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Comic Book Legends Revealed #251

Welcome to the two-hundred and fifty-first in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of the previous two hundred and fifty.

Comic Book Legends Revealed is part of the larger Legends Revealed series, where I look into legends about the worlds of entertainment and sports, which you can check out here, at legendsrevealed.com. I’d especially recommend you check out this installment of Music Legends Revealed to find out just what kind of censoring that Pat Boone did to Little Richard’s “Tutti Frutti”!

This week is a special theme week – all legends relating to one of my all-time favorite comic book writers, Roger Stern!

Let’s begin!

COMIC LEGEND: X-Men vs. Avengers had to be re-written because they changed the ending at the last moment!

STATUS: True

Back in 2007, reader Mike wrote in the comments:

An Urban Legends that has bothered me for years, and about which there doesn’t seem to be much info out there. (It dates from an era before the net, and there was much less fan press out there.) I’m hopping you can help me run it down:

The X-MEN vs. AVENGERS mini series, what the heck happened at the end? It was a four issue book, and the first three issues by Roger Stern and Marc Silvestri were great— then in the last issue, totally different creative team, and a hard left turn in the plot and direction. It reads like a last-minute Editorial Change-Up, and it’s a train wreck of an unsatisfying, bewildering ending. Does anybody out there know the story behind the scenes on this?

Certainly, Mike!

As you recall, X-Men vs. the Avengers was a mini-series written by Roger Stern and drawn by Marc Silvestri.

It involved the Avengers fighting the X-Men over Magneto.

The big reveal in the last issue would be that Magneto was back to being a super-villain (in other words, no more “conflicted anti-hero” or whatever).

However, before the series ended, the higher-ups at Marvel decided that such a story was not a good idea, so Tom DeFalco was tapped to write the NEW ending to the series, which has the status quo basically staying the same (Keith Pollard also took over on art for #4, but that was more about Silvestri getting “promoted” to the regular artist on Uncanny X-Men than anything else).

So there ya go, Mike!

COMIC LEGEND: Roger Stern stopped writing Captain America because Jim Shooter came up with a “no more three-part stories” rule.

STATUS: True/False

Roger Stern and John Byrne had a great run on Captain America in the early 1980s, but sadly their run was cut short after less than TEN issues!

But boy were those nine issues awesome.

In any event, for years the story has been that they left the book because first Stern quit because Marvel had instituted a “no three-issue long stories” policy, and he and Byrne had already submitted (and had approved) a three-issue story arc involving the Red Skull.

So Stern quit and after being offered the book himself, Byrne quit the book, as well, in solidarity.

That’s how I always knew the story (and surely the whole “Stern quit the book over an argument with the Cap editor and then Byrne was offered the book and chose to leave instead in solidarity” part is absolutely true), and that was how I was going to run the story in Comic Book Legends YEARS ago.

But just as I was going to run it back then, I saw Roger Stern mention on his forum that he was doing an interview that would reveal a different twist into the story. I then promptly forgot to ever run the piece again. Well, now that’s corrected. ;)

In a wonderful interview with George Khoury (the phrase “wonderful interview” and “George Khoury” tend to go hand in hand, don’t they?), Stern details, in his words, why he left the book…

George Khoury: Can you explain why John and you left Cap after #255?

Roger Stern: That gets a little complicated. Marvel was starting to crack the whip on deadlines, and all the editors were under pressure to get their books on time. I’d had some stomach trouble midway through our run on Cap, and John was about to get married, and Jim Salicrup was understandably worried that we would fall further behind. I thought we could pull ahead in just a matter of weeks – my digestion was already back to normal, and I knew that John’s work ethic was as strong as mine – and to prove it, I sat down and plotted the next three issues straight through. Jim was still uneasy about the deadlines, and so he decided to schedule a fill-in by another writer. I pointed out that we already had a fill-in underway; Frank Miller was drawing a stand-alone Cap story that I was going to script. (It eventually saw print in Marvel Fanfare.)

“By the Dawn’s Early Light!” featured in Captain America #247 by Stern, John Byrne, and Joe Rubinstein. The first issue with Rog and his collaborators in their short-lived classic Captain America run.
In those days before royalties, Marvel had what was called a “continuity bonus.” If you wrote or drew six consecutive issues, you got a bonus. And so on for the next six, and the next. A fill-in before issue #258 would set all of our bonuses back.

But beyond that, I was worried about losing sales momentum on the series. We’d been working hard to build up the readership, and I knew from my days as an editor that fill-ins usually cost you readers.

Back during those early days of the Direct Market, when the greatest percentage of sales still came from the newsstand, it was a given that sales would dip after each fill-in. It could take a book’s regular creative team as much as three issues to get the readership back up to the pre-fill-in level.

Well, I couldn’t persuade Jim not to schedule a fill-in. And, looking back, if I had been in his shoes, I might have done the same thing. But I wasn’t in his shoes. I was the freelancer, and I didn’t like the way we were being treated.

I’d worked with Jim a long time and I really didn’t want to come to loggerheads with him. So, I took back all three plots, tore up the vouchers, and stepped away from the book. I figured, better to leave Cap on an up note with the 40th anniversary issue.

