With this issue, this magazine undergoes a Changing of the Guard as Roger Stern steps down as resident AVENGERS writer, a post he has ably occupied for over five years. Roger, once the editor of this book for two years in the late 70s, has had a meritorious run as scripter on this title, racking up an impressive run of sixty tales of the mighty Assemblers.
It is customary in making a pronoucement like this to avoid the subject of why a given creative person is leaving the book or to make a vague pseudo-explanation like "So and So has decided it was time to move on to other projects..." Generally, the reasons why people leave assignments are personal or political and not really anyone's business but the creative person's own. But with Roger's kind indulgence, I'd like to talk about this particular leave-taking in greater detail, in order to help illuminate the writer/editor working relationship.
First, let me say that I like Rog and probably owe my job at Marvel Comics to a recommendation from him. We've had a long and pleasurable working relationship for almost a decade, him as my editor and later me as his. He was always dependable, enthusiastic, and meticulous, and for my money, one of the best wordsmiths in the business today. So then, what happened?
Sometime mid-April, I had Roger fly to New York for a conference to map out the next year's AVENGERS story line and coorindate them with our two component books CAPTAIN AMERICA and THOR. In an afternoon long session attended by the various concerned writers and editors (two of whom are both writers and editors but not of the same title), we worked out what I thought to be an interesting, innovative direction. It seemed like all participants agreed. However, when Roger got back home and began to work out the specific details to the scenario, he reported that he couldn't come up with any way to make the scenario work without doing injustice to some of the characters involved. The bottom line was that he didn't want to proceed with the story line we all discussed.
I was not interested in doing any injustices to any characters either, but I also believed that the story line could be done without hurting any characters. I was also not interested in forcing a writer to write something he didn't want to. So, despite our five years' plus of amicable working relations, we had developed what seemed to be irreconcilable differences. Something had to give. I informed Roger that I wanted to proceed with the agreed-upon story line and thus, I would hire another writer who could get behind the scenario enough to do it justice.
So that's that the straight poop. I hope to work with Rog again on a regular basis in the future (I have managed to get him to write some SOLO AVENGERS stories), but right now I imagine that we're both a bit gun-shy. (I know what it feels like to leave a series not fully of one's volition-- it happened to me twice.) Anyway, I'd like to thank Roger for five years of good hard avenging, and give him a chance to say good-bye.
In the past five years, I have had the privilege of working with a number of very, very talented people. They know who they are (and so do you, if you've been reading the credits), so I really don't think we need to go into a long Academy Awards-type listing here. It's never easy working on as complex a book as this, but despite all the headaches, I liked writing the AVENGERS. I'm going to miss it.
Last summer at the San Diego convention, I was on a panel called "Revamping Legends." The other panelists were three folks working for the Distinguished Competition who were involved in the legend-revamping of three of their long-time heroes, Superman, Wonder Woman, and Green Arrow. I was there in my authorial role as CAPTAIN AMERICA scripter. After each of my honorable colleagues put forth his position on how he determined what of the old legend (that is, origin, modus operandi, paraphernalia, costume, etc.) to keep and what needed revision, it was my turn to speak. I told teh fan assemblage: "I don't know what I'm doing on this panel. Marvel doesn't revamp legends. We got it right the first time." Needless to say, this provoked a response from audience and panelists alike, although not the unanimous outpouring of affirmation that I might have liked.
It made me conclude that at least some of you out there like it when we, the comics creators, admit that we totally messed up a character so badly that we have to do a wholesale revision in order to reposition the character in today's marketplace. (Or maybe the audience at that particular panel just happened to be primarily DC fans-- yes, it's true, Marvelites, there are readers out there who say "Make Mine DC"!) Whatever the reason for the hisses and boos my statement provoked, I believe in what I said. Today's creators would be hard pressed to improve upon what Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko created in the 60s (or Jack and Joe Simon did in the 40s with Captain America). That is not to say that stories featuring the mainstream Marvel heroes aren't as good as the ones done in the 60s. It is to say that Marvel creators don't have to go back and change a hero's origins in order to do good solid innovative stories today. Walt Simonson's THOR stories, Frank Miller's DAREDEVIL, and my CAP tales do not have to negate what the characters' originators established in order to do good stories. Rather, we were all able to do the innovative stories we wanted by expanding upon the characters' solid foundations. (Incidentally, this is not to say that I place my work on CAP on a par with Simonson's and Miller's runs mentioned above. I am simply playing with "my" character's current status quo like the two aforementioned gents did with "theirs" and thus I lumped myself in with them. It's up to you the readers to determine the actual merit of my work.)
I guess in a field where creative types shuttle back and forth between the major companies so much, this is still something that distinguishes a Marvel book from a DC. Marvel's legends grow, blossom, and branch out from a solid root system and trunk; DC's legends are pruned and harvested now and again. You pay your money, you take your choice.