We are so amazed to be able to bring you not 1, not 2, but THREE hours with the legend Jim Shooter! Up first is part one where Jeff sits down and chats with Jim about his early career with DC and Marvel!
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Jim Shooter Talks his early career at DC and Marvel (Part 1)
[00:00:00] Jeff: Hello, listen. As a spoiler country today on the show, we have the legend, Mr. Jim shooter. How’s it going,
Jim Shooter: sir? Very well, thank you. How are you?
Jeff: It’s the truth. You are definitely one of the great legends of comic books, especially over the last 30, 40
Jim Shooter: years. Well, let’s see, it’s been 56 years, so I guess I started being a legend.
Jeff: I don’t want to age you too much by saying, but once again, I it’s, it really is a true honor to talk with you. I am definitely the envy of everyone as part of the country for the opportunity to be the one who talks.
Jim Shooter: That’s great. Thanks.
Jeff: So, I guess the question, I guess everyone will be wondering is why comic books?
Why do you love
Jim Shooter: comic books? Well, I, when I was a little kid, I learned to read from comics. Everybody says that it’s true with me. And I love comics, but kind of outgrow them when I was eight. They were, they all seem the same after a while. And then I rediscovered them when I was about 12. [00:01:00] And there were these new fangled, Marvel comic books and they were really good.
And I think that’s, I was started reading them again and And that’s when I decided, Hey, you know, I want to do this. I want to make this stuff. And I did.
Jeff: So, one thing I’ve read about you is that you have a tremendous work ethic. And I read that was connected to your father who was known to be a very hard work in the steel industry.
Is that, is that kind of where you get your work ethic from?
Jim Shooter: Yeah, I think that whole generation was like that, but my father was exceptionally like that. My mother worked hard too. You know, it’s just what you do. It’s it’s when you, when you grew up in, in the time I did, you know, that was, that was how you were taught and that’s what you do.
Jeff: I heard that there was also at some points during your early life, there was some financial difficulties in the steel industry and that kind of embedded with you the need to keep working hard and keep being motivated.
Jim Shooter: Would that be [00:02:00] correct? The thing is when I decided to write comics, it wasn’t on a Lark.
It wasn’t. Oh, well, I think that’ll be fun. I mean, my family needed the money. My father was a hardworking guy, but there would be steel strikes or their layoffs and stuff. And. And you know, so sometimes he’s out like mowing people’s lawns and, you know, fixing their cars and stuff, trying to make ends meet.
So it was a problem. Money was a problem. And I thought, well, I, you know, they’re not going to give me a job in a factory. You know, I’ve done 12, you know, there, you know, and, and there’s no job I could get. I thought it would make a difference. I had a paper route, big deal. You know, a few dollars a week.
But so then that’s when I thought, Hey, somebody gets paid for making these comics. Maybe I can do that. You know? And so I, I literally studied them for a year, not just reading, studied them, try to figure them out, try to figure out, well, how does this work and what do you do? And what’s normal on it.
And I, I, I got to the [00:03:00] point where I thought, you know, Hey, I think I, you know, I think I’m ready, you know, ready, you know? And and so I, I wrote a script and Saturday in, and, and my intention was to sell it. I didn’t a lot of people when they send in scripts for fun, you know, in, in the first issue, they.
They, they kill aunt may and they cure Ben Grimm and the, you know, tried to play it by what I thought were the parameters that governed you know, the, the, the regular comics, you know, they don’t change everything. And one issue, they don’t, you know, they didn’t do a No, it was no sudden moves, you know?
I mean, you built to something and that, that, so that’s what I, I did. And it was good enough to pass muster. They I did three when I was 13 and they bought all those and publish them. And then the editor called me and said, I want to use you as a regular writer. I’ll start giving you assignments. And he did.
And so I worked my way through high school. He didn’t know how old I was 400 miles away. I lived in Pittsburgh. And so it was all over the phone, you know, [00:04:00] or mail. And so he didn’t know. And he found out eventually put your mother,
Jeff: well, I mean, did you have to sign contracts? I mean, when you want to be old enough to sign for yourself, would you.
Jim Shooter: No, not at all. And, but no, there’s nobody, you know, there, the back of the check had this little thing on it that said the DCO and everything. Okay. You know, I don’t care if they were paying me, you know, and It’s it, it really, it saved the house, you know, I mean, the money that came in that helped us out a lot.
And so, you know, and I, there was no contract or anything like that. No one. I don’t think people were as conscious of that stuff back then. You know, and like I said, it did, I knew what I was doing and I was fine with it.
Jeff: So I’ve had an intern that you said for a year, you studied comic books.
Now, where did that knowledge come from to know what to look for and how to go about actually doing
Jim Shooter: it? What I did was I read a lot of comics. I read that some of these new [00:05:00] fangled marvels and I read the old, the season. They hadn’t changed much since I was eight years old. No Superman is still fighting Lex Luther and, and trying to keep his secret identity hidden from Lois lane.
Batman is fighting the joker in the penguin on top of giant toothpaste. I mean, nothing had changed really. And, and, and so I read some of those anyway, to figure out what’s wrong with these. And then I read the ones that stand road to see like, well, you know, how else could you do it? And, and I started to get, I started to notice patterns.
