Jim Shooter served as Marvel Comics’ editor-in-chief from 1978 until 1987 and it was under his tenure that some of the most notable comics in the company’s history saw publication, including Chris Claremont’s best-selling ‘Uncanny X-Men’ run (featuring the legendary ‘Dark Phoenix Saga’), John Byrne’s ‘Fantastic Four’, Frank Miller’s ‘Daredevil’, Walt Simonson’s ‘Thor’ and Roger Stern’s ‘Avengers’ and ‘Amazing Spider-Man’. He oversaw the first ever crossover miniseries ‘Marvel Super Hero Contest of Champions’ and personally wrote ‘Marvel Super Hero Secret Wars’ which, among other developments, saw the introduction of Spider-Man’s black costume, which evolved into the popular villain Venom. He launched the first direct-sales line of books (series shipped exclusively to comic shops and not mainstream retailers), with ‘Dazzler’ #1. Behind the scenes, he instituted an innovative royalty system and an art-return program, meant to benefit the creators of comics.
And while Marvel continues to mine the comics of that era for modern storytelling, in both the books and films, 30 years after his tumultuous exit from the company, Shooter doesn’t even recognize the company anymore.
“I think they forgot what business they’re in. I think there’s some brilliant talent out there–if you just flip through the books, the pictures are incredible. Sometimes they don’t tell the story as well as they should, sometimes they’re actually designing pages to sell in places like this [a comic convention], and not really thinking about the best way to tell a story. The writing, I cannot account for much of the writing. You have brilliant guys like Mark Waid who will do something and it’s great, but so much of the stuff is what they call decompressed storytelling…
It takes forever to tell a story. What Stan [Lee] would put in six pages–it takes six months. So you look at the sales–Marvel comics are now $4 apiece, and they’re thrilled if the sales are over 30,000. When I was at Marvel, the whole world was different. We didn’t have a single title–we had 75 titles–we didn’t have a single one that sold below 100,000. We had the X-Men approaching three quarters of a million. And that’s not some special No. 1, or somebody dies, or changes costumes, or someone gets married–it was every time. A lot of it was single-copy readers. People weren’t running around buying cases of it because it had a foil-embossed cover. It was every issue.”
When asked about the most controversial comic book event of the past year, the infamous ‘Secret Empire’ which featured a Captain America who turned out to be a Hydra sleeper agent, Shooter doesn’t mince words:
“Eh, they shouldn’t… Captain America a Nazi? Are you kidding me? Jack [Kirby] is rolling in his grave. Joe Simon is going to rise up out of his grave and kill those people. That was so wrong because that was not anything like the original intent of the creators.”
Of course, this was just a storyline. Steve Rogers was essentially reprogrammed by the sentient Cosmic Cube Kobik. By the story’s end, he was restored to his true form. And it’s not as though Shooter’s tenure was gimmick free. ‘Secret Wars’ was concocted simply to sell toys. And Shooter admits that the first variant cover, to ‘Amazing Spider-Man Annual’ #21, the wedding of Peter-Parker and Mary-Jane Watson, was an “accident” not meant to sell extra copies but issued because Marvel couldn’t decide which version they liked better.
Though Shooter’s exit from Marvel was controversial, to say the least, it was under his guidance that some of the most famous runs and events in the company’s history occurred. And with the state of comics these days, a lot of what he says has validity and isn’t just sour grapes.
How do you feel about the current state of Marvel Comics? Do you agree with Shooter on issues like decompressed storytelling and gimmicky sales?
Source: Adventures In Poor Taste