Comic Book Historians

Danny Fingeroth: Editor & Writer Part 2 with Alex Grand & Jim Thompson

July 16, 2019 Comic Book Historians Season 1 Episode 45
Comic Book Historians
Danny Fingeroth: Editor & Writer Part 2 with Alex Grand & Jim Thompson
Chapters
Comic Book Historians
Danny Fingeroth: Editor & Writer Part 2 with Alex Grand & Jim Thompson
Jul 16, 2019 Season 1 Episode 45
Comic Book Historians

Alex Grand and Jim Thompson interview Danny Fingeroth, former editor and writer of Marvel Comics for close to two decades in a second parter.  Danny takes us into his initial days as editor of the Spider-Man line of comics in 1983, writing Dazzler, editing writing other titles like Marvel Saga with Pete Sanderson, Star Wars, his hiatus as staff in comics to freelance, the cultural change switching from Jim Shooter to Tom DeFalco as Marvel's Editor in Chief 1987 and returning as staff 1989 in full force working on Alpha Flight, Amazing Spider-Man, The New Warriors and Moon Knight working with artists like Ron Frenz, Erik Larsen, Mark Bagley, etc and how the 1980s Marvel creator incentive program caused the Image Revolution. Images used in artwork ©Their Respective Copyright holders, CBH Podcast ©Comic Book Historians. Thumbnail Artwork ©Comic Book Historians. Support us at https://www.patreon.com/comicbookhistorians

Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/comicbookhistorians)

Show Notes Transcript

Alex Grand and Jim Thompson interview Danny Fingeroth, former editor and writer of Marvel Comics for close to two decades in a second parter.  Danny takes us into his initial days as editor of the Spider-Man line of comics in 1983, writing Dazzler, editing writing other titles like Marvel Saga with Pete Sanderson, Star Wars, his hiatus as staff in comics to freelance, the cultural change switching from Jim Shooter to Tom DeFalco as Marvel's Editor in Chief 1987 and returning as staff 1989 in full force working on Alpha Flight, Amazing Spider-Man, The New Warriors and Moon Knight working with artists like Ron Frenz, Erik Larsen, Mark Bagley, etc and how the 1980s Marvel creator incentive program caused the Image Revolution. Images used in artwork ©Their Respective Copyright holders, CBH Podcast ©Comic Book Historians. Thumbnail Artwork ©Comic Book Historians. Support us at https://www.patreon.com/comicbookhistorians

Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/comicbookhistorians)

Alex Grand:  That was around 1982ish. You started editing Spider-Man with Tom DeFalco, is that right?

Danny Fingeroth: 1983, early ’83.

Alex Grand: ’83. Early ’83. Okay.

Danny Fingeroth: Yeah, I was working for Louise for a little over three years. I was editing some comics with her, I think, I don’t remember. I think at that point I had handed off the British liaison work to somebody else, a lot of these things. This is a long time ago. Yeah, but in the early ’83, Tom had come on staff as an editor. He had been a freelance writer and he come on staff as an editor and I think again, Jim Shooter was modeling the Marvel editorial staff to a large degree on the DC editorial staff of the 40s, 50s, 60s. So that’s-

Alex Grand: With separate compartments?

Danny Fingeroth: Separate departments and even more so than DC. It had that if a character had more than one title, he or she would have those titles supervised by one editor, which made total sense. I mean, and it’s amazing it took so long for…

Alex Grand: To do that.

Danny Fingeroth: To figure that out because he’s have, because I remember there was a period there will be safe. You have… If you have three Spider-Man books, it was amazing, spectacular and Marvel team up, there’d be three different editors working on those titles and so it was hard to coordinate even if everybody had the best of intentions, you just forget or things-

Alex Grand: Yeah, sure.

Danny Fingeroth: So I think when Shooter brought Tom on as an editor, that was part of a process of creating groups or families of titles that would be under one editor for each. So Tom became the editor of all the Spider-Man titles and then he was promoted to be Jim’s executive editor and I was promoted from assistant to full editor on the Spider-Man books. For the first day, I try to manage two different periods.

Alex Grand: Right and so you were kind of like the more wise anger to Superman, you were that to Spider-Man basically in a way.

Danny Fingeroth: I guess, without some of the…

Jim Thompson: Without spider dog.

Danny Fingeroth: Without some of more well known quirks that…

Alex Grand: Lion’s head. Yeah.

Danny Fingeroth: Yeah. So that’s right. Exactly. So, that and of course, so I would supervise Spider-Man’s main titles, but of course being Spider-Man like Wolverine or later the Punisher or whoever, people always wanted to guest all the character. So it was always a matter of say in theory would have to get my approval.

Alex Grand: Okay.

Danny Fingeroth: Which couldn’t be withheld unreasonably. That was always, especially in the 90s during the big comic book-

Alex Grand: Yeah, X-Men and Spider Man. Yeah.

Danny Fingeroth: It was already there. It was always a question, like is there… what’s too much? Is having Wolverine in five books this month going to dilute the character or does it not matter or does it just?-

Alex Grand: Right.

Danny Fingeroth: These were ongoing philosophical

Alex Grand: Questions, yeah.

Danny Fingeroth: And sales questions that different times at different answers.

Alex Grand: So when you started editing Spider-Man, were you thinking, “Okay, so Tom did it this way, I’m going to do it like that for awhile”. Then you transition into your own style, or did you just come in kind of with your own idea of how you were going to run the character?