I started to notice that in most books, you, in all books and those days you, you were introduced to the characters, they, they showed you who the sky was, you know, what he could do and stuff. And you got to you, so you felt comfortable knowing, you know, who it was. I also noticed that by the way, an uncle Scrooge, uncle Scrooge, every issue started off with him doing something cheap or miserly.
So now I know who uncle Scrooge is, you know, so, so, [00:06:00] I, I noticed that and I, and. And I noticed that usually, you know, okay, we see what the situation is for them. And then something comes up, something happens, something comes along, you know, Dr. Doom transports them to the micro world or something.
I mean that something will change. There are nice situation and an adventure in Susan and near the end of the book there is a climax and a lot of times it was a surprise or it was a very traumatic. Climax and, and and then they ended. And, and what I really noticed about Stan stories is that they didn’t just get the hero back to the same place, the hero, he learned something, he made a friend, he, he he saw something in a different way or, or he was, you know, happier or whatever.
You know, and I started to notice that I, that I see that’s what makes these better. I think one of the things that makes these better and so anyway, I’m just, just comparing and figuring out I was a smart kid. I, you know, I, I, I was like you say, I [00:07:00] was pretty industrious and I put, I put my mind to it and I, I did the best I could.
Jeff: Now I’m just kinda curious in school, were you equally as studious as you
Jim Shooter: were with comic books? Yeah, I was I was you know, top of the class kind of kid. And I also, I took I took some advanced classes. I took algebra when I was in eighth grade. I took I crammed a six years of science into four years of high school.
I, I I took all the math. They offered from geometry up to calculus probability and statistics. I even took a special after-school science class called biology research. And you know, we, I was, there was a smart kid. I mean, I, I was in junior high school there was a local TV show was, it was local in Pittsburgh means the whole tri-state area.
Gotcha. It’s almost 4 million people in yours, you know, and then potential viewers. So, they had this thing, it was like college bowl, or it was for junior high school kids, [00:08:00] you know, all this fall where they have colleges competing, answering questions. It’s like a game show. Well, they had that for high schools or junior high schools, and I was chosen for the team and we won it all.
But just because me, I mean, we won the championship, but we had some really smart kids and I held my own. And you know, I mean, I was, I was, you know, a smart kid.
Jeff: So we also reading things other than comics at the time, like, were you reading novels and other things as
Jim Shooter: well? Well, I always had when I was maybe four and a half, five years old, but I learned to read, my mother would read to me comic books.
Like uncle Scrooge or something. And she would point at the words as she read them and she’d read slowly. Okay. After a little while, I didn’t need mommy anymore, you know, I mean, I could read them myself. And then I started reading everything. I could lay my hands on. I mean, [00:09:00] I, when I was I don’t know, like second grade I was reading a 20,000 leagues under the sea had to go to the dictionary a million times.
But, but my mother also taught me that, you know, you don’t know a word, you look it up. And so I was like reading all that stuff. And my mother was a sucker for salespeople. I mean, you know, she just had difficulty turning someone away when they knocked on the door and they want her to sell you something.
So she bought a set of encyclopedias. In 1960. So I would have been, you know, nine and it was a world book, encyclopedias, a lot of pictures, really nice set of encyclopedias. I read the entire set covered, covered to cover and you know, cause I was, I liked to read and you know, when you get a kid reading, I mean then they they’re reading soup cans and cereal boxes and newspaper they’re they’re, you know, it just becomes instinctive.
It becomes habit.
Jeff: So I always asked us to a lot of my guests because I’m, [00:10:00] I’m a high school English teacher. I teach at a therapeutic high school, but I teach high school. English is always my theory. And I always see if I can verify it or not. That re reading understanding one form of literature helps you better understand and become a better writer in all other forms as well.
Would you agree with that with you? What
Jim Shooter: you were doing? Absolutely. The bedrock is the same. Okay. You know, there’s different forms, you know, screenplays, comics, novels, whatever, but the bedrock is the same. The bedrock is story and, and, and story, you know, what’s a story. Well, Aristotle. Tried to figure that out.
You know, 300 years, 300 some years before the birth of Christ. And he came up with a, with an idea of what it was, and he wrote a book called poetics. And in that book, he, he basically, he didn’t invent this. He didn’t decide that he observed it. Right. And in that book, he explains that, that what I just said before that, that a story is a complete journey.
It doesn’t have to be a [00:11:00] physical journey. It’s a complete journey. We find out who the guy is. We, we, he starts somewhere. Something will inevitably happen. It could be an opportunity. It could be a disaster, could be anything, you know, but that compels him to take a journey. It could be a mental journey. It could be, you know, developmental journey.
It could be physical journey. It would be a battle. You don’t know. And that journey carries him to some place where there is a, it puts forces in conflict and it takes him to a place where those forces in conflict. One of them has to win or somehow the conflict has to be decided leaving him in a new place.
Okay. Every novel, every TV show, every movie written by anyone who has any clue, what they’re doing. You will look for it’s there. It’s always there. The only place you won’t find, it always is in comics, because for some reason, comics, writers never learned their craft. [00:12:00] They just, they don’t, you know, they kind of think like, it’s, it’s all, it’s just free form.
