One afternoon toward the end of April, 1980, I got a call from Marvel President Jim Galton. He said that Roy Thomas had asked for a meeting with him to discuss renewing his contract with Marvel.
Roy had written a letter dated April 10 (I have the original) to Galton informing him that he had not been able to work out a new contract with me and that he was leaving Marvel. That prompted the call I got from Galton immediately thereafter. He said, among other things, that he thought I’d told him Roy and I had worked out a deal. What happened? What went wrong? How could I lose Roy?
Do you know how important to Marvel Roy must have been for Galton to even know who he was? Galton, the same man who once asked me who Gene Colan was. Galton, who didn’t know who John Byrne was. Or John Buscema. Or anyone else, except Chris Claremont, who had an uncanny (←heh) knack for running into Galton on the elevator and introduced himself.
But Galton knew Roy, the man who had gotten us the Star Wars license among many other things.
In fact, Roy and I had worked out a new contract. On April 1, he sent me a letter that starts:
I’m returning the copies of the contracts you sent me. I will sign them if each of the following changes is made:”
The changes were few and entirely reasonable. No problem. We made them immediately.
I also reassured him regarding his concern that the staff editor who would henceforth be responsible for overseeing the editorial work on his books would not be summarily “overruling” him, that if any disagreements came up, no action would be taken without his consent. If no agreement could be reached, he had outs.
I thought the contract would work well. It brought the logistics in house. No more “branch office” coordination problems, exacerbated by the fact that Roy lived on the West Coast. Central fire control.
Roy would still have in his hands every meaningful, creative part of editing. And was going to be paid better. But I was going to have someone responsible on hand to head off calamities, prevent problems and eliminate the falling-between-the-coasts glitches. By “calamities” I’m speaking mostly of schedule calamities.
It was fine by me for Roy to keep his editor credit. It wasn’t about “demoting” Roy, it was about engineering a system that would work—that would give Marvel full advantage of his super powers with fewer problems.
But Roy had reneged. He changed his mind.
I explained all that to Galton. I suspect he thought, as many people still think to this day, that it was my fault. That I bungled it, or let it drift away from business into ego-rassling or personalities.
One thing about Galton, he was proper about business things. Roy went over my head, and normally, Galton wouldn’t tolerate that. He would have refused the meeting. But, A) Roy was that important, B) he had already quit, so one could argue that this was a new negotiation, and C) Galton’s way of observing proper protocol was by inviting me to the meeting.
So, the next morning, Galton and I were sitting in his office upstairs waiting for Roy to arrive. Galton asked and I explained my position and some of the contentions we’d encountered. Galton had become more adamant than I was about the no-writer-editor thing by this point. As I said, he’d never liked the idea and had hardened against it. However, since Roy had asked for the meeting Galton was confident that a deal could be made. I took that as an instruction to be as reasonable, businesslike, dispassionate and ego-free as possible and make a deal!
Roy arrived. As he entered Galton’s office, he seemed taken aback that I was there. I guess he expected that going over my head was going to keep me out of it, but like I said, that wasn’t Galton’s style.
Roy expressed his interest in continuing to work with Marvel. Galton said he was pleased and hoped we could make that happen. And, again, in keeping with protocol, Galton turned the conversation over to me. I, too, said that we sincerely wanted Roy to stay with Marvel and wanted to work things out. I laid out the terms we proposed. Nothing different than what had been offered before, really, but I tried to reassure Roy that he and I could work together.
Roy agreed to everything. He even seemed comfortable and content with having a staff editor overseeing things.
Galton looked at me as if I must be crazy. It was a look that said, “This is the most reasonable man on Earth. Why couldn’t you work out a deal?”
Galton said it seemed that Roy and I agreed on everything. Why didn’t the two of us go downstairs and sign the contract?
Roy said that there was just one thing…he’d already signed an exclusive contract with DC Comics, but it had an exception that allowed him to keep writing Conan, so what he wanted now was a contract with Marvel to do the Conan books.
Galton looked at Roy as if he must be crazy. It was a look that said, “Suddenly I understand the problem.”
Being ‘exclusive’ at DC but working part-time for us…. What message does that send? We’re the losers in the Roy Thomas sweepstakes but he’s so wonderful and we’re so desperate that we need to cling to any shred of him we can get?
Annoyed big time, Galton told him that we weren’t interested, that Roy had wasted our time and basically, to get out of his office.
Once Roy had been chased away, Galton told me, and this is a quote, “I’ll never doubt you again.”
P.S. And he didn’t, in any significant way. During the JLA/Avengers mess, for instance.
Then why did I walk out of that room feeling like I’d lost?
NEXT: Years Later
Re: Conan & Marvel U. What If…? Vol 2 Issue 16 was "What if Wolverine Battled Conan the Barbarian?" While this was an alternate reality, it was still a crossover of sorts.
Thanks for the info, KintounKal! Fingers crossed that it's accurate. ;^)
Turok, Son of Stone #3 and Doctor Solar, Man of the Atom #8 are expected to ship on 9/14/2011 according to Previews' Upcoming Releases list found at
Maybe it's just me, but from reading in-between the lines of Jim's comments over the past couple months it sounds like it might be the artists who are delaying publication of some of the Dark Key books.
That is a great painting of Stan, JayJay. It reminds me of how a character would look in a Drew Struzan movie poster. For some reason the scans of that cover online make it really look like a photograph. Maybe they're just not high quality enough scans. I know I had that issue at the time and am pretty sure I took it as a photograph then too, because it always stood out to me when Marvel used photos on a cover instead of artwork. To me, though, that's a compliment to the art. If it didn't look like Stan, that would have been a problem!
I don't know. Can anyone help?
Mr. Shooter: Thanks for starting this blog. It is absolutely fascinating! Also, thanks for posting the info about Turok ending with #4. One question: do you have any idea when #3 & #4 will come out? Unless I've missed one, the last issue I've seen is #2. I can't get any answers from the publisher, either. Thanks in advance!