Danny Fingeroth: Well, Tom had done a great job. I mean, I think there are like handful of people walking on the planet who really understand who Spider-Man and Peter Parker are, and I think Tom is one of those people. Well, yeah, he was plus all his books were on or ahead of schedule and I was terrified. I mean, I sort of luckily there’s a lot I didn’t know. I didn’t even know that I didn’t know. I just wanted to keep the books going and to say there’s no such thing as walking into somebody else’s editorial line and just keeping it going, because a lot of what keeps it going is the chemistry between the editor and the creative personnel. Once that chemistry changes, everything else changes and the… You can go in saying, “I’m not going to change anything” and you don’t have a choice about if things change, because so much of editing is personal chemistry.

Danny Fingeroth: There are as I’ve often said, so I’ll say it again. I mean, there are people who think I’m the best editor they ever had and there’re people think I’m the worst editor they ever had. Well, I’m the same guy. So there’s got to be something about the relationship between-

Alex Grand: The team, it’s relative.

Danny Fingeroth: Me and that creative team that makes one person think I’m great, another think that I’m horrible. So that comes into play and so people, there’s so many intangibles involved. I think what I felt my responsibility was to the character.

Alex Grand: Yeah.

Danny Fingeroth: I think I felt… I mean, obviously it was Jim Shooter who was writing my razor views, but my responsibility was to take my understanding of who Peter Parker was and what made him tick and what would be the best stories to make him relatable to the audience and who would be the best people to do that and also that’s because when I came on, I think team up didn’t have a regular writer. Every freelance writer and artists on a comic has their own career and their own agenda and their own family and their own idea of what’s right and what’s appropriate and what they will accept in terms of suggestion and supervision. It’s so much about chemistry that I know it seemed like a simple question, like what was your intention? My intention was to make good comic books and to keep my job.

Alex Grand: Yeah. Right and then-

Danny Fingeroth: And hopefully those two things will require the same thing.

Alex Grand: The same work. Doesn’t matter amount of work, the same work. So then as far as the… was there a feeling like, “Okay, I want to update Peter Parker for this new audience” or was it more like kind of continuum or was it a little more organic and just kind of putting out Peter Parker story? Because the context is probably different from the 60s and the 80s. Right?

Danny Fingeroth: Right. Well, I always tried to do, I mean, was saying to myself when it seemed to me, and I think it was true that say in the early mid 80s, I think even then, I think the bulk of people reading comics, especially Spider-Man were kids, you know?

Alex Grand: Yeah.

Danny Fingeroth: So I tried to say to myself, if I was 10 or 12 now, what would I be looking for in a story and what would make me come back the next issue?

Alex Grand: Yeah.

Danny Fingeroth: What was it that made me as a kid keep coming back? What was it that made me stop when I stopped and how do I work with the creative teams to do that? That was… It wasn’t, and that required understanding a lot of things. Who Peter Parker was, what a Marvel comic is, what a reader expects from a Marvel comic despite of mankind. So there’s all these things going through your mind. I didn’t have a grand vision of I must impose my wonderful self on Spider-Man. I wanted to keep these comics going and keep them good and keep them selling.

Alex Grand: So was editing the Marvel Tales reprints with the classic 60s, Stan Lee, Steve Ditko Spider-Man, did that serve as kind of a professional review of Spider-Man’s personality of Peter Parker’s personality to get into the more current stuff?





Danny Fingeroth: That happened more for me in the British Department when I was going through all those old comics with the fine tooth comb and actually having to even split them up into chapters. Maybe I think the Marvel Tales was partly that and I think I was looking to my template more to what Tom had done with Roger Stern and Bill Mantlo and John Romita Jr. and Al Milgrom.

Alex Grand: Okay, and more research stuff. Yeah.

Danny Fingeroth: Yeah. I think I took that… Look, everything that Marvel Comics does and ever will do is informed by the first 50 issues of Spider-Man and the first 100 issues of Fantastic Four. Those are the Bible and the template and the handbook and the guidebook. Even if you’ve never read those comics, that’s just… I mean, you’d go to the movies and when the movie’s work, that’s what they do.

Alex Grand: Yeah.

Danny Fingeroth: So in that sense, I have that imprint, that stuff imprinted in my DNA and so I was always looking. But I was also aware that that stuff to most modern 12 year olds would read as dated and square. So I tried and this was what Shooter and Gruenwald and DeFalco were great at was, they reverse engineered the great Marvel Comics and the great DC comics and the great literature. They figured out what a good English teacher that he’s at or a good literary critic or movie critic figures out is, “Heres why we love this thing” or “Here’s what’s appealing about this. You know, here’s why hamlet is still relevant and heres why Tom Sawyer is still relevant to-”

Alex Grand: Yeah, reverse engineered. It makes sense.

Danny Fingeroth: They reveal something even if it’s something minor, but they give you some insight into, dare I say the human condition.

Alex Grand: Yeah. Right.

Danny Fingeroth: Even the silliest story gives you some insight and then there’s got to be a lot of cool who high action as Tom would call it and I mean, obviously it’s a superhero comic book. So there’s got to be punching and hitting and action and an adventure, but there’s got to be something. So what those guys were really good at and what I tried to take away from them and I think I learned a lot and try to pass on when I teach or lecture is, what makes these tick? What is it that underneath all the surface glitz makes people love Peter Parker, whether he’s in the comic or whether he’s in a cartoon or whether he’s played by Toby Maguire or who’s the kid playing him in the current movie? Tom…

Alex Grand: Tom Holland.

