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Tom DeFalco Interview, Consummate Professional 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:

Alex Grand and co-host Jim Thompson interview former Marvel Editor in Chief, Tom DeFalco from his early days reading comics, his comic strip work in college, his meetings with John Goldwater, Louis Silberkleit working at Archie Comics, creating the Archie Digests in 1973, his work at DC with E. Nelson Bridwell including Jimmy Olsen, Superman Family, Starfire, his initial meetings with Denny O’Neil, Marvel Two-In-One at Marvel Comics, Avengers and creating Dazzler with John Romita Jr, his creative contributions to GI Joe, Transformers, Marvel Two In One Thing with Sandman, Peter-Porker/Spider-Ham, Machine Man with Herb Trimpe and Barry Windsor-Smith, writing Amazing Spider-Man with artist Ron Frenz, the Mighty Thor, working under Jim Shooter as Marvel as Editor-in-Chief, his replacement by Tom DeFalco, and the sale of Marvel to Revlon by New World, and Marvel going public, his run on the Fantastic Four with artist Paul Ryan, the original vision for the Spider-Man Clone Saga, the Marvel bankruptcy of the mid 1990s, the Clone Saga ending that led to his co-creation of the Amazing Spider-Girl, working with Pat Oliffe, the creation of the MC2 timeline, and his post Marvel work, and returning the Archie.

Tom DeFalco is an American comic book writer and editor, well known for his
association with Marvel Comics and in particular for his work with Spider-Man.

🎬 Edited & Produced by Alex Grand, ©2021 Comic Book Historians

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Tom Defalco Biographical Interview 2019
📜 Video chapters
00:00:00 Welcoming Tom Defalco
00:00:25 Family background
00:02:00 Early reading comics
00:04:06 Walt Kelly – Pogo Possum | Jimmy Olsen
00:06:40 Mort Weisinger – good editor?
00:08:07 Education
00:10:30 Comic strip work in college
00:11:28 Writing short stories
00:12:15 Getting started at Archie
00:14:00 John Goldwater, Louis Silberkleit, Victor Gorelick
00:16:18 Reading Archie as a kid, Bob Boiling
00:18:42 Samm Schwartz
00:19:56 How long in Archie Comics | Charlton Comics
00:22:13 Digest Comics
00:24:56 Archie to DC | Joe Orlando, Paul Levitz, Denny O’Neil, E. Nelson Bridwell
00:32:03 You brought Archie’s sensibility to Jimmy Olsen?
00:32:35 E. Nelson Bridwell
00:34:02 Editor and Writer duties
00:34:41 Kirby aspect of Jimmy Olsen
00:35:52 DC to Marvel | DC Implosion
00:38:23 Marvel Two-In-One, Avengers
00:39:47 Jim Shooter
00:41:22 Working with Steve Ditko on Machine Man
00:45:37 John Romita era was almost like an Archie comic?
00:46:56 Launching Dazzler #1 ~1981
00:49:33 Dazzler in X-Men 130 ~980
00:52:10 G.I. Joe | Larry Hama
00:54:12 Transformers, Hasbro, Starriors
00:57:39 Editing Spiderman, Denny O’Neil
00:59:13 Ghost Rider, Spiderman, What If?, Micronauts
01:00:34 The Thing & Sandman drinking a beer together
01:03:28 Editing Fantastic Four, John Byrne
01:05:31 Peter Parker Spider-Ham | Larry Hama, Mark Armstrong
01:09:30 Jim Galton, Joe Walsh – Curtis Circulation, Steve Skeates
01:13:05 Spider-Ham in that Spiderverse animated movie.
01:14:22 Machine Man limited series ~1984-85 | Herb Trimpe, Barry Smith
01:18:57 Amazing Spider-Ham, Spiderman | Danny Fingeroth, Ron Frenz
01:24:09 Ron Frenz
01:26:02 Frenz Spider-Man like Ditko
01:27:49 Creating characters with Ron Frenz
01:30:32 Shooter removed? Becoming editor-in-chief?
01:34:29 Leaving Spider-Man for Thor, Jim Owsley ~1987
01:39:13 Thunderstrike
01:41:30 Why were you chosen as editor-in-chief?
01:45:07 Editor-in-chief during these corporate events?
01:47:50 What’s your take on the Image revolution of ’92?
01:52:52 Fantastic Four, Paul Ryan ~1991
01:57:28 Alicia, it turns out she was a Skrull | Soap Opera
01:59:48 Fantastic Four #358 | Mixture of Kirby and Stan
02:05:19 Fantastic Four #400
02:06:49 Resigned as editor-in-chief in 1994?
02:12:59 Spider-Man Clone Saga, Danny Fingeroth
02:19:06 Spider-Girl series, What If
02:24:57 Pat Olliffe
02:30:22 Any more May Parker stories?
02:31:02 Superman Beyond One-Shot for DC comics ~2001
02:31:48 Dorling Kindersley for Marvel character guides
02:33:41 Riverdale-Archie #610 ~2010
02:35:42 Reggie and Me, Sandy Jarrell
02:37:12 1996 the death of old Marvel? | Mark Gruenwald
02:40:23 Eternalized character into merchandising formats
02:42:47 Wrapping Up

Transcript (editing in progress):

Alex Grand:         Okay. All right. So welcome to Comic Book Historians. Today we have a special guest, Tom DeFalco, former editor and writer of Marvel Comics, currently editing and writing various works, especially stuff with Archie Comics. I’m Alex Grand with my co-host, Jim Thompson. Tom, thanks so much for joining us today.

Tom DeFalco:        It’s my pleasure.

Jim Thompson:       Tom, what we usually like to do is to start at the very beginning, where you were born, a little bit of background on your family, your parents and then into how you started being interested in comics as a kid. So you were born in Queens?

Tom DeFalco:        I was born in Queens many years ago, way too many years ago. I am the oldest of seven children. My father was a butcher who eventually owned a small supermarket and I pretty much grew up up working in the supermarket and understanding how you make little little bits of profit that add up to a paycheck at the end of the week.

Jim Thompson:       So you had a sense, as a small business owner, your father, you had a sense of business practicality and common sense. Would that be fair to say?

Tom DeFalco:        I’d say that was hammered in to me, yeah. You know, little things where people would bring in a ten cent off coupon and I realized, at that time, if you were a store owner and they brought in the ten cents coupon, you would make an additional two cents by mailing it into the company. And I realized at the end of the month, all these little coupons added up. It actually served me well when I first started working for Archie Comics, because I forget if it was John Goldwater or Louis Silberkleit, one of them said to me, “This is a business of pennies, but if you watch the pennies, eventually they turn into dollars.”

Alex Grand:         Wow.

Jim Thompson:       That’s really interesting. So let’s talk about comics a little bit. When did you start? Were you were a comic reader as a kid?

Tom DeFalco:        I started reading newspaper strips, The Phantom, Mandrake The Magician, Pogo Possum, On Stage by Leonard Starr, and very occasionally Prince Valiant because my father didn’t pick up that paper, Dick Tracy, all of the basic comic strips. I got into comic strips very early and I used to cut them out of the newspaper. I was hoping my timing was right and I would cut them out of the paper after my father had read them, not before. And somewhere along the line, I think it was at some family party and one of my cousins, my cousin Johnny, he was a few years older than me, handed me a Batman comic. It was either a Batman comic or a detective comic. And I remembered looking at this creature Batman and it scared the heck out of me, but I really liked this thing called comic books, and I started searching around and I discovered that they were on sale pretty well everywhere and from then on I was kind of hooked.

Alex Grand:         What year do you think was that when you started reading the comic books?

Tom DeFalco:        I’m going to guess 1956-57, somewhere around there.

Alex Grand:         Oh, okay. So kind of like that Jack Schiff era of Batman and then so this was before the Marvel stuff was coming out, okay.

Tom DeFalco:        Sure.

Jim Thompson:       Were you reading any EC stuff or just mainly more kid superhero things?

Tom DeFalco:        It was the kids’ comic books, the Harvey Comics, the DC superhero things, the occasional Marvel monster book, plenty of westerns. I loved westerns as a teen.

Jim Thompson:       I’ve read elsewhere where Walt Kelly was actually a pretty big influence or at least one of the ones that really, really grabbed you early on. Is that right?

Tom DeFalco:        Yeah, I mentioned earlier, Pogo Possum.

Alex Grand:         Pogo Possum, yeah.

Tom DeFalco:        That was his strip and Kelly’s, his artwork, his way of dealing with characters, it just just really hooked me. One of my trips to the library, I saw this book. I think it was called “Jes’ Fine” Says Bug, which was a collection of Pogo strips, and I must have taken that book out a hundred times from the library, just studying it and just enjoying it.

Jim Thompson:       Oh, that’s great.

Alex Grand:         So do you feel that Walt Kelly’s Pogo had better characterization than, let’s say, the DC Batman stuff or did you feel that you liked the DC Batman characterization as well?

Tom DeFalco:        Well, like I said, Batman scared me. I stuck more with the Superman line of comic books.

Alex Grand:         Oh, I see.

Tom DeFalco:        I loved Jimmy Olsen because Jimmy Olsen kind of reminded me of me. They were five or six-page stories and for the first four or five pages, he’d just screw up, screw up, screw up and then he’d hit his signal watch and Superman would come and rescue him. I just kind of thought of Superman kind of as a father figure and thought, hey, you know, whenever we get into trouble, Superman will rescue us.

Alex Grand:         Oh, interesting.

Tom DeFalco:        But in terms of the Walt Kelly stuff, you know, they both had different appeals to me.

Alex Grand:         Right.

Tom DeFalco:        I loved them both and I also loved a lot of the Harvey stuff, Hot Stuff, The Little Devil and Spooky. They’re all great characters. I enjoyed all that stuff. Of course, I read the Archie comics too.

Jim Thompson:       So did you recognize Spooky as like being a fellow New Yorker? Was there like-

Tom DeFalco:        I don’t think I was thinking in terms of New Yorkers because, as far as I was concerned, it was all New York. I didn’t know there were other states of the union-

Alex Grand:         Right. That’s true.

Tom DeFalco:        … or that people were not like … Yeah, I didn’t know that there were places in this country where you can’t get a decent slice of pizza. When I found that out, it broke my heart.

Alex Grand:         Empathy. That shows a lot of empathy actually. Looking back as an editor, do you feel that Mort Weisinger was a good editor of those Superman comics you were reading as a kid?

Tom DeFalco:        This is a question no one has ever asked me and I’ve never really analyzed it. I think Mort produced the kind of material that was needed at the time because, at that time, comic books I think were aimed for six to ten-year-olds and that material was perfect for when you’re six, seven, eight years old, certainly the Jimmy Olsen stuff where he’d turn into a giant turtle or a werewolf or what have you. It was really fun nonsense.

Alex Grand:         I got you.

Tom DeFalco:        One little step above the Harvey stuff. I look at that stuff today with a lot of fondness. I know Mort was a rough editor. I’ve heard the stories from people who worked with him, but the material that he was producing, it really had an effect on people.

Tom DeFalco:        You see his influence today from so many writers who are trying to make sense of these characters like Mxyzptlk or whatever you call them, trying to figure out ways of getting that into continuity. For me, if I were them, I’d just forget that stuff and create new stuff.

Alex Grand:         Right.

Jim Thompson:       All right. Talk about your education a little bit. Where did you go to school?

Tom DeFalco:        Well, I went to … high school or college?

Jim Thompson:       Well, let’s go straight to college.

Tom DeFalco:        College, I went to a small college called Le Moyne College. Somewhere early on in my life, I discovered that I wanted to be a writer when I grew up, I wasn’t convinced that you could actually make a living as a writer. So my plan going to college was I was going to become a teacher and write on the weekends. It’s kind of ironic because I became a writer who had to work every goddamn weekend. I ended up having an elective in my freshman year, which you’re not supposed to have. I figured, you know, might as well take an education course and I ended up taking this course called Philosophy of Education. I was a freshman. I was in a room full of seniors who had gone through all four years of the education course, and it was my first philosophy course.

Tom DeFalco:        So I go into this course and they’re discussing the philosophy of education and they would ask questions and no one really knew the answers. They were just discussing things. Now, because I had never taken a philosophy course before, I didn’t realize this is how philosophy works. You ask the questions and then you discuss them. There are no actual answers. But I was sitting there as a freshman thinking, man, these guys went through four years of the education course, they don’t know what education is? This must be a lousy course. So I immediately dropped out of the education department, thought I better start writing because I don’t have any other plan.

Alex Grand:         Yeah, survival.

Tom DeFalco:        Yeah. So a very lucky guy, I did some short stories and very lucky and actually managed to sell them. There was a local newspaper and I started working for the local newspaper doing reviews and writing whatever the heck they assigned me to do. At some point, I applied to work in the college public relations department writing press releases and that sort of thing. So I was building up a portfolio. I also-

Jim Thompson:       Had you worked in high school for your like high school paper or anything or was this your first published work?

Tom DeFalco:        Oh no, no. In high school, I worked for the school newspaper, the school literary magazine, all of that stuff.

Tom DeFalco:        I keep trying to figure out, now what was my first professional work. It was either 1969 or 1970. I think it was ’69 was when I sold my first couple of short stories. Yeah, I just kept writing. In college, I teamed up with an artist and we actually did a weekly comic strip for the school newspaper.

Jim Thompson:       What was it about?

Tom DeFalco:        Oh, it was called The Crimson Crackpot. I look at it now and it was really terrible. It was really terrible. We thought it was very funny at the time but, oh man, we just made fun of people in the college and things that were happening on the campus at that time.

Jim Thompson:       Now, what kind of short stories? Were you writing like genre fiction? Were they horror, science fiction or was it-

Tom DeFalco:        They were I guess mainly fantasy kind of stories. I learned early on that I didn’t have the technical expertise to do science fiction. I was once working on a science fiction story and I had to work out a math problem, and it took me four or five hours to work out the math so that I knew the science actually worked, and that became one sentence in the story.

Alex Grand:         Oh, that’s funny.

Tom DeFalco:        So I thought later on, yes, science fiction not for me. So it was that and then, later on, I eventually graduated to mystery stories and things like that.

Jim Thompson:       Were comics at all in your mind that that might be a direction you would go in in terms of like comic book writing?

Tom DeFalco:        I didn’t really think of aiming for comic book writing when I was in college and stuff. I was thinking more about trying to be the next Edgar Rice Burroughs. When I was a kid, I discovered the Marvel comics when I was about 10 or 11 years old, Fantastic Four, Three and Four, I bought them both up together and became a Marvel fan from that day on.

Alex Grand:         Oh cool.

Tom DeFalco:        There were two really good writers when I was growing up. It was Bob Kanigher and Stan Lee. I figured if you weren’t Bob or Stan, there was no future for you. By the time I got into college, Roy had come on the scene, Denny O’Neil had come. So many other guys had come on the scene so I saw it as a possibility but I didn’t really think too much about comics, you know, until I graduated. And when I graduated, I started looking for a job because I was programmed. You had to have a job, you had to have a paycheck. I sent out resumes to all the companies, including Archie, and I heard back from Archie. They invited me up and gave me an interview. I met Victor Gorelick who, you know, taught me everything I know, but not everything he knows and I’m still hawking him for that stuff.

Alex Grand:         That’s cool.

Tom DeFalco:        And I started at Archie.

Jim Thompson:       What year was this?

Tom DeFalco:        What year?

Jim Thompson:       Yeah.

Tom DeFalco:        1972.

Alex Grand:         And you met John Goldwater, you mentioned earlier?

Tom DeFalco:        I eventually met John Goldwater. At that time, there was John Goldwater who is the president of the company, Louis Silberkleit who I think it was co-president. I’m not exactly sure what their titles were. Richard Goldwater was the editor and Michael Silberkleit, the son of Louis, was the guy in charge of the business aspects of it.

Alex Grand:         Oh cool.

Tom DeFalco:        So I think Michael had seen my resume and thought, “Let’s give this idiot a chance.”

Alex Grand:         How were those guys interpersonally? I think a lot of people are curious about that because I think they see the names but they don’t know how they were on a personal level.

Tom DeFalco:        Well, it was a small family company and they were used to doing things as a small family company, you know, running it like that. But between John Goldwater and Louis Silberkleit, these guys kind of created the comic book industry and forgot more about comics than most people ever learned. Any time Goldwater would come into the room, I would open my ears to hear whatever I could learn and try to ask them a bunch of questions. A lot of times he would brush me off because I was asking very basic questions.

Tom DeFalco:        But he and Louis and Michael and Richard, they all understood the business so intimately that a five-minute conversation would be like taking a six-month course anywhere else. I sometimes look back and think about all the greats that I got to ask questions on and work with and learn from because I learned from the Silberkleits, the Goldwaters, Victor Gorelick who I think he joined Archie maybe when he was about 16 years old and he’s still there well into his seventies or maybe even his eighties at this stage of the game. These guys understand comics on a really basic, intimate level. The knowledge they have or had, it just takes my breath away.

