Comic Legends: Did Marvel Once Have a Special Fill-In Comics Series?

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Marvel used to have a fill-in comic book series.



A while back, I wrote a piece about comic books and when they stopped having reprint issues mixed in when books were late.

As I wrote at the time:

Things changed when Marv Wolfman became the Editor-in-Chief. He instituted the practice of the fill-in issue, a comic book that would be created specifically to work as a fill-in for a late comic book series. Wolfman had a fascinating approach to the concept. He, in effect, created an ongoing series that did not actually exist, dubbed, amusingly enough, Marvel Fill-In Comics.

Bill Mantlo, still new in his career, was ostensibly the writer of this series. Wolfman recalled the situation in David Yurkovich's great book, Mantlo: A Life in Comics, noting that the series, "would have actual deadlines and be produced like every other book, only it would never be published. Every month John Verpoorten, the head of production, and I would get together and discuss which books were on the verge of being late. Let's say one month it was CAPTAIN AMERICA, IRON MAN, AVENGERS and THE HULK. I would have Bill (Mantlo) write a team-up between those characters so it could be slotted into any of the four places. The regular writers of books were told in advance that none of the fill-in stories would be used if they got done on time.

Unfortunately most of the fill-in titles were used someplace or other. Bill did a great job putting the stories together under difficult situations and knowing if things went well his stories might never be seen."

Here are some fill-in comic books that Mantlo wrote around this period (although some of them also happened later on, after Wolfman and his successor, Archie Goodwin, had both left and Jim Shooter had taken over)....

Mantlo, for his part, hated doing it, later recalling, "[It was dreadful] either because the writers at the time I did the fill-ins were in the middle of incredibly convoluted story lines or because they themselves seemed unable to focus on their characters. With those titles I was also in the unbelievable position of scripting 'cult comics' - mags that had picked up a rabid following and for whom it was sacrilege to have an issue written by someone else.

[The series writers] would walk around with their chests puffed up, say, 'We are professional writers,' but when you asked for the proof, when you asked for the physical pages, when you asked for a book to be in on time, it was not there, because they knew that they had this buffer. Somebody somewhere was slaving to produce an inconsequential issue so they could have another month free."

Even with this "series," Marvel's books fell behind schedule with some frequency during Wolfman's run, as there just wasn't enough staff at the time. Jim Shooter beefed up the editorial staff during his time at Marvel and the day of the last-second reprint was over.

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