Friday, September 9, 2011

JIM SHOOTER'S PANTS ARE ON FIRE

The legendary Jim Shooter is blogging.  From what I’m told, he uses
that venue to put forth an alternate history of his career in the
comics industry.  It’s “from what I’m told” because I have not been
reading Shooter’s blog...save for a solitary entry to which I was
directed by one of my readers.

The entry spins the fanciful tale of how I used to tape angry notes
complaining about Len Wein and Marv Wolfman to Stan Lee’s door on
a daily basis.  In Shooter’s fiction, Stan shows Shooter a note or
notes, compliments the writing of the notes and asks if I’m working
for Marvel. Shooter tells him I am, which apparently pleases Stan.
The anecdote is far from the worst fabrication told about me, but
it annoyed me enough that, when Shooter’s blog was mentioned on a
mailing list, I curtly and maybe too cruelly responded:

Concerning Jim Shooter's blog, a well-intentioned reader directed
me to an entry on me.  It was sheer "pants on fire" fantasy from
the Lurch Boy.  Especially when he claims I posted angry complaints
on the door of Stan's office every day...during a period when I was
living in Cleveland.  Hell of a commute, that.


I don't deny I had problems with Len Wein and Marv Wolfman, though
I remain friends with both.  But to claim I was crazy enough to
post these letters where they could see them, that's absurd.  When
I had complaints, I took them to Stan directly or got them to Stan
via Sol Brodsky or John Verpoorten.


After DC fired me from my second Black Lightning series, some of
their editorial people spread all sorts of lies about me.  I have
some documentation on that.  But maybe that's why Shooter figured
he could sell the "Crazy Tony" in his blog.


Though capable of the occasional act of decency, Shooter was always
a creep.  No matter how much he tries to rewrite the past.

If his entry on me is any indication, his blog is about as far from
accurate comics history as I am from playing in the NBA.


My admittedly too brief retort elicited an angry e-mail from a fan
who declined to sign his actual name to the note.  He wrote:

Have you already posted your denials in his blog?

You also just called Shooter a Lurch Boy and a creep. Yes, yes, I
know you contend that his anecdote about you is false, but are you
insisting you have not been calling Jim Shooter names previously?
Somehow I sense a history of antipathy here.


Keep in mind that I don't know either of you personally. It's just
that I was a big fan of the CBG newspaper and I associate your name
with the newspaper. So I'm disappointed with your reaction.


Barely mentioning that I take people much more seriously when they
have the balls to sign their real names, let me see if I can offer
a somewhat more thoughtful response:

Jim Shooter’s story about me is a lie.  I’m told he also claims he
was not the driving force behind the rewriting of my final issue of
Ghost Rider, that he was acting under orders from the then-current
Marvel editor-in-chief Marv Wolfman.  This despite Shooter himself
telling me at the time that my story offended him and that was why
he was rewriting it.  This jibes with the memories of other Marvel
staffers at the time, who have also told me the issue was ready to
go to the printers when Shooter abruptly pulled it back.

Marv Wolfman was one of three editors who approved of my two-year-
long Ghost Rider storyline.  He and I have talked on occasion about
those years and seem to agree that we all made mistakes in handling
our various positions of authority.  Unless and until Marv himself
tells me otherwise, Shooter gets the blame for undoing a two-year
storyline in another writer’s book.

I have always had a terrific relationship with Stan Lee.  I worked
with him and learned a lot from him.  He’s always been a fan of my
writing.  When he found out I had left Marvel and was writing for
DC, he expressed his sadness over that...though he understood the
how and the why of it. 

Busy guy that he is, I don’t think Stan has always known when I was
writing for Marvel and when I wasn’t, but, at the time of Shooter’s
fiction, he definitely knew I was writing for Marvel because we had
discussed the difficulties I was having working with Len and Marv
after Roy Thomas stepped down as editor-in-chief.

In his blog, Shooter positions himself as Stan’s confidant, but, at
the time of these imaginary notes on the door, I suspect that was
not the case.

I didn’t post corrections to Shooter’s blog because I had not even
the slightest expectation he would recant his lies.

Nowhere in my original comment or anywhere else that I can recall
have I ever “insisted” I hadn’t called Shooter names previously.
I have often called him names, as have many people who worked with
him over the years.  My insults are tame by comparison.