Alex Grand:         Wow.

Jim Thompson:       When you went to work at Archie, when you were a reader, were you reading Archie as a kid?

Tom DeFalco:        I had read a bunch of the Archies. I enjoyed the Archie comics and especially the Jughead comic book.

Jim Thompson:       I noticed when you went back to Archie after Marvel and The Man from Riverdale series, you brought back one of the Little Archie characters, Doctor Doom, which I was really glad because that was my favorite when I was reading Archie as a small kid was definitely Little Archie. I thought those were the best.

Tom DeFalco:        And they still hold up today, those Little Archie stories by Bob Boiling and later Dexter Taylor, especially the Bob Boiling stuff. I have them in a box near my desk and every once in a while when I want to feel inspired, I pick up one of those things. Bob just had a magic of weaving a story and they had such emotional content for little kid material. It was just terrific.

Jim Thompson:       Was he gone by the time you started in ’72?

Tom DeFalco:        Who? Bob Boiling?

Jim Thompson:       Yeah.

Tom DeFalco:        No. Actually Bob … When I started, I started in the editorial department working on various editorial projects, learning the industry from the ground up, paste ups, how to color covers, how to make art corrections, how to make spelling corrections, all of that stuff.

Tom DeFalco:        I started to write one-page gags for Archie and eventually started to sell those and then eventually took my shot at doing the five-page stories. It took me a while to actually crack Richard Goldwater, but I finally cracked him.

Alex Grand:         Oh, that’s awesome.

Tom DeFalco:        And I sold my first five-page story and they assigned Bob Boiling to draw it.

Jim Thompson:       Oh wow.

Tom DeFalco:        I couldn’t believe it. I was in heaven.

Alex Grand:         Yeah.

Jim Thompson:       Oh, that’s super.

Tom DeFalco:        Yeah. Archie had some real masters of the craft, you know, Bob Boiling, Harry Lucey. We used to call him Juicy Lucey because, man, those girls were fabulous when he drew them.

Alex Grand:         Oh, that’s awesome.

Tom DeFalco:        Samm Schwartz.

Jim Thompson:       He was great.

Tom DeFalco:        Oh-

Jim Thompson:       His Jughead especially, just so good.

Tom DeFalco:        I loved Samm. I loved his work. Sometimes I didn’t love working with Samm, but I loved his work and I’ll tell you why-

Alex Grand:         Was he abrasive? Yeah, tell me about that.

Tom DeFalco:        No, no. He was a great guy, a fabulous storyteller, but a lot of times he worked late at night. He’d put his kids to bed and would work through the night. One night about two o’clock in the morning, I get a phone call, wakes me up out of a sound sleep and it’s Samm. He wants to discuss a joke on page two or three of a story that he’s doing.

Alex Grand:         Oh, okay.

Tom DeFalco:        And I’m thinking, I say, “Are you kidding me, Samm?” And I hung up on him and I remember thinking is this for real? I took the phone and I laid the phone on the floor because I thought, hey, if I wake up in the morning and the phone is where it should be, then I know this was a dream, but if it’s on the floor, I’m going to call Samm up and give him a piece of my mind.

Alex Grand:         That’s funny.

Jim Thompson:       So how long did you stay at Archie all together?

Tom DeFalco:        I was there about I’m going to say close to eight, six or eight years, somewhere in between.

Alex Grand:         That’s a good amount of time.

Tom DeFalco:        Yeah. I originally started full time on staff but, as I started getting more and more freelance, I cut back the staff. I think at the end I was there, I would come in one or two days, you know, two days a week. It was mainly to work on the digest books.

Tom DeFalco:        During the time I was at Archie, I started to do some work for Charlton. Charlton, I got in touch with them. I figured I’ll just do a little extra work and I think they assigned me eight comic books. They were all bimonthlies.

Alex Grand:         Oh wow.

Tom DeFalco:        But I realized I have to write a book a week for Charlton plus the Archie stuff.

Jim Thompson:       Charlton’s always famous for not paying a lot. In terms of them versus Archie, were you making around the same or were they paying less?

Tom DeFalco:        They were paying considerably less.

Alex Grand:         Considerably less.

Tom DeFalco:        At one point I was working, I think Archie was paying either $12 or $15 a page for script and Charlton was paying $5 a page.

Alex Grand:         Right.

Jim Thompson:       Wow.

Alex Grand:         A lot less.

Tom DeFalco:        It was a lot less, but you got to do a lot more goofier things.

Alex Grand:         Yes, because there’s less editorial oversight at Charlton, right?

Tom DeFalco:        Yeah, yeah.

Jim Thompson:       Yeah. I always assumed that’s why some people like Ditko worked for them was because they got to do what they wanted to.

Tom DeFalco:        Yeah. I’m going to guess. I never asked … all the years I spoke to Ditko, we almost never discussed comics.

Alex Grand:         Oh really?

Tom DeFalco:        Yeah.

Alex Grand:         Tell us about that.

Tom DeFalco:        Well, that comes later on in the history.

Alex Grand:         That’ll come later on. Yeah, you’re right. There is a Ditko section here, you’re right.

Jim Thompson:       So you didn’t work with Ditko on Charlton stuff?

Tom DeFalco:        No, no, no.

Jim Thompson:       That was later with Machine Man and things like that?

Tom DeFalco:        Right. Machine Man was the first time I worked with Ditko.

Alex Grand:         I love how you’re actually anticipating what our script structure is today. See, Tom is actually already editing this podcast which I love. I think that’s great. Go ahead. Go ahead, Jim.

Jim Thompson:       Okay, so let’s go back on Archie just for a minute because you mentioned the digest comics. Talk about that because you had a major role in that, correct?

Tom DeFalco:        Yeah, I stole the idea. I think it was Gold Key at the time had the Disney licenses-

Jim Thompson:       Right.

Tom DeFalco:        … and they came out with a couple of the digest books and I saw them and I thought, wow, this would be perfect for our material. So John Goldwater came in one day and I said, “Mr. Goldwater, I think we should be doing these sort of books, these digest books.” He looked at me and says, “What are you out of your mind? How do you market them? Where do you sell them? They’re not going to fit on the comic book racks. There’s nothing you can do. Get out of here.” And he just told me to go back to my desk and shut up which he often did. Then, a couple of days later, he comes back and he says, “You know, I’m thinking about those digest books. Go talk to Ben Cooperstock about them.” Ben Cooperstock was our salesperson.

Tom DeFalco:        So I took them to Ben and I said, “If we did our books here because they’d reproduce properly at this size format, do you think you could find a way to sell them?” And he looked, he says, “They’re not going to fit on the comic book racks. There’s no place to sell them. Forget about it. It’s a dumb idea.” So I figured, okay, next time Mr. Goldwater asks me, I’ll tell him Ben said it’s a dumb idea. Then a day or two later, Ben comes in and he says, “You know what? I got a place where we can sell those things. They’ll absolutely fit like the TV Guide racks and stuff like that.” And he said, “You know, I think if we made a deal with some supermarkets, we could probably get them into the supermarkets. I’m going to look into this.”

Tom DeFalco:        Then the next thing I know, Goldwater comes in and he says, “From now on, we’re doing digest books. We have to get two titles out. We have to get them out because we’re buying the real estate now. And I remember Victor turning to me and says, “It was your idea. This is your problem. Deal with it.”

Alex Grand:         Oh wow.

Jim Thompson:       Oh, that’s great. And it’s huge. I mean that was a huge part of Archie comics.

Tom DeFalco:        Oh yeah. It became a major part of the business and they’re still a major part of the business. Actually, they’re the part of the business that is still doing classical Archie stuff.

Alex Grand:         Right. That’s what I grew up on were Archie digests actually.

Tom DeFalco:        I think a lot of people did.

Alex Grand:         Yeah, that’s right.

Tom DeFalco:        It was a great value for the money.

Alex Grand:         Yeah.

Tom DeFalco:        It was trade paperbacks before there were trade paperbacks.

Alex Grand:         That’s right.

Jim Thompson:       Yeah. That’s right. So then where do we get from Archie to your next stop? And was that DC?

Tom DeFalco:        Well, I was working at Charlton and then I met … They used to have this thing called the Academy of Comic Book Arts.

Alex Grand:         Yeah, sure. Neal Adams and Stan Lee kind of started that, right?

Tom DeFalco:        Started that, right. And the Archie people, they would invite us to the annual meeting when it came time to pay the dues. Otherwise, they forgot about us. So I met a couple of the guys there. I met Paul Levitz and Marv Wolfman, a couple of the guys, and they were having another meeting and they invited me too. I went to that meeting and, at a certain point, Paul was working with Joe Orlando and they were doing some custom comics and they asked me if I’d like to do some extra work working on their custom comics. So I started working on custom comics for Joe Orlando and then he was talking to me about maybe doing some humor stuff for DC because they always wanted to do humor stuff and things for the younger markets. I came up with a few proposals. One of them was that … Oh no, no, they approached me with something called Super Juniors.

Tom DeFalco:        It was supposed to be a 60-page book that was done tabloid size. I forget what they used to call those tabloid size comics, but it was going to be done for that.

Jim Thompson:       Like the size of their Treasury Editions-

Tom DeFalco:        Yeah, Treasury Editions. Like I said, I forgot what they called them, Treasury Editions. So I worked on that and did some proposals for some other humor things. Then Joe at one point said to me, “Hey, have you ever thought about doing straight stuff, the superhero stuff?” I remember saying to him, “Joe, that stuff looks so hard. I read it, I enjoy it, but I don’t know if I could do that stuff.” And he said to me, “Come on, kid, you’ve got to be able to come up with characterization. You do characterization. You’ve got to be able to come up with plot. You do plot.” He said, “But here’s the kicker. It doesn’t have to be funny. They’re paying you the same rate and you’re only doing half the work.”

Tom DeFalco:        I thought about it for a few minutes, thinking, yeah, it doesn’t have to be funny. So you’re doing half the job and they’re paying you the same rate. I said to him, “Okay, I’ll take a shot.” So they assigned me actually to do a romance story. I remember the title, I Won’t Kiss That Evil Way. Denny O’Neil was the editor.

Alex Grand:         Oh cool.

Tom DeFalco:        And Denny said, “I’m going to give you the title and you come in and we’ll talk about it.” So I showed up with three premises, three possible premises for a story with that title. Denny was amazed because he said, “Most of the time, guys don’t show up with anything. We just hash it out ourselves.” And I said to him, “Yeah, I don’t know how to do that.” I said, “I’m sorry, I did it wrong.” He said, “No, no, no. This is …”

Tom DeFalco:        I said, “I’m sorry, I did it wrong.” He said, “No, no, no, this is fine.” And he looked over, and we chose one of them, and I wrote this story, and then he said to me, “Yeah, I’m not going to be doing the romance books anymore, but I’m going to be doing this book called Superman Family, which would you like to do a Jimmy Olsen story?”

Alex Grand:         Nice.

Tom DeFalco:        And I thought, “Hey, yeah.” So I pitched the story to him and he liked the pitch. And I went home, I wrote it, and then I showed up the following week, and I had my script in hand for the deadline, and I show up and I said, “I’m here to see Denny O’Neill, I have a script for him.” And the receptionist got very nervous all of a sudden, and she called, and she started whispering. And a few minutes later, E Nelson Bridwell came out and he said to me, “You’re here to see Denny O’Neill?” I said, “Yes.” He said, “Well, Denny went freelance.” I said, “Denny went freelance?” I said, “Well, he asked me to write a Jimmy Olsen story.” He says, “Well, I’m editing that comic book now.” He says, “And I already have my own writer.”

Alex Grand:         Wow, this is kind of annoying. Yeah, okay.

Tom DeFalco:        And I said, “Well, okay, but DC commissioned me to do this story and I expect to get paid for it.” And Nelson took me into his office and said, “Well, I don’t know what to tell you, because I didn’t commission that story.” And I said, “Well, I really don’t care. DC commissioned it. I expect to get paid.”

Alex Grand:         Yeah, I like that you defended yourself. That’s awesome. Good for you.

Tom DeFalco:        Yeah. you know, I’ve worked for advertising agencies and they ripped me off a couple of times. And Nelson said, “All right, let me read the story.” And Nelson started to read the story, and I’m full of all sorts of piss and vinegar, “Oh, I’m going to get paid. I don’t care what’s going on.”

Alex Grand:         Yeah. That’s great.

Tom DeFalco:        Yeah. Now, Nelson had some medical issues, which are, you know, it was a shame, but, and he made some strange sounds when he would read. And I’m listening to his sounds, and I’m looking at his face, and he’s got this stern expression on his face. And he’s going through the story page by page, pulls out a pen, knocks some … And as he keeps reading it, I get more and more intimidated, and I’m sitting there thinking, “All right, so I wasted a week writing this story. What am I going to do?”

Tom DeFalco:        And I’m sitting there, he finishes the story, and he kind of rolls it up in his hand, and he looks at me, he says, “You stay right here. I got to go talk to Julie Schwartz.” And he storms out of the room, and he comes back a few minutes later, and he says in, “All right, I talked to Julie, he’s going to take care of my writer. You’re now the writer on Jimmy Olsen.” And I said, “What?” And he says, “Wow.” And he says, “Yeah.” And he said, “So, you know, I’d like you to work on the next thing.” And he said, “And also think about Lois Lane.” And I thought, “Wow.” So I ended up getting two assignments out of it, and I did-

Jim Thompson:       You were there, you worked on that Superman family book for like at least a year or more, didn’t you?

Tom DeFalco:        I guess. I wasn’t really paying attention at the time, you know, how much time. And I also did something called Starfire. Oh, I think I did start Starfire for Denny. I might’ve done that before Jimmy Olsen, and Claw the Unconquered, or Claw the Conquered … Claw the Unconquered, I worked on those things.

Alex Grand:         Did you bring Archie’s sensibility to Jimmy Olsen? Is that something that happened?

Tom DeFalco:        I don’t think so. I think, you know, I hope I-

Alex Grand:         You don’t think?

Tom DeFalco:        I hope I brought a Jimmy Olsen sensibility-

Alex Grand:         Sensibility to Jimmy Olsen, there you go. That’s true. Yeah.

Jim Thompson:       Did you think it was funny that you went from one redhead with freckles to another?

Tom DeFalco:        To be honest, I never even made the connection.

Alex Grand:         Well, because you read Jimmy Olsen as a kid, so you are more going to that probably, huh?

Tom DeFalco:        Yeah. That’s what I was thinking of.

Alex Grand:         I gotcha, interesting.

Tom DeFalco:        And Nelson, now Nelson was really a continuity guy. He really loved continuity and controlling, you know, continuity. And he would change the dialogue on Jimmy Olsen so he could add footnotes. And he actually, he taught me a very important thing when you’re a professional writer: When you’re a professional writer, you know, you work on your story and you work on it, and you make it the most precious thing in the world to you until you turn it in, and then you don’t ever look at it again.

Tom DeFalco:        Because looking at the published work can only depress you, because you’ll look at the published work and you’ll either see a mistake you made or a mistake somebody else made, or you’ll see, “Wow, I was so much better then. I’m a bum now.” It can only depress you, looking at the published work. So, you got to just focus on the story that you’re working on. And then once you let it go, it’s gone.

Jim Thompson:       So how much did you have to study up on those characters, on Jimmy and Lois? Did you go back and reread from like early days, or were you just with someone else catching mistakes if there were mistakes made?

Tom DeFalco:        Well, I had Nelson and Nelson knew all the continuity. So if I would pitch something, he would say, “No, no, you can’t do that because blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.” And I had a bunch of old Superman comics, and Lois Lane, and Jimmy Olsen, mainly the Jimmy Olsen thing.

Alex Grand:         I see. So it’s kind of up to the editor to maintain the continuity almost sometimes?

Tom DeFalco:        Ah, yeah. The editor is the guardian of the character. The writer … This is why editors and writers don’t belong on the same planet: The editor is the guardian of the character, has to think of what’s good for the character long term. The writer has to come up with a short term story and focus what’s best for that story. And sometimes a short term story and a long term character development don’t mesh.

Alex Grand:         Don’t mix.

Tom DeFalco:        Yeah. And that’s when the editor has to say, “No, you can’t do this.”

Alex Grand:         I see.

Jim Thompson:       And was it the Kirby aspect of Jimmy Olsen completely taboo at that point, or was that something you could also incorporate that mythos into it?

Tom DeFalco:        Oh, you could incorporate it in. In fact I did. I went back there, the newsboy legion and dealt with some of the Kirby mythos. Because, you know, I’m a Kirby geek and I love that Jimmy Olsen stuff by Kirby.

Jim Thompson:       I do too. It’s so different from what was coming before that, and I enjoyed that too. I mean the Planet of the Capes and that kind of Jimmy Olsen is really fun, but then Kirby takes it in such a different direction. So I was just curious what you were trying to channel when you were doing it.

