Saturday, December 15, 2012

Roy Thomas: More Corrections & Suggestions

      In the immediately preceding post, legendary comic creator Roy Thomas offered his perspective on details and events discussed in Sean Howe's recent book, MARVEL COMICS: THE UNTOLD STORY. In this second post, Roy continues his commentary on the second half of the book.  -- Ken Quattro

Re Marvel Comics: The Untold Story by Sean Howe
Notes by Roy Thomas

[Alas, due to my heightened schedule, after p. 150 I’ve pretty much limited myself to correcting errors related to my own career.]

P. 152:  I was the “second-longest-tenured Marvel employee”?  Maybe… but that would have to discount both Stan Lee and Marie Severin.

Also, while Stan and I may have agreed that the future editorship be split up after I left the editor-in-chief job in 1974, it was entirely Stan’s idea and decision... I believe I only acquiesced, and like, what did I care?  But it’s true that, while I don’t generally correct anyone when Len Wein is referred to as the next editor-in-chief after me, I doubt if he really held that title… or at least held that authority… because I don’t think he was considered technically over Marv, the b&w editor, as I had been.  Marv was probably actually the next ed-in-chief after me, not that it matters much.

By the way, I “stayed on for a few weeks” (about two, I think) mainly because Len and Marv had left for the World SF Con, which was somewhere on the East Coast around that time, and they showed no inclination to cut that trip—and, I believe, vacations scheduled for after that—to come back and take over.  My idea was to leave two minutes after Stan and I agreed it was time I went.  I hate long goodbyes.

P. 153:  May as well mention that I have no knowledge about Shooter’s statement that Len and Marv influenced Stan not to hire Gerry as editor-in-chief, or precisely whatever that footnote says.

The account re the creation of THE X-MEN is in serious error on one important detail.  No way did Al Landau “charge” me to “devise a super-team of non-Americans.”  He merely stated, in a meeting of Stan, him, and me and perhaps Verpoorten or someone else that if Marvel had a team of heroes composed of characters from various countries in which Marvel sold large numbers of comics, it might help sales there.  The suggestion was tossed out to all of it.  I immediately suggested the X-Men revival idea and, I suppose, was “charged” (encouraged?) to go ahead with it.  It was Stan who decided I should go ahead with my notion, not Landau.  I’m not trying to deny that Landau was the impetus, but his suggestion was vaguer than the book suggests.

P. 154:  Not a big deal, but it really does irk me when all the credit for creating Wolverine is given to Len and John Romita, important as they were.  I mean, I didn’t just mention that I’d like a Canadian character.  I told Len I wanted him to make up a character specifically named Wolverine, who is Canadian and small/short of stature and has a fierce temper (like a real wolverine); if that doesn’t establish my bona fides as co-creator of Wolverine, I don’t know what does.   

P. 156:  I don’t recall keeping a box of index cards about where characters had last appeared, etc.  That sounds almost too organized for me.  Maybe I once started something like that, but I doubt I did much with it.  Where did I say that?

P. 165:  I don’t recall knowing that Stan once told Gerry he could have my job if I left, but if Gerry says so, I suppose he did.  I do know I told Stan, when I was getting set to leave the ed-in-chief job, that, as noted on p. 166, I told Stan that if he didn’t make some sort of provision for Gerry besides just being a writer under Len and Marv, Marvel would lose him… which is precisely what happened.

P. 166:  Ditto, I don’t recall promising Gerry he could edit a PUNISHER title, but I may have.  Sounds like me.

P. 174:  Error of fact here, pure and simple.  Jim Shooter was already writings long-distance scripts for Mort Weisinger when Mort hired me, nt months later.

P. 182:  I rather suspect Jim Shooter is, er, overstating the case when he says I showed him a list of people I intended to fire.  Carrying around a list, let alone showing it to a prospective assistant, was hardly my style… let alone a “nice chunky list” of people I was going to fire.  Nonsense, really… to put it politely.  How could I have had a “chunky” list of people I was going to fire, when I had hired most of them (Don McGregor included) and respected their talents.  This is just Shooter making up drama, or perhaps merely misremembering it.  Nor do I recall precisely whether I intended to remove McGregor from some of his assignments, but I may well have, and why not.  They weren’t selling, and, as noted, he showed no willingness to make even small concessions to change that situation.  By my lights, and Marvel’s, he deserved being replaced, no matter how passion (some of it perhaps misplaced) he showed for his series.  Still, I’m sure I’d have tried to find something else for Don if I did remove him.  I don’t believe I ever planned to fire him, and I’m suspect of Shooter’s motives for saying the things he does.  But even pilloring poor ol’ Don wouldn’t have amounted to the “chunky” list Shooter talks about.  Where does he go to dream these things up?