At the end of the day, Jim Shooter is a human being like the rest
of us.  He can list some amazing accomplishments on his record and
some sterling acts of good will.  But that’s only part of his tale
and the other part has its fair share of distortion, outright lies,
bad behavior, and such.  We are all the heroes of our own stories
and it’s not uncommon for people to “rewrite” those stories to put
themselves in the best possible light.

If I take more offense than some consider reasonable to Shooter’s
lying about me, it’s because I know too well the adverse effects of
such deceit.  When I’m talking with industry pals, it’s a subject
that comes up from time to time.

Those adverse effects aren’t confined exclusive to the economic and
employment results.  There’s a pain that comes with knowing someone
is lying about you and knowing they are doing it for, among other
reasons, because they believe they can get away with it.

In a previous incarnation of this blog, I was writing about my own
comics history, specifically the history of my association with DC
Comics and my creation of Black Lightning.  I tried to be honest in
the telling of that history, offering disclaimers when my memories
weren’t as specific as I would like or when information was taken
from second-hand sources. 

Was I the hero of my own stories? Of course, I was, but I also made
a sincere effort to include my shortcomings and errors of judgment
in the history I presented. 

I intend to revisit the stories that appeared in my previous blog
and to include additional clarifications and information whenever
possible.  My intent is to create as accurate and complete a record
of these matters I can.

Will you find my stories more believable than I find Jim Shooter’s?
I hope so.  If I’ve burned bridges in the past, they aren’t going
to become magically whole because I stop sharing the truth of these
matters.  It would be disingenuous of me to claim that I don’t care
about my reputation, but, really, I don’t care all that much about
what a great many people think of me.  They either get me or they
don’t.  They appreciate the quality of my work or they don’t.  They
believe me or they don’t.

I know my heart, my talent, and my veracity.  I’m thankful that so
many of you know them as well.     

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff. 

© 2011 Tony Isabella

11 comments:

  1. Just so you know...I don't suffer rude trolls who don't use their real names, especially when they claim dubious credentials. Oh, your posts may stay up for a bit - I don't live online - but they will be taken down eventually.

    This blog is akin to my home. I'm your host. Most of you are welcome guests. When you make yourself unwelcome, you'll be shown the door.

    ReplyDelete
  2. In the interest of full disclosure, I am a fan of Jim Shooter's work. He was at the helm of the 1980s Marvel comics that turned me into a comic book fan as a boy. And I consider his launch of the Valiant universe as one of the most significant creative achievements in comic books since the Marvel renaissance of the 1960s.

    The criticism I've seen of Jim often seems wildly over-the-top. Here you're calling him a liar over an anecdote about notes taped to a door. Most people wouldn't use language that charged when, on the substance of the matter, Jim Shooter was accurate. As you state here, you did have issues with Len and Marv that you brought to the attention of Stan. What form that came in seems largely inconsequential. Jim's only reference to the note was him quoting Stan Lee saying he finds one there every day. Stan could easily have been just making a joke or exaggerating about that. I didn't get the impression Jim meant any harm or insult. So for many reasons it doesn't seem like the kind of thing worth fighting over.

    Similarly, Gary Groth bashed Jim extensively for making it sound like Kirby "sued" Marvel. Whether or not a lawsuit actually was filed or not was essentially irrelevant to Jim's discussions of the legal wrangling that went on between Kirby's and Marvel's lawyers for years.

    People seem to take a minor point by Jim and inflate it into some sort of grand affront or diabolical deception. To those of us without an axe to grind on either side, it just seems petty. It makes Jim look like he's the target of an unfair and overblown attack, not the other way around.

    By the way, Jim has acknowledged mistakes on his blog when readers point them out. He also spends a lot of time praising other people. At times he's been asked if he was responsible for something popular that Marvel did and he's given full credit to others. Judging by his interactions with his readers, he certainly doesn't come across as a braggart nor the ogre he sometimes gets painted as.

    He's also been very clear that he exerted his authority at Marvel over creative differences with the staff on numerous occasions. Never did it seem like it was for petty or personal reasons but only because the stories didn't fit with his vision for the characters or his standards of quality. Certainly being overruled by the boss on creative issues is not a pleasant experience but it was his right to do so. Opinions will always differ among readers as to whether a particular call was right or not.

    Before commenting on something like the Ghost Rider blog entry, you really should take the time to read it. It seems careless for you to do otherwise. And it lends credence to the theories that a lot of the negativity towards Jim over the years comes from hearsay and rumors. As I recall, Jim never tried to eschew responsibility for the changes he made to the issue. I think he said he did have major problems with the story, but added that others in the office did too.