Ultimately, my take is that neither man is “wrong,” and it was likely a combination of the two events, but in Stern’s case, he specifically felt that the “broken string” reason was his main reason. It might be that had he agreed on THAT point that he would have still quit over the “no three issue stories” deal (which we do know WAS a short-lived edict at Marvel Comics during the early 80s), but his main reason was the one that he stated. And, as Byrne recalls, it WAS that Stern had a disagreement with the Cap editor and quit, which is what Stern says – just a slight variation as to the origin of the argument that directly led to Stern quitting.

Thanks to John Trumbull for reminding me to feature this one! And thanks to George Khoury and Roger Stern for the information!

COMIC LEGEND: DC did an Earth Day comic in conjunction with the U.S. Government.

STATUS: False

Reader Shawn wrote in about this one (he actually got the info from Roger Stern himself! Go Shawn!).

Back in 1991, DC released a one-shot called Superman For Earth…

It was a weird book in that it was not heavily promoted and quickly disappeared from the collective comic book consciousness.

It was so odd that Shawn figured that it must have been one of those books that DC “had” to put out, because of a deal that they made with the government to promote environmentalism, as the book was all about that topic – it was even printed on recycled paper (a novel idea at the time)!

However, as it turned out, it was actually pretty much the opposite!

As it turned out, Jenette Kahn wanted to do a Superman book to tie in with Earth Day (a lot of people love to tie in with Earth Day).

And that was the original name for the project – Superman: Earth Day.

So DC began work on the project, giving Stern the first crack at it as he was the senior Superman writer on staff at the time.

But then they discovered that the Earth Day Network (the folks who oversee the use of the name, Earth Day) actually wanted a sizable amount of money to license “Earth Day” for the comic, so DC quickly changed their approach, re-named the comic and basically shuffled it to the back burner, which is where it remained.

It was released, eventually sold out and is currently out of print.

It’s too bad, too, as it’s a nice little story by Stern and his former Superman cohort, Kerry Gammill.

Thanks to Shawn for the suggestion (and the legwork)! And, of course, thanks to Roger Stern for the information!

Okay, that’s it for this week!

Thanks to the Grand Comics Database for this week’s covers! And thanks to Brandon Hanvey for the Comic Book Legends Revealed logo!

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is cronb01@aol.com.

As you likely know by now, last April my book finally came out!

Here is the cover by artist Mickey Duzyj. I think he did a very nice job (click to enlarge)…

If you’d like to order it, you can use the following code if you’d like to send me a bit of a referral fee…

Was Superman a Spy?: And Other Comic Book Legends Revealed

See you all next week!

67 Comments

Man , Magneto going back to villainy at some point was a given… no reason to ruin a story just to keep him good for a little longer.

X-Men/Avengers: Isn’t the problem with the Magneto stuff due to X-Men/FF already being out and showing Magneto as a good guy?

X-Men/FF is set *after* X-Men/Avengers as far as I can see* – The Blackbird damage caused in X-Men/Avengers is being fixed in the first issue, She-Hulk talks about being involved in a reinactment of Magneto’s trial. But yeah, the 4th issue is a huge dispaointment.

and on a more general note about the series: Oh look another bit of Asteroid M !

* despite coming out before though IIRC there’s a massive delay on the 4th issue of X-Men/FF too.

Wow, Earth Day people are cut-throat.

Back in 2007, reader Mike wrote in the comments:

An Urban Legends that has bothered me for years, and about which there doesn’t seem to be much info out there. (It dates from an era before the net, and there was much less fan press out there.) I’m hopping you can help me run it down:

Holy hell, you kept this poor bastard hopping since 2007. His legs must be gigantic by now.

Wait, what? There are “Earth Day people”? And they have a copyright on the name?? I don’t think many true environmentalists know that the holiday is “owned” by a group. And to hear that they messed with a comic book promoting the holiday over money and licensing?

Sorry to go off on a tangent, but that’s almost shocking to me.

X-Men/FF is set *after* X-Men/Avengers as far as I can see

The Marvel Chronology Project has X-Men/Avengers happening after X-Men/FF for all characters involved (including Magneto), and I remember it happening that way too.

And to hear that they messed with a comic book promoting the holiday over money and licensing?

If the comic was a giveaway, I’m sure that they’d let their trademark be used for free. But if DC was going to be making money off of their name, they wanted a cut (apparently a sizable one).

I was a bit put off by the Earth Day trademark thing, too, but a quick search shows that they hold the trademark to protect the integrity of the Earth Day concept and usually don’t allow the name or logo to be used for for-profit projects or events. Even if I think it’s a bit silly to not allow what would amount to free advertising, I can sort of see where they’re coming from. (I’m imagining Earth Day sales at used car lots, which we all know would be the case.)

Are there references in the story to Earth Day in the story, or were those cut out? I’ve never read this particular comic; even though I was collecting Superman at the time, I don’t know for sure I’ve even heard of it before today.

Boy, the X-Men vs. Avengers sounds like the Hobgoblin mess all over again. Stern starts a solid story that brings in the readership, editorial staff get their mits on it and messes it up, and Tom DeFalco is brought in to make a valiant effort at rewriting the ending which is, ultimately, less satisfying than Stern’s original plans. Stern’s history with Marvel seems to be peppered with these types of incidents, and it’s a real shame because not only was he a great writer (probably one of the great underrated writers of all time, but that’s for another string), but he seems like a real professional and classy guy as well.

