Occasionally I get a letter that reads something to this effect: “Why don’t you get (name of favorite artist) to do (name of book in question) – I guarantee you the book will look and sell better.” A variation on the same theme goes: “Why did you let (name of favorite artist) leave (name of book in question) – he was perfect for the book and you’ll never get anyone half as good.” I have a two word answer to both of these questions: “Free will.” You see, you can offer an artist (or writer) as assignment or beg him or her not to leave the assignment he or she is on, but as long as he or she has free will, he or she will do just what he or she pleases.
Top artists and writers are seldom desperate for work or will take just any assignment or keep just any assignment because it means steady work and income. No, because they are top talents they get to pick and choose among what is offered them. And, being creative types, they will often get a hankering to do something new, or will get bored with a given assignment, or will have always lusted to do a given series that has just opened up or to collaborate with a certain other talent who is available, and, wham! that’s the assignment they’re doing this month. Gone are the days, it seems, where a creative team like say, Lee and Kirby, stay on a title like say, the FANTASTIC FOUR, for 102 consecutive issues. Now it’s an accomplishment to get someone to stay with a book for more than a year. (Let’s be thankful for guys like Chris Claremont who’s stuck with the X-MEN through thick and thin for over 100 issues. Is Chris currently Marvel’s record holder for the longest creative stint on one title? Someone let me know.) There’s a clever expression in the business which aptly illustrates the desire for variety when it comes to assignments. I usually hear it in reference to inkers, but (so the inkers of the world don’t think I’m picking on them), it could easily apply to writers and pencilers. The term is “cafeteria inker,” and it is used to describe a person who says, “Let’s see, I’ll do one of these, and one of these, and oh, maybe two of these,” picking inking jobs like they were food items at a cafeteria. So that’s why some creative types move from book to book so much!
Right now I have dream teams on my three main books, Stern-Buscema-Palmer on AVENGERS, Englehart-Milgrom-Sinnott on WEST COAST AVENGERS, and Michelinie-Bright-Layton or IRON MAN. In the four years I’ve been a full-fledged editor I’ve strived to get creative teams as good as the ones I got now. Do I think they’ll last forever? Nope – something will come up, something always comes up, I can do my darndest to make work conditions as warm and supportive as possible. But when one of my guys gets the urge to split, that’ll be it, and I’ll be forced to scramble and replace him with the best available person I can get. Such is life in this creative business called comics.