Writer. Creator. Large mammal.

Some Marvel Tales and Other Horror Stories – Part 3

Morality in ComicsIn 1980, or around then, at the San Diego Comic-Con there was a panel discussion on the program entitled “Morality in Comics.” I had no conflicting obligations so I went to see what that was all about.

Usually, when I went to panels, I found a seat in the back somewhere. The room was almost full when I got there, though, and it was a big room…! Who knew “morality” would be such a hot topic? I found a seat six or seven rows back from the front. Not ideal.

I’d learned that, being Editor in Chief of Marvel, if I attended a panel, often I was asked to participate, though usually I just wanted to listen. So I tried to be inconspicuous.

Yes, it is difficult to be inconspicuous when you’re six-foot-seven. Stop laughing.

On the panel were Marv Wolfman, Len Wein, Scott Shaw, a young woman writer whose name escapes me and maybe one more person. Can’t remember. There was also an empty chair on the stage. One panelist hadn’t yet arrived.

The moderator was Mark Evanier. He called the room to order and started introducing the panelists. About then, the missing panelist showed up. He was B. Kliban, who did cartoons for Playboy, among others. He was also well known for his book of cartoons featuring cats shockingly entitled Cat.

Evanier started by singling out and denouncing the works of Michael Fleisher, which he apparently found particularly immoral. Then he turned it over to the panelists.

Marv agreed that Fleischer’s stories were vile. Horror without the redeeming noble or positive qualities present in his Dracula stories.

Len talked about how super-hero comics should be upbeat and positive, with only happy violence. (NOTE: “Happy violence” is my term for what Len was talking about. I don’t remember his exact words.) He also spoke about the virtues of more cartoony comics and funny animals, which had largely gone out of vogue.

Scott Shaw condemned super-hero comics in general, with special emphasis on the violence. Then, he proceeded to ridicule a Stan Lee super hero story plot.

The young woman wasn’t familiar with Fleisher’s work, as I recall, but spoke about the obligation comics creators had to provide good moral content and positive values in their work.

Everyone agreed with those sentiments and echoed them. Everyone condemned Fleischer as the worst example of what not to do.

Except Kliban, who sat there silently.

The audience seemed to be buying this crap. Some listeners raised their hands and made supportive comments, or told anecdotes about the horribleness that came from immoral comics, or joined in condemning Fleisher.

Finally, Evanier asked Kliban to comment.

“I think you’re all a bunch of Nazi book burners,” he said.

Well, that stirred things up.

The “book burners” tried to hold their ground. Kliban kept ripping them a new one.

The audience seemed to waver a little.

Finally, someone noticed me in the audience. Aha! Right around then, I was thought to be a champion of “morality in comics” because of the Dark Phoenix thing. Word on the street was that I wanted her killed on moral grounds, that because Phoenix had killed a starship full of Shi’ar and a planet full of broccoli people, my moral sensibilities compelled me to sentence her to death.

Baloney. Do I think of killing billions of sapient beings as immoral? Of course. But, hey, these are comics, and honestly, that’s nothing new. Galactus, anyone? My own creation, the Sun Eater? My objections to Chris Claremont’s original ending to the Dark Phoenix Saga had a lot more to do with the fact that it was a cop out. “Oh, she’s okay now. Let’s all go home to Long Island.” What a limp letdown.

There was a lot wrong with the original ending. Don’t get me started. But, I digress….


Someone called upon me to weigh in.

So, I started down the panel from left to right. I said, no I ranted words to the effect:

“Marv, do you mean to tell me that it’s more ‘moral’ for a character to suck the blood out of a victim’s neck than it is for Fleisher to have a heinous criminal turned into a board and sawed in half?”

“Len, do you think we should all be forced to create only warm fuzzy stories and that the readers should be forced to read only warm fuzzy stories?”

“Scott, you can do what you did to Stan’s plot with anything by anybody. You can ridicule Shakespeare just as easily.”

“Evanier, why did you make this a personal attack on Fleischer?”

To the young woman I said, more or less, “Who gets to decide what constitutes good moral content and positive values?”

And, to Kliban, I said, and this is a real quote, “Mister Kliban, you I respect.”

And then it was on. Much honking and hooting ensued. Eventually, the time was up and the thing was over. No conclusions were drawn.

But Evanier and company had lost the acquiescence of the audience, big time. In my judgment, the book burners, how shall I say it? Went down in flames.

After the debacle, as I was leaving, Kliban sought me out and introduced himself. He liked to be called “Hap.” He said, “You’re the only other sane one here.”

I said, “I think we gave the crowd something to think about.”

Cockrum Cartoons

These were done while Dave was on staff at Marvel for a short while, working mostly on covers.
Cover sketch based on an idea I suggested:

The actual cover:

A Dave and Paty collaboration after I bought lunch for the whole crew (on me, by the way, not expense account, if you were wondering):

I don’t remember the genesis of the joke, but…it’s a charming birthday card:

NEXT: Surreality Check and My Favorite Hap Kliban Story


Some Marvel Tales and Other Horror Stories – Part 2


Some Marvel Tales and Other Horror Stories – Part 4


  1. Anonymous

    I believe it has now become apparent that "FLUBBA" is a vastly under-utilized onomatopoeiac term.

  2. Anonymous


    According to a Chris Roberson, DC higher-ups (not the book's editors) interfered with his story's publication:

    "… the Sharif story was included in the outline for the remaining issues of Grounded that I submitted in November. The outline was approved, and in February the issue synopsis that I provided was used to draft the solicitation text, to work up character designs for Sharif (the grown up version of Sinbad from the early 90s), and for cover art to be pencilled, inked, and colored. The script for the issue was accepted in April, and was drawn, inked, and lettered. Unfortunately, when the issue was ready to be sent to the printer in the third week of May I was informed that the decision had been made not to print it.

    I first understood that there would probably be problems when the cover was released with the solicitations, I think maybe in February, because the cover that you saw in the solicitations was not the cover. It was like a third of the cover, and they had cropped out all of these angry hands grasping at him, which you can see in the letters column of Superman #711, where they show the full cover, but without the Superman shield around the symbol, because DC had decided by that point that they didn't want to associate an Arabic letter with the Superman shield. The script went through, I think, five or six full revisions. It was lettered and re-lettered several times by the time it was approved by editorial. All of it was toned down — all of the fear and hysteria about a super-powered Muslim was all toned down until by the final version that was about to go to the printer, it was two disgruntled people in two different crowds, kind of muttering under their breath 'I don't trust that guy, I think he's a terrorist.' I don't even think we used the word 'terrorist.' I think it was just 'I think he's a Muslim, I don't trust that guy.' "

    All quotes are from http://www.comicsalliance.com.

    To me, it sounds like DC had problems with the depiction of a Muslim super-hero, or possibly portraying some denizens of the DCU being prejudiced. Your theory makes sense, but Roberson's statements indicate less benign reasons for DC's decision.

    – Mike Loughlin

  3. KintounKal


    Maybe I shouldn't have presented Krypto's future as quite so bleak. According to a Neswsarama SDCC 2011 article, Grant Morrison stated "I'm not dealing with Krypto," but added that the super-dog might not be gone for long, since he is well-liked.

