Jim Shooter was editor-in-chief of Marvel from 1978 to 1987, presiding over one of the company’s best-remembered times for fans, though his time was also marked by internal strife due to editorial interference. Whatever his legacy as an editor-in-chief, Marvel was financially successful under Shooter’s tenure. But when Shooter was asked in an interview with Adventures in Poor Taste about the current state of the company, he didn’t pull any punches. Shooter said of Marvel:
“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…”
Shooter went on to make a compelling argument against decompressed stories.
“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.”
Ultimately, Shooter thinks that Marvel needs to focus on telling good stories that satisfy readers who buy a comic, which seems like a common sense strategy.
“Now there are lots of variants and lots of gimmicks and they’re really taking their eye off the ball. People say, ‘What do you advise?’ Tell a good story and tell it well. […] We just got great people and the ones that knew what they were doing, I got out of their way and tried to help the younger guys, and make sure it’s on time and preach story, story, story. Before me, everything was like a soap opera and just went on forever and, occasionally, there’d be some resolution, but it’s just never-ending stuff. I said, people buy this unit of entertainment. There better be a story here.”
In the action-packed interview, Shooter also lived up to his namesake by taking shots at Secret Empire and Marvel’s penchant to offending fans to create controversy to drive sales. When asked about the story, Shooter responded:
“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.”
“Comics have more in common with single malt scotch than they do with other kinds of publishing because it’s a relationship. It’s a relationship marketing business. When I was a kid, I couldn’t wait to see what happened to Spider-Man next month. I didn’t give a damn if the cover was foil-embossed–because it wasn’t. It’s all about them loving Spider-Man, the character of Spider-Man, wanting to know what’s going on with Spider-Man. If they miss an issue and they don’t care, you lost.”
“When they’re involved,” Shooter explained, “you win. When they’re not, I don’t care how many foil-embossed covers there are.”
Believe it or not, this is only a sampling of the fury unleashed by Shooter in the interview. Head over to AIPT to read the whole thing.