Despite disagreeing considerably with a number of points you make in your letter of April 9 (as you obviously did with some of mine, made in the previous letter), I was glad to see we’re not really all that far apart.
For my own part, as I tried to make clear, I have made a solemn vow (to myself) to let bygones be bygones, and if possible, to avoid adverse comment on Marvel and its policies. I’ve even long regretted the fact that your elevation to the position of editor-in-chief, in which you’ve obviously done a fine job, came at a time after I’d moved to the West Coast. Perhaps if we’d had more personal communication from 1977 to 1980, we could have come to some sort of agreement at that time or at least parted under more amicable circumstances. I leave it to you to decide if we should ever make any attempt to rectify that situation; certainly I’ve never been a grudge-carrier in other cases, and our differences– if we ever sat down and talked about them — are hardly insurmountable, even if we never happen to work for the same company at the same time again.”
The letter goes on to further discuss several matters, including Marvel’s reprint policy, the pending X-Men movie, and others.
I have no doubt that Roy and I will always have a number of points of disagreement, but I agree with his sentiment that we’re really not all that far apart. I think we are both men of good will who wanted the same thing, the best for the task at hand—making comics. His experiences made him dubious about ceding any control. Mine made me dubious that an editor of his own work, especially on the opposite coast, without a backstop, was a workable situation.
|Jim Shooter and Jim Galton from a promo photo for the St Francis comic book,
Francis Brother of the Universe, circa 1980.
Among the comments so far, some have debated how good this or that piece of Roy’s work was and drawn conclusions about him and about what transpired. Somebody suggested that he was overrated.
No way. Underrated, if anything. Listen, I know what he does. I know how hard it is. I know that he does it better than almost anyone else, and faster to boot. I know what a difference he made, and all of the myriad ways he contributed, some of which don’t show on the printed pages. The man was a mighty force in our industry.
Even if you don’t like something he wrote, let me assure you, it was impeccably crafted.
Give me a hitter with a level swing and I’ll win you some goddamn games.
Has my respect and admiration for Roy, which never changed during all the years, come through well enough in these writings? I hope so.
Here’s a snippet from a letter Roy wrote dated March 11, 1987:
Ever since late last year, when…Dann and I began working for Marvel, it’s been my intention to tell you how agreeable it is to be doing some writing for Marvel again.
The letters never worked out quite right, though, so they were never sent. Until now, finally, I decided to just sit down for a few minutes and let whatever comes, come.
I’ve long regretted that our different (and both quite reasonable in their varying ways) objectives in 1980 led– perhaps inevitably– to a break ‘twixt Marvel and myself, and I regret some of my own more extreme actions at the time. I’ve been impressed by your professional ability to let bygones be bygones, including letting Stan’s Soapbox “plugging” me to be printed, and I’d like to think I’d have done the same, were our positions reversed.”
The letter goes on to discuss work going on and future plans, just like in the old days.
That’s where we left it, and that’s where it still stands, as far as I’m concerned.
I was gone from Marvel about a month later, so sadly, I never really had the chance to do much for Roy or with him.
Too bad. With his bat in the lineup…well, we would have won a lot of games.
Thanks. Roger wilco.
Diacanu, it wasn't a spambot, at least not one pointing to a bogus web site. The Reviewer links to a real comic book review site. I'm not having the same errors Jim got going there, but I have some ad-blocking software running. Even legitimate sites that run automated banner ads can have spyware or malware sneak in when people hack the external ad systems. It also could have been a legitimate error. I agree it's a good idea to run a system virus scan and update all your Windows updates, browser updates, virus checkers, etc. if it looks like your browser was getting hijacked.
It seems to me, that "The Reviewer", is what's known as a "spambot".
An automated script that pretends to be a human, and directs you to their…could be a gambling site, or porno, or, a magic herbal pill, or…whatever.
They even can scan your blog, insert your name, and the title of a post of yours they allegedly like to make it look like they're talking to you.
You can develop an eye for them after awhile.
They're stiff, and have a pattern.
If "he", froze up your system, I'd be a little paranoid, and run a virus/spyware scan just in case.
I went to your site. It looked interesting. I clicked on the link to your review of Flash #1 and was taken to one of those deathtrap ad pages from which there was no escape. Maybe someone more computer savvy would have known what to do. I had to turn the computer off to get out. What is up with that?
This 1986 Time magazine article says that the St. Francis of Assisi comic book, Francis, Brother Of the Universe #1, sold 750,000 copies. Damn. I think that would have equalled about 10% of one month's circulation in the '80s. I wonder why Marvel didn't just give up on superheroes and shift full time into religious comics after that. Or at least give St. Francis his own monthly series! 😎
Even better, this 2009 article says it had sold over 1 million copies by that time in English alone and had reached 15 million readers across all languages!
I totally agree with Jim Martin that if Jim Shooter had been able to remain at the helm of Valiant, the comic book world would be a completely different and better place today. The industry could have weathered the speculative storm because, beneath all the holographic foil covers, there still would have been great stories to fall back on.
The birth of Valiant was a remarkable, unlikely, against-all-odds success to a degree that cannot be understated. To me it was as big as Marvel breaking out in the '60s. It happened because Jim and company created comic books full of brilliant, masterful, fresh storytelling that were just as accessible, innocent and colorful as those early Marvel adventures.