You just do what you want. And try trying to get them out of that mindset was one of my biggest challenges when I was the editor in chief of marble. I mean, They used to, I used to say, there’s no ending to this. And I said, what’s a soap opera. You know, it just goes on and on. I said, no, people buy one unit of entertainment.
There better be a story in here, or enough of a story to bring them back, to read the end of the story, you know, internet issue or two. Yeah. And, and you know, they blink their big cow eyes at me. And I kept explaining it. And finally, I started convincing people and, and, and guess what sales take off and all of a sudden, we’re 70% of the market and, and, you know, marching from victory to victory.
Now I didn’t have to explain it to Archie Goodwin. He knew I didn’t have swayed Larry Hama, explain anything to Larry. He gets mad at you. I don’t have to explain it to Louise or Danny or, you know, I mean, I had a great crew and so I had a lot of allies [00:13:00] and we were all preaching the same stuff. And, and then the younger kids learned from.
You know, Louise and like Anna Sandy learned from Luis, she, she taught Louise taught NSA. So I mean, we, all of a sudden we had this great crew of people who really understood what a professional writer does. And professional storyteller too, is that, which is a slightly separate subject. But so I had that, that was our, our key to success and it applies to everything, you know, it had nothing has changed in the storytelling business for 40,000 years.
You tell a good story and tell it well, that’s it. Then you win. I,
Jeff: I find that what you said very fascinating. Not only did I find it true, but like I said, fascinating, and I, and I do wonder about comic writers. If it is at times either a fear to let the character grow, or as you said before a desire to be.
The name of that [00:14:00] character meet and immediately, you know, make the big break. You know, I made this character, I, you know, break, you know, break news, you know, killed the character, save the character. Something massive has to happen instead of worrying about one story at a time,
Jim Shooter: you know, I mean, I basically, I had a, I met a guy, one of these shows and he was saying he met how much he liked the comics.
When I was at Marvel and a couple other companies. And and he said, when he said, when I was there and he said, he said, when you were there, Jim, you said it was all about stories. He says, now it’s about events. You know, it’s like somebody dies. It gets married as a new costume. And that’s what the, that’s what it’s about.
And it got, that gets pretty tedious pretty quick. So, so no, I, I, like I said, I, I miraculously assembled the best crew of people ever, ever gathered to, to work in comics. It wasn’t quite a miracle because everybody else was dying. And so a lot of those people were unemployed, therefore available, you know?
And so Marvel was hanging on by a thread, but at least we were hanging on. Yeah. And then [00:15:00] when I had all these great people together, No. I mean, okay, Archie COVID, everybody wanted to work for our, to go when people who didn’t know me and maybe he didn’t like me, for whatever reason they work for Archie, a lot of people just, you couldn’t lined up to work for Larry Louise.
Everybody wanted to work with Louise. You know, so all of a sudden people start showing up. I made the benefits better. I paid people better. I got all kinds of rights, things going. And guess what, you know, word gets out, you can make money at Marvel. Things are good at Marvel and all of a sudden more people show up and, you know, you look around every place is a genius.
You know, my, my art director, John Romita, I mean, you know, hall of fame, Grandmaster,
you know, I mean, and, and the thing is It just, that was, it was it was a good time. I said, this is, this is how you do it. This is what works. The people I brought in, most of them said, yeah, we were always told to do something stupid, but no, that’s what we want to do. And [00:16:00] they did. And taught people, nobody teaches anything.
And I don’t think it’s that the writers these days are the comical creators. These days there’s so much. Well, I want to. No, I think you froze, sir,
Jeff: sir. I think you you definitely froze clear on my end.
Jim Shooter: If I have an instant hit, I want to, you know, Sorry. Can you
Jeff: hear me? Oh, sorry. You froze for a good 10, 20 seconds. Sorry about that. No, no, it could’ve been on my end. I’m not sure. Every once in a while, my internet might have had a weak connection or,
Jim Shooter: Hey, just a little thing just popped up and said you have an unstable connection. Yeah. Oh, I don’t know what that means, but if you want to ask me something again, then go ahead.
I’ll rant some more.
Jeff: No, I, I, you know what, I think the greatest thing, I think for anyone who’s interested in comic books who either wants, and let’s face it, most people who recom books deep down in their heart wishes, they could write for con or do the artwork for comic books. I mean, I mean, I can’t have the thing.
Does anyone who really comes and [00:17:00] goes, eh, I don’t really care to do any of that stuff. Everyone deep down is like, Give me one shot. Do you just want, and I can do this.
Jim Shooter: It’s, you know, it’s like, like Wally would always used to say that music fans love musicians. He said, comics, fans are waiting for us to die so they can take our place.
You know, there was, there’s some truth in that. And I’ll tell you why I’ve thought about that. A lot. Comics is the most collaborative mass medium. It used to be a mass meaning because. You know, first of all, people don’t like, you know, get out of college and think, Hmm, what can I do? I know I’ll do comics.