Tom DeFalco:        Yeah, I don’t honestly remember. I think I was, you know, just trying to do the best Jimmy Olsen stories I could, and the best Lois Lane, and then eventually the best Superboy stuff. I just, you know, I’d read the pre-Kirby, the Kirby, the post-Kirby, and then tried to do something that honored it all.

Alex Grand:         That’s cool.

Jim Thompson:       So what made you leave? You went from DC to Marvel, is that correct?

Tom DeFalco:        Sort of, kind of. What happened, DC had something called a …

Jim Thompson:       Implosion?

Tom DeFalco:        The DC Implosion, and I’d been doing a lot of work for DC, and I had a very big check coming. And I showed up on Friday to collect my check, and I needed that check because I was buying my first house the following week. And the checks normally showed up at 10 o’clock in the morning. They weren’t there and it looked like they weren’t coming down. They were going to cancel a lot of books. We’re hearing “The Implosion”, that sort of thing.

Tom DeFalco:        I found out about six o’clock that night, the checks finally came down. I got my check, and I remember talking to Paul Levitz. He said, “We don’t have any work for you now, and maybe in a couple of months we’ll have something for you.” And I thought, “Well, we’ll talk in a couple of months. But I doubt I’ll be, you know … If I haven’t found work in a couple of months, I’ll probably be in a different business.” But you know-

Alex Grand:         Yeah, because now you had a house payment at that point.

Tom DeFalco:        I had house payments to that. I remember, I didn’t spend the whole day at DC. I went back to Archie, and I walked into the Archie offices, and I said to Victor, “Hey, do you have any work? Because, you know, I was doing work for DC but it’s gone now.” And he says, “Well, let me look around and see if I can find something.” And then I called some other guys, it didn’t occur to me to call Marvel, but I called some other people about doing some work here, doing some work there. And everybody said the same thing, “Well, you know, let me look around, I’ll see if I can find something.” And then by about 12:30, one o’clock, everybody came back with assignments.

Alex Grand:         Oh, cool. And this is basically 1978, when Jim Shooter is now editor-in-chief, right?

Tom DeFalco:        Jim Shooter’s now editor-in-chief. I think I had done a sample story for them before this. I had done a sample story, which was a Vision story, which years later Carl Potts used that to test young artists, to see if they could do storytelling.

Alex Grand:         Oh, that’s awesome.

Tom DeFalco:        And I had scripted a couple of jobs over other people’s plots, and had done like a two-issue Avenger story, and-

Alex Grand:         Right, because you did a Marvel two in one with the thing, and then number 40 in 1978?, and then you did two issues of Avengers, one ’79 and one ’80. And I noticed Black Panther was used in the Marvel two in one and then that Avengers comic, right? Is that what you’re referring to now?

Tom DeFalco:        Yeah, yeah. I also did a “what if?”, something with the Kree Skrull War. Yeah, and some odds and ends. But, after about three weeks after the Implosion, I went to talk to Shooter and I said, “Hey Jim, I don’t know if you’d noticed, but DC had an implosion that day a couple weeks ago.” And he says, “Yeah, the day it happened, I had a line of guys outside my office.” He says, “I was wondering why you didn’t show up.”

Tom DeFalco:        I said, “Oh, it didn’t occur to me,” which is the story of my life. And if we get to the end of my career, I’ll tell you again, something that didn’t occur to me. And I said, “Oh, guys were lined up outside your office?” He says, “Yeah.” He says, “I was surprised you didn’t show up.” “Well, I had other freelance work. I just got around to it,” and I said, “I guess you gave out all the assignments?” He says, “No, I saved the book for you to do.” So he assigned me I think a two in one and a Marvel team up at that stage.

Alex Grand:         Oh, cool. So, then you got along with Jim Shooter, it sounds like, when you joined Marvel?

Tom DeFalco:        Oh yeah. You know, I really liked Jim Shooter. I thought he had a great vision for the industry. I thought he’s still one of the most creative guys I’ve ever run across. You know, a genius, a veritable genius as a plot doctor. Guys would come in and you know, tell a story, a meandering thing that had no beginning, no end, no middle. And Jim would listen to them for around 15, 20 minutes and then he would pull out a gem, a diamond from that thing and said, “Here is the core of your story,” and explained to them how to construct the story. And I’d usually sit there and think, “Man, I fell asleep, you know, 15 minutes ago. But Jim can always zero in on the core of a story.” I still think he’s the best when it comes to that stuff.

Alex Grand:         Wow. That’s great. That’s great to hear that. Yeah. Because I mean, obviously everyone has their own opinion on Jim Shooter. And Ron Wilson, I talked to him once, and he really liked Jim Shooter. It’s cool to hear your analysis, because yours comes from like a writer/editor standpoint. So that’s pretty cool. I’ve never heard that impression of him before.

Tom DeFalco:        Well Jim really understood story and story structure. You know, I’m an anal retentive structurist, so I really appreciate it.

Alex Grand:         Oh, that’s great. So now, one of the things you did also when you came to Marvel was the five final issues of Machine Man, and Steve Ditko was doing art with that. So tell us about working with Steve Ditko.

Tom DeFalco:        All right, well, the editor of that was Denny O’Neill, who had come over to edit Marvel, and he said, “Hey, you want to write Machine Man for me?” I said, “Yeah, absolutely.” And I knew Ditko had done the last couple of issues with Marv Wolfman. And I said to a Denny, “Is Ditko going to stay on the book?” And Denny said to me, “Well, he wants to read the first plot before he makes a decision.” And I thought two things, I thought, A, “That’s fair. He’s Steve Ditko, he ought to be able to make that decision.” And B, I thought, “There’s no chance in hell he’s going to stay on this book.” Because I didn’t think I was good enough to write plots for Steve Ditko.

Tom DeFalco:        So I turned in my plot, and a couple of days later I get a call, and this voice on the phone says, “What gives you the right to write about heroes?” And I said, “Excuse me, who is this?” And he says, “This is Steve Ditko.” And we ended up having about a two-hour conversation on the nature of heroes. You know, what makes a hero, what do we look for in a hero? All these different things. And the conversation went all over the place for about two hours. At the end of the conversation he said to me, “Well, this was fun. We should do it again some time,” and he hangs up.

Tom DeFalco:        And I thought, “Is he going to stay on the book or not?” And I start working on the next plot, and I turned in the next plot. And Denny says, “Ah, I’ll have artwork for you in a couple of days.” I said, “Yeah, who’s doing the art work?” He says, “Steve Ditko, he said he had a great conversation with you so he’s staying on the book.”

Alex Grand:         Oh, that’s great.

Tom DeFalco:        And we stayed on the book together. I had a tendency in those days, and these these days, to write a detailed plot, and Steve would say to me, “You know, you could cut down, you don’t have to put this amount of detail in it. You could really cut down.” I said, “Well, what would you really like to have, Steve?” He says, “I’d like to have a paragraph.”

Alex Grand:         “That’s it, huh? Okay.”

Tom DeFalco:        I said, “I don’t know if I could explain … I don’t know if I’ll be able to put a story together in my own head that I can get down into a paragraph.” And I tried to condense as much as I could. I think the best I ever got was like two and a half pages. But you know, on the one hand we had a ball on that thing, on the other hand we did this crazy style, like a parody of Marvel comics dialogue, with every sentence had like about 50 adjectives in it. And my natural writing style is very, very sparse. So this was totally against everything, my natural writing style. But I’m fighting to come up with all these adjectives and that sort of stuff to do kind of like a super version of Stan Lee kind of thing. Because the book, we knew the book had one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel. So we were desperate to get any sort of …

Alex Grand:         Content out there.

Tom DeFalco:        Yeah, that we could.

Alex Grand:         So, were you a fan of Steve Ditko’s Spider-Man?

Tom DeFalco:        Oh yeah, yeah. People in my generation, I’m sure there was somebody who wasn’t, but I wouldn’t talk to them anyway. Steve’s work on Spider-Man, on Dr. Strange … Yeah, I’m a writer, I should be able to express how much that stuff meant to me. But you know, I’m a Steve Ditko, Jack Kirby geek. That stuff was just so great, it’s hard to quantify.

Alex Grand:         Did you feel that the John Romita era was almost like an Archie comic, where you had, you know, the two love interests, Flash Thompson like Reggie … You know, Jim and I were talking about that earlier. Do you think that that was almost more like Archie or did it maintain the spirit of the Steve Ditko stuff?

Tom DeFalco:        It maintained the spirit, it maintained a lot of the spirit. John Romita, I had met John when he was doing Daredevil, and I really liked his kind of thing. His Spider-Man was jarring to me, because it didn’t look like Steve Ditko, but it eventually grew on me. And I don’t know if you guys have ever met John Romita or talked to him, got to be one of the nicest guys in the universe, and a total professional. Just a terrific guy on so many, so many levels, and a fabulous artist.I should mention that.

Alex Grand:         Yes, fabulous artist. Yep.

Tom DeFalco:        Yeah. And you know, the basic Archie format, a guy torn between two beautiful women, he can’t make up his mind. That’s the basis of most literature.

Alex Grand:         Yeah, a lot of stories have that anyway. That’s true. So then tell us about launching Dazzler number one in 1981, and John Romita, Jr. was the artist, but a lot of creator names are on that first issue of Dazzler. What was your role in Dazzler?

Tom DeFalco:        I developed the backstory. At one point, I was brought in and there was a record company guy, a movie guy, you know, our licensing person. And the plan was that they were going to launch this character out, you know, do records, do movies, do comics. It was going to be just a coordinated thing, kind of like what they used to do and I guess they still do it in Japan with comics, and animation, and everything else like that. And you know, I remember they said to me, “Hey, we have both Derek and John, John, Derek for the movie. Paul is going to star, John’s going to direct.” They just have a movie before called Tarzan, and I’m a big Edgar Rice Burroughs fan. I was waiting anxiously for that Tarzan movie. And I said, “Okay,” and she’s going to, you know, be the Dazzler. They showed me the artwork. John had done a publicity piece and they said, “Yeah, her power is she’s so beautiful that she makes people tell the truth.”

Alex Grand:         Which sounds like Wonder Woman’s rope or something.

Tom DeFalco:        It sounds like Wonder Woman’s rope. And I think something must’ve flashed across my face, because the record guy said to me, “What’s the matter? You don’t like that idea?” What’s your idea, wiseguy?” And I said, “Well, you know, it’s just not a very visual power for comics or movies.” He said, “Well, okay wiseguy, what’s your idea?” And I said, “I don’t know. Dazzler, it should have something to do with light.” Yeah. And I always remember the movie guy-

Alex Grand:         So you originated the light power with Dazzler?

Tom DeFalco:        Yeah, yeah.

Alex Grand:         Oh, that’s awesome.

Tom DeFalco:        At the time I said, “Dazzler, light,” and I looked at … The movie guy and the licensing guy looked at each other like, “Oh man, what a stroke of genius.”

Alex Grand:         Genius, yeah.

Tom DeFalco:        Yeah, yeah. And I’m thinking, “You bring a hundred comic book guys into this room and you say, ‘A character’s named Dazzler. What’s power related to?’ At least 99 of them are going to say light.”

Alex Grand:         That’s true, yeah.

Tom DeFalco:        Yeah, so I thought, “Yeah, okay. So yeah, I’m a genius. Okay. I believe that one.”

Alex Grand:         So how did that coordinate with her first appearance in X-Men 130 in 1980 then? So, you created her with JR Jr, but her first appearance was in Chris Claremont’s book. So how did that all work out?

Tom DeFalco:        Well, what happened was we ended up doing the backstory, wrote a Bible for the character, came up with the name Alison Blaire.

Alex Grand:         Yeah, which I love that name. Okay, keep going.

Tom DeFalco:        Alison, child of light. Blaire, a loud sound.

Alex Grand:         Oh, that’s so good.

Tom DeFalco:        Oh, so corny, so corny.

Alex Grand:         That’s awesome.

Tom DeFalco:        And no one ever caught me on that. And we did the backstory, we did the Bible. We put together the first issue. It was supposed to be a super special, a full color super special: 40-page, full color, super special. However, before it was going to go out to press, we were just finishing up, before it goes out to press, Tarzan comes out, and Tarzan was not well received. I think that was kind of the end of John Derek as a …

Alex Grand:         As a director?

Tom DeFalco:        As a director, and you know, it hurt Beau’s career for awhile and that sort of thing. So, the movie people dropped out, and then eventually the record people, and then they took the Dazzler and they put it on a shelf. And then you know, time went by and then, I don’t know if the … I’m trying to remember the time sequence when the X-Men came out, the Spider-Man came out. And I think we followed that by about six months or something like that, or-

Alex Grand:         Yeah, that’s right, because it’s cover dated ’81. Yeah.

Tom DeFalco:        Yeah, they decided to let it be a direct only comic book. They said, “Hey, we have a 40-pagester. We’ll just cut it in half,” except that this story was not constructed that way. So, we had to add material in the front part, the back part. I always look at the first page of the second issue, where Dazzler is sitting there and she’s got like 200 thought balloons explaining everything that happened in the first issue. Because the first issue was sold direct only. The second issue was going to be on the news stands. And I thought, “What if those people picking up Dazzler two have have not had a chance to read Dazzler one? You got to explain it all to them.” And then we were off and running.

Alex Grand:         Oh, cool. And then did Claremont ask you some deep backstory about her before implementing her in the X-Men comic? Was there a conversation about that?

Tom DeFalco:        I don’t think so. I think he just read the Bible. I think he just-

Alex Grand:         He read the Bible that you wrote, yeah. Okay.

Tom DeFalco:        Yeah, I think he just read the Bible because he and Marv both followed the Bible.

Alex Grand:         All right, and then now tell us, you did something similar with G.I. Joe. I know that you worked with Hasbro in creating some backstories for some of those characters in G.I. Joe. I know Larry Hama also did, but tell us about your role in that.

Tom DeFalco:        All right. It’s not Larry Hama also did, Larry Hama mainly did.

Alex Grand:         Mainly did, there you go.

Tom DeFalco:        Mainly did. I was tasked with being in charge of the creative team and doing the first couple of issues, editing it.

Alex Grand:         Of the comics?

Tom DeFalco:        Of the comics book.

Alex Grand:         And that’s 1982, okay.

Tom DeFalco:        I guess so. I’m terrible with years, and Hasbro wanted to bring back G.I. Joe. The original idea was that it’s one figure that keeps taking on these different identities as Frogman, as this, as that, as a sniper.

Alex Grand:         Oh, like Captain Action or something, huh?

Tom DeFalco:        Yeah. And you know, I remember we all looked at each other and thought, “Nah, how about we make it a team?” And they said, “But who’s Joe?” And we kept saying, “Well, we’ll come up with it.” And I don’t remember who came up with the idea, probably Larry, that G.I. Joe was the code name for the team. And Archie Goodwin came up with the idea that, “Well, we all wanted a faceless enemy, kind of like the stormtroopers on Star Wars. Faceless, unlimited enemy.” And I think Archie Goodwin came up with the name Cobra Command. All of the story Bibles, the character Bibles, that’s all Larry Hama. I’d love to take credit for his work, because Larry’s a genius, and we will all wish we were. Sadly, some of us are not. And I basically got to sit back and watch Larry’s genius at work.

Alex Grand:         Oh, that’s cool.  And we’re going to go back to 1981 right after this part, this is just more character creation. Tell us about being part of that creative team that introduced Transformers to the United States in 1984?

Tom DeFalco:        Hasbro was so happy with what we had done with G.I. Joe that they said, “Hey, we have a another project we’d like you guys to work on.” So, “Oh, terrific.” And they showed up, but this time they showed up with the nondisclosure agreements and stuff like that, and they brought their lawyer. And naturally, Marvel had to bring down their lawyer. The two lawyers discussed this thing, and argued about this thing to come up with a document that everybody could sign. And this one on for, oh, three, four, maybe five hours. I don’t know how long, until they finally got the document. And then they said to us, “All right, we want to show you something.” And they took out a couple of Transformers and they put them on the desk. And when they put them on the desk, Larry Hama and I was sitting opposite each other on the table, looked up at each other and said, “Could you excuse us a minute?” And Larry and I got up, we walked out of the room, we walked down the hallway. He went to his office, I went to my office. We both picked up Transformers that we had been bought at Forbidden Planet like a year or two earlier. The Japanese-

Alex Grand:         Oh, the Japanese one. Yes.

Tom DeFalco:        And put our Transformers down, and the guys look, “Where did you get those from?” “A local comic book store.” And our lawyer said, “Wait a minute, if these things are for sale in local comic books stores, why are we signing this document?” And the guy from Hasbro, gentleman by the name of Bob Cooperson says, “Give me all the contracts,” and our lawyer said, “No, no, I want the contract.” then he says, “No, no, no. Hand me the contracts,” so we handed him all the contracts. He took them, he ripped them all up, and he says, “Okay, we now have to … We’re now going to work on this stuff without the non-disclosures.”

