Art Thibert is currently running a crowdfunding campaign for his comic book Chrono Mechanics on Indiegogo. Which is the perfect time to talk about why he hasn’t worked for Marvel Comics since 2002, a story he has been saving up for this moment. Known mostly as an inker, Thibert worked most prominently on the X-Men and Cable books at Marvel Comics in the nineties, before jumping to Image Comics where he worked on his own title, Black And White, before returning to Marvel where he worked as an inker with Mark Bagley on Ultimate Spider-Man and with Andy Kubert and David Finch on Ultimate X-Men. Until he suddenly wasn’t. Yesterday on YouTube he decided to tell everyone why, while also encouraging people to back his crowdfunder.
After moving to Image Comics, and suffering from an industry sales decline, Thibert talks about returning to Marvel with his tail slightly between his legs, after penciller Andy Kubert had requested him to work with him. But it wasn’t that easy, Thibert says that then-EIC Bob Harras wanted Thibert to pay his dues to get back and Thibert didn’t blame him. He says he started building back his resume and trust with the company, began working with Carlos Pacheco on X-Men books. Then the Ultimate line happened, he was picked to work on both Ultimate Spider-Man and Ultimate X-Men and he quotes Harras telling him that on Spider-Man, “I want you to ink Mark Bagley, I want you to bury him. I don’t want to see Mark Bagley, I want to see you.” It may be worth noting at this point that that it was Bill Jemas and Joe Quesada who set up the creative teams for the Ultimate books, and Joe was EIC at the time… but it was almost twenty years ago.
Thibert thought they had six issues on the series tops, as John Byrne had recently launched Spider-Man Year One “and it was a failure”. But Ultimate Spider-Man was a huge hit and kept on going. Three years later, he says he was “back on top” and when Andy Kubert left, Marvel kept Art on to ink new Ultimate X-Men artist David Finch. He talks about how he didn’t miss an issue of Ultimate Spider-Man in that time, even when both his parents died, even when they were double shipping to put out 16 issues a year, he was inking three books a month, won awards and calls this “Good times. Life was good, money was good, sales were good.”
But he says that Marvel executive David Bogart told his editor that Thibert was falling behind, and should give uninked pages to other inkers. though Thibert denies this, that they were three months ahead of schedule. He says that he would just get ten pages of pencils at a time from Bagley, which would then take him time to ink. Ultimate Spider-Man writer Brian Bendis heard about this and was not happy – he was wanting himself, Bagley and Thibert to beat the Stan Lee/Jack Kirby hundred-plus record on The Fantastic Four, together. Thibert sent Bogart some original artwork as a gift, wanting to reach out to talk through any issues, but didn’t hear back.
Thibert recounts how Bogart had previously wanted Thibert to trial a new plan at Marvel, for inkers to work from reproduction pencils rather than the original pencilled pages themselves. Marvel spend hundreds and thousands in FedEx fees shipping pencil art to inkers and back, but the idea was that pencillers could scan their work in, e-mail it to inkers, who could print them out as ‘blue lines’ on artboards, ink the pages, scan them back and re-send them to Marvel. And Thibert was being asked to work out the prototype of this method. Thibert had concerns, about what this may do to the original art market, as well as the technical skill, administrative effort needed and the materials needed. He says that Bogart said he would set up the scanning and printing gear for free, and if it worked out, Thibert could keep it, if not they’d take it back. Thibert would also have to get broadband high- speed internet, as these were still the dial-up days.
Thibert said he wanted a day to think about it, and wanted to talk to others in the industry first, to Bogart’s reported response, ‘Why do they need to know?’ But Thibert called up other inkers Scott Hanna, Danny Miki, Dan Panosian and others for their thoughts. Hanna told Thibert that he couldn’t even get high-speed internet where he lived, so how will he do business? Thibert also had concerns about the added workload that the administrative art department usually takes on, and not getting paid any more for it. So Thibert passed, he feared a ripple effect he didn’t want to be responsible for, he “didn’t want to be that guy” for Bogart to slam the phone down on him.
At New York Comic Con in 2002, with all the Ultimate team assembled, Art Thibert says that he was invited for lunch at the show by DC editor Joan Hilty who his studio had worked for. As he was walking out, he saw Mark Bagley so invited Mark to come for lunch with them. Hilty invited then-DC Comics executive editor Dan DiDio too. Thibert says ‘he is awesome, he was awesome, I have nothing bad to say about him’. And with DC picking up the tab, Thibert says that DiDio asked Bagley if he’d be interested in working at DC. Bagley said he was pretty happy at Marvel and that was it.
