Blah Blah Blog – Twenty Redux

A post from my old, now-defunct Marvel blog concerning my 20th year on staff as an editor at Marvel. My 30th anniversary with Marvel is less than a week away now.

Twenty Redux

December 14, 2009 | 1:00 AM | By Tom_Brevoort | In General

It turns out that I’m going to miss the twentieth anniversary of my hiring at Marvel, as the date (12/27) falls on a Sunday this year. Nevertheless, and despite having talked about this topic in the past, I didn’t want to let the moment slip by without commemorating it in some way. And since I’m certain that things are going to be crazy-hectic around here in these last two weeks leading up to X-Mas, I figured I’d better hit this while I have a chance.

It’s impossible to convey both just how much and just how little Marvel and the comic book industry have changed since I’ve been a part of them. On one level, virtually everything has changed. When I started at Marvel, for example, there was only one computer in the place, and I knew how to use it better than almost anybody else already on staff. Type was still being set on a Linotype machine, and pasted up mechanically by hand. Speaking of by hand, that’s how everything was done-lettering, paste-up, corrections, etc. Coloring was primitive, though the number of colors had begun to expand (from a palate of 64 to a whopping 128 options!) done using Doc Martin’s dyes on Xerox copies of the original artwork, then interpreted by separators cutting rubylith masks for the printer. And while the Direct Sales marketplace of comic book specialty stores had overtaken the traditional returnable newsstand marketplaces, it was still maybe a 60/40 arrangement.

On the other hand, Marvel was then and is now a colorful, chaotic place to work, peopled with the kinds of extravagant characters you thought were found only in fiction. It’s the kind of place where people work long hours because they like the work they’re doing, and the people who surround them. Were that not the case, we could never have kept the company operating through those long years of bankruptcy, when it seemed as though there was a new company President every week, and morale was low.

When the waves of layoff came, and I looked around to realize that I alone (along with my assistant Glenn Greenberg) has survived from my particular department, I had to question it. Years later, I was told that it had come down to a coin-toss situation between me and another editor, and that it was felt that I would be a better team player. Regardless, I’ve always tried to prove worthy of the confidence shown in me, to work harder and smarter than the next guy, to give back as much as I took and earn my way. I think I’ve largely been successful in that, but I don’t really have the perspective to put it all into context.

I can only imagine how it feels to be Ralph Macchio, the only person still in editorial to have been hired before me-by more than a decade! Ralph was a long-seasoned veteran by the time I walked in the door. But after me, the next-longest-tenured person in editorial is Joe Q. All of my contemporaries are gone now, as are their successors and antecedents. Soon, there will be assistant editors younger than comics I edited. There are already Marvel interns who can say that.

But still, somehow, Marvel goes on, changing and transforming and adapting as it goes.

In two more years, I’ll reach the next milestone: having worked for Marvel for literally half of my life. There’s no guarantee that I’ll get there, of course-that’s another reality that you embrace at Marvel every day-but the odds seem better now than they had been in years past.

Not finished yet.

Tom B

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