Alex Grand:         Oh, that’s hilarious.

Tom DeFalco:        Now, once we found out what they wanted us to do, I had to absent myself from the meeting because I was working on another robot property for another toy company called Starriors. And I was working on that I think with Louise Simonson. She might’ve been Louise Jones at the time, I don’t quite remember. But Louise was working on the-

Tom DeFalco:        I don’t quite remember, but she was working on, did a great job developing the Starriors. So we went out, we worked on the stories, we put our comic book together, that sort of thing. And then I found out that they were still working on Transformers and I showed up then, and you know, to pitch in to help out a bit. I kept saying, wait a minute, why are we setting that? They first came in the past. Why don’t we just have it start now? No, no, no. We like the idea that it started that they crash landed, the Arctic years ago, but we ended up finessing it, getting it all together. And then Hasbro liked it and you know, Transformers went on to become another big success.

Alex Grand:         Oh yeah, for sure. I mean, I actually still like Transformers even now, but the original cartoons and comics, Marvel comics are my favorite. So then let’s talk about 1981 to 1983. You were actually editing quite a few books for Marvel. What If?, Spiderman and as editor now, did you get some pointers from Denny O’Neil, who you had a relationship with up to this point or did you kind of just from being edited, you got a sense of how to edit. How did that all work out?

Tom DeFalco:        I had always been asking questions. Like I said, I’m a very lucky guy cause I got to work with the Silberkleits and the Goldwaters. When I was over at DC I got to work with Joe Orlando, a great editor and also Sol Harrison who also understood a lot or created a lot of the business aspects of comics and I had worked with Denny and I just picked up a bunch of things. I became an editor at Marvel cause Shooter was reorganizing the editorial staff and asked me if I’d like to come on as an editor and I said to him, Jim, I haven’t had a full time job in so many years. I don’t even know if I could, you know, have a full time job at this stage of the game. I’m not constructed for that, I’m mainly a writer and I got comic book stuff, other stuff. And Jim said, come on, I just need you for maybe six months. You can do six months, can’t you? And I go yeah, I can. I can do six months.

Alex Grand:         That’s cool.

Tom DeFalco:        So it’s up, okay, I’ll do it for about six months or so. Yeah, six months became 20 years. And I remember when I expected to get all of the low sale and crummy titles at Marvel. He asked me what book did I think was the worst sell, the worst book Marvel was producing. And I said, I think Ghost Rider really, you know, it’s supposed to be motorcycle book, but I don’t think those guys have ever been on a motorcycle. I don’t know.

Alex Grand:         Right, because you wrote the two in one with Ghost Rider in it.

Tom DeFalco:        Yeah. I don’t know when I did that, but I thought, yeah, Ghost Rider, that that book needs help. And so naturally gave me Ghost Rider and he gave me the Spiderman titles and he gave me Spiderman, What If?, and Micronauts. And I remember getting the Spiderman titles and I said to him, Jim, is it really good idea? You’re going to give Spiderman, you know, the Spiderman titles that to your most inexperienced editor, a guy who doesn’t know anything. And he said to me, Spiderman is just like Archie, except with super heroics. Right? And I thought about it and said, yeah, you know, he’s kind of right out on that. All right, I’ll take a shot at it, what’s the worst that can happen? They’ll fire me, but I’m only going to be here temporary anyway. So who cares.

Alex Grand:         So that’s pretty cool. So, now one of my favorite, Thing stories you wrote, Ron Wilson penciled it, where the Thing and Sandman they fight but then they drink a beer together in the bar. Do you remember writing that?

Tom DeFalco:        Yes I do.

Alex Grand:         I love that. I love the cover to that. I love every page of that story. And I posted it once in the Comic Book Historians group and there’s so much love, fan love for that issue. What went into that? How’d you come up with the Thing and Sandman drinking a beer together?

Tom DeFalco:        It was time to pitch a story and Sandman had become that mud monster with the Hydroman and I thought, I’d like to cure Sandman and I was trying to think of a story and I thought, Oh, you know, we could do this and you know, have them cured and then they fight. And then the Thing and Sandman fight that sort of thing. And I started to halfheartedly pitch that story, one of those kind of standard story. And Shooter looked at me and said, you’re not interested in this story. And I said, no, I’m really not.

Tom DeFalco:        He said, well, why are you pitching it? I said, because you wanted a story. And I had to come up with something. He said, Well, what story do you want to really tell? And I said, I think you have to have to after becoming a mud monster, you know? Just really having the, you know, the stuffings kicked out of ya. It’s going to, it’s going to just shake you up and you’re just going to want to revisit who you are, where you are. And I said Jim, the only story I see is, Sandman and Ben sitting down having a talk and then realizing how much they’re similar characters and where one had gone bad, one had gone good and maybe they can come to terms. And he said Sandman and the Thing come to terms? I said, I think so. He said, well why don’t you see if you can make that a story, and then I went home and worked on it and you’ve seen the results. And I remember when I turned it in, Jim said to me, this is really a weird story for a Marvel comic book, but you know what? I think it really works.

Alex Grand:         It works. It works because they do have similar sensibilities at the end of the same kind of a rough, kind of blue collar sensibility about them.

Tom DeFalco:         You know, I love doing Marvel too, cause I love doing the stories about Ben and I got to do some really weird stories. You know the story with Sergeant Fury and his Howling Commandos and the Blue Diamond and the story with the Champion. Really goofball stories then.

Alex Grand:         I love those. And then now I also notice you edited some Fantastic Four that John Byrne was doing, is that right?

Tom DeFalco:        Yes, at a certain point I had gotten all my books on time and my deal with Shooter was once I got my books on time I could, I didn’t have to come into the office every day. So I started to come in a few less days a week. And Jim had a problem with one of the other editors, had to let him go and then took all of his books and gave them to me. Cause he says your books are all on time. Make these on time too. I said Oh okay, thanks. There’s more work and I got to work with John Byrne for a few issues.

Alex Grand:         Is he hard to edit? I mean just because of him?

Tom DeFalco:        No, not because of him. John is hard to edit because John has such a vision of what he wants to do. That if he sells you on that vision, you are totally sold. And you know, he knows what he’s doing. He’s a consummate professional when it comes to the artwork, comes to getting the work in on time, that sort of thing. You know, you might quibble with a sentence here or there, but you know he knows what he’s doing. So in that regard, he’s hard to edit. If you’re asking me, is he thick headed? Well yeah. But not in terms of the editing process. He’s just naturally thick-headed. So am I.

Alex Grand:         So then, so if you saw a sentence that you felt could have been phrased a little better, he was generally okay with that.

Tom DeFalco:        Oh yeah, yeah.

Alex Grand:         Oh, that’s cool.

Tom DeFalco:        Whatever, anything that improved the story he would embrace.

Alex Grand:         Yeah. Now this next question is, is part of the merchandise items we talked about earlier, but also part of the 83 time is you wrote and created Peter Parker Spider-Ham, right? And I loved that as a kid. Well, what led into that, and this is an interesting question. I know Jim has asked, did Cerberus have anything to do with the look of Spider-Ham?

Tom DeFalco:        I don’t know if Cerberus had anything to do with the look of Spider-Ham because you know, I think, I don’t remember if it was Larry who started, did the initial sketch or, or if it was Mark Armstrong who did the original sketch. And I can’t tell you what their, what was going through their minds.

Alex Grand:         Oh, okay. Okay. Yeah. Tell us about how Spider-Ham came about. Yeah.

Tom DeFalco:        Spider-Ham, came out as kind of a joke. Larry Hama and I was sitting in his office as we often did and, and all sorts of crazy projects would come whenever Larry and I were sitting together and you know what we were talking and, and we’d just gone to some meeting with the comic book retailers. And comic book retailers were always convinced that Marvel was going to open up its own stores, kind of like the Disney stores that were for sale that were, you know, in Disney World and Disneyland and that sort of thing. Yeah. They were always waiting for Marvel to open up their stores. And Larry and I just laughed about that because you know, being a publisher is one business, being a retailer is a whole different business. And you know, we knew that nobody at Marvel had the expertise to open retail stores except for maybe me and Larry, and we weren’t doing that.

Tom DeFalco:        And, and we’re laughing about it, and Larry says, you know, Marvel can never open up its own stores because what sells in those stores are two, the two main items that sell in those stores are apparel and plush. And in those days, we had comic images would do tee shirts and that’s our, was our only apparel license. And we had absolutely no plush. And Larry said, we’ll never be, we’ll never be able to do plush and unless we have funny animals. And I said to him, give me like Peter Porker Spider-Ham. And Larry said, nah, I was thinking more of a Goose Rider. And then, and then the two of us, you know, trying to top each other, come up with an animal names for different Marvel characters. and we’re just throwing these names out at each other, just having fun. And somebody, I don’t remember who comes into the office, looks, listens to us for a few minutes as we what are you guys talking about? Is this some new book you’re doing? And Larry and I looked at each other and said, absolutely.

Tom DeFalco:        And then we put in a new project proposal. We took it up to Jim Shooter and say, Hey, we want to do this book called Peter Porker Spider-Ham. And I remember Shooter, looking at him, said, what are you guys out of your minds again? I said, come on man, come on. We just started to do this goofy thing, you know, plush with this and that. And he said, all right, I’ll approve it. And he signed off on it. Larry and I contributed I think a hundred bucks each. And he got a friend of his to make it a Peter Porker doll. We got together. We did the comic book, we sent it off the comic book back, got printed, we take the doll and the comic book, we go up to the licensing people and we say, Hey, we got this great idea for plush Peter Porker Spider-Ham, appeared in this comic for Marvel. The licensing guy looks and says, I can’t license Spider-Ham. How the heck am I going to license some stupid pig? Get out of here.

Tom DeFalco:        So he throw us out. We figured that’s the end of it. Couple of months later, I get a call from Shooter. Shooter says to me, Jim Galton, the president of the company wants to talk to you. Galton wants to talk to me. And I’d never met Galton before. He says, yeah, it’s your mess. Go fix it. Right. And I’m thinking my mess, what did I do? Yeah. So walk up the Galton’s office and knock on the door. And I says Mr. Galton, he says you Tom, I said, yes. Tom deFalco. Oh, nice meeting you Tom. He says, this man over here is Joe Walsh. He’s our distributor.

Tom DeFalco:        Curtis Circulation. Yeah. Joe Walsh in charge of Curtis Circulation. He’s got a question to ask you. And Joe says to me, you, you ever hear of a title called Marvel Tales? And I said, yes, it’s a title comes out every month that reprints old Spiderman stories. It’s been going on for a lot of years. And Joe goes, no, no, no. I know that Marvel Tales, I’m talking about T A I L S. And I go, Oh God. And I’m thinking, Oh, what do we do? Did we somehow screw up the distribution by naming this thing to close Marvel Tales? And I said, yeah, it was a one shot that featured Peter Porker Spider-Ham and Jim Galton goes, what? I said Peter Porker Spider-Ham. You mean like a pig? Yes sir.

Tom DeFalco:        And it was a one shot and, and Joe Walsh says, sold 60% on the newsstand, which was terrific numbers. Yeah. And Galton says to me, so when is the next issue coming out? And I said Mr. Galton, it was just a one shot. There is no second issue. Joe Walsh says, it sold 60% on the newsstand and Galton says, what is the next issue coming out? Still not getting it. And I say Mr. Galton was a one shot and Joe Walsh says, it sold 60% on the newsstand and Jim Galton says, Tom, you’re not hearing me. When is the next issue coming out? And suddenly the light bulb goes off. I said, in three months, sir and Joe Walsh jumps up, extends his hand, pleasure doing business with you son.

Alex Grand:         That’s it, that’s what he needed to get out of you.

Tom DeFalco:        And Jim says, you better get to work Tom. And I walked downstairs and Jim Shooter later said that Galton was always wanting to do some children’s things. And so this is an opportunity to do children’s things. But I always remembered that 60% at the newsstand, Tom, you’re not hearing me. Cause you always remember your first meeting with the president of the company. Anyway, I walked down and I said, Larry, I got good news and bad news for you. The good news is Marvel Tails sold 60% on the newsstand. Larry says, wow, that’s terrific. I said, yeah, here’s the bad news. It’s now a monthly book and you’re editing it. And he says, when can you get the first plot in? I said, Larry, I could do a one shot. I just don’t have time to do another monthly comic book. He says, well, that’s okay. I can get somebody to do it. He ended up getting Steve Skeates and I’ve never forgiven Steve for doing a much better job on Peter Porker than I ever did, so I’m still angry at Skeates for that cause he did a fabulous job on that comic book.

Alex Grand:         How’d you feel about seeing Spider-Ham in that Spiderverse animated movie? What’d you think of that?

Tom DeFalco:        I was caught completely by surprise. About two weeks before the movie came out, a reporter called me up that I dealt with before and he says, I want to interview you about Spider-Ham. I thought Spider-Ham? And he has asked me the question about the origin. I told them, listen, when he was done, I said I have to ask, why are you asking me about Spider-Ham? He says, you familiar with Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse? I said, yeah, it’s some cartoon movie that’s coming out in a couple of weeks. They invited me to the premiere, but I don’t have time to go. He says, did you know that Spider-Ham is going to appear in that film? And I said, what? Did Marvel tell ya? I said, no. Spider-Ham Is going to appear in it. And they had a Marvel showing and I went to the Marvel showing and that’s my favorite Spiderman movie.

Alex Grand:         That’s awesome. Great. Did you like the voiceover?

Tom DeFalco:        I thought the, the actor did a fabulous job. You know, I still can’t believe it, but weird stuff could come back to haunt you.

Alex Grand:         That’s funny. So now at 1984, 85  you returned to Machine Man and you wrote this four issue limited series Machine Man that had artwork with Herb Trimpe and Barry Windsor-Smith. And it was more of a hard edge take on that. How did that come about? And I mean, I love that story. I think it’s actually probably my favorite Machine Man story. Tell us about how that came about and then when you saw the pages, what did you think about them?

Tom DeFalco:        Well, it came about because at one point Larry and I were sitting in his office.

Alex Grand:         A lot of things start with this.

Tom DeFalco:        Red Sonja, Machine Man, all sorts of nonsense. So I was sitting there together and I was saying we should do something together. He says, well, is there a character you’d like to do? And I said, you know, I always felt bad that Machine Man ended too soon. I’d like to do some Machine Man again. And he said, yeah, but we don’t want to do the traditional Machine. We’ll want to do something different. Something far out, come up with something far out. And I said, all right, I’ll see if I can come up with something. So I sat down and I started work coming up with ideas, and I approached Larry and I said, so this is what I’m thinking that they put them in a box. I said, you remember the last scene of Indiana Jones where they they put the arc in a box and they lose the box. Well, they find the box, but in the box is Machine Man.

Tom DeFalco:        And he says, Oh, that’s an interesting start. And I said, ah, yeah. And he says, well, who do you think you know could do a good job on this? And I’d been speaking to Herb and Herb was kind of bored with what he was doing. I said, let me talk to Herb Trimpe. So I called up Herb and I started talking to Herb, and Herb really got into it because Herb was always game for any sort of crazy nonsense you could come up with and I put together the first plot. And I think Herb was originally thinking about inking it, but then he, he did this very full pencil on the first issue. And I said, Herb, you can’t ink this thing. And he said, why? I said, because you already put a tight full pencil on this. Every time you do a tight full pencil, you get bored inking. And he goes, yeah, I should have done this in breakdowns, right? I said, yeah, cause if you want to ink it, you know, it’s your assignment. If you want to ink it, you can ink it. But you know you’re going to get bored.

Tom DeFalco:        Cause you know, Herb would get bored if he did a full pencil. And he said, okay, we’ll find somebody to ink it. And then Herb and I started working on the second issue and I think it was about halfway through the second issue. And he said to me, you know, I don’t know if he said it to me or he said it to Larry. He said, you know, a friend of mine came by, saw the pages of the first issue and, and he said he’d really like to ink it and I figured I’d check with you guys to find out what you thought about it. And Larry said, well, who’s the friend? He goes, Barry Smith. And he goes, Barry Smith wants the ink this thing? And he says, yeah, Barry wants to ink it and we thought, sounds good to us. Yeah. And Barry said, well, you know this, I haven’t worked for Marvel in years. I’ll probably use a pen name, that sort of thing. We said all right. You want to use pen name, use a pen name, whatever you want to do. And in the meantime, Herb and I finished the second issue and started work on the third issue and, and then Barry started inking and you saw the result that was really terrific.

Alex Grand:         Yeah. Cause he’s kind of OCD and perfectionist. So it turned into like a whole other type of a visual display in a way.

Tom DeFalco:        Yeah, and it was a fun goofball story and Herb and I finished the third issue, but by then Barry was, you know, OCD, he was looking at this as if it was his project and started to talk to Herb and eventually convinced Herb to let him pencil the last issue.