Thank you for redeeming me.
What makes this blog great – Bob Budiansky gets mentioned above, then he actually posts a comment zinging Shooter!
I freelanced for Bob over at Scholastic a few years back. He (rightfully) expected a lot and was extremely generous with his time. The result was a better final product.
Sheesh. Still can't get a break from Budiansky, not even a "That'll do, pig." Told you he was tough.
Jim, I could have been tougher–as soon as you announced you were going to write Secret Wars II and I was to be the editor, Carl Potts kept urging me to preemptively fire you as writer since inevitably every issue you wrote would be late and tie up the production department, preventing other books (like his) from staying on schedule. (I think Carl's prediction was basically accurate.) But when I considered how much later SWII would probably be if I hired a different writer and then revised each issue as per your comments once you gave each issue a final read before it went to the printer, I concluded that keeping you on as writer was the better option!
You know, it's such a funny thing… when I was younger all I tried to do all the time was get better at drawing. It was a complete obsession. Later I discovered that doing art is so much more than drawing well. I still strive all of the time to learn new techniques, improve my interpretation and communication of the subject, come up with better ideas and even try to learn to market my art, which is the hardest of all. Mastering everything seems impossible, but I'm inspired by people who have managed it. I do love to take classes. SVA and a couple of other schools here in NYC have very good ones.
Wow! That is amazing art! I wish I could draw a tenth as well as that.
"There's nothing I've ever done that I don't look back on and think it could be better. "
Sign of a true artist!
Thanks for sharing that with us, JayJay!
Well, Salicrup paid me to do a painting based on a photograph that he gave me and so he pointed out that the painting was so close to the photo (with some improvements) that he could have just used the photo retouched. I can't argue with that. It was the 80's, I was young, I was very taken with the work of Chuck Close and Chris Achilleos and even Richard Amsel was an influence, so what can I say? There's nothing I've ever done that I don't look back on and think it could be better.
geez can not believe roy wound up after originaly getting every thing he wanted in early contract to stay with marvel wound up in the end saying a big fu to marvel by a having a exclusive with dc but saying oh i want to write the conan book with marvel. too bet Galton and you never made that mistake again ever
@JayJayJackson. The Stan Lee painting has a Gerhard Richter quality to it. I like it.
JayJay, I took about a half dozen night classes at SVA myself over the years, learned a lot.
jims wrote "Dear ncaligon,
Roy left no inventory of scripts. I don't know what you mean."
I didn't mean an inventory of scripts, sorry about that, but of finished jobs. Although he left in early/mid 1980, he's still the writer for the 1981 and '82 Conan annuals. Lead stories in "Savage Sword" well into '81, and backups until 1984. A Red Sonja miniseries dated '83.
It was like he was producing the REHoward stuff faster than Marvel could publish it and falling behind for everything else.
When I first saw that painting on your website not too long ago, I thought it was a photo! I don't see why "it wasn't entirely successful as a cover." The issue was about Stan and your painting looks like him and portrays him in a positive way, so I don't see any problem.
It's hard to believe that you painted this cover and drew Shirt Stories. You have range!
Thanks for IDing the issue. I don't have that one yet, but I will soon!
I don't think that's really true. People don't generally edit themselves anymore but Geoff Johns is now 'chief creative officer' at DC (which is pretty much a line wide editorial position I think, Joe Quesada has the same title) while writing three books, Dan Didio's writing as DC's publisher and did so sometimes as senior editor as well. Paul Levitz is apparently officially an editor now and he's writing comics as well. Ironically, it seems to be more of a DC thing these days for there to be a writer/editorial continuum. Although perhaps that's partially because Joe Quesada was a penciller, not a writer before becoming EiC, and back when Bill Jemas was publisher at Marvel he did write a few things.
Thanks Bosch! I was taking night classes at SVA at the time and Salicrup (who's always been in my corner) got me to do the painting for him based on the ones I had done in class. I had done some pretty fun spot illustrations for the Doctor Who magazine before and he always like those.
Great painting, JayJay, it was for the cover of Marvel Age #41
I don't remember. It would have been in 1986 or 87 I think, but here is a jpeg of the painting. It wasn't entirely successful as a cover. Jim Salicrup used it but he thought it was too photorealistic, and he was right. It could be mistaken for a photo at first glance. Stan Lee Painting
I was wondering the same thing. I will soon have a complete set of Shooter-era Marvel Age and I have many post-1987 issues, so it's likely that I have (or will have) JayJay's cover painting.
When I mentioned Sol Brodsky, I forgot to note that I'm interested to see what you meant when you wrote that Sol Brodsky "wasn’t finished making significant contributions."
it seems like Roy wanted to go to DC but also wanted to keep a foot at Marvel. It would have been better to be upfront with Jim Shooter from the start and perhaps something could have been fashioned.
Getting the President involved was probably to try and keep the door open in the future.
JayJay, as I see things, you were one of the founders of VALIANT, DEFIANT, and Broadway, and the impression I have is that founders have to be flexible jacks of all trades like you and Jim. Tons of things to be done and few people to do them, so you end up doing them, regardless of your job title.
That's the situation Stan Lee was in 50 years ago. At the bottom of the pages of some of those monster books, there are some crudely lettered taglines (stuff like "Who is the HULK?" — sorry, not the exact wording) not in the styles of Art Simek, Joe Rosen, or any of the other pros. I suspect Sol Brodsky or Stan Lee wrote them. A lack of boundaries between staff and side work obviously didn't hurt Marvel or the trinity of Jim's companies, at least judging from their output. But as I've learned from Jim, such anarchy can't last in a huge organization. Marvel in 1978 couldn't be run like Marvel in 1961.
What issue of Marvel Age?
