When he was 14 years old, Shooter began selling stories to DC Comics for Adventure Comics, beginning with Adventure Comics #346 (July 1966), for which he provided not only writing but pencil breakdowns as well. Shooter created characters for Legion of Super-Heroes including Karate Kid, a teenage superhero who predated the martial arts fad of the 1970s; Ferro Lad, a teenage superhero who can transform to living iron; and Princess Projectra, who could cast realistic illusions.
Karate Kid is a noted example of Shooter's ability to analyze a comic-book feature and address its weaknesses. Shooter noticed that most of the Legionnaires in the Legion of Super-Heroes had super-powers which could be described as "strike a pose and point". As a contrast to such characters, Shooter created Karate Kid as a character who used his entire body in martial-arts combat, usually in direct physical contact with a foe.
Rather than submitting a standard script, Shooter's early method was to actually draw out entire stories in art breakdowns, and then add the dialog. LSH artist Curt Swan was so impressed with Shooter's sense of artistic layout and design he would often copy from the youngster's sketches. Many artists have since followed his lead. As Shooter began to take on additional writing assignments for Captain Action and other DC books, he began writing his stories as scripts, which was the preferred style at the company.
Shooter revealed in later interviews that his family suffered from severe financial hardship when he was young, and in order to help contribute to the finances he hit upon the idea of writing comic books. It never occurred to him at the time that it was virtually inconceivable that a 14-year-old could break into the business.... He simply did it. Luckily, his work was so good he was hired by Superman editor Mort Weisinger. But he had never considered being a comic book writer forever, and after graduating from high school, he began looking for another line of work.
Shooter retired from the comics industry after his Legion series ended its run in Adventure Comics and moved to the pages of Action Comics as a smaller back-up series in the late 1960s, but was coaxed out of retirement by members of Legion fandom several years later. He undertook a second run writing the Legion in the mid-1970s (now in their own book, Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes), but frequent creative conflicts with editor Murray Boltinoff eventually led Shooter to look elsewhere within the business.
In the mid-70s, Marvel Comics was undergoing a series of changes in the position of Editor-in-Chief. After Roy Thomas retired from the post in order to focus on writing, a succession of other editors, including Gerry Conway, Len Wein, Marv Wolfman and Archie Goodwin, took the job during a relatively short span of time, only to find the task too daunting as Marvel continued to grow and add new titles and a larger staff to turn out material. Shooter joined the Marvel staff as an assistant editor and writer, being most remembered for the Korvac Saga in Avengers, a demonstration of the cosmic style found frequently in his writing. With the quick turnover at the top, he rapidly found himself rising in the ranks.
Shooter succeeded Archie Goodwin to become the ninth editor-in-chief of Marvel from 1978 to 1987. Shooter was made editor-in-chief over more established personnel at Marvel, and, during his tenure, certain long-time key staff defected to DC. Although there were complaints among some that he imposed a dictatorial style on the "Bullpen," he successfully managed to keep the line of books on schedule, add new titles, and develop new talent. During this period, publisher Stan Lee relocated to Los Angeles to better oversee Marvel's animation, television and film projects, leaving Shooter largely in charge of the creative decision making at Marvel's New York City headquarters.
Marvel enjoyed some of its best successes during Shooter's tenure as editor-in-chief, most notably Chris Claremont and John Byrne's Uncanny X-Men and Frank Miller's Daredevil. Although Claremont had been writing Uncanny X-Men for years before Shooter became editor, it reached the heights of popularity during his tenure; Miller's work on Daredevil was his first major industry assignment. Shooter believed that every title, no matter how unpopular, deserved a chance to succeed. Some have maintained that he abandoned a long-time Marvel Comics policy allocating the best writers to the best-selling titles; however, the notion of "best" is subjective, and his introduction of royalties had the opposite effect, encouraging star writers to stick with the better-selling titles. During the peak years under Shooter's editorial leadership, Marvel routinely captured nearly three-quarters of sales in the marketplace.
Shooter also helped revitalize Marvel's two flagship titles when John Byrne took over The Fantastic Four as writer/artist, and Roger Stern and John Romita, Jr. became the most prominent creative team on The Amazing Spider-Man. He pioneered a series of innovations in the American comics industry with toy tie-ins such as Shogun Warriors, Rom the Spaceknight, GI Joe, Transformers, and the mini-series and graphic novel formats.
In 1981, Shooter brought Marvel into the lucrative comic book specialty shop market with Dazzler #1 - featuring a disco-themed heroine with ties to the X-Men (based upon an unproduced motion picture set to star Bo Derek), this series was sold only through the specialty stores, bypassing the then-standard newsstand/spin rack distribution route altogether - this was the first direct sales only ongoing series from a major publisher; other titles following this lead, such as Marvel Fanfare and Ka-Zar, soon followed. Also under Shooter's editorial reign, Walt Simonson revamped The Mighty Thor and made it again a bestseller.