Alex Grand:         Wow. Incredible. And so now 1984, a lot happens in 1984. So you start writing Marvel Team Up and Amazing Spider-Ham. Then you team up with Ron Frenz doing Spiderman. Tell us about how that all came about and your first two issues of Amazing was over Roger Stern’s plots, I think.

Tom DeFalco:        Yeah. Somewhere along the line I had gotten promoted, I was editing the Spider-man titles and I got promoted to executive editor. And when I was promoted, becomes Shooter’s second in command and I said to Shooter, he said, I want you to read the second in command, you’ll be the executive editor. And I said, okay, do I still get to edit the Spider-man titles? He says, Oh, sure, yeah. And then I became the executive editor, that sort of thing. And he said, well actually we’re going to put you in charge of this new thing called Star Comics. So you don’t have time to do the Spider-man titles. We’re going to give them to Danny. So Danny is going to be editing the Spider-man titles,and one of my jobs as executive editor is to keep track of creative people, our writers and artists and make sure that people have work. And Danny comes in and he says, listen, Roger Stern has an opportunity to go and take over the Avengers, but he’s going to have to give up Spider-man.

Tom DeFalco:        And I said, Roger is going to give up Spider-man? I said, man, what idiot is going to replace Roger Stern? Cause as far as I was concerned, Roger did the best Spider-man since maybe Gerry Conway and Stan Lee.

Tom DeFalco:        And he said, well that’s what I wanted to talk to you about. And I said, okay, pulled down my list. And I started going through possible writers and making suggestions. So I’m rattling off three or four names to him to write Spiderman. I look up and Danny’s smiling at me with this goofball grin on his face. And he said to me, well actually I know who I want. And I said, well, if you know who you want, why are you wasting my time? He said, because you are who I want.

Alex Grand:         So Danny Fingeroth said that to you, right?

Tom DeFalco:        He said that to me and I said, Danny, I’m flattered, but I can’t write Spider-man. I can’t do that kind of voice, that kind of dialogue. And he said, sure you can. Who knows Spider-man better than you do? I said, well, yeah, I know the character, but I don’t think I can write that. Especially after Roger did such a great job, you know, I don’t think I can do it. He says, well, why don’t you try it. You do a couple. The first two you’ll script over Rogers plots. I said so I’m kind of like the fill in guy until you can find somebody good. And he said, yeah. All right, I’ll try it. And that’s how I got onto the Spider-man book. I thought of myself as the temporary guy.

Tom DeFalco:        Ron Frenz and JR Junior were doing Amazing Spider-man and he was also working on X-Men. And he needed some time off to get X-Men on time and the Spiderman books were ahead of schedule. Yeah. And so Ron Frenz came in, he was going to be the temporary guy. So two temporary guys did the black costume issue.

Alex Grand:         Yeah. I mean everybody remembers that issue.

Tom DeFalco:        Yeah. What people don’t remember is that before that issue came out, the fans had heard that we were going to change Spider-man’s costume and we got a ton of hate mail. Ton of hate mail. At one point, somebody from the mail room came in and dropped a sack of mail on my desk and said to me in a very unpleasant voice, I don’t know what you did, but don’t ever do it again. And stormed out.

Tom DeFalco:        Everybody was convinced this black costume thing was going to be the disaster. And yeah, everybody was swearing that they were never going to read Spider-man again and going to give up Marvel comics. And we were waiting for this disaster to come out. And I remember at one point Shooter came into me to what issue does he get the new costume? I say 252 and he says, I want you to get rid of it in 253. I said, Jim, we can’t do that. I said, cause he doesn’t, you know, he’s supposed to get it in Secret Wars but you guys can get it for eight issues. We have to at least wait until he gets it in Secret Wars before we dump it. Cause otherwise we’re going to look like fools. And he says, well listen, if Spider-man sales go down because of this, it’s your butt. Yeah. And I thought, Hey, I’m only on it temporarily anyway, so what, they’re going to fire me off the book they’re going to kick me off of anyway, what do I care? And you know, nowadays when people look back on that, they think of it as a brilliant marketing play and up-sales and all that other stuff. Yeah. We thought we were going to get killed.

Alex Grand:         That’s awesome. But you stuck to your guns. That’s great.

Tom DeFalco:        Yeah.

Alex Grand:         So then how was working with Ron Frenz on that Spider-man run? Did you guys kind of gel from the beginning or how’d that work? Cause you guys worked together for a long time.

Tom DeFalco:        Yeah. Well we’re still working together. We just finished up a job last week.

Alex Grand:         That’s awesome.

Tom DeFalco:        We had met previously and he was working on Marvel Tales when I was the editor and we found out that we liked the same kind of comic books, the same kind of things. And we were kind of in tune on that. So when we first started to do our plots together, we were spending a lot of time discussing character cause we’ve, I don’t know, I still don’t know how it works out cause we discuss characters, what the characters are feeling and what they’re going through, all the emotional impacts. And then somehow or other, the stories come together. I always look back and try to figure out, “How did this all come together?” But Ron and I slowly started to gel and then more and more jelled more and more. He started contributing his ideas and his ideas are at least as good as mine; sometimes way better. Ron always comes up with better story titles than I do. He started suggesting bits of dialogue and I’m sitting thinking, “Wow, that’s a cool bit of dialogue. I want to steal that, put that into the story.”

Alex Grand:         Yeah.

Tom DeFalco:        It became a partnership that has… We said we started in ’84, so I guess it’s, was it, sorry, like 35 years now?

Alex Grand:         Let’s break our calculators, everybody.

Tom DeFalco:        35 years now.

Alex Grand:         That’s awesome.

Tom DeFalco:        This is ridiculous.

Alex Grand:         Nah, that’s great. You guys did a lot of interesting stuff together. I noticed that the aesthetic, because we’re going to talk about your guys’s Thor later, but the aesthetic on your guys’s Spider-Man has that Ditko kind of feel to it just as the Thor has a Kirby kind of feel. Was that part of the discussions or did that just naturally happen? How did that happen?

Tom DeFalco:        I think we went back to basics. Ron studied a lot of the early Ditkos. We wanted to get back into the essence of what that character was about.

Alex Grand:         There you go.

Tom DeFalco:        That’s a character who the stories are all about responsibility. Almost, I’d like to say we came up with very creative stories. We didn’t. We almost did the same story month after month. It was some sort of reflection on responsibility; a thing that you could do endlessly.

Alex Grand:         That’s cool.

Tom DeFalco:        We looked at Peter as a guy who could find a dark cloud behind every silver lining, that no matter how much he succeeded, he saw himself as a failure, which so many of us do. We struggle, we try to do the best we can but we see ourselves as failing because we can never achieve what we want to achieve.

Alex Grand:         Right. That’s basically how me and Jim are every day. Right, Jim?

Jim:                Yep.

Tom DeFalco:        Hey, listen. I keep looking at comics and I think I’m maybe two years away from really mastering this medium.

Alex Grand:         And you’ve been at it for a while. But I mean, I love everything you’ve done, honestly.

Tom DeFalco:        I appreciate that. But I’m still struggling to try to get it better.

Alex Grand:         You also co-created the Rose persona of Richard Fisk, Black Fox, Silver Sable during this. Are these discussions that you and Ron would have and start generating these characters? Because you guys, I mean, honestly, you created a lot of characters. You are not afraid of putting out new characters. I mean, when you create these characters, is that like you and him on the phone talking about it? “Hey, let’s try this.” “Let’s try that.” How does that work?

Tom DeFalco:        Yeah, that’s a lot of it. A lot of the characters, Silver, Sable, Black Fox, Puma, I had gotten this thing of animal cards which listed all animals and their characteristics and I was using that. I think that we’re being paid to create stories and we owe it to our readers to create new stories, new characters.

Tom DeFalco:        I look back on the early days of Spider-Man thinking every other issue they created a brand new character and we owed it to the readers to do the same thing. Ron and I did the same thing when we wrote Thor. Paul Ryan and I did the same thing when we were on Fantastic Four. We’re always creating new characters because it’s our job to chart the future, to move ahead.

Alex Grand:         Right, which is interesting because you go back to the basics but then you create new stuff. That’s interesting.

Tom DeFalco:        Yeah. Well, you’re using that as your basis but you don’t want to retell the same old stories.

Alex Grand:         Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Tom DeFalco:        I sometimes get annoyed when I looked at somebody who comes out a book and you can tell he’s repeating his favorite top 10 stories, almost in order. “Are you going to do Captain America? You got to do a cosmic cube story.” No, you don’t. You should create something new for Captain America. I just like to create new things.

Tom DeFalco:        Now, granted, when we were coming up with new character after new character, people were writing back and saying, “We don’t care about these characters. We want to see Doctor Octopus. We want to see The Scorpion. We want to see all these old characters.”

Tom DeFalco:        Every time Ron and I would try to do one of those characters, I’d look and think, “Yeah, I’ve seen so many great Doctor Octopus stories. I don’t have anything to add.” I thought, “Ah, come on. Let’s create something new and chart new paths for our characters.”

Alex Grand:         Mm-hmm (affirmative), right. I think that’s why I always liked that that stuff has a kid, because there was always this new person, new thing. Then 1987, that’s a big year of change at Marvel for a couple of reasons. As far as Marvel corporate structure, Marvel as a company was sold to a new company.  New …?

Tom DeFalco:        New World.

Alex Grand:         Yeah, New World. Jim Shooter was removed as the editor-in-chief and then you became editor-in-chief. Well, okay. Let’s talk about that shift. First, why was Jim removed? How did you get picked to be editor-in-chief? Tell us about that transition.

Tom DeFalco:        Jim was having issues with the people above him and at a certain point, he thought he should be named publisher or whatever. When you go after the king, you got to make sure you succeed. It was basically corporate stuff. Jim was also having issues with some of his creative people and that’s been bandied about all over the place.

Tom DeFalco:        Around that time, I kept thinking that when they were going to get… I could see the handwriting on the wall. I knew that Jim’s days were numbered and I was convinced that they were going to get rid of Jim and me. I was trying to convince Jim that we should make plans for heading for California. Jim was pretty sure that Marvel could never fire him and I was pretty sure they were going to fire us both. When the day came and they informed me that they were letting Jim go and they were putting me in charge, I was kind of stunned because it never occurred to me.

Alex Grand:         Did Galton make that decision?

Tom DeFalco:        Yeah, Jim Galton made that decision. He checked with the people from New World and stuff. I found out many years later, years after Galton and I both left Marvel, probably about 10-15 years after we both left Marvel, that Jim Galton had been grooming me to replace Shooter for years but I had never noticed it. I didn’t realize it. Galton had decided that I was going to be the second-in-command.

Tom DeFalco:        At one point, he sent me to England. He lent me to England for a couple of months. I think it was because he heard that Shooter and I were disagreeing on matters and he was afraid that either I was going to quit or Shooter was going to fire me.

Tom DeFalco:        Jim Shooter did a lot of good for the creative people and a lot of good for the industry. He did have his issues. He was not a great people person when it came to creative people but he really is a creative person. I think like many creative people, you think that because you can do certain things well, you can do other things well.

Tom DeFalco:        I looked at the skills that it takes to be a good editor-in-chief and I look at the skills that it takes to be a good publisher. These are two totally different kinds of skills. One is more finance contracts, reading contracts, and working on distribution and that sort of stuff and one is in the creative end. Jim and I belong in the creative one. We shouldn’t be running companies, which is, over the years, I’ve been given the opportunity a few times to become a publisher and I passed on it every time because I’ve seen what a real publisher is like and I know I don’t have those skills.

Alex Grand:         Interesting. In 1987, you and Ron Frenz stopped doing Spider-Man and moved over to Thor. There was some question. Jim Owsley became editor of Spider-Man. He’s also known as Christopher Priest in modern comics. What happened? What made you leave Spider-Man and then move to Thor?

Tom DeFalco:        Well, we were ultimately fired. Jim Owsley, he was very young at the time. He wanted to prove that he had a great vision for Spider-Man. He was a big fan of Frank Miller’s Daredevil work and wanted Spider-Man to read more like Frank Miller’s Daredevil.

Alex Grand:         I gotcha.

Tom DeFalco:        At the time, we said, “Well, Frank Miller’s Daredevil should read like Frank Miller’s Daredevil and Spider-Man should read like Spider-Man. They’re different characters.”

Alex Grand:         Yeah, mm-hmm (affirmative).

Tom DeFalco:        He decided that he wanted to get rid of me and Ron and the way to do it was by scheduling. He would give us a schedule and we would meet the schedule. Then the day we met it, he’d hand us a new schedule that showed we were two months late.

Alex Grand:         I see.

Tom DeFalco:        We were constantly pushing the clock back. I know that we were fired the week or two weeks before Spider-Man vs. Wolverine came out where he kills Ned Leeds. I think he did that deliberately because he knew we would be upset about that.

Alex Grand:         I see.

Tom DeFalco:        That came out the beginning of May. We had an issue drawn in May. I had half the script written and he fired us. I decided to eat that half a script. That was for a book that had to go to the printers in October. That’s how late the book was. It ended up missing shipping because whatever else we did for the May, June, July, August, September, those five and a half months, he didn’t get the book done. But that’s how late we were.

Tom DeFalco:        Some time after that, I ended up going to England. Ron and I weren’t working on anything for a while. Then when I came back from England, we heard that Daredevil might be open, so Ron and I started to put together some ideas to do Daredevil. I approached the editor, Ralph Macchio, and said, “We’d like to do Daredevil.” He was also editing Thor at the time and he said to me, “Yeah, yeah. I need to put a new team on Daredevil but right now, Thor is very late and I could use a fill-in. Could you guys do a fill-in for me?”

Alex Grand:         That’s his Secret Wars story, right?

Tom DeFalco:        I think so. We said, “Yeah, sure. We could do a fill-in for you.” So, we did a fill-in and we continued to put together our proposal on Daredevil. As we were finishing up the fill-in, he said, “Listen, you guys did a really good job. Could you do a second fill-in for me? Because this book is very late.”

Alex Grand:         That was the Dargo/Future Thor story?

Tom DeFalco:        I guess so, yeah. I always forget which order they came out in.

Alex Grand:         Yeah. Which I love those, by the way. But okay.

Tom DeFalco:        Thank you. So, we did a second Thor and then as we’re finishing that up, Ralph said, “Listen, I want you guys to do a monthly book for me because I really like what you’re doing.” We said, “Daredevil.” He said, “No, no, I want you to do Thor.” I remember saying to him, “Thor? We can’t do Thor. We don’t do cosmic.” He said, “You just did two issues.” I said, “They’re fill-ins. I could do a fill-in on any book in the line but I don’t know if I could do Thor.” He says, “Well, talk to Ron.”

Tom DeFalco:        I called up Ron. I said, “Ron, what do you think?” Ron says, “Well, Thor was always one of my favorite characters after Spider-Man.” We said, “Okay, all right. We’ll do Thor.” So, we started working on it. I thought, “Well, I don’t know if we can do cosmic, so let’s see if we can do a cosmic story.” We ended up doing that Celestial story.

Alex Grand:         I love it.

Tom DeFalco:        Once we did that story, I said, “Yeah, I guess we can do cosmic.”

Alex Grand:         Yeah, because, I mean, you went into a Celestial’s brain.

Tom DeFalco:        Yeah.

Alex Grand:         I mean, I remember that and I’m like, “Wow. So, that’s what’s in there.”

Tom DeFalco:        Yeah, we were always, even when we’re dealing with old things, trying to chart new paths.

Alex Grand:         Yeah, you were. Yeah. Also because on your first of the regular run of that you guys did, you introduced the Celtic Gods.

Tom DeFalco:        Celtic Gods, yeah.

Alex Grand:         Leir, the Lord of Lightning. I mean, I love that stuff.

Tom DeFalco:        Like I said, we were always wanting to add to the sandbox, add to the playground.

Alex Grand:         Yeah. Right. You created, what, New Warriors and then Thunderstrike into the whole Eric Masterson storyline.

Tom DeFalco:        Yeah. Yeah, that was kind of by mistake. Again. When we introduced Eric, we knew that ultimately he was going to die at the end of his story.

Alex Grand:         Oh, you did? Okay.

Tom DeFalco:        Yeah. The first time he meets store, he’s actually injured and that’s when he hurts his leg. Thor looks at him first time or second time and says, “I have a hunch things are not going to go well for this guy.” We dropped all these hints throughout the whole series that things were not ever going to go well for him.

Alex Grand:         Right. I mean, there were actually visions of death also around him, too.

Tom DeFalco:      Yeah. At one point, we introduced the Thor Corps, which was another bad joke that became something. Dargo had been kind of sticking it to Eric throughout the whole thing and then later on gets a vision of what was in store for Eric and all we could do is see Dargo’s face as he’s looking at the screen.

