Wednesday, I told you the Secret Origin of the X-Men creative team’s Great European Expedition, so nicely documented by JayJay along with contributors to this blog yesterday. There’s a coda to that tale.
A week or two after returning from the Great Expedition, one beautiful June Friday, John Romita, Jr., international bon vivant, turned up at my office to say merci beaucoup for arranging the trip, which he thoroughly enjoyed, despite a minor contretemps resulting from his unfamiliarity with the language, specifically, French for “she’s married.”
But John escaped alive, was glad to be home and wanted to buy me a thank-you grapefruit juice. That was my libation of choice in those days.
Marvel closed at one PM on Fridays during the summer. So, soon, we were off to a lunch place and hangout in the neighborhood, Buchbinders, which was at the corner of Third and 27th, I think. Bob Layton somehow heard or sensed that someone else was buying and tagged along.
We had one round at Buchbinders, for which John dutifully paid, but then he and Bob wanted to go to a classier, better venue. My spider-sense was warning me that there was danger ahead, but….
We cabbed to the Water Club, a very upscale restaurant built atop a barge that’s moored in the East River just south of the heliport at 34th Street. Beautiful place, very elegant, great food. It has a relatively casual rooftop bar called the Crow’s Nest, and that, on this sunny, perfect June afternoon, was the destination.
The Crow’s Nest had everything—a brilliant view of the city, boats and ships gliding up and down the river, helicopters landing and taking off next door…
…and a very charming, beautiful waitress. Let’s call her Chloe—not her real name.
After quickly and expertly ascertaining that Chloe was a mademoiselle, John, in his polite and witty way, made conversation at every opportunity. A simple truth:
More rounds of drinks = more opportunities
Uh-oh. How much grapefruit juice can a man take?
At some point, finally, John went over to the servers’ station, directed Chloe’s attention to a helicopter taking off and told her that he and his friends were going to charter a ‘copter tonight and fly down to Atlantic City. Would she like to come?
A moment later, John returned to the table, visibly shaken. She said yes. He never expected her to say yes.
So, he said, excitedly, we have to do it! Are you with me?
No, I said. But since I was the only one sober enough to dial a phone, I’d find out for him what it would cost.
Too much. The heliport closed at one AM, I think, so you’d have to pay to keep the heliport open all night as well as for the flight, the pilot, a hotel room for the pilot so he could sleep while you lost money at the casino…way too much. But the Yellow Pages enlightened me to the fact that you could charter a small airplane for less than we’d spent on beverages.
Did I mention that John and Bob switched from cocktails to Dom Perignon at $110 a bottle, once they crossed the threshold of expansiveness? Did I mention that John was passing out flute-fulls to strangers. “Come on! Join the party!”
John insisted, demanded that we do it, that we all go, which would somehow make it less spooky for Chloe, I suppose.
You know…I was making pretty good money, I generally worked long hours and worked every day…I was single, so it wasn’t like I was invading the kids’ college fund. And, I had a feeling, even if I had to live on rice and beans for a month afterward, that this was going to become a story I would tell for the rest of my life.
And John, younger than me and at least as crazy, had X-Men royalties to burn.
At eleven PM, Chloe was supposed to get off work. But some other server didn’t show up, there was a wedding reception running long and they needed her to stay till at least two AM. Sorry.
John said to me, “What are we going to do?”
I growled, “There’s a plane waiting for us on the tarmac at the Marine Air Terminal. It’s paid for. Non-refundable. On my credit card. We are going to Atlantic City. Got it?”
As we were leaving, Chloe gave me a note with her number on it. She said, “I gave my number to Johnny, but I think he might lose it, so, if he does, give him this, okay?”
So off went we three cab-alleros in a taxi. The Marine Air Terminal is next door to La Guardia.
It was a small plane. Seated five, I think. Bob asked if he could sit in the copilot’s seat, and the pilot allowed it.
The pilot was a nice guy, clearly good at what he did and as nuts as we were. After we took off, he let Bob drive! No, Bob isn’t a pilot, or wasn’t at the time, anyway. “Head toward the World Trade Towers,” said the pilot, “and turn left.”
Bob wanted to try flying between the towers, but the pilot said no. He wasn’t that nuts.
