Robin Olsen:

I just can't help thinking that Kirby's sales figures didn't help his cause any, either, and maybe not enough READERS were "accepting" Kirby's more ambitious stuff"

Okay, folks. Let's focus. I wanna hear what DC comics WERE "successes" in the early 70's. I wanna know whose books WEREN'T getting cancelled left-right-and-center.  Because it sure as HELL wasn't GREEN LANTERN-GREEN ARROW, or DEADMAN, or AQUAMAN, or HAWKMAN, and frankly, most of the DCs from the early 70's were books I wouldn't touch with a ten-foot-pole, so I'm a bit in the dark as to exactly what they were publishing.

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Over lunch one day, Arnold Drake told me he felt there were two kinds of editors. One would assemble the best possible team for a book, then stand aside and let them do their job. The other was a "failed writer" who, unable to sell their own stories, would get a job as editor, and then force hired freelance writers to write what the editor wanted. This leads to more frustrated writers, who aren't able to do what comes natural, but instead, half-heartedly do someone else's ideas. 3 editors who come to mind:  Mort Weisinger, Mark Gruenwald, Kevin Dooley.  Of the 3, Gruenwald was the only one who actually had done decent writing before becoming an editor. But for some reason, once he was in that position, it went to his head.  (The only one I knew personally was Kevin Dooley, perhaps a more tragic case. Having met him multiple times over several years, it is my strong belief his promotion DID go to his head, as his personality and attitude seemed to change completely-- for the worse.)

A big problem with Marvel in the early 70's-- arguably one of their most wildly inventive, creative periods-- was that, from multiple accounts, writers were "de facto editors". This mean they were responsible not only for determining the direction of a series they worked on, and writing the stories, but also for assembling the art teams and seeing everything stayed on schedule. You can see the chaos that often resulted from that. Whoever actually got credited as "Editor" (Editor-In-Chief, really) would only step in when things had already gotten out of control. They'd begun publishing too many books for any one man to oversee it all.  This is why, eventually, Jim Shooter instituted a system more in line with DCs, with many editors and assistant editors, each overseeing a certain number of books. The up side was, more consistency and fewer deadline problems (Denny O'Neil notwithstanding-- according to Shooter himself). the down side was, LESS freedom, LESS creativity, LESS "life" and fun.  And having an Editor-in-Chief who learned how from Mort Weisinger led to a lot of fragile egos getting hurt.  In a creative field, those in charge should have more people skills. Ah well.

I agree with your comment about the art - and the most important thing about comics is the art, in my opinion, it being a very visual medium - but not the rest of it.

 

Sure, Marvel had some good writers at the time, such as Roy Thomas, but even he was prone to over-blown verbosity (admittedly, Mike Friedrich, a DC writer, could be accused of the same thing), and I believe most DC's writers of the time (who weren't also writing for Marvel) had little if anything to learn from Marvel's.

 

On the other hand, even in as kid in the 1970s, reading Stan Lee's writing (mainly from years before), I could see right through him as a pretty shameless self-promoting huckster, which is part of the reason why I never cared for his writing. Plus, I never liked all the infighting in Marvel comics, which I still think is a lame synonym for so-called "characterization."

George Poague said:

My reaction to most DC books from this era is: gorgeous art, lamentable writing. There are exceptions, like Len Wein's Swamp Thing and Denny O'Neil's Batman and GL/GA. But the writing on most DC books was inferior to what Marvel's.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have spoken in defence of Jim Shooter's tenure as editor-in-chief at Marvel before.  Three years ago, on another site, the subject came up, which prompted me to do a little research.  Here is what I said then:

_________________________________________________________________________________________

 

Shooter's situation at Marvel always sounded to me like the writers were bent out of shape by not being allowed to run wild in the sandbox anymore. Shooter insisted on following fundamentals of fiction writing and refused to let the writers enjoy their indulgences.

I think most of the writers' bad mouthing of Shooter came from the fact that playtime was over.

 

(and)

 

After nearly thirty years as a Naval officer, I have a small knowledge about such things, and it's been my experience that it is the creative people, in particular, who need a heavier-handed approach---if you're trying to achieve a practical goal.

Not all, of course, but many creative people feel they are exempted from the rules because of their "special muse".

Before I said anything further on the matter of Jim Shooter's tenure as Marvel's editor-in-chief, I decided to bring myself more up to speed with his tenure. I went to Wikipedia first (granted, not always the most accurate source of information) to get a basic familiary, and then to the footnote sources, which provided more detail.

Interestingly, on Christopher Priest's website, I found his remarks on the subject (http://digital-priest.com/comics/adventures/spidey.htm) to be the most detailed and comprehensive account of Shooter's leadership as Marvel's E-i-C. Much of it corroborated my remarks in my previous post here. I also discovered that there were many things Shooter did to improve working conditions and benefits for the writers and artists for which he rarely gets credit.

By Priest's account, Shooter was tough and demanding, to be sure, but he was also concerned for his talents' welfare. He was not an uncaring brute.

On the other hand, the Wikipedia article mentions some of the people who abandoned Marvel over Shooter---Marv Wolfman, George Pérez, John Byrne, Dave Cockrum---and when I went to the footnoted comments by those folks, they make almost no criticisms of the decisions made by Shooter as E-i-C. Their principal complaint seems to be that, under Shooter, Marvel was no longer a fun place to work. (Or, as I put it in my previous post, playtime was over.) In fact, Pérez, according to his interview in Wizard # 35, only had friction with Shooter over the handling of the intended JLA/Avengers cross-over. He stated that Shooter micro-managed the creative production of the story. Pérez, with regard to his other Marvel assignments, mentioned no other criticisms of Shooter, though the interviewer opened the door for such.

