ComicBook interviewed veteran writer/editor Roy Thomas, who discussed his career as it was since he originally began in the mid-to-late-60s. Some of the topics brought up include the following:
You’ve been in the business longer than most today. Is there an urban legend you think needs to be put to bed, or course corrected a little bit?
Well, you hear everything. Stan was a guy who liked credits, so maybe he sometimes forgot to mention other people, and then out of that comes this legend he was always going around hogging credit from everybody else. There’s some truth in it, but there’s not a lot of truth in it, and there’s a lot of bull in it too. That’s one of the main things about him. He le[f]t himself open for that by the way he did. When he was talking to an interviewer outside the comics field, somebody who didn’t really know comics, he wasn’t so likely to mention an artist, even working for Marvel, because he’d feel, well he mentions one artist, somebody else gets mad. And they’re not going to know the names anyway. They didn’t care. They just wanted to talk about Stan Lee and Marvel, and they didn’t care about Jack Kirby the way that you and I do. They didn’t care about Steve Ditko. They only cared about Stan Lee because he was the face of Marvel. If he went away, there would’ve been somebody else’s face.
And so out of that, he let himself get saddled, eventually, with the reputation that he was hogging credit. And as I said, there’s some truth to it, and a lot of it is just people… I don’t know about you, but I’ve usually found that when you have a partnership of any kind, even an unequal partnership like the ones in comics between editor, writer, and artist, say, that the only thing you can ever be certain is that each partner did 90% of the work. And if you don’t believe that, just ask them. [laughs]
If I can grasp what he means in exact, Thomas thought Lee worried that the interviewers would find it objectionable if he cited other artists and writers in his commentary. Honestly, Lee shouldn’t have, yet that was an unfortunate weakness he seems to have had in his time. And so, it led to a situation where he’d be criticized in the long run for throwing his colleagues under the bus for the sake of hogging the attention spotlight, all for the sake of getting interviews with people who didn’t respect the art form. Yeah, it’s unfortunate, but that’s what happened. Thomas also alluded to the troubling issue of forced race/gender-swapping that’s become a sad norm for publicity stunts in the past 16 years or so:
You mentioned Wolverine. You mentioned Ghost Rider. What’s something you created that you think is overlooked?
They need to do a Red Wolf series or a movie. Something with Red Wolf would be nice.
There you go.
I want to see more of The Vision. I don’t care if he’s green or white or whatever color. I think they didn’t do enough with The Vision. Of course, bring back Wolverine. And get over this idea that only one person can play Captain America or Iron Man. Good as they were, and they were great, nobody ever really thought before 2008 that one actor particularly could play Iron Man and nobody else. How many James Bonds have there been? Somehow, the series has managed to survive and thrive now for almost exactly 60 years. I mean, sure it’s a little hard but you could find a way to have a new Captain America that was even Steve Rogers, or somebody else. I mean, I’m not against the Falcon, say, becoming Captain America, but you don’t have to automatically go that kind of route. There’s all kinds of routes you could go.
If you can’t do Iron Man, okay so do War Machine and paint him red instead or something. There’s all kinds of ways to do it. You could even start calling him Iron Man. And you don’t have to change his race or his sex, or something else. Just hire a new actor, like James Bond from Sean Connery to Daniel Craig, and seven or eight people in between. I just think Marvel is missing a bed if they’re totally locked into the idea that once one actor quits being a character, you can’t ever use that character again. Of course, that’s one advantage the comics have always had over the movies. They’re not tied into a particular actor, they’re not tied into a particular artist or a particular writer. The characters go on forever. And you could find a way to do that in movies, just like they have with James Bond and other characters. Tarzan was another character for many, many decades.
Since he alluded to that subject, I wonder what he thinks of the sad, but now entirely unsurprising, race-swapping of Iron Fist/Danny Rand with a character who’s Asian? In the past few years, Thomas’ creation, along with Thomas himself, came under fire for not being created according to the PC dictates of modernity, and he should have been more open about how damagingly petty this all is. Thomas did mention, however, a storytelling approach that did cause damage to much of mainstream:
I hope they find a way to find the comic book, whether it’s a little pamphlets that are 32 pages, 36 with the covers, or whether it’s all in graphic novels or whatever. I’m kind of a print freak, and I don’t want to see those comics die. I don’t read them that much anymore, but I love the farm and I don’t want to see that go out, as if you have to be tied to particular actors or some kind of animation movie. I want to see pictures that people draw, and you follow the whole thing, and you make the time flow at your rate by depending on the speed at which you read the story. And you can stop and go over it again. That’s a whole different experience from seeing a movie. Comic books are not just movies put on paper, and they should not try to be, which I think they increasingly are to their detriment.
And that’s a shame. It obviously hasn’t brought in any moviegoers, who’re surely expecting something different, yet in the end, all they get is something trying to be almost wholly the same as that other specific medium. Even though it’s not. No less devastating to comicdom is when many editors and writers went out of their way to practically mandate that a 1st person narrative be applied to many superhero comics in particular, and what good did that do? It doesn’t guarantee the star will actually have a personality applied, if at all.
They also discussed the issue of wages and residuals:
Yeah, that’s what I was going to ask you. Do you feel like you’ve been treated pretty adequately by the movie machine?
Yeah. When I see the complaints, I mean I understand because I don’t know about you, but I’ve met very few people who think they’re paid enough. I’ve never felt I was, and I’ve done pretty well for myself. I don’t think Stan did, and he died with eight figures in the bank, and he still didn’t feel he was probably paid well enough. Although he sued Marvel just a decade or so ago. But everybody thinks they weren’t paid enough, and maybe they were right. But sometimes they forget there are a lot of other things involved. I knew some artists and writers, and I think the artists were more open to this, who, they just felt like the publishers had no use at all except to publish their precious drawings or their precious words or whatever, like they didn’t contribute anything.
That was a pretty notorious misfortune Lee went through, by practically the very people who’d continue to exploit him in some way or other, almost till the time of his passing. It’s terrible how pop culture’s been ruined not just by people who don’t love the media and know close to zip about it. And since Lee’s been gone, they’ve ruthlessly set about to destroying all those famous treasures in every way possible, and the press sources who didn’t give a damn about Ditko role in co-creating Spidey have zero objections to raise. Just terrible indeed.
I’m glad Thomas referenced some of these topics, but even he too is a contributor who’s restrained in a lot of his arguments, and doesn’t really complain enough about the negative influences that have brought down the medium he too, like Lee, was an important influence for in decades past.
Originally published here.