Writer. Creator. Large mammal.

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SUPERMAN – First Marvel Issue – Comments on Byrne’s Plot

When it seemed that Marvel might get the rights to Superman, John Byrne wrote an eight-page proposed plot for the first issue. My beat-by-beat description of Byrne’s plot yesterday generated a wave of very interesting, very insightful comments, among them these:

Marc Miyake said…

Dear Jim,

Thanks for summarizing Byrne’s plot. I wish you had reviewed it, but maybe it’s best that you didn’t because we readers can then give our own evaluations without being influenced.

I wasn’t terribly fond of much of Byrne’s published revamp, but in some ways I prefer it to this unused plot:

1. The “searing radiation”: This element is confusing and unnecessary. Could Lara have been poisoned by it? Maybe not, since Kal-El wasn’t. Did it mutate them, just as cosmic rays changed the Fantastic Four? Whatever changes affected Lara — if any — obviously weren’t enough to enable her to survive the crash … despite Jor-El’s prediction that the “additional factor […] that will help them [plural!] survive.” Maybe Byrne meant to introduce the “additional factor” in some later issue.

2. Lara dying on Earth. Byrne has mentioned this in an earlier proposal. This serves no purpose I can see other than to differentiate this origin from the classic one in which Jor-El and Lara die as a couple. I recall Byrne saying that Lara’s death would serve a purpose: she’d die from kryptonite and thereby prove that it was fatal. Maybe he came up with that after he turned in this plot.

3. Martha’s “pregnancy”: IIRC, in the published revamp, Martha had a cover story: she was pregnant when the Kents were snowed in (sorry if I got this wrong). No cover story here.

4. Jonathan’s death: In the late 30s version of the origin, the passing of both Kents marks Clark’s manhood. This death just seems random. I guess Martha has to survive to sew Clark’s costume.

5. The raid reminds me of Spider-Man’s origin: in both case, a failure to act led to terrible consequences. Would Byrne’s Superman have been perpetually haunted by this incident? Was this a conscious attempt to Marvelize Superman, to give him a psychological weak point? I don’t like the idea of associating Superman with failure.

6. The subway rescue is large in scale, but not as spectacular as the space plane rescue in the published revamp.

It’s still a decent done-in-one, though. I’m sure I’d have loved Byrne’s art, and the conclusion cracked me up: “Sorry, the caped man says, he’s already given his story to someone else, Clark Kent.” And I’m relieved to see that teenage Clark didn’t become a football star which I’ve long thought was out of character. (Maybe he did off-panel.)

I wonder how readers who have read the New 52 relaunches of the Superman titles would react to this plot.


October 25, 2011 5:48 PM

Science Fiction vs. Science Fantasy

Defiant1 Commented:

“I think it’s funny seeing Matt Murdock say “It was nice of Foggy to get me this push button tape recorder”. That would have been a big deal to a kid back then. My dad let me play with one he owned in the 70’s and I know I played with it for hours upon hours. The one pictured above looks like it’s about 3 times as big as the one I used.

One thing that bothers me about modern comics is that in many cases they are still using repulsor rays and outdated or misinterpreted science from 50 years ago. When Stan Lee wrote about transistors in 1961, they had only been invented 2 years earlier. Stan didn’t understand that transistors don’t actually power anything, because they were just a switch…. What’s important to me is that he made an attempt to keep the science and technology relevant. I don’t see any interest by most writers to do that in modern comics. We have scientists on the verge of creating black holes in Europe. We’ve got robots that climb walls using nothing but surface tension. We have scientists out in Arizona melting diamonds and creating heat 60 times hotter than the sun. I liked comics for the imagination and possibilities they introduced. Definitely not just social possibilities they showed us. There was more to it than “Hey, I’m bigger than you… I’ll stick my chest out while I’m hitting you into the next state.”

People are working on Iron Man armors. People are working on suits you can wear to climb walls like Spider-Man. Scientists are working on Invisibility cloaks that can hide objects or entire events. Scientists have made a material 10 times harder than diamonds. Is it any wonder kids have no interest in science related occupations anymore. Mainstream modern literature escapes more into pure science-fantasy than it does science-fiction.

Apologies for derailing the topic, but those images mean more to me than just examples of female stereotypes in the 60’s and 70’s.”


RE: Science fiction vs. science fantasy: Some of us are still trying to go the science fiction route. An executive from Intel whose title is “Futurist” was sufficiently impressed by the research and real science underlying the stories my recent Doctor Solar: Man of the Atom and Magnus Robot Fighter comics that he based a lecture he gave at the University of Washington on my stories. He also invited me to appear with him and Craig Engler, senior executive of the SyFy Channel on a panel this Sunday at the NYCC: “Screen Future: Gaming, Comics and TV Around the World and Five Years From Now.”