How very odd… I freelanced doing coloring, designing logos, doing spot illustrations and once a cover painting for Marvel Age while I was on staff at Marvel but it never occurred to me to think of things like that as side work at VALIANT, DEFIANT or Broadway. Marvel was just a whole different situation. It was so big and established. At the other companies we were all part of creating something from the beginning. I suppose it gives you a very different perspective.
The situation I inherited at Marvel included staff people of every stripe doing freelance work on the side. Some production people did lettering, a few staff artists drew stories or covers occasionally, many editorial people did some writing and various people did coloring. That situation came about in large measure because staff work paid poorly. Art, writing, etc., also paid poorly, but doing some after hours provided a little supplementary income.
Even Editors in Chief did freelance on the side. Sometimes it was built into their contracts. Gerry Conway's EIC contract, for instance, called for him to write three books a month freelance.
I found the policy of staff people doing freelance odd and full of potential for abuse, but once a thing like that is entrenched it's hard to change.
So, yes, there were editors serving as writers for other editors' books. That tees up a "you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours" situation. Also, it makes it easy for editors to cherry-pick the available work for each other.
I wrote as much as I could (when work was available) while I was associate editor to make ends meet. When I became EIC I gave up the books I had to non-staff writers and even gave up plotting the strip for Stan — largely because I didn't have time, but also because I felt I shouldn't be freelancing for the editorial department I was running.
I wrote stories sometimes when I felt I had to — if there was no one else appropriate and available, or if there was some other reason. I always assigned an editor to oversee those books, and absolutely stayed out of editorial decisions they would make normally, i.e., artists, letterers, etc. I felt it was wrong to use my power to commandeer the top-of-the-line talent as all other Editors in Chief before me, save Archie, had done. Therefore, for instance, I almost always I got Denise Wohl as letterer — a choice other writers resisted and complained about because she lettered "too big." Since I was less verbose than most and good at copy placement, no problems. The fact is that Denise was an excellent letterer. I loved her work and would have chosen her anyway if I had made the choice. She did great, John Costanza style lettering, though not as small and compact as Joe Rosen's or Tom Orz's. So I won one, there.
You might ask, could a subordinate really edit the boss's work? I acknowledge that on the face of it, it seems unlikely — but, the people I hired as editors, in general, were not timid types. Bob Budiansky in particular was one tough, demanding editor. Sheesh.
But I digress.
Yes, I took the money. I needed it. Despite the raise I got going from associate editor to EIC, because I did very little freelance, I actually made less money the first year.
I was slowly working toward eliminating staff people doing freelance. For one thing, I instituted a sales incentive bonus for editors, like the royalties paid to writers and artists, trying to make being an editor-only a more attractive proposition. I also raised the base editorial pay scale substantially. Make that the entire Marvel creative pay scale.
I never got the entire mission accomplished though.
At my own companies, subsequently — VALIANT, DEFIANT and Broadway Comics, staffers did not do freelance work. If anyone on staff did any writing, penciling, whatever, it was part of their staff job and not an after hours/extra pay thing.
To Anonymous (one of them!)
You said :
"I've only read the Dark Horse reprints up to Roy's departure. The next batch of writers weren't as good. And didn't John Buscema said that he had to take over the plotting just to make sure Conan stories were any good?"
Yep, although that didn't last long (a couple of issues, tops). After Roy's departure, writers J.M. DeMatteis, Bruce Jones and Michael Fleisher wrote Conan the barbarian, while the latter two (mostly) handled Savage sword of Conan. All of them wrote competent, generic sword and sorcery fiction, but none of them "got" Conan. It was as if someone hired to write a sequel to The Lord of the Rings started churning out Dungeons and Dragons adventures; it would look somewhat the same, but the soul wouldn't be there. Readers had to wait for the arrival of Jim Owsley / Christopher Priest for CtB to regain some of its interest. (After which there was another era of dismal stories, before the return of Roy).
And yet, as Jim pointed out, the mags sold more then than during Roy's tenure. I am convinced that can be in large part ascribed to the Conan movies, which gave the name a lot of visibility. The letters page from that period would tend to confirm that. Furthermore, Conan then became a new hot commodity, with TOR books publishing a series of very forgettable novels, and multi-players games being sold. All of which brought new readers to the comics, new readers who were quite content with the endlessly repetitive adventures of a guy in a loincloth waving a sword at wizards and uttering one-liners. (Which is most definitely NOT what a Conan book should be!)
Your opinion on the stories' quality itself is largely shared by the Conan fandom: perusing at the Conan.com message boards will easily confirm that. Of course, we're talking about decades-old fans, and we all know how hard to please they can be!
All this talk about writer/editors and conflict of interest got me thinking about the distinction between the 2 positions. I know that Roger Stern started as an editor and later took on writing, and I also know that Tom Defalco was editing Amazing Spider-Man and a few issues later started writing it (in the meantime he had been replaced as editor by Danny Fingeroth).
So my question to you Jim is, when you were at Marvel, was there any time where someone was writer-only on some titles and editor-only on others? Or was it that when an editor started writing, they had to give up editing altogether and work solely as a writer (and vice versa)? Was there any kind of policy regarding that?
Not that it matters to me either way, I'm just curious.
Sorry to say I never revered Roy's Marvel work – it was good, especially The Avengers run, but Buscema's art was the main draw for me.
Again on Conan – stories were 'meh' but the art, in the early years, was stunning.
I was always confused why he was rated as just-below-Stan at Marvel.
Also good call on the dusty & ja 'ex-couple' bickering.
This is the best inside-comics blog around for us old timers – let's not litter it with juvenile arguements; if you want those there's lots of other forums/blogs.
Blok 4 Prez
I never got into Conan, but did enjoy Roy's run on Avengers (read in the Essential books in the last few years.) And as a kid I loved All-Star Squadron and liked (although didn't love) Infinity Inc. Something about those team books worked for me, it seems.
