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Jim Shooter Biographical Interview by Alex Grand & Jim Thompson

Read Alex Grand’s Understanding Superhero Comic Books published by McFarland Books in 2023 with Foreword by Jim Steranko with editorial reviews by comic book professionals, Jim Shooter, Tom Palmer, Tom DeFalco, Danny Fingeroth, Alex Segura, Carl Potts, Guy Dorian Sr. and more.

In the meantime enjoy the show:

James Shooter is an American writer, editor, and publisher of various comic books. He started professionally in the medium at the age of 14, and he is most notable for his successful and controversial run as Marvel Comics’ ninth editor-in-chief from 1978 to 1987, and founder of Valiant Comics and Editor-In-Chief from 1989 to 1992. Also founder of Defiant Comics and Broadway Comics.

As a writer, he is best known for his work on The Avengers, The Legion of Superheroes, Secret Wars, Star Brand, Harbinger, Magnus: Robot Fighter, and Solar: Man of the Atom.

Alex Grand and co-host Jim Thompson interview Jim Shooter in a career spanning biography. Add-On Companion Shooter Biographical Interview youtu.be/m4VrPRmoCZs

🎬 Edited & Produced by Alex Grand. Thumbnail Artwork, CBH Podcast ©2021 Comic
Book Historians

Images used in artwork ©Their Respective Copyright holders
#JimShooter Biographical Interview by Alex Grand & Jim Thompson

📜 Video chapters for Interview 1 of 2:
00:00 Childhood Origins & Marvel Fan
07:30 Who did what: Stan Lee, Jack Kirby or Steve Ditko
18:07 Mort Weisinger’s Apprentice
19:00 Working on Legion of Superheroes
25:00 Creating the Karate Kid
28:00 Ferro Lad’s Race & Death
39:20 1960s DC comics dress code at 1980s Marvel & 1990s Valiant
43:00 Rogues Gallery/Princess Projectra
45:35 Drawing Layouts for Gil Kane, Wally Wood, Neal Adams
53:20 Captain Action Toys-Comics synergy
1:07:00 Writing DC’s first drug rehab story
1:09:00 Writing first Superman-Flash race
1:13:09 Mort Weisinger’s Abuse
1:27:00 Short 1969 stay at #MarvelComics
1:28:00 YMCA in Hulk Magazine 23 1980
1:39:00 Short 1969 stay at Marvel Comics
1:44:00 Working at Ad Agency in the early 1970s
1:45:00 Working DC Comics again under Julius Schwartz
1:58:15 Became Marvel Associate Editor under Marv Wolfman 1975
2:04:00 Editor-Writer Wars of 1970s Marvel
2:10:00 Origin of Jim Galton
2:11:40 Editor-Writer Wars of 1970s Marvel
2:16:10 Working with Archie Goodwin EIC
2:21:00 Plotting Spider-Man strip w/ Stan Lee
2:27:20 Becoming Editor-in-Chief in 1978
2:29:00 #Avengers comic w/ George Perez
2:37:30 Ant-Man/Wasp Controversy
2:48:10 Dead Korvac saga sequel
2:57:00 Stern & Monica Rambeaux – introducing Diversity in Marvel Bullpen
3:01:40 Star Wars & Superman films reinvigorated Marvel in 1978
3:07:00 Ending Editor/Writer 1970s Marvel
3:09:30 Overseeing Walt Simonson’s Thor
3:12:00 Epic Illustrated with Rick Marschall & Archie Goodwin
3:16:30 Ending Editor/Writer 1970s Marvel
3:17:40 Working with Archie Goodwin EIC
3:23:00 Death of the Marvel Black and White Magazines
3:25:18 #StanLee, Jim Shooter & Jim Galton in the early 1980s
3:26:30 Royalty Incentive Plan at Marvel
3:30:55 Assessment of Paul Levitz
3:32:10 Creation of #Dazzler
3:38:11 Marvel’s Editor-in-Chief via Phil Seuling & Chuck Rozanski
3:46:06 Working with Bob Hall
3:48:25 Ant-Man/Wasp Controversy
4:01:40 Graphic Novels to Marvel with Jim Starlin
4:06:03 Overseeing Chris Claremont’s X-Men
4:20:20 John Byrne on X-Men, Captain America & Fantastic Four
4:29:36 Marvel DC comic crossovers & dead Avengers/JLA story
4:44:00 Contest of Champions with Bill Mantlo
4:46:00 #SecretWars w/ Mike Zeck
4:52:00 Marvel Universe handbook genesis
4:56:00 Mark Gruenwald
5:00:50 Shooter & Steve Gerber with Secret Wars 2
5:02:00 Stewart the Rat
5:09:20 Steve Gerber – Howard the Duck settlement
5:10:00 Marvel’s legal issues with Jack Kirby
5:11:00 Getting Steve Ditko back his Original Art vs Jack Kirby
5:14:45 Marvel’s sale from Cadence to New World
5:20:40 Steve Gerber – Howard the Duck settlement
5:25:25 Original Kirby Spider-Man proposal to Marvel
5:26:35 1985/6 Corporate War that affected his Managerial style
5:30:00 John Byrne on X-Men, Captain America & Fantastic Four
5:33:00 Marvel’s sale from Cadence to New World
5:33:40 Dark Knight Returns begat the Fall of the Mutants
5:37:50 Wolfman, Colan, Moench, Chaykin, Ploog & Roy Thomas leave Marvel
6:07:10 Sad Death of Gene Day
6:17:00 The New Universe & Jenette Kahn’s Crisis on Infinite Earths
6:24:30 Marvel’s sale from Cadence to New World
6:32:00 Tom DeFalco becomes Editor-In-Chief
6:35:45 His relationship w/ Bob Layton & Massarsky
6:42:10 Raising money to buy Marvel from New World in 1989
6:43:45 Rise & Fall of #ValiantComics
6:47:00 His Relationship w/ Steve Ditko
6:50:00 Valiant shakeups with Layton & Barry Windsor-Smith
6:59:20 Saying Goodbye to Don Perlin
7:01:35 Giving Joe Quesada his 1st comics job
7:02:01 Helping the #ImageRevolution
7:06:45 Helping Milestone Comics
7:08:00 Rise & Fall of #DefiantComics
7:15:35 #BroadwayComics w/ Lorne Michaels
7:18:45 Trying to buy Marvel during its 1996 bankruptcy
7:22:00 Corporate Warfare between ToyBiz & Marvel
7:23:10 Mark Gruenwald
7:23:45 Unity 2000
7:25:10 Joining Illustrated Media 2003
7:26:25 America propaganda comics for the State Dept in Middle East
7:28:50 Recent DC Comics on Legion of Superheroes
7:38:00 His family

📜 Video chapters for Interview 2 of 2
00:00 Stan Lee & Jack Kirby 1976-78
01:55 #SpiderMan strip & Eternals
09:19 Silver Surfer Graphic Novel
12:05 Working with Sol Brodsky
20:31 Larry Lieber at Marvel & Atlas/Seaboard
23:35 Copyright Law of 1978
30:24 Neal Adams Creators Union
31:24 Neal Adams’ film Nannaz
36:26 Steve Ditko & Creators Union
39:30 Wally Wood at SDCC 1981
43:30 Howard Chaykin & others leaving #MarvelComics 1980
56:50 Gil Kane leaving Marvel 1980s
59:30 1976 Writer/Artists leaving Marvel vs 1980
1:08:26 New Blood at Marvel 1978-80
1:11:10 Denny O’Neill at Marvel
1:16:22 Marvel Age – Carol Kalish/Jim Salicrup
1:21:15 Danny Fingeroth
1:25:04 1984 Marvel Fumetti Comic
1:33:08 Eliot R. Brown Marvel Tech Expert
1:36:05 Mike Carlin leaving Marvel 1980s
1:41:39 Star Wars & Superman films
1:45:10 Close Encounters of the Third King
1:47:48 Starriors, Crystar, Raiders of the Lost Ark
1:48:28 Battlestar Galactica
1:49:38 Godzilla & Shogun Warriors
1:53:16 Micronauts
1:56:05 ROM
1:59:00 Bill Mantlo Plagiarizes Harlan Ellison, Marvel Gets Sued
2:04:38 GI Joe & Hasbro
2:13:00 Push Female GI Joe’s
2:14:40 Marvel Animation Productions
2:16:31 Transformers & Optimus Prime Origin
2:20:53 Spider-Man & his Amazing Friends
2:23:50 More #Transformers Origin
2:26:20 Shooter created Cybertron
2:30:30 #StanLee’s executive title
2:35:50 #StarComics
2:41:00 Care Bears & He-Man
2:43:04 #SpiderHam
2:46:25 Royal Roy Harvey lawsuit/ Warren Kremer
2:49:59 #ThunderCats Comic
2:51:00 #Avengers 200 & Carol Danvers
2:52:50 1986 & Corporate War
2:54:44 Jim Owsley/Christopher Priest
2:56:55 New Universe Funding Cut
2:59:52 Barry Windsor-Smith & #ValiantComics
3:07:55 Valiant Pen name, Paul Creddick
3:14:00 Ditko Fired from Valiant, not Don Perlin
3:16:05 Valiant, Dark Horse & Mike Richardson in 2007
3:27:43 Gary Groth & The Comics Journal

#ComicBookHistorians #SuperMan #XMen #ComicHistorian #CBHInterviews #CBHPodcast #CBH #TheComicsJournal #ComicBookHistorians #ComicHistorian #CBHInterviews #CBHPodcast #JimShooter #Marvel #MarvelComics #DCComics

 

Alex:          Welcome back to the Comic Book Historians Podcast, with Alex Grand and Jim Thompson. Today we have a key figure in comic history. Someone that I’ve really enjoyed following over the years; since I was a kid, actually, Jim Shooter. Jim, thank you so much for joining us today.

 

Shooter:    Thank you. It’s nice to be here.

 

Alex:          As our audience knows we really like to actually investigate the history of comics, and by asking comic book greats. And Jim Shooter certainly qualifies. So, we’re going to start in various stages of Jim’s life.

 

Jim:            Jim, you were born in 1951 in Pittsburgh, and your dad was a steel worker. That is about all I know about your family background. Can you give us a little bit more information, please?

 

Shooter:    Well, being a steel worker wasn’t that great a job in those days. I mean, that was kind of the last big industrial union to make any headway. So, we weren’t well off… I had one sister, and we were not doing all that well. Especially in those days, because there were often steel strikes, and then there’s no work. My father’s out and mowing lawns and stuff. He’d had to do anything to make a few bucks. So, money was an issue and I was… I don’t know what was wrong with me, but I read comics when I was little. I love comics. But then I got kind of bored with them because they were all the same.

 

Jim:            Now that was around age eight, right?

 

Shooter:    Yeah, that was at age eight. I remember it well. It was shortly after that… There was a book DC did… I think it was called Showcase, maybe. And it had the Flash in it.

 

Jim:            Sure. [overlap talk]

 

Shooter:    I thought that was cool. And then of course, it only lasted a couple issues. And after that, I kind of gave up on it. I just said, “It’s the same story every month. It’s like Lois Lane trying to find out Superman’s secret identity.”

 

Alex:          You felt they were kind of gimmicky just repeating the same gimmicks.

 

Shooter:    Yeah. Just every issue, the Batman is fighting the Joker or the Penguin on top of the giant typewriter or a toothpaste tube, or something. It was just, you know… So, I got bored of them. There really weren’t any… There wasn’t a lot of variety. There were this little kid comics, there was just a few superheroes from DC and that was about it.

 

Jim:            And you read some Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge.

 

Shooter:    Yes.

 

Jim:            Were you aware of like the good duck comics, which were Carl Barks, versus the others? Or was it just…

 

Shooter:    Well, I didn’t know from… I don’t think they had credits in them.

 

Jim:            Right.

 

Shooter:    And I don’t know if I would have paid any attention anyway. But I know I preferred Uncle Scrooge, and that was Barks.

 

Jim:            Yeah.

 

Shooter:    Yeah, and so, I mean… But all the duck comics, they’re pretty good. But I mean, I was like outgrowing the ducks…

 

So, anyway, I gave up on them, and I didn’t read comics, between eight and I guess 11 or 12… 12, I guess.

 

Jim:            When you had your surgery.

 

Shooter:    Yeah, I was in the hospital for minor surgery. I had to be there for a week, I wasn’t in bad shape or anything, but I was stuck there for a week. And so, in those days, in a kid’s ward in the hospital, there’s just tons of comics. They had tons of them, because everybody read comics in those days. It was everywhere there were comics – in the supermarket they’d comics racks.

 

I read some of the old DC Comics which were pristine like no one had ever opened them. And they were the same stuff, the same boring stuff. And then, I found these Marvel Comics, newfangled Marvel Comics, and those were all ratty and dog eared because everybody read those. And so, I said, “Let me check these out.” So, I read them. I thought, “Wow, these are good. [chuckle] These are terrific.” I didn’t feel like I was being talked down to, in those books.

 

So, I mean, that’s at 12 years old, I decided I’m going to do this. I’m going to write like this Stan Lee guy.

 

Alex:          His name stood out to you. You knew it was his words when you’re reading that stuff, at that age.

 

Shooter:    Well, Marvel Comics had credits, DC did not. You didn’t know who wrote it or drew it, unless you read the letter column and Julie Schwartz told you that it was John Broome or whoever. But like, his name was there, as the writer and editor. And I’m like, “Okay.”

 

So, I spent literally, a year studying comics; comparing this one to that one. Why do I like this one? Why don’t I like that one? Trying to get the sense of how you did it. And after a year, I thought I was ready. And so, I wrote… I didn’t know how to… I didn’t know there were scripts. I didn’t know anything about it… So, I just tried to make something that looked as much like a comic book as I could. I made a cover for it. I colored the cover. I drew every panel as best I could. And, lettered in word balloons for everybody, and I sent it off to Mort Weisinger at DC Comics. I knew his name because his name was in the indicia.

 

So, I said, “I’ll send it to this guy.”

 

Jim:            Now, when you were doing this year of study of Marvel, what I read was, you weren’t like learning it like a lot of people do, the history of the characters and all of that, as much as you were studying the pacing of it like, by the time you get to page six, what you have to accomplish within the story, and what should happen at that point in the story. You were learning the form of comics, not the characters and the history of it so, much. Is that right?

 

Shooter:    Exactly right. Like I started noticing that, in the ones I liked the best, at the beginning, they kind of let you know who we’re dealing with here, who the Fantastic Four are or whatever. And Stan Lee, he’d get that done very succinctly, not burden you with it. It was just part of the story. And usually, early on in the book, some problem would arise. And then the rest of the book is them solving a problem that becomes some crisis, and they finally solve the problem. And occasionally, it would continue, and it’d take two issues.

 

But anyway, I started to figure it out. I also, started to notice that the DC Comics, the form was easier to figure out, because they were pretty much all the same. Stan would mess around with it. He would do it… He wasn’t doing it by formula. He got it done, but he did it in interesting ways sometimes. And I thought, “Wow.” Like the bedrock is deeper than… It’s not just there’s the formula, there’s more to this.

 

Alex:          How much of that do you feel were like, let’s say the layouts put together by Kirby or Ditko, or those guys, vs Stan’s pacing of the story… Like let’s say later, looking back at that era of comics you were studying, how much of it do you think was Stan, versus kind of the co-plotters at the time?

 

Shooter:    Well… Okay, years later… I worked very closely with Kirby for two and a half years. I worked with Ditko… I got him back to Marvel… I worked with him there, and I work with him at all three of the companies I started. When I was at Marvel, I had the opportunity to talk to a lot of people. So, I found out what really happened. I talked to the Flo Steinberg. I talked to Sol Brodsky. I talked to Marie Severin. I talked to George Roussos and Morrie Kuramoto; people who had been there. Right?

 

So, that knowledge, I’ll save for a minute, but at the time, yeah, I was really influenced by Ditko because I love how he did it. And Kirby, you can’t argue with Kirby, it’s just great stuff. But the dialogue was important to me too… I assume that it was Stan’s story. But I didn’t know, I assume… And years later, it’s popular now to say, “Oh no, it was all Kirby.”

 

Baloney. I worked with these guys; I know Stan was the man. I mean, there’s no question about it. You don’t have to pad Kirby’s resume. He was the greatest creator we ever saw. But, don’t take anything away from Stan. He was the man. He was in charge. He made it happen. It was his stories. It was his plots and for the most part, his characters.

 

Now, did Jack and Steve help? Yeah, of course. I mean, Spider-Man, for instance. I asked Steve, I said, “Percentage wise, what is it?” He said, “70 me, 30 Stan.” I said to Stan, “What was it?” He said, “50/50.” I don’t care. They both did contribute.

 

Jack tried to say that everything was his… And then I talked to him for a while, and he conceded that I was right. He’d said, “No, you’re right. Spider-Man was Steve and Stan. Stan contributed to everything…” I mean, like I said, you don’t have to pad anybody’s resume. This guy’s a genius, Stan. He was a genius, and you don’t have to take anything away from Kirby to say that. [overlap talk]. All right.

 

Jim:            I don’t think in Alex’s question though, that he was really questioning that, as much as just the pacing, in terms of, because I brought up that what happens on page six. Since they were doing it the Marvel way, and their rhythms are different. Like Ditko will go back to normal by the last page. It rarely has Spider-Man even on it. It’s about Peter Parker on that final page, for most of his run. Whereas Kirby puts a, “Here’s what’s happening next…” at the very last panel. I’ve been studying those last pages.

 

So, they do have different rhythms, between the two of them. And I’m sure (Dick) Ayers had a different rhythm, and (Gene) Colan, obviously, had a very different rhythm in terms of that so…

 

Shooter:    [chuckle] Let’s not go there.

 

Jim:            So, I’m just saying that maybe that, in terms of studying it formally, structure wise, that that’s part of the reason there’d be a difference.

 

Shooter:    Well, Jim, it was the way he phrased the question. Like it was, “his co-plotters”, and like how much was their influence, and stuff like that. I answered the question, how much was their influence…

 

Alex:          And it’s true, and I would say, probably you’re both correct. I was curious about do you think the variability was based on who the stories were done with, but also, I actually enjoyed hearing your take…

 

Jim:            Oh, yeah.

 

Alex:          On the concept, anyway, so, yeah.

 

Shooter:    Well, the thing is, yeah, they did have different styles. I’m not sure Kirby always ended on a slam bang next issue blurb, but…

 

Jim:            Only at the beginning, by the way, only in the first like 10 issues of the FF…

 

Shooter:    I’m going to have another look at those. But the thing is that they did have different styles, and that’s one of the things I was trying to say. When you read the Marvel books, they weren’t all like the formula. They were they were scattered around.

 

And I’ll tell you this also, about Stan… It’s that, when Stan had an artist who was good, he played to their strengths. For instance, Kraven the Hunter, okay. Why was there a Kraven the Hunter story? Because Steve Ditko told Stan, “Hey, I like to draw animals.” So, Stan did, Kraven the Hunter. And that was Stan, it wasn’t… Steve didn’t make that up, Stan did.

 

But I’d do the same thing. I mean, if I’ve got David Lapham, you can challenge him with anything. If I got a newer guy, or maybe somebody who’s more old-fashioned… I try to keep it the way they can do it the best.

 

Some of that is Stan, and some of that is just because… Okay, Steve, and Jack were irrepressible. I mean they had a lot of stuff, they wanted to do, their way.

 

I’ll tell you a little thing about that. Again, relating to who was actually doing that stuff. When I was 17, I went up to Marvel Comics. I live in Pittsburgh, and I was in New York, probably to see DC. And I went to Marvel Comics, and they, “Hey, come on in” … No problem. So, I talked to Sol Brodsky. I had gone to art school and I thought I could draw… And especially I thought, I might be able to ink. Because I thought, “Well, I probably can’t draw as well as some of these guys; any of these guys, but maybe I can control the tools, enough be an inker.”

 

They introduced me to Sol Brodsky, and I asked him, “Could I try out to be an inker?” And he said, “Sure.” And he goes over to this shelf, and there was a stack of pages, it was more than a ream of artboards. It was, I’ll guess, 700 artboards. Almost all Kirby’s, mostly Kirby’s. And they were rejected pages. They were pages, that Stan gave Jack the plot, Jack went off some weird direction. Stan said, “No, draw this over. This is what I want.”

 

So, this big pile of rejected Kirby pages, and there are others too. So, Sol goes, looks through the pile, and he gives me the rejected splash page for the… I’m going to say FF #94, the Agatha Harkness issue.

 

Alex:          Yeah, okay.

 

Shooter:    Stan didn’t like the splash page, and he had Jack re-draw it. And he also, gave me a Gene Colan Daredevil page too, that Stan had rejected… I mean, he was not just some guy who just wrote the dialog, he was running the show.

 

Alex:          Yeah. He was vetting the stuff for sure. I’m with you.

 

Shooter:    You bet, and directing it. But it’s like if you have a David Lapham, if you have a Don Perlin, if you have Barry Windsor-Smith, you don’t have to feed them their lines. You give them the direction, the idea, and then let them go.

 

Alex:          Right. That’s true.

 

Shooter:    And that’s exactly what he did with his best guys. He was a lot more hands on with the guys who weren’t great storytellers. Ditko and Kirby are like probably the best, I can think of. But there were some guys who weren’t that good, and maybe good artists but they weren’t that good a storyteller.

 

Jim:            Let me go, and get back to the early days for just a couple of minutes. A couple of questions I asked everybody because they often give the same answer, which is, were you a super early reader?

 

Shooter:    Yes, I was reading well before first grade. My mother would read comics to me and she would read them slowly and point at the words. And after a little while, I didn’t need mommy anymore, and I can read them.

 

Jim:            Almost across the board, we get that answer.

 

Shooter:    Yeah, yeah. I was really into reading too. I mean, because once you get a kid reading, then they read everything – the newspapers, soup can label… It just becomes sort of normal for you. And I don’t know if it was first grade, or maybe it was like about second grade, I was reading 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Going to the dictionary a lot, because a lot of big words in it.

 

But that’s another thing my mother taught me, go to the dictionary. So, I was reading everything. My mother, when I was… I guess, I was like nine years old, nine years old. And my mother was a sucker for like salesmen who’d come to the door. She almost felt bad about turning them away. We didn’t have any money but she’d buy something. So, one time, somebody sold her a set of encyclopedias, World Book Encyclopedias, 1960 edition. And I read them, cover to cover, the entire set of the World Book Encyclopedia… Because I was… I read. That’s what I did.

 

Jim:            Once you stopped reading comics at age eight, since you were reading, were you into Edgar Rice Burroughs? Were you into science fiction? What kind of stuff were you reading?

 

Shooter:    Adventure kind of stuff – Swiss Family Robinson, Robinson Crusoe, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, a bunch of H.G. Wells, a bunch of Jules Verne, and some other things. My sister was three years older than me, and she would bring books from school. Not only her textbooks but library books and stuff like that. I’d read everything. I read whatever she brought… So, I don’t remember all of them, but a lot of stuff.

 

Jim:            So, let’s go to you writing those sample comics to send in to DC. And you were thinking… You didn’t pick DC because they were your favorite company. You picked them because you thought they needed the help, and you might have a chance of getting a job there, because you were going to bring Marvel to DC.

 

Shooter:    Their books weren’t as good as Marvel’s. I didn’t think I could compete with Stan. [chuckle]… He was writing everything, and DC had a lot of different writers, apparently, because Julie Schwartz would tell you in his letter columns; Gardner Fox and John Broome, and… I don’t know.

 

Anyway, so, I just thought I had a better shot there. And that there, I could maybe do books, good enough to be better than some of the stuff that they were doing, and that worked out.

 

Jim:            So, from a tactic standpoint, why did you pick Legion of Superheroes to be the thing you were going to write?

 

Shooter:    Well, I’ll tell you what, Legion of Superheroes, every month would have a great cover, an interesting cover. And then you’d read the story, it was tepid. It was nothing. I remember this one cover; it had half the Legionnaires on one side and half Legionnaires on the other side charging each other like there’s going to be this big battle… Did you read this?

 

Jim:            Oh yeah, I know… With the flag. Holding up… Tell me, I know that one.

 

Shooter:    Yeah. You’re going to read this… And so, I read it and it’s nothing. It’s really a very tepid story. So, what I thought is like, of all the DC books I read, I thought that had the most potential, and the least realized potential. So, I thought, there’s so much you could do with this, that they’re not doing.

 

And also, it was kind of dumb. I mean, look, the guys – at first, I thought those guys. I didn’t think much of the guys who were writing that stuff, when I found out who they were; Otto Binder, Edmond Hamilton, those guys.

 

And as I learned the craft, I discovered that they were really good. They just were old guys, and they like weren’t hip like Stan, and or, young like me. They had a kind of a mindset that worked in comics in the 40s. And they were, it was just the job, just making a story. And I, of course, was passionate. So, anyway, what I’m trying to say here is that, I thought that like, “Oh, these guys aren’t any good…” Yes, they are. They were excellent. They just were out of their time.

 

So anyway, they left a lot of stuff lying around, that sort of unrealized potential. And I thought I can do something with this. What would Stan do? And I’d tried my best, and did a very pale imitation of Stan. And Mort Weisinger was the editor. He was the head editor at DC. They didn’t call him editor in chief, he was the Vice President, kind of in charge. And he read what I did and he thought it was usable.

 

Jim:            So, you sent in one story, and then he sent you a letter and said, “Can you give me another one?” and you sent him a two-parter after that.

 

Shooter:    Yes.

 

Jim:            And then, they bought them and printed both of them, right?

 

Shooter:    They printed all of them. Everything I ever did for DC, it was bought and published.

 

Jim:            And my understanding is, in the early days, when you first talked to him on the phone, he assumed you were an older person, that you weren’t 13 or 14.

 

Shooter:    He never said it in so many words, but I think he thought I was a college student. Because another guy used to send him stuff all the time, who was a college student – Cary Bates. And I guess he thought I must be like Cary.

 

Cary, his stuff, Mort didn’t like for a while. Cary was one of the guys who came up with good cover ideas, but the stories weren’t happening. And as a matter of fact, the very first thing of Cary’s that was published, is that Cary sent in a story with a cover design… Because Mort, I guess at some point, had told him the most important thing is the cover. And so, Mort had said, “I’m going to send you a drawing, a cover drawing. I want you to write a story to go with it.” So, he sent me Cary’s drawing, and I wrote the story for that cover. So, Cary’s first published work was a cover on a story I wrote.

 

And, but soon after that, he was starting to get the drift, I guess, and then he started using him too. That would have been late ‘60s. My first was ‘65, I think. His was maybe ‘68 or something. I don’t remember… Something like that.

 

Jim:            Now, the two-part story that you sent, the second one that you wrote that was the… I mean, that’s a major story in the Legion history because that’s the one that introduces Karate Kid, Princess Projectra, Ferro Lad, and Nemesis Kid. Right?

 

Shooter:    Right. Yes.

 

Jim:            That’s incredibly bold to like, introduce that many Legionnaires to the status quo, like in day one. And then, when you get into who they were, it’s even more amazing because… We’ll talk about Ferro Lad in a couple of minutes, and your plan for him… But were you thinking, “I’m going to go big”, and really get their attention?

 

Shooter:    Well, what I was thinking was that, like issue after issue was the same characters all the time. Whereas at Marvel, every issue of Spider-Man is a new villain. and a lot of new characters, and always introducing new stuff. Also, I thought the Legionnaires, all of them had these pointer finger powers. You know what I mean?

 

Jim:            Yeah.

 

Shooter:    They point their fingers and something gets heavy, or something gets light or something, or there’s a lightning bolt or something. I needed somebody who could knock a wall down or… I wanted some physical action. And so, I thought, “Well, I’ll create a character.” I mean, it wasn’t like deep thinking on my part. It was just, sort of like, I saw that that’s what Marvel did all the time, and saw the opportunity. And I did it. So, I don’t know. I guess, I was trying to make them as good as I could, of course, and I thought maybe creating some characters would be a good idea.

 

Alex:          And you came up with that name Karate Kid as well, right? I mean, that’s your name.

 

Shooter:    Yeah, that’s me.

 

Alex:          So then, when the movie came out, just out of curiosity, did they have to deal with some trademark issues with DC?

 

Shooter:    Yes. If you look at the end of the Karate Kid movies, they all have a copyright notice of DC Comics. And at one time actually, there was a guy who’s out in Long Island, or someplace and he sued Columbia Pictures. Because he said, that he came up with the name Karate Kid, and he wrote a story very similar to that, and he’d sent it to Colombia. And that it was really his and so forth.

 

So, the Columbia Pictures lawyers, I guess, found out from DC that I created the character. And so, they came to me, and I had to testify in federal court…

 

Alex:          Oh, wow.

 

Shooter:    That I created Karate Kid. This guy alleged that he had created in 1968, and I held up my comic book and I said, “1965”.

 

Alex:          [chuckle] That’s awesome.

 

Shooter:    Yeah. So, out at Columbia… I love the guy from Columbia. He said, “You’re the best witness we had since Clint Eastwood”… Well… [overlap talk].

 

[chuckles]

 

Alex:          And just out of curiosity, did you like the Karate Kid movie? Even though it’s not the same character.

 

Shooter:    Oh no, it was fine. Yeah. I liked it. It was good. The thing is, they just needed the name. And any similarities… I mean, pretty much all the martial arts movies, at least in those days, there’s somebody that has to find a sensei to teach him, and blah blah blah… [overlap talk]

 

Alex:          Yeah, the young hero story. But that’s cool that you came up with that name. That’s awesome.

 

Jim:            So, Ferro Lad, was that a nod to your hometown? Was that about Pittsburgh and steel?

 

Shooter:    Yeah. Like I said, I was looking for physical characters. My father was a steel worker. I also was… See, I was a big science nut. I was a big science student, so I was interested in chemistry. I read books on it all the time and got familiar with the symbols for the various elements, and also the periodic chart and all that stuff.

 

And so, when I was trying to think up a character, I thought… Somebody who’s strong, and can’t be hurt… But I don’t want to do the normal thing everybody does; where they look normal but they can break through a wall.

 

So, yeah, somehow, I came up with Ferro Lad. And he had a great symbol. And I put him in a mask, because I was planning a surprise reveal.

 

Jim:            Yeah. Well… But you always intended to have him killed off fairly early, right?

 

Shooter:    No.

 

Jim:            No?

 

Shooter:    No. My original intention was… I didn’t know when I first created him, what was going to be under the mask. I knew that I didn’t want to have the Doctor Doom thing, where he’d scars or something. And so, I’m thinking like, “Well, what could it be?” Right? And then, I thought, well maybe it’s nothing. Maybe it’s just part of his armor. And then that made me think like, “What if he takes that off, and he’s a black guy or…” I thought, how would that play?

 

Now, remember this was the ‘60s, okay? And everybody’s getting enlightened. I mean, I was born on the other side of the watershed. I was born in ’51 when people still had that sort of, old-fashioned mindset. And then, all of a sudden, there’s women’s liberation, and Martin Luther King, equal rights, and blah blah blah… And that hit right about the right time for me, because I was just kind of coming to that age of reason, and saying, “Yeah, that’s right.”

 

So then, I thought, “Well, okay. Yeah, I’m going to make this a black guy.” My plan was that at one point, he would take the mask off, and he’s this brown guy, and nobody bats an eye. Nothing is said. Not mentioned. Nothing. Because they got an orange person, they got a blue person, they got a green… Who cares?

 

Jim:            That it’s the future. I mean, you think it’d be past that…

 

Shooter:    It’s the future. They’ve got it figured out by then. And so, that was going to be like my secret statement. It was, “This doesn’t matter at all.”

 

And then, what happened was I wanted to do a story where there was like big epic super powerful villain and all that… So, I came up with the Sun Eater, and I was going to have this battle against the Sun Eater. And I thought, these guys are going into battles all the time, doesn’t somebody get hurt once in a while?

 

Now, they had Lightning Lad get killed once, for a little while, and then he’s back.

 

Jim:            And Triplicate Girl.

 

Shooter:    Yeah, and they killed one of Triplicate Girl because they had spares. But I mean, they really didn’t…

 

I thought no, somebody’s got to, should be seriously injured or killed, if they’re doing all this dangerous stuff. Well, I had that idea for the story. And I also, at around that same time, I told Mort, what my plan was for Ferro Lad, and he just said, “No way. Forget it, not happening.” I said, “Why?” He said, “Because we’ll lose our distribution in the South.” I said, “What?”

 

And so, he just said, “No.” And I was… That’s kind of become the reason for me to do that character and the mask, and he said no. And I thought, well, I want to have somebody die in this story, they probably wouldn’t like it if I killed one of the old ones, so I’ll kill one of mine. And that was fine with him. He didn’t care.

 

Jim:            Oh, that’s… I’ve not read it that way before. That’s interesting. I mean I haven’t heard it, and I’ve read a lot of stories about that. And I had not read that, basically because Mort wouldn’t let you do it, that’s why he was the one that you ended up sacrificing.

 

 

 

Shooter:    Yeah, because my plan for him was kind of ruined and I thought, “Well, okay, then I’ll make him the guy who gets killed.”

 

Jim:            You knew at that point that if this was Marvel, you might have been able to do it because they had done Black Panther. But DC wasn’t Marvel, was it? And you weren’t going to get to do it.

 

Shooter:    No… I don’t know when Marvel started, when the Black Panther first appeared. But, yeah, I think at Marvel, it would have… Nobody would have… It would’ve been fine. And they wouldn’t have lost their distribution anywhere. Besides DC was distributing.

 

Alex:          That’s true.

 

Shooter:    Marvel was being distributed by Independent News, which was owned by Warner which owned… Well actually, owned by National Periodical Publications, later became Warner; was sold to Warner. But anyway, the distributor was owned by the same company as DC Comics. It’s the only distribution that Martin Goodman could get. He had a distributor, he left them for another distributor; a better deal. That distributor went bankrupt, and he was just… He had nothing.

 

Alex:          Right, the Atlas implosion.

 

Shooter:    And he went with his hat in his hand over at DC, and convinced them to distribute his books. And they put a limit on it. They said, “We got plenty of comics, you can only do eight.” And that’s why they’re rolling a few Marvel Comics at first, then it slowly got ratcheted up.

 

Alex:          Yeah, eight bi-monthly but then it increased a little, yeah.

 

Shooter:    Yeah.

 

Alex:          But that’s interesting that you were saying that about the distribution in the South, because I had also read that, Infantino said that about a possible black character reveal in the Teen Titans that never quite panned out. And again, that it seemed like he said the same thing evidently, was distribution in the South. When DC was doing the distribution evidently, that was just office language in the ‘60s there.

 

Shooter:    Yeah, I think that was sort of the prevailing wisdom, at the time. But it didn’t turn out to be anything. When Marvel did it, it was nothing.

 

Jim:            Now, we were talking about this is your very first stuff that you were submitting, when you got the call and Weisinger, wanted to fly you up to New York, and you said, “I’ve got to bring my mom,” or, “Let me ask my mom”, and you ended up going there together with your mother. And he took you to see It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s Superman. I love that. I read that, and just started laughing, because I love that production.

 

So, what was that like to be a kid, and you’re there with your mom, and interviewing for a job like that, and going to Broadway? I mean you’re from Pittsburgh.

 

Shooter:    Well, I was in for an interview. I’d already been working for them for months.

 

Jim:            Oh, okay.

 

Shooter:    After the first three stories, my first phone call from him was, February 10 of ’66. I’d written the stories in ’65. He called me, and he said, “Look, we like these, we’re going to buy these. We’re going to publish these.” He said, “And I want to start using you as a regular writer.” He said, “But I don’t want you just sending stuff in, and I’ll give you assignments.” And I said, “Oh, great. Sure.” And he said, “Alright, first assignment, Supergirl, 12 pages next Friday.”

 

“Okay.” So, I wrote a Supergirl story, 12 pages, called Brainiac’s Blitz. It appeared in Action Comics. And then after, as soon as I finished one, I’d start on another one because he always kept me busy. Busy, as much as I could do. And so, after the couple of months goes by, then it’s like in maybe March or April, he said, “Look, we need to teach you some things. I want to fly you up to New York, put you up in a hotel, spend a week in the office, and show you a few things.”

 

I said, “Well”, I just hesitated. I didn’t say anything because I’m thinking like how’s that going to play? Especially, like fly to New York, stay in a hotel, I thought, “Can I even do that?” And so, he asked me, after I hesitated, he said, “How old are you?” And I said, “Oh, I just turned 14.” He said, “Put your mother on the phone.” [chuckle]

 

So, I put my mother on the phone, and he found out that she was on board with it, that she didn’t mind what I was doing. And so, he got me back on the phone, and he told me, he said, “I don’t care how old you are, I’m going to treat you just like I treat everybody else”, which means that he was going to yell at me all the time. But he did say, he said, “Alright, we’re going to bring your mother with you, to New York.” But it had to wait till the end of the school year, so it had to be like early June.

 

And then my mother, yeah, we went up to New York. Flew up to New York, stayed in the Summit Hotel which was a really nice hotel. It’s right across the street from DC Comics, on 51st Street, 51st and Lex. And I’d go to the office every day, and my mother would go do tourist stuff, shopping stuff, whatever. And then a couple times, we were on our own, but several times he took us out to dinner.

 

And in one night, they took us to see It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s Superman. And that was just amazing. Well, Mort was kind of a big shot, the theater was packed, it was a hit, but we were sitting, sixth row center, great seats. And afterwards, Mort walked us around to the back of the theater, went up and tapped on the stage door, guy let’s out, “Oh, Mr. Weisinger, come in.” And so, he brought us in, and I got to meet a lot of the actors. I got the bees Linda Lavin, and Jack Cassidy, Bob Holiday, and Patricia Moran who played Lois Lane.

 

Bob Holiday played Superman, and he autographed a picture for me. He gave me a picture that said, “Jim, keep writing those stories about me”, signed, Bob Holiday, in a picture of him as Superman. I still have it. It’s around somewhere.

 

But anyway, it was like magic. I couldn’t believe it was all happening. I loved it. It was great.

 

Jim:            It’s funny, if you listen to this part, and you don’t know anything about comics history, you’re thinking, “Wow, he sounds like a really nice guy.”

 

[chuckle]

 

And that wasn’t your experience. And I mean, obviously, we’re going to have to talk about that a little bit. But because you mentioned, talking about your mom, was she aware of how abusive he was to you, as a kid working for him?

 

Shooter:    I don’t think so, really. Because, he talked to her when we were there on that trip, but… He wasn’t abusive to me in front of her, I’ll put it that way. But I was just me, dealing with him. After that first trip with my mother, and he saw that I was substantially taller than him, and when I… He actually would not… I’m at a hotel across the street, and I said, “Do you want me to come over to the office.?” He said, “No, you stay there. I’ll come to you.” I’m like, “Why?”

 

So, anyway, he comes across the street, and comes up to my room, knocks on the door. I opened the door and I have a jacket and a tie on, because in those days, that’s what you did. If you’re going to ride on an airplane you dressed, like for business. And so, I had a jacket and a tie, he looks at me… First of all, he’s looking as the door opens, he’s looking this way, and he goes… And he said, and I quote, “You’ll do.” And he told me later, that he was afraid that I might be this little freckled faced boy on a Charlie Brown T-shirt. And that he’d be walking me into DC Comics, he’d be embarrassed.

 

Oh, P.S., by the way, DC in those days, and up until something like 1977, you couldn’t enter DC’s premises if you didn’t have a jacket and a tie.

 

Alex:          That’s interesting.

 

Shooter:    They wouldn’t let you in.

 

Alex:          That kind of office culture, did that make an impression on you?

 

Shooter:    Well, I guess, I thought that’s how it was supposed to be. I don’t know. It was very… It might as well be on an insurance business. It was, everybody was in suit and tie. I got to know some of these guys, and I quickly realize that their greatest nightmare would be that they’d be on the train from Long Island and their briefcases would fall open, and comics would pour out, and they’d be embarrassed.

 

[chuckle]

 

Nobody… They really weren’t… It was just a job. We’re just making stories here, and that’s it.

 

Alex:          But wasn’t that also, the office culture later, at Valiant? Like the shirt and tie deal?

 

Shooter:    No, no, no. When I started at Marvel, Marvel also kind of, almost had a dress code, an informal dress code. And basically, that that was, you came to work like dressed to paint a house. I mean, the rattier your clothes were… That was what you were kind of supposed to do at Marvel.

[chuckle]

 

And I mean it was a totally different place. The first time I went to Marvel, and I’m walking around the joint, everybody’s dressed all ratty and stuff. Tony Isabella was sleeping under a desk because somehow, he didn’t have an apartment. He was actually, literally, sleeping there.

 

[chuckle]

 

And looking for an apartment, I guess. A big paper mâché figure of Thor, made by fans, hanging from the ceiling of the production department, and people sword fighting with yard sticks and all. I mean it was… It wasn’t… I thought, “Hey, I like this.” [chuckle]

 

Alex:          Yeah. It sounds like Animal House. Sounds like the movie, Animal House.

 

Shooter:    It was. It really was. When I came in as editor in chief, even when I came in as associate editor for two years, I dress like this. Just like what we used to call school clothes. You weren’t allowed to wear jeans. You had to wear some kind of pants and a shirt, that had a collar. That was school clothes. So, I was basically dressed like that, and everybody thought I was weird because I wasn’t wearing ratty jeans and sneakers and stuff. I thought, I can’t go to work in an office, looking like I’m going to paint a house. And besides, I felt like I was in a position of responsibility, and I should look responsible.

 

Anyway, then when I became editor in chief, and all of a sudden, I have to go upstairs to these meetings with executives and stuff. And they’re all wearing jackets and ties. So, I thought, I’m going to do that. So, I started wearing a jacket and a tie. I never told anybody how to dress, I didn’t care. But because I was wearing a jacket and a tie, some other people said, “Hey, you can dress… You don’t have to dress like a hippie or something. You can do what you want.” And so, some people did and some people didn’t, and it was all different. And that was fine. I did no dress code. Do what you want.

 

It was the same at Valiant. I would wear a suit and a tie, (Bob) Layton liked to do that too. Don Perlin didn’t; he would come reasonably dressed but wouldn’t dress up. Some people did, and some people didn’t, I couldn’t care less. But I wanted to be presentable. I was going to be with the CEO, and publisher, and president, then I thought, I’d better look the part.

 

Jim:            Let’s go back to the Legion for a little bit, because I’m a Legion guy. And I started it around the time that you started writing it.

 

Shooter:    Okay.

 

Jim:            So, these are the ones that I love the most. And I’ve argued sometimes, about which comics have the best rogues’ galleries, and everybody always says the Flash and Batman, and then it gets after that, a little bit loser. I think the Legion has one of the best rogues’ gallery, it at least in the top five or six of all of them, and it’s yours… Ditko’s Spider-Man too. But you’re primarily responsible for that rogues’ gallery, and the Fatal Five, Doctor Regulus, Universo, the Dominators, the adult Mordru. I mean those are all your characters, aren’t they?

 

Shooter:    Yes, yes. And like I said, I was trying to think like Marvel, and have a lot of new characters and a lot of new villains and stuff. So, I did that, fairly frequent.

 

The Fatal Five… Mort Weisinger was famous for doing this. He would take something and… Like, alright, the Fatal Five… He called me and he said, “There’s a new movie out”, he said, “I want you to go see it, and write a story like that.” And I said, “What’s the movie?” And he said, “It’s good. It’s called the Dirty Dozen.”

 

“Okay.” So, I wasn’t going to argue. You don’t argue with Mort. You just said, “Yes sir.” That’s it. So, I just thought that wasn’t ethical. I said, “Wait a minute, go see a movie, and write a story like that? That’s not right.” So, what I did was I looked in the newspaper at the advertisement for the movie. And clearly, it was about a bunch of bad guys that get recruited to go on this dangerous suicidal type mission and… What else do you need to know? That’s all. That’s fine. So, then I created the Fatal Five and I did my Fatal Five story. To this day, I have never seen the Dirty Dozen.

 

But he would do that sometimes. He would, for instance, even classic books, I mean, Orion the Hunter, another villain. He told me, he said, “Have you read Most Dangerous Game?” I said, “Yes.” He said, “Do a story like that.”

 

Jim:            Oh, and you did.

 

Shooter:    You know… I mean, it just… I didn’t like that but I… Like, first of all, we needed the money. And second, I actually did enjoy doing the work.

 

Jim:            I want to talk about the art in relation to this for a bit because you were doing… Whether you call them storyboards or whatever, that you were drawing it panel by panel.

 

Shooter:    Yup.

 

Jim:            And then having the artist, look at it and follow that. And some follow it more than others. I take it.

 

Shooter:    Mostly, they did what I asked them. I mean, the reason I did that is because I didn’t know what a script looked like. I didn’t know there was a script. So, I just made, the first things I did, look as much like a comic book as I could, including making covers for them and stuff. And the thing is, Mort liked that. Even when I found out what a script was, I said, “Do you want me to start doing it this way?” He said, “No, we like the little layouts. You have a good visual sense.” I said, “Oh, okay.”

 

And the artists loved it because it made the work easy. Because a writer writing a script, he’ll ask you to have somebody answering the phone or lighting his pipe at the same time… They would often ask for stuff that was really difficult. But if I drew it, I mean, obviously, it could be done, and it made that a lot easier for them. They didn’t have to try to figure it out, I did it for them.

 

Jim:            So, tell your Gil Kane story, in relation to that.

 

Shooter:    Oh, Gil Kane. [chuckle] My Gil Kane story. Yeah, I worked with Gil on a couple of jobs. Captain Action, I think. But he was never in the office when I turned up, or at least I didn’t know he was. So, I never met him.

 

And I also, didn’t know that there were comic book conventions. I had no idea. And when I found out, it was members of the Pittsburgh Comix Club found me, and got in touch with me. They said they were going to the July Con in New York, and I should come.

 

I said, “What’s a Con? What are you talking about?” And I’ve never been to a convention. I didn’t know there were conventions. So, I don’t know how they got there. I drove myself to New York and the convention was in the Commodore Hotel, which I think now is the Hyatt. I don’t know… And I walked in there, I’d never seen anything like it. It was amazing. It’s like all these people…

 

First, I saw, was Joe Sinnott. I saw his picture somewhere, and I knew it was Joe Sinnott. He had a crowd around him, he was just drawing a free sketch for somebody in their little sketchbook with a pen, The Thing in action. Drawing it with a pen. And it was perfect, of course. And I’m tall so, I could look over the crowd and see it. I couldn’t believe it. I’m like, “That’s Joe Sinnott, oh my god.” And then, I’d see other people… They had a really great cast of characters there.

 

And then somebody told me that Gil Kane was being interviewed on stage. He said, “Do you want to go listen?” “Sure.” … The guy interviewing him was one of the Pittsburgh Comix Club guys; a guy named Mark Lerer. And so, the place is packed, there’s hundreds of people, and no place to sit.

 

So, I come in with this other guy, and we’re standing in the back of the room, to listen to Gil being interviewed. And he was amazing. They asked him, “What do you think of these young artists (Michael) Kaluta and (Jim) Starlin?” And he says, “They’re not picture makers.” [chuckle] “They’re no good.” … They’re no good? Okay.

And then Mark Lerer says, “Well, who is your favorite writer to work with?” He said, “Writers are idiots.” He said, “They’re all stupid. The writers are terrible.” And Lerer said, “Well surely there must be somebody, some writer who you like working with.” He says, “Well, there was this one young man, and he was from Pittsburgh, I think, and I liked working with him.” And Mark said, “Are you aware he’s in the room?” Because he could see me. I was standing on the back. And he said, “No, I never met him.” And so, Mark says, “Jim, could you come up here?” So, I walked up on stage and I met Gil Kane; shook hands with Gil Kane, in front of hundreds of people. They cheered. [chuckle] It was cool.

 

Alex:          So, that was what like 1968 or so?

 

Shooter:    Why did he like working for me? Because I did the little layouts for him. I made his work easy. And so, he didn’t have to go, trying to figure out what the writer wanted. So, that was the whole thing. He would even take some of my stuff and he’d put on the opaque projector or lightbox it, and of course fix it. I mean, make it good. But you know, he’d just use my layouts. That saved a lot of time, that way.

 

Jim:            Yeah, I always love that story… Wally Wood was kind of the same way, right? He liked to work off of your stuff too.

 

Shooter:    Yeah, and that’s really funny too, because here I am, I’m in high school, and these Grand Master Hall of Fame guys, they’ve absolutely… They treated me with great respect. They followed my layouts. They did all this crazy stuff I called for. And it was… They were fine. These days, the younger guys, they’d think of the script as a suggestion, and just draw what they want. But, those guys, I mean the hall of famers, they all felt like they should respect the writer even if, like Gil, they thought they were an idiot.

 

But Woody was great. He also, he’s the first guy who gave me credit. DC Comics, they did not give you credit. And if you were an artist and you say, sign the splash page or something, they’d white it out. I think sometimes, some guys got away with putting their signature on the cover. They did it discreetly. But, if Curt Swan signs it, they’d white it out.

 

So, the only person who ever got to write his name there was Woody. And the story goes that he had a 38 in a shoulder holster, and that’s why they didn’t mess with him. I think they didn’t mess with him because he was one of the greatest of all time, and they just left them alone. But he did have a 38 [chuckle] in a shoulder holster.

 

Alex:          Yeah, when you did Captain Action #1 with him, were you aware of Woody at that time?

 

Shooter:    Yeah, that was it… Yeah, of course. I’d seen the Daredevils and stuff.

 

Alex:          Daredevil. Yeah, okay. From ’64, yeah. And then, was he familiar to you through Mad Magazine as well?

 

Shooter:    Yes. Yeah, and so, I’d seen his work; I kind of knew of him. And then when I did my layouts in the script for Captain Action #1, Woody, like Gil, thought writers were idiots, and didn’t like them. So, whenever he signed a book, he just put his name – “Art by Wood” or “Inks by Wood” or something like that, in that old English script he used to use. And like I said, they respected him, they wouldn’t white it out. Anyone else, forget it. But him, they left alone.

 

Anyway, so, when I did the layouts for him, I wasn’t an idiot writer, I was an artist.

 

Alex:          There you go.

 

Shooter:    And so, he put my name, along with his – “Story by Jim Shooter; Art by Wally Wood.” He also, in the next issue, he inked the next issue over Gil. And he put all out names, and they didn’t white it out.

 

Jim:            That’s great.

 

Shooter:    That’s the first time I ever got credit on a splash page.

 

Alex:          So, then, quick question on Captain Action, was that an influence on you as far as the concept of like toy and comics and corporate product synergy? Was that, did you learn that from Captain Action?

 

Shooter:    People have told me that that was like the first comic, based on a toy. I’m not sure that’s true. I’m not an expert at that. But whether it was or not it, it was one of the early ones and made it clear to me, you could do that. I mean, I was given a lot of stuff. I was stuck with stuff from the toy, and then I was stuck with stuff that Mort wanted, and I did the best that I could. But that stuck in my mind, and years later, when we had the opportunity to do, say, GI Joe. Well, it wasn’t new to me.

 

Alex:          Exactly. That’s why I think Captain Action is such an interesting thing with you being involved in that.

 

Shooter:    Yeah, it was an interesting experience, and it was just great working with Woody and Gil. That was just highlight, real stuff.

 

Jim:            So, go back to another aspect that I found out, in looking at this, was those Neal Adams covers for Adventure that were so fantastic. Some of those, you did the cover sketches for those, and he would make them into the great covers that they were. But they were your ideas, weren’t they?

 

Shooter:    I did two fully drawn and colored cover drawings. They weren’t great. I mean, they’re the best I could do. I did two of them. And in those days, Mort and a few other of the DC editors, they would do splash pages that were not part of the story. Mort used to call it the second cover.

 

The idea of being, the cover would catch your eye, you open up, there’s kind of another cover which make you start reading the story.

 

So, I would send two, and typically, Mort would pick one to be the cover and use the other one for the splash page. And sometimes, he’d make up a different splash page… But I think almost always they used my covers. I can’t remember one, they didn’t use.

 

Jim:            Did you do the girl Legionnaires throwing the boys?

 

Shooter:    Oh, yeah. That was me. And the thing is… So, okay, I was doing these sketches for Curt Swan, I think, Al Plastino, a couple of times, and a few others. And they did what I asked them to do. And then this Neal Adams guy comes along, and I think one of his first jobs at DC was drawing covers from my sketches, and he liked them.

 

And he told me, Neal told me, that when he was up in the office, and getting one of those covers, that he saw my layouts for that issue too, in Mort’s office. He was looking through them, and he said, “You know you could train; we could train this guy to be an artist.” And Mort said, “Nah, I need him as a writer.” And so, Neal had some respect for me.

 

And you’re exactly right, I would try to do the cover, like the way I thought it should look and I just didn’t have the skills. I wasn’t good enough. But it was almost like he was reading my mind; he’d look at this crude sketch, he knew what I meant. And then he’d make it like what was in my head that I couldn’t make come out of my hands. It was just amazing.

 

I wanted to do sort of a forced perspective up shot, and that was way out of my range. And I tried drawing it, and couldn’t do it so, I just kind of did a bad version of it. He looked at it, he knew exactly what, and he did it perfectly. It was the one where the Legionnaires are doing Hero for Hire stuff, getting paid for superhero stuff.

 

Jim:            Right.

 

Shooter:    Yeah. But anyway, there’s like, you see the floor and you’re also, looking up, and you see a kid on a ledge. And you had the forced perspective, looking down at the same time you’re looking up. So, I’m beyond my skill set, but no problem for Neal man. And a couple of covers he did we’re…

 

Mort used to, every month; he’d have all the covers up on the wall. And he’d also have the older covers with the sales figures on them. Okay? “This one sold 600,000, this one sold 550…” And that was kind of how he evaluated the cover. Any covers that did not sell well, you don’t want to do anything like that again. But covers that did sell well, like he wanted to repeat those.

 

And so, he thought comic book readers, only read comics for about two years, six to eight years old. Right? So, he figured every two years, he could recycle covers; wouldn’t do exactly the same thing. But he would do, a very similar, to a previous cover, or to the same theme to the cover, and then a slightly different story to go with it.

 

That girl Legionnaires one you’re talking about, that had been done before. He said, “I want you to do a story where the girl Legionnaires takeover.” Okay. And he said, “The coverage, should have a girl Legionnaires is like throwing the boys out or something.” I said, “Okay.” And so, I did that… Yeah, right, Neal did that, didn’t he?

 

Jim:            Yeah.

 

Shooter:    That was great… But I hadn’t actually read any of those girls take over story. So, it was all mine. I didn’t… If there’s any similarities to previous stories, I don’t know… But he did that a lot, and he did like, every two years these Legionnaires get turned into babies. And every two years, there was a Legion of Super-Pets story. I did…

 

Jim:            Yeah, you did a Super-Pets story.

 

Shooter:    I did a Super-Pets story.

 

Jim:            You didn’t do the babies, that was E. Nelson Bridwell.

 

Shooter:    Yeah. I think, Mort could just tell, my heart was not into doing… Me and Super Baby… I can’t do that. And that’s okay, he was kind of…

 

Jim:            You did the opposite because you did the Adult Legion.

 

Shooter:    Yeah.

 

Jim:            Did you ever hear from many other Legion writers that just said,” Dammit. You trapped us into all…” Because you put real stuff in there, like who was going to die, and who was going to become a Legion. And some people played with it great, and some seem like they were like, stuck with it in awkward ways.

 

Shooter:    Well, the story there is that that was one of the things they did every once in a while, was a Legionnaires all grown up story. So, that had been done before, too. And so, he told me he wanted to do Legionnaires all grown up story. I said, “I got to figure out what’s going to happen to them.” He said, “Yeah, go ahead.”

 

[01:00:00]

 

So, anyway, I had some grand plans for that. And I wrote a plot because I wanted to make sure it was vetted before I actually sat there, and did the layouts and everything. So, instead of hearing from Mort, I heard from Nelson (Bridwell). And Nelson just… He said, “No, no.” He says, “You don’t have Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl, getting married… You have to have this, and you have to have that.”

 

I thought he was like speaking for Mort. No, he was speaking for Nelson the fanboy. He did not want couples broken up, and this and that. So, I took that as an executive order. I mean, I said, “All right. Okay.” So, a lot of the stuff I did was what Nelson wanted. And kind of, to me, it was like, “Isn’t that the obvious thing?”

 

I mean, can we change some things, so that it’s not just every boy and girl couple, remains married in the future. It just didn’t make sense to me, but I did the best I could with it. And I got away with doing a few things that were just really me. And I put a Shadow Lass in the Hall of Fallen Heroes. That was a bit of Legionnaire business. I don’t know if you know that.

 

Fans used to write in ideas for Legionnaires. Mort called it “bits of Legionnaire business”. And then, if he liked one of them, he would use it. And no one thought anything of it. Nobody thought you were infringing on anything, or you’re stealing anything. So, he told me, he said, “If you ever see any of these bits of Legionnaire business, you think you have an idea”, he said, “go ahead.”

 

So, I did. I said, “I’ll use the Shadow Lass character. Since she wasn’t a Legionnaire, I could kill her. And just have her be in the Hall of Fallen Heroes. And then a couple of issues later, I introduced her. I was doing my own continuity. I owned the future. DC didn’t do continuity. But I was the only guy writing a book that’s set in the future. I thought, I’m going to do my own continuity. I’ll try to do what Stan does.

 

Jim:            And I was eating it up. Just because it’s my favorite of the two-parters. I love that issue, #375, #376; where Bouncy Boy appears to win the contest, and its actually Chameleon.

 

Shooter:    Yeah. Yeah.

 

Jim:            That was just an elegant story, and very romantic. It was great. I remember where I was when I read it. I was in the backseat of my parents’ car, and I thought it was fantastic.

 

Shooter:    Well, thank you.

 

Jim:            And then it disappears… And you were talking about sales, why did we lose the Legion as a lead story, during your reign?

 

Shooter:    Well, what happened was, in the very first issue of mine, that was published, which would have been the issue with Ferro Lad and Karate Kid were introduced. I don’t remember the number, three something, whatever… In that issue, there was a postal Statement of Ownership. Do you remember the postal Statement of Ownership?

 

Jim:            346… Yeah.

 

Shooter:    So, you have your second-class mailing privileges, every year you had to publish a Statement of Ownership. And in the Statement of Ownership, you total how many copies were sold of the issue, nearest to the filing date, and also, what the average sales of copies; number of copies sold for the year was. In my first issue, it said that Legion of Superheroes was selling half a million copies a month, give or take.

 

Now, at that time in the ‘60s, Marvel was taking off, and DC was falling, badly. Superman, when I first started writing, it was 1.2 million copies, but it was going down. And Legion was 500,000. Most of them have done pretty well, but they were all going down. Superboy was plummeting.

 

I don’t know if you remember, there was a two-issue story, Sir Prize and Miss Terious. That was done by Mort, and probably Nelson. He told me, he wanted to do something, and he’s going to let me do World’s Finest, and Jimmy Olsen or whatever, for a couple months. He wanted to do the story himself, or have it done in the office.

 

So, okay, Sir Prize and Miss Terious, who later turned out to be, I think, Superboy, and Supergirl. Right? I think. It was an experiment, to see what the effect would be on the Legions of Superheroes, if you took the super characters out. And, not surprisingly, sales fell. Not catastrophically, but it went down a little.

 

So, alright, all these other books are plunging, and the way Mort explained this to me is, he said, “We think that Legion of Superheroes Adventure Comics is diluting the sales of Superboy, and also, when we use Supergirl.”

 

He says, “So, what we’re going to do is we’re going to make the Legion stories a backup in Action.” Try to pick up Action Comics sales which are catastrophic. And because there’s no Legion monthly book, then Superboy will go backup.

 

No, it didn’t. and they did something to Supergirl, that didn’t work either, and Action Comics did not appreciably increase. But that was the reason there.

 

Jim:            So that’s it. I hadn’t read that anywhere either. That’s interesting.

 

Shooter:    The last issue I did, full issue – Adventure Comics Legion of Superheroes, there was a Statement of Ownership in that one too. And then in that one, it was half a million copies a month. Okay, so, all the other books are falling, and the kid is holding his own here… But I could not understand this… You got one that’s doing well. Leave it alone. But no, they thought it was more important to prop up Superboy in Action Comics.

 

Jim:            And then, you go to Action, and trying to do it in a shorter form, and first time out you get in trouble with the Comics Code, right?

 

Shooter:    Yeah.

 

Jim:            Forbidden Fruit.

 

Shooter:    Yeah, I think that predates Stan’s drug story, I’m not sure. I got to check… Of course, I’m in high school, it’s the ‘60s, there’s drugs everywhere and stuff…

 

Jim:            But you’re not a drug guy.

 

Shooter:    No. Never. But, I had that idea for the story, and Mort said, “Okay, go.” So, I did. And my ending of the story was different than what was actually printed, because my ending was drug rehab. And also, I didn’t have the thing where he’s, “Oh, I can’t let my girlfriend get injured. I’ll stop taking drugs.” That doesn’t work.

 

Jim:            This is Timber Wolf, for anybody that does know the story.

 

Shooter:    Yeah, Timber Wolf, yeah. Timber Wolf and Lightning Lass.

 

But anyway, so, I had a slightly different ending. The last page or so, was different. And then, it got rejected by the Comics Code. And so, Mort called me up, and said, “We got to change the ending.” I think, the whole time I worked for Mort, I think there was only four pages… Four pages that I had to rewrite. And those were two of them, right there. I had to rewrite the end of the story, which, I thought made it look tepid and not good, but… It was… If it wasn’t before Spider-Man, it was certainly around then. And I guarantee you, I didn’t know that they were going to do a Spider-Man drug story or they had done one.

 

Alex:          When they were rejecting a page, were those finished, and drawn, and colored pages, or were they like…? Or were they inked and all that, and then you had to do all that over again? Or was it just a script they were rejecting?

 

Shooter:    No. In those days, they had, artboards were sent to the Comics Code and then sent back to the publishers, and who then sent them off to the engraver. Later, the whole industry got so late that they just started sending photocopies, to the Code. And sometimes, just photocopies of lettered pencils, stuff like that because things were late.

 

In those days, the actual boards came back and each board had a stamp on the back of it, “Comics Code Approved”.

 

Alex:          Geez, that’s a lot of work to just redo.

 

Shooter:    Yeah. So, we had to redo those last couple of pages. The other time, I had two pages that I had to rewrite, it was because Mort approved something in the plot, and he changed his mind… I had something in the plot that I was using to set up something I was going to do in the future. And he said, “Yeah, that’s good.” And then, when I did it, and he looked at it, thought about it, he said, “No, do this over.” … Okay. But I did what he approved, but in those days, you just… You don’t argue.

Jim:            Besides Legion of Superheroes, which I can talk about all day, clearly, you did some Superman work also, that included creating the Parasite. You also did the first Superman/Flash Race. Those are pretty important in terms of Superman mythology. Talk about that a little bit.

 

Shooter:    Well, like I said, I was trying to create characters when I could. I mean, Superman hadn’t had a new villain for a long time… You’ll get tired of Lex Luthor pretty quick… And you know, who else you got, Toyman?…

 

So, I started trying to create some villains. Some weren’t my best, but I thought the Parasite was a good idea. I was in ninth grade Biology class, and we’re studying parasites. And I’m sitting there trying to come up with a villain for Superman.

 

[chuckle]

 

Jim:            Perfect.

 

Shooter:    And that’s how it started, and then I did it, and…

 

I’ll tell you something interesting, I mean, this little – ego thing, I guess. But if you look up in like Wikipedia or whatever, and you look up the Parasite, it’ll say it’s created by Jim Shooter and Al Plastino. I’m sorry, I designed that character. I’d laid out every panel, and I drew him just the way he is.

 

Alex:          Yeah. Yeah, yeah.

 

Shooter:    Look, nobody has to pad Al’s resume either. He was great. He did great stuff, but it’s like they automatically assume that the writer just wrote some words, and the artists created the look of the character.

 

Alex:          Yeah. But you actually drew him as you wrote and created him. That’s awesome.

 

Shooter:    Yeah, I did all of them. The Fatal Five look like… I have still, the drawings that I made for the Fatal Five.

 

Alex:          Oh, that’s great.

 

Shooter:    Mort Weisinger called me up, and he said, “We need a Superman story, do you have any ideas?” And like I said, when I was a kid and the Flash came out, I thought it was cool. So, he said, “Do you have any ideas?” I said, “Can I use the Flash?” He said, “I can arrange that.” I said, “Great.”

 

So, I did what… Like when the Flash came out, I knew Superman had superspeed. Flash has superspeed… Little six-year-old Jimmy said, I wonder who’s faster? That thought stuck in my head. And so, I thought, well, let me do this. And then, they had certain rules I had to follow. You couldn’t have gambling and you couldn’t do this and… But I did the best I could. It came out pretty good. They’ve done several of those, I think.

 

Alex:          Yeah, it was actually like even in that Justice League movie at the end.

 

Shooter:    The thing was, DC had all kinds of stupid rules. Like for instance, anytime there was any competition between superheroes, it had to be a tie. Because if you had the Flash win, then they felt that the Superman people would be upset. If you had Superman win, they thought the Flash people would be upset. So, when I told him what the story was, he says, “It has to be a tie.” I said, “Why?” Because I’d wanted the Flash to win, because that’s his only power, give him a break. He said, “No. It has to be a tie.” … Okay. So, I had to engineer it to be a tie.

 

Mort really, very rarely, interfered with my stories or even suggested anything. I mean, Mort’s suggestion would be like, I did a World’s Finest, and he called me up and he said, “You know you’ve done a couple of time travel stories.” He says, “And they seem to go real well.” He says, “Can you do a time travel story with, World’s Finest?” I said, “Well, could I do like King Arthur days?” And he said, “Yeah, that’d be good.” I said, “Okay.” So, I did the Superman and Batman in King Arthur’s Court story.

 

But that’s, I mean he wasn’t real hands on about that stuff…

 

Alex:          Yeah. Quick question about Mort, before you guys move out of that. Curt Swan had said that Mort would abuse a person until they hit a point where they would then defend themselves, and then Mort would then back down. We interviewed Hendrie Weisinger about that and he confirmed that if Mort saw that, he would stop berating that person, and almost enjoying berating that person.

 

First, was your youth working against you in that? Or did you actually step up and say, “I’m not taking this anymore”, or were you kind of too young to do that? And did that affect you, moving forward?

 

Shooter:    Well, there’s some calculus going on there. Because I didn’t do this on a lark. I did it because my family needed the money. Then the money was important. I mean, my mother, “We need the check. Hurry up.” … Not in a mean way. I mean she’s a great lady but, you know, we were desperate, sometimes.

 

So anyway, I didn’t want to lose the job, so I’m a little careful. And also, I mean like, you’re 14 years old, 15 years old, some big important man from New York calls you up and tells you you’re a blah blah blah idiot… At the top of his lungs… “Moron!… Why can’t you spell?… What’s this?… What’s this supposed to be?… Looks like a carrot! Is that supposed to be a gun?!”… All right…

 

Like a couple times… Actually, it was almost standard procedure after a while. He’d get done yelling at me for…We had a regular phone call, every Thursday night, right after the Batman TV show, he’d call me. And he’d call me any other time he needed. But that was our regular call, and in that call, he’d go over what I’d sent him that week, and we’d talked about other stories, or whatever.