    On the other hand, there's a Newsarama interview with Scott Lobdell where he said "I think Superman and Supergirl are awesome characters and I look forward to reading their books! But I think Superboy has to rise or fall on the strength of his character – and to that end I don’t really have any plans at this point to have him interacting with the other supers. (And, don’t tell anyone this, but I’m trying to sneak Krypto into Red Hood & The Outlaws as a fellow junkyard stray… but shhhh! If anyone at DC reads this they’ll stop me!)"

    Based on that, I doubt Krypto will come from Krypton if his new origin occurs in a Batman spinoff.

  4. KintounKal


    You're distorting the premise behind Civil War a great deal. Of course, editors are going to act enthusiastic towards an upcoming event they have a vested interest in promoting. What makes you think any glee they expressed was directed at one specific part of the plot?

    The Stamford incident was portrayed as a monumental tragedy within the Marvel Universe. I don't recall a single villain celebrating when it happened. It's pretty inaccurate to say villains (as in plural) were at fault in Mark Millar's story. Rational readers should realize the blame falls almost entirely on Nitro's shoulders.

    If you read Marc Guggenheim's Wolverine tie-in story arc, the CEO of Damage Control named Walter Declun was only culpable to a certain extent for supplying Nitro with Mutant Growth Hormone. Cobalt Man, Speedfreak, and Coldheart didn't injure anyone in Cvil War. In fact, Nitro carelessly killed his teammmates when he self-detonated.

    It's important to clarify Robert Hunter did not burn anyone. That's not how his powers work. Nitro transforms his body into a gaseous state which explodes. The victims were totally vaporized not left to suffer in flames.

    Lastly, Nitro didn't really target schoolbuses (as in plural). Namorita was responsible for punching him into one when he fought back. With the exception of Speedball, Nitro killed everyone in the surrounding area because he has no self control.

    That was one of the key themes behind Civil War. Showing violence was hardly Millar's only goal. Civil War was popular because it raised thought provoking questions on what's the best way to prevent devastation on that scale from erupting when several superheroes confront several supervillains.

  5. I can recall being regaled at VALIANT with a dramatic reading of Jim's dialog of the Super Pets, including Krypto and Super Booger. Can't recall the name of the Super Booger character…

  6. NO MORE KRYPTO???!!! I am appalled! I am bereft! I wrote dialogue for Krypto! Alas, poor Krypto! I knew him, Horatio!

  7. KintounKal

    Mike Loughlin,

    I think the reason for J. Michael Straczynski and Chris Roberson's original plot for Superman #712 being discarded is far less controversial than you expect. That issue was originally scheduled to go on sale June 8th yet was delayed until June 22nd.

    Since the new 52 relaunch will begin on Wednesday with Justice League #1, I'm guessing somebody realized it was a bad idea to introduce a new super hero in a title that will soon incorporate a drastically different status quo. Even if that theory isn't 100% true, it makes sense that DC wanted to finally publish Kurt Busiek's "Lost Boy" story before Krypto disappears from continuity.

  8. KintounKal

    Neil Anderson,

    I get the impression you believe Spider-Man was truly responsible for multiple murders in 1995 when his fingerprints were linked to Kaine's crimes in Utah. "The Trial of Peter Parker" ended with him being declared innocent. However, you are correct that Spider-Man has commited murder.

    The most undeniable instance of this happened in 1987's Spider-Man Versus Wolverine #1 ("High Tide") written by Jim Owsley while Jim Shooter was Editor-in-Chief. A woman named Charlie A.K.A Charlemagne died from Spider-Man punching her. Keep in mind Peter thought he was attacking Logan at the time and Charlie wanted to die so it was basically a suicide.

    Technically, this wasn't really the first accidental murder caused by Spider-Man but Dan Slott established recently in Amazing Spider-Man #655 ("Massacre Part 2: No One Dies") that Peter views Charlie as the only person he's ever killed.

    In truth, Spider-Man murdered an assassin called the Finisher in Amazing Spider-Man Annual #5 ("The Parents of Peter Parker!") from 1968 by returning a fired missile back to his tank. That story was written by Stan Lee so it's not as if Peter murdering a villain is unprecedented.

    Did Peter ever hit his wife? If so, it wasn't intentional. She got in the middle of a brawl between him and Ben Reilly in Spectacular Spider-Man #226 ("The Final Verdict"). This was immediately after the blood and tissue tests conducted in Seward Trainer's private laboratory determined Peter was the clone. Of course, he was livid.

    Notice Peter swings his left arm before looking at who's grabbing him. Based on that panel, I'd say it's unlikely Peter's fist touched her face at all. It's possible the action depicted here by Sal Buscema would be considered more of a shove than a hit.

    I suppose some readers believe Peter should be able to recognize his wife's voice but that problem doesn't seem far fetched to me. Take into account his angry state of mind, the size of the lettering, and shape of the word balloons. It suggests everyone present was screaming at the top of their lungs.

    As soon as Peter realizes the harm he caused Mary Jane, he runs away looking horrified and ashamed. Remember that this was the prelude to the "Maximum Clonage" crossover in which Peter agreed to work with the Jackal. Tom DeFalco needed a valid reason for Spider-Man to abandon his life and this incident reinforced Peter's belief that he wasn't worthy of her love any longer.

  9. Greg Huneryager

    The Spectre was kind of a return to his golden age roots and those stories were over the top, and it was an editorial decision to do that. The problem with comics post Watchmen/ Dark Knight is creators deciding that violence is all that made those series notable. Moore, in particular, gets blamed too much for today's gory too graphic, supposedly mainstream comics, when writers only picked up on some of the surface details of his work. The real theme of Moore's writing was that things are not as they seemed and, on a more basic level, that writers need to be smarter and more critical of their work to produce good stories. If they aren't you get stupid lazy writing, which is what, for the most part, we've got these days.

    I've always loved the cover roughs that Cockrum and Marie Severin did back in the day. Picked up some of the former back when they were $20 back in the late '80s but failed to do so with the Cockrums. A number of his spoofs appeared in The Comics Reader. One I remember was a cover of Master of Kung Fu fighting Godzilla.

  10. Gregg H

    Just to pick out a few of your examples so as not to clutter things TOO badly…

    What is racist about wanting a literacy test for voting? Are you saying that blacks are inherently MORE illiterate than whites and it would only apply to them?

    What is racist about wanting to insist people actually have to show ID in order to prove that they are who they say if they want to vote? It isn't like I have EVER heard ANYONE suggest that only blacks or other non-whites should have to show ID. How is that racist?

    As far as the supposed chanting of the n word by the tea party members, I can't remember who exactly, but a prominant republican offered a million dollar reward for anyone who coud come up with any sort of concrete evidance that it actually happened. But not ONE person came forward to claim it. Doesn't that tell you that there is something fishy?

  11. Anonymous

    Jim,(The one from two posts ago)

    What i "propose", or rather the opinion i express, is simply a "guideline", a "standard". I say "super-heroes" because i am french and they are the most representative of american all public comics for the last few decenies. If the production was centered on SF or Westerns i would have say SF or Westerns.
    The point is that Marvel and DC center, or traditionaly centered their production on kids and teenagers. When something ultra-violent appears in one of their books it isn't the same thing as if it appear in the books of a publisher specialised in comics for adults.
    For this reason i consider a warning is necessary. An indication that tells to the costumers it is not an all publics, an all-ages book.
    If adult and kid-friendly books are sold on different shelves and have very different cover designs, this isn't such a big deal.
    But if a mistake is possible, then a label of a sort or another is necessary.