Danny Fingeroth: Tom Holland. I mean, what is it that… Here’s the thing, I noticed this in the first week I was in comics, right? Comics or superhero fantasies are at a certain level about man making right and then achieving noble goals through violence and I know a lot of people don’t like that as a message, including a lot of my friends and people I’ve known my whole life and yet, when I told them I was working in Marvel Comics or working on Spider-Man, almost uniformly everyone, “Oh, that’s really cool”. Even the-

Alex Grand: Yeah, because Spider-Man doesn’t come off like that. Spider-Man’s seems to be always on the defense. Right?

Advertisement

Danny Fingeroth: Right and people have a warm fuzzy feeling about Marvel Comics in general. You just find this even before the phenomenon of the movies and TV shows, even when it was a more esoteric kind of thing. I mean, it was just cool. Nobody really, most people just thought it was a cool thing and interesting and off beat and where is, say somebody might find like the death wish movies about a guy who goes out and shoots everybody and-

Alex Grand: Yeah, that’s clearly different-

Danny Fingeroth: And clearly, yeah. Yet the message in many ways is the same. If you have the power to affect justice as you see it then-

Alex Grand: Yeah, to correct social things.

Danny Fingeroth: Yeah, then you’re the hero, or at least. I don’t remember what the question was.

Alex Grand: Did you… How do you feel Ron Frenz when he did Spidey? Did you feel like he kind of summed up that Ditko vibe and then… How do you feel he did on the character?

Danny Fingeroth: Ron is Ron. I mean, Ron has a lot of influencers that he displays proudly, but I think he synthesizes them into his own this thing division and point of view and get stalled, dare I say. I mean there’s-

Alex Grand: Yeah.

Danny Fingeroth: Ron is the greatest. Ron is the ultimate Marvel Comics artist and in a really good way, you know.

Alex Grand: Yeah, for sure.

Danny Fingeroth: He gets the characters. He’s a thinking artist, very often in pretty much when he and Tom worked together, they pretty much co-plot the stories. I mean, they talk out the characters. Yeah, Ron, I can’t say enough great things about him.

Alex Grand: Yeah, he’s good. So now tell us about writing the Howard The Duck movie adaptation comic.

Danny Fingeroth: There was a pure money grab. I don’t know, it was… I mean, there was… I needed work, there was an assignment. I still have never seen the movie.

Alex Grand: ha, that’s the last thing i expected to hear.

Danny Fingeroth: Well, you write these things, they give you a version of the script and a lot of production skills and then they go. So I mean, it was…

Alex Grand: Did you put your own take on Howard in there or bend it to the comics in any way?

Danny Fingeroth: No, I just pretty much went by the script-

Alex Grand: By the script in the picture. Okay.





Danny Fingeroth: I think it was the first movie adaptation I’d ever…

Alex Grand: That you worked on. Okay.

Danny Fingeroth: I mean, I’ve worked… I’d been involved with doing a lot of the research for the Xanadu Super Special, but that was more for the articles.

Jim Thompson: You had done dragon slayer too.

Danny Fingeroth: Yeah. I didn’t write that. I was just-

Jim Thompson: No, but I mean, you got to edit. I’m sorry about that.

Danny Fingeroth: These things, these are just… I did some of the articles-

Alex Grand: From a writing perspective, how did you feel about Howard The Duck as far as Steve Gerber’s version versus Bill Mantlo’s? How did you feel about those two versions? Or did you read them?

Danny Fingeroth: It seemed to me… Look, I guess there are people that say they should have stopped Spider-Man after Ditko left, you know?

Alex Grand: Yeah, right.

Danny Fingeroth: Obviously history is proven those people wrong. I think, but I don’t know. I do think maybe there was no point in doing Howard The Duck after Gerber left. I mean, Bill was a professional and he had a pretty good sense of humor and those stories were fine. But there was something about that character and Steve Gerber and Gene Colan and Tom Palmer. There was something about, and the time, the fact that when it came out, that made it a special thing. So yeah, and I don’t think that’s particularly radical opinion, but yeah. But it’s also, this is where, and I have not read, I know that Steve did a couple of mini series in the 90s, I think or the early 2000s that I did not read.

Alex Grand: Right, like Foolkiller, which is pretty good.

Danny Fingeroth: Yeah. But I think he did like a documentary series-

Jim Thompson: And yet it worked again. I mean, I think it was as side guy thing and it worked-

Danny Fingeroth: Yeah.

Jim Thompson: That time that he first did it.

Danny Fingeroth: Yeah. I mean, again, he was whatever age he was. He lived in New York. It’s a depth of New York’s decay and even Cleveland where Howard ended up was sort of at the nadir. It was really a lot of what Steve did reflected it’s times, which was really this era when government and society almost seem to have given up on America’s cities and Howard really voiced a lot of the…

Alex Grand: angst

Danny Fingeroth: The angst and insanity of urban-

Alex Grand: Urban life.

Danny Fingeroth: Urban life and Steve was living in Times Square, at one Times Square was as it’s meanest and most of the praise. Yes, I think all that filtered through his consciousness. I worked with him years later on Cloak and Dagger, which I thought he did some brilliant work on.

Alex Grand: Cool.

Danny Fingeroth: Yeah, that was in the 90s.

Alex Grand: So now you edited the Marvel Saga books in 1986. Did you… Would you refer to Gruenwald or Sanderson, saying hey like basically kind of getting reminded on continuity when you were working on that book? Tell us about that and I actually grew up on Marvel Saga personally. I was in school reading Marvel Saga thinking, “Oh my gosh, this has been going on all this time? My Gut”.

Danny Fingeroth: Yeah. Well, this is… In Marvel Saga, I was a freelancer at the time and I needed some work to do. I wasn’t doing as much writing as I needed to do. So I took this on as a freelance editing job and Peter… and it sort of came with Peter Sanderson as the writer. That was part of the deal. I didn’t have… So yes, obviously Peter was-

Alex Grand: Yeah. Peter, yeah.

