Follow a Code
The Coletta letter is insane! Wow!
Brings to mind a question in regards to the Shooter era - he definitely had an eye for talent - I mean look at his editorial line up - growing up in the 80s as a comic reader and looking back now I see how most of the editorial staff were also working on the Marvel titles as writers on long runs - what are your thoughts on this?
I heard it was to supplement income, as well as an incentive to work at Marvel, good training for editors to see how they put a comic together..etc.. which would sometimes work and sometimes backfire (Shooter mentions how Denny O'Neil would spend more time writing than editing). It was cool to see some editors be able to do it all: guys like Hama and Milgrom could write, pencil, layout, ink, color, etc..very cool skill set to have in a crunch I'm sure.
This seems to have stopped at Marvel (and DC) - why is that? Do you think this was a flawed process? Would you ever do something like this again?
Not a complaint as some of my fave runs were by writer/editors ; Nocenti on DD, O'neil on DD, Gruenwald on Cap and Quasar, Mackie on Ghost Rider, Stern, MCduffie, Larry Hama, etc..
Would love to hear your thoughts on this.
Your mention of Peter Parker's graduation got me wondering about Marvel's "Sliding Timeline." Do you know when the concept was adopted as the defacto "official" operating procedure among the staff? When the term got coined? When the concept/term was shared with the readers?
I know the sliding timeline is "good enough" even if it doesn't hold up to intense scrutiny, but do you think there is a point at which the sliding timeline concept will stretch so much that it will break? Or do case-by-case revisionisms like Siangcong seal cracks as they are needed? Was the Siangong concept all Mark Waid's apart from Stan's original invention?
(You had mentioned the Magneto problem before and it made me wonder whether it couldn't be similarly solved by a time travel plot point: shunting Max and Magda forward in time after fleeing from Auschwitz, but before their life under assumed names in the Carpathian mountain village. Maybe driven by the desire to escape the insanity of the period and via external assistance. Surely time-travel is such a common theme within the X-Men mythos that it wouldn't be out of character for the franchise, even as a subplot-point of a larger X-Men story to avoid the "comics about comics" syndrome. I refuse to believe that I'm either the first or only person to have considered something like this over the years.)
Coletta's letter about the treatment of Jim Shooter made me wonder about John Byrne's portrayal of Agent Dooley from the Sensational She-Hulk graphic novel. Dooley had some facial scarring that reminded me Jim Shooter. Given the potshots Byrne took at Shooter related to the New Universe, I'm wondering if Dooley was a similar, earlier jab at him. This would have been a few years prior to the EIC's ouster.
Which reminds me of another of Byrne's "unclothed She-Hulk" stories. While my impression is that Byrne was nothing but reverential towards Stan and Jack, but I've always thought that the hairstyle (toupee vs plugs) and tinted glasses of of porn publisher TJ Vance from Fantastic Four #275 looked an awful lot like Stan.
I know this is somewhat before your time, but do you know whether these instances are just my runaway speculation or if there is anything to them?
A lot of remarkable comics have come from creative teams who have figured out unorthodox ways to work together. (Simon and Kirby's who-knows-who-did-what inventions, the plot > pencils > script "Marvel method," Frank Miller and Klaus Janson's script and layouts > finishes and colors dynamic on Daredevil, and Ian Akin and Brian Garvey's joint inking all come to mind.) Are there current or recent Marvel creative teams with a particularly unusual or interesting collaborative process?
“No cry of help was too small for him to turn his back on.”
A way with words, that Vinnie Colletta.
The Attack of the 50 Year Old Comic Books blog recently covered Warlock #5 and that wound up reminding me of how much I miss Starlin's Warlock. I am eagerly awaiting Lim and Marz's upcoming mini (Eve Warlock? It's so obvious but only Marz came up with it!) but was wondering if there's any chance of Starlin returning to the character any time in the future. I know what the comic press has said but I find most of their output so inaccuarte I pretty much just read Brian Cronin's columns anymore. Since most of the deluxe OGNs already read like an alt timeline, I personally don't see how it differeing from official contunity would attract from the excellent way Mister Starlin writes both Thanos and Warlock.