And we, the readers, are left with yet another case of what could have been . . .

I think Marvel should hire Stern to come back and pick up on all of the old Marvel storylines that he was “bumped” off of back in the day. Kind of like what they’re doing for Clarement with “X-Men Forever”. Can you imagine Stern picking up on ASM and writing Spidey on past the clumination of the Hobgoblin arc (done properly this time)? Seeing Stern finish the above-mentioned Cap series he was plotting? Hell, they can have DeFalco and Co (not meaning to bust unduly on DeFalco here but it’s just coming out that way) come in and do his version of the God-awful Clone Saga – why not bring Stern back to finish up these storylines which are much more fondly remembered by the fans? Marvel could consider it non-continuity – I don’t care. I’d just love to see what Stern would have done with these storylines had he been allowed to run with them w/o interference.

The “Roger Stern Forever” line of Marvel Comics. I’d put those on my pull list for sure.

The more I know about Jim Shooter the crazier and more of an asshole he sounds. No three issue stories? Why on earth would he have that crazy edict, especially with Claremont doing most of his best work in three issue stories and X-Men being Marvel’s biggest seller by far?

Hmm, I wonder if Claremont had anything to do with the changed ending to X-Men vs. Avengers. He was always a huge advocate of reformed Magneto (obviously, since it was mainly his idea) and may have had enough clout at the time to convince the higher ups not to return Magneto to villainy once he caught wind of it.

I know that once Acts of Vengeance rolled around and Byrne had Magneto back to full-fledged villainy in Avengers West Coast, Claremont wasn’t happy about it (so I imagine he wouldn’t have liked it any more back when X-Men vs. Avengers was released) but the tides were changing at that point and Claremont didn’t have the pull he once did, so he just had to deal with it as best he could.

Also, thanks for the Stern-centric column! He’s one of my favorite writers too.

I would like to hear more about the creation and abandonment of this “no three-part story rule”.

X-Men vs Avengers: The last issue was changed because Marvel decided to have Magneto as a “good” guy for a while longer and… is that it? I somehow expected more conflict behind it.

Stern and Byrne leaving Cap: Ok, now THIS had more behind-the-scenes conflict than I expected! Btw I can see why the no-three-issue rule may have been put into effect- many such stories were just unnaturally extended beyond their logical span just to fill up issues. Of course that is utterly short when compared to this era of decompression and year-long “limited series”. :P

Superman for Earth: another yawner. We didn’t even find out what happened IN the story! Overall, not that interesting a column (for me) this time. Brian’s other recent columns (like the one about Misty Knight) were more interesting.

I would like to know about the 3 issue rule, too. Was it sales-wise? And sing me up for a Stern Forever line!

@Sijo: IMHO, the lesser of two evils is not mandating length. Some writers do best with longer stories, some with shorter. Some can write any length and let the story decide the length instead of artificially stretching or shrinking it.

Thanks for featuring Roger Stern, one of my favorite writers. Byrne, Miller and Simonson got all the press, but Stern and Mantlo were really the bedrock of ’80s Marvel. (And Stern’s Superman is really underrated, too)

Years ago — I don’t even remember on what forum, nor in what context — I was participating in some sort of discussion thread and I had occasion to casually mention the period when Jim Shooter’s rule was in force re: “keep multi-issue stories down to a very bare minimum” — and then I was stunned when some other fan loudly insisted I didn’t know what I was talking about. He stated for a fact that there had never been any such policy at Marvel!

(He wasn’t just saying, “I hadn’t heard of that — how sure are you? What’s your source?” Asking me to back up what I had mentioned would have been perfectly reasonable — either I could or I couldn’t! But he didn’t do that — he merely assumed that if I mentioned any “ancient history” from Marvel which didn’t ring a bell in his memory, then that automatically proved that he was right and I was wrong. As you might guess, this attitude grated on my nerves . . . just a bit.)

I think I replied to him by cut-and-pasting, from John Byrne’s website, Byrne’s version of the story about how he and his buddy Roger Stern had abruptly ended their very promising run on Captain America right after Shooter started trying to enforce a “Thou Shalt Not Extend Thy Stories Across Two or Three Issues” edict. I don’t recall if the guy ever bothered to reply to me at all; much less to acknowledge that just because he had not previously heard of a Shooter policy about keeping those stories short and self-contained didn’t prove there had never been such a policy!

Now I discover there were actually morel complications in the situation than I had heard of before? Well, live and learn! Unlike that other guy I mentioned, I work hard to avoid the trap of assuming I already know everything about matters of interest! :)

Oh man, I forgot how utterly great those Captain American issues by Stern and Byrne were!!

I was a small kid in hospital when my uncle brought me a stack of comics off the newsstands – one of them was CA # 251 and I loved it!!

As much I enjoy the new stuff there’s just something about that era…

Matthew Johnson

March 12, 2010 at 1:27 pm

I’m just guessing, but I suspect the three-issue rule had to do with the vagaries of newsstand distribution. In the days before the direct market was dominant, readers couldn’t count on the same titles showing up at the newsstand month after month. Shooter may have reasoned that it was possible to read and enjoy the second part of a two-part story (especially considering how exposition-heavy comics were at the time, in part for the same reasons) but the last part of a three-part story would be too inaccessible (and too frustrating for readers who caught one or both of the first two parts.)