 

But more and more, it was just like him… “You moron! Can’t you do this! Blah blah blah…” And I’m like, “Holy cow!” And so, several times, at the end of the phone call I’d say, “I guess I just can’t do this.” I said, “Maybe you need to get somebody else.” And he said, “No.” Because he knew we were struggling. He said, “No. I’ll give you one more chance. You’re my charity case.”’

 

Jim:            Yeah. I heard that.

 

Shooter:    So, anyway… What happened with me is, I wasn’t, I mean, despite my reputation as being a bad guy… I’m not a combative type. I didn’t look for fights. But one time, remember that story with the King Arthur story?

 

Jim:            Yeah.

 

Shooter:    Where the Batman and Superman go back to King Arthur’s day? Okay. So, I wrote a plot for that, because I wanted… Mort kind of said, “I want this time travel thing.” I thought I’d better write a plot. He didn’t always have me write a plot. Sometimes, we’d just have a discussion. But sometimes, I would write a plot. So, I wrote the plot, in some detail, and I sent it to him. And in the plot, I didn’t have a name for the villain yet. So, in the plot it said… I called him the Black Baron, and I put in parentheses – a working name, just a placeholder, until I can come up with a name.

 

So, Mort gets the plot, and we’re in one of our phone calls, he says, “Well, this is okay you can go ahead with this. But I don’t like the name of the villain.” I said, “Yeah. Well, I don’t either. I’m trying to come up with a better one.” He says, “I’ll give you the name.” He said, “I have a name.” He said, “We’ll call him the Jousting Master,”

 

[chuckle]

 

Well, that just slips off your tongue, doesn’t it? And so… “Jousting… Yes, sir.” Because you don’t argue with him.

 

So anyway, I finished the story, and I sent it in. And then I was going to go up to New York… After the first trip with my mother, I would go up all by myself, fairly frequently. Mostly in the summer, when there was no school. So, I had a trip to New York, shortly after I sent that story. And so, I’m sitting in Mort’s office we’re talking about this and that.

 

Nelson Bridwell was his assistant, and he calls Nelson. Nelson comes in. And he says, “Nelson, we’re going to test your editorial skills. He said, “Jim, I had Nelson read your World’s Finest Story. So, Nelson”, he says, “Sit down. I want you to analyze it for me. Tell me what you think.” And Nelson was like a deer in the headlights. He says, “I don’t know… God…”

 

He knows he’s got to find something wrong because… Or else, you know… “All is fine”, that wouldn’t work. He figures, there’s got to be something wrong. So, he’s trying to think, and he says, “Well, you know Jim”, he says, “I really like it.” He said, “But I really don’t like the name of the villain.” He says, “It’s really dumb.” He says, “You’re usually so good with the names.”

 

Then Mort said, “Really, Nelson, you don’t like the name.” And so, Nelson thinks he has found the bow tie on the bull dog. He thinks. “Ah! That’s what he wanted me to find, right?” And so, he’s like on and on, and Mort just gives him rope and rope. Like, “Well, tell me Nelson, what didn’t you like? Why is it that way, or what would you like it to be?” You know, stringing him and stringing him…

 

And I’m sitting there, watching him tear the wings off a fly. I’m thinking, this guy, it’s not me. it’s not… I’m not stupid. I’m not a moron. They wouldn’t keep sending me these checks if this stuff was such garbage. And this guy’s just mean. He’s just mean. And I’m not going to feel bad anymore.

 

So anyway, I’m there, and Mort sure is backing him, like this to Nelson… But Mort just feeds him rope and feeds him rope, and then he finally says, “I created the name, Nelson.” And Nelson, went pale, I thought he was going to die. [chuckle]. I’m like, “Oh, geez… You’re a mean sonofabitch. You really are.” He’s just torturing the guy.

 

And then, of course, Nelson’s trying to backtrack, “No… No, you’re right. I think… No, you know, now that I think of it…” It’s like…

 

Jim:            Uh, that’s hard to watch.

 

Shooter:    It was, and I was squirming in my chair. I mean, Nelson was dying. He was terrible. I mean, I think that’s one of the reasons he liked Nelson, he was somebody he could pick on. After that, he kept yelling at me and stuff like that. But see, it just rolled off my back. And when I had a chance to go elsewhere, I went elsewhere.

 

Jim:            So, that’s a good segue, because we’re in 1969, and a lot of things are happening. You’re graduating high school, and that’s sort of the end of your DC time.

 

What I wasn’t clear about, you took some classes at Carnegie Tech, and they were art classes?

 

Shooter:    Yeah, I was in as there as a… There’s a special program in the Pittsburgh area at that time, where it started in fifth grade. Depending on how many kids were in each school and kind of their whole tri-state area, they would give each school a proportionate number of seats. In Bethel Park, we had several grade schools, like four or five, I don’t know. And so, I think out of all of Bethel Park, there were like five kids, that they picked for this class.

 

And the criteria was very strict. You had to have a record of good behavior. You had to be top of your class. You had to be recommended by your art teacher… They have rules like, if you miss one class, you had to have a doctor’s excuse. If you miss two, no excuse will do – you’re gone. You’re out, because other people wanted that chair.

 

These classes were held in the Carnegie Museum, at the Carnegie Music Hall there. And you’d see an enormous number of people, in the thousands; a couple of thousands, maybe. And every seat was full. Because they… I like I said, there were people who want in in this program. People with kids want them to be in it.

 

So, you do that for two years. And if, at the end of two years, you were in the top 100, by their judgment, then you got to go to painting class. So, fifth and sixth you’re in the drawing class, in this giant hall. Then two years, there’s painting classes. There’s 200 people in the painting class; 100 new guys, and 100 people from last year. And you painted with tempera paints, and they taught you a lot about painting. So, that was seventh and eighth grade.

 

And then in high school, if you made the top 50 out of your painting class… They’d take the top 50, and you got to go to these special Saturday classes at Carnegie Mellon taught by… It was Carnegie Tech when I started, it was Carnegie Mellon when I left… And they were taught by college professors, and like I said, it was only 50 kids.

 

Alright so, basically, 50 come in every year and there’s… So, there’s a total of 200 people having a class there. You had to take design; your first year was design. And then you had your choice, you can take, drawing, painting or sculpture. And drawing, there was Drawing 1 or Drawing 2.

 

So, I took design the first year, I did two years of drawing, and one year of painting. It was called… It was great, and you’d get down to Carnegie Mellon, and you had to be there real early. The classes like went all day. I don’t know what time… I guess maybe like six hours. I mean, because you were doing a whole week’s worth of college class in one day. And boy, I learned a lot. It was amazing. Classes with real professors and live models… Holy cow. Great stuff.

 

Jim:            That’s really interesting.

 

Shooter:    I learned a lot about it. I never had the time to really perfect my skills. I got really good at laying stuff out, but I never finished any of it. So, it was, I’m not an accomplished artist, but at least I know what I’m talking about, most of the time.

 

Jim:            And did you take classes at University of Pittsburgh too?

 

Shooter:    No, but I was involved in another program. There was a program called Biology Research when I was a high school. After school class, and what you did is you… With the help of an advisor from the University of Pittsburgh, you created a research project. They would help you; they’d coach you and you would do your research project. And one of the things you get to do was, that was every week or so, you got to go to the University of Pittsburgh and kind of be a lab assistant for your guy; whoever your coach was, your mentor.

And so, that was good. I mean, I learned a lot about it. I’m a big science nut, very interested in science. I never thought I’d end up in a comic book business. I thought I was going to be a scientist, but it’s not how it worked out.

 

Jim:            So, when you got out of school, what were your plans? I mean you were leaving… Did you leave DC because you were moving on to your next thing? Like you’re going to college… What was in your mind?

 

Shooter:    Well, I knew I couldn’t go to college, unless I got a scholarship. And I guess, I got lucky and… I took that National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, NMSQT, and I did really well. NMSQT, the National Merit people will give you $1,000, toward your tuition. But if you’re a Merit scholar, lots and lots of colleges send you scholarship offers. I had dozens of them. And I even got one from MIT. But the best one, was at the New York University. And since I worked in New York, that seemed reasonable.

 

And this scholarship was great. Every year they would pick two students, one or two students, and they’ve called them University scholars. You got to name your own curriculum… They paid for everything. They even gave you a stipend to go to cultural events like Broadway plays, and concerts, and stuff. It was, you still had to beat yourself, and pay your taxes and stuff.

 

I called Mort, and I said, “Look, I’ve got this scholarship. I want to go to NYU…” After going to school for four years and working all evening… I said, “I don’t know if I can do that, another four years.” I said, “Is there something easier that I can do? … Maybe editing, or office work… Something?” He said, “No. I need you as a writer.”

 

The moron? You need the moron, as a writer?… Okay. So, what I did, and this is the dumbest thing I’ve ever done. I flew to New York, flew there first, then I called Stan to try to get an appointment. Was that dumb, or what? But miraculously, I got him on the phone. Nobody got Stan on the phone. But I guess I sounded desperate or something, so the receptionist named Holly, she put me through.

 

And so, I told Stan. I said, “Look, I’m a writer for DC Comics and I’d like to work for you.” And he said, “We don’t like DC Comics. They’re not good. No, thanks.” I said, “No. Listen to me.” I said, “Over at DC Comics, they call me their Marvel writer, and they mean it as an insult.” Bob Haney was the one who started that… “Ah, the Marvel writer’s here.” And I said, “I don’t like what they do either.” I said, “I’m trying to do it like you do.” He said, “Give me 15 minutes.”

 

So, I went up to his office, three hours later, I walked out with a job. But it was a day job, I couldn’t go to school at the same time. And I thought… “Uhh… I’ll take the job.” So, I did. The job required me to move to New York, work in the office.

 

And I just… I didn’t have any money. I didn’t have friends there where I could stay. I didn’t have any support mechanism. And after a few weeks I just, I couldn’t hack it. I hadn’t eaten for a couple of days. No money. I was sleeping on people’s floors, and at the Y and stuff like that. So, it’s not good… So, I reluctantly…

 

Alex:          Was the YMCA… Because you did a story about the YMCA in like 1980, in the Hulk Magazine #23. Was that from that time period in ‘69 during those three weeks?

 

Shooter:    No, it was, actually when I was 15, I think. Like I said, these days, if you’re 14, 15 or something like that, and you go to the airport, and you get on the plane, you fly to New York, and check into a hotel and stuff like that, they’d arrest your parents. But in those days, nobody batted an eye. I would go, and it was fine. The people in the office didn’t care. The hotel didn’t care, the airline didn’t… Nobody cared. This here is this 14-year-old guy, and he’s going to the New York.

 

So anyway, one of my friends, a guy named Mike, he knew I was flying off to New York every once in a while. And he said, “Why don’t I come with you?… I want to go to New York, see what that’s like.” I said, “Well I’ll be working all day, but I guess there’s lots to do there… We’ll buy and get a hotdog later.”

 

He wanted to come with me. Again, his parents didn’t have any problems with that. Nobody had any problem at that point. So, he paid his own way, but he came in with me. Trying to conserve money, the first place we stayed was in McBurney Y on 23rd Street.

 

Alex:          Okay, and this was when you’re about 14 or 15?

 

Shooter:    15, I think.

 

Alex:          15… Wow so, okay, this is like 1966.

 

Shooter:    It’s the middle of summer, really hot. And we’re in this room with two beds, that had one little window, and the window had bars on it. We couldn’t open the window because the bars were in the way… And it’s hot… I’m like, “What’s going on here? Why are there bars on the window?”

 

Anyway, so, it’s really hot, in the middle of night, he decides he’s going to go take a shower and cool off. So, he goes turning down the hall to the community shower. And then, I hear screaming, and I hear running in the hall and screaming, “Open the door! Open the door!” And so, I open the door, he runs in, and there’s guys right behind him chasing him. I slam the door, and they’re banging on the door and stuff. I said, “What the hell?!” And he’s naked. He’s wet and soapy and naked. And I said, “What’s going on here?”

 

He said, “They tried to rape me.” And I said, “Oh…” And so, he told me the whole story. He went in the shower, and these guys attacked him. And he got away because he was slippery. He was soapy.

So, anyway, fine… I filed in a memory there. And years later I’m doing this Hulk Magazine, and the idea was that we wanted to make the magazine, more like the TV show. Where he’s sort of like, a fugitive except he turns big and green.

 

Alex:          Also, it was an adult magazine.

 

Shooter:    It was supposed to be a more adult story. And so, I don’t know, if the Hulk was still on television. But for some reason it wasn’t selling all that well. And so, we were going to cancel it. And so, I’m trying to get somebody to do the last issue, and nobody wanted it. Nobody wants to do the last issue. I ended up doing a lot of last issues because nobody else wants to do the last issue… Okay. So, I thought, “Well, I’ll do it.”

 

Like I said, trying to make it more adult, trying to make it more like the TV show, where’s he’s like, on the run, and he’s going to town to town and stuff. And I thought, well alright, I’m role playing this. He doesn’t have a job. He doesn’t have money. What would he do? Well, he’d probably stay in the cheapest place he could find… Oh, the Y, $7 a night, in those days.

 

So anyway, I thought about that. And then, the other thing I thought… I was editor in chief at Marvel, I thought, “I keep trying to tell these guys, who these characters are, and they… Goes in one ear and out the other… I keep trying to explain to them, you keep having these stories where there’s trouble and Banner’s in danger, and then he turns into the Hulk, and the Hulk fixes everything.

 

I said, “No, no, no, no, no. The Hulk is the problem. That’s why Banner’s so upset about becoming the Hulk, because the Hulk makes it worse.” So, I keep trying to explain this to them. And people are, you know, it was hard to get people to understand some things.

 

This story, I’m definitely going to make it so that the Hulk doesn’t solve the problem. He’s not being a superhero… And why would Banner care? That’s it, the Hulk just solves the problem all time, and you know, “Hey, I’m going to turn into the Hulk.”

 

Len (Wein) actually had him do things like fall off the chair and stuff like that, trying to hurt himself and become the Hulk. “No, Len.” …

 

Anyway, so, and I couldn’t… I mean, I was editor in chief, I couldn’t be hands on with every book.  So, I talked to the editors, I’d talk to the writers. Sometimes, they’d make progress, with guys like Larry Hama, Louise, fine, they understood, and we got along just fine. But some of the younger guys, not so much.

 

Anyway, so, I wrote the story. And I thought, “Hey, I got an idea, I’m going to do that scene with Mike.” Why? Because I was a charter subscriber to New Woman Magazine. I used to get all the different magazines, trying to keep up on what’s going on, and the Publishers Clearing House love me.

So, I was a charter subscriber to New Woman, and they were doing a series of articles about post rape syndrome. Because a lot of times, if somebody is attacked, they’re in shock while it’s happening. They don’t even react, really. And then it hits them later. And so, I thought, what if he was attacked, and it’s such a shocking thing, that he’s in shock; he doesn’t… He’s not under stress, he’s in shock.

 

And then later when he thinks about it, he becomes, you know, “Oh no, not now.” He becomes the Hulk and he causes trouble. I thought that’s a good idea, I’m going to do that. And the story is really a drug story. It’s all about people addicted to drugs and stuff. But there is a scene in there where Banner’s in the Y, and he goes to shower, and he gets attacked, and he escapes. And while it’s going on, he’s just in shock. And then, he’s outside, and it’s all hitting him…

 

And he starts to turn into the Hulk, and he’s like, “Oh, God no.” And then the Hulk proceeds to tear up the city… Like I said, “He’s the problem.” They’ve got it right in that one Avengers movie. They got it right.

 

But anyway, so, that was that story and I ended that little tale, is that the book goes out, and we started getting calls from like The Advocate, and some of the other gay publications, like, “You did an anti-gay story.” It’s not about gays… And I kept telling people, I said, “Look, Marvel’s an equal opportunity employer, anybody could his own…”

 

So, a couple of them, I talked to them on the phone, they were responsive… The Advocate wanted to send a guy to interview me. Okay… So, he comes into my office, and he sits down, and the first question he says, “Why is Marvel anti-gay?” I said, “We’re not.” And he said, “Well, why are you anti-gay?” And I said, “I’m not.” And he said, “Well, if you’re not, and Marvel isn’t, how come you don’t have any gay characters?” I said, “We’ve lots of them.” He said, “Which ones?” I said, “You can’t tell, can you?” And he folds his notebook up, and he leaves, and he wrote the story that he was going to write anyway. About, I’m a homophobe. Alright, fine. Whatever.

 

So, anyway… Somebody called the president of the company, and complained. And so, he calls me upstairs… Like I reported to him directly. And I go upstairs, and he says, “What’s up with this story?” And I said, “Well, I had a gay character, and he’s a bad guy. And people are upset.” I said, “I shouldn’t have done that, I guess.” He said, “Well, what are you going to do?” I said, “I’m going to answer every letter we get, personally.” I said, “And I’ll publish the answers, and I’ll try to address it.”

 

The next thing that happens is I get a call from Stan. And he’s out in California… He didn’t have anything to do with the comics. Even when I first started, he was out of the comics business. He was working on TV and stuff, even when he was still in New York. But by that time, he was out in LA.

 

So, he calls me up, and he’s all upset. He said, “What have you done?” I said, “I don’t know, what did I do?” He said, “…This anti-gay story!” He said, “There’s an anti-gay story.” And I said, “No, it isn’t.” And he said, “Oh… The people at Universal are upset, and they’re talking about canceling the Hulk show and stuff.” And I said, “Why would they do that?” Well, the producer was gay… Okay. I said, “Well, I think that’s crazy, Stan, because that’s not what the story’s about.”

 

He said, “Well, I don’t seem to have it.” He said, “Can you send it to me?” In those days, we’ve no Federal Express. I said, “I’ll get it to you as fast as I can.” So, I got a copy and I took it to the mailroom, I said, “Get this there as quick as you can.” 20 minutes later, Stan calls again. He says, “I found your book.” He says, “It was in my new stack of comics.” Because everybody would get what they called the bundle, every week. He says, “I read it.” He said, “This is the best comic story I ever read. Don’t worry about it.” [chuckle]

 

Now, you have to understand, Stan was prone to hyperbole. [chuckles] So, if he says the best thing, he’s ever read, it means it was good enough. [chuckle]… But he said, “Don’t worry about it, I’ll take care of it.” And he did. So, they didn’t cancel the show and everything was fine.

 

Alex:          And the title of that story is interesting because it’s called A Very Personal Hell.

 

Shooter:    Yes… That refers to the lady in the story.

 

Alex:          Right, right. But still… I still found that… I was young when I read it. I read it later when it was already an old comic. But it stuck in my head. I was young. I was impressionable. But I thought that it just felt like, you got to be careful when you’re out on your own in a big city. And that’s all how I took it. But I understand why some would look at it, other ways too.

 

Shooter:    I can understand that too. Like I said, maybe if I’d thought about it more, I wouldn’t have done it. But it was a real event. It wasn’t like I made this up. This happened to my friend, Mike… And it never occurred to me that something that really happened could be, you know, you couldn’t say it.

 

Anyway, Stan liked it, and several times after that, he told me how much he liked that story.

 

Jim:            So, how long were you actually at Marvel then, just three weeks or so?

 

Shooter:    About three weeks, because that was long enough to get a paycheck, and when I saw how much taxes they took out… What would have been a living wage in Pittsburgh, I couldn’t make it in New York. I was looking in the papers for apartments, like fifth floor, cold water, flat, no elevator – 600 a month. That’s more than I made a month. [chuckle] What? So, it just wasn’t practical. I very reluctantly left that job.

 

Jim:            That’s in ‘69 when Roy Thomas is doing some really interesting stuff with Neal Adams, Steranko is around. Tom Palmer is working, I mean the whole look of Marvel is really like they’ve got the tiger by the tail, at that point. Were you watching any of that happen or was that happening in the bullpen? Did you see people?

 

Shooter:    There wasn’t really a bullpen. The office was at, I think, it was 635 Madison. It was a very small office. The only two offices… Stan had his own office, kind of nice. Sol had a smaller one. And then it was just, there was a couple of rooms that were shared. In one room was Marie Severin, and I think they had Tony Mortallero, or somebody like that in there, and maybe someone else. And in the room I was in was the photostat machine, and Morrie Kuramoto, and me, and I had this little table.

 

Originally, my job was to do editorial work. But basically, it was only a few people there. There’s Holly.  She was a receptionist. There was one guy named Allyn Brodsky, no relation, and he did a lot of the letter columns and miscellaneous, the small writing gigs.

 

I was there to be part of the… I was the editorial staff; that was me. My first job was editing Stan’s…  Millie the Model script that Stan wrote. And I caught a big mistake, and I went to him, I said, “Stan, you did this whole build up to this joke, and you’ve made it about the wrong… You forgot where you were.” [chuckle] Let’s say the joke was supposed to be about the moon and the punchline was Mars, something like that… And he said, “Oh my god!”

 

So, I did that. I went over Stan’s stuff. He very rarely made mistakes, and usually it was something like, because he would go to bed after he finished page six, and he’d write the next pages the next day, and he would forget something he did the day before.

 

He would get everybody into his office, everybody, and we would plot stories together. He would say, “Where did we leave Iron Man?” Somebody would tell him where the last one left off. And he would say, “I’m thinking of doing something like this…” And people would offer suggestions and stuff. And so, we’d come up with that month’s plots.

 

And then one of my jobs also, was to write plots. I wrote a plot for one of the Silver Surfer books, and he liked it, and they used it. But everybody, they’re in it. Like Morrie would come over and say, “Here, paste this up.” Okay… I kind of vaguely know how to do that. And I’d be pasting up balloons or something, or he’s hand me a lettering pen, and say, “Go do some lettering corrections here.” … Alright. Okay, lettering corrections. Sure.

 

I did everything, even little ink touch ups and stuff. Everybody did everything. It’s all hands-on deck, and a little tiny office…

 

Jim:            It must have hurt to leave that.

 

Shooter:    Oh man, I hated it. I hated leaving but I couldn’t… I needed to get a sandwich somewhere.

 

Jim:            So, did you go back to Pittsburgh? Is that what happened?

 

Shooter:    Yeah, I went… Well, I knew I could find somebody who’d spot me a sandwich in Pittsburgh, and also, I could get work there. And I did. I had several small day job things. Most of the time, I was doing some kind of writing, anyway. And then, I got hired by an advertising agency; I did advertising work for them.

 

Jim:            Now, did you think you were done with comics at that point?

 

Shooter:    Yeah. I did. I mean, the thing is, the advertising work, the reason they hired me is because I was the “kid who did comics”. So, they had some comics format stuff. They said, “Yeah, let’s call the kid who does comics”, and they did. And I did that for US Steel, and some of the local supermarket chains… I don’t know… Various ads… Levi’s jeans later.

 

Jim:            But you did go back to comics, to DC, in 1974?

 

Shooter:    Yeah, I got a call from this guy named Harry Broertjes, who was a journalism student at that point. He was a big Legion fan. He published something called the Legion Outpost.

 

Jim:            Yeah, of course.

 

Shooter:    Legion magazine, and it was really great. And Harry, he’s really a super smart guy, literate, good at his craft. He was amazing. He still is.

 

Anyway, he drove all the way from Indiana because he wanted to interview me for his fanzine. And so, he met me at my mother’s house, and interviewed me. And then afterwards, after the interview was over, he said, “How can you’re not working in comics anymore?”

 

I said, “I kind of burned my bridges at DC, and I kind of left Marvel in the lurch… They don’t want me.” He said, “Yes, they do.” I said, “What?” … He said, “They can’t find you.” I said, “How can they not be able to find me if they’re sending me comp copies every month?” He said, “Well, for some reason, the editorial people don’t know where you are. They say, they think you moved to California.”

 

So, anyway, he knew lots of people at Marvel and DC, and he just asked me, “Would you be interested?” And I said, “Yeah, if it ever comes up, I guess. I don’t know.” So, the next day, I get a call from this guy Duffy Vohland, who’s a friend of Harry’s, also from Indiana, and he’s at Marvel.

 

And Duffy represented himself as an editor. He said, “Oh, I hear you might be interested in doing some work… Boy, could we use you.” And I said, “Well, okay… Now, what?” He said, “Well, can you come up to New York and talk to us?” I said, “Well, when?” He said, “As soon as possible.” And I said, “I’m not working tomorrow. Is tomorrow, okay?” And he said, “Oh yeah, that’d be great.”

 

So, I go on, and get on a plane. I’m still flying student standby. [chuckle] I still have my NYU card. And so, round trip was 50 bucks. So, 400 miles each way, 50 bucks.

I go to New York. And I go in there, and Duffy was not an editor, he was an assistant in the British department. But he got me there, introduced me to Roy (Thomas). And Roy offered me Man Wolf. I never heard of Man Wolf. So, I went out to lunch with some of the editorial guys, and they said, “Why don’t you go check with DC?” I said, “You can work both sides of the street?” I said, “In my day, you couldn’t do that, because if they caught you working with the other company, they’ll fire you.” That’s why everybody had pseudonyms.

 

But at any rate, so I went up to DC, I knew Mort had retired. Wouldn’t ask for him anyway. I went up to DC, and the only person I can think of, to ask for, is Nelson Bridwell. I thought, “I bet Nelson’s still here.” Yes, he was, and he was happy to see me, walked me right into Carmine’s (Infantino) office.

 

Carmine says, “Oh, the guy who created the Legion!” I said, “Well, not quite.” But he got me. He insisted that Murray [Boltinoff] give me Legion. Murray was happy to do that. And he had told Julie (Schwartz) to have me writing Superman.

 

Julie said, “Well, I already have like four guys, but yeah, I can use another one.” And so, I started getting Superman, and Legion stories, and I thought, “I’m just going to pass on this Man Wolf thing.”  Because I don’t even know who it is, I’d have to do a lot of research and stuff… And that’s how I got into DC again. And I worked there for a couple of years.

 

Alex:          So, you were working under Schwartz and Boltinoff at DC, is that right?

 

Shooter:    Yes.

 

Alex:          What was their managerial style, as compared to someone like Mort Weisinger, who you had kind of a weird… It was like… I don’t want to call it love-hate, but there was a lot of emotions going on, with just breaking into the industry. How is it working under Julie Schwartz, in comparison to Mort Weisinger?

 

Shooter:    Well, Julie was a pretty nasty guy too. He could be. I mean he wasn’t as bad as Mort, but he’d get snarky with you. And Murray, he was an older man, and he was getting a little forgetful, and a nice enough guy. But they were both like the old-fashioned editors. They ruled the room. That’s it, you just do what you’re told.

 

Murray, the problem with him was that, I would write a script, and he would say, “Well, how can they see Phantom Girl? She’s a phantom.”

 

[chuckle]

 

I’m like, “Murray, you can see her, but she can go through walls.”

 

Alex:          So, he didn’t almost understand what…

 

Shooter:    No, he didn’t understand any of that, and he kept doing things like, he’d tell me to write a 12-page story, and then he’d find out that he had an 18-page story as well, for the same issue, and so he’d have to get something done, or cut it… I mean he was always like screwing up with stuff like that. He was kind of losing it. He had an assistant, Jack Harris, and Jack and I used to… Like, “Now, what?” …

 

Alex:          I see.

 

Shooter:    So, it was difficult. I mean, I liked Murray. I really did. But it was a little difficult working with him because he just wasn’t all… Wasn’t as sharp as he used to be.

 

Alex:          Oh, I see. So, at this time, some of those older guys were kind of on a bit of a decline, at this point.

 

Shooter:    Yeah, and Julie was sharp as ever. But, Julie, for some reason he just seemed like he was hazing me. Like I said, all the time I was with Mort, I rewrote four pages and it wasn’t my fault. Julie, wanted things rewritten again and again. I’m like, “Well, maybe I’m rusty or something, I don’t know.”

 

Alex:          I see.

 

Shooter:    And he kept like make me jump through all these hoops, and… It just seemed like he was hazing me.

 

Alex:          I see. Like almost unnecessarily.

 

Shooter:    Oh, absolutely unnecessarily, and I’ll tell you that the punchline here in a minute. But I couldn’t understand why. And then years later, I found out, it’s because Carmine had walked me into his office, and he hated Carmine. That I was Carmine’s boy, and he was not pleased to have me be forced on him. He thought I was like buddies with Carmine, I wasn’t. Nelson walked me in the room. And Nelson was Julie’s assistant, by the way.

 

Alex:          Interesting.

 

Shooter:    One of two.

 

Alex:          But with office politics being what they were, the tribes were set once you walk into that office, I guess.

 

Shooter:    Yeah. I was there, and that was it. So, years later, Al Milgrom was asking me what was wrong… And he was also friends with Julie. And Julie told him, “Ah, he’s Carmine’s friend.” Al says, “No, he isn’t. He just walked in and Carmine happened to see him.”

 

Alex:          [chuckle]… It’s terrible. It’s just like bad luck, almost.

 

Shooter:    The next time I was at a convention, Julie was there. He couldn’t ever say he was sorry. I couldn’t be friendly with him, but he came over started making fun of my tie. That means he’s your friend again.

 

Alex:          Yeah.

 

Shooter:    And so, we was alright. And after that, later in his life, we used to go to lunch every Wednesday.

 

Alex:          Oh, okay. That’s nice.

 

Shooter:    It worked out. But the thing that really killed it with Julia was, he asked me to write a Superman story, and he wanted Green Lantern in it. He asked me to draw out a plot. So, I came up with a plot. Both Murray and Julie insisted that I fly the New York, and have plot conferences.

 

By that time, it was $100 round trip. So, right away, I better get a bunch of work to pay the $100, right? And neither of these guys would ever give me more than a couple hundred dollars’ worth of work. I’m paying $100 to get $300 worth of work… It just started being weird.

 

And then on top of that, like I said, “I’m rusty. I’ll get better. It’ll go faster.” So, Julie makes me write this plot. And I have to fly to New York. I go into his office, I said, “Well, I have the plot.” He said, “Throw it away. I don’t want it.” I said, “What’d you mean?” He said, “I’ll give you a plot.” He goes, “Take notes.” So, he gives me a very detailed plot. Very detailed… All right, that’s the plot.

 

Oh, he did actually take my plot that I handed to him. He threw it in his waste basket. So, anyway, all right, but he gave me a plot, that’s work. It’s a couple 100 bucks, fine.

 

Alex:          Yeah, I see what you’re saying. It was almost like kind of spiteful, a little spiteful.

 

Now, you were working, at this time, on Superman and Superboy. And wasn’t this also, around the period when Kirby was working at DC? He was living in California but he was turning stuff in, right?

 

Shooter:    That would have been… Yeah… When did he leave DC? He was at Marvel… In the middle of 1975 was when he went back to Marvel.

 

Alex:          Yeah, that’s right. That’s when he went back to… In ’75, and I think from ‘70 to ‘74 and a half or so, he was doing the DC stuff – the New Gods and Mister Miracle, and the Demon Goddess.

 

Shooter:    Right. When they took the Legion away from me, and I was doing the backup stories in Action (Comics), Mort’s plan for me was to write Jimmy Olson. And when I bailed out on him, he gave it to Kirby. [chuckle]

 

Alex:          Oh, I see. That’s cool. Uh-huh.

Shooter:    Anyway, just to finish that Julie story, the thing is, so I write this plot… Or I write this story based in Julie’s plot, and I get a letter from Bob Rozakis, his other assistant, rejecting it. Why? Because he doesn’t like the plot. I tell Rozakis, “This is Julie’s plot.”

 

He says, “Well, I don’t care.” He says, “I don’t like it.” [sigh] So, I fix it according to Rozakis. Send it in and get it back from Nelson. “This plot is stupid, Jim.”

 

So, anyway, the next time I’m in the city, I go in and said, “Julie, you gave me a plot. I followed it, exactly.” I said, “First, this assistant rejects it because he doesn’t like the plot. Then the other assistant rejects it because he doesn’t like the way the other assistant wanted me to fix the plot…”

 

Alex:          Yeah, it’s annoying.

 

Shooter:    “What do you want?” He said, “I stand by my assistants.” … Okay. Fine…

 

Alex:          Yeah, it’s like a no win.

 

Shooter:    Yeah, and then the last one was the Green Lantern one, where I wrote this story according to his specifications. I sent it in, and he just sent it back, rejected… And I said, “You know, that’s enough.” And so, what I did was, I wrote a letter to Carmine, I said, “Look, I have these issues with the Julie…”  I said, “What do I expect you to do? I expect you to stand behind your editor.  But I thought you ought to know, that why I’m not there.”

 

And so, Julie intercepted my letter. I guess they saw that there was a letter from me and it was in Manila envelope, because I think I sent a plot too. But he intercepted the letter. And he wrote me back a letter saying, “Dear fellow J S, I intercepted your letter. You’ve never should have written that. You will never work in this business again.”

 

Alex:          Oh, God.

 

Shooter:    I’m like, “Oh.” So, I called Murray, I said, “Murray, do you want me to finish those stories?”, He said, “Yeah, of course. Why? What are you talking about?” So, I kept working for Murray… Then when the Marvel opportunity came, I took it.

 

Alex:          Then you went there… Were you glad Weisinger was gone, or did you kind of miss him at that point?

 

Shooter:    I didn’t like him at all. I didn’t want anything to do with him. I mean after… When he wouldn’t let me work in the office or do any…When I really… I said, “I can’t do this, I can’t go to school and write. Can I do something else?”

 

“No! I need you to write.” And then I got the gig from Stan, I thought, “To hell with him.”

 

Alex:          Yeah.

Shooter:    And so, the first day, I was sitting on my desk… Rumors spread quick in the comic book business. I’m sitting at this desk for no more than 15 minutes, the phone rings. It’s Mort, telling me what an ungrateful son of a bitch I am, and blah blah blah… “After all I did for you!… I saved your family …”

 

“Yeah. Goodbye, Mort.” Click.

 

Alex:          I see. You were done with him.

 

Shooter:    I was real done with him… Oh, P.S. – a little coda to the Nelson story, when Mort retired, he made them throw a little banquet for him. And so, they’re having this dinner, and different people would stand up and talk about how wonderful Mort was. Nelson got up and made it into a roast. Nelson, fried him. I wasn’t there but Paul Levitz told me the story. He said, “Nelson just eviscerated him.”

 

[chuckles]

 

This was supposed to be his celebratory thing, and Nelson just took him apart.

 

Alex:          Yeah, took him apart.

 

Shooter:    Good old Nelson.

 

***

 

Alex:          Because of these situations with Schwartz and the frustrations, did you then express to someone at Marvel that you’re interested in a job, and that’s how the editor in chief at the time, Marv Wolfman asked you to join? How did that occur?

 

Shooter:    Like I said, the Pittsburgh Comix Club people kind of got to know me and there was going to be a convention in Pittsburgh. And Len Wein was going to be at it. So, I went, and met Len. He said, “You should work for us.” And I said, “Well, you know… If you got anything, let me know.”

 

So, I don’t know he was still editor in chief, but eventually, they asked me to write, I think it was an Iron Man… I wrote several stories right around then, I’m not sure which one came first. One of them I wrote was a supervillain team-up.

 

I had never… I didn’t really understand the Marvel style. I really didn’t. Everything I’ve done was my layouts and full script. And so, whoever asked me to write the story, I wrote a plot, and I sent it in, I guess, to Marv… I don’t know… To Marv or Len, and I’m expecting to get a call and say, “Yes, go ahead”, or “Fix this”, or something like that.

 

No. Weeks passed, all of a sudden, a package of art arrives.

 

Alex:          Yeah.

 

Shooter:    What?… It’s like, that’s my story but it’s art. No words… How does he know what I’m going to say? I had no idea what to do with it. So, I asked the Pittsburgh Comix Club, I said, “What do I do with this? How do you do this?” And nobody knew. And so, I finally found somebody who said, “I think you just write the dialogue. Just put little marks where it goes.” So, I did. It was really hard.

 

Alex:          Yeah.

 

Shooter:    There were a couple things there. It was drawn by George Evans, I think.

 

Alex:          George Evans, that’s right. Yup.

 

Shooter:    And the thing is, he had never worked that way either. He had always worked with full scripts. He gets a plot, “What the hell am I supposed to do with this?” He didn’t know and he wasn’t familiar with the characters.

 

One of the lines in the plot was, “Doctor Doom taunts the captive.” He draws this…

 

[laughter]

 

Alex:          He’s a cartoonist, what do you expect?

 

Shooter:    I’m looking at this. Now, anything I ever got from Mort, you didn’t argue with, because it was approved by him.

 

Alex:          Yeah, right.

 

Shooter:    So, I get this, and I’m assuming, “Well, some editor saw this, and approved it, I guess. I don’t know.

 

[chuckle]

 

And so, I put a very polite note in the margin, saying, “I’m not sure that this is appropriate for Doctor Doom.” Something like that. I really, as nicely and politely as I could because I didn’t want to offend anybody. I wrote the story the best I could… And it probably wasn’t all that great. But it…

 

And then I figured… Somehow, somebody explained it to me, and I figured it out. I think Dan Adkins explained it to me, because he would call me once in a while.

 

Alex:          Oh, Dan Adkins would, that’s cool. Uh-huh.

 

Shooter:    Yeah. Well, he lived in Ohio. I lived in Pittsburgh, and somehow he tracked me down when I was still working for Mort back in the ‘60s. He just wanted somebody to talk shop with.

 

Alex:          Oh, cool.

 

Shooter:    He lived in Ohio. And so, yeah, we’d talked, and he’d sent me some books and stuff. He’s a good guy. So, I think he explained it to me. Because, I think, I called him. I was trying to call Marv and the switchboard put me through to Dan. I’m like, “That works… Hey, Dan…” [chuckle]

 

But anyway, so I did a couple of jobs for Marvel, doing a couple of jobs… I was still doing stuff for DC. And then, Marvel opened in 1977, December ’77…

 

Alex:          Yeah, I have ’75. Right?

 

Shooter:    ’75. ’75.

 

Alex:          Yeah, ’75.

 

Shooter:    December of ’75, he called me up and offered me… He said, “How would you like to work in editorial?” He didn’t specify what it was. I said, “I’ll consider.” He said, “Well, come up here and we’ll have a meeting and discuss it.”  “Okay.”

 

So, I did. And I took the job, and I ended up starting as associate editor, on the first day of… I think on the first day of January in 1976.

 

Alex:          Yeah, and do you remember some of the earlier stuff you were editing there? What does an associate editor exactly do?

 

Shooter:    Well, that’s really interesting because, see, when Stan wasn’t doing all the writing anymore, and they started having all these people writing. Some of whom didn’t live in the city. What would happen is, that everything was late. And so, the writer would write a plot, and he would send it directly to the artist. The penciler would draw it, and he would send it back to the writer. The writer would write the dialog and send it directly to the letterer. The letterer would send it directly to the inker. And the job would arrive…

 

The first time it was seen in the office, it was finished. And it was a nightmare because if somebody screwed something up, if something was really bad or wrong, you had to redraw pages. Change the panels… [overlap talk]

 

Alex:          That’s a disaster, yeah.

 

Shooter:    Fixing in the production department was a nightmare. And a lot of the stuff couldn’t be fixed. It went out wrong. And they really didn’t have much of an editorial staff. There was the editor in chief, and there were like a couple of assistant editors, and they did things like the letter columns and proofread.

 

Alex:          Wasn’t distribution so ramped up at this point that that ‘60s model of one editor in chief over all these books… There’s a limited number of books like you said earlier but in the ‘70s with Curtis Circulation, at this point, there’s just so many books… Wasn’t it kind of haphazard in how one editor in chief could oversee everything?

 

Shooter:    Well, yeah. The thing is, when it was Stan, it was just him and Sol. They didn’t need an organization. He was doing all the writing. He was in charge of everything creative, and Sol was sort of his second in command. Sol would do anything Stan didn’t want to do. If it was legal, technical, financial, or complicated, that’s Sol.

 

So, there was no organization, so when Roy becomes editor in chief, Stan was, at that point, the president of the company… He didn’t like it. He got out pretty quick… But he was still kind of involved with the comics. And so, here’s Roy, he’s trying to do all these stuffs, and everything’s late, and he’s got all these writers scattered all around. And Stan is telling him, “I want to add two more books. I want to add… “

 

They go from 12 to a hundred in very short order, once they had Curtis Circulation. That system of where every writer was his own editor, basically. You’d make up the story, you give it to the artist, some book would arrive finished, and that’s it.

 

So, like I said, chaos ensued. And none of the succeeding editors – Len followed Roy, then Marv, Gerry (Conway) for three weeks, then Archie Goodwin for 19 months. None of them did anything to really change the system, except Marv. He tried.

 

Marv decided… When I went up to see him, he told me what he wanted me to do. He called the job – pre-proofer. Pre-proofer. What’s that? He said, “Here’s what it will be.” He said, “Now, when the plots are done, you’ll come in, and you’ll make sure they make sense. And then, we’ll send it to the artist, and when the pencils come in, you’ll check it, and make sure it looks what it’s supposed to be. And then the writer, you check that. And then when the book comes in, finished, it won’t be like a disaster.”

 

I said, “You want me to edit the books.” He said, “No. I’m the editor.”

 

Alex:          [chuckle] You’re pre-proofing him.

 

Shooter:    “You’re asking me to edit these books.” And he said, “Well, I don’t want to call you editor.” I said, “I don’t care what you call me, as long as you pay me.” He paid me a reasonable amount of money. And he said, “I’m going to call you associate editor.” I said, “That’s fine. I don’t care.”

 

Alex:          Okay. So, that’s how that came about.

 

Shooter:    But I was the editor of the books. All of a sudden, I was approving plots, and scripts, and stuff like that. And all these guys who had just had total anarchy before, they didn’t like it. [chuckle] They didn’t like somebody telling them anything, especially if it’s that DC guy. “What does he know?”

 

Alex:          [chuckle] It’s Carmine’s boy. Yeah.

 

Shooter:    It was a little tricky there for a while. Chris Claremont was the first pre-proofer. He lasted, a very short time. First of all, he wasn’t going to get in any fights with any writers or anything like that. He just kind of processed the stuff through…

 

I took the job seriously. I made sure these books are right. I didn’t interfere with their vision. I didn’t tell them, “You have to do this kind of story…”  I wasn’t playing Mort. I was… They had the books; they’re assigned Captain America. They’re doing the Captain America stories, I’ll them if they’re not doing the character right. But I’m not going to tell them, “You can’t do this story, you must do this story.” I was just there to make sure that it wasn’t a disaster. So, I did that for two years.

 

Alex:          How was working under Wolfman, at first, and then, I know Conway was just a few weeks, but… And then under, let’s say, Archie Goodwin. Did you enjoy working under Archie? Can you tell us about him?

 

Shooter:    Well, first Wolfman. When Marv hired me… Okay, I’m in the office, I’m working everyday… Marv would come in, 10 o’clock, 10:30. He would go in his office… There was an editorial room and there was an office within the editorial room. And he would go in his office and I would hear him typing. Then, he would come out…

 

Usually, Len would come in around lunch time… He would come out and he’d hand me the pages that he typed. He’s doing his freelance… And he’d hand me the pages that he typed, and say, “Look this over.” And he and Len would go out for lunch.

 

So, I look them over, and Marv – brilliant, creative guy. Like a machine gun of ideas, but not entirely familiar with the English language. Len used to like shake his head on some of the stuff that Marv… Because Len was a real wordsmith.

 

Alex:          I see.

 

Shooter:    Yeah. And so, there’d be thing I’d patch up or I’d write notes… “Maybe you want to say this”, and stuff like that. And he like that. I mean, he was happy that I helped him. Sometimes, he’d argue with me about something. Like he wanted to use no-ism, as if it meant loud, and I said, “That’s not what it means Marv.”  “Well, that’s what everybody thinks it means. I’m going to leave it.”

 

It was a little weird working with him because he basically… Most of those guys, they just took the job, as if they were the head writer and they’d lead by example. And then some of them are doing their freelance on staff time. That’s not right.

 

So, Marv, he was fired… Things were going to hell, everything was late. Things, sales were going down. He’ll tell you he quit. Well, he basically was allowed to leave gracefully.

 

Alex:          By who?

 

Shooter:    By Jim Galton, the president of the company.

 

Alex:          Okay. The president of the company. Okay.

 

Shooter:    Now, when Roy took over to Stan… Stan was replaced by a guy named Al Landau. They caught Al Landau embezzling. They finally got rid of him. A year before I came in, that’s when they brought in this guy Galton. And Galton, he used to be at Popular Library, publishing books. He was the president of Popular Library.

 

Popular Library was bought by CBS Books, and they got rid of him. And so, here he is, a publishing executive looking for a gig and the only thing that came up was Marvel. He’d never even seen a comic book up close. He didn’t know anything about it.

 

So anyway, after Landau left for a little while, right after he came in, one of the first things he did was get rid of Marv. And then, he was the president, for most of… For all of Archie’s reign, I think. And then he was still there when I… He’s the one who hired me. Working with Marv, like I said, there wasn’t much to do. I mean, after they came back from lunch, he and Len would sit in Marv’s office and play Mastermind.

 

Alex:          [chuckle] So, they were still… They’re buddies, obviously. Yeah.

 

Shooter:    Oh, yeah. We used to call them LenMarv, like they’re joined at the hip.

 

Alex:          Yeah, because they did that fanzine in the ‘60s and stuff.

 

Shooter:    Yeah, and they did a convention with Steve Ditko, in the early ‘60s and stuff. He was great. Like I said, Marv has a lot of talent and… Not to recommend him, but I don’t think he was really interested in doing that job.

 

Alex:          The editor in chief part… And then, tell us now about the…

 

Shooter:    Three weeks now with Gerry… Gerry came in for three weeks…

 

Alex:          Three weeks with Gerry, yeah.

 

Shooter:    Yeah, and he was very good. He’s very smart. He taught me some things in three weeks. But there was a big political snake pit problem there because there was… Marvel was really at war. There was the LenMarv faction; Len and Marv and all their guys. And there was the Roy faction, and even though Roy wasn’t there anymore, he still had a lot of clout. He had Stan’s ear. He was the guy who got us Conan license. He had a lot of power. And so, he protected his guys under his nuclear umbrella, and Len and Marv hired their wives and … [chuckle].

 

Alex:          Oh, interesting. Okay. Len’s wife, yeah.

 

Shooter:    They created the Coloring Department. We never had a Coloring Department before but they created a Coloring Department so, that their wives would have jobs.

 

I mean, this was really a camp… I remember, Tony Isabella, who was one of Roy’s guys, he would tape notes to Stan’s door every day. Letters, and they were all listing all the crimes that Len and Marv committed the day before.

 

[chuckle]

 

How do I know that? Stan once called me in his office. He said, “Read this.” And I read it… He wasn’t even involved with comics but he’s Stan, so, you know… So, I read it, I’m like, “I don’t want to get involved in this.” He said, “What do you think of it?” I said, “Stan, I’m not political.” He said, “No, no. I’m not talking about that.” He said, “What do you think of the writing?”

 

I said, “Pretty clean, compact, not bad.”  “You see, I thought so.” He says, “Is this guy working for us?” I said, “Yeah. He does three bimonthly books.” He says, “Oh, that’s good. I think he can write.” I said, “Yeah, I think he has some talent.” So, I walk out of there feeling like General Halftrack like, “Now what?”

 

So, anyway… So, I worked with Gerry for three weeks. And in this snake pit, he was one of the Roy’s guys. Len and Marv hated him. He ended up firing some people right off the bat. That didn’t make him popular. Len and Marv were doing everything they can to see if they could undermine him. Gerry was doing everything he could to get rid of them.

 

Alex:          [chuckle] I see.

 

Shooter:    At one point, I walked into his office, I said, “Gerry, it’s like you’re trying to drive Len away.” He closes the door. He says, “Of course, I am.”

 

Alex:          Oh, wow. That’s wild.

 

Shooter:    I said, “I don’t know if I can work with you, if you got all this vendettas and stuff.” So, I was going to resign, but he kind of beat me to it. After he got his first paycheck, and they took a lot of taxes out, and I guess he… So, he talked Marvel into giving him a contract to write eight books a month, eight books. So, he went freelance – freelance contract.

 

Alex:          I see. He left more because of the money, wasn’t the [overlap talk].

 

Shooter:    Yeah, he left because… Money and also, because he couldn’t screw the people he wanted to screw, and he couldn’t keep the people he wanted to keep. He was trying to keep (Steve) Englehart, Englehart quit. When Englehart quit, (Jim) Starlin quit with him.

 

Alex:          I see.

 

Shooter:    There was… He wanted to do stuff. He had the right ideas. He had plans to get things on time, because everything was late. And he was a smart guy, but he had a bunch of little agendas of his own, and he was thwarted by the Len-Marv faction in some ways. And so, he just said, “Screw this.” And he became a writer.

 

Alex:          Funny thing about these names you’re saying, is these are the four people that are depicted in all those Rutland Parade comics, and it’s just amazing to see that there’s these political vendettas between them.

 

Shooter:    It was really a very political hostile place, and I’m just… I’m the new guy. I don’t know which side anybody’s on. I’m not on anybody’s side. I’m just doing my writing and, or my editing, and there was so much of that. I had to keep my head down.

 

So, anyway… So then, they fire Gerry. Obviously, I was assistant to Marv, second in command to Marv. So, I was the heir apparent. Passed over me, hired Gerry… Okay. Alright. I learned from Gerry; he’s a smart guy….

 

Gerry quits. Passed over me again, they hired Archie. I thought, just going to wait. I’m going to be Mister Spock forever. It’s fine.

 

Alex:          And who’s doing that? Is that Galton again?

 

Shooter:    It was Galton. But Galton didn’t know anything about comics. He had never met any of these guys, and he couldn’t care less. And so, what would happen is that Stan would recommend somebody, and Galton would hire them.

 

So, Archie was there for 19 months. And Archie, he’s one of the greatest creators this business has ever known, and maybe the best writer ever. I mean, he is that good. And his editorial sense is excellent and he’s really good.

 

His eyes would glaze over if he was talking to an accountant, or a lawyer, or licensing partner.

 

Alex:          I see.

 

Shooter:    He didn’t care about that at all. He’s like Stan. Stan didn’t want to do that, that’s Sol’s problem. And so, Archie didn’t like that stuff, and it was just… He hated it. And he also was not a very combative guy. He didn’t want to be yelling at people and trying to make them get on time. He didn’t want to get in to any fights. He just won’t.

 

Mostly, what he did was he would get together with John Romita, or Gil Kane, or somebody, and they’d do all the covers. He created all the covers, and he’d write in the bullpen bulletin, and that’s pretty much what he did.

 

And I’m editing all the books, the best I can, but of course, I didn’t have the authority to hire and fire. So, it’s really hard. I say, “Doug Moench, you got to change this, because it’s wrong.” He would say, “Change it yourself. I’m not doing it.”  Because you know like everything was page rate, and if I did anything that slowed him down, he wouldn’t make as much money, like if I made him rewrite something…

 

So anyway, working with Archie was great because he’s so smart, and I learned things from him, and he was really just one of the greatest creators this business has ever seen. But he was not an administrator. [overlap talk]

 

Alex:          Right, the legal, and managerial… I guess, he could manage people, but I guess it sounds like it was more legal licensing, a lot of the dollars and cents of it.

 

Shooter:    Yeah, and as far as managing people, I mean he was a permissive parent. I mean, he didn’t want to get into anybody’s face, he wasn’t going to, you know… I mean, he used to tell me, I’d say, “Archie, why are we using this guy? He’s terrible.” And he would say, “There’s always going to be a lot of bad things and a few good things. There’s nothing we can do about it.”

 

I said, “Yes, we can.” So, it was a little dicey with him sometimes, because I was bearing all the suffering from him not exercising his authority.

 

Alex:          Like you would have to be the bad guy there.

 

Shooter:    Well, I’d have to be the bad guy, and I also didn’t really have the power to do what had to be done. So anyway, somebody would send in a script and it was garbage. I would call them, they’d say, “Nah, I don’t care. I’ll get paid.”

 

I used to keep a file of Bill Mantlo’s script pages, and I would only put in the file, pages where it was entirely rewritten. In other words, I had to rewrite the whole page, every word. That file was getting pretty thick. [chuckle]

 

Alex:          Oh, wow… But those scripts would still be credited to him, even if you’ve rewritten…

 

Shooter:    Oh, yeah. And like you tell him, “Bill, look, you can’t do this. It doesn’t make any sense.” And he’d say, “Meh… I’ll get paid… Not fixing it.” And other people…

 

Now, there were some guys like (Chris) Claremont – he didn’t want you to change anything. He’d say, “Just tell me what it is, I’ll fix it. I want it to be my words.” Archie was like that too. I’m like that.  Stan was like that. But some of these guys, they just… Fastest way to the paycheck, and they don’t really care if it’s crap.

 

So, anyway, working with Archie was, it got a little tense sometimes, because he just wouldn’t support me, at all. So, here you are, you have lots of responsibility and no power. That’s not a good combination. So, eventually, Archie decided to leave because he didn’t… It was getting to him.

 

And also, I think Stan started to realize that Archie was not really running the joint. And so, Stan came up with this idea that they maybe make a special position for Archie; special projects or something. Kind of kick him upstairs. Because I was working with him on the strip, and he…

 

Alex:          Yeah. You’re working with him on the Spider-Man newspaper strip, right?

 

Shooter:    Right, and he liked what I did. And also, when I was first there, Stan, he had been away for a while. He took back his office, and so, one of the first things he did was he just started reading books. And he was appalled.

 

So, he called Archie and said, “Archie I want to talk to you about these books.” Archie, sits through this a couple times he’s not telling Archie anything he doesn’t know. And so, Archie finally says, “I got to go… Hey, Jim is the editor.” He said, “He’s the guy who was hands-on. I’m the editor in chief, but he’s the hands-on guy. You should talk to him.”

 

Alex:          I see. He delegated it to you.

 

Shooter:    Yeah. So, I started coming in, and Stan’s going over these books with me, and he keeps saying is “Don’t let them do these snaky pointers.” And then, next week, he says, “This still has…  Don’t let them do these pointers like this… This coloring is mud. This is… Tell them not to do this.”

 

And I’m like, “Okay, Stan.” And like, week after week, he’s telling me the same things. He starts talking to me like I’m in kindergarten. Like short sentences and one syllable words, “Now, Jim, I told you, you really shouldn’t let them…”

 

I didn’t work for him. He didn’t have anything to do with the comics, but he’s Stan. And of course, he had the ear of the president. And he thinks I’m an idiot, because he keeps explaining simple things to me, and I can’t get them right. Why? Because I’m editing 45 books a month. I’m just shoring up the bottom, the best I could. And I didn’t want to say… I didn’t want to say, “It’s Archie’s fault.” I couldn’t say anything.

 

I start working with him on the strip, and he was like surprised. He says, “This stuff is good.” And I said, “Yeah. I know.” … “So, why is it good?”

 

Alex:          [chuckle] Were you basically feeding him plot ideas? What were you doing?

 

Shooter:    Well, Stan, at that point, he didn’t want to work that hard. He wanted someone else to write the plots. And then John would draw the art, and then he just did the dialog.

 

Now, he would help with the plots. In other words, you’d have a little discussion with him about what it should be about. I think the stories were in like 16 weeks or something. Something like that. It wasn’t that he was uninvolved with the plot, but he wanted you to do it, and he wanted you to break it down, day by day, panel by panel.

 

At first, he hired Len because he was told, I guess by Archie… He said, “Who’s your best writer?” And he said, “Len.” … Because that was the politically correct answer, because Len was the former editor in chief. And so, Len lasted a very short time. Stan didn’t like his plots, and I think Len just didn’t understand the newspaper script stuff.

 

So, then he asked Archie, “Who is your next best writer?” And he gives the politically correct answer, he says, “Marv”. So, now, Marv just saw his buddy get fired and embarrassed, not from the company, just from the strip… So, Marv said, “Uhm, I don’t think so.”

 

Then, Stan says, “Give me a list of all of your writers in order from best to worst.” So, Archie makes a list of 33 people. He puts my name 33rd. Why? Because if he puts me ahead of Claremont would throw a fit, and it’s going to get out. You just know it’s going to get out. If he put me ahead of Moench, Moench would throw a fit…

 

Alex:          Also, he probably needed you to do more associated edit stuff anyway.

 

Shooter:    Yeah, and also, he knew that I was the one guy who could be number 33, and I’m not going to quit or anything. It’s like, “I don’t care.” I mean, I knew why he was doing it, it was because, I was the staff guy so… I wasn’t going to be offended. And I wasn’t. I knew why.

 

So, Stan calls all 33 people and all 32 turned him down.

 

[chuckle]

 

Finally, he comes to me. This is before, you know… This was when he still thinks I’m an idiot. And so, he calls me in, and he looks like he has a headache. He says, “I need someone to plot the Spider-Man strip.” I said, “I’ll do it.” And it paid like 100 bucks a week or something. He said, “It not much money, it was the honor of it.”  I said, “I’ll do it.” He says, “Alright.”  And he explained, and he starts to explain to me newspaper strips like as if I’m five years old.

 

Alex:          [chuckle] You mean like basically, it’s – here you got three panels to do this thing, but you got to end it there, you got to start it off like that; the medium.

 

Shooter:    Yeah… “Some people will only read the dailies, Jim. So, the dailies, you can’t…  Sunday has to be additional. It has to work as part of the story for the people who read them all, but if you don’t have it, you should still be able to read the story.” He started telling me…

 

Alex:          I see.

 

Shooter:    And he’s explaining it to me like I’m in kindergarten… And I let him. I just said, “I got you.”

 

So, anyway, I go off and I write the first plot, and I bring it to him. He’s like this, again, and he said, “This is good.” I said, “Yeah. I know.”  He said, “No, no, this is good. Why is it good?” [chuckle] I said, “I know what I’m doing, Stan.”

 

And he said, “Oh.” And so, we start working on it. When I started doing this, it was easier for him, if I did layouts. So, I start doing my little cartoon layouts, and he liked that. He would actually write the dialogue from my layouts, and we could give it to John all at once.

 

And John at first, he’s like, “Uh, I don’t need some kid doing layouts for me.” For about 10 minutes he was mad at me. And then he realized he wasn’t stuck with doing it my way, he could do anything he wanted. I’m just giving him the information of what’s supposed to be going on. You don’t need to feed John Romita his lines. But you do need to show a little stick figure of Spider- Man swinging on the web, so he knows Spider-Man’s supposed to be swinging on the web.

 

So anyway, Stan and I worked on that for a while, and I could say, he started to finally get the idea I might know what I was doing. And then, when Archie decided to leave because he didn’t like the pressure, because… I think he also, when Stan was starting to talk to him about maybe doing special projects or something, I think he felt like he was being edged out, and maybe he thought I was edging him out. I don’t…

 

But at any rate, he decides he’s going to be a contract writer and write three books a month. Archie never wrote three books in the best month of his life.

 

So, he goes off staff. Stan recommends me. I get hired by Galton, and I become the editor in chief.

Boy, it was a mess there, but I got the trains running on time, we introduced a lot of programs, made thing better. People started making a lot of money, “Hey, you can make money at Marvel!” More guys show up. Benefits, health insurance, life insurance, buy all your materials, fully pay your postage, pay your phone bill. Pay your travel if I asked you to come to the office, just really good.

And then the royalties start to come in. Some of these guys were making many hundreds of thousands, if not a million a year.

 

Alex:  So, we mentioned Stan Lee. You’ve worked with Stan Lee, tell us what other stories that you may have had with him that you thought, “This guy was in charge of Marvel”, and was responsible for the line it took in the ‘60s.

Shooter:    Well, the first time I met him, and we talked about comics, you could tell this guy more than knew what he was talking about. He was a genius. And I worked closely with him. I worked with him for two years or so, on the Spider-Man newspaper strip. And just every conversation you had – he was full of ideas; he had a command of the form… Okay, so, talking to him all the time, and also hearing some of his stories about things that went on… The way he told me was credible and believable, and it made a lot of sense because you see, I worked with Jack Kirby too.

For two and a half years, Jack Kirby was doing four comic books a month, pencil and writing. And I was editing them. So, I get these stories from Jack… Jack’s a genius. Nobody has to pad Jack’s resume. He’s the greatest creator this business ever saw.

But, he also… He wasn’t like Stan. He didn’t have the vision, the organizational skills, the foundation… So, I worked with Jack and it was fine. And the thing is, I’d be on the phone with him for hours every week. Because he would send in a completed comic book, penciled and scripted every week… You’d take it out of the envelope, the whole room would smell like cigar smoke. Because he smokes when he was drawing.

Alex:          Yeah.

Shooter:    I mean, the thing is, when I get done going over it, I’d say, “Jack, is it okay if I take out some of these exclamation points?” Because he’d put 10 exclamation points after every sentence. And he’d say, “You do that, young man.” And sometimes, he’d make little mistakes here and there, and I’d help him fix them. I’d say, “Look, you kind of did this scene twice. But if we’d do it, if I change the dialogue a little bit, it’ll look like it’s like on purpose. It will look… It’ll be good.” … “Oh, you do that young man.”

And so, I’d worked with him. But then, those kinds of mistakes was probably because he was getting older. And I remember the first year, I was there, they wouldn’t let him drive anymore because he crashed into a tree, because he forgot he was driving. And also, he had trouble finding his way home. He had some loss of memory, so a few things went wrong.

But still, at the end of these conversations I had with him, if he had time, I’d started asking him questions, “Jack, how did you come up with this? Why did you do it this way? Why did you choose this angle? What were you thinking?”

Alex:          You mean, as far as like current work, he was turning in at the time?

Shooter:    Yeah. And he would… When he was talking comics, he was sharp as a tack. I mean, when he was talking shop, the guy was right back there, and he knew exactly what he did and why he did it and he would tell you. And I learned a lot from him, he was tremendous. But, having worked with him for two and a half years, I can tell you that he didn’t invent the Marvel Universe and he probably, did a lot with each character but he didn’t… It wasn’t all him. It was Stan.

Alex:          So then, when you were looking over at Jack’s art, was that like in that… This was even before you were editor in chief, when you were there from ‘76 to ‘78 as an associate editor, you’re looking at Kirby’s stuff while you were also working with Stan on the Spider-Man newspapers strip, right?

Shooter:    Absolutely. And the thing is… See, Kirby had a three-year contract with Marvel. He was six months into it when I came in as editor. And in those six months, Jack was technically his own editor. And so, the other people who worked there were glad to just let the stuff go the way it was. And so, if you look at those first six months of Jack’s work, some of it was pretty chaotic, and lots of exclamations points.

When I came in, I said, “This stuff is great and it deserves some attention.” And so, I started calling him, going over it with him, and… That would have been from… He’s contract ran from the middle of ‘75 through the middle of ‘78. And I was there, from the beginning of ‘76 till 10 years… No, 12 years actually.

Alex:          Yeah.

Shooter:    So, at any rate… I mean, I was working with him, I was talking to Stan and, like I said, I talked to everybody. I wanted to know what was going on.

Alex:          One quick question about Stan. When you work with him on the Spider-Man newspaper strip, I remember you were saying that you would basically provide plots, go through it with him. When you would provide plots, how would… Would he then say, “I love that idea… Then let’s do this with it.” How did that conversation go exactly? Or how would it go?

Shooter:    Well, generally speaking, I know what I was doing, and generally speaking, it was me doing it.

Alex:          Right.

Shooter:    We’d talked about what we might do next, like what the next… See, the stories, I think, ran for 16 weeks. I can’t remember. So, we’d talk about what the next upcoming story might be, and we kicked ideas around, and stuff like that. But I’ve generally wrote… When it came down to writing the plots and breaking it down panel by panel, that was me.

Alex:          Yeah. And that didn’t in any way, make you think that he’s less creative in any sense?

Shooter:    Not at all.

Alex:          It was more because he had so much experience with it, that he enjoyed fresh ideas from you? Is that how… Did you feel like it was almost like a mentor relationship with you and him?

Shooter:    Yeah, but the thing is, at that point in his life, he didn’t want to do all that work.

Alex:          Yeah.

Shooter:    He wanted somebody else to do it. He tried Len Wein, and Len didn’t work out. Len couldn’t do it. Maybe he just wasn’t familiar with strip technique or something … And then he asked a lot of other people. Everybody turned him down because they were afraid of being embarrassed. He fired Len from the strip, not the company. No one else wanted to take that chance. And finally, he got to me, and I said, ”Yeah, I’ll do it.” And he didn’t really know much about me at that point. And when I turned in the first plot, he’s reading it, he says, “This is good.”

And I said, “Yeah, I know.” He says, “Why is it good?” [chuckle]

Alex:          Were these in-person sessions, generally?

Shooter:    Oh sure, yeah. His office was all of 30 feet from where I sat.

Alex:          Okay,

Shooter:    So, I’d go in there and we’d talk. The thing is, he was happy he had someone who he didn’t have to explain everything to.

Alex:          Right.

Shooter:    When we talked, it was the idea phase.  It was freewheeling, and then stuff. And then he contributed brilliantly. He just didn’t want to grind it out. He wanted a grinder, and that was me. And the thing is, I was pretty good at it. He liked what I did, he liked my instincts. As a matter of fact, after the first couple of weeks of doing descriptions of each panel, telling him what the story was… Oh P.S., one time, I wrote some suggested dialogue, he almost killed me.

Alex:           I see. He was very protective over his dialogue. Yeah.

Shooter:    I got over my head, and I can’t… He said, “I don’t want anybody else doing the writing of the script.” He was very fussy about that. He didn’t want credit for anyone else’s work. The reason they didn’t put my name as plotter, on this strip, is because the syndicate wouldn’t do it.

Alex:          Yeah, okay.

Shooter:    Alright. They said, “He’s an assistant. Screw him.”

Alex:          I got you. And that’s how syndicates are, yeah?

Shooter:    And if I was doing something, and he made comments, they were wise comments. He knew what he was talking about. The guy was brilliant, and people should not take away from him what he really did. He did amazing stuff.

Alex:          Yeah. Wonderful taste and yeah, he wasn’t afraid to push the line toward a direction. Now, what did you think of, and how did it come about the Stan Lee – Jack Kirby Silver Surfer Graphic Novel from 1978? And what did you think of it?

Shooter:    He was on staff, or not on staff… He was under contract to Marvel. He’s already working for Marvel. I think Stan proposed that, and Jack agreed, made a good contract, he got very well paid, and I thought, “It was fine.” I think, in a way was… I don’t know… It wasn’t that fresh, brilliant stuff they were doing in the ‘60s.

It was kind of a little tour down memory lane, I guess. But anyway, I thought it was fine. I love what Jack did. Even when I was working on his stuff, even when he would make little slip ups and stuff. The fact is, the guy was great. The thought that went in, the all the creative stuff, everything. The Eternals for one thing, “How does this guy keep doing this?”

Alex:          Was that going to be a movie?

Shooter:    Not that I know of.

Alex:          The Silver Surfer Graphic Novel? No?

Shooter:    Not that I know.

Alex:          Okay. And then, what did you think of Eternals when it came out?

