The Jim Shooter Files – When Stan Lee Chose John Romita Over Kyle Baker

Last month’s MCM London Comic Con had Jim Shooter as a guest. Former teenage writer of Legion Of Super-Heroes, Editor-In-Chief of Marvel Comics, writer of Secret Wars, founder of Valiant Entertainment, Defiant Comics and Broadway Comics, he is the co-creator of co-creator of Star Brand, Parasite, Archer & Armstrong, Eternal Warrior, Harbinger, Rai, Shadowman and X-O Manowar.

Shooter had many, many tales to tell and regaled fans at panels and at his table, often for hours, with stories of comic books past, present and even future. But he also had some folders with him, full of memos, sketches and pieces of artwork from his long career. He said he just grabbed a few on his way of of the door but he has many, many more. He graciously allowed me to take a few photos of some of them, telling undocumented tales of comic book publishing past, and for Thanksgiving Day Bleeding Cool will be sharing, and transcribing a few of these (use this handy dandy tag), but these are but the tip of an iceberg. If Jim Shooter is a guest at a show that you can get to and will be ‘tabling’ there, as the Americans have it, do what you need to do to get to his table and look through his folders – and be prepared for a conversation, a story, that may last for a good chunk of the show but will stay well with you.

So here’s the first. On a day that would have marked his birthday, a memo to Jim from the late Stan Lee, former Marvel comics publisher, dated August 29th, 1986. That concerns a new talent – to Stan Lee at least – Kyle Baker.

Jim Shooter

Dear Jim,

Thanks for having Sue send me the samples of Kyle Baker’s artwork.

I agree with you. He is talented as hell. The animals he draws are reminiscent of Walt Kelly, and his humans seem to encompass a number of different styles, all of them appealing.

As you noticed, when I was in the office I was talking to John Romita doing the proposed panel, before you mentioned Kyle Baker. I think I owe it to Romita to give him a chance. He seems to want to try it. If he doesn’t work out, I’ll get back to you and we’ll see about trying Kyle Baker.

I very much enjoyed our lunch with Mike, Chris, Ann and yourself the other day. I appreciate your making me feel that I’m still part of things whenever I come to New York.

All the best from your partner in showbiz.

Excelsior

Stan Lee

Kyle Baker is now known as one of the greatest living cartoonists, with his work including the likes of The Cowboy Wally Show and The Bakers as stand-out works,

In his senior year of high school, Baker became an intern at Marvel Comics, making photocopies and filing fan mail. He became background assistant to Marvel inker Josef Rubinstein, and later also assisted Vince Colletta and Andy Mushynski. Part of his duties involved photocopying, and he would take copies of John Buscema’s pencils home on which to practice inking. Baker’s first credited work at Marvel is pencilling the half-page entry Kid Commandos in The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe #13 in 1984. After a handful of inking assignments on issues of Transformers and Avengers Annual #14 in 1985, Baker made his professional pencilling/inking debut on Lodestone Comics’ Codename: Danger #2 in 1985. Cover penciling and more interior inking for Marvel and occasionally DC followed. His first story penciling for one of the two major comics companies was the three-issue Howard the Duck: The Movie adapting the 1986 film Howard the Duck, which he also inked.

Whatever he might have drawn that John Romita got instead, is unknown. It would be 1988 before he got more prominent Marvel work, working with Kurt Busiek on Marvel comedy comic What The–?! #3-4 and the classic Mutant Beach Party, working on Classic X-Men with Ann Nocenti in 1989 and drawing Damage Control with the late Dwayne MacDuffie in 1991.

The Jim Shooter Files - When Stan Lee Chose John Romita Over Kyle Baker

But during that period, Doubleday took the Cowboy Wally strips he had been trying to get published, and in 1988 repackage them with new material as the graphic novel The Cowboy Wally Show. This got DC Comics to give him more pencilling jobs as well as inking. That year, he would draw The Shadow for DC, and in 1990 would publish his graphic novel Why I Hate Saturn, which won him an Eisner and set the tone for much of his later work.

The Jim Shooter Files - When Stan Lee Chose John Romita Over Kyle Baker

But it appeared that before then, it was Jim Shooter who was pushing Kyle Baker to Stan Lee… a collaboration that never happened. Another What If? to add to the many. Until then, get yourself some of Kyle Baker’s Quality Jollity. as a Thanksgiving treat.

About Rich Johnston

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

twitter   facebook square   globe