And it’s our conclusion to our epic chat with legendary comics creator Jim Shooter! Be sure to check out parts 1 and 2!
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Jim Shooter Part 3
] Jim Shooter: I mean, the thing is like, I, I understood exactly. I mean, and you know, something, I love this, you know, one of the reasons they, they were going to wimp out is because they cared so passionately about. The character, you know, I mean, it’s like, it’s so funny with these guys. They, they, you know, they’re, they’re, you know, they’re, they, they talk about, well, my characters would be like your characters.
All right, fine. But you know, I want them to feel that way. I want them and you’d walk down the hall and we’ll use this example. I’ll tell you walked down the hall and there’s two full grown. Adult people arguing at the top of their lungs about who’s stronger Colossus or Spiderman. [00:40:00] No, not a one on one.
And you say, you know, grow up and then the other hand says, no, don’t no don’t care that much. Right. So the fact that they originally just had a hard time giving up Phoenix to me meant, boy, these guys are investing, you know, they, they, they care and, and look what they did. They did. Really job, that that one issue took it excellent.
From high, middle to top of the industry where it stayed for 20 years. Pretty good, huh?
Jeff: Yeah. And you know, and I, I think it’s great because that the writers love the characters and much the good writers love the character so much as the readers. And I will say one of the coolest things that that I’ve been able to do in my life.
I wrote on comic con I, you signed a print of beta Ray bill of Thor. I think it’s number three 37 for me. And it also signed a comic book of a first issue of solar for me as well, which was fantastic of you, Eric. Really appreciate that. Thanks. And beta Ray bill for me is, is always been one of my favorite characters in [00:41:00] Marvel.
I mean, if you, if I had to make a top five beta Ray bill makes it to the top five I would love to discuss the the, how it came about with you. And well, Simon sent a little bit. So how, how did you help shepherd that
Jim Shooter: storyline a little bit? Not much. I mean, basically Sales on fall were starting to crumble a little bit.
And I went to the editor and I said, what are we going to? We have to do something to, you know, you fight a fire, you know? And he said there’s nothing you can more, you can do with Thor. Everything you can do with Thor has been done. You know, I said, I should fire you right now. If that’s what you think you can’t work here.
Right. You know, And he said, well, what do you want me to do? I said, well, we gotta figure something out. You know? So word spreads that we’re looking for a way to improve. Or so Walt called me, he said, Hey, I hear you’re looking for someone to do a Thor. And I said, yeah. And he said, he said, I want to do it. I said, Whoa.
Okay, sure. Let’s see a Simon. So I’m not [00:42:00] sure. So, so, so anyway, talk to the editor and of course he was thrilled and anyway so then waltz, you know, I mean, I kind of, he gave me sort of a vague overview of his plans or the editor told me, or whatever. Anyway, I thought, you know, he’ll do fine. And yeah, he’s in that certain class of people like Frank Miller became and, and, and Walt was, you know, and, and also Archie, Larry, that class of people where they know what they’re doing.
Th th they don’t need me to tell them anything. Right. You tell Larry something and he’ll get, you know, peeved at you. But you know, they know what they’re doing. And so the thing is, Oh yeah, check on, check on it. Sure. Of course. They might even, they can make them escape, but leave Milan, you have other way find Miller’s a force of nature.
Stay out of his way, you know? And to the extent that I could, I did so with Wal, I by basically just stood back and applauded. When that first issue came out, it was great. I mean, I read it, I checked it out. I just [00:43:00] signed it out before I went. I thought, wow. If this thing, if we don’t people don’t like this, I’m doing this all wrong.
So, so of course they did like it, it sold it because it was welded, it sold in a little better than usual on the direct market. Okay. Sold out instantly. And so all the direct market store guys are running around to the newsstands, buying them off the newsstands, then selling it for a marked up price. You know?
So the newsstand sales on that issue were like world record, like 80% or something, you know, then, you know, and, and then it kept, you know, kept going and it, Walt kept it going and everybody, it just was, you know, one of the best storylines we ever did. It came to me one time. He stuck his head in the door.
He didn’t even come in and he said, Hey, Jim, I’m going to turn Thor into a frog. Okay. Well, how bad could it be? I said, okay, anybody else has said they were turning Thor into a frog? I would have had [00:44:00] some issues.