    Once again if Marvel decides to publish a max spider-man
    book with nude MJ scenes or an X-Men book with the some nudity by the X-ladies, and some love scenes, if it isn't just pornography and if there's also a real story, count me amongst the costumers. But if you want to make me happy never mention them in the regular books. Keep them out of continuity.
    What is entertaining to adults may not be so fun for kids, and even less for parents.


  12. William,
    You said: "On the one hand I am adamantly against censorship," and then followed it with a sentence that begins "But."

    If you're REALLY adamantly against censorship, there should be no "but" following.

    GePop: You said exactly what I was thinking; in fact, did you copy from my test? 🙂 Just kidding – what you wrote was exactly what I was going to write, although yours was probably better-written than mine would have been.

    Neil Anderson said…
    "Wow. Great anecdote. I'm a big fan of Mark Evanier, and disappointed to hear he said that."

    Me too, Neil. Usually, Mark makes some kind of sense and is an interesting person with fascinating background info, opinions, etc….but he sometimes gets behind things that make me shake my head in disappointment. He and Len and Marv and quite a few other comics folk from the 70s and 80s often let their emotions and wooley-headed liberal thinking rule.
    And don't everybody get upset about that "wooley-headed liberal" remark – I have no problem with some liberal concepts, I just have a problem with the wooley-headed kind. I would follow that previous statement with a "and you know who you are," but like most, they don't; or, at least, they won't admit to it.

  13. Jim


    If as you said, "Super-Heroes comics must, in my opinion, be all age, well writen stories, respectfull of the sensibility and tastes of children but well writen enough to interest adults", what do we call comics featuring super-heroes which are not written that way?

    Because you're giving us two options: either your opinion is invalid, because there clearly are super-hero comics which don't fit that narrow range of things, or else there must be some other glowingly appropriate term for those other comics featuring super-heroes.

    (I've heard/read similar things from others in the past, the most notorious being "comics are supposed be entertaining" when they read one intended to educate or evoke other non-pleased emotions. Those people are emotionally right but technically wrong: comics are supposed to be comics, but people who want comics just to entertain should be buying comics intended to do that.)

    Myself, I want there to be a broad range of super-hero comics out there. I want ones good for 8 year olds, and for 15 year olds, and for 22 year olds, and for 45 year olds — each age group has different life backgrounds, different interests, and different needs from entertainment material. I want there to be everything from Tiny Titans to Naked Justice, whether *I* want to read them or not.

    (Yes, Naked Justice is just about what you think: naked gay porn super-heroes, running around with huge… muscles.)

  14. ja

    Jerry Novick, you're helping to illustrate my point, even though you're wrong about my Tea Bagger examples that were widely reported on the news, which I watch way too much of.

    Tea Baggers are real people. But there are enough of them who are giant public turds in the Tea Party punchbowl, that they should expect to be perceived that way when they don't abolish those vile elements publicly, which they have not. It's what makes them perceived as not being a cohesively consistent party, but rather a disparate smattering of people who can't quite pull their act together beyond being collectively angry and loud.

    We all have various viewpoints on how the world is, and the writers of various stories are wont to reflect that very thing in the comics they produce.

    I'm okay with that, even if it turns out that a character is talking about 'those #+@^ing Democrats and their evil [whatever]'. Writers take things from the real world all the time. Just because you don't agree with it, doesn't mean it's not legitimate to do so.

    Just make it interesting, and I'll read it.

    When you do disagree, then speak up, just like you are now. That's the way it's supposed to work!

    And, I'll have you know that I do not rape monkeys. They asked for it, every one of them! And that baboon's red & blue ass… it was really speaking to me.

    And no, I'm not a real person. =)

  15. Anonymous

    I'm kind of sorry I started this. I had no intention of political debate taking over the comments section. I'll just add the following:

    – IIRC, the protesters in the Cap story were not linked to the terrorists. Cap himself (or Bucky Cap, anyway) noted their legitimate right to protest. My problem is Marvel erasing a sign but allowing truly nasty stuff in their comics.

    – Goggling "racist tea party signs" brings up several results. I am not saying all or most Tea Party members are racist, but there are definitely racist Tea Party members.

    – Of course, as Jerry noted, there are racist people of all stripes, including racist liberals. Unfortunate, but true. It is not a Republican thing or a tea party thing. Hell, I know plenty of people of a conservative bent who have never expressed a racist thought in my presence.

    Seriously, not trying to start anything. I wouldn't comment on someone else's blog with that purpose in mind.Of course, everyone has the freedom to write what they want (unless the hosts don't allow them to).

    – Mike Loughlin

  16. Ja:

    Tancredo was disavowed by the Tea Party after his statement.

    Ron Paul is not a representative of the Tea Party. Though there are certainly some Tea Party members who agree with his "no government intervention in private enterprise" stance. Though even then, to a point. Ron Paul also advocates for legal marijuana – which is not a Tea Party platform.

    The Tea Party targeted all supporters of ObamaCare, regardless of their race.

    As for the signs and supposed statements of various people supposedly associated with the Tea Party, I'd like to see the actual evidence, not the anecdotal evidence.

    I assert again – just because some blacks hate white people, does that make all blacks racist? You're extrapolating fact for an entire group based on the actions of a few individuals – 8individuals who have been disavowed by the group.

    And yes – of course all points of view can be represented in fiction. But if you wrongly attribute something in that fiction to a real person or entity without evidence that it occurs in the real world… well, they call that libel.

    I can say Obama is a racist based on his 20 year association with Reverend Wright. But unless I put racist words and actions in his mouth and have evidence to back it up, it's pure speculation. And I would have libeled him if I could not back it up with traceable evidence above and beyond here-say.

    If I write a comic book script where Captain America says "America is for white's only" then I attribute something to the fictional character. Marvel probably would remove it, seeing as they own the character and would want that to not be part of his image. They would be right to do so.

    If I create my own character and call him Captain Black Guy and he says "I hate whites" it's my right as the owner of the character.

    But if I write a story that says "Ja rapes monkeys" and Ja is a real person, Ja has every right to have me remove it or sue me for libel.

    There's a difference between things attributed to a fictional character, and things attributed to real people.

  17. ja

    Gregg H,

    Being someone who helped vote Rudy Guliani into office as Mayor of New York City, and who has voted for a number of Republican candidates (not for president or congress/senate, though), I can explain what I mean about how it’s legitimate for a character in a story to characterize a group like the Tea Party as being inherently racist.

    Observing a group or party of people as a whole, one can develop an opinion on how that group has acted, based upon just a very few things, such as:

    ***Tea Party favorite, former congressman Tom Tancredo advocated literacy tests for voting rights. [Jim Crow-era literacy tests were once used to keep African-Americans from voting in Southern elections.]

    ***Governor Scott Walker disenfranchising hundreds of thousands of voters with a new Voter ID law that requires 2 forms of ID, screwing with minority and senior voters, who usually vote Democratic. Then for trying to close 16 DMV offices in key areas that would obfuscate those voters from acquiring their IDs.

    ***Mark Williams, chairman of the Tea Party Express, claimed that Muslims worship a monkey-god " and are animals of allah [sic]. " Tea party leaders refused to repudiate Williams` anti-Islam views.