Are there other works of his I should look into? He's got such an amazing rep — heck, Jim thinks he's the best Marvel had in the 70s — so what should I pick up if I get the chance?
I was a big comic fan back in the 70's/80's and a big fanzine collector and remember well how big it was when Thomas left Marvel to move over to DC. DC expected big things from Thomas but he never really did anything spectacular for them. Wolfman and Perez were the real jewels taken from Marvel and did well at DC.
Something that always stayed with me was how back then I made up my mind to side with Thomas and hate Shooter but a few years after Thomas was at DC, I got to meet both of them at a convention in Chicago (actually Rosemont). Thomas was about the biggest asshole I had ever met while Jim spent a few hours just bullshitting with me about comics and Marvel. They stuck Jim in this little room off to the side of the convention so there was only room for a few people at a time and I felt bad for Jim because it was a hot summer and the hotel's ac was weak to say the least but he was good natured and easy to talk to. That afternoon was one of my favorite memories of any convention I had ever attended.
I don't know any of the parties involved, so I can only hope Mr. Thomas, as a creative type rather than a business type, didn't realize that what he was doing was bad faith; perhaps he was naive enough to think that it wasn't vital to provide such information. Mr. Galton, being a business professional, probably saw it for what it was regardless of how it was intended.
If I had a meeting with someone to negotiate in good faith a contract and then found out midway thru (or at the end of) the meeting that he had already signed a conflicting contract elsewhere and essentially wasted my time, I would never do business with that person again. It's an act of bad faith to withhold such information at the beginning.
Maybe Mr. Thomas should have asked about staying on "Conan" prior to entering into a contract with D.C. rather than after the fact.
Considering that today, not only are writers not allowed to edit their own work, but editors aren't allowed to write at all, that has to be seen as a vindication of your position. Clearly there's a consensus that it's a conflict of interest.
You're right. I'm here for the same reason.
I'll try not to lapse into that again.
I don't really understand why Roy working for DC but still working on Conan is a problem, i guess i can see Galton's point by letting one of your biggest "names" to go to DC and being upset that he wasted his time by already signing the contract and not telling anyone at Marvel was probably a mistake.
I wonder if things would have really worked out tho since it seems that Roy had pretty much made up his mind at that point and didn't even tell Galton or Jim that he was going to be exclusive to DC.
Just an observation from a lurker, but Dusty and JA, you are making this blog tedious for the rest of us. I'm here to read and learn insider history and enjoy observations and comments, and I don't see why either of you care if the other doesn't share your opinion. No one's asking you to go into business together, so please just agree to disagree.
If you call someone and then put them on hold to take another call, YOU are the one being rude. Roy Thomas was right to hang up on you.
When you place a phone call to someone, you are asking for his valuable time. Roy gave you his time, and then you essentially told him his time was not valuable to you and took another call that was valuable to you.
Etiquette and respect for Roy dictate that you should have finished your call with Roy, then call back whoever was on the other line afterwards.
I did rise to the bait. I shouldn't have.
Geez, guys. Stop it already.
Considering that you're stating something without qualifying it with specific examples, you're just coming across as being rude for no reason.
If you (or anyone else, please) want to help me out with any specific examples of how I made no points at all, then I'd be more than happy to reassess the way I write my opinions.
But until then, it just seems apparent that you like to pick on people for no good reason, and I'm the closest convenient target.
Well done. Zero points to you for being a jerk.
Seriously, you're just talking a lot and blowing hot air without saying anything. Maybe you just aren't good at articulating. Or maybe you were trained in past jobs how to say a lot without saying anything, and thinking that trying those tactics will deflect. It does do that when you're dealing with idiots, but when you're dealing with people who aren't, it makes you look and sound ridiculous. That's one to grow on for ya!
I've only read the Dark Horse reprints up to Roy's departure. The next batch of writers weren't as good. And didn't John Buscema said that he had to take over the plotting just to make sure Conan stories were any good?
Jim, honestly, I was 11 years old when all this went down. I don't have a personal stake in it. I just more found it interesting, if not bizarre, the degree of variance both accounts were.
If anything, I favour your account because you have the carbons (yes I remember those) and in the Alter Ego interview I quote from Roy sounds pretty much bitter with everyone– Marvel, DC, Shooter, Giordano… I bought it for the reminisces of one of my favourite writers growing up and regretted the discovery that one of my favourite writers growing up is very pricklish.
I would get voice-recognition software, but I'm afraid it will constantly misspell all my curse words.
ja said: "Have you ever looked into voice recognition software, that types the words you speak? That way you can speak from your hand-written notes, and then go into the text to tidy up any glitches."
That's a really great suggestion. voice recognition has come so far! I downloaded Dragon Dictation for my iPhone and I have been amazed at how well it works.
Yeah, you got me. All I do is type. And kiss up. And not make any points.
Except for the ones I actually made. But thanks for the unfair characterization.
Everybody knew Roy was guaranteed the top rate, so many writers who thought they had clout demanded the "Roy rate." It became the benchmark, the starting point for negotiations. In my opinion, Roy deserved to be a step or two above all others.
If anyone is wondering, I kept my page rate in the middle of the pack, $6-10 dollars/page below Roy's, though the financial officer repeatedly told me that I should give myself a raise, that upper management expected the EIC to give himself the top rate. (The writers page rates at that time were in the twenties and low-to-mid thirties, by the way.) When Mike Hobson came in as publisher and found out I wasn't at the top of the scale, he insisted that I should be on par with Archie Goodwin and other top guns.