Shooter:    Well, I edited it. So, I thought it was good. I remember one time, Archie Goodwin, who was wise and smarter than me, and really knew his stuff. One time, when he was editor in chief, and I was still editor, we were sitting in Stan’s office and the Kirby book had just come in, and it was an Eternals book. And so, I brought it in and we’re kind of looking at it, smelling the cigar smoke. And Archie didn’t like the title. The title of the story was “Gods and Men at City College.” And Archie said, “I didn’t like this title.” And Stan said, “What do you think Jim?” I said, “Sorry Archie, I love it.” And he said, “I do too, Arch. What’s wrong with it?” And he said, “Well, you know, it doesn’t… It’s almost humorous…” But we went with the title.

And Archie… I mean, you can’t take anything away from Archie. Archie was tremendous. I learned so much from him. He was great.

Anyway, but I mean, it’s like, Jack always had these clever ways of looking at things, in new ways, and he grabbed you with his ideas and…

Alex:          Yeah.

Shooter:    I just…

Alex:          Did you read New Gods also, when that was coming out?

Shooter:    I read a couple issues here and there. I …

Alex:          I got you. You weren’t that into it. Okay.

Shooter:    No.

 

Alex:          Right. And before we get to that we want to talk about… Jim wants to go over Avengers with you, real quick.

 

Shooter:    Oh, sure.

 

Alex:          Then also, just to throw a little background, Archie was also, at this time, doing Secret or Secret Agent Corrigan strips, and other things too, right?

 

Shooter:    Yeah, X-9, Secret Agent Corrigan, Agent X-9.

 

Alex:          Yeah, he was doing other things in the background. Yeah.

 

Shooter:    Yeah.

 

Alex:          Alright, Jim, go ahead.

 

Jim:            Alright. So, besides the Legion, the thing I love most is probably the Avengers, so we’re going to talk about that a little bit too.

 

Shooter:    Okay.

 

Jim:            So, you came into this following Conway, but he had a short run that had followed Englehart who had been on the book for a long time, and a much-loved run on the Avengers.

 

Shooter:    Yes.

 

Jim:            When you first started on the book, what was your notion? What were you going to do with it?

 

Shooter:    Well, the way I got started on it, was that Steve Englehart was chronically late. I mean, he’s always late. And he was supposed to write three books a month and I don’t think he ever delivered two scripts in a month. And so, everything was late. The year before I got there, I think, or maybe the first year I was there… I think out of the 12 Avengers that were supposed to come out, like a couple of unscheduled reprints, and there was some fill-ins… I mean, because…

 

Jim:            There was a lot of fill-ins on the Avengers.

 

Shooter:    Because he couldn’t make the deadlines, and Gerry tried to convince him, “Steve, you can’t do three books a month. Why don’t you give one up?” And Steve said, “Cut my income by a third?!” He said, “You’re not making three books a month income, you’re only delivering two scripts, and get paid for two scripts. Why don’t you just do two? Pick one.” But Steve wouldn’t do it and he quit.

 

So then, Gerry decided that he would do it… He was obligated in his editor in chief contract to write a certain number of books. I don’t remember – three or something… As well, as the editor in chief. So, he decided that it’d be one of his books, and then he was going to do it.

 

But Gerry had the same problem. I mean, after he left staff, his number of books he was going to be doing was from three to eight. He just couldn’t keep it up. And so, some of those books would be plotted by Gerry, and then I’d write the script. Why? Because I was the only guy who’d do it overnight… Because he’d always be late.

 

Even the Angle, [chuckle] Englehart… Englehart had been so late on his stuff, and then before Steve quit, Gerry told him that Avengers, I think #150 was coming up. And Gerry told him, he said, “Steve, this is #150. You got to deliver this book on time…” Not on time, it was late. “But you got it deliver it in time for us to get it out.”

 

And so, it had been plotted, it had been drawn, but no script, and it didn’t come… It didn’t come. So, finally… It’s going to miss shipping, and so, Gerry gives the book to me and says, “Can you write this overnight? It’s the 150th issue of the Avengers.” I said, “I’ll do it.” And I did, and brought it in. So, it’s being lettered on vellum, pasted it up, and color at the same time, and some inking was being finished, and stuff. And it’s my script.

 

And then, just as it’s about to leave the house, Steve’s script arrives… Gerry didn’t want to lose Steve. And so, he comes to me and he says, “Look, it’s missing shipping anyway.” He says, “I want to keep Steve, so, I’m going to use his script.” And I said, “Alright.”

 

So, same thing, it was all hands-on deck, trying to get Steve’s script pasted up and everything. So, alright. So, mine… I read his script. I edited it. I read it and thought, “I think mine’s better.” [chuckle] But that’s just me.

 

But any rate, so my 150th issue didn’t get published and his did. But then shortly after that, he quit because he didn’t want to… So, Gerry was doing the book, and then he had the same thing, he was late with it.

 

Jim:            Don’t all of you get credit on that issue?

 

Shooter:    I don’t know. I didn’t get a comp.

 

Jim:            I think so, I think you, Gerry, and Englehart all get like some credit for pages on that, as I recall. I could be wrong.

 

Shooter:    Because I don’t remember exactly. All I know is that Steve’s script came in at the last minute, and Gerry didn’t want to upset Steve…

 

So, anyway, I mean Gerry is late on everything so, sometimes he would do the plot, and then we’d have to get somebody else to write it. And I ended up writing several of the Avengers, partially because when Gerry read that 150th issue that I did, he liked it. And so, he thought, “Hey, this guy can write the Avengers.” … But Gerry just couldn’t keep up. He had his wife writing scripts, and she didn’t know anything about writing comics. And he had Don Glut write scripts…

 

Jim:            Oh, yeah.

 

Shooter:    I mean, you’re paying Gerry Conway rates, and you’re getting his wife? That’s not right.

 

So anyway, that’s how I got started on the Avengers, sort of because I was the guy who kept bailing it out, because it was late. And then, I think, Archie said, “Why don’t you just do this book?” I had three books. I had Daredevil, Avengers and Ghost Rider; two bimonthlies in a month.

 

Jim:            So, were you doing stories without credit, or did you start with #158, with that Graviton story?

 

Shooter:    I had written several, before that. I don’t know, if I got credited on it or not. I don’t really care. But I’ve written several, the ones that Gerry was supposed to write. And also, I wrote the Ghost Rider that Gerry was supposed to write, or two.  I don’t know why I was writing Daredevil, but I was writing Daredevil. I don’t know.

 

But yeah, basically, I was the associate editor but that didn’t pay all that well, so I needed to do a little bit of freelance. For a long time, there wasn’t any, and then after Englehart leaves, and Gerry’s late on everything… And a lot of guys were late – (Tony) Isabella was always late. Englehart, oh man, it was a disaster with him, but a lot of guys we’re… I mean, he was in good company.

 

Jim:            And then, after a couple of issues, it really takes off because George Pérez comes back.

 

Shooter:    Once I got on, and you ask me like what was my thinking, well my thinking was like Stan – Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, and the thing is, a lot of writers, Englehart, Gerry, others, they kept like downplaying the Thor – Iron Man, the big guns, and putting in people like Mantis and Hydra…

 

Jim:            Swordsman.

 

Shooter:    Swordsman, and stuff… Why? Because that way they didn’t have to worry about anybody else’s continuity. That way they didn’t have to know what was going on in Iron Man, and so forth. So, they were trying to make it – all these characters that were exclusive to the Avengers, and very few, a couple of token other characters, and the Earth’s Mightiest Heroes characters.

 

Well, guess what? I was editing all the story, so I know exactly what the continuity was with Iron Man or whatever. And I thought, I’m going to do Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, you know, Thor, Iron Man, whatever. Yellowjacket or whatever his name was, at that point. I wanted…

 

Jim:            He was Ant Man, at that point.

 

Shooter:    Yeah, one of the old guys, the ones that Stan and Jack had in there. And so, to the extent that I could, I did that. I ordered to make it Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. And after I got going a little bit, and I started making that happen.

 

Jim:            And you did. You understood the other characters though, besides those, because you did that the Grim Reaper story that’s probably the… If it’s not the only good Grim Reaper story, it’s certainly the best one out of that. And that was one of the highlights of that first run, besides, obviously, the Korvac stuff. That was a beautiful story.

 

Shooter:    Thank you.

 

Jim:            In #161 though, you bring back, Henry Pym.

 

Shooter:    Right.

 

Jim:            And in sort of foreshadowing, what you’re going to do later which we’re going to talk about later. He’s pretty mentally unbalanced, even in that. Did you have an idea that you wanted to really deconstruct him and make him into… You could say deconstruct, but you could also say it was all there from way back and even in Roy’s time, in terms of setting him up as a complicated character. But in that, I was reviewing that issue yesterday, and he’s pretty awful, even going back there. What was your deal with him?

 

Shooter:    Well basically, I wanted, for my associate editor job, and also anything I wrote, I wanted to become the world’s leading authority on those characters. I wanted to, you know… So, I went back and I read every single appearance of Hank Pym. We had a library and some of the books I’d already read, the ones I hadn’t read were there.

 

So, at any rate, I was researching. I’m reading it, and this guy – the biggest accomplishment of his life was creating Ultron. It’s like the world’s most terrible deadliest villain. What else did he do? He came up with the shrinking-growing stuff, and the helmet that would enable him to communicate with ants. But I mean, what did he do after that? Pretty much nothing, except create Ultron.

 

Alex:          And he had an identity crisis. He kept changing his deal all the time.

 

Shooter:    He would leave the Avengers dramatically, to go back to the lab and then he would come back to the Avengers because all he invented in the lab was Ultron, and I mean, he was this kind of screw up guy, I thought. Also, if you read all of those stories, especially the Avengers, he’s always the first guy captured or the first guy knocked out, or he doesn’t do anything useful.

 

P.S., Meanwhile, his wife is supporting him. She’s the rich one. She is the one who lets him go back to the lab, she’s funding all that. And everything she does is great. She’s beautiful. She’s decides she wants to design clothing; she designs clothing. She is successful at that. She somehow becomes the leader of the Avengers, guess what? Turns out to be a good one. She’s like successful and stuff.

 

I actually was on a five-hour plane ride, one time. I’m going out to LA, and the guy sitting next to me… I’m sitting there with comics. I’m looking at comics and stuff. And he says, “You into comics?” I said, “Well, I work for Marvel.” And he said, “Oh, I see. Tell me about it.” So, I told him.

 

And I said, “What do you do?” He said, “I’m a psychiatrist.” I said, “Oh… Well, do you mind if I ask you a couple of questions?” And he said, “No. I’m fine.” So, I asked him about my appraisal of this relationship between Hank Pym, and Janet Van Dyne. And I said, “I think that this guy… He’s got to feel like some inadequacy because she’s such a great success and everything. And he just goes from failure to failure.” And he said, “Well, I think you’re right.” He said a few things, and he basically supported my idea.

 

So, I thought, I’m going to do it then. I’m going to make that happen. And so, my concept with him is – this guy’s a genius guy, and he is heroic. He’s going to screw up. And for the first time in comic book history, he’s going to go to jail, and stay there. And do his time, and come out a better man, and come back, and maybe even get back together with Janet. I wanted to have this fall and redemption. And so, I started on it. [chuckle]

 

Man, I got hate mail… “How dare you break up… It’s one of the oldest marriages in comics?! How can you do this?!” Stan happened to be in the office, and I walked in to him, I said, “Some of these letters, they say death threats, Stan.” I couldn’t. He said, “What? And I said, “I’m having this story where a man and wife are getting divorced.” And I said, “I’m getting all these hate mail.”

 

And he said, “Oh, is that all? Don’t mind it.” He said, “I used to get that with Spider-Man… Why can’t Spider-Man have a girlfriend?!… Why can’t he have a better life?!” He says, “Just don’t worry.” He says, “How’s the sales doing?” I said, “It’s gone up about 10,000 copies an issue.” He said, “I think you’re doing fine.” [chuckle]

 

Alex:          That’s true.

 

Shooter:    Yeah.

 

Jim:            So, I’m going to save my discussion with you on that for when we get to the second round of Avengers.

 

Shooter:    Okay.

 

Jim:            So, that I can maintain goodwill with you for as long as I can. [chuckle] But we will get to it.

 

Shooter:    That’s all right. It’s okay. I’ve been shot at, a bit.

 

Jim:            I will say now, I’m not approaching it entirely as a fan, I’m approaching it as a divorce lawyer who deals with domestic violence. And we’ll, talk about it in that context.

 

Shooter:    I’ll straighten that out for you.

 

Alex:          But it’s interesting, it sounds like you’ve vetted it with the psychiatrists before undergoing that storyline? Is that…

 

Shooter:    Yes. Absolutely.

 

Alex:          Yeah. That’s pretty interesting.

 

Shooter:    I mean, I was kind of playing with him a little bit, because like, as one of you guys pointed out, even in some of the issues before that, he was not quite right.

 

Jim:            Right. No, you set the stage for that in #161, but it goes back to the Yellowjacket wedding, and everything else. I mean, I get where you’re coming from, on questioning his mental balance. I mean that makes sense to me.

 

Alex:          Yeah, same here.

 

Jim:            I don’t see Janet the way that you’ve written her, as being that. But we’ll get to it when we get to that storyline.

 

So, you go from Pérez and he’s doing… I think much stronger work than he was doing under… He’s grown as an artist between working on the Englehart stuff. And he’s got a good match with Pablo Marcos as his inker, compared to Colletta. It’s looking really good. And then (John) Byrne comes in as guest artists on the Count Nefaria story.

 

I know you’re bound to be getting good sales because, I mean, these books are on fire. Visually, they look great, and the stories are good. And you’re bringing in Miss Marvel, and you’re bringing in other characters, and it’s just fun. It’s a really good run at that point.

 

Shooter:    Thank you.

 

Jim:            Then you go to the Korvac Saga. Were you doing that with the notion that this was going to be your Kree-Skrull War, this was going to be your landmark good…? Like the saga they’re going to talk about, when they talk about this.

 

Shooter:    No, I didn’t think like that. I just wanted to do a good story. I figured like Avengers should be doing kind of epic scale stuff. So, I had an idea for this… We had all these characters in Marvel who were sort of godlike – Odin, and the Watchers, some fairly powerful people… Eternity.

And I was kind of toying around with that. I thought, like how do you join that club? And what happens if you do?

 

And I came up with the idea like somebody stealthfully becoming that powerful, and using the fact that they weren’t known yet, to do something. So, that’s kind of the core of it, and I’d started doing my writer thing. Writing old lists and thinking, and taking bits and pieces, and starting to do construction.

 

Jim:            I think, it was the first time since, the only time other than Avengers #98 through #100, where it basically starts to assemble almost everybody that’s been in… It brings in everybody, that’s an Avenger. You’ve got this huge body of people, so many that they have to get on a bus together because they can’t all fit in in any other vehicle.

 

Alex:          And also, Pérez is really good at drawing, like a hundred characters in one shot.

 

Shooter:    Actually, one of the things that happened early on, when I was coming up with the story, is that George said, “I want to draw a story with lots and lots of character. And I said, “Alright. Well, it fits right to what I’m thinking.” And I don’t know, he sticks the Two-Gun Kid in there and, you know…

 

[chuckles]

 

It wasn’t in the plot. The thing is with George is that, you give him a plot, and he would give you what you wanted. But then he’d give you some other stuff besides… But it was George, it was always good so, you didn’t… I mean, I’d work with it. Because it was George, and he was really good.

 

So, a lot of that, all those millions of characters, that was somewhat George’s, you know…

 

Jim:            Oh, that’s interesting.

 

Alex:          And I was reading the trade paperback of the Korvac Saga, much later, as a 10-year-old. But that’s how I was introduced to Two-Gun Kid. Oddly enough, it was through that.

 

Shooter:    Well, like I said, he just wanted to draw everybody. So, I helped him out. I said, “Okay, we’ll have a big story.

 

Alex:          I love the Korvac Saga, and the love story and how it was so tragic. It touched me, honestly. I reread that a bunch of times. Again, this was trade paperback, later, when I gained some level of consciousness enough. But it blew me away, I loved it. And I think they’re going to bring Korvac into the next Captain Marvel movie. And I’m just so curious, because I love the way you did it.

 

They revisited Korvac a couple of times, it never hit me like the way you did that. I like this idea of power growing; they start becoming crazy, and then they’re kind of losing control. And the Beyonder was kind of like that to a degree… I love that stuff. I can reread it and reread it, and still enjoy it.

 

Shooter:    I was asked by Marvel, by Joe Quesada some years ago, to write a sequel for the Korvac Saga. I don’t know if you’ve read it, I have it online. Have you read it?

 

Alex:          What year was that?

 

Shooter:    Early 2000 something…

 

Alex:          I haven’t read that. That’s crazy that… I’m wondering why I haven’t.

 

Shooter:    No, it never got published.

 

Alex:          Oh, that’s why.

 

Shooter:    But it’s available at JimShooter.com

 

Alex:          I’m going to read it.

 

Shooter:    Look in the download section. It’s free… No charge.

 

Alex:          Oh, wow.

 

Shooter:    But I put it there… Joe Quesada asked me to write the sequel to the Korvac Saga, and I said, “Alright, I can do that.” And he said, “I want a few things I want in there. I want you to have the Surfer in there, because he’s on some planet, and we want to get him back in the mix.” He said, “I want you to create a new Nova, and I want you to do some other things.”

 

I said, “Okay, I can do that.” … So, I wrote the plot. I said, “I want to make sure you guys are okay with this. You don’t have it paid yet, you tell me it’s good, we go. If you have any problems with it, we’ll discuss… If you don’t like it, that’s fine.”

 

So, I sent it in, and Quesada gave it to Brevoort, Tom Brevoort. And so, Brevoort sends me emails, or calls me, I don’t know what. And he says, “Where do you get off?… Just deciding to create a new Nova…” I said, “Talk to your boss.” He said, “Why are you putting the Surfer? We don’t need the Surfer in this.” I said, “He has a critical role, and we do need him, and again, Joe told me… That’s what he wanted.”

 

And so, he had objection to this, objection to that… And it was all stuff that Quesada told me to do. So, okay, he got over that part of it. And then he says, “Well, you have all these characters in here, you’re going to have to introduce these characters.” I said, “Tom, I was introducing characters before you were born. Come on…”

 

So, he’s giving me this… This hazing… And I get mad. And I said, “Why don’t you call John Buscema, and tell him to do proper anatomy… What are you talking about? I don’t need this… What, you’re going to nitpick everything I do?” I think that… I think a lot of people… I don’t know…

 

Alex:          Wait, he started there while you were editor in chief, didn’t he?

 

Shooter:    Just when I was leaving.

 

Alex:          Yeah, later…

 

Shooter:    So, right after…

 

Alex:          Interesting.

 

Shooter:    I mean, I think, a lot of people there, they just didn’t want me around. I mean, somehow, I was a threat to them or something, I don’t know.

 

But anyway, so I just said, “You know what? Forget it. I’m not doing this. If this is going to be a hassle the whole way, for these…” I don’t remember how many issues… Eight issues, 10 issues, whatever it was. I said, “I don’t need this crap.” I had other work. I was doing it because it was fun. But if it’s not going to be fun, then why am I doing it.

 

Alex:          Right. Right.

 

Shooter:    Anyway, you can read it. It’s on JimShooter.com. It’s free. You can download it. There’s some other scripts of mine there that…

 

Alex:          Yeah, I’m going to read those. That’s great. Thanks… Yeah, because I love Korvac, the way you did it.

 

Jim:            On the original… Let me go back to that for a minute then I’ll give it back over to Alex. What was their reaction to the final issue, because I know people that that’s what made it as legendary, as it is, and I also know people that would talk about it in like, it was the final episode of Dexter. I mean, it’s just that they just… That was the thing they couldn’t handle, and they were disappointed with the ending because it wasn’t where they thought the story was going to go.

 

Shooter:    Okay. Well, I did the best I could with it. My ending was that, I’d carefully set up the Moondragon as high handed, high and mighty. This was all established by Englehart and others. And you know, when something… He also, established that Quicksilver had a real problem with androids. And so, I had Moondragon, kind of high handily, just fix Quicksilver’s mind. I don’t remember who was there, Hawkeye or somebody said, “You can’t do that…”

 

Anyway, I was trying to establish, this woman, this is how she thinks. It’s like “You little people, and then I’m a goddess…”

 

Alex:          “And we’re going to fix you.” Yeah… Which is almost like a Squadron Supreme type of mechanism too, yeah.

 

Shooter:    And it’s parallel to what Korvac was saying. It’s like, “Well, I’m going to fix things for you people.” That to tee up a sequel story, which I eventually did, way later, where Moondragon becomes kind of, she takes over this planet, and so forth.

 

I mean, my theory there was that this guy, he had the ability to like basically sneak up on the universe, and he didn’t like how things were going, and he was going to fix them. Of course, people who are going to fix things for you, I mean basically, they’re taking control. I mean that’s… It’s not a good thing.

 

And so, I had that to be the end, that they stopped him. And who was the only one who thinks he was the good guy? Moondragon.

 

Alex:          Right. Because she has the motive.

 

Shooter:    Yeah. So, at any rate… I’ll tell you something. The Michigan State University, there’s a professor of literature and they publish these journals. I mean, big thick books, where they do analysis of Shakespeare plays, and stuff like that. He did Korvac Saga.

 

Alex:          Oh, wow, that’s awesome.

 

Shooter:    And he did this whole scholarly thing, analyzing every little move I made, and I’m looking at some of it, and say, “I think I meant that.”

 

[chuckles]

 

Jim:            That’s what we do.

 

Shooter:    He picked up my theme, which almost no one had picked up, which is, everything that happens in the story, happens because someone takes no action. Every significant moment is because someone hesitates. They decide by not deciding. And he saw that. I mean, basically, he saw everything I intended, and a few lucky accidents too. He’s really just… I mean, he liked it. And he took it apart, and he analyzed it like it was a Shakespeare play or something.

 

Alex:          Yeah, I’ll tell you what, I remember what really grabbed me. I think it was the Collector, where like he was about to say the name, and then boom, a bolt from the blue, in front of all the Avengers… Just destroyed like it’s a bunch of ash right in front of everybody, they’re like, “What the hell just happened?”

 

And I remember as a kid I was like, “Whoa”. Like in front of the Avengers, this guy just got assassinated and just blown up with such power and such precision. This is a crazy villain. I was sucked in. And I think that, and then just all the characters and… I was introduced to a lot of Avengers from that saga. So, amazing.

 

Shooter:    Yeah.

Jim:            So, why did you stop after that did you think, “Well, I can’t top that”? I mean, for now, that’s a good place to leave the book.

 

Shooter:    Well, no. See, I was the editor in chief, and that is a real… That’s a full-time plus job. I was making pretty good money, and it wasn’t like I needed to do freelance. And I had all these great writers, and I was happy not to write.

 

But things have come up, where we just needed somebody and nobody was available, or else, I couldn’t find anybody appropriate for the thing. And so sometimes, I did it, kind of because I had to. And I started the Avengers, of course, when I was associate editor, and I had a little more time that I could do some freelance. But like I say, editor in chief, really kept you busy.

 

So anyway, I did some stuff. One of the reasons I did Avengers is because I wanted to get somebody like Roger Stern on it, and he wasn’t available. I couldn’t… I tried to some other people. I think (David) Michelinie and a few… They’re not bad. Those guys are pretty good. But I wasn’t happy with it.

 

Eventually, I did get Roger Stern to do it. He picked up in the middle of that story you don’t like, and he did a great job.

 

Jim:            That was one of the great Avengers runs. Because it deals with… [overlap talk]

 

Shooter:    Yeah, I know. Roger’s great. He’s a really talented guy. He’s probably the least appreciated, great talent that we’ve ever had.

 

Alex:          Yeah. So, when he created Monica Rambeau/ Captain Marvel, did he run that by you? Were you all discussing that? Did he just write it, and you’re like, “Alright, I’m cool with this.”? I mean, how was that?

 

Shooter:    No… I told the guys, “Anytime you’re going to do anything major, come and talk to me. And they did. So, when they told me that they wanted to create a new Captain Marvel, and Stern said, “Captain doesn’t specify a sex. We’re going to make it a woman.” I said, “Fine. Okay, do it.” And so, he did.

 

I’ll tell you, you don’t have to micromanage Roger, and I can’t remember who he was working for at the time, or who the editor was. Whoever the editor was, was good. So, I didn’t interfere with it, because I knew it was good.

 

Alex:          Yeah, and also, an African American female too. And, yeah, I love the character. I love her powers and I love seeing her in the Wandavision recently. But interesting, on Disney Plus they have these little documentaries that are like an hour long. I don’t know if you saw it, but Denys Cowan was there. He said, around ‘79-ish, he was trying to get into comics, he went over to DC. The art director, he said the art director, maybe it was Vince Colletta, I don’t know, said that, “No, your art’s fine, but we already have a black man on staff.”

 

Then he went over to you and you said, “Oh yeah, come on in and work… Give him a job.” And he said, that he thanked you on Disney Plus, for his entry into the comic industry. Did you see that?

 

Shooter:    No, I didn’t. But that’s nice to know. He’s a great guy. I know him pretty well… When I first took over as editor in chief, it was all guys. When you want to hire somebody, no women showed up. No different nationalities and colors showed up, you know, they’re all the same guys.

 

Well, I mean we had a few, like Mary Jo Duffy was assistant editor at that point. And a couple of kind of the administrative types. But the big thing that changed that equation was, (James) Warren was dying, went out of business. So, Louise Simonson was available. And I’ve been trying to get her to come to work for us, for a long time. And so, all of a sudden, she needed a gig. So, she did, she came to work for me.

 

I’ll tell you, that was a great day. I hired three people, and they all started the same day – Denny O’Neil, Louise Simonson, and Larry Hama. That is a good day.

 

Now, once Louise was there, a lot of people who didn’t know me, or were afraid of me or whatever… “If Louise is there, how bad could it be.” And so, people started showing up, and we started getting a lot more women showing up, and artists. Like June Brigman, for instance. And then Louise trained Ann Nocenti, and then she became a force to be reckoned with.

 

And it was this kind of the same thing, I mean we had a few black artists, when I came there but not many. Ron Wilson was kind of the main guy.

 

Alex:          He says good things about you, by the way. I asked him at a comic convention, and he said, “Jim Shooter was always great to me, and I enjoyed working with the guy.” That’s what he said.

 

Shooter:    Well, I enjoyed working with him too. He’s a good man… But we had a few guys but then, when Jim Owsley who had started as a high school intern… But he was tremendously talented, smart and kid. I think he started as an assistant editor of somebody, he was really good. And so, when an opening came up, I hired him to be an editor.

 

Well guess what, now a lot more black guys and Hispanic people… “Well, Owsley’s there…” He’s Owsley at that time. He’s now Christopher Priest. But then it was Jim Owsley. So, that helped too. I mean, we started getting a really kind of, you know… I don’t know, the UN.

 

Alex:          Yeah, it’s like an eclectic… More of an eclectic crowd. You kind of help foster that. It sounds like.

 

Shooter:    For me, it’s like, I don’t, I’m not going to do any affirmative action or any like that. It’s like, make it a good opportunity, open the door wide, take the best people. Guess what? Then you got one of every kind.

 

Alex:          Yeah, that’s cool.

 

Shooter:    Whatever you want.

 

Alex:          So, a couple of 1978 questions real quick; before we just go into the ‘80s. Did you like the Christopher Reeve Superman movie?

 

Shooter:    Yes, I did. I didn’t think it was great, but it was a seminal moment because, like there hadn’t been any really good superhero movies, as far as I was concerned. And when we heard that they were going to do this Superman movie, I was interested. It opened, and it was a hit. It seemed to be doing well, everybody said good things about it. I said, “Great.” This is where we’re going.

 

When I took the job, Jim Galton, he said, “Your job is to preside over the death of Marvel Comics.” I said, “What do you mean?” He said, “The comics business is complete loser.” He said, “I’m going to get us out of comics and I’ll get us into children’s books, and animation.”

 

And I said, “You’re so wrong.” I said, “You are so wrong. This can be big, and we can make it big.” I said, “We’re going to be bigger than Disney.” He said, “Baloney.” I said, “We’re a long way from that, but you watch.” I said, “We’re a long way from there but we can start.” And he said, “Do whatever you want, just don’t lose money.”

 

So, I had a freehand; I could do anything I want… My plan was movies. And when Superman came, I’m like, “God, it’s starting…This can happen!” It was early on in my editor in chief shift. So, I told everybody, I said, “Look, the only show we can get into Superman, is the first one in the morning. So, everybody be here… Like about 20 after nine tomorrow. Be here. You have to be here. We’re going to the movies.” And so, what? Everybody came… Morrie didn’t want to go. Morrie Kuramoto didn’t want to go.

 

[chuckle]

 

But I mean, all the young people did, and then some of the older people. So, I took like 30-some people over, across town to the… It’s over near Times Square where the movie was. We got in. I bought tickets for everybody. We got in, bought everybody popcorn, and we watched the movie. And I said, “This is a landmark. This is an important moment in our industry.”

 

Alex:          Wow.

 

Shooter:    “You need to see this.” So, we did, and it was pretty good. I liked it. I thought… There were a couple of things I’d do… They should’ve hired me to fix their script…

 

[chuckle]

 

But at any rate, so we all come parading back to Marvel, and as we’re coming in… Long column of people marching by… Stan sees me, he was in his office, he says, “Where were you?” I said, “I took everybody to see Superman.” He says, “And you didn’t ask me?!”

 

[chuckles]

 

I said, “It never occurred to me that you want to do that… You’re a busy guy.” And he said, “I should have taken them.” And I said, “Well, let’s all go next time” … Because of Stan. We never did. But he was so disappointed that he didn’t get to go. [chuckle]

 

Alex:          He didn’t get to go, that’s cool.

 

Okay then, now when DC was imploding in like ‘78 or so, is it true that Star Wars, saved Marvel from imploding the same way?

 

Shooter:    Yes, Star Wars was at ’77, I think.

 

Alex:          Yeah, the movie was. Yup.

 

Shooter:    What happened was, Roy, I think, he was out in LA. He was out there a lot. Anyway, he got wind of the Star Wars thing. I guess he saw something of it or whatever. And he was just determined that Marvel should license it, and no one wanted to do it.

 

I mean, I didn’t really have an opinion; I didn’t know what Star Wars was. But Len and Marv, they kept saying, “Science fiction doesn’t sell.” And I kept saying, “Show me a good one…” Comics theme. And a lot of the executives are really not turned on by this.

 

And this was before I was editor in chief, so, I didn’t have a vote. But Roy, like held his breath until he turned blue, and stomped his feet… And look, he’s Roy, and Stan would listen to him… So, he got it done. He got us to license it.

 

So, okay, the book comes out two months before the movie; issue #1 comes out, sells really well, because it was benefiting from all TV advertising for the movie. Sold really well. Second issue sold really well. Third one came out when the movie came out, and it sold millions. And we kept going back to press, back to press. When we finished that first adaptation, we publish that in every format known to man – a treasury book, a little book. I mean, it’s millions and millions and millions.

 

Everything else was dying, and all late. And if it wasn’t for Star Wars, we would have gone under.

So, Star Wars actually, of course, kept going, and the comic book kept going and going, and making a lot of money. It kept us alive, throughout my first year.

 

Alex:          There you go. That’s what I was wondering about. Yeah.

 

Shooter:    It gave me time to turn things around. And then I turned it around, and then everything’s doing well.

 

Alex:          Nice. So, it gave the buffer space for you to organize stuff. And then one of the organization things you did initially, was making sure that the editor and the writer couldn’t be the same person, is that right?

 

Shooter:    Yeah, no writer editors. I mean, I inherited all these writer editors, because every time some editor in chief or some big shot would leave, or the big shot demanded it, they’d make him a writer editor. And it just made it very hard to manage. Then you’d have somebody like Claremont saying, “Well, how come he’s a writer editor and I’m not?” I was like, “No, I’m getting rid of that.” And I did.

 

I mean, I had Marv, and Roy, and who else… Archie, (Steve) Gerber was a writer editor. There was several of them. Gerry was. Jack was.

 

Alex:          Yeah, Kirby was too. But he ended up just leaving of his own accord, right?

 

Shooter:    Yeah, when his contract came to the end…

 

Alex:          He went to animation or something.

 

Shooter:    Yeah, and that’s when he started making legal threats against Marvel.

 

Alex:          Uh-hmm. Right.

 

Shooter:    He made legal threats… Well, not him, his people did… But anyway, Star Wars gave us time, we turned it around.

 

Alex:          How much of the Star Wars success did you attribute to Howard Chaykin versus it’s more the franchise itself, that was selling.

 

Shooter:    Franchise…

 

Alex:          The franchise.

 

Shooter:    Franchise… Howard’s a genius artist. But he’s never been like a John Byrne. You put him on a book, sales jump up, because it’s John Byrne. Right?

 

Howard can do great work, and he has done great work. And he’s had a couple of hits like American Flagg! and stuff, but he’s what they used to call an artist’s artists. They used to say that about, (Alex) Toth too. Like all the artists would like marvel at what he did, and look at the pages and stuff, but a lot of the fans didn’t dig it. They weren’t…

 

Walt was like that for a while. Walt was like that. He used to joke that he was the guy who killed books, because he ended up doing a book, and then it’d die. [overlap talk]

 

Alex:          Walt Simonson?

 

Shooter:    Yeah, and stuff like that. I mean, finally, he gets Thor. That kind of turned it around for him.

 

Alex:          What? Thor did? Thor turned it around for Walt Simonson.

 

Shooter:    Yes. Yeah, because that was such a big hit, and people started to say, “Hey, this guy’s good.

 

Alex:          What did you think of his Thor stuff? Like, as it was coming out.

 

Shooter:    I loved it. I thought it was fine. This editor of Thor, I can’t remember even who it was. But Thor’s sales were trickling down. And I said to the editor, “We have to do something. This is Thor. We got to do something better here.” And he said, “Oh, everything that can be done with Thor has already been done. There’s nothing we can do.”

 

Alex:          Has been done.

 

Shooter:    I said, “I ought to fire you right now.” I said, “Because if that’s the way you think, you can’t work here.” And he goes, “No, no, no, I…”

 

So, anyway, I said, “We’ll have to maybe get a new team on it. Get somebody new.” So, I don’t know who… Somehow, Walt heard the rumor that I was looking for somebody for Thor. He called me up, he said, “I’ll do it.” I said, “Oh, okay. Sure.” So, I went and told the editors, that Walt wants and I thought that it was alright. And he said, “Oh, well, great. Okay.”

 

So, he did, and he did all that Beta Ray Bill and all that. It was all …  ”Nothing could be done with Thor.” Are you kidding me?… You know, he didn’t reboot it. He didn’t start from #1. He didn’t change everything. He just made it good.

 

Alex:          Yeah, that’s right.

 

Shooter:    That’s what you do. And then, he comes, sticks his head in my office one day. He said, “Jim, I’m going to make Thor into a frog.” I’m thinking, if anybody but Walt Simonson said that to me, I’d say, “No. You’re not.” [chuckle] But I said, “It’s Walt, how bad can it be? Fine.” So, I said, “Okay.” … And he made Frog of Thunder.

 

Alex:          Yeah, yeah, because you had confidence that he would do it in a cool way.

 

Shooter:    Yeah, Walt’s one of those guys. He’s one of that elite class where he knows what he’s doing. And you get him on the right thing, and leave him alone, because he knows.

 

Alex:          That’s awesome.

Alex:          So now, 1978 there was a Copyright Law that went into effect, as you were becoming editor in chief. This then made you responsible for having freelancers sign all this work-for-hire stuff. And this was right when you’re starting… And this is something that Archie Goodwin didn’t really have to deal with. And that probably, he then goes off to the creator-owned Epic line. He’s probably, not wanted to even deal with that stuff. How did that affect you as editor in chief, and your relationship with artists at the time?

Shooter:    Well, it didn’t help. I mean, the thing is, it’s the Copyright Law of 1976, which took effect the first day of January, 1978. They gave you two years to tool up. So, first working day of January, 1978… Maybe January 2nd, I don’t know, whatever it was. I come to work, sit at my desk, I’m the editor in chief.

About 15 minutes later, the phone rings, and it’s the company’s counsel, it’s Alice Donenfeld. And she said, she introduced herself as the company’s counsel… “What have you done about the Copyright Law of 1976?” I said, “Lady, I’ve been here 15 minutes.”

[chuckle]

Shooter:    Anyway, I went up and I had meetings with her, and found out about the Copyright Law of 1976. And one of the provisions of that was the things that used to be sort of taken for granted that they were work-for-hire, collective works, and things like encyclopedias, whatever, and anything done under the direction of an editor, stuff like that. There were all these tests that made it work-for-hire…

Well, the new law said, it’s only work-for-hire, if the person signs an agreement, that it is a work-for-hire. And it better be a damn good agreement if it’s retroactive because the agreement is supposed to be signed first… And so, okay…

We had outside counsel and they drew up this work-for-hire document. It’s like four pages long. It’s all legalese, you know, whereas, whereas, now, therefore… Oh, come on…  And they give it to me, and I tried to explain to some people. “This is… We need to do this, and there’s nothing I can do about it.” And nobody wanted to sign it. Nobody wants to sign any legal document. And certainly not one that’s scary.

So, the day after I handed out a few of these things, and nobody would sign it. The next day, I come into work, and all over the lobby of the building, all over the elevators, all over the foyer outside Marvel’s offices… It’s wallpapered with the first page of that agreement, and printed in red across it… It was printed, it wasn’t… Nobody did this by hand… Was, “Sign this document and you’re signing your life away.” And then it said, a little thing down, “Join the Comic Book Creator’s Guild.”

My good friend, Neal Adams, always my good friend, even through that period. He was organizing a guild because he realized that Marvel was owner owned. And he thought that… DC was all buttoned up; they had all their stuff… They had the work–for-hire built into the voucher. It was all done perfectly on time, because they were very buttoned up. Marvel was a train wreck.

So anyway, here’s my best friend starting this Guild, and I’m just trying to get going here. I have so many problems. Everything’s late. There’s corruption and there’s theft going on. There’s all kinds of terrible stuff and the books sucked. And I was like, “What? Now, I got this to deal with?”

I’m trying to get people to sign this thing and no one wanted to do it. And so, I… The contract guys, all the contract guys, they already had that language in their contract. So, sort of as a show to the other people, I asked in John Buscema, Gene Colan, other people, Marv I think… “Sign this. You’ve already signed it, but signed it again.”

So, I had some that I could say, “Look, these other guys, they understand this doesn’t change anything. It doesn’t change anything. It’s the same deal.” So, a few guys like Bill Mantlo, who really wanted… He’d do anything to get work. Ha! He was kind of… Just one little aside.

When there was all just page rate, Bill was the guy who would stay up all night and finish something, and he’d turned it in. And he actually liked that. Because if there were words on paper, nobody’s going to turn him down, right? Because they needed it. And he exploited that and he was doing some pretty crummy hack work. He also plagiarized things.

Alex:          Okay, I didn’t know that.

Shooter:    Even if though… The day I sat down on that chair, sometime that morning, Bill comes to my door… And I told him a lot of times, “You can’t do this.” I said, “You have to fix this.” And he would say, “No.” Because I didn’t have the authority to fire him when I was just the editor. He’d say, “Fix it yourself. I already got paid…To hell with you!”

So, he comes in that morning. He comes into my door, and he stands there, and he says, “Well I assume I’m fired.” I said, “No Bill. This is day one.” And it was for everybody. I said, ”Day one. Okay, do your job. That’s all I need. Do your job.” And he started, and he did some great stuff: Micronauts, Rom (Space Knight) …

He screwed up a couple of times but basically, he took the chance, and I was glad to have it. And I can’t tell you how many… We’ve had arguments sometimes. Then the next day, he’d come in and say, “Oh, I’m sorry. I got carried away.” … “You know, it’s okay, Bill. I mean, people yell at me all the time. I’m used to it.”

Alright, now, back to the work-for-hire thing….

Alex:          Yeah. And this was after Marvel, before they were doing that thing on the check, right? That people would have to sign?

Shooter:    Yeah, everybody did that. I don’t know what that actually accomplished. But, yeah. there was a stamp on the back of the check that you acknowledged that you had done this work-for-hire. Number one, the Copyright Law said, there had to be an advance, you know, when you get the check…

Alex:          I see.

Shooter:    You have to have a good document if that’s not true. Number two, stamping the back of somebody’s paycheck would not stand in court.

Alex:          Right. I see.

Shooter:    I know enough about all that. That would never happen in court.

Okay. So, here’s Neal starting this Guild. And at first, he was getting a lot of guys, an awful lot of guys. I once pointed out to him that the board of the Guild had no one on it who worked in comics. Him, (Steve) Englehart who was writing novels at the time, a couple of others… Finally, he got (Chris) Claremont. He was the only guy who was on the board who actually was working in the business.

I kept telling Neal, I said, “Neal, I’m going to make things better for people. And that’s what you want to do.” I said, “But give me time. Give me a break here.” I said, “You’re making it hard for me.” He’s saying, “No, I think it’ll put pressure on them upstairs.” And I said, “They don’t need any pressure.” I said, “The pressure’s all on me. I said, ”Just would you not do this?”

He was adamant though. He thought he was doing the right thing. He was trying to help people from the outside. And I was trying to help people from the inside. But we had the same goal. In fact, during that time, he’s inviting me to his parties. We’re hanging out. I mean, we’re friends. But we’d often talk about the copyright situation. And the funny thing was, Neal was filming a movie. He was making a movie called Nannaz at the time, and he asked me to do this a little bit part in it. He needed somebody freakishly tall so…

Alex:          [chuckle] Wait, were you in it?

Shooter:     Yeah.

Alex:          I’d want to see that. That’s great.

Shooter:    Yeah, Nannaz, it’s called… It was a hit in Europe. I don’t think it got big distribution here.

Alex:          How do you spell that?

Shooter:     N-A-N-N-A-Z. Nannaz. It’s the name of a stuffed monkey. It’s what it is, a toy monkey.

Alex:          Okay.

Shooter:     And the secret plans are hidden in the monkey and the kids don’t want to lose the monkey, and they’re running away from all the evil bad guys, oh, like me.

Alex:          [chuckle] That’s crazy.

Shooter:     Yeah, it’s great. So, he asked me to be in his movie. So, I go down to… I didn’t want to do it, but he bullied me into it. And I went to where they were filming downtown someplace. The first thing he wants me to do is, sign a work-for-hire. [chuckle] I said, “Wait, wait, wait. You, Neal Adams, are asking me to sign a work-for-hire? You’re kidding me.” And he said, “Well it’s my movie.” I’m like, “Duh.”

[chuckle]

I said, “Yes, Neal. I will cheerfully sign your work-for-hire.” And I did. But I thought, “Are you kidding me? Neal Adams, asking me?” Anyway, we were buddies. And what happened was I did get some people to sign it. Like I said, Bill Mantlo, who was eager to be one on our side. A few other people… A lot of people wouldn’t sign it.

Then the DC implosion came. This is June-ish, 1978. DC cancels 40% of their titles on one day. The next morning, I have a line out the door, into the lobby and people standing in the elevator or downstairs in the lobby, waiting to get up, to come sign that piece of paper. And so, everybody kind of signed it then.

Alex:          So, that DC implosion changed the dynamic on the work-for-hire contract from that law…

Shooter:    Yeah, everybody signed it. The Marvel guys were in line to sign it because they thought if they didn’t, the DC guys would sign it and take their jobs.

Alex:          Yeah, exactly.

Shooter:     So, the Marvel guys are in line, and the DC guys are in line, and some of them have been standing there for four or five hours. They came in the middle of the night. And when I come in, there’s this long line. I said, “Holy cow!”. And everybody wanted to sign the work-for-hire. A lot of those were counter signed by Sol Brodsky. Because he was the vice president, he could sign a contract. And so, a lot of them, I shipped them down the hall to let Sol sign it. That pretty much put an end to the Guild.

The other thing that put an end to the Guild was a big meeting. Neal had a huge studio and this nice big area. He invited everybody and there were a couple of hundred guys there. And he invited me, and I said, “What… Are you kidding? You’re having a union meeting and you’re inviting management … What’s wrong with you?” He said, “No, I want you to be there.” “Uh, alright.” He also invited (Paul) Levitz.

So, here we are, me and Paul like, “What are we doing here?” Hundreds of comic book guys. And so, when Neal was about to start the meeting, I said, “Hold it. Listen, here’s what I propose.” I said, “I will leave the room and you take a vote if there’s one person who doesn’t want me here, I’ll go.” Neal said, “Shut up and sit down.” [chuckle]

So, I shut up and sat down, and they had this meeting. Neal was talking about how great it was going to be and everything. And he had some weird idea that Marvel was making hundreds of millions of dollars. I said, “No, we’re not. We’re losing money.” And Levitz was saying, “Neal, you’re wrong. The companies are losing money.” And he also, Neal was proposing that the union would assign the work, and that pencillers were going to start at $800 a page. And that time we were paying Don Perlin $35 a page… I know.

Finally, I got to talk. I said, “Look, guys, let’s just assume that Neal is right; that I could pay $800 a page.” I said, “You new guys… Guys who aren’t quite Neal Adams yet?” I said, “You think I’m going to hire you for $800 a page?” I said, “I’ll hire Neal. I’ll hire Leonard Starr, Stan Drake, sure.” I said, “But you’re not going to suddenly go from $40 a page to $800 a page and that’s all fine. No, it’s not happening.” Levitz expanded on that.

Two things went wrong for Neal. One is, he was saying he wanted justice for the old creators. Steve Ditko was in the room. I was with him on that, man. I tell you; he had helped (Jerry) Siegel and (Joe) Shuster, and wanted to help Kirby and Ditko. And he started talking about what they were going to do.  “For Steve Ditko, he doesn’t own anything and blah blah blah.” Steve jumped up and he said, “I’m not going to be the poster boy for anything.” He said, “I was an adult when I made that deal and I will honor it.” He said, “If they want to give money, fine. But don’t you make me into your cause celeb.” So that brushed him back a little bit.

And the next thing that happened was, we were talking about artwork return. We… They were talking about artwork return. And Neal said that the position of the Guild was that, the penciler was the artist and the inker was an assistant. And so, all the pages belong to the penciler and if he chose to give some to the inker, then he gives to inker. Whereupon, 50 inkers walk out. [chuckle] And a lot of people were disgruntled.

Like I said, and then very shortly after that DC imploded, and that was the end of the Guild. It wasn’t the end of Neal and I being friends, I tell you that. We’re still friends. I see him at conventions once in a while. We’re good buddies, and he yells at me for whatever he needs yelling me for.

[chuckles]

He’s quite stubborn… Well, he’s Neal Adams, he can do anything. I wrote his introduction to the Hall of Fame.

Alex:          Yeah… Oh, that’s awesome. Okay.

Shooter:     Anyway.

Alex:          And it sounds like the Epic creator line… Like Starlin, for example, he shifts over from the Marvel Cosmic to Dread Star around this time. Was some of these talks about the work-for-hire, and then him owning his stuff, is that what kind of shifted him over, basically?

Shooter:    No… When, Gerry Conway was editor in chief for three weeks, that’s when Steve Englehart quit. Gerry was trying to reason with him, but Gerry did it right. He was telling Steve, “Steve, you’re committed to write three books a month and you only write two.” And so, one is always late or they’re all always late. He said, “Why don’t you just write two for a while? Pick the two you want. And then when you get ahead on those, fine. Maybe we’ll give you another book.”

And Englehart… I don’t know what was wrong, but he kept saying, “You’re cutting my income by a third.” Gerry says, “You’re only delivering two scripts. You’re getting paid for two. I’m not cutting anything.” He quits.

At the same time, I think in sympathy to his buddy Englehart, Starlin quits. And he did some stuff for DC, I guess. I don’t know. And then when I was editor in chief… When I took the job, one of the deals I made with the president was that we were going to do create our own stuff, not in the Marvel comics, in addition to the Marvel Comics.

Alex:          There is a photo I saw of you; I think in 1980 or 81, at San Diego Comic Convention. And I think you’re doing a panel with Wally Wood. Do you remember that?

Shooter:    I remember being there with Wally Wood. I don’t… I couldn’t tell you what the panel was about.

Alex:          What the panel was… So, he died… There was a suicide shortly after that. First… And I remember you told us in the last interview, how important Daredevil #7 was and what an important plot it was.

Shooter:    Yeah… Right.

Alex:          And that was really considered like a Wally Wood plot. Would you say that? Daredevil #7?

Shooter:    Woody was like Jack and Steve. I mean, he wasn’t just going to sit there and wait for you to do something. He was kind of, contribute. He did contribute. And I thought, “His stuff was wonderful.” I mean, when he was there… He did a few things while I was there. But most of his work was before my time.

Alex:          What…

Shooter:    Yeah, that’s San Diego, by the way.

Alex:          Say that again.

Shooter:    That’s San Diego, which was… That was before Woody died. He sat next to me at the banquet. I had Adam West on this side and his wife, Wally on this side. It’s great.

[chuckle]

So, we’re sitting there. They had this banquet and he… It’s hot in this room, and Woody had on like some kind of t-shirt. Shirt over that, a sweater. And then something on top of that. I’m like, “Holy cow.” And so, I’m talking to Adam West for a second and all of a sudden, Woody’s gone. “What happened?” He comes back wearing like a parka and I said, “What’s wrong?” He says, “I’m freezing, man. I’m just freezing.” This is a man with poor circulation…

Alex:          Mm-hmm.

Shooter:    He was a very sick man. Very sick. And so, when he ended it… You might let Mike Zeck tell you that story. I mean, Mike took him to the hospital, picked him up at the hospital, took him home. He’s the last person to see Woody.

Alex:          Oh, wow. So, you felt something was wrong with him?

Shooter:    Oh, I knew something was wrong. This guy was, he was kind of gray skinned and he’s freezing in a parka, in a hot room. I’m like, “Ah, God, I feel so bad.” But what can I do? I did everything. I couldn’t think of anything to do.

Alex:          Did you guys talk much during that banquet?

Shooter:         Oh yeah. I talked a lot. I talked with Adam West and his wife. We’re talking to Woody. We were having a ball. It was like…

Alex:          Do you remember anything specific that you and Woody talked about during that?

Shooter:    Just comics.

Alex:          Comics stuff.

Shooter:    You know, old days, comics, Captain Action. We did Captain Action together.

Alex:          Right. Right. So, you guys talked about that a little bit.

Shooter:    Well, yeah. He said nice things about my layouts and stuff. I mean, he basically got the idea from what I drew and then he did it right.

Alex:          Right.

Shooter:    He was a nice guy. I mean, he was cranky as hell. I mean, he would… and he also would… He’d say outrageous things just to get an argument going on or whatever. He was a character and he had fun. And everybody who knew him, knew that when he was kidding. Like he was best buddies with Jack Abel, they were friends. He gave Jack this beautiful painting… Was it Jack, yeah.

Jack just loved it. But they would… Jack was a pretty good banter too, and they’d get into it. And it was funny as hell, because they’re best friends. A stranger passing by might not know that. Anyway, good guy.

Alex:          So, you weren’t shocked by his death? You were…

Shooter:     No, I was shocked by the suicide. But I wasn’t…

Alex:          The suicide part of it.

Shooter:    Yeah.

 

Alex:          And then, one of the questions I had, because I’ve interviewed him before also. Rick Marschall, why did you let him go from Epic Ilustrated, and then have Archie Goodwin take over from that.

 

Shooter:    Okay, when I became editor in chief, I had been the associate editor. So, I needed to fill my spot. Not only that, but early on, I made it clear to the president, that I had to hire some more people, “No one person is going to be editing 45 books”. And he approved that. So, I’m looking for editors, and I got a few people. I got Roger Stern for a while, Bob Hall… Not sure who else.

 

Anyway, Stan calls me in one day, and he said, “I was introduced to this guy. I think we should hire him.” I said, “Who is he?” …  “Rick Marschall.” He did stuff to do with newspaper strips, mostly. Like collections of old strips, or something like that. I don’t know what he did… It wasn’t comics.

 

I said, “Stan, why? … This guy doesn’t have any experience.” See, Stan loved syndicated strips. His dream was syndicated strips or the Great American Novel. It’s not that he didn’t like comics, but he always felt like he wished he had a real magazine.

 

Alex:          And also, I think Rick also had some association with the European comics, and I think maybe that appealed to Stan in some way, right?

 

Shooter:    I doubt it. I don’t think it made any difference. I think the fact that he was involved with the newspaper strips and stuff. Stan was urging me to hire him. He didn’t have any authority over me. But, he’s Stan. So, I thought, “Alright.”

 

I talked to the guy and he wanted way too much money and I said, “No.” So, we eventually reached a compromise. He was being pretty well paid. He was our highest paid editor at that point. So, he comes aboard, and he was doing black and white magazines, and other magazine type publications. And Stan and I… Métal hurlant wanted us to license Métal hurlant and publish it in the United States.

 

Stan advised me that he thought it was too violent and sexy. And why don’t we make our own book that’s more story oriented. I said, “Okay.” So, we’re going to make this, publish this book that was creator owned, and more like a Métal hurlant only not so violent and sexy.

 

So, I was going to give that to Rick, and he started working on it. Well, meanwhile, he was doing like movie adaptation stuff, black and whites, and he kept making giant mistakes. I mean, he sent a Planet of the Apes to the printer without getting it approved by the licensor. That cost us $60,000… The printing costs us $60,000, and it all had to go get scrapped. And several other things.

 

After that was, he had relatives visiting from Germany, he tells me, “I’m taking this week off.” I said, “You can’t, Rick. You got this… “   I think it was a Star Trek adaptation. I said, “It’s late. It’s going down to the wire; you have to be here.” And I said, “I’m sorry.” And he says, “No, It’s my relatives.” And I’m like, “Rick, you got to get this book out.”

 

So, anyway, what’s he do?… He just calls in sick, every day. Meanwhile, it comes to the attention of the president, that he made a $60,000 mistake and it wasn’t his first. And so, Galton calls me upstairs, and he says, “Who is this clown? Why is he… What’s going on here?” And I said, “Well, I have some trouble with him.” And he said, “Get rid of him.” I said, “Well, maybe he can…”  “No, fire him. Now! Right now.”

 

Alex:          I see. So, the order was from Galton to fire Rick Marschall.

 

Shooter:    “Fire Rick Marschall.” So, I went downstairs, he wasn’t there, because he was calling in sick. So, I had to call him at home. I had to fire him over the phone. So, he tells that story differently, but that’s the truth.

 

Alex:          Now, as far as setting up different people to be the editors of the writers, David Anthony Kraft, when we interviewed him, he had made a comment that you basically created a system that was like the old DC system; that you brought that with you from there. Was that inspired or influenced by that at all? Or was it just because they’re just too many books for one person?

 

Shooter:    Too many books for one person and nothing like DC, because each DC guy was his own little company. I mean, there was no cross pollination, except when Mort would force somebody to let him use the Flash, or something. But no, I wanted a team. I want to get people, get them working together, get them on the same… Marching vaguely in the same direction.

 

And because the industry was dying, people became available. After DC imploded, Larry Hama was available. And then Denny, they got rid of him. His contract came to the end, and they just didn’t want anything to do with him anymore.

 

Alex:          Denny O’Neill, yeah. And then also, Tom DeFalco came from that to want it too.

 

Shooter:    Well, Tom DeFalco came from Archie, because they were all going reprint. So, all these guys are now available – Louise, Al Milgrom… So, I was able to put together a great team. But getting Archie (Goodwin) back was the ultimate too. Like I said, he was editor in chief before me. So, if somebody’s your boss, and then they’re going to come back and work for you, you’re their boss, it’s awkward, at best. And also, I think he really felt that like maybe I’ve screwed him over… You know, to get him out and get the job.

 

Alex:          I see. So, that was thought of. Okay.

 

Shooter:    I did this trickery, when I fired Marschall, and I was talking to Stan, I said, “I’ll get somebody new to do Epic.” Well, at that time, I think we’re still calling it Odyssey, and it ended up being Epic. Because Odyssey couldn’t be used. I said, “I got to get somebody new to do that. He said, “Well, who can we get?”

 

I said, “Well, the best guy in the world was Archie Goodwin. But I don’t think he wants to come back, and work for me.” Well, Archie was struggling, he couldn’t do the free books. He was falling behind on his quota and stuff. I thought, “You know, Archie did a good job.”

 

So, anyway, what I worked out with Stan, as I said, “Let’s pretend, Stan, that he works for you. Tell him, he’s on my level, and that he reports to you. Okay?” I said, “You interview him. I won’t even be in the room, nothing to do with it… It’s like, what do I need to know about Archie?” I know everything about Archie.

 

I gave Stan a term sheet. I said, “This is what we can pay him. This is the deal.” So, Stan had his little crib sheet there. And so, Stan interviews Archie and convinces him to do Epic. And also, Stan says that he has arranged for me to do all the paperwork stuff, licensing stuff, legal, accounting stuff… [overlap talk]

 

Alex:          The stuff that Archie doesn’t like.

 

Shooter:    Yeah. He said, “Jim’s already doing all that for the comics.” And he said, “He can do that too.” So, Archie said, “Okay fine.” So, all he had to do was creative. And I paved the road… I didn’t have to tell him, and I didn’t have to coach or anything. He knew what to do, and better than me.

 

So, time passes, and Stan moves out California. It’s real hard to pretend somebody reports to you if he’s 3000 miles away. And so, Mike Hobson comes in, takes… Stan’s “title” was publisher. He wasn’t the publisher. Because that’s a business job, and he couldn’t care less. So, Mike Hobson comes in, and he was brought in actually, to be the publisher of our new book division that… Jim Galton wanted to do, children’s books.

 

But Galton needed a place to park him for a while, until the book company got going. So, he put him in as publisher of the comics. I didn’t report to him, I reported to the president…

 

Alex:          To Galton, yeah.

 

Shooter:    Yeah, but he was a smart man and he helped me, and he was great… I treated him like a boss because he really was an experienced publishing executive, and I have a couple of holes in my knowledge. So, anyway…

 

Alex:          Was he… So, basically, was it like Galton was the president, you’re editor in chief, and Hobson was like a vice president in a way?

 

Shooter:    Well, I was the vice president too.

 

Alex:          Oh, okay. See, I didn’t know that. That’s crazy.

 

Shooter:    Yeah, I was the vice president, and Hobson was a vice president, and we both reported directly to Galton.

 

Alex:          Oh, I see. There you go. That makes sense now.

 

Shooter:    And the thing is, so Hobson comes in, and like I say, he’s helping me, and I’m respecting him and listening to him and everything. Not that he ever gave me orders, and told me. We’re very collegial.

 

So, anyway, he calls me into his office one time. He says, “What’s the situation with Goodwin?” I say, “What do you mean?” He said, “What… Who…? Does he work for you?” I said, “Yeah, but he doesn’t know that.”

 

[chuckles]

 

That’s not right. And he says, “Look, let’s get this straightened out.” I said, “All right.” So, he calls Archie into his office. Archie comes, stands in the door down from the door. I’m sitting there, Hobson is sitting there. And Hobson says, “Archie, you know you work for Jim, right?” He says, “Yeah, I know.”

 

[chuckle] He always knew… He always knew. He figured it out in the beginning…

 

Alex:          He was just kind of nice and mellow about it.

 

Shooter:    Yeah, and we got along just fine for the most part. I mean, I never… I left him alone… The only time I ever got into a fight with him was, I wanted him to do the Electra: Assassin Series. Why? Because he needed a hit; none of his stuff was really selling. And I had [Frank] Miller who wanted to do this series. And Archie said, “No! It’s creator owned, we don’t do Marvel characters.” And I said, “Goodwin, if you don’t do this, I might not be able to keep this Epic line alive. You need a hit.”

 

So, he grumbles, grumble, grumble… Then he does it, and it’s one of the best things we ever did. We got (Bill) Sienkiewicz and…

 

Alex:          Right.

 

Jim:            Right.

 

Shooter:    So, it was great. And then… What I was going to do if I’d stayed there, I would’ve had, each year, I would have taken one or two Marvel characters and done Epic series. Like the more adult series with them… To keep Epic alive. Because, you know, Moonshadow is not going to sell that much. A lot of stuff was great, critically wonderful but Epic was not… The biggest hit we ever had was Dreadstar.

 

Alex:          Dreadstar. Yeah, (Jim) Starlin’s thing… First, why did the Marvel black and white magazines end? And then, it sounds like you basically grafted some adult material from that, conceptually over to Epic. What happened to the black and white magazine line?

 

Shooter:    Well, Conan sold great, and Conan made a lot of money; Savage Sword of Conan, was it?… Something, whatever it was. And I think we introduced another one, another book; Savage Tales, or something. I don’t remember what… But most of the other ones were vampires, and Dracula, and werewolves and stuff. And that fad ran out. And they just weren’t selling. So, we cancelled some of those it kind of run their course.

 

Alex:          They just didn’t make much money, it sounds like.

 

Shooter:    No, they didn’t. Conan made lots of money, and some of the other stuff we did end up publishing, did very well. See, black and whites are inexpensive to produce so…

 

Jim:            There was Deadly Hands of Kung Fu, and there was Planet of the Apes, and there was Worlds Unknown or Unknown Worlds of Science Fiction, that didn’t last very long at all.

 

Alex:          [overlap talk]

 

Shooter:    Yeah, none of those were doing very well. Planet of the Apes, every time we did one of those, we had a limited license, that sold extremely well, about 600,000 copies, whatever. But most of the other ones, kind of ran their course. The Kung Fu craze kind of come to the end…

 

Alex:          That’s right, the fad.

 

Shooter:    A lot of that stuff just, you know, its time had passed. But Larry did a couple. He did the Savage Sword and he did something else… I can’t remember what…

 

Alex:          Okay, so this right here, right… You know this picture. Comic Scene with you and Stan on the cover. He’s the smiler, and you’re not the smiler.

 

[chuckle]

 

But it’s a fun picture, a lot of people post this, and there’s a lot of fond memories about this era. But in it, there’s definitely showing that there was dialogue. A lot of ongoing dialogue between you, Stan and Galton at the time.

 

Shooter:    Oh, yeah.

 

Alex:          Can you tell us about the relationship of you three, in the context of this period of time.

 

Shooter:    Galton had never actually opened a comic book in his life. Even after I was gone, he never opened a comic book. And I can prove it. But no, I can…

 

And Stan, like I said, “His job really was to be Stan. He was the guy who was trying to sell stuff to Hollywood, animation, TV, movies, and other than that, he worked on the strip, and he didn’t have any day-to-day duties. None. As far as the publishing and stuff, he wasn’t involved at all.

 

He wasn’t even on the organizational chart. It’s like there’s Galton, there’s me, my editors, and all that. Stan isn’t there.

 

[chuckles]

 

Well, I mean, but he’s Stan Lee. I would talk to him every chance I got. I would take advantage of him being there, if he was around. I mean, he moved out to LA, I don’t know, in ’81 or something.

 

Alex:          Yeah, ’80, ’81…

 

Shooter:    Yeah. And so… He and Galton would talk a lot, and we all three would talk a lot. When I was trying to get the royalty plan done, when we ran the numbers… At first, Galton said, “Sure. Fine.” As a matter of fact, he said that the day I took the job, I said, “This is what I want to do.” He said, “That’s alright. Yeah, okay.” Actually, his exact words were, when I said, “I want to pay royalties.” He said, “You mean, we don’t?”

 

Alex:          Yeah, yeah, yeah. Because in publishing, you usually you do.

 

Shooter:    Yeah, and he came out of book publishing, and he really didn’t know. So, I had it approved. We tried to work out the plan, and then when Barry Kaplan, the financial guy, ran the numbers, he said, “All of our books are above the royalty threshold. Every single book.”

 

DC only has three books above their royalty threshold. So, if they do their royalty… We knew that they were doing it too. He said, “If they do their royalties, their exposure’s in the tens of thousands of dollars, maybe… If we match that plan, our exposure’s is three quarters of a million dollars. Otherwise, three quarters of a million dollars of the bottom line, unless sales shoot up.”

 

I said, “Sales will shoot up.” And Kaplan told Galton, he says, “It’s going to cost… three quarters if a million dollars off the bottom line, unless we get a bump in sales.” And Galton says, “I have to get the board to approve this.”

 

So, he asked me to go with him to a board meeting, out in West Caldwell, New Jersey. That’s where Cadence (Industries) board of directors was. And I asked Stan, I said, “Stan, can you help me? This is life or death. We need to sell this.” And he said, “Yeah, I’ll help.” So, he came with us. I did the pitch, and Stan did things like, “Yeah, he’s right… Yeah, listen to him…”

 

[laughter]

 

But we did it, we convinced them. And guess what? It wasn’t three quarters of a million dollars, it’s over $2 million, because sales did go up.

 

Alex:          Yeah, they did go up.

 

Shooter:    They were happy to pay that two million bucks, because the sales went through the roof.

 

Alex:          Yeah.

 

Shooter:    They were going up anyway.

 

Alex:          And did (Paul) Levitz and Jenette Kahn, them doing that at DC, right? That basically, they preempted you, to give you more leverage with these corporate board, is that right?

 

Shooter:    Well, yeah. I mean, basically, like I said, I had my royalty plan approved, the first day I was on the job. But then, it took a while to get it instated. A couple of reasons – (Isaac) Perlmutter is rattling his legal saber at us, and our lawyers cautioned us that that might be seen as a tacit admission, that we always should have paid them royalties.

 

And then another thing was that Barry Kaplan, a good guy, he kept complicating it up. And he kept saying, “Maybe it should only be on an increase in sales.” I said, “No. Royalties. Period.” So, we would get in these arguments, and he kept running numbers, and saying, “Well, how about this? How about that?” I’d say, “Barry, we got to get this done.” And then when DC announced they were going to do it, I said, “We need to get it done. Now! Or else all our good guys are going to go to DC.” Which is what their plan was.

 

So, that helped during the pitch, when Stan and I went with Galton to the board of directors. It helped me sell the thing. I said, in sight for that. Like I said, the meeting was a tremendous success. It worked really well for us.

 

I remember Vince Colletta, one time, he had been doing some work for DC, like nine months, a year, whatever the royalty period was, earlier. He’d come in to my office, and he’d been doing Superman… He came to my office and he spread out three DC royalty checks on my desk. It did not add up to a dollar.

 

[chuckles]

 

And Superman was selling… They had to sell a hundred thousand to get royalties. So, Superman was selling 100,000 and 50, [chuckle] 100,000 and 70 or something. So, he gets his three checks that are like 20 cents, 18 cents or something. After that, Paul Levitz changed it so if it’s not 50 bucks, you don’t get anything.

 

Alex:          Yeah. Right, because it kind of looks stupid at some point.

 

Shooter:    Because that was silly.

 

Alex:          What’s your impression of Levitz and Kahn?

 

Shooter:    Well, Paul is a very, very smart guy, and he’s very business savvy. I think he’s an MBA and he does good creative work. He’s a good writer. He’s one of the few people who, like me, has some business background and does creative. The main difference is that he went to business school, and he knows more about GAAP than I do. But I started companies, and I made several attempts at acquiring companies. And so… And he never did anything like that. So, we have different areas of expertise. But that’s kind of a rare thing, that the creative guy is also a  business guy. I guess we could count Will Eisner then.

 

Alex:          Yeah. Right. That’s true. That’s an interesting comparison. Did you like his run, on Legion of Superheroes?

 

Shooter:    Yeah. I thought he did pretty good. It’s not what I would’ve done but I do think it’s pretty good. I had no problem with that. I thought it was fun stuff, and he had some decent art. It was good.