On returning to the Marvel offices after the show, Thibert says that he found then-Marvel assistant editor, now EIC C.B. Cebulski in the Marvel offices. But then he was just another guy. Now, previously David Finch and Art Thibert had been offered the Batman comic at DC after Jim Lee and Scott Williams’ run, Hush. At the time, Thibert says he advised David Finch not to do it, that it was a ‘losing proposition to follow Jim Lee’ something he knew a lot about. He did it before on X-Men, and talked about how you become open to comparison, and the sales are never as good, while the Ultimate books remained steadily in the top five sellers.
Thibert says that Cebulski told him that he wanted to write comics, wanted to write Batman, and wanted to know who he should talk to? That he wanted some advice, and asked Thibert ‘weren’t you and Dave offered Batman?’ Thibert said yes, that they were offered the job, and weren’t going to take it. But when Thibert got home from the show, he says he got a phonecall from Cebulski, saying that he had David Bogart on the phone, that ‘we are going to have to let you go, fire you.’ He asked ‘ for what?’ He says he regarded Marvel as family at this point, that he was no longer living the freelance back and forth, and wanted to do what was necessary to stay at Marvel. But why?
He says he was told that ‘we have heard that you’re trying to steal talent from Marvel and bring them to DC’. He asked how? That it was not in his power to hire anybody. He asked if this was in reference to Mark and Art going to lunch with Didio and Joan? He was told ‘Yes and other things’ including the Batman offer. He says he told them ‘I’ve been working for Marvel for twenty years, responsible for books put out, what are you talking about? How? What the f-ck?’ He was told he was fired from Ultimate Spider-Man as a result. Accusing Cebulski of ratting him out over the Batman offer, he says Cebulski told him that Marvel already knew. Thibert asked what he was going to do without Ultimate Spider-Man, to be told he was fired from Ultimate X-Men too. He asked again, for what. That people in the industry have lunch all the time. That DiDio asked Bagley about DC, that happens all the time too – and that Marvel people do it to DC people all the time as well.
Now, at this point, I have obviously been talking to other people about these allegations. And while Marvel Comics aren’t willing to offer any comment, I’ve been led to understand that Marvel had made investigation, and had proof that Thibert had not only been poaching talent from Marvel to DC Comics, but had been paid by DC Comics for doing so. And that they showed this proof to Thibert. But obviously, Thibert is contradicting that in his testimony and when I asked him about it, he told me “DC Comics never paid me to woo people away from Marvel. They would never do such a thing, and I would never accept such an offer. I NEVER tried to WOO ANYONE from any company!”
Back to the video, Thibert states that Bogart then told him ‘you will never work at Marvel Comics again.’ Which Thibert found even more objectionable as he had been working for Marvel longer than Bogart had. Thibert asked if there was ‘anyway to change this, anything that he could say or do?’ and was told ‘No. You’ll never work here again.’ And he hasn’t.
He says he thanked them very much for his time working at Marvel and concluded by telling them that ‘you can go f-ck yourself.’ He punched the wall, told his family and says he had no idea how he was going to make ends meet. He called Mark Bagley and David Finch – Mark says that David Bogart already called him and told him that he was going to fire Art, that Mark told him he didn’t want this to happen, he wanted to keep the relationship, but he told Art that he didn’t have any say in the matter. However, it seems that David Finch was okay with it. Art says he was pretty mad at Dave – and still is. Thibert believes that the reason Bogart called them both first was to check that a) they weren’t going to quit and run to DC over it and b) to send the message that creators are disposable so that they should value their Marvel jobs. And that talking to any competitor was not welcome.
Scott Hanna was brought in to ink Mark Bagley, Danny Miki to ink David Finch – and Danny started prototyping the blue lines initiative from Bogart. But eventually, both Bagley and Finch went to DC Comics anyway. Thibert asks his YouTube channel what this accomplished from Marvel’s side aside from destroying a human’s life. Addressing both Cebulski and Bogart through his YouTube, he says.
You destroyed my f-cking life Dave Bogart, f-ck you, And f-ck you C.B., you are shameful, you are horrible human beings. You destroyed me for no reason at all, just to show power, to make an example of me to the other guys. And I believe it also had to do with the blue line situation. I said no to David Bogart and he didn’t like it.