Neither '60s Marvel nor Valiant tried to reinvent the fundamentals of comic book storytelling or the superhero medium. They just did it better, with more depth, more intelligence and more reality. The big difference when opening one of these books was that it wasn't a rehash of a rehash of a formula that had lost any recognizable connection to the real world. The creators were taking another look at the genre through the prism of real life in a successful effort to breathe new life into it. They did what the movie industry sometimes talks about as the paradox of giving the audience the same thing they loved before except new and different.
I cannot stress enough how difficult and unlikely a proposition it was at the time to get someone like me, more or less a Marvel loyalist, to dive into a brand new universe at a brand new company. Great skepticism coupled with budget limitations should have sunk any prospects of that for me. I never even heard about the launch of Valiant because I didn't follow "independent" titles.
But not long after that launch I had every Valiant title on my "pull list." I honestly don't remember my first Valiant issue or why I started. Maybe a free Unity preview, coverage in Wizard or just word-of-mouth? I know I got in early enough that I could still afford the back issue of Harbinger #1 on a paperboy's salary, a couple weeks before they started charging $100 for it. Harbinger was one of my favorite Valiant titles but I also loved Solar, Archer & Armstrong, X-O Manowar, et al.
It's worth noting that those early Valiant titles were soaring in price on the secondary market before they started doing any special covers or gimmicks. The demand was there for the right reasons, because people discovered they loved reading them and wanted to collect every one. That made the difference between costing $100 or being in the quarter bin.
If Jim could have stayed there to keep Valiant on the same path, readers like me wouldn't have ended up quitting comics a couple years later. Pretty soon flashy art, fancy covers and "events" like the Death of Superman or the Spider-Man Clone Saga completely replaced good storytelling at all the major companies. Marketing is a great tool for any good product, but I still cannot figure out why the entire industry suddenly seemed to decide that marketing was ALL they needed and they didn't have to have any entertaining content between the covers anymore.
It pained me as a reader then to see Jim ousted and Valiant dissolve into low-rent material. It likewise pained me as a believer in fairness and justice to read later that Jim never reaped the financial reward he deserved for building up that company, especially since the really huge orders didn't start coming in until right after the success of Unity.
I can't think of a more pivotal negative event in the history of comics than Jim being ousted from Valiant. We all deserved a better outcome just as we deserve better from the comic industry today. If a genie granted me three wishes today one would be to make a "What If Jim Shooter had continued running Valiant?" story come true.
This is all fascinating stuff. Thank you for sharing it. Your era at Marvel was both my introduction to that universe and the primary reason that I kept reading comics into my High School years.
Regarding Roy Thomas, I personally experienced his DC work first. The arrangement that he had as the primary story-teller for their Earth-2 set titles makes a great deal of sense in the context of your story. There was no need for Mr. Thomas to co-ordinate with anyone other than his artist and himself.
That said, those titles were entertaining. INFINITY, INC., in particular, was grossly under-rated.
If you check Avengers #256 Letter Column, perhaps you may have an answer from the vaults! As chance would have it, I happen to be reading this issue the other day, when behold, I noticed the question "Of all the work you've done for Marvel, which is your favorite", to which EIC Jim Shooter replies…Secret Wars #12.
There we have it.
Gary M. Miller
See how slow I am? I go to work up a post and JayJay comes in with the original link, plus Jim chimes in that Byrne was indeed far ahead on his FF deadlines. (Also it explains why I think Jerry Ordway was handed off a good deal of the art finishing chores for the later 290-ish FF's, as likely Byrne had officially quit by then…)
Gary M. Miller
To help Jim out–yeah, here are the substantial bits about how John Byrne left the Hulk in early 1986. He did stay a few more months on the FF before finally leaving, which must have been akin to "dead man walking" considering what happened with Hulk. Maybe he had worked further ahead on FF than Hulk? That could be why there were still Byrne FF stories coming out until the October cover-dated books. It is interesting that Byrne's "Man of Steel" was coming out at much the same time as the last of his FF work. In fact the Wikipedia article on MoS notes that Byrne was making plans to leave Marvel as early as mid-1985. The time frame is all a bit wonky…
Sorry- Byrne gave the impression that he had planned to stick with the FF while doing Superman. This is the first I heard otherwise.
Byrne wasn't working for Marvel while doing Superman, though stuff of his done earlier might still have been coming out. Byrne was fast and generally far ahead on his books.
Here is that comment:
In a short series of answers a while back, talking about why Denny O'Neill was fired, I explained the confusion and misunderstandings that were part of John Byrne's leaving the Hulk and Marvel. I can't locate those answers right now, but they're here somewhere.
Sorry for not being clear; it was regarding the posting from Byrne, and his general attitude — not anything you said.
That's what happens when I type too early 🙂
I simply posted what Byrne said and asked for Jim to do a future blog about it. No need to run to his defense and ask me "how is he the bad guy?" when I never said he was.
@jimshooter – Yes it does. I was just wondering if there was more to the story than what was printed.