A Question About Female Characters


“Totally off-topic, I’ve been reading some old Daredevil tales from the 1960s/70s and was surprised at the “limp” way the female characters were presented. Both Karen Page (in particular) and the Black Widow are from the “Oh, Matt…” school. Any thoughts? (or kick me into the place where I SHOULD have posted this) – MmM “


RE: the portrayal of female characters in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Those were less enlightened times. And not all the creators at that time were up to date even with the current state of enlightenment.

I grew up in the 50’s and 60’s. That was a remarkable time in which a sweeping revolution began that has changed the world, at least the western world, tremendously. It didn’t happen suddenly, all at once, but starting then and continuing now a revolution in the human condition occurred. I was just old enough to retain an awareness of the before and comprehend the transition into the after, up to the present. Therefore, I am able to conceive of and believe in progress beyond the still-sorry state of things.

A Few More Thoughts Regarding Art Return

Ja brought up an interesting scenario to ponder:

ja said… (…)
Jim, I would love to know your insight on this possible real-world scenario: Disney might one day revoke Marvel’s policy on art returns, as they (significantly more than Warner Bros.) have been so vociferously protective of their properties & characters, that everyone who works on anything Mickey, simply are not allowed to keep the originals they produce.

Originals (storyboards, previsualization development work, prop designs, statues, etc.) are, by contract and policy, literally the property of Disney.

What happens when or if Disney puts a halt to this policy at Marvel, leading the way for Warner Bros. and everyone else? I believe this will send damaging ripples throughout the industry, greatly affecting business at conventions. Great or greater damage to a number of the artists themselves, who depend on that extra income to supplement their livelihoods, could be wrought.

That’s a bomb that I would hate to see go off in this industry. It’s one I can easily imagine happening, though. If or when that would happen, I suspect it would be only the beginning of the various kinds of policy changes by Those In Charge that could cripple the comics industry as a whole.

Those In Charge tend to do such things, wantonly.

Jim, do you think this would or could ever happen? Have you heard any talk from significantly higher-ups from any companies about such a thing?
It’s a butt-clenching, sphincter-tightening possibility that a lot of people would shudder to think about. September 15, 2011 8:06 PM 

I don’t have any special inside information on what’s going on upstairs at Marvel or Disney anymore.
However, I worked for the Walt Disney Company as a consultant for nearly a year back in 1988-1989. I was hired by the head of marketing for the consumer products division, Michael Lynton, and worked closely with Michael and his superior, Steve McBeth. My assignment was to develop publishing plans and lay the foundation for Disney to bring in-house its comic book publishing, then being licensed to Gladstone Publishing. In other words, I was helping to create a comic book and magazine publishing division for Disney.

A Comment and an Answer About Gene Day’s Death

czeskleba commented:
Dave Sim tells the story about Gene Day’s health problems and death here:

To summarize… Day came down to Manhattan to do a rush ink job on an issue of Master of Kung Fu. Marvel put him up in a roach-infested hotel, and when he complained he was told he could either stay there or sleep at the Marvel offices. He chose the latter, not realizing the heat would be turned off in the office at night. It was winter, and sleeping in the very cold Marvel offices caused him to develop a kidney infection, which was the beginning of serious health problems that culminated in his tragic death by heart attack.

I haven’t read Moench’s comments, but I would assume he blamed Shooter for the above incident with the infested motel/cold Marvel office (though Shooter was not directly involved in the situation or even aware of it as far as I know). Chronic kidney problems can be a contributory factor in heart disease, so I assume he then blames the situation for ultimately causing Gene’s death.

A Recent Question and an Answer

ja commented on yesterday’s post:

“I must say it’s very impressive that you’ve saved so many items from your tenure at Marvel, and I assume, the rest of your career.

Is this some sort of an Obsessive Compulsive Disorder-kind of thing, or did you one day make a conscious decision to save everything for posterity?”

Toward the end of my time at Marvel, Marvel’s upper management duo, Galton and Calamari, along with Shelly Feinberg and a few other Cadence bigwigs (as “CMI” — Cadence Management Inc.) had taken Cadence, Marvel’s parent, private and sold the Marvel division to New World Entertainment (NWE).  Throughout the process, as they furthered their quest to cash in and line their own pockets on what we, the comics people had built, they took certain unethical and, I believe, illegal steps.