Matthew, I think that is a logical assumption. I remember getting comics from book store in the mall because there was no comic store in the little city I lived in. I missed G.I. Joe #50 thanks to it never showing up (and I checked every day for two weeks!).

Dalarsco you clearly know very little about Jim Shooter then…

I keep waiting for Roger Stern to come back to Marvel full-time. He did do a single issue of Spider-Man recently, and I’ve heard he is scheduled to do another one soon, but I really think he should write something on a regular basis. (Actually, he would be a good choice for one of the Avengers series.)

Avengers vs X-Men is one of my all-time favorite mini’s and it was great finding out why #4 was such a departure from what went on.

Another great column!!!

Sign me up for Roger Stern Forever as well. He has to be the most under-rated mainstream comics writer.

Thanks to John Trumbull for reminding me to feature this one! And thanks to George Khoury and Roger Stern for the information!

You know, I OWN that Roger Stern-George Khoury interview, and I’d forgotten the aspects covered in there about Roger’s Captain America departure. I guess I just heard the 3-part story a lot more, so it stuck in my mind better.

BTW, I’ve met Roger and his wife Carmella a few times, and they really are two of the nicest folks you’d ever care to meet. I highly recommend picking up the George Khoury interview. Roger even has nice things to say about Jim Shooter in it — And how often do you get to read that? :)

Roger Stern is a great writer. His ’80s run on the Avengers was one of the best in that title’s history. I’d love to see him back as a regular writer on a Marvel series. Can’t have too many Avengers books, right? AWESOME AVENGERS, by Roger Stern and Mike Zeck? How about it, Marvel?

Matthew Johnson said:

“I’m just guessing, but I suspect the three-issue rule had to do with the vagaries of newsstand distribution.”

Not really, Matthew. The vagaries of newsstand distribution had little affect on the growing Marvel in the 60s. These Captain America books came out in 1980 and 1981 when the direct market had become fairly well established.

I actually wouldn’t mind re-reading the X-Men vs. Avengers mini now, just to see this turn of events…

Oddly, I have a copy of Superman: For Earth. In German.

My mother took a trip to Vienna when I was in high school. Knowing I collected comics, she brought back some comics in German for me: that, an issue of DuckTales, and an issue of Batman Adventures.

I’d forgotten all about that until this column.

“But then they discovered that the Earth Day Network (the folks who oversee the use of the name, Earth Day) actually wanted a sizable amount of money to license “Earth Day” for the comic”

…This is nothing. Those treehugging freaks proved they’re only in it for whatever graft they can skim off the donations back in 1990, when they tried to pull that “licensing fee” trick on TV and Radio stations. They wanted anyone airing PSAs, bumpers and ID tags related to the “celebration” of Earth Day to pay a per-usage fee. The Earth Day bozos were told that this wasn’t the way to capitalize on free publicity, and when the respective news departments started investigating, the Earth Day organizers threw the blame on this one sacrificial marketing goon and quietly hushed up the matter.

Bottom Line: As it’s been since it was first foisted on the American cultural framework as a hippie’s disrespect towards the Moon Landings, Earth Day is the *real* hoax….

I loved Stern’s retcon work on the short-lived Marvel Universe series. Anyone who can take Bloodstone, Dr. Druid and Makarri, plonk them into Marvel’s fifties Giant Monster period and make it work has my respect.

Dude, I love Roger Stern, but I have to side against him (and majority oppinion) on the Magneto stuff.

Magneto was (and is) mostly a X-Men character, not an Avengers character. Furthermore, Chris Claremont was responsible for making Magneto the prominent character he became, developing the character for years. It’s absurd that Roger Stern should have the right to come in and change the character the way he pleased, against Claremont’s wishes, who not only was the X-Men scripter at the time, but the man most responsible for making Magneto a big name.

I guess it depends on how editorial felt at the time, Rene.

Personally, I think it was a mistake to ever handle Magneto in such a faux-heroic way. The man never had a proper reformation path (and it did not help that he was handled in such an horribly ambiguous way during Secret Wars I).

As for Jim Shooter – boy, IS he an unfairly treated man. I guess most people forget how much editorial policies fell without him.

Not really, Matthew. The vagaries of newsstand distribution had little affect on the growing Marvel in the 60s. These Captain America books came out in 1980 and 1981 when the direct market had become fairly well established.

I am fairly certain that the direct market wasn’t the one and (basically) only outlet for comics in 1981, however. Maybe it was that trend that Shooter was trying to reverse, btw.

I know I had never heard of comic-book stores or direct market in 1981. I don’t think the direct market existed outside of large cities at that time. (And even today I don’t think comic-book stores exist in most smaller cities unless there is a college nearby. I think the switch to direct market sales was probably the biggest mistake ever in the comics industry. They’ve cut themselves off from most of their potential customers.)