    ***Tea Party opponents of health care reform targeted Rep. Andre Carson (D-IN), one of two Muslims in Congress, and Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), a leader of the civil rights movement, by chanting "the N-word, the N-word, 15 times" as they left the Cannon House Office Building. Protesters also reportedly spat on and shouted bigoted slurs at other lawmakers.

    ***The race baiting of their leaders in public meetings; racist private emails that are later exposed and made public; and the stereotypical caricatures of President Obama as a pimp, or the face on a faux food stamp featuring the White House and a patch of watermelons have been circulated by Tea Party organizations.

    ***Signs at their rallies and meetings that feature wicked slurs for black Americans are more commonsense proof of how racial resentment, and an “us versus them” mentality, gives meaning to the Tea Party movement. In fact, a prominent African American Republican Party representative in California recently resigned because he could no longer be part of an organization which gave cover to such repeated acts of prejudice and bigotry.

    ***Senator Rand Paul disagreeing with the Civil Rights Act, the part that made it a crime for private businesses to discriminate against customers on the basis of race.

    … things like that can qualify for a character (and by extension, the reader) to see the Tea Baggers as being inherently a racist group.

    Like it or not, those examples are politics, and cannot be corrected in a court of law. However, when someone throws a charge of being a pedophile at someone, that person better be prepared to defend that charge in a court of law, considering the gravity of that particular charge.

    Yes, I'm engaging in the back-and-forth. So sue me. I'm still relating it to how it can justifiably apply to a story in comics. All points of views should be represented in well-written stories.

    Nothing wrong with that.

  18. Dear Ray,

    I haven't read Preacher. I'll try to soon.

  19. Gregg H

    Jerry, you said it way better then me.

  20. Ja said:

    "I truly believe the Tea Bagging Party is very racist. As I also believe that not all Republicans are racist one damned bit… but when you do find a racist, he's damned sure going to be a Republican."

    And some people believe in space aliens.

    Evidence, Ja, evidence. Just saying it a lot does not make it so. Which is why Marvel did the right thing in removing the sign. They may believe it's true, but they didn't have the evidence to back their beliefs.

    If one of their characters said "I believe that the Tea Party are racists" that would be the writer inserting a belief in as part of the characterization of that character. But to have a racist rally and then tie a real world entity wholesale to that event without evidence is branding something that exists outside of the comic book with an opinion and/or lie.

    For instance, if I wrote a comic book where Obama sat in Reverend Jeremiah Wright's church and quoted the reverend with a real quote about how he hates America, the quote would be true. But if I then had Obama in the pew yell out "Amen, brother! Kill all white people" without real world evidence that he said it, then I would be making an unprovable assertion of Obama's beliefs.

  21. Gregg H

    You happen to incorrectly believe that the Tea Party does in fact deserve that hateful charachterization. But I bet you can't actually find real examples of it. It is a matter of "everyone says that they are, so they must be'.

    But why is that okay to do to a group of people but not okay to do to an indevidual? What if "everyone knows he is a pedophile" then would it be okay?

    BTW…as a pro, what is your professional opinion on my ever seeing royalties from Byrne on that story when he does it?

  22. ja

    Gregg H,

    You have just given John Byrne a new story to write! He'd be happy to do it, too, based upon how much of a hateful prick he's been toward Shooter for all these years. He is the malignant personification of a cancer that might manifest one day.

    I saw the validity in that character's characterization of the Tea Baggers, but I understand how you would disagree with that. More to the point, this is what helps stir up public discourse. I think that's a good thing.

    Also, one example is the characterization of a group of people, based upon one's opinion of how that group has acted as a whole. Another is someone making an allegation (subtly or otherwise) about someone being a pedophile, when there damned well must be evidence to back that up. And if there isn't, then it becomes a matter of slander and libel, which can be prosecuted in a court of law.

  23. Gregg H

    I certainly respect how important and useful it is to have differing viewpoints expressed. Preferably in interesting, creative ways.

    However that isn't what happened in the case that I have no problem with a writer et al using a comic book story to express a view, even if it is one that I disagree with. But as the saying goes, everyone is entitles to their own opinions, but people aren't entitled to their own FACTS.
    In the case that I mentioned, if they attacked the Tea Party on the basis of disagreeing with their ACTUAL platform, then that is fine. I can see Green Arrow for example showing up at a Tea Party rally saying that they were all stupid morons and how bigger government is the way to go and so on.
    But that isn't what they did. They took a popular current day political movement and specifically MISCHARACHTERIZED it to make their point. And the people that were being smeared were rightly upset.
    It would be like if John Byrne included a thinly veiled representation of Jim Shooter in a book and aluded to him being a pedophile, because he felt like it. I think if Jim made an issue of that with the publisher, he would be WELL within the realm of being reasonable.
    Same with the Tea party.

  24. ja

    Gregg H,

    I respect that you have your views, but I'm talking about how ideas and such are applied to comics stories, and how people shouldn't be afraid of having their viewpoints challenged.

    We can easily get into clogging up this blog with way too much back-and-forth (which I've done before, and am not looking to repeat). I don't intend on getting into a prolonged debate about something that is off-point.

    I've expressed my opinions, and you have too. =)

  25. Gregg H

    Wow. I guess that Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton are great examples of REPUBLICAN racists, right? And Louis Farikhan? And Maxine Waters? If you really want me to go and give you direct quotes of blatant racism attributed 9accurately) to all of these people, I can. But that would really clog up this blog.

    Can you tell me what is inherently racist about a political movement that calls for smaller, more fiscally sound government?
    Sure, there are plenty of claims that the Tea Party isn't really about that stuff. But those claims all come3 from people who are biased to support an opposed agenda, or from people who seem to be like you and are willfully ignorant and want to follow along your own party line without any actual basis.

  26. ja

    Jerry Novick,

    I truly believe the Tea Bagging Party is very racist. As I also believe that not all Republicans are racist one damned bit… but when you do find a racist, he's damned sure going to be a Republican.

    I absolutely LOVE your accurate usage of the words, "former KKK Grand Wizard". It helps make my point.

    However, we can get into a debate about the racist qualities of the Tea Baggers on my new website, http://www.blindedbymyballs.com another time. I was just making the point as to how it applies to comics stories.

    Shouldn't be afraid of opposing viewpoints, is all.

    I bet you clicked onto that URL. I made it up. =)

  27. Now I'm wondering if Shooter's read Preacher (which I actually think he'd like based on the strong storytelling skills of Steve Dillon…)

  28. Except, Ja, see, I'm waiting for actual evidence of Tea Party racism. You know, something like a call for job quotas or telling a certain group they can all go to hell.

    Are their racists in the Tea Party? Probably. Just like there are probably racists in the Democrat and Republican and Green parties. Heck, there are probably block parties and sweet 16 parties and Bar Mitvahs and Baptisms and Gay Wedding ceremonies with racists there too.

    But I'm not about to say that just because some of a certain group's members hold racist views that makes an entire group racist.

    I mean, it's not like the Tea Party has had a representative in the actual government that was a former KKK Grand Wizard…

  29. ja

    Greg H said:

    "Just as the Tea Party supporters had every reason to take offense whe their legitemate political movement was falsely linked in that story to hateful criminals that have nothing to do with the Tea Party or what it stands for."