Bob drove all the way down. The pilot had a cooler full of beer and soda onboard, so there was Bob with a beer in one hand and the steering yoke in the other….
The pilot landed the plane, told us to call him when we wanted to return and went off to nap somewhere.
We went to Caesars and spent three or four hours playing blackjack. Because the gods smile upon nitwits sometimes, Bob broke even, John won a bottle or two of Dom’s worth, though he was fuzzy-headed enough by then to be splitting tens (drawing aces to each of them!) and I won a bit more than he did. That eased the pain in the wallet a little.
We flew back as the sun was coming up. Beautiful. Bob drove again.
Back in Manhattan, I went home, Bob went home and John, who lived in Long Beach, Long Island, fell asleep sitting on the curb out in front of the parking garage where his Beamer was imprisoned waiting for the place to open. So he said. I believe a policeman gently awakened him.
John, indeed, lost Chloe’s number, but I gave him the spare. I believe they ended up being an item for a while.
I have told that story many times. There’s more to tell…but not here.
More Items of Interest
Back when I worked for DC in 1975, for some reason I was given these models sheets. Things certainly have changed since then:
|Click to enlarge|
|(Made a little less lousy by the Blog Elf)
The story behind this picture, here.
I saw this news item and thought I'd re-post in the comments here: http://geek-news.mtv.com/2012/04/26/john-romita-jr-guiness-world-record/?xrs=share_fb
i'm trying to remember the name of aquaman's seahorse
UGH. So far, I am not impressed one bit I don't care what people say. This reboot is such a disgrace in so many ways, it's not even funny.I actually miss the real DCU!
There are some very good colorists working today. Paul Mounts is excellent when working with a good team and I haven't seen a lot of her work, but Laura Martin did a beautiful job on Serenity. The biggest mistakes colorists today seem to make is not understanding the printing process and how badly their extremely dark colors will print. The art is often obscured to the point of putting people off trying to decipher the art (and by peopla I mean me. lol). But also many colorists are simply not good artists. They don't understand basic painting techniques in the computer or out of it and it shows in their work.
Dear JayJay and Uncle Twitchy – Did either of check out Scott Morse's Strange Science Fantasy for IDW? in general, I'm just not much of a fan of what's been done with digital coloring thus far. (And I really don't like digital lettering. I guess I'm just set in my damn ways, lol) Anyway, I thought it was a very interesting look/design and I know he was trying to do different things re: coloring. I'd be curious for your take on it, if you ever saw it or see it sometime.
Jeez… Cutting ruby. Now I feel old!
We've come a long way, baby! 😉
But of course (long time reader of the blog, second-time poster) — I was trained in that very coloring system years ago and have since transitioned into printing, so I'm conversant enough with both coloring systems and fluent in the latter. Your explanation is, I'm quite sure, enlightening to those readers of the blog who were NOT aware of how comics were colored back when screens and rubylith were still being cut by poor prepress operators instead of Photoshop just assigning CMYK gradients to everything. 😀
Oh, I know, but I was referring to old-timey comic book coding. The CMYK colors for comics were limited to increments of 25, 50, 75 and 100%. A colorist had to code a colored page, well they were supposed to, with at least some of the colors. Some did less, some did more and a few did none. But I always found that more coding produced better results. More predictable, anyway. If you wanted to code Spider-Man you would pencil in YR and indicate the red parts and pencil in BR3 to indicate the blue parts, that would mean 100% yellow plus 100% red for the red and 100% blue plus 50% red for the blue. We tended to use the PMS to represent the comic book colors rather than the other way around. But because many licensees were doing spot color printing or molding plastics we had to provide PMS colors.
JayJay — Pantone changed their CMYK values a few years back. Nowadays, PMS 300 for SWOP (Newsprint) breaks down as C98M38Y2K10, and PMS 185 breaks down as C1M91Y89K1.
…You know, the story bit about letting Bob Layton fly the plane begs the question: where *was* Bob during 9/11?
[Waits for nasty e-mail from Bob]
Found this, it looks like it was indeed Colleen Doran:
When I read your comment the name Colleen Doran leaped to my mind. At a Chicago Con. Not sure that's right, I could be totally off-base, but…someone should ask the talented Ms. Doran. Warning: a lot of bizarre things leap to my mind on small provocation.