Luis, Magneto was a sympathetic villain from early on in Claremont’s run. I don’t think Claremont ever wrote a real bad guy Magneto. And the Kirby/pre-Claremont Magneto was just another evil mutant. I much prefer Claremont’s interpretation and feel he takes precedence over Stern on this issue. Maybe Claremont took things too far in making Magneto taking Charles’s place at the school? Perhaps. He is more interesting as an antagonist, but a noble one. I don’t like it when they make him a despicable hypocrite as in Stern’s proposal and in the movies, and to a much greater extent, under Morrison.

Agree with you about Jim Shooter, though. I see him as the man responsible for some of the best years of Marvel Comics.

I grew up in a small town, and there were certainly no comic book stores in 1987, when I was 11/12. I can still remember where I was when a friend told me about the current X-Men comics with Magneto as the leader; though I had never bought a comic I was familiar with the X-Men, probably because of the Spidey Amazing Friends series. Magneto was the bad guy…how was that possible?

We went down to the local convenience store, and I bought a copy of X-Men vs. Avengers #1. I was completely hooked from then on. By the time the 4th issue came out I was a voracious comics reader, but even my young self knew that last issue was…off. I’m not surprised now that there was an editorial change. Glad to learn more about it, and I may have to dig up those books (yes, I still have them).

The Soviet Super-Soldiers, featured in the first issues, were a cool group to me at the time as well btw.

“Bottom Line: As it’s been since it was first foisted on the American cultural framework as a hippie’s disrespect towards the Moon Landings, Earth Day is the *real* hoax….”

That’s why I celebrate Moon Day instead.

I love how you can always count on in response to any story from the 80′s at Marvel someone calling Jim Shooter an asshole.

Me, I’d love to have Shooter back at the helm at Marvel (or at DC) kicking ass and taking names. Deadlines would be met! Crap stories would get cold filed! Shitty creators wouldn’t keep getting asisgnments just because they were cronies! Editors would actually EDIT.

I really like the Roger Stern legend, because it jives with everything I’ve ever read about Roger Stern. He tells it straight up, and doesn’t try to trash out anyone else to puff himself up. His Avengers run is one of my favorites in the entire history of the title, and I hope to see him writing more.

[...] Comic Book Legends Revealed #251 | Comics Should Be Good! @ Comic … [...]

@Rene: I’d have to disagree with you about Claremont’s not writing a “bad guy Magneto.” Go back and reread “(Uncanny) X-Men” #s 111-113 (from 1978) and see if you think that Magneto is very sympathetic. Granted, there are a couple of moments that the reader can feel for Magneto, but he’s mostly written at his most ruthless. In the process of kidnapping the X-Men, he throws Mesmero from a “flying” circus wagon. He holds the X-Men as prisoners in chairs that reduce the X-Men’s motor skills to that of infants (which largely serves to rob the X-Men of their powers) and Magneto’s base is below a magma chamber under Antarctica. When the X-Men manage to get freed, Magneto manages to escape and doesn’t give a moment’s thought about letting the X-Men perish as the magma starts breaking into the base. (Even before that, Magneto really pummeled the X-Men in #104 when he’d been restored to adulthood.)
Magneto didn’t really begin a real reformation for several more years (X-Men #150 from 1981) after he nearly kills Kitty. The realization that he was responsible for almost killing one of the very people his crusade was intended to protect was IMO the first story to put Magneto on the path to reformation.
Of course, Claremont only wrote Magneto a few times in his first few years on the X-books which started in 1975. Magneto made a very brief appearance in #103 then took full stage in #104 (both issues from 1977), then showed up for the storyline in #111-113 (from 1978) and he was then absent (except for a cameo in #125) until issues #148 to 150 (from 1981). I would imagine that part of Magneto’s redemption came simply to revitalize the character. After nearly 20 years as a villain–and one who’d too often been little more than a one-note villain (even Dr Doom was pretty multi-faceted and most of Spider-Man’s villains by 1981 had been given a fair degree of sympathy)–and the advent of a new breed of “evil mutants,” it just seemed about time to take a new look at Magneto.

Yay, Roger Stern! He really is a great dude, and I see him twice a year (for, jeez, probably 15 years) at Ithacon (in Ithaca NY, natch, and the spring show is April 24). In fact, I own a huge chunk of Superman and Legion books from the 90s that I guess were comp copies he got from DC that he sold to benefit the Literacy Program. His wife is a nice nice lady as well. Man, I sound like I’m 6. But he is a great comics writer, and one of the first comics I ever bought was the first Hobgoblin (a reprint, at least), and I stutteringly told him that one time. I get all tongue tied around, well, most people, but FAMOUS COMICS WRITERS especially. I think he must be the first pro that signed a comic for me, the die cut cover of, I think, Action 687 where the Eradicator as Superman after Doomsday first appeared. Wow, now you all know more about me than you cared to.

At the fall Ithaca show, Jim Shooter was there as well, and I got to listen to him tell some stories about the Marvel days, and asked a few questions that he was gracious enough to answer.

Anyway, I should email you some of the stories he was telling about Claremont, etc, Brian. Maybe they’d fit into a column someday.

A quick (and inexact ) defence of Jim Shooter :

There are 30 Marvel entries in CSBG’s “Top 100 Comic Book Storylines” of which 11 were under Shooter’s watch as Editor in Chief.