    I believed pointing out the connection of racist hatred to the Tea Party is damned legitimate, and I'm happy that was in there. It made that story much more believable.

    Like it or not, you're going to have points of view that will piss some people off. Next time, some progressive groups will get honked off by something else, when a character says an insensitive thing about gays or women or what/whomever.

    When you have a company like Marvel that is likely more progressive than conservatives are comfortable with (incorporating more gays into their lineup, for example), you have to expect that every once in a while, their writers are going to insert a real-world example of the kind of vitriolic hatred and bigotry that (for another example) the Tea Baggers (hey, that's what they first called themselves, and I have no problem agreeing with the appropriate visual), some people are going to complain.

    I'm very progressive, and yet I don't mind seeing my 'side' taken to task, so long as the points that are made are qualified by the various characters in the story. If a character hates my point of view, then I will trust that character has a reason for it, and that motivation will (hopefully) apply to the story in an interesting way.

    If it doesn't, then the writer won't have done his job very well, which would be a separate issue.

    In other words, I don't have the thin skin that would make me cry foul just because someone took my political position to task. Deal with it. The Tea Baggers' complaints were their only recourse, because they couldn't rationally defend the point that was made about them. They still can't.

    So silly to be afraid of different points of view. Bring them on. It benefits us all when it's out in the open. Even more so when it's written well.

    So I agree with Mike Loughlin.

    If writers keep editing themselves while trying to alwasy tippy-toe through being as Politically Correct as possible, then to an extent they're being their OWN Nazi book-burners.

  30. Let the flaming ensue – but I am firmly in favor of having a ratings system for comic books. Note – I am not saying that I am in favor of there being an independent body such as the CCA rating books. I think the publishers should set up their rating systems and define it, and then stick to their definition.

    By doing this, we can have "All Ages" books that can be written for a wide audience – including those ever elusive new young comic book readers. There can be "For Teens" books that have more sophistication but a defined upper limit. And then there can be "Mature" books that have no upper limit (except the boundaries of good taste, one would hope – but by labeling the book Mature, the reader must realize that they may have a different boundary than the writer and publisher).

    A ratings system would also allow publishers to do books with the same characters at various ratings level. The retailer or parent could then guide the reader. Little Jimmy likes Hulk and gets the garishly colored, animated-style drawn Hulk Smash every month. But the retailer/or parent can say "you know, Little Jimmy, I don't really think that's for you" when he comes to the counter with the Teen series The Incredible Hulk, or the Mature series The Rampaging Hulk.

    This way more potential audience members are served, and it gives a progression to the reader as they grow older, knowing that they can still get their Hulk fix, but in a more sophisticated way if they so choose.

    The savvy retailer can then rack books by reading level, better directing the reader and parents to content they will enjoy – which leads to future sales. Good for business, good for the audience.

  31. Anonymous

    One of the big problems with trying to have guidelines for morality in comics is that the industry keeps having spectacular failures.

    9 men have credits on Avengers #200, it even has a CCA sticker. Not one of you seemed to have questioned the caption that read along the lines of "I couldn't seduce you, so I used mind control machine." (I questioned David Michelinie immediately after the issue hit the stands. He struck me as particularly clueless about the whole concept of consent.)

    I had one fan tell me, she wasn't raped, she had a smile on her face.

    (And Chris Claremont's sop to fans was just as bad–to show that she really had been hurt, she permanently loses her powers to Rogue off-stage. Given that Rogue's power involved body contact, she was effectively raped a second time to make sure fans understood she'd been raped the first time. All male credits on that issue too.)

    When the Hulk-rape-YMCA story appeared, didn't anyone question why Marvel even had a black and white adult book for a character that was simultaneously appearing in a color comic aimed at kids?

  32. DJRJAY

    I remember reading "The 'Nam" as a pre-internet 14 year old and wondering what the heck an "FNG" could possibly stand for since Marvel wouldn't print the definition. Now a quick Google search is all it takes to figure it out.

  33. I was always struck by the fact that, during the Shooter era at Marvel, Hell was always called "Hades," even when the word "Hell" would have been more appropriate to the context. I tended to read the euphemisms as the cuss words they were replacing anyway, "blasted" as "damned," "witch" as "bitch," etc. I didn't mind it, though.

  34. Dear David J.,

    Larry Hama hired Fleisher for Conan. I think I suggested Fleisher for whatever his first Marvel gig was, but I never hired him directly for anything. I generally left hiring creators to the editors.

  35. Dear Thunder,

    "…making it up as I go along…" has never been something I'm capable of doing. I had pretty solid plans. I always do. I'll tell the Star Brand/New Universe tale soon. Thanks.

  36. Dear Anonymous (teenage fan),

    I had a substantial expense account, and I used it. However, a lot of dinners and such that didn't really qualify as legitimate business expenses according to Marvel's parameters I paid for myself.

    Regarding "morality" in comics: Siding with Kliban against the "book burners," I hope, does not suggest to the readers of this blog that I am like those you mention who found joy in having villains who "…burned up school buses…." I just don't like the idea of a Big Brother deciding what DC/Joe Orlando/Mike Fleisher can do in a Specter story. P.S. While I was Editor in Chief at Marvel, I wouldn't even allow damns and hells in the books. In my words at the time, in Marvel's color, newsstand comics there were to be "no words that can't be said on Romper Room." (<–a slight exaggeration for humor's sake, okay?)

  37. Greg H – nicely explained!

  38. Gregg H

    To Mike Loughlin
    I have to take one small issue with your charachterization of the issue with the Tea Party sign and what you incorrectly state as
    "No, we're going to pass the buck on responsibility and cave to ultra-conservative pundits Utterly ridiculous."

    Marvel wasn't actually trying to represent an ACTUAL Tea Party rally. They were representing a fictional, hateful, racisist, bigoted group and were then linking THOSE ideas to the Tea Party.
    Would you think it perfectly reasonable if Marvel had some fictional Black Panther-like terrorist group holding a ralley in a story where they showed the group bombing police stations, and then showed the people at the rally holding up signs with ML King and overlayed the scene with captions quoting his 'I have a dream' speech?
    I think that the King family would have every right to raise hell over that, and would be right in doing so. Just as the Tea Party supporters had every reason to take offense whe their legitemate political movement was falsely linked in that story to hateful criminals that have nothing to do with the Tea Party or what it stands for.

  39. I recall reading in an interview that Starbrand and the New universe was severely underfunded at the last minute. Many of the top talent was pulled and sort of doomed it to failure.

  40. Anonymous


    I found the issue writen by Roy Thomas faithful to Jim's work.
    Liked a lot the series under Jim & Roy, not so much under other writers. The Byrne & Palmer art was nice though, even if on this series i prefered JRjr.


  41. Anonymous

    Dear Jim,

    Yes: certainly. The editors are even more responsible than the writer when excessive violence appears without warning in a comicbook that can be sold to kids.
    I can understand that an artist is carried away by his story, the editor, on another hand has to be cold headed, and do what is necessary to make sure that the costumers are aware this isn't an all-public book.

    And since i did that "Specter" typo, let me say that i hope the Dark Key line will be revived, and that we will see your Doctor Spector, this SF/Fantastic take announced was intriguing and interesting.