Okay, fine. You know? Well, I
Jeff: think what I liked most about the beta Ray bill run with Thor is that it really did focus on the idea of worthiness. And there’s a lot about throwing the
Jim Shooter: hammer. I liked that too. And, and beta Ray bill was just, your you’re right. Is such a good character. He was, you know, that struck me right away that, that a wall, you know, nothing there happened by accident.
Well, no, what he was doing and he did it perfectly. And I thought, boy, this is good. This is so good. I felt the same way about a lot of things that we did. I tell you, they go across my desk and I just think. Man, this is I’m in the middle of something. Wonderful.
Jeff: And, and it’s just, and I really liked the fact, like I said, that when it did happen, it was never seen before that another character could wield Thor’s hammer, then someone else could be considered worthy [00:45:00] of Thor.
I mean, nowadays I think they played it up to me. They have too many characters who have now carried the hammer and I, and I, at the time it was a such a big deal and meant a lot about
Jim Shooter: him. Yeah, that’s, that’s just it. I mean, sometimes they’ll come up with something good and then they’ll run it into the ground.
I don’t think that happened while I was there, but you know, it, it does happen sometimes, you know, it’s like one time it had here, the one thing that happened, we as writer and Peter David and Peter David’s really good. Okay. What He was riding a, the Hawk. Okay. And he was new. It was brand new. I mean, he had been, he worked in the sales department and then finally somebody gave him a shot at writing something.
It was pretty good. And then he kept going, became a writer. But at that point he was still new to it. And he was playing this permutations game. It’s like every issue who’s going to be the whole, this issue, you know, you know, Betty you know, Rick you know, and then I want two [00:46:00] Hawks over the gray one and well, this one and doc Samson, and, you know, and, and I, I, I talked to the editor about it, but I mean he just kept getting better and better and you know, let them go, let him go.
Jeff: Well, I think it, I think what the issue like as writers get to. Hook on a good idea. Maybe, I don’t know, there’s a laziness to that, or is it just an enthusiasm to try it your way and in your version of it?
Jim Shooter: I think it’s both. I think that you know, some people latch onto an idea there and act like they’ll never have another one.
And you know, and some people Yeah, they get lazy or else, you know what, there’s more often than lazy, especially if it’s pretty good guy, is that, you know, you’re doing a serial medium, and you need to come up with something like now that’s why Chris at one time went to lunch with his editor and he was like, he was stuck for a storyline.
He just, you know, he was doing several [00:47:00] books, he’s got all this stuff going on in his head and he just couldn’t pick out something to the eczema. I said, you know, a good guy, a bad guy, and, and, and Chris, that’s all he needs. That’s all you can give him the least, little bit, you know, he didn’t need me to, you know, help him.
He just needed somebody to give him a kick in the right direction. And, and so, so I think that that’s part of it is that pressure to come up with something every, every month and See it now, but there’s a way to handle that. Okay. And when we talk about being invested in the characters, stuff like that, Chris was so invested and so possessive, he could not bear the thought of anyone else doing an issue of the X-Men.
Okay. So for 17 years that I know about it, He did every single issue. And I remember nights, I remember mornings where he would come straggling and having been up all night for maybe the second night in [00:48:00] a row and he’d deliver it in time. Okay. I mean, so, so, you know, Chris put a pressure on himself that wasn’t there now.
Okay. Who did it? Right. Well, all right, Chris, that way, but, but who did it better? Walt? Walt asked after he was doing Thor for a little while. He told me, he says, he’s in a month or so a couple of months I need a break, you know, cause he was doing a lot of work. And so he gave us, he told us, you know, this issue through this issue and we need somebody else and I’ll help them.
I’ll you know, we’ll, we’ll make it good. It’ll fit. And And so we had plenty of time to find some pretty good people to, you know, it’s hard to fill Walsh’s, but we, we, we got those issues were planned well repaired. Well, we’re ready on time. And nothing rushed about them with the best people we could find and the best, best stories we could do.
I say we, [00:49:00] I was just signing them up, but, but you know, I mean, so he did it the right way. He planned it. And so we were able to cope with it. In a very, you know, productive and useful way. But I think some guys, you know, it’s like she doesn’t have to come up with a story this month. And they there’s no pick a pick a movie they like and do a version of it.
Jeff: Well, one interesting thing that I, that you did though, was extremely ballsy. In 1989, you founded value in comic books with, with a group of investors. That that was, I mean, that was before the nineties, boom went, every company tried to come with a new thing of 89 was before all that. I think that’s, I think that predates image by a year or two, if memory
Jim Shooter: serves as well.
