perfect, obviously. What place, what situation is?
The way I remember it, Jim just went and wondered (to Owsley privately) what was going on, having been prompted by a certain person. I remember thinking at the time it was nothing but a misunderstanding, but it was started by "someone" who disliked Owsley and was trying to cause trouble. That's what I remember about it. I could be wrong. It was a long time ago.
I can't claim to understand Owsley's (and my friend's) point of view since I have never had to go through what they have. I can only have sympathy for it. The inconceivability of some of the smartest, sweetest people I know being treated like criminals because of something like color (or religion or sex for that matter) is so foreign to me that I can't claim to really understand it, but it does make me angry. I can only imagine how angry it makes my friends or anyone else who has to endure it.
You said above that you don't own Amazing Spider-Man #284 anymore. Wikipedia is wrong.
Off topic… Jim, I read the "Magnus, Robot Fighter" TPB last night (the Dark Horse title) and enjoyed it quite a bit. I also recently read the "Doctor Solar" TPB as well which was also good except that I don't think that the detail why Pickerel didn't/couldn't un-create Moloch was clear enough (I assume it had to do with Moloch's unusual energy pattern?) Both comics reminded me of old school Marvel (which is a compliment. I wish more modern comics could retain my interest like that).
Wikipedia says "Owsley wrote the book for the first half of 1987, scripting the five-part "Gang War" story (#284-288) that DeFalco plotted."
Not that it really matters all that much… 🙂
I didn't and wouldn't make a "racial remark." I don't know what I said, but I will guarantee you absolutely that it was nothing offensive or actionable then or now. I just wouldn't do that. Not even joking. Whatever happened was so incidental that it seemed like a non-event to me, to the point that I thought Owsley's memo was just another one of his comedy bits.Till someone quoted his website, I had no idea that the memo was motivated by some event of significance to Owsley. As I said, I had no indication then or since that Owsley had even a moment of feeling bad or doubting my faith in him.
Mean people suck.
Yeah, ROM has a sort of halo, but the other figures not so much (although there is a faint aura around Neal Adams' "sacred family").
Anyway, this "Adoration of ROM" piece is quite interesting indeed. Not much of a comic cover, however. Artists like Keith Giffen have managed to work other kinds of "sacred art"-style imagery into super-hero comics, but I think only Pietá imagery made it to the covers (Starlin's Death of Captain Marvel one being the best example).
Going to the Spider-Man subject, I too agree that Amazing went into a down period between the deFalco and Michelinie runs. Peter David work grew into maturity on the other titles at about the same time, however, so I wouldn't put down Owsley's editorial work just for that.
As for racism, sadly you can experience it even being a white european like I am. Once when I lived in Brazil I was refused a job I was highly qualified to do just because I wasn't brazilian myself – and was told so to my face! Back here in Portugal, I am frequently mistreated by people who think I am brazilian myself due to my accent. I just can't win!
Actually, Tom DeFalco was just the plotter for "Gang War" parts one and two. Jim Owsley was the scripter for the entire story arc.
Emilio Torres Jr.
Christopher Priest has a post in his website about his days as Spider-man's Editor. Here's the link http://www.digital-priest.com/comics/adventures/frames/spidey.htm
Christopher Priest/Jim Owsley's BLACK PANTHER run for the Marvel Knights line was also really, really good.
Jason, I completely agree with you, I loved DeFalco and Frenz's ASM. I have to admit, Jim, I had a grudge against the New Universe, I blamed all the fill-in issues and the interrupted "gangwar" storyline on DeFalco and Frenz doing "Kickers, Inc."
Weren't DeFalco and Frenz taken off of ASM then? They were both taken off at the same time. I loved their stuff in ASM.
Jim Owsley/Christopher Priest is a great writer.
That Osley guy really sucks the big moose-knuckle, though.
Oops. I meant "Jim OWSLEY" obviously.
"I can't say i have much fond memories of the… what was it called… "War of gangs"?.. "Gangs War"?.. immediate post De Falco Spider-Man…"
I don't have the issue anymore but I'm pretty sure Tom Defalco wrote the Gang War storyline (or at least some of it anyway).
I just checked. Gang War, part 1 (ASM #284) is written by Tom Defalco and then the rest was apparently done by Jim Osley.
One of my very best friends is African-American, though he'd slap me in the head for using such a 'PC' term, and remind me that he's just plain black. Has been all his life, and no re-imagining of the word is going to change that.
On those occasions when we talk about race, he recounts the multitude of instances where even the simple things – like people tightening their grip on their purses, shifting a bit farther away from him as they pass him on the sidewalk or aisle, being pulled over by the police WAY more than any other white person he knows (without being cited for anything) – just kills him inside, bit by bit.