Shooter was criticized for radical reworkings of several iconic Marvel heroes, including temporarily replacing Captain America, Iron Man and Thor with new men behind the masks and changing Spider-Man's familiar red-and-blue costume to a black-and-white suit.
Shooter angered and alienated a number of creators by insisting on strong editorial control and strict adherence to deadlines. Despite his success in revitalizing Marvel, instituting an art return program, and his implementation of a policy which gave creators royalties when their books passed certain sales benchmarks, and when characters they worked on were licensed as toys, Shooter still found himself in near-constant conflict with many of Marvel's top writers and artists. This led to many, including Steve Gerber, Roy Thomas, Marv Wolfman, Gene Colan, John Byrne, Frank Miller, Doug Moench, and other Marvel mainstays, leaving to work for DC or other companies. Shooter also failed to attract much new talent from the United Kingdom (as DC managed to do, resulting in considerable success and critical acclaim). Shooter's opposition to dropping the Comics Code cast Marvel as a conservative force in a rapidly changing comics industry.
Shooter declared that there were to be no gay heroes in the Marvel Universe. At that time, the Comics Code Authority prohibited direct references to homosexuality, but some creators had hinted at it in a veiled manner, notably John Byrne's depiction of Northstar in early issues of Alpha Flight. A story Shooter wrote for The Rampaging Hulk magazine (which was not submitted to the Comics Code Authority for approval) portrayed a violent, ugly side to gay life, depicting an attempted rape of Bruce Banner in the shower of a YMCA.
Shooter himself scripted the 12-part limited series Secret Wars which set records at the time for comic book sales. Secret Wars was criticized by some as an over-hyped series that served no purpose other than to bring together all the company's major characters for no good reason, and also simply to promote a new line of Marvel action figures, but was praised by others as having well earned its place atop the charts.
Shooter was often blamed, sometimes demonized, by the comics fan press for corporate decisions his position required him to defend, most notably with respect to Marvel's long-running disputes with Jack Kirby over creator's rights and the return of the latter's original artwork from 1960s comics. Though Shooter had always wanted to return Kirby's artwork, Marvel was at the time going through protracted litigation in which Kirby was seeking retroactive title and compensation for work and characters he'd created under work-for-hire. Company owners felt that a return of artwork at this time would be a de facto admission that the characters/work belonged to Kirby, and so the word came down: do not return Kirby's artwork. As the public face of Marvel at the time, Shooter took the brunt of criticism for this fact. Though he could easily have shuffled off the blame on his bosses, he chose not to.
Efforts to tap into the young children's market with the Star Comics imprint failed. The New Universe, a Shooter idea to jump-start a new line of heroes, separate from the mainstream Marvel continuity, also failed when company executives, at the time in the process of selling the company, slashed all funding for new projects, thus Shooter was unable to attract and pay top talent. Only Star Brand, written by Shooter himself, with seasoned and talented pros John Romita, Jr. and Al Williamson providing the artwork as a favor to Shooter, stood out. With chief competitor DC creatively and commercially resurgent with Alan Moore's Swamp Thing and Watchmen, the Crisis on Infinite Earths limited series, and Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns, Marvel for the first time in two decades seemed staid, unimaginative, and behind the times in comparison.
In the midst of sales stagnation, his relationships with company executives as well as with the free-lance writers and artists on whom the company depended deteriorated. Shooter came off particularly bad in the press after his seemingly bitter and petulant testimony against the Comics Journal in a lawsuit trial brought by writer Michael Fleisher. With ownership of Marvel changing hands, the writing soon was on the wall that Shooter's tenure was at an end. To those within the industry, his subsequent termination did not come as a surprise, and initially, the reaction from the community was overwhelmingly positive. His successor was Tom DeFalco.
However, in recent years, Shooter's image has recovered significantly, in large part due to several long interviews he has given in which he tells the insider's details of his years as Marvel Editor-in-Chief that, as a "company man" at the time, he did not feel free to publicize. With both sides of the story now available, rather than only fragmentary and often virulently biased commentary in the fan press, many people have come to a more favorable impression of the comics phenomenon that was "Jim Shooter at Marvel."
After leaving Marvel, Shooter fronted an effort to purchase the floundering publisher from its corporate ownership, losing out at the last minute to Ronald Perelman's slightly higher bid. He then founded a new company, Voyager Communications, which published comics under the Valiant Comics banner. Shooter brought many of Marvel's big name creators with him, including Bob Layton and Barry Windsor-Smith.