 

Alex:          [chuckle] So now, the licensing deal… Star Wars gave you that buffer whereas DC had an implosion. A question I have is, and they might be apple and oranges, but as Star Wars saved Marvel in a sense, at that time… Why didn’t Superman, the movie, save DC in a similar way?

 

Shooter:    I think a couple reasons… I think, it probably did give Superman a bump for a while. But that doesn’t last forever. And also, if you were reading Superman in those days, it was pretty tepid. It wasn’t good… It wasn’t engaging. Whereas, with Star Wars, I had (Archie) Goodwin writing it. I had great artists. I had Al Williamson, I think, was working on it, and Carmine Infantino. We had… That was a good book.

 

And then eventually, Mary Jo Duffy was running it, after Archie trained her. She was really good, smart. And she was starting to learn from me and with other editors. But when she started working with Archie, that was the best thing that ever happened to her. Because you just sit in a room for a few minutes with Archie, and you would walk out smarter. So, I believe, he helped her quite a bit, and she became dangerous. And then she was doing it for a while. So, it was a good book. It was a damn good book. And Archie designed great covers.

 

That’s another thing, I let every editor design his own covers. I approved them. That way you got variety of covers, and some of these guys are just tremendous at it. Archie, Larry (Hama), everyone, they were good. And the ones that needed help, they can all go talk to John Romita. (chuckle) He is right there; Grand Master Hall of Fame, John Romita. He’ll help you… Or me.

 

Sometimes, they’d come to me, and I’d say, “Well how about this?” But most of the guys had pretty good sense, and were pretty good at it. And some people did experimental stuff, and some people didn’t. I was fine. I wanted it to be wide open.

 

Alex:          So then, was the success from the Star Wars license then lead to more licenses after that?

 

Shooter:    Yeah. The thing is, the people upstairs including the president, they never opened a comic book. They had no idea what was going on with the comic books. They just couldn’t be bothered.

 

So, whenever something would work, Galton would say, “Well, let’s do that.”

 

So, we had the Conan license forever, so that was not a factor. But when Star Wars was such a huge hit, all of a sudden, every five seconds I’m getting calls from Galton or the licensing people or somebody saying, “Hey, there’s this movie coming out. It’s Kingdom of Spiders, we should do it!” I’m like, “No.”  “But we have Spider-Man.” “It’s got nothing to do with Spider-Man.”

 

And some of them, I’d fended off, successfully. But then some things, if Galton just had a crazy idea, I’m stuck with it. And some of them were nightmares, like Close Encounters. He insisted we do Close Encounters.

 

I said, “Alright”. So, I got (Archie) Goodwin, and (Walt) Simonson that are going to do the adaptation. “It’s not that well. Let’s make the best of it.” And we were promised, all kinds of stuff by the licensing people, who sold it to us. And the studio, who was supposed to deliver, did not. They just simply ignored the contract. And so, we couldn’t even get the script. We couldn’t get any reference. They say, “No, it’s a secret. We got to keep it all quiet.”

 

I said, “How are we going to do an adaptation, if we don’t know what the damn movie is about. So, we couldn’t get any reference. We couldn’t get anything. And so, Goodwin and Simonson said, “What are we going to do?”

 

So, Walt… Whichever movie company made it, they had an office in New York. Walt went to their office, with a sketch pad. And he said, “Look, I’m doing the adaptation for Marvel. I need to know what the stuff looks like. I need to, you know…” And so, they showed him some stills. They wouldn’t let him take the stills. They let him do little sketches of the stills.

 

So, he goes home. Five minutes later, a person from the studio is knocking on his door, saying, “You have to give us those sketches.” And he took the sketches. Walt, he didn’t want to get Marvel in trouble, so he gave them the sketches.

 

The first time that Goodwin and Walt Simonson knew what was in that movie was when they paid to go see it, on the day it opened… I would’ve reimbursed them, but they didn’t ask me. But up until then, they didn’t know. So now, we’re starting, basically, five months late. Because then, they could give us the script and stills, and stuff.

 

And so now, they’re starting to work, and by the time the book came out, nobody even cared about that movie anymore.

 

Alex:          Yeah.

 

Shooter:    We had all these nightmares and all these stupid stuffs. I mean, we did Dragon Slayer… Some rubber dragon flapping around on the screen… I just… It was a lot of… The same with Hasbro, G.I. Joe worked. Now, they want me to do Scepter. They want me to do Starriors… And a lot of it was… I couldn’t fend it off. You should see what I fended off. I mean, holy cow…

 

Alex:          Didn’t do that well then?

 

Shooter:    No. None of it. It had to be a super toy. It had to be, just like Star Wars, you have to have a super movie. Star Wars worked. Raiders worked… If it isn’t that big, it’s not going to happen.

 

Alex:          Yeah, Raiders of the Lost Ark. Okay.

 

Shooter:    Yeah. That was good… And G.I. Joe worked as the super toy. The Transformers worked as super toy… Swept the nation… But was Cristar going to work? No.

 

Alex:          Cristar. Right. Exactly. That kind of made… [overlap talk]

 

Shooter:    Yeah. No. And it’s not that… I did my best. I had John Romita Jr design stuff. But you know… It’s not as good. You’re just not going to win that fight.

 

Alex:          So, a lot of it was driven by the upstairs guys, actually.

 

Shooter:    Yeah. Who’d never opened a comic book, and couldn’t care less… Who thought, Kingdom of Spiders had something to do with Spider-Man.

 

Alex:          And basically, making like movie licensing to toys deals. I got you… And then, tell us about how Battlestar Galactica came out, by (Roger) McKenzie and (Walt) Simonson. And did that do well? It’s 23 issues, from ’79 to ’81.

 

Shooter:    Battlestar Galactica went better than most. It did okay. It didn’t do gangbusters but it did fine, and quickly ran its course. The TV show was on for a while, sales started declining. I think they cancelled the TV show… We probably made some money on it, at least at the beginning. I don’t think we ever lost money on it but it was more trouble than it was worth.

 

 

Alex:          So, in your mind, you kind of were already thinking, “Fine, we’ll do it but there’s no way it’s going to be another Star Wars.”

 

Shooter:    Oh, I knew that. I mean, yeah, I knew that about almost everything. I can’t… I’m trying to think of one that surprised me… I can’t… Like the two super movies… I was not at all surprised… When Raiders did well, or when Star Wars… Once I saw it, and I knew what it was… “Wow, this is going to rock the world.”

 

Alex:          What about Godzilla? That went from ‘77 to ’79, Herb Trimpe, Doug Moench worked on that. Tell us about that and then did that sell well?

 

Shooter:    Shogun Warriors, Godzilla, and then something else… I don’t know. They did okay. They were pretty middle road. ROM did fine. ROM did fine on the basis on the fact, it was a good book, and it had nothing to do with the toy. And I think that Herb did a great job and Doug did some of his best stuff on those books. They did pretty well. They weren’t the XMen

 

Alex:          You cluster Godzilla and Shogun Warriors as one thing.

 

Shooter:    Right. They weren’t the same company, but they were sort of, of a kind. I think the same people bought them.

 

Alex:          Oh, I got you… Because Moench and Trimpe also did Shogun Warriors also, aside from Godzilla.

 

Shooter:    Right… Yeah. So, I don’t remember exactly how we got them. I think it was one of those deals where… I think, actually, one of those was Joe Calamari. He had come in… After when he was done being a hatchet man, they needed a place to put him. So, they fired Alice Donenfeld, who was the greatest thing that ever happened in that joint. And they gave him, her job. She went to Filmation. She was fine.

 

But so, as long as he’s there and he’s the Executive Vice President in charge of Business Affairs. I didn’t technically report to him, but I think he outranked me. And so, he was kind of making deals with the stuff. Some of that stuff was just him all by himself. And one of them was Shogun Warriors. This guy shows up in our office. He says, “You licensed this from…” I don’t know, whoever it was, Popy Toy or somebody. He said, “They don’t own it, I do.”

 

It happened with ROM too, the same thing. Some guy turns up, and says, “They don’t own that, I do.” And then we found out he was right. So, we had to start paying him.

 

Alex:          The one thing I want to know about, curious about Shogun Warriors. Because it also comes along with the Japanese toy theme -giant robot toys from Japan. Some people thought of them as like precursors to Transformers. The toy line ended in 1980. There were some safety sales issues. But I heard that the name Megatron, came from Shogun Warriors. Was there like a Marvel… like Japanese business connections, forming at this point?

 

Shooter:    We had an agent who represented us in Japan. I think his name was Gene Pelc; good guy. He actually licensed Spider-Man to Japan. But because the books read backwards, and the style is so much different over there, their license allowed them to create their own comics, rather than try to reformat ours.

 

They made Spider-Man into a giant robot. Okay, giant robots are popular there. But no, I don’t think… None of that stuff had anything to do with Transformers. And if the name was the same, it was probably an accident.

 

Alex:          I gotcha… So, then, tell us about Micronauts. Now, Microman, 1974, licensed by Mego (Corporation) in ’76. And there was a Micronaut toy line until 1980, but it became… It was a Marvel comic in ‘79 and it lasted like eight years or seven years to 1986, and Mantlo worked on that. Michael Golden did some issues in the beginning. Tell us about how Micronauts came about and what kind of success, would you consider that?

 

Shooter:    Well, it was 1978, it was in my first year as editor in chief, and I get a call from this guy, he says his name is Stan Weston. Didn’t mean anything to me… And he said he worked for… He licensed Mego stuff. And he had this property, he thought, maybe we’d be interested in licensing it for a comic.

 

I said, “Well, what is it?”  “It’s Micronauts.” I said, “Well, I’ve never heard of it.” He said, “I’ll send you a set.” So, he sent me a box of toys. I had toys all over my desk. And then, like, the next day or something, Bill MantIo was in the office he goes running in to me. He says, “I just got my kid the greatest toys. It’s is wonderful stuff. It’s called Micronauts.”

 

I said, “Bill, look what’s on my desk.” He says, “Oh, we got to do this. It’s great.” I said, “Do you really think you could do something with this?” and, “Yeah, absolutely.” I said, “Alright. Okay.” So, we got… I can’t remember which editor took charge of it. They got Michael Golden, that doesn’t hurt. And Bill did some of the best work he ever did. And I think even created some characters for them and stuff.

 

And again, it probably got a little bump from the toys, but it mostly succeeded on its merits. It was pretty good for a long time, but that was… I think, it was all Bill. Maybe with some help from his editor. I didn’t contribute much to that except say yes, and Michael Golden, of course, always did a great job.

 

Oh, by the way, Stan Weston, is a legend in the toy licensing business. He is the man who created the first GI Joe, the big dolls.

 

Alex:          Oh yeah.

 

Shooter:    Yeah, that’s him. And he was…

 

Alex:          Stan Weston.

 

Shooter:    Yeah. He was tremendously successful at licensing… If you say, Stan Weston to toy people, they’d go, “Oh, Stan Weston.” It’s like Bernie Loomis, nobody knows who Bernie Loomis is. But he’s the Care Bears guy and the Star Wars guy toys. He’s a legend too. I worked with both of them. It was great.

 

Alex:          Ha! That’s awesome… Yeah, because the toy business, that’s a whole other history right there.

 

So, then now ROM. ROM was a toy created by Parker Brothers within Hasbro, and Bill Mantlo did a lot of work on ROM. And there’s a lot of celebrated art by Sal Buscema, and later Steve Ditko. Also, similar time ‘79 to ’86, just like Micronauts. How did ROM come about? Why do you think it did well? And why did it end?

 

Shooter:    Well, first of all, it was Parker Brothers before they were bought by Hasbro. Alright. That was one of those deals where I get a call to come upstairs. The president has this ROM toy sitting on his desk. He says, “What do you think of this?” … “I don’t know… Looks okay.”

 

[chuckle]

 

He said, “Look, it makes noises and the lights flash.” I said, “Wow, cool.” [chuckle] And he says, “I think we should license this, and do a comic book.” And I said, “Well, I uh… I guess…” He said, “Can you do something with this?” I said, “Well, yeah. I guess so. Depends on how free a hand I have, I guess we could do something.”

 

He said, “We’re going to get on a plane tomorrow. We’re going to fly up to Boston, get a car, go out to Parker Brothers, and meet with them.” So, he already had this figured out.

 

So, we did that. We take the shuttle up to Boston and get a car and drive out to Parker Brothers. Parker Brothers is this great building in this wooded area. It was beautiful. Inside, it was all just cubicles. But the outside was great.

 

We met with some people there. Galton had already decided he was doing this. So, okay. Fine.

 

So, we get the license. I’m back and I wrote kind of the foundation story. I didn’t flesh it out a whole lot, but I wrote the basic story. And then I gave it to Bill. Bill did build on what I did. I mean, like as I said in some other interview once… He named the lead girl Brandy. That’s a Bill name, that’s not a… I would never… I wouldn’t do that. There’s nothing wrong with the name. It’s just something he would think of and I wouldn’t. Jean DeWolf … I don’t know. So, like those are Bill names, I probably wouldn’t have come up with.

 

He did a lot to develop it. Once again, he did a good job. A really good job on it, and we did have good art… And it far out lasted the toy, so, it was succeeding on its own merits. I liked it. thought it was well done. I was happy to see Bill using his talent. He did a great job.

 

And so, Bill did a lot of good things. He created Rocket Racoon. That’s another of his…

 

Alex:          Right.

 

Shooter:    And he was always good at creating characters. He was like a machine gun, firing out characters… I had some issues with him because he had done some hacking and… Still occasionally did, and he plagiarized a couple of times. And once got us in really big trouble, because he plagiarized a Harlan Ellison story. Don’t plagiarize, Harlan Ellison… And it got through, because I didn’t recognize the story. I never read or seen what Harlan had done.

 

So, there was that. I mean, one of my first…

 

Alex:          Is that the deal where, like then you called Harlan and you came up with some deal where you’d give him free Marvel Comics forever, or something.

 

Shooter:    Yeah… Yeah, that was it. When I called… When he called me, I just found out from Roger Stern. He said, “This is word for word from a Harlan Ellison TV show.” That’s enough. So, then, the phone rings and it’s Harlan. And he says, “You guys ripped me off.” And I said, “Yup.” He said, “What? You admit it?” I said, “Yeah. Roger Stern just told me… I don’t know. I never saw this thing. But Roger Stern told me, and if Roger said so, it’s true.”

 

So then, he was like, “Oh…” He thought I was going to fight with him or something. And then I said, “No, you’re right, why don’t you get your lawyer. I’ll get our lawyers to call yours. You get your lawyers to call ours. They’ll work something out.” And he said, “No, no. we can do it.” Okay.

 

What he wanted was he wanted exactly the same pay that Mantlo got for writing it. He wanted an apology. I said, “Fine.” And he said he wanted a life time subscription to everything Marvel ever publish.” I said, “Done.” … So, we settled it, right there.

 

He was very generous with us. Because the statutory penalty for that would have been something like three quarters of a million dollars.

 

Alex:          Yeah, 750,000 in the 1980s, yeah. Did you have any other interactions with Harlan Ellison?

 

Shooter:    He’d be around one once in a while. He did a story with Denny (O’Neil) once; reasonably okay. He was kind of a character. I mean, like he’d go to a restaurant, like a diner or something, then he’d take out a roll of quarters, and he’d put it on the table. Every time the waiter does something wrong, he’d knock a quarter off, and whatever’s left, it was the tip.

 

Alex:          [chuckle] What a jerk…

 

Shooter:    Nah, and I’d say like, “That’s kind of tacky”

 

And then what happened was he did a Comics Journal interview, condemning Michael Fleisher, mostly for his work on the Spectre. He called him “bugfuck” and “nuts” and told his fans that. And so, Fleisher sued him. At first, he got a lot of support. Somebody, I think Mantlo, threw a party, and had lots of people there; Walt, Louise, and everybody. Everybody was very supportive. Ernie Colón donated a painting to help him raise money.

 

But when it came to testifying, against the Comics Journal, no one wanted to do that. And so, his lawyer came to me, not a great lawyer, I thought. He wanted me to be an expert witness, and all I was supposed to say was that Harlan Ellison was well known and influential… I can say that, sure.

 

So, I go and I testify that. But this lawyer was not very good and so, the opposing lawyer started treating me like a fact witness and asked me all kinds of questions, which had nothing to do with my opinion about Harlan… “What convention, did you go to in 1971 in July.” “I don’t know.” [chuckles]… That was long and stupid.

 

And the thing is, what had happened is, in the meantime, I’d introduced the royalty plan. And so, Fleisher’s claim was that he was damaged by Harlan, which he was. But because of the royalties and stuff, he was actually making more money than he used to. So, he won the case.

 

Alex:          Fleisher did, yeah.

 

Shooter:    But the jury only awarded him a dollar, because they didn’t see damages.

 

Alex:          Financial damages, because he actually made more money.

 

Shooter:    He was better off financially than he used to be. So, how can he claim that he was destroyed? So, whatever. I mean, I’d just tried to do the right thing, and as a result of that, Harlan just hated me after that. I mean, I’d see him once in a while and he was at least cordial, but he was, I don’t know… He was an unusual man.

 

At the Marvel 25th Anniversary party with the Grand Hotel in San Diego, hundreds and hundreds of thousands of people were there. Among them, Harlan… Right? And I’m the editor in chief, I’m being sociable, trying to talk to people and stuff like that. And this young lady, asked me if I’d dance with her. Okay. So, we were dancing.

 

And she told me, she says, “I’m actually here with Harlan. He wanted me to spy on you, and ask you questions and stuff. I said, “Why don’t he come over and ask me himself? … I’ll talk to him. I don’t care.” … I mean, like that was weird. That’s strange.

 

Alex:          [chuckle] Yeah. He has an anger. I think that’s what he’s know… That’s one of the things he’s known for.

 

Shooter:    He’s known for sending people dead woodchucks and things.

 

Alex:          You mentioned super toy. Tell us about, first, hiring Larry Hama, meeting him. And then starting off, and then how did GI Joe get started? The Hasbro line.

 

Shooter:    Well, when DC imploded, this is in the summer of 1978. Suddenly, a lot of people became available. Not Denny. Denny, his contract didn’t terminate. I don’t remember. But somebody there knew him. I think, (Al) Milgrom knew him, because they both worked at DC… So, Larry became available and about that same time (James) Warren died so Louise was available.

 

Somebody highly recommended Larry. I talked to him once, the guy was super smart, and really knew his stuff. So, we hired him. And for a while, he was doing Crazy Magazine, black and whites, a lot of that stuff. Then he was doing some comics… We ended up killing some of the black and whites… And he was doing some comics.

 

So then, Jim Galton, President of the company, he was at some charity function and he literally, in the men’s room, met (Alan) Hassenfeld from Hasbro. And anyway, I guess they were washing their hands and they started talking there and they kept talking. And so, Hassenfeld, was telling Galton all about what Hasbro was doing, and Galton was telling him about what he knew about comics.

 

And Hassenfeld said that one of the things they were doing, because they were trying to revive some of the old brands, and among them was GI Joe. And he said, but they didn’t really know what they were going to do yet with it. And Galton said, this is what he quoted to me; he quoted himself. He said, “I told him we got nothing but geniuses, you should let us do it.”

 

And so, a meeting was arranged. It was at a lawyer’s office downtown, someplace down in the Battery area. It was me and Galton, and then a few executives from Hasbro. I think our marketing guy was there. And they had a one slide slideshow. They had this slide up on the wall. It was a photo of a soldier, and the GI Joe logo, “GI Joe, a real American hero”. That’s all they had. They’d nothing else.

 

They didn’t even know what size they were going to do. They said, “We don’t think the big dolls are a good idea anymore.” I said, “We got to do a Star Wars size, because I was a little boy once and I know, same sized Star Wars and GI Joe – boys will have the Star Wars guys fighting the GI Joes. It’s a boy thing… We got to do the Star Wars size. That’s the most popular.” That’s three- and three-quarter inches… Something. I don’t know.

 

Alex:          So, you’d actually suggested the size of the toy.

 

Shooter:    Yes. Yes. And then one of the executives says, “We want to do a whole line of toys. He said, “What are we going to do, GI Joe, GI Fred, GI Steve, GI George…” I said, “No, that’s the name of the unit… You can’t do war… That won’t go. But you can do anti-terrorist… So, what if it’s a top-secret unit? And they’re carefully selected – the best sailors, the best soldiers, the best airmen, the best marines. Super secret. When there’s a terrorist crisis, you call in GI Joe.”

 

They liked that, and they liked the slogan. They liked the slogan and everything. And the guy says, “Well, we want to do comics, animation, toys, and licensing. We need like a story. We need a story for the comics and the animation.” I said, “I can do that. We’ll do that.” And he said, “Well when can we have this?”  “We’ll get it to you in a few days.”

 

I went back to the office, walked right into Larry’s office. He doesn’t remember this, but I do. Walked into Larry’s office because ex-military, explosive ordnance expert.

 

Alex:          Right.

 

Shooter:    A war historian, by the way. People don’t know that. This guy can tell you about (Battle of) Thermopylae all day. So, I walk in his office and I said, “This is what I got going with Hasbro… What do you think?” And he said, “Well, I’ve been working on…” I knew this too. He’d been working on something called the Fury Force which was a revival of Sergeant Fury and his Howling Commandos as an anti-terrorist group.

 

Alex:          Larry Hama was?

 

Shooter:    Yeah. He told me about it. He’d already cooked up stuff like having a secret headquarters under the chapel, and all that stuff.

 

He said, “Can I use what I’ve been working on for this?” I said, “Oh, yes. Absolutely, if you want.”

 

Alex:          So, Cobra was basically, Hydra then, right?

 

Shooter:    No. No.  The way Cobra came about was, Larry started working with Hasbro, we both did. He was creating stuff for… He actually wrote the story. Fine. I asked him to write the story and he wrote it, and I got it. It was too just the facts. Nothing wrong with the story, but it was not dramatic. And so, I rewrote it to dramatize, didn’t change anything, just a little more melodrama. Because toy guys like that.

 

Anyway, Hasbro loved it. And then Larry and I started working with them. Almost all Larry, I don’t think I said two words. He was doing everything. He’s creating characters, talking about weapons and toys and things. So finally, they get to a point where they’re getting ready to launch. They had prototypes and stuff, and they ask us to come up to Pawtucket, (Rhode Island) to see what their launch was going to be.

 

By the time, Mike Hobson was working with us. And so, I wanted him along, because he gravitas and dignity and stuff. And I asked Archie Goodwin to come with us because he’s the smartest guy in the world. And Larry and me, I don’t know if there was anybody else, whatever. Anyway… So, we go. And were standing around this conference table, and they trot out all these toy prototypes, and their explaining this one, and this one…

 

A lot of them were Larry’s characters. Larry’s ideas and Archie Goodwin is looking at them. He says, “You don’t have any bad guys. You don’t have any villains.” And they said, “No, no. Villains don’t sell. We don’t do bad guys. Villains don’t sell.” Archie says, “Who are they going to fight?” And Larry and I are looking… “He’s right.”

 

And so, we started arguing, the three of us started arguing with them, that they had to have a villain. And the guy finally caves in. He says, “Alright, will have one bad guy for it… What do you want?” And Archie, off the top of his head I think, he says, “We’re going to call it the Cobra Command. And it’s a secret terrorist organization, and they’re evil as hell. And then there’s the Cobra Commander and the Cobra commandos… They’re bad guys.”

 

So, their guy says, “Alright. Well, design us a commando and we’ll make one. That’s it.” So, I guess Larry designed it. I’d have to ask him, but I think he designed it. And sure enough, they had one.

 

Now, the stuff goes on sale, and that was one of the most popular toys. Because if a kid buys, like, five or six GI Joes, he wants five or six bad guys.

 

Alex:          Yeah.

 

Shooter:    So, they buy the same toy, six times. It was one of the top selling toys. And after that, they got the clue. They did some really interesting bad guy. So, each year, it was about the new bad guys, as well as the new GI Joes. And Larry was very instrumental on all that. I even stopped going to the meetings. He didn’t need me. I wasn’t needed there. I was just sitting there, twiddling my thumbs while he did everything.

 

Alex:          And he was doing things like character bibles and things like that…

 

Shooter:    Oh, he did everything; character bibles. He created characters. He was in pretty constant contact with them. And I think, he was having the time of his life. He loved it. He was having fun. I’m sure he didn’t need my help. The only two things I can say that I did. I did rewrite the story to make it more dramatic.

 

Larry, of course, introduced a lot of female characters in the comic book, but Hasbro wasn’t making any female character toys. And so, I went to one of these meetings, and I got in to it with them. I said, “You have to have some female characters… We have them in the comics.” And they’re like, “No, no, no. They don’t sell.” I said, “That’s what you’ve said about villains… No, we got… Do vehicles sell?” They said, “Yeah.” I said, “Make the drivers women. Make some of the drivers, female characters.”

 

And so, they tried that and it worked really well. And then, they tried… Who was this? Scarlett maybe or…

 

Alex:          Yeah. There’s Lady Jaye and Scarlett.

 

Shooter:    And then there was bad baroness, maybe?

 

Alex:          The Baroness. Yeah.

 

Shooter:    Baroness. So anyway, they’re trying some toys, and they sold fine. They sold great because GI Joe was so cool, the boys didn’t think, “Oh, I’m buying a girl toy.” They thought of buying a GI Joe.

 

Alex:          Yeah. That’s so right.

 

Shooter:    So, the sales were great. And by having some of them be the vehicle drivers, we can get more characters there. And Larry, he ran with it. I mean, he’d already been doing it, but he have contributed greatly to that too. And that’s about it, I guess.

 

Alex:          There was always an understanding that Hasbro would own the rights to sell those characters, right? There’s always that understanding.

 

Shooter:    Of course, there is. That’s…

 

Alex:          That’s the toy deal. Yeah.

 

So, now, anything that goes through the animation cartoon process, obviously that means, Stan would know about it. So, how did he like GI Joe?

 

Shooter:    Well, Stan didn’t know about it. I mean, he knew about GI Joe because he would occasionally read the comics. The people at the production studio just basically kept Stan out of it. He has his little office and a secretary. They didn’t consult with him at all. He was not involved. He didn’t direct anything. He didn’t have any power over everything. His job was to call studio executives and producers, try to sell TV animation, and movies, and the studio people did not respect him.

 

The first guy, who was David DePatie, and he brought in his production guy, Lee Gunther. They didn’t want anything to do with Stan. They hated the comics. The first logo for Marvel productions, you couldn’t tell, it has anything to do with Marvel. It’s just like an MP, I think, and nothing else. And they just, they didn’t like us at all. And they hated the comics. I know that from hearing it personally.

 

What happened was, eventually they got rid of DePatie or his contract came to the end. I’m not sure. And they hired this lady, Margaret Loesch. Margaret Loesch worked briefly in New York, out of our office in the licensing area. Then she became the studio chief for Marvel productions, immediately. She has a sculpture of Spider-Man crawling up the outside wall of [chuckle] the building. Changed the stationary, changed the logo, so it had Spider-Man on it. She was proud of Marvel. She liked Marvel.

 

At one time, when I was out in LA with some editors… Can’t remember… I think maybe Larry. I don’t know… But anyway, we’re out there… And Transformers, I actually wrote the foundation story for that. That’s me.

 

So, I was out there and Margaret wanted to have a meeting with me and whoever I brought, and Lee Gunther, who was now running pretty much all of the operations. Margaret was in charge, but he was like Sol Brodsky. So, she asked him to come to the meeting and at first, he didn’t come, and I think then she called him and said, “Where are you?” So, he finally comes into the meeting, he’s all disgruntled about wasting his time on these comic book people.

 

So, I said, “Margaret and I have been talking about, maybe we could coordinate more. Like have the comics and the animation have a closer relationship.” He says, “No, we hate your comics. They’re stupid. They’re ugly. We don’t want anything to do with you.” I said, “Lee, I’m the guy who created the Transformers story.” He said, “No, you didn’t.” I said, “What do you mean, I didn’t?” He said, “Sunbow created that.”

 

I said, “Sunbow. I’ll tell you what Sunbow did. They took my treatment, took my cover page off and put theirs on. That’s what Sunbow did. That was typed on my secretary’s typewriter. Some of the characters are named after relatives of mine… I’m sorry, that’s me. I did it.”  “No, you didn’t.” I said, “I don’t think we’re getting anywhere, Marge.” So, he goes storming off to get away from us ugly horrible comic book people.

 

The animation studio did a pretty good job. But they didn’t want anything to do with us. And they wouldn’t even acknowledge that we created it. I think they couldn’t argue too much about GI Joe because Larry was on the trench with Hasbro. But Transformers, they thought that that was Sunbow. [inaudible]… Anyway.

 

Alex:          Interesting. But they still had to look at some of the character stuff that came from the comics to some degree, right? For the cartoons.

 

Shooter:    Well, see, there was an advertising agency, the name I’m not going to remember right away. I’ll think of it later. Tom somebody and… I’ll think of it in a while… Hasbro had this advertising agency in Manhattan. And when we did GI Joe with Hasbro, and Hasbro was working with us directly. That drove them crazy, because they wanted to be between us. They want it to be not only do advertising, they wanted to do all the marketing for Hasbro… And I can’t remember the name, I’ll think of this, it’s two men’s names…

 

So, one of them had been like college roommates, sort of cronies with Hassenfeld, and so, there was kind of a buddy- crony thing going on there. And they kept trying to wedge their way in between Marvel and Hasbro. When Transformers started, the Hasbro guy, Bob Prupis came to me, sat on my office, showed me the car that turned into a robot. And I ended up writing the backstory for that.

 

But somewhere… Shortly into it, this advertising agency succeeded in driving a wedge. They also created Sunbow which was an executive production facility, just to be between us and Hasbro. And so, a lot of things had to go through them; less contact directly with Hasbro. They still, they wouldn’t stop talking to Larry, I tell you. And they did talk to Bob Budiansky a lot, and stuff. I mean they went around… Hasbro made a show of like making them involved. But when they needed to talk to me or talk to Bob Budiansky, or somebody, they’d just called us up. I mean, they weren’t going to play that game.

 

But for as far as the studio knew, it was all coming from Sunbow. I think, Roger Slifer worked there for a while. So, he at least, knew the comics and he knew what’s really going on, because he’d worked at Marvel.

 

Alex:          You mentioned that the animation people, that Stan had his office there, that they really didn’t consultant him much. So, that means Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, and the Spider-Man cartoon of 1980, Defenders of the Earth, a lot of that really was, although he had some peripheral stuff like voiceover or something or writing some, like the song for Defenders of the Earth, you’re saying he wasn’t really that directly involved with much of that process.

 

Shooter:    No at all. He was the guy who sold it… Who would not take Stan Lee’s call?… If I called up a studio chief for Paramount or something like that, they’re going to take my call home? Hell no. But if Stan called them, sure. He was involved in the sales part of it, very, very little in the creative, at all. They had a guy named of Dennis Marks who was sort of the head of the creative. He didn’t care to talk to Stan.

 

So anyway, the Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, I was out in LA, for some reason, I went to Stan’s office and just hang out for a little and say hello. And he said, “Oh, I’m going to have to do a pitch to one of the networks”, I don’t remember which one, whichever run the Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends from. He said, “I’m going to do a pitch, you want to come with me?” I said, “Sure. Okay.”

 

So, we go together and we did the pitch together. He congratulated me after. He says, “You really contributed some stuff there. It was really good.” And I said, “Well, thanks, Stan.” He said, “I think you know what you’re doing.” [chuckle] I said, “Well, I hope so.”

 

I even got a letter from him once. He said, dealing with Hollywood was driving him crazy. He says, he really like talking to me because at least there’s someone who knows what he’s doing… I have that letter in my show-and-tell stuff. But anyway…

 

So, we went, we sold it. So, it was on the air, and he didn’t really have much to do with it. After we sold it.

 

Alex:          Seemed like a pairing of Iceman and Spider-Man just seemed… I mean, looking back, it’s kind of strange, isn’t it?

 

Shooter:    We didn’t… We weren’t thrilled with that. I mean, they decided they wanted a cute dog and they wanted a couple of characters. I think that was mostly negotiated between them and Dennis Marks or whoever was in his job at the time. But we didn’t … Stan, that was his idea. What was it? Ms. Lion, or something, some stupid dog.

 

Alex:          [chuckle] Well, no. But I don’t remember that… But then also Firestar was created for that show, and then she ended up coming into the comics later on. And was that really a product of… Like who created Firestar exactly?

 

Shooter:    I think the studio people did. It was a cipher character and I think 101, I think, Chris wrote it or somebody… We had some good people working on it. They fleshed it out.

 

Alex:          Chris who?

 

Shooter:    Chris Claremont.

 

Alex:          Oh, that’s cool… Oh, I didn’t know that.

 

So, the Transformers, now that’s around 1984, and again, you mentioned… So, first, how did the deal come about to start doing the Transformers? And then I know that you actually wrote and you’d mentioned this earlier, the initial treatment. Did you come up with…? So, the concept of Decepticons versus Autobots? Did you create them?

 

Shooter:    Here’s what happened. I was sitting in my little desk and in comes this guy from Hasbro, Bob Prupis and he puts this car on my desk. I said, “That’s cool.” He says, “Watch this.” Flip, flip, flip It’s a robot. Flip, flip, flip it’s a car. I said, “Why is it doing that?” He said, “That’s what we’re here to find out.”

 

They had licensed the technology from Japan…

 

Alex:          Yeah.

 

Shooter:    Alright… The Japanese didn’t really have much of a story. I mean, apparently Japanese kids – car turns into a robot, that makes sense. That’s fine.” And nobody asked why. It just was cool, and it did it. That was that. They didn’t have to explain it in Japan.

 

Hasbro felt that the American market probably want to know why. They like the story to be more fleshed out. So, okay, he said, “Can you work with us?” He showed me what else they had. They had Autobots and Decepticons, the names.

 

Alex:          Okay. They had that already.

 

Shooter:    Yes, and they had “Transformers, more than meets the eye.” But not nothing, nothing really else. That’s it. And, of course, they have the toys. They have names, they didn’t have American names or anything.

 

So, okay, I asked Denny to write it. He took a try at it. It was a very halfhearted attempt and it was terrible. I fed him as his lines. I said, “Denny, how about this, how about that?” He just didn’t care about it. He didn’t like toys. The reason he took the job was because it paid well. And so, he turned in this thing and I’ll say it was terrible.

 

Alex:          Is it true he came up with the name, Optimus Prime?

 

Shooter:    It is absolutely true.

 

Alex:          That’s true.

 

Shooter:    The thing is, his treatment is dumb. I mean, the parts that I gave him, I thought were alright. But… And I paid him. I said, “Okay, voucher it.” So, having spent my budget, [chuckle] I didn’t have any money to pay anybody else. I could have drummed some up but I thought, “No, I’ll just do it.” So, I did it. And I wrote the treatment and Hasbro loved it. They thought it was great.

 

Alex:          What was that initial plot that you put together?

 

Shooter:    It was the origin story. It was the planet Cybertron and there’s a war, and Cybertron is entirely mental. It’s all its resources have been stripped, and everything is robotic and so forth.

 

Alex:          Okay, you came up with that.

 

Shooter:    Oh yeah, that’s me.

 

Alex:          So then, did you go with the name Cybertron?

 

Shooter:    Yeah.

 

Alex:          You made Cybertron. That’s awesome.

 

Shooter:    And so, some of the good guys flee to Earth, and the bad guys pursue. Of course, Earth is rich with minerals and so forth. So, the bad guys have some evil plans for Earth, the Autobots are trying to defend it. I don’t remember it in a tremendous detail, but it was basically, the sort of the foundation story.

 

It was the kid, what’s his name?… They call him Spike… No, we call him Spike.

 

Alex:          Oh, the teenager of the story…

 

Shooter:    Yeah, and they called him something else.

 

Alex:          He’s like a Rick Jones kind of guy?

 

Shooter:    Yeah. And they called him something else in the cartoon, because they thought Spike was too scary. But all these basic characters, that’s all me. And then, the basic story of the first issue, the Origins story… It wasn’t really the first issue. It was all that stuff you needed to know to write the first issue.

 

So, anyway, then they liked that. And they wanted it out at a certain date. And so, I went to Bob Budiansky He was really a good guy, smart guy. He can draw. He can write. He’s sort of a Larry Hama. And I asked him, and I said, “But you’d have to write this plot over the weekend, for the first issue.” He took it. He did it. It was fine.

 

And then he just became the Larry Hama of Transformers. He was creating all the characters. They’d give him a toy, and he’d say, “I want to call it Bumblebee, because it’s yellow.”

 

Alex:          Yeah. So, he came up with names like Bumblebee. Yeah,

 

Shooter:    Yeah. The only one that he didn’t was Optimus Prime, that was Denny and I might have…

 

Alex:          And you came up with Cybertron.

 

Shooter:    Yeah, all the origin stuff, that’s me.

 

Alex:          That’s awesome.

 

Shooter:    Though the characters names, I can’t remember their names… But yeah, it was all… I did the foundation; Bob took it from there. So, I’d built on a pretty good foundation but he just took it and ran. He was creating characters. He was Circuit Breaker, I think. He did so much stuff, so good.

 

Alex:          So then, I noticed like, it’s like cars fighting planes. Isn’t that kind of like part of that? Who came up with that split?

 

Shooter:    Well, they had the toys that were airplanes that turned into robots. And so, Bob had to figure out a way to incorporate them in what he was doing in the comic book. And he did and it came out fine.

 

Alex:          I see. So, making the planes the bad guys and the cars tended to be the good guys, statistically, that was probably more Bob developed, like putting more issues in and getting more characters in.

 

Shooter:    Yeah, that was… And of course, we’d get input from Hasbro and it was just like with Larry, they didn’t need me in the meetings. Bob knew what he was doing. I pretty much left him alone.

 

Alex:          That’s cool… Yeah, you kind of set it to that direction and there it went.

 

Shooter:    Yeah. I was good at writing the pitch piece, the foundation piece for the toy companies. Because I got to know these toy guys. I’m telling you, they love football clichés, “And he would not be denied.” And stuff like that. I mean, they want the melodrama.

 

[chuckle]

 

They try to think like kids. So, you show them where the melodrama is. And then they liked it. It was not only melodrama; it was real drama. But I mean, you play it out a little bit for the toy guys. And so, it worked out pretty well. I think I was good at doing the foundation work and those guys, Bob and Larry… Just unbelievable work they did. It was great.

 

Alex:          And I wanted to get one little detail out. So, when Stan left for Los Angeles, what was his job title at Marvel exactly? Because it wasn’t publisher, was it? It was something else.

 

Shooter:    Yes, he was publisher. But the thing is…

 

Alex:          He was publisher. Okay.

 

Shooter:    Well, Stan called himself editor. He was doing the books in the ‘60s.

 

Alex:          Yeah.

 

Shooter:    The company was bought by Perfect (Film &) Chemical (Corporation) Incorporated in 1968. As soon as they bought Marvel, they changed their name to Cadence Industries. Because that was the era where conglomerates were all the rage, like Litton Industries, for instance. All these big companies buying up all little companies. They were totally unrelated. So, they were building this little conglomerate.

 

So, at first, Stan stayed where he was. But there was a… Martin Goodman had negotiated this deal where after his… He was required to stay for a couple year, I think. And then, he had arranged for his son to take his place as president of the company. Stan, thought, “Hell, no. I’m not working for Martin’s son. I’m not working for Chip.”

 

He actually was going to quit. He went to DC and actually negotiated a deal with DC. He was going to revolutionize the whole place. He was going to change the name. He said, “DC Comics, Detective Comics Comics? That’s stupid. I was going to call it Super Comics or Superman Comics, if I couldn’t use Super.” He said it was going to change everything. And he already started working on it. He was already figuring it out, and had a great deal with DC.

 

Then, I guess, they wised up upstairs, the board. And so, what they did is they reneged on the making Chip, president thing, and I guess, paid Stan a bunch of money. And they made him president of the company. So, he was the president of the company for a little while. Up until then, including being president, he still had some direct contact with the comics. Like Roy never had the free hand I had. I had Stan’s old job. But Roy always had Stan over him.

 

So anyway, so he was president for a while, he hated it. I mean, he’s not a business guy. He doesn’t like it. It’s just no fun. He wanted to do creative stuff. So, they worked something out, they called him publisher. For a few years, he was getting a lot of play in the lecture circuit and also, he kept his office upstairs. We were on the sixth floor, and the upstairs was where the executives were; they were in the ninth floor.

 

So, what was upstairs? All the chief executive guys with Galton, and people like that. Licensing. The circulation guy was up there. Subscription department. It was all this other stuff, that wasn’t real closely aligned with the comics. All the comics stuff was downstairs.

 

Stan was upstairs because upstairs, published magazines. They had the Magazine Management Incorporated, which was part of Marvel, but stood alone. And so, Stan was called publisher, and he really kind of took charge of those magazines. They were crabby magazines. They were soap opera magazines, the men’s sweat magazines; that’s a technical term. It’s kind of grody men’s magazines. Crossword puzzle books. It was kind of a miscellaneous stuff.

 

And he was trying to make something out of that. And that wasn’t popular, right? He wasn’t winning that, and he didn’t like it up there, and he didn’t like being publisher and so forth. So, what he did was he took his office back down on the sixth floor. Now at that point, he had nothing to do with the comics. He wasn’t on the organizational chart. His job was to be Stan. Even before I got there, his job was trying to sell animation, trying to sell any kind of media, movies, TV. He made a record deal. There was a Spider-Man record one time, and a musical record.

 

So anyway, he was busy with that kind of stuff. But he’s Stan Lee and he’s 30 feet away. If I got a question; I’m going to ask Stan. So, we talked a lot, and he helped me a lot and I learned a lot.

 

Alex:          So, then when he was… But when he left in 1980, he still carried the name publisher, in name basically, right?

 

Shooter:    Yeah, he did. Yeah, I think it was a good calling card name for when he called up studios and stuff.

 

Alex:          And that went on for a while, right? For like 27 years, I think, after that even.

 

Shooter:    I think so. I mean like it was an honorary title. It was…

 

Alex:          He’s an honorary publisher, but he would say publisher in conversation, maybe.

 

Shooter:    Yeah. Of course. Because that was a good thing, if you’re talking to the studio chief.

 

Alex:          Yeah, and for sales, that makes sense.

 

Shooter:    Yeah. But that’s so, he wasn’t really… He never did that. He wasn’t that business guy. He didn’t… His eyes are glazed over. He’s like Archie.

 

Alex:          [chuckle] Yeah.

 

Shooter:    He didn’t like it.

 

Alex:          I want to ask one quick question on Dazzler, and then the direct market, and then Jim’s going to ask you something.

 

First, Dazzler… We talked to Tom DeFalco who did kind of the character bible of that story. And there’s the question of a disco album, a comic book, and maybe a movie starring Bo Derek. Something I always wondered, was Dazzler based on like a real person, before all these?

 

Shooter:    No. What happened was, our Vice President of Business Affairs, Alice Donenfeld – she was looking for business opportunities. And she realized that like Archie Comics, that had the Archie’s Band, the Pussycats. So, she thought, well why can’t we do that? Like what they do is they do comics and have studio musicians do the records, and they cross-pollinate. “Why can’t we do that?”

 

And so, she asked me if we could create a musician character, a singer. I think she even said, “It’d be good if it was a female singer.” And I said, “Alright. Okay.” … Some of it was mine, DeFalco contributed some things. He wanted to call her something stupid, I said, “No.”

 

Alex:          [chuckle] Okay.

 

Shooter:    He wanted the name to be Evilyn, and the last name Free, Evilyn Free… “Oh, my god. What? Are you kidding me?”… Anyway…

 

Alex:          So then, who came up with the name Alison Blaire?

 

Shooter:    That would be DeFalco.

 

Alex:          DeFalco did that. So, you basically rejected that first name then he came up with that one.

 

Shooter:    Yeah. And the thing is, I think the way he tells it is that he did most of the creation, and that’s not really true. There was several of us involved, John Romita Jr, for instance. I thought, we got to have somebody hip here. Maybe we should get somebody who’s in touch with the music scene. So, John – young, hip guy. He was going to draw it; he gave us a lot of insights. He came up with a lot of ideas.

 

The movie thing was that, Alice looking for some music company to do the music, spoke to Casablanca Record and Filmworks, to Neil Bogart, who ran that. And he liked the idea. So, Alice, and we had a Hollywood rep in those days, I can’t remember the guy’s name, and I don’t know, somebody else. They call me up to her office, and they say, “We got this thing with… Casablanca has agreed to do this. And they want to launch it with a half an hour animated special. We told them we’d get it to them right away, because they wanted it to get going.” There was some timing reason, I can’t remember what.

 

They said, “We need a story… Like in days.” And the guy says, “Spend whatever you want. Hire whoever you want. Hire Harold E. Nelson.” I said, “Yeah, if we need it next year. Sure… The best guy would be Archie.” But Archie’s too slow. He’s not going to write it over a weekend… Everyone else is busy. And also, I didn’t think anyone else… I couldn’t… It just didn’t seem like the kind of thing that you’d get Claremont. It didn’t seem like the kind… I couldn’t find a guy. I said, “Well, I’ll do it.” I’ll either be the hero, or I’ll be the goat. So, I stayed up all weekend, and wrote this story, which was supposed to be for the animated special.

 

See, Casablanca represented all kinds of talent. They represented Rodney Dangerfield, and Robbin Williams, and Kiss, and the Village People, and Donna Summer, and Cher, Lenny and Squiggy. I had to come up with roles for each of them to do the voices of the characters. And they wanted a lot of superheroes. And they wanted Dazzler to be the star. Okay, so I wrote this thing, over the weekend. It was called New York, New York or a Tale of Two Cities, set in an apocalyptic future and stuff.

 

So, the Casablanca guy came to meet with us. After we sent it to them, they read it, and one of the Casablanca executives came, and again, called upstairs to the meeting. And his tapping his finger on my treatment. He says, “This is not a half hour special. This is a feature film.”

 

Alex:          It’s a movie.

 

Shooter:    Yeah, and holy cow…

 

So anyway, they started working on it. And it was right around the time of the Cannes Film Festival. So, Alice our VP of business, she went to Cannes. And she was going to try to meet Bo Derek. Why? Because the movie 10 had just come out. Monster hit. So, Bo Derek was the hottest thing in Hollywood.

 

Somehow, Alice wangles her way in, and she meets with Bo Derek. And there’s a cover of People Magazine that shows Bo Derek and John Derek, sort of walking towards the camera, and if you look closely at John Derek’s hands, a big stack of Marvel Comics… And Alice was cut out of that picture. [chuckle] She was standing next to them, but they cut her out of the picture.

 

She loved it. She loved my treatment. She wanted to do it, and we were going to do it. And for two weeks, we had every studio on Hollywood bidding against each other to do this movie. And of course, then she decides that she’ll only do it if her husband directs it. In which case, every studio, dropped out. Because John Derek’s notoriously late, over budget, and bad.

 

Alex:          The direct market is budding in the early ‘80s, and that’s changing the way comics were sold because the Comics Code was needed on the newsstands, and newsstands were starting to kind of disintegrate. There was all this kind of fraud going on, as far as what was being sold, and not. But then, these comic shops would pop up, you did not need the Comics Code anymore. And that seems like that was a gateway for more adult themes in comic books.

 

Can you tell us about how you felt, like when you were editor in chief, how were you coping with this change? Because Paul Levitz oversaw DC kind of dealing with that. How did you deal with that shift in marketplace?

 

Shooter:    I think we caused it. I mean, basically, when I became the editor in chief, all of a sudden, I get copied on all the print orders. So, I’m looking at different orders trying to figure them out… Okay, here’s the military copies, here’s the newsstand, here’s subscription. Here’s the Whitman copies, there’s some for Whitman, something else… And at the bottom it said, ”Seagate” in a small note – 200, 500, 300… What’s Seagate?

 

So, I went and asked the circulation guy, Ed Shukin, I said, “What is Seagate?” And he closes the door, and he says, “I’m just selling comics to this guy I know, Phil Seuling.

 

Alex:          Phil Seuling.

 

Shooter:    “It’s out the back door. It cost plus. It’s just to get a little more volume.” He said, “It’s really, just… It’s nothing.” It was a little crony deal, is what it was.

 

So, Phil, what he was doing is a lot… There were comic shops and they all sold back issues, because you couldn’t get new comics, unless you were a newsstand or unless worked for the ID (Independent Distributors) wholesalers. So, what Phil was doing was he was distributing to some of these comic shops, just a few. Usually, … And nearby, he was out down in Coney Island.

 

So, I said, “Huh, alright.” So, anyway I started noticing on these print orders, that every month the numbers went up. I started keeping a track of it. I made charts where the numbers were, and they’re going up every month. And also, like this one’s 500, this one’s 400, this one 700. XMen is 1200. It turned out that the ones we like best were the ones that were selling the best… Well duh…

 

So, then Chuck Rozanski shows up in my office, and I didn’t know who he was. He said he was a retailer, and he wanted to see Galton, but Galton wouldn’t talk to him. And I said, “Well, what can I do for you?” He said, “Are you aware of this thing we call the direct market?” And I said, “Yeah, I’m very aware. Here, look.” I showed him my little sheets, and he just started telling me, he says, “Look, this is very… You can’t just have an exclusive with one guy. It’s not legal. I love Phil but it’s a bottleneck… This could be big.”

 

He had an 11-point plan of what should happen. So, I went up and I said, “I’m going to get you in to see Galton.” So, I took him upstairs, and I said, “You got to talk to this guy.” By the time that meeting was done, we had enacted 10 of his 11 points.

 

Alex:          Oh wow.

 

Shooter:    And so, DC was going to be first in the direct market, and then they backed away because they thought the newsstand guys would get mad at them. So, Marvel was the first to do it; to actively start distributing through the direct market. And we published trade terms, opened up to anybody who could meet the minimums. All of a sudden, there’s 18 distributors, of whom Phil was one. It’s then actually, he was doing better than he was before, because there’s a lot more stores.

 

And stores started opening up and, we helped them grow. Why? Because when I came in there, I got all the good editors, and we started getting better people. I started paying more; doubled the rates, doubled them again. All kinds of benefits. So, people started showing up. And so, we’re making better books. That helped the comic book stores because they had better product to sell. So, they’re doing well. As they did well, we did better, because they’re helping us grow. So, it’s mutual.

 

And then DC got into it, and it really took off. It was great. It didn’t have anything to do, as far as I was concerned, with adult content. The Comics Code was dying anyway. It was down to one person, Len Darvin, and sometimes, he had an assistant. Laurie Sutton, started as his assistant. The thing is, most of the comics were late enough, not Marvel so much. But most of the comics were late enough that by the time they went to the Code, they were already on the newsstands.

 

Alex:          Uh-hmm. And it would have been the same content, whether it’s slightly adult or not, whether it was on newsstand or were at the comic shops at that point.

 

Shooter:    The thing is, where we would do the more adult stuff was Epic. I told them that…

 

Alex:          Epic, yeah.

 

Shooter:    “I don’t want to… Look, as long as these comics are being sold on a spinner rack, it says, “Hey, kids comics, wholesome entertainment.” I don’t want to be… We can do a hell of a lot without getting dirty or too violent, or anything like that.”

 

DC, meanwhile, they’re trying to be hip so they decided they could use hells and demons.

 

Alex:          Yeah, right, because like of those of Omega Man… There’s a lot of kind of graphic stuff going on with DC that they would put to comic specialty shops, that they would not put to the newsstand. Yeah.

 

Shooter:    Yeah, and then they use that, I think, not us so much. When we started doing small direct books, I guess, I would have gone along with them, doing slightly more adult content, but they didn’t. Nobody did. They didn’t want to. They were just doing stories.

 

But we were happy about the direct market. We were making them grow, and they were making us grow, and everybody was doing really well. My idea was, keep the newsstand strong too, because as long as you had two of them…

 

And I kept getting a lot of pressure from people saying, the circulation guys, and even the financial people started saying, “Why are we even bothering with these newsstands? We only make a few bucks, it’s almost breakeven. Why are we even doing it?” And I said, “Because it’s 70,000 outlets… Because that’s where you put the bait. You put GI Joe there, somebody’s kid reads GI Joe, maybe he wants to try Daredevil, or Superman who cares. Let’s save this dying industry.”

 

And I said, “70,000 outlets… “ And then think of the volume. How are you going to make advertising revenues, if you only have the direct market? Your CPM would be too small.” And so, I won that fight, as long as I was there.

 

I wanted to do newsstand exclusives, which would’ve pissed off the direct guys. But hey, I’m trying to support both things. But that got shot down… I had a lot of power, but other people had power too.

 

So, when I’m pitching some of this stuff, and if the circulation guy is against it, and the VP of Finance is against it, I’m kind of out-numbered, they’re not going to listen to me. But we tried, and then as long as I was there, we stayed on the newsstands. And then after I left, I think soon thereafter they stopped that. They just went all direct.

 

Now, here we are, the good comics are selling 15,000 copies.

 

Jim:            Alright. So, on this one, let’s talk about that your next round on the Avengers in 1981, and the first thing you do is you change the lineup. And its sort of bringing in the lineup that you wanted, which is the original Avengers for the most part. Plus, Tigra, which always seemed like a weird thing to me. What was it behind the notion of bringing in such an outsider to what’s a very traditional lineup, otherwise?

 

Shooter:    I wanted a rookie.

 

Jim:            That makes sense.

 

Shooter:    She wasn’t being used anywhere. I thought that I could have some fun with her, because she was kind of a kooky character. And I did. All these guys that have worked for me, it’s so hard to get people off their tracks a little bit. Because so many people who wrote the group books, all heroes are exactly as brave as each other. They’re always … I mean, even Chris (Bradley), on the X-Men… They’re all equally brave and equally noble.

 

They’ll fight amongst themselves, but then when the bad guys come, they’re all, all hands on deck. And I thought, “No, not everybody who walks through the door, with superpowers, is going to be as brave as Captain America. I’m sorry…

 

So, I did a thing with Wonder Man. Even though he was the strongest guy, he had to get over this period. And then I had Tigra, and I thought, “Hey, there’s a good story.” I mean, she doesn’t know all the ropes yet. She’s the rookie. She doesn’t… And then when she does something, or holds back from something, then she’s always questioning herself, “Am I being smart or am I afraid?” And stuff like that.

 

So, I was having a lot of fun with her, and like I said, I just needed a rookie.

 

Jim:            It totally makes sense because you’re putting these people that have worked together for like their entire careers, and there’s this giant fracture because of the Hank Pym thing, and you needed an outsider to comment on it, and not say, “But we know how great Hank is.” Her view on it was, “That guy is horrible. He punched Janet in the face.” And so, she didn’t have all that history so she was seeing it from a different perspective. It makes sense.

 

 

***

 

Shooter:    Can I tell you about the punch?

 

Jim:            Go ahead.

 

Shooter:    I wrote that plot… I wrote all the plots. And in that story, in the plot, it’s carefully described that Hank Pym is leaning on his lab table, with his head hanging down. And Janet comes up behind him, and she’s trying to be nice. She’s trying to be supportive. And he doesn’t realize she’s right behind him, and he was supposed to do this… Are you ready?… “Leave me alone!” and accidentally hit her. Okay?

 

So, Bob Hall, who went to the John Buscema School, and was taught to always do extreme action, he turned it into a right cross. The book comes in, it’s late. I’m like, “Uh, Jesus… This is not what I wanted.” And I said, “But there’s no time. Alright.” I didn’t think it was a big deal, at that time.

 

The book goes out. Two things happen – all of a sudden, my story becomes the wife beating story. It had nothing to do with that. It was an accident. Two, Bill Sienkiewicz, who apparently knows something about this kind of thing. He came in to my office, carrying a copy of that book, threw it on my desk, and said, “Why didn’t you have me do draw this?” And I said, “What do you mean?” He said, “He did this wrong. This guy is not supposed to hit her.” I said, “how do you know that?” He said, “I know. That’s not what this is supposed to be. I should have drawn this.” I said, “Well, too late now.”

 

So anyway, forever, I keep getting asked about the wife beating story. And I always told it that I didn’t tell Bob to draw that. He just did it because he thought he was making it more dramatic. And for a while, Bob was mad at me because he kept saying, every time that somebody asked him for an interview, they wanted to talk about what I said, which is that he did it wrong. And so, I ran in to him at a convention last year or something, or a year before. He says, “See, I was so mad at you because I kept getting that question.” And I said, “Well, Bob, you didn’t do what I asked you to do.” He says, “I know.”

 

I said, “So, I mean, what am I supposed to say?” And he said, “I’m over it. It’s fine.” So, we went and had dinner, and it was fine. But it was really never intended to be that. It was not supposed to be that… And if Bill Sienkiewicz could read the book and see, that’s wrong… Not wrong, in the sense of the act itself, but wrong that he drew it.

 

Jim:            Let me ask you a question on that. Because obviously, I’ve heard that, and we’ve interviewed Bob Hall, and talked to him about it. And he didn’t say anything different than what you said, in relation to drawing that panel.

 

Shooter:    Right.

 

Jim:           But would you say that, whether he hit her or not, don’t you make him into a domestic violence abuser?

 

Shooter:    No. If he accidentally hits her, when he’s just throwing his hands up, that’s an accident.

 

Jim:            Ah. See, that’s where my problem is with the storyline. And with all respect, but in the previous issue, you have him destroy her clothes, her costume. So, she says, “Look how nice these are.” And he just flashes, and burns them up.

 

In this issue, one, she says, “I’m really stupid. I’m so…” Because he’s angry; he’s really pissed. “I’m really stupid… Come on, let’s just go to bed. I just want to make you feel good.” She is acting 100…  No, 1,000% like an abused woman.

 

Shooter:    Okay, I refer you back to Stan and Jack. If you go back, and read every single appearance of Hank Pym and Janet Van Dyne from the beginning till then, you’ll find this incredible pattern of that behavior. Every time, she’s flitting around his shoulder. She’s flirting with him, and she’s propping up his ego. She’s saying conciliatory things. She’s always doing that. Throughout.

 

And I ran this by the psychiatrist. He said, “That’s typical of this situation you’re talking about, where the husband feels inadequate and the wife is very successful.” And I said, “Alright. Okay, I’ll do it. Maybe I didn’t do it well enough, that’s fine. I can screw up a two-car funeral… But…

 

Jim:            And Hall may have put the expressions on her face, but there’s a desperation and a fear on her face when she’s saying, “Come on…” It’s not the same as the cute version that you’re talking about over the history. It’s a fear based one.

 

And secondly, when it happened, if it was an accident… I believe that’s how you wrote it, but if it was an accident. Why was she wearing the sunglasses? Why was she hiding it, and trying to protect him from what he did?

 

Shooter:    That’s what he…

 

Jim:            If I accidentally hit my wife, I would tell Alex, “Can you look at her eye? I accidentally punched her in the eye.”

 

Shooter:    Well, like I said, that’s her MO. That’s her MO, is to always…

 

Jim:            Cover up?

 

Shooter:    Deflect… prop up his ego, not being part of the problem. All that stuff.

 

Jim:            Okay.

 

Shooter:    The point is that, you say, “Oh she looks terrified.” To me, what we have here is an extremely serious situation, and this guy is not quite right. Think about what he did. He built an enemy, so that he could be the hero. To justify himself to the Avengers. That’s not quite solid thinking… And so, she’s dealing with a guy who’s on the edge… No one blamed her at all…

 

Jim:            A lot of domestic abusers are not right in their heads, but that doesn’t mean they’re not domestic abusers.

 

Shooter:    No, I know. But he wasn’t a domestic abuser, he just wasn’t right in the head. You know, it’s not…

 

Jim:            You know, it doesn’t require physical violence either. It’s, I mean… But anyway, it’s just how I’m reading it as a professional. It seemed; I was curious what you were going to say about that. It’s not a judgment call, but I think, it’s easy to read it. And people obviously have, because that’s now… That’s canon.

 

Shooter:    Of course, it is, because he drew her getting hit with a right cross. If it was done the way I asked for it to be done, it would be – he’s a sad sack. Everything he does comes out wrong.

 

Alex:          Right.

 

Shooter:    And that was the point. Even that goes wrong.

 

Jim:            But what about the black eye?

 

Shooter:    Of course, you have to understand, the guy who drew this, drew a right cross. So, what do you think he’s going to draw?

 

Jim:            Okay. All right…

 

Alex:          We interviewed Bob Hall. He’s saying a lot of what you said, that he felt artistically… He just wasn’t quite ready yet, probably, to draw the nuance that you were suggesting. And that he felt that artistically, he was better later, and would have better been able to present what was presented.

 

Jim:            That’s true.

 

Shooter:    I asked for a lot of nuances. I asked a lot of an artist; I seldom get any of it. But that’s why when I get to work with somebody like David Lapham, or Don Perlin, or some of the great guys I got to work with, who got it, who knew, understood, and gave me… Or Pérez… Gives you everything you want, and some besides. Those guys were great to work with, because I do ask a lot of an artist, a lot of subtlety, and I seldom get any of it.

 

Jim:            But Alex, so we don’t misquote Bob, he also said that he thought there were other elements in the story besides that hit, that indicated that…

 

Alex:          Yeah, he mentioned the taking off the sunglasses with the black eye, was an element of a direction of the story…

 

Jim:            Domestic violence.

 

Alex:          That he did mention that. But he also did say, that he agreed with Jim Shooter’s assessment of that he just, in 1983 or so, I think, when this happened… That he wasn’t the same guy that let’s say, he was in like 1997.

 

Jim:            As to the panel, yes, absolutely.

 

Shooter:    Bob is a brilliant guy. I mean he…

 

Jim:            Yeah, he’s a really is.

 

Shooter:    He teaches theater. He’s a playwright. He wrote some great stage plays. I mean this guy knows nuance and subtlety…

 

Alex:          Yeah, and he’s very complimentary to you, by the way.  He told us he enjoyed working with you, and that even… Which we’ll talk about later… But even with the later timelines, when you guys ended up splitting apart; at some point, just professionally you went elsewhere, he was somewhere else, that he still feels, even to this day a very strong loyalty toward you as a fellow professional and friend. He told me, at some point.

 

Shooter:    Yeah, it’s mutual. I think that Bob is a great guy. I was on the board of his theatre company.

 

Alex:          That’s right. He had said that. Yeah.

 

Jim:            Yeah, he mentioned that.

 

Shooter:    [chuckle]… Anyway, they were great, by the way, the plays.

 

Jim:            I don’t want this to reflect that you think any negative about how I view you as a writer, or anything. This is a sole issue that I’m invested in because of my own profession, as I said.

 

Shooter:    No. I’m not taking it the wrong way, but I do feel like I needed to push back a little bit there. And the thing is, it is whatever it was to you, is what it was to you. And I can’t argue with that. I mean it’s like, I probably wouldn’t have done the scene in the Hulk with the rapist, if I’d thought it through, maybe I could have done this a lot better. Sure, I could’ve done better, and boy, would have been nice if Bill had drawn it.

 

I think Bill, somewhere along the line, encountered some kind of domestic violence. I’m not sure if it had anything to do with him but he was aware of it. He seemed to know something about it.

 

Alex:          He felt he could have probably done something with it.

 

Shooter:    I think he would have done the whole thing more subtly. I think he would have not, pull the triggers like Bob did. And I think Bob has… I mean, he was actually, relatively new, then. And anybody he’d ever worked with, besides me, never asked him to do stuff like that. So, I was giving him a high degree of difficulty dive… He was probably just not quite ready to do that.

 

Alex:          Not quite ready for the nuance of that. Yeah. And just as a kid reading it, for me, I put that in context with a lot of the comics of that period, because Watchmen was out there a couple of years after, the ‘80s just had an overall, more of maybe a deconstruction, or a overall commentary of superheroes as even more imperfect than Stan’s ‘60s idea of imperfect, so I put it in that spectrum.

 

To me, it just kind of felt like that was the flavor of the period, and I don’t look at it, quite the same way. But of course, at the same time, that’s not in my profession to examine it either.

 

Shooter:    Right. And why should you? I mean, when people read a comic book, I don’t expect them to analyze it as they go… Like it or not. like it for reasons I think are good.

 

Alex:          Yeah. It was like it was part of the character’s arc. That’s how I look at it.

 

 

Shooter:    Okay. Well, like I said, I thought I was following in the footsteps of Stan and Jack, but if I didn’t get it right, I didn’t get it right.

 

Jim:            Well, Stan and Jack had a read Spanking Sue, quite a few times, [chuckle] but I think that was of its time in a different way.

 

Shooter:    Exactly, you got to take that stuff in the context of its time.

 

Alex:          Yeah. That’s how I do it.

 

Shooter:    It happened on I Love Lucy, for God’s sake.

 

Alex:          Avengers 200, the Marcus storyline, and how Chris Claremont continued the story. What was your take on all that, looking back? And what’s your take on it now?”

 

Shooter:    I think I must have been asleep that day. I’ll tell you… I mean like, they put me in as a co-plotter, I don’t remember co-plotting it. Maybe I made some suggestions or something, I don’t know.

 

But that storyline, I get more heat about that because, I guess, there’s like a rape thing or… They didn’t like the way the female characters were handled.

 

Alex:          Yeah. And then also, I think like Carol Danvers was kind of brainwashed and then went off with her…

 

Shooter:    Yeah, that thing.

 

Alex:          … The guy that brainwashed her. The Avengers let it happen.

 

Shooter:    Exactly.

 

Alex:          Then when she came back, they were like, so lackadaisical about what exactly occurred. Yeah.

 

Shooter:    Yeah. And also, I thought, the editing of the story is pretty dumb. You let the bad guy build the weapon to get you with… [chuckle] It just… I look at it now, and I think, what was I thinking? What was I thinking? Did I really look at it? I mean, I’m pretty damn sure it crossed my desk. But I don’t… Maybe I just said, “Well, it’s (David) Michelinie, how bad can it be?”

 

Alex:          I got you.

 

Shooter:    That was a mistake. That’s my fault.

 

 

Alex:          Almost like bringing some more… I don’t want to say adult because it all has weird connotations, but bringing a certain maturity to comics, like you did with, let’s say Ferro Lad, dying. You brought something similar with the death of Captain Marvel, which I love that graphic novel. I’ve read that a bunch of times and it affected me; I felt in a good way, that these characters, when written and drawn right, they almost have their own souls. And you’re accepting of their souls, and you’re acknowledging their passing, in a deep and meaningful way. Can you tell us about how you brought that about or help bring that about, with Jim Starlin?

 

Shooter:    Well, what happened was, when I started going to Europe to the book fairs, and I saw that a lot of European comics were publishing in what they called albums, like thin trade paperback. I said, “Hey, we should do that.” And we’re going to call them graphic novels, and I wanted to get some good ones.

 

I had some… Walt wanted to do one. Mike Friedrich has produced one with P. Craig Russell, Elric. I said, “Well, I want the first one to feature Marvel characters.” Jim Starlin, at that time, was doing a lot of working, I think mostly for Epic. So, when Starlin heard, we were going to do these graphic novels and it paid very well, advance and royalties. A non-refundable advance, by the way.

 

[chuckle]

 

So, it was like a page rate.

 

Alex:          Yeah, yeah, I get it.

