In the latest Comic Book Legends Revealed, see the Iron Man panel that Jim Starlin thought was so bad that he figured he’d just script his own comics
Welcome to Comic Book Legends Revealed! This is the eight hundred and seventy-sixth installment where we examine three comic book legends and determine whether they are true or false. As usual, there will be three posts, one for each of the three legends. Click here for the first legend of this installment.
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Jim Starlin thought that a piece of dialogue in an issue of Iron Man was so bad that he decided he might as well just script his own comic books.
True (from Starlin’s perspective, of course)
Jim Starlin is one of the most successful “double threat” comic book creators around, as he is an amazing artist, but he is also a great writer. Over the years, he has frequently finished in the Top 50 of both our Top Comic Book Writers AND our Top Comic Book Artists countdowns (although this year he fell short on the art-side of things).
The interesting thing is, though, that when he broke into comic books, even when he started doing his OWN comic books, he didn’t think he was a good enough writer to script his comics, so he would work with a writer at first. How things changed was a funny story…
HOW JIM STARLIN ORIGINALLY WROTE HIS COMIC BOOK STORIES
When Jim Starlin broke into the comic book industry in the early 1970s at Marvel, it was still the heyday of the so-called “Marvel Method” (so-called because Marvel did not originate the concept, as it had been used since the earliest days of comics in certain instances. It was just that Marvel ONLY used this approach for a long period of time, and thus the term became associated with Marvel as a result), which meant that Jim Starlin was, essentially, “writing” every issue he worked on for Marvel, as the Marvel Method relied on the artist to break down how the story would go. This could be done with a detailed plot from a writer (which is how Roy Thomas typically worked, for instance) or a much looser plot (like how Stan Lee tended to work), and sometimes these plots were just conversations between the writer and artist. Therefore, obviously, depending on how involved the “writer” of the comic book was in the plotting, the artist could really be responsible for the greatest proportion of the story, while the “writer” would then come in and add dialogue for the comic.
That last bit, though, is and was daunting for a lot of comic book creators, and Starlin was one of them. So he preferred to just work with other writers, including Steve Gerber and Mike Friedrich, two of the “Second Generation” of comic book writers breaking into comics at this time (marked by the fact that they grew up on comic books, unlike the first generation of writers). It was while working with Friedrich that Starlin created Thanos (based on characters that Starlin had invented before working for Marvel) and introduced him (along with Drax the Destroyer) in Iron Man #55…
After Starlin hoped to take over Iron Man full-time with either Friedrich or Gerber scripting the book, Starlin instead got a chance to take over Captain Marvel, instead, and in his first issue, Captain Marvel #25, Friedrich was his scripter…
However, Friedrich ultimately gained the gig of writing Iron Man himself (as opposed to while working with Starlin, so here, Friedrich was now doing the majority of the plotting with George Tuska on art (Tuska was an old school artist who said that he actually LIKED the freedom of the Marvel Method, unlike a number of his other peers who weren’t used to working in this new style. However, suffice it to say that when Friedrich and Tuska were doing Iron Man, Friedrich was the main plotter on the series).
In Iron Man #60 (by Friedrich, Tuska and Mike Esposito), Tony Stark’s married friends, Happy Hogan and Pepper Potts, get into an argument…
That was a surprisingly important page.
THE IRON MAN ISSUE THAT CHANGED JIM STARLIN’S MIND ABOUT WRITING COMICS
In London Edition Magazine’s Batman Monthly #36 in 1991, Starlin explained how he made the transition from plotting/drawing to plotting/drawing AND scripting, and it turned out that that issue of Iron Man, specifically that fight between Happy and Pepper, was what inspired him…in a roundabout fashion.
He noted, “I remember one issue where this character was having trouble with his girlfriend. He walks out of his office and kicks over a trashcan, then shakes his head and says, ‘Look what this woman’s done to me; she’s turned me into a litterbug!’ I thought, ‘I can do better than that.'”
That issue of Iron Man came out the same month as Captain Marvel #27, by Starlin and Friedrich…
Starling presumably saw the copy before the issue was published, and he then asked Roy Thomas to let him script Captain Marvel solo. Friedrich, of course, didn’t want to lose the gig, and this led to Captain Marvel #28 becoming a weird competition between Starlin and Friedrich (that I wrote about in an old Comic Book Legends Revealed).
You can read that legend for the details of how it all went down, but suffice it to say, Starlin won (just briefly, because I feel I owe you at least some quick context, the competition was essentially “Can Starlin script a chapter that was not discernibly worse than a chapter scripted by Friedrich? If so, Starlin as the plotter/artist, should have the privilege of going solo if he so chooses”).
And all because of a litterbug line…
Thanks to my pal, Paul Cornish, for the heads-up about this story! And thanks to Stan Nichols and Jim Starlin for the information. And as an aside, I like your writing very much, Mike Friedrich!
CHECK OUT A MOVIE LEGENDS REVEALED!
In the latest Movie Legends Revealed – Was the math problem-solving scene in Good Will Hunting based on a real life incident?
PART THREE SOON!
Check back soon for part 3 of this installment’s legends!