Former Marvel Comics editor-in-chief Jim Shooter posted an essay the other day which makes it sound as if, once Stan Lee no longer had the time to oversee how others were playing with his toys, no other editor-in-chief paid much attention to what was going in any books except for those he wrote himself until Jim arrived to take the reins and put things right. Shooter repeated this line of thought in a second essay, writing that “any outside observer would have guessed that [Production Manager John Verpoorten] was the boss, at least during the time that Len, Marv, Gerry and Archie were Editors in Chief.”
As someone who was hired when Roy Thomas was in charge, and who continued on staff at Marvel under Len Wein, Marv Wolfman, Gerry Conway, and Archie Goodwin, I feel called upon to defend my former bosses and say—not so! Verpoorten, though important, was not acting as de facto editor-in-chief, making all art assignments for editors who were supposedly uncaring of what was going on in the rest of the titles. While Verpoorten made sure that Vinnie Colletta, who hit his deadlines, got more assignments than the rest of us would have liked, he wasn’t running the show. I witnessed this on a daily basis, as editors held plotting sessions with writers, were deeply involved in art assignments, and pushed all freelancers to be accountable.
In lieu of an elaborate rebuttal right now, here are a few memos to let you see that even though once in a while a slip-up might let a superhero do something preposterous like drag Manhattan Island, not only did the editors who came before Jim try to make the trains run on time (something Jim was admittedly very good at), but they also paid attention to what the heck was happening on those trains.
First, a memo from Gerry Conway letting all freelancers know that he wanted to see each plot before it was given to an artist.
Then, two memos from me—one to John David Warner and a second from me to Archie Goodwin about Steve Gerber—to show that attention was being paid to getting those plots handed in for review.
I wish I had time for a more detailed account of the hands-on nature of the editors, but for now, I thought it was important to just say briefly … being a responsible editor-in-chief didn’t all begin with Jim Shooter.