No, most people grow up their whole lives wanting to work in comics. Okay. And that’s one. So basically we’re all fans. It doesn’t matter which side of the desks you’re on or, or, you know, which side of the equation you’re on. We’re all fans. And, and if you, you know, if we go to conventions, we meet each other.
There are that we read letters, we send letters. We, you know, when now that there’s the internet, we’re all over it, you know? But it’s it’s, and it’s very [00:18:00] collegial. I mean, If you see Steven Spielberg in a restaurant and you want to go over and talk to him about his latest movie, his bodyguard is going to dump you in the street, right.
Just can’t wait to talk to people, you know, and they can’t wait to talk to us. And often you could change sides of the table would make any difference, you know? So, yeah. The thing is I think that, you know, there there’s, there’s a real element of Know, there’s a CACO Effie’s, you know, there there’s a there’s this drive that we all seem to have.
And, and, and part of that I believe is because when you’re reading one comic book it’s a pretty intense and engrossing experience. It’s the only visual medium. That’s a one sense. Medium is eyes only. Okay. It’s it, it is you don’t, you’re not fed the story. You take it at your own pace. Okay. You’re you’re involved.
Your, your brain is involved. You’re not, you don’t have to do a whole lot. You don’t have to try to keep up. You [00:19:00] don’t have to, you know, try to figure things out because you can always go back to the previous page. So, so they, you know, it’s like, I think that, as I said so many of these comic book creators, They don’t know their craft because I think they were so involved and what they were reading, whether it was the fans that they, they, they think it’s just, it just comes.
They think it’s just, you know, they’re, they, they’ve been having a conversation, a personal one-on-one conversation with a comic book for years, and now they think it’s just their turn to talk some more. I don’t know. I, all I know is that, is that getting people to understand. You know, everything about comics is that is good, is still good.
If you know your craft, it’s better. You know? And, and so, we we taught people and, and I don’t think that happens very much today. I don’t think, I mean, Oh, PS, not only did I read and study the comics outside, ended up working for Mort Weisinger. He [00:20:00] taught me an awful. Okay. Can I also worked with all these all-time great guys while they would Gil Kane, Curt Swan.
Kurt’s 20 striving these long letters on big sheets of vellum, you know, like cluing me in and things about storytelling, little drawing, tips and stuff. And so I mean, I’m, I listened to every word these people said and wrote some of the town, you know, and then I go tomorrow when I’m working with Stan, I’m on the phone with Jack three, four, five hours a week because I was editing his books.
For two and a half years, I was on the phone with Jack for. Four or five hours because he’d sent in one book a week. Okay. That’s how fast he was written in pencil. And, and, you know, and also who else that I have around me while he would, I had a huge honor meter. I had, you know, all these great people, Archie Goodwin, maybe the best ever in our business.
I mean, he was terrific. I learned from these, but also learned from the people work for me, you know, like, I mean the freelancers, I pick things up from Claremont. I say, I haven’t thought of that. You know, and Miller, when he came on, he was a new kid. He didn’t know anything. Well, but he’s great. And [00:21:00] so he very quickly caught on and I’m teaching them storytelling and, you know, story structure and so forth.
And then all of a sudden he gets it and he takes off and now I’m learning from him that, you know, I thought that’s an interesting way to do that. You know? So, you know, it’s just I think you you have this relationship with comics and if you put a little effort into it, you can learn a lot and you put a little more effort into it and listen to people who know what they’re doing.
You can learn a lot more. I sure listened to every, every all my elders, you know, Stan taught me so much. That was great.
Jeff: Is there something, is there a common. Asset that great writers have in common that when you see someone at the beginning of their career, you can say that one’s going to be something special, that guy or girl,
Jim Shooter: whatever.
Yeah. I think that, you know, Here’s the thing is, is like you, [00:22:00] you, you can teach someone how to say something. You can teach them the language, right? You can teach them literary devices, you can teach them all the story, mechanics or stuff like that. You look for the ones who are smart enough to grasp all that.
But you also look for the ones who have something to say something, something, because you can’t teach that, you know, if you, if you don’t have that, that That insight and, and, and, and, and, and look at things in an interesting way. And, and, and it’s not like it’s not, my I’m not talking parables. I’m watching morality plays.
I’m talking about what do you have an interesting point of view on the human condition? Well, tell me about it. And if you read the best guys, It’s not just Dr. Octopus is tearing up the city’s Spider-Man has got to go fight him. It it’s there there’s something about the human condition in there. Not, not to preach anything, but just because the writer thinks what would a guy like [00:23:00] Dr.
Octopus really be like, what would he say? How would he do that? You know? And they, they, they don’t just dance the puppets. They, they, they make them into people. And you look for a guy who has that kind of instinct. I haven’t when Frank Miller came in, he couldn’t draw very well. You know, you want her to be an artist.
Drawing was not ready for prime time. But you know, you sit with them for 10 minutes and you realize this guy is sharp and he’s got something to say, You know, and so we gave him a shot and he blow it and I told him so, and he said, give me another chance. And I did, and then he. He would bear down and do it.
And then he just like got better and better. And then now, you know, now he’s a genius.
Jeff: Well, I find it kind of, I think it’s great that you look for people with something to say. I find that especially nowadays, it seems to be a debate in the industry, whether or not calm books are [00:24:00] political.