Marvel did photo background covers on Doc Strange Sub Mariner around 1968. DC did a great photo background cover on Action Comics 419.
Incidentally, did you have any problem with Byrne doing Superman while still working for Marvel? He seems to think that you did, which is one of the reasons he seems to have left. If not, was there any difference between him doing that and Roy wanting to work for both companies? Both were top shelf creators at the time.
Your approach to making business decisions for the good of Marvel, safe-guarding it's reputation, trying to grow the business, how to improve the lot of your staff, thinking of the bigger picture, dealing with staff on a professional basis and not making it personal is what good management should be about. It's what I would expect of any senior manager in any corporation. That kind of management style isn't just exclusive to IBM, Coca-Cola, Gillette, Proctor & Gamble et al. Any professional company should aspire to that.
When you had to make decisions to prevent sub-par (or unsuitable) work being published, you were making a professional, business decision. The same goes for removing the Writer/Editor position because any internal conflict of interest is never good for a business in the long term. Unfortunately, some of the people working for you took it personally.
When I'm at work, I may not like all the business & management decisions that impact on me or any criticisms I receive, but I never take personally or hold a grudge against that person. Well, 99% of the time. I'm only human.
Thanks for the kind words.
The photo background was shot from the roof of 387 Park Avenue South, where Marvel's offices were. I think Eliot Brown took the photo. I believe there is a text feature inside that issue that explains the whole thing. The crazy loons who worked at Marvel in editorial and production occasionally dabbled with photo covers. The first crazy loon to do so in my time at Marvel was me. I arranged and supervised the photo Dazzler cover, I forget which issue. I think back in the 1960's though, Kirby and Stan did a couple of photos as covers or interior pages. Can anybody throw me a rope on that?
"If only there were more people who cared about the stories. If only this industry hadn't lost so many of you when we became the Franklin Mint." — Jim Shooter
You got it, Jim. This is definitely the Pewter Age of Comics!
By the way, I just found this site a few days ago and have been devouring the archives. Such wonderful, entertaining, and informative reading.
As a comic guy since 1972, I want to say thanks Jim. Thanks for everything you have done for comics, everything you tried to do for comics, and everything you have given to us fans. I'm sorry that it came with such price tags.
Your work, ethics and honesty are greatly appreciated.
I spotted an interesting bit at the Byrne post you linked to:
Byrne; "I complained to the EiC who told me he "didn't want to be like Shooter" and so in any difference of opinion between editor and talent he would "always support my editors"
In other words, Jim was an EIC who would support his editors *and* his artists, writers, etc.
So, how does this make Jim a Bad Guy, exactly?
And what a great stance to take: "I have no intention of being fair or impartial like that guy. Nope. Not gonna do it!"
Mr. Dusty Byrne is always quick to point the finger at Shooter or anyone else when he doesn't get his way.
I have no idea what he had planned to do, but i'm sure if it was a good idea Jim would have let him write it somewhere.
I don't see too much evidence that Jim was into censoring his artists, he seems more like the type to find a creative solution for something if it wouldn't work in a mainstream comic.
besides all that we have no idea what he had plans to do so it's all speculation at this point.
I liked a lot of Peter David's run that came right after even tho some of the artists were not really a- list material.
Thanks for the comments Jim S. and Jim.:) I plan to track down some of his stuff and read it. The classic writers actually know how to write stories well (with today's writers it seems to be iffy).
@Jim – It would be great if you shared some insight on the cover of Marvel Team-up #128.
Thunder – The more I read of Shooter's stuff the more I like his work. The Valiant Stuff was great, the recent Dark Horse stuff was good, especially Dr. Solar and The Turok book, Magnus did not work as well for me and Sampson was solid. The early Legion books, were for their era, some of the best stuff done and made the Legion some of my favorite characters of all time, but may read as corny to today's readers as the audience was a lot different.
I now want to re-read Secret Wars I and Secret Wars II because I was never enamored of those two series, especially Secret Wars II which I thought intruded into too many series.
I just wish Defiant and Broadway had lasted longer as both had some great concepts that never got enough time to really become what the potential was for those series.
If I had to choose, I would say Valiant had Jim's best work of all time, but it was the entire company. I had a store for about four years in the early nineties and Valiant as a company was producing the best stories in the business. So not only was Jim's writing excellent at that point, but he was building the best comic company. I still believe if Jim had continued with Valiant and run the business it would now be either the number three or possibly the number two company, hell maybe number one. It was that good.
Well, no one asked, but here are my favorite Jim Shooter stories:
recent Legion of Superheroes, both published and un-published stuff
Fatale and, maybe Knights on Broadway, although I have no idea how much of Knights is Jim and how much is credited writer Joe James. I sure wish I could read the rest of Knights on Broadway and the rest of the un-published Defiant and Broadway stuff (hint-hint!)
(Warriors of) Plasm #0 and #s 1 through 4
All of the Valiant stuff by Jim, especially Solar
Daredevil w/ Kane&Janson and Infantino&Janson, as well as What If? #3
Avengers #s 160 through 162 w/Perez and Marcos (I'd list the Michael/Korvac stuff, but I feel it suffers from the art in the last half, as well as not enough Jim and too much Michelinie, Mantlo.
