January 24, 2011.
Are there any storylines or books that you can think of where, for
whatever reason, you didn't get a writing credit but the project was
heavily influenced by you?
JIM SHOOTER: Lots of them. When I was associate editor at Marvel (1976-1978) I frequently rewrote substantial parts of, and sometimes all of stories turned in by the worst of the hacks we were using. Why were we using hacks? You have to understand, the industry was in a depressed state then. Comics creative didn't pay much, and it was strictly page rate, which means there was an incentive to churn out a lot of pages rather than fewer, better ones. So, we couldn't afford to get better talent, and some of the creative "talent" we had wrote garbage by the ream to get a bigger check. That said, some guys had integrity and pride in their work and did great stuff. Not enough. People in editorial, for the most part, didn't care. They fixed the worst of the spelling errors and let the crap go to press. I cared. If a hack wouldn't make changes I asked for -- and most wouldn't, being too busy hacking out the next script -- I made them myself. Understand, that at that point, as associate editor, I had no real power. I couldn't fire anybody, and the people above me were more worried about the books being late than being good. So many books were late that they LOVED the guys who cranked out scripts overnight! "Words on paper, ink on pages" was the mantra. I also heard Sturgeon's Law quoted a lot. There was only so much I could do with 45 comics a month coming across my desk, but I did my best.
When I was Editor in Chief (1978-1987), I didn't do as much hands on, but I often plotted issues or story arcs for the writers and editors who worked under me, or worked closely with them on such. I already had my name in the credits as EIC, so I usually let it go at that. In a few instances the editor or writer wanted to give me co-plotter or co-writer credit and I allowed it.
I'll give you two examples of major arcs I contributed to: The Phoenix Saga and the Fall of the Mutants. The Phoenix Saga began at a lunch with Chris Claremont and then-X-Men editor Jim Salicrup at the Ultimate Lotus, which was sort of the company cafeteria. Jim and Chris were trying to come up with a new storyline. I made the simple observation that, at Marvel, many times a bad guy had evolved into a good guy -- Hawkeye, the Black Widow, etc. -- but never had a good guy gone bad, for real, and stayed that way, becoming a new, major villain. I'm taking nothing away from Chris, here. He had already toyed with doing a "power corrupts" thing with Phoenix, but at that lunch, we agreed on the pillars of the arc. Of course it ended differently than originally planned, but that's another story.
Near the end of my tenure at Marvel, I called all the X-books writers and editors to my office and told them the following: We've been talking about the impending war between mutants and humans since 1963. Let's do it. For real. A major development in the Marvel Universe. My plan was to do it in three issues of each X-title (X-Men, New Mutants and X-Factor), concurrently, perfectly coordinated and interrelated. Then, we'd gather the nine issues into a hardback, and later, a trade paperback. They mewled about having anything "forced" upon them, but ultimately agreed that it could be cool.
I left Marvel shortly thereafter. I never read the stories when they came out, so I don't know how much, if any, of my concept they used. But, didn't they make a movie along those lines?