 

Shooter:    So, it’s good. There was a good rate, and the royalty was higher; more like a book. See, DC had a 4% Royalty Pool. We had a sliding scale, so our Royalty Pool is 10%. So, we beat them handily. But you started at the 4%, and then as you sold more … You’re doing the X-Men, you’re getting the 10%.

 

So, Starlin heard we were doing these graphic novels, and it was a good deal. And he came, and he pitched the idea of the death of Captain Marvel, again. Not the whole story, just the basic idea.

I thought, well that’s interesting, I mean like a superhero dying of a disease. Holy cow… Hmm, I don’t think anyone’s ever done that. Let’s do it.

 

Alex:          So, he pitched it?

 

Shooter:    Yeah, he came in and he pitched it. Well then, I found out years later, actually, that while he was creating that book, his father was dying of cancer.

 

Alex:          Oh, I see. It is personal.

 

Shooter:    Yeah. So, I think a lot of the reason it feels so powerful, it is because he was going through it.

 

Alex:          Yeah, I can feel it. Even now when I read it still affects me.

 

Shooter:    Oh, I felt it.

 

Alex:          When you read it, did you, feel like you’re doing something beautiful? That you were seeing something beautiful happening?

 

Shooter:    I was amazed. I mean, Starlin – brilliant creator, created a lot of great stuff. But not usually poignant. That didn’t seem to be in his toolbox, but he made you feel it. It was really good, and he drew it well. I don’t know… I just feel very proud of that book.

 

Alex:          Even now, I still… And even the way like him and Thanos, Mar-vell and Thanos and Death, kind of at the end they like all accepted it. There was something really powerful about… And then all the heroes observing that like, “Wow, he’s really gone like, that’s it.”

 

Shooter:    Yeah, I thought he did a great job. I mean he brought some real human stuff into the superhero genre. It was nice. I try to do that too.

 

Alex:          Yeah. Yeah, the humanity of it, like its warts and all.

 

Shooter:    Yeah, absolutely.

 

Alex:          So, Chris Claremont X-Men, you’ve made a couple of references to that as being almost like a certain gold standard of writing and success. Tell us about overseeing that run in its heyday? Because X-Men hasn’t really been, I don’t think, the same since that era of time.

 

Shooter:    Now, when I started there, Chris had left staff to go freelance because he had picked up the X-Men, and I don’t know what else. And he was on staff, a lot of people would be on staff, only until they could get freelance work and then they’d leave. No, but they’re in the office all the time, it’s better, it’s easier to pick up some freelance work.

 

So, I started editing this stuff. I don’t know, it was several issues after that one that landed in Giant Size X-Men #1. Chris was a couple issues into it.

 

Alex:          Yes.

 

Shooter:    And I liked working with Chris. I mean he was one of those guys… He didn’t want you to fix it. He’d say, “Just put a little pencil X in the margin, tell me what’s wrong, and I’ll fix it. Because I want it all to be my words.” Usually, it was stuff like, “Hey Chris, wouldn’t it be nice to mention the character’s name somewhere?”  “Uhh…” and then he’d run and find a typewriter. He’d type the whole page over. Because he didn’t want… He wanted it to be perfect.

 

And that was fine, and I thought, “That’s great, Chris. I’ll just tell you what’s wrong and you fix it.” I mean, he’s pretty good but he would make mistakes once on a while, he’d just stuck to it, and I just, “No. You can’t do that.” Like, he had this one thing where Professor Xavier, Morlocks were going to dress him up in transvestite bondage gear, and I said, [overlap talk]

 

Alex:          Oh, they’re going to do that to the Professor X?

 

Shooter:    Yeah.

 

Alex:          The Morlocks were, okay, I got you.

 

Shooter:    I said, “I don’t think so, Chris.” I think we had that one changed. After I left there, he eventually had the entire X-Men wearing French maid’s costume, once in those days…

 

Alex:          [chuckle] So, yeah, he would have a certain thing he’d throw on you.

 

Shooter:    Occasionally, he’d have an idea and I would say, “I don’t think so, Chris. That’s not…” But I didn’t really have to too much because pretty soon… I mean Salicrup I think, was his first editor, when I stopped being the associate editor, and became editor in chief, I think his first editor, Jim Salicrup. It might have been Roger Stern.

 

But at any rate, I mean, Stern was very good. Salicrup was pretty good. Then he had Louise, and then he had Ann who was trained by Louise.

 

Alex:          Yeah, all good people. Yeah.

 

Shooter:    He had the A-Team. So, I didn’t have to get involved too much but I would, occasionally. Where the editor would come to me and say, “What do you think of this?” or show me something.

 

And I had to sign the books out. When the book was ready to go to the color separator, it was passed around to – the production manager signed off on it. The editor signed off on it. If it was a licensed book, I had to get Legal Department to sign off on it. And then me, I was the last signature.

 

I would generally read them all before they went out. Now, I did a lot of traveling, I was going over Europe and training the British guys. I was going to the book fairs, I did conventions, and stuff. So, I wasn’t always there.

 

Sometimes, Mark Gruenwald would sign the books out, or DeFalco would sign the books out, or Louise. So, some of the books, I didn’t see. But many times, I’d be reading something, and I’d say, “Wait a minute.” And I’d go say, “Ann, can this girl have some clothes on, please.” You think Ann would… [chuckle] And she’s like, “You should have seen it before I had it corrected.”

 

[chuckles]

 

Okay. But some of these guys… Art Adams is irrepressible. He’s going to have the girl falling out of her costume every time.

 

But at any rate, I’d find stuff and then I’d get into arguments with Chris. He’d want to do something and I’d say, “I don’t think it’s a good idea.” And with me he’d argue, if Louise said, “Chris, do it.” He would do it. [chuckle] He was afraid of Louise; he wasn’t afraid of me.

 

But yeah. he really worked really well with Ann and Louise. They really knew how to get the best out of him. And so, he did pretty good, and I chipped in where I could, and mostly I didn’t have too much. He’s pretty good.

 

Alex:          I think that that whole thing of the Dark Phoenix Saga and the D’Bari planet, and her roasting this planet of Asparagus People, I think that… Even when I read it, and I read it again as a trade paperback… But it made sense for her to pay for that mistake in some way. You can’t cause a genocide of an entire planet, and then just go live off happily ever after, after that.

 

So, I know that that was a point of conflict, at the time where you told Chris at that that can’t… You can’t just have her go scot-free away from this; this is a problem. And there was fan press at the time and all this outrage, but ultimately later on, it seemed like Claremont said that that was the right call.

 

Shooter:    Yeah, he did. It was funny… The story, originally, he was stuck for a storyline, and he didn’t like to have anybody else give him stuff, but he was really stuck. And so, I went to lunch with him and Jim Salicrup, who I think was his editor at the time. And we’re sitting there just kind of spitballing and trying to come up with a germ of an idea.

 

And I said, “You know Chris, we’ve had a lot of Marvel villains who later become heroes.” I said, “Black Widow…”

 

Alex:          Redemption.

 

Shooter:    Yeah, “… And Hawkeye for instance.” And so, I said, “But we’ve never had a Marvel villain or Marvel hero, go bad and stay that way. He said, “Don’t say another word. I want to do this all myself. Just don’t say another word.” I said, “Okay.”  So, he went off to do the story. And I guess he worked with… He cooked it up, some of it with Byrne, but it was mostly him.

 

So, okay. They’re doing this story and the point of the story was going to be that Phoenix was going to go bad, stay back and become like the Doctor Doom for the X-Men. She was going to become the greatest enemy. And that was the that was the plan.

 

Well, they’re doing the story, and I’m reading them as they go out and stuff… And my god, she blew up the planet, holy cow.

 

Alex:          These are the people… Those are the Asparagus People are… Jack and Stan created those characters back in, I think Avengers, or something. Right?

 

Shooter:    Yeah. I think it was John’s idea to use them.

 

But at any rate, so I read that, and she destroys a starship full of people and stuff. So, I went to the editor, and I said, “What else you got? How far are you on this?” Well, they have a couple of books in progress, and I’ve got the plot for the finale.

 

I said, “Give it to me.” Went to my office and I read it. It’s building, and it’s building… And then the last issue is this total cop out. It’s like the Shi’ar fix her mind and then she goes back and lives in Westchester with the X-Men and everything’s fine.

 

I said, “No, No.” I said, “First of all, think of this, Storm, champion of life. This lady murdered a billion people. I don’t care if she was sick at the time, you don’t just do that unscathed. Storm would never sit next to her at the lunch table, I’ll tell you that.” And I said, “No one would just… Everybody would have… That would be a scar that would stay around.” One.

 

“And two, and more importantly, it’s a lousy ending, Chris. It’s stupid. I mean it’s like… Come on. You’ve built this huge build up and it’s so great and it’s beautifully drawn. And it’s great and everybody’s waiting for the big payoff… And it’s a cop out.?” I said, “No, no, no. You need an ending for this story.”

 

And he said, “Well, don’t want to make her into a villain.” I said, “Fine. Give me another ending.” He says, “Well, what do you think?” I said, “Maybe she goes to jail. Maybe she goes to Galactic Prison or something.” He said, “No, the X-Men would try to rescue her.” I said, “That would probably not happen on my watch.”  But I said, “Okay. Fine. Now, it’s your turn. You come up with something.”

 

Next day, he comes in and says, “I’m going to kill her.” I said, “Okay. Done. Deal.”

 

[chuckle]

 

He said, “What do you mean?” I said, “You’re going to kill her.” He said, “You can’t kill her.” I said, “You just said you were going to kill her.” I said, “That could be a good ending, if you do it right.” And he gets all upset and he runs out, he finds a phone somewhere. And 10 seconds later, my phone rings and it’s John Byrne. And his first words to me, “Are you out of your mind!” I said, “No. We made a deal – she dies. Get to work.”

 

[chuckles]

 

And so, anyway… So, they were all fuming at me, and they’re mad at me for a while and stuff like that. But guess what, they put their heads to it and they knocked it out of the ball park.

 

Alex:          They did. That Dark Phoenix Saga, it was a tear jerker for me as well, when I first read it.

 

Shooter:    Man, it was good. And I said, “Bingo.” And the sales on that thing, went from a high middle of the line book, to top in the industry where it stayed for 17 years.

 

Alex:          Well, do you think that was the reason why it sold so well? Or because there was a free bicycle promised on the top of that cover… [chuckle] Which I don’t know what caused that success.

 

Shooter:    It was forced on me. I’m sorry. I couldn’t do anything. But the thing is, no, it’s sold really well. It got tremendous reviews. It became the talk of the industry. And like I said, it propelled the X-Men to the top and Chris…

 

Chris was very good at finding artists. I mean, other writers, they just let the editor find an artist. Chris is out bird-dogging artists all the time.

 

Alex:          I didn’t know that. That’s cool.

 

Shooter:    Oh, yeah. He would like, if he knew that an artist was going to leave… He was actively looking for artists. I know one time in Chicago, Chicago Con, this guy comes over asked me if I’d look at his samples and I did. They were really great. I said, “This is really good.” I said, “Listen, give me your information, I’m going to see what we can do.” So, he did.

 

And as I’m walking away, I see Claremont. I said, “Chris, you should see this guy’s work.” I said, “Dude, this guy’s good.” And he says, “Really?” And he runs over, and he looks, and he comes running back and says, “I want him on the X-Men.” I said, “Well, we’ll talk to Louise or Ann, or something…” I said, “Yeah, if they’re okay with him, it’s fine with me. I think he’s good.” …  Marc Silvestri.

 

Alex:          Oh yeah. Who is awesome. Yeah, exactly.

 

Shooter:    Yeah. It was Marc Silvestri… So, at any rate, he was always out there. And I’ll tell you something else about Chris…

 

Writers got royalties. Pencilers got royalties. Inkers got royalties. Editors got a little cut too, as an incentive. And if you’ve created the title, you got a 1% override forever. Even if you didn’t do the book anymore. Like on John Byrne on Alpha Flight. He got royalty every month for that.

 

So, letterers didn’t get… Colorists didn’t get royalties. Letterers, I’m not sure… I mean like lettering you can’t even copywrite. And I’m not sure how much sales difference, a letterer makes. Maybe two or more of Tom Orzechowski made some difference.

 

But I mean, it was really hard to pitch. I’ve got to get royalties for letterers, and colorists, to the upstairs people and to the board. I actually did pitch it to Galton once. I said, “I want to start paying royalties to these guys.” And he said, “Well, you have a very rich Royalty Pool. If you want to divide it differently, fine. But we’re not adding… “

 

Alex:          Yeah, you’re not adding any more money to it.

 

Shooter:    Right. And so, I said, “Alright.” So, I got together as many artists and writers as I could in the next several days. I got them together, and I pitched it them. I said, “Guys, if each of you, each writer, each inker, and each penciller… If each of you would give up like an eighth of a point, we could pay royalties to these people. It’s going to be small but it can be a nice to get a little check.” You know, an eighth of a point, or a fifth of a point, or whatever it was. I don’t remember.

 

And they all shot it down. Nobody wanted to do it. I can’t believe nobody wanted to lose, like a couple of bucks for the letterer? Come on… But anyway, they wouldn’t go along with it and I wasn’t going to just high handedly do it.

 

Now, Claremont, who loved Orzechowski’s work, and Orzechowski, did kind of all kinds of artistic and interesting lettering.

 

Alex:          That’s right.

 

Shooter:    If you wanted alien lettering, he come up with something. And also, he had Glynis Oliver coloring his book… Glynis Wein, Glynis Oliver…

 

Alex:          Oh, they’re the same person?

 

Shooter:    Yeah, she was married to Len for a while and then when she split up with Len, she took her maiden name back, Oliver.

 

Alex:          Oh, that was crazy.

 

Shooter:    Yeah, so anyway… And he really liked her work. And she was one of our best colorists. So, what Chris did was, he paid them a royalty out of his own pocket.

 

Alex:          Oh, that’s cool.

 

Shooter:    To keep them on the book. Because he was married to that book. He wanted that book…

 

Alex:          Perfect.

 

Shooter:    To be perfect, and he couldn’t keep the artists consistent all the time because artists do come and go, but he was determined to keep Orzechowski and Glynis, if he could. And so, he paid them extra, out of his own pocket… He paid a percentage share of his royalty to them.

 

I thought then, there’s some dedication for you. That’s great… He was the only guy that did that.

 

Alex:          Interesting because he would just… The overall thing had to be right.

 

As far as John Byrne… You mentioned him on the X-Men and then he went on to Fantastic Four. There’s a run he did of Captain America with Roger Stern. Tell us about working with John Byrne and overseeing his, his work there.

 

Shooter:    Well, when I was an associate editor, he was trying to get work, because the only thing he was doing was some stuff for Charlton Rog-2000 robot thing, and that didn’t pay anything. But he was friends of Roger Stern, and so, somehow, Chris Claremont needed an artist for Iron Fist because Pat Broderick was supposed to do this issue and it just never arrived. And so, we needed to get it done, in a hurry.

 

Chris, I guess through Roger or something, somehow, he knew about John Byrne or maybe he just read that book. But he said, “Let’s try this guy.” So, John did that issue of Iron Fist and Chris liked it so much he convinced, whoever… Marv, I guess, to keep him on Iron Fist.

 

Iron Fist was eight times a year, it’s what they call twice quarterly. So, there wasn’t a big deal but it was something. It didn’t sell all that well.

 

So, anyway… So, John really was looking for more work. And he actually came up to the office. He flew in from Calgary, and I got where he was staying maybe in a hotel or something, I don’t know. But he brought his sketchbook up to Marvel to try to see if he could get more work. He showed it around and Len-Marv didn’t like it at all. They said, “Nah, it’s cartoony. Looks Japanese”, or something. They didn’t want it.

 

And so, I’m looking at the sketchbook, and it’s really good. And I’m thinking, “Don’t… You don’t like his style. The guy can draw.” Style does not matter that much. You know, he can draw. So, I went to bat for him, I said, to Marv, “Look, all these late books, this guy is fast. And I think he’s really good. I said also, “I think he can learn. He doesn’t tell a story really well.” I said, “I think we can fix that. And I said, “Let’s use him. Let’s just use him on fill-ins for a while, just to catch up.

 

And he said, “All right, well, you can do that but you’re responsible for doing all these fill-ins. You have to get the plots for him. Writers for him if you need to and so forth.” I said, “All right, I’ll take it. Fine. Sure.”

 

I think I maybe did one story, and then Chris needed an artist for a team up or something. I don’t know. And so, somehow John got that. And that was also, I think, that after Marv left, and it’s probably when Archie was in. So, he got on board and he was fast and Chris got him on the X-Men after (Dave) Cockrum left. And, of course, that went well.

 

And working with him, I mean like I used to call him all the time, really did struggle the storytelling for a while. And I’d call him up, I’d say, “John, silhouettes, dynamics… You have a guy coming at you, you really can’t tell from that angle, how fast he’s going.” I said, “It’s like if you’re watching a racecar come around the turn, and it’s coming toward you, it hardly looks like it’s moving. But as it’s passing you, you see it going 200 miles an hour. So, you got to think about it. Convey the information. I’m talking and talking, talking…

 

And I kept referring him to Kirby, and Ditko, and those guys. And he just didn’t seem to get it. His big hero was Neal Adams. But he liked Neal’s stuff… Neal will tell you that so, many people who pattern themselves after him, they look at the worst stuff he ever did.

 

[chuckle]

 

You know, the falling Beast and all that stuff, and that broken panels and stuff. He said, “It took me a while to learn to tell stories”, and… I said, “But they copy all the bad stuff.

 

Anyway, so finally, he was going to…

 

Alex:          Like his Uncanny X-Men that he did in ‘69 with like the weird layouts, you’re talking about that?

 

Shooter:    Yeah, he was doing weird layouts. There was one page he did where the panels were inside the silhouette of somebody’s head. There were all kinds…

 

Alex:          Yes, okay, I got you.

 

Shooter:    I kept talking to John. I wasn’t making a dent. I don’t think he was even understanding what I was telling him. A lot of phone calls back and forth and stuff. So then, the Fantastic Four was up and he really wanted to do that. I don’t know who was the editor. I said, “Yeah, that’s all right. That’s fine.”

 

So, I put him on Fantastic Four, and what he did is he went back… He had a very large comic book collection… He went back, and he read every single Kirby… Well, every single issue of the Fantastic Four, especially the Kirby stuff. A light bulb went on. “This is what Jim’s been telling.” Clear rectilinear… Tell the story. Story comes first… And so, he started doing the Fantastic Four, and he really had a breakthrough.

 

Alex:          I see. That was the time when it changed.

 

Shooter:    That was a real breakthrough, yeah. Because I think he just took a big bath in Kirby and he learned.

 

Alex           [chuckle] Yeah.

 

Shooter:    You know, he started to put together the things I’ve been saying, and then he’s looking, “That’s what Jack does.” And I think Jack sort of replaced, Neal as his hero inspiration.

 

Alex:          Oh, that’s interesting. So, it was more during that period of time when he shifted toward Jack from Neal Adams.

 

Shooter:    Yeah, I mean there was this one job that came up or something. And he had Thor throwing his hammer and everything’s cropped, everything’s too close. And the hammer is hitting the haul of the boat, and the boat is cropped. You don’t even know it’s a boat. It’s some shape.

 

[chuckle]

 

And there was an inset panel over where the hammer was hitting it. I was like, “What were you thinking?” And there was one page where somebody has a sword, and he had the sword go up into the panel overhead, right on somebody’s eye. I mean, “John…”

 

But he wasn’t thinking of what the picture said, he was thinking of drawing it.

 

Alex:          Yeah. Yeah sure, that’s different. Yes.

 

Shooter:    But he… I know he’s great. I mean he’s a tremendous talent. I was his champion for a while and then I didn’t have to be. And then he really hit his stride. He’s one of the, I guess, best guys of this era at least.

 

Alex:          So then, what happened with Captain America? I had read somewhere that him and Stern wanted to do longer story arcs, and you had said that, “Look, based on the age readership, limit how many issues a story can go.” And then that created some conflict. Did that contribute to their run ending? Tell us about that.

 

Shooter:    I think that they’re pretty good friends. John decided he didn’t like me after all. But Roger and I, still are, pretty good friends. And what I was finding is… One of my things I always preached was you buy one unit of entertainment.

 

Alex:          Yes, okay.

 

Shooter:    There better be a story in here or there better be enough story that you’re satisfied, that you think you’ve just spent your 50 cents wisely. And so, I was getting more and more people doing this kind of endless things. Chris, even on the X-Men, the stories are kind of never ended. So, that was one of the things we would argue about.

 

And I would say, “Look guys, one unit of entertainment. I’ll tell you how to do a continuing story. I can teach you that. There’s a way to do it. But you should do a lot of single-issue stories or short sequences, if you’re going to do a 12-issue thing. It better be like the Kree-Skrull War. It better be worth it.”

 

And so, I don’t know what story they wanted to do. I don’t even think it was discussion about a particular story, because I thought Roger was great. But maybe I said that I would like you guys to try to do some shorter one issue story. I guess, that it didn’t suit one of them. Probably, John. Probably John wanted to do the longer stories, and if John wasn’t going to do it, Stern didn’t want to do it.

 

Alex:          I got you.

 

Now, you wrote the Superman – Spider-Man crossover with Parasite as a villain in 1981, is that Is that right?

 

Shooter:    I assume.

 

Alex:          Yeah, and it seemed like to me it felt like you wrote both characters well and Parasite was well used. Tell us about putting that together, because I know that they had done the Superman – Spider-Man crossover before, like I think ‘76 or 77.

 

Shooter:    No, that’s not me doing… Roy, they did that, or maybe it was after Roy. I don’t know. Gerry Conway wrote it. I know that.

 

Alex:          Yeah. Right.

 

Shooter:    Ross Andru drew it. Mike Esposito inked it.

 

Alex:          Correct. Yes.

 

Shooter:    I’m a relatively new editor in chief of Marvel, and Jenette Kahn… I guess she started as publisher and then she was… They forced Sol Harrison out, and then she became the president and publisher.

 

She called me up and she wanted to go to lunch. I said, “Sure.” So, I met her over near DC. We went to some fancy joint. And we’re talking about things in general. See what’s funny, guys, when she first got the job, she came from Scholastic; she’d never actually seen a comic book up close.

 

Alex:          That’s right. Yep.

 

Shooter:    Yeah, but she sent a letter to Mike Hobson, who was her old boss. He was at Scholastic.

 

Alex:          Oh, there’re connected.

 

Shooter:    And she sent a letter, and he was showing it around. The letter was funny, it was like, she was really excited about this job and I can’t wait to find out what inking is. [chuckle] So she was like getting her feet under. And she wanted to go to lunch and we’re talking about all kinds of things. She’s asking me questions about things… All right, fine. And then finally, she says,” I just found out that we once did a crossover with Spider-Man and Superman.

 

I said, “Yeah. That was a little before my time but, yeah.” And she said, “Why don’t we do that again? Why can’t we keep doing it?” I said, “No reason.” And she said, “You can make that deal?” I said, “Yeah, I can make that deal.”

 

And so, we made the deal, right there. And it’s going to be a one-page contract. The terms were, we’ll take turns. It’d be one a year. Marvel will do one, and DC will do one. Costs will come off the top, fifty-fifty. Split the profit fifty-fifty. Really simple, one page contract. And we decide then that it should start with Superman and Spider-Man, and we’d figure out the rest later.

 

I went back to the office and just to… This is kind of a big deal. And so, I thought, let me tell Galton. So, I went to Galton’s office and I said, “This is what I got to go on, what do you think?” He said, “Fine by me. What are you bother me for?”

 

Anyway, we started doing this. Had a contract, very simple, and we started doing this. And each one… Marvel was producing it and then DC had an editor appointed, who would okay it, who would check everything. Same the other way.

 

So, we started. And Marv worked for Marvel at that time, he was a main contract writer. I was editor in chief. And so, when he heard we were doing Superman – Spider-Man book, he wanted to do it. And I said, “Okay.”

 

We started talking about it, I kind of was plotting it with him, for him. And we came up with some ideas, didn’t get very far. And then his contract was up, he decided to go with DC, because I wouldn’t let him be a writer editor. So, he went to DC, where he was not a writer editor.

 

[chuckles]

 

Alex:          That’s true.

 

Shooter:    And he got paid a lot less and bad mistake. Although until… Then he got Titans then he was fine.

 

But any rate, he was going to do it. Then when he was gone, I’m thinking, “Who am I going to get to do this?” There’s only one person at Marvel, who had written both characters… Me.

 

Alex:          Yeah.

 

Shooter:    And so, I said, “I’ll do it… So, I did it. And, it came out pretty good. Buscema did the art, mostly (Joe) Sinnott, a couple of helpers. It came out all right. It’s 80 pages.

 

Alex:          I love that comic. Yeah, there’s a couple of them. There was another one, it was with what, Batman – Hulk.

 

Shooter:    That was Len Wein. It was okay. It was a fun story. Len tends to do lighter…

 

Alex:          Right. And the art was I think José Luis García-López on that one.

 

Shooter:    Yeah. And then there was the, what I thought was the best one, which was Claremont – Simonson X-Men – Titans.

 

Alex:          That’s awesome. And I can reread that and it’s just action packed. You got some New God in there… It’s a great story. I also like how they didn’t have to come up with a reason for the universes to cross, they just said “Hey, meanwhile over here… “ And they didn’t come up with a dimensional thing.

 

Shooter:    Yeah, I thought they very… Well, you know… I mean, Walt, I’m sure help with that, and Chris is no slouch. I mean, they really came up with something wonderful there.

 

Alex:          They did.

 

Shooter:    Yeah, and I like that.

 

Alex:          And then there was going to be a JLA – Avengers, and actually, I think, George Pérez was part of that, and he had actually done some pages, but there was like some miscommunications and also some questionable story choices that led you to nix the project. Is that right?

 

Shooter:    Something like that. Basically, I was the Marvel appointed editor, DC was going to do the book. The plot due date came and went, and I started calling Dick Giordano. I’m saying, “Where’s the plot.”

 

He never would take the call. I’d get his secretary and she’d say, “I’ll take a message.” Or “He’ll call you right back.” Never called back. I’m calling and I’m calling, and I’m not getting anywhere. So it’s getting to be months. It’s late.

 

I’m like, “This is ridiculous.” I sent him a telegram. I said, “If you don’t call me, killing this project.” Then he calls me. And then he tells me, “Oh, well, we’ve already drawn 23 pages.” I said, “What?” He said, “Yeah, George Pérez has drawn 23 pages.” I said, “I never saw a plot.”

 

“Oh, I didn’t know I had to send you the plot to you.”

 

I said, “Dick, we’ve been doing this several times… Procedure is pretty clear.” He said, “Well, we thought you’d approve it so we just did it. I’m like, “What?… What?!” And so, I said, “Send it to me. Send me the plot. Send me the Xeroxes. Let me see.”

 

So, he sends me the plot, he sends me Xeroxes, and I’m reading this thing. The drawings are beautiful. But there’s characters in there who are not supposed to be there. There’s things in there just completely wrong. There’s just… And I’m reading this plot, and this plot was horrible. I’m thinking, I got to check with somebody else, just to see if it’s just me.

 

I showed it to Roger Stern, I think, and even Mark Gruenwald, and Louise or Ann. It’s one of the two, and somebody else. There was a bunch of people. They were hanging around in the X-Men office, I walked in and I said, “I have copies of these. Can you guys read these, and just tell me, what do you think?”

 

They’re falling off their chairs. They were laughing so hard. Like, “Shows us the real plot. What the hell is this?”

 

Alex:          Like it was ridiculous.

 

Shooter:    It was stupid. I’m like, “Gerry, oh my god, did he really write this? I don’t think so.” Or he either farmed it out, or did it in his sleep, or something. I don’t know.”

 

So anyway, the things in there, Marvel characters were bad enough, he even screwed up in DC characters. They had Superman, for some reasons, was a time mastering king and they’re trying to capture this glowing ball, at the end of time. And the ball was going to be something good. I don’t know.

 

And, as a result of their fighting, the ball gets knocked back through time. It bounces from era to era. And we’re told that if that ball reaches the beginning of time, it will be a giant explosion and the whole universe will be destroyed.

 

And so, the Avengers and Justice League, somehow get together. And for reasons that I do not understand, the Avengers guys go to the DC universe, and the DC guys come to the Marvel Universe. So, the DC guys are going to fight Kang, and the Marvel guys are going to fight the Time Masters, and try to stop the bouncing ball.

 

And it’s also, one damn thing after another story. It’s like they fail here, they fail here, they fail here, you get the drift. They’re going to fail all of…

 

Alex:          Wasn’t there some weird thing where Galactus was going to Krypton and then Superman moves Krypton onto the bottom of the planet list or something?

 

Shooter:    Superman is in Galactus’ Worldship for some reason. He’s walking around and he sees this giant menu on the wall; a list of all the planets that Galactus has lined up to eat. Top one is Krypton. Remember he’s back in time. So, Superman rearranges the menu to put Krypton down the bottom. Put somebody else’s planet first on the list.

 

Alex:          Which he would never do. Yeah.

 

Shooter:    Not my Superman! But I thought you’d want to screw up your character that’s fine. Don’t screw mine up. But there were similar things like that. And the ending of the story is idiotic. The bouncing ball arrives at all the beginning of time, somehow, it does not explode… I don’t know.

 

In come the Avengers. In come the Justice League. Kang and Time Master have been taken care of by then. Anyway, for no reason stated, the Avengers and the Justice League start fighting each other. It was something to do about the ball, or something, fighting each other.

 

In the middle of the fight. Hawkeye, takes a pointy deadly arrow, and fires it at Green Arrow. Its intent to kill. Green Arrow takes a pointy deadly arrow, and fires it at Hawkeye, exactly the same moment. Okay, my Hawkeye doesn’t do that. I don’t care what their Green Arrow does.

 

Shooter:    Yeah, try to kill someone.

 

Shooter:    The two arrows meet, point to point. Ricochet at a 90-degree angle. Science says you’re wrong. And these two arrows, hit the glowing ball, causing it to explode. And what it does is it puts everything back exactly the way it was at the beginning off the story.

 

I mean, like we did all this for nothing? Because the bouncing ball just put everything back the way it was anyway.

 

Alex:          Yeah… And that was a lot of art that was actually drawn, that didn’t have to be drawn. Yeah.

 

Shooter:    They did… I said, “No. Look, 23 pages, I’m sorry.” I said, “Here’s what you need to do. You need to write a real plot. Send it to me for approval. Start over.”

 

Alex:          Right. Right. Instead of the unanswered phone calls.

 

Shooter:    He’s lying. He’s trying to pull a fait accompli on me, and he keeps saying, “Jim, all of this suck. They’re just stupid.  You just put a bunch of characters in there and they fight.”

 

I said, “A, I wrote one and it wasn’t stupid. B, Chris and Walt did one, it was great. And C, Len’s was great and the art was terrific. It doesn’t have to be bad and I’m not going to let it be bad. I won’t let you piss all over our characters.” And so, he keeps ragging on me, telling…

 

So, he takes me out to lunch and trying to talk me into this. And I just, I said, “No.” And I just started getting cold feet. Because these things made a lot of money, and I thought, if I just blow this off, I wonder what Galton’s going to say when we have a whole big bunch of money off the bottom line?… I better ask him.

 

I went to his office, and I told him what was going on. And I was pretty sure. I mean, he’s a money guy. He had never read a comic book. He couldn’t care less. I thought, I was pretty sure he’s going to say just let him do it. And he says, “You think it really will damage our characters?” And I said, “Yes.”

 

He said, “Stand your ground.” “Yes, Sir.” [chuckle]

 

Alex:          Yeah. Based on the principle of the matter.

 

Shooter:    Yeah. So, I saw I stood my ground. Roy tried to get involved. He was a friend of Gerry’s. Roy got the pages and the plot, and he called me. He said, “This plot is shit. But I think I can fix it.” Okay, you’re a better man than I am.

 

So, he rewrote the plot. And he figured out how to use almost all of the 23 pages, with maybe eight panels redrawn, and make it work. Happy continuity, Roy Thomas, man.

 

George gets all mad at me and he quits. So, then the DC people said, “Well, George quits, unless, you just let us do it.” And I said, “Well, I’m sorry George. I guess you just have to get another artist.” He said, “Well, we’re going to get Don Heck.” They’re like threatening me with Don Heck.

 

[chuckle]

 

Because they clearly did not think he was a good artist. They thought that would back me down. I said, “All right. It’s fine, Don Heck. And they’re like, “Hmm…” Then a little about later, I get the call and they say, “We’re just going to pull the plug.” I said, “Fine.” So, it was what they did. And Galton wasn’t mad at me, and besides, I was making so much money for him. At that point, I was still the fair-haired boy there.

 

So, that was it. And of course, the way they tell the story is that I was the megalomaniac, and control freak. And it was all about nothing. George, P.S., eventually found out what the real deal was. And George, I saw him at a convention a couple of years ago, comes over and hugs me.

 

Alex:          Oh, that’s cool.

 

Shooter:    And so, we’re all buddies again. I mean, like he had been told a whole bunch of lies about how evil Jim Shooter is.  It’s all, you know, I’m just trying to make my books good. There’s no reason it has to be bad.

 

Alex:          Yeah, right… So, Contest of Champions, tell us about this concept of bringing all these characters together for a powwow. Contest of Champions 1982 written by Grunewald, Mantlo and (Steve) Grant. Tell us about that, and then how that then… Did that also then kind of germinate into Secret Wars?…

 

Shooter:    Well, no. But the way that happened was that that was an Olympics year. Bill Mantlo came to me and he said, “Let’s do superhero Olympics. I said, “No. We can’t,” He said, “Why not.” I said, “Because, you guys have to license it, and that license is prohibitive… I’d already looked into it. So, we can’t do it.”

 

He said, “Well, how about we just call it something else, and have a contest with super superheroes?” I said, “Yeah. Fine.” So, he came up with this and he realized that if he was trying to get Iron Man and the Fantastic Four, and all that, that there would be continuity problems. And so, he decided to just make up most of the characters. And he did. He did all from different countries and stuff.

 

I think some of it were pretty clever. He was good at that. He was a character making machine

 

Alex:          Who?… Gruenwald?

 

Shooter:    No, Mantlo.

 

Alex:          Mantlo, there you go.

 

Shooter:    But no, Gruenwald was good, and they’re all good. But I mean, Mantlo was just amazing making up characters. I had some problems with his writing.

 

Actually, when I took over, he walked into my office that day. He said, “Well, I guess, I’m fired.” Because he was one of those guys that just hack the stuff out and tell me, “I don’t care. You fix it.” And he said, “I guess I’m fired.” I said, “No. Bill, today is day one. start over. I’ll start over…”

 

Alex:          Oh, okay.

 

Shooter:    “Don’t Hack.” [chuckle] And he got better. He did some pretty good stuff. He did Micronauts. That wasn’t bad. ROM was pretty good. He did some good stuff.  He created lots and lots of characters for it. He’d messed up the score keeping, but that’s another a thing.

 

Alex:          That’s right. Yeah, see exactly. Because it was actually a tie,

 

Shooter:    Yeah. I was like, “Bill!” I mean, nobody caught that.

 

Anyway, it sold pretty well. And the idea of having a whole big bunch of characters seem reasonable.

 

So, when Mattel wanted to do superhero toys, they said, “What we’d like you to do is a really big publishing event, that gets a lot of publicity.” Because nobody’s heard of some of these characters, everybody knows Superman, and Wonder Woman, and Batman, and nobody knows who Daredevil is, or some of these people are in the real world.

 

In the comics world, were out-selling DC; over four to one.

 

Alex:          Sure.

 

Shooter:    They wanted a publishing event, and I’d said, “How about one massive story with all the most important villains, and most important heroes.” Great. Fine. And we get also… I put the black costume in there, which got them the publicity they wanted, even from NASA. I had phones ringing off the hook, all the wire services, TV, all the papers… It was really amazing… It did well.

 

Alex:          Secret Wars sold 700,000 or something?

 

Shooter:    More than that, we were over a million.

 

Alex:          Over a million copies, actually. Yeah. Then maybe Secret Wars 2 was a 700,000.

 

Shooter:    Maybe. That’s probably right.

 

Alex:          That’s probably right. Yeah.

 

And then the toys, there’s a synergy with the toys, and it was a massive success. It had a huge impact on me because I was like, “Wow, you got all your characters right here and they’re interacting.” You wrote that, and Mike Zeck was the artist, because there’s a lot of corporate things lining up on Secret Wars, was there a lot of pressure on you to make sure it came out the way it did?

 

Shooter:    No. As a matter of fact, Mattel couldn’t care less. They never asked to see anything. I never sent them anything. They asked for a couple things that were kind of generic. They said, “Could there be like some fortresses and stuff, because we want to have playsets.” I said, “Yeah, we can do that.” They never made any effort to make it look like what we did and we didn’t make any effort to make it look like their playsets. and that we never… We didn’t even know what that stuff looked like. Didn’t matter, they just wanted the concept of a fortress.

 

They’d say, “Can we have vehicles?”  “Sure.” Mike Zeck designs the vehicles; they never saw those. They just needed there to be vehicles.

 

Alex:          How’d you like working with Mike Zeck on the project?

 

Shooter:    It was fun in some ways and it was also kind of grueling because we were on a tight schedule. We started on a tight schedule. We kind of started behind the eight ball. Because it had to be out before the toys. So, there was a lot of pressure. It was hard. There’s a lot of pressure on him and John Beatty. Because I’m the first in the chain. So, pressure mounts as it goes down, John Beatty got the worse.

 

Mike was a great artist. He did some of the best covers ever. I mean… Tremendous cover, but he’d always done sort of did these single characters, Captain America, Punisher stuff like that. And when I’m giving him a panel with 30 people in it, he was daunted by it a little bit. So, for a while I actually laid them out for him… Just to show him, this is what we need to get across. Like, “You need to pull the camera back, Mike.”

 

So, I’m not sure if he had a very high opinion of me at that time. But since then, we became great friends. We do the Secret Wars Reunion Tour. The three of us go do appearance together because they invite us as a threesome. I mean, it was rough. But it was, the whole time I was at Marvel, when I came in, everything was late. It took me a couple of months to catch up to have the correct number of issues being published for each one. At the end of that first year, we were on time, and we stayed on time for 10 years.

 

Alex:          Yeah, never…

 

Shooter:    We never had to do a reprint…

 

Alex:          After that.

 

Shooter:    Sometimes, here and there, but never an unscheduled reprint… So, I was determined this book is coming out. We’re not getting the shipping messed up.

 

Alex:          Yeah, yeah. Sure.

 

Shooter:    Yet again… So, there was pressure. And I was busy being editor in chief, so I sometimes didn’t get things done as fast as I should have. So, they’re… And they’ve never lacked for work. But I mean, I was kind of in a way, holding things up, sometimes. But we had it done, we got it out. The last issue was, we had kind of a jam, is what they call it. Jam. Had a lot of artists doing inking at the end.

 

Mike did the pencils. But we had… You go through issue #12 Secret Wars and you can like see, “Oh, that’s an Art Adams…”

 

Alex:          Yeah. There’s a different flavor on each page. Yes. And then DC’s counterpart to this was their super powers thing they did with Kirby, right? That was like their counterpart to that.

 

Shooter:    I guess so… I guess so… Their real counterpart to it was Crisis.

 

Alex:          Crisis on Infinite Earths, yes.

 

Shooter:    “Crisis,” they said, “Oh, we were planning that for years, way before Secret Wars”.

 

[chuckle]

 

They’re first. Everybody says, “Oh, that crisis came first.” No. Their first issue came out the same day as my 12th issue.

 

Alex:          Oh, that’s cool… The Marvel Universe series. I studied the Marvel Universe.

 

Shooter:    The Marvel Universe Handbook? Or no…

 

Alex:          Yeah… The Handbook, yeah. I studied that. I read every page. I memorized how many tons everyone could lift and all that; they could bench press. We had Pete Sanderson on, and he talks glowingly, of course, of Mark Gruenwald and how you guys came up with this idea together. Tell us about your impression of Mark Gruenwald, and how Marvel Universe Handbook came about.

 

Jim:            And Alex, we should point out that we had (Josef “Joe”) Rubinstein on too.

 

Alex:          That’s right, who inked, I think all of it.

 

Shooter:    Yeah, he was the only… We decide just to use one inker. And Joe it was good and fast so I used him.

 

The way it happened was I was in a bookstore, and I found one of these books though it was called Jane’s (Fighting) Ships. And you open the book and there’s a picture of a ship and it gives you all the specs. Picture of another ship, all the specs… Jane’s planes, Jane’s this, Jane’s that.

 

“These are cool.”

 

I bought a couple; I took them and I gave them to Mark Gruenwald. I said, “What do you think?” He said, “Ah… We can do this. It’d be great.” And I said, “Alright, let me see what I can do.

 

So, I went upstairs. I made a new project memo. Nobody could overrule me except the president, and he didn’t even want to. He didn’t care. So, I made a new project memo saying we’re going to do this handbook. And I get called by the lawyer.

 

The lawyer then says, “You can’t do this.” I said, “Why not?” She says, “We have a license with George Olshevski to do a Marvel Encyclopedia, and I think this is too close.”  “Not even an encyclopedia, it’s spec sheets.” And she said, “Well, I just think it’s too close to this Olshevski deal.  If you can talk him out of it, fine.”  “I’ll see.”

 

This is Alice Donenfeld; smart lady, fair lady. She was right. And so, I said, “Alright.” So, I call Olschevski, and I said, “Listen, you have had this license for a couple years, you haven’t anything.” I said we’d like to do a book that’s got specifications and stuff. And are you willing to give up this license?”

 

He said, “Well, can I do something else instead?” I said, “Alright, what do you have in mind?” He said, “Marvel indexes. That’s what I really want to do.” I said, “Done. Fine. We’ll trade you.” [chuckle] So, he became the index guy, and withdrew that license. And so, I gave it to Mark.

 

I just wanted like Jane’s. I want the picture of the hero and specifications. He’s the one who made it into an encyclopedia. Once we were free to do that, he was the one who came up with the idea – let’s tell their origins, let’s tell things about them and stuff. And I didn’t try to micromanage these guys.

 

I knew he knew what he was doing. I thought the book’s good and I think people will like it. Go with it. So, they did, and it became its own little industry. We’re doing updates every year, and little extra books like the Book of the Dead and stuff.

 

Alex:          I love that.

 

Shooter:    The 13th and the 12th issue’s Gerry. No, he did an excellent job with it. And he got Eliot Brown, who’s a genius. He was their sort of science and technology consultant. He was working on… He did some of the… There are some mechanical drawings, like the X-Men’s plane, and stuff like that. He did all that.

 

Alex:          Oh, cool.

 

Shooter:    But he was good with the technical drawings, and yeah, it was… And Mark had a ball. He loved it. I mean, this is right in his wheelhouse. This is just the kind of stuff he liked. It’s so… So, I applauded him.

 

Alex:          Did you like Mark Gruenwald?

 

Shooter:    I loved him. I thought he was great. He was a nut. But he was a good nut. I mean, he was always doing stuff, crazy stuff. Just for fun and stuff. If you’re working 14 hours a day. You got to goof off sometimes. You got to do something stupid once in a while.

 

So, this one time, I come in to work there’s a sign on the wall – “The Great Marvel Whack Off Contest… Whack Off With Marvel” and it has a five on it. I say, “What’s up with this?”  “Gruenwald” “Gruenwald, what’s this?” He says, “I can’t tell you.”

 

So, next day, it has a four, and it’s says, “Whack Off at Marvel, Marvel Whacks Off Best!” This goes every day. And I said, “If this is what it looks like, [chuckle] you’re in trouble, kid.” And so, comes, Whack Off Day, and it was those ping pong paddles with the little rubber ball that you bounce…

 

Alex:          That you whack it off.

 

Shooter:    Yeah, you whack with the paddle, and it was a contest to see who can keep the ball in the air the most… But he was always doing goofy… The best goofy or worst goofy stuff he ever did was, one August, he comes into my office, he says, “Is it okay, if I don’t let anybody in my office for a couple months?” I said, “What?”  “I can’t tell you.” I said, “Well, how’re you going to get the work done?” He said, “The coffee room’s right next door, we’ll meet with the freelancers in there. And, you know, we’ll get it done.” I said, “Look, if you guarantee me, you’d get the work done. I don’t care what you do.”

 

The offices had these glass windows facing in. And they papered those up, and they kept the door locked, and they did most of their work in the coffee room. I was usually the last person leaving. As I was leaving, it’s like night, everyone’s gone. But I would hear hammering and sawing, in Mark’s office. Nice big office, by the way, they had a two-person office and it was nice.

 

I hear hammering and sawing. What are they doing in there?”

 

Okay, so, it comes to the end of October. I always threw a little party, and I tell people bring their kids. They can wear costumes, and we’ll have it catered and stuff. And so, we had our little Halloween party, and people came in costume. And when I went out of my office to go to the main room the bullpen room where we’re having the party. I see this long line of people at Gruenwald’s door. Long line. So, I go to the front of the line and Gruenwald was standing there. “Alright, what’s going on?”

 

And he says, “Everybody just wait one minute, I got to show Jim.”

 

They take me inside, and they built a haunted house in his office. The hammering and sawing, is they built creaky stairs. How do you build stairs to make them creak? I don’t know. But they built creaky stairs. There were things that drop, spooky things would drop on you from the ceiling. Lights would flash, ghosts would appear. All these stuffs. I mean there was a technological marvel, I’m telling you.

 

And so, I walk out of there, I thought, if the upstairs executives see this, we are just toast. I mean, we’re going to get such hell for this… I walk out and all of the vice presidents are in line to go and see the haunted house. [chuckle] We’re cool.

 

But I mean, it was always something crazy, stuff like that. He was always doing that kind of thing and it kept people happy. It kept people loose… Yeah, everybody’s like, “What’s he up to now?”

 

Alex:          Was he kind of the only one that could get away with stuff like that?

 

Shooter:    He’s the only one who did it. I mean, I’m not saying other people didn’t do silly things once on a while but he was sort of the mastermind.

 

Alex:          Oh, that’s cool. Yeah, sounds like you liked him. That’s awesome.

 

Shooter:    Yeah… One time, on March 15th,, I come to the office, and everybody who sees me says, “Beware of the Ides of March.” What? [chuckle]. So, anyway. I felt like General Halftrack, half the time.

 

And so, I went into my office, I was packing up because I was going on a trip. And also, I have the sense that there’s somebody behind me. I turn around and there’s like 30 of my staff people with cardboard daggers. And they’re coming in to murder me.

 

[chuckle]

 

It’s not every day your staff murders you. “March 15th, Beware of the Ides of March.” And so, they’re all laughing. I made everybody sign their daggers, I still have every dagger. And they all signed them.

 

Alex:          That’s awesome… So, Jim Shooter can be sentimental sometimes.

 

Shooter:    Oh, I’m a big sentimental fool, I guess. It was fun stuff and like I said, I’m pretty sure Gruenwald cooked that up. And yeah, so he was a nut. He was the most welcome nut in the world because he kept everybody loose.

 

Alex:          That’s awesome.

 

Now, Destroyer Duck and Secret Wars 2, there is this discussion of (Steve) Gerber and Howard the Duck yada, yada… But there’re also seems to be something specifically with you and Gerber in Secret Wars 2, and maybe Destroyer Duck, if that Ned Packer guy is supposed to be Jim Shooter. But you, I think, did intend for the Secret Wars 2 for there to be a Steve Gerber guy in there. Tell us what was this back and forth going on with you guys.

 

Shooter:    Well, first of all, I never read the story of Duck, and I didn’t know that there was a Jim Shooter character. But okay, I’m fine with that. Second, Gerber sued Marvel over ownership of Howard the Duck and not my call, but upstairs. The President said, “Don’t use him anymore.” So, he was fired. He was doing the Duck newspaper strip that time too. So, anyway…

 

Alex:          So, Galton ordered his firing, right?

 

Shooter:    Oh, yeah.

 

Alex:          Yeah, Galton did.

 

Shooter:    Because he was suing him… Well, the lawyer said, “You can’t keep this guy on staff while you’re suing him.”

 

Alex:          Exactly.

 

Shooter:    You’re paying him to… So, it’s the lawyers who told Galton, Galton told me.

 

Alex:          Yes, that’s right.

 

Shooter:    There was another one, Stuart the Rat. That one I read.

 

Alex:          Yup.

 

Shooter:    I was the rat.

 

Gene Colan asked me if he could have an exception to his contract to do that. And I know it was an anti-Marvel thing. I got it and didn’t care. And so, we gave Gene an exception and he did that. I did that a lot for people.

 

If you read the early issues of Howard the Duck, the first several are all sort of parodies of various other Marvel writers. One, that’s kind of making fun of Don McGregor, like Don’s purple prose and using expressions like… And he actually used this in the book once, “The dirt brown dirt.” [chuckle] … I was like, “Don?…”

 

But anyway, he did one that was kind of making fun of Englehart, and he did one that was kind of making fun of somebody else… But it’s in good nature…

 

Alex:          Right. Sure.

 

Shooter:    Parody of their writing style and having the story be something that they might cook up. Gerber and I, were never enemies. I mean, we argued about stuff sometimes, but we’re never enemies or anything.

 

I think his lawsuit was… He kind of lost, but they settled, and he wanted ownership of the Duck. By that time, I had installed programs where if you create a new character, you own 20% of the adjusted gross for that character’s licensing, and so forth. So, that was standard policy. And so, their settlement… It wasn’t really on form, because their settlement was, “We’ll give you the standard policy on the Duck.”

 

And I thought, wait a minute, I mean this guy sues us, and now he’s got the 20% adjusted gross from the beginning of Howard the Duck? And others predating my program?

 

Alex:          So, that’s what that… That’s how that was calculated. Okay.

 

Shooter:    So anyway, Gerber was a subject that was oft discussed then. And so, I was writing the first issue of Secret Worlds, and I had this idea to do a guy who creates himself as a superhero. I don’t want to make it a comic book guy, so I made it an animator; a guy who wrote animation. And I thought, “Hey, Gerber writes animation.

 

Alex:          Yeah, yeah. He wrote animation at the time, yeah.

 

Shooter:    Yeah. The Thundarr the Barbarian, or something.

 

Alex:          Yeah.

 

Shooter:    So, I did exactly what he did. I had a character in there, sort of vaguely like him, and saying some of the thing that he would say… Which people wouldn’t know…

 

Alex:          Yeah, yeah. I didn’t know that as a kid, I mean, I found out later.

 

Shooter:    In the comic book, he was talking about how he wants to do more sex and violence. Gerber would always use to say that about Marvel company. He didn’t understand why he couldn’t have blatant sex, and blood and gore of Sam Peckinpah’s stuff.

 

I kept saying, “Steve, you’re on the medium, write a novel or do a movie or something.

 

[chuckle]

 

But you can’t do that stuff and put it in a spinner rack.” He couldn’t understand why we can’t do that. And he would sneak in things, once in a while. Or tread real close to the edge.

 

So, anyway, I had the character in the book, say Gerber-like things, and it was a Mary Skrenes character. He worked in an animation agency. He got this power and I had him create himself as a superhero. I don’t remember what I called him but it wasn’t Thundarr but it was reminiscent. It wasn’t… The horse wasn’t Aragorn, it was Boromir.

 

Alex:          Yeah, so that was what it was based on, Thundarr. That’s crazy.

 

Shooter:    So basically, I just did what he did. And most of it was in jokes between me and him that no one would ever know.

 

Alex:          Yeah. So, it doesn’t sound like it was mean spirited.

 

Shooter:    No, it wasn’t mean spirited at all, and in fact, Steve read it and he wrote me a glowing fan letter. He wrote me a fan letter. Saying, “Oh, it was so funny, Jim. That’s great. Hahaha… Yeah, I remember that too.” It was just like a nice cheerful chummy letter.

 

So then, part of the settlement was he was going to come back and work for Marvel; writing for Marvel. And then he was going to revive the Duck; and he was going to write the Duck. And so, the deal was, he didn’t want regular editors editing him, and I said, “Fine. I, personally, will edit his stuff.” Great. So, that way, he doesn’t feel like he’s being overruled by, what he would think of as, a lightweight, the way he thought of me. I don’t care.

 

But at any rate, so he turns in his first story, and at the beginning of his first story, he has Howard the Duck on the bus with characters who are very clearly Steven Grant, Chris Claremont, Bill Mantlo, and anyone else who have written the Duck… And they’re all holding Howard down and punching him.

 

Alex:          Oh, okay.

 

Shooter:    Okay… And being horrible to him. And then, somehow, Howard wakes up or, you know, and I think does horrible things to them or the bus explodes, I don’t know what. But it was really, it was revenge on anyone else who’d ever touched the Duck.

 

And I said to him, “I don’t think so… I mean, it was really obviously Claremont, and really obviously Mantlo, and really…” I said, “Steve, you can’t do that, sorry. You got to change this. The rest of the story is fine, but the whole beginning part, no.”

 

He lost his mind, and was furious. And went to Galton, and you know, “Asshole… You should fire him! Blah blah blah… “ He tried to fire me, and then Galton, when I told him what was going on, “This guy is out of his mind.”

 

So then, Gerber was going to sue me, and Marvel for his parody of him. And so, the lawyers came to interview me about it, and I said, “Maybe you’d like this.” And I gave them Gerber’s letter. They read the letter, they said, “Yeah, thanks.”

 

They sent a copy of the letter to his lawyer. They withdrew the suit.

 

He loved it… And then he hated it, because he hated me. Because I wouldn’t let him do horrible things to Chris Claremont… But no, these guys are… They didn’t do anything wrong. They did their best.

 

Alex:          Yeah. They did their best. Sure.

 

Shooter:    And they were good doing their job. And Howard the Duck, as far as they knew, Marvel owned it and we did. As it turned out. The court would say that several times, about the ownership, he kept reinstating it. And he finally settled for standard policy.

 

Alex:          So, you mentioned earlier, and I wanted to kind of get… I’ve always wondered this, but they talk about the original art returns and Jack Kirby. And for whatever reason, there was a condition on when people would get original art back… There a condition that people would sign. But Jack Kirby got a different contract than other people did.

 

Shooter:    No, he didn’t.

 

Alex:          Was it Jim Galton that pushed that? What happened there?

 

Shooter:    He didn’t get a different contract. That’s not true. What happened was, I had gotten the authority to return all the old artwork in the warehouse, got that in the summer of 1978. There was some discussion about, is this an asset of the corporation, are we opening ourselves to shareholder derivative suit? And I talked to the lawyers and the board, and convinced them, “No. This is a reward for their service… Encouch it as a gift.”

 

So anyway, I had that approved. I was just about to start on that, and then Kirby, his contract came to the end. And within days, we start getting threatening letters from his lawyers, and also, demanding his old pages back and stuff.

 

Then our lawyers tell me, “No, you can’t return any of that artwork, because it might be seen as a tacit admission that Kirby was right.” That it might be seen in court as a tacit admission he was right. Now, all these people want their artwork… ,

 

So anyway, this goes on for a while, and I fought that fight every day. I kept saying, “No. These other people aren’t taking any legal action against us. This is how we’re going to present it, it’s just part of their payment. Is their reward for their service.” And so, finally, I won. I won the fight, and they said, “Okay, you can do it.” I said, “Alright.”

 

Ditko, when I told Steve, “Look, we want to give your artwork back, you have to sign this one-page release.” And he said, “Is Jack getting his artwork back?” I said, “Well, yeah. We’ve settled up with him.”

 

We didn’t settle that. Basically, sort of like the Gerber thing. And when we sent the stack of documents, this high that Jack Kirby had signed, saying the art was all work for hire, contracts of artwork return, all kinds of things. And especially, Martin Goodman had him sign a thick document that itemized every job he’d ever done, and testify that it was work for hire and that Marvel owned it. Because Martin needed that in order to sell the company, way back in 1968.

 

So anyway, when his lawyer saw all these documents, they apologized and they said, “We were given to believe that Jack was Charles Schulz and you’d stolen Snoopy… And apparently, he signed it away.” And yes, he did.

 

Anyway, we were going to give Jack his artwork back, and Ditko said to me, he said, “Is Jack getting his artwork back and I said, “Yes.” And he said, “I will sign this release if you absolutely guarantee me that Jack signs the same thing.” And I said, “Steve, I can be overruled. But I will guarantee you that I will, tooth and nail, fight for that. Okay?”

 

And so, the lawyers are negotiating and they’re going to make a special thing for him. “No”, I said, “No, I’m not doing it.” And I told them, I had my deal with Ditko, and wasn’t going to do it. Jack signed exactly the same piece of paper that Ditko signed, one page.

 

And there was floating around, a couple of different versions. But no, Jack signed the standard release, and he got his artwork back. It was not as pages as it ought to be. But there’s a thousand, 1100 pages or something. It should have been way more. They were giving it away, back before my time… “Hey, you want a Kirby book, here you go.

 

Alex:          The discussion of possibly giving Jack or giving him a different sequence of terms was because there was already some initial legal talk from Kirby to Marvel before all this?

 

Shooter:    Like I said, right after his contract expired, we started getting all these letters from his lawyers… And they were threatening to renew copywrite in his name… One of the letters… I’m fighting with the lawyers, I’d say, “Why is this keeping me from doing what I need to do?”

 

So, the lawyer said… I got an education, he said, “Read this letter.”

 

I read the letter, and the letter said, very legal formal, how many pages of Jack’s, do you have in your possession. He said, “What’s the answer?” I said, “About 1100.” He said, “No. The answer is zero. Because if you say you have 1100, you are acknowledging them as Jack’s pages.”

 

Alex:          A lot of this was from the lawyers. Was Galton pushing a lot of this too?   Because you were made as the face of this at the time.

 

Shooter:    That’s because they didn’t like me anymore upstairs because they were trying to sell the company and I wasn’t… [sigh] When you try to…

 

The board of directors formed a little company of their own. It’s called CMI, Cadence Management Incorporated, and they took the stock off the market. They bought the stock. So now, it was originally seven, and they got rid of one. There were six people who owned Cadence industry, including Marvel. Those six people, soon start trying to sell it. This would have been ’84, early ‘84.

 

And so, they wanted to sell the company. And the thing is when you sell a company like Marvel you sell it for a multiple of its pretax profit; multiple returns. If it’s an entertainment company it owns a lot of intellectual property. You can get like maybe $25 million. So, if you made a million dollars, you sell the company for 25. You, see?… Okay, we were making a lot more than $1 million. So, it’s going to be big amount of money.

 

As soon as you’re trying to sell that company, that bottom, that number on the bottom line, you get a multiple of that. So, every penny you can put on that bottom line, might be 25 pennies in your pocket. They started trying to save money. They cashed out our pension plan. They took away our health care, and they gave us this crummy HMO. Nobody would even take it.

 

And remember, I given the same plan to all of the freelancers. They all had excellent health care and all they have is garbage. They took away the life insurance. They tried to take away the Royalty Pool. I won that fight, because I was having an argument with them at the top of my lungs, upstairs with the president, executive vice president, financial officer, they’re all screaming at me, I’m screaming at them. The lawyer hears this, comes out of his office and says, “He’s right. You can’t do that.” That shut them up. It’s the one fight I won.

 

So anyway, they weren’t liking me. Because I almost screwed the whole deal for them. Because I was a key man. They couldn’t sell the company without me. I was the key man.

 

I mean, there was some, some hostility there, so therefore, I didn’t have as much clout… Actually, I had more clout than any of them. I was key man. And I could’ve used that, but I… Levitz would have known what to do. I didn’t know.

 

I should’ve bought a golden parachute… Got a lawyer. Got a golden parachute. Told them these are my terms, “You will do this and that, and then you can sell the company.” But I didn’t. I was a little naive about that part of it.

 

Alex:          You’re saying that there was like, when it factored into the Jack Kirby contract, that it was basically, about how you had less clout to be able to negotiate a better term for him?

 

Shooter:    I probably could have made it better for him if I had known to use the power I had, but I didn’t know. And you talked about, was there, legal stuff before… There’s all this legal saber rattling, all these letters going back and forth.

 

Alex:          Yeah, and that made it more of a nervous exchange to give him original art.

 

Shooter:    Well, I mean the thing is, that was settled. With all the letters going back and forth, and was commonly referred to as the Kirby Lawsuit. He never actually files it.

 

Alex:          Right.

 

Shooter:    It proved he had no rights. And then, his lawyers withdrew. And then, I was going to return the artwork, but then his lawyers come back and they want him special deals and stuff and I said, “No. Not doing it.” And they let me have my way on that. But the thing is, it was a very weird time at Marvel, because it was being sold. Part of it was being blamed on me.

 

Alex:          Do you feel that the comics journal, and Gary Groth, misrepresented you during that period of time?

 

Shooter:    Yes, I mean, they just hated me. They just said anything they wanted… Horrible things about me. And you know, I’m… whatever. And the thing is, in that little end game there, Marvel was almost helping them blame stuff on me, because they wanted to get rid of me.

 

Joe Calamari told me one time, he said, “We can’t fire you because. You’re the only person who could tell us, who could replace you. I said, “Well, keep that up.” But then I guess, they talked to Tom DeFalco, and Hobson thought maybe he could do it. And Hobson was going to help and stuff. And so, then they thought they had somebody who could replace me and then they fired me.

 

But now, so it’s kind of a dicey time and I did get my way, with some stuff, because even though I didn’t know I had power, they knew. So, they are tiptoeing around me a little bit.

 

Alex:          Interesting.

 

Shooter:    And I’m actually go to war with them every day. As a matter of fact, toward the end there, they just… Not only did they take away all those programs and stuff, they… Mike Hobson and I don’t know who else, they were kind of running the comics. I’m walking around my office, where my 75 employees are, and I look in the room, there’s a guy, I don’t know who he is.

 

I said, “Who are you?”

 

He said, “Well, I’m the editor of such and such.” Who hired him?… What? I mean they were squeezing me out every which way they could. And like I said, when they felt they got somebody who could replace, they fired me.

 

I’ll tell you, by that time, I was about ready to go anyway.

 

Jim:            You said that you wanted him to sign the same agreement that everybody else… Kirby sign the same agreement about getting the art back as everybody else. But he wanted…His lawyers wanted more than that? But if they were…

 

Shooter:    Oh, yeah, they wanted all kinds of stuff.

 

Jim:            But art related? Because if you’re giving it all back, I don’t understand what else you could ask for.

 

Shooter:    One of the things they wanted was, they wanted him given credit as sole creator on all Marvel comics; Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, everything. Sole Creator.

 

Jim:            But that doesn’t have anything to do with the art coming back, right?

 

Shooter:    Bingo.

 

Alex:          But these are part of the discussions happening at the time that messed up a clean transaction.

 

Shooter:    They’re trying to do like Congress does, stick things in there, that had nothing to do with it. Trying to make it into a contract and agreement and, “Oh, by the way, he gets the art work back”. But I said, “No, this only about artwork, he signs a standard form. That’s it.” But they had all kinds of things in there that they wanted, like how big his name had to be in the credits… Come on. I mean, fine, I’m happy to put him in the credits.

 

As a matter of fact, I ran into Jack at San Diego… And we’re good friends. You can see my Kirby picture here…

 

Alex:          Yeah, that’s cool.

 

Shooter:    … I bought it, and gave it to him. He gave it back to me, and he sign that, it says, “To Jim, a good friend.”

 

Alex:          Oh, that’s cool.

 

Shooter:    Yeah, because we got along fine. He knew I wasn’t a bad guy. We got along just fine. So, I ran into him in San Diego…

 

And then other people were doing this. It was Groth, and his people and lawyers and Jack’s wife, who were really the driving force. Jack wasn’t. I mean I think he felt he should have been treated better. He sure should’ve, but he wasn’t really the one doing all this stuff. It was his…

 

Alex:          Right. I think it’s hard when you’re a creative person and a creator advocate, but at the same time you have a fiduciary responsibility to look after the best interest of the company that you’re in as a vice president. That must have been a weird situation for you.

 

Shooter:    Yeah, I was trying to do both. The thing is, at first, I was winning. And because everything I was doing was successful and making so much money; out-selling DC four to one. We’re the… Beat my projections every year. I also was good at engineering the costs down, and saving money and stuff. And so, for a while there, I was doing all this stuff and I’d really got them convinced.

 

“No, do it right. Play it fair. We’ll all be better.”

 

And they were buying it. Why? Because we were. And then at the end there, it all started to go south. But what I was going to say is, I ran into Jack in San Diego, and his lawyers were on this thing about he has to have sole credit creator. I just stood and leaning on the rail with him, and I said, “Jack, I talked to Steve, Stan, Sol, Flo (Steinberg), Morrie (Kuramoto), George Roussos, everybody I could find, who was there. I said, “And everybody tells the same story.”

 

They said that… Because he was telling. He was telling me the story about how he created Spider-Man. He had everything out of order… Spider-Man was first. Fantastic Four was later… And a lot of details wrong. Because he was… He was getting forgetful… In 1976, I think, he was driving somewhere and he forgot he was driving, and ran into a tree. They wouldn’t let him drive anymore. He also had trouble remembering how to get home. When he was talking to me on the phone about comics, oh man, he’s sharp as a tack. He loved that. But other stuff, I think, he’d fade in and out on, he was getting older. It happens.

 

So anyway, I was talking to him, and I said, “Look, I’d talk to all these people and everybody says that Steve, and with help from Stan, created Spider-Man… Steve created Doctor Strange all by himself. Stan will tell you that.” I said, “Of course, you did a lot of the work creating a lot of these characters. Didn’t Stan do anything? Didn’t he contribute at all?”

 

At the end of that conversation, he said, “You’re right. Spider-Man was Steve. I did the drawing, a cover…” I said, “Yeah. You did the first cover. But Steve created the character.” He said, “No kidding. No, but I did attach belt, hockey stripes.” “That’s not one of your costumes.” [chuckle] I said, “I saw your drawing.” I did. I held it in my hands, Sol had it in his office.

 

Alex:          Oh, you saw his Spider-Man proposal?

 

Shooter:    Yeah. And it was a guy like Captain America boots, he had a web gun, he had trunks and tights.

 

Alex:          Wow, that’s cool that you saw that.

 

Shooter:    Yeah. He was with notes in the margin, and the notes said that he was going to be the son of the police commissioner so that’s how he was aware of crimes and stuff. I said, “That’s the Fly, isn’t it?”

 

[chuckle]

 

But anyway, I mean, I saw that. And so, I got him, he said, “Yes, you’re right, Steve did it and Doctor Strange is Steve’s.” And then he said, “And yes, Stan deserves credit too.” And so, we parted with the understanding and he was going to get credit on the stuff he created. And for some reason, he remembered that and the lawyers act off. So that… Well actually, that’s about the time I was leaving.

 

Alex:          Do you feel the success of Secret Wars 1 and 2 changed your approach on how you spoke, and managed the other artists and writers that were working under you.? Do you feel like that success changed your approach in how you handled discussions with them?

 

Shooter:    No, not at all. I don’t think so. I mean, my policy was telling, good stories, tell them all. I’ve never varied from that because I knew that’s what works; tell good stories, tell them all. It’s been working for 40,000 years.

 

No, I didn’t… What was happy and successful, I’m telling you, if you have the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, the Hulk and everybody else in one book, and it doesn’t sell, you’re doing something wrong. So, it didn’t surprise me that it sold. It didn’t surprise me that it had some effect. But no, I didn’t. My philosophy was pretty solidly entrenched by then.

