Thursday, March 3, 2011
In Appreciation of: Roy Thomas
Karen: When fans think of Marvel Comics and the people that shaped the Marvel universe, two names probably come up more than any others: Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Certainly both of those men deserve all the accolades they are given, and were responsible for creating the very foundations of the company and the characters. We can also cite folks like Steve Ditko, John Romita Jr, and John Buscema for providing concepts and a certain style to the Marvel line. But as a fan of the books put out in the 70s, there's one person I think deserves special credit, and that's Roy Thomas.
Roy had been writing Avengers and other titles while Stan was still in charge of the books. But when Stan moved up the ladder, Roy had the unenviable task of taking the reins as editor in chief and riding herd over a bunch of wild and woolly artists and writers. It could have been a catastrophe. But instead, it was one of the most creative and adventurous periods in Marvel's history, giving birth to innumerable characters, stories, and concepts that persist to this day.
Roy also oversaw the blossoming of many new talents in the industry. Writers and artists such as Steve Englehart, Steve Gerber, Jim Starlin, George Perez, and Rich Buckler are just a few of the young talents that he encouraged. Almost every person I know of who worked under Roy's editorship has said that they liked Roy's methodology: do what you want on the book, as long as it sells. I know some critics say that a stronger hand was needed. But why? Sure, there was some garbage turned out, no denying that. But there was also some wonderful stuff produced, comics that were incredibly imaginative and even provocative. The writers and artists were not micromanaged. If Roy assigned someone to a book, he trusted them to handle it properly. Personally, that's what I like in a manager, and I'm sure for creative people, that is ideal.
It was Roy who sought out new genres into which Marvel could expand. He brought the wildly successful Conan to the world of comics, which then gave birth to a ton of imitators, both at Marvel and other comics companies. He oversaw Marvel's monster line of comics, helping develop characters such as Ghost Rider, Werewolf By Night, and the Zombie. It was not uncommon for Roy to come up with an idea or plot and then hand it off to another writer to flesh out. He created the Defenders and promptly handed it off to Steve Englehart. Iron Fist, likewise, was another creation of Roy's which went off to be handled by others. He broadened the existing universe by coming up with The Invaders, to give Marvel a stronger heroic past, and What If?, which allowed writers to explore the many different possibilities that might spring from established Marvel history. Let's also not forget that Roy was the one with the foresight to go after the Star Wars license, which depending on who you ask, may have saved Marvel from bankruptcy.
Beyond all that Roy contributed to shaping the Marvel universe, he also was a prolific writer and was responsible for so many great stories, including my all-time favorite, the Kree-Skrull War in Avengers. We could talk all day about the different books he wrote, and the characters he created. Roy had a huge impact on Marvel, and I think he deserves to be recognized as one of the key figures in Marvel's success. Here's to Rascally Roy!