A Year at Marvel – November

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This is Jim FInan in the foreground. The guy behind him used to conduct free tours of the Marvel offices, but once Marvel merged with Toy Biz, any semblance of fun began to vanish.

As November arrived, things continued to hum along although I was beginning to sense that it was soon my turn to be in Bill Jemas’ sights. The “issues” I spotted on a document months before had yet to be raised to me but as David Bogart settled in, Bill seemed to be involving him more and more. Meantime, I seemed to have time to chat business with Joe Quesada less and less.

This month we focused heavily on the digital workflow now that we had something finished. Editorial and Production were first to come online and no one complained about the changes, a far cry from my arrival in January when everyone said, “it’s always been like that, why change?”

The X-office was still struggling but thankfully, the realigned editorial offices had settled in and were producing successfully.

The company was enjoying critical acclaim and strong sales. Bill and the sales team had experimented with reprints of already-reprinted Ultimate X-Men #1 and Ultimate Spider-Man #1 for Walmart, an attempt to grow the readership with contemporary takes on the characters. While fans could buy them for $2.25 at a comic shop, they were a mere $1.97 at the discounter. As you might imagine, this caused consternation among the retailers.

My other departments — collected editions, business management, and library — were thankfully productive and without issues. Matty Ryan filled in the gaps in Ben Abernathy’s department and our designers were producing some lovely-looking books.

When Jim married, Scott “Pond Scum” Elmer created this card and had the staff sign it.

It’s a good time to acknowledge the contributions of Jim Finan, an unsung hero, and good ally. Jim arrived in 1999 as Senior Staff Accountant, working closely with Bob Lazzara the Publishing Business manager, and my direct predecessor, Andy Ball, the Editorial Planning Manager.

As the company came out of bankruptcy via the merger with ToyBiz, unwelcome changes arrived including Summer Fridays (half days), no more comps (you may recall, I tried to reinstate it only for Ike to reject it), the 401K match was cut and single participants like Jim had to start paying for insurance.

When Warren Clamen, up of Finance didn’t get promoted to CFO and Lazzara was denied the Publisher title, they left and Jim wound up as Financial Analyst, inheriting many of the abandoned responsibilities and working with Ball, then with me, on P&Ls for new releases and the overall publishing schedule. Bill “The Bullet” Rosemann nicknamed him “Jimmy Numbers” and if he stood in your doorway, you knew a title was doomed or was never going to see the light of day.

But on many an occasion, he conspired with editors to salvage a weakening title, with variant covers or dealing with Nick Barrucci and Dynamic Forces for DF exclusives. The best-known title he helped prolong was Spider-Girl. Every time it neared cancellation, he gave editorial enough time for Rosemann to spread the word, and diehard fans returned to buy it and sustained the monthly for a while longer.

When a title was struggling, Jim Finan helped by arranging Dynamic Forces exclusives such as this title.

It was Jim who signed the mountain of vouchers editorial produced and getting the talent paid, a time-consuming task. When Controller Andrew Chertoff left midway through 2001, Jim inherited his responsibilities as well. Pleas to replace the departed positions fell on deaf ears. He inexplicably wound up reporting to the IT head, Gui Karyo.

Jim was part of Bill’s inner circle when I arrived but we developed a quick rapport. It was me, Jim and Matt Ragone who lobbied Bill that overprinting the collected editions was cost-effective and did not violate the “no second printing” rule for the monthlies. After all, the bookstores needed to know that inventory existed to have confidence in placing regular orders from the company. We prevailed and bookstores kept buying so there weren’t horrendous warehousing costs. That success meant Marvel was finally competing with DC in the bookstore market with the residual effect of the collected editions’ output to increase dramatically.

Though Jim disliked being used as an occasional pawn between Bill and CEO Peter Cuneo but endured it with grace despite mounting pressure on his time. Eventually, Marvel finally hired an assistant controller for publishing but it was too little, too late and, in 2002, he had had enough and resigned. Word is, the assistant controller lasted only two weeks after Jim left, suggesting the kind of pressure cooker of an environment it was.

The pressures that were building up not only affected me but others. Bill’s “winter of discontent” was on the horizon and I was in the eye of the storm.

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