    From an outsider's perspective, it sounds like these creative differences are a main cause of resentment towards Jim. It also sounds like it was very easy for people to assign blame to him for any decision that went down at Marvel, either above his head or below his head, since he was the most high-ranking visible authority figure. It seems perfectly reasonable for him to want to rehabilitate his reputation now since he was such an obvious potential target of misdirected and exaggerated scorn for so long.

    A couple things I'm sure about are that Jim is a talented creator and he has as much love for, respect for and expertise in the comic book medium as anyone. Given the weakened state that comic books are in these days, this seems like a time when creators should try to work out their differences wherever possible rather than continue to promote tiresome and petty industry infighting.

    ReplyDelete
  3. If Shooter hadn't lied, I wouldn't have written today's blog. You can chose to characterize his comments as something other than a lie, but you are just making excuses for his lying.

    I hope everyone in comics does well, including Shooter. But when he lies about me, I'll write the truth.

    Jedi Jones? Bet that's not on your driver's license. As noted above, I have little patience for those who refuse to put their names to their comments. The only reason you're not being deleted is because, wrong as your comments strike me, at least you expressed them in a non-insulting manner.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thank you for letting me slide on that requirement, Tony. I definitely have no interest in insulting anyone. I have respect for people on all sides of the debate and certainly for creators like yourself who contributed to the comics I read growing up.

    I just want to quote from Jim's original blog something that indicates this could be nothing more than a misunderstanding. Jim wrote, "When I finished reading Stan said, exactly, 'I find one of these taped to my door every day.'"

    So his recollection is that Stan said that to him. It sounds to me like Stan may have been referring to receiving notes every day, but from someone different every day, not just from you. Or perhaps Stan was exaggerating about that for the sake of humor which may or may not have been understood by Jim. Jim didn't state whether he took Stan literally or not.

    You also stated that you got your complaints delivered via others in the Marvel offices sometimes. So is it possible one of them posted the note on the door? Or it could have been slipped under the door, and Jim misheard or Stan misspoke it as being "on the door."

    Anyway, that's about all I have to add on the topic. Thanks for acknowledging my reply.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Well done, Tony, for deleting that idiot troll. He's popped up on Shooter's blog too, bigging himself up as some kind of authority that comics industry people shake in fear at the mention of. Jim ignored him, glad to see you do too.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Dubious Dusty seems determined to go where he's not wanted, so I'm switching to a setting where comments are approved before they appear here.

    I'm sure there are plenty of places where he can exercise his trollish behavior.

    ReplyDelete
  7. "Lurch Boy" had me doubled over. I suppose that makes me a bad person.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Although, let me add, now that I've read Mr. Jedi's posts more closely: Mr. Jedi, Jim Shooter has asserted again and again that Jack Kirby caused all the trouble by suing Marvel for ownership of characters. It is not a brief side mention or a footnote in his stories; it is the centerpiece of his claims. Shooter uses specific reference terms such as "discovery", "aggressive legal and PR attacks", "the other side" and "demands", all of which are not "irrelevant", as you try to claim above. The fact is, Kirby did NOT sue Marvel, for character rights or anything else. Never. Not once. He and his wife Roz even stated several times that they did not want to sue, and were not going to sue.

    Mr. Jedi, I don't know you (though your name rings a bell), but for you to have all these facts at your disposal and then assert as you did that Shooter's grotesque and never-ending lie is "essentially irrelevant" to the matter is a grotesquerie itself. There were no "legal wranglings" between Marvel and Kirby's lawyers, you perfect and absolute ninny; absolutely none. Jim Shooter is a Liar.

    ReplyDelete
  9. If I knew how to edit the above post, I would have removed the "ninny" phrase. I'm only allowing the comment now so that I let John and everyone else know that such name-calling of fellow posters is not permitted. If someone crosses a line and has to be verbally abused, I'll be the one to do it.

    Jedi's facts are wrong and his faith in Shooter's veracity unfounded in reality, but there's no need to call him names.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Tony, you are absolutely correct. It was meant in a kidding way. Originally I was going to use "goofball" but decided that was a rougher term. But namecalling is namecalling, and it's difficult to "hear" someone's tone on the internet, so I was wrong to go there. My apologies to you and to Jedi.

    ReplyDelete
  11. "...you perfect and absolute ninny"

    Tony, I'm pretty sure that had you edited that phrase to instead read "...you perfect and absolute $#@%", many readers would assume the name-calling to have been much more offensive than it actually was...

    ReplyDelete