If Shooter had a failing as an executive, I would deem it as---according to what I read in Priest's website---a lack of "political skills". Now, if one is thinking, "Hey, Shooter was the boss! Why would he need to have political savvy?", I would point out that it's a valuable skill down the chain, as well as up. It's an understanding of the dynamics of the secondary, usually unstated, motivations of subordinates. Priest provides a perfect example: his desk chair was old and falling apart, so he approached Shooter for a new one. Shooter replied, "Sure, go ahead and get a new one." As it developed, many of the other folks were resentful of Priest's fancy new chair and took it as favouratism on Shooter's part (a feeling probably amplified by Shooter's taskmastery).

Priest points out that, if any of those people had requested a new chair or desk or the like from Shooter, Shooter would have told them, "Sure, go ahead," as well. It was not a question of Shooter looking out for his employees or caring about their needs; rather, it was his lack of understanding the political dynamic---how a given action would be perceived. When Priest came to Shooter for a new chair, Shooter either should have invited any other subordinate who wanted one to also get a new one, or have turned down Priest's request, explaining that if he got a new chair, so would everyone else.

Thus, Shooter was not faultless. But, as I see it, the lion's share of the problem was on the part of the talent and not the boss.

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I agree Bob Haney and Robert Kanigher weren't great writers by any stretch (and they were among my least favorite writers of the late-1960s and the 1970s), but they were little if any worse than Stan Lee (one of the few comic writers who is great, I reckon, in large part because he told us so).

 

As for "perfect, chummy, one-dimensional Boy Scouts" there is absolutely nothing wrong or immoral about that (unless one has a questionable view of how things should be). Better that than Marvel's infighting, whining, and self-loathing or self-pitying characters - which can be (and often is) mistaken for characterization - any day, but then Marvel are/were perfect, hey? 8-)

 

Dave Blanchard said:

Binky was successful enough that it earned a spinoff, Binky's Buddies, which ran for an even dozen issues between 1969 and 1970.

...

Date with Debbi launched in 1969 and ran until Sep-Oct. 1971, with a one-shot revival in 1972. All told, 18 issues were published. It was apparently successful enough to earn a spin-off, Debbi's Dates, which started its 11-issue run in 1969 and ran until Jan. 1971.

 

The second Binky and Debbi titles alternated with the first ones on a bimonthly schedule, so apparently DC introduced them instead of taking the books monthly.

Moderator John Dunbar here.

This seems like a good time to remind everyone to observe the "No Personal Attacks" rule.  Remember, while it is fair game to criticize the work or actions of a comics creator, personal attacks are not permitted.

This also applies to how we interact with each other here and on every thread.  There will always be differing viewpoints, and rest assured that is encouraged here.  However, personally attacking other members of the Board for having differing viewpoints will not be allowed.

Please feel free to disagree and debate, but please also show respect for the views of others here.

Please feel free to send me an email if you have any questions or concerns.

On behalf of the moderating team,

John Dunbar

Understood, and my post above was directed at everyone and not one post in particular.  Whenever Stan Lee and Jim Shooter are mentioned, strong opinions can and often do arise.  The word "polarizing" comes to mind.

Strong opinions are good, and welcome.  Personal attacks are not.

...Takin a pinch from Harvey's Duckland , Gems , Witch World , etc. , snuffbox ???????????

Luke Blanchard said:

Dave Blanchard said:

Binky was successful enough that it earned a spinoff, Binky's Buddies, which ran for an even dozen issues between 1969 and 1970.

...

Date with Debbi launched in 1969 and ran until Sep-Oct. 1971, with a one-shot revival in 1972. All told, 18 issues were published. It was apparently successful enough to earn a spin-off, Debbi's Dates, which started its 11-issue run in 1969 and ran until Jan. 1971.

 

The second Binky and Debbi titles alternated with the first ones on a bimonthly schedule, so apparently DC introduced them instead of taking the books monthly.

Without trying to stir up too much controversy, as a reader while it happened and a pseudo-researcher now, I always felt that Jim Shooter had an uphill battle as Marvel's talent probably saw him as this "DC Guy" trying to tell them how to write Marvel comics. Also he may have been channeling (consciously or subconsciously) some Weisingerian aspects to editing. For good or bad, that was his role model and major experience.

But I also agree with one of his most famous stands: that Phoenix had to pay for destroying a populated world. Shooter wanted her to endure endless torment but Chris Clairemont correctly pointed out that then the X-Men would be constantly trying to rescue her. So yes she had to "die" but I feel strongly that the planet destruction should never have been allowed in the first place. They corrupted Marvel's third oldest heroine with no real thought of the longterm implications. NOW we have forgiven or overlooked the horrendous acts of Green Lantern, the Hulk, Iron Man, Rogue and others but THEN it was unheard of to have a "super-hero" go bad.

I'm sure we could all give one good and one bad event/decision during Jim Shooter's tenure.

I'll always stand behind the editor of a comic-book title or titles, over the artists and writers in his stable, no matter how good they are. The editor is the one responsible to the publisher for producing a profitable comic.  So, for good or ill, it's the editor's call as to how he wants his titles produced.

 

 

I couldn't agree more, Commander. Writers (and artists) may come and go, but the editor is there to provide overall guidance and direction, and see that the comic book sticks to the general template, feel, and continuity set for the character (and see that he and other regular characters don't act too much out of character).

 

Of course, the writers must have some creative freedom, but the editor has to be fairly firm, but diplomatic, and must always have the final say, otherwise the writer may go off on tangent (and it has happened in comics), storing up problems and discrepancies for the long term, if not in the present or immediate future.

 

I would say that things are a bit different for creator-owned comics, though.

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