Alex Grand:         Yeah, deer in headlights, yeah.

Tom DeFalco:        Yeah. Then after that, he’s very nice to Eric and says to him, “Enjoy every moment.”

Alex Grand:         Yeah. Yeah, I actually was sad when Eric died. I got really invested in that character. I noticed that aesthetic had a lot of new stuff but again, there’s a return to the basics because there was a very Kirby aesthetic to the thing. Was that in discussions or did that just naturally come about?

Tom DeFalco:        Everything Ron and I did was the result of the discussions.

Alex Grand:         Oh, that’s how?

Tom DeFalco:        Because everything Ron and I do was… By then, we had honed the discussion thing. Even if one of us starts with an idea, it becomes a big discussion.

Alex Grand:         Right. Then now you’re editor-in-chief. Is it that you were chosen as editor-in-chief because you were seen as more flexible of a personality than Shooter? Is that the bottom line there, that the upper management felt you’re more flexible and the creative people felt you were more flexible? Is that what made that work?

Tom DeFalco:        I don’t know. I never asked about that. I think they targeted me early because I got my books on time. When I first joined the staff, the books were very late. They brought in Virginia Romita who had come up with something called the Virginia Schedule. I remember looking at that schedule thinking, “I don’t know how I’m going to reach this schedule.”

Tom DeFalco:        Mark Gruenwald was my assistant at the time and I said, “Mark, I can’t come up with a plan to reach Virginia’s schedule but I have come up with a plan that’ll get us on time.” He said, “What is it?” I said, “We’re going to produce a book every three weeks because these are monthly comic books and science says if you do one every three weeks, eventually you got to catch up on time and get ahead of schedule.”

Tom DeFalco:        Grueny said, “Yeah, how are you going to do that?” I said, “It’s easy. We’re going to start with the writers, going to call up all the writers and tell them that, ‘Every three weeks, I need a plot.’ If the plot is one day late, there’s going to be a fill-in. Don’t expect me to call you up. Don’t expect me to warn you. Just assume if you’re late, you’re going to get a fill-in because you are.”

Tom DeFalco:        All of my writers were such pros, they all rose to the challenge. Roger Stern, Bill Mantlo,  DeMatteis, they were terrific. They came up and they got the books on time and eventually, ahead of schedule. We got to the point where we would have two or three issues in the drawer as opposed to other guys who are just barely getting them out on time.

Alex Grand:         Barely getting that one in, yeah.

Tom DeFalco:        Yeah. When I was on the Spider-Man titles, I started working with this gentleman by the name of Ed Hannigan doing cover sketches. We started to play with the logos. We were blowing up logos and just doing weird cover cover sketches and pushing the limits and sales on the books.

Tom DeFalco:        I had great creative teams, so I got to get the content, content, content. That’s how you sell comics. Our content was great, the covers were great, the guys were all doing a fabulous job. I’m just sitting back, waking up occasionally to have lunch. The sales rose and we were on time. Management noticed that. I also got along good with Hasbro and a couple of the other toy companies.

Alex Grand:         I see. The toy people, yeah.

Tom DeFalco:        I got along good with those. I got along good with the publisher. The publisher, a gentleman by the name of Mike Hobson; a true gentleman in every sense of the word, a great publisher. Still a good friend of mine. We get together for lunch every once in a while. I’m a lucky guy. I managed to get, I’m still friendly with all my old bosses.

Alex Grand:         Mm-hmm (affirmative), that’s great. Now, you were editor-in- chief,  also during a couple of key corporate events. One was when New World sold Marvel to Revlon and then in 1991 when Marvel went public. How was being editor-in-chief during these corporate events? Did things change around you or did you always have to keep corporate things in mind as editor-in-chief? What were some particular stressors or was it business as usual?

Tom DeFalco:        It was pretty much business as usual. I always figured that as long as we were making money, they would leave us alone. I had a very bottom line mentality about that stuff: the comic books have to sell.

Tom DeFalco:        As a result, I made sure that all of the editors got sales reports, both direct market and newsstand sales so that they could track their sales. I thought it was very, very important that editors could track their sales. This way, if sales flipped up, they could look at the cover and say, “Wait a minute? Why did this flip up?” Stuff like that.

Tom DeFalco:        Gruenwald and I, we only looked at the books that weren’t selling. If a book was on a downward path, Mark and I would get all the latest issues back to the point where it started to fail, read them all, and try to figure out what was wrong and then go talk to the editor, sometimes his creative team, and try to get the book back on track. As a result, there are certain editors I almost never spent any time with

Alex Grand:         Because they were doing it because they were doing okay already.

Tom DeFalco:        Yeah. Bob Harras and the X books, I realize I very rarely spent time with Bob because his books were sellable.

Alex Grand:         Yeah.

Tom DeFalco:        I figured, “If a book was selling, all I could do is mess it up, so stay away from him.”

Alex Grand:         That’s cool. You actually probably gave some of the editors a little more freedom than Shooter did.

Tom DeFalco:        Yeah. I thought that it was important that the editors actually edit. I also think that by the time of book came to me, the next two or three issues are already predetermined. If I futz with this, I got to futz with the next three or four issues. Like I said, I only looked at books that weren’t selling.

Alex Grand:         Mm-hmm (affirmative). What’s your take on the Image revolution of ’92? Larsen, McFarlane, Liefield, Jim Lee, they go to make Image. Fingeroth said that the percentage of profit sharing that Marvel had in the 80s contributed to this mass migration of talent. You were there when all this happened and when McFarlane was in the room saying how we wanted things to be for him. Tell us your view of all that.

Tom DeFalco:        Well, Danny is right. The money that those guys were making was so much that it gave them the capital and the freedom to form their own company. I found out about that by accident one day. There was going to be an auction at Sotheby’s for comic book art, a first-time auction. The president of the company, Terry Stewart, said to me, “You and I should go, should be together when the auction starts.” I said, “Okay, fine.”

Tom DeFalco:        Then it’s about 6:30 at the end of the day, I realize I had never spoken to Terry. I didn’t know if I was going to meet him at Sotheby’s or I was going to meet him at Marvel’s. I tried to call his office. Nobody was answering the phone. I figured, “Ah, I know Terry’s… It’s got to be up there on the 11th floor.”

Tom DeFalco:        I walk up on the 11th floor, I knock on the door as he’s in meeting with what became the Image guys. Terry looks at me. He says, “Come on in here, Tom. We could use you here. Come on in here.” I said, “Nah, I’m just trying to find out something.” “No, no, no. Come on in here.”

Tom DeFalco:        This is when the Image guys were basically asking for their demands, telling Marvel what they wanted, that they wanted to get a bigger share of profit. One guy would say one thing, “I think we should have 80% of the profit.” The other guy said, “No, no, we should get 90% of the profit.”

Tom DeFalco:        Somebody would say, “Listen, when Frank Sinatra comes into town, he never has to buy a drink. When I come into town, I should never have to pay for a drink. When I go to a convention, I should be flown first-class with my wife and children.” Somebody else says, “Well, wait a minute. I don’t have a wife but my girlfriends and entourage should fly first-class with me.”

Alex Grand:         Oh, wow. Okay.

Tom DeFalco:        Everybody had different things. Terry, after about, oh, I’m going to say about three hours, because we ended at about 9:00-9:30. Terry said to them, “Listen, guys. Guys, you’re all over the map. Why don’t you guys sit together, make a list of what you want? Once when you agree on that list, give us the list. Then we’ll go through the list point by point and we’ll tell you what we can do and what we can’t do.” I thought that was a very reasonable thing. They said, “Fine.” They then got up and they left.

Tom DeFalco:        The next day, we’re at Sotherby’s and I see one of them talking to a fanzine reporter. I walk up and he’s announcing to the fanzine the formation of Image Comics. I said, “Formation of Image Comics?” I said to him, “Wait a minute. At the end of the meeting, you guys were going to come up with a list.”

Tom DeFalco:        He said, “Tom, listen, that meeting was kind of a show thing. We just wanted to be able to say to the public that we approached Marvel and you didn’t give into our demands but we’d already decided. We’d already signed our contracts.” I said, “You son of a bitch. If you knew that that meeting was a farce, why didn’t you signal me so I could have gotten out of that? I ended up wasting three hours on that stupid thing.”

Alex Grand:         Staying there till 9:00 PM, yeah.

Tom DeFalco:        Yeah. “You could have signaled me and I could have gotten the heck out of there. Why did I have to suffer through that bullshit for three hours?” I said, “I don’t mind you jerking Terry Stewart around but you shouldn’t jerk me around like that.”

Tom DeFalco:        He said to me, “Yeah, we’re sorry. We felt bad about jerking you around but we said we approached DC last week, we had to be able to say we approached Marvel for publicity things.” I said, “Okay. Well, good luck.” I said-

Alex Grand:         That’s interesting. It was more as part of forming publicity inertia in a way.

Tom DeFalco:        … Yeah. It didn’t surprise me because the history of Marvel was you go and you become a superstar and then you go to DC and you spend the credit that you got when you were over at Marvel and then you get forgotten. A lot of guys had done that. Kirby had kind of done that. Ditko had kind of done that. A number of people had gone from Marvel to DC.

Alex Grand:         Yeah. Roy Thomas, Gene Colan. A lot of people did that.

Jim:                Byrne. John Byrne.

Alex Grand:         John Byrne, yeah.

Tom DeFalco:        Although, I can’t say that happened to everybody because Byrne was a superstar at DC, came back to Marvel, still a superstar.

Alex Grand:         Mm-hmm (affirmative), mm-hmm (affirmative).

Tom DeFalco:        Today I think he’s still a superstar.

Alex Grand:         Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Tom DeFalco:        Roy Thomas, the same thing. Gerry Conway, the same thing. These are all very talented guys.

Alex Grand:         Mm-hmm (affirmative). Then now Fantastic Four, you started it with issue 356, issue in 1991. Paul Ryan was artist. You had a long run, almost, what, 60 issues. How’d that come about, doing the Fantastic Four, and how was working with Paul Ryan?

Tom DeFalco:        Well, Paul Ryan was a dream. I’ll get to that in a second. Ralph Macchio was editing Fantastic Four. Walt Simonson was leaving the books. The sales on the newsstand had fallen on Fantastic Four and it looked like we were going to have to take Fantastic Four off the newsstand. I thought, “Yeah, I don’t want to be editor-in-chief when we take Fantastic Four off the newsstand.”

Alex Grand:         Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Tom DeFalco:        We tested Four off the newsstand. And I, you know, spoke to Ralph and Ralph spoke to a couple of people. It’s to see if you can get people to work on the book. He’s spoken to Chris Claremont, I think. I think he had spoken to Byrne and found that that Byrne wanted to erase everything that had happened between the time he had gotten on the book and the time he’d spoken to a couple of other people and he couldn’t get anybody in. He said, listen, we want to fix the newsstand sales. Right now, the two bestselling newsstands sell books were Thor by me and Ron and Captain America by Gruenwald and, oh, and Larry Hama’s GI Joe. Those were our three best selling newsstand books. So how, would you and Ron take over the Fantastic Four?

Tom DeFalco:        And I said, I got to talk, I don’t know, I got to talk to Ron before I, you know, I can’t make a decision for Ron. So I spoke to Ron and we had too much stuff going on with Eric and I said yeah we can’t, we can’t give up, we got just too much stuff going on cause we deeply love our characters and, and so, you know, Ralph said to me, well would you want to write Fantastic Four by yourself? And I thought, you know, I’m already editor in chief. I don’t know if I can actually do two books a month. But I was doing some other work outside of comics and thought, maybe if I cut back on some of that I could, I could try it.

Tom DeFalco:        And, and then somebody said to me, don’t be ridiculous. There’s no way you could do two books a month. And they did it in such a scary voice, I thought, I’m going to see if I can. So I said to Ralph, okay, now it may sound strange cause you know, you know, I’m the editor in chief. Ralph reports to me, but yet, because I started working for Ralph long before I became editor in chief, we’d already established the ground rules on how we worked as a team and you know, so when I worked for Ralph, he told me what he didn’t like.

Alex Grand:         I see.

Tom DeFalco:        And you know, unfortunately he was always right. And I think we spoke to Ron Lim about maybe taking over FF. But Ron was doing Captain America and didn’t want to leave Cap. And then I thought about Paul and you know, Paul, again, a consummate professional, could draw anything. And if you read any of our Fantastic Four one, he had to draw pretty much anything, cause it was a wild roller coaster ride. And I said to Paul in this, in the beginning, Paul, we got to pull out all the stops. This has to be, you know, a super, super soap opera.

Alex Grand:         Yeah. Cosmic.

Tom DeFalco:        Cosmic soap opera. I always looked at Fantastic Four as Dallas, Dallas in Space. Instead of a well oil rigs in the background, you saw spaceships and that sort of stuff. I said we’re going to kick up the soap opera elements and just, you know, go to town. And our first issue we guested the New Warriors cause they were outselling Fantastic Four.

Alex Grand:         Oh wow. I didn’t know that. Okay.

Tom DeFalco:        So we wanted, we wanted to get a little boost from the New Warriors, and then we started our roller coaster ride and just, you know, kept on throwing twists and turns and every wild thing we could think of.

Alex Grand:         And you made Alicia, it turns out she was a Skrull when she left Ben for Johnny during Secret Wars. So what was the thinking behind that?

Tom DeFalco:        The thinking? I stole that idea. And I stole it from Mark Wald and Ralph Macchio.

Alex Grand:         Okay.

Tom DeFalco:        Years earlier we were sitting at Ralph’s house, he had a swimming pool, was sitting at the pool and Ralph and Mark are arguing about, you know, Johnny marrying Alicia. And how it didn’t fit into character or John would never do that to Ben. What was Alicia thinking? What was going on? Alicia looked like his sister, what the heck is, you know, and, and they were trying to come up with ways to avoid it. And they’re going back and forth and back and forth. And one of them says, well, we can always say that Alicia was a Skrull.

Alex Grand:         Yeah.

Tom DeFalco:        And they said, well, again, that would do it. We just have to figure out a story for that.

Alex Grand:         Yeah.

Tom DeFalco:        And they turned to me and said, what do you think of this? And I said, I think it’s a moot point because none of us are writing Fantastic Four. So let’s move on with our lives and enjoy the pool. And then when the time came to come up with an idea, I thought, I remembered that conversation and I pitched it to Ralph and Ralph said, Hey, that’s a pretty good idea, where did you get it from? And I said, I got it from you and Mark and I reminded him of this, of the day at the pool. He goes, I don’t think we came up with that. I said, you did trust me.

Tom DeFalco:        And you know, cause it made sense. Everything fit together the way you needed it to fit together. And we could go back and, you know, can we, you know, all the discrepancies and stuff?

Alex Grand:         Right. And that also adds some soap opera element also.

Tom DeFalco:        Yep. It’s all Soap Opera. People look at Stan Lee’s biggest contribution to comic books and comic books superheroes.

Alex Grand:         Yeah.

Tom DeFalco:        And they get it wrong. It’s not characters with feet of clay. It is the soap opera elements.

Alex Grand:         Yes, that’s right. I want to ask, there are two specific issues in Fantastic Four in your run. There is Fantastic Four 358 and issue 400 and the reason I bring them up is because Stan Lee had written letters that were published in these two issues. One was where released in 358 his original synopsis of the Fantastic Four number one story. Do you remember that?

Tom DeFalco:        I remember he did. What issue was 358? I’m sorry, the numbers-

Alex Grand:         Well, you know, let me see. Let me see if I can find the plot in front of me real quick.

Alex Grand:         But that one, he actually releases his synopsis.  Fantastic Four 358.  So on the cover there’s,a die-cut cover. There was a four in the middle with, with all four of them around the circle.

Tom DeFalco:        Oh yeah, yeah. Okay.

Alex Grand:         The synopsis for whatever happened to Alicia. That’s was that story.

Tom DeFalco:        Right.

Alex Grand:         And, and so in it, there is the bonus material of Stan Lee’s letter of how, of his original plot synopsis for the First fantastic Four issue. So, why do you think he released that synopsis at that time? Is there any reason why he did that? Or was there any talk about why he could have released it on that issue?

Tom DeFalco:        I think that synopsis had been published once before. I don’t know where or wherever, but we, you know, I think 358 was like an anniversary issue of Fantastic Four number one or something like that. And I think that’s why we decided to, you know, Hey, we’ll throw in the first plot. I see. If you look at that plot and then look at the actual comic, you see how much Kirby contributed to it.

Alex Grand:         Yes.

Tom DeFalco:        Because you know, Kirby contributed a lot to Fantastic Four.

Alex Grand:         Right, right. Do you think he was doing that because there were these fandom claims that Kirby originated all of it and that he was basically trying to defend his, defend himself to some extent, credit wise?