Off Topic, but I felt that this post was a cogent analysis of why comics are failing:
Makes me wonder if it was ever actually considered as a running feature (tongue in cheek of course) and if there were actually other hunks lined up, though I doubt anyone would remember by now.
Come to think of it, I seem to remember reading in a blog that the idea was suggested to Jim by a female comics creator (not working at Marvel or DC) during a convention. Does anyone remember any such thing?
I was just thinking about this earlier, Dimitris. I wonder who would have been the other hunks of the month. Steve Geiger was attractive, but he wore too much spandex to be really hunky. I seem to recall Marcus McLauran was quite good looking. Lots of guys at Marvel were attractive, Carl Potts, John Morelli,Mark Beachum, Dan Chichester, Greg Wright, Denys Cowan… I'm forgetting, it's been so long. But I think people did look to JR, Jr. as a bit of a playboy.
"SOMEONE abandoned it after that first and only photo was printed!"
They probably thought it was a tough act to follow!:)
Just a joke, I'm a big fan of your work
I agree with Dusty, above re: our abiding interest in Shooter-era Marvel and the folks and goings-on behind the scenes. And I second JediJones' idea. There are a few of Marvel's projects over the years (Earth X, 1602, Wolverine: Origins, Joss Whedon's Astonishing X-Men, just to name a few of my own favorites) on which I'd love to hear his or JJ's opinion. Just an idea for future blogs – but keep up whatever you're doing, regardless. This is my favorite daily (often multi-daily) stop on the internet, and that's really saying something considering all that's out there.
I've gotten pointed to quite a few also-entertaining blogs from the comments sections, as well. Lots of folks with cool blogs stopping by here, I must say.
So cool to see JRJR chiming in. If anyone hasn't seen it and is interested in such things, there is a must-read issue of Comic Book Artist out there that is a book-length retrospective/ interview with JRSR and JRJR – one of my favorite things to read/ flip through ever published.
I liked reading Jim's brief opinions of some of the newer Daredevil and Spider-Man issues in some recent blog comments. I think a cool idea for a future blog entry would be for Jim to take 10 or so recent issues of different titles and give us some capsule reviews of them. It might be a good way to talk about what's wrong or right with how comics are being done today.
Heck, a regular comic book review feature would be great, whether it's of new issues or TPBs. I know there's no comic book critic I'd trust more than Jim. I'd check out anything he recommended.
Definitely my favorite blog, and now the great John Romita Jr. has joined the party! I really wish Disney was paying attention, and then looked at how there is a serious lack of interest in Quesada, Alonso, and Brevoort's attempts to engage the readers, despite having current books to discuss. It's all about respectful communication, and Jim appears to have mastered that! And all this time I believed he lacked people skills because of the horror stories! For a pariah, he seems to be a class act!
And despite the horror stories, Jim, I've always considered you #2 to Stan Lee in my personal Marvel hall of fame! Although Stan might want to start blogging to hold you off, because you're gaining on him!
I've said it before, but will say again: this is my favourite blog. And I know I'm not the only person who feels this way.
Please keep on keeping on.
No offense taken
I do shudder when I think of Layton flying that plane!
I remember the "Hunk" story.
You insisted that with several young, single guys working for Marvel, we should poke fun at all of ourselves by having a "Hunk O The Month". It was pure tongue and cheek……SOMEONE abandoned it after that first and only photo was printed! I took it as a practical joke!
25 years of ball busting! I'll get you for that!
All is well with the family, thanks.
You're probably right, I'm probably calling them the wrong thing.
Honestly, that one I just don't remember well, but back in those days, John was the cool guy everyone admired — sort of like the Fonz, if the Fonz were a little more GQ. : ) Sounds like it was good-natured fun.
I hope I haven't offended you.
We were so so young and crazy. That was a highlight-reel night of my life.
I hope everything's good with you and yours.
Can we hear the story behind how JRJr became the "Hunk of the Month" on the Bullpen Bulletins page?
Her name was Naomie. A beautiful lady, and we dated for a while.
Take everything with a grain of salt….it was thirty years ago, alcohol was involved…..and I took a cab home!
Thank you for this blog. That' such an entertaining and learning experience. behind the scene stuff is so fun. About this one story : this looks like the Johnny that I met. You gotta love this guy.
