Wednesday, December 7, 2011

1983 - The Jim Shooter Theory of the Big Bang of the Marvel Universe (according to Doug Moench)

Comic Foundry writer Tim Leong transcribed a phone call between Doug Moench and Charlie Huston in which they chatted about Moon Knight. The conversation hit Jim Shooter and here’s the relevant Marvel 1980s bits (

“He was making life miserable for everybody on Marvel, including Chris Claremont, who bit his tongue and held his peace for the sake of his beloved X-Men. You after to remember: Roy Thomas had already quit, Marv Wolfman had quit, Len Wein had quit, Gerry Conway had quit — I mean, the list went on and on and on and we haven’t even gotten to the artists.

“I think at that point, the two guys from that period who were left were me and Chris Claremont, and Chris came after me. This guy was so evil that he had all the assistant editors totally whipped. They were calling me and saying, “Doug, you gotta do something to stop this guy.” I said, “What am I going to do? I’m a freelancer. You’re the editors. Get together and go up to Stan (Lee) and say ‘Stan, you wouldn’t believe what this guy is trying to do.’” And what he was trying to do was what he called the Jim Shooter Theory of the Big Bang of the Marvel Universe. Now, what this was, he was going to kill off every major Marvel character, I swear this is true, but without killing them off.

“In other words, he was going to call off Steve Rogers, but not Captain America. And then a new guy, quote, like an investment banker, close quote, would be the new Captain America. He was going to kill off Peter Parker and someone else would be Spider-Man. I said, “This is lunacy. Stan Lee would never let this happen. This is insane.” But he was doing it! He got on the phone with me and said, “Look, this is happening and it’s starting with you.” I said, “What do you mean?” He said, “Next issue of ‘Master of Kung Fu,’ I want Shang-Chi dead, and when I mean dead, I want to see his blood. I want no way that Shang-Chi would ever be able to come back.” I said, “Now why would you do that? If you don’t like ‘Master of Kung Fu,’ kill the book, don’t kill the character, because these things have a way of changing over time and in five years you might want to revive the character of the book, etc.” “No, I don’t want to kill the book, I want to kill the character. Kill Shang-Chi and make a new master of kung-fu, like a ninja.” I said, “Mr. Shooter, perhaps you’re not aware. Ninjas are Japanese, kung-fu is Chinese.

 “But anyway, he said, “If you don’t do, I’ll get someone that will. And ‘Moon Knight’ is next.” And I was writing ‘Thor” at the time. And then Don Blake goes and a new guy finds the hammer.” And after that phone call, I thought, well, it’s time to call Dick Giordano and have that lunch you keep wanting to take me to. Let’s have a burger. So I did. I called Dick Giordano. I don’t want to lose my babies – “Moon Knight” and “Weird World,” “Master of Kung Fu” – I was even enjoying “King Conan,” you know? But this guy is insane and I can’t stop him. All I can do is refuse. “Come on in, I’ll take you out for lunch.” So I went in and he said, “What do you want? What’s your favorite character?” Batman. “You got it! Want anything else?” And as much as I hated leaving Marvel after 10 years, I had no choice, and that’s the only reason I did it.”
Wow. A similar interview with Moench is featured in Comic Book Artist Collection Volume 3 echoing the same story.

I haven't come across anything on Jim Shooter's blog that mentioned this opinion specifically, but there are mentions that there is some bad blood between Shooter and Moench. Please let me know if anyone has come across any other items on this issue.

Interestingly, the Jim Shooter Theory of the Big Bang of the Marvel Universe did come to fruition later in the 1980s, but without all the Deaths. Don Blake was erased during Simonson’s run, Eric Masterson became the new Thor and then Thunderstrike, James Rhodes wore the Iron Man armor and eventually became War Machine, and John Walker wore the Captain America uniform.


  1. I've always found Shooter to be an incredibly fascinating figure, because there seems to be so much animosity towards him, yet Marvel experienced what is by far their most fertile post-60s creative period under his reign (as well as more creator rights). It's difficult to say who was right and wrong in these kind of he said/she said debates. Was he a jerk? A tyrant? A saint? I have no idea. I can only speak as a fan, and as a fan I saw a huge upshoot in quality.

    Most of the writers that moved to DC were the weaker ones. Conway? Wein? Wolfman? These were the guys that presided over the dreary 70s. I mean, sure there was some fun, goofy stuff, but it was such an obvious come-down from the unbridled creativity of the 60s. I think Shooter made the right call by forcing these guys out, and letting in a newer, more creative bunch.

  2. I can't help wondering if what Moench is talking about is related to the rumor that Marvel wanted to make changes to all its major characters because it was paranoid of losing them in creator rights lawsuits - e.g., Spider-Man's new costume, new Iron Man, Thor as mentioned, etc. In that sense, Shooter was likely acting in a way dictated to him from over his head, not out of some bizarre power trip.

