A Year at Marvel – May

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The spring definitely felt like things were gaining momentum. There was excitement in Editorial as we got to see what J. Michael Straczynski brought to Spider-Man and in May, Grant Morrison, Frank Quitely, and Tim Townsend brought fresh life to New X-Men.

A month after JMS revitalized Spider-Man, along came a fresh start to the Marvel Mutants.

Joe was eager to begin promoting Mark Millar’s The Ultimates and was having fun with the fan press about Millar most definitely not writing Ultimate Avengers which, semantically, was true. And there was Greg Rucka, coming over from DC to take on Elektra, a character that Bill somewhat obsessed over for several months.

There was also the speculation behind who was X, the anonymous writer of the newly launched series, The Brotherhood, and it turned out to be Howard Mackie, hoping for a fresh evaluation from fans. The series, drawn by Esad Ribic and Kent Williams proved short-lived.

By this point, financial whiz James Finan told Bill we were running an $800,000 projected deficit in publishing. Bill looked at James, who was one of the gang, and then at me and Joe and said, “I guess it’s time to tell Wolverine’s origin”. So began a bake-off as multiple writers began pitching their take on the character.

In the fan press, though, the potshots Joe Quesada and Bill Jemas were taking at DC Comics were starting to rankle our compatriots and it was causing talk among the freelancers. Dubbing DC “AOL Comics” caught on and both began using it, much to DC’s consternation. Bill and Joe were having fun, egging one another on, but the lasting damage to the companies’ long-term relationship was going to hurt later on.

Joe took a trip to Britain to press the flesh with the talent and begin doing some of the spadework required to begin sorting out the Marvelman rights with Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore, which caused all manner of speculation.

It was clear that Bill and Joe were looking at a new Marvel and anything that smacked of the past was scoffed at. By this point, if not earlier, Bill was questioning the continued use of “Stan Lee Presents” on every story. He wanted it dropped so, I suggested it and other corporate credits, be moved to the indicia. That was approved and has remained in place to this day.

During the spring, everyone was excited when it was announced Kurt Busiek and George Pérez were finally producing the long-dreamed about JLA/Avengers crossover (it took two years to come out, but at least there was work being produced).

Bob Wayne kept a cool head during a very uncomfortable lunch.

It was around here that I wound up coordinating a very odd lunch between Bill and Joe and Mike Carlin and Bob Wayne from DC. The idea was to break bread and discuss how to follow up on the crossover. It was not cordial. As they got in their taxi to head back to DC, Mike or Bob leaned in and asked me, “How can you work with them?”

Still, I proposed that President Lex Luthor and Latverian dictator Victor Von Doom go to war, but it went nowhere as the enthusiasm about coordinating another event was not desired.

Wilson Ramos

In the background of all of this, the impending move to our new digs was coming into focus. As Librarian Wilson Ramos recalled, “When It came to the move, I recall working closely with Andrew Lis more with the move itself. But Yes, before the move, I was consulted about the space. I recall we visited the new space.

“We had a tour of the new office with Nancy Dakesian, Stuart Moore… There were others I don’t recall Maybe Kelly Lamy and You?”

Yes, me. I had already been to the space with Joe and Nancy to see what sort of building it would be and we were taking over some financial company’s space and were hoping for fresh paint and carpeting, but I should have known better given Ike Perlmutter’s frugal ways.

As Fletcher Chu-Fong put it, “One of my fondest memories of Marvel was that of Ike coming into my office (which was two doors down from his) early in my tenure, looking through my garbage can to point out I can use the back of discarded paper so that there is not any wasted paper, and to show me how to bend the corner of a stack of paper so that I need not use a stapler/staples, thus saving money on staples.”

Anyway, back to Wilson, “A group of us looked over the layout and we did a walk-through. I had a choice of two rooms to pick. Art returns and the library were to be merged, I picked the bigger room. The other room would then become of TPB / reprint office but even with the size of the room, there were tons of cabinets in the hallway with copies of all the books we printed we keep about five or more of each book. That I got from editorial, again it was a ‘what do we do with this? Give it to Wilson’ type of thing that happens at Marvel. Oh, and I also was the one to do the comps since they downside the Mailroom. So yeah, I got the name of ‘the hardest working Man in comics’ from then.”

We had a date for mid to late June as I recall, which meant we had to head for new space just before the major Licensing Show in Manhattan and the beginning of convention season. And to top it all, Bill and Licensing Director Russ Brown landed a major deal with Burger King that I was tasked with managing, which promised to kick off the summer with high pressure.

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