Cause I, I helped image get started. We were already in business at Valley. And then the image guys left Marvel and they were starting their company. And one of the guys called me up. One of this was like seven of them. One of them called me up and he said, Hey, Jim, how do you get lettering done? I [00:50:00] was like, Hey, they were artists stated no, all the production stuff.
Right. And so I, I gave him, I told him I answered some other questions and then they wanted to know some technical production stuff. And I said, I’ll tell you what, I’ve got to put my production manager on the line. JJ Jackson. And she was on the phone with him for a long time telling him, you know, about separations, the printer, who to call, you know, what you needed to know what you needed to do.
So we got the, we helped get them going, you know, and then of course, once they’re going, they’re selling millions of copies, but yeah, I mean, what happened was with value in is okay. I, I I had an ugly partying with Marvel. They were selling the place. I was. Unhappy with them. It’s kind of railroading the people who had built the place because they were, they, they cashed out the pension plan.
They took, took away the 401k. They viscerally did our health insurance. They, they, they kind of stopped some of the programs that I did. Some of these incentive programs and stuff that I did. The [00:51:00] Walt came in here with a, with a French edition of star Cyrus. He says, how come I didn’t get my foreign royalties for this?
I said, I’ll look into it. So I went upstairs and the financial officer, it wasn’t one of the owners, there were two guys who were owners, Jim golden and Joe calamari and then five other guys from, from Caden’s. Well actually eventually four cause they got rid of one. So, but Kaplan was on there on their team.
All right. And I said, why, why isn’t won’t getting his foreign royalties? And he says, we’re not paying us anything. So, what do you mean? You’re not mad it’s we have a, we have a policy. This is a company policy. It’s it’s it’s legally binding. You can’t do that. You said when they come with their lawyers, maybe we’ll think about it.
You know, I said why? And then, you know, I mean, like, I didn’t need this explain to me, but it was all about putting money on the bottom line. Because when you start a company like Marvel yous, you get a multiple of the bottom line of the pre-tax profit, multiple earnings. And so your multiple might be 25.
[00:52:00] Okay. So every dollar you save, you get $25 back, you know, every dollar you make that you can put on the bottom line, you get $25 more. So, so these guys were greedy and they just wanted to, you know, get every penny they could on the bottom line. My joke is they used to count the paperclips at the end of the day.
Okay. That’s short, that’s short study. Cause
Jeff: you’re gonna lose the good talent that made the comm book sell. Cause no one wants to get screwed
Jim Shooter: like that. I actually had a conversation with one of these guys. One time. And I said, I said, you’re crazy because we’re on the verge of making this company blow out and become big.
We could be bigger than Disney. You know, I said, we’re just, just starting. Their opinion was that all that we had accomplished was like kind of a flash in the pan, a fad, maybe better get the money and get out while the getting’s good before people wise up and, you know, None of these guys had ever opened a comic book.
They didn’t care about them at [00:53:00] all. They were sort of amazed at anybody care, you know? And, and, and I said, no, you don’t get it. You know, we’re doing something good here. We’re building these properties. We’re building franchise, we’re building these, you know, it’s going to be big. It’s going to be great.
It’s going to be great for the guys that do it. And it’s going to be even better for you. Cause your owners, you know, And they wouldn’t listen. So, you know, I mean, they, they did the short-sighted route and they got their millions, but, but I mean, we could have, we could have been bigger than Disney you know, it just great.
Anyway, so, okay. So it gets ugly with them. I’m like a labor leader. I’m always screaming at them. They’re always screaming at me. The reason they didn’t fire me instantly is because a, I was a key man. They couldn’t sell the company without me. I didn’t know that I had power that I could have used that. I didn’t know Paul.
That was what I know. He went to business school. I did. I learned everything seat of my pants I learned from . Okay. So I had all this power that I didn’t know I [00:54:00] had, they could not sell the company without me because I was a key man. All right. So, I’m up there arguing with them. That’s one reason they didn’t fire me.
The second reason they didn’t fire me is because Joe Kalamara, he told me once he said, he said, we can’t fire you. He says, you’re the only one who knows who could replace you well, after the deal was completed. And the fact that I was a key man, wasn’t as important. And when they finally thought they found somebody could replace me Tom to Falco.