You've had a storied career at Marvel, including a possibly unbreakable streak editing the Avengers. What are some of the managerial and leadership skills that have contributed to your success?
As alwasy, thanks for the always interesting and entertaining contribution to my Sunday afternoon!
At the top of post #43, you spoke a bit about Weaponized Nostalgia, and it's place in the market. As a retailer, I've had my eye on the growing number of nostalgia series that Marvel are running - to great success at my shop, and I'd assume, the industry at large. That said, I do have these titles siloed as limited audience books - ones that serve the existing audience, not really concerned about growing past that. There's nothing WRONG with that - those are numbers that I have, and can trust as a foundation. They help me take risks on the books that push out to new audiences.
At a guess, that's why Marvel and these production studios run programs of Weaponized Nostalgia - and why I sell those books in store. They feed blood to the machine, the machine keeps running. I'd even say it dovetails into your point in reply regarding the volume of titles happening right now. My interpretation sees a mass of titles as satisfying several different needs. First: you can't make comics if they don't make money. Second: you have a base that has communicated a want to return to the days of old. Third: you know you can't reliable direct all efforts looking backwards and expect to satisfy the whole "comics need to make money" thing in the future.
Am I off base? Is this part of the balance in numbers and more of a conscious choice when it comes to the line make up, or is it more of a "needs as they arise" situation? Or none, or both? I feel like I can peg a function, or intended function to almost any book in a line - it is important to do that as a retailer, and I would suggest that as an editor, that's important at a grander scale - and when I see the array of titles published by Marvel or DC, I don't see books published without purpose. Just maybe without a purpose that some retailers are equipped to navigate with the ideas and structures they cling to.
I recently read the 'Startling Stories: Fantastic Four - Unstable Molecules' mini series from 2003 on Marvel Unlimited and really enjoyed it.
It seems to be a world away from the stories Marvel usually does now or then.
Can you give us some background on the choice of creators for the series, how it came together, and the thinking behind the Startling Stories brand.
Thank you for all the effort you put into the newsletter, much appreciated.
That is some letter. Wow.
Again Tom, still really enjoying these newsletters every week and always look forward to them (and the interesting questions everybody asks)!
If you’ll indulge me, recent events lead to my next question(s) about internships!
Marvel entertainment currently has a few posted (on the Disney Careers website, if any fellow readers are interested) that relate to the Marvel Comics office, with and editorial intern position being one of them. My question is this, how often does the comic book office do internships? Or there is a set semester-like cycle that occurs across the Spring/Summer/Fall? A current agreement with my student employment job at university has me locked in with them until the end of the Spring semester, so I can’t put my hat in the ring just yet, but would love to if Summer or Fall opportunities open up!
So two more difficult questions, Tom:
What about that story the other day about DC cutting writers' pay after the jobs were done in connection with various events. Not to be a d***, I get the part about paying more to the writers "designing" or show running events but, you know, taking the money from freelancers whose work loads weren't eased by the event instead of editorial, please. Given DC's management going back to the DiDio era (IYKYK, and I'm not going to go there), it's much more disappointment than surprise. I also wonder whether WBD debt load cost cutting is a factor. But what really triggered my interest is that I've been wondering about Gillen and Judgement Day. Certainly seems like he had extra work there beyond his scripts...
Sort of speaking of which: For the first time in years, I'm enjoying a couple of writers as writers. The three who are never failing me are Gillen again, Ewing, and Wells. I really like Wells' warmth and really, really like how the Madeline Pryor storyline worked out and ended. So you wanna name your three faves, Tom, or at least those not working for Marvel?
Tom, first, thanks again for taking the time out to answer so many reader questions.
Seeing some of the comments in this week’s post made me wonder: When did the Marvel Method stop actually being the primary method of scripting at Marvel, as opposed to full script? I know it was probably a gradual shift over time, but was there any particular catalyst or cause, to your mind? Tom King credited it in a podcast to the success of Kevin Smith on Daredevil paving the way, but what’s your perspective from behind the curtain?