Jim Shooter: And I wouldn’t argue that they’re they’re, they they’re proud of it.
There are, they’re always talking social justice warrior stuff. You see, the thing is what they’re missing is they forgot what business are in. They’re in the business of entertainment. They’re telling stories. All right. And the thing is, if, if, even if you, as a reader, agree with everything that there all the social justice stuff that they’re preaching, even if you agree with it, they’re doing propaganda.
And even if you agree, you don’t want to read, no one wants to read propaganda. It’s just, you know, it’s like, yeah, you’re fine. You know, can we have a story? No, that’s where they’re going wrong. It’s not, that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m not talking about something to say, being, you know, teaching people, social justice, you know, Stan used to stand at a lot of social justice stuff and his work, Stan and Jack and Steve and all those guys.
I mean, they, they, they, but it was built into the character. It wasn’t, it wasn’t the, [00:25:00] the writer or the company talking at you. It was if the character had a point of view and therefore was more human. And that, that to me is, you know, if you can get the, find, somebody who thinks that way, you can get somebody to think that way.
You know, that’s dynamite. So
Jeff: I think it’s interesting that being that you were a writer who wrote so young and you basically were a child savant in the comic book industry. I mean, in the teenagers, 13, 14, 15, 16, that’s younger than I was. Any other writer I can think of who gets her start? Did it, was it difficult to be taken seriously by your editors and artists who were much older than you that you had to work with and how did you manage that?
Jim Shooter: Well, on the contrary, I mean, like, my editor more wiser. He didn’t know how old I was. He was just judging the work, you know, and a comics writing, creative work and sports are meritocracies. Nobody wants to see your diploma. They want to see how high you can jump or how well you can show me your work.
You know? So, [00:26:00] so he, he he thought it was fine when he found out that I, at that time I had just turned 14. After you said, put your mother on the phone when he got me back and he said, he said, well, you know, you can do it. You know, I’m fine. You can work for me and I’m going to treat you just like everybody else, which meant he was going to yell at me a lot.
But so, okay, so now I’m working with these guys like Curt Swan. And, and Al Pacino and, and Wally wood and okay. They helped me. They, they, you know, they were the, first of all, I used to do layouts for everything, for these great artists I’m doing Lounds right. And they followed my Lance. They respected the kids lands.
Wow. And, and cause I mean the old pros, they were, they were professional. They, they, you know, they, they are respected, you did their jobs and. And like I said, I listened to them. They they’d help me out. I mean, they’d the car would send me letters Al Pacino sometimes they’d make little, I lay something out, just a little wrong and he’d fix it and, you know, tell me like this.
And I say, [00:27:00] okay, I see, I see you. This guy belongs over here. So, stuff like that, you know, I mean, I never got any disrespect or any grief from anybody except Bob Haney. And Bob Haney make jokes with me, like, like, because my style was obviously influenced by Stan. You know, I was like the very pale limitation of Stan and Haney used to call me.
DCS Marvel writer. Oh, here’s our Marvel writer. You know, men are kind of insulting, you know, I was fine with me. They thought I was the Marvel writer. I thought that was pretty good.
Jeff: I mean, considering, especially Marvel has a long, the longer history of something better than DC. If you’re that’s their compliment right there.
Jim Shooter: When I started DC, you know, ruled the roost. And Marvel, actually, they had some problems with their distributor and they ended up the only place they could get distribution was through DC’s distributor, which is owned by the same company, national periodical publications. It was called independent [00:28:00] notes and independent nos didn’t want Marvel comics because they already had DC and they had enough comics, you know, but as a favor to Martin Goodman the people at the national periodicals.
Allowed him to publish. I think at first he was allowed eight titles a month and that grew over the years partially because those eight were doing so well now in the sixties, Marvel startup lo but grew and grew and grew and grew at the same time. DC went down and down and now okay. And and so Marvel was eclipsing them.
And I was I was on the Legion of superheroes. That was my regular monthly book. And that was the only DC book that was holding its own. It sold a steady 500,000 copies and issue the whole time I was on it. And there was a statement of ownership, a postal statement of ownership. In my, the first issue I did also statements of ownership would tell you what the average sales per issue were and what the [00:29:00] sales of the issue nearest to the filing date, where you had to do this every year to keep your second class mailing and every magazine.
In the last issue, I did have adventure comics of Legion, superheroes. They had us postal statement of ownership, and it was the same. They were both 500,000.
Jeff: That’s what was unheard of now, nowadays they, they can, they do it. They have was kind of considered, there’s a percentage of drop that’s considered you know, the standard attrition is almost unheard of our comics.
Just keep hold of their number through a run, even a short run. It’s almost
Jim Shooter: unheard of. Yeah. I mean, I think that that also those sales are, are like a 10th of what they used to be when I was in Mauro. I think our line average is off near 300,000 and now if they sell 30,000, I think it’s a big hit.