  42. DJ

    "He was a hero to some, a villain to others; and wherever he rode, people spoke his name in whispers. He had no friends, this Jonah Hex, but he did have two companions: one was death itself…the other, the acrid smell of gunsmoke." Is this attributable to Fleisher? I have heard conflicting opinions on this, some say it was written by Albano (it sounds like Albano), but the first appearance of this classic intro appears in a Fleisher scripted issue. Can anyone confirm either way?
    I love Jonah Hex written by Fleisher. Hell, I just love Jonah Hex. The Albano stories were a great introduction to the character, and a great scene setter, but it's only when Fleisher takes over that we really get into the character. Fleisher gives us a Conan-like timeline for Hex, and in general Hex reads pretty much like Conan transposed to the old west. Is this why Fleisher got the Conan gig after Thomas left Jim?
    As to Fleisher's proclivity for violent revenge, well he's just building on what Albano (and Orlando) initiated. The series did start out as WEIRD Western Tales after all, well after the first three Hex issues anyway. And that artwork? Wow, has there ever been a better artistic rollcall on one comic? The Showcase book really lives up to it's name, and really let's those great artists shine in Black & White. So there's never going to be another volume? Damn. I'll need to stop holding my breath then.
    David Johnston.

  43. Hi Jim.

    A little off-topic but I wanted to ask about "Star Brand". I was reading it over recently and the issues you wrote were good (I haven't read everything yet but I get the gist). After you left, there's some irrelevant filler stories by Cary Bates and then John Byrne did the series until it ended. His stuff was…odd? Different? Anyway, his ultimate ending was a time paradox thing which strikes me as outright stupid. I was wondering, therefore, did you have any ultimate plans beyond what you'd written for how it was going to resolve some of the bigger issues like what the Brand was and where it came from, who the Old Man and aliens were, etc. Or were you just kind of making it up as you went along? It seems like a cool story that got cut prematurely when the original writer left and somebody new came in with different ideas.

  44. I will join the chorus–thanks so much for Cockrum sketches. He had a great sense of humor.

  45. Dear Sanjiv,

    Tales of the Comics Code are in the queue. Thanks.

  46. Dear Stéphane,

    I feel compelled to mention, by the way, that Fleisher's Specter stories were written work for hire for DC under the direction and control of editor Joe Orlando. Fleisher was doing what his boss and therefore DC required of him; or if you prefer, what they permitted him to do. It's not like he was an independent author doing whatever he pleased.

  47. Dear ncaligon,

    Thanks for the catch. My only excuse is that when I typed in "Michael Fleischer" on Wikipedia to check the spelling of the name, it offered me two choices: "Michael Fleischer" and "Michael Fleischer (comics)." If you actually go to the "Michael Fleischer (comics)" article, it has the correct spelling.

  48. GePop, I was about the mention the same thing. The novel was brought up a LOT in those days wen discussing Michael Fleisher's work. I never got a chance to read it, but from the descriptions I read, it doesn't sound a lot different from "American Psycho" which got a lot of positive reviews about 10 years later.

  49. GePop

    Personally, I never thought that Fleisher's work on "The Spectre" or Jonah Hex was any more violent than anything found in the pulps of the 30s, and his Encyclopedia's of Comic Book Heroes were both great research tools for comics historians as well as fun nostalgic pieces for longtime fans.

    The Fleisher hate seems to have erupted from the publication of Chasing Hairy, a novel he wrote which critics lambasted for its violent misogyny. I think a lot of the more sordid aspects of his reputation stem from that book, although many people quickly blanketed his comics work as well.

    And while I think Fleisher's lawsuit against Harlan Ellison and Gary Groth was misguided, I think I can understand his impetus: he was trying to establish himself as a novelist, and after the critics had raked him over the coals, a famous author then declared him "a lunatic" and "bugf*ck crazy" in print (and yes, Ellison meant those remarks as a badge of honor, but Fleisher didn't see it that way). And then as Jim relates, many in the comic book business turned on Fleisher in a very ugly way, doubtless making him a pariah in many industry circles. He couldn't silence the critics or the convention panelists, but he could sue Ellison and Groth, and that's where his anger and resentment was funneled.

  50. Anonymous

    How often did you pay for meals out of your own pocket?

    Back when I was a teenage fan attending conventions on a very tight budget, I was shocked by NYC prices. I remember you picking up the dinner tab more than once for a table full of fans…I have occasionally paid that forward.

    As for morality in comics (and this goes for language use as well), while it's all relative, isn't the point that comics need to be entertaining and make me want to come back for more?

    I remember dropping a whole slew of books when the editors gleefully announced that they were going to have villains who burned up school buses full of children. Having and showing the violence seemed to be the only goal they had.

  51. Keith Dallas said:that 1980 SDCC panel might have been soon after The Comics Journal printed an interview with Harlan Ellison in which Ellison asserted Michael Fleisher was certifiably insane.
    The Ellison interview where he made that comment was published in 1979, so that may indeed have been a factor in why the discussion focused on Fleisher. I always thought Fleisher's decision to sue Ellison was puzzling… in context, Ellison's comments were clearly intended to be humorous, and it's also clear that he admired Fleisher's work and meant them as a compliment.

  52. Jay B– Among more contemporary comics, I'd use RUNAWAYS as the "gateway comic" for your son. I wouldn't necessarily give it to him until he was eleven or twelve (not so much because of anything graphic, but because its complex, funny, moving story arcs will have more resonance if he's a little older), but it's wonderful, and I've never met any kid, teen or young adult who didn't want to devour the whole run once he or she started.

    For me, any problem I have with contemporary comics isn't so much about violence. After all, I grew up in the 80s with Frank Miller's Daredevil (Matt Murdock going mad! Electra dying!), Tony Stark's deeply destructive alcoholism, and Psycho-Man's mind rape of Susan Storm Richards during John Byrne's FF run (to say nothing of the ongoing melodrama and social commentary of the X-Men, the Hank/Jan saga in The Avengers and Thor beaten to within an inch of his life in Thor and The Avengers (to name just some of the storylines that ran between 1981 and 1987 or so). And I absolutely loved all of it, and still recommend those stories to people as some of the best mainstream comics storytelling I know of.

    Instead, it's the dull, slow storytelling in some books from both DC and Marvel, and a sense that there are all kinds of fannish references I'm not getting (this is especially true of Geoff Johns' work, of which I am not a big fan). There are still a lot of books I look forward to every month– Dan Slott is doing phenomenal work (with occasional assists from Fred Van Lente) on SPIDER-MAN, for instance–but i think the bigger problem for many new readers is less the violence than the opacity, and the sense of it being a closed community, for the knowledgeable only. Which, maybe, raises different questions of "morality" and "responsibility" vis-a-vis the reader.

  53. Cousin Vinny

    Thanks for sharing the Dave Cockrum sketches. Brought a smile. I met Dave at a comics convention many moons ago. (I don't remember where…) He drew a little Nightcrawler in five minutes flat! I was impressed and grateful for his quick draw.

    I no longer read comics, having stopped in 1995 or so. But, I still have that Dave sketch somewhere!

  54. Anonymous

    Reactions to the post and comments:

    – It's common for people to go along with a previously expressed sentiment in a public forum, especially after hearing others presenting or in the audience express like-minded sentiments. I could see an audience hearing people whose work express an opinion they like nodding their head in agreement without thinking it through.