As happy a person as he is, as he lives his life, this has always eaten at him like a cancer.
It makes my affluent, Prius-driving, computer programmer friend feel as if he is always generally suspect because of his pigmentation. All I can ever do is imagine his pain and humiliation that he's endured over the course of his life, not to mention his parents, grandparents, and so on. I can understand it, but I can't really know it, being a glow-in-the-dark blond, blue-eyed white boy.
I've never lived it. All my other melanin-rich friends recount almost the very same instances in their lives. Same shit, different street corner. It is a most shameful cultural distinction, to be sure.
Also having known Jim Owsl… er, Christopher Priest a bit, I appreciate his strong constitution in this matter. Especially how he dealt with the Marvel situation, with sharp humor and great poignancy.
It makes perfect sense that Jim Shooter benignly relating what some other idiots said about (then) Jim Owsley and his 'black nightclub office party' (in an innocently sarcastic way), was taken by Jim Owsley to be the most insulting and humiliating accusation and assumption that he himself was being the racist. Even though Shooter didn't mean it that way whatsoever.
If you're not non-white, you can't fully experience the racism. Or the sexism if you're not a woman. Or the homophobia if you're not gay, bisexual, or transgendered. Or even the ageism, the fat/weight-ism, or whatever other-ism there is. However, it is a blessing that so many of us all can be – and righteously do become – enraged at these gross injustices.
I can understand Jim Shooter thinking that what Jim Owsley wrote as being "Jim Owsley's alleged humor", because Shooter didn't share that cultural oppression, or the history of being on the receiving end of hateful malicious people like that. That he "never knew" that Owsley's memo came from such hurt feelings is also not a surprise, for the same reasons.
Granted, Shooter gets his own brand of hate-filled assholes lobbing their own kind of malice toward him, but I'm guessing you see my point.
I wouldn't be surprised if Owsley wanted to (in addition to walking out of Marvel) tear up the place out of sheer rage, on his way out the door. For him to have responded in such a measured way as he did, only speaks to the kind of smart, thoughtful person Jim Priest… er, Christopher Owsley… er.. oh, that HE IS. Able to channel his anger into biting commentary, while maintaining his professional standards.
Hateful people are here to stay, unfortunately. If more and more people can handle things as adroitly as Christopher Priest, then we'll all be much better off.
That, and all the hateful racist assholes changing their ways, or dropping dead in their tracks. That would be okay, too.
One thing I'm amazed at reading this blog is learning how much I take for granted when I read comic books. Netzer's take on the Rom cover is fine, but the one by Miller that got used is so much more powerful and arresting. I've never even read an issue of Rom, but I've seen the cover of the 1st issue, and it's an iconic image that sticks in my mind.
As to the letter from Owsley, perhaps he was trying to defuse a tense situation with some levity? But I'd defer to people who actually worked in the office at the time.
My suspicion is that if you walked into an office where three or four female employees were congregating and you joked that it looks like all the women were getting together to stage a coups take over the company, it would be taken the way it was meant, as a joke. One of the women might even snap back that you're right, they've noticed that the women were already doing all the work around here so it could only help the company's bottom line to get rid of the men.
Now try to imagine the same exchange except with the genders replaced with any two races of your choice. It's almost impossible to imagine such a relaxed attitude existing around the subject of race. At least not unless all the people involved know each other extremely well on a personal basis.
Unfortunately whatever joke Jim made would be grounds for a lawsuit today, let alone just hurt feelings. This age of political correctness has made race into a hypersensitive issue. Some people watch everything they say because they're terrified of being perceived as racist. Others have been made to believe that racism is lurking around every corner waiting to target them, until they end up finding what they're looking for even when it isn't really there.
Suffice it to say, I'm not surprised that a misunderstanding around a racial remark such as this could have taken place either today or 30 years ago. Politics and culture have made any interaction involving race into a minefield. There are too many powerful individuals who benefit by stoking racial divisions and not enough people who believe race is a non-issue. It's easy enough to manipulate the natural mob tendency for people to gang up on one another based on any perceived differences if they haven't been taught the merits of not following that instinct.
Any society's notions of what race even is are basically a social construct, not a fundamental reality. The more we can all ignore race (or in other words, be "color blind") the more these manufactured problems would simply go away.
Anyway, those where not good days for Amazing, and the book became readable again only when David Michelinie was named writer.
