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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.

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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.

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15 COMMENTS

  1. in all fairness, Jim Starlin has had a long habit of rage quitting Marvel over the last several decades, only to return a few years later.

  2. A far worse PR storm is brewing for Marvel, Marvel Studios, and maybe Disney as a whole over how they’re treating a different co-creator – or, rather, how they aren’t treating him

    A massage therapist named Maria Carballo has sued Stan Lee for sexually harassing her during two sessions last year at C2E2. The allegations – and others from an anonymous group of home care nurses – surfaced in January, but the lawsuit is new this week. (Probably cannily timed to coincide with Infinity War.) Apparently it’s hit the Chicago Tribune, People, and Us Magazine, among others.

    In a week where we’ve seen the Golden State Killer/East Area Rapist (a cop!) finally arrested and formerly beloved comedian Bill Cosby convicted of drugging and raping a woman (only one of many, many accusers) it is galling and endlessly frustrating to see everyone, including Marvel/Marvel Studios, just ignore this. Of course, Lee’s alleged offenses fall far, far short of the monstrous crimes of Cosby and especially the GSK, but they are sufficiently serious that Marvel’s (and Disney’s) failure to take any action is shameful. #TimesUp unless, apparently, you’ve spent decades cultivating a cult of personality and being a living mascot for a mega-successful company (long after any editorial role was effectively over).

    News of the suit broke the same day as news of the horrific Toronto massacre, committed by an “incel” terrorist who believed he was punishing women for not having sex with him (and “alpha” men for having sex when he wasn’t). I have felt literally physically sick all week from these reminders that as a woman I exist in a world where men feel entitled to our bodies and consider us inferior beings. That all too many of them hate us, violently, and want us dead.

    Marvel needs to stop paying Lee a salary. Marvel Studios needs to remove him from future cameos and honorary executive producer credits. Pixar, also owned by Disney, has suspended their renowned cofounder and creative director John Lasseter for years of sexually harassing women, and appears likely to fire him. Pixar is doing it; Marvel can too.

    (There’s also the matter of the allegations that Lee’s “caretakers” and daughter are abusing, defrauding, and exploiting him. Considering reports that he’s having to be reminded how to spell his own name, he’s likely incapable of looking after his own affairs. Someone needs to establish a conservatorship – and probably also a neurological evaluation, in light of the confusion and possibly also the gross inappropriate behavior – and to avoid leaving him alone with anyone whom he might abuse or be abused by.)

  3. So an article complaining about a creator not getting the credit he deserves leaves out Ron Lim as a main reason why Infinity Gauntlet is beloved. Hard to take you serious when you do exactly what you are complaining about.

  4. Hopefully Starlin got extra or something for his association with Infinity War. Previously I had heard Starlin received more from DC for some Batman thing (?can’t remember specifics; might be a Russian villian) than he had for Thanos cinematically all the way up to Infinity War.

  5. Not since the Shooter era has Marvel’s management worked so hard to alienate people. The difference is that Marvel was still putting out some good comics when Shooter was in charge.

  6. @Althea Claire Duffy: Until those claims are substantiated, and the facts established, your ‘demands’ of Marvel are hollow and reek of self righteousness.

    As for this:

    “I have felt literally physically sick all week from these reminders that as a woman I exist in a world where men feel entitled to our bodies and consider us inferior beings. That all too many of them hate us, violently, and want us dead.”

    Please keep such disingenuous hyperbole out of a serious discussion, please.

  7. I would say that I’m more interested in Cates’ Thanos stories more than seeing Starlin be the writer in continuity again. It was good also having DnA and Keith Giffen give us fresh takes on those characters a decade ago. No Guardians without that. The prestige Infinity books were a good solution. Some of this is understandable from a basic publishing standpoint.

  8. Movie studios seem to make this kind of ham-handed mess of things all the time. I remember way back in late ’70s the owner of the rights to The Lone Range was doing a theatrical film of the character. The first thing the rights owner did was sue Clayton Moore, who had played The Lone Ranger on the 1950’s television show. Mr. Clayton, who at that time was making personal appearance as The Lone Ranger, was required to change his costume, and to sign his autographs as “The Masked Man. The owner of the character rights did not want the public to think that the 60+ year old Clayton would be playing the roll. I decided the day I heard this news of Mr. Clayton’s treatment I decided, that I would never see it. The movie did come out in the early ’80s and it was a bomb both commercially and critically, and lost millions. I think that the target audience was offended by the ill treatment of Clayton Moore and stayed away in droves. If they had just thrown Mr. Moore a decent payday to join the publicity tour, fans would have applauded!!!

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