A post from my ancient Marvel blog concerning comics I had edited a decade earlier. Today, that would be Twenty-Three Years Ago.
I’m one of the relatively few editors in the industry who can do this sort of thing, so welcome to a new feature here at the Blog, one that will in all likelihood become a recurring thing. So let’s set the Way-Back machine and see what was coming out from my editorial office TEN YEARS AGO!
The five titles at the right comprised my total editorial output that went on sale in August 1998. These days, this would be a week’s work for my crew, although in fairness there are a lot more people in my area at this point as well.
MARVEL UNIVERSE was a short-lived anthology title I came up with, which lasted a mere seven issues. The idea was for it to be a general clearinghouse for all sorts of stories set in and around the nooks and crannies of the Marvel Universe, written by Roger Stern and drawn by a variety of artists. All told, only two multi-part stories got done. This issue, #5, was the second part of a four-part Monster Hunters story set in the time right before FANTASTIC FOUR #1, and featuring a team of characters whose mission it was to track down and corral all of those old Kirby giant monsters. Looking back at this issue, the thing I recall the most is the fact that we had a hard time making this cover work. It had been drawn as a full image, but the cover format for the series included that vertical bar up the left side, so the aspect-ratio of the image area was different. It still looks a bit barren at the top of the cover, and I would have liked to have popped some element over the logo somewhere a little bit to help draw your eye into the piece.
Just like today, THOR had been relaunched, and was a monster hit—the more things change. The creative team was Dan Jurgens and John Romita Jr, and at this point in the series Thor was on a quest to locate the other Asgardians, who were missing—again, a theme being played out again today, albeit in a very different manner. John Romita Jr. can draw anything, any title, any character and make it look good, but his work on THOR really drove home the fact that he was top-notch at getting across the feeling of mass and power. He’d folded elements of Jack Kirby’s approach into his work very effectively, and his Thor had a great rough-hewn strength, especially as embellished by Klaus Janson.
And a decade ago, I was still editing AVENGERS, that series still in its first year back from the Heroes Reborn experiment. The creative team was Kurt Busiek and George Perez, and we really had a lot of fun working on this title. This particular issue, though, wasn’t one of our strongest—when he took over the book, Kurt sat down and mapped out the first year, which included a crossover with THUNDERBOLTS at the end of it. But once we got into producing the stories, we’d occasionally find ourselves tight for space, and because that crossover couldn’t be moved (as it was also related to an AVENGERS/THUNDERBOLTS novel release) that meant we couldn’t do what we’d typically do, and turn a two-part story into a three-parter if it needed the room. This issue really suffered for the lack of space—we just didn’t have enough pages to get everything accomplished that we needed to.
Speaking of THUNDERBOLTS, that series was up to issue #19, also written by Kurt and drawn by Mark Bagley. During the time we worked together on T-Bolts, our philosophy was to try to shake the title up every ten issues or so, so as to maintain the interest of the readers, a tactic that continued after Fabian Nicieza replaced Kurt as the writer a few years later. This issue was right towards the end of one of those cycles, so it was somewhat the lull before the storm. It also represents one of the experiences that truly angered me in my career. As you can see from the cover, this issue introduced a new character, who was the winner of a Create-A-Thunderbolt contest we ran in conjunction with Wizard magazine. As promised, the winning character joined the team—but several months later, the contest winner contacted a lawyer and threatened to sue Marvel over the use of the character, despite the fact that the rules and conditions of the contest were very clear. As a result, the character was immediately killed off (actually, by a coincidence he’d been shattered into powder in the issue that was being worked on when the notification came in, and we simply decided not to pull him back together as we’d originally planned), and he will never return so long as I have any say in the matter. And I will never again participate in one of these contests—which is a shame, because they were kind of a fun thing to do with the fans.
Lastly, there was the second issue of the NIGHTHAWK limited series, by Jim Krueger and Richard Case. This was another series that really could have used another issue—as is typical of Jim, he had more ideas for the character than he was easily able to fit into the space he had to work in. I remember having to get special permission for Daredevil to appear, as this was right around the time that the Marvel Knights series was debuting, and there was some concern about not wanting to get in Joe and Jimmy’s way.
All in all, I still think this is a pretty credible assemblage of titles and talent for a given month—three of the books are still around, and I’m still editing one of them. And none of them strike me as an out-and-out stinker, although your mileage may vary, of course.