Why is the 2nd legend marked True/False? The quote from Stern does not support True. He clearly says it had to do with not wanting to lose his 6 issue continuity bonus and experience readership fluctuations because Jim Salicrup was afraid of missing deadlines and wanted a fill in issue. Stern doesn’t even mention the “3 story rule”, only that he wrote the next 3 issues to get ahead of the game. To call it True assumes Salicrup was enforcing a Shooter 3 story rule, but again Stern makes no mention of that. Seems like a flat out False to me…

Let’s all just sit back and revel in the irony of the tight intellectual property control a bunch of ex-hippies maintain over the name “Earth Day”.

Brian, thanks for another great column– I never get tired of these, and I’m always guaranteed that at least one of the legends each week is going to hit a comics sweet spot for me or pique my curiosity about a comic or creator I’m unfamiliar with. And when the whole thing is devoted to one of my favorite comic writers like Stern, it’s even better! I’d second the call to put him back on an Avengers title (as long as we’re still going to have multiple ones, why not spread the writerly wealth?), or anything full time– his recent Spider-Man work and his pitching in on MARVEL: EYE OF THE CAMERA was great.

@Ed– Stern actually got the chance to tell his Hobgoblin story in a miniseries from the late 90s called SPIDER-MAN: HOBGOBLIN LIVES. You can read about it here:

http://www.spiderfan.org/comics/title/spiderman_hobgoblin_lives.html
(warning– slight spoilers in that link)

It was collected in a now-out-of-print TPB, but the back issues aren’t hard to track down.

Magneto was (and is) mostly a X-Men character, not an Avengers character. Furthermore, Chris Claremont was responsible for making Magneto the prominent character he became, developing the character for years. It’s absurd that Roger Stern should have the right to come in and change the character the way he pleased, against Claremont’s wishes, who not only was the X-Men scripter at the time, but the man most responsible for making Magneto a big name.

I dunno, Stern had a lot to do with that as well. Claremont fleshed out/complicated Magneto’s back story a lot, but it was Stern who first took the helmet off when he and Neal Adams were doing the book, and it was partly his groundwork that Claremont built on. And man, that’s a run that holds up beautifully today. I loved Claremont’s classic X-Men run at the time (when I was 10 or 12), but I actually enjoy the earlier Thomas/Adams stuff more when I look back on it today.

Joseph – You are right. The first Magneto appearances in Claremont’s run are among the issues I’ve re-read less often. And I only read them long after I’ve familiarized with the later, nobler Magneto, so my impression of Magneto as sympathetic earlier on must have been colored by what I knew would eventually happen.

And dude, infantilism in the X-Men! I’m always amazed at how Claremont was able to fit every single one of his sexual fetishes in a mainstream superhero book.

Buttler – Aren’t you confusing Stern with Roy Thomas? I don’t think Roger Stern ever wrote Uncanny X-Men. But he edited it.

@Ian, etc.: I had heard general gripes that he could be tyrannical, but chocked that up to writers and artists with an axe to grind. Then I heard about him publicly dissing Manapul, hence the fill-ins at the end of their Legion run because Manapul quite justifiably refused to work with the man. And now I hear that he gave a sudden edict of a certain story length, and generally being a dick towards Stern. IMHO, people give the EiC too much credit whether good or bad. The 80s didn’t kick ass because of Shooter, they kicked ass because of Byrne, Stern, Claremont, etc. I’ve honestly never heard anything nice about the guy other than he writes a good Legion and Avengers, which I’m inclined to agree with. The keeping deadlines on could be considered a nice thing about the guy, but not if he was as big a dick about it as I’ve always heard.

That Captain America reveal left me a little confused. We lost Stern/Byrne Captain America over a fill-in and a continuity bonus? And Byrne started the work on the issue? This during the days when fill-in stories were commonplace. I say, take the fill-in, but I’m just a fan.

Magneto going bad again was also extremely confusing. In X-Men Vs. Avengers mini-series seemed as if Magneto was going to face some of his crimes against the world, that he moved on from. So they change the ending of the X-Men Vs. Avengers Mini and Magneto’s a good guy. Then Magneto completely screws up with New Mutants, works with Hellfire Club and the Inferno demons. He finally admits to all of the bad things he did with the New Mutants.

Then in the X-Men, Moira givens him a stern talking to and Magneto says, “If I’m bad again, the heat is off the X-Men,” (paraphrasing). So Magneto is just playing bad. Then Ralph Macchio slips in a story where we see Magneto’s true origin and Magneto kills a young mutant. So obviously Magneto is going bad, again.

Then Acts of Vengeance comes up and Magneto saves a few lives, does some Nazi hunting and reconnects with his daughter, who lost it. The Scarlet Witch wants to kill the Avengers and Magneto just sends the Avengers back to earth safely. Magneto didn’t do anything bad during. I was like “what gives.”

Then of course, in the X-Men, Magneto went to painful process of his past forcing him to go bad.

No one was one the same page with Magneto, not even the X-Office. It seemed like they wanted Magneto to be the X-Men’s Submariner, but Magneto’s crimes were too large be able to play both sides.