Then they fired me whenever I was glad to get out of there by that point. Anyway. All right. Where were we going with that? You, me? Yes. Okay. So they had, during the time I was, you know, spending all my time, screaming at them. They did everything they could to undercut me. They, they if I want to give somebody a raise, no.
If, if somebody said bad things about me, they get erased. They, they did everything they could to blame Kirby on me. You blame gerbera blame everything on him. You know, the Spanish [00:55:00] position was my fault and they succeeded pretty well. You know? I mean like the, nobody defended me in the fancies, nobody, you know, they, they, nothing was done to help me.
Right. And, and they, they they were, like I said, they were undercutting me with my own people because, because all of these programs and stuff are being taken away. And the only guy that I, that the only person that the creative people knew really was me. And I had always sort of been in, you know, been doing that stuff.
And they were like, Jim will come. I don’t get my royalties or why don’t we have any health insurance anymore? And so it’s a lot of, it’s going bad and it’s getting blamed on me. Like, well, what’s wrong? Why don’t you fix this? And I’m trying guys, I’m coming home. Listen, I’m trying to fix it. I’m working on it.
Okay. But I, if I say upstairs is screwing you, then they all quit and go to BC. And as Jim shooters, driving talent away. So, you know, it was a [00:56:00] rock and a hard place. I fought my best. I did my best. I had toward the end there. They had to undercut me to the point where I’m walking around my floor, which I hadn’t spent a lot of time on.
I’m seeing people in offices. I didn’t hire. Who are you? I’m the editor of such-and-such what. No, they basically were edging me out every way they could. And when they finally thought they had, they were ready, they fired me. Okay, fine. So I think a former editor in chief of Marvel will be able to get work.
Well, first of all, Marvel wouldn’t give me, it was, there was an edict from above. Nobody is allowed to give me work. I did one story for Salicrup. He got really yelled at over it. I and everything else, they just said, Nope, no, thanks. Not interested. You know, even when editors wanted to use me, then they’d call me back and I’d say you know, we were told we can, okay, so I can’t get any work there.
DC, wasn’t doing all that well. So there wasn’t much opportunity there. And I was struggling to find that survive, you know, [00:57:00] And so I thought if I don’t start something, don’t make a job for myself. I’m going to start with that, you know, so, started doing a bunch of things. I, I did get a couple jobs that weren’t weren’t more, well, I wrote an arena show, long story.
I paid well, I You got a consulting gig for Disney kept me alive. Long story. I do it every little freelance thing I could find. I mean, I do a little promotional, one sheets for some company that did foreign film distribution. I did, I actually actually wrote letters for people. Write letters a hundred bucks a letter.
Okay. Cause I, I, a friend of mine worked in this. Corporation and told you this, I guess some executive needed, you know, it was trying to write a letter and she said, well, I have a friend, who’s a writer. And so, they, he, she sent me his draft a letter. It was like illiterate crap. I’ve made it a nice formal business letter, sent it back.
They paid me a hundred dollars and [00:58:00] then word spreads and all these executives, you know, calling me up, you know, write me a letter. Okay. Okay. Anything that’s trying to keep a body and soul again. So then it looks like Marvel. And then the company that bought Marvel was failing and Marvel, wasn’t doing all that great either for a while.
There Marvel sales had fallen. The company that owned Marvel was called new world pictures, which changed. It changed his name, but the new world entertainment. They were losing a million dollars a day and they were financed with junk bonds. You remember Michael Milken, the junk bonds, super high interests, you know?
Yeah. Yeah. We’ll let you have 350 million bucks, but you know, the interest is ridiculous. Okay. Well, they were financed with junk bonds to get huge interest burden. They’re losing a million dollars a day. I pay the whole corporation, not marble. And so I looked at this, I’m keeping track of his stuff in the trades and the journal and stuff.
And said to myself, you’re going to have to sell something. They’re running out of money and they’re gonna, they, they run it out of their junk bond money and they’re going to have to sell something. What do they got [00:59:00] this worth? Anything more? So I put together a little team and got introduced to some people at chase bank.
They became my financial advisor and we, we made one on one attempt and then we were told Marvel will never be sold. Two weeks later, they call us and say, they’re having an auction. Okay. So we entered the auction. We tried to buy Marvel. This, this process took almost a year. We were the only bitter, there were nine people made the first cut.
Nine companies made the first cut. We were the only one who actually put in a final bid. Why? Because the other companies couldn’t get management. How do I know? Because they all called me. Okay. And so we were the only ones who put it a bit, we did $81 million and and then one morning we thought we won, we signed papers and everything is great.
