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How Did a Clever Reprint Lead to Roger Stern's First Marvel Writing?

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COMIC LEGEND:

Roger Stern's clever idea for a reprint fill-in in Marvel Presents led to Stern's first Marvel Comics writing.

STATUS:

True

A while back, I wrote about when Marvel Comics stopped using reprints for fill-in issues. First, though, I explained how Marvel came to do the fill-ins in the first place...

At Marvel, so long as Jack Kirby was there, they would typically be able to meet some crazy deadlines, as Kirby was FAST. In the 1970s, though, with Kirby gone, they began to have problems and thus the dreaded Deadline Doom would creep up and issues would just suddenly be reprints instead of new stories. On rare occasions, the notice would be so short that they didn't have a new issue to use and the cover would remain the same even though the comic inside turned out to be a reprint, like on Ghost Rider #10, which reprinted his first appearance, despite the cover remaining of what the issue was SUPPOSED to be about...

A notable example was when Steve Englehart left Marvel right in the midst of doing an issue of Avengers that would have introduced a new line-up. So Marvel quickly turned that issue into mostly a reprint book...

And then Jim Shooter and Gerry Conway cobbled together another issue made up of new pages by them and re-used pages from Englehart's original story (meant for #150) to introduce the new lineup in Avenger #151!

So, yeah, in the mid-1970s, Marvel would very often just reprint a story if a book was running late.

The problem, though, is what do you you do if a comic book series is NEW? In the aforementioned Ghost Rider series, they luckily had the previous Ghost Rider feature in Marvel Spotlight. Things weren't so lucky over in the Guardians of the Galaxy feature in Marvel Presents, but luckily, Roger Stern had a clever idea that led to his first writing work for Marvel!

Marvel Presents was a spotlight series that opened with a pair of Ulysses Bloodstone stories...

Before Steve Gerber brought the Guardians of the Galaxy into their own feature (Gerber had rescued the Guardians from near-obscurity by putting them into his Marvel Two-In-One run and then his Defenders run - they had only appeared in one issue before disappearing for over five years before Gerber brought them back in Marvel Two-In-One) in Marvel Presents with penciler Al Milgrom (and a couple of different inkers)...

But Gerber fell behind on the deadline for the series and so a fill-in looked like it would be needed for 1976's Marvel Presents #8. Roger Stern had only been working as an assistant editor at Marvel for a few months at the time (or whatever assistant editors were called back then) when he was tasked by editor Archie Goodwin to find a solution to the problem. You couldn't reprint #3-7, you couldn't really reprint the Marvel Two-In-One or the Defenders' stories, as they were too new.

Oh, so what about the Guardians' first appearance? Great idea, right?

Oops, nope, they were used as a reprint fill-in when Deathlok's feature in Astonishing Tales ran late...

And so Stern, as he explained to Jarrod Buttery in Back Issue #65 from TwoMorrows, figured out the solution - the Baddoon! They were the Guardians' sworn enemy in the future and they had been introduced in the pages of Stan Lee and John Buscema's Silver Surfer, so Stern figured they could reprint the Badoon's first appearance and Stern was taxed with coming up with the framing sequence to make it all make sense...

(then the adapted Surfer story)

Here are two pages from the original story to see where they edited them...

And so, Stern's amazing writing career at Marvel sort of kind of started! Stern had a similar situation happened to him later in 1976, but, well, that's another legend for another time!

Thanks to Roger Stern, Jarrod Buttery and Back Issue for the information!

Check out my latest TV Legends Revealed - Was Leonardo DiCaprio really kicked off of the set of Romper Room as a kid?

OK, that's it for this week!

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