I thought that Magneto’s reformation in the ’80s seemed kind of forced. He did show some remorse in Uncanny #150, but that was only for hurting a fellow mutant. Earlier in the same issue he had killed a large number of Russians without a second thought. And then there was a flashback story about a year later that showed him as a good guy fighting a nascent Hydra, but he was already showing sociopathic tendencies. But then, all of a sudden, they tried to claim he was a misunderstood good guy in Secret Wars, and the X-Men defended him against the others, despite the fact that he had never shown any friendliness towards them in any way (other than not killing them and running away in #150). To me, it looked like Shooter had decided that Magneto should be a good guy, or at least a semi-good guy, and was trying to force it into Marvel continuity as a fait accompli. I don’t think Magneto actually appeared on the X-Men’s side in their own book until just before #200.
I also noticed people looking at Magneto as a possible hero in the letter pages of X-Men and New Mutants at about the same time as Secret Wars, so maybe there was already a movement amoung fans to rehabilitate him, and Shooter just wanted to go along with it for commercial reasons. (I no longer have most of the mutant issues from that time, so my memory might be a bit hazy.)

Was Shooter the one responsible for changing the end of Avengers vs X-Men, or was DeFalco already taking over? I know the series came out right around the time of the transition.

Crap I can’t believe we lost a Stern/Byrne Red Skull Epic because of a stupid comic editor.

As I understand it, Stern’s planned ending for Avengers vs. X-Men wasn’t as simple as Magneto becoming a super-villain again. The idea was that, feeling he was backed into a corner, he’d secretly use mind control technology to get the world courts to pardon him for his crimes. After that, since the X-Men had no knowledge of what he’d done, he’d remain in their ranks. He would still be their ally, only now he’d carry the shameful secret of what he’d done to achieve his freedom. With that ending, Claremont would have been able to continue writing a heroic Magneto over in X-Men.

Anonymous above was me, not that I comment enough for that to mean anything.

Loved this one! Roger Stern is a great guy, he was one of our regulars at Mid Ohio for years, and one of the highlights of working the show was getting to hear his stories about the industry.

Peter Woodhouse

March 14, 2010 at 2:03 pm

Going back to the direct market thing – wasn’t Dazzler #1 the first Marvel DM title as ‘dry run’ for others – and wasn’t until 81 (maybe a year either side)?
At this stage I could still readily buy US stuff via the post office in the adjoining village, or newsagents in the nearest town (Tring, Hertfordshire, UK), a couple of miles away, or any WHSmith – the UK’s general newsagents/bookseller/stationery chain – or any train/bus station, etc.

Like my buying habits, even in the UK, at the time of Stern/Byrne Cap, 99% of comics were bought via the newsstand, surely? Comic shops being the main method of buying new stuff in my experience wasn’t until mid-80s when I went to London with a mate.
P.

The Shooter edict was probably based upon his ideas about reader-friendliness and new audience accessibility: have the books come out on time and make it easy for the reader to get up to speed (Frank Miller has a story about Shooter using Little Miss Muffet to teach storytelling fundamentals). While the guy may not have the pleasantest rep, the ideas and policies he pushed as EiC made and continue to make a lot of sense.

And Woodhouse is right on the Dazzler thing, it sold 400 000 copies exclusively to the direct market. It’s my understanding that the DM was pretty well-established in major markets by 1980.

The 80s didn’t kick ass because of Shooter, they kicked ass because of Byrne, Stern, Claremont, etc. I’ve honestly never heard anything nice about the guy other than he writes a good Legion and Avengers, which I’m inclined to agree with. The keeping deadlines on could be considered a nice thing about the guy, but not if he was as big a dick about it as I’ve always heard.

Byrne, Claremont and Stern remained at Marvel long after Shooter went away… but the sharp decline in the quality of the output is still there and IMO hardly a coincidence. And Byrne is at least as much a dick as Shooter ever was, if one considers the evidence that he himself provides regularly at his boards (to say nothing of that sorry Star Brand run).

Keep in mind, also, that to some extent it is an Editor’s responsibility to reign in his subjects’ drives. It is no coincidence that the legendary Claremont/Byrne partnership could hardly ever be remade without Shooter – the two men have strong creative visions that don’t always walk together.

I thought that Magneto’s reformation in the ’80s seemed kind of forced.

You and me both, sister. Not so much due to whatever Magneto himself did – in that respect I think it was fairly believable and even realistic in the back-and-forth and complexity – but the other characters’ reactions were quite unconvincing, particularly in Secret Wars. The X-Men look very bad in that title, trusting Magneto a lot for basically no reason.

He did show some remorse in Uncanny #150, but that was only for hurting a fellow mutant. Earlier in the same issue he had killed a large number of Russians without a second thought. And then there was a flashback story about a year later that showed him as a good guy fighting a nascent Hydra, but he was already showing sociopathic tendencies. But then, all of a sudden, they tried to claim he was a misunderstood good guy in Secret Wars, and the X-Men defended him against the others, despite the fact that he had never shown any friendliness towards them in any way (other than not killing them and running away in #150).

Worse yet, Magneto made a point of failing to recognize the rights of non-mutants – and proudly maintained a would-be hero stance. It gets even worse, since the Beyonder apparently agreed, or at least was fooled by his self-image.