You know, we’re, we’re making plans. And so a couple of weeks later, my financial guy, my partner was the financial [01:00:00] expert. He called me up like six in the morning. He says, have you read the journal? I said, I think it’s Winston at six o’clock in the morning. No, I haven’t read the journal. He said Perlman bought Marvel.
How can, how can that be? And he said, I said, well, Perlman was an insider at the selling company. You own 20% of new world. Okay. In order to be part of the owner ownership and also be a buyer. You need an arm’s length bid low, like say mine. And so he, we weren’t given an opportunity to reapply. There was no, there’s a process called ratcheting where they pit you against each other.
You know, no, none of that, he just bit a million and a half more than us and walked away with it. And all PS, as part of the deal, they redeemed $12 million in worthless paper for him. So he actually paid seven 70 million Jesus. He borrowed 75. So he put 5 million in his pocket. Nice. Yeah, no, I want a racket, you know, if you’re, if you’re, if you’re big money and all that, it’s a whole different world.
The, [01:01:00] the I asked why chase guys? I said, you know, it’s 30 pool. Could we Sue. And they said, you’ll, you will never win is your right, but you will never win. And he’s got more lawyers, more money he’ll pay for you to death, you know, and, and he’ll end up winning is so why, why go through it now is that they explained it to kind of mergers acquisitions in those days was kind of a cowboy business, not much regulation and people cheated all the time.
So, we, we got screwed out. All right, well now I really need a gig. You know, and that’s when I, we managed to find a venture companies usually don’t want to do startups. They want to do, they want to do acquisitions. What we finally found a venture company that was willing to bet on me. And they put up small money million, 1.1, two, 5 million.
That’s what our net was. And you know, and we started valued. Struggled for awhile for long story long, good reasons. And then finally, I got to do my superheroes that I want hard to do. [01:02:00] And it took, it took us about 10 months, you know, it started out. Okay. Pretty good. Went down a little. Yeah. These time we introduced to the character ratchet up a little bit.
And finally, about nine, 10 months later, we really started solidly doing well. And and then we did, you know, did black soul, our soul huge months million, I don’t know black cover solar and I own it. And, and, and, and other things started really hit. And then we did unity and that just put us over the top and all of a sudden we’re I remember I mentioned pre-tax profit.
Like we were making over $2 million a month. Pre-tax profit. Do you want to ask actually, so next profit. So then put verbal, by the way, was making a 10th of that. They got 156. Right.
Jeff: But when the cool things about value, and I think one of my favorite characters that I’ve collected and purchase and [01:03:00] obviously read is Solara.
And you Valley reintroduced the toot Gokey characters of Magnus robot, a robot fighter, and solar ha
Jim Shooter: to which I, which I recreated. And we were going to do more you know, we were thinking of like trying to do a little Lulu. But now we had rights to all of them and So we, we had, we had some plans but the first two were the, you know, the, the kind of the, the best of the lot.
So we did Magnus mag Ninas first solar second year. So it’s
Jeff: kind of, so why did you choose those characters as a foundation for value and knowing that though, but that’s when you have a character, you have solar who once again is kind of became. For lack of a better descriptive, the Superman of value, the, the, the identifiable character that kind of the whole universe kind of centered around.
And then you have magnets whose exists many thousand years into that future. And so what was the plan to keep that, and only a unified universe with those characters, but [01:04:00] why choose them as the foundation character?
Jim Shooter: Well, the way they were chosen as the foundation is that when you’re trying to raise money and you just, you’re trying to get you walking into rooms and saying, no, I really know what I’m doing.
You should give me millions of dollars. They, they don’t know, you know, what you’re doing and nobody’s going to do it. So I needed to have some kind of asset to, to you know, make those meetings go easier. So Richard Bernstein, Western publishing Richard Bernstein on them, I think you know, 80% of Western publishing since something like that.
So he was, you know, principal owner. He tried to buy Marvel. When I was there, he was one of the people, one of the suitors, trying to buy Marvel while I was at her. And she and and of course I say, like I said, they ended up with new world pictures, but, but Bernstein was, was before new world pictures.
He was interested. And so he. He and his people did what they called due diligence. They sent in their financial people. They sent in their lawyers just to [01:05:00] re research, buying Marvel. The other thing you do in your due diligence as you interview the key people like me. And so, I was interviewed several times by different people, but, but in particular, two or three times, three times by Richard Bernstein himself.
