As a long-time Marvel reader myself, I found the behind-the-scenes dysfunction of Marvel surprising, if only because I thought I knew them through the mythology of The Bullpen when in actuality there was this whole other negative side to it. I was shocked, for instance, to read about how poorly Marvel treated longtime X-Men writer Chris Claremont, who was practically a household name to those of us who read the series in the ’80s. Were you surprised, in researching this over the years, at how messed up the work culture at Marvel was?
By the time that I started researching the book I had a pretty good idea that there were those elements to those relationships. And I should say that for a lot of people that I spoke to, working for Marvel Comics was the best job that they ever had. Even the ones who were part of the drama and the bitterness, there were good moments too. For a lot of people, it was the best job in the world until eventually it wasn’t. Whether they were there in the ’60s or the ’70s or the ’80s or ’90s, they all remember the good days, and then something would happen and ruin it for them. But it wasn’t total bleakness either — at times it was a fun creative place to be. But yeah, I have heard from a lot of readers that it’s kind of a punch in the gut to have that myth looked at a little more closely, to take a harder look at what was going on.
I feel bad if I’ve crushed people’s dreams! But I do think that there’s an important lesson about loyalty to corporations. Because there’s the idea of Marvel and the spirit of Marvel, and there are a lot of these intangibles, and then, as with any other company, there’s this machine that exists to make money for people. And as the company gets bigger and bigger, the people who are trying to make money are more and more removed from the people who are trying to continue the spirit of the company. It’s hardly a novel observation that corporations aren’t people, but I do think that working on the book made me very aware of the foolishness of ascribing values like loyalty to corporations.
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