Adventure Comics #s 353 through 355, 357, 359, 360, 365 – 367, 369, 370.
Now, feel free to argue, debate, disagree, whatever…..
I have no idea where you read that. Byrne even came back to the Hulk years later until Tom Brevoort clashed with him and he was either fired or quit. Byrne 100% blames Jim Shooter for the reason he quit the Hulk in the 80's.
"My adventures with THE INCREDIBLE HULK came about by a rather sad and curious route. I'd always liked the Hulk, but felt — and this will shock and astound everyone, I'm sure — that the character had drifted too far from his beginnings, and a "back to the basics" approach was necessary. To this end, I mentioned what I thought should be done with the Hulk to the Editor-in-Chief, and his response was "That's great! You should take over the Hulk book at once!" Well, I was up to my ears in other stuff at the time, so taking over the Hulk seemed unlikely — until I realized I really had said all I had to say with ALPHA FLIGHT. So I called Bill Mantlo, who was writing HULK at the time, and asked if he would care to trade. Ultimately we did, and I set about doing all those things I had told to the E-i-C. Whereupon the very same E-i-C began saying "You can't do this! You can't do that!" Realizing I had been bushwacked, I took the only course available, and left the book after six issues. (1/18/98)"
You're welcome to post what you say you read about why he left the Hulk.
If only there were more people who cared about the stories. If only this industry hadn't lost so many of you when we became the Franklin Mint.
I really don't know which were my best. I gave my best effort to every one and failed less with some than with others. Some people say my VALIANT work, the pre-UNITY and UNITY books were my best and Harbinger #1-7 especially. The PLASM stuff with David Lapham had its moments. Fatale at Broadway Comics had its moments. I think the scripts I wrote for the Legion of Super-Heroes recently, 2008-ish were among my better tries, but a lot of what was in the scripts didn't show so much in the printed books. Ditto with my Dark Horse Gold Key stuff. The script for Turok #1 and a couple of others are available here, if you wanted to wade through them. Of my ancient Marvel stuff, the ones I can stand are the ones with the better art jobs, Gil Kane/Klaus Janson on Daredevil and What If…? #3 and J.R. Jr./Al Williamson on Star Brand among them. I also did a B&W Dracula with Gene Colan that turned out okay, I think.
Love your blogsite Mr Shooter sir, I would be honored if you could find the time to check out my comic book related web-site, and spam me in turn – http://www.comicbookandmoviereviews.com/
Badamike the last i read he left the Hulk issues because he wanted something more prominent and wasn't really interested in writing the Hulk.
If he had stayed on? it would have been great i'm sure, but then i liked his Supoerman work a lot too.
That seems strange, but i'm no lawyer (obviously)
I was wondering about your best stories because I'd like to track some down and read them. I know I've seen a few over the years (I read some of Secret Wars, the issue of Avengers where Korvac kills everyone in a confrontation, Warriors of Plasm #0–although I can't remember it that well). Like many writers when I was a kid, I read their stories but can't immediately recall who did what. For me it was more the stories (and the art, to some extent) then the talent behind them.
Easier to do other places than New York. Our attorneys (from Proskauer Rose) advised against it on the grounds that the likelihood of success wasn't a lock by any means.
Gary M. Miller
I still can't get over the company you attract here, Jim. Mike Rockwitz here, loads of others elsewhere.
Great to read your insights on Roy, whose work I've long enjoyed. He really took what Stan did, amped it up to 11 like Spinal Tap, and was a big part of Marvel's '70s successes, especially in the first half of the decade. "The Kree-Skrull War" was bigger than anything Stan dared and set up years of stories, and his late 60s turn on Doctor Strange was just incredible (mask or no). He still ranks among the top 3 Doc writers (next to Stern and Englehart). Good guy, Roy is. Met him in San Diego some years ago.
For Badmike, Neil Anderson, Dusty & those curious about John Byrne's short Hulk tenure: Jim touched on the end here and I've reblogged the important bits here. If you track back starting here, I also went crazy analyzing the six issues and thinking about what might have been if Byrne had stayed aboard. There were many interviews at the time that painted the picture quite well.
@ Pariah re: John Byrne;
What's really funny is that I saw Byrne at several conventions at the beginning of his FF run and through his Alpha Flight run. He was quite a talkative and charismatic guy. He was very complementary of Jim and the changes he made at Marvel, and very insulting of Roy Thomas and Marv Wolfman leaving for DC (one remark that stuck with me regarding Roy where he said something like "Just what the world was waiting for, Arak Son of Blunder, Captain Crapola and All Reject Squadron") Whatever happened between Jim and John on the Hulk must have been a doozy.
Well ok Thanks PC.
Jim why didn't you counter sue Marvel to get your money back? were you tired of the lawsuits and just decided to give up?
Pariah, Roy was never trying to write like Stan. His dialogue and his characterization have always been much better than Stan's. His writing style does lift a lot from Robert E. Howard, though, and you don't need to wait until he starts Conan to see it.
I like nowdays comics and some creators… but I love old comics and every creator. I'd like read a new series without continuity from Thomas, new projects from Shooter, Claremont (I enjoyed very much his "Forever series"), Moench, Wolfman… The new Key Gold comics were incredible, a perfect example what a good writer can do when he have not chains around him (continuity, bad editors, etc.)
