It’s been a good time recently, for those wondering how Marvel Comics used to run things. Whether it’s former Marvel editor Mort Todd talking about the fact that Joe Quesada’s current ban on Marvel characters smoking isn’t a new thing…
Before Quesada, Marvel banned their characters from smoking in the mid-90s. They got one letter from a kid complaining about Wolverine and Fury smoking on trading cards and bent over. Turns out the kid was the son of a anti-smoking pest who was always trying to get in the media.
Marvel also banned the use of swastikas on covers back then. Thanks to them those kids are now less likely to be smoking Nazis.
P.S. When I was an Editor at Marvel, I started smoking and my office (on a seperate floor) was the only place anyone could burn one (except for the stairway). It was also a popular hangout because it was the only office with cable TV and a mini bar.
…or Erik Larsen railing against the Marvel that hired him, way back when…
Prior to the “Punisher” and “Marvel Comics Presents” and “Amazing Spider-Man,” I was working at DC on “Doom Patrol.” While working on that title, I got a call from an editor at Marvel. Todd McFarlane (yeah, that guy again) was leaving the “Incredible Hulk” and they needed a warm body to do a fill-in while the next guy drew his yarn. The editor was hoping Todd would draw the issue, but Todd couldn’t do it. Todd was under the gun elsewhere and needed a break. Ever the pal, Todd recommended me for the job.
Now, I loved the Hulk – I wanted nothing more than to draw the book – but I had a regular gig at the time and I couldn’t spare the time.
The editor was desperate.
Eventually, I agreed under a few conditions [one of which was that] I’d have some control over who inked the book. Bob Wiacek was inking a lot of Walter Simonson stuff at the time and I figured he’d do a bang-up job on my stuff. I recommended Bob.
…I cranked out the pages. I kept in touch with the editor and time after time, he assured me he was “working on Bob.”
I continued, penciling like a demon. I was nearing the end of the issue when I talked to the editor once more. I knew that, by this point, they really needed to have an inker working on those pages – the deadline was getting tight. He said to me, “I’m 95% sure that Bob Wiacek will ink these pages.”
I hung up the phone.
The phone rang.
It was Jim Sanders.
Jim said, “I’m really having a great time inking these pages.”
Jim was, of course, talking about inking the very same pages that the editor I’d just talked to a heartbeat before had claimed would, almost assuredly, be inked by Bob Wiacek. Upon further questioning, I found out that Jim had already inked half the issue so there was no chance that the editor in question didn’t know about it.
This did not fill my heart with glee.
It’s not that Jim was bad (I later recommended that he ink my final issues of “Doom Patrol,” in fact) he just wasn’t Bob. And it irritated me to no end to be lied to like that.
…then obviously, the stars have aligned to provide insight into those heady late-80s, early-90s Marvel days. But thankfully, there is something even better for fans of insider gossip from days of yore: Tom Brevoort.
I’ve gone on at length before about how great Tom’s blog over at the Marvel website is, but recently he’s made it even greater with the addition of an occasional series called “Bad Comics I Had A Hand In”. Sure enough, it’s Tom talking about some crappy comics that he was involved with, and explaining just how they got so bad. The motherlode may be the 1995 Spider-Man annuals:
The idea for [main story throughout all annuals "Planet of The Symbiotes"] –just the name, really–had been suggested by former Spidey assistant editor Mike Lackey. Because of this, Danny [Fingeroth, then Spider-Man group editor] was stumping for Mike to write the Scarlet Spider [back-up] serial, which was something I wasn’t in favor of (no one is owed work.) My assistant editor Glenn Greenberg and I turned to John Ostrander instead.
Unfortunately, John ran into difficulties with his story, in that anything we liked, Danny didn’t like. And anything Danny liked, Bob didn’t like. And so forth. Somewhere in here, an idea got floated for using the Lizard in this story, a notion Danny became obsessed with. Whenever he got a new story outline, he’d inevitably ask, “Is the Lizard in it?” … No kidding, no excuses–we just basically gave up on these Scarlet Spider stories. We were tired of not getting any traction, we knew they were bad, but we chose to save our energies for battles we could win. No amount of fancy silver ink was going to conceal the stench.
You kind of have to wonder if, ten years from now, Jen Gruenwald or someone is going to be writing a series of blog posts where she details how crappily put together Civil War: Frontline was, or something…