Blah Blah Blog – My So-Called Career In Comics Part Four

A post from my old Marvel blog concerning my own personal history. Sadly, I don’t still have easy access to all of the art that’s referenced here.

My So-Called Career pt 4

April 28, 2007 | 1:00 AM | By Tom_Brevoort | In General

Day four of the ongoing saga of my early days at Marvel.

My internship wrapped up at the end of August, 1989, and so I returned to “civilian life,” not having actually secured a position with the company.

I did, however, leave with one printed credit. WOLVERINE SAGA was a four-issue series compiling all of the known history of Wolverine’s life up till that point and putting it into some chronological order, using the old art as illustrations for Peter Sanderson’s text. As part of my work for the Craig Anderson office, I undertook the arduous task of locating all of the needed images, and getting them statted and cleaned up for inclusion in the books. The series designer Cindy Emmert felt that I’d done so much work on the thing–more than either Craig or Renee in her estimation–that I deserved a credit. So she added my name into the credits page for the final issue, #4, when she put it together. Craig and Renee either didn’t notice or didn’t care, so this wound up being my first Marvel credit.

Thereafter, I went back to school and continued working on my degree, while continuing to keep in touch with folks at Marvel, particularly Greg and Evan. And eventually, in November, I got a break.

Danny Fingeroth had come back on staff and begun to edit the Spider-Man titles, and the assistant he’d inherited, Marcus McLauren, was being promoted up to Managing Editor. (Greg Wright became a full-fledged editor at the same time.) So Danny had a hole in his office, and at the recommendation of Bob Budiansky, he called me in for an interview. I drove up to New York, and spoke with Danny–he needed somebody to start pretty much immediately.

Then a funny thing happened. As Managing Editor, Marcus was going to be taking Greg’s place under Budiansky’s watch. And Bob realized that he was going to need an assistant for Marcus, because Evan would be staying with Greg (although he wound up shifting over to work under Sid Jacobson on the Star line instead.) There was also a bit of a rivalry between Bob and Danny–seemingly friendly, but with a definite edge to it. They had started at Marvel at around the same time, so this competition went way back. So after speaking with Danny, Bob pulled me into his office, asked me what Danny had offered, and told me that he had an opening coming up in his office, and that he wanted me for that. The deciding factor was that Bob offered to wait until I’d finished the semester before I’d have to start. I remember how jolly he was as he and I returned to Danny’s office to tell Danny that I was going to be taking the position in Bob’s group, and how hurt Danny seemed to be about it–he said after the fact that he would have also delayed my start date, if he knew that’s what he took. But by that point, the die had been cast.

I started at Marvel on December 28, 1989, on a slow, short week between Christmas and New Year’s. I wound up only working under Marcus for about a month, on such projects as TOMORROW KNIGHTS, SEVEN BLOCK, CRITICAL MASS, ALIEN LEGION and a bunch of other stuff. At that point, Dwayne McDuffie decided to leave staff to focus on freelance writing, and I ended up working directly with Bob.

The Special Projects office was a bit of a whirlwind, with a lot of different things that needed to get accomplished, and a number of unwritten guidelines that needed to be followed. I remember getting in trouble at one point for sending a licensee Spider-Man images for use on some project with the wrong spider-symbol (at some point in the ’80s, John Romita decided that Spidey’s chest-symbol should more accurately reflect the appearance of a real spider, with the top four legs going up, and the bottom four legs going down, as opposed to the classic Ditko version that had all eight legs protruding from the sides. John had been correcting all of the classic licensing Spidey art for a number of years, but we had both versions scattered in our pick-up art files, and I wound up pulling the wrong stuff, not knowing any better.)

Bob also had a standard kind of hazing process he used to break in new assistants–he denies it to this day, but I saw the pattern repeat itself with two other guys besides myself, so I must imagine that there’s some truth to it. Whenever a new assistant would start in Bob’s office, he would work alongside them for a week, and then take the next week off–if they survived, they would stick around. I can remember having to deal with Marvel VP Judy Fireman on last-minute corrections and alterations to the pro-reading custom comic SPIDER-MAN: ADVENTURES IN READING during that week, not quite being sure how much authority I had or how much she had over the project.

As I detailed earlier, Special Projects also did all of the character approvals for licensing, providing replacement artwork or conceptual drawings as necessary. This meant that we’d sometimes get ahold of odd things, like the ad on the left for a bootleg Spider-Man costume sold overseas. There’s always been problems with illegal bootleg merchandise featuring the most well-known Marvel characters.

It was during these early months that I finished up the long-languishing X-MEN GRAPHIC NOVEL that adapted the pilot episode of a proposed X-Men cartoon, “Pryde of the X-Men.” I wrote a blog entry many months ago about how peeved I was, after having done all kinds of work on it, to not have been credited at all on the finished product. But I do still have a couple of the original animation cells and animator’s pencil drawings that were used in the production.

I also worked on any number of off-beat comics, including the movie adaptations of THE PUNISHER, CAPTAIN AMERICA, and DARKMAN, the short-lived NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET black and white magazine, NIGHTCAT and NFL SUPERPRO, two of Marvel’s best licensing partnerships, BRUTE FORCE, based on an unrealized toy line and cartoon, and worthy of its own entry one day, and the DEATHLOK prestige limited series, which was the only mainstream Marvel U project we had.

And at a New York convention that June, I got to meet Fred Hembeck. I had been aping Fred’s style for my own self-caricature for a couple of years by then, so on a lark, I got him to do a drawing of me, just to see what he’d come up with. And to make it more interesting to him, I had him draw me as Brother Voodoo, Fred’s favorite obscure character. Eventually, the drawing Fred did got mocked up into the first issue cover you see on the left.

Tomorrow: the wrap-up, Street-Poet Ray, Party Time and the greatest unproduced Marvel comic of 1989.

More later.

Tom B

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