If half of the US movie going audience saw Avengers: Infinity War last night, and the rest will surely see it over the weekend, and (no spoilers) by Monday morning Thanos and Infinity Gauntlet will be household names, just like “Jon Snow” and “Sauron” before them.
Infinity War is heavily based on The Infinity Gauntlet, a much loved 90 comics story by Jim Starlin and George Perez that not only inspired the whole plotline of Avengers Infinity War, but introduced many a young comics reader to the Marvel in the early 90s, a time when comics for kids were a dirty word.
Starlin has made no secret of the fact that he created Thanos, Gamora, the Gauntlet, and the Infinity Stones. And he’s been prominent in all the promo articles about the movies, and was invited to the premiere where he rubbed elbows with Josh Brolin and other stars who are just acting out his ideas.
Starlin has been busy producing graphic novels set in the “Inifinty” timeline for a while. And you’d think that Marvel Comics would be happy to be promoting his work to the audience while Infinity War is the biggest thing going, and poised to become, perhaps, the highest grossing film of all time.
But you’d be wrong,
As laid out in an absolute must read piece from Vulture recently, Starlin has walked away from Marvel Comics over issues that are somewhat trivial, and thus, easily resolved, one would think.
It’s a situation that’s awkward but far from unprecedented. Starlin has a relationship with Marvel Comics that stretches out over four and a half decades, and it’s long been a turbulent one. He’s acrimoniously quit working for the publisher no fewer than six times, periodically coming back largely because of his love for creating Thanos stories. Now, on the eve of Infinity War — what should have been the apotheosis of his time with Marvel — he thinks relations are worse than they’ve ever been. “I’m not working for them anymore and this time, I think that it’s for good,” he says. “Because this last [dispute] was exceedingly bad.”
On its surface, the present disagreement may seem like a tempest in a proverbial teapot. Indeed, to a layperson, it might be hard to even understand what’s going on. There have been, confusingly enough, two unrelated, ongoing comics storylines involving Thanos. One took place in a monthly series called Thanos, most recently written by Donny Cates; the other in sporadically published graphic novels written by Starlin. In Starlin’s estimation, Cates’s story took on “a strikingly similar plot” to his own plot for the graphic novels (he declines to get into details about what he means for fear of spoilers), and Marvel editorial has not been able to explain to him how that convergence came to be.
When Starlin learned that the Cates story would be coming out first, he walked, as reported here and many other places. And the reasons were quite clear.
Just to set the record straight, Marvel Comics didn’t pull me off any books, they just made it clear they weren’t interested in using me on any of the tie-in series to the movies or regular series. Even though I lobbied heavily to write the Thanos on-going that task was twice given to other writers, which is Marvel Editorial’s right to do.
So let’s get this straight, Marvel Comics COULD be surfing off of the PR over the movie with a smiling Jim Starlin talking about how much he loves Marvel Comics, and gushing over his new Thanos comic.
Instead, they have a Jim Starlin beaming over how much he loves the comics and growling over how much he hates the comics.
This is a passive, massive PR fail.
To be fair, Starlin has a rep as someone who never was afraid to walk away from a comics publisher and strike out on his own. And that makes him “difficult.” He’s 70 years old and he seems to have done pretty well for himself. Marvel Studios creator participation isn’t that much, but hopefully he makes royalties off of those Infinity Gauntlet trades.
But it’s also a sign of how comics continues to treat its original creators with less than a minimum of respect. Who needs Alan Moore? Who needs Siegel and Shuster? Who needs Jack Kirby? Some of these wrongs were righted, but only after long bitter fights.
This should be the moment when Marvel Comics is raking in all the attention it can from Avengers: Infinity War. You’d think that a blurb that says “From the creator of The Infinity Gauntlet” would be a good marketing hook. But Marvel Comics decided that “From the creator of God Country!” was an interchangeable campaign.
I mean, I get it. In the direct market, Donny Cates is the young hotness and Jim Starlin is a veteran with no fanbase.
EDITED TO ADD: Cates has also been writing a Thanos ongoing tnat has gotten sales and critical success, which is not inconsiderable. But is this a there can be only ONE situation?
Or does he? Who got invited to the premiere, people and has been in all the Avengers Infinity War promo?
BTW, I mean no disrespect whatsoever to Donny Cates. I’m sure he played no part in any of these decisions. It’s just comics, folks.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.