The story arc was officially titled "Gang War". It began in Amazing Spider-Man #284 ("…and Who Shall Stand Against Them…?") and ended in #288 ("Gang War Rages On"). So it lasted from September 30th, 1986 to February 3rd, 1987.
Incidentally, there's always been some confusion about who contributed the cover for issue 287 ("And There Shall Come a Reckoning"). Plenty of internet sources and The Official Index to the Marvel Universe #7 claim the artist is David Mazzuchelli but I heard from Erik Larsen that it was really Kyle Baker. Can anyone confirm if last year's trade paperback collecting these Amazing Spider-Man synopses fixed that error?
The George Caragonne story is a long one. I'll get to it.
Michael (I assume) tore it up before he shoved it under the door.
Gary, Mike Netzer tore up the artwork himself. Read this link for the full story: http://www.michaelnetzer.com/2005/06/one-more-story-for-creators.html
That ROM cover DOES kind of remind me of those Jehova's Witnesses tracts.
Rom as something of an halo.
Mmm. This blog work much better when you read it with Firefox than when you read it with Internet Explorer9.
Awfully slow with IE.
Pretty fine with firefox so far. 🙂
Jim, you exaggerated in your previous description of that ROM cover. There are no halos!
Now I want to comission Mike Netzer to redraw it for me – WITH halos! Maybe someday when I actually have money to do that…
And Mark Beachum? He is great, check his work at Penthouse Comics.
Which reminds me that I've read somewhere that original Penthouse Comics editor George Caragonne had worked with Jim Shooter before going to Penthouse. The work he did publish before killing himself was indeed of the quality expected from a Jim Shooter "disciple", but I'm wondering if Jim has an insight on the man and what could have made him do what he did.
Hunter (Pedro Bouça)
Why was the unused ROM cover artwork torn?
This is an aside from the blog, but it's a fun story to tell you.
During that blog, you mentioned,
"That's the story. Check it with Salicrup. Actually, Chris would probably corroborate it, too, though he'd make it seem that he was smarter and that I was a doofus. I'm okay with that. Chris doesn't get nearly enough credit for what he accomplished. I'm proud to be the doofus who helped to enable it."
Fortunately, Chris Claremont was recently in Toronto for FanExpo Canada. I was trying to think up something to ask Chris aside from gushing my appreciation towards him. Looking through comics I wished for Chris to sign, I pulled out my copy of X-Men #137. I suddenly thought of your blog and that particular post and decided to ask him his side of the story – keeping your blog and side of the story out of it.
In line for his signings, I re-read the blog to be certain what I would ask.
Then the time came. I put my comics on the table and Chris hunched over to begin signing. First, I gushed to him and thanked him for defining my childhood. He did not respond to it. Then I followed by asking him – to similar phrasing – "I knew back when you wrote the Dark Phoenix Saga, killing off main characters was practically unheard of. What made you decide to kill off Jean Grey?"
That got his attention. Chris looked up at me, sat back on his stool and started with:
"Jim Shooter didn't like the original idea both Byrne and I came up with. . ." and from there he pretty much restated what you have already mentioned – that you didn't think the plot could work with Phoenix going back to Earth and that your suggestion to put the Phoenix in a prison made no sense to him. Chris also mentioned how you told both him and Byrne to come up with a new idea. However, he made it seem as if you left him "no other choice but to kill off Jean Grey." The way Chris spoke, it was if he was implying that he was not given much creative freedom when writing that particular story and instead left his hands tied behind his back. He seemed bitter over it.
After he was done, I asked if I could get a picture with him. He said, “Sure” and I stood beside him. As I did, he grabbed the next person in lines stack of books (which was Chris' ENTIRE run of X-Men Forever – yikes!) and started signing them. I posed and saw in my peripherals that he hadn’t looked up. Maybe he hadn’t heard me? I asked again if I could get a photo with him. He said, “Sure,” and so I stood beside him waiting. Alas, he didn’t look up. The final result:
In a nutshell, no, he did not make you seem like a doofus, or make it seem that he was smarter. Rather, it seemed as if he thought you were unfair with leaving him no choice but to end the story the way it did.
At least that was my take of the whole conversation.
What you just wrote about creative work is an instant classic that I think I'll quote from now on. If only more fields were all about the work.
When I read comic books as a kid, I didn't even know fanzines existed, so I had no idea you were a teenager when you wrote the Legion stories I loved (and still love). I didn't know what anyone looked like. All I cared about were the stories, the words, the pictures. Thirty years later, I've come to care about the creators too. But I still put the work first.
I have to say, though, that it is mostly on Amazing that i think Owsley messed up.