Dusty – in 1980, I was a pretty serious comic book reader and while there was no internet then, there were a lot of fanzines and they were bought and read by a rapidly growing fan base. The influence of those fans and their perceptions definitely started to have an effect on editorial comic book decisions, as the casual newsstand comic book-buyer was becoming extinct thanks to the growth of the fan market. Believe me, in 1980, Roy Thomas leaving Marvel was a pretty big deal. Just like, in 1970, Jack Kirby leaving Marvel for DC was a big deal. Somebody was buying and reading all of those fanzines and the publishers knew it, which is why they started aiming some of their publishing decisions towards those fans, so that by the mid-80s or so, the casual newsstand comic book buyer was extinct. You might not have been plugged-in to what was going on in those pre-internet days, but others were.
You're really not making any points. You're just doing a lot of typing.
I loved the Jim Owsley Conan stuff. I remember a series that became one of a lost direction. Couldn't keep a writer for long. Tried to bring in Gil Kane and that didn't work, so Ernie Chan was brought back in to ink it to make it look like the Conan everybody loved until Buscema came back. It wasn't until Owsley came aboard that any stability came back to the series, and it was a low seller by then.
Jim, when I said "not allowing Roy", I was referring to Marvel instead of you specifically. Sorry for not being more clear. I realize by your comments that Galton was the boss. I also realize when he said he would never doubt you again, that you could have probably put that to the test and said let Roy continue with Conan.
Well, when Byrne intimates that Roy pulled/tore pages out of a book as a plot, the threat of a libel suit ended that tiff. Are you sure that's what Roy * actually* did?
That's what John Buscema told me. I believed him. If Roy says it never happened, I don't know, maybe John was exaggerating. It certainly didn't matter to me either way. Nothing wrong with using the R.E.H. material.
I'm not that tall, so I would have to kiss 'up' to Jim, if that is what I were doing.
But it's not.
I've been involved in a number of businesses. I learned a lot about how to operate a business from the inside. One aspect of that was that of competition and public perception, which applies to this topic.
As an example, I was part of a small 'boutique' animation company that was looking to make a huge step up in profile. I came on board, and worked for almost 4 years helping this company achieve great things in crushingly small time frames. We all did ridiculous things to accomplish 'big time' things with a 'small time' studio. I got to see how the 'business sausage' was made on so many levels, it was dizzying.
In doing my job, I had to be aware of most every aspect of how the business would be affected by how I performed my duties.
I have other examples, but suffice it to say that when Jim talks about the business aspect of the Roy Thomas situation (and others), there is great merit to what he has to say.
IT'S COMMON SENSE.
But thank you for your simplistic and asinine response to my point.
Roy should reread his own letters, if he has carbons. (Carbons! God, we're old!) His letter of April 1, 1978 says he'll sign the contract if a few minor changes are made. The changes were small increases in his rates for editorial work and cover designs/copy; also an out clause he could exercise giving two months notice during the first year if he felt things weren't working. I agreed. Done deal. Doesn't that, and the correspondence leading up to it constitute negotiations? The meeting in Galton's office happened as described.
Dear John D.,
If Howard the Duck disappeared from the sub ads because it was cancelled, late 1979, I think. I don't remember anything about Conan the Barbarian being dropped from the sub ads. Was it?
The licensor wouldn't allow crossovers with the Marvel Universe. Or, at least they were reluctant to allow it. I know Roy never wanted crossovers. Fine by me.
Invaders sold okay at first, then later not so well. I know that because Roy mentions it in one of his letters, which I just reread for the blog.
I don't remember the reason for the gap before Invaders #41.
lol Guys, some of you need to keep it real here with your comments. There was no internet back in 1980, and it wouldn't have looked like Marvel lost anything. Nobody would have known anything about anything other than Roy was working for both companies, and many people wouldn't have even known that. I didn't read DC and would have just assumed business as usual as I kept buying Roy Thomas written Conans. Again, there was no internet. Perspective is needed by some of you.
Conan sold better after Roy left than it did before, whatever you may think of what Hama and co. did with it. No collapse occurred.
Where did you get the notion that I didn't "allow" Roy to continue on Conan? Galton ruled against Roy working part-time for Marvel. Can't say I thought he was wrong, but it was not my call at that point.
It made plenty of difference to Galton, apparently.
I did my best to keep Roy. If you were in my place, maybe a lot of things would have gone differently, but as is, what could have happened, did.
"Then it just becomes a battle of egos on all parts.
You could say that. But such things happen in every kind of business, the comics industry is just no exception. Didn't Jim mention, a couple of posts ago, that Roy's contract demanded that no one have a higher page rate than him? (correct me if I'm wrong). He obviously cared about how he was perceived within the company. That could be called an ego thing but it's understandable for any professional who has earned it.
Galton accepting Roy just for Conan while he was exclusive to DC would look like Marvel lost the battle for Roy but Roy decided to be generous to the losers. Now, as a fan I only care that I get the best combination of books and creators and I don't really care about such things, but from a business point of view I understand people caring about the image they give within the industry.
You sound like you are kissing up to Jim.
Well, when Byrne intimates that Roy pulled/tore pages out of a book as a plot, the threat of a libel suit ended that tiff. Are you sure that's what Roy * actually* did?
becomes = become
Holy crap, I just suggested to Jim Shooter that he becomes his own writer/editor.
It's funny, I was reading Roy's account of coming to DC in Alter Ego 100 just the other night. Here's two of the things he said (offered without comment on my part):
"I phoned Paul Levitz– he was editorial coordinator then–and told him I wanted to leave Marvel, since I felt Shooter had dealth less than honorably with me with regard to contract negotiatons, something I took very personally and very hard. Paul said 'Fine' and that was that. I promptly informed Shooter I was leaving when my contract ran out later that year. I didn't try to negotiate with Marvel. Well, actually, [publisher] Stan and [president] Jim Galton had me drop by the Marvel offices to talk when I came to New York to meet with DC in the interim, but by then it was pretty much too late, since they hadn't really any assurances to offer. What was done was done."
"…part of the disagreement between Shooter and me was that I'd told him I wouldn't sign another contract with Marvel unless it was another writer/editor contract. That was what I felt he'd been dishonest with me about–at the very least, in a Clintonesque sense. I figured, if I'm not gong to be an editor at Marvel, what the hell?– I might as well not be an editor at DC."
