Via Sean Howe’s invaluable Marvel Tumblr, this photo of future Marvel editor in chief Jim Shooter at age 14. At that age he sent a spec script to DC editor Mort Weisinger and was hired to write the Legion of Superheroes at that age. While the world of superhero comics was not quite as harsh as it is now…it was still probably no place for a boy, as Howe writes in MARVEL: THE UNTOLD STORY:
Unfortunately, praise was limited to the occasional article in the Pittsburgh newspaper or segment on the local TV news. “My father probably said four or five words to me the whole time I was growing up,” said Shooter. “One of the greatest men to ever walk the earth … but not at connecting with people. He made no comment whatsoever.” And Weisinger didn’t just withhold praise—he cruelly berated his teenage employee, calling from New York every Thursday night, following the weekly Batman television broadcast, with a litany of complaints: It’s not on time. It’s over the page limit. How the hell can we get a cover out of this? Why can’t you write like you used to? He referred to Shooter as his “charity case.” “He caused a kind of pathological fear of telephones in me,” Shooter once told an interviewer. “I felt more and more inadequate … and my last chance to be a kid was slipping by.”
Holding down an adult job—and, at six feet seven inches, now towering above his classmates—scarcely anything about him, save a serious case of acne, marked him as a teenager. He tried to fit it all in, to “get good grades so I could nail down a scholarship, and have a little fun, like football games, dances, parties and stuff. But it was too much, and it all suffered.” He missed sixty days of his senior year of high school, his grades fell, and his productivity for Weisinger decreased.
That’s kind of f*cked up.
Along the same lines, future DC president Paul Levitz was hired, at a later period, at the age of 16 to assist at the DC offices by Joe Orlando. While funny books weren’t the serious business they were to become, one can only imagine the developmental crucible that allowed both of these men to eventually run the two biggest superhero comic companies…and come to think of it, hiring teenaged boys to work in the comics just has this weird vibe to it.
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.