And He had interviewed lots of the other executives and he had found them clueless. He was saying to me is none of these guys has ever opened the complicated th their, their, their, their licensing, and they’re doing stuff, but they’re leaving opportunity all over the place. Cause they don’t know what they’re doing.
I said, tell me about it. And he said, Hey, I love this. He said, sometimes I think all I’m buying here is you. And a bunch of used furniture mean me. He meant us a publishing because that was the only thing that was doing well, you know, me and the creative thing we’d built. [01:06:00] You know, this, this wonderful, you know, creative publishing effort.
And so, okay. So I needed, like I said, back to, after we didn’t get marble needed a gig. So I went to Richard Bernstein and I, I, I said he, I called him up. He said, yeah, come on up. Happy to meet with you. So I went up to meet with them and he said, what can I do for you? I said, well, I said, do you know you on a bunch of really good comic book characters?
He said, I do. I said, yeah. And they were really good. I said you know, I, I think they could be know, made successful. So he says, well, right. You know, first he wanted to start a comic division for Western, which I would run. And and then his top executives were against the idea and he, he told me he wasn’t gonna cram it down their throats, you know, he said, but I licensed you the characters.
Okay. I said, I don’t have any money. You know, it might take me a while to raise money. He saw all hold them for you. [01:07:00] Well, that’s when comics were starting to, you know, boom, because of MacFarlane and the other people, you know, doing some good stuff. And so all of a sudden dark horse and Marvel and DC.
They’re all looking for characters, as you know, DC bought a bunch of different characters in that, that era, that general times, man they bought a couple of the image, peoples, you know, companies and stuff. And I think they got the old Charlton characters, man. I don’t know. Anyway the thing is they were interested in getting the rights to the Western stuff and a magnet solar.
So it was marble, so it was dark horse. So they’re calling like every week. Are you going to give up on this Turkey? You know, like we, we, we want a license and stuff. We got the money and Bernstein his orders to his licensing guy were no saving them for Jim and the guy, the licensing guys to call me up every week.
I can’t remember his name. Kind of a Scottish last name anyway he [01:08:00] called me up every week. You’re sure you’re going to do this so much money. And I said, yeah, I’m going to do it. I’m going to do it. It’s going to take me awhile. Bernstein held those characters for two years, two years. Okay. And then finally, by that time I’d raised money, right?
So I ran into him at the American booksellers association meeting. It was happening right around the time I made the deal. And so I, I didn’t even have to call Richard. He was there at the ABA in Washington. So I walked over to the Western booth. There he was. And I just said, Richard I’m ready. And his licensing guy, then I remember the guy’s name, his name’s Jim pizers and Bernstein kind.
My hand guy. He goes Pizer. I can deal with this guy, misers, this deal about what. And he’s just do what he says. So I got to name my own deal and I made it as fair as I could. It was like, I called him. I said, don’t a lot of my money up front. [01:09:00] I said, we’ll give you a rich back end. You know, we, if we win, we all win, you know?
And it’s okay, that’s the deal. And he wrote it down. And and so I had those characters to start with, you know, and So, then that closed the deal with the financing, help close the deal with the financing and away we went the trouble was that my partner , there was a lawyer and he represented, he was supposed to give up his law practice.
When we started this company, he did not. You represented various muse musicians and so forth, but he also represented Nintendo for media and entertainment and also world wrestling Federation. And so he turns out he started, he had started dating the lady who ran the venture capital company, Melanie. Okay.
And so between the stocks and the stock triumph capital owned, they had more than me. They [01:10:00] controlled the board. And so he says we’re doing Nintendo comics. They control the board. I’m doing Nintendo. They said, w we’re doing Al. He also represented world wrestling. He said, we’re doing what we’re wrestling comics.
And I would have quit except that some people who were good people came to work for me, Janet Jackson, Don Perlin other people I told Don, don’t come stay there. We are. Marvel’s safe here. You know, you’re a 60 something, you know, you know, retirement there. You don’t want to work for fragile startup. He said, I don’t care.
I want to be with you. Okay. And then we got a few other strays, a Windsor Smith who had burned his bridges everywhere. Cause he’s gonna be a kind of obstreperous guy Layton who was way unwelcome at DC for personal things he did. And and Marvel, when his contract ended, they just said, we’re not renewing it.