@Brent: I agree that Jim's blog is interesting enough to check in on every day. I actually feel frustration when there's no entry for that day, or whenever the entry is (in my opinion) too short.
But I try to keep in mind that this is Jim Shooter's (for lack of a better word) 'gift' to all of us. For free, to boot.
I just assume that whenever there's no post, it's either the weekend where Jim is living his life, or he's got actual paying work to do, which supersedes any blog entries we Pavlovians line up for every day.
@Benoît: It's business. Roy Thomas acted in an 'un-business-like' manner. It shouldn't matter how good he was. He done peckered the poop trap (I love being colloquial) with the way he went about things.
It was right that Jim Galton showed him the door. Shame on him for acting like a child about it.
@Anonymous: "Then it just becomes a battle of egos on all parts."? Wrong. It's business. See above peckered/poop trap comment.
@Marc: Malice aforethought or otherwise, doesn't play into this. It IS a business. There IS competition between the companies, like it or not. Therefore public perception must be a huge consideration. Even if Roy had no malice in what he did, he still pulled a bait-and-switch that ultimately would have made Marvel look bad.
Also, if you wish to get into the mechanics of "deception", then consider Roy going over Jim's head. Or the fact that he did not disclose his DC contract upfront. That was a willful choice on Roy's part. Disrespectful of Jim and Mr. Galton, too.
@Dusty: It seems very much that you saying you "would have taken the deal" is a 'fan' decision. Not a business one.
The difference is (as Jim has stated several times now) that Roy Thomas was a 'marquee' name that had quit Marvel, signed an exclusive contract with DC (Marvel's competitor), but who also wanted an exception to write Conan, which (in a business sense) would have been a thumb in the eye of Marvel.
If you were in charge at Marvel and had "taken the deal", then you would not have served your company very well. These matters of business are crucial to the running of any competitive business, in any industry.
@Jim Shooter: It must be torture for you to type all these entries (not to mention replies to the entries' replies) with your 'hunt & peck' typing.
Have you ever looked into voice recognition software, that types the words you speak? That way you can speak from your hand-written notes, and then go into the text to tidy up any glitches.
Just a thought.
Thank you so much for this blog.
No way Roy was overrated. And I loved his All Star Squadron run until the Crisis made it disappear.
Anonymous said: "In Roy's defense, it sounds like writer/editors were being pushed out and he found a company more amenable to his perspective."
Yeah, right. Roy, like Marv, left Marvel in a huff because they would not be allowed to maintain writer/editor status in a way that pleased them, so they went to DC…..where they weren't allowed to be writer/editors.
Rick Dee – when Colan and Roy and Marv first went to DC in the early 80s, I think their contracts were exclusive. That other work you cite was stuff they worked on later, after their exclusive contracts expired and the new contracts weren't exclusive. Frankly, based on their output when they first joined DC, I suspect that DC wasn't interested in keeping them exclusive anymore.
For the life of me, I cannot understand why so many revere Roy's early 80s DC stuff, especially the GA JSA material. Has anyone re-read them lately? They don't age well – the dialogue and narrative captions are way over-written and the plots are self-indulgent masturbatory GA stuff.
As for "treating the GA JSA with respect," try to dig up the 18 issues written by Len Strazewski in the early 90s – now THAT's good stuff. Just because Roy loved the GA doesn't mean that love translated into good writing.
And while I'm slaughtering more sacred cows, same thing with Marv's Teen Titans – this is DC trying to be Marvel in the worst way and it was mostly made bearable by Perez' art.
Also, Rick, your response to Jay Austin's post, "Then it just becomes a battle of egos on all parts," seems to come out of nowhere. I don't see it as a battle of egos – Roy, for whatever reason(s), signed an exclusive contract with DC, perhaps not wisely (because it didn't sound like his discussions with Marvel were truly resolved). He then enters into a meeting to resolve the issue and fails to lead with, "Oh, by the way, I'm exclusive with DC, so let's start there." Ego has nothing to do with it – it looked like he was jacking Marvel around and I do not blame Galton or Jim for their reaction.
Roy was one of the best writers of the 70s, albeit slightly overrated, and like a lot of the big names at Marvel from the 70s, he couldn't be a part of Marvel's expansion, under Jim, towards being a profitable, more-professional company, because he could no longer have his way.
I respect both Jim and Roy, but it was kind of sneaking for Roy to not tell the both of them that he'd signed an exclusive contract with Dc at the BEGINNING of the meeting. Bad form. If he thought he was right , why wait til the end to lay that bomb on them?
To John_Dunbar . . .
My memory is not of the best but I believe Thomas/Buscema did a What If story where Conan came to the Modern (well mid-Seventies) and that there was a pair of follow up done by different teams concerning Conan remaining in the Present and Wolverine being cast back to what ever the Conan time frame was called.
After reading this and a bit on Wikipedia, I kind of get the impression Roy Thomas didn't like Jim or dealing with him (whether it was the Mort connection or not, I don't know).
I enjoyed reading about the whole Writer/Editor thing. Thanks again for such an interesting blog, Jim. 🙂
A few questions if I may:
Did the acrimonious departures of Roy, and Steve Gerber, from Marvel have anything to do with Conan and HTD disappearing from the subscription ads around 1980? Maybe I'm remembering it wrong, but it seems like Conan and Howard were front and center in the ads of the 1970's.
Were there ever plans to use Conan as a guest star in the modern MU, or have Spidey or the FF or anyone guest in Conan's books (or did it happen and I missed it)? Is that something you or Roy or both of you would have fought against doing?
Was there any story behind the story of the cancellation of The Invaders, or was it just the usual, that is, low sales? Any reason that you can remember why there was a three month gap between Invaders 41 (the final issue, which was double sized) and the previous issue. You make reference to Roy being very late with some books, was that all it was or was there more to it?