    – What was amazing about Tomb of Dracula (besides the breathtaking art and enjoyable plots, of course) was how Marv Wolfman wrote Dracula as an evil, cold-hearted bastard who the audience could root for and feel sympathy toward. Remarkably, the character grew and changed over the course of the series, a rarity in Big 2 comics. Seriously, I compare Dracula's character arc to the one Neil Gaiman wrote for Morpheus in Sandman.

    – I'm torn on the subject of standards and practices (which I see as different than censorship). On the one hand, I find myself in agreement with writers and artists who don't want labels (e.g. "For Mature Readers") on their work. On the other hand, the advent of "Mature Readers" lines have freed creators to do books they couldn't do in All-Ages lines. Some of my favorite Vertigo, MAX, & Independent comics would be very different without the labels.

    – I wish more of the current Marvel & DC comics were geared to a general audience, but I wonder if books with PG-13 elements kept readers who might have given up on super-hero comics otherwise. I don't just mean swearing, T&A, and more graphic violence, but the overall grim & gritty tone. If it feels "mature," then the less mature older reader might find himself able to justify reading about people in tights hitting each other.

    – I've only liked Punisher comics that have nothing to do with the Marvel Universe (except the occasional guest appearance in Daredevil; he fits DD's morally grey and often gritty world whereas I want Spider-Man or Captain America to run him in). He exposes the problems inherent within the super-hero genre (e.g. celebrating vigilanteism, mixing realistic crime with fantastic crime) without being an interesting character in and of himself.

    – I understand the need for the companies that own copyrighted characters to uphold a certain moral standard. That said, I've found some decisions made by Marvel & DC reprehensible. Black Adam graphically ripping people's arms off? Check. A Muslim super-hero appearing in Superman? No, someone somewhere might not like it. Rape in female characters' back stories? Sure. Keeping a Tea Party sign copied from an actual Tea Party sign in a Captain America trade? No, we're going to pass the buck on responsibility and cave to ultra-conservative pundits Utterly ridiculous.

    – I'll have to track down some of Kilban's work.

    – Mike Loughlin

  55. Very much enjoying these nigh-daily blog posts, Jim. Please keep up the great work.


  56. Great comment! I can identify with that!

    "It all depends on your environment, I used to read Judge Dredd and his nightmare world was a needed and fun escape from rural Pennsylvania."

  57. JC

    Kliban was an awesome cartoon artist, I was just looking at his drawings last week. Chas Addams was also another great genius, the TV shows and movies don't even come near to capturing his strips.

    "The world in comic-books used to be a place I wanted to escape to. Now, it's a place I'd want to escape from."

    It all depends on your environment, I used to read Judge Dredd and his nightmare world was a needed and fun escape from rural Pennsylvania.

  58. PS The Cockrum sketches are fantastic. Thank you for sharing them, Jim!

  59. I was in Edinburgh at the weekend and attended a live interview and Q&A with Grant Morrison. What struck me is that he was largely in agreement with a lot of what's being said here in the comments, particularly the issue of comic books being so damn depressing and the moral ambiguity of superheroes. Not sure quite where he stands on the issue of "entry level" books (i.e. books that kids can read and enjoy that also appeal to adults), but he's definitely trying to write stories of superheroes that represent the best qualities in each of us. Whatever you think of his work (and I know a lot of people hate it with a passion), his intent is admirable in this day and age.

  60. Thanks for the great post Mr. Shooter. Very interesting and entertaining (as always).

    I personally have mixed feelings on this subject. On the one hand I am adamantly against censorship. But then on the other hand I don't really think it's fair for long-time comic readers and fans to suddenly be forced to accept darker, more "adult" versions of characters like Spider-Man or Daredevil, etc. or else be labeled some kind of Nazi book-burner or something. I happen to like action adventure stories that are actually fun to read, and that don't always have to take the graphic violence to the Nth degree. I grew up on the Marvel and DC comics of the 70's and 80's and I really loved the way they were done then.

    There are plenty of places to get "adult" entertainment besides comic-books. But there was no other place to get the kind of fun, fast paced, upbeat action stories that Marvel and DC Comics used to publish. I don't need to see Batman with his teeth knocked out. Yes, I know that would probably happen in the "real world", but that's the whole point of comic-books – it's not supposed to be the real world. Besides there is something kind of unsettling about too much graphic violence and "realism" in stories about people in colorful tights running around fighting crime. When you try to base super heroes too much in "reality", it just makes it seem all the more far-fetched.

    I'm not saying that comic creators should be forced to make all their stories upbeat and hopeful. It would just be nice if they actually wanted to. It's like I say these days… "The world in comic-books used to be a place I wanted to escape to. Now, it's a place I'd want to escape from."

    BTW, LOVED all the Cockrum pieces. Thanks for sharing.

  61. Hi JayJay,

    Thanks so much! I just checked it on my phone and it's working just fine.

  62. Thinking about it, I realize something kind of interesting. Superboy Prime, who is probably one of the worst villains ever as he's essentially the worst elements of the fandom personified; also now feels like the personification of these "book burners". His whole reason for hating everyone is "You're all to dark and violent! Things used to be happy and moral! So I'm gonna kill you all and be the happy moral hero the universe needs!"

  63. Hi Jay B,

    I went into the settings just now and enabled the mobile template. When I set up the blog, they had some message posted about the mobile template not working and after that I forgot all about it. I access the blog on my iPhone with Safari, so it didn't occur to me, sorry.

    But the mobile template should be activated now. Please let me know if there is anything wrong or you see a problem. Thanks for the suggestion!

  64. Keith Dallas

    I'll have to go and double check the dates, but that 1980 SDCC panel might have been soon after The Comics Journal printed an interview with Harlan Ellison in which Ellison asserted Michael Fleisher was certifiably insane. The interview got a lot of industry attention (besides prompting Fleisher to sue Ellison and TCJ), but I bring it up only to shed some light on why the panel might have chosen (rightly or wrongly) to focus on Fleisher.

  65. I read most of Fleisher's Spectre when I was 14 and enjoyed them. It was only later that I discovered that apparently they were too violent and bit sick for kids. Anyway this and Jonah Hex were my favourites of Fleisher's work – his Marvel stuff that I read wasn't up to much. Spider-Woman in particular was awful.

    Keep up the good work, Jim. I am enjoying the blog a lot.

  66. I find this topic interesting because I am already contemplating how I want to introduce my son to comics when he's old enough (he's 4 months old right now). While I would have no problem starting him out on Stan's stuff (I got my start at 7 years old on the Spider-Man Classics reprint series), I'm not sure when I would let him start reading Marvel's current books, Marvel Ages stuff aside.

    I think that there certainly is a place for more "adult" or "mature" stories (eg. Watchmen, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen), but just as we need to do with television and film we need to pre-screen things our kids are going to view, or watch/read it with them to treat it as a teaching tool (not that I'd start a kid out with Spawn or something like that).

    I have a request for JayJay as well; would you be able to enable the Mobile feature for the blog so it can be read on a smartphone? I was away from the computer one day and needed my Shooter fix! It doesn't require any extra work, just enabling the setting (I can hunt exactly how to do it if you need, it wasn't hard to do on my own blog).