Roy continued the Stan Lee style of writing but he was far far more. I loved all the team books that he was part of . I just finished reading his FF run. It was great.
Roy did some awesome work at Marvel… snuff Ned!!
It's really a shame that Byrne is such a prick cause i really love his artwork.
I get really irritated with him or anyone else at Marvel at the time taking potshots at Jim when he helped them so much.
It's funny i jusr saw a little mini profile of Mike Rockowitz in the Soapbbox thingy.
it's strange how much i love that era of comics and for my money it hasn't been any better.
Ms. Blog elf- JayJay we must thank you muchly for helping Jim write this blog it's always good to hear the other side of things.
I was never a big fan of Roy and even reading most of his work at Marvel in Hindsight it just feels like he is trying to hard to write like Stan which is a shame.
I prefer his DC work where he started writing differently and with less bombast.
I need to get ahold of some of that early Conan stuff never really was much into him probably cause the movies blew.
I'd also like to hear some details about John Byre's Hulk. I'd liked Byrne's Fantastic Four and Alpha Flight, but I absolutely loved what he was doing with the Hulk (I remember an interview where he said–I paraphrase–"this is a comic about punching and hitting.") Hilarious, and I loved the result, and was incredibly disappointed when he only did 6 issues. His work at DC was poor by comparison I thought–His Action stories were bland, and the Superman stories ranged from good to dull–I remember a lot of shots of Superman flying, with tedious thought balloons. And one two part story (in issues 5 & 6, I think) that borrowed a plot from one of his old Fantastic Four stories. I'd be interesting in learning about what it was like editing Byrne–he did not seem to have a good editor at DC.–
JayJay, please allow me to offer my biggest thank you for nagging Jim into this. You gave us our Shooter back! This blog is the most entertaining thing about comics on the web, and it's more interesting than any comic I've read in years, complete with that great anticipation for the next installment, which sadly doesn't exist in actual comics at this level. If you could also nag him into doing a podcast interview at wordballoon.com, that would be a treat that would leave all other podcast interviews behind! Please!
Jim, thank you for being so generous and providing us with such a great blog! I'd love to get your take on a few of these.
I'd like to hear your version of how the Tom Brevoort thing went down. I'm the snake to his mongoose, so that would be a discussion I'd love to watch unfold. You have many friends here!
I'd love to hear some John Byrne stories from you, especially about why he quit the Hulk (which he blames on you) and his decision to move over to DC. That would be a nice followup to this great piece about Roy, considering how Byrne was Marvel's top creator when he left!
I'd love to hear the story of why Jim Owsley was fired. He talks about it at this great podcast.
It's the best podcast from a comic professional that I've yet to hear, but I'm betting there is one guy who could top it! Help make it happen, JayJay!!
Regarding Roy Thomas: Back in the '60s, many British readers first encountered Marvel stories in black and white reprints with the credits removed. Thus it wasn't until many years later that British fans first found out that Roy had scripted many of the stories instead of Stan himself. (Although the credits were deleted, Stan and Jack had been mentioned in an editorial or two, so their names were known.)
That in itself is no mean feat; taking over from Stan without the 'join' being obvious. For that alone, Roy deserves a medal.
When you collect all these entries on the book called "Jim Shooter: A Life in Comics" you bet I'll be first in line to buy a copy.
Again thanks for the time and insights.
Marvel didn't have a case on its face. Marvel had a brand new UK book called "Plasmer" set on Earth about a totally new hero called Plasmer. Defiant had a book called "Warriors of Plasm" (originally "Plasm" but changed to hopefully dodge the lawsuit) set on a planet called Plasm. That should have been enough right there to say, "Okay, there's no comparison here." It amazes me that it took $300,000 to win the case. Tort reform, anyone? –MikeAnon
JayJay wrote: "..even telling just the cold facts of what happened there is going to sound angry because of how Jim was manipulated and lied to."
That's how it goes with some things, and if it's only relayed in a non-visual, non-audio form, all you have is the words, which naturally evoke certain emotions, in the telling and the reading of it. Looking at all that Jim's been through, he's handled it far better than many others would have.
Jim Shooter wrote: "…I wasn't waiting to blog at all. My friends pushed me into it and JayJay enabled it. I never would have bothered to learn how on my own…."
Then, in addition to thanking you for agreeing to do a blog and share this history with us fans, I want to thank JayJay and the others who helped persuade you to do it, as well.
"…When I was launching DEFIANT, Marvel sued us for trademark infringement…."
I remember that, and I thought Marvel was being stupid in that instance. If I recall, it was over the book "Warriors of Plasm" and Marvel's comic "Plasmer." I didn't think Marvel has a case, and it seems that I was correct in my assumption.
JayJay wrote: "…I think he is starting to see some value in blogging since the response has been impressive. Richly varied, shall we say, but mostly positive…"
I am grateful to you and to Jim for the blog. I love reading about the history of making comics, and for many years we've heard so many stories about Jim. It's refreshing to hear stories from Jim, and to get his perspective on things.
Thanks again! You keep posting, I'll keep reading!