Jim, after seeing how Conan completely collapsed and never fully recovered again, do you regret not allowing Roy to continue with Conan?
I would have taken that deal. What else was Roy doing at Marvel at the time? I remember he was doing Thor, too, and while it was decent, he was certainly replaceable on that. He was significant on Conan, but was no longer significant writing in Marvel Universe titles like he used to be, so what difference did it really make?
Turok ends with #4, the last story of the first arc.
Roy left no inventory of scripts. I don't know what you mean.
Yes, Roy tore chapters out of paperbacks which he sent to Buscema as plots. I didn't know anticipating leaving was the reason, if it was.
I have not problem believing what Jim is stating about Roy Thomas. I've had exactly one encounter with the man and it remains with me today, not because of how cool it was but because of how suprisingly rude he was.
During the early 90s, I worked at a comic book store and had contacted Roy by phone about the possibility of doing a signing. I had explained who I was, where I worked and that I was calling him from my place of business regarding a signing. Things were fine but at some point, the other line rang in and I explained to Roy that I needed to put him on hold and answer it as it was the business line.
I was gone for MAYBE 30-45 seconds. When I clicked back the line was empty. I hung up and called Roy back. I apologized and said I must have disconnected him accidentally and again apologized for my mistake.
He told me that I hadn't disconnected him, he had hung up on me because he didn't do call waiting and shouldn't have been put on hold.
I remember clear as day not being sure how to respond to that… shocked that someone had that kind of attitude. I've thought about that day from time to time, trying to rationalize what occurred. Sure, he could have been having a bad day, but regardless, being that rude was uncalled for and it came off as so sanctimonious that I had no interest to spend my money for his time, air or hotel.
Dear Rick Dee,
Len says I promoted the "rivalry?" Is there any negative thing I didn't cause, and wickedness available I didn't work?
I'm surprised at Len. He knows better.
By "rivalry," I assume you mean the unfriendliness some people at DC showed toward Marvel in general and me in particular. I don't think Marvel people, including me, had much negative to say about DC in general or people there in public or even in private. The only exception I can think of was my one-shot defense against the many diatribes coming out of DC regarding the JLA/Avengers mess. If you can show me some anti-DC vitriol coming from Marvel people, or refresh me about some occasion, I'll give you my take on it.
The unfriendliness between DC and Marvel evolved over a period of time. Contributing factors were:
1) the fact that we started outselling them by a lot. It got to the point, by the end of my tenure, that we were over 69% of the market and they were about 18%. When I started, by the way, we were roughly even, perhaps with them a little ahead, both in the low 30's percentage wise. Our sales dominance baffled them. It pissed them off. They had occasional successes, but their successes sold like our middle-of-the-road books. Our lowest tier books generally sold better than their highest tier regular books.
2) As a result, we paid more and our royalties were many times higher, so we were able to attract most of the top talent. Only a few, three or four, DC books paid royalties at all, and not much. Every Marvel book, with rare exceptions, paid royalties, some huge amounts. $.75 X-Men comics paid the writer and artists a combined $22,000+ in royalties per issue. Teen Titans, DC's best book, paid the writer and artists a combined $2,000. (Marvel had a better royalty plan, by the way.) They could lure away a guy here and there with some customized offer, but we had many showing up for every one that left. Also, "names" who went to DC didn't tend to do as well there (there are exceptions, of course). Some came back. This annoyed DC people.
3) When Marvel moved downtown, the pick-up volleyball games in Central Park ended. Those social occasions involving people from all companies were great bridge-builders and fence menders.
4) DC gradually accumulated people who left Marvel, some on bad terms, and therefore bitter.
5) The JLA/Avengers mess didn't help.
6) Vilifying me was a way of attempting to scare talent away from Marvel. Sometimes our editors had to convince new talent that I didn't bite before he or she would accept a gig.
Roy is getting to write Conan again now (and doing a pretty fair job of it). Mr Shooter: Will there be more Turok? I really enjoyed the two issues that came out recently.
I always thought that Roy's writer/editor time at DC was his finest hour. He simply tried to continue at DC what he'd done at Marvel and most of it was tied to the Golden Age. After Crisis, the readership changed somewhat and he was typecast. But besides Julie and Gardner and company, he's the only writer to treat the GAers with respect.
I'd thought Roy's problems with deadlines weren't so much with being slow as with just not caring very much about the contemporary books he was handling. Didn't he leave Marvel with an inventory of Conan/REHoward stories that took years to run through?
Of course, I remember Roy writing (somewhere) Roy answering a question about what he'd do if he knew he were going to be leaving marvel/the comics business, how would he finish up, and his answer was that he'd adapt every Howard story, Conan and otherwise, that he could get his hands on. And that was pretty much how he spent the year leading up to his departure, judging by the stories that saw print after he left for DC. He didn't leave much in the way of original stories for the monthly.
The most surprising thing about his run at DC was how little of what we worked on for them proved durable. Lots of what Roy started for or brought to Marvel would run and run, but I don't think anything he worked up at DC outlasted him.
Thanks for clearing up my misunderstanding. I see where Galton was coming from now. Until you revealed the twist, I too thought "Roy wanted to discuss working full time under contract with Marvel." Maybe Roy figured
(1) If DC was OK with him writing Conan even though DC wasn't making any money from Conan, why would Marvel object? Marvel, unlike DC, was making money from Conan.
(2) everything he discussed with Galton and you would apply to Conan, even though he hadn't mentioned Conan up to that point.
(3) Galton had no investment in the characters, so what did it matter if he (Roy) only wrote one of them?
The trouble was that it did matter for the reasons you explained.
