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Shooter vs. Buscema

Everyone knows i'm a fan of the Jim Shooter era of Marvel comics. But he definitely had a reputation as a control freak.

I just recently read an interview book with Sal Buscema. What you have to understand about Sal (yeah, i'm on a first name basis with him) is that while he wasn't a superstar, he was the workhorse of Marvel's artist stable. He did several books a month, did fill-ins for other artists that were late, and took all assignments they gave him without complaint. I think he was a good artist, too, and one thing's for sure: he was great at the storytelling aspect of his job. Action flowed from panel to panel and you could always "read" his art and understand what was going on without any dialogue or narration to explain things.

So combine all of that and it's pretty shocking to see him refuse a high profile assignment:

Q: I read in Back Issue magazine where you and [Shooter] had a difference of opinion on the wedding of Spider-Man.

A: As a matter of fact, we did. I got along well with Jim... Anyway, I had heard these horror stories about Secret Wars. Mike Zeck was a very good artist; I liked his work. And I found out almost third-hand, so it may be wrong, that Mike almost had a nervous breakdown because of what Jim had put him through. That got me a little bit leery.

But that wasn't the big problem. When I got the script from Jim, he had all kinds of parameters he had painted for me, all sorts of restrictions. "Don't do this. I want the panels done this way. I want them laid out this way." Essentially, the next step would have been for him to hold my hand and push the pencil around on the paper. I had read the note that came along with the script and thought, "I can't work this way. I just cannot give it my best."

And that's essentially what I wrote in a letter to Jim... I told him that under the circumstances, what he was asking was more than I could give him. That I could not do my best work working under these circumstances. That he was just giving me too many parameters, and sort of painting me into a corner or putting me in a box, and I just could not work that way. I asked him to please understand, because I'd been used to working for so many years in this manner, and all of a sudden he was asking me [to] do something diametrically opposed to the way I'd been working. "I can't do my best work for you. Thank you for the opportunity." I thought it was a very pleasant and tactful letter. I said, "I'm sure you can find somebody else who can give you what you want, and thereby do a much better job than I would be able to do for you under the circumstances."

It was a few days later that I got a letter back from Jim that just ripped me up one side and down the other. He told me they were paying me the big bucks to do what I was told. The letter was longer than that, and it was abusive. I didn't appreciate it one bit, because the letter I had sent to him was very tactful and very, very friendly. I certainly didn't get that in return, and that's the way it ended. As far as I was concerned the case was closed. It was over with. I didn't appreciate the letter, but there was nothing I could do about it.

Q: From what I understand, he was going into such detail that he was telling you what the houses were supposed to look like, what the people were supposed to be wearing - that level of minutiae.

A: He even went into panel layout. He said, "For instance, if Spider-Man is shooting his web at somebody, I don't want to see him shooting the web in one panel and the web hitting the guy in the next panel. I want that to be happening in one panel." I'm thinking, "If the circumstances call for it, if the design of the book calls for it, you can't work that way." How are you supposed to work at your creative best when somebody is damn near hanging over your shoulder telling you how to draw everything that you're supposed to draw. I can't work that way. I'm not sure anybody could. And I wasn't about to get a nervous breakdown the way Mike Zeck did, so I decided - and I hated to do it, believe me, because I knew I was giving up a lot of money - to write that letter.

The book follows up with a shot showing that Sal could show the initiation & conclusion of an action all happening in one panel (Spidey shoots his webs and they hit the bad guys at the same time), which is a common trick and something Buscema obviously didn't need to be told about (although this particular panel comes from a book that was published well after the incident in question.).

Spider-Man Unlimited #11

Now, there's no doubt that Jim Shooter is going to be extra fussy about a high profile book like Secret Wars or the Spidey/Mary Jane wedding issue. And I wonder how much of Sal's concerns were based on rumors about Mick Zeck's experience; maybe otherwise he would have let the micro-managing roll off his shoulders. But still, it's pretty clear that when you rattle a guy like Sal Buscema, you're doing something wrong.

By fnord12 | August 11, 2011, 8:55 AM | Comics


He should have thumbnailed the book, like Giffen does.

Reference from SuperMegaMonkey : chronocomic

Aside from a run on the Punisher and the critically acclaimed Kraven's Last Hunt, Zeck didn't really do much more of note for Marvel. I read that Zeck nearly had a nervous breakdown working with Shooter. I don't know if that was meant figuratively or literally, but it may explain why he didn't do much else for Marvel.    Read More: Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars #1-12

Reference from SuperMegaMonkey : chronocomic

Shooter then continues to say that, "Getting an art team was more difficult than it ought to have been". For more detail behind that story, see this excerpt of an interview with Sal Buscema.    Read More: Amazing Spider-Man annual #21

Reference from SuperMegaMonkey : chronocomic

He would have been a great artist to tap for Secret Wars II (although it doesn't look like he and Shooter could have worked together).    Read More: Hulk #309