Danny Fingeroth: Yeah, I think we’d go to Gruenwald or Shooter or whoever or even to say George Olszewski’s guides or the universe handbook. It was funny. I loved working on it. I was, it appealed to the scholar historian in me to sort of put this stuff in chronological order.

Alex Grand: Nice.

Danny Fingeroth: I think in retrospect or even I think I knew that at the time, this was the classic conflict between art and comics. When Shooter gave me the assignment, I said, “This a mini series on ongoing series” and I fully thought he’d say, “Well, make it a 12 issue limited series”. But he then he said it’s ongoing. Well, Peter and I were both freelancers, so therefore we’re going to keep the thing going as long as we can. I mean, it’s even though in both of our heart of hearts, you’d have to ask Peter, but I think we both thought, “Well, this would probably be better to have a finite beginning and end. So we know that we have to fit all the Marvel history in X number of pages”. But it didn’t, so I think we may have given a little more space to stories that maybe we’re sentimentally were attached to.

Danny Fingeroth: I mean, we probably didn’t need to give as much space to Thug Thatcher as we did. Although again, I did get to make up that Thug Thatcher’s given name was felonious, which I think Walt Simonson… I think because I was hanging around the office and Walt would often come in and I told him I was joking with him that, “Oh yeah, we’re doing Thug Thatcher” and I gave him a name, felonious. I think that’s what inspired Walt’s even brings Thug Thatcher back in his Thor run despite-

Alex Grand: That’s funny.

Danny Fingeroth: Sitting around and joking about the character.

Alex Grand: Really good descriptive names. Yeah.

Danny Fingeroth: Yeah. It’s just the thing and I was looking on Thelonious monk, of course.





Alex Grand: Yeah.

Danny Fingeroth: It was… So Peter and I had a lot of fun. I got to… So when I got to a very good friends with Peter, who’s just an amazing person, we extend… this is one of course, the funny things about working in comics, all together it’s the classic thing. You’re sitting in a diner, when you’re working in comic especially as a freelancer, you get to know where the diner is of they won’t throw you out after an hour. You need to know where you can sit for three hours and actually… But you find yourself sitting in a restaurant plotting, talking about plotting to kill people or blow stuff up or destroy the world and you get funny looks from the tables around you.

Danny Fingeroth: So Peter and I would have these long conversations about, would Loki do this and when he and Loki was trapped as a tree and he was able to, I forget it, feel… There’s some story where Loki made a tree cry, we would like to debate all these things and we would, I mean, luckily while we up here and liked having an ongoing series to work on, we certainly went out looking to pad it out. So how, does this where the Crimson Beetle or whatever the character’s name was one of ant man’s earliest villains, but he is kind of silly by 1980s standards. So how do we deal with a character like that. This was a lot of fun and Peter, if you know always had a good time just kind of… There were worse things and getting paid to like iron out the wrinkles in Marvel history.

Alex Grand: Yeah, that sounds like fun. That sounds like fun work. So then before Jim Shooter left to be replaced by Tom DeFalco as Editor in Chief, you worked on some 1986, 1987 new universe title, the descriptor and-

Danny Fingeroth: I was a writer of Psi-Force

Alex Grand: Yeah, the writer of Psi-Force. So how was that?

Danny Fingeroth: Difficult. It was fun working with Mark Texeira who was great.

Alex Grand: As an artist. Yeah.

Danny Fingeroth: He really even then just brought a wonderful visual power and drama to Psi-Force that there were numerous reasons where they would be different rewrites or a revision. But it was good. I enjoyed it because although it wasn’t the new universe, it could still be taken seriously. Say Dazzler, I think had a hard time being taken seriously no matter how much gravitas we tried to instill with, but Psi-Force was fun. It was a good sort of hybrid in a way, almost of Spider-Man and Darkhawk , which are later got to do. It was… I mean, I was already in my 30s at that point, so I wasn’t a teenager, but I felt immature enough to still be in touch with my teenage.

Alex Grand: Teenage side, yeah.

Danny Fingeroth: So it was, yeah, it was fun. I know there were… I had some issues with editorial decisions, but I was glad to have the work and-

Alex Grand: I see.

Danny Fingeroth: And I liked those characters and let’s say, Tex really made it a pleasure and I did an issue, I think with Bob Hall who’s become a good friend. You may be submitting your project from him and me somewhere down the line.

Alex Grand: Cool. Yeah. I like Bob Hall.

Danny Fingeroth: Yeah, Bob, I thought it was, again, I don’t know if I have any rollicking stories. But it felt like it was good solid. It was a new universe, but we tried to give it the best of Marvel, which was ankle laced adventures of teenagers who were also who despite all their problems and all they’re being hunted, right were still having fun. Because I think that’s the essence. I think if you drill down in Marvel overall, I mean starting with Spider-Man, but going out to almost all the characters is at some level it’s fun to be this character, at some level you’re still the person web swinging across New York or flying across country or lifting a mountain. I mean, at some point that’s fun.

Alex Grand: Yeah. Living vicariously through the writing, for sure.

Danny Fingeroth: Yeah. No matter what else may be going on and who that you are in love with, who hates you or who you’re indebted to that is dying or who’s trying to kill you, it’s still fun to be a Marvel character and I think I tried to maintain all those kind of Marvel touchstones in Psi-Force.

Alex Grand: Yeah. Well, what was… So when you were doing this, was this written in like Marvel style of plotting then dialoguing or was it like you wrote the whole script out?