You misunderstand. "Bait and switch" applies only to that meeting. Galton was convinced that Roy wanted to discuss working full time under contract with Marvel. If Roy had been upfront about what he had in mind, Galton would have refused the meeting. If Roy had opened the talk with what he had in mind, the meeting would have been much shorter. Galton was truly pissed that Roy had "wasted his time." He even said he ought to send him a bill for the time. No, of course he wasn't serious, but it wasn't ha-ha kidding, it was angry words.
Now I see how awkward the situation could have been. The counterargument, I suppose, would be that Marvel promoting, say, Conan isn't going to boost All-Star Squadron because the audiences would be different in theory … but in reality, I was reading both! Oops.
I've long wondered how Roy felt about not being able to work on his beloved JSA for much of his comics career … and how he felt about Crisis. I probably have the answers somewhere. I have piles of unread Alter Ego issues. Maybe someday I'll find those answers.
Putting myself into Roy's shoes again, the opportunity to work on such beloved characters couldn't be passed up … but he did build the Conan line at Marvel and may have felt he deserved to keep it.
So was it at this time that the rivalry between DC and Marvel started? In the Titans Companion book, Len Wein says rivalry didn't exist (and you've stated as much) but that it was promoted by you.
Thanks for the clarification. I obviously wasn't there, so I could be wrong, but I don't think that was necessarily a "bait and switch" situation if Roy had changed his mind between his last contact with you and the meeting with Galton. As you wrote in the previous installment, "I think we both sincerely believed in the validity of our positions […] I don't think there ever was any malice on Roy’s side." But "bait and switch" tactics are deceptive and malicious. My conclusion: If Roy had no malice (and I never thought he did), he didn't pull a "bait and switch."
Galton didn't like the idea and I didn't either. If the stringers work both sides of the street, that's one thing, but your marquee star splitting time is another. How do you promote your share of his work without tacitly endorsing theirs? What's the guy going to say in interviews? Etc. I think Galton was also angered by Roy's bait-and-switch tactic.
Yes, you are right. But if Roy had gone back on his contract with DC, he might never again have had the chance to work on his childhood favorites — the Golden Age JSA. So he probably was caught between a rock and a hard place and went with his first impression.
Sorry about the erratic posting lately. Sometimes other parts of life interfere. I'm trying to get back into the routine.
My reaction? Surprise. It wasn't what I was expecting. Bait and switch.
Thanks for the info on "exclusive except for…" deals. I barely followed comics in the mid-90s and was unaware of that.
The varied posting times are keeping me on my toes.
I think this incident might reveal how much Roy loved Conan. Perhaps even more than the Marvel Universe he helped build.
I don't see any bad guys in this story. I can imagine myself in Roy's shoes. At the last minute I might have second thoughts about leaving Marvel entirely and ask if I could still write Conan.
Roy is still writing Conan over 40 years after he started! But not for Marvel.
Then it just becomes a battle of egos on all parts.
I can understand the problem here.
It sounds like Jim was negotiating with Roy with good faith. They come to a deal and then Roy backs out of the agreement AND goes over Jim's head so he can still write Conan. Galton, being a businessman and not a comic industry (writer/editor/artiest/etc) vet, sees this behavior as underhanded and choose not to work reward. The crisis was Roy leaving Marvel entirely, not his being removed from Conan.
From my perspective, I don't see what the problem was. Roy being exclusive to DC basically only means to the super hero line. Conan wasn't Marvel's exclusive property and certainly not a super hero. Gene Colan's contract with DC in the '80s didn't forbid him from working on Don McGregor's Ragamuffins at Eclipse. In fact, Roy did Elric for Pacific and later Eclipse or First. And, having read the Dark Horse reprints of Conan, the book was not the same without Roy. Certainly, the magazine and comic book kept going for years, but it was never the same.
Thanks for the behind the scenes look. And Cheers…
To me it sounds as if Roy writing Conan despite being "exclusive" at DC was a great way to defuse the crisis. I'm not sure I understand why it was deemed so unacceptable by Mr. Galton. Of course, he had no way of knowing (had he cared at all!) how poorly the character would be handled for years on end after Roy's departure.
Great post, I've only read Roy Thomas's work in collections that reprint it and he's always seemed to me to be one of the most talented writers of his time.
On a completely unrelated question, I notice the times these blog entries are posted used to be fairly uniform and now are becoming more varied. Is this still a ripple effect of the water heater, or do you have a system you're following to make sure you keep pumping these entries out there. (Thanks either way for making this a blog worth checking up on every day of the week.)
The "exclusive except for…" deal became commonplace by the mid-90s. It's been used to sign creators to work on a company's main line of books/universe, while allowing them to finish up pet projects elsewhere. I do not know if it was ever used prior to Roy's attempt. But I also see no reason to give somebody a major writer/editor contract for one book if their main work is for the competition.
Thanks for another great installment of what I've been promoting on Twitter as #bestblogincomics. Hopefully Roy will get wind of this and offer his side of the story. Keep kicking up the retro-dirt.
My Comic Book Class
Galton was in the right. In Roy's defense, it sounds like writer/editors were being pushed out and he found a company more amenable to his perspective.
How did you react when Roy revealed that he wanted to write Conan books for Marvel while otherwise being "exclusive" to DC? Did you already know that before the meeting in Galton's office, or were you as shocked as Galton was? Until I read that part, I couldn't see any reason why a deal couldn't be made.
I suppose Conan wasn't "really" Marvel from DC and Roy's perspective.
I wonder how many fans would have gotten the "message" that Roy's retention of Conan would have made. When I read Roy's Marvel (including Conan) and DC work as a kid during the late 70s and early 80s, I was just interested in the stories, so I wasn't shocked by Roy's move the way that people in the business or older hardcore fans would have been. If he had continued on Conan, I wouldn't even have blinked – I'd have read it alongside his DC titles. I'm not saying that Galton did the wrong thing; I'm just realizing how oblivious I was to this behind-the-scenes stuff 30 years ago.