In your opinion, which is the best comic story you ever wrote? The best Marvel one and/or the best one in general?
I don't know. Every one of them I wish I could do over and do better.
Jim is right about the blogging. I don't remember when I started trying to get him to have his own web site or at least some sort of web presence, but it has to be more than 10 years ago. I've bugged him about it fairly irritatingly. I've been doing web design for about 15 years. I have offered many times to make him a web site. I was amazed he even attempted the Facebook thing. I think he is starting to see some value in blogging since the response has been impressive. Richly varied, shall we say, but mostly positive.
And I can recall at least one interview where Jim spoke about VALIANT and did seem to come off as angry to me as well, but boy does he have reason. What happened was bad. I'm still pretty burned about it, myself. But it seems to me that even telling just the cold facts of what happened there is going to sound angry because of how Jim was manipulated and lied to. One of there days he'll get around to blogging about that too.
Dear Jeff Z.,
I don't know what interviews or editorials you're talking about. You'd have to show me what you mean by "bitter" and "angry." I think I've been pretty even-keeled all along. As far as I know, I haven't "mellowed." Ask JayJay, maybe she has an opinion about that. She knows me well but wouldn't lie — to me, for me or about me — for all the potatoes in Idaho.
I wasn't waiting to blog at all. My friends pushed me into it and JayJay enabled it. I never would have bothered to learn how on my own.
I think I've always told my tales in a straightforward manner.
I would tell the tale of the Legion "blackball" incident now just as I did back then, because it's true and accurate.
I didn't need any healing. I didn't have any wounds.
I'm content with what I did, and if this is where it got me, so be it. Every day, I figure out where I am and navigate from there. As Shakespeare said, "What's past is prologue." I try to, as Churchill said, "Carry on, and dread nought."
A Relevant Tale:
When I was launching DEFIANT, Marvel sued us for trademark infringement. On the stand, testifying for Marvel, Paul Neary said that after I had been fired by Marvel I had done many interviews denouncing Marvel and spewing venom against the company — hence, one would suppose, my motive for allegedly ripping them off. Challenged to show examples, the Marvel side could not produce even one. Zero. Because there were none.
The outcome, in case you're curious:
We won the case. Marvel lost every point of every test for the temporary injunction they were seeking. Furthermore, the judge called their attorneys to the bench and warned them never to use his court as a "business weapon" again — because that's what they were doing, trying to squelch my start-up before we got going since my previous company had taken a huge bite out of their market share. The judge said, and I quote, "You'd better not appeal this!" They didn't. They withdrew the suit.
Didn't matter. They accomplished their mission. The $300,000 in lawyers fees it cost to defend ourselves pretty much killed my small start-up, as intended.
By the way, the judge was Michael B. Mukasey, who later became U.S. Attorney General.
I'll tell the entire story sometime soon. It's interesting.
Dear Derek B,
I'll talk about my two attempts to buy Marvel at some point, soon as I can. Thanks.
RE: a "Forever" story. I don't know. If they made me an offer, I'd consider it, I guess.
Jim: In the past, there were some interviews and editorials when you came off as bitter and even a bit angry, but that does not come across at all in your blog. Have you mellowed a bit in recent years about all the villification, false impressions and mistreatment you may have endured? Were you waiting to blog like this until your perspective allowed you to present events in this engaging and straightforward manner? It's really refreshing to see these stories told in this fashion rather than carrying the sting of when you were blocked from returning to the Legion by former employees (see comicbookresources interview from 2000). Just curious as to whether you've noticed time healing things a bit…or am I just imagining things? Feel free to offer your thoughts too, Jay Jay!
I've had the pleasure of talking with Roy on a few occasions–usually whenever he made it to a San Diego Comic-Con–and on the first of those occasions I told him, "You were Stan Lee's Best Hire, after Kirby and Ditko". Still stand by that one (sorry Jim, you're number four in that particular pantheon)…Roy had a vision and a commitment to making the best comics possible, and as you noted earlier, "Saved Marvel". No small feat. Great summation of Roy's value to the company!
Rockowitz: Mike, I had a lot of those Conans! Really enjoyable series. Haven't seen them in almost a decade, but they were worthy additions to a great Marvel title I discovered years after the fact.
I am glad two guys who write about heroism and ideals can see they couldn't possibly be too far apart where it counts.
I love this blog! I love finally hearing your side of some of these events. I never felt like I had a dog in the fight or that anyone is either entirely the black hat or the white hat.
Two things I'd like to see:
1. Chuck Rozanski has written on his website about your attempt to purchase Marvel, I'd love to hear your in-depth thoughts and recollections on the matter as well.
2. Chris Claremont has written X-Men Forever for Marvel, and Louise Simonson has done X-Factor Forever, both picking up their stories where they left off and continuing on as if they never left.
Any chance you'd agree to write a Marvel Universe Forever (or Marvel Super Heroes Forever), picking up somewhere after either Secret Wars or Secret Wars II? This way, you wouldn't have to be burdened by current continuity or characterizations? I'd buy it in a heartbeat!
Dear Jeff C.,
The endings are quiet when they were quiet and not so when they weren't.
"Uncle" Donald is in the queue. Thanks.