 

Jim:            One reason to ask you that question is, there’s a lot of people on the record that say it was, things were fine until Secret Wars and that’s when Jim started to act differently or had a different attitude or whatever. And that’s when their problem with you may have occurred.

 

Shooter:    I’d like to know who the people who had a problem with me, because I didn’t notice anybody having any problem with me. Except that when… Starting somewhere in 1984, when they were trying to sell the company, all kinds of bad stuff was happening, maybe…

 

I told you some of that was being blamed on me. Because I mean, I tell the guys, like I’d say, “What’s going on?” “I didn’t get my foreign royalties”, and I would say, “I’m working on it… I’m trying to take care of it. I’m trying to fix it.” And I go upstairs and scream at the executives up there. some of whom are owners.

 

So okay now, guys like Walt, they get frustrated. They have a copy of their book in French, and they never got a check. And if I say to them, “Guys, the people upstairs are screwing you.” Then they’ll all quit and go to DC… So then, it’s Jim Shooter driving the town away.

 

Alex:          Yeah, so that’s a rock in a hard place.

 

Shooter:    See, I cannot win… I don’t think I had any change of attitude, certainly not about because of Secret Wars.

 

Alex:          The two people that I had read said that. I’m not saying it’s true. I wasn’t there and that’s why I’m asking you. Or that’s why we’re asking you, Romita Sr made a mention of that and then John Byrne made a mention to that. And at the same time, I know John Byrne has got his own emotions and his own ego thing going on. So, everything is with a grain of salt. But those are the two names I know offhand that have mentioned that.

 

Jim:            I can think of a couple others that were here on the podcast that said that too.

 

Shooter:    Okay, John Byrne hates me, so I mean that’s, John, I don’t know.

 

Jim:            I don’t like John Byrne so that… [chuckle] we don’t have a problem with that.

 

Shooter:    He’s a good guy but he’s got a chip on his shoulder about something. I think with me, it was because I occasionally, told him no, and creative people do not like to hear the word, no. And so, to me, I would say, “I was hired to protect these franchises and I don’t want you to do this.” I worked with them as much as I could. He wanted to put the She-Hulk in the Fantastic Four, I made her part of Secret Wars. I tried to do everything I could for him, and he certainly got paid well.

 

Jim:            I have a Superman question for you in relation to John Byrne before I do that… I grew up on that SuperBoy of Legion of Superheroes, and Superman of that era. And Alex and I argue about this all the time, but I don’t believe Superman kills people, I don’t think Superman, breaks people’s necks. What’s your feeling on that?

 

Shooter:    I think, Superman… I’m with you, I mean Superman, he better be the most normal person there is because if he isn’t, he’s public enemy number one.

 

Jim:            Right.

 

Shooter:    And then, the thing is, bad writers or people who aren’t up to the task, in recent years, he’s been petulant, he’s been angry, he’s been vengeful, he’s been jealous, he’s been all kinds of bad things. And that’s not Superman to me.

 

I mean the way… Mort (Weisinger) never put it in so many words but, Mort said, “This is like the noblest guy that ever lived.” Julie, (Schwartz) put it in very direct words. He said, “Superman never loses. He’s never wrong. He might be misled temporarily, but he’s never wrong. He doesn’t lie, and he doesn’t do this, he doesn’t…” A whole list of stuff.

 

And I’m thinking, “Wow, all these rules”, and then I thought, “No, it’s not rule, that’s who he is.” And if you can’t write that, if you have to make him some petulant, violent creep, because you can’t think of stories for somebody better… Well, get a better writer… It’s, if you play him right, he is the pinnacle.

 

Jim:            And as you said, “If he isn’t, then he’s the biggest danger to the world. He has to have those standards.

 

Shooter:    And if he showed any sign of that, every country in the world would have their secret anti-Superman program going underground trying to figure out what to do with this guy – he had, takes a whim and sinks the Seventh Fleet. I mean they can’t… They would worry about this guy. But the fact that he’s that much of a Boy Scout, I could reason that people wouldn’t have the secret anti-Superman program or at least kept it really secret.

 

Jim:            Because they all knew that what he was; that he would never be that threat… So, Alex, Jim and I have found common ground on John Byrne Superman.

 

Alex:          Right.

 

Jim:            That he does not kill.

 

Shooter:    Yeah. And if other people say I was different after Secret Wars, that would have been about the time, I think, that the company was going to be sold. And I was mightily distracted by all that was going on. Maybe that made me seem different to them, but I did not…

 

Alex:          That makes sense.

 

Jim:            That makes sense.

 

Alex:          I mean if the world around you, professionally, is going to hell, you’re going to be more stressed, you might react differently to things, and even if your heart is not trying to be malignant. And I get that.

 

Shooter:    Yeah, the thing is also, when the company was sold, all of a sudden there was a lot of pressure put on me by the new owners. For instance, Bob Remy came into my office and threw a copy of Dark Knight on my desk. He said, “How come you haven’t done something like this?” I said, “Well, we have. We’ve done lots of things like that.” He said, “I don’t see any books like this.”

 

I said, “Well, I could show you some of the graphic novels… But here’s the problem – DC has Alison Gill, doing the production; and Alison Gill is good, and she can… And they have a book designer. Look at the graphics. Look at how good this book is. Look at the production values…”

 

I said, “I have Milt Shipman. Milt Shipman is like 80 years old. Milt Shipman thinks there’s only three kinds of ink in the world. Milt Shipman sent photographs to a hand separator…” I said, “I don’t have a book designer. I don’t have a printing production guy. I got in-house production, that’s working fine. But I don’t control him, and he doesn’t know what he’s doing. And I love him… I buy him cigars every year for Christmas. But he just is way over his head.”

 

He used to be the financial guy and then when the new owners took over ’68, he was old then, they didn’t want to keep them as the financial guy. They’re getting younger smarter people, and they didn’t want to fire him. So, they made him in charge of printing production.

 

Why? Because being in charge of printing production meant that you sign your name to two bills a month. Because chemical color plate, or color press, and everything was the same every month. There was nothing to manage. He didn’t even have a secretary, he’s a vice president and no secretary. I mean, when it was easy… Now, I’m doing it, I’m giving him graphic novels, full color photos, and stuff, he had no idea. No idea what to do and so, it was a nightmare.

 

So, Remy says, “Alright, I’ll get you a book designer. I’ll get you a production person. I’m going to authorize that right now, and you’re going to do something like this. I said, “I’ll do better than that.” He said, “What do you have in mind?” “Claremont.” … Whoever was doing the X-Men books, get them to my office.”

 

At this time, like I said, they’ve done a pretty good job with making people hate me. And so, they’re all like, “What do you want?” I said, “Look, here’s what we’re going to do, we’re going to have a nine-issue stories; three issues of X-Men, three issues of X-Factor, three issues of New Mutants.”

 

I said, “You’re all going to work independently. The issue will work independently, each three or four will work independently. But they’re also all going to make one big story. It’s like, you’re telling a story of World War II in Europe… You’re telling World War II in the Pacific, and it adds up to World War II.

 

So, they’re like, “What are you talking about?” I said, “For years, and years, and years, we’ve been talking about the war between humans and humans, we’re doing it.”  “You think we’ll sell any?” So, they’re like, “I don’t want to do your ideas.” They’re all snarky, except Louise.

 

Louise said, “Gentlemen, I think we need to do what he says… And just give us the blueprint, Jim and we’ll do it.” I said, “Okay. Good. And then we’ll bind it all together, sell millions… We’ll bind it all together and do a nice book. I’m getting a book designer. I’m getting a production person. And it’s going to be good.”

 

Anyway, then not too long after that, Galton fired me. So, I never got to see that through. I think there was something they did; something like that. The Fall of Mutants or something…

 

Alex:          Fall of Mutants, yeah; which was huge for my generation. We loved it.

 

Shooter:    Yeah… No, no. So, they did something like it. I mean, my idea, my challenge, was make a book like it. So, if people took that as dictating stuff to them… Well, I was. If that’s the crime, I’m guilty.

 

***

 

Jim:            My next field of questions has to do with departures, firings, book cancellations, that have provoked a lot of criticism over the years, against you. Especially, because of the internet, because of journals, and so forth.

 

I mean you have a blog, you’ve posted a lot of things with your version, and people post interviews and things with theirs. Before I go through any, because I don’t want to play like Jochen (Laubrock) and just quote, people, and a lot of this has already been debated.

 

But out of the ones that you know … All of the things, and you know some of them, are there anywhere, you think, “Yeah, I could have handled that better. I regret what I did there.” That you think that maybe there’s some truth to it, in terms of any of those things – cancellations, departures, firings.

 

Shooter:    Absolutely none. I would do the same thing again a thousand times. And that’s not to say, I didn’t make some bad judgments, or do something stupid, or couldn’t have done things better. But I never did anything in self-interest. I didn’t sleep with their wife. I didn’t steal their money. I didn’t kill their dog. I did the best I could for everybody and they made a lot of money and live well. And if that’s a crime, sorry.

 

My job was to protect those characters, and make that good and to build it. And I did.

 

I mean basically, I had the best people on Earth work with me – Archie, and Larry, and Louise, and everybody. You can win with that team if I were to coach… And I probably did some stuff that shouldn’t have been done but nothing evil. Never… Never in self-interest, and I wouldn’t change anything of what you’re talking about, cancel a book, or firing or whatever.

 

Yeah. Alright, so ask me. Give me an example.

 

Jim:            Okay. And with that said, let me preface it by saying that, when we were talking about Superman, and how Alex sees it differently than we do. It’s partly because of when you come into comics and what you’re reading at the time, and how things go. For me, because of my age, as much as I love Kirby, and Ditko, and all of that, my age… I turned 10 in 1970.

 

So, 1972 to ’75, ‘76 was my, like, input years. That’s when it means the most, and you get that completely. So, for me, that Steve Gerber, (Doug) Moench, (Marv) Wolfman, and (Gene) Colan on Tomb of Dracula, (Howard) Chaykin, Don McGregor, all of that stuff. A lot of which maybe weren’t the best sellers. were the books that… And Kirby’s Fourth World and those things. Those were… They meant something to me.

 

I was always reading and then in Comics Journal or somewhere, a lot of those people blamed you for their departure from Marvel to DC. I think Gene Colan said he left behind a pension plan just to get away from you, basically; after Tomb of Dracula.

 

Shooter:    I could tell you that story if you want.

 

Jim:            Sure.

 

Shooter:    Okay, well, Gene… I went to his house a couple of times for parties and things, and we got along fine. Gene had alimony payments and he had to…

 

When the when I took over, the page rates have not kept up with inflation. Page rates were very low. And that’s all you got – you got your page rate, and nothing else. No benefits. No rights. No nothing.

 

And so, Gene was in a situation where he had to turn out increasing numbers of pages to make money. And so, he started hacking. I mean it didn’t happen overnight, but gradually he just kept… The one thing he loved was Tomb of Dracula. In that, he poured his heart into. Everything else, he would just turn it out. He liked The Duck too.

 

So anyway, it got to the point where Bill Mantlo came to me and said… Bill, he just wanted work. He wanted to… He’d work with anybody. He came to me and he says, “I won’t work with Gene Colan anymore.” I said, “Why not?” He said, “You know, you give me all this lectures about, you want my plots right, you want the stories right, the writing has to be right… So, okay, I do what you say. I do it the way you want. And then you give it to Colan, and he doesn’t draw it. He just does. unrelated stuff, just fast, and I can’t stand it anymore.”

 

Roger Stern, same thing. The story was… “Gene,” he said, “I’ll never work with him again.” (Chris) Claremont wouldn’t work with him. Nobody would work with him, because what he was doing was, he was just… He had to turn out so many pages a day. And so, if a firecracker went off, he gave it a full page, he did some side of the pencil smoke around the edges, and that’s a page. What was starting to happen is that he would do lots of big pictures, and then kind of cram the whole story, of what he put of it, into the last page or two. Like a whole bunch of little panels.

 

And I kept talking to him. I said, “Gene, look, I understand. I’m trying to make it better. I’m working on it. But you got to do the job.”

 

So anyway, nobody would work with him. Marv had gone to DC. The reason Marv left is because, as he was a writer editor, and I was going to not let him… I offered him the richest contract that any writer has ever been offered in comics. And he, because he wouldn’t be a writer editor, he turned it down and went to DC, where he was not a writer editor.

 

Why did he want to be a writer editor? Because Marv also, when he poured his heart into something, like Dracula, it could be very good. Some of the stuff that he did, it’s just to pay the rent stuff, that he just kind of, turned it out.  And I didn’t want that. I think that he was afraid that, okay, he’s going to have to do his job. So, he went to DC.

 

Colan, no one would work with him. I said, “Okay. Gene, look, I’ll work with you, on the Avengers. Okay? Here’s the deal – you’ve got to do the plot I give you. You better pace it right. I don’t have to explain that to you… And if anything has to be redrawn, Gene…” Because he kept like skipping parts of stories or drawing the wrong thing or something… If anything has to be redrawn, for a while, I’ll pay you to redraw it. So, you won’t lose anytime. But you got to, you know… And I’m going to try to get you a raise, you’re a contract guy, so it’s a little hard… But I’m going to try to get you a raise… I’m doing the best I can. And it’s going to get better. You’re going to have royalties. You’re going to be good. You’ll be alright.”

 

And so, he was working on the Avengers with me, and doing okay. But my stuff is very content heavy, so it couldn’t go real quick for him. I guess he was feeling like he wasn’t making his little quota of pages every day. And so, that made him somewhat unhappy.

 

Meanwhile, Wolfman is over at DC and he’s on the phone with Gene, all the time saying, “Oh, come over here. You should work with me. We’ll do stuff…” So, he’s getting this “offer” from DC all the time. And I’m “oppressing” him. So, finally, I guess DC made him a kind of a firm offer and so he…

 

He didn’t want to leave Marvel. So, he called Jim Galton and he told him, “This guy Shooter is a monster. He’s doing horrible things to me. You got to get rid of this asshole…” So, anyway, Galton gets done with the phone call. He calls me up, and he says, “Who’s Gene Colan?” I said, “He’s an artist.” He says, “Is he good?”

 

I said, “He’s excellent. He’s Hall of Fame. But recently, he’s kind of just churning it out. And I’m trying to work with him, but he’s mad at me.” He said, “Look, I don’t really give a damn… Just tell him not to call me. Okay? I don’t want these people calling me.” I said, “Okay, I’ll try to spread the word.”

 

So anyway, I talked to Gene, I said, “Come on, Gene. Let’s try to work something out.”

 

And so, he came in, he made an appointment to see Mike Hobson. He thought Mike Hobson might be my boss; who he was, his buddy he wasn’t. So, Mike comes and tells me, “This guy, Gene Colan wants to talk to me. And I said, “Well, let’s talk to him. Or you talk to him, I don’t care.”

 

He said, “Well, I want you to be there”, and I said, “Okay”. So, Gene comes in, there I am sitting in Mike’s office. He’s like, “Oh, what are you doing?” And Mike had told me, he said, “I’m really good with people… I’m sure I can calm him down.”

 

So, he sits down, and he says, “Now, I’ve gotten the firm offer from DC.” And he sits down, and he starts listing off his terms, and nothing can be corrected. Anything he delivers is fine as delivered. He gets to pick what he wants to work on… All these terms.

 

And I didn’t say a word. And Mike said, he looks at me, I’m like, “I don’t know.” And Mike said, “Gene, I hope it works out for you at DC.” And then Gene gets up and storms out. And then he went to DC, and nothing worked out for him there.

 

They tried to even shoot from his pencils, because no one could ink his side of the pencil stuff. They tried a couple different projects, nothing was working. Meanwhile at Marvel I had found a way to raise the rates and things were good. I mean, I’m putting in all these programs and stuff. If he’s stuck around, he would have been making good royalty money. He wouldn’t had to do six or eight pages a day.

 

But he went over there and for the rest of his life he hated me. And you know, okay, I can’t imagine doing anything different than what I did. I did the best I could and no one else worked as hard.

 

Jim:            One thing that Wolfman, Colan, and I think even (Tom) Palmer said was Dracula was supposed to go one more issue, and you cut it off, and they had to redo it, to squeeze everything in, and that they were robbed of the issue to close it out the way they wanted to.

 

Shooter:    Is that about the color comic?

 

Jim:            The color comic, yeah.

 

Shooter:    What year was that cancelled?

 

Alex:          ‘79 or so?

 

Jim:            Yeah, it was during your time, I think.

 

Shooter:    Okay. Well, if it was cancelled it was because it wasn’t selling at all. And the vampire craze had died down… Seems to me, they did the last… Wasn’t the last issue 50 or something like that.

 

Jim:            50 or 60.

 

Alex:          There is 70 issues, I feel.

 

Shooter:    I don’t remember it being closed early. It could be that it was selling so badly, that I was getting pressure from upstairs or something… Usually, cancelling books isn’t up to me. I mean I’d get pressure, because the financial guy would say, “Hey this book… Surely we can do something better than this. It’s only selling 130,000 copies.” I’d say, “Yeah. Well, that’s pretty good, but okay, I’ll see what I can do.”

 

So, I can’t imagine doing that to anybody. The last issue of the black and white Dracula, Gene and I did together. It was one of the best jobs he ever did.

 

Jim:            Oh, he did beautiful work on the black and white stuff.

 

Shooter:    Yeah, he did a really great job on that and it’s a good story. It just went right into his wheelhouse. I teed up a good one for him, that he liked. It’s the civil war era.

 

Jim:            Yeah, I know which one you’re talking about. It’s beautiful, beautiful work.

 

Shooter:    Yeah, he did such a great job on that. It was amazing. Gene was like really, really good with human people. The guys in the superhero suits, meh, he didn’t care about that as much. But he really… When you’re doing normal people in normal clothes, he was the best. The best.

 

Alex:          Yeah, I agree.

 

Jim:            So, another one, Roy Thomas said you didn’t let him stay on the Conan comic strip, and you wouldn’t let him finish Thor 300, just out of spite.

 

Shooter:    That’s horse shit. That’s just nonsense… When Roy’s contract… Everybody knew I didn’t like the idea of writer editor. Marv wanted to be a writer editor, I think, because he could kind of crank stuff out, that he didn’t care that much about, and he didn’t want anybody interfering with that. Roy, always gave you, his best. He was terrific. I didn’t want to lose Roy. I sure didn’t want to lose Roy.

 

But I mean, I didn’t… He knew I was against the concept of writer editors and he was… We kind of had a constant dialogue about that. And he kept saying, “You’re going to not give me the writer editor status…” And I said, “Roy, I’m trying to work it out, so that you’re happy. I’m trying to come up with a situation that you can live with. It can’t be the way it is now, but it can be close.”

 

“What do you mean by that?”

 

I said, “Well, let me put together this offer and let me see what I can do.” So, what I did with Roy was, I gave him a contract. I sent him a contract offer… This happens over months, I sent him a contract offer that, again, was the best ever offered to anyone. And what I did was I led him to every meaningful aspect of editing, and paid him for it which, as a writer editor, he wasn’t getting paid anything for that. He was just getting some little tiny editorial fee or something.

 

But I said, “Design your own covers, you do the letter columns, and any other columns you want, do your own editing and proofreading, stuff like that. I will have someone here, look at your books, as they go by, and if there’s ever anything that they see, that they question, they can come to me and I’ll call you, and we’ll work it out… I’m giving you the highest rate, by far. I’m giving you all these benefits; I’m improving the benefits that are built in your contract.” Just as much as I could give him because he was Roy, and he’s good.

 

And so, after a while, he finally said that he would do it, and signed the contract. Then, I don’t know… I guess he had other conversations maybe across town. So then, he changed his mind, and decided he wasn’t going to sign.

 

He’s at one point called Galton, and tried to, go over my head. Threatening that wherever he went, he would take Conan with him, stuff like that. So finally, he went on a meeting with Galton. And so, Galton calls me and he says, “Roy wants to meet with me. I want you to be here.” I said, “Okay.” So, Roy walks in, he sees me there with Galton, and just like, Colan with Hobson. And he’s like, “What’s he doing here?”

 

So anyway, we sit down and Galton was saying, “What’s up, Roy? What’s the problem here?” And so, we’re talking and Roy he said that he reconsidered, and he was going to sign the contract. And it really was… It was fine. It was fair.”

 

Galton, he looks at me like, “This looks like the most reasonable man on Earth. Why couldn’t you make a deal with him?” And so, I’m like, “Okay.” And he says, “Why don’t you two go downstairs, and sign a contract.” And then Roy says, “Well there’s one thing… I’m also going to be working for DC at the same time. So, I’ll do certain things for Marvel, and I’m going to do certain things for DC.”

 

And Galton said, “You just… I should send you a bill for my time. You just wasted an hour of my time… Goodbye.” After he left, Galton closed the door and he said, “I will never doubt you again.” I said, “Great, thanks.”

 

So anyway, that’s Roy. Roy was over at DC, that didn’t work out so well. Later, Roy came back. He said he wanted to work at Marvel again. I said, “Come right in. Come on in.”

 

It wasn’t that I didn’t let him finish anything or whatever. I mean, he had stuff that was late. Maybe he didn’t get to do something, because it was late. I don’t know. I don’t remember. But I didn’t… There was no… I didn’t do anything to him. I certainly, didn’t kill his dog didn’t… None of that.

 

The things that Roy did as a writer editor, that were troubling was… In Savage Sword, sometimes, he did like columns. And sometimes, they were like kind of all about him, real personal; ran pictures of him and his girlfriend, and stuff. And so, when Galton was saying, “What’s wrong with what Roy does?” I showed him that. He says, “This is unprofessional.” I said, “Yeah, I mean it’s kind of like he’s doing his fanzine days, again.”

 

And another thing he did was when he would get late, he would have other people… He would have Don Glut or somebody to write his story. I’m paying for Don Glut?… “I’m paying Roy Tomas rates to get Don Glut?” He would say, “Oh well, I touch it up. So that’s, why it should be my rate. He had a girlfriend named, I think, Claire Noto. She ended up… She borrowed some money from him, and so he let her work it off, writing stories. She wasn’t even a writer.

 

I’m like, “No.” So, I showed Galton the stuff, and I said, “This is what I’m up against here.” He said, “That’s not good. We can’t let this guy have that much control.” I said, “Fine. That’s what I think. I’d say, give me meaningful control; only I can overrule them and…” Like I said, it was okay for a while, but by the time he made a deal to do stuff for DC… So okay, and he comes back and he want to come back to Marvel. I welcomed him in.

 

I have a letter from him. I think I ran part of it in my blog, which says how pleased he is and how agreeable it was, to be back at Marvel again. Even Roy, he’d always used to tell people. I mean, even when he hated me, he would tell people, “Jim’s good about the money.” And I was, because money… you know.

 

Since then, I did an interview for one of his magazines, Alter Ego. I’ve been on stage with him a couple of times. We get along fine. We see each other in conventions and stuff. I mean, everybody reads the article where Roy condemns me, and no one gets the retraction or the “It’s okay now… All clear.” Roy and I get along… We don’t see eye to eye on everything, and why would we?

 

Jim:            It’s hard. You’re in a bad… You’re in a difficult position. I appreciate that and I appreciate you answering these.

 

Shooter:    You always hear about the guy complaining, you don’t hear about him coming back. Englehart came back. I didn’t fire Englehart, he quit when Jerry was there, but he came back. I mean everybody… A lot of people turned up, at one point didn’t like me and then came back.  McGregor was let go by Archie (Goodwin) and when Archie was gone, and I was there, Don came back looking for work. And I gave him something. He just wouldn’t do it right. He kept doing the stories that almost didn’t bear any resemblance of what was in the art.

 

“Don, what are you doing?”

 

I even, when he was broke, I loaned money… Gave him money… I mean, I did everything I could for the guy. But I guess, I was not going to just let him do what he wanted to do, and it wasn’t good enough.

 

Jim:            What about Doug Moench?

 

Shooter:    Moench. When I started as editor, Doug had been like everyone else, all the writers are kind of their own editors. All of a sudden now, he has to send plots to me, and I call him up and ask him questions about the plots and stuff. And usually, his plots a were usually fine, and the scripts were usually fine too.

 

Except that Doug would over write. Like, usually, in a regular panel if you get up above 40 words, you’re pushing it. I’m not saying you can’t. I’m just saying, you want to keep it, the amount of copy fairly light.

 

Doug was writing, he would have a ninth of a page panel, with Shang-Chi in it, and he’d write 80 words for Shang-Chi to say. That would cover Shang-Chi down to his feet… So, I’d call him up. I’d say, “Doug, we got a problem with this because it’s too much copy. Can you cut some?” And he’d argue with me, “No, it’s perfect.” I say, “It doesn’t fit the art, Doug. What am I supposed to do?” He says, “Don’t touch it. Leave it alone. It’s perfect.” That was his attitude. It was always like, I’d say, “What about this?” and he’d say, “No. I think it’s fine.”

 

So anyway, and he was doing, at that time, he was doing that six-part Master Kung Fu thing where he featured Jack Black Tarr… A different character each issue and it culminated with the Shang-Chi versus Fu Manchu.

 

Jim:            This was a Paul Gulacy

 

Shooter:    Yeah, Paul Gulacy…

 

Jim:            When he was still on there. Yeah.

 

Shooter:    Yeah. Paul’s art was gorgeous. And, I mean Doug was covering it up. He was way covering it up. The story was so good, and the writing was good too, but it was too much of it. It was so good, and I would call Doug, and I’d just get… He’d yell at me. He’d swear at me… And I finally said, “I’m not going to call you.”

 

So, the stuff would come in, and I would have panels inked without copy, shot now, then finish the art, except for the edges, to make room for Doug’s balloon. I would carefully cut, copy here and there. Careful not to change the meaning. I was doing every trick I could. I would have the balloon go outside the panel borders.

 

I’d do everything I could to preserve Paul’s art and preserve Doug’s story. Because I loved it. It was a good story.

 

Jim:            It’s a good story.

 

Shooter:    I gave that book more care and more work, because it was that good. Doug won an Eagle Award or something for that. I’m sure that he thinks if I didn’t touch it, he would have won the Pulitzer.

 

[chuckles]

 

But the fact is that, I thought it was good story, I worked with it the best I could. I preserved as Paul Gulacy artwork as I could. And he hated me for it… Okay.

 

So anyway, then years later, I mean I thought he was a decent writer and he kept doing Kung Fu, I don’t know what else he did.

 

Jim:            Moon Knight.

 

Shooter:    Moon Knight. He did Moon Knight. It was okay. He had pretty good editors on Kung Fu and Moon Knight. I think O’Neil was on Moon Knight, and he liked working with it. I mean O’Neil came up with some of that Moon Knight stuff, Fistu or whatever… An Egyptian god Fistu …

 

Jim:            Khonshu.

 

Shooter:    Khonshu, whatever… Anyway, so okay, so Doug’s working on Kung Fu, and, like I said, I get pressure once in a while to cancel books. And so, the three bottom books were Dazzler, Ghost Rider, and Master Kung Fu. Master Kung Fu was the lowest. All of our books sold over 100,000 Master Kung Fu was probably 105,000, somewhere in there.

 

Jim:            Is this when Gene Day was doing it?

 

Shooter:    Yeah. It was when Gene Day was doing it. And Dazzler and Ghost Rider weren’t doing much better.

 

I’m getting a lot of pressure from Barry Kaplan, saying, “Come on! all these other books are selling 200,000… your line average is 300,000.” Line-average. And he said, “Well why are we keeping these turkeys?… Make something new that sells better.” So, I’m getting a lot of heat from him and of course, he’s talking to Galton, and getting some heat from circulation guy. Like, “Why don’t you cancel this stuff…”

 

They gave me that same song and dance for Daredevil. I said, “No, this Miller guy’s just starting out and he’s taking off. This is going to be good.” I won that fight. I said, “No, we’re staying with this guy, because he’s going to turn this around.” And he did.

 

Jim:            And you work with him a little bit, didn’t you? I mean, in terms of developing him as an artist?

 

Shooter:    Yeah. I gave him his first superhero gig. He actually had a one-page War job from DC, and a five-page Wheelie and the Chopper Bunch from Wally Green, over at Gold Key (Comics) – Whitman (Comics) or whatever. And I gave him a five-page trial, which he botched. It was terrible. I said, “Well, I’ll pay for this, but we can’t use you.” And he’s like, “Give me another chance.” And so, I said, “Alright, I’ll give me one more. But this time, you have to listen to what I’m telling you.” About telling the story and telling it clearly and stuff.

 

And so, I gave him the lecture and I gave him another story, and he did what I told him. Then he’s just… For a while, I made him work in the Kirby grid; keep it real straightforward. And then he started to understand it. He started becoming great, and also, I’m learning from him. He’s doing all this wonderful stuff.

 

Anyway, so I won that fight and we kept Daredevil, because I knew that he was going to turn it around. I called Doug, because I loved… Ghost Rider, kind of nobody cared about it, because I was the only person there who’d ever ridden a motorcycle, and no one else wanted to do it. And I did it for a while, but I couldn’t keep up, because I was editor in chief.

 

Dazzler, it kind of run its course. And again, Chris like the user her on X-Men but most… Archie wrote her for a while. It was one of the best books we had for a while when Archie was writing it. But it kind of run its course.

 

So anyway, that leaves Master Kung Fu, and everybody liked Master Kung Fu. It’s like, it was one of the first books people would read when the when the bundle came. So, I called Doug, I said, “Look Doug, I’m getting a lot of heat, a lot of pressure, they’re going to force me to cancel this.”

 

“Oh… What do you mean? You can’t cancel it.”

 

And I said, “Well, yeah, I can. But I don’t want to… Here’s what we got to do. You got to help come up with something that I can go to them and say, just like I said with Daredevil – “This Miller kid is a genius. It’s going to… He’s getting better every day. It’s going to be okay.” I have to have something to tell them. Like say, “Oh, we’re going to do this new thing”, or like, “We have this great storyline, coming up”, or we have to make some move that I can pitch, and say, “That’s why we need to hang on this” … And that’ll buy us another six months or a year. And then maybe we can promote it more, or pick it up, whatever.”

 

And he said, “I don’t want to change anything.”

 

I said, “Well, Doug, come up with something that I can pitch and give them as a reason.” And he wouldn’t do it. He said, “Nope. It’s just fine the way it is.” I said, “Well, I’m afraid it’s going to be cancelled then.”

 

So, I can’t… And I had to cancel it, and I did.

 

Gene Day was very not happy. I mean, he loved Kung Fu. I also found out that he loved, Indiana Jones, and he loved Star Wars. Both of which, I don’t know who was editing Star Wars then. Louise Simonson was editing in Indiana Jones… Yeah.

 

So, the same time, I called him to tell him that we’re going to cancel Kung Fu, he said, “What am I going to do?” And I said, “How would you like to, instead of penciling and inking Kung Fu…” I can’t remember which one… Pencil, one of those two and ink the other – Raiders, and Star Wars, and he was thrilled. “This is great.”

 

And P.S., that would have just about quintupled his income. So, he wasn’t unhappy with me. I mean, I know he wanted to work with Doug. He liked Doug, so he ended up doing some stuff at DC with Doug. Fine… And then he started on Star Wars and Indiana Jones, and then he passed away. And that gets blamed on me too. [chuckle]

 

Jim:            I’ve read that, which is outrageous. I mean, that’s one of the ones that you can’t… Nobody in there can…

 

Shooter:    It’s absurd.

 

Jim:            And even your critics have said, “No. That’s not true.”

 

Shooter:    No, it wasn’t true at all. I had nothing to do… The way Dave Sim tells the stories, it’s like, “Totally fiction, Dave. You didn’t…” He said, “Oh, you made him work all night with the heat off and it was freezing…”

 

Jim:            Sleeping on the floor with no blanket. It was… Yeah.

 

Shooter:    Or… I always left the door to my office open. I had a big seven-foot couch. If anybody had to work late or if they’re doing an all-nighter, or jam, or something… They could come in and crash on my couch. And also, Mike Hobson had a couch, they could crash on his couch. I made sure he left his door open too. So, at night, it was warm, and we had control over our HVAC. They don’t turn the heat off at night in big office buildings…

 

It was nonsense. And when people came to town, I put them up in good hotels. They stayed in nice hotels. The only time Gene Day ever stayed in a bad hotel was because Denny picked it. Denny picked the Gramercy Hotel. And Gene, the next day, was saying, “The hotel room’s kind of creepy.” I said, “Why?! Where are you?” He said, “The Gramercy Hotel.” He’s telling me like there’s like a wet spot in the carpet. It didn’t seem clean. So, I had my secretary get him a good hotel right away. Sent some interns over there to get his bags and stuff. I mean, so he spent one night in a not good hotel. But that was Denny.

 

I said, “Denny, why’d you put him in this hotel?” He said, “Well, it’s a historical hotel and great writers have stayed there.”  “Well, yeah. It’s not now. It’s not a very good place now.”

 

Anyway, so I had no problem with Gene. When he passed away and a lot of it was blamed on me. Then it came up in my blog and everybody’s asking these kind of questions. Gene’s brother Dan wrote to my blog and said, “No. Jim didn’t do this. Gene was sick. All that other stuff they say isn’t true.” And I had nothing to do with Gene’s death.

 

Jim:            Just as I raised the Hank Pym thing, my divorce lawyer… I will do it here and say that my experiences, no side is completely… It’s nothing… Everything has two sides. And I think that, you probably get the raw deal on that to some degree, on some of these things, and that it’s complicated.

 

Shooter:    I think you’re wrong, because see, people like you, what happens is there’s a disagreement, alright… Okay, like I had one with Howard Chaykin.

 

Jim:            For Your Eyes Only.

 

Shooter:    Is that the one with the skis?

 

Jim:            Yep.

Shooter:    The one with the skis? Yeah. Okay, I had a disagreement with him. And so, Louise who was friendly with Howard, and like me, we got along… So, Howard’s ranting and raving to everyone, and Louise came into my office and she said, “Ah geez… I know what the problem is, you’re both so bullheaded. It’s probably, he says this, you said this. It’s probably somewhere in the middle.” I said Louise, “That’s how the bad guys win… Because people like you always say, “Oh it’s something in the middle. We’ll split the difference… So, they’ve already won 50%, right there.” I said, “He’s all wrong. He’s entirely wrong.” But he’ll tell it a different way, and then use the difference. And so, I come out, as half bad guy.

 

No, he was all wrong and if you ever want to hear his story, I’ll tell you.

 

 

Alex:          Now, that’s interesting because Ditko is kind of like that. It’s like there’s no gray. It’s…

 

Shooter:    I’m saying is if one person is really right, and other person is lying or burning in their favor, the person who is right will never get credit for being right.

 

Alex:          Right, right. No, I get that. It pollutes it by doing this 50% thing. Yeah.

 

Jim:            So, Jim Mooney was 100% wrong. Steve Gerber’s 100% wrong. Howard Chaykin’s 100% wrong. Mike Ploog’s 100% wrong. George Pérez is 100% wrong. Pat Broderick is 100% wrong. I mean they all left and said it’s partly because of their dealings with you.

 

Shooter:    First of all, George, when he left, he wrote me a nice long letter. We were good friends; I go to his house, parties, hung out. And when he left, he wrote me like a long letter saying that he was really sorry to go but DC had offered him the Justice League and it’s his childhood dream, and really kind of an apology. And I had said, “God bless you. Go George, you should follow your heart, man. And if you ever want to come back, we’re here.”

 

And so, he went over there and he ended up not doing the Justice League. He ended up doing Titans, which worked out pretty well.

 

Jim:            Yeah.

 

Shooter:    But George didn’t leave Marvel because of any enmity with me, we were buddies. And the only time we had a problem was when they were lying to him during the Superman – Spider-Man thing.

 

Jim:            I thought it was the JLA – Avengers, or at least he said JLA – Avengers.

 

Shooter:    It was the JLA – Avengers. And that was because they were lying to him. And the other names, Ploog had a problem with me because he was going to do this book, Weird World Magazine. And I explained to him… This is back when a work for hire stuff started. He had to sign the work for hire documents. So, I explained to Mike, “You have to sign this document, Mike. I’m sorry, that’s the way it is.”

 

And so, he said “Okay. Yeah, sure send it to me.”

 

So, I sent it to him. He starts work and he’s sending in vouchers, and I don’t get the thing back. I call him, I kept calling… “Oh yeah, I forgot I’ll send it tomorrow. So, this goes on for a while. Now, we paid him a whole bunch of money… I don’t even have any pages. I’ve been taking his word for it.

 

And finally, I called him up and I said, “Mike, you stop work. Because if you’re not going to sign this, we can’t do it. It’s not up to me. This is the law now, and Marvel is going to insist on this.” And he just wouldn’t do it. And so, Marvel actually… Marvel lawyer… I reported this to my boss, and Marvel lawyers got in touch with him, and I guess made threatening noises or something. I don’t know, I wasn’t there. And he actually sent in the pages.

 

So, he got paid. We got the pages that we couldn’t use, and I had Buscema draw the book. If he hates me for that, okay…

 

I think I’ve seen him since then and I don’t think he had any grudge against me that I could tell. I mean, if in any of those cases that you cite, I did something wrong, I’ll tell you. But I can tell you the story on each one… I think if you were sitting next to me the whole time, you would say, “Yeah, that’s reasonable.” I wasn’t out to get anybody.

 

Alex:          Then now, we’re going to enter 1979, 1980-ish. … Well, there was a changing of the guard, honestly. Some of the older artists writers left and new ones came in, and I was obviously a product and a fan of the new ones.  You mentioned that of why (Howard) Chaykin left? And that you would talk about that when the subject came up. Would you like to talk about that and some of the other artists too?

Shooter:    Sure. Yeah. Let’s start with Chaykin. “How can all these people be wrong?” Well, and I told him, “Sometimes, somebody is entirely wrong… Not always.”

I mean, I have my problem with Roy. Okay. Roy’s position was reasonable. We had a difference. Okay. I disagreed. And he, as a result of that, decided to leave for a while. And then he came back. Nobody talks about him coming back.

He came back, I had a letter from him saying, how agreeable it was to be back at Marvel. How great he felt about it and stuff. All right. Well, you always hear the scathing denunciation, and nobody hears the apology. Chaykin, I said was entirely wrong. And then your friend’s like, “Oh, (Jim) Mooney was wrong, and this guy was wrong…”

No, some of them had reasonable issues, that reasonable people could disagree about. And what I wrote to you in the email was… I said, “Some people were part of the problem.” I had a lot of problems. Marvel was a mess and I was fixing it. And if you give me a name, I’ll tell you exactly what part of the problem that person was. And I’ll tell you what I did to try to resolve it peacefully and productively. And, I’ll tell you exactly why that couldn’t happen. And they either had to leave or fired. I only fire a very few people. I think more people died than I fired. But anyway… And I didn’t kill them.

Alex:          [chuckles] And that’s true. You definitely didn’t kill anybody.

Shooter:    Yeah. So, back to Chaykin. We had this project. Chaykin was pretty fast. He can draw pretty fast. And he had done the Star Wars adaptation for us. Did a good job. But he wasn’t like a regular on any book. He would float in and out. So anyway, we were going to do this adaptation of a James Bond movie. It was the one with the skiing. I can’t remember…  ”All right, fine.”

I assigned that to Denny O’Neill. And so, Denny was going to edit this thing, and we agreed that Howard could draw it. Because he was fast and it was… Those things always start late. I mean, nothing you can do about it. They start behind the eight ball. And Howard was going to be fast enough to do it.

So, okay. One time, Howard was in the office and just hanging around with the guys, a lot of people. After hours, he just come in and just hang out, talk comics, whatever. So, a bunch of us decided we’re going out to dinner. Howard decided to come. Okay, cool. And he’d been there for hours and I’m thinking like, “Don’t you have a deadline?” [chuckles] I’m not saying anything.

We went out and got something to eat. And then for some reason, Howard had to go back to his apartment, which is on 26th street. And, we were right in the area. So, we all went. It was me, Roger Stern, a couple other guys. So, we go into his apartment and there sitting at a drawing table is Alan Kupperberg, drawing the book that I’m paying Howard Chaykin rates for.

Howard didn’t bat an eye about it. Like I go over and say, “What’s this?” And he says, “I’m working. I’m drawing this.” I said, “Oh, you’re drawing. Okay.” And then Howard was showing us his stuff, his work area.

Howard is totally color blind. He can only use paints that have the name of the color on it. Because he can’t see the color. Most people don’t know that because he does paint pretty well. But he uses it right out of the tube because he can’t mix colors either, because he can’t see them. At any rate, fine.

So, I asked Howard about that, “Kupperberg’s doing this? I’m paying you, and Kupperberg’s doing it?” Because he was cheaper. [chuckle] And Howard said, “Well, you know, I touch it up.” All right, that was bad, but we needed that book. I thought, “All right”, I’m looking at it, “It’ll do.”

At the same time then, one of Howard’s conditions to do the book is that he would get to paint the cover. Because when he’d get the cover back, he can sell that for a lot of money. So, at any rate, like I said, this was assigned to Denny and I had never read the screenplay. I assumed it was in good hands with Denny. Denny hadn’t read it either.

Howard goes and he creates a cover and Denny didn’t care much about art. He’d just be, “Whatever you want, Howard.” So, Howard comes in with this big painting and it’s James Bond and these four girls in the skimpiest bikinis, you can imagine. All right. Little, nothing bikinis.

The circulation guy saw this, Ed Shukin. He said, “We can put that on the newsstand.” He said, “That has to be sold from behind the counter. We can’t put this on the newsstand.” I said, “Well, it’s what in the movie.”

So anyway, we sent a copy of it to Pinewood to get its approval. The guy calls me. He says, “Jesus! We can’t approve this. This is terrible!” And I said, “All right.” He said he was going to be in New York the next day. I said, “Where are you staying?” He was staying near Marvel. I said, “I will come to you. And you tell me exactly what we need to do. Okay. I’ll bring it. I’ll bring the real painting.”

So, I take the painting. I have it all wrapped up, go to his hotel room. I take it out of the wrapper. And I said, “Well, what exactly is wrong?” He said, “Well, the likeness is terrible.” I said, “All right, I got that. People’s likenesses have to be better.” I said, “Anything else?” He said, “Why aren’t they wearing clothes?” I said, “Isn’t this what is in the movie?” He said, “No, they’re skiing. They should have ski suits on.” He said, “Why would you draw them in bikinis?” I said, “I’ll fix it.”

I went back to the office. First, I went to O’Neil and said, “What are you doing? [chuckle] How could you not know this?” And… “I didn’t read it. I’d figured Howard would read it.” So, I call Howard, and I say, “Howard, you got to change this.” I said, “They needed the likenesses fixed. They need… These people should be wearing ski suits and stuff.” He says, “I delivered it. It was approved. I’m not doing it.”

And I said, “Howard, you didn’t follow what’s in the movie. You need to make right.” He loses his mind. And finally, I said, “Look,” I said, “I’ll pay you for your time. How’s that? Okay? You come in, do the corrections, we’ll pay you” So, I said, “When can you come in?” And he said, “I’ll see you at one o’clock.” So, I went out to lunch for about half an hour. I’d left there about quarter to twelve, got a burger someplace, came back. And as I’m coming in, Howard’s coming out. He was already there.

He also told me, when I asked him for corrections, he says, “Well, I can’t mix those colors, and I’ve thrown all that away.” I said, “Howard, in your house, you told me you couldn’t mix colors. You showed me the tubes with the names on.” I said, “This stuff all came out of a tube.”

“Oh no, no. I threw that pallet away.” I said, “I’ll pay you. Fix it.” He comes in, he did some little touch up and I see him on his way out. I go look at the painting, it’s still wrong. It’s still all wrong. So, I went to John Romita and I said, “What are we going to do here?” He said, “John Tartaglione paints as he does.” Okay.

I took it to John, and I said, “Can you fix this? I’ve got a reference here. Can you fix this?” He said, “Yeah.” I said, “Fix it on a patch. Put a patch over it and fix it on the patch, so you’re not messing with Howard’s painting.” So, John Tartag did the likenesses perfectly, did the costumes. And that’s how the cover ran.

Howard loses his mind. He says, “Oh my God! That’s not what I painted. Now, I can’t sell the painting… You done me terrible damage!” I said, “No, you did us terrible damage! Why didn’t you do it right in the first place?” So, anyway, he’s furious and he’s screaming and stuff. And he was going to just go over my head and try to get me fired. That wouldn’t work. Several people tried that, and then (Jim) Galton called me up, and said, “Who’s this guy? [chuckle] … Who’s Gene Colan?” … I don’t know.

So anyway, I was talking to the brand-new Publisher Mike Hobson was there and I was talking to him about it. And he said, “Why don’t I get the guy?” And he says, “I’m really good with people.” He said, “I’m really good with people.” I guess that meant that I was abrasive. Maybe I am. I don’t know. But he’s, “Let me talk to him.” So, Howard comes in, tells Mike his delusional story. And so, Mike agrees to pay him a $1000. And he comes, he said, “All right, I settled it. We paid him a $1000.” And I said, “You paid him? [sighs]… “All right, fine. Let it go.

But to this day, Howard tells the story that I’m some crazy maniac who forced him… Just did capricious and idiotic things. No, not at all. I’ll tell you what, a lot of the blame goes on O’Neil who should have been doing his job and he wasn’t. That was one of several incidents like that.

But anyway, like I said, you tell me the guy, I’ll tell you what part of the problem he was. I’ll tell how I tried to fix it and if it just couldn’t happen, it didn’t happen. Some guys had a good case but I disagree. I had a different point of view like with Roy. Some guys were just not doing their jobs. I mean, basically, if you go through all the people who work there, none of the people who were doing their jobs had any problem with me. But the guys who didn’t, had a problem.

Alex:          I would say a couple of things. When we had Howard like a year ago or so. And he mentioned there was an interaction. He didn’t give us any details on it.

But do you feel that… Did that in any way… Or is it possible if that in any way then… And I don’t like to use this term, but I just want to ask your opinion of it because I’ve heard theories on this and I want your input. Could that have been in any way blackballed him from Marvel and DC, in like from ‘80 to ‘82 timeframe?

Shooter:    First of all, there’s no way I had any authority or influence at DC.

Alex:          For DC. Yeah.

Shooter:    So, I had nothing to do with it. Second, I never did that to anybody. Even when Doug Moench did an interview, accusing me of the murder of Gene Day. Which Gene’s brother went to my blog and said, “He’s crazy. Jim had nothing to do with it. Marvel had nothing to do with it… He was a sick man.” Even after that, I didn’t tell anybody, “Don’t use Doug Moench.” But most people didn’t want to use him anyway.

Archie Goodwin, had a … I guess Doug proposed something once about doing an Epic Comic. And Archie said, “I’m going to use Moench on this Epic Comic.”  Okay. Fine. I wouldn’t stand in anybody’s way of making a living. But if somebody was a real bad guy…

Gil Kane, one of my favorite human beings in the whole world; brilliant man, hall of famer, grandmaster, you name it. He had done some like double vouchering and stuff, and that came up. And I said, “All right. We’ll forget that. But don’t do that anymore.” And he repaid. He let us publish Black Mark, which we lost money on, but that was his repayment.

Then he did it again. He actually did it two more times. Once, I caught it and said, “Gil, you can’t do this.” He was desperate for money. And the third time it happened, Barry Kaplan… He had no authority over me and he couldn’t tell me who I could hire or who I couldn’t hire. He just said, “Go ahead, use him.” He said, “I won’t honor the vouchers. I’ll never pay that guy a dime again.” And he said, “You can use him wherever you want. I can’t stop you, but I can make sure no checks are cut.”

Alex:          Mm-hmm.

Shooter:    Mm-hmm. Okay. So, Gil and I had to part company there… P.S., the end of that story is that he found plenty of other work. And at the end of that story is, years later, I was at WonderCon in the Bay Area and Gil was there and his wife. There was an old guys’ panel. It was like: Will Eisner, Julie Schwartz. Gil Kane, Joe Kubert, me. I was the youngest old guy. [chuckle] I don’t know who else was there. But we had this great raucous panel. It was wonderful.

After that panel, as I’m leaving, Gil, first of all, he said,” Jim.” I come over and he shakes my hand and he says, “I just want to tell you how much I appreciate all you did for me.” Because I did … And his wife hugged me. I was like, “Okay.” And they were just like, “You were excellent with us. You did your best for us.” And I said, “Yeah, I did. Because you’re the best. You’re one of the greatest of all time and I like you.”

Not that it counts. I’d do it for somebody who didn’t like me too. I don’t care… It was about the job. Again, there’s no spite and no malice. I never screwed anybody. I can tell you what they want. I’ll give you the answer.

Alex:         Right. And I would say, I have a couple of things to kind of wrap into this. One is, 1976, there were creators that left. There was Dick Ayers, Rich Buckler, Gerry Conway, Steve Englehart, Jack Abel kind of left for a while. And they left for their own reasons in 1976, completely unrelated to you.

Then in 1980, when the next batch of artists like Moench, and (Gene) Colan, and (Marv) Wolfman, Thomas… And I used the word “artists” as an all-encompassing term, but Mike Ploog whatever… When they left, the Comics Journal and Gary Groth immortalized that moment in time for you, with these artists. And then even though like let’s say, years later, everyone got along with their lives and everyone did fine and everyone is all friendly. The problem though is that then, the Comics Journal and acolytes of the Comics Journal have frozen this moment in time, in their minds forever. And, I would say that it’s hard for them to let it go when it’s like… But it’s business happens is how I look at it.

Shooter:    Let me tell you something. When all those people that you named left, Jack Abel didn’t leave out of any fit of anger. He got work for DC. That was before my time. When I started, Jack came back to Marvel.

Alex:          That’s right… And my point in saying that is, that it’s not all… It’s like, they had their own circumstances in ‘76. People leave, people come. It’s just that something happened in ‘79, ‘80 where the Comics Journal, and fandom and there was…

Shooter:    Yeah, I agree with you on that. At various times, people did come and go. Some of them just because, “Hey, I got an offer over here”. Fine.

Alex:          Right.

Shooter:    Like I said, Jack, he worked for Marvel and DC. He did some of Adventure Comics of mine or Curt Swan. And then he did… What did he do at Marvel?… Iron Man maybe? I don’t know. He did stuff at Marvel. But the thing is, that was fairly common. Dick Ayers, was before my time. I don’t know why he left. Gerry Conway, the first time he left was because, Stan had promised him, if Roy Thomas ever left, that he would give Gerry the editor in chief job.

Okay. So, Roy leaves. Marv and Len together went to Stan and said, “Everybody hates Gerry. You can’t hire him. It’ll be a problem. No one will want to work here.” And Stan, for some reason, bought it. And at that time, he was still powerful. He was, I think the president of the company. He had influence over the comics.

So, he was like, “Well, who can we get?” And Marv said, “Len.” So, Len was hired. Alright. Gerry quit. He and Len used to be roommates. They were good friends. And so, when he was passed over, Gerry quit and he went to DC. When Marv was let go, years later, Roy was going to come back. He changed his mind at the last minute.

Stan remembered, “Hey, I once promised this to Gerry.” So, he called him at DC. Gerry took the job. It didn’t work out. Three weeks later it was… That was done. And then he became a contract writer for Marvel for a long time. The reason he left again was because, I told you, there was a lot of corruption and stuff.

It wasn’t really Gerry. But he did… He was involved. The way he was involved was this – we had this Production Manager, John Verpoorten, sweet guy. And in malice, he was doing charity for all. Too much charity. So, what happened is somebody like Frank Giacoia or Gerry, or somebody… Gil Kane… They’d get late, they need money, they need a check, and John would let them voucher something in advance. Some guys had a couple things vouchered in advance, that means they’ve got to do a month of work for which they’ve already been paid. So instead, they’d go to DC, where they had a clean slate. That was before… It’s a little bit during the beginning of my time.

Gerry who was supposed to write eight books a month, and he couldn’t do it. You see a lot of things plotted by Gerry, written by me or others, or Don Glut or his wife, or… He couldn’t keep up eight books a month. But he kept vouchering ahead.

And John really… He got nothing out of this. He was just too soft-hearted. He couldn’t turn Giacoia down if Giacoia was in trouble. Yes. A lot of books that have Giacoia’s name as inker, John inked them. He was a good inker, so he would do it for him. If Frank owed a couple of jobs, John would do them, and then he’d get Frank off the hook.

The other thing John would do is, if a guy just didn’t deliver, didn’t deliver, he kept moving the book back; issue #3 becomes issue #7, issue #7 becomes the issue #15. Finally, after a while… Then he could write it off as obsolete inventory. It didn’t exist. It didn’t exist. One time, auditors came and so what he did is he took an old Conan book, put a new splash page on it… “See, here’s the book.” No, it wasn’t the book.

Anyway… So, Gerry got to the point where he owed Marvel so much money that he ended up going to DC. He admitted to the people at DC, he owed Marvel a lot of money. This is just before I started as editor in chief. This is late ‘77. DC said, “We’ll take it out of your pay a little tiny bit at a time and we’ll pay Marvel.” They sent the check for reasons I do not know to John Verpoorten, $40,000. $40,000.

Now, John gets this check. What’s he going to do? If he takes it up to the Accounting Department, all kinds of questions are going to be asked, and guess what? He’s going to be in trouble. Right? So, he doesn’t know what to do. He puts it in his desk drawer. Sits there. Right? Finally, DC calls, and they ended up talking to the Accounting Department. They’re saying, “Why didn’t you cash our check?” Barry Kaplan says, “What check?”

Anyway… So, when I come in, this all comes to light. That John was doing this thing… In accounting terms, it’s called lapping. When you keep moving something back, lapping. And we figured that out, and Barry Kaplan told me once, he said, “I owe you, my job.” I said, “Why?” He said, “Because when you discovered this, being the bookkeeper, we figured it out. You discovered this.” He said, “It was hundreds of thousands of dollars that was taken, on my watch as a financial officer. And you said, “I don’t need a forensic accounting credential on my resume, so you figure it out.”” And that’s exactly what he did. He told the resident of the company he had discovered this. It saved his job.

What do I care? I’m not there to do forensic accounting. I’m there to make it run. And it did, finally. I mean, there’s a story behind each one of these things. There’s a story behind Gil. There’s a story behind Gerry. I don’t know some of the other ones. Like I said, with some of them, people just… They had an opportunity at DC or someplace, and they took it. That’s fine. And some people worked both sides of the street like Jack. Jack Abel did that actually.

Anyway… So, like I said, if they were doing their jobs, I had no problem with them. They had no problem with me.

Alex:          I would also say this is that, as a product of ‘80s Marvel, you fostered what I think is… Well, it is my favorite age of Marvel. I like ‘60s and ‘70s too, but it’s only because ‘80s was my gateway to then read the older stuff. But basically, I don’t take it as personally as someone that’s maybe 10 years older than me, who looks at it differently. Right?

See, I look at it like… Well look, you got Larry Hama’s GI Joe. You got Chris Claremont’s X-Men just flourishing under you. Then you have John Byrnes’ Fantastic Four, you have Walt Simonson’s Thor, you have Louise Simonson’s on New Mutants and Power Pack, and Frank Miller’s Daredevil and then Bill Sienkiewicz on New Mutants and Elektra: Assassin. It’s like, when you look at that talent… You have Mark Gruenwald really… I thought hitting it out of the park on Captain America, into the Marvel universe books, I look at that as you took Marvel… Instead of it being like this artsy cult, you turned it into a mainstream entertainment franchise. It is really what you did.

So, I look at it as maybe, it’s a generational vantage point that some people have a certain sentiment towards some things. And then they grow out of it at a certain stage, so then like everything after these stinks. But frankly, I think yours was the best era. You transformed it…

Shooter:    Well, thank you… Listen, something no one ever does, it’s to make a list of the people who liked me.

Alex:          Right. And I would say, I asked… When I asked those guys, or at least some of those guys that I’ve talked to, including Ron Wilson and Denys Cowan who you gave work to, that no one else did before that, that they all like you. I’m just saying. So…

Shooter:    Yeah. And the thing is, like I say, you don’t read about that because it doesn’t make good copy in the Comics Journal. But the people who are doing their jobs… Walt Simonson, he gave me the best he could, every time. And the editors I had, they all… With the exception of (Mike) Carlin. And Carlin wasn’t doing his job.

There were exactly two editors I had in the whole time I was there, whose assistants came to me quietly to say, “This guy doesn’t do his job, and I’m sick of it.” Mike Higgins, about Carlin. Linda Grant and Don Daley, who didn’t compare notes by the way, about Denny. And finally, each of those two guys had to go. I don’t regret that at all. I was told by the president to fire Denny through Hobson and I fired Carlin because he really deserved it.

 

 

Alex:          So then, I guess, final question is just looking back… One of the things, when I was interviewing Gary Groth, he used the word muckraker a bit. Looking back, would you look at him, and the Comics Journal, while you were kind of in the prime of your comic days, and he was printing things, and interviewing you also. How do you look at him? Was it like as a journalist? As a nemesis? As like just, this is irritating?… Like what was…?

 

Shooter:    He was certainly no journalist. He had a guy who worked for him, Kim Thompson, I think. And you know, they weren’t journalists. I mean, basically, early on when I was editor in chief the first time they interviewed me, they… At that time, it was the nadir of Kirby’s career. He was… Everybody thought that he was a joke. He was old fashioned and his stuff was dumb. They didn’t like him anymore. And that interview consisted of them trying to get me to say bad things about Kirby… About how terrible the book sold, and what a brain-dead old guy he was and stuff.

 

And I wouldn’t. I wasn’t going to do that. I thought, “Well, that’s pretty evil. You guys, the first few issues of the Comics Journal seemed pretty nice. You seemed like you’re interested in the comics. And now, you’re like looking for controversy because you think you can sell more.”

 

Then two things happen, I mean, they found out that they could sell magazines by attacking me. And also, Marvel was taking off, so we’re easy to attack, we’re a big target. It’s like they can’t pick on the little guy. But when we’re succeeding, that’s a good time to attack. The other thing they’d realize, by championing Kirby, they’d sell more books. Make Marvel the bad guy, and while on Kirby’s side.

 

To me, it was just venal and corrupt and I thought, “Wait a minute, you guys were attacking Kirby every issue and trying to get me to say bad things about him. And now, that you think you can sell more magazines by being on his side… Now, you’re all on his side… What is it? Where does the hypocrisy end?”

 

The other thing is, with those guys… Sal Buscema says that… I asked him, “Sal, why don’t you come to conventions and help promote stuff?” He said, “I’ll never do a comic book convention again. I didn’t want to… That’s the last one.” And I said, “Why?” He said, “There’s a kid in the neighborhood in Virginia. He ripped me off… They took a drawing of mine, they made photocopies or printed copies of it and they’re selling them… They wanted me to do all these workshops and stuffs. I was doing it to help the neighbor kid. I find out that they were making all this money on them. And at the end of the show, he said, “Oh, we can do this every month.”” He said, “No, I’m never doing this again.”

 

Okay. Who was the kid? Gary Groth.

 

So, I mean, I don’t know. Maybe there’s more than one Gary Groth in this world. I just think he was a shyster the whole time… Anyway, I don’t think there’s… There’s no journalism that goes on there. Their letter column’s called Blood and Thunder. What they do is, they try to get two people to fight. They try to piss off one guy and they do an interview with what’s his name… Worked at DC… Did the E-Man I think, for First Comics.

 

Alex:          Oh, what? The Joe Staton and the…

 

Shooter:    Yeah, Joe Staton. Joe Staton.

 

Alex:          Joe Staton, yeah.

 

Shooter:    So, they did an interview with him. And they kind of goaded him into saying horrible thing about Barry Windsor-Smith, for instance, and other people. And of course, they have war going in the letter column. A lot of people buy, just to see Barry’s reply, and then Staton’s reply to the reply, or whoever else they… They try to get people pissed and ranting.

 

And they were successful because a lot of comic book guys are kind of naïve about that. They don’t realize, these guys are tricking me so they can sell magazines. It’s not about comics. It’s not even about you… So, I don’t know. Don’t think much of them. They publish some good stuff. They published the Hernandez Brothers…

 

Alex:          Right. That was good. Yeah.

 

Shooter:    They publish a lot of really nice things.

 

Alex:          I like their interviews with like Bill Gaines. They had a good interview with him. Or the one with Harvey Kurtzman, you know, a lot of those old guys before they passed on. So, it’s nice to have that.

 

Shooter:    Yeah, I met Harvey in a party at Will Eisner’s house, had a long talk with him. He was great. I got to know Bill Gaines a little bit. Ran into him all the time. He always said the same thing. Every time he’d see me… He’s a huge guy. He’s almost as tall as me, very big, very heavy. And, “Jim, how’re you doing?… You know what my ambition in life is?” “What?” “I want to weigh less than my refrigerator.”

 

[chuckles]

 

I’d say, “Get a new joke.” He’d say, “Why? You still love it.” [chuckle] He’d say, “I’m not going to, you know… Till it’s worn out. I’m going to do it.” [chuckle] He was very nice. He’s a very good man.

 

Alex:          You had mentioned that… You alluded to it, but why was Mike Carlin let go? Because I know he was good friends with Gruenwald. They were like creative buddies in a way.

Shooter:    Remember I told you that there was only two editors whose assistants complained to me about the editor? All the editors at Marvel, they knew that I like to promote from within. And so, it was kind of a badge of honor, if one of their assistants got promoted. And this was like, “Wow! I really trained the guy.” So, everybody sort of lobbied for their assistance to get it, if an opening came up.

Mark Gruenwald is the only editor who ever came to me, closed the door and said, “Don’t hire this guy.” He said, “He’s terrible. He’s a loser.”

Alex:          Oh.

Shooter:    And he’s the only editor who ever came to me and said, “Don’t hire this guy because he was…” Carlin was his assistant and he didn’t think he did the job very well. So, I thought, “What am I going to do?” … Carlin at that point was like the eldest assistant. I mean, it was kind of his turn.

So, I sat down and talked to him, and I didn’t mention anything about Gruenwald. But I talked to him and really tried to get a sense of him. And he said all the right things. I thought, “Well, maybe he and Mark just don’t get along.” I don’t know. So, I thought, “Well, I’ll give him a chance. We’ll see how he does. And if it just doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out.”

I did hire him and he was awful. He was terrible. I had to sign the books out before they went to the printer. So, I’d get a book from Louise, or from Larry, or something, and read it, “Oh, I caught a spelling error.” Something like that, usually, or nothing… The editors noted it.

Carlin’s would come in and they were train wrecks… “What’s this? How are you going to read this? What these balloons go to the wrong people? The pages are out of order, Mike. The lineup is wrong. You lined the book up wrong. This is going to be printed out of order?” So anyhow, every time I’d do that and I’d show him everything and I’m like, “You got to stop… You have a job here, right.?”

He would say, “Oh, okay.” And he’d go have everything fixed. This is every damn book. And I’m like, “Whoa, wait a minute.” Higgins came to me. He said, “The guy does nothing. He doesn’t even look at this stuff.” He says, “I do a little bit and that’s all I can do”. So, I said, “Alright.”

I called him in and I said, “Mike, you’re not doing the job.” And he starts arguing. He gets real nasty. And he says, “Why should I edit the books? You always go over them and you tell me what you needed fixed. I’ll get it fixed!” I said, “Why do we need you?” And it was like insulting. And he said, “Well, you’re going to have everything changed anyway.” I said, “No, I have mistakes fixed. There is such a thing as a mistake. You spelled something wrong. You lined the book up wrong. It’s a mistake. It needs to be fixed.”

Then he gets all hostile with me. And I finally said, “That’s it.” I said, “I’m going to write a memo to the Personnel Department right now. You’re fired.” And I did. And I sent him upstairs so they could tell him what his benefits and stuff were. And he left. And DC picked him up because I think, they thought, “If anybody worked at Marvel” … Because we were doing so well… “They must’ve known what they’re doing. [chuckle]

Well, the truth is that when Mike went over there, there was really no other game in town. And I think he started to straighten up and fly right a little bit. I think he realized, “I don’t have many other places to go.” And so, I think he did much better work there than he did with me. He also didn’t have anybody checking the books out and stuff like that. So, he’d just do what he wanted, I guess.

Alex:          Yeah. I liked his later Superman stuff. I know that.

Shooter:    Yeah, but he had good people: he had Louise, he had Roger Stern. He had the artist guy, whatever. Anyway, the thing is… No, he had chased some great people on, and I think that, like I said, he straightened up and flew right. He was not a dumb guy. He’s a very bright guy. He just had some issue.

And another thing is at DC, a lot of things are done by committee. Like, over Marvel, if a guy needed a raise, I mean, I control the rate sheet and the editor would come to me and say, “This guy isn’t getting paid enough.” We’d talked about it. We’d figure it out, what he… He should be like this guy, or he’s been here for 10 years so you should respect that. We’d figure out what to pay people. It was just me and sometimes, an editor.

At DC, they had a rate committee. And they’d meet, the committee who would talk about what to pay people and stuff. And they had all these Editorial Committees and meetings and things. I thought, “We can’t work that way. That’d be terrible.” I mean, you had to go to the committee with everything. A committee has a bunch of people who… No one’s responsible.

So anyway, but he thrived in that environment for some reason. And God bless him. I didn’t hate him. I had no malice toward him, but if he wasn’t going to do the job and he was going to yell at me, I don’t need him. That’s okay. I’d rather you go away.

Alex:          Okay. So then with Den… Okay. Because I was going to ask you about the Denny O’Neil. Because he left DC in like ‘78, ‘79, probably. Part of the implosion maybe. And then he…

Shooter:    No. Before the implosion.

Alex:          Okay. And then you were asked to fire him. Why?

Shooter:    When Denny left DC, he was thrown out. I think he had a contract that came to the end and they said, “Go away.” He came to me, basically, kind of hat in his hand and he just wanted to be a writer. He was really depressed. He was really kind of downcast. He said, “Well, I can’t do it as well as I used to. But I’ll give you a solid story. I just want to make a living.”

And I said, “You’re Denny O’Neil.” I said, “You could teach me. You’re great.” And so, I kind of talked him into becoming an editor because, God, I needed help. And so, he took the job as editor. I think on the same day, Louise Simonson, Denny O’Neil and Larry Hama, all started on the same day. That’s a good day.

But at any rate… If Denny did nothing else at Marvel, except to help Frank Miller learn, which he did. He worked with him… It was really funny. Denny was kind of lackadaisical. When it was something to do with Miller, he perked up. He could see that this guy is going to be a star and he poured his heart into working with Frank, I know that.

But, other than that… For a while, he was okay, and then stuff started happening. Like the whole Chaykin affair and more and more, and he just wasn’t doing his job. And in those days, if you were on staff, you could also do freelance. More and more, he was spending his whole day at the office, writing his freelance, and letting his assistant do everything.

And Linda Grant told me. She says, “Who am I to tell John Byrne something?” She said, “I can’t do his job.” And I warned him a number of times. I said, “Denny, if you don’t start doing your job… I know what you’re doing, so cut it out.” And he wouldn’t. And then Don Daley… Linda went, got married and went someplace. Don Daley came in, and not too long after, he comes to me with the same complaint. He and Linda never met. So, it wasn’t like she coached him or something.

