Legendary comic writer, Marvel editor, and creator Roy Thomas has a lot to say the creators he’s encountered during his decades-long career, particularly those who enter the industry without being comic book fans themselves.
In a recent interview with the FragaBOOM! Podcast, Thomas discussed what he believes separates genuine comic creatives from outsiders who enter the business after spending time in another industry or medium, such as Hollywood or novel writing.
Of the people who dabble in comics but direct films or write best-selling novels, Thomas said, “Sometimes I want to go for those people’s damn throats because they may be good writers, they may even write good comic books, nothing against them…but I don’t think there’s something automatically superior about somebody simply because he comes in from having written and drawn in some other field.”
He added, “Is an illustrator out of another field better when he comes into comics than a good comic-book artist? Is there any proof that these New York Times best-selling authors would have made up Wolverine, Spider-Man, a lot of the characters us fanboy types made up? I don’t think so.”
He also doesn’t think they would have created the comic industry as we know it today and admitted he is comfortable with the term “fanboy.” To him, it isn’t a term of derision, but rather a term that perfectly fits the likes of himself, Marv Wolfman, and others who entered comics as fans and moved up the ranks.
Thomas was editor-in-chief at Marvel, succeeding Stan Lee, but he worked at DC too under top editors Mort Weisinger and Julius Schwartz. Dealing with each as a boss was different, but he recalled normally butting heads with them, particularly at DC.
Thomas, calling Weisinger a “sadistic” SOB, confirmed a legend that the crusty EIC had fired him “for being a spy.” On the day he gave his two weeks notice, intent on taking a job at Marvel but willing to stick around, Thomas was told to “get out” by a glaring Weisinger.
According to Thomas, Weisinger “despised” comics and “himself for being in it”, despite the money he was making. He longed for his days as an editor of pulp magazines, a medium that he saw as a more upper-class venture.
Weisinger “didn’t have any ambition” to make comics better, said Thomas, and was more interested in milking them of their worth. However, Thomas did give credit where credit is due, and admitted that Weisinger did come up with memorable aspects of Superman’s lore, such as the varying effects of differing shades of kryptonite.
Still, not having “respect for the field he was in,” or even himself, says Thomas, Weisinger often tormented Superman creator Jerry Siegel and Captain Marvel creator Otto Binder by denigrating their work and scripts.
Among his favored tactics were using a sign he hung in the back of the office to constantly remind them that they ‘wrote for 8-year-olds’, and passing scripts of theirs he rejected to other writers the following day.
Thomas recounted DC editors often thought God anointed them, and that Mort Weisinger was the worst. He reduced Thomas to tears at times, but the afflicted junior editor and writer recalled that he was determined to hold on because he wanted to work in comics.
The difference between Weisinger and Stan Lee as a boss was night and day, Thomas recalled. Lee was “positive and he was enthusiastic”, with Thomas noting that the two had “a good relationship.”
Thomas would then reveal, what may come as a shock to many, that he and Lee didn’t always agree. In his mind, Lee would have done something else outside of comics if he could have.
He believes Lee’s experience in the Depression, shared by several Golden Age comic pros, made him grateful to have a job – one he stuck with and made a phenomenon.
Obviously, Thomas stuck with comics too, which he admitted was because he didn’t want to go back to his old job as a teacher. He also admitted that he didn’t have a plan, other than to follow the words of author and scholar Joseph Campbell and ‘chase his bliss’.
But don’t think for a minute Roy Thomas veers far from Chuck Dixon’s opinion of Campbell’s mentality or formula. He made it clear he doesn’t use templates.
“One person tried to give me a template for how to do the stories at his company and I just sent it back to him,” he said. “I just said to him ‘I’m not going to do it this way’,” with beats in designated places because “I don’t think that way. I just do a story and if I’m good it’ll have these beats.”
What do you make of Thomas’ opinion? Let us know your thoughts on social media or in the comments down below!