David Michelinie’s check didn’t come. It was the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, 1978, I think.
Marvel Comics was still sorting out its payment procedures, which went through several changes during the first year I was Editor in Chief. You can read about it here and here.
The deal was supposed to be if your voucher was received by the cutoff day one week, your check would be mailed Monday of the next week. By Wednesday, surely, you’d have your check.
Dave lived in Newark, Delaware. He called me at the office that Wednesday to…umm…gently express his…umm…disappointment? What’s the politest way to say murderous rage?
Most of us lived hand to mouth in those days. The business was struggling. Most of us were struggling. Dave was more responsible than most. A solid citizen. He owned a home. He managed pretty well, compared to some of us.
But he needed that check. It was the day before Thanksgiving. He had no cash and hadn’t been to the grocery store lately. What was he supposed to do, eat cat food for Turkey Day?
I looked into it. Somehow his voucher hadn’t made it into last week’s batch. Bookkeeping had put it aside because of some question about it.
I went upstairs and calmly, rationally, at the top of my lungs convinced the money tweezers to cut that check. Right now would be lovely.
I called Dave back and told him I would hand deliver the check the next day, Thanksgiving. So what, he said. His bank would be closed. I told him the ol’ expense account would buy us dinner, and I’d bring him some cash.
I lived in Queens Village at the time, and I had a car. A car was a necessity out that way and the apartment complex had a parking lot, which is Heaven on Earth in the New York area.
The next morning, I drove to Newark, about 150 miles away. It took four hours or so. I don’t think Dave believed I was coming until I showed up on his doorstep. With a check and American money in hand.
I got to see his place. Very nice, made all the more charming by the extensive collection of nunchakas hung from the living room ceiling. I got to meet his cat, a gray shorthair, I think, named “Mouse.” Mouse? I can’t complain too much about that. I’ve got a cat named “Tomato.”
For dinner, we went to one of the few joints nearby that was open, a sort of upscale pub. Very nice, actually. I don’t think we had turkey. I don’t think they served turkey. I believe we ate excellent burgers. Close enough.
I went home after dinner. There had been a little traffic on the way down—people on their way to grandma’s house, I guess—but almost none on the way back while everyone else but me was slumped in front of the football game on the tube in a tryptophan-induced stupor. It took less than three hours.
So, I set right a Marvel mistake. I had a good meal. Dave and I were both Turkey Day “orphans,” in the sense that neither of us had any family or folks anywhere close, so it was good to have company. All in all, it was a pretty good Thanksgiving.
This is the route from Queens Village to Newark, Delaware.
MONDAY: Ditko at VALIANT and DEFIANT
I have a black cat that I rescued as a kitten and named Vader, thinking that was a good name for a black cat. However, he grew up to be this happy-go-lucky, fat cat that loved attention. The first time my now-wife met him, she thought I called him "Tater", so from then on, he's been multiple variations of that name. Most of the time we call him Potato.
So…don't feel too bad about having a cat named Tomato.
It might have been a perfect storm that resulted in Micheline getting that delivery. I guess if Jim had family nearby, it wouldn't of happened. But it was a nice move either way.
"David Michelinie: One of my all-time favorite comics writers.
Agreed! Michelinie is my second favorite writer, behind Walt Simonson. They are the only 2 I rate ahead of Roger Stern.
I went to school in Newark, DE (University of Delaware, home of the Fighting Blue Hens). For the life of me, I can't think of another reason to live there.
There are maybe 4 bosses in America who would do this. Or 3.
Both Tomato and sidekick Ingot are all black.
Great story. Shows how much of a professional you are to go above and beyond in supporting your employees.
Great story. Having a cat named Tomato is original. I myself have immortalized one of the Beatles with my dog Ringo. Didn't know in the 70's that one of the Marvel writers lived in Deleware. I thought you all lived closer to New York.
Ole M. Olsen
I just read the TPB of your new Magnus Dark Horse material, so the mention about your cat Tomato caught my eye. I suppose your Tomato isn't quite as red as Magnus'?
Very nice story. But beware! Keep telling stories like this, and your reputation so assiduously promoted by certain former Marvel creative types, as a real-life Daimon Hellstrom… might just be placed in jeopardy! 🙂
Tomato and her little buddy, Ingot, were both rescue cats.
Was Michelinie a martial arts enthusiast? I know he knew a lot about the subject, and I sort of assumed he knew how to use the Nunchakus. But I never asked.
I found a Jim Shooter interview circa 2007 that I hadn't read before after Marc quoted it in a recent blog comment. Part 2 has some interesting discussion of Jim's dealings with Steve Ditko that Jim hasn't covered on the blog yet. So if you just can't wait until tomorrow, check it out and spoil tomorrow's blog entry. Here are Part 1 and Part 2 of the interview.
There are some other great anecdotes in there that haven't come up on the blog yet. The first time Jim met Gil Kane is a great one. Wally Wood helping Jim get credited on some '60s DC comics is another good story. I was also glad to hear that Paul Levitz sends Jim copies of any Legion toys that are produced. Hopefully Jim gets the Legion action figure box set that Mattel sold on their web site last month. I didn't realize Jim had a son until I read it in this interview either. You learn something new every day!
… a cat named "Tomato".
An inspiration for a certain Robot Fighter's pet cat? As a long time pet owner and volunteer for pet rescue, it made my day to open up the new Magnus and to see him with a pet cat in his bachelor pad in the sky. Simple details like that, in just a few panels here and there, made Magnus seem a lot more relatable to me.
Can't wait for the Ditko article. Hope you talk about his work on the WWF books.
Keep up the great work here!
David Michelinie: One of my all-time favorite comics writers.
I had been assuming that the "Newark" in your title was going to be the one in New Jersey. I didn't even know there was one in Delaware. I'm from Hawaii where distances are very short, so the concept of such long journeys by car is still foreign to me. Hence I'm impressed by the effort you took to "set right a Marvel mistake." You must have had a lot of good memories for company on the way back — memories that you've shared with us over thirty years later.
I had no idea David Michelinie lived so far down south. I had been assuming that he was in the NYC area so that you would have been able to work on the Korvac saga — and much later, VALIANT stories — together in person.
I also had no idea Michelinie had a nunchaku collection. Was he a martial arts enthusiast?
You *are* a pretty decent guy! (Just scary-ass tall!)
Jim, I could've done with a boss like you after the IPC Youth Group (the comics dept) had been bought by the infamous Robert Maxwell from IPC Magazines. Not sending cheques when they said they would seemed to be what Maxwell's company did best.
Yeah, it's a shitty club to be a member of to be sure.
"calmly, rationally, at the top of my lungs" is my favorite phrase this week. 😀
I belong to the same club you do. 🙂
Very cool. I don't think I've ever worked for a boss that would've done that for me…especially on a holiday. Most of the people I've worked for have been self-centered and self-serving pricks…