What Did Bob Harras Ever Do For Us?

"Tom Brevoort's Bob Harras shrine at Marvel, now retired."

Bob Harras worked for Jim Lee after leaving Marvel (never doing the contributing work that was promised to the press) from New Jersey before working as group editor for DC Comics collected editions and editor of DC’s new Who’s Who series.

Some see his rapid promotion to Editor-In-Chief as a poisoned chalice now. That DC Entertainment is in serious, uncertain flux. So why not have a safe hand on the tiller who isn’t going to crack under any and all pressure. He’s been an editor-in-chief with a variety of bosses either punching and pushing for more and more profits to pay of debt brought on buy buying the company while making incredibly offensive personal remarks to him. Compared to that, DC is a breeze. Put it this way, members of senior DC management will never tell him that he should kill family members who turned out to be gay.

But is that an underestimation of Bob’s abilities? Remember much of the negativity aimed his way by fans over the likes of Spider-Clones, Onslaughts, Heroes Reborn and Hulk reboots was as a direct result of demand from Marvel executives on high that would eventually bring much of the market to its knees and push Marvel into bankruptcy.

But Bob’s time as an X-title editor saw him recruit Marc Silvestri from King Conan to Uncanny X-Men. He recruited Jim Lee from Punisher War Journal to Uncanny X-Men then X-Men. He recruited Rob Liefeld from Hawk And Dove to New Mutants, then X-Force. He recruited Whilce Portacio from Strikeforce Morituri to Uncanny X-Men. He turned a line of comics that sold a hundred thousand per issue into one that sold millions an issue. And then found a way to transfer that to much of the rest of the line as well. He made more money for Marvel Comics through the sales of their comics than any other editor at the company .

Then when the company as a whole headed into bankruptcy, he did as much as he could, as editor-in-chief to keep the company afloat and return record amounts from the the publishing company, even as the bosses sank it further and further into debt. This eventually cannibalised the readers, destroyed the speculation and collectible market and diluted the franchises.

He was mocked by Joe Quesada for recommending the likes of Howard Mackie of Scott Lobdell to write Ultimate Spider-Man for Bill Jemas, only for Joe Quesada to suggest Brian Bendis – a move that may have made Quesada’s career. But at the time Bendis was the risky choice, Mackie the safe one.

Right now, with the poor morale and institutionalised fear at the company, a safe pair of hands is what’s needed. Harras should fit right in – what is Final Crisis and Blackest Night but Onslaught and Spider Clones all over again?

And I wouldn’t be surprised if that safe pair of hands finds some gold in them there hills in the form of the next Jim Lee, the next Whilce Portacio, the next Rob Liefeld. Or possibly all the old ones.

I have learned of a number of DC freelancers who have approached Marvel, believing that Bob Harass disliked either their work or, well, them. And while DC editors Eddie Berganza and Ian Sattler may be unsure of their new boss (especially since it seems they believed they were in the running for his position), Michael Marts and Matt Idelson are especially pleased, they have stayed on good terms with Bob since they left Marvel.

And of course, Bob is now editor-in-chief of Vertigo, a new twist. Now, it was his predecessor Tom DeFalco who is attributed to have said that Sleepwalker was Sandman done right, but there does seem to be a clash if sensibilities here… and a further eroding of the autonomy of Vertigo and dilution of Karen Berger’s influence within the company.

But I tell you what. It must be a good time to be be Fabian Niceza. And Scott Lobdell. And, say, what is Howard Mackie up to these days?

About Rich Johnston

Chief writer and founder of Bleeding Cool. Father of two. Comic book clairvoyant. Political cartoonist.

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