    That said, I've heard from people that worked at Marvel at the time some REALLY unflattering things about Shooter's conduct. Stuff that really can't be reprinted here but basically everything that modern office handbooks tell you not to do or you'll be fired, Shooter was doing it?

  3. Well many writers and artists have spoken badly of how Shooter treated them , so probably he was a lousy boss. Maybe even a tyrant, as somone pointed out, but hisperiod , i my fan opinion, was the last whch deliverd constant , fresh and quality material on a regular basis. F Miller Daredevil, Thor by Simonson , the X-Men by Claremont, and the FF by Byrne, have not been replicated. Nowadays we only hve 3 or 4 decent titles, if we are lucky.

  4. I'm going through Shooter's blog right now and it's kind of a frustrating read. There are some really fascinating bits of behind the scenes gossip, but some of it is so painfully self-aggrandizing. A large chunk just amounts to "I was a saint. Here's another story of me being saintly. Here's one about how I rescued a puppy and another about how I saved a baby from drowning!" I realize this guy has had his name dragged through the mud over the decades, and maybe this is some form of damage control and saving his legacy. Still it's so one-sided that it can be a little hard to swallow at times. So much of it amounts to "I was amazing and everyone who criticized me was doing so because they sucked and I called them out on it".

  5. You know a story doesn't hold up when all you have to ask yourself is "why didn't Shang Chi and all of these charterers die once Moench went to DC". If Shooter wanted him dead in the very next issue, then why didn't he? Sorry Doug - your story is full of (road apples)

  6. More "He said/She said".

    What is Jim supposed to write about on his blog? Is he supposed to list all the people he had a problem with and say "Doh! They were right, I was wrong!"

    Hell no. A person with any ounce of integrity is going to look back and say "I made the best decisions with the information I had available."

    The comics industry grew remarkably under Jim's leadership. Considering how badly comics suck ass right now, anything Jim has to say on the subject is a beacon of wisdom.

    Fans of Doug Moench's writing need to keep in mind he never would gave had that opportunity from month to month if Jim didn't feel he was capable of the task.

    Did he do anything noteworthy at DC? Was he even challenged to produce his best work? I can't recall anything, but I'm not a fan of DC.

  7. @Defiant1 - big thumbs up. And no, Moench's best work was Master of Kung-Fu - his Batman stuff is forgettable

  8. 'Anonymous' is an asshole.

    Anonymous said... "A large chunk [of Jim Shooter's blog] just amounts to "I was a saint. Here's another story of me being saintly. Here's one about how I rescued a puppy and another about how I saved a baby from drowning!""

    I read Shooter's blog. Those are not quotes. For 'Anonymous' to 'quote' things that were not said or written, is to realize that 'Anonymous' is a liar. Or at the very least, he's prone to unfounded hyperbole, ignorant of how his exaggerations make him look to be a liar, or just plain stupid. I'm betting both.

    Whether you agree with Shooter's editorial stance or not, Shooter tells stories of his experiences, many times backing them up with memos and other paperwork he's kept throughout the years. He doesn't shy away from people's very direct questions. He addresses the challenges that are expressed to him in the comments section, and in many times, in his main blog posts.

    Thomas, Wolfman, Wein & Conway's departure from Marvel had a lot to do with Shooter dismantling the Writer/Editor position at Marvel (if memory serves), which he believed resulted in bad content. The spoiled brats balked and threw tantrums. He also explains many other controversies in great detail on his blog.

    By characterizing Shooter as evil, Doug Moench abdicates any sensible argument, especially when he accuses Shooter of doing things he never actually did, such as killing off the characters.

    As Editor In Chief, IT'S HIS RESPONSIBILITY TO KEEP SALES UP! Did his job more effectively than anyone since Stan Lee, too. Since Doug Moench and 'Anonymous' lie through their exaggerations, I believe their so-called 'recollections' can't be all that trustworthy.

    Certainly not in comparison to Jim Shooter, who qualifies what he says, and often backs it up with evidence and paperwork.

  9. Greetings previous commenter, the quote I put was fairly obviously in a humorous tone, and was never alleged to be a direct quote. It was also preceded by "a large chunk of it amounts to...", meaning the part in quotes is a humorous summary, not a direct quote (nor was it ever alleged to be). I would advise you to take blog comments a little less seriously and perhaps develop an ear for sarcasm. Though I greatly appreciate being called "just plan stupid" and "a liar".
    Take care,

  10. Ja, please be civil. I don't like deleting comments, but I will. Let's have a civil discussion and as heated and passionate as it may get, let's not call folks names. Please make your arguments with any personal attacks.