Peter Parker/Spectacular wasn't bad.. Peter David… in the Death of Jean Dewolf, the only bad thing is that we lose a good character (Jean).. the story is good.
And the issues by Mark Beachum? Beachum did pretty good art.
And of course as said, The Living Monolith graphic novel by Michelinie and Silvestri was awesome.
Owsley had some great talent working for him. Being a great editor, as Denny O'Neill brilliantly observed, is largely about casting.
One of the best things about creative work is that, in most cases, no one cares about your color, creed, orientation, education or anything else besides your samples. In 47 years of creative work, no one has once asked to see my diploma (I don't have one) and I have been hired many times over the phone or otherwise unseen. I could have been a purple mushroom person from planet Phungee and they wouldn't have cared. Your work matters. Your particulars don't. Places that succumb to cronyism or any discriminatory ism usually suffer for it. I once was refused a job selling cars because I was, to quote the sales manager, "too ugly to sell cars." Mort Weisinger, who hired me for my first job in comics wouldn't have cared if I looked like a monk fish.
I can't say i have much fond memories of the… what was it called… "War of gangs"?.. "Gangs War"?.. imediate post De Falco Spider-Man… actualy one of the worst Spider-Man era ever… even if lot of awful (and more damaging) stuff has been done later (mid 90s & 2000s)
But if as Spider-Man editor Jim Owsley was… bad is the word that comes to mind, as a writer he was very good:
-In this era one of the few good Spider-Man stories was his own mini Spider-Man/Wolverine, with Mark Bright on art duties. Pretty good stuff.
-As the writer of Conan the Barbarian he gave us a great run. Felt like an excellent fantasy novel, in serial form. Most of the art was by John Buscema. One of my favorite Conan runs.
I think it's interesting that Netzer's Rom looks a lot more like the actual toy than the character that saw print. The design definitely needed some tweaking to work as a comic-book hero.
I don't think it's appropriate to get into it, but I remember the day the freelancers were waiting for checks in Owsley's office since a couple of my best friends were among them. Marvel was full of really good people, but there were a couple of very manipulative bad ones. They caused trouble, would inflate situations and act in an alarmist manner for their own agendas. And as even Jim Owsley has pointed out on his blog, they were a very few. Among lots of good ones on Marvels staff.
As far as I know, Frank never saw the Netzer cover.
I'm sure Owsley's memo was written on a typer, probably an IBM Selectric.
My GR scribbles are ugly but informative, I think.
Dickie was great. Probably still is. Remind me to tell you about when she, Mary Jo Duffy and others took belly dancing lessons….
So, his funny memo was based on all that angst? I never knew. If I said anything to Jim about the party in his office, it was a joke of the same nature as his. I guess I just don't have the knack or timing. I shouldn't even try to be funny. Seems he got over it pretty quick and we got along pretty well. Still do, as far as I know.
I remember Jim when he was an unsure high school intern. I remember driving him home to wherever he lived in Queens after he stayed late, pitching in, I think, on something. I remember watching him grow into a formidable creative force. I remember the light, life and laughter he brought to Marvel. If what he remembers is me wondering if he was being racist in his selection of creators — I never did — that would be a very sad thing. I never saw any hint of such a feeling on his part at the time, or since, and as far as I know we're friends. But, it is what it is.
Oooooooohhhh!!!! Jim, please tell us some juicy stuff about the people coming to you about Owsley's secret plan! haha Was Layton there as a spy? Was it Romita Jr., who wanted to be on Spider-Man but saw all these new blacks getting minor gigs on the fill-in issues of the books? Was it Jim Galton, who possibly received a call from "Deep throat" Byrne?
I personally don't blame Owsley for trying to find good black talents out there, and Kyle Baker and Denys Cowan were good pickups. Mark Beachum wasn't bad, but he really disappeared as soon as Owsley was canned. Bright and Wilson had their own regular gigs on Iron Man and the Thing, and I saw no real presence from either on Spider-Man or other Owsley edited stuff.
When it came down to it, he hired David Michelinie and Peter David to write Web and Peter Parker, and kept Tom DeFalco on Amazing, and he hired Marc Silvestri and Rich Buckler to pencil Web and Peter Parker, and kept Ron Frenz on Amazing. His inkers were guys like Joe Rubinstein, Brett Breeding, Bob McLeod, and Kyle Baker, who was the only black guy, but who was also inking New Mutants, and also did an Avengers annual over Byrne's pencils that came out of Gruenwald's office, and Mark was also employing Bright on Iron Man. Beachum got some cover work, as well, but Owsley was clearly using whites on the vast majority of the stuff he published from his office.