Valiant stormed onto the market in the 1990s, selling more than 80 million books in its first five years. Its characters have seen print in numerous languages across the globe and have been featured in best-selling video games. With the new company enjoying great success in the direct market, Shooter was ousted in a corporate dispute that was sparked when his partners, who were predominately venture capitalists, expressed their desire to sell the company. There was also a dispute about the number of titles Valiant should publish. Shooter felt that he couldn't control the quality of more than ten titles at a time, since he insisted on personally editing each title, while his partners believed that more titles would bring in additional profit. In June 1994, Valiant was sold to then-video game giant Acclaim Entertainment for $65 million. Upon this acquisition, Valiant's name was changed to Acclaim Comics.
At the time, all comic book publishers were suffering decreased sales as the comics market contracted, and Valiant/Acclaim Comics was no exception. Sales continued to drop despite the success of video game titles based on Valiant characters, such as Turok and Shadowman. Acclaim soon lost its sports licenses and suffered from under-performing sales of the new titles they introduced, such as BMX XXX, which served to drive profits down further.
In 1999, Acclaim ceased all publication of its comics titles and filed for bankruptcy in 2004. In 2005, after a series of rights auctions and legal battles, Valiant Entertainment was recognized as the legal owner of the Valiant characters, although it is not apparent what part, if any, Jim Shooter has in the current company.
Other companies: Defiant Comics & Broadway Comics
Shooter, together with several of his loyalist coworkers, went on to found Defiant Comics. After some initial success with the first title, the new company failed to secure an audience in the increasingly crowded direct sales market and quickly folded thirteen months after its first title appeared, its resources drained in part by a prolonged court battle with Marvel Comics over Defiant's use of a title (Plasm) resembling one used on a failed title from Marvel's British imprint (Plasmer).
Shooter went on to found Broadway Comics, which was an offshoot of Broadway Video, the production company that produces Saturday Night Live; but this line folded after its parent sold the properties to Golden Books. He then announced his intention to form yet another comic book publisher, Daring Comics but nothing came of it. He returned to Acclaim for a brief stint in 1999 to write Unity 2000 (an attempt to combine and revitalize the older and newer Valiant universes) but Acclaim folded after the completion of only three of the planned six issues. In August 2000, he became part-owner and creative consultant for the sci-fi firm Phobos Entertainment; however, the website has not been updated for over two years (as of December 2006). In a 2004 interview by Tim Hartnett, of www.silverbulletcomicbooks.com, Jim discusses that his "main occupation is working for a company called TGS, Inc. developing entertainment content for an internet site." The website states that TGS, Inc. was acquired by Ascent Media Systems & Technology Services in October 2005.
Full Circle: Return to DC, Return to the Legion
In September 2007, DC Comics announced that Jim Shooter would be the new writer of the current Legion of Super-Heroes (Vol. 5) series, beginning with issue #37, following the departure of writer Mark Waid who had left the series in mid-2007 with issue #30. Shooter's return to the Legion, a little over 30 years from his previous run, will be his first major published comic book work in years.
References in comic books
In Legends #5 (March 1987), Guy Gardner easily defeats Sunspot, an egotistical supervillain who resembles Jim Shooter, who has attained 'the ultimate power', personified in a glowing red circle on his left hand (an obvious reference to Star Brand who wished to create a "New Universe."
In Marvel's G.I. Joe #1 (1982), a computer screen identifies the original thirteen Joes, plus a character named Shooter with his image replaced by a question mark. Hama has stated that this was a reference to Jim Shooter, Editor-in-Chief of the series. In 2006, in G.I. Joe: Declassified, Hama made the secret Joe member an African-American female by the name of Sgt. Craig, who works behind the scenes and sacrifices herself for the sake of a mission.
John Byrne declared that it was decided to destroy Pittsburgh in The Pitt just because it's the city where Shooter was born.
- Subjects created by "James Shooter"
- Comics that were produced while " Jim Shooter" was Editor-in-Chief
- Comics where " Jim Shooter" created the Cover
- Comics that " Jim Shooter" Edited
- Comics that " Jim Shooter" Wrote
- Comics that " Jim Shooter" Penciled
- Comics that " Jim Shooter" Colored
- Subjects created by " Jim Shooter"
- Subjects created by " James Shooter"
Images Attributed to James Shooter
- Used the name "Jim Shooter" through most of his Marvel work.
- Profile photo by Luigi Novi.
- Lettered GI Joe under the name "Edward L. Norton".
Links and References
- An interview with Jim Shooter
- Evaluation of Shooter's tenure by former Marvel editor Christopher Priest
- Harbinger: The Beginning Hardcover Solicitation in Previews Magazine
- Harbinger: The Beginning article at The Splash page
- Harbinger: The Beginning article at Variety Online
- Harbinger: The Beginning Press Release at Newsarama
- Harbinger cover gallery at Valiantfans.com
- The Ten Most Important Comic Books of the 1990s (Harbinger by Jim Shooter is ranked #1)