I forwarded this link to him.I hope he'll come around and give us his side of this hilarious story
Ty, I had a set of DC stickers back in the 70s and many were taken from the above images — The Flash, Aquaman, Green Lantern, Green Arrow… I also had, but by different artists, Batman and Superman (at the least). I stuck them all over the house! Aquaman on the bathtub, of course ;^)
Of the four Bat-Villains, Catwoman is by Moldoff, and the other three are by Infantino and Anderson.
Batgirl – main figure by Infantino/Anderson, the lower right one is Delbo/Colletta and by the logo is Heck/Colletta.
Robin – right, Infantino and Anderson, and the B&R figures look like Moldoff and Giella.
Supergirl? Mystery-time! I think I see Oksner, Abel, Giordano…help!
Wonder Woman solo is Murphy Anderson. WW left is the original WW artist from the Golden Age, Harry G, Peter and god knows who did the WW on the right.
Aquaman – Murphy Anderson
Green Arrow and Flash both by Swan and Anderson and GL by Gil Kane
Shazam – top 3 are CC Beck and the lower one is Kurt Shaffenburger (or Lou Wahl)
Are they model sheets or sample licensing art? As stated above, they come from all sorts of sources and appeared on bed sheets, t-shirts, glasses, pencil cases, stickers and more throughout the 1970s. I would have thought a model sheet would have been more in the vein of what Garcia Lopez did (as shown in the history of the second Superman/Spider-Man team-up): ie. something that showed front view, backview, etc.
Suzanne de Nimes (suedenim)
The later model sheets by Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez are truly wonderful:
(Not everything there is a model sheet, but it's all great!)
These DC model sheets contain several of the images used for the 1976 Pepsi super-hero glasses.
Cool beans, Mr.S, I look forward to it!
Thank you for the clarification, Mr.Miyake. I was depending on my increasingly-failing memory, rather than looking it up. No journalism awards for me! 🙁
It's nice to hear from another "alternate u" enthusiast. Collecting the whole first series of "What If?" is what turned my toddler stack of food-smeared, colored-on, worn-out "funnies" into a serious pre-adolescent-through-middle-aged-adolescent-and-counting *comic book collection* .
Thanks. My take on What If…? is in the queue.
Ty, you are absolutely correct. I had those villains, for sure.
the model sheets… here's my pick: catwoman is traced over Shelly Moldoff, the penguin is Andru-Esposito. joker seems Garcia-lopez to me, and I'm pretty sure the riddler is Infantino-Anderson. Batgirl's head and the little one seems Grell. The large one is traced over the cover of her first apparition: Infantino-Anderson. The same goes for batman and the two robins. Oksner and Coletta draw supergirl. The first wonder woman could be an early Perez, then another trace over Peters and maybe Giordano. The first aquaman is too small, but by the cartoony ippocamp seems traced over Ramona Fradon; the second is pure Swanderson.
green arrow seems Grell or Giordano, the flash is again Infantino-Anderson, no doubt'bout green lantern, pure Gil Kane. shazam (name's captain marvel!!) is traced over CC Beck (the first two) and Kurt Schaffenberger the others. That was fun, thanks again, Mr Shooter.
Buchbinders is a fitting hangout for people in the comic book business.
Poor Chloe. She must have been working there at least twelve hours straight! I think she would have been too exhausted to have much fun at Atlantic City.
I'm surprised your crew managed to stay awake that night. I guess that's easy when you're having fun.
I'm glad you kept your Hembeck originals. I wonder how many other such letters have been lost by others. Shudder.
Your stories humanize the creators whose work I grew up with. Keep 'em coming!
I'm guessing that many of today's readers got into comics in the 70s and fell in love with these designs … the very designs that DC has put "behind" itself.
If you could find that 80s model sheet, I'd appreciate it!
I consider What If? to be one of my favorite Marvel series because it offered so much under a single cover of a single issue. A large chunk of a hero's life story, a point of deviation, and the suspense of finding out how that deviation affected the hero, for better or for worse over what might be a long period of time. As Jim has explained, Roy Thomas saved Marvel with Star Wars. But What If? is my favorite out of Thomas' innumerable contributions to Marvel. I'm glad Marvel reprinted as much of that first series as possible. I own all seven volumes of What If? Classic.
