There doesn’t need to be much more than this statement: Jim Shooter is returning to write books for Marvel. With the inclusion of Alan Moore’s even-hesitant burying of the ax and Todd McFarlane inking Joe Quesada’s piece for the Heroes book, Marvel may want to change its tagline to “The House of Olive Branches.”
Shooter said that Quesada approached him months with the idea of writing for Marvel again. But it wasn’t like a stranger coming to call.
“Joe actually got his first job in comics from me. I think he was coloring SuperMario or something from the Valiant days,” Shooter said. “I’ve known him for years and years.”
He said Quesada asked him to write something, anything, for them as he was trying to turn Marvel around and thought Shooter would make a nice addition.
Shooter cautioned him as he did a years-earlier offer from DC’s Paul Levitz to write a Legion of Superheroes story. “I said to him, ‘Joe, there’s still some people at Marvel who don’t like me for whatever reason and you might be buying more trouble than you need.’ He said pretty bluntly, he didn’t care. All he cared about was the books and good stories,” Shooter said. “That’s exactly what I used to say and that’s what got me in trouble. With reckless disregard for whether I was failing to humor some superstar, I was trying to figure out what was best for the book, the stories and, therefore, the readers. He seemed to have the same feeling and he was willing to kind of put up with whatever grief he was going to get from it.”
But, in spite of those assurances of backing, at first the offer was refused. But as most editors will tell you, persistence pays off. “He called me back several more times and sort of wore me down,” he said. “He was very persuasive. He offered me a lot of work for very little money. Finally, I had to go with it.”
Shooter was given his pick of characters out of the dozens of Avengers from which to choose. “They pretty much gave me the pick of the characters,” he said. “I chose to work with the classic characters. The ones I feel are the best characters.”
From that wide breadth he chose Thor, Iron Man, Captain America, Wonder Man, Tigra, Sersi (“She’s fun, I like her. A Kirby character.”) Black Panther (“Another great character.”) and Moondragon.
One of his favorites from there is Tigra, starring in an upcoming mini-series. “Tigra to me is good to have as a character for contrast,” he said. “Thor and Captain America are pros. They’ve been around for a while. They know the ropes. A character who’s not born a hero or a god is good to have around for some contrast.”
One of the unanswered questions is who’s doing the art chores. Shooter said it’s too soon to pick an artist. “I’m a little out of touch these days and it’ll be a little while – a few weeks – before I have the plots done so that they can really assign an artist,” he said. “I haven’t worried about it. Joe’s an artist, a tremendous artist so I trust his judgment.”
He said that he’s excited to see who does draw his story, however. “I’ve looked at the art in a few Marvel books and the state of the art has really come a long way. There’s an amazing number of talented guys out there.”
He also mentioned that as long as Shooter is willing, Quesada and Marvel will be accepting his proposals and scripts. He said, “They wanted to see what I could do with Silver Surfer and Nova, which I guess are characters that have been sitting idle for awhile. I thought about that and have some ideas.” Shooter said he wanted to see if he could “realize some of their potential.”
In particular, he has a soft spot for the silver-skinned space dude. “The Surfer is a special kind of character. [Jack] Kirby created him out of whole cloth and Stan [Lee] put the words in his mouth. But he was equally special to Stan as he was to Kirby.” He said that Lee elevated Shooter to special status in regards to the Surfer early on. “When I was editor-in-chief, that was the only character that Stan insisted that on one else could write. Except him and me. Now, I have another shot at the Surfer. I have some interesting things planned, I think.”
Other projects are not out of the question, either. But don’t expect Shooter on a regular series anytime soon. “I have a full-time gig [at Phobos Entertainment]. I’m trying to fit this in around the edges. I said, let me get my feet wet first with a mini-series.”
Shooter’s commitment to his full-time job isn’t a deterrent for Marvel to get more out of him. “I spoke to Joe today and they seem real interested in having me do lots of things. I think I have a few comics left in me,” he said. “We’ll see what happens. I’ll do this and if I don’t totally screw this up, and Joe and company are as good to work with as they seem to be, then there will be more.”
His return to Marvel is much like an exiled leader returning to his native country. There’s going to be some who welcome him with open arms (Quesada) and others who hold grudges from years past. He isn’t worried. “There might be people who have trepidation about me [coming back], but I don’t give a damn,” Shooter said. “That was my home for many years and I would feel comfortable there anytime. I don’t really care what people think.”
Shooter said that being asked back did not hold any kind of vindication for him. “It was never about whether something was wrong with me. It was about crazy, petty little people who were political or had some kind of grudge. I always knew who I was and what I could do. It really didn’t have to do with talent.”
Marvel has cleaned up some of its writing and editorial practices since Quesada has taken over, much to Shooter’s pleasure. One particular pet peeve of Shooter’s that plagued him from beginning to end was editors who used their positions of power to write for other editors and trade favors in that manner. “[Joe Quesada] told me on the phone today… that he does not permit editors to write, at least not for each other. I think it breeds corruption. We’ve seen the results of that. It’s ugly.” He blames the Spider-Man clone saga and Teenage Iron Man of the 90s on this kind of Ozarkian editorial in-breeding.
Quesada apparently has Shooter’s respect and admiration, not just for asking him to write for Marvel, but in the way he’s turned the company around. “Joe has his head, from my point of view, in the right place,” he said.
Shooter said Joe and editor Tom Brevoort have been “very respectful” and he hasn’t gotten a “no” yet. “I also haven’t told them I wanted to dress the Avengers in lingerie, but I know better,” he said. “I know what I’m doing. I’m sure if I make any missteps, Joe will tell me. I hope I’m wise enough to know I realize that he’s right. I think what’s coming out will be good. We’ll see. I hope I haven’t lost my touch.”