(In Response To Mark Hale)
Mark: Thanks for checking back here and sorry to be gone so long. I have no idea what THE UNTOLD STORY is. I suppose, if I wasn’t interviewed, it’s still untold. 🙂 I presume I’ve been retconned out of Marvel history, which only makes my point. Now, maybe I’m being retconned for being (a) Shooter’s protégé, (b) an a-hole (comes with being Shooter’s protégé), but much like the liberal pundits wringing their hands speculating why the GOP so personally hates President Obama, there’s an obvious cause and effect for whatever presumed blind spots may present themselves in Marvels’ self-congratulatory published histories.
The fact their first black editorial hire didn’t occur until 1978 is and should be a source of some embarrassment. Pretending to be colorblind, “Oh, we never think of that, that shouldn’t matter, we call no attention to that,” just makes them idiots. The fact they never seem to mention the historic nature of Joe Quesada being, from what I can tell, the longest-serving EIC (call Guinness) AND the first Cuban American Marvel exec only makes the company seem racist, not post-racial. They seem like idiots to not trumpet the progressive nature of their hiring practices. Marie Severin was, to my knowledge, the first female art director. Where is she in their history? Jo Duffy wa a female writer/editor when I started there, and Louise (Weezie) Jones (ne-Simonson) was the very powerful editor of The Uncanny X-Men (well, she’d probably tell you she was not initially so powerful, but then the X-Men blew up). Were they the first female editors? Isn’t that worth noting?
I understand trying to seem above it all or somehow beyond it all. Marvel just continues to seem racist and sexist and for no perceptible reason. They hired a black guy, they hired a woman, they hired a Cuban American. These are things to be proud of, not to live in denial of. What should embarrass them is that they are a company led, creatively, by a Cuban American yet their footprint in the Latino American community remains microscopic as they continue to invest virtually all their energy in, no offense, white males. Marvel was, by no means, a beacon of diversity but , to my recollection, they seemed largely indifferent toward race or gender. And, like Mad Men, whose Season One set looked almost *exactly* like the 1970’s Marvel offices, Marvel was a place of scurrilous racist and sexist jokes–along with fat jokes, bald jokes, ethnic jokes and so forth. It was a creative place jammed with creative people. I have no earthly idea why every history I’ve read of the place–most especially every self-generated, self-congratulatory history–refuses to put these important industry milestones on the map.
The late Morrie Kuramoto openly mocked whites of all ethnicities and celebrated December 7th every year. Offensive? You bet. But hilarious. The Marvel I recall was a lot like the old sitcom WKRP in Cincinnati. Powerful women in charge of important stuff, a sprinkling of minorities and a diversity among white ethnicities. And every history I read seems to ignore this, which makes Marvel seem like DC, which it never was. Marvel should be proud of Morrie, of Marie, of Weezie, of Larry Hama, Jim Owsley, and, yes, Jim Shooter– Polish, who took a lot of ribbing for that. The historic nature of Joe Quesada’s epic run as EIC should be a source of pride.
As I said, I have no idea what The Untold Story is, but I wish somebody would write a history that does not embarrass Marvel by the repeated omission of the good Marvel (ne-Stan Lee, ne-Jim Shooter) did by creating opportunities for all persons, regardless of ethnicity, gender or sexual preference. The only caveat being, back in those days, you needed thick skin, regardless of what color it was. Nobody really cared much what color you were or what gender you preferred or if you had a full head of hair. But everything was fair game for ribald mockery.
It wasn’t perfect. 70’s-era racism fueled a lot of the challenges I encountered there. An honest history would include that as well. But, at the very least, the historic nature of first gender and ethnic hires is something Marvel should actually be proud of. I can’t imagine their motive for ignoring what are, in retrospect, very progressive choices in what appears to be an effort to project Marvel as some monolithic white superhero version of Disney. Who was the first black executive at Disney? Is he or she noted in their history? Why would a company deliberately omit or gloss over these kinds of things?
Oh, and just for the record: Stan Lee worked in the office my first year at Marvel. He was genuinely kind and engaged in teaching me as much as I wanted to learn. I, a high-school intern, could get in to see him. I never, not one time, heard a sexist or racist joke come from Stan. Ever. Or, for that matter, from Shooter who, as the butt of many jokes up there himself, never (in my presence, anyway) made disparaging remarks about all the Jewish and Italian guys running around up there. That was maybe because we figured Vinnie Colletta was mobbed up. 🙂
Marvel was way out in front on most of these issues, albeit likely by accident (I seriously doubt there was any progressive hiring initiative; we just stumbled through the door). DC, by contrast, didn’t hire their first black editor until 1990. It was me. And, at DC, after Dick Giordano made initiatives to move me to Group Editor, I was specifically told I’d never be promoted above editor. I’m confident this was most likely performance-based, but I knew my future there was limited. At Marvel I suspected my future had (at that time) limits; at DC I knew, for sure, I was sitting at the last desk I’d ever get. Marvel has absolutely no rational reason to keep ignoring this important part of their history.