Especially if you’re not easier marble, if anything, if you’re not using of anything over 10 and you’re killing it,
Jim Shooter: publisher’s you, you check there. I read the, the ICV two sales figures sometimes. Yeah. And you [00:30:00] check those and, and you know, some of these are selling 500 copies, 600 copies, some of these kind of ones, and even the DCS and marbles that are similar are 8,000, 10,000, 15,000, you know, It’s, it’s very sad in a way.
And and of course now, you know, I mean, because both companies are just in ruins right now in DC and Marvel and for awhile diamond, wasn’t distributing it, you know, any new comics DC gone through some. Alternative distributors. And I think they dropped out of that. So I guess it’s online or nothing.
I don’t know. So, so,
Jeff: well, when you were writing for DC, you created one of the greatest villains for Superman, in my opinion, the character, the power site. Oh, thanks. Yeah, it, it, the character has endured. And I guess when you think about the great Superman villains, parasite has definitely now broken into probably the, your top five or so you have Luther, you probably have Zod now is not considered when the big ones.
Parasite is probably in the big ones and brainiac, and then that’s probably debatable. Who’s the other ones are,
Jim Shooter: yeah. You say the [00:31:00] thing is when I started writing comments, I mean, like. One of the things I noticed about Stan’s books is a lot of new characters, you know, new villains all the time. Every issue of Spiderman was new villain, you know, and that made it a big deal when he brought back Dr.
Octopus, that was a big deal. So I wanted to do that as much as I could. So my first issue that was published, I introduced four new Legionnaires. One of them turned out to be a bad guy and try to keep creating villains. And when Mark Weisinger asked me. To write a Superman story. Cause I would do the Legion every month, but I could do more than one a month.
So I have time. And then he asked me to do world’s finest, Jimmy Olsen super boy in his own title whatever, you know, super girl’s story. So, yeah. Anyway, he asked me to do to do a Superman and saw that I got to create a new villain because you know, everybody’s tired of Lex Luther and who else she got the toy, man, you know, give me so, so I, I was in biology class.
It was in ninth grade. I’m sitting there trying to, trying to think about some villain for Superman and we’re [00:32:00] studying parasites. You know, and so I came up with a thing and, and, and ended up a lot of people have carried it a lot farther and that’s fine. You know what I mean, characters, you know, Are there two to grow and it’s not my character.
I mean, do you see owns it? There always, always did. And so they, they, they can develop it as they please, but I’m glad it’s still around. I’m really it’s nice.
Jeff: Yeah. It must be daunting to create a new villain for Superman because you have a character who, in some, depending on the era, Has literally been shown to move a planet.
Now you gotta create a villain that can be opposing and threatening to this character. What is, I mean, is there a trick to creating something that is worthy of the character of Superman?
Jim Shooter: Well, yeah, it’s harder. And I think that these days I’m, I’m sorry to say, you know, so many other writers in the last decade or two.
And went up to the task. I mean, the only way they could make interesting stories about Superman was to diminish him, [00:33:00] to make him less powerful also to make, give them all these flaws. They couldn’t think of interesting stories or if somebody was really noble, And, and so he, he was petulant, he was angry.
He was vengeful. He was violent. You know what, not Superman right with you guys. I mean, more wise I was spinning in his grave. So Julie because that’s not, that’s not who a Superman is and it takes, it does take some, some work. It takes a good writer. To realize that that no, you, you, there are ways that you can give a very, very, very powerful and noble character, a lot of trouble.
And so, I made my shot at it, you know, and, and other people have done some, some great stuff. The a lot of it these days though, are, like I said, they, they, they, they, I think the only way they can make them make good stories is to diminish the guy. And that’s not, he is supposed to be the, the best the iconic hero.
And so, you know, get a better writer, DC.
[00:34:00] Jeff: You think the modern writers are too cynical to properly write
Jim Shooter: Superman, maybe? I, I think You know, I, the thing is Stan Stan started doing characters who had flaws and stuff like that. And Stan was interviewed so many million times, but a lot of his answers kind of devolved into sound bites and so stands standard soundbite.
He was, he would say heroes with problems, right. And that’s not what it was at all. And I tell, I told him this to his face and he laughed and he said, you’re right. I said, it’s heroes with lives. That’s what it is, heroes with lives. And, you know, so, so, okay. But I think a lot of people were influenced by Stan and Jack and Steve and all those people and, and they started, you know, like they, they took it the wrong way.
Heroes with problems and heroes with flaws rather than heroes of fives. And so it’d be almost became like, well, what’s the most shocking thing I can do to a Batman. I [00:35:00] know I’ll break his back, you know? And it, it got into this thing where they were looking for shock value and, and, you know, the, the, the, the building burns, the baby dies.
The villain gets away cackling and Batman’s legs are broken. And, you know, I, that. To me, sorry. After a few times I’m not shocked anymore and it’s just depressing. And I want to read a story about Batman. You know, I want to, I don’t want it to be about, you know, is, is villain in that man’s horrible, you know, pathetic failures.
No, no, thanks.
Jeff: It, it’s kinda funny. I mean, you may disagree with me or you may not, but it feels like when the best interpretation is who Superman now. Is basically captain America in the Marvel movies. I mean, he almost feels like a Nobles character who is a purely good person. And I feel like Superman has lost that aspect of him.
