As noted many times here, Jim Starlin is a premiere creator in the Marvel Universe and beyond, and Thanos, a character he created while in college, is the current big bad of the Marvel U. Starlin’s Infinity Gauntlet series (which he wrote and Geore Perez drew) is not only the inspiration for Avengers Infinity War, but a tale that drew many a young reader into the Marvel U during a time not always hospitable to that demo.
Since Thanos appeared in the first Avengers film, Starlin quietly played out a request for compensation for the character. In a post now only archived on the Wayback Machine, Starlin revealed a bit more of the negotiations:
I know you’ve talked about your relationship, or lack thereof, with Marvel when you see these characters and things you’ve helped bring to life is that kind of a mixed feeling as you’re watching?
I didn’t know Thanos was going to be in the movie until a couple weeks before and so there were some mixed feelings on that. Marvel and I are now talking. I can’t say anything more than that at this point about it. As far as the books go, I stopped reading Thanos when I stopped writing it, so I have no feelings about anything anyone’s done with it because I don’t know what they are.
I know you can’t say much, but talks between you and Marvel have thawed a little bit recently?
I promised David Bogart I would say he was the best thing since sliced bread in my next interview. Things are doing much better, but you know we’re not done yet and will be eventually.
This thaw led to Starlin working on several graphic novels featuring Thanos, including Thanos The Infinity Relativity, and Thanos the Infinity Revelation, both drawn by the great Alan Davis, and Thanos the Infinity Finale, drawn by Ron Lim. As I noted at the time, these were unusual for being stand alone graphic novels from Marvel, a format they weren’t typically thrilled about, and they also sold decently.
I should note that Starlin, who served in the Navy and championed creators right at many times in his career going back to the 70s, isn’t very shy about stating his opinion about the industry. He’s been around long enough to know that one company isn’t going to make or break a career if you have an actual career to keep going. Earlier this year he noted that, despite Marvel smoothing things over of the use of Thanos, he made more from the appearance of a very minor character he created in Batman V Superman than he did for the whole Marvel Cinematic Universe:
Just received a very big check from D.C. Entertainment for my participation in Batman V Superman, Dawn of Justice (Anatoli Knyyazev), much bigger than anything I’ve gotten for Thanos, Gamora and Drax showing up in any of the various Marvel movies they appeared in, combined. Guess I’ll finally have to sit down and watch the movie.
Now Starlin has been doing the PR Rounds for Thanos: The Infinity Siblings, the first in a NEW trilogy of graphic novels, again drawn by Davis. And that sparked the talk we told you of the other day, with Starlin not working on further Marvel projects. An in yet another FB post, he revealed the reasons why, with typical candor:
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.
What I objected to and what will be keep me from doing any further work for Marvel Editorial was Tom Brevoort approving a plot for the current on-going series, which was pretty much the same as the Thanos story arc in the graphic novel trilogy Alan Davis and I have been working on for Tom for close to the past year. He had 200 pages of script and 100 pages of pencils on this project when he gave the green light to a strikingly similar plot. The on-going will be in print before the graphic novel trilogy. To avoid spoiling anyone’s enjoyment of these two stories I will not be summarizing the striking similarities.
At first Tom denied giving his approval to the plot. When that turned out to be false, he switched to claiming there was nothing similar about the two plots. When that didn’t fly he changed his story to it was all an accident. These changes of excuse and other bits of procrastination ate up a month, by which time the current Thanos on-going art team was too far along for anything to be done about the situation. Too bad for me. So I am moving on.
And, yes, Marvel Entertainment has treated me very well and generously. Them I like.
And in a post here at The Beat, Starlin also made it clear that Siblings is but the first volume in a planned trilogy, the storyline of which seems to be the one Brevoort messed up by assigning a similar tale.
Actually Thanos: the Infinity Siblings is the fourth Thanos Graphic novel I have written for Marvel Editorial and comes out next year. It is to be followed up with two more graphic novels: Thanos: The Infinity Conflict and Thanos: The Infinity Ending. I have already scripted all three stories for this graphic novel set and Alan Davis is busy penciling the second story even as I write. This will be my final work for Marvel Editorial.
You can take many things away from this – including the fact that no one knows infinity like Jim Starlin – but also, there’s life before after and during Marvel Comics for creators.
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.