P. 193:  Was it Algeria George Lucas filmed part of STAR WARS in?  I was thinking it was Morocco, but that’s just a question, not a correction.

P. 208:  You’d have to show me some documentation to convince me that “Kirby refused to allow Thomas to script” the WHAT IF issue in which he and Stan, et al., became the Fantastic Four.  In fact, I’m quite certain it didn’t happen that way.  Jack was drawing away, and at some point I simply let him write it, but he never “refused” anything.  Jack wasn’t that confrontational.  I wish I were certain if it was before or after I learned that he was drawing Sol Brodsky as the Human Torch rather than me, as was his assignment, that I withdrew as writer, but I don’t.  In any event, Jack’s instincts were sound in that instance.  It made more sense for Sol to be in the comic because he was around for #1 if not on staff yet; he told me he even designed the FF logo.  It annoyed me that Jack didn’t do what he was supposed to do, since I was the editor… but I recognized his idea as an improvement, so I let it stand.  

I don’t recall if or why supposedly “everybody’s” grammar was changed for the better in that story except Jack’s… but the writing in UNTOLD STORY makes it sound as if it was a vengeance thing... getting even with Jack for real or imagined sins.  It wasn’t.  The Thing was the crudest-speaking of the FF, so that was the reason for any changes, and it fit with Jack’s vernacular.  It is true, though, that Stan insisted that all uses of the word “Stanley” be changed to “Stan.”  He didn’t like Jack calling him Stanley, for some reason.

P. 226:  Please check sources… book  may be right, but my result is that, after I received a contract which had been changed with regard to the writer/editor thing, in contradiction of what I’d been told, I talked to Paul Levitz at DC BEFORE I talked to Shooter.  But I wouldn’t swear to it.  The basic facts here are right, anyway.

P. 233:  Actually, Gruenwald and Macchio were brought in to finish (in #300) the THOR saga that Shooter wouldn’t LET me finish… just as he wouldn’t let me continue the CONAN newspaper strip even though DC Comics and Sol Brodsky (who was in charge of it) said that was fine by them.  That and the refusal to run a mild and non-threatening letter of goodbye in CONAN were par for the course for Shooter, and part of the reason why I continue to despise him to this day, and feel that he well earned that feeling.  (Which is a shame, because I have real respect for Shooter as a writer and in some other areas.)

P. 254:  Ah, I recall John Byrne’s quote.  It wasn’t specifically that quote over which I threatened to sue Byrne… there were a couple of others… but it will do.  A shame that such a talented artist is such a poor judge of others’ skill…sometimes, even of his own. 

P. 428:  Maybe I do spend more time on ALTER EGO than anything else, but of course I’ve continued to write comics, including a one-year run on a CONAN comic for Dark Horse in 2010-11… and I have, after all, been acknowledged by Stan as working with him on the SPIDER-MAN newspaper strip, which I’ve done since the turn of 2000… some 12-13 years now.  I’ve also written several books on comics.  This isn’t a request to add more… but the paragraph seems to indicate I’ve gone back to being a fan, pure and simple, and that isn’t really the case, even if I’ve had to put development of a new creator-owned comics feature or two on hold until I finish a humongous book on Stan Lee for the German publisher Taschen.


  1. Interesting comments by Roy, am glad it's being posted. Confirms my long held opinion of Jim Shooter.

  2. It was very interestin to read Roy's comments and clarification's of Sean's well written book. Roy is always fair minded and even handed, and its interesting to read that Kirby did not refuse to work with Roy. Too often everything comes down to percieved grudges and agendas, but Kirby, like Thomas, was a professional, likely more professional than some of the younger creators working in that period.

    Thanks for giving Roy a forum for addressing these issues and for all the informative posts you've produced.

  3. Believe me, Nick, it was my pleasure to host Roy's comments.

  4. Fascinating stuff, thanks! Ever since reading the Untold Story, I've found Roy Thomas a more interesting comics creator. I mainly knew of him through his Avengers and X-Men runs before, which I'd enjoyed.

  5. Not only is Roy interesting, SQ, he's a great guy, too!