Jim, you wrote: "Somebody suggested that he [Roy] was overrated."
I was referring to his writing when I said he was overrated. That does not mean I think he is a bad writer; calling Roy's writing overrated is not trashing Roy's writing skills. If anything, it's a critique of fans who get carried away into the land of hyperbole. He was a damned good writer. Is he ONE OF THE BEST comic book writers of the 70s? Yes. The 80s? The 90s? Not in my opinion. By the way, I met him at a local show some years back and he was kind, patient, informative and giving of time and information.
He's also written some great comic book stories. His influence on the industry is indisputable, and his reign as EiC produced some mighty fine comic book reading.
I definitely respect what he accomplished as a writer and an editor. I respect Elvis Presley a great deal for what he accomplished and how it affected rock and roll music in our culture, but do I think everything he sang was great? Of course not. There are a couple of other comic book writers of the 70s that I think wrote better comic book stories. That's all.
Well, this was certainly a quiet ending to a very tumultous blog entry. Is it too much to hope the upcoming Howard Chaykin and John Byrne entries also have quiet endings?
This is fascinating stuff. Back in the early 1990s I used to do work for a manga. I did all the art, and writing, and as far as I could tell I had no editor. I shipped my pages and script to a company in California, and they translated it, and lettered the pages. When I would talk to them on the phone I alway asked if they were happy with what I was doing. They alway said that if there was a problem they would let me know. I guess I was an editor/writer/artist.
That tale's coming soon, Rick.
Really enjoying this blog.
Not to get off subject, but I would it be possible at some time in the future to put in a few words about Don Perlin? I've always thought he was an extremely underrated artist/storyteller.
In your opinion, which is the best comic story you ever wrote? The best Marvel one and/or the best one in general?
Regarding the writer/editor problem as specifically applied to Jack Kirby in the mid-1970's….
Jack Kirby's "2001: A Space Odyssey" series lists Jack as writer, drawer and editor–but also lists Archie Goodwin as "Consulting Editor."
Issue 5 replaces this with "Admired by…Archie Goodwin" and issue 8 uses "Overseen by… Archie Goodwin."
These phrases seemed really weird to me! But from this series of posts it makes sense as a way to delicately address the writer/editor issue, specifically for a guy who created many of Marvel's most valuable trademarks.
I notice that the dialogue in "2001" reads more gracefully than in Kirby's New Gods cycle at DC, which may have been Goodwin's doing.
I would have to dig out my old "Devil Dinosaurs" to see how they handled the credits there.
I actually still have that St. Francis comic floating around here somewhere. My aunt gave it to me back in 1980 or 1981. I recall it being very well done for what it was…
When I saw the many Marvel names in DC books, I thought that it was a Marvel conspiracy to take over DC at the time. Hah!
But, wasn't there a time when you actually drafted a plan to publish DC characters, since DC was seemingly so out of it?
Thanks for the time and insights.
Since Mike Rockwitz is here from time to time…
My sincere thanks, Mike, for basically single-handedly saving the Conan books in the early 90s. The market didn't allow that rebirth to last for long, to my everlasting chagrin, but they were great, great years. You managed the apparently impossible: to get Roy to write Conan again, and for the books to return to their original spirit. I was grateful then, and I'm grateful today; that period was like going home again and finding it as perfect as in one's memories.
And thanks again, Mr. Shooter, for sharing your insights and unique historical perspective! For comics fans of that era, they are invaluable (and very wittingly written, too)!
Some of the people who have an axe to grind against you never fail to make comment/pronounce judgement upon you. This forum is ideal for hearing your side of the story. Even though its probably distasteful and onerous for you, could you delve in depth about the greviances John Byrne has against you?
Mike R. also said – "Well 20-30 years later, he is still working, getting his work reprinted, while these flavor-of-the-month hacks who fueled the bubble bursting 90s have drifted back into anonymity."
Well said! Between the 90s flavor-of-the-month and the super-holo-foil-embossed-glow-5th color-polybagged-secret prize inside covers, this industry was nearly destroyed.
I feel like there should be a litmus test before anybody is hired at a comic book company – whether in editorial, marketing or any other department:
"How long have you been reading comics? Do you have multiple issues of comic books that are bagged and never have been read? Are you a corporate raider? Name 3 Golden Age characters who did not have their own solo books. Name 3 Silver Age characters that were not derived from Golden Age characters."
And so on…
Mike, my memory of you at Marvel is that you were a kid. Didn't an adult have to wipe your nose for you in those early days? But it sounds like, when I wasn't looking and once I was gone, you grew up all big and proper. You are wise. Carry on. And thanks for chiming in.
Absurdly Old Jim
I wasn't around at Marvel in 1975, so I don't know the details of Jack's negotiations with Marvel at that time. If he had wished to renew in 1978, well…that never seemed likely, so I didn't give it much thought, then.
Thinking about it now, while Jack was never a problem schedule-wise and was the nicest, most cooperative guy I ever dealt with, I would have tried to engineer a situation that respected the fact that he was a founding father, and like Roy, shouldn't be messed with, but allowed for more editorial involvement/support, in the most benevolent way. I probably would have tried to do it myself, since I got along with him well.