Danny Fingeroth: Most of the comics I wrote at Marvel were done Marvel style.

Alex Grand: Marvel style, okay.

Danny Fingeroth: Yeah. But, I mean that had evolved like that, I guess that got its name with Stan and Jack did where either they’d have a very brief plot conference or a half page description or Jack would plot it himself and Stan would then change the story with his dialogue. By the time I got there, it had evolved to where writers would write a reasonably detailed description, just not the dialogue and not so you’d have what you’d call almost the story synopsis. You’d say the story, it opens with this on the splash page and it was almost, we tried to write the plots almost as if she was sitting telling the story to a friend. You sort of imagine that the artist was that friend you’re sitting across a diner table from and saying this happens and that happens. So I think there were and then it got, say certain writers would write tons of detail other than write less, but it was rarely page one, something happens to Sue Storm. Page two, the Fantastic Four, look for page three the 15 they fight Doctor Doom. I mean, it was never that…

Alex Grand: That exact.

Danny Fingeroth: So it was Marvel style or Marvel method plot first, but that plots almost always had a certain level of detail to them. Just not all the dialogue.

Alex Grand: Right, and now what was your impression of the new universe stories and why did it not last?

Danny Fingeroth: Man oh man. That’s a tough one. I mean, I think in retrospect, which I guess is the only way you can really-

Alex Grand: Right, analyze it.

Danny Fingeroth: It seemed odd then and it seems… Right, I get the idea that to celebrate Marvel’s 25th anniversary, you would want to come up with something that in the Marvel tradition is new and status quo shattering.

Alex Grand: Right.

Danny Fingeroth: But the fact is you can’t do that on demand or on command and so it did and does seem, although I understand the reasoning behind it that it would celebrate Marvel’s 25th anniversary by doing something not involved with any of Marvel’s characters.

Alex Grand: Right.

Danny Fingeroth: Marvel’s well known characters. Because I think if you read the stories, it’s like a lot of things to get pilloried and history. I mean certainly to jump ahead of a decade or so or a couple of decades, the idea that the Clone Saga stories are now being repackaged in a hundred different formats, including omnibuses, you could’ve knocked me over with a feather at the time, or we can talk about that more later or next time.

Danny Fingeroth: So I think there were many good people working on those books, including Archie Goodwin and Tom DeFalco and Mark Texeira and the list goes on. John Romita Jr., Shooter himself. The star brand books were very clever and very innovative. I think got off on the wrong track. I think there was no… I don’t… There was no one character that caught people’s imaginations.





Alex Grand: It was kind of dystopian, right? I mean, it was kind of a dystopian.

Danny Fingeroth: It ended up that way for numerous reasons. It didn’t, I mean, look the fact even the most quarter horse realistic in a superhero comic, knowing what we know of human nature. Yes, if people that’s sort of the Watchmen fallacy and so the people took the brilliance of Watchmen and took it as kind of the…

Alex Grand: There you go.

Danny Fingeroth: As not just an outlier, but it’s like an example as a template. So it’s like, yes, if people got super powers, they probably would act like the people in Watchmen. People are selfish, even the most idealistic people often act at a selfish motives or they screw up, they hurt other people or blow stuff up inadvertently. So I guess when the new universe started heading in that direction and the rule, at least in the beginning, of course, that ended up being violated after Jim was gone. The idea was no aliens, no magic, no sub secret on the mode of races.

Alex Grand: So there’s some limits?

Danny Fingeroth: Yeah. Ah?

Alex Grand: There were limits on what you would do.

Danny Fingeroth: Yeah, limits and so I think it was heading in that sort of this topic and then they ended up doing that stuff with The Draft and The War. I was gone from the book by that point. Again, I get why they did that. I never thought that was a great idea and sort of, I think it’s fulfilled certain emotional catharsis needed by people because of various things going on at Marvel that you would able to plot and figure out. Yeah, but I think say if Star Brand or Cypher, if any of them had caught on in a big way, but it’s sort of… I mean, the same thing happened with the New Universe. Not the universe, with the Marvel…

Jim Thompson: Ultimate?

Danny Fingeroth: The Ultimate Marvel Universe where I think everybody thought and it made perfect sense that that would become the mainstream comic book Marvel Universe but it didn’t. I think there’s something so powerful about those characters that say, Jack and Steve came up with and Larry came up with that it looked… I mean, it’s kind of a mind boggling even beyond that, that Super-Man, Batman, Wonder Woman are still-

Alex Grand: The central characters. Yeah.

Danny Fingeroth: Right. I mean, if you said to a kid in 1947, Super-Man, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash Green Lantern, they know what you are… I mean, that’s kind of wild that those characters, despite the thousands of other characters of both companies to come up with that the ones that came from that first primal explosion of creativity at both those companies are still, have outlasted in the public consciousness any other character just I think because they were first.

Alex Grand: Yeah, that’s true. Now when DeFalco became Editor in Chief in ’87, did you feel like, “Okay, I’m familiar with his style”. Was it a pretty smooth transition from Jim Shooter’s and did their managerial style? Were they different?

Advertisement

Danny Fingeroth: Sorry. Yes, they were. Luckily for me, I had gone freelance in late ’84. I had… I felt I was ancient. I was 30 years old. I couldn’t imagine being older than that and I really felt I needed to take some risks in my life. So I went freelance. But I had a standing offer from both Shooter and DeFalco that anytime I want to come back on staff, I could.

Alex Grand: That’s pretty cool.

Danny Fingeroth: Yeah, it’s poking out of the sharp stick, you know and so I eventually did that a couple of years into Tom’s reign. Being a freelancer has its ups and downs as perhaps you know. The kind of in a sense you’re never on duty, in a sense you’re always on duty.