    Let's have fun, shall we? I know I'm enjoying everyone's participation on this post. This collaboration and interaction is what my blog is all about.

  11. Ja's comment may have been a little heated, and laced with some name calling, but he makes great points. I am a regular reader of Jim Shooter's blog, and he is very even handed in telling stories of what went on behind the scenes. He goes out of his way to point out the great things creators did, their strengths, and what they added. But he doesn't shy away from pointing out backstabbing or laziness or selfishness displayed. I don't think he tries to make himself come off as a saint, but rather as someone who did the best he could in some oftentimes VERY difficult circumstances. And I have to agree with a lot of the posters here: yes, those were my teenage years, and there is certainly a degree of nostalgia attached, but there is no denying that it was a pretty wonderful creative time at Marvel under his stewardship. And sales were at their peek, I believe, while he was E-I-C.

    Ray C.

  12. Jason Shayer,

    I'll try to refrain from using the specific hot-button words, but beyond that, I just can't change anything else I would say.

    I believe I was being civil, reacting properly to malicious people who make things up out of whole cloth. You never called Doug Moench on his use of calling Jim Shooter 'evil'. You never called B*** S*** to 'Anonymous' on his misuse of quotes. THAT is the crux of my reaction.

    But, I get it. Give my opinion, but refrain from using the specific naughty words. Be erudite while I write my comments, even while it's okay for people like 'Anonymous' wildly lies in his comment.

    I do enjoy your blog, and I appreciate the time you put into it. But I would hope that in the future, you hold other people to good quality standards as you seem to be doing with me. When I'm the only one you admonish, while giving a pass to people who make such wild over-the-top (and more importantly, unqualified) allegations... that comes across as being hypocritical.

    I expect that this comment will be cancelled. Even so, if ever I post in your comments section again, I'll heed your warnings.

    Thanks for your time.

  13. Hey ja, I'm happy to hear your opinion, just like I am for everyone else on this blog. One of the main reasons for this post was to see what information I could gather. I believe Anonymous has replied to your initial comment about it being in a humorous tone.

    As to not calling on Doug Moench? I clearly pointed out that this was one point of view and I asked for more information on the other point of view. How am I supposed to call him on that when I don't have all the facts. Just as you posted your point of view, I posted up Moench. I find his point of view insightful and try not to get fired up about it because it's just that, a point of view. Similarly from Shooter's blog, it's all his point of view.

    There's no other topic from the Marvel 1980s that polarizes fans as much as this one.

    Thanks for your comment and glad you like the blog.

  14. Anonymous,

    No, not that one, the other one.


    You used quotes. For those people who understand English, quotes means that you're repeating what someone said. You didn't. You said your comments were humorous, yet you didn't say they were. It certainly didn't seem as if it was. Your comments seemed malicious and untrue.

    I stand by my previous comments, because I don't believe you were were being humorous. I believe you were being malicious. I'm not saying this to be contentious; I'm saying this because that's the way I read it, as you wrote it. I was reacting to someone I believed to be malicious, who didn't care about being accurate in his so-called 'recollections'.

    I really hate bullies who don't care about being fair-minded, and don't care to own up to being so when they're called on it.

    Also, I treat things as seriously as they're presented. You presented your misquotes in what I thought was a serious manner. Certainly they were presented in an inaccurate, malicious way. I don't expect you to care that you were. I'm just explaining how I read your statement, which again is how you wrote it.

    Jason, I believe a lot of the polarization on the subject of Jim Shooter is primarily that people like to take sides, a great deal of them without knowing or caring to find out the particular details of (at least) Jim Shooter's specific point of view.

    Armed with no real sense of the other side of an argument about Shooter, people decide to blather on with their game of 'telephone', repeating what someone else said, when they don't care about its accuracy, then embellishing that false misleading 'information' into something completely different from what they were even informed of in the first place.

    Trash me as you like. I'm done with this subject.

    Happy Holidays!

  15. I actually asked Jim Shooter, through his blog (please don't ask me to look up which post), About this incident and the accusation that Monech said Jim wanted to kill off Shang Chi. Jim's comment was something to the extent that Sales were down on Master of King Fu. He knew something had to be done so he suggested that Moench replace Shang Chi with a ninja or some such thing in order to boost sales. He said it was a suggestion and by no means a demand. This is what I remember but please don't hold me to it because it's a vague memory at best.
    I actually enjoy Jim's blog quite a bit. He gives really amazing insights into the world of comics, and not only the behind the scenes stuff but also great tips for writers and artist. I get the impression that Jim is a big fan boy and is very passionate about his comics. I can see how this passion could come off as aggression and bulling, especially considering his size. It sounds like Marvel was a bustling community of creative types that were self indulgent and at times acted like spoiled kids. I don't think Jim is a saint but I think he did bring a kind of stability and vision to Marvel that allowed for great work to happen. Heck when he left the books weren't very good.