So, writer/editor? No, not on the same basis. As for the title "editor," if he wanted it, fine. I would have helped him stealth-mode, uncredited if he liked, or would have accepted being credited as his assistant. Whatever. The important thing was the work, helping him home in and bring his incredible creative firepower to bear for maximum effect.
I think it would have worked out well. Jack never showed anything but respect for me. He didn't need a memo from Stan telling him to treat me as Marvel's official representative, he always did. I could have paved the road for him.
Mike R said "your blog has stirred something up within me–passion for the medium. I appreciate that."
I second that emotion, Mike! Since Jim's been writing this blog, I've started enjoying reading comics again (albeit, mostly the older, reprinted stuff). And I've started writing comics again.
So thank you, Jim for reigniting a passion in me that I now approach with more love and respect for the art form than I ever did before.
Jim, the pic with you and Jim Galton, I had to do a doubletake. I thought it was Richard Harrison at first, which made me wonder why you had a pic of a Beatle in your blog…
I have a few. I'll get to them.
I don't think Galton was aware that Roy had come back, and at that point, for many reasons, wouldn't have cared. More on that later.
The "Catholic comics" tale is in the queue.
Jim, stop writing about Roy, it is making me miss working with him! 🙂 When I was editing his work in the late 80s early 90s, it was on time, and well done. I was teased, quite often I might add, by my fellow editors about how much work I was sending Roy's way. As far as I am concerned, he knew the characters, had plenty of ideas, was a pleasure to work with and most importantly, kept me on my toes. He was such a perfectionist, it made me work harder. One of the main reasons was to avoid receiving one(or many) of his letters–you discussed them in detail a few posts back. I kept him as involved in the process as he wanted to be. I would even send him a copy of the final book before it was sent around for signatures. I respected his work ethic. By the time I was working with him, many professionals and fans relegated him to B level status. He wasn't "hot". Well 20-30 years later, he is still working, getting his work reprinted, while these flavor-of-the-month hacks who fueled the bubble bursting 90s have drifted back into anonymity. Look at the current crop of publishers, editors, writers and look at the sales figures. They could learn a thing or ten from veterans like Roy. Thanks Jim, I prefer to keep my opinions on matters like this to myself, but your blog has stirred something up within me–passion for the medium. I appreciate that.
JayJay – no worries! It's only from my work computer that I have these difficulties. (Probably a sign from Beyond!)
Thanks – Bryan
Really enjoy the compelling insights.
One writer/editor you haven't discussed is Jack Kirby. Was his status a matter of negotiation when he returned to Marvel in 1975? And had he renewed his contract in 1978, would he have remained a writer/editor?
I'm sorry you're having trouble, Bryan. I read that Google Blogger had been making changes recently and breaking a lot of the bits of software that interact with the blog software, so hopefully it will be fixed soon.
I give Roy all the credit in the world for his accomplishments (at Marvel – I was just never impressed or taken with his take on DC's Golden Age characters, although maybe that's because he was trying to do them justice at a time where the official policy was to erase them from existence) but I never understood his importance or reputation until reading these blogs. I was never much of a Conan fan, growing up, which is usually listed as his best work, to be fair; I did enjoy Invaders (tho it could have been better) but the rest of it just seemed like Stan Lite. Not my cup of tea, I guess.
Ditto for Marv Wolfman. His writing just never appealed to me. (And in the case of Crisis, it actually and comprehensively destroyed things that DID appeal to me. Again, my two cents – not trying to start an argument or anything. Obviously, many people loved it, and Roy's stuff, as well. More power to all of them.) But reading these opens up the context for a new appreciation of it all. I'll be much more interested in reading that stuff now.
Between this blog and JM DeMatteis' blog and my subscription to Back Issue, my eBay account's getting a lot of use lately…!
– Bryan/ bmcmolo (can't sign in at my work computer, for some reason – it just takes me through an infinite loop of signing in then prompting me for a captcha that never appears…)
I'm enjoying your blog tremendously, I was a teenager in the 80's and even that age it was apparent to me that Marvel comics had improved in general craftsmanship since the late '70's. One comic during your tenure that I thought was underrated was Tom DeFalco and Ron Frenz's Amazing Spider-Man, which I thought came close to bringing back the magic of the Lee/Ditko version (which I was simultaneously reading in reprints in Marvel Tales)–do you have any anecdotes about that title?
I just asked you about this period of Roy's career, but I should have known from your title preview that today's post would address Roy's return to Marvel. Oops. Sorry.
What did Jim Galton think of Roy working for Marvel as well as DC at this point?
I bet a lot of readers would like to read about "the pending X-Men movie" of the 80s.
Like Roy Thomas in 1984, I'm "glad to see [you and Roy are] not really all that far apart."
I've never seen Jim Galton before, and I bet most of your other readers haven't either. Nice find, JayJay.
I'd like to read the secret origin of Marvel's Catholic comics.
Yes, your "respect and admiration for Roy" has come through. The fact that your negotiation did not work out doesn't (and shouldn't) affect the way his comics should be judged. As you said, "it's all about the work."
Looking sharp in that 1980 photo, Jim. Great story as always, almost goes without saying.