Alex Grand: Right.

Danny Fingeroth: If your kid needs you to do something, then you can go do it. But you might be up till four in the morning making up for lost time that whatever that cool thing you did with your kid was. So yeah, Shooter for whatever reasons have become very hands on as an editor in DC. Again, you’ve read or your listeners can read the various articles about things going on and there’s a lot of conflict at Marvel between Jim and the editors, between Jim and the executive. You can read his blog, he got his own point of view on the story. I was actually freelancing at that point, so I was not in the office day to day. There’s a lot of stuff that I think that I’m to this day not really aware of, but DeFalco was brought in. I think Tom thought that if they did fire Jim, they would fire him too because he was Jim’s right hand man.

Alex Grand: I see.

Danny Fingeroth: But they didn’t. They brought him in as chief. Yeah, I think there was a great kind of things. Look, Tom was a terrific manager. He understood the characters, he knew the company and I think he also knew that people needed more freedom than they’d had, that they needed the freedom to experiment and make mistakes. I mean, say Tom is as big as Spider-Man, traditionalist as you can get and yet it was under his reign that Todd McFarlane came in with that radically different look and the different look for the webbing. So I think Tom understood that sometimes you can, even if you know your rights, you still have to let people do what they’re going to do in order to keep morale up and to just sort of keep the creative electricity going. So I think that was a big kind of reaction to the very regimented way things has been said and Tom, had set a very different style.





Danny Fingeroth: I think again, Tom I think is one of the great geniuses of the comics industry of recent years and I think he had… Yeah, he was and again, not that I’ve agreed with every decision Tom may regarding me or regarding his reign. But overall he was-

Alex Grand: Morale was good.

Danny Fingeroth: Pretty… More than good overall.

Alex Grand: Yeah. Right.

Danny Fingeroth: He was a guy who you really wanted to please and do stuff for because, again, he’s human. But, I mean, you always felt that what he was doing was for the sake of the characters and the ultimate health of the medium and the company and the characters.

Jim Thompson: I have a question. Could he have stopped the… Could he have done anything that would’ve stopped the migration of the top artists there over to image? Or was that just an inevitable?

Danny Fingeroth: That was inevitable. I think that… I think again, history and the marketplace came together where that generation of creators looked at history. They looked at comics history, they looked at Siegel and Shuster, they looked at Jack Kirby, they looked at their childhood idols and the guys who built a business and they even looked at their immediate predecessors, right? Then Marvel gave them the means and really fall of to DC and Jim Shooter at Marvel pushed for these royalty programs. So these guys now had a lot of money, but they were smart enough to figure out, “We’re hot now, but we’re not always going to be hot.”

Alex Grand: Yeah.

Danny Fingeroth: “We need to build something that’s ours”. So no, I think…

Alex Grand: So those incentive plans in the 80s actually was part of… was one of these ingredients that actually causes him as revolution-

Danny Fingeroth: No, it’s totally financed.

Alex Grand: That’s interesting.

Danny Fingeroth: Totally financed it. Yeah. I mean that because the generation before that had bought cool stuff for themselves and their families. They did which you can’t fault them for. It was very nice. Now they bought nice homes and they bought stuff for the parents and the kids and their wives and the image guys did that too, but they and look, I think it was largely McFarlane and to some degree Ron. But that’s my kind of view it as an outsider, but nobody was and Todd McFarlane was not working for anybody. Todd McFarlane was a born entrepenur and very smart and yeah, no, there was… I think they had just seen too much of history and seeing people who are riding high one day who the next year or calling up some 12 year old begging for work and they didn’t want to be guys doing that.

Alex Grand: Right. No, that’s right. So now let’s talk a little bit about in 1990, a lot of things start off in Marvel. You really kind of get ingrained back into Marvel pretty deep at this point. You’re editing New Warriors, Spider-Man, Moon Knight from ’92, well ’90 to ’95 but Spidey started in ’91 and these were kind of street level vigilante type characters. Is that a particular knack you have for that type of content? Do you like that more than cosmic stories for example?

Danny Fingeroth: It’s funny because you guys know all about comics. This is a funny question and I will basically, I had that standing offer from Shooter and from DeFalco, “If you want to come back. So we’ll be glad to have you back”. So I had been freelancing for I think five years and for various personal things going on in my life as well as financial reasons, made sense for me to have a day job again. So I came back, so I said, “Tom, well let’s come back” and the books that were available then were Moonlight, Alpha Flight, Cloak and Dagger.

Alex Grand: Right.

Danny Fingeroth: I think Carl Potts, I think maybe was promoted to be the epic comics.

Alex Grand: Okay.

Danny Fingeroth: The epic comics. So I took over his books and then New Warriors was a book they wanted to start and they might’ve been, they probably wanted two others that I’m forgetting and a bunch of graphic novels. So that was in mid ’89 actually. I guess a lot of those titles didn’t hit the stands. So and it’s funny because when I went freelance in the late ’84, I said to myself, “I’m taking a chance here. I feel I have to. But even if I do go back on staff, now that they’ve instituted editors royalties, I’ll never see those Spider-Man books again. That’ll just never happen. There’s absolutely no way”. So I came back and I got sort of these low selling quirky books-

Alex Grand: Like Alpha Flight.

Danny Fingeroth: Alpha Flight, Moon Knight, Cloak and Dagger, New Warriors, which New Warriors was a joke. Before I put Fabian and Bagley on it, the concept of New Warriors was like Dazzler for the 90s.