  16. Hey Piperson, thanks for the post and the information!

  17. Moench is so full of it. As if the corporate bosses would allow shedding their moneymakers. Moon Knight was awful and so was Master of Kung Fu. More likely Moench didn't like being told no. His story is a fantasy.


  18. ^^ What Doug said was repeated by all the Marvel writers asswhipe


  19. Hey guys, let's keep this civil. Everyone has an opinion and Shooter is easily the most polarizing topics of the 1980s. Joe, can you tell me which other writers synch up with Moench's point of view?

  20. Ja seems to have a hard time understanding sarcasm.
    Just because "quotes" are used does NOT necessarily mean that it is a DIRECT QUOTE.

    Perhaps once upon a time, but since the use of "airquotes" came into vogue, the use of quotes has also heralded the use of sarcasm and hyperbole.

    For instance; Ja is a "genius".
    See? I didn't really mean that he was a genius, but was making a hyperbolic statement, enhanced so for comedic effect.

    (Sorry Jason... just poking the bear.)

    But seriously, as someone who lived and collected thru the tumultuous "Shooter era" and also read his entire blog history, I can state that "Anonymous'" (no, not that one, the other one) hyperbolic statements are skewed.

    Shooter uses his blog to present his own side of the story (whether or not it is the unvarnished truth is unknown), but he calls himself out when he made a mistake, and gave proper credit and respect to those for whom his tales warrented.
    It isn't all a "brag book" of "Look how awesome I am" reflections and rose-colored hindsight.

    No matter what ANYONE says about Shooter - if you weren't there, working at Marvel in the 1980's, you can't accuse or defend ANYTHING. You were not there.

    That said; Shooter's tenure at the "House of Ideas" was the last time Marvel could ever truly be called such. The books under his watch blossomed and creativity flourished!
    Perhaps if he WAS crushing the staff under his heel, it was to make them stronger, and better so that they would grow despite his tactics.

    You only get stronger if you struggle against something.

  21. Interesting topic, I've read Shooter's blog, and I think he comes off more level headed and believable than many of his detractors. Although I do think there's so much of negative feelings about Shooter that there's probably something to him not being a very warm and fuzzy guy to work for. Calling him evil, and some other over the top statements seem ridiculous though. Like someone else said, speaking as a fan, when he left, the quality of the comics definately took a nose dive, I don't think that's a coincidence.

    Speaking of Shooter's blog, he hasn't posted since March of this year, anyone know why he suddenly stopped?

  22. ja might have forgotten this but I haven't. I feel that the marvels in the 1980s BlogSpot needs to do a serious article and look on the Shooter/Moench/Gene Colan controversy. Do it, please.

  23. Ah, my beloved comics. Who would have thought that mystery, intrigue, adventure and crisis were perpetuated BEHIND the scenes as well. I LOVE my hobby!!!!!!!!!!

  24. Marvel's quality did hit the skids though about the mid 80s and got worse after the next wave including John Byrne, Denny O'Neil and Roger Stern went to DC. Late 80s DC put out a ton of classic books with those Marvel ex-pats and Marvel did the New Universe. Spider-man, the X-titles and Peter David's Hulk were really good but really it is kind of the end of classic Marvel to me.

  25. I saw Jim Shooter in Miami in 2014. I had just read Sean Howe's Marvel history book, and had issues in which Jim was portrayed in the book by his former employees.

    I asked Jim about Doug Moench. He said Doug accused him of killing Gene Day, and that he said Jim was an evil man. Jim said he never ordered Doug to kill Shang Chi, no ifs, ands, or buts. He said he suggested a change to boost sales, like a ninja. He said he may have had open office brainstorming sessions, just tossing various ideas out there and someone in the office spread the rumor and told it to Doug, in a way to make him flip out.

    It is really hard to take seriously anything from Doug to resort to such character assassination.

    As someone else mentioned, ultimately Marvel wound up replacing or creating derivative characters anyway, just to keep the property copyrighted (or whatever the legal reason is).

    Tangent: I wish someone would figure out how to balance manga and comic books. Series with a true beginning and end (or a perpetual ongoing story like The Walking Dead) tend to be much more memorable, logical, and rewarding than the episodic way Marvel + DC tell their stories. They require reboots, costume changes, copycat characters, sliding timelines, out of continuity stories, and alternate realities just to keep the property published.

    I guess legacy characters are the way to go, where the child takes over the mantle. I would start with aging characters without reboots and work it from there.

    WWE has the same problem with so much programming every week.

    Not sure what soap operas do.



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