The second series of What If? started in 1989, two years after Jim left Marvel. I liked this series as well, though I prefer the original.
I think it says a lot about why DC was in the trouble it was in back in the 1970s when you notice that its model sheets were full of random drawings from ten, twenty, even thirty years' prior.
Hi Mr. Shooter. I have really been enjoying your blog. It is so fascinating to read the behind-the-scenes information of the stories I first enjoyed as a young one, and still enjoy today. MSH Secret Wars is still one of my favorite stories of all time. Spidey teaching the Beyonder how to pee in SW II was pretty memorable, also. 🙂
I apologize that my comment is not specifically about your latest blog, but instead references a decade-old interview with you that I just read recently, following a link to a link to a link. In it you mentioned that your opinion of Marvel's "2099" series was derivative.
Since the characters of Marvel and DC have been embellished with so much "modern" characterization that I don't care for, they occupy an ideal era in my imagination, a great part of which includes your tenure as Editor-in-Chief of Marvel.
I, a long time ago, decided that these characters are set in certain ways that I don't want changed, and therefore I greatly enjoy alternate universe stories; stories that break boundaries without compromising the cores of who the characters are.
I believe Roy Thomas started Marvel's "What If?" series, but it enjoyed a long run under your watchful eye. I think the second series may have begun while you were still at Marvel, also.
I would really enjoy reading your opinions, insights, and any anecdotes you may have concerning the "What If?" series.
(I liked "2099", being a possible future, but the "New Universe" escaped my adolescent sensibilities, possibly due to the reasons you previously mentioned.)
I must add that your blog exemplifies the best that blogs can offer because you actually have interesting things to say! I would enjoy a book about your experiences.
Did they or did they not use the model sheets for stickers that were sold in the 1970's?
The Flash looks like Curt Swan inked by Murphy Anderson. Could be Infantino under the inks 'though.
Patrick's right about Catwoman and Aquaman, on reflection. Is Flash by Novick?
Batgirl is Heck and Infantino. B&R are Infantino as are the Gotham Gang, taken from posters in Detective and elsewhere around '66, I think. GL is by Kane; Aquaman looks a bit Curt Swan-ish to me.
Patrick Daniel O'Neill
The Catwoman looks like a heavily retouched Shelly Moldoff to me; the Joker IS Infantino to my eye; I think both Supergirls are Bob Oksner, the larger one inked by Coletta; the single shot WW could be Sekowsky/Anderson, the non-Peters one in the other page is Andru/Esposito; the larger Aquaman is Anderson; the GA looks like Dillon/Anderson to me; the Flash might be Kane.
Hmm, or was that PMS 186? Oh no, the memory is really going.
There are a LOT of different artists on those model sheets. The Big Red Cheese is Schaffenburger, most of the Bat family looks Infantino (but Catwoman and Joker aren't Infantino — the Joker is early Aparo?). Two different artists for Supergirl, three different artists for Wonder Woman (one Peters, or somebody homaging Peters). GL is Kane. Green Arrow is somebody following Adams, maybe Grell.
As I recall, in the early 80s, Dick Giordano spent a lot of his spare time redoing all of DC's model sheets. And Brett Breeding seems to have inked a lot of the more recent model sheets, based on art up at the Catskill Comics site.
Oo! Oo! Hi Don! I remember this one! Spider-Man was Red = 100% yellow, 100% magenta or PMS 185 and Blue = 100% cyan, 50% magenta or PMS 300. Somewhere around here I have an old 80's model sheet that would have been given to licencees. I saw it a while back… somewhere…
I guess there's something wrong with me when I think that all of those DC characters seem so . . . happy.
I hope we get to see the old Marvel Model sheets. I think Spidey was 100% Red and 100% Blue.
For my money, Batgirl and Catwoman both looked way cooler in the 70s.
"…John Romita, Jr., international bon vivant…"
I'm telling people at the office that my comment on "Chris Claremont Face Down in His Mashed Potatoes" influenced Jim Shooter.
Jim or Jay Jay who drew those model sheets? they look familiar.
Awesome story. Well worth the coin you dropped for sure.
Another great blog Jim! Reading these is the best part of my day!
who knew comic people could have so much fun?
I have to say that this one almost got me in trouble at work when I started laughing to loud….