Revenge of the Living Monolith (which is the greatest superhero story ever told!) did feature several blacks (and several whites) adding to the production in a background type capacity. (colors, additional inks, etc…) Maybe that's where Owsley went too far!
Oh duh, I found it on Wikipedia. This was the typewriter everyone liked. It really was great compared to those old ones and had lots of features.
This was before offices could have computers, I think there was only one in the office and only very few people knew how to use it, but those typewriters that had the interchangeable ball with different fonts were very popular at the time and Jim Owsley had style. He loved to give a little something extra to everything he did. And it was cool. Many people in the offices at that time had those typewriters and could use different fonts by changing out the ball that had the letters on it. I don't remember what they were called, but I used them, too, being a style admirer like Owsley.
Thanks for finding and piecing together Michael Netzer's ROM cover! As a fan of Michael's work, I'm glad that this "lost" piece has now been found. I'm surprised to see how close the pose is to Frank Miller's published cover, though the tone and camera angle are different. I had assumed Frank drew his cover without looking at Michael's, but I guess I was wrong.
I won't say anything about Jim Owsley's "humor." I just wonder if the note was written on a typewriter or a computer. The typeface doesn't look like a typewriter's, but it couldn't have been easy to print lines that neatly matched the preprinted "From," "To," "Subject," and "Date" lines on Cadence paper.
Your Ghost Rider is dynamic! Interesting that you specified the exact model of motorcycle (TX750) even in a layout. Neat to think you drew this on the same board you used for the Legion a decade earlier.
When I first saw Dickie McKenzie's self-portrait, I immediately thought of Dave Cockrum, and then I noticed your speculation below it.
Unless he's since said something more, Priest does not appear to feel that this was just a joke. http://www.digital-priest.com/comics/adventures/frames/chips2.htm Here's the part of that chapter where he describes it, with the slight error in making the year 1984 instead of 1985.
'Finally promoted to editor in 1984, one week the freelancer checks were late. Several freelancers congregated in the tiny office I shared with my assistant, inker Keith Williams (who is also African American). Denys Cowan, a close friend, had parked his gear in there, as had Ron Wilson. I think Denys was making some phone calls while he waited, and Dwayne Turner, pipsqueak intern now monster artist, dropped by to say hello to Denys. Kyle Baker dropped off some TRANSFORMERS pages, while M.D. "Doc" Bright popped in to say hi while showing off new pages of the latest IRON MAN issue. Mark Beachum and his incredible gal pal Kelli arrived, amused at the crowd in the office, and squeezed in to drop off his pages for the ASM Annual. Finally, Michael Davis, James Fry, J.R. Jr. and Bob Layton wandered by. We had the stereo on. It turned into a little party— a little check-wait party.
By the time the Marvel staffer came by my office and saw it jammed with black people, it was too difficult to see Layton as he was farther back in the room chatting Denys up about HERCULES or something. But, the next morning, my boss appeared in my doorway and, embarrassed as hell, said others had raised a concern that I was, "firing all the white people and replacing them with black people." He felt the claim had no merit, but still, when several people he trusted had come to his office saying I was having, "a meeting" with and attempting to "organize" the black creators at Marvel, he felt it his responsibility to look into it.
Twenty years later, it is still the most insulting moment of my entire life. My first impulse was to turn off my light, grab my bag, and walk out of Marvel forever. Clearly, these people were too stupid to live. Instead, I quietly assured my boss that I was not, "firing all of the white people and replacing them with black people."
Relieved, the EIC left. I threw some things into my briefcase and prepared to walk out. Instead, I wrote him a detailed memo, subject: WHITE SUPREMACY UPDATE, identifying every black artist I was using, what I was using them for, what the duration of the assignment was, and so forth, just so the next time someone comes into the EIC's office alarmed about a "meeting" in my office, the EIC would have something to show. I also included Bob Layton on that list, "…but he (Layton) was so light-skinned he fooled me, and, besides, he knew all the words to the EWF songs."
At the end of the memo, I said, "They were waiting for their paychecks. Payroll was running late that day and they needed some place to hang out. If they were hanging out in my office, it's possibly because that's one of the few places they felt comfortable and welcome, and not because I'm black but because we all came along together in this business and were all friends."
I told my boss, not a day went by when I didn't see several white guys congregating in editors' offices there at Marvel, and I never felt "compelled" to "look into" it. My boss apologized, he was deeply embarrassed. He deserved to be. It was an incredibly stupid thing to do, but Marvel was a veritable House of Stupid Things Done in those days. And these were liberal intellectuals.'