Sunday, May 16, 2004

Want to be a comic pro? Be ready for Editorial politics

Writer Ron Marz was asked today about his short run on the Secret Defenders series for Marvel Comics, and how he came to be on the title.What follows is a bizarre sequence that had me laughing but feeling oddly disturbed as well:

I never actually agreed to write the damn book. Not officially, anyway. During that period I was writing Thor (admittedly a pretty wretched year, with some truly weird art by future Disney background designer Bruce Zick). The editor was Mike Rockwitz, also the editor of Secret Defenders. I REALLY wanted another artist on Thor, and had suggested Tom Grindberg, who had a great feel for the epic/barbaric stuff. Tom came up to my house for a weekend and we brainstormed ideas, came up with desgns, some pretty cool stuff. Maybe I'll dig them out and post them at some point.

Shortly thereafter, I headed into the Marvel offices to meet with Rockwitz and Grindberg to see if we could put together something on Thor. The three of us headed out to lunch, accompanied by Rockwitz's supervising editor, Ralph Macchio. When we finally got the restaurant, Ralph says to me, "So, we're excited you guys have agreed to take on Secret Defenders. The book really needs some new blood." I looked at Tom, he looked at me, and the glance we exchanged made it clear that NEITHER of us knew what the hell Ralph was talking about.

Obviously what had happened is that Rockwitz had told his boss, Ralph, that we were the new team on Secret Defenders. Unfortunately, Rockwitz had never asked either of us if we wanted to do it. So we had the choice of blowing the whistle on our editor, and making him look bad in front of his boss; or, going along with it so Rockwitz wasn't compromised. I guess Tom and I silently decided to go along with it.

Ralph asked what I had in mind for the book, and I made up some stuff on the spot. And Tom pretty much said, "Whatever Ron says." So there were handshakes all around, and rather than having a shot at Thor, Tom and I embarked upon a short and (thankfully) unremembered run on Secret Defenders. I bailed out after ... six issues? Eight? I don't even remember. Tom stayed for a few more after that. And at the end of my year on Thor, I departed from that title as well.

Gotta love comic politics stories!


rockwitz said...

10 years later and Ron and Tom fondly recall my switcheroo on them? Sorry guys but I have to interject. Ron and Tom were hired to do the Secret Defenders first and switch to Thor after Bruce Zick was done wrapping up his awful run on the book. What Ron fails to mention is that I never wanted to hire Bruce Zick in the first place. The late Mark Gruenwald brought samples of Zick's work to my office and said give him Thor. "It looks like old Kirby!" Old Kirby, no, horrifc Kirby yes. I really wanted Ron and Tom to work on Thor, but I made them the offer of working on the Secret Defenders first then switch over—there was no saving face for Rockwitz. I had no reason to lie to these guys. I wanted them to work on THOR! What ultimately changed the decision was Ron's first plot ideas for Thor with Tom as artist. They wanted to make Thor a woman! Ralph read this and said no way, as did Mark Gruenwald and Tom DeFalco. I couldn't fight for such a weak idea. Yes there were behind the scenes politics that undermined my plans for Thor with Ron and Tom. it was that kind of nonsense that made me disgusted with comics as a whole back then. It was editing by committee, except for Tom, Mark and maybe Fabian Nicieza, who all turned out such rank crap with impunity. 10 years later there are still some hard feelings over this, so Ron and or Tom, if you read this, I am sorry things did not work out as we all wanted. The timing of it all really sucked and if I could do it all over again, I would. I apologize, but really wish you would not construct tales to make you look like you were a victim here—you are just as accountable as anyone...
I do wish you all the best and hope to one day clear the ugly air bewteen us.

Mike Rockwitz

Bruce Zick said...

Speaking of ugly air between us, Mike's response is both ugly and dishonest.

I was hired to be the penciller on Thor and during the first six months I received nothing but praise from Mike and Mark Gruenwald every month, sometimes embarrassingly so. I was unhappy with the inking of my pencils, which I felt made my work look mechanical and unnatural. Mike Rockwitz kept promising to make a change but never did. Then, after nine months on the book, Mike called me to say how unhappy he was with my pencilling and that he wanted me off the book. I complained that this was the first time I had received any negative comment from anyone and it was unfair to suddenly lower the boom. Mike finally agreed to work with me to make everyone happy.

Shortly after that Mark Gruenwald called me up to say that the writer, Ron Marz wanted me off the book and Marvel wanted to keep Ron happy.

Long story short. The bottom line was that everyone was unhappy and Mike Rockwitz didn't know how to be a good editor. You will notice I don't feel the need to totally slam Mike, Ron, or anyone else. It's unprofessional. I was miserable over the experience and my relationship with Marvel never repaired itself. Life goes on.

Bruce Zick