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TitleMarvel Comics: The Untold Story
TagsMarvel Comics Dc Comics Batman Comics Marvel Captain America Comics
File Size2.4 MB
Total Pages595
Table of Contents
Part I: Creations and Myths
Part II: The Next Generation
Part III: Trouble Shooter
Part IV: Boom and Bust
Part V: A New Marvel
About the Author
About the Publisher
Document Text Contents
Page 2

Marvel Comics

The Untold Story

Sean Howe

Page 297

publicize new titles like , , and , each of
them starring characters who were, literally, armed with “big guns.” Since

had been a breakout hit, it was used to jump-start a series of new horror-
themed titles under the banner “Midnight Sons.” A discarded Stan Lee/John
Byrne project about Marvel characters in the year 2099 was retooled into an
entire new line of comics: futuristic versions of Spider-Man, the Punisher, and
Doctor Doom provided plenty of collectible product.
And then there were the special covers, developed and instituted by Sven

Larsen and consultant Richard Rogers. “When I was told Sven [Larsen] would
be starting a marketing division, I didn’t even know what the hell that meant,”
said Director of Sales Lou Bank. “What the hell is he gonna do? We’re the guys
who place the ads, we’re the guys who put together the catalog. It turned out
what he was gonna do was do those covers with Rogers.”
For every enhanced cover, a meeting was called to determine special pricing.

It wasn’t just the cost being added, of course, but extra profit margin as well.
Add in markups between distributors and retailers, and the ten-cent addition of
foil on the cover translated to an extra dollar on the cover price. This, however,
wasn’t a problem for Marvel—price increases had been a part of the plan all
along, a promise to the stockholders.
With a constant increase in the amount of product, as well as price hikes,

Marvel managed to top itself, quarter after quarter. Sales in 1992 would nearly
double 1991’s $115 million. But the company would never beat the single-issue
numbers on #1, or #1, or even #1. “When we got
the orders in on ,” said Lou Bank, “and they came in at only half a
million units, Tom DeFalco said to me, ‘That’s it, that’s the beginning of the
end!’ I thought, ‘Goddamn, half a million units!’ At that point we were
canceling titles that came in below 125,000, but it wasn’t so long before that
we’d seen a comic sell half a million. How could Tom say this? It didn’t
sell the million you wanted, but . . . ! But he was sure right.
That was the beginning of the end.”
“It was like cocaine culture without the drug use,” said editor Tom Brevoort.

“Everyone was getting more and more hopped up on this explosion of sales.
You’d launch a book, and editors would be lamenting the fact that, ‘Oh it only
sold half a million copies.’ Five years later, they’d be thanking their lucky stars.”
To some, the monetary incentives offered to editors clouded judgment. “You

had editors who tried to gerrymander hits in order to get themselves a great deal
of money,” said Jo Duffy, who’d left her staff job to work as a freelance writer.

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“Suddenly the editors seized control. It used to be if the writer and editor weren’t
getting along, change editors. Now it became: .” The
empowerment of the editorial staff, begun as a morale-building necessity in the
wake of Jim Shooter’s stormy departure, now resulted—in extreme examples—
in instructions to writers and artists on how to appeal to the lowest common
denominator. “If the Punisher appears in a panel with another character,” Jim
Starlin was told, “that character should be killed within the next few pages by
either the Punisher or someone else. If the Punisher appears with any object, it
should be destroyed in an explosion as soon as possible.”
“Everyone decided, ‘Hey, we get royalties on this, so let’s put Wolverine and

Spider-Man and the Punisher in every one of the books, and dilute the product,’
” said editor Mike Rockwitz. “I was working on that piece of shit

. Tom DeFalco came to me one day and said, ‘Let’s do a super-book
that has Doctor Strange and Wolverine in it.’ I’m like, ‘Okay . . .’ None of those
things made any sense, but on the first book, I made seven grand in royalties. It
was just absurd.”
Still, many had reservations about the ways in which commercial concerns

were starting to overwhelm the contents of the comics. Some editors complained
that the sales, marketing, and publicity teams only worked to sell the books that
were already selling, that the response about underperforming titles was,

To many in the editorial department, the face of the enemy was Richard

Rogers, the marketing executive who was calling more and more of the shots
and itching to crank up production at every turn, as though comic books were as
infinitely reproducible and conveyer-belt-ready as the candy bars he’d worked
with before he came to Marvel.
“It’s hard for people who haven’t come up through the comic book industry to

understand just how hard it is to get a comic book out,” said Sven Larsen, who
struggled to mediate between Rogers and Harras. “It’s very easy to turn around
and say, ‘Why don’t we take this 32-page book and make it 96 pages?’ All these
right-brain thinkers on the editorial side were like, ‘Let’s let this happen
organically. Why do we need to make all this money? We were doing just fine
before you came along.’ ”
Peter David, writing , threw up his hands after a number of his story

ideas were put on hold to accommodate crossover events. “The editors are as
trapped in this ‘Crossover Uber Alles’ mentality as anyone else,” David wrote.
“The stockholders expect massive profits from the X-books, and crossovers

Page 594

* Jemas offered the job of scripting Marville to Steve Gerber, who declined because of the book’s portrayal
of DC’s Paul Levitz. “I wasn’t prepared to participate in the character assassination of someone I’d known
for thirty years and whom I value as a personal friend,” Gerber wrote later.

Page 595

* Shortly afterward, Meth wrote that the royalties had stopped, but in a 2011 email he stated that “every
dime” of the “generous settlement was paid by Marvel to Dave Cockrum.” The terms remain confidential.

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