Alex Grand: Really? So when they premiered in those two Thor issues, they were kind of a joke kind of team?

Danny Fingeroth: There was an in-house gag ad for New Warriors and the tagline was, “Marvel Comics, if you didn’t buy them, we couldn’t print them.” That was specifically referring to the New Warriors. I had this line of titles that I became, I thought all those books needed changes and I thought there was nothing to lose and I had just gone through a divorce, so I was pissed off in general. So I really became the nightmare over there in editor and pretty much impose my personality and all those books because I thought they really all needed a shot in the arm-

Alex Grand: Nice. Okay.

Danny Fingeroth: And you know what, that’s how you’re an editor. That’s what you do. You do that. That thing about you hire the best people and let them go, total bullshit. So anyway, I mean, it’s like vendor playing God in that future Rami episode. We get… It’s like if you do your job right, nobody will know you’ve done anything. I mean, again, I’m being facetious to make a point, but in this case, I just said these books aren’t selling much. They’re all on the verge of cancellation. I need… Let’s shake them up. That was funny. You asked me that about the Spider-Man books. So I took it away these exact opposite approach with those books.

Alex Grand: Right.

Danny Fingeroth: Because I just felt, “Who gives a shit what happens to Cloak and Dagger, Moon Knight and Alpha Flight?” I mean, even if I totally fuck up royalty, who’s going to know?

Alex Grand: Right and that’s actually kind of right.

Danny Fingeroth: Which was the best attitude to go in. That’s what it was.

Alex Grand: Yeah, it is.

Danny Fingeroth: So I came up with… I looked at Moon Knight and I said, “Wow, this guy, he’s a Jew who would do anything for money”. Wow, that’s pretty intense. He’s like, he’s got 11 different origins, even though the people who invented them, and I believe Doug meant well by making him Jewish and doing all he did with them. So I don’t impute any ill will on the people who worked on it before. But I’m looking at him and I’m going, “Here’s a Jew who would do anything for money and I have this deep Jewish background. What the fuck do I do with this series?” That’s when I said about the trial of Marc Spector. Somehow there’s got to be a reckoning, even if he’s like the world’s nicest mercenary. Somewhere he killed somebody, somewhere he killed an innocent, somewhere bad shit happened.

Danny Fingeroth: So that’s where I came up with the trial of Marc Spector and-

Alex Grand: I like it.

Danny Fingeroth: I don’t know if Chuck liked it or not, but he played along and he did it, did a good job on it and-

Alex Grand: Yeah. Is that a manifestation of Jewish guilt?

Danny Fingeroth: I guess I may. It was probably some autobiographical by me through Chuck, you know. It really disturbed me. I mean, look, this often happens. How many times have we seen like comics trying or even movies too trying to kind of do something progressive and inclusive and it ends up just reinforcing the worst cliches about whatever ethnic or racial group or religious group they are dealing with?

Alex Grand: Sure. No, that’s true. Yeah.

Danny Fingeroth: Alpha Flight I knew what to do with. Again, that’s maybe a thing they should have canceled after burn listed. Anyway, so the Cloak and Dagger, that’s where I put Gerber on Cloak and Dagger and I ended up putting Fabian and Bagley on New Warriors and they turned out to be this team that… I’d worked with Bagley before on some other projects. So I knew he and I did that what if together, what if Spider-Man’s living costume had-

Alex Grand: Yeah, I like that. I love that. Yeah.

Danny Fingeroth: Me too. Thank you. He was the artist on… What was that outer space commandos thing that I was editing? Because I inherited that from Carl also. Strike Force Morituri





Alex Grand: Wow. Okay.

Danny Fingeroth: He was the artist instructor of Strike Force Morituri and it’s funny,. So I think that-

Alex Grand: No, that’s okay.

Danny Fingeroth: I think we’ve lost a lot… One thing in any efficiency we gained with the Internet, one thing we’ve lost is talk in a long telephone calls like this, you know?-

Alex Grand: Yeah.

Danny Fingeroth: Which we are having. I mean, part of your job as an editor at Marvel and I’m sure everywhere with spend long conversations with artists and writers are needed such kind of thing. You play whatever and very often you get to know their family. Say you’d call and you got their wife and their kid and you have a long time with them. I mean, I knew Bagley pretty well. He became a good friend. Fabian, I knew from the office and Fabian was very ambitious and very talented in million ideas, which I guess the good and bad news, Fabian was that you had to try to figure out which are the good ideas and which are the bed ideas. But yeah-

Alex Grand: I love the work you did on the New Warriors. I mean, I read every issue as that came out. I couldn’t wait for the next month and I love that.

Danny Fingeroth: Those guys are great to work with. But I would say, and I mean in a good way that Fabian and I had a lot of shouting matches over plots where he’d want to do some crazy thing and I go, “That’s great”, or I’d want or he think what I did would want to do, would be much too conservative or careful and I think what he would want to do would be to reckless and made no sense in the… Well, yeah, but it worked out. It was with those, especially those first 25 issues were just wonderful, so thank you. Yeah, I’m very proud of those. So that was, again, I’m not sure I have answered your question, but that was-

Alex Grand: No, yeah. But yeah.

Danny Fingeroth: Again, I felt like New Warriors is another book you had nothing to lose. If it… Everybody expected it to fail. So if it failed, no one to be surprised and if it was a success, A. Everybody will be pleasantly surprised by it. B. It looks good on your resume too.

Alex Grand: Yeah. But those first 20 to the first 26 issues were magic though. I do feel that way.

Danny Fingeroth: Yeah.

Alex Grand: Now in 1991, then you started editing Spider-Man, amazing Spider-Man.

