A Year at Marvel – January

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All of a sudden, I find myself looking back. The other day it was the 49th anniversary of my attending the first Star Trek Convention. This month marks 37 years since I joined DC Comics full-time and 20 since I had my less-than-marvelous year at Marvel Comics.

It was late November, if I recall, that I received a phone call from Joe Quesada. At the time, I worked for Gist Communications, trying to understand the World Wide Web and producing content packages for the website while teaching myself HTML (it was not successful).

Joe Quesada, who I first met as he broke into comics at DC, brought me to Marvel in January 2001.

Joe told me Andy Ball, who was sort of my counterpart from my Editorial Administration days at DC, was leaving for Penguin Books. Was I interested in coming in to discuss the position?

I left DC in March 2000 because I was 42 and concerned that if I didn’t figure out what my options were, I would be stuck at DC. I loved what I was doing there but was also aware that as I got older, finding new work would be tougher. The web was sparkly and new, seemingly limitless as everyone figured out what to do with it. Gist’s founder, Jonathan Greenberg, and I were friendly during our college days and we crossed paths at an alumni event not long before. We had lunch, he made an offer, and my sixteen-year tenure at the company came to an end.

Gist was exciting and had promise, but I knew they were struggling to get traction in the marketplace, competing with TV Guide for places to carry out TV listings and editorial content. Money was becoming an issue and I feared there might be layoffs.

So, I said yes, and went to Marvel’s Park Avenue offices. There I met with Joe and Bill Jemas, who was president of Consumer Products, Publishing, and New Media, who had been brought in to help reshape Marvel from the ashes of the bruising bankruptcy battle. I forget who else was there, but as I was taking notes, Bill leaned over to see what I was writing and seemed a fun, playful guy. He told me he wanted me to come in and bring some of that DC discipline to the operation. The scope of the job was outlined and then I was told to wait for a call.

When the offer came, I held out for a signing bonus, which was all the rage at the time. The offer alone was the highest salary I would ever have, the bonus was really for my ego I think.

Bill Jemas
Bill Jemas, who brought life and pizazz back to Marvel as it crawled out from under bankruptcy.

As it turns out, I left Gist six weeks before the dotcom bubble burst led to a wave of layoffs so I escaped just in time.

Marvel’s mood was unsettled. Ike Perlmutter had merged Marvel with his ToyBiz and they were still figuring it all out. Somehow, between the time I accepted the offer and arrived for work, the org chart had been shifted. I was to report to VP Lou Gioia, a holdover from ToyBiz, and would oversee Editorial Operations, the Lettering Department, Collected Editions, and one or two other pieces. I was also asked to over Holly, whose job it seemed was solely about maintaining relations with contracted writers and artists.

On that fateful first day, I had barely settled into my office—a spacious, nicely appointed space that had just been vacated by Chris Claremont, coming off contract—when I had to attend a production meeting. I sat there with some of the production staff and their director, Mark Belinky, and we were on a conference call with Ronalds Printing in Canada. As it turns out, my very first official act was to approve shipping an issue of Iron Man late.

Joe and I were to share an admin named Patti, a wonderful young lady, who was instrumental in assuring I had what I needed the moment I walked in the door.

It proved to be somewhat tumultuous from there on out. I think I’ll be posting more about this over the year. I just wish I had pictures from the time there but apparently, I have none.

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