We don’t have any work for you. So he [01:11:00] shows up and I give him a job as an anchor. I needed, I needed artists, you know? And and then we had this miracle from God David lab I’m show off. And then some old guys, you know, Stan trake John Dixon, Steve Ditko, other people like that. So we had the, we had the over the Hill gang over the Hill gang, a bunch of new kids and you know, worked out.
I mean, we, we, we started doing. Some good stuff. The trouble was wasn’t stuff I wanted to do. So, but I gave my best. I try, I try. I figured if I can make a Nintendo succeed or if I can make wrestling succeed and start bringing in some money, then I can raise money and buy these turkeys out. Okay. Cause they only one month you don’t care about the books, but.
You know, neither of those things were likely to succeed Nintendo or our role world wrestling. And my Sergeant, he didn’t care. He got a big fee cause he was on both sides of the table. He made the deal with himself. And so he gets paid a big legal fee [01:12:00] for doing this because like I said, it was on retainer for both companies and and he was just trying to get as much money out as he could before he never, he never had any faith in it.
He just thought we’d fail. Well, finally, we ran out of other things to do, and he ran out of people. You represented. And I got to do my superheroes and then we took off that’s. That’s what worked took, took maybe nine, 10 months before we were solidly a success. But we were solidly a success and then we were setting the world on fire.
Jeff: Well, you, I really did. I love your solar run. It. It was extremely well-written series. And you create one of my favorite villains in Dr. Eclipse who? Yes. He shows up in issue five. I think first issue five of
Jim Shooter: solar. Five. Okay. Then I created,
Jeff: I’ll just ask you like where the idea came from,
Jim Shooter: but, you know, I forget, I mean, look your honor and understand [01:13:00] that at that time I was running the place until the board told me I had to do something anyway.
And there’s, so there’s meetings, financial stuff, there’s all kinds of things that are business things that I’m doing. The same time I’m directing everything, you know, the artists and, and, and there weren’t really any other writers, if there were, I had to rewrite it or fix it. And and then I’m writing all the books, it’s writing everything, you know, so I was a little busy, you know, I had a lot going on.
And I’ve, I’ve had people say, you know, yeah, you wrote this. I’m like, ah, did I, you know, and then I look through it and I’m saying, Oh yeah, maybe I did. But at any rate yeah, I don’t remember everything. It was a little bit, I went, Oh, I went over 540 straight days. What I get up in the morning as early as I could.
And I went to bed as late as I could work the whole day. Right? [01:14:00] 540 days in a row. That’s Christmas, new year’s Thanksgiving, everything. Every day I was in that office. All right. Working and, and some other people too. I mean, like on Thanksgiving one one time my secretary had actually, she was the managing editor.
She was doing all the hard work. W fix she, she cooked Thanksgiving dinner for 14 people. Cause we were all in the office all day and cooked it at home, brought it in, heated up in the microwave. We had, we had Thanksgiving dinner in the office one guy say I want to come and see one, one, one, are you available?
And I said, how about January 1st? And he said, you’re not going to be there on new year’s day. I said, try me. So he shows up and there’s like 20 people there. He said, why, why are you here on new year’s day? I said, because we all, we have to fight with this man hours. Don’t have tons of money, you know? And and so when everybody believes, and we’re all going to make this work, so
Jeff: what the what, well, one of the majors the first mega event for value was a unity.
Yep. What was the initial [01:15:00] goals for you? Was it more creative? Was more economic, was a strategic goal?
Jim Shooter: Well, I mean, basically we had all of this, this universe, which should put together and I don’t know if you remember, but I used to do like time and date stamp. I didn’t do captions months, a couple of captions in there somewhere, but I guess, but, but mostly it was the caption.
It was the time, the place, the date, you know, and And so, because I was doing that, I was able to keep a, what we call lockstep continuity among the books. In other words, if something blew up in solar, the kids in Harvard, or read about it in the paper for the next day. Okay. And I had an episode, I was keeping all the books in tight continuity, nothing.
You know, nothing going on. I even made Magnus part of the continuity. I actually researched and found out like on a calendar for 4,001 or whatever year it was. So I’d be able to say that was a Thursday and it was a Thursday and, and, and put time and [01:16:00] date stamps on that too. And and then eventually went, thought solar crossed in the mint Magnus that came in handy.
But so I had all this stuff in real tight continuity and I’d done crossovers. I’d done two of them at Marvel. And I thought, Oh man, I’m going to have a story with all of them together, but I’m going to do it a different way instead of a separate series, I’m going to have it happen within the regular books.