Jim Shooter: Nah, well, captain America it’s supposed to be that way. And and a Superman should be that way [00:36:00] only on her. Greater scale. I mean, I used to, I used to argue with people all the time about, you know, trying to tell them who these characters are. And one of them particular that they had trouble understanding is captain America.
There’s a lot of writers either wanted to make him captain Republican, captain, current administration or, or, you know, captain you know, well now he’s a Nazi, you know? No, no. Right now he’s he’s, he’s the champion of the ideals of, of freedom and Liberty and all forms. The ideals of America. He doesn’t fight for an administration or a government or no, he’s he’s the champion.
He’s he’s as much like the, he’s more like a statue of Liberty there. He’s like what these guys. Make them into again, Superman, the same thing. Think about it. Here’s a guy who, as you say, can move planets, right? If he wasn’t the noblest person around, he wasn’t the noblest person ever. [00:37:00] Then every single country in the world would have their secret anti Superman program going on just in case he decided to, Oh, say Cinco seven fleet on a whim.
You know, because, you know, I mean, if he was, if he was a flawed character, he would be, you would be a bad guy by definition, you know, if so, so you either play him the way he’s supposed to be played or that you better explain to me why, or they’re not, you know, trying to build anti Superman weapons in every country on the world.
Jeff: I mean, well, one of the one of the great Superman stories that that you are a part of. You wrote with Curt Swan, the Superman
Jim Shooter: flash race, Superman, what does Superman
Jeff: flash race? I guess the person was just such a fun idea and it’s, and it’s been repeated so many other times in comic books and TV shows and the cartoon and, you know, and even at the end of, I don’t know if you watched the DC movies that came out, but at the end of the justice league, They have to show at the beginning of that race, it was such a fun.
I did. Did, was there editorial [00:38:00] telling you, you can’t have, you know, like how, you know, the bait on who would be the winner, how that would all work out?
Jim Shooter: Well, what happened was more Weisinger called me up and he said he said he said, I need a Superman story. You have any ideas? And I immediately said, can I use the flash?
And he said, I can arrange that. See, because when I was like about six. That’s when the flash appeared in showcase, that’s when they revived the flash and he first appeared in the showcase DC showcase. And I loved it. I thought it’s really cool, you know? And and we had, of course the showcase, it was, he didn’t get his own series right away, I don’t think.
And by the time he did, I wasn’t paying much attention anymore. But but I really liked him at the beginning. So a little six year old Jimmy. Okay. And his little, his little notebook that he would draw. And I used to, I used to think Superman super has super speed. Flash has super speed. Who’s faster.
And I would draw little figures of them running, you know, and maybe Superman has a little head here and fast, a little heavier. So I had that in the back of my mind since I [00:39:00] was six years old. And then when Morris says you have an idea, yeah. Give me the flash. And and he did. And as you said, but the only more, almost never interfered with me editorially.
I mean, he, he, he left me alone mostly and he used to brag about, you know, I never had to change a word, you know, kicking right. Any character or stuff like that. Not to me. I heard about that later from his assistant Nelson yell at me. But but anyway the thing is one thing I occasionally would get instructions.
And in that particular story, Mort said, it has to be a tie. I said, why? I think the flash should win because it’s his only power, you know? And, and no more says, no, no. He says a flash wins. The Superman fans will be upset or Superman wins. The flash fans will be upset. It has to be a tie. Okay. So I engineered some way to make it a time.
No, it did my little 14 year old best, but
[00:40:00] Jeff: it, because I think their point was that the flashlight really is, is one thing it’s like, can you just give him the one thing, if you don’t mind, does everything else get flashed? The one thing that, you know, that that’s his deal.
Jim Shooter: And also I tried to look for like, Things that were unique to the character.
I mean, Superman is super speed, but the flash can like vibrate through objects and you know, do some other tricks that Superman can’t do. And so I reasoned that, well, maybe then, you know, he, he would win. And it was the same one. I had to write the Superman Spiderman book. Okay. You got Superman and do everything right.
As Spiderman, who was a much smaller scale, but he has spider sense. And so Amanda Superman does it. And so when it comes down to which, which is, which thing is dangerous, this or this, you knows. Okay. And, and that was well-established by Stan and Steve a million times. So, so I used that. And so he, he is, you know, on par with, with [00:41:00] Superman, even though Superman is far more powerful you know, they both contribute and equally I thought so, you know, I I try always to do that.
I, I get wrote a Legion suvera story that never got published. Cause it was years later, book was canceled where I was trying to think of ways to use a chameleon boy and Mark Wade had established that when he changed it to look like something, if it was physical characteristics, he can take them on like he, he couldn’t have x-ray vision legs that were boy.
But he could, you know, he could be very, you couldn’t be super weird or anything. All right. He couldn’t you know, th the fire radiation of any form, but, but he, if he was in an armor creature, he would be armor, you know? Anyway so, Mark way to establish that. And so I thought, well, that’s interesting.
And so I had a situation where there’s an attack on this city and here’s colossal boy. And if he grows, he’s just a bigger target, you know, because they’re all [00:42:00] armed with, you know, heavy weapons and Reagans and stuff, but chameleon, boy he finds this basically a suit of armor is police protective gear.