He says that years later he worked from digital blue lines at DC Comics – but noted that they both paid for his scanner and increased his page rate to compensate for the added work. So what happened next? Well, Thibert says he got himself a good agent, started studying animation, and moved into working in TV, taking meetings, designed and pitching shows, getting work that way, and now has lots of IP he owns – including Chrono Mechanics, which he says was forged out of his pain. And projected his experiences with Marvel into the comic, with the rival characters Quick-E-Time Repair having Joe Q as the boss – an obvious reference to Marvel’s Joe Quesada, who does not care about anything aside from the bottom line. Mending things with band-aids and doing shoddy work. He says that Marvel has an ‘SJW’ agenda, hiring what he calls ‘Tumblr artists’, who are not worthy to hold a pencil. That he is still ‘pretty angry and pretty fired up.’ That Marvel has destroyed their legacy or is in the process of doing that, that C.B. is now in charge and they are going down a bad path and their sales are reflecting that, and they are ‘doing shady business practices.’
Despite that, he says that Marvel artist Chris Bachalo asked for him to work with him at Marvel, so he tested the waters talking to Steve Wacker at Marvel Animation, who said it would have to go through David Bogart, and that if Thibert apologised to David, he would take Thibert back, at a lesser rate, until he proved his commitment to Marvel, and get a better page rate. Thibert also says he had a heart-to-heart, face-to-face talk with Marvel CCO Joe Quesada, who said that if he apologised to David, he was sure he’d be brought back. He told Joe ‘you know I didn’t do anything wrong, right?’ and says he was told ‘Yeah, I know. But if you apologise to Dave, you can come back.’
But Thibert insists that he didn’t do anything wrong. ‘I would be the first to apologise when it’s appropriate, but I didn’t do anything wrong. If anything David Bogart should apologise to me. In a way Joe Quesada owes me an apology, he knows the truth but he didn’t say anything, he could have changed the situation.’
That he never had a falling out with Joe but ‘I don’t trust Joe, never think of him as a friend or go to him as a confidant.’ Talking to a commentator about Marvel he says that it is now ‘water under the bridge’ but his wife, to the side of the camera, disagreed. ‘Maybe for you. I remember your face when you walked in the door, you looked like a puppy kicked in the face. It just broke my heart and it makes me angry every time I think about it.’
Thibert says ‘When you take away a man’s livelihood, it’s devastating, many men don’t recover from it, they kill themselves, its the modern equivalent of hunting and gathering, if you don’t kill the deer, you don’t eat and your family starves. When these SJWs cry out and say ‘get that guy fired, get that guy fired, he said some things, or he did some stuff’, instead of getting his hand slapped or penalised in some way, they’re not happy with that they want to destroy that human being, and until you have been destroyed by a company you were loyal to, you don’t know what that feels like. To be that cavalier about somebody’s life, that’s horrible, that’s why I hang with these Comicsgate guys, they do speak out against some of this stuff, and if you have a different point of view, if you’re more conservative or more progressive, I don’t give a shit but when you start to hurt people or start cheating to destroy people or just to win…’ he then talks about people creating false narratives, giving Iron Man and The Mandalorian writer/director Jon Favreau as an example – only for Thibert’s own YouTube commentators to point out that he has mixed up his Jon Favreaus, and he has been blaming the wrong Favreau all this time. Thibert concedes and sees the irony that in complaining about people spreading false narratives, he has been spreading a false narrative of his own…
It may also be worth pointing out at this point that GI Joe writer Aubrey Sitterson was targetted by Comicsgate’s Richard Meyer, demanding he be fired because a) he was a socialist and b) as a New Yorker he took umbrage at what he saw as some people’s fake outrage over 9/11. And Sitterson was indeed fired at IDW by Hasbro as a result. Other creators similarly targeted by Comicsgate people who lost their jobs include Chelsea Cain and Chuck Wendig. And plenty have tried to get me fired from Bleeding Cool as well. But anyway.
But the video seems to have worked, and during it, Chrono Mechanics got a big boost on its crowdfunding. And probably will from as this controversy continues to spill out. Thibert talks about the comic having a new style, and one that is just for this comic book. A little bit cartoony, a little bit goofy, inspired by his study of animation, you know what? It looks like it would have done very well on Tumblr… a few years ago when Tumblr was a thing.
But either way, he has a big story to tell, one that he was holding on to for over fifteen years, and had two-and-a-half hours to tell it. Even if not everyone mentioned is the story is on board with that narrative, it makes for a fascinating listen.