Thursday, March 12, 2015

Dawn Of The Assistant Editors!

In January of 1984, most of the Marvel titles for the month were "stamped" with this peculiar warning:

The Marvel staff of editors had flown off to California to attend the San Diego Comic Con, as well as to pay a visit to Stan Lee at what was then "Marvel Productions"--leaving their assistant editors "in charge" of things in New York, with the warning stamp giving the impression that the lower-tier editors felt at liberty to produce that month's issues and stories in a "while the cat's away..." paroxysm of irresponsibility. In reality, it was a clever example of Marvel never letting a good marketing ploy go to waste. These issues, like any others, were plotted, approved, and readied for production months in advance, with writers and artists having already been assigned to the work and the principal editors likely signing off on the finished products before ever stepping foot out the door.

That's not to say there weren't some assistant editor shenanigans taking place in these issues. Parodies... farce... caricatures... stories springing from a character's dreams... as well as brief inserts that gave us the opportunity to meet these editors, stepping out from behind the curtain and having their moment to make their impression on readers. It's hard to say how successful it all was, in terms of familiarizing readers with these people who, up until now, toiled in obscurity and were only known in occasional Bullpen Bulletin tidbits. You can probably name four or five of Marvel's past editors without even thinking about it--how many assistant editors come to mind?

Be that as it may--since we readers were inundated that month with titles bearing that dreaded stamp, it seems only fair that we here at the PPC inundate you with tales featuring more Marvel assistant editors than you can shake a deadline at. Think of it as an opportunity to finally meet the assistant editors from the mid-1980s! Who wouldn't perk up at the thought of that? You might even remember most of them this time around! Probably not.

We might as well start at the top: Ann Nocenti, who makes us aware of her seniority during the absence of editor Carl Potts and Editor-in-Chief Jim Shooter in this brief sequence from an issue of The Defenders:

But in that month's issue of Incredible Hulk, Nocenti is a little more grounded when featured in the story's introduction, as the Marvel offices receive a most unexpected visitor:

Banner is of course paving the way for the main story, where General Ross would take responsibility for an act of treason. We've probably also been witness here to the only instance where Banner changes to the Hulk without shredding his civvies in the process--something we all but expect whenever the man wears purple pants, no?

Nocenti spends the rest of Banner's visit virtually standing in for writer Bill Mantlo, who has spent considerable effort to remake the Hulk's image into that of a hero, pardoned by the President and accepted by the ranks of Marvel's stable of heroes.

It's an interesting prologue to the story to come, though Nocenti is laying it on a bit thick on Mantlo's behalf. We know in hindsight that Hulk #300, coming up in just a few months, would put an end to this hero storyline and strip from the Hulk all that Mantlo has given him; yet even now, it's difficult to shake the feeling that this new lease on life for Banner/the Hulk has all come about too abruptly to last, and perhaps Nocenti overplays her part here.

That said, this segment is probably one of the better-handled of the AEM inserts, and its ending leads off nicely to Ross's story to follow:

COMING UP NEXT in our look at

A gem among the madness:  Amazing Spider-Man #248!


Kid said...

Assistant Editors' Month seems not too long ago to me - a few years at most. Hard to believe that it's been 31 years - well over half my life away. Scary.

Anonymous said...

In late 1983 I started my 24-year absence from comics so I'd have just missed Assistant Editors' Month. I also know nothing about this version of the Hulk but it seems Banner could become the Hulk without getting angry or shredding his clothes - and retaining his intelligence !

Comicsfan said...

I hear you, Kid! ;)

Colin, the Hulk still did a fair amount of shredding during his transformations, though I believe he was back to wearing purple shorts during this period. The visit with Nocenti was likely illustrated by Sal Buscema with decorum in mind--you'll notice the Hulk even fits nicely into that regular-sized chair, when even the Thing would likely find it inadequate.