Danny Fingeroth: Again, all right. Well, is that a question or just an observation?

Alex Grand: Yeah, and so question. Yeah. Then also, so the artists that was first on, well that was on when you kind of got reassigned back to Spider-Man was Erik Larson. How was working with him? How were those pages?

Danny Fingeroth: Eric is great. Eric… Yeah, Eric is again, professional, imaginative. One thing I found about the image guys including Todd, Eric specially, was that they didn’t seem to take things personally which I really sort of they were careful to not burn bridges, which was very interesting. They went out to compete with Marvel, but except for Todd, they’ve all been back working for Marvel. Because, again, they were adult enough to know that they didn’t want to a need to burn bridges. So Eric, yeah. Eric, I mean, he was good. He was fast. He was imaginative. Work was full of energy.

Jim Thompson: He knew how to write?

Danny Fingeroth: He knew how to write. Exactly. He-

Alex Grand: So then when he left to co-create Image Comics, were you the one that recommended Mark Bagley to come on to Spider-Man after that?

Danny Fingeroth: I think Bagley would’ve killed me if I hadn’t hired him to Spider-Man. I think there were those death threats from Bagley that were highly, “I’m just kidding Mark”, but not that much. Yeah. Well, Bagley had… I’d seen his Spider-Man, I think he-

Alex Grand: Right, and you done New Warriors that already by then?

Danny Fingeroth: I’d done New Warriors. On Spider-Man he and I had done the what if, I think he’d done some inventory or some fill-ins Spidey stories for Salicrup. Yeah, it was and I think we talked about it a lot. I knew that he wanted it and he was a workhorse. Not only was he good, but he could draw a lot of pages.

Alex Grand: Yeah, and he was doing, because he was doing Spidey in New Warriors at the same time for some of that and you guys even did a crossover between the two books as far as New Warriors and Spidey. So how is coordinating that?

Danny Fingeroth: Well, it’s easy because it was all coming out of my office.

Alex Grand: Was that your idea to cross them over?

Danny Fingeroth: You mean the Round Robin story?

Alex Grand: Yeah.

Danny Fingeroth: That was a story that I had come up with for Moon Knight. I think I was even, maybe I even pitched it as a mini series that I would write. I forget, and again, it’s all kind of vague.

Alex Grand: Yeah.

Danny Fingeroth: But at certain point, we were doing the biweeklies every Sunday. I was having a biweeklies and I think David needed a break. So I gave that to the… I gave my outline to Al Milgrom to write who’s also a terrific writer, beside being great penciller and inker. So we did that and yeah, that was all. It’s always fun to do it in your own office. I mean, you may have noticed that when I wrote Dark Hawk, I had Spider-Man the guest starring quite a bit in.

Alex Grand: Yeah. I love that. I mean, you had Dark Hawk and Moon Knight all kind of hanging out together, these guys.

Danny Fingeroth: Yeah. Well, and also we did that mini series a few years later, the Spider-Man friends and enemies.

Alex Grand: Yeah.

Danny Fingeroth: Yeah. That stuff was all… When I came back on staff, I found one reason I’d go on freelance in ’84 was I had sort of gotten the book coming out regularly and I thought they were good, but in a way I had found people I trusted and could let them go. So I was a little bored. So aside from wanting to kind of establish my own voice more as a writer, but also a little both side I found ways when I came back on staff in ’89 to make it more interesting for myself. Hard to describe exactly what that I mean, because obviously I couldn’t as I had said, I thought I said to Cecily before. Yes, there were some books that I impose my will and I just thought this is what we’re doing, but I couldn’t and didn’t want to do that with, especially with the Spidey books if I didn’t have to. I mean, that became much… that became complicated as the spider line grew to like 18 monthly titles.

Danny Fingeroth: But I found ways to keep it more interesting for myself and so coming back to Spidey, I think I understood better who the character was. I understood the history of the character in depth. One thing I’d done a lot of with the Marvel Saga and with just writing a lot of different characters was really immersing myself in the history in a way that I may be hadn’t before and writing all of those what if. So, again, I’ve lost track of the question.

Alex Grand: But you’re creating great context, which we love.

Danny Fingeroth: All right. So-

Alex Grand: So then when you were now another thing, the creation of Carnage, right? The whole Carnage saga. Was that character directed by you to them or did that come from the more writing? How did carnage come about?

Danny Fingeroth: The idea for it started when Salicrup was still editing the Spider-Man books. Again, I’m sure I probably once knew more of the detail. Like obviously Kasady was incredibly popular.





Alex Grand: Right.

Danny Fingeroth: So to do something that was a a riff on venom but wasn’t exactly the same character became Carnage. So I don’t know if it was David or Jim or a combination of the two of them, but somehow the idea became of what if we put, what if we gave a venom like suit to the joker? I guess it was essentially to the character who was that level of crazy. Who was that chaotic in his destructive and realistic in his view of life. So that was mostly in place by the time I took the books back over. That was David and I guess Eric and of course Mark really did the finishing. Mark Bagley did the finishing touches on the visual-

Alex Grand: I see. So David was already toying with the idea of this character before and then Eric had kind of fleshing out a little bit of it and then Mark kind of finalized that. I see what you’re saying.

Danny Fingeroth: Right, and the name actually was Eric Fine, who was my assistant at the time, came up with the name of Carnage.

Alex Grand: Of Cletus Kasady? Oh, of the actual Carnage character. Yeah.

Danny Fingeroth: Of Cletus Kasady was in place, but the name Carnage and obviously I approved it and David Michelinie approved it.

© 2020 Comic Book Historians