  67. Great blog Jim!
    I find it hard to believe and surreal that the people you mentioned were trying to have a panel about morals in all sincerity. As I kept reading it, I found myself waiting for Evanier to announce to the audience, "JUST KIDDING!" Although I suspect there is more to the context of this panel than you mentioned, maybe something being published at the time like Grell's Longbow Hunters which I found offensive, excessive and unjustified, and in fact in the late 80's early 90's there was a lot of excessive violence going on.
    I find this topic quite an interesting one because I'm the first one to denounce censorship of any kind and point out the innocuously offensive movies and comics of the 50's as an example of excessive content control. Just look at the absurd fact that a husband and wife couldn't be shown in the same bed is the 50's. Art should mirror life. Trying to fit life into some inhuman mold just only produces odd art and repressed people. On the other hand, when people take violence to the opposite extreme it is just as perverted as the hyper sensitive type of culture. Art should mimic and comment on real life, no more and no less. When it does I think that's where true art comes out.

  68. I had always heard the story about how you demanded justice for the broccoli people. Never realized that you disputed that version of events.

    By the way, as lame as it would have been to simply depower Jean and return her home, it still would have been preferable to what eventually happened: Dark Phoenix was revealed to be an imposter, and the "real" blameless Jean was returned to continuity in short order. Letdown!

  69. Gregg H

    Personally, in terms or general 'mainstream' stuff, I agree that it is imperitive that the more positive messages be put out there very prominantly. Not saying that ayone has to be FORCED to write or not write anything, but I think that is a real key to not only good storytelling, but the eventual survival of the medium.
    I really don't think that it was a coinsidance that the rise in moral ambiguity on the part of the protaganists happened at the same point when the quality of super hero comics took a dive.

    When charachters like the Punisher started to get treated on an equal footing with actual heroes like Spider-Man for example, the seeds were sown. At least back then the Punisher was treated as an anomoly. A change of pace.
    Now it's like every other charachter has gone from being a super HERO to being some sort of super SPY/ASSASSIN/MILITARY type that shoots first and asks questions maybe later if they get around to it.

  70. Anonymous

    Caped Crusader, you're missing the point.
    But you know that and this isn't the place for you and me to argue. My position on the topic is in my posts above.


  71. Unless you create, own, and control your own characters and stories, Stéphane, your opinion on what others "can write" doesn't mean a whole lot. Creators and publishers are not bound by your personal tastes or sensibilities. The only say you have is whether or not you purchase their books.

  72. Interesting event Jim.

    How do you feel about the Comics Code Authority? It seemed to be very restrictive at times in terms of what a story could or could not contain.

  73. Anonymous

    To Caped Crusader:
    My opinion is that you can write almost whatever you want, as long as you precise it isn't all public on the cover, and as long as it doesn't hurt the characters. If you do out of character violent sex super-heroes stories, do it under something like the Marvel Max label. I don't even mind if they're alternate Spider-Man or X-Men stuff. As long as they're out of continuity and that it is precised they're not all-public. Particularly not for kids.


  74. Vince

    Man how I would have loved to have been at that panel. Suprised how vehemently everyone (except Kliban) was towards Fleisher. For all the SDCC panels I've been to, I've never seen creators attacking another like that.

    My only real exposure to Fleisher has been his Spectre stories, but I was reading them in the late 80s vs. when they were first published so by then to some degree, I was more desensitized to violence.

    Things change unfortunately, and evolve and the comics that were written during Stan and Jack's heyday can't be written now… they just won't be appreciated the same way. I'm going through many of the Essential black and white phonebooks and having a tough time reading what Stan wrote… at the time, I'm sure it was amazing, but today, upon first reading it, it comes off as corny.

    I came into comics somewhere in the mid-70s… things were changing by then and the dialogue and attitudes reflected that change. Comics long ago stopped being for kids, and with the advent of video games, I don't know that that market can ever be completely reestablished. I think extreme violence can be, at least in mainstream hero comics, off panel or toned down, but it's going to be more graphically portrayed for today's audience which is different than 2-3 decades ago.

  75. I still encounter plenty of those "book burners" who insist superhero stories must be told in a certain (sanitized) way. I find that attitude troubling and a little frightening; it seems as though you and Kliban had a similar reaction.

  76. Neil Anderson

    Wow. Great anecdote. I'm a big fan of Mark Evanier, and disappointed to hear he said that. I thought Michael Fleisher's Spectre stories were great entertainment. Actually, although I admire a lot of Wolfman's writing, I have mixed feelings about his Dracula work, which I just read recently in the omnibus volumes…reading those stories, I thought, really, how much of a distinction is there between Dracula and a serial killer like Ted Bundy? At least the people the Spectre killed were real bad guys, and there was the reporter character voicing disapproval. One thing I find really weird has been, for decades now, the disproportionate number of movies giving sympathetic portrayals of paid assassins. I admit to having enjoyed some of those movies, like Grosse Pointe Blank, but I think it's odd–real-life paid assassins, from what I've read, are just serial killers who also get a paycheck.

    I think you made the right call on the Phoenix story–looking at what happened years later, with storylines like Green Lantern killing his entire supporting cast being the worst example that comes to mind, I think there's something to be said for writers who are writing company characters to be held to certain restrictions. No matter how brilliant the writer, when I'm in the mood to read a Spider-man story, I don't particularly want to read a story where he does something ludicrously out of character, like commit murder, or hit his wife, which I'm told he did in a story in the '90's. And then there's the Marvel Zombies stories…I flipped through a volume of that and felt physically ill. Anyways, I digress, but great post. I guess the point I'm making is that if the argument had been that Fleisher's stories were bad because they were out of character for the Spectre, I would have had some sympathy for that argument, except it would have been wrong–the Spectre did that kind of stuff all the time in the old Jerry Siegel stories.

  77. Your reaction to Wolfman's comment on the panel was the exact same one I had when I read that I found Fleisher's stories "vile."

    Whether it was in "The Spectre" series, the "Jonah Hex" book, or during his stint on "Ghost Rider," the violence and the "punishments" dealt out always fit the crime–in that over-the-top, pulp fiction kinda way.

    Yeah, the worlds in Fleisher's comics were pretty ugly places… but no uglier than those in a Gerber comic book or, more to the point of the panel, the one inhabited by Wolfman's "Tomb of Dracula" and "Werewolf by Night."

    How surprising the tenor of that discussion must have been. I'm glad I wasn't there… I would have lost a lot of respect for some people.

  78. Anonymous

    Dear Jim,

    I began to follow Daredevil with the last issue of Marv Wolfman's run, which means that my second issue was the first one of your run. I read previously other issues that belonged to buddies of mine of course, but this is where i began my collection. I loved your run.

    The violence/vile comics thing: On this level i'll tend to agree with Len & all, but with a precision: Super-Heroes comics must, in my opinion, be all age, well writen stories, respectfull of the sensibility and tastes of children but well writen enough to interest adults. Michael Fleisher's stories, like the Specter one you describe, may not be of my taste, yet i have nothing against their publication, simply if it was my decision i would alow it only with the mention that it is for readers above 13 years old, or as they say "mature".

    Stéphane Garrelie

  79. I like the sound effect on the birthday card.

  80. Firestone

    The origin of the 'All These Heroes Are Asleep' panel! Shock! Horror!
    It's a concept that happens again and again, generally at Marvel, a long stack of passed out heroes. Now we know the answer. Really good lunch.

  81. Michael Fleisher. Max Fleischer.

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