Right. Futuristic police you know, body armor essentially. So the copies that Marco had also established that he could, that he could shift mass as well as shape the copies that, and he becomes armor for colossal boy and grows with him. And now it’s armored colossal boy, and he was able to beat the bad guys.
So, I mean, I kept trying to find like interesting things to do with the powers or what somebody could do or, you know, cause I’m, you know, I say all the time, even in the movies, people don’t think it through, you know, a Yoda can raise a, a whole entire M X wing fighter out of a swamp. Okay. But. [00:43:00] Jeopardize who were fighting and these metal eating things that are getting on their wings and eating the metal.
There’s not they to do about that, you know? Okay. ETS, you know, recovers is recovering from being almost dead. The kids in the bicycles are trying to get them back to a spaceship, right. I was like five kids or something. And there’s zooming along and dodging the police and going, you know, off the road and stuff like that.
And then eventually they come to a roadblock they can’t get through. And so what does he T2? He flies them all up into the air because Spielberg warranted that shot of the bicycles going over the moon, which later became his logo for Amblin entertainment. Spielberg wanted that shot, but think about it.
If ITI can fly himself and five kids on bicycles. Way up in the air. Why does he need the kids? Right. Good point. So, so, you know, I mean, like, and to me, I’m always seeing this stuff and thing again, you guys call me, I’ll tell you, give me a [00:44:00] call. Uh I’ll I’ll get them flying across the moon. I’ll make it make sense.
Jeff: Well, that’s why, when you mentioned like the flash and the only thing he can do is run fast. I think to myself, he’s the most under appreciated superhero. If we can run that fast, the amount of impact you can hit something with is actually, probably because one of the strongest characters, probably in all the comic books at that rate, but people always use that.
I mean, when you ever, you, you watch CW, the flash, you haven’t punching some guy like a thousand times and you just stand still. It’s like. Do you know how hard those hits probably are landing at that speed, you know, but they never use
Jim Shooter: them properly. True. On the other hand, if he did hit something at that high speed needed like vibrate through it, wouldn’t he shatter every bone in his body.
Jeff: point. I always
Jim Shooter: assumed protective Josh Josh Sweden in one of the vendors, things that would add Quicksilver and there He played a pretty well, I mean, cause the super speed is a tremendous power. Even if you’re captain America, how do you fight a guy who who’s like, if [00:45:00] I wrote that, I’d write it differently.
But captain America is my mate. He’s my guy. Okay. Jack Kirby drew that and gave it to me. That’s I actually I’ve got it at an auction. Gave it to him. He gave it back to Jim, a good friend. Oh, that’s awesome. So guess what’s on my wall, man. I’ll tell ya. So
Jeff: when was it a difficult decision to leave DC for Marvel?
Jim Shooter: No, like I said, more wiser is yelled at me all the time and you know, it made it very unpleasant, you know? I mean, when I was younger and I was like 13, 14, well, 14, 15. I just, you know, I mean the phone would ring and I was sure it was more than I’d be terrified. He’s gonna yell at me some more, get all white knuckled and stuff.
And then when I, I guess started getting a little older, I started realizing no, he does this to everybody and that’s just his Mo and if I read it, he kept calling me more on you. [00:46:00] Stupid. Why do you do this? Can’t you spell? What’s this supposed to be? Cause I did layouts, you know? And I used to, I used to That’s the end of some of these phone calls.
I actually said, look, maybe I just can’t do this. You know, you have to get somebody else. And he’d always say, no, I’ll give you one more chance. You’re my charity case because he knew our family needed the money. Right, right, right. Oh, that’s sweet. So, anyway, so I, then I saw him being, you know, nasty to other people, Nelson Bridwell in particular, I thought, you know what?
I that’s just, that’s just what he does, you know? And they wouldn’t keep sending me these, these checks if I was that bad, you know, so I sort of let it roll off my back. I said, it just, doesn’t a star pleasant, you know, and I was going to go to college and I asked more to, if it was something easier that I could do besides the writing.
Yeah. They wanted me to move to New York and I had 400 miles from Pittsburgh to New York. I was 18 and no money and you know, [00:47:00] it just didn’t work out. But and then years later when Maura was gone, I did work for DC again, not because he was gone, just because that’s when they asked me. And I did some work for Marvel and the rest is history.
Jeff: I’m going to pause this for one moment. I’m having a weird computer issue, so just give me a minute, see if I can figure it out and we’ll see if we can continue. That’s fine. It’s gonna be a displace a disc space issue and it’s kicking me stopping the recording every so often. So
Jim Shooter: I’m trying, just let me know what, what to do.
Jeff: Want to get in touch with someone who knows more than I do to figure out what what’s just happened. Just give me one second because. It’s never happened before. Tutors, I really hate technology. A lot to be honest with you, when you have a podcast
Jim Shooter: I’ve learned, I’ve learned to do what I do.
I have to do. I can use word pretty well and a few other things, but,
Jeff: I’m going to mute myself just one moment. I’ll make a quick phone call and see if I can figure out how to fix this. Okay.
Jim Shooter: Take your time. [00:49:00] [00:48:00]