I never look at my Wikipedia page, mainly because anyone can post anything there and have things accepted as fact:

Professional and personal disagreements eventually led to his removal as editor and his leaving Marvel. Marvel’s editor-in-chief, Jim Shooter, later recalled, “I fired Jim Owsley because his tenure as an editor was a train wreck. When I fired Jim Owsley, he thanked me. Seriously. He said, ‘Thank you.’ He admitted that he just wasn’t good at the administrative stuff (i.e., schedules). P.S.—there was plenty of work for him as a writer, so it was not such a big deal. In fact, it was like giving him a raise. He … [was] meant to be a writer, not an expediter.”

So, now, I guess I can run around the web trying to un-quote people or correct derogatory mentions, but chasing your tail is a real waste of time. I have to respond to this quote if only so somebody else can update my Wikipedia page with a quote from me.

Jim Shooter was my mentor and a tremendous friend. The last thing I’d ever want to do is say anything negative about him personally. People who turn on or lash out at friends who’ve helped them are, in my view, complete jerks. Jim opened huge doors for me, and I will be forever grateful.

Everybody’s entitled to their own memories but not their own facts. As Spider-Man editor, I never missed shipping. If my tenure was “a train wreck,” it was because I never missed shipping, which meant throwing in fill-ins as needed. And they were usually needed because Jim was driving me crazy. That was his job– drive the editors crazy by rejecting everything that came across his desk. Nothing was ever good enough, no writer ever talented enough. If my watch was a train wreck, it was Shooter himself piling driftwood on the tracks.

Jim’s quote is from 2009. Here is my essay from May of 2002.

The reason for my departure was a major conflict between myself and then Executive Editor Tom DeFalco which was caused by Shooter himself. Once a close friend and mentor, Jim was running DeFalco literally all over the globe–sending him here and there (including the UK) on Marvel business and increasing Tom’s workload to the point where Tom was chronically late on his Amazing Spider-Man duties.

I got yelled at for that. A lot. I also was harangued, constantly, for hiring Peter David, whose work Shooter disliked intensely. Tom’s chronic lateness led to cost overruns as we raced for the ship date. Tom’s chronic lateness eventually led to inker Josef Rubinstein’s departure among other problems.

When I finally confronted Shooter about Tom– how did Jim expect Tom to meet his writing schedule if he’s running all over the place– Jim said, and I quote, “Well, fire him.”

And so I did. From my 2002 essay:

“Tom took the news very hard. It ended our friendship, and, I am told, Tom saw Jim’s hand in this and threatened to quit. A stunned Shooter appeared at my door the next day, and I knew I was about to be fired. He asked me, and I quote, ‘Why’d you do that? [fire Tom]’ I just stared at him as he stammered and stared at the floor and shook his head and exhaled, and I felt like I was in The Godfather II, the victim of some macabre Corleone plot. What the blessed hell was this man talking about?!? I cleared this all with him before I did it. More to the point, for months he’d been after me to do something about Tom.

I said, ‘Because you told me to. We talked about this beforehand.’ To which Jim replied, and I’ll never forget this, ‘Yeah— but I never thought you’d actually do it.'”

Not long after that, Shooter gave me an ultimatum: accept the contract or be fired. In retrospect, I should have let him fire me rather than have a lie pinned to my Wikipedia page for all eternity. I was not fired. I was offered an exclusive contract and I left voluntarily. This is what irritates me so much about Shooter running around saying he fired me. He didn’t fire me. He could not have fired me, he had no grounds to fire me. I never missed shipping. Not once. Any cost overruns incurred on my watch were ordered by Jim Shooter because nothing was ever good enough for Jim Shooter. Tom DeFalco reportedly gave him an ultimatum. That’s not grounds for firing. You cant fire someone for doing what you told them to do.

Had I been fired, I’d have sued Marvel and I’d have won. I accepted an exclusive contract and, as Jim accurately points out, made more money staying home than I did working in the office. I don’t recall thanking him for firing me, but if I did, it was in the context of thanking him for releasing me from the toxic environment Marvel editorial had become on his watch. I did, however, recognize the headlock he was in, caught between Tom and myself, and Jim and I continued to be friends, including my defending him toward his final days as EIC.

Months after I left, all of the Marvel editors walked up to the president’s office and threatened to quit if he didn’t get rid of Shooter. Now, your mileage may vary about whose reign was a train wreck or whose memory is more accurate; I can’t help you with that. I don’t even like discussing this.

To the best of my knowledge, Jim and I have no axes to grind and no grudges. So far as I know, I actually have a cordial relationship with DeFalco, but nothing at all like the mentor relationship we once had, which is understandable. Spider-Man meant a lot to Tom and I took it away. I can blame Shooter all day long, but this is still damage I caused a friend.

As I wrote in my essay, I made a lot of mistakes, I hurt a lot of people. I tried to avoid using Shooter’s name even when executing his instructions, so some talent and staff just assumed I was crazy. I was, in fact, ostracized as Shooter’s protégé.

I’m not sure what compelled him to even bring my name up in the 2009 interview or in what context. But guys with track records like his are in absolutely no position to be casting aspersions, especially when it’s so unnecessary and such ancient, dead history.

1 Comment

  1. Priest Priest says:

    Full Disclosure (and thank you, Ibrahim, for bringing this to my attention), here is a fuller quote from Jim Shooter:

    If Jim/Christopher and I were to sit in a room with you and review all the stories we tell involving each other, he would tell them honestly but with outrageous humor, excessive drama and much irreverence. And I would roll my eyes, make hand gestures of appeal to the heavens and mock him mercilessly. Then, I would tell the same stories honestly and sincerely while being punctured and pummeled by his rapid-fire, hysterically funny heckling. And we would both laugh until we were Jell-o. You would find that we agreed on all the particulars. You would find that we even agreed on the nuance — he would admit to going for drama and shock value in the telling sometimes and I would acknowledge that I was hard on him sometimes. And more honking and hooting would precipitate from that.

    And then we’d go off somewhere and get a root beer and talk about old days, good and bad and what we missed about them, and new days, our lives and what we were hoping for.

    I fired Jim one day. He thanked me. The creative part of the editor’s job he loved. Making the trains run not so much. I also told him I thought he was brilliant, and that as long as I had anything to say about it he’d always have work creating and writing, which he loves through and through. He never, ever let me down.

    Friends always.

    Yes. I certainly hope so.

    With excessive drama and much irreverence