Marvel Comics – The Still Untold Story?

Bob Greenberger, long time editor DC, executive at Marvel and journalist for Comics Scene has been reading Sean Howe’s Marvel Comics: The Untold Story and has a few issues. Blaming Sean’s bias of interest in the seventies as missing out much in decades before and after, he specifically targets a lack of interest in what DC were doing at the time as a motivating force for much of Marvel’s actions.

A few choice cuts;

Marvel’s publishing and licensing suffered for something close to thirty years from unqualified or disinterested people treating the company like a widget producer rather than an intellectual property company. New World’s Bob Rehme is shown to have ignored due diligence, thinking he bought Superman when he actually bought Spider-Man. Goodman sold it to a company that aspired to be Warner Communications but had no feel for its acquisitions, a situation repeated all the way up to Perlmutter, who finally recognized how valuable Spider-Man and his friends were.

As he carefully chronicles the rise of the generation that formed Image, his research fails him time and again. For example, Rob Liefeld was drawing the Hawk & Dove miniseries for DC, as editor Mike Carlin tried to carefully art direct the enthusiastic and artistically limited young man. During this time, Bob Harras blew enough smoke up Rob’s ášš to lure him to Marvel where any attempt at training and improving him was abandoned. DC even offered at least one project to Todd McFarlane (who got his start there with Infinity Inc., where he cleverly decorated his pages to hide his drawing flaws) to write when it was clear he wanted to stretch as a creator. It was a movie adaptation, a chance to train him how to write before moving on to big projects but Marvel just gave him the keys to the Webslinger and lived to regret it.

While Howe credits Marvel with innovating the cover gimmicks that were a hallmark of the 1990s, he avoids statistical analysis to demonstrate how the company was also working to strangle the smaller independent publishers.

Marvel’s relationships with its talent has always been iffy, starting with stiffing Jack Kirby and Joe Simon on promised royalties on Captain America in the 1940s through today. They were rarely interested in treating them with dignity or respect, counting on Stan’s rah-rah relationships to keep things cordial. Jack’s increasingly sour attitudes towards Marvel and his collaborator shows the limitations of backslaps and nicknames. They were slow to return art, pay reprint fees, initiate incentives (aka royalties) and cut the talent in for credit. DC bent over backwards to compensate talent whenever characters from the comics were used in other media. Len Wein has lived off bonuses for Lucius Fox in Batman animated fare and feature films while he’s never gotten so much as a free movie ticket for creating Wolverine.

As Perlmutter and Avi Arad finally got Marvel on the right track in media, Jemas and Quesada fixed the House that Stan, Jack, and Steve built. Systematically, they tackled one franchise, starting with Spidey, then another, X-Men.  He didn’t understand or like Tom Brevoort’s mainstream superhero titles but respected their sales and largely left him alone, making Brevoort nearly bulletproof. More should have been said about Tom’s growth into the keeper of the Flame, inherited in the wake of Mark Gruenwald’s tragic heart attack.

Greenberger also confirms a story I ran back in the day about Bill Jemas;

When he decided Marvel was withdrawing from the Comics Magazine Association of America in favor of an in-house ratings system, he packed the conference room with every former DC employee even though none had any business being in the room. It had to have been the most uncomfortable meeting Axel Alonso, Stuart Moore, Jenny Lee, or I ever attended.

Though Greenberger doesn’t make comment upon Mike Carlin’s swivelling eyes…

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