Why on Earth the X-Men simply went along – to the point of even choosing to leave the heroes to join forces with Magneto – is very much a puzzling question. WAY to seed trust among mutants and non-mutants, Charles…

To me, it looked like Shooter had decided that Magneto should be a good guy, or at least a semi-good guy, and was trying to force it into Marvel continuity as a fait accompli.

It certainly reads that way. But I have a hard time believing it was Shooter who wanted it so. It was most certainly Claremont instead.

Maybe Secret Wars just happened at the wrong time as far as Magneto (and X-Men) characterization was concerned?

I don’t think Magneto actually appeared on the X-Men’s side in their own book until just before #200.
I also noticed people looking at Magneto as a possible hero in the letter pages of X-Men and New Mutants at about the same time as Secret Wars, so maybe there was already a movement amoung fans to rehabilitate him, and Shooter just wanted to go along with it for commercial reasons. (I no longer have most of the mutant issues from that time, so my memory might be a bit hazy.)

Probably that is so. Grudgingly so, I would guess, going by his comments on the original plans for Dark Phoenix (a very similar situation).

Was Shooter the one responsible for changing the end of Avengers vs X-Men, or was DeFalco already taking over? I know the series came out right around the time of the transition.

I wonder.

Was Shooter the one responsible for changing the end of Avengers vs X-Men, or was DeFalco already taking over? I know the series came out right around the time of the transition.

It was before DeFalco took over.

Since I don’t know who made the official call, I can’t say that it was definitively Shooter who determined that Magneto would not be a bad guy, but whoever made the call it was while Shooter was still Editor-in-Chief.

Always good to read more about Stern, one of the best writers during Shooter’s reign at Marvel, and one of the best Superman writers since the reboot in 1986. I’d love to see him get another regular series again.

As for Shooter, he’s demonized by a lot of people, but I think folks who have been in a position of responsibility overseeing others have some more sympathy for him and his decisions. I didn’t like the fill-ins much, but I would have liked reprints in the middle of on-going storylines even less. Still, it’s a shame we didn’t see more of the Stern/Byrne Captain America.

It looks like Superman literally has his panties in a bunch on the “For Earth” cover.

[blockquote]I actually wouldn’t mind re-reading the X-Men vs. Avengers mini now, just to see this turn of events…[/blockquote]

Just had the HC treatment: http://www.amazon.com/X-Men-Avengers-Marvel-Premiere-Classic/dp/0785138099/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1268765267&sr=8-1

[blockquote]Personally, I think it was a mistake to ever handle Magneto in such a faux-heroic way. The man never had a proper reformation path (and it did not help that he was handled in such an horribly ambiguous way during Secret Wars I).[/blockquote]

Magneto disapears for a long while following UXM#150. In fact I think Secret Wars is his next appearance – checks – no Vision & Scarlet Witch 4 (which is a HUGE issue for the character) and “God Loves, Men Kills” are first.

Then Secret Wars

Then New Mutants where he’s onboard Asteroid M when Warlock destroys it (accidentally) coming to Earth. His recuperation is shown in following New Mutants issues till he rescues some of them in NM29 which leads into Secret Wars II #1 and his joining the X-Men team c195.

So nearly killing Kitty, finding out Wanda & Pietro are his children, finding out he had a grand child and being mortally wounded flow into the process of becoming the X-Men leader (as Claremont had planned – isn’t that in the book ? – tho CC was going to kill Charles)

And he was rather good in the X-Men. It all goes wrong when he goes back to being a villain (see also: Sandman & Juggernaut)

[blockquote]Magneto was (and is) mostly a X-Men character, not an Avengers character.[/blockquote]

Magneto does have history with the Avengers – 47-49 and 110-111 – so it makes sense for them to be involved with this series.

Rene wrote: It’s absurd that Roger Stern should have the right to come in and change the character the way he pleased, against Claremont’s wishes, who not only was the X-Men scripter at the time, but the man most responsible for making Magneto a big name.

Claremont wasn’t the one who made Magneto a big name. That was Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.

I wonder if something similar happened with X-Men/FF. That was another great story with a flaccid ending. “It was all Dr. Doom…he was lying”. When it made much more dramatic sense for A. Dr. Doom to actually cure Kitty (and for the X-Men to have a debt to a tyrant) and B. For it to be obvious that the smartest man in the world knew that the trip would turn them into the FF (and Ben into the Thing), or at least know it would be a real possibility (and for them to find a way to get past that). It felt like it ended with “Hey, we can’t have Reed Richards painted in anything but the best light!”.

As for Magneto, I think there was a lot of inconsistently with the character at the time (I mean, he was a hypocrite, for doing to normal people what he didn’t want done to mutants, or was done to him), but I don’t know that Secret Wars was one of them. I don’t think Magneto was placed with the heroes because he WAS a hero, but because that’s how he saw himself. Or how he saw his interests, anyway. His reasoning for doing things was a seemingly good cause, even if he choose horrible methods, and the Beyonder split them up by that reasoning. The same reason Galactus (who had some cases of self-doubt in that era, after being confronted by humanity) was with the bad guys. He wasn’t sure his acts were for the greater good anymore, or more selfish reasons. Yes, Dr. Doom may think it’s in everyone’s best interest to have him as their leader, but it’s readily apparent it’s from selfish motives. Magneto’s motives aren’t selfish, his methods are just abhorrent.

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