In 1982, there was simply no hotter book in the Direct Sales marketplace than UNCANNY X-MEN. Riding off of the tremendous success of the Dark Phoenix Saga, the series was rocketed to the absolute pinnacle of the sales charts, at least in comic book specialty shops. X-MEN was super hot, and so the publishers of the Comics Journal, Fantagraphics, made a deal with Marvel to produce a pair of volumes examining this phenomenal success story by directly interviewing all of the principle creative players in the development of the series. To that end, comics historian Peter Sanderson was enlisted to do the interviews, which made sense as he was personally friendly with most of the people involved. Behind this wonderful Michael Golden cover was the first of a two-part treasure trove of information about the making of the All-New X-Men, gathered at a time when it events were still fresh in everybody’s minds and when there was no historical reason yet to inflate one’s creative contributions to the mix, as would occasionally happen in the years to come.
The first person interviewed is Roy Thomas, for whom the original X-MEN series was his first opportunity to write a regular super hero strip, and who had made the suggestion to revive the property as an international team that kicked off the drive to bring X-MEN back. As you’d expect, most of the conversation revolves around the period when Roy was himself writing the series.
2 thoughts on “THE X-MEN COMPANION #1: Roy Thomas Interview”
Per my notes, X-Men was Marvel’s top-selling continuing title by the summer of 1981. Its average sales over the previous year were 259,607 copies per month. Amazing Spider-Man’s were 242,781, and Star Wars’ were 229,901. It was quite a rise during the three years John Byrne was on the book. The 1977-1978 average sales for X-Men (when Byrne came on board) were 115,260. During the Marvel newsstand-sales renaissance of 1978-1979, the numbers jumped over 40% to 171,091. The 1979-1980 numbers were 192,514. I’m guessing it was selling about 225K when Byrne left, which would have been enough to make it one of Marvel’s top three titles.
The X-Men Companion books had an interesting back-story. According to Gary Groth, Jim Shooter arranged a license for Fantagraphics to reprint as much art as they wanted for a nominal fee. Shooter further had Marvel’s production staff shoot stats for all the art Fantagraphics wanted for no cost whatsoever. This was a good while before Shooter voluntarily agreed to testify on Michael Fleisher’s behalf in the libel suit he filed against The Comics Journal and Harlan Ellison. That appears to have been what turned Groth’s relationship with Shooter toxic.
I loved Werner Roth in the reprints that came out when I started with comics so it’s a bit offputting to red him be kind of an ass about the man and his work. I’ll now always wonder if the book could have been more succesful if Roth had plotted under Thomas. That thought apparently never occurred to him though.