The days were growing shorter as December settled in. All was humming along nicely, or so it seemed.
The growing sense that something was off between me and Bill Jemas was definitely growing. I was in his office less and less often; he rarely popped his head into my office, a floor below. Unlike some of his other whipping boys, I wasn’t the brunt of mocking nicknames or insults during meetings, but something was definitely not right.
As was clear, the market for trade paperbacks was growing and Marvel was gearing up. The entire second half of the year saw the number of books hit the schedule grow and my plans for 2002 were well underway. However, I was starting to hear from Bill that Camille Murphy, our lead designer, was taking too long per book. I have no idea what criteria were being employed but it came up more than once.
Camille and Jessica Schwartz were dealing with the ramped-up schedule, the Marvel ReCharge card game, and other odds and ends tossed our way. We still hadn’t replaced Ben Abernathy although as the month wore on, I had a frank conversation with Jeff Youngquist, then Tom Brevoort’s assistant, about making the move to collected editions. What was interesting is that the offer to switch came from Bill or Joe Quesada to Jeff and I knew nothing about it. I encouraged him if I recall correctly since I saw the department as a growth area and a chance for him to shine. He did accept the role, making the move in January.
Meantime, because some of our sales didn’t meet projections, we had to do some make goods for the advertisers. Bill decided our quickie collection of Bruce Jones’ Banner miniseries would run paid advertising to help circulation. It also engendered complaints from readers and retailers alike.
At much the same time, Marvel had some bad press to correct as misinformation on incentives for talent related to collections started in the fall and snowballed into the most wonderful time of the year. Bill had determined collections had to follow on the heels of a storyline’s conclusion so the sales would catch the perceived heat. That led to some thinking it meant some loophole to prevent the company from paying incentives (semantically the same as royalties).
At one point, I was returning from lunch and wound up riding the elevator with Dan Buckley, who I was meeting for the first time. He was paying a casual visit, which proved to be a foreshadowing of changes, although he didn’t join staff until 2003.
Editorial was happily humming along with some exciting plans in place, readying to debut in 2002, building off the critical and sales successes of the preceding six months. Moods were upbeat and even though we weren’t going to have a holiday party, Joe intended to make up for it in some part with his lavish birthday bash, set for Saturday, January 5.
Meantime, his wife, Nanci Dakesian, had months earlier ordered the Marvel Knights Christmas gift: black leather baseball jackets with the MK logo on the breast and a Joe illustration of Daredevil embroidered on the back. They were paired with nice black t-shirts with the Marvel logo embroidered in red and white. They arrived and poor Kelly Lamy was tasked with using markers to darken the MK thread, which arrived too light for their taste. I was very gratified to receive this gift and still wear it to this day, although the cuffs are wearing away.
We were effectively done for the year on Friday, December 21. We were closed for the 24th and 25th, but by then, there was a feeling of doom. No one said anything overtly, but the signs were there and things were running smoothly enough that I could finally see I was in trouble. If I wasn’t going to be canned on the 21st, it would happen by the New Year as the corporation was already making noises about tweaking some roles.
It wasn’t a festive holiday at home as I began to steel myself for life beyond Marvel, with nary a clue what my options were going to be.