Tom DeFalco:        No, no, because that plot, I think that plot first surfaced when Roy Thomas was working with Stan, years earlier and Stan Lee had found it in papers or, or Roy had found it, I forget how it worked out, but one of them had found it, read it and you know, always kept it around. I don’t know if Stan even knew that we were going to reprint that when we did it. We did the anniversary issue. Or if we called Stan and said, Hey, guess what going to we’re going to reprint that, that thing. But that was decided in the office.

Alex Grand:         I see.

Tom DeFalco:        We’re, we’re going to do an anniversary issue of Fantastic Four number one. So, Hey, you got the original plot. Put that in.

Tom DeFalco:        I see. It was more as an anniversary celebration type thing-

Alex Grand:         Than anything else.

Tom DeFalco:        Than anything else.

Alex Grand:         Yeah. Okay. That’s cool. And I get curious about stuff like that.

Tom DeFalco:        You know, it’s funny, people often look at the Challengers of the Unknown and they say, Challengers of the Unknown, Fantastic Four, four guys, blah, blah blah. But if you look around, there were also the Sea Devils, which were just like the Challengers of the Unknown and the Suicide Squad, that different Suicide Squad. Just like the Challengers, all these groups that were essentially the same. Four or five skilled people, and the only thing that that made them different were their skills. Or one of them talked with a Brooklyn accent. When you look at Fantastic Four, the personalities are so diverse.

Alex Grand:         Yes.

Tom DeFalco:        And that’s something that, you know, Kirby had never really done. And I can’t see Kirby bringing, saying, Hey, I’m going to bring back the, I’m going to create a new team and bring back the original Human Torch. Again, that’s-

Alex Grand:         Yeah. And back then it could have been Martin Goodman even ordering something like that.

Tom DeFalco:        Well, I think it was Stan saying, well, Goodman was saying, Hey, you know, bring back the old superheroes and, and Stan saying, well, I’ll bring back the Human Torch.

Alex Grand:         Right.

Tom DeFalco:        But you know, none of the other guys. But you look at the FF and it’s such a mixture of Kirby, Kirby and Stan, I have to say, it’s got to be at least 50-50. Cause what we fell in love with the Fantastic Four and with Spider-man and with Thor and all these were the personalities, and the conflicts and all that other stuff. And that was all Stan, that personality stuff was Stan.

Alex Grand:         Right. The voices for sure. Yeah.

Tom DeFalco:        Yeah. And I don’t mean to take anything away from Kirby or Ditko because-

Alex Grand:         Right, right.

Tom DeFalco:        Every comic book is at least 50-50. At least. And maybe even 75-25 you know, leading 75 for the artist. Cause this definitely is a visual medium and-

Alex Grand:         Yeah, that’s right.

Tom DeFalco:        You know, we can never, never forget that.

Tom DeFalco:        So then in Fantastic Four, 400, so Jack Kirby dies in 1994 then Stan released another letter in FF 400 and it’s kind of like an obituary type of letter where he talks about how he and Jack co-created the Fantastic Four together and kind of a letter to Jack, a very friendly letter. What was your impression of that letter and do you remember reading that?

Alex Grand:         I’m sure I read it at the time, but now it’s like 20 years later or so.

Tom DeFalco:        Yeah.

Alex Grand:         I’m afraid I don’t recall the letter at all. Listen, Stan always had warm feelings for Jack. He, anytime he spoke about Jack spoke with such reverence and such warmth and such real love. And the one time I saw them together, you know, Stan ran across to Jack and they embraced and hugged each other and were obviously very happy to see each other.

Tom DeFalco:        Oh, and you watched that happen?

Alex Grand:         And I saw that happen in that, that was during the time when Kirby was trying to get his artwork back and Marvel, sort of, you know, Marvel was the villain because Stan had a, you know, put some, put the artwork in a warehouse as opposed to DC, which cut up the artwork. DC was the hero. They cut up the artwork. Marvel was the villain. They saved the artwork.

Alex Grand:         Yeah, Fans are funny like that.

Tom DeFalco:        Yeah.

Alex Grand:         So now then, so now why did you resign as editor in chief in 1994? What led you to do that?

Tom DeFalco:        I didn’t resign. I was fired.

Alex Grand:         Oh, okay. So tell me that story there.

Tom DeFalco:        You know, we had a big discussion about pizza and you know, some of those guys were from Chicago and that was the end of it. The company wanted to do a major reorganization. Earlier in that year, Superman, Superman had died and then, Superman returned. And when Superman returned, all of the retailers ordered the amount of books they wished they had ordered when Superman died. And they all got stuck with them. And the industry took a big hit. And you know, sales were down all over the place. In Marvel sales, we’re actually for the year up 15%, but for the rest of the market was down to like 35%. And you know, the company was trying to figure out a way to reorganize things. One of the ways they, at one point they proposed to me, they brought me into a room and they said, you know, we’re producing 120 titles at the moment. And we were. And I said, yes, we are producing 120 titles. All of them profitable.

Tom DeFalco:        And the publisher, the distributor makes the least amount of money. The publisher makes more than the distributor, but the person that makes the most is the retailer. They get 50%. And as you know, some of them got the 55% off cover price. So they said, you know, we’re making money so everybody else down the line is making money. What do you think if we cut from 120 titles to 60 titles. With the remaining titles, sell twice as well and double our profits.

Tom DeFalco:        And I laughed at them because, you know, I said to them, no, that doesn’t work. And I left. And then I realized that I’m the only one laughing. Everybody else has a shocked expression on their face. They didn’t expect me to laugh.

Alex Grand:         And these are the Revlon people like Perleman and those guys, right?

Tom DeFalco:        This was the president of the company. The guy in charge of marketing and the man in charge of the sales.

Alex Grand:         I see. Okay.

Tom DeFalco:        And I said to him, listen, the comic book sales don’t work that way. I said, you know, if somebody is reading Ghost Rider, and you canceled Ghost Rider, it’s not like he’s going to then pick up Captain America. This is what, we’re producing four Spider-man titles. If we got rid of two, wouldn’t we double in sales, I said no, because it’s the same guy buying all four titles.

Tom DeFalco:        And I said, because if you’re a Spider-man fan, you want to read Spider-man every week, right? You don’t want to have to wait 30 days between your Spider-man fix. And I said, you know, it’s like movies. Three good movies come out in a weekend, you know, maybe you’ll see one, maybe you’ll see two, the third one you say, maybe I’ll catch that next week. If no good movies come out in a weekend, you don’t say, well, okay, no good movies come out, so I’ll go see a bad one. You go off for pizza instead.

Alex Grand:         Right. You do something else.

Tom DeFalco:        You do something else. The comic books, the same sort of thing. We’re in entertainment. And they just didn’t understand comic book sales and I thought these guys don’t understand publishing.

Tom DeFalco:        And then they started talking about buying their own distributor. And I remember saying that is the stupidest idea I’ve ever heard by life. And also when they bought Malibu, I was not supportive of the idea. So basically they could tell that I was not a team player for their team, and they decided that they wanted to make a change. It’s their company, they’re entitled to it. So they informed me that they didn’t need me as editor in chief anymore. They were going to you know, give me a job where they sent me to Europe. I said, thanks, but no thanks. I’m out of here.

Alex Grand:         Wow.

Tom DeFalco:        And this was on a Thursday and they said, well, you know, we’ll talk on Monday. And I said, okay, we’ll talk on Monday, but I’m out of here. And you know, I mentioned sometimes I don’t think about things. So for that weekend I started pursuing other forms of employment.

Alex Grand:         Yeah.

Tom DeFalco:        It never once occurred to me to get in touch with DC or Image. Never, never occurred to me to talk to another comic book company. I just assumed that’d be out of comic books.

Alex Grand:         Oh wow.

Tom DeFalco:        So I got, I set up other things to write, other things to do. When Monday came in, I’m figuring out, I’m covered. And they said to me, well, you know, we at least want you to be a writer. And they offered me a great writing contract.

Alex Grand:         Oh cool. Okay.

Tom DeFalco:        So I ended up staying with Marvel.

Alex Grand:         As a writer and just not, not editor in chief.

Tom DeFalco:        Not editor in chief.

Alex Grand:         Oh, so that, yeah. Cause you still were doing Fantastic Four after that.

Tom DeFalco:        Yeah. Yeah.

Alex Grand:         So yeah. That’s interesting. So it was more like corporate business, funny movements and you kind of thinking these guys have kind of lost their minds.

Tom DeFalco:        Yeah. Yeah. But you know, it’s not that I quit or anything, they just decided they wanted to go in another direction.

Alex Grand:         Yeah.

Tom DeFalco:        I got one of those fantasy things that happen. They fired me and replaced me with seven people. Five veteran chiefs and two other guys who did two other aspects of my job. And then they went bankrupt seven or eight months later.

Alex Grand:         Yeah.

Tom DeFalco:        I got to live a fantasy life.

Alex Grand:         You did.

Tom DeFalco:        Not that I wanted Marvel to go bankrupt or anything.

Alex Grand:         Right. But I mean you were holding it together though for a while. So then, so you started writing also, you went back to Spider-man as a writer. Tell us about the clone saga, making Ben Reilly the real Spider-man and then it kind of reverting back to Peter again. Tell us what went on with that.

Tom DeFalco:        Well, they, Danny Fingeroth the editor of Spider-man had arranged for a meeting, a Spider summit where the writers and artists get together to come up with the plan for next year’s Spider-man. And he came to me at the end of the day and he said, they have a weird idea. I said, okay, do you like it? He said, well, it’s very weird and they want to talk to you about it, and I said, what do you think about it? He said, do you want to know what it is? I said, no, Danny, if you, if you like the idea, you go with the idea. You don’t like the idea, you don’t go with the idea. And he said, they want to bring back the clone and that’s the real Peter Parker and the Peter Parker we’ve been following for the last bunch of years since the first clone story is really the clone.

Tom DeFalco:        I said, what? That’s crazy. And he says, well, the guys really want to do it, they want to talk to you about it. I said, all right, I’ll show up at the meeting. So I showed up at the meeting, I walked in and they looked at me and they said, Danny told you, didn’t he? And I said, yeah. What’s your first reaction? My first reaction is this is crazy. We don’t want it. We don’t want to do this story.

Alex Grand:         And who came up with that idea?

Tom DeFalco:        I believe Terry Kavanaugh was who originally came up with the idea.

Alex Grand:         I got you. Okay.

Tom DeFalco:        But this idea caught fire in the writers’ room and everybody got up and started talking passionately about how this would change things, how this would shake up the whole Spider-man line, all the Spider-man readers, you know, this’ll be the most revolutionary thing.

Tom DeFalco:        And I’m watching them all and, and the guy that, the guy that turned to me was Sal Buscema who’d been in the business forever.

Alex Grand:         Yeah.

Tom DeFalco:        Sal is a good buddy of mine. I love Sal. When he’s passionately telling me, this is going to shake things up, we haven’t had this sort of craziness since Stan was running the company and that’s what I think you got to, you know, got to do this. And I’m looking at my guys and I’m thinking, my guys are so passionate about it. And these are guys, comic book creators sometimes get very jaded about comics.

Alex Grand:         Yeah.

Tom DeFalco:        But this got them all fired up. I think if they’re fired up, the readers are going to be fired up.

Alex Grand:         Yeah.

Tom DeFalco:        And I said, all right guys, but how do we end the story? I said, if you’re going to send Peter and Mary Jane off, people love them and have loved them for years.

Tom DeFalco:        They have to have a happy ending. And they said, well, what kind of happy ending? I said, I don’t know, they have a baby or something. Mark Madison and Howard Mackie smacked fists, said, we knew you’d come up with the ending. And I thought, what the fuck did I just say? I can’t say that on your podcast, can I? Sorry about that.

Alex Grand:         It’s okay, yeah, no, we’ll keep it. I like it.

Tom DeFalco:        All right. And they, they said that’s it. They go off to have a baby living happily ever after. And everybody’s very excited. And I said, okay, terrific. And I called Danny on the side. I said, okay, you know, here’s your three act play. Ben Reilly comes back, you know, he’s the clone.

Alex Grand:         Right.

Tom DeFalco:        You know, he comes back and Peter’s surprised, the clone is still alive. That’s the end of act one. End of act two. Wait a minute. Then Reilly is really the real Peter Parker.

Alex Grand:         Right.

Tom DeFalco:        Okay. You know, act three, Ben Riley becomes the new Spider-man, except, at the end, something terrible happens. Act four. He says, wait a minute, it’s a three act play. I said, no, it’s a four act play, act four. Peter Parker has to come back and reassume, and we find out it’s all been a lie. It’s been Peter Parker from the beginning. And he says, really? I said, yeah, but when you don’t tell the guys at act four until after they’ve completed act three.

Alex Grand:         I see.

Tom DeFalco:        I said that’s the kicker.

Alex Grand:         That’s kind of like how when Superman died but he comes back. I mean this is like a very similar kind of thing.

Tom DeFalco:        Yeah. I said, because comic book readers are a cowardly and superstitious lot. They’re never going to buy this.

Tom DeFalco:        So we have to really, we really have to twist people around, but it has to end up that the Peter we’ve been following is the Peter we’ve been following, and the Mary Jane and he says, but what about the baby? I said, Peter, Spider-man is all about responsibility. We’re giving him a child. It just adds to his responsibility.

Alex Grand:         Yes.

Tom DeFalco:        You know, think of him as a cop or a soldier now. It adds to his responsibility. I said, and then at the end of this, we have two books. We have Spider-man, with Peter Parker and Mary Jane and their baby. And then we have, we didn’t know it was called Ben Reilly at the time, we have the clone book, we spend him off and we have essentially a Peter Parker, a single Peter Parker. So we’ll have, we’ll do kind of what we did with Thor and Thunderstrike, we’re going to do with Spider-man. Give him two books. We did with Iron Man and War Machine. We’re going to do it with Spider-man. And that was the plan from the beginning.

Alex Grand:         Wow.

Tom DeFalco:        Now what happened was between then and fruition, a couple of things changed.

Alex Grand:         Yeah.

Tom DeFalco:        I got fired. Marvel bought its own distributor. Sales plummeted 60% on all titles at Marvel. Only two titles recovered. Two groups of families recovered. The X books and the Spider books.

Alex Grand:         Yeah.

Tom DeFalco:        They said the Spider books are recovering because the only thing that’s selling is the Clone saga. So we got to keep the clone saga going. So they kept it going longer and longer and longer.

Alex Grand:         Yeah. That drug out for a while and they got rid of the baby.

Tom DeFalco:        Yeah. That, that always annoyed me.

Alex Grand:         Yeah. Same here. Because I wanted to know what happened, which I ended up getting with your Spider-Girl series.

Tom DeFalco:        Yeah. The Spider-Girl series, at one point, Marvel, I was working on Spider-man. They decided to take me off for Spider-man cause they’re going to, you know, let Byrne and Howard Mackie do it. So he, they had to give me a title. They gave me What If to do.

Alex Grand:         Yeah.

Tom DeFalco:        And I thought, well, I was always wondering what happened. You know, what would have happened if Spider-man had had that daughter?

Alex Grand:         Yeah.

Tom DeFalco:        So that’s why we did that Spider-Girl.

Alex Grand:         And to me, because that’s the Spider-man that I grew up with, I felt like May Parker, that whole storyline you wrote, I felt like that was the real Peter, and we’re getting like bizarro Peter now. That’s how I feel about it.

Tom DeFalco:        A lot of people felt that way.

Alex Grand:         Yeah. Cause it’s a natural, you know, a progression of the character is the thing. So, when you came up, so you and Ron Frenz co-created Spider-girl with the What If, how did that get picked up into the Spider-Girl series that it became?

Tom DeFalco:        When we did the issue, we were thinking that there’s just the one shot, you know, it’s a What If. And we had to plan what would the future be like. So we planned the, an Avengers team and decided to do the Fantastic Five and Ron said, Hey, I’m going to draw Herbie the robot into the Fantastic Five.  Herbie the robot, he said, fine, it’s only going to be for, you know, a one panel scene.

Alex Grand:         Yeah.

Tom DeFalco:        And Ron had to do all these character sketches. What does Mary Jane look like, an older Mary Jane look like? What does an older Peter look like? What all the older characters look like? So he did all this, this background material because that’s, you know, Ron and I always write Bible’s about the characters I’m writing, even if they’re only going to appear in a couple of panels. Ron always does all sorts of sketches so that he knows exactly what he’s drawing. And, and at one point I, you know what, when we finished The What If, I didn’t need this stuff anymore so that he, I just want to show you the kind of stuff Ron does in background and gave it to the editor and a couple, you know, couple of months later after, that Spider Girl came out and sold out, did very well. And this is in the days before they comic books went back to press and you know, Bob Harras said, “Hey that, What If, you did sold very well.”

Tom DeFalco:        And I didn’t know which one he was talking about.

Alex Grand:         Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Tom DeFalco:        And he said, I want I want to I want you to walk with me.

