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Ten Years Ago, Today.

January 28, 2000 marked my last day working as an assistant editor at Marvel Comics.

I started there, first as an intern in the summer of 1996…followed by my first work as a freelance penciler a year later on WHAT IF? #104…and then joined the staff as Tom Brevoort’s assistant in October 1997.

In the two-plus years I was there I had the joy and honor of working on some of the best titles with some of the greatest talents in the field and an overall amazing crew at Marvel itself, from my fellow editorial staff to the production team in the Marvelous Marvel Bullpen to the folks in manufacturing, accounting, online, advertising and creative services. And I even got to draw a comic book here and there, when the opportunities and time permitted. To this day, so many years later, I think back on great memories of my time at Marvel Comics.

I thought it might be fun, upon reflection, to tell a few stories or make note of things I recall from my time.

Just before I left, Spider-Man had finally been untangled from the legal knot it had been in to get on track to become a movie. I distinctly remember one afternoon Tom Brevoort  heading out to a meeting to talk about an early draft of the script. He told me he was off to the meeting and asked if I had anything for him, question or suggestion-wise. I said, “Actually, yeah, if they talk about casting, suggest Tobey Maguire or the kid from That ‘70s Show.” (I had relatively recently seen and very much liked Pleasantville and had the thought back then) To which Tom responded, appropriately, “Yeah, I’m sure they’ll ask me who should play Spider-Man.”. I doubt highly it ever came up, but when the announcement of Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker/Spider-Man, I thought both “cool” and “no one will ever believe me that I made this suggestion”. But honest, it’s a true story.

Speaking of celebrities, I had a few celeb-based events. First were my efforts to contact Quentin Tarantino’s “people” after getting permission from then Editor in Chief Bob Harras that, if I could get Quentin to write it, we’d publish a Luke Cage comic without the comics code seal. It never happened, but some years later Marvel not only took the comics code off their books, but launched the MAX line, with Luke Cage as a notable part of that launch.

More fun than that was this: during my time at Marvel a woman in the sales department had started famously dating noted comics fan Jerry Seinfeld. I was (and still am) a Seinfeld fan and boldly claimed that if he was ever in the building I’d offer him writing work on the spot. Granted, I had no actual power as an assistant editor to make that happen, but I was young and idealistic and thought, “why wouldn’t he want to, he likes comics!” Well, one afternoon after a particularly interesting conversation with a freelancer, I bolted out of my office to tell a co-worker about it. Just as I reached my door I stopped short as I nearly bowled over some people passing by. Those people? The now married Jessica and Jerry Seinfeld. Face-to-face with a guy I’d watched and been such a huge fan of on TV, we looked at each other, him a famous person and me a guy who nearly ran him over. And as if I was looking at an old high school acquaintance I said, as if asking, “Jerry Seinfeld…?” He put out his hand, said hello and nice to meet you, and hands were shaken. He kept walking along. It was only then that I realized, in the hall of the offices, that everyone in the bullpen and along the editorial row saw this happen. And that for all my bold claims I didn’t offer him diddly squat save for a handshake. BUT, for what it’s worth, I was the only dude to actually talk to him, so there! In the end, it was a pretty cool moment. Also, he was taller than I’d imagined.

On the more comic book related front, I remember fondly, in the development stages of what became AVENGERS FOREVER, sitting in an Italian Restaurant doodling on sugar packets with Carlos Pacheco as Tom, Kurt Busiek and Chris Claremont talked about who knows what.

I can remember vividly, after calling him what had to be once every six months for the two and a half years I worked there, FINALLY getting Mike Mignola to do a cover for THOR.

Speaking of Thor, I got to sit side-by-side with John Romita, Jr. at Heroes Con in Charlotte, NC, as we both drew the mighty god of thunder and discussed whether the wings on his helmet were feathers or metal.

I became friends with Mike Wieringo and Rich Case…and Brian Vaughan, Jay Faerber and Devin Grayson as we were all essentially starting out. John Workman fed my Jules Feiffer jones. I scoured CVS drug stores to get Rankin Bass Christmas ornaments for Bruce Timm. Jerry Ordway introduced me to the work of Kurt Vonnegut.

And I can’t (and won’t) forget my greatest day ever as an employee at Marvel Comics: the day I got to hang out with John Buscema…but I’ll talk about that another time.

At the time, assistant editors didn’t get credited in Marvel Comics, but that didn’t stop me from trying to get things going and doing things that weren’t quite “mainstream” at the time. After seeing his work on FLEX MENTALLO, I hunted down and found, despite his pen name, Frank Quitely, to do an alternate cover to AVENGERS FOREVER, as far as I know his first work for Marvel. I tried, with Tom’s permission, to get Jill Thompson to do an issue of HULK (she was out of the country at the time, dang it!).  I got a packet of Nightwing samples at the aforementioned Heroes Con by a fella named Jamal Igle and passed those along to Bobbie Chase and Brian Smith, who hired him on to pencil NEW WARRIORS. I lobbied hard to get Marcos Martin on board as the penciller for AVENGERS: UNITED WE STAND, the comic book based on the less-than-stellar cartoon series of the same name.

It feels weird to just trumpet “things I did”…and there are plenty of things I tried to do and failed at…and there were some bad times to be sure…but when I think back on my short tenure at Marvel I can’t help but remember the positives. It was in so many ways a dream come true, from commiserating with talents I’d admired for so long to playing Wiffle Ball after hours in the bullpen, or watching a co-worker eat six Popeye’s biscuits without drinking anything during lunch one day.

It was, despite the nature of the industry at the time, one of the most enjoyable, fun jobs I’ve ever had…certainly the best office job I’ve ever had. I made friends I still hold dear to this day and learned lessons I still live and work by.

So to all of those who I worked with, dealt with, talked to, learned from, interned for me, and more…thanks for making an experience that ended ten years ago such a vivid memory ten years later.