Finally, then Hobson told me, he said, “You got to fire this guy now.” And I said, “Oh, all right.” So, I did. Walt was upset. He said, “How can you fire Denny O’Neil?” And I said, “Well, you don’t know what happened.” I said, “I’ll be glad to tell you someday, but… It was justifiable.” And P.S., Denny got a job back at DC the next day.

Alex:          Right. Right.

Shooter:    So, it wasn’t as traumatic as it might have been. But here’s the deal. I think that you look at the guys who were doing their jobs. And you talk about how artsy, some of the Marvel stuff was in the early ‘70s. Yeah. You had (Don) McGregor, you had (Steve) Gerber, a few other… I had Gerber for a while. You had people like P. Craig Russell, but he didn’t leave. He stuck with us and he would do jobs for Archie and for us sometimes. But you had some really good people. True.

Archie Goodwin fired McGregor. Gerber was a whole legal hassle. I don’t know who else you got. Englehart left when Gerry was there, and he came back when I was there. He came back. One by one, we could talk about everyone, I tell you what the story was. It was never, I had to get anybody. I didn’t… I was trying to help everybody. I was trying to make things better and we did. It wasn’t just me. We all contributed. We made things better and for a while there, everybody like me.

 

Jim:            I was saying that maybe it’s just people have different perspectives. But that was the part that you took some exemptions to.

 

Shooter:    It could be. I mean… What did I do to Byrne? I mean, he told me couldn’t do certain things… When he wanted to do this, he wanted to do that, I said, “No.”

 

Jim:            You notice, he wasn’t on my list. [chuckle]

 

Shooter:    Yeah, but he hates me. Like he’ll talk about it in his forum. He accused me of foisting Terry Austin on him. He said that he wanted to keep Sam Grainger when he started the X-Men and that, “No, Shooter wanted to stick me with this guy Terry Austin”.

 

First of all, when Terry was doing the book, at first, John loved it, one. Two, I wasn’t the editor in chief at that time, Archie was. I had not going to do with picking Terry over Grainger.

 

Jim:            Yeah.

 

Shooter:    It wasn’t my call. But he will tell you confidently, that Jim Shooter screwed him on the X-Men. I thought the stuff looked good.

 

Jim:            I did too.

 

Alex:          Oh, yeah. Terry Austin’s like a very celebrated inker.

 

Shooter:    Yeah. Really. He’s an amazing guy… But anyway… He was doing Sonic the Hedgehog for, what, the Archie Comics?… Last time I heard.

 

Alex:          Is it true? I heard that George Lucas preferred certain artists for his Star Wars comics. Like did he prefer Carmine Infantino for example?

Shooter:    There was never any input from the Star Wars people about artists.

Alex:          I see. Okay… Now Marvel Age Magazine…

Shooter:    [chuckles] There’s a story.

Alex:          I enjoyed the Foom, especially the (Jim) Steranko ones. And then Marvelmania, I’ve collected those. And I was a Marvel Age reader as a kid. Tell us about how that got started off? What were you guys trying to do? I know Al Milgrom was part of it.

Shooter:    We had this direct market sales person, Direct Market Manager Carol Kalish. And Carol had before that, she had been writing for fanzines and stuff. It sort of annoyed me that Ed Shukin just decided to hire somebody who’d been writing articles, trashing Marvel, like a week before. But she did know the direct market pretty well. And I didn’t have any real problem with her.

Carol came up with the idea – why don’t we do an in-house fan magazine? Sell it for very small money, try to get it on all the comic book shops. [coughs] Well, that seemed like a reasonable idea. They didn’t ask me. Carol decided this and she wanted to produce it. And Ed Shukin was her boss. He was a vice president like me, so I wasn’t going to go fight with him over it. I thought, “That’s a good idea… Why is she doing it?” Like, whatever.

She assigned it to Peter David, who was an assistant in the Sales Department at that point. And Peter, not a great designer. He designed this incredibly stupid logo with big A, so it was the A in Marvel as well as Age, and that’s like an amateur logo. So, like, “What?”

Also, Carol and Peter kind of did it in a, I’m sorry to say, “fannish” way. They were putting things in there. They’re criticizing Marvel books. I heard her, “This one’s good. Don’t buy this one.” I’m like, “What? This is a house organ. This is a promotional vehicle.” So, I read a couple of those and I complained to Ed, and he said he talked and nothing ever happened.

So then one day, Stan comes in from the Coast and he’s looking through comics, and he comes across Marvel Age. He comes into my office, and he’s as enraged as he gets. He never even yell and he wasn’t impolite or any… But he says, “How can you do this?” I said, “That?” I said, “I don’t have anything to do with it.” He said, “What do you mean?”

I said, “The Sales people came up with this idea. They decided to do it themselves. I guess I could overrule Ed Shukin. But I’m not going to. I’m not going to piss off the circulation guy.” And I said, “So, this is all produced by people in the Sales Department.”

He lost his mind. He said, “It’s ridiculous. They’re attacking our own books in our publication.” I said, “I know.” So, Stan goes upstairs to see Galton. And Galton calls me and he says, “I just told Shukin that you’re going to be in charge of that book.” And I said, “Fine.”

So, I got (Jim) Salicrup. He knocked it out of the park. He knew exactly what to do. He was positive. I mean, he wasn’t going to tell you that something bad was good, but he tried to make it an upbeat thing. And he made a better logo and he got good art. And he made it work and it was…I thought, “Fine.” There are some people, when I go to conventions, they want me to sign Marvel Age. They collect Marvel Age. Okay.

I mean, he did it… Once it was in Salicrup’s hand, and Salicrup was a professional, and he knew what to do, and he did it correctly. Then it was fine. But its first couple of issues with Kalish and Peter David, I’m sorry, they’re pretty amateur stuff. Like I said, I didn’t do any of that. Stan did.  He didn’t have any power but he had the ear of the president. If he said, “This is wrong”, Galton would listen.

So, we ended up doing Marvel Age and I think that was… I probably didn’t improve the relationship between me and Carol. Peter and I, I don’t know what Peter thinks of me. I mean he started writing for us, and was good. And every time I ever encountered him; we were friendly. I was at a convention out in Long Island one time, and I saw him out there. He grabbed me and we were talking and he wanted me to… He was going to be on this panel, he wanted me to go and listen to the panel. It was fine. I don’t… Whatever sting he got from having that book taken away from him, he either got over it or he never felt it.

Alex:          I see. So now, tell me about working with Danny Fingeroth. He did a lot for SpiderMan. How was working with Danny?

Shooter:    Danny was great. Danny was, I think he worked with Louise? He worked with somebody. [overlap talk]

Alex:          He did. Yeah, he did. He worked under Louise. Yeah.

Shooter:    Yeah. And she taught him a lot. When he became editor, he did a good job. And he was efficient; he kept the books on time. They were good. He got along with everybody. If he had a big problem, he’d dumped it on me. [chuckles] No. I mean, a couple of times like Bill Mantlo wanted to do a Spider-Man story where Peter Parker fathers an illegitimate child.

[chuckles]

Shooter:    And Danny told him, “No, you can’t do that.” And Bill threw such a fuss, that finally, he called me. He said, “Will you talk to him?” I said, “Okay.”  So, he comes in and I told him, “No.” [chuckles] “Why not?” I said, “Because Spider-Man is licensed all over the world. Every single contract says we won’t do something like that. Okay.”

Alex:          Yeah. [chuckles]

Shooter:    And I said, “What if it’s a slow news day and the President of Union Underwear wakes up and reads the paper – there’s an article about Spider-Man fathering an illegitimate child? Well, there goes your Underoos.” And I said, “You can’t do that.” I said, “You want to do that story? Fine. Do it for Epic Comics. Call him Arachnid-Man or something.”

Alex:          There you go.

Shooter:    “Everybody will know it’s Spider-Man but do it in Epic.” And he never did it. So, I don’t know. And Bill, he would get over stuff. He would be mad at you for 20 minutes and then he’d be fine. And sometimes, he was right. [chuckles] You know, I’d think, “Meh… But…” And we fixed whatever it was. That’s the kind of thing. But Danny was really good at handling people and handling everything. I thought he was fine.

Alex:          And he seems to also share a mutual love for Stan Lee’s style of writing in the comics in the ‘60s that you do. So, he probably had a sense of Marvel needs to be a certain way. And that probably helped with his Spider-Man editing, I’m sure.

Shooter:    Yeah, I guess so. But I mean, I don’t think Marvel needed to be a certain way. I mean, when I came in there, it was kind of uniform. When I started as associate editor, it was like… You had a few guys who would do kind of off the beaten trail stuff, like Gerber or McGregor. But everybody else was kind of doing the Stan Lee – Roy Thomas kind of deal.

Even me, when I came in, I thought that’s what we’re supposed to do. So, if you look at my first books, I wrote there like a copy, like Roy. A lot of reading material. Anyway, when I came in, I said, “No, we should have no limits.” And so, when I got all these different editors, I encouraged them to do their own thing. And so, Louise’s books were nothing like Larry’s. And Archie could do anything he wanted.

Alex:          Right. He was doing his thing for sure.

Shooter:    And so, we started Star Comics and then nobody… There was no formula, no one dictated anything. I didn’t go and tell Chris Claremont or his editors, “You must do this in the X-Men.” I tried to understand Chris’, and Louise’s, and Ham’s vision, and help make that happen. And if something was just egregious, I’d say, “No, Chris. You can’t have these people in transvestite bondage gear.”

Alex:          [chuckle] That’s true. I’ve heard about that story.

Alex:          How did the Marvel Fumetti Comic of 1984 come about?

Shooter:    Well, you notice there was a lot of one-shot publishing then. You’ll also noticed that, that’s when we started doing XMen reprints, Classic X-Men.

Alex:          Yeah. Which I love.

Shooter:    The reason was that Cadence Industries owned a whole bunch of companies. Marvel was the crown jewel. The second crown jewel was Curtis Circulation. And they had a bunch of losers: US Pen and Pencil, Perfect Subscription, Vitamin shops. There’s a theater chain in Boston, a bunch of stuff.

Around the time I started there… Just before I started there in ‘76, the Cadence people brought in this guy named Shelly Feinberg and he was famous for rescuing companies, and getting the stockholders out alive… And he did.

When I got my first Marvel paycheck, it was drawn on a bank in Boston. Why? Because Shelly Feinberg tried everywhere to get credit for Cadence. And only one bank, a bank in Boston he used to deal with would do it. So, all Marvel checks were on the bank of Boston. I thought, “That’s weird.”

But anyway… So, they bring him in. What he did is he hired two guys right out of law school. A guy named Paul Hinden and a guy named Joe Calamari. And he said, “You guys are going to be my hatchet men. I want you go into each of these little companies – you’ll be authorized to run it. Cut the staff. Get rid of any dead wood. Strip it. Get it down to the most… Losing the least money you can. And we’ll find ways to prop up the revenues and then we’ll sell them.”

This is exactly what they did. Calamari and Hinden went company to company, firing people wholesale, selling off anything they could, cleaning the company up and then they would try to put more money on the bottom line. How did they do that? They’re part of the corporation, see. And so, they could lay off some costs as corporate costs and reduce their expenditures. Therefore, making the revenues look better… Phony, but that’s how you do it.

So anyway, they did this and they’re going around company to company doing this and then Sheldon Feinberg and six members of the board formed Cadence Management Incorporated. And their goal was to reap the benefits of selling these companies and stuff, and especially Marvel. They’re going through this in kind of dirty pool.

I mean, Marvel was a division of Cadence, not even a separate company. It didn’t have to be reported separately. So, we were making lots of money. They would clean that money out and use it for corporate and make it look like Marvel wasn’t doing as well as it was. Why? They were trying to depress the price of the stock, and they did.

And so, Cadence Management Incorporated was able to raise money and buy all the stock. Basically, take the company private so that seven guys owned it. One of the seven guys pissed off Shelly Feinberg so he got rid of him. So, there were six guys then. So okay, now they’re going along this plan. They’re stripping these companies. Selling them off or getting ready to sell them off.

There’s a guy named Mario Gabelli, he’s a corporate raider, like a Carl Icahn type. And he figured out their plan. Somehow, he had shares of Marvel and he’d figured out what they were up to. So, he starts buying up stock. He was going to do a hostile takeover. This was just before they took it private. Buying up stock… Fine.

Now, they need money to fight Mario Gabelli. So, Galton brings in all the vice presidents, one at a time, and he says, “Do whatever you can. I need money right now.” He calls me and he says, “What can you do?” I said, “Well, I guess we can do some special publishing. We do can X-Men reprints…”

So anyway, I did that. Classic X-Men. We did the Fumetti book, we did the No Prize book, we did some Ham-back stuff, other things; junk publishing. But some of them had some merit and they all sold pretty well. And so, I was able to kind of, out of the clear blue, make them some millions of dollars to fight Mario Gabelli. And because of money I made them… No other vice president, Galton told me this. Nobody else produced any revenues but me, so he said. But I produced enough that, actually, we were able to buy Mario Gabelli out.

They continued their plan. They eventually sold all the companies except Curtis, and Marvel. They sold Curtis Circulation for receivables. It’s a service company, you can’t sell it for a multiple.

And then they wanted to sell Marvel. So, all that junk publishing was to get them to the point of selling Marvel, to fend off Mario Gabelli, keep them going until they could cash in. And they did. They sold Marvel.

When they recapture all the stock… They had depressed the price of the stock down to about $10 a share. And so, they were able to get it at a super bargain rate and that money… Those shares were worth three or four times that if you actually had the real numbers on the 10-Q and 10-K reports. So, they were able to buy cheap and then they sold it, and they lined their pockets.

And I’ll tell you something about that… Another little detail about that book, the Fumetti book. I had Elliot Brown take the pictures. And I don’t remember who the editor was, but he did a good job and Elliot took great pictures.

Our production man was a guy named Milt Schiffman; not in-house production, printing production. Milt was an older guy. He really had no expertise. He had been the financial officer in the company counsel back in the ‘60s. And when the new people took over back then, they don’t want to fire him. So, they just kept them on, and his job was twice a month, he would sign his name on an invoice. Because it was all World Color Press. There was nothing to supervise, nothing to manage.

So now, when I’m there, we’re doing books in color. We’re doing different formats and stuff like that. And getting those done was a nightmare. Because he… At one time, I wanted to use better red ink. I said, “I want to use rhodamine. I want to use something better.” He said, “Jim, there’s only three inks in the world: there’s red, there’s cyan and yellow.” I said, “No, there’s a lot of ink in the world. There’s all different kinds. Let’s get a better one.”

He didn’t believe there was a better ink. I called East Coast Graphics and I said, “Pull me some Prussian, rhodium and rhodamine.” And they did. And rhodamine looked much better… Milt didn’t even know that they existed. So, when we went to do the Fumetti book, we had it all… We knew how to do it in art production. It was ready to go to a separator. Milt sent it to a chemical color plate. He sent photos to our hand separator. What the hell?

Shooter:    And so, they get this book. They don’t know what to do with it. So, they shot it. They made film with their crummy camera and so it’s all blurry and grainy.

Alex:          I see… It could have been better. Yeah.

Shooter:    I said, “What?” [overlap talk]

Alex:          Eliot R. Brown took those pictures, not Vince Colletta?

Shooter:    Eliot Brown took most of them. Vince might have taken a couple… I don’t know. Whichever editor was handling that, was somebody I trusted and I left him alone. For me, my participation was to stand behind everybody doing a human pyramid.

Alex:          Yeah, because Eliot R. Brown also did photos of cityscapes that they would use in some covers or… Also, like the live action covers of…

Shooter:    Yeah, he was a great photographer. And then he was also… He was our science consultant. He seemed to know everything. He could do mechanical drawings.  All the mechanical drawings in Marvel Age were Eliot Brown. And he was a great technical’s guy.

They gave me a watch for my 30th birthday. It was beautiful. It was wonderful, I wore it every day. And I don’t like wearing watches. I can’t stand them. But I had to wear this. I wanted to wear it because it was a gift from everyone. And it was real complicated. It has all these little buttons and stuff. And so, every year, when the clocks change, I had to go to Eliot to fix my watch. I couldn’t figure it out. I had the instruction book. I still couldn’t figure it out.

Alex:          [chuckles] So, he was kind of an engineer too, actually.

Shooter:    Yeah, he was an engineer and he was one of Gruenwald’s cronies when it came to doing like… When they built the haunted house in Gruenwald’s office or he was part of that little gang of people who did crazy stuff.

The craziest thing he did was, for my 30th birthday, he had a big party. I told him, I said, “Don’t do it guys.” But they did it anyway. Because things are going well and everybody’s making lots of money and for a brief while they liked me. But they had this huge party, and they gave me gifts and stuff. I said, “You’re not supposed to be giving me gifts. It’s like, okay, if I give you a gift, but your employees aren’t supposed to do that.” They didn’t care.

So, at any rate, we were having this party and on this big cart, couple of guys come pushing out a giant cardboard cake. I said, “You guys got a stripper or something? That’s not good.” Anyway, they sing happy birthday. Elliot Brown pops out of the cake with about… Eliot had a very heavy beard. So, he had probably a day’s worth of stubble. He’s got a blonde wig on, makeup, lipstick, he’s wearing a bikini.

[chuckles]

He pops out of the cake, runs over, kisses me on the cheek! I’m like, “Oh gosh!” And then he goes to the ladies’ room to change clothes!

[chuckles]

But I mean, that’s the kind of nonsense… Look, we’re working 14,16 hours a day. Sometimes, you just need to blow some steam.

Alex:          Yeah. That sounds like fun… Had its fun days too. Yeah.

Shooter:    Yeah, it was.

Alex:          So, Star Comics, you mentioned that. That was aimed at children it started in 84, ended in 1988. And I know that when I spoke to DeFalco about it, one of the main concerns was Harvey Comics was going out of business, so kids wouldn’t have a gateway into reading comics. Tell us about what you were doing with Star Comics, how it came about.

 

Shooter:    It had nothing to do with Harvey and they weren’t a gateway anyway. That’s just… That’s baloney. But what happened was, we were doing gangbusters with the regular comics. Epic was doing well. And the only thing we kind of didn’t have was the young kids’ line.

 

A couple of forces at play. One was that, when I first took the job, the president of the company told me he wanted to us to get out of the comic business and he was going to get us into animation, and children’s books. I said, “You’re wrong. We’re going to make this big.” He said, “Wrong?… Just don’t lose money, do anything you want.” Okay. That’s pretty free hand.

 

So, we didn’t love money, we made money. We were propping up the whole place, the whole corporation. So, we went on a roll, and we didn’t do kids’ comics but we got involved with a company called TCFC (Those Characters From Cleveland). They were the creators, along with Bernie Loomis, of the Care Bears, among other things, Strawberry Shortcake, Holly Hobbie, all kinds of stuff.

 

So, that had got me thinking, Galton was starting up this children’s book thing he always wanted to do, largely because of money I made for him. But he was starting to have that. That’s why he hired Hobson, because he wanted Hobson to be the publisher of that. And he wasn’t really… He was off counsel to me. But he was never intended to be the publisher of the comics.

 

So, that was kind of getting going, and one thing they found out is that it was really difficult… The whole idea of starting up a children’s book publishing company to compete in the mass market, when you’re little like Marvel is, is stupid. Because Western owns all the racks, what they don’t own Random House owns, and you can’t get distribution. You’ll get book jobbers to get you in to little tiny stores, so maybe… But that’s about it. That’s why you needed a couple 100 million dollars just to sit down at that table and make the ante.

 

And we’re doing it on a shoestring. And it just was a dumb idea. It really was. Around Cadence, it was known “Galton’s folly”, the children’s book line, and then later, the production studio too. It was called “Galton’s folly”.

 

Alex:          I see.

 

Shooter:    So anyway… Now, he’s trying to compete with Random House, and Western who owned the racks, and he’s trying to do mass market stuff. His idea was to license things… But if you had a great property, wouldn’t you go to Western or Random House and get a bigger advance and everything, and distribution and so forth. So, having a great deal of difficulty getting anything.

 

I got to know the Henson people pretty well because we did Spidey Super Stories, and we did build the strip for Electric Company Magazine. I knew them pretty well. I saw Jim Henson, a number of times. He gave me a personal tour of the Muppet Factory. He liked us. He liked me.

 

The other contact I had, because I got to know the guys at TCFC, we wanted to do some stuff with them. They got to know… Actually, the way that started was they’ve always done girls’ toys, and they wanted to do boys’ toy. And they thought, “Hey, Marvel Comics. They must know what they’re doing.” So, they got in touch with us, we were talking about that, and were talking about a lot things. They also like me.

 

And so, when they could, they licensed things like Care Bears and Strawberry Shortcake. So, when they could have gone anywhere, got a much better deal, they came to us. Because, two things, they liked us, and we got a comic book with it. You’d get a children’s book and a comic book. Now, some of the children’s book rights were tied up. So, we did the comics without the children’s book. But that’s what the idea was. So, people who wouldn’t otherwise want to do it, by saying, “Oh, and we can do a comic book too.”

 

So, because of our relationship with Henson, because our relationship TCFC, we had some properties right for comics, which we eventually hoped to get the children’s book rights. So, the comics are doing pretty well. Care Bears was the number one selling comic book in the UK, and did pretty well for us.

 

Also, the other people who liked us, Mattel. And so, when we were doing that stuff, I called up Jill Barad, and next thing you know, we’re doing He-Man. And that stuff went pretty well for a while.

 

Alex:          So, you were approached by Mattel to do He-Man comics. Is that right?

 

Shooter:    No. We asked them.

 

Alex:          You ask them. Yeah. Okay.

 

Shooter:    But they like us, so it’s ensured… They could’ve used some other line…

 

Alex:          Yeah… Because before like earlier, a couple years before that, like before the cartoon, they did some comics but with DC.

 

Shooter:    Yeah.

 

Alex:          Then the cartoon happened and then you guys did it.

 

Shooter:    They weren’t happy with DC.

 

So anyway… Because of relationships, we were able to get some of this stuff. And the idea was, eventually, we become the book publishers. So, I started the idea of doing this line, one of the triggers was that Harvey went out of businesses and Sid Jacobson was available… Sid Jacobson, one really smart guy, really creative, knew all the guys who’d do that kind of stuff. So, we ended up hiring him, and he worked with DeFalco a lot.

 

DeFalco was kind of my assistant, and he really wanted to have a hand in on children’s stuff. Since he’d come from Archie, he knew all about it. Sid wasn’t really thrilled with that, but I refereed. It was fine.

 

But anyway so, we’re doing the books, and we’re doing pretty good. Then we started getting stuff shoved down our throat, again. You know, puff along… But we did pretty well, and it was going well. I think we started doing Spider-Ham, which started out as a regular Marvel comic, I believe. And then, they wanted to do it as a Star Comic.

 

Shooter:    What was it like Marvel Tales? T-a-l-e-s… and then…

 

Shooter:    Yeah. It’s like a one shot, we did.

 

Alex:          Yeah.

 

Shooter:    Like the regular comics.

 

Alex:          Like the cat…

 

Shooter:    And that was almost all Larry Hama, by the way. I mean…

 

Alex:          Yeah, I guess, it’s Larry Hama. Right.

 

Shooter:    He and DeFalco were talking about doing something like that. Larry was the one who actually executed it, or most of it, I think.

 

So, anyway… There was some possibilities happening there. I think if I stayed, I would have done things a lot differently than they did. Maybe it would have kept going… But some of it was forced on us. Galton did, eventually, get one license. He got that Fisher-Price license, which was probably the worst license you could get.

 

Paid a fortune for it. Fisher-Price was super invasive. They wanted everything done a certain way. It was impossible to work with them. And nobody bought the books. So, it was just… It was terrible.

 

Marvel Books, after Marvel was bought by… At first, they were bought by New World, but then later bought by (Ron) Perelman. I was talking to his CEO; they were actually considering hiring me as president. And it didn’t… It couldn’t work out because if I came back there, I’d be firing a lot guys up there. Those executives were useless.

 

And he said, “What would happen on the first day you walk in?” I said, “Well, some people would dive out the window. Some people would run out the door… I’d fire the rest.” He said, “I appreciate your honesty… We can start with a bloodbath; we’re going to go public.” I said, “I understand perfectly. Yes, of course.” He said, “Let’s stay in touch.” Later he made me an offer, but that didn’t work out either.

 

But at any rate… So, I’m talking to him. He said, “Well, what would be your business plan for Marvel?” Because I tried to buy it. I said, “Well, we’re going to get rid of the books; liquidate that. Take the studio down to a small executive production thing, like SunBow. And not have a hundred animators sitting there, collecting money and not doing anything.”

 

I said, “I think, if you got rid of the books, several million dollars will drop the bottom line.” He said, “Six.” I said, “Okay, a little more than I thought… And then, when you got rid of the studio, it’s even more. You’d have 10, $12 million, of money that the comics made, that you could use to service your debt.”

 

He said, “That’s exactly what we’re doing. We researched this pretty well. That’s pretty much our business plan. We’re filtering out those executives. We’re going to get rid of them, one at a time. We’re getting Terry Stewart, and a new financial guy… One at a time… Slowly, so no one notices it.” I said, “Okay.”

 

So, anyways, I said, “When you get done, call me.” And he did. [chuckle]

 

Anyway, yeah, that was the whole thing with the children’s books and the animation thing. And both of them were just disasters. It was just tremendously a bad judgement.

 

Alex:          So now, a little bit on Star Comics. Warren Kremer also was there for a bit, wasn’t he?

 

Shooter:    Kremer, yeah.

 

Alex:          Yeah. So, tell me about how was that hiring… Because Harvey went out of business, so what, he needed work? Is that what basically happened?

 

Shooter:    Yeah, and when Sid… Shortly after Harvey went out of business so, we hired, Sid. I hired Sid. And of course, and he knew, Warren Kremer. He knew, Ernie Colón… Ernie dumped some work for us, but he was more comfortable with Casper. And there was another artist whose name I can’t remember… He’s the guy who used to do Androne, for DC. But he did young kids’ stuff.

 

Alex:          Now, there was this question of Royal Roy, do you know about that?

 

Shooter:    Yeah.

 

Alex:          [chuckle] So, tell me what… There was some issue of maybe it was intended as a copy of Richie Rich, what was your take on that?

 

Shooter:    Well, when they told me about it, I was suspicious, and Sid says, “No, it’s fine.” I said, “Okay.”

 

Alex:          That was Sid’s ideas, Sid Jacobson’s idea?

 

Shooter:    Yeah. And then, of course, Harvey rattled their legal sabers at us, and I said, “Okay, that’s it.” So, we got rid of that, changed the name or something. I don’t know what. I guess, he had a thing for Richie Rich and got a little too close.

 

Alex:          Yeah.

 

Shooter:    It was a bad idea. I should have seen it coming, but I didn’t.

 

Alex:          Now, is it true… I read like this little excerpt in one random Comics Journal, and I’ve never seen or heard of it before or after that. But it wasn’t just necessarily, hiring the Harvey guys to come work at Star. I heard that, or I read in that one excerpt, that Marvel actually almost bought Harvey Comics, is that right?

 

Shooter:    I think at one point, we looked into it, that didn’t go very far. I tried to buy Harvey once too. I got up close and personal, found out why it couldn’t be done; which is, they didn’t have a single piece of paper that prove they owned anything. Nothing.

 

And so, the guy who bought it, that (Jeffrey) Montgomery guy out in California… Well, it helps if your father owns the chain of banks, and somehow, he was able to overcome the legal obstacles. I don’t know what he did, but his name is Montgomery, I believe. And then, because of him, there were movies, Richie Rich, I think, Casper. Right?

 

Alex:          Yeah, the movies in the ‘90s, yeah.

 

Shooter:    Spielberg did those… But somehow, he cleaned up a chain of titles. I can’t imagine how he did that. I spent a day at Harvey one time just… Like a wife of the younger Harvey, Leon. I think both brothers were gone at that time.

 

She let me in and took me to this closet, she said, “All the records are here.” And it was like a jungle of papers and crap. And I’m looking through stuff and I said, “Do you have work for hire stuff from these artists?” And… “No.” And the Sad Sack guy, actually sued them at one point.

 

Alex:          Right.

 

Shooter:    And that was…  I can’t remember what his name was… I think Fred Rhodes, I think? Whatever. But then, it was a mess. I really don’t know how anybody cleaned that up. But I guess, they’d enough money to invest to do whatever it took.

 

Alex:          So then, licensing ThunderCats in 1985 from Rankin/Bass, I think Leonard Starr was associated with that project. Do you remember how that came about?

 

Shooter:    Well, I think, the same way a lot of these other things. Once we republishing, then people would come to us. And everything that possibly someday. might be a children’s book was…

 

Alex:          Licensed as a comic…

 

Shooter:    Was enthusiastically received upstairs. Let’s put it that way.

 

Alex:          Yeah, interesting.

 

Shooter:    And so, I would be encouraged to do it, and sometimes, I had a gun held to my head. I don’t remember that, ThunderCats in particular. ThunderCats, I think did pretty well for us, actually.

 

Alex:          Yeah. That’s interesting though… But it was all about like pushing almost like a children’s publishing kind of…

 

Shooter:    They were trying to build a little children’s publishing empire, and since the books were just a disaster… The theory, I think, upstairs was “Well, we’ll do the comic books and then we’ll segue it into the children’s books. Didn’t work out while I was there.

 

 

Alex:          Tell me about working with Sol Brodsky. You wrote his obituary when he died in 1984…

Shooter:    I got a letter from Stan, thanking me for that. He said, “It was great.” I was pleased. The thing with Sol is that, in the ‘60s, just Stan and Sol, and some people who’ve turned the cranks. Sol was indispensable. I mean, Stan wanted to do the creative. He was in charge. He wanted to write; he wrote everything.

One time, I asked Stan, “How did you write twelve books a month for ten years? I tried to write… I wrote six, one month and it almost killed me. This is Stan, he always said nice things. He is always good to me. You know what he said to me?  He said, “You put more into it than I do.” I said, “No, I don’t.” Because he revolutionized the whole field.

Anyway, the thing is, it was just him and Sol. And so, Stan would let Sol do anything he didn’t want to do. If it was legal, technical, financial or complicated, that’s Sol. And Sol did it brilliantly. And Marvel took off. He’s a big part of that. He was a tremendous part of that.

Okay, what people don’t know is that, eventually, Stan was kind of… They weren’t doing that anymore. Stan was sort of doing… He got to be president of the company for a while. Sol was essentially then just the production manager, and he didn’t like that.

He got together with this other guy and they decided that he was going to leave Marvel and they would start their own comic book company. It’s called Skywald, S-K-Y from Brodsky and W-A-L-D… (Israel Waldman)

Alex:          Right… That’s where the Hell-Rider Comics came from.

Shooter:    And that didn’t work out, that failed. Comics in general were going downhill at that point. Okay, so now, Sol needed a job. [chuckle] So, he goes to his old friend Stan, and the trouble is they had a new production manager. There was really no place for Sol.

Stan, lobbied, and he convinced the president to convince the board, that we needed, that Marvel needed… I wasn’t there yet… That Marvel needed an operations vice president to run the operations.

And so, Sol came in and was hired as a vice president. And the thing is, he really didn’t have anything to do, because, he wasn’t running editorial and their production manager is running productions. So literally, Sol’s doing things like, making sure the doors had locks and changing light bulbs. I kid you not, all right. It was a funny job that Stan made up, so his friend would have money to keep him alive. And I tell you what, he earned that in the ‘60s. I mean that he earned that.

Okay, so what else does Sol do? Well, he was kind of Stan’s assistant. If Stan needed a presentation board for some pitch in Hollywood, Sol would get it done. If Stan needed anything, Sol was there to do it for him.

So, the editors-in-chief before me, none of them had much of a business background. Roy (Thomas), a brilliant guy. He could do anything he want but that time, Stan was still there and he didn’t have the power that I had. Len and Marv, they just want to do the comics. They wanted to be like the head writers, and that’s it. Even Archie and Gerry weren’t really into… They didn’t want to deal with legal, technical, financial or complicated.

In the vacuum of authority, Sol started doing that stuff. So, what would happen is the editor in chief – if some legal issue would come up, he’d go to Sol. Sol would call the lawyer. So, when I came in and I saw what’s going on. When I came in, I said, “I can call the lawyer. Why do I need Sol?” Actually, Barry Kaplan, when I took the job, he was the Vice President of Finance.

Alex:          And you’re talking about, when you took the job as editor-in-chief in ‘78…

Shooter:    1978. Yeah. So, at any rate, Barry sat me down he said, “Let me go over the organization with you.” I said, “Okay.” And there was the president of the company, me, and then all the editorial and production people under me. Sol wasn’t even on the chart, neither was Stan. And I said, “Okay. So, all these people will report to me?” And he said, “Yeah.” “Okay. Fine.”

So, I wasn’t going to Sol to ask for legal or technical or financial help. If I had something financial came up, I’ll call Barry. If something legal came up, I’ll call Alice Donenfeld. It was, if I needed help, I knew who to go to. Sol therefore didn’t really have a lot to do.

And then after a little while, the president of the company, Jim Galton, he calls me upstairs to his office and he sits me down, he says, “What does Sol do?” And I said, “Well, he’s, kind of Stan’s assistant.” And Stan of course was doing all that TV, movie animation stuff, so he wasn’t involved with the comics.

And so, Galton, he said, “Is there anything that Sol could do? Can you give him something?” And I said, “Yeah. I tell you what, I got my hands full with the comics.” I said, “He could do the Hostess Twinkie ads and handle the strips, and any presentation stuff that Stan wants.” And I said, “If he could take all that kind of, a lot of work, but not off to the side from the comics.” I said, “If he could take that, that would be great.” And I know him… I knew Sol can handle that. I mean, God, he was terrific. So …

Alex:          Is that a special project? Is that what that is?

Shooter:    Yeah. That’s a garbage can term for that. He was allegedly the Vice President of Operations, but I gave him all that stuff. I gave him my office too. [chuckle] I was at a smaller office when I was associate editor. It was within the editorial suite, and I was close to the Production Department. The editor in chief had a bigger office down the hall, and Sol had a smaller office off to the side. And I just didn’t have time to move. I said, “I like it here.” So, I told Sol, and I said, “Why don’t you take this office?” And he did and he was happy. He’s got a nice, dignified office with lots of room and everything.

So, anyway, the point is, I sort of made up a job for him. And it was great that he was doing that because it just saved my life. And then when Sol passed away, we didn’t replace him, his stuff just came back to me. It was just… He, I guess, technically reported to me but he was the vice president, I never… There was nothing I was going to tell him that was useful, so I left him alone. He was always happy to see me. It was good.

Alex:          And so, it sounds like his coming back, really was about Stan, being loyal to his friend and make sure he had something. Then you also then made sure he had something. Do you know if, when he left for Skywald, I think in ‘72-ish or something, or maybe ‘70…? Do you think… Was Stan upset about that?

Shooter:    I don’t think so. I think that, I mean, we never had a long talk about it or anything like that. But Stan, he loved Sol.

Alex:          Yeah.

Shooter:    I can tell you, if he had a made-up job at Marvel, when he needed one, he earned it. He built that place. And so, it’s like the fact that he was there doing kind of junk work for a while, I don’t care. He earned it and deserved it.

Alex:          Absolutely. Yeah.

Shooter:    Absolutely. And then I was happy that he was there to help me… He’d take some of the stuff off of my hands…

Alex:          I think there were three people, right? Like Kirby, Sol Brodsky, and then Larry Lieber was at Atlas for a little bit, and they all kind of came back around the same time when you started, it seemed.

Shooter:    Just before me was Kirby. Larry Lieber was always around. I saw him all the time. I don’t know what he was doing for us. He eventually succeeded me plotting the strip… You know, [overlap talk]

Alex:          That’s right. And he even drew for it a little bit too. Yeah.

Shooter:    And it was pretty good too, and he did it the same way I did. He did little layouts for Stan. So, Stan could write the dialogue from the layouts, and then give that all to the artist at once; dialogue and everything. So anyway, yeah, Larry was there, I can’t remember who else… Kirby, and Sol. Yes. So, Sol was already there when I came in, Kirby was, Larry was always around.

Alex:          Okay. So, Larry was always around even during his Atlas period. He was still just around anyway, probably.

Shooter:    Well, yeah. I see him once in a while. I actually went over to see him once at Atlas. He was… I guess the editor in chief there, I guess, he replaced Jeff Rovin.

Alex:  `       Right, that’s right. Yeah.

Shooter:    Yeah. And…

Alex:          You went over there?

Shooter:    Yeah. First of all, I was associate editor at Marvel and they’ve promised me a freelance work and none came. And I wasn’t making all that much money, and I could’ve used some freelance work. And so then, everybody starts talking about this new company Atlas and they’re paying so much, such high rates and everything. So, somebody was going over there and he said, “Why don’t you come with me?” And I said, “Alright.” So, I went over and…

Alex:          Do you think you could have possibly been at DC while that was happening?

Shooter:    Was I at DC?

Alex:          Yeah, while at the Atlas thing was happening? Or you were…

Shooter:    No, I was at Marvel.

Alex:          Because I thought that was ‘74, ‘75-ish, or maybe… Yeah. Okay.

Shooter:    I think it might be ‘75, ‘76.

Alex:          Okay.

Shooter:    But it was… I met Jeff Rovin because we were both being given depositions in some legal case…

Alex:          I see.

Shooter:    Then I knew he was replaced by Larry Lieber.

Alex:          Yeah.

Shooter:    I’m in New York working for Marvel when that happened. And I went to see Larry, and he was trying to out-Marvel Marvel, you know.

Alex:          Yeah, that’s right.

Shooter:    I don’t know, more extreme.

Alex:          Uh-huh.

Shooter:    So, I talked about maybe doing something for them but I never did. And I probably couldn’t anyway because if you worked on staff at Marvel, they didn’t want what you working… [overlap talk]

Alex:          At Atlas, yeah… That’s interesting. Did you ever meet Martin Goodman ever?

Shooter:    I think I, sort of, passed by him in the hall, a couple of times. I guess, technically, I probably met him once. I was introduced, but I never had anything to do with him.

Alex:          Much to the… And then Chip Goodman?

Shooter:    Again, I…

Alex:          Kind of the same.

Shooter:    Usually saw him at a distance. But I knew who he was, and he was around once in a while.

 

Alex:          Coming up with New Universe, I understand that it’s a side universe, and a different reality and an opportunity to create kind of a, another brand at Marvel. The question I have is – is it true in that you actually… I find it hard to believe, but is it true that you want it to actually destroy the Marvel Universe to create the New Universe?

 

Shooter:    No. What was happening is, about two years before our 25th anniversary, I proposed an idea… They were talking about… The PR person had organized a meeting for all the executives to talk about what we should do for our 25th anniversary.

 

Now, years before that, when Jeanette Khan first became publisher at DC, she had a party in her house, and I was one of the people she invited. And she didn’t know much about comics back then. She said, “Oh, you’re supposed to be like a comics guru, what should I do?”

 

I said, “Nuke it to the ground and start over. Here’s what you do, in January, you announce that DC Universe ends on the month of May, or pick a month, it doesn’t matter. And then each month, you build toward the end of the universe, and end it. Every book, every single thing, gone. Alright, and then the next month, you start all number ones. But you don’t do all of them. You can do the big characters first. Add slowly and keep what’s good. Keep everything that’s good. Get rid of everything that’s dumb. Don’t have them in made up cities. Try to have continuity, keep it… Or make it apparent.”

 

I said, “First of all, you sell it crazy for six months. And then that’s number one, boom. And if it’s any good. It’ll keep selling and it’ll go way up. And I’ve just given you some formula to beat Marvel.” She later told me that Jerry Conway had also suggested something very similar.

 

Alright, so here I am at this meeting, talking about the 25th anniversary. And so, these executives, most of them, have never opened a comic book in their lives. And so, they’re coming up with ideas like, “Well, we could do a coffee table book.” Now, that’s pretty thrilling. So, then it comes to me, “Well, Jim, what do you got?”

 

The first thing I said is the DC plan – end it, start it again. Don’t have Iron Man’s origin in Vietnam. [chuckle] Don’t have the Fantastic Four in the Mercury program. I mean, like updates, smooth it out. Get the stories like Hercules towing Manhattan out to sea out of the continuity. Get the story where Bill Mantlo had a rocket taking off, and the rocket goes down. And because they removed the floor out, there was nothing to push against. Stuff like that.

 

I said, “ Just get rid of the dumb stuff and do it again.” They did eventually with the Ultimates.

 

Alex:          I see.

 

Shooter:    And everybody shouted me down. The circulation guys said, “We’re outselling DC four and a half to one. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.” The financial guy, and the President was saying, “Well, I don’t know, that sounds like a… “… I’m saying, “It would be a killer. We would sell like crazy these six months. We’d have huge sales on number ones.”

 

And they said, “No. No. No. No.”

 

“Alright. Fine…”  “What else you got?” I said, “Well, it’s to celebrate the creation of the universe, let’s create another one.” They said, “Oh, yeah. We like that.”

 

Walked out that room with the big budget, just for development; just for developing the characters. And guaranteed royalties, and a marketing budget. All kinds of things that would be useful to get it started because how are you going to get Walt Simonson to leave Thor, and do something new, unless you can guarantee he won’t lose any income. Because this might not work. Who knows? Thor works, and you think, it might not?

 

So, anyway, they all like that.

 

And so, I went downstairs and told the guys, and we were going to start on it. Well, rumors started to spread likes crazy. “Oh, Jim wanted to destroy the Marvel Universe.” It’s an idea…

 

Alex:          I see.

 

Shooter:    But it was shouted down immediately. It was not like I was plotting, conniving to do this… Anyway, so New Universe, about two weeks after that whole budget and everything was approved, Galton calls me up to his office. He says, “That budget you have, how much have you spent?” I said, “I don’t know, 10,000 bucks? Something like that.” He said, “Don’t spend another penny. I don’t want to spend another nickel on this.”

 

I said, “So, you mean, you don’t want us to do it?” And he said, “No, you just have to do it on staff. Because they had just decided to sell the company, and they didn’t want to invest a penny, and anything.”

 

Alex:          Hmm. I see.

 

Shooter:    There’s another couple stories about not investing penny… They’re really amazing. But at any rate, so he says, “Nope. I don’t want to spend a penny, so you’d have to do it on staff. So, if you look at the credits, who did the work? Me, Archie Goodwin, and mostly assistant editors. Because they’re the only ones who would just stay after work and help me, for free.

 

So, you see a lot of assistant editors’ names. But they’re all pretty good. But we had no guaranteed royalties. We had no special rates. We had nothing like that.

 

Alex:          Right. So, it wasn’t as good as it could have been.

 

Shooter:    No, not by a longshot. Man, if I had been able to have that budget and get good artists and do good promotion, and stuff… I mean Archie was the hero. He created a bunch of stuff and, and he wrote some stories that are great. But we just…

 

Basically, the artist we got were people who couldn’t get any other work that week, and a few good ones. John Romita Jr, came to me and he said, “Do you have an artist for your book?” I was writing one. I said, “No.” He said, “I want to draw your book.” And I said, “John, this is going to fail. It’s just ridiculous. They took away all our support. This isn’t… You’d have to give something up. And why would you give up something that’s making a lot of money?” He said, “I don’t care. I want to do your book”, as a favor to me. So, I said, “All right.” He gave up… I don’t know what he gave up… Iron Man or X-Men. Something. I don’t really… Something.

 

And then that same day, Al Williamson called. He said, “Hey, I heard JR’s drawing your book. I want to ink it.”  “You guys are nuts.” And he said, “No, I want to ink your book.” I said, “Okay.”

 

So, at least Star Brand had great art, and that wasn’t because I used clout. That was because two guys volunteered.

 

Alex:          Right. Yeah, I like the art in Star Brand.

 

Shooter:    We had a couple of guys that turned out to be good, but they were new at the time. Whilce Portacio for instance, but he was kind of brand new. I mean umbrella brand new. And Mark Texeira, he also started out… He wasn’t fully developed yet. So, we had some good guys and then they grew up later, but it was too late. And they were just …

 

And about that time is about the time I was leaving anyway. I think I was there for six or seven issues of Star Brand.

 

Alex:          It sounds like you don’t like it, looking back, and that’s cool… Toward the end of your run around ’86-ish, Ron Frenz and DeFalco we’re working on Spider-Man. Did you like what they were doing on Spider-Man at the time?

 

Shooter:    Especially, towards the end of ’86, most of ’86 actually… You have to understand the company was being sold. And they were really screwing all of us down in the comics area.

 

Alex:          Yeah, it was almost like there wasn’t really like you’re looking at much of the actual comics, at the time.

 

Shooter:    I was going to LA a lot. They were sending me all over the world. I kept being sent to the UK to train the staff there. Of course, I did the book fairs because they needed me, because none of these executives knew which characters we had… Our international licensing lady made a deal for Wonder Woman once. “Nice, Gale, but we don’t own Wonder Woman.”

 

But anyway, I was spending less and less time there, and also, I was being undercut, because they were trying to sell the company. They were screwing a lot of people. They’re taking away programs. They took away the health insurance… If I wasn’t out of town, I was upstairs fighting at the top of my lungs with these idiots.

 

And toward the end, I was walking around my floor, my floor, all these people work for me. Except, I’ve never seen that guy before. Who’s he? And I asked somebody, I said, “Who are you? What are you doing here?” He said, “I’m the editor of such and such.” I didn’t hire him.

 

They were just cutting me out. They were edging me out as fast as they could. As soon as they thought they had somebody who could replace me, they got rid of me. Okay… Whatever. I was glad to go at that point.

 

But what the question is, like what was I doing in 1986, and then the answer is, not much.

 

Alex:          It was mostly corporate warfare, basically.

 

Shooter:    Well, mostly war.

 

Alex:          Yeah, war. Corporate war. Okay… Yeah, because I was going to ask about them and Jim Owsley not getting along. And if you had heard anything about that interaction.

 

Shooter:    Yeah. I wasn’t never in the office. I mean, yeah. Owsley, he started as a high school intern. He’s such a smart kid, and I was really impressed. So, after high school, I think, he wanted to be an assistant editor. He applied to be an assistant editor, and I’m not sure for whom, but he did work for somebody and it went really well.

 

And so, when an opportunity came up, I hired him as an editor. He was young, but he was smart, he was good, he’s creative. And for a while, he had an assistant, named Adam Blaustein. And Adam Blaustein was terrific. When Bob Budiansky was an assistant, he was like that. The trains ran on time. Everything was buttoned up. Everything was well taken care of.

 

So, Blaustein, he did that for Owsley. Now, Owsley was another one of those guys like Archie, he just doesn’t want to deal with schedules and stuff like that. He wants to do creative. So, while he had Adam Blaustein, that place ran like a clock. Then, after Blaustein left and he had another guy, I think, his name was Lance Tooks. Lance wasn’t that kind. He was not a real detail guy.

 

And so, thing started going to hell, and everything was late. And it was really kind of getting bad, I had to fire Jim Owsley. I said, “Jim, everything’s late. It’s all a problem. I’d have to let you go.” And he said, “Thank you.” It’s literally what he said. “Thank you.” I said, “It’s like getting a raise, because now you write for us. You make more money… Well, pay you top dollar. You’re going to do fine. But let’s get somebody else who can keep things organized better.”

 

He was thrilled. He was happy to be let go. I mean, if I would’ve asked him to, he would’ve resigned to spare me having another tombstone there… But no, he was happy. And he kept working for us.

 

Now, as far as the problem between him and DeFalco and friends, I don’t remember much about that. I don’t know that I was involved in that too much. I thought that Tom and Ron were a good team.

 

Alex:          Yeah. Now, at the end of your run, when you’re working on… While New Universe was going on and you’re working on it and you had a vision for this other universe, and Galton had pulled funding for New Universe. What kept you doing it? Was there any part of you tempted to pull the plug because you didn’t want it to be less than the best it could be? What kept you doing it basically?

 

Shooter:    Orders. When the 25th Anniversary was coming up, and I was pressed for an idea of something we could do and I propose something, and they didn’t like it. And I proposed, “Okay, to celebrate the start of the universe, let’s start another one. And they liked that. And I said, “Good, I’m going to call it the New Universe.”

 

And I walked out of that meeting with a quarter of a million dollars in development. And also, guaranteed royalty, marketing, and stuff; all kinds of… We were doing great. So, we had a lot of money to spend on it and we wanted to do it right.

 

About two weeks later, I get a call from Jim Galton. He says, “Come upstairs.” Okay. I go upstairs. He says, “So, this budget you have, how much have you spent?” I said, “I don’t know, maybe 10,000 or something like that.” He said, “Don’t spend another penny. I don’t want to spend a nickel on this thing.” I said, “You mean, you don’t want us to do it?” He said, “Oh no, you just have to do it on staff.” … Staff…

 

So, he took away all your budget, and now I’m doing it with volunteers. If you look at the credits on the New Universe book, it’s me, and Archie Goodwin, and a bunch of assistant editors, who were the only guys who’d stay after work, and work for free. For me, to help me.

 

They did pretty good. I mean, I’ll tell you, some of that stuff was pretty good. But it wasn’t ready for prime time, some of it. It wasn’t that good. And also, since we couldn’t guarantee royalties… Say, like if you got Walt Simonson, and say, “Hey Walt, I would like you to do this New Universe book.” He’s doing Thor, he’s making a fortune. Unless I can guarantee him, that he’s not going to lose any income, I’ll say, “I’ll match your royalties for Thor, for at least x many months.” Unless you can do that… Walt’s not going to leave Thor.

 

And admit it, no one else is going to leave some book where they’re doing really well. So, you’re not going to get the cream of the crop. So, we got a lot of artists who basically, was doing… They were unemployed that week. [chuckle] It’s any guy who couldn’t get work, we got them.

 

We had a couple of guys who turned out to be great, Whilce Protacio, and Mark Teixiera, for instance. But they were fairly new at the time, so they weren’t superstars yet. So, it was an uphill fight, and I would’ve pulled the plug right away. But Archie was tremendous. He created half the stuff, and he helped, and helped, and helped. I think he knew I did right by him; when I needed him, he’s there.

 

Alex:          Was Jim Galton the one that fired you then?

 

Shooter:    Yeah. He was the only one who could…

 

Alex:          I see. So, there was a breakdown in your guys’ relationship, because it sounds like there was a good professional relation for a long time.

 

Shooter:    There was.

 

Alex:          It broke down, and it sounds like it was because they were doing some kind of weird shady things corporate wise during the sale to what, New World Cinema, I think.

 

Shooter:    New World Pictures and then they changed their name to New World Entertainment after they bought Marvel.

 

Alex:          And during that… And when you called them out on it, they then decided, let’s nix this guy.

 

Shooter:    They’re stripping away programs. They’re stiffing guys on foreign royalties. They’re doing all this stuff. And I talked to Kaplan, I said how come you’re not paying Walt?” He says, “We might pay him if he shows up with a lawyer.”

 

I said, “What are you doing to me?” He said, “Look, they’re just not paying anything they don’t really have to pay. And so, just forget it. It’s not happening.” Then I said, ”Uh, man…”

 

There were other things like that too. And so, I railed at these people. I went to Galton a hundred times. I was arguing all the time. And like I said, I only won one fight. That was the royalty fight.

 

So finally, it got to the point where… It was just like November, maybe the middle of winter or something like that. I wrote my resignation letter. I went up and I handed it to Galton. And he reasoned, he goes, “No, no, you can’t leave.” And I said, “Why would I stay?”

 

So, we sit down and for the first time, instead of having a screaming argument, we talked about this. I said, “Look, these people, they signed up to do this job expecting to get that royalty. You can’t not give it to them.” He’s like, “Yeah, well, you got to understand this board, they expect me to have certain revenues. And I’ve got to shave everything I can.”

 

I’m like… I said, “That’s just not right; I can’t work here if you did this. If this is what it’s going to be, I’m not going to work here.” He said, “No, don’t, you can’t leave.” See, I didn’t realize I was the key man; that he needed me there. I could squash the whole deal. Then he said, “I promise you… I guarantee you, that the day this sale is completed, once it’s done, all that stuff will be fixed. Guaranteed.”

 

Now, Galton, had never lied to me before, and he had stood up for me, a couple times. Okay… Now, he didn’t read comics. He didn’t know comics. He wasn’t terribly useful in the publishing world. But he had always, I thought, played fair.

 

I said, “Alright, I’ll stay.” So, I stayed.

 

The deal was signed on like January 4th, or something like that. So, the deal was signed. And I went up to his office and walked in, I said, “Our deal closed. When can we start setting things right? And he said and I quote, “Fuck you.” That’s what he said.

 

Well, I could have thrown him out the window. But that probably wouldn’t work out too. So, I shrugged, went downstairs, started a resignation letter, again. And then I stopped, and I changed the… I put that away, and I wrote a letter to the new owners, telling them where the bodies were buried.

 

Alex:          Telling them where the bodies were buried. Interesting.

 

Shooter:    Yeah, you know, telling him this is what these people are doing. This is why it’s evil. And this is how they cheated you on this sale, by artificially inflating the bottom line by stiffing people and stuff. So, I sent it, and I get a call from Bob Remy. That’s when he comes in and he throws the Dark Knight book on me. He’s like, “Well, if you’re so hot, how come you haven’t done this.” And I said, “Okay, I will.” He also told me in that meeting, he said, “I’m going to look into some these.” Good.

 

So, I’m working on my stuff, doing the best I can, spending a lot of time upstairs still arguing. And also, New World kept asking me to come out to LA. They said, “We’re interested in developing comic book character movies”, and they needed me because they didn’t know the characters”.

 

So, I’m spending a lot of time out there, not much back at my desk. And then they had one of

these team building things, three-day holiday and I was the only person from Marvel who was invited. I’m doing that, and finally, I was called by Hobson, and he said, “You’re going to be fired. I don’t have the authority to do it. You’re going to have to go upstairs to see Galton. And I said, “Okay.”

 

I went upstairs and Galton fires me, and then I left. I went back down, and I get a call from Bob Remy. He says, “I think the next thing is to get on a plane and come out here. I want to talk to you.” I said, “Okay.” So, on Marvel’s tab, I flew to LA, and I met with my Bob Remy, the next day, in his office. And he said, “I looked into everything you said, and you were entirely right. These people are thieves. They’re or scoundrels. They’re also lightweights. They don’t know their own business. So, I talked to all of them.” He said, “This is probably the worst crew of executives ever assembled.”

 

He said, “Here’s my problem… If I keep you, and fire all of them, how am I going to explain to my shareholders that I just bought a company that was run by crooks… If I fired you… Okay, that eases the trouble there for a little while… We’ll filter our people in. We’ll get rid of these people one at a time. Meanwhile, with you… You know what happens in Hollywood when like a studio exec is fired?” I said, “No.” He said, “What we do, the studio exec is then set up in his own company to produce movies, and the studio that fired him, distributes the movies. And has a share of the intellectual property and so forth.”

 

He says, “That’s what we’re going to do with you. We’re going to get you an office. We’ll get you all the staff you need, and you’re going to make comics. You can even handle the printing and Marvel will distribute, and will own part of what you do. And you own it or you can do whatever you want for the rest of it.”

 

I said, “I don’t know. That sounds alright. Okay.”

 

So, I go back and when Galton hears about this plan, he just dug his heels in and he kept fighting it and fighting it and fighting it. Because had I ratted him out, he wanted me dead. It wasn’t important enough to Remy to really go to war over it.

 

And so, after a couple of weeks of arguing, he finally said, “Alright, then fire him…” So, they just fired me. And I was fired.

 

Alex:          Then in 1987 to 1989, New World owns Marvel, and then in 1989, there was basically some bidding war. You had actually, did some fundraising or money raising to actually then purchase Marvel back. But then (Ronald) Perelman’s people, the Revlon people who were the next corporate owners, basically ended up winning the bid.

 

First, what did you do right after Marvel…

 

Shooter:    Well, first, I had a couple of the Marvel editors, and most of them like me. And a couple of them offered me work. One wanted me to do a Hulk graphic novel. Jim Salicrup needed a Spider-Man fill-in, right away. So, I wrote a plot for the novel. I wrote this issue of Spider-Man who was drawn by Jim Starlin.

 

I mean, I thought, “Alright, fine, I’ll just be a writer.

 

But Salicrup had all the stuff he wanted me to do. And then after the first Spider-Man book was on its way to the printer or something, Salicrup called me up, he says, “I can’t give you any work.”  I said, “Why not?” he said, “They won’t let me. You’re not welcome there.”

 

DeFalco, the Hulk plot I sent to the editor, comes back from DeFalco with a little note saying that it was rejected.

 

Alex:          Was DeFalco your friend through this?

 

Shooter:    Well, the funny thing is, DeFalco was kind of my second in command. He was really good at getting books on time. And so, he and Virginia Romita kind of helped the other editors. His motto was “Four in the drawer.” He would have like four months’ worth of books done, in the drawer. And that was good. So, he was trying to tell other people how he did his stuff. His office was right next to mine, so we were always talking and stuff.

 

So anyway, they took him out to lunch the day they were going to fire me, and he comes by. He was the first person to tell me. He comes by, he said, “They’re going to fire you.” I say, “I figured it… It figures.” So, he said, “I don’t know what to do.” I said, “Take the job.”  “Fine.”  “Go.”

 

And so then, I go upstairs, I get fired. At any rate, so the first two weeks, every day, he calls me. He’s like, “I feel like I’m sitting in your chair. I don’t know what to do… What do we do about this? What do we do about that?” And he says, “This is your office. This isn’t my office. I don’t belong here.”

 

I’m like, “Tom, you’re going to do fine. You just… If it feels right, do it. Just don’t worry about it.

 

So then, about two weeks in, I get a call from Stan. And Stan had just… I mean, he was good at trying to make you feel good, and stuff like that. He said, “I think you were the best we ever had.”

 

Alex:          Okay, so he actually gave you like a condolence call, in a way.

 

Shooter:    Yeah. Condolence like, “I’m so sorry this happened. I really wish it hadn’t. You’re the best we ever had… And really sad.”

 

So then, I hang up with Stan, 10 minutes later, the phone rings, and it’s DeFalco. He said, “I just got a call from Stan and he is encouraging me and telling me you’re going to do fine… And Stan thinks I can do it…” I said, “Oh, good. Good. You’ll do it.”

 

After that, he never called me anymore.

 

Alex:          DeFalco didn’t?

 

Shooter:    Yeah, DeFalco didn’t call me after that. And that’s when I get the rejected plot and I’m told, “No more Spider-Man.” And I’m told this and that.

 

And then, I wrote a… This guy named Steven Massarsky got the rights to all live action performance by Marvel characters, $12,500 a year. That’s how stupid these people upstairs were. All Marvel characters, all live action rents, two years, 25 grand. They thought they were stealing the money. They didn’t understand the value of Marvel.

 

So, when he was making his deal with Marvel, to do this arena show. This was what he wanted to do, a live action arena show. He was talking to one good licensing person they had, Doug McKenzie who actually knew at least two of characters were, and he said to Doug, “The thing is, I want to do this, but who am I going to get to write it? I don’t know any writers that write this kind of stuff…”

 

McKenzie says, “Ah, we have this genius editor in chief… You know what, as soon as we sign this deal, I’ll hook you up with him, he’ll get you the right guys. No problem. Everything’s fine.” So, Massarsky comes in and signs the deal. And he says, ”I want to meet this editor in chief of yours”. And McKenzie said, “He just got fired.” [chuckle]

 

Massarsky said, “Well, what am I going to do?” McKenzie says, “Hire him to do it? If Jim writes it, all the characters will be fine.

 

Alex:          Oh cool.

 

Shooter:    “Because he knows it better than anybody.” So, Massarsky calls me, I end up writing this arena show. It’s a substantial arena show.

 

I told him I didn’t want to do it, because arena shows are stupid. But he said, “No. I want to do the Wizard of Oz.” I said, “Okay. That I can do.” So, I wrote it. MCA Universal put up a million dollars right away. And first they said, they want to do it as a feature film. I told them, “I’ll screw up the film rights work. “You guys”, I said, “No. You can’t do that. That’s a legal tangle, because these people don’t know…

 

Joe Calamari thought Spectacular Spider-Man and Amazing Spider Man, were two different characters, so he licensed two…

 

Alex:          Oh, no.

 

Shooter:    Stuff like that. He forgot… He didn’t know that Iron Man was in the Avenger, so he licenses Iron Man. He licenses the Avengers… For 5000 bucks. 5000 bucks for the full rights. Each.

 

Alright, so anyway… I write this thing and MCA Universal loved it. And I said, “No, you can’t do them all.” So, they said, “Well, great. We’ll going to have the play in all our amphitheaters, we’ll have the music rights, and dah da dah da dah…”

 

Massarsky still needed two and a half million dollars to mount the show. So, meanwhile, he sent the script to Marvel for approval. Doug McKenzie sent it to DeFalco. DeFalco rejects it.

 

Alex:          Oh, gosh.

 

Shooter:    McKenzie calls and says, “This guy rejected it. I can’t believe it.” Massarsky says, “Why don’t we have a meeting with them?” So, DeFalco, Gruenwald, Doug McKenzie, me, and Massarsky, in my old office.

 

Alex:          Wow.

 

Shooter:    And so, McKenzie says, “Well, what’s the problem with this?” And DeFalco says, “Oh well, this character isn’t introduced.” I said, “Read page 14.” And he kept coming up with stuff like that. “Well, you haven’t established his powers.” I said, “Look at the beginning, he picks up a car.” All these stuffs, and he’s wrong on everything. Everything he pointed out is wrong. And I showed him the page. “Here. Here. It’s there.”

 

And finally, Massarsky says, “Tom, it’s not your job to figure out the staging or whether or not the characters are… You’re not here to judge the play. You’re here to tell us if the Marvel characters are wrongly represented.” He said, “Well, they are.”  “How so?” He says, “Well, you have somebody say that they saw Spider-Man pick up a bus. Spider-Man can’t pick up a bus.”

 

I said, “For the last 10 years, on the intro panel of Spider-Man newspaper strip, written by Stan Lee, drawn by John Romita, in the intro panel, he picks up a bus, and you tell him he is standing I don’t know what’s firing. I don’t think he could pick up a bus, for 10 years. Are you telling me Stan and John don’t what Spider-Man can do?”

 

“Well, I don’t think he can pick up a bus.” I said, “I’ll make it a car. Are you happy? … He picks up a car.” So, then he says, “There’s this character, Maestra, and she sees Doctor Doom’s face, and she doesn’t recoil in horror.” I said, “No, she’s in love with him.” And he’s like, “No, everybody recoils in horror when they see his face.” I said, “You’re going to tell him, Mark, or am I?” And we started to list all the people who’ve seen Doom’s face – Sue Storm and others, I can’t remember right now, but the whole bunch, and did not recoil in horror.

 

And so, Tom said, “Is that right, Mark? I thought everybody recoiled in horror.” And Mark says, “Well maybe they did between panels.”

 

Alex:          I see. So, was he being friendly toward you in this meeting?

 

Shooter:    No, he was being a prick.

 

Alex:          And what was this driven by Galton still or was this just him? I think it was him. I think there were two things going on there, and that’s total speculation on my part. Number one, I think he felt there was a danger that they might want me back. He wasn’t feeling secure. Number two, as long as I was hanging around, writing stories and stuff, like I’m on tap. I could be brought back. I think that that had a lot to do with it. He just wanted me to be far away and have nothing to do with.

 

At the end of this little meeting after I said to Tom. I said, “Not only does she not recoil, and not that everyone not recoil in horror. recorded him. I said, “You’re here to judge the Marvel characters. That’s my character, she does what I say. I invented her. If I say she doesn’t recoil in horror, she doesn’t recoil in horror.

 

[01:00:14]

 

Alex:          Yeah, that’s good.

 

Shooter:    McKenzie said, “I think this meeting is done.” He took us and walked me and Massarsky upstairs and signed the approval. He said, “I will never show anything to that asshole again. [chuckle] So, another Pyrrhic victory for me. I get a lot of them.

 

Alex:          Wow.

 

Shooter:    And then ever since then, I never… He keeps trying to friend me on Facebook and stuff or LinkedIn… It’s not like I hate him or anything. I don’t think about him at all. I can’t think of a reason to do that.

 

Alex:          Then you had raised money to…

 

Shooter:    Oh, yeah. What I did was, I knew that they were going to sell Marvel. They had to. Because I was keeping track of them in the trades, they were losing… The corporation, New World Entertainment was losing a million dollars a day. The only thing they had that was sellable was Marvel.

 

So, I got together with some people of Chase Bank, and we put out a feeler. And they said, “It will never be for sale.” And then two weeks later, they called us up and said, “We’re having an auction.”

 

And so, I got a team together, Massarsky, a lawyer. Winsome folks – retired Time Incorporated senior financial officer. And Chase was going to be our lender, we got a Venture Capital company to put up, I think, cash and we were ready. And we bid $81 million. We were the only bidder. There were nine people who started out in the auction, eight dropped out. We were the only bidder.

 

We thought we won, for two weeks. Perelman was an insider at the selling company. If you’re an insider at the selling company, you need an arm’s length bid, to also be a buyer. So, we bid 81, he bid 82 and a half… As a seller, he could also be a buyer because he had an arm’s length bid. So, we were just stalking horse, the whole time. Cost us a bunch of time, and some money but, we never had a chance with them.

 

Alex:          So then, did the money for that, then, was used to fund Voyager Communications and Valiant Comics, was at the same money?

 

Shooter:    No, I mean, Chase Bank is not going to lend money for startup and venture people don’t like startups either, but we finally found somebody who was willing to put up $125,000 That was all they would put up. So, we started Valiant on a shoestring, and did pretty good, eventually,

 

Massarsky was a lawyer. He also started dating the Venture Capital lady who funded us. All of a sudden, he’s her partner, not my partner. They had me out voted on the board, so Massarsky decides, “We’re not going to do Jim’s superheroes.” Because I’d licensed the Gold Key characters.

 

Alex:          Yeah, the Gold Key characters because before that, it was Nintendo and WWF licensed characters.

 

Shooter:    Massarsky was the entertainment lawyer for Nintendo. And he didn’t care about the comics. He didn’t have any faith… So, he made a deal with himself, he was on both sides of the table.

 

Alex:          Okay.

 

Shooter:    And he got a nice fat fee for doing that, from us. And he never had any faith that this was going to go anywhere. Now, he wanted to get as much money out as he could.

 

Alex:          It’s his money. Yeah.

 

Shooter:    So, I was planning to do a Nintendo comic. And I would have quit, except if I quit, then the people I’d hired, who are friends of mine, they couldn’t get a job because I was blacklisted. if they work for me, they’re blacklisted – JayJay Jackson, Don Perlin, Debbie Fix, a few others. They’d be out on the street, no job and couldn’t get one.

 

I thought let me just make this work, make a bunch of money, then I’ll be able to raise money to buy these turkeys out. Because all they want is money.

 

So, Nintendo failed. And then, guess who else Massarsky represented? World Wrestling. So, I said, “I’ll do a wrestling comic” … We give our best to each of those. I was trying to make some money, so I could raise money to buy them out. But those were not likely to succeed. And so, bottom line is that we went through our small capitalization, and now we’re over our limit which means, we’re technically vulnerable to them, calling a default.

