Roy Thomas Hired Me to Work on Staff at MarvelA column article, Riding Shotgun by: Don McGregor
Apparently Roy Thomas has written, in his comments about Sean Howe’s book Marvel Comics: the Untold Story, that I never gave him credit for hiring me to work on staff at Marvel Comics.
I’m not sure I understand this.
I know I have never said that Roy didn’t hire me to work at Marvel.
I know I have never written that Roy didn’t hire me to work at Marvel.
If it was ever published anywhere, or appeared somewhere on the Internet, I can only tell you I never said and/or wrote it.
But just to make sure, everything is “jake” here, let me put it in a simple declarative sentence.
Roy Thomas hired me to work on staff at Marvel Comics.
Furthermore, to the best of my memory, after Marv Wolfman told me that Roy was coming back as editor, Wolfman told Roy he didn’t want me as a writer and I better head tail back to Warren Magazines. Roy was in the office that particular day, so I went to see him, and with Wolfman skulking in the corridors, asked Roy straight out, and he said that wasn’t the case, that he was in fact thinking of giving me more of Marvel’s Classic Comics to write.
Wolfman wanted to know what Roy had told me. I’m sure I didn’t answer.
It was a different case with Marv Wolfman, but that’s a whole other story.
There’s always another story.
I have written that I was not saved from life-time as a security guard.
I have written about having a three bedroom house, with a fireplace, garage, view of a pond out the bow window, and two blocks away a private stretch of beach, before I moved to New York.
I haven’t gone back over Sean Howe’s book, and I know there are some details that aren’t correct -- a trying task in detailing a complicated history with quick brush strokes -- but I know I recall Sean referring to me as an “aspiring film-maker”, or something to that effect.
I did dabble with 8mm and Super 8 while in Rhode Island. I even did it in New York. We used to film on weekends in the empty offices where they did research for 60 Minutes. We brought starter shooting pistols into the place. Can you imagine? We’d be busted by security these days before we got past the front desk.
And we had a lot of fun filming stunt sequences up there.
The point is though, I loved all story-telling mediums, so, yes, I did play around with film when I was in Rhode Island.
Later, in the 1980s, I would do a much more ambitious filming of Detectives, Inc: A Terror of Dying Dreams. And I would adapt that script into comics.
Going back to the late 60s, early 70s, I did do my own radio show, The Night Figure, that aired on the college radio station up in Rhode Island. I’m still not sure how we got the ten minute long scene of a man being eaten alive by rats on the air, but we did. If I recall correctly, that episode aired on a Halloween night.
My first published work was poetry.
I had considered a job on a newspaper in New London, Connecticut, but it wasn’t really what I wanted to do, and I didn’t want the commute.
I had been a security guard, and worked in a bank. I had worked at the Providence Journal. My grandfather had his own company, and I worked there. I worked full time as a Supply Sergeant for the Rhode Island National Guard Military Police, and quit when they wanted me to re-enlist.
And boy howdy, if there were racists in the comic book world, and there was, at least they didn’t carry guns into riot conditions, the way some individuals in the Guard did. The sequence in “This is the Valiant One Signing Out” (Monsters Unleashed #11) with the private being accused of being prejudiced against military police is based on fact, and all the dialogue very close to the actual words.
If I’d stuck around, though, and ignored all that, I could have retired twenty years later, with full benefits.
The point here, though, is that I was writing all the time I was in Rhode Island. I was writing since I was seven years old. If anyone has read “The Quaker Oats Barrel of Death Totters Percariously” they know I learned the power of telling stories when I was 5.
I wrote during every job I ever had. I was basically working on a novel when the call from Roy came.
I was writing short stories.
I would save up enough money, buy a round-trip bus ticket to New York, and I would stay with Alex Simmons or Billy Graham, and I would go to the magazine companies from Mike Shayne, Mystery Magazine and Ellery Queen to Cosmopolitan, and submit my stories.
The first Denning and Rainier prose story almost saw print in Mike Shayne. It was titled “Assassin Street”.
I don’t recall going to Marvel or DC once during those trips.
I did go to Warren Magazines, often, and at times worked late into the night with Jim Warren as he was preparing their summer issues.
I was also selling stories to Warren Magazines, and the first published story in Creepy came in the mail, without my knowing it had even been drawn, at my house across the street from the tranquil pond. There was “The Fade Away Walk”, in an issue with a Vaughn Bode cover (Creepy #40), with the story beautifully drawn by Tom Sutton. But I guess Warren Magazines don’t count in the Hallowed Halls, or something.
No one saved me from a life-time as a security guard.
I was writing, and many of those stories appeared in Dragonflame, including “Bernie Chojnacki, which was part of the novel I wrote about earlier. I’m not sure why, to this day, I didn’t include the Detectives Inc. story “Assassin Street” in Dragonflame.
I had also done Detectives Inc: All that is Left is Anger in my own comic during 1969 to 1970, drawn by Alex Simmons, while in Rhode Island, before I started working for Jim Warren and Archie Goodwin.
A lot of my life then, and now, was with my kids, Lauren and Rob. I’m glad they still like to be with their dad, and that they have shared some of the stories by being with me at comic cons over the years. Take a look at a grown-up Lauren dressed as Lady Rawhide. Not my idea. Hers and my wife, Marsha’s. Rob would sit at the table with me and keep sharp track of what was going on. He knew more about the stories I was writing, with the exception of the artist, because he’d listen through his bedroom door to my late-night phone calls with whoever was drawing the story. He didn’t tell me this until years later.
So, Sean, fine, if you want to use “aspiring film-maker,” that’s true, but writing stories was primarily what I was doing.
And one more note on that, when I did take the job at Marvel, Jim Warren good-naturedly called me a traitor.
Sometimes you just can’t win.
But let me state it one last time: Roy Thomas hired me to work on staff at Marvel Comics.
Copyright © 2013 by Don McGregor