I was senior enough that all I had to do was keep my mouth shut, help them sell my troops down the river and I would have been handsomely rewarded. One executive on a lower level than I ended up with a $3 million payoff. Mine would have been bigger, if I had merely cooperated.  

I chose instead to become a “labor leader.”  As the pension plan was cashed out, benefits were withdrawn, health coverage was diminished, etc., all done to fatten cash flow to increase the value of CMI’s sale-price multiple, I resisted. They even tried to retroactively eliminate the royalty plan. That battle I won — by threatening a class action lawsuit. At the top of my lungs.

Storytelling Rant

JayJay here. In response to several comments about the state of storytelling in the business today, Jim wrote the following:

RE: Storytelling by artists.  Too many artists these days have no understanding of how to convey information — that is, how to do their part of telling the story.  Or they think it’s their job to make cool pictures and that’s all — explaining things is up to the writer — he or she can always add a caption or something.  Some of them have that attitude even when it’s a full script!  Or, they actively ignore what is called for and draw whatever the hell they want because they think story doesn’t matter.

Call for an establishing shot.  They give you a big head shot.  Tell them to draw figures in action.  It’s a mile away or cropped to the point that it’s meaningless.  Tell them to draw a close up.  They think it’s time to do a direct overhead shot of the room that mostly features the floor.  Give them ref, they ignore it and make something up.  Don’t give them ref and they complain.


An Answer to a Comment

JayJay here. Jim wrote the following in response to a comment from yesterday, but I wanted to post it here since it applies to more than just that specific comment.

Jeff wrote:
“For over 30 years, I have read numerous “Jim Shooter screwed me” stories in various interviews from, usually, The Comics Journal, plus other fanzines of the day…”

Jim answered:
“…numerous “Jim Shooter screwed me” stories….

I’ve read a few such interviews and been told about others. I’m always interested in exactly what constituted the screwing. Did I steal their money? Sleep with their wives? Give their kids drugs?  What was the crime?

Other than a few over-the-top examples, notably the Doug Moench interview in which he accused me of being responsible for Gene Day’s death, as far as I can tell, these are generally the crimes alleged:

     1)  I gave the creator in question direction. That is, I told him or her what to do, or refused to allow something he or she wanted to do.

     2)  I wasn’t warm and fuzzy enough. I didn’t sugar coat things enough. I was “mean.”

ROM Comments and Answers

Michael Netzer left the following comment on The Coming of ROM: A Knight’s Tale:

Dear Jim,

You remain one of the more gracious people in the comics world. Your sense of fairness and goodwill towards creators have inscribed memories of one of the more engaging and steadfast people I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with.

Those were strange days indeed. And though the strangeness seems to still haunt from time to time, it channels a little more succinctly these days. Certainly drawing that Rom cover the way I did was not really intended as anything against you or Marvel, but rather brought about by other things happening around me. I appreciate that you understood that back then and let me know so.

Still, looking back on it all, it’s not clear that it could have been different, or should have been, considering the cards dealt. I suppose something about embracing extreme states when they impose themselves, is part of all of our development, each in our own way. That you can sum it up today, also with a few positive words, is an uplifting indication that it wasn’t all for naught. Much appreciated, sir.

Tue: Alan Weiss was pretty close to Neal also around that time but he never went to extremes such as this. I told the story about this cover in an article some 6 years ago <http://bit.ly/keN5y9>, which shows just how out of the box things were for me in that period.

Interesting that this should come up now because I haven’t done anything like that with art since then… at least until recently. In that I’m still on the periphery of the industry and have some thoughts about some of the goings on, I found myself burning one of my drawings last week in order to make a somewhat lighthearted statement about DC’s handling of Superman in Action 900. Here’s the video. <http://bit.ly/lrNEA0> Links in its info lead to the entire story behind it. But like I said, the entire affair is also channeled towards a more succinct benefit <http://bit.ly/iozgYf> from the incident. 

Legion Overview Question and an Answer

“T” commented on Legion of Super Heroes Overview, Part 3:

“Wow, Jim, I’m sorry to hear about all the trouble you had while on Legion of Super-Heroes. I get the feeling Mark Waid probably went through something similar when he returned to The Flash. His LoSH run doesn’t read like it went through too much editorial interference, but I bet it was a little disconcerting when Justice League of America brought back the original incarnation of the team, instead of using Mark and Barry Kitson created.

Anyway, great overview. You had a lot of good ideas and it’s a shame not all of them made it into print. I’ll be honest, though, I’m a little confused by the rationale for Invisible Kid becoming Stealth? How did his attraction to Gazelle convince IK that he was a woman stuck in a man’s body? Maybe I missed something…

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