You don’t have to buy anything extra. It’s in the box. Okay. And then we came up with the idea of doing a intro, a 16 page intro book, and a 16 page, you know, can you call him epilogue book and, you know, give them away free hope that people would read the intro book, the prologue book. And then like it so much that they bought the stuff and you’re right.
It was, it was economically driven as well. I mean, it [01:17:00] was, it was convenient that I kind of set it up without really managing that from the first, but by, by having everything in total continuity that teed it up pretty well. And but I thought if we do this right, this will put us on the map. And so we did, we pulled out all the stops.
I, I wrote a letter. Okay. And I got a whole big pile of valiance stationary. And I I we always kept all the email we ever got. We kept on file. We have all the way to a database of all the names and addresses. Right. So I had one of my people, or Debbie had one of my people go through and pull out a thousand names of people would send us interesting letters.
Okay. And so we had a thousand names and addresses, and I wrote a letter to all those people, but I want it to be some, you know, photocopied thing. I talked to my mother into this. She was happy to do it. [01:18:00] I said, I want you to hand write thousand letters. That’s cool. Address them, put them in an envelope and send them to these people.
Short letter. And she signed it. It was a signed Eleanor. And what it did was it asked people, said that they explained that we were doing something Megan, special ed written to us before we valued valued their opinion. And we’d really appreciate it. If, if they give us this unity series a look and tell us what they think, right?
Greatest success in the history of direct mail. Because we sent out a thousand letters to those people. Now what we’re doing is we’re asking them to make a $50 investment to buy $50 worth of books each. And, and we had a 96 point something response rate, nice. 96, 960. Some people read every book and wrote us a nice [01:19:00] letter about it.
Almost everybody liked it. So, and then, you know, you, you, you get a cup of bunch of people on board like that and the word spreads, they tell people they like this, they like that. And, and and so unity has sold. Fantastic. And, and put us on the map.
Jeff: So what are what are you doing now with, are you still working, making comic books right now, or.
Jim Shooter: I’m I’m in and around the comic book business. I mean, there isn’t much of a business right now, you know, I’m, I’m doing some things with image comics, Eric Stevenson, great guy. He’s one of those people knows what he’s doing. You know, he, he’s, he’s really a smart guy and they do some great stuff. So he’s asked me to do a couple things and I’m working on those.
And then the last couple of weeks, seven working on a new website for this company, illustrated media, which is, they kind of re re repped for me. They get me gay and they manage things and stuff. And then, so all I have to do worry about is doing work. And like for instance, or for dark horse and all went through illustrated [01:20:00] media, I didn’t have to.
Think about taxes and stuff. I do my, my personal taxes of course, but I mean, I didn’t have to, it was a pretty big undertaking and we employed other people besides me and Jeff Bond, for instance, JC Vaughn, sorry. And you know, w we so I was, I’m doing a website writing some website copy for them, for that company.
And but that’ll be done quickly and then I’ll work on either the image stuff. There’s another thing that’s pending that might, might come up, but I can’t talk about it. But but I’ve in the, in the past year when everything was shut, I was gone a lot of conventions, not so much anymore. Cause they’re all shut down, but they’re starting up again.
I got two of them in the next few weeks. But so in the past year I’m like, Hmm, I mean, are, are living here? Well, I got an opportunity to write a screen treatment very well. And I it was, it’s a superhero. I think it’s a comic book thing on with everything I do is one way or another connected.
So I think of myself still as being in the biz but you know, the whole [01:21:00] businesses. And it was a period of flux right now.
Jeff: Oh, definitely. I’ll say, sir, I it’s been a great honor to, to talk with you, sir. It is you, you’re an amazing talent and I, you written some of my favorite comics of all time, like solar.
I will. I will say I still think about it from time to time when I write about, I think about the character that you created with not creative, but the, the series that you reintroduce with solar quite often. And I think like, so it’s
Jim Shooter: just an honor, sir. Well, thank you. Thank you very much made my day.
Jeff: And anytime you, you you have your free to talk about more stuff like your work with dark horse, dark horse. Anytime you have more stuff to you want to promote or talk about, please come back.
Jim Shooter: Okay. Yeah. Anytime you need me, I’m happy to help. Thank,
Jeff: thank you so much. Have a fantastic day, sir. And once again this was a very big deal for me.
Jim Shooter: you. So thank you, Jeff. It was great.