 

And so they were, to some extent, micromanaging. But at least I got the deal with my superheroes, and since they didn’t know anything about comics, I got pretty much left alone.

 

Alex:          Yeah, with the Gold Key ones.

 

Shooter:    Yeah, with the Gold Key and then the ones I created.

 

Alex:          The Harbinger, right? You created that.

 

Shooter:    I created all of them. I mean, I had more to do with… I mean, I had a lot more input on like say, Shadow Man. Because David Lapham was interested in doing that. He [inaudible] had a lot of input. I think JayJay Jackson also contributed there. And when we’re creating Rai, Don Perlin actually did some of the character designs and stuff.

 

Alex:          I love all your stuff from that period, actually. And in fact, I remember just recently, I started looking at Harbinger again. And I couldn’t stop reading it, especially your issues. I liked the way you do it. Because I like how you make it kind of real like there’s a consequence to the power. I like how you reinforce that point, in different ways.

 

Shooter:    Thanks. Thank you. Yeah, I poured my heart into that stuff. I mean because in a way, it was all of our last chance, do or die.

 

Alex:          And then also like Steve Ditko also did some stuff over at Valiant, and Barry Windsor-Smith, you mentioned Don Perlin… Is Steve Ditko, was he a friend of yours?

 

Shooter:    I ran into Steve, sometime after it became editor in chief. I ran into Steve at Neal Adams’ studio and introduced myself, and we were talking. He said, “You know, I hate…” I said, “Anytime you want work, anytime, you’re always welcome, door is always open.

 

Alex:          Oh, in 1980 or so?

 

Shooter:    Around then.

 

Alex:          Yeah. Yeah, that’s when he did what, Captain Universe and things like that?

 

Shooter:    I’m not sure what the first thing he did. But what happened was, he said, “No.” And every time I saw him after that I’d say, “Steve there’s a new sheriff in town, we pay a lot better, rights, benefits, all kinds of stuff.

 

Alex:          Rom. He did Rom, yeah.

 

Shooter:    I said, “If you ever need work, if you ever need anything, call me, you’re a founding father…” So, one day, he turns up at Marvel. And the receptionist didn’t know who he was. She said, “There’s a Steve Ditko here. You want to talk to him?” I said, “Yes, I want to talk to Steve Ditko.”

 

So, I talked to him, and we were just talking about the weather, nothing major. He didn’t bring up work, I didn’t either. So, he, after a while he said, “I better get going. I’ll see you.” So, he goes. And I told the receptionist, That’s Steve Ditko, and you better be nice to him.

 

So, the next time he comes up, about a week later, he comes up again. And, “Oh right. Come right in, Mr. Ditko.” and she’s really nice to him and stuff. And then she gets on phone, and she calls every editor in the place and says, “Steve Ditko is in the office.”

 

And so, I was sitting there and we’re talking about nothing, and in comes this herd of people to meet Steve Ditko. He’s like, “Oh, man. Really nice to meet you.” And just showering adulation on him. And then finally, Steve says, “Well, I got to go.” And they’re all asking me, “Is he going to work for us?” And I said, “We didn’t even talk about it… I’m not pushing it.”

 

Next time he came in, treated like royalty. He comes in and he says, “If you have anything interesting, I’ll do it. I think, we gave him a Captain America, as his first.

 

Alex:          Oh, okay.

 

Shooter:    It might have been. I don’t know

 

Alex:          And I know he did Machine Man and something else.

 

Shooter:    He did Machine Man. He did Rom.

 

Alex:          Rom. I know he did some Captain Universe for sure.

 

Shooter:    Yeah, I had some stuff… We kept him busy. And then after I left there, the work kind of dried up. They stopped giving him stuff. He did like Chuck Norris’s Karate Kommandos or something. It’s just a couple of one shot, and then they cut him loose. “He’s a founding father you fool! You don’t cut him loose… “ You know…

 

So anyway, he shows up Valiant, he’s looking for work. He needed work. And he only wanted to do heroes who are all good and villains who are all bad. He didn’t like conflicted characters.

 

Alex:          Right.

 

Shooter:    And so, we were doing at that time, wrestling books. I said, “Faces and heels.” I said, “Hey Steve, could you do wrestling books?” “Sure.” So, he did some really nice wrestling books for us. And I talked him into doing Magnus. I said, “Magnus is all good. He’s a good guy.”

 

Alex:          He’s a good guy. Yeah.

 

Shooter:    So, he did work for me. After they threw me out of Valiant, then they threw him out.

 

Alex:          I see.

 

Shooter:    I said, “What’s wrong with you people?” Because he was doing some nice work. He had Ralph Reese inking, it really looked good…

 

Alex:          And you leaving Valiant, you said that Massarsky and the cash donor, the lady the Venture Capitalist lady, they voted you out. Was there something that triggered them wanting you gone? And also, was there some deal they made with Bob Layton, to then take your place?

 

Shooter:    Something like that. Basically, what happened was, it took me… Once we started doing the superheroes, it took me, let’s call it nine or 10 months, to turn the corner. We did okay with Magnus and Solar at first. Harbinger started out not too great and went down a little bit. They wanted to cancel it; I dug my heels in it… I said, “It’s just like with Daredevil… This Lapham kid is good. This is going to turn around.” And it did. It became our best seller.

 

By the time we get to like next February, I guess, we started making money. It started really solidly making money.

 

And then we planned the… I planned the Unity event. And that’s really what put us over the top. But what I didn’t realize is that, once we started making all this money, Massarsky and his now wife, started shopping, the company, behind my back. And especially, like when Unity hit, and we got the orders… Of course, you get the orders way before we ship, so we knew we were making millions of dollars a month. Over $2 million a month, pretax profit.

 

So, they got Allen and Company to represent the sale. Because his wife’s brother worked at Allen and Company. Everything very incestual… And so, Allen and Company shopped it to Paramount. And Paramount made a bona fide offer for $250 million.

 

Alex:          Wow.

 

Shooter:    Quarter of a billion dollars, for a company that… It took me less than a year to build.

 

Alex:          Right, and that cost two million.

 

Shooter:    And yeah, the startup was just a little over a million dollars. We went through that and then some besides, because the wrestling and Nintendo lost money. But basically, that money is rolling into gunwales.

 

They got a deal with Paramount for $250 million. Tell you why I know this, they tried to do what’s called a cram-down. They tried to kind of force me, threatened my friends, stuff like that, cram-down. But the deal was terrible. They wouldn’t show me, I said, “What’s the deal? Show me the deal. Maybe I’m consider it.” Because they needed me. I own too much stock for them to just go around me.

 

Finally, they showed me the deal. And they delivered, they did it on a weekend when I was going to a diamond show. They thought, maybe I didn’t have time to read it. They didn’t know who they were playing with. I stayed up all night, read the thing… Terrible contract.

 

Employment contract: 10 years, two-year non-compete, specifying every job I could ever possibly do. The contract, the employment contract specified no title, specified no job, specified no salary and had two provisions in it. One was, I had to report to the new CEO, who was going to be Massarsky’s wife’s brother. And if I failed to report to the new CEO, if I failed to obey the new CEO, they could claw back all my stocks… You think, I’m going to sign this?

 

And the other provision was, if I failed to engender good morale, they could claw back all my stocks. So, I can even piss them later, one day, they’d take all my stock. So, it’s either die now or die later. It’s either like, not refuse to sign and stuff. So, I refused to sign. And that’s when they did the plan… Well, Bob can run the bullpen, and get Barry as a figurehead. “Wank it go and get rid of him, and then we’ll be able to sell it.” Paramount pulled out after I was gone.

 

And the guy… I knew a guy down the company too, his name was Enrique Senior, the number two man. And I’ve had business with him at some point later and he said, “Do you know what happened at Valiant?” I said, “No.” He said, “I ran that sale. I was the one running that deal.” It was a quarter billion dollars, Paramount pulled out, because, “The creative guy was gone”.

 

Alex:          Oh really… So, there you go. It’s the goose and the golden egg there.

 

Shooter:    Forbes Magazine somehow found out about this and they found it so outrageous, they actually did an article on it called, How Not to Start a Company, or What Do You Do When Your Partner Started Sleeping with the Banker.

 

Alex:          Oh, really? That’s funny.

 

So now, when you were then voted out, did you have some severance or money? Or did they buy out your stocks from you?

 

Shooter:    No. What happened was my contract, they got rid of me in June… My contract ran through October. So, I was paid to the end of my contract. I couldn’t escape that. They wanted the stock back. They sued me, claiming that I owe them $50,000. Because that was my personal guarantee if we ever went into default. And they spent $350,000 suing me to get 50,000. Why? Because if they could get a court to certify that the company was in default, my stock was worthless. They didn’t have to… It wouldn’t cost them anything. They’d pay me worthless money into get my worthless stock.

 

That failed because they had forged documents. I had the real documents which I took home and kept safe. And so, when the real documents were presented in court, the judge ruled in my favor. It cost me $70,000 to defend against losing $50,000.

 

Alex:          Oh gosh.

 

Shooter:    Yeah. So then, the next thing that happened is, the forced arbitration. Because there was a clause in the contract that they could force arbitration if they fire me. They forced arbitration and the arbiter was a guy who had nothing, no entertainment experience, a really old man. I think he’d only done like shoe factories and stuff, before. He really had no idea what he’s talking about.

 

His decision was, well, there was not the offer from Paramount, but there was… Allen and Company, when they chose to represent the deal, they bought some stock. Now, this is Massarksy’s wife, selling stock to her brother. Discount rate, let’s face it, okay. And so, he said, “Well that’s the value of the stock. So, you’ll get, that times however many shares you have.”

 

So, it came out to less money than it cost me to pay my lawyers. I actually lost money on it. Then they over-shadowed me. And by my partner Winston (Fowlkes) objected… When Massarsky started dating Melanie Okun, the Venture lady, my other partner Winston objected, and they fired him. They fired him, but he was still on some shares, so he was still getting reports and stuff. So, then he would tell me what was going on. Between him and Enrique Senior, I pretty much know everything.

 

It was ugly, so we started to find…

 

Alex:          And then (Bob) Layton, did he also then kind of suddenly go cold on you the way DeFalco did?

 

Shooter:    Oh yeah, he basically stabbed us in the back, me, and JayJay Jackson, and Debbie Fix, all fired. Because anybody they thought was too close to me, they better get rid of. And no, he was… I didn’t like him anymore. And, I think he seriously… I mean, if you’re going to stab somebody in the back, you’re not going to then try to buddy up with them, I guess.

 

Alex:          What about Barry Windsor-Smith? Did he also go cold on you during that?

 

Shooter:    Sort of. Both Bob and Barry… Barry had burned his bridges at both Marvel and DC. Bob, because of some personal activities he did, he was unwelcomed at DC. He was banned from DC forever because of marital things. And as a result of that, DC just didn’t want him anymore.

 

Alex:          Really.

 

Shooter:    Personal issues. Things he’d done, that they didn’t like. And then he wasn’t popular at Marvel either, and when his contract came to the end at Marvel, they said, “We’re not renewing it and we have no work for you.”

 

So, he showed up on my doorstep, begging for work…

 

Alex:          Do you happen to recall, what were those arguments he had at DC and Marvel?

 

Shooter:    I don’t know specifically, what the DC one was. Marvel, like I said, he was very fussy. He wanted certain… He managed to offend some people there, to the point where nobody wants him. And I can’t give you the chapter and verse on the stuff but if you don’t want Barry Windsor-Smith… He much must have done something.

 

I’ll give you an example, Mike Richardson, Barry’s biggest fan… But he had a lot of trouble working with him. He’s kind of not interested anymore, working with Barry, because he’s hard to work with, you know, he’d have picked… If he had other options, he’d probably wouldn’t have worked out at all with Barry. Like I said, we needed each other.

 

Alex:          I see… And yeah, because I know that he took issue with like printing process and if the color didn’t come out quite right or the ink didn’t come out quite right, that would really drive him nuts. Maybe it was about stuff like that.

 

Shooter:    It could’ve been. Especially, at Marvel, since the guy who did the production there was not good. But we had JayJay Jackson and she’s great. And since Barry was so fussy about the coloring, and since JayJay is a great colorist, I had her color most of his stuff… I think all of it. But anyway…

 

But he would come in and he would lecture her. Like, “No! Why would this floor be green? No one would do that.” And she’s like, “But it look good.” [chuckle]… But… See, the nice thing about JayJay, she has such respect for him as an artist. He could like yell at her, and she didn’t bat an eye. She took it as constructive criticism, no matter how loud he said it. And she did great work for him, and many times he complimented her by the way… Because she is great.

 

I mean, it’s kind of like walking in a mine field with him, sometimes. It’s a little tricky.

 

Alex:          Tricky. There you go, that’s a good word.

 

Alex:          Tell us about meeting Barry Windsor-Smith, and then some of the initial projects you did together and then what his career at Valiant look like? Like about your working relationship with Barry but also, when you met him.

 

Shooter:    I can’t remember, exactly, the first time I met him. I’d known him for years. I mean he lived up in Woodstock, before that, somewhere else in that area. And (Jim) Starlin and (Bernie) Wrightson lived up there, and I used to go up to visit both guys once in a while. Starlin had this nice place, like in the mountains. We did stuff like, he had an ATV and I had a motorcycle, we’d go out on the trails. There were all these logging trails in the mountains. In the winter, he had to snowmobiles.

 

And it wasn’t just me, I mean, I go up there and, groups also go up there. See, he liked that. There’s not a whole lot to do in Phoenicia, New York, so he’d liked having people come and play for the weekend. So, we went tubing on the mighty Esopus River. We went, like I said, in the winter – snowmobiles; in the summer on the trail bike. Just generally, you went up, and had a good time. Found decent restaurants here and there…

 

So, I hung out with him. Bernie was usually there and Starlin… Who else? And sometimes, like I went once, Mary Jo Duffy came up with us. It was four or five… Christy Scheele… I don’t know. A little crew of guys, we’d get a car, we go up and spend a couple of days. So, fine.

 

Up in that area was also was Barry Windsor-Smith. So, one time, we got together with him. One time, I went to his house, just before he moved to Woodstock. It was all full of, I mean, you almost couldn’t get through the halls because they were stacked with boxes of posters that he couldn’t sell.

 

Alex:          His Gorblimey Press posters, right?

 

Shooter:    Yeah. Gorblimey. There was this house full of Gorblimey Press. So, I got to know him a little bit and he had work for me. He did work for me at Marvel. Not exactly sure how that came about it. It wasn’t like me calling him or something. It was like Chris called him or something. I don’t know.

 

But, at any rate, he did some work for Marvel. He did some of that X-Men stuff, the Weapon X and he did the Machine Man, and stuff under my watch. So, he’d come in the office a lot. I’d see him, we got along fine. Took him out to dinner a few times, with his girlfriend, Linda, at the time. She would come.

 

Oh, and (Bob) Layton used to live up there too. So, Layton knew him, as well. He would often come not up the Starlin’s house but to… I don’t know, dinners or something. So, we got to know each other a little bit.

 

Alright, fine. We leave Marvel, and we had a gig. We ended up starting Valiant, and we needed an artist, and everybody was busy or too expensive, or for some reason didn’t like me or whatever.

 

But Barry had burned his bridges at both Marvel and DC. He got in a big fight with Marvel and they didn’t want him. And then he also gone to DC, got in a big fight with them, and they don’t want him. And it was kind of no other major player to go to, and even though we were small… Starting up, I was running it like we’re going to be a major. So, we called him and he needed a gig, and we could surely use a good artist, especially somebody who had a name.

 

He came and decided he could work for us. He’s a very fussy guy… I mean, I had to audition for him.

 

[chuckle]

 

I’m writing everything, he says, “Well, I don’t want this to be like Marvel… Claremont would give me these stories, and they were dumb and I had to fix them. I don’t want to be fixing things. I just want to draw.” He said, “So, if you’d show me a story and I like it, then I’ll consider it.” One is a wild berry…

 

So, I wrote him a story. And he said, “Well, this is good.” I said, “I know.” He said, “Well, I can do this.” I said, “Good.” So, after that… One other time, on X-O (Manowar) he wanted me to write the story first and then he would decide if I was good enough. So, I wrote the story, and then he decided it was alright; he could do it. Then he bitched because he had to do research on spiders.

 

But at any rate, yeah, he was a little obstreperous, a little… Kind of an ego and demanding in different ways. But he needed us too. We needed him, he needed us. So, I was able to work with him. He wanted to do all kinds of crazy overlapping, interlocking panels, I said, “No… We do the grid, just like Kirby. Okay… Stay on the grid. Don’t overlap anything. You do a bleed only when I say so.”

 

“Oh, but that’s stupid…”

 

I said, “I don’t care. That’s what we’re doing. You don’t want to do that? Then go. ” And he said, “Grr… Okay.” But he did it, and look what he did. It was great!

 

Alex:          Yeah, I love that stuff.

 

Shooter:    He did just brilliant. Because he is a fantastic story-teller. He’s kind of stylized… Who cares? It looks great. So, he did good work for us… A little cranky sometimes, but he’s mostly fine, and we got along pretty good.

 

 

Alex:          At the beginning of the Valiant, you mean.

 

Shooter:    Yes. No, it wasn’t at the beginning. It was with six or eight months into it.

 

Alex:          Six to eight months into it.

 

Shooter:    I needed an inker. I said, “Okay I’ll hire you as an inker, but you have to work on staff. Okay, he took that deal. And so, he was inking, and I had Don Perlin who hated Marvel and had to get out of there… I said, “Don, you’re retirement age. Stay there.” He says, “I hate this place, I want to be with you.” Okay. So, he comes to work with me and that was great. I thought Don being an adult type person, he would run the bullpen, and Bob would ink. They kind of change places. Don spent most of his time at the drawing board, occasionally helping the young artist. Bob spent a lot of time, running the bullpen…

 

Alex:          Yeah, managerial.

 

Shooter:    And that was how everyone worked. Fine. I didn’t care, as long as it got done. So anyway, we had them, we had Barry, we had Bob. Barry was just doing art. Before, he lived in Woodstock. When they were getting rid of me, they thought they’d better get a big name to be the president of the company, for appearances sake. So, they asked Barry to be the president of the company.

 

Alex:          I didn’t know that, I didn’t know that Barry Windsor-Smith was the president of Valiant at that time.

 

Shooter:    For a little while. For a while in 1992.

 

Alex:          1992.

 

Shooter:    So, the thing is, to get Bob, and also the marketing guy John Hearts, and Barry to agree to this thing, they paid each of them, several million dollars.

 

Alex:          Oh, wow. Crazy.

 

Shooter:    So, they asked Barry to be the president of the company and they made him an offer. They offered him $4 million to basically do that. And then, of course, a salary as the president. They offered Layton, $4 million to stay and run operations in the bullpen; which he, more or less, was doing anyway. And they picked one other to pay, John Hartz, $3 million.

 

All of these, is like to pay them off to stab me in the back. And they took it. Hartz took it. Layton took it. Barry kept negotiating. After a while, they didn’t need him anymore. And so, they just stiffed him.

 

So anyway, I didn’t talk to Hartz, later. But a friend of mine, Chuck Rozanski, talked to him. He said, “John, how can you do that?” And John says, “Jim’s going to have plenty of shots at the brass ring. This is my only one.” … Alright…. And Layton, as far as I’m concerned, is just scum.

 

Alex:          I see. So, Layton got the four million, but Barry Windsor-Smith did not get four million…

 

Shooter:    He did not. He did not get it. He kept negotiating and negotiating… Wanted a nickel more here, a nickel more there. And finally, they realized, “Hey, were doing pretty good. We don’t need this guy.”

 

Alex:          Right. Interesting. So, that was a short thing, with him.

 

Shooter:    Yeah, and the reason I know that is because Barry called me. And I wasn’t there, but I had one of those answering machines that as long as you keep talking, it keeps recording. This was back in the ancient answering machine days.

 

Alex:          Yeah, yeah.

 

Shooter:    And so, he just talked and talked and talked into my answering machine. I still have those tapes, somewhere. I guess… About how he should’ve not listened to them. They told him a pack of lies and what an evil guy I was and stuff. And he should’ve not listened to them. He should’ve asked me. We should’ve talked. And it turned out that they screwed him.

 

And that’s sad. I mean, the one guy that did talk to me, immediately, they… Right away, they got Dave Lapham in a room, they’re trying to force him to sign a contract, they’re all ready. And he said he had to think about it.

 

So, what does he do? He calls me. He said, “What’s going on?” So, I told him what’s going on. And he said, “I need this job… But the minute you start something else, call me.” So, right after this happened, phone rings, it’s Frank Miller. I said, “Hey, Frank. How you doing?” He said, “Okay, I heard the lies, tell me what really happened.” And I did. He says, “Son of a bitch. That just sucks.” I said, “Yeah, well… what am I going to do?”  Start again.

 

So, Frank… Pretty soon after I left, they got rid of Ditko. Cut loose a founding father? You fool! No… But they fired him. They just said, “Meh, no more work for you Steve. See you…”

 

And he was… He needed work. And so, I called Frank and I said, “Frank, I haven’t spoken to Mike Richardson for a long time and I’m not even sure he’d take my call, or he wouldn’t get to it right away or something but I know he’ll take your call. Steve Ditko needs help. Maybe you could work out something with Mike’s Dark Horse. They could use him some way.”

 

And so, Frank says, “Okay. I’m on it.” So, he called Richardson. Richardson did make Steve an offer. I think Steve did some stuff with him. And then that tided him over until he found other stuff. He came to me at Defiant, and worked for me for a while.

 

Alex:          Wow… Did Layton fire Ditko?

 

Shooter:    Well, I guess he was more or less running the joints, I would say yes. The one good thing I’ll say for Bob is that he just couldn’t pull the trigger on Perlin. He convinced… He said, “Don, if you stay here and dot the job… And so, you don’t have anything to do with that Shooter guy.”

So, Don did stay. But he did have to do with me. We were always sort of secretly sneaking off to lunch and stuff.

 

[chuckle]

 

He kept saying, “Listen, I have to have this job… But when you start something, call me.”

 

So, okay, a couple of years pass… Don was making real good money. He was doing Bloodshot and stuff, and he was doing really well. And I called him up, and he said, “I just can’t… You know, I can’t do it. I need this money.” [chuckle] And I said, “God bless you.”

 

He thought I hated him. And then, when we started Broadway (Comics), we had a launch party and I invited Don, and he came. We hadn’t seen each other for a while, but we picked it up just like we always did.

 

Alex:          Well, that’s cool…. Yeah. Don’s been around for… He’s kind of like the silent guy in comics. But he’s been around since even like Golden Age years.

 

Shooter:    Yeah, he worked for… one of his first jobs is working for (Will) Eisner, and Eisner fired him. [chuckle] But he worked a lot of places and he was always the good guy, he was never the star. Great storyteller and he could draw anything you asked him to do. If I asked some of these young artists to draw me like a slightly, let’s say, chubby person or something – they can’t. They draw one body, and that’s it. They put different hair on it, and make it different people. Don, you explain it to him, he nails it, every time.

 

And he was very creative too. He created Slagger, that’s his. He helped create Rai. He was always coming up with the ideas and stuff… And really caring, and that’s my kind of guy.

 

 

 

Alex:          But he apologized.

 

Shooter:    Oh yeah, he did. That was fine.

 

Alex:          You also penciled some stories under the name Paul Creddick, right?

 

Shooter:    Yup.

 

Alex:          Why did you use that name sometimes?

 

Shooter:    Well, that’s my brother in law’s first name and middle name, Paul Creddick. His last name is Smith. The reason I used a pseudonym, was because I didn’t want people to know that Valiant was too broke to afford an artist.

 

Alex:          I see.

 

Shooter:    And I didn’t want people to think it was me, like, “How desperate are they that they’re using him?” So, I use a pseudonym to kind of cover up the fact that we couldn’t get people or we didn’t have the money. And sometimes, it was like late, couldn’t get anybody or there’s nobody that you can get on time, and I was like the artists of last resort. I mean, no one would pick me first, including me. But I did it when I had to.

 

One thing I’ll say for Layton is that, if I did the roughs, and he inked it, it ended up looking pretty good. He’d tweak it a little bit. Some jobs, he would just do the big heads, and big, larger figures, and maybe he’d do the splash page. And he had the assistants, the background guys do the rest.

 

But yeah, I mean… So, if I had… Like Jim Mooney inked the job… It was at Marvel, and we couldn’t get anybody. Would you believe Marvel couldn’t get an artist? If everybody was busy, everybody was on something, or I couldn’t find them, whatever… So, I ended up laying out an issue. I did it a couple times. One time Jim Mooney inked it, it looked pretty good… Because it’s Jim Mooney. And maybe a couple of others, I guess. I don’t know. I don’t remember.

 

It was only because there was no choice, I just had to do it. And it’s really a shame because right when money was rolling in over the gunwales, we could actually afford the best guys. It was about the time I left…

 

Alex:          I just want to confirm that. And then two, Joe Quesada he got a start in comics at Valiant while you were there?

 

Shooter:    I believe so. I think we gave him his first comics job. He was a colorist.

 

Alex:          Colorist.

 

Shooter:    He drew one page for us once. Like a feature page kind of thing for Captain N.

 

Alex:          Oh. Oh, Captain N, yeah.

 

Shooter:    Yeah. And then, I guess he was showing samples around or something. He got an offer from Marvel. He said, Oh, I got to go.” I said, “Of course, you do.” And so, he did. And he ended up doing pretty good.

 

Alex:          The “Image Revolution”, when all those guys left and took up some market share; kind of like how Valiant had done. When they did that, one, were you rooting for them at all, or did you not really have any emotion toward it? And two, do you feel that the creator royalties that you started at Marvel helped make that possible because they use that seed money to create that company?

 

Shooter:    Oh, yeah. Those guys, the thing is, like (Todd) McFarlane, for instance. He was doing a little work for DC toward the end of my time at Marvel. He was Canadian, so he needed a green card. DC would not give him a Guarantee of Work. So, he came to see me and showed me his stuff. I wasn’t really familiar. And I said, “Okay, we’ll give you a Guarantee of Work. Fine.” So, I got him his green card. He started working… (Jim) Salicrup picked him up and had him started, I think, on Spider-Man. But I was gone before that first issue of his, came out. And then he started making huge money on Spider-Man.

 

Everybody was making really good money, because the sales were so good and royalties were high. And so, he was doing great, they’re all doing great, and the royalty program was good. These guys, and then… Because Perelman brought in all these marketing people, they’re doing gold embossed covers and gimmicky stuff, which did drive the sales up. So, a lot are these guys are making huge money. And I know all the X titles are doing great. Jim Lee got, kicked Claremont out and was doing the whole thing himself, and getting all the royalties.

 

Anyway, so they’re all doing that, I knew McFarlane. I really didn’t know… Oh well I knew, Erik Larsen…

 

Alex:          Larsen.

 

Shooter:    A couple of the other ones, I didn’t really know… But anyway, so they went to, I guess, Galton and they tried to negotiate a better deal for themselves. To me it’s like, “You guys are getting awfully rich anyway, so I don’t have entire sympathy for you. However, they paid Babe Ruth more than they paid their average player.” They pay… I mean, if you are a superstar, maybe you should have a better deal. If you’re doing a book and it’s selling a million and half copies, well maybe you do get better cut.

 

I mean, it made sense that okay, why does the deal have to be the same for everybody. It did when I was there, because maybe we’re just starting out. I think if I were there and they said, “Hey, my book sells because of me.” And obviously, it did. I might have been able to say, to rationalize, “Okay, you pay your star home run hitter, more than you pay your utility infielder.” But, so, I didn’t have much feeling, in a way. It seemed reasonable, whatever.

 

They actually called me up, one of them; not sure which one. One of them called me up, because they were just starting out. He says, “Hey Jim, how do you get inking… How do you have lettering done? So, I turned them on to some letterers and told them what to…

 

Alex:          Oh, they actually asked you a little bit of professional advice when they were starting up?

 

Shooter:    Oh, yeah. And then I put Janet Jackson on the phone, then she walked them through all the technical stuff they need to know. Introduced them to the printer, and the printing rep and everything… So, we’ve tried to help them.

 

Alex:          Oh, that’s cool. This is while you were at Valiant that you gave them some tips?

 

Shooter:    Yes.

 

Alex:          Oh, wow. That’s wild. You never hear that. That’s crazy.

 

Shooter:    I’d always done that. I mean like when I was at Marvel when the direct market was starting to go. The direct market created a venue for all these little publishers to sell their stuff. And I tried to help them. And even bigger publishers, the Schanes brother showed up at my office and said they were already a distributor, they wanted to publish. I say, “Let me show you how.”

 

I showed him how, they came to license Warp to us. And we’re talking, and I was explaining the direct market. He got real interested in that. He was thinking of publishing himself, I showed him how. I said, “This is what you need to know. This is who you call…”

 

And the guys… Because some of the guys are saying to me, “Why are you helping First Comics get started?” And I said, more or less, quote, I said, “If on a level playing field, we can’t win against any of these guys, we don’t deserve it.” And I was confident that we could win. We had the best team. And so, I thought, “No, I mean, that’s we’re trying to build the industry here. We’re trying to save this dying industry. Let’s turn it around. The more, the better. The more, the merrier. Come on. Segment the market a little bit.” Fine.

 

So anyway, then we helped Milestone (Comics) get started. The Milestone guys called me up and they needed some advice about stuff. So, I took Janet Jackson over there with me. JayJay Jackson and me, we went over there. She worked with their production department all day, trying to teach them what they needed to know, production and printing. I worked with the executives, talking about distribution and all that stuff. Derek Dingle was the boss, and Dwayne McDuffie was there.

 

Alex:          Wow.

 

Shooter:    And Denys Cowan. And Joe James who eventually came over and work for us, actually. Not because we stole him. He just left there and shut up. I think he’s good. He also knew Janet.

 

Alex:          This is really cool. I did not know about the connection to Milestone and Image as far as just kind of giving them tips and things. That’s pretty amazing.

 

Shooter:    Yeah, and like I said, when artists would want to get an exception for their contract, so they could do some special job, I always did it. It’s like, even when it was, Stewart the Rat or something, that I knew it was an anti-Marvel. I didn’t care. I thought, “You know what, Gene (Colan) wants to do this, God bless him.”

 

Alex:          You’re about to tell me about Defiant Comics, and that lasted about 13 months. It started out pretty, pretty cool but then there were some economic, legal things that happened.

 

Shooter:    We, I had developed this property, PLASM.

 

Alex:          As in P-L-A-S-M.

 

Shooter:    Yes. I developed this thing, and I’d been working on it for years. The people who funded Defiant, happened to own a trading card company. It’s called the River Group, and they own, I can’t remember the name of the trading cards… So, one of the things that was in the deal was that they would do superhero trading cards based on our stuff. And they would pay for it, but we would do the creative work and then they would publish the cards. And we would get some little license fee and they would get all the money.

 

So, okay, they wanted an idea what we could do and I said, “Why don’t we do a comic book made out of trading cards?” And I showed them how, and what I meant. They had thought that was great. And so, we did the Plasm card set, first. And the card set sold like gangbusters, did incredible. So, they were happy.

 

What happened then is that we were going to publish the comics, starting in August. This would’ve been in the spring sometime. Early April or May, I don’t know, I get a call from Terry Stewart at Marvel. He says, “Uh, we’re going to have to sue you.” I said, “What for?” He said, “Trademark Infringement.” I said, “What?!” He said, “Your Plasm is way too close to a trademark we have.” I said, “What is it? I searched it. I didn’t find anything close.” And he said, “We have registered with the intent to use”, in other words a name, “the name, Plasmer.”

 

I said, “So you don’t even have a character. You got a name registered with intent to use in the UK, which is why I didn’t turn up on my search.” And he said, “Yep. Too close.” I said, “Terry, you’ve got a Black Knight, DC has a Black Night. You’ve got Power Man; they’ve got Power Girl. You’ve got Wonder Man, and they’ve got Wonder Woman. Don’t tell me it’s too close.

 

He said, “No, we got it. We got to sue you.”

 

Alex:          And you had already registered the trademark of Plasm?

 

Shooter:    Yeah, sure. Here, yeah. But they had the name Plasmer, and the thing is, ordinarily the trademark people would search it and would have not done that. They didn’t see it looked too close.

 

So okay, our lawyers end up working something out with their lawyers and we decided to add in… Oh, P.S., I’d already sold this thing as a toy to Mattel, a $9 million guarantee. They said if we added words to the title, we could do it. I said, “Warriors of Plasm”. Mattel even liked it better.

 

So, then we had agreement documents, and we signed them, Marvel never sent them back. And so, my financial guy… I got him back, Winston Fowlkes. He wasn’t with me at Valiant, and then when I started Defiant, I hired him again… He came to me and he said, “I know what they’re up to.” I said, “What?” He said, “They’re going to wait till you’re about to ship the comic and then they’re going to get a temporary restraining order. And if we don’t get those revenues, we’re dead.” I said, “Urgh…”

 

I called our printer. I talked to our rep, Marie Chosei Daniel, and I told her what was up. She said, “I’ll take care of it.” I said, “How are you going to take care of it?”  “You don’t need to know that.” Okay… It comes time for Plasm #1 to ship. We had orders for 650,000.

 

And sure enough, Marvel shows up, gave a court order of a temporary restraining order. And Marie Chosei tells them, “We’d be happy to stop the shipping of Plasm #1. However, it is interlaced on every single pallet that carries a Marvel Comic. You stop theirs; you stop all of yours.” Because they’re all shrink wrapped and stuff, you can’t just go pick them out.

 

So, they withdrew the temporary restraining order, they sue us for temporary injunction. This whole thing takes a long time. We missed our window with Mattel. That deal, we missed the window. They couldn’t do it. They weren’t going to do it while we were being sued.

 

The thing was, it went to trial, and the judge was Michael B. McCasey, and he just rolled… He slammed them. There are three tests and they have to win every point of every test. We won every point, every single point. They won not a point, and they had to win all the points to get their temporary injunction.

 

And then he lectures them. He says, “If you ever use my court as a business weapon again, you will sincerely regret it.” He read his opinion, and his opinion was a glowing review of my book. It was kind of a scathing denunciation of theirs because they, by that time, made a comic.

 

And so, I won. It cost me $300,000 to win. If you take $300,000 out of a small startup, it’ll do some damage. And so, we just ran out of money… The market also collapsed right around then. That was the time when the market fell off the edge of the table. It was a hard environment to survive in.

 

Alex:          Once that Mattel thing left, then that was pretty much it.

 

Shooter:    Well, they killed the Mattel deal… That wasn’t their goal but it did work in their favor because that 9 million bucks would’ve done me fine.  And that was just the advance, that was just the… I’m sorry the guarantee… No, it was the advanced and the royalties would’ve been on top of that.

 

I met with Jill Barad and she said, “This is a very low sales estimate. We’re going to do way better than this.” I said, “Okay.” She said, “We have some technology, and we’ve been looking for something to use it on, and this is perfect.” So that didn’t get done.

 

We had a couple of offers to buy us. And I didn’t want to sell, but I said, “You can buy my partner out, the River Group. They were happy to sell, except that they kept asking for a nickel more, a nickel more, a nickel more. So first, New Line Cinema tried to buy us and then they gave up, they said, “We can’t deal with this guy.” His name is Dan Shedrick.

 

And then, the same day, I get a call from Savoy Pictures’ Victor Kaufman, and he wanted to buy in. And so, Winston and I went up to his office uptown. We’re sitting there in the conference room talking, and Victor Kaufman walks in and he says, “Winston!” And they’re old buddies. [chuckle] They were like old school chums or something… They actually made us a bigger offer than New Line did.

 

Again, these evil greedy people, they’re just kept nickel and diming, nickel and diming, nickel and diming. They had the sweetest deal in the world. They’d already gotten their money back, so they’re clean. They were going to keep 10% of the company… We’re going to get like $11 million, and they were going to get some of that. I don’t remember how much. And the rest of it was going to be to keep us running.

 

And they kept… It came down to this Dan Shedrick guy, who was such a pain in the ass to them; to Victor, and everybody with his nickel and dime stuff. He demanded to see it on the board. Victor called me up, he said, “Come back someday without this jerk… I can’t deal with him.”

 

So, that deal fell through and we ended up running out of money.

 

Alex:          Tell me about Broadway Comics. You did that right after Defiant, right?

 

Shooter:    One of the suitors to fund Defiant, was Broadway Video Entertainment which was Lorne Michaels’ company. The man who ran that division for him was a man named Eric Ellenbogen. And Eric had actually sort of made us an offer for Defiant, but it wasn’t that great an offer, and we ended up with this River Group… What a mistake…

 

But at any rate, after that crashed, somehow this Eric Ellenbogen guy from Broadway, knew about it or found out about it. And he called Winston and he said he was looking for some creative people to work on a project, do we have any. So, Winston organized like Janet Jackson, Debbie Fix, a couple of other people to go and work on this project for Eric at that Broadway.

 

And then he started getting interested in… Well, first of all, on that project, I had to sit at my desk every day until my contract expired. So, I was sitting there for a month and a half. I showed up for work every day. I sat there listening to the radio, and I went home. But then, when my contract expired, Eric Ellenbogen called me up after that. And he said, “These people are creative, but this team needs a leader… Do you want to work on this thing?” I said, “Sure, I need work.”

So, I went and I worked there. It was something… It’s development to do with Harley Davidson, developing a property around Harley Davidson. That deal never went anywhere. They could never make that fly. We did a pretty good creative work, but they can never make that fly.

 

Then Eric came to me and said, “Let’s start a comic book company. I said, “You know, it’s a bad time for comics right now. It’s like the book market’s down.” He said, “Jim, we’ll try not to lose too much money. We’re really interested in properties that we can use for movies and stuff.” I said, “Alright, fine.”

 

So, we started Broadway Comics. We actually, we’re doing pretty well. I mean we got to the point where we’re actually profitable. But that was when Lorne Michaels… I was 50:50 partner but he was the general partner. And so, he sold us, along with Lassie, and the Lone Ranger, and movies and stuff, and a music company to Golden Books Family Entertainment. We just sold in the package. And the crown jewels’ there obviously, Lassie and the Lone Ranger.

 

I met the CEO of Golden Books Family Entertainment, a guy named Dick Snyder. They had a little reception, a little meet and greet. And I walked over to him and I said, “Hi. Snyder, I’m Jim Shooter I run the comics.” And he said, “Oh, we’re going to put you out of business, we’re going to close you down. We don’t want to be in that business.” Oh, not even a hello?…

 

Alex:          Oh, wow.

 

Shooter:    So, I said, “Alright. Well… What are you going to do?” We weren’t strong enough to stand on our own. And also, raising money in that climate, forget it, you’re not going to raise money in it.

 

Alex:          After a crash.

 

Shooter:    If Marvel’s going bankrupt, you’re not going to raise money.

 

Alex:          Yeah. How did you react to the Marvel bankruptcy, as it was happening? Did you feel like Perelman and them, just ran it into the ground?

 

Shooter:    Yeah, they did. The thing is, the year before, everybody… Steve Geppi used to have all the industry leaders write their prospectus for the year. Everybody was, “Oh, it’s going to get bigger and better. So and so great. Blah, blah, blah…”

 

And mine was the one that said, “This is a bubble and it’s going to burst.” Because it’s all phony collects Franklin Mint… Buy this issue because there’s a foil cover or somebody gets a new costume, or somebody gets married or killed or what… I mean, it was all about events and fancy covers, and stuff, phony collectibles. And that’s a bubble, that’s going to burst. And it did.

 

When Marvel was going bankrupt, I felt like, “I told you so.”  And Marvel was going to go bankrupt, and way back when Perelman first bought Marvel, he had the CEO of the holding company that ran Marvel. His CEO was a guy named Bill Bevins. Bill Bevins had a meeting with me to talk about hiring me as president of Marvel.

 

We talked and I said, “The trouble is that your executive staff, they’re terrible. I’d have to get rid of a lot of people because they don’t even open the comics. They don’t know what’s in them… My international licensing lady made a deal for Wonder Woman… I said, “Bill, we don’t own Wonder Woman.” She didn’t know. And she said, “Why’d they call me?” I said, “Because we’re comics. Marvel Comics. Everybody thinks we’re comics, and that we were dominating the market…” I mean that’s what you’re up against there. “I’d have to get rid of some of these people.”

 

He said, “You know, we’re going to go public. You can’t start with a blood bath. And I said, “I hear you… So, alright…” And he said, “Let’s stay in touch. I’ll call you sometime.” I said, “Fine.” So, then I went off and did my other things.

 

So then, when Broadway was going down, I got a call from Bevins. He said, and I quote, “Can you fix this?” And I said, “Yes.” And he said, “Come up to my office.” So, I went uptown, just off Madison Avenue, or something. And we talked for a while. He said, “Alright, it’s going to take me a couple weeks to put this together. I’ll be in touch.” Within a week they went bankrupt. So that didn’t happen.

 

Alex:          How was that…

 

Shooter:    I tried to buy it out of bankruptcy. I got an equity partner, Peri Capital. I called Chase back, and I got the head of media and entertainment on the phone, and I told him what was up and I had a couple of ex-Cap Cities/ABC (Inc) execs, each of whom run billion-dollar units for Cap Cities/ABC. Because I knew they’re not going to… It’s going to be a billion-dollar transaction. They’re not going to give a guy with a high school education a billion dollars. “I’m sorry. That’s not going to happen.”

 

So, I had these two guys. They were going to run the media; I’d run everything else. And so, I told them what I had going on, and he said, I quote, “You can count on our support.” So, we had the lender, we had the equity… We just went and started reviewing document. More or less, set up a document room over in Jersey City at their lawyers’ office for reviewing documents and stuff.

 

And there were a lot of contingent liabilities, because Marvel’s suing Toy Biz, and Toy Biz is suing Marvel, it’s a mess. And I said, “The only solution is to buy both.” Because Toy Biz was in bankruptcy too. And the guy says to me, “Can you run a toy company?” And I said, “I know a lot about toys but I don’t think I’m qualified to run a toy company.”  “So, what are we going to do?” I said, “Let’s get a partner. Let’s get a toy company partner.”

 

So, I called Jill Barad, I said, “This is what we got going. You guys, Hasbro has boys’ toys, and Kenner has boys’ toys. You got Barbie. You could have the best brand for boys’ toys.” She said, “I’m going to send my business affairs guy.” So, she sent this guy, Seymour (Rosenberg) something. Something Seymour, I don’t know.

 

She sends this guy, and he looks at documents and his take was, “Let’s let it collapse and pick up the pieces.” I said, “It’s not going to collapse. The trustees are going to emerge them. Give them chapter seven till they get on their feet.” It’s exactly what happened. And so, you know, couldn’t get it done. I tried twice… Could not get it done.

 

Alex:          How did you react when Mark Grunwald died of his heart attack?

 

Shooter:    I couldn’t believe it. But a lot of comic book of people had died young. John Verpoorten was in his 30s, Carol Kalish was in her 30s.

 

Alex:          True.

 

Shooter:    I’ve seen them all healthy in their stuff. I’m surprised. And that was so… That’s a loss, so it’s terrible. He was such a good guy. Gene Day was in his 30s

 

Alex:          That’s right. He died early too. Yeah.

 

Shooter:    I think there’s a lot of comic book people who have pretty sedentary lives, and drink too much Coca-Cola and Twinkies and…

 

Alex:          The cardiovascular risk increases.

 

Shooter:    Yeah. And a few guys smoked. And you know, I mean… And he was sick. He had something.

 

Alex:          You return to Valiant. It was now owned or called Acclaim in 1999, and you wrote what, Unity 2000 to combine all the new Valiant universes, three out of six issues were published. What was up with that?

 

Shooter:    The editor was Mike Marts, and he called me and he said something about me working for them. I wasn’t terribly interested. He said, “Will you at least have lunch with me and my boss?” I said, “Alright, fine.” So, they took me to a nice restaurant and they basically told me what they wanted me to do is take all this scattered crap and straighten it up. Rebuild the universe and make it make sense. Do it in a way that makes sense. And then we’re going to call it, Unity 2000.

 

I said, “I can do that.” And so, I wrote the story. He liked it. I suggested (Jim) Starlin. They got Starlin. I don’t know who picked (Josef) Rubinstein but that was a good combination. We started on it, but they were on their last legs. This was supposed to save them. But we didn’t get it done in time.

 

It was a pretty good story. On my blog, if you look at the downloads, I think it’s in there. If it’s not, I’ll send it to you if you want. All six, I think, were penciled. All six were plotted. All six were penciled we did it Marvel style. Five were fully scripted. The last one, the script wasn’t done. Of course, it wasn’t inked because they cut it off.

 

So, a lot of it exists, only three issues saw print.

 

Alex:          Yeah. So now, you had some, like what, a brief involvement with Valiant, again in 2007? What exactly happened there? And was there some lawsuit that occurred around that time?

 

Shooter:    Yeah, yeah. What happened was, these guys Dinesh and Jason Kothari… Dinesh Shamdasani, something like that, and Jason Kothari, they were two young men and I guess they came from wealthy families. I don’t know. But somehow, they put together a couple million buck and they bought the Valiant characters, the ones I created, out of bankruptcy, out of Acclaim Entertainment’s bankruptcy. Because Acclaim bought Valiant, and they went bankrupt… Dinesh and Jason bought the characters.

 

At first, they didn’t know what they were going to do with them. Dinesh had some involvement with the film world… But I think he did financial work or something. So, he was trying to do stuff out there. They called me up, and the first thing they asked me to do is, would I write a screenplay for one of the characters I’ve created. I said, “I’d consider it.”

 

So, we talked about it. We didn’t really get down to money or stuff. They said, “Alright, well, we’re interested. We’ll call you.” Well, they didn’t… And after a while, they did call me, and they said, “We’re thinking of publishing. We’d like you to be the editor in chief.” And they made me an offer and it sucked. I said, “Well, no. Thank you.”

 

And they called me again. Each time they called me, the number went up, and then finally, it was a pretty good number. And I said, “Huh, I can use a gig.” So, I went and I took the job. It was just… I mean, I made it clear to them, “I don’t want to be the machine that makes the product anymore. I want to be the editor in chief and conduct the orchestra.”

 

They said, “Fine. Fine. Fine.” I said, “No writing.” They said, “Fine. Fine. Fine.”

 

We didn’t have a contract. We didn’t even have a deal memo. Nothing. They just hired me and the understanding we have is, I wasn’t going to write. First day I come in there, they asked me to write something. It was a pitch for some Hollywood thing. And every day, I was writing. I wrote comics. I wrote pitches.

 

They had this guy… I can’t remember his name… Spanish last name… Don’t know. Gomez, maybe. They hired this guy and paid him a whole big bunch of money to try to fix some of the… Some of the property after I left were really stupid. And so, they asked him to fix them, and he battered out over the weekend. They were stupid and made no sense. And they paid him a lot of money for it.

 

So, they said, “We’re not happy with this.” And I said, “Good.” [chuckle] Shows some judgment. They said, “Can you fix these characters?” I said, “Yeah, I can fix them” So, I did. I went through them one at a time. I did first – I did Quantum and Woody, which was done by Christopher Priest who used to be Jim Owsley. And the stuff there was really pretty good. It was really good. Except that he was doing that black out sketch comedy trick where you get little snippets, and it’s not all in chronological order… Nice little scenes, and they weren’t exactly chronological.

 

So, that was fine and they were pretty funny. They look good. A couple of things went wrong. One thing is that after he had the origin issue, then he kind of forget they were superheroes. For like six or seven issues, they didn’t do anything super. And then finally, somebody pointed it out to him, “You know, they got these bands, they’re supposed to be powerful.”

 

So then, he started doing a little bit of superhero stuff. They’re like climbing up buildings on a rope like Batman and stuff… They were doing like Batman stuff, before that. Okay, then he starts doing that and he’s doing the sketch comic comedy, black out sketch comedy thing. And it’s really hard doing that because what happens is, it’s easy to lose track.

 

Just to give you one example, Woody was supposedly growing up wealthy in Connecticut, going to private schools and stuff like that. And they show him, Mark Bright drew him in like a prep school jacket. He looked like a middle to late teenaged guy, and he’s wearing a prep school jacket, with the crest and everything. So then, Jim (Owsley) forgets that or Christopher forgets that. And the next thing is that his mother loses the money, the support. They have to move. They end up moving to Harlem. Alright. Okay… Funny, when he leaves Connecticut, he’s in prep school. When he arrives in Harlem, he’s five years old…

 

That was just one thing.  There’s a lot of little logical problems here and there that would crop up. Not because he’s a bad writer, but because he was doing a very high degree of difficulty dive, and probably doing on the fly. He probably did it 10 times as well as anyone else could have but there were glitches.

 

Also, Bloodshot made no sense. Ninjak was like a really bad, lame kung fu movie origin. Just, a lot of stuff.

 

So, I fixed them. One at a time, made them make sense. Somebody told me that they used some of my Ninjak’s stuff. Like why Ninjak? Okay… His name is Jak and he’s a ninja, Ninjak. That’s stupid. Sorry. So, what I did was I had… When he was doing his training, his master tells him, there are 10 ranks in ninja, which is true. Some say 15, they’re wrong… 10 ranks of ninja, and he becomes so good, that the master says, “You’re 11th rank.”

 

So, since there is no 11th rank, the 11th letter of the alphabet is K… So, he signs a note some time, that’s for the… It was some secret agent guy or something. And he signs it, “Ninja K”. The guy reads that as Ninjak. And then it becomes his personal in joke that, you know, “How are you? I’m a ninja. Ninja K.” So, I did that.

 

They told me they used that. I guess… I don’t know. I haven’t read any of his stuff. But I did a remake of all the characters, including a couple of mines. I improved X-O’s origin. I did a lot of stuff… Eternal Warrior. And I wrote some scripts and stuff. I didn’t want to be writing. I was like, “Why am I doing this every day.” And I’m sitting in a room, not a big room, with like four to five other people. All talking, when I’m trying to write. That’s hard.

 

And so, finally, I got sick of it and so, I quit. Left the computer and my keys on the desk. I left a note, a resignation letter. And I called Mike Richardson, I said, “I should’ve done this first but I need a gig.” And he said, “Well, funny you should call, because I just got the rights to publish new stories for Solar, Magnus, Turok, Samson, everything. Can you do it again?” I said, “Yeah. I can do it again.”

 

He said, “It can’t be like what you did before, it has to be all different. I don’t want it to look like it’s just a part two of Valiant. So, you have to do all different, yet true to the source material, but you have to be different… Can you handle that?” I said, “Yeah. I think… I think I can.”

 

So, I end up working for them for a couple of years. I did Solar, Magnus, Samson and Turok. They were good. It was fun.

 

Alex:          Interesting… So, now…

 

Shooter:    P.S., the lawsuit. The lawsuit.

 

Alex:          Yes.

 

Shooter:    So, I leave them. I call Mike. And Mike says, “Well, I want to do this. I’m going to fly you to San Diego, put you up in a hotel, and I want you to be in the surprise announcement I make on stage, when I do my little thing.” I said, “Great. Okay.” So, I did that. And he calls me up the stage, and he announces. This is about two to three weeks after I left Valiant.

 

Valiant, in the meantime, hired Fred Pierce. And Fred Pierce used to be like, Israeli Secret Service… One time, at Valiant, somebody counterfeiting our books, and he organized this sting with the state police ang everything and they caught the guy. So, he was in to all that kind of stuff, and so, pretty sure he was behind this. I haven’t asked him, but pretty sure.

 

They sued me. Valiant sued me alleging that I violated my contract… I didn’t have a contract. There wasn’t even a deal memo. There wasn’t a single shred of paper, right? They said I was betraying their trade secrets. I’d like to know what those were, because these guys didn’t know anything about publishing. And they said I was… Oh, and then I’d gone off to work for Mike, and that was… There’s something wrong with that. I think that was another violation to the contract that didn’t exist.

 

But you can sue anybody for anything. Right? So, it cost me about 11,000 bucks to get rid of that. But the way it really was gotten rid off was that… I’m thinking, “If you think Mike stole me away, why aren’t you suing Dark Horse?” And Mike didn’t care if they sued him because he has lawsuit insurance. But they didn’t sue Dark Horse, instead, Fred Pierce is talking to Mike about, “Hey, we’ll stop suing Jim if you do a movie deal with us.”

 

So, Mike has breakfast with me. He was in New York and we had breakfast, and he says, “This is what they’re doing.” I said, “Well, they’re trying to manipulate you.” He said, “I don’t like being manipulated.” I said, “Well, good for you.”

 

So, he said, “Go to hell.” And then, there was no point in suing me anymore. It cost me $11,000… But they went through the suit, but not with prejudice. I mean, they could always re-instate… So, they’ll probably do it for me saying this, I don’t care.  But they also stiffed me on my vacation pay. They owed me about 4,000 bucks. And they stiffed me on that too. So, they owe me about 15 grand, and I’ll never get it. But it doesn’t matter.

 

But they were just… And I think Fred was behind it, because like I said…. They even tried to put a sting on me after I left Valiant. They set us this phony guy who was trying to trick me into betraying trade secrets, and asking me like… He was pretending he was going to fund a new comic book company… “Who can you steal from Valiant?” Because if I say, “Well, I think Perlin will come.” They can sue me because at that time, I still own stocks, so I’m violating my fiduciary responsibility.

 

So, I said, “I’d never do that… No, that would be a violation to my fiduciary responsibility.” Because I saw through the guy. And then he gets all frustrated and leaves. And I’m pretty sure that’s Fred. Because that’s sick in the… Fred’s really smart about stuff like that. He’s really clever, and like I said, he was Israeli Secret Service, he really knows that skulduggery.

 

 

Alex:          Then, in 2003, you joined Illustrated Media as creative director and editor in chief, and you’ve been there ever since. Right?

 

Shooter:    Yeah, it’s basically, I’m on call for them. I mean I don’t go to an office every day or anything. Joe Lauria runs it, and he and his people who work with him. They either get me gigs or get the company gigs and I’m the machine that makes the product. Or if I get something, they’ll manage it for me. And for instance, Dark Horse, when I worked for Dark Horse, I worked through Illustrated Media.

 

Alex:          Okay, you’re talking about 2009, when you’re writing the Gold Key guys again?

 

Shooter:    Yeah, yeah. But I met him earlier on. The first project we were going to do, the State Department was interested in doing a Voice of America comics, let’s call it that.

 

Comics that they were distributed in Arab and Muslim countries, that would have a pro-America message. So, he got in touch with me somehow and asked me if I’d come to this meeting with, with this number two person at the State Department in charge of this stuff, Peggy England. And so, I went with him.

 

His brother did comics. He actually published his brother’s comics. His brother was a retired Navy Seal.

 

Peggy England was saying, “We’ve got a lot of money and we’d like to do this. What do you have in mind? And so, he started talking. I said, “I don’t necessarily… I hardly know him. I’m not necessarily agreeing with what he said.” And Joe looks at me like I’m stabbing him in the back. She said, “Well, what do you have in mind?”

 

So, I told her, we had to make, all the characters had to be Arabs or Muslim. We can’t set any stories in present day or if they’re superheroes, why aren’t they freeing Palestine. I said, “It has to be fanny… Fantasy. It has to be genies… You could do one in the future, like picture Star Trek with all Arabs… Absolutely wonderful entertainment. And then you can lay a little bit of subtle message between the lines, very subtlely. You know, tolerance, and respect for people in these other planets and stuff.” “Fine…”  “But it has to be entertainment first. It has to be so popular that everybody reads.

 

And so, they liked it. And then the Gulf War broke up. And then they got busy with that, and the lady who ran it quit, and that never happened. But that’s how we got together. Then after that we did a lot of little projects, and a few big projects, like Dark Horse.

 

He’s been… Joe’s great. He’s a lawyer. His wife’s a lawyer. They’ve been terrific to me, and they’ve helped me an awful lot. And then I do good work, and I’ve been holding up my end. So, when stuff happens, like Illustrated Media handles all the stuff I don’t want to handle, and I just get a paycheck.

 

Alex:          You also worked on Legion of Superheroes in 2007. You co-created Gazelle, it went for 13 issues. Did you enjoy doing that?

 

Shooter:    Well, it was the best of times, it was the worst of times. I mean, Dan Didio, and Mike Marts had gone from Acclaim to DC. So, it’s Dan Didio and Mike Marts, so they took me out to lunch, nice steak house, and tried to talk me into this. I said, “You know a lot of people at DC don’t like me.”

 

Didio said, “I don’t care… There’s a new sheriff in town. I don’t care what they think.” Because at one time before, I talked to (Paul) Levitz, about doing something there, and several of his people didn’t like me, that I’d fired from Marvel – Denny O’Neil and Mike Farlin objected. And Levitz didn’t want to get into any controversy is so he just said, “Nah, maybe we better not do this.”

 

And Didio said, “I don’t care. I don’t care what they say.” And I said, “Alright, fine.” So, the deal was, I was going to do the Legion. They wanted me to create a new version of Superboy. Because the (Jerry) Siegel and (Joe) Shuster stakes had…

 

They couldn’t win suing DC for Superman. They did get a concession. They got this perpetual payment of, I think, 40 grand a year, each. And they got their credits on the book and stuff. So, they got something out of that.

 

Then they sued for Superboy, and they won. And so, all of a sudden, all Superboy licensing and revenue that goes to them. So, DC wanted to have a new Superboy, that they could license. And so, they asked me to create it.

 

So, I thought the Legion of Superheroes…  So, I called him Super Lad. I designed the character. I went with designing all the characters. I designed the character and I came up with the origin story and stuff. And it was enough Superman history in it to make sense, but it didn’t touch the Superboy.

 

Alex:          Wow, okay.

 

Shooter:    It was set in the future, so you couldn’t say like, “Oh, it’s just Superboy.”

 

So anyway, I did that, and right away, I was doing my… I was pouring my heart into it. I was doing the best I could. Right away, I started to get in trouble. Because Mike Marts was editing this thing, I think it was called Countdown, 52 books, one a week. And he just didn’t have his eyes on the ball with me at all. He’s like, “Jim, knows what he’s doing… Just leave him alone.”

 

Well, yeah. But Jim could use some help here… You know. “Jim can’t tell the artist anything…”  The artist doesn’t have to listen to me and stuff. And then I get this artist, Francis Manapul… He’s a promising kid. At the time he was fairly new; I think. He’s still pretty good; he could learn a little more about storytelling and stuff. But he was really pretty good, but he was slow.

 

And so, in the first eight issues, I had four fill-in artists. Including one by Sanford Green which was just terrible. And all these editorial problems and everything always came down to the last minute. And that there was never time to get anything redrawn, but they would send me art and stuff at the last minute, and they’d say, “This doesn’t work. What are we going to do?” And I’d have to like rewrite it to make it fit the art. And I got really tired of that.

 

It was like writing everything twice. You write it once, you will wait… It’s a full script, they know what the copy is. They could leave room for it. They could put the first balloon on the left that they, you know… No. For instance, Manapul draws the guy who speaks first at the bottom right-hand corner of the panel, then all the people that are speaking second and third up there. So, you got to rewrite it and make it, that they can speak first… Hah…

 

He was really good, really talented guy but he just hadn’t gone through boot camp yet. And I couldn’t tell him anything. And Mike was too busy and his assistant didn’t really know much. Just one thing after another, it’s just a nightmare.

 

I got an email from Mark Waid. He says, “Oh, you’re going through it too.” I didn’t even tell him. He said, “I bet you’re going through it too.” Because he had the same problems.

 

Alex:          Oh, interesting.

 

Shooter:    So finally, the thing that really… They asked me to write a text feature about the Legion Flight Ring, a text feature. So, I wrote it like an encyclopedia article. And I called for several little thumbnail shots; picture of the ring, Marvel stuff.

 

I delivered that, 10 months early, 10 months, alright. So, it comes down to the wire, of the issue that this thing is supposed to be published in. And they said, “I’m going to send you the stuff you got to make sure you check it. It has to go out tomorrow and…” This thing comes, they gave my text piece to an artist, who took it as a plot, and drew comic book panels… They weren’t even good.

 

[chuckle]

 

I had like 1500 words, how am I going to fit 1500 words in like, 12 panels? And I call him, I said, “This is terrible. What am I going to do?” They said, “Well, it has to be out tomorrow.” I said, “I will stay up all night and I will rewrite these to fit these six panels per page.”

 

So, I stayed up all night, I came up with something I thought was pretty good. I sent it off, first thing in the morning and I’m waiting for a call. And I kept calling Mike Marts, and I’m getting his answering machine. So, finally I called his assistant, and I said, “I can’t get a hold of Mike.”

 

“Oh, he took the day off.”

 

I said, “Wait a minute, he’s got a hot deadline, and he took the day off?” She said, “Yeah, he decided to start his weekend early… He’s got a little house on the lake and…”  “Well, swell for him. I stayed up all night to finish this.” She said, “I already sent it out.” I said, “Sent out what?” She said, “I rewrote it.”

 

I said, “You, rewrote it?… And who’s by-line is on it?” She said, “Yours.” I said, “My name is on something you wrote… Oh, that’s unacceptable. That is really… Stop it. Call the printer, get it back.”  “I can’t do that.”

 

So anyway, that ran. That piece of shit that she wrote.

 

Alex:          [Chuckle] That’s terrible, yeah.

 

Shooter:    I’m sorry. It was garbage, and it has my name on it. That was one thing.

 

Finally, there was enough arguing going back and forth. They took Superlad away from me because they didn’t want to have to be paying me royalties. They didn’t like me anymore. Levitz like me. We’re still friends. And he tried to smooth over things here and there. And it was kind of a race to see if I’d quit, or they’d fire me first.

 

Levitz, just to spare everyone, cancelled the book. That way, graceful exit… All the books cancelled. They cancelled my book which was selling 30 something thousand copies, which is lousy but that was good for DC. And they kept books that were selling 15 and 10,000 copies.

 

And so, alright, fine. I didn’t get to finish the story. They told me that I could finish the story if I did it in one issue. And I had already gotten approved, double size. So, I’m writing this script, and I’m up on page, like 30 of the 40 something pages. Then I get a call from Mike Marts, he said, “When are you going to have that?” And I said, “I’m on page 30, and I’ll be done in a couple of days.”

 

He said, “30? This is a regular size book. It should be 22 pages.” I said, “You told me it was a double size.” He said, “No. It’s single size. You have to cut it down.” I said, “You know what?… I quit.”

 

So, I wrote those 30 pages. Never got paid. I just quit. They got… What’s his name?… The got a writer to do it, a guy who did fill-in stuff for them once… He used a pseudonym. His pseudonym is Justin Time.

 

Alex:          Hmm… Ha!

 

Shooter:    So, he did it and it was terrible. So, my story, up to the last issue and then, I don’t know, this train wreck.

 

Anyway, so that didn’t work out.

 

Alex:          So then… And I appreciate you talking about your career with us today because it’s so vast, and there’s so many aspects, and decisions, and encounters you had. I mean it’s like, it’s an immense amount of detail and data. And I’m impressed that you remember all of that stuff.

 

Shooter:    I have a good memory; very good mind.

 

Alex:          Yeah, it’s amazing… And did you ever get married or have kids?

 

Shooter:    Yeah, I was married for a while. It didn’t work out so well. I have one son, he’s 23; 24 in August. He’s a musician, and he’s doing really well.

 

Alex:          Oh, that’s awesome.

 

Shooter:    Yeah. He writes music. He writes lyrics. And he plays six instruments and he has a band. He has a website. He’s doing great… He’s a great kid. I keep thinking, you know, maybe the mailman is his real father.

 

Alex:          [chuckle] That’s awesome. You love him, that’s great.

 

Shooter:    Oh, his terrific and he’s just the best thing…

 

Alex:          When did your parents… Are they still around? And if not, when did they pass away?

 

Shooter:    My father died in 2001, September 17. My mother’s still with us, but she’s in a nursing home she’s in her 90s, and she’s lost her memories. She doesn’t know who I am. She has no idea.

 

But she’s happy. She’s cheerful, she loves everybody… It’s really funny she can’t remember who I am, but she… They do these singalongs, she remembers every word, to every song.

 

Alex:          Yeah, that’s so interesting. Memory is such a weird thing.

 

Shooter:    Yeah. It’s kind of weird. But as long as she’s happy… You can’t go to visit now because of the COVID thing. And so, once in a while, either they’ll call me or I’ll… There’s a minister that goes to visit her. There’s the lady who does her hair. And there’s a social worker, and I talked to them. They give me reports. She’s fine. She’s healthy, and happy, so… Can’t ask for more.

 

Alex:          And then, was there any sort of religious affiliation you had just growing up, overall?

 

Shooter:    My mother was a very, very religious lady. I think she’s still is but… And the minister always comes to see her. I was not like that. I mean, she would take me with her to Episcopal Church, and that was… I didn’t hate her or anything. I just don’t… I wasn’t as into it as she was.

 

Alex:          It wasn’t your interest.

 

Shooter:    No, I was… Yeah…Fine, that’s not my thing. I wore a flag on my lapel, for my father. He was a war hero, And a cross from my mother. If people asked me about it, I’d say, “It’s from my mother. It’s my mother’s cross.” But I mean, that’s not me so much.

 

Alex:          And what war did your father fight in?

 

Shooter:    World War II, he’s in Normandy and Brittany, Purple Heart with a crest of bronze star; should have been the middle of the war. He was a machine gunner.

 

Alex:          Oh, wow. Cool.

 

Shooter:    He’s an infantry man, but all the people in the machine gun crew were killed, so he did it. He knew how to fire a gun. Yeah, he quidered himself the honor. He was wounded twice. Once, he was wounded, he kept going. And then the next time he got wounded, luckily, war over.

 

But he recovered pretty well. He became a steelworker… Great man. A great man. Really, you know… I mean, his generation wasn’t an enlightened generation, if you know what I mean. I mean, no, not in terms of racial stuff or sidle stuff… Just like he grew up in rough times and he didn’t have a lot of please and thank you.

 

But I didn’t care, because he was my hero. He was great. He deserved better than he got.

 

Alex:          Uh-huh. Yeah, I know what you mean. I have a grandmother that had just a hard life… Do you lean politically conservative, liberal, kind of in the middle?

 

Shooter:    I don’t know. I mean, I’m not a member of any party. I just… It’s sort of a common-sense person… If a guy or a woman, seems reasonable. I did do vote.

 

Alex:          You’re kind of a swing voter, it sounds like.

 

Shooter:    I guess so. I mean, not every election, I mean I try to vote for the people, I think, are good or people that I believe in. And if I just don’t know, I don’t vote for anyone.

 

Alex:          Yeah, sometimes…. Yeah, exactly.

 

Shooter:    I guess some of my views might be considered conservative. Probably, like, fiscally conservative.

 

Alex:          Fiscally, yeah, I know what you mean. I’m kind of like that.

 

Shooter:    I’m a human rights advocate. I just try to do what I think.

 

Alex:          Uh-huh.

 

Jim:            I want to thank you for, really, really answering all my questions with grace and with patience. I appreciate it.

 

Shooter:    My pleasure. Even if we don’t agree on everything.

 

Alex:          Thank you so much for spending time with us today. I’ve been a big fan, even before I knew your name, I just read all your stuff. And as I grew up and I put a name to it, I followed it, And I’ve enjoyed everything that I’ve read from you.

 

Shooter:    Okay. Thanks. Good night.

 

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