Alex Grand:         Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Tom DeFalco:        Said we’re thinking about doing a deal with a Walmart where we put three comic books in a bag, but a lot of our comic books no longer appeal to the mass market and you really have to be a hardcore comic book fan to follow them. He said, but you do material that works for the mass market.

Alex Grand:         Right.

Tom DeFalco:        And I said, yeah, well, yeah. He said, “what would you think if we brought back that Spider-Girl character, could you do 12 issues of her?” I said, I said, Bob, I could do 12 issues of anything, probably.

Alex Grand:         Yeah.

Tom DeFalco:        And, but we need two other things. How about you do, you know, you could do either The Avengers in the book or The Fantastic Five in the book, one of those and maybe do that little Juggernaut character. I thought little Juggernaut character, what the heck is he talking about. Then I looked at The Avengers and I thought, Oh no, no, that was supposed to be The Juggernaut, but I said, okay, yeah, we’ll do the Little Juggernaut character.

Alex Grand:         Like his son, yeah.

Tom DeFalco:        Yeah.

Alex Grand:         Which is a funny, I actually really liked that issue with the constant referral to the Professor X and him as brothers, and oh that ought to, with your stupid looking face hanging out. And I mean those are just great.

Tom DeFalco:        So, so we, you know, we’re going to do three, three books. They were going to be 12 issues each. That was going to be the end of them, as we finished that up, he said you know what, we never did the deal with Walmart, but these things are selling pretty good in the direct market. Can you do, can you do five, five or six more issues of Spider Girl? Yeah. I said yeah and, and maybe do one or the other, so we did the Wild Thing and we did The Buzz and Fantastic Five and then, you know, as we’re getting, we doing the last couple of issues and the last issue I think we were supposed to end with issue 17, he said, can you make that a double size issue? Yeah, we can make them double size issue, it’s the last issue of Spider Girl.

Tom DeFalco:        And we were heading you know for the end of a Spider Girl. And then they came back to me and said, you know this thing is selling really, really too well too to cancel. Can you do six more issues? And I said six more issues. Yeah, I guess we could do six more issues. And then for the next 12, 13 years, it was 13 years in total. They kept asking for six issues, can you do six more issues? Can you do six more issues? And we kept coming up with six more issues.

Alex Grand:         Yeah. And you really progressed that character great. I actually fell in love with May Parker as a character and that went on for 12 years, and that’s what they call the MC2 timeline. Right?

Tom DeFalco:        Right, right.

Alex Grand:         Yeah, MC2. So then now I noticed Pat Olliffe did a lot of the earlier Spider Girl issues, and then Ron Frenz comes in later. What, what was up with the, I mean I liked, I liked those are issues obviously, but what was up with Pat Olliffe doing so many and then Ron Frenz coming in later, what happened there?

Tom DeFalco:        Well when we decided to do the, the original books, I thought Olliffe would The Avengers and Ron would do Spider-Girl.

Alex Grand:         Right.

Tom DeFalco:        But, but because The Avengers had Kevin Masterson in it, Ron wanted to do, Kevin Masterson in The Avengers and Pat had done, Untold Tales of Spiderman and said, yeah, I wouldn’t mind doing Spider-Girl, so they did that. And Ron Lim was always the choice for, for J2, because I knew I was going to do a really goofy book. I knew that Ron could draw the goofy and do it straight.

Alex Grand:         Yeah, that’s true. Yeah.

Tom DeFalco:        And, and-

Alex Grand:         I actually laughed out loud during some of those panels from J2. I think it’s hilarious.

Tom DeFalco:        Well, it was, it was my humor book.

Alex Grand:         Yeah, it was.

Tom DeFalco:        And, and you know, we were going along and then at one point they said to us, Spider-Girl is going to get canceled with issue 60, this is it. It’s definitely getting canceled. There’s no hope for a reprieve.

Alex Grand:         Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Tom DeFalco:        I said, okay, all right. We lasted a lot longer than I thought we were going to last. So you know, we’re good. And as we’re coming towards the end, Pat Olliffe got offered another assignment. There’s a book, it’s going to come out, you’re going to get a two year guarantee on this, on this title.

Alex Grand:         Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Tom DeFalco:        It’s going to be our next big push. But you’ve got to have to leave Spider-Girl a couple of issues early.

Alex Grand:         Yeah.

Tom DeFalco:        Two or three issues early. And Pat called me up, he said Tom, I don’t know what to do. I said, Pat, I know what you do. You’ve got a guaranteed two years on this other book versus three more issues on Spider Girl. If you don’t quit this book right now, I’m going to kick you off the book. I’m going to, you know, it’s ridiculous. Take the other assignment, you got to take care of yourself. So I said, just grab the other side and don’t worry about it.

Alex Grand:         Yeah.

Tom DeFalco:        You know, and Ron Frenz was temporarily out of work. I can never believe that statement, as I say it, cause I still think he’s one of the greatest storytellers this medium has ever seen. Ron is going to do the last three issues; we’re basically finishing up.

Tom DeFalco:        No, we finished our last issue. We were ahead enough. I go into the office, I check around any other work for me? Yeah, we’ll see. We’ll see. We’ll check around. I thought, okay, this is it, so I walked around and said goodbye to everybody. Walked out of Marvel figuring that’s the end. And about a week and a half later on April Fools Day, they call me up and said, sales on Spider-Girl are too good. We can’t cancel it. Can you get us a plot in two or three days?

Alex Grand:         Well I see.

Tom DeFalco:        And I said, hey guys, who are you busting? And I hung up because I thought for sure it’s an April Fools gag. And, and I got calls from the office throughout the day and I never bought it for a second. And then about seven o’clock, seven-thirty at night, I get a call from Tom Brevoort says to me at seven-thirty at night, I want to be home with my kids.

Alex Grand:         Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Tom DeFalco:        You’re the last person in the world I want to be talking to.

Alex Grand:         Right.

Tom DeFalco:        This is not an April Fools joke, we need a plot. We needed it in two or three days. I need a title, I need something to solicit. Can you give me something, something by tomorrow? And I said, Tom, is this real? He says, yeah. I said, all right, I don’t know what the story is but we’re going to call it Marked for Death.

Alex Grand:         Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Tom DeFalco:        And then we ended up doing another 70 issues.

Alex Grand:         Yeah, that’s right. And I mean I, I love Pat Olliffe’s stuff too. But the, when you and Ron Frenz get together, I always, I think, cause my first, my first regular comic that I actually was like, I want to get the next issue was in 1987. It was a Thor with you and Ron Frenz, and the Annihilus cover when Thor returns to Asgard and Annihilus is taking out each one, one by one. And so I imprinted almost like a little chick out of the egg to this team of DeFalco and Frenz. So when once you guys started kicking back up on Spider-Girl, I mean I got obsessed with those, so, all right. So then, but then it finally actually did end and then there were some digital issues. You guys actually finished that with digital issues, right?

Tom DeFalco:        Well, the regular book ended, then we did some-

Alex Grand:         Spectacular Spider Girl or something like that?

Tom DeFalco:        Yes, yes some digital issues. And then they were reprinted in Spiderman Family. And then there was Spider-Girl and the Spectacular Spider… I don’t remember the titles, but you know, they, they kept telling us we’re canceled and they kept saying, please come back.

Alex Grand:         Yeah, that’s cool. So then are there any plans for any more May Parker stories?

Tom DeFalco:        Not to my knowledge. I thought that maybe with the 80th anniversary we might get to do one more, but you know, I don’t think that that’s in the cards, but I’ve been wrong, but I’ve been wrong before.

Alex Grand:         Yeah, it sounds like that that series was kind of living on a prayer for a while and it just kind of went on for a long time, which is awesome.

Tom DeFalco:        Yeah. These days, every time I do a comic book story, I look at it with the idea that this is probably going to be my last one.

Alex Grand:         Yeah, but you’re still doing them.

Tom DeFalco:        Yeah, but you know, someday it will be my last one.

Alex Grand:         Well hopefully not anytime soon.  So then after that then you also did in 2011 as Superman Beyond One Shot for DC comics. Did you approach that in a similar way as the MC2 stuff of this alternate future? How did you approach that?

Tom DeFalco:        Well, they had already set up the Batman Beyond Universe and had a Superman Beyond in that universe. So we just kind of… I read up what I could on the The Batman Beyond stuff, read the Superman Batman Beyond Team-up, and then tried to do what we thought would be a basic Superman story that would set up a possible series.

Alex Grand:         Mm Hmm, I see. So then tell us also about, you worked for Dorling Kindersley for Marvel character guides. How’d that come about?

Tom DeFalco:        One day I’m sitting in my office and I get a call guy with an English accent that we’re going to do a book on Spider-man, an encyclopedia on Spider-man. And we were told, you were the guy that we should talk to. And I said, no, no, no. The guy you want to talk to is Peter Sanderson. And he said, well Peter Sanderson works on our X-Men books, but we were told to talk to you. And I said, who told you to talk to me? And he said, Ralph Macchio, right? I said, I said, let me call Ralph. So I called up Ralph. I said, why did you mention me for an encyclopedia kind of book? I don’t do that sort of stuff. He said, well, they wanted to do a book on Spider-man. You’re a guy I know who does books.

Tom DeFalco:        And I said, Ralph? Mystery novels, it’s a whole different kind of thing,

Alex Grand:         Yeah.

Tom DeFalco:        You know? Yeah, maybe we should cut that, that’s part of my secret identity as I do different kinds of different kinds of work. And he said, yeah, but why don’t you do this, it’s something you could give to your nephews. And I thought about it and thought, and I don’t know how to do this kind of book, but it is something I could give to my little nephews. And I thought about it, thought about it. Well, since I don’t know how to do it, maybe I should try to do one.

Alex Grand:         Yeah.

Tom DeFalco:        So, I did the Spider-man book, and about halfway through the book I thought, wait a minute, now I know how to do this, these books. So maybe if they ever offered me another one, I’m going to do a second one just to make sure that I know how to do this and then I don’t have to do anymore. But I ended up doing a few more.

Alex Grand:         So did you actually enjoy them?

Tom DeFalco:        They were interesting, you know, there were a lot of work and just interesting challenges I think, as a writer I like to be challenged.

Alex Grand:         Yeah, that’s great. So then now you also got into Archie, the man from Riverdale in 2010 issue 610. How did you get it… how was it going back to Archie?

Tom DeFalco:        Oh it was great. My former editor, my former boss, I got to to work with Victor again. The whole thing started cause they, Archie had approached Sal Buscema to pencil, a job for the, they had an Archie new look at the time. And Archie said Sal said to them, I don’t pencil anymore, which is a total lie. And, and he said, get Ron Frenz to pencil it and I’ll ink it. So Ron calls me up and he says, yeah, so Sally wants me to pencil in Archie job and he’ll ink it and you should call him up and tell him that you want to write it. I said, you want me to call up? You know, Archie Comics would tell them I want to write that job?

Alex Grand:         Right.

Tom DeFalco:        I said, it doesn’t work that way. I says, you know, call them up. So I called up Mike Pellerito. I said, Hey Mike, I understand you’re going to have Ron Frenz pencil a job and Sal is going to ink it, I says, do you want to write it? I said, absolutely. He says, okay, good. So, and I said, there’s only one thing I know this was supposed to be the Archie new look. Ron wants to do Classic Archie.

Alex Grand:         Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Tom DeFalco:        I says, you guys want to do Classic Archie? I said, yeah, yeah. I mean, if we’re going to do Archie, we’d rather just do Archie.

Alex Grand:         Yeah.

Tom DeFalco:        And we ended up doing a few Archie stories and some Jughead stories. And then at some point they asked us to do this Man from Riverdale thing and, and you know, we ended up doing a whole bunch of Archie stuff again. No, it’s great. Great to be with the old characters again.

Alex Grand:         Mm-hmm (affirmative), mm-hmm (affirmative), so then you also did Reggie and Me with Sandy Jarrell as the artist.

Tom DeFalco:        Yeah, yeah that-

Alex Grand:         Tell us about that, tell us about working with Sandy Jarrell.

Tom DeFalco:        Well, Sandy was a real pleasure. We, I called him up before I started and told him vaguely what the story was going to be and he got pretty excited about it and it was kind of connected with the Mark Waid, new Archie kind of kind of style, but with some of the classic stuff back and Sandy did a heck of a job, you know, that was… that was the story, you know, did you read that?

Alex Grand:         I read it, yeah.

Tom DeFalco:        Okay. In chapter four, something happens to the dog and when that book came out, I got a call from the publisher. He said, I was just reading The Reggie and Me and, and I said, it ends happily. The dog is okay.

Alex Grand:         Yeah.

Tom DeFalco:        He goes, oh, okay. All right. All right. All right. We’re good. I realized-

Alex Grand:         Thank God! They were like, thank goodness!

Tom DeFalco:        Hey, if the publisher is that upset? I thought-

Alex Grand:         Yeah, that is funny.

Tom DeFalco:        This is working.

Alex Grand:         So I want to end to today with a couple of, two philosophical questions.

Tom DeFalco:        All right.

Alex Grand:         So one, 1996 it’s kind of an interesting year, because you leave The Fantastic Four, you know, Jim Lee then starts doing Fantastic Four. Mark Gruenwald dies of a heart attack. There’s a whole corporate shake up and then eventually Toy Biz buys Marvel and just, things kind of change after that. And as you said, this Peter Parker storyline kind of, there’s a fracture during this where you, they have a baby and now the baby’s gone and then you kind of pick up at that fracture with Spider Girl. Would you consider 1996 the death of old Marvel?

Tom DeFalco:        I’ve heard a number of people say that. All right. I think that, people of my group of, of my day at Marvel, Mark was the heart and soul of us.

Alex Grand:         Mark Gruenwald, yeah.

Tom DeFalco:        Mark Gruenwald. He was really the heart and soul of this and when Mark died and died so suddenly it took a lot out of all of us. And we’re, and to a certain extent, we’re still feeling it.

Alex Grand:         Right.

Tom DeFalco:        So I’ve, I’ve heard a number of people say that was the end of the old Marvel and I think in, in people’s minds, they had hoped that in some alternate universe, at some point, you know, Marvel was going to regain it’s head and put me and Mark back in charge and bring back the old editors and bring back the old staff and you know, essentially have a time machine and recreate the Marvel that we had in ’87, the early nineties and stuff like that.

Alex Grand:         Right.

Tom DeFalco:        And I think, you know, that was a pipe dream that was never going to happen under any circumstances again any way. But I think when Mark died that like really closed the book.

Alex Grand:         That closed the book, yeah. So you feel that way too.

Tom DeFalco:        I don’t know if I feel that way because I think Marvel, Marvel in order to survive is, has to be constantly evolving, be evolving-

Alex Grand:         Adapt-

Tom DeFalco:        Adapt, constantly move forward, constantly change. And yeah, the Marvel of today is not, is not the Marvel of the 1980s and… but it’s not the Marvel of Stan’s sixties or Roy’s seventies or anything else like that. Marvel, you know, any publishing organization, any entertaining organization has to change with the times. And I’ve been startled a couple of times when I was still up there working where I talked to assistant editors and I’d see they were so locked in the past and I was saying to them, guys, I’m the one whose brain should be calcified. I’m the old, old fart here, not you guys. You know, we have to keep charging forward and creating new things.

Alex Grand:         Right.

Tom DeFalco:        And so I don’t think that was the end of the old Marvel. I think that, you know, that was just one more turning point.

Alex Grand:         Just another turning point. So then the final question is, you’ve created many characters and a lot of them have been licensed for television, toys, tee shirts, posters, trading cards. What goes into creating… is there elemental things that go into creating a character that then is eternalized into these merchandising formats?

Tom DeFalco:        I can only tell you how I create and you know, when I deal with the character and a Ron Frenz or whoever I’m working with is also participating in this, I have to do a fully realized Bible of who this character is. Who this character is, what he or she wants. How did she react to things, how does, you know he react to things, what are limitations, what is he or she afraid of, all of these things. And also I try to make it somebody that I want to spend time with because you know, you as a reader, you’re spending, 20 minutes, a half hour with the comic book, I’m spending weeks, months, so it’s got to be somebody that is likable enough that I can spend a lot of time with, and I hope that if the character… becomes that likable, that other people are going to want to spend time with it and then, if they want then wear apparel connected to it or whatever.

Tom DeFalco:        But that stuff  I’m not really worried about, I don’t really care about, I want the character to work in the medium to which is it’s primary source. A comic book character has to work on as a comic book character, television character has to work as television character and just has to be somebody that we want to spend time with, because if a character is going to be successful, you as, as the reader have to spend a lot of time with them.

Alex Grand:         Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Tom DeFalco:        Cause I’m asking of you, your time, which is the most valuable thing you can never get back.

Alex Grand:         Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Tom DeFalco:        You know, and, and usually some money. Money you can always replace time you can never replace and I want to be worth your time.

Alex Grand:  You are and thank you for spending quality time with us.

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