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The fan editor period

I wanted to bookmark John Seavey's Defense of Onslaught. It was this that caught my attention:

Back in the early Nineties, a group of superstar creators rose to prominence at Marvel. They practically reinvented storytelling in comics, breaking a lot of rules that the established writers, artists and editors at Marvel believed at the time were vitally important to telling good comic-book stories. Their art was, for the most part, totally different from the style that Neal Adams and Jim Aparo had popularized, and frequently broke rules of anatomy and perspective. Their stories shook up the established status quos of many series, introducing overt anti-heroes who grew to dominate the landscape of comics (like Cable and Venom, to name two quick examples.) The older guard of editors who ran the company didn't really understand why these younger creators were popular; they didn't even like the books they were publishing, in some cases. But they sold like hotcakes, they were incredibly popular with Marvel's target audience, and the young men seemed to know what they were doing.

I think there's a larger point to be made about the period after the likes of Roger Stern and John Byrne were gone from Marvel but while editors like Mark Gruenwald and Ralph Macchio were still in charge. I want to go through those years before/while i formulate anything, but Seavey's post here dovetails nicely with my preliminary thoughts.

By fnord12 | August 21, 2013, 12:45 PM | Comics


I think some of what Seavey attributes to the Image influence actually came from Marvel's early '90s editors-cun-writers trying to Claremontize the Avengers (under Harras) and FF (under DeFalco). There was a drive toward more "extreme" heroes, and Image massively contributed to that, but Marvel was already drifting in that direction: toward Punisher-like characters and attempts to emulate Frank Miller's coolness without the substance. By the mid-90s we got very Image-esque revamps of Thor and Iron Man--but we also got Wade's Cap and Ellis's Thor. Image was just one of the things Marvel was trying to emulate.

Sorry to monopolize the thread, but this really got me thinking. Until '94 or so, Marvel seemingly resisted Image-ification as well as they could. Old guard artists like Saviuk and S. Buscema were on the Spidey books, joined by the hot but non-Image Mark Bagley. DeFalco's collaborators were Frenz's, Ryan, and Oliffe, all of whom had old school styles--even retro in Frenz's case. Marvel also drew heavily from the Kubert school at this time, with Adam, Andy, Lee Weeks, and Steve Epting on various books Andy K had a Jim Lee-like style, but he'd been working on that before Image launched.

My guess is business, not editorial, dictated the mid-90s change, which became really obvious when DeFalco was pushed aside in favor of several "group" editors in place of a single EIC. And the group editors have said they were all told to get Age of Apocalypse-scale sales, hence The Crossing, the Clone Saga, etc.

Marvel editorial was guilty of many things, including letting guys like Jim Lee and MacFarlane pretend to be writers, but DeFalco and Grunwald maintained some standards as long as they could. I don't think they get enough credit.

Thanks, Walter. You're thinking along the lines i am. There was a line in Sean Howe's book that i quoted in my review about the "Talmudic continuity scholars in Marvel editorial". It was said disparagingly by someone on the business side, but i think it was a good thing. And my thinking is that even after the really great writers had left Marvel, these guys were still there as gatekeepers doing the best they could to preserve the Marvel universe from the changing demands of the market.

And yeah, Howe's book also made it clear that by the time of Tom DeFalco, and certainly later, the EiC had less power over content than fans typically think. From Goodman to Galton, the business side didn't seem to get too involved in content, but that changed in the 90s.

Those statistics are heavily skewed by the collector's obsession though.
Comic books were hot. It was thought that every issue #1 of any series was going to be the equivalent of Amazing Fantasy #15 in the future.
Collectors were buying 20 copies of each issue and filing them away in their closet to sell later.
Then, the market totally crashed. Marvel went bankrupt.

So, I'd argue it's hard to tell exactly how popular (say) Cable was, compared to how hot Cable's book was because collectors thought that Cable issues were going to be their retirement down the line.
I'm not saying that Liefield and Cable were not popular, but the market was just so skewed by speculators that it's hard to really gauge the market.

Chris has a point. The speculators really did skewer the market. I remember buying ASM #400, even though I was long gone from comics then just because it was the issue that May Parker dies, thinking it would be worth a fortune in 20 years time. Bwahhhahaha, boy, that was a good 'un.

In Howe's book, doesn't he mention that an editor said that for every issue #1 there'd be a huge spike then a drop off implying that no one really cared about the stories they just wanted a way of getting rich.