With Midjourney and ChatGPT both on the verge of giving the comic book industry back to the fans and giving us our long desired renaissance…
…we’re going to look back on 9 unknown historical facts about Marvel’s pre-woke past.

It’s a look at the dirtier side of the industry, but one well worth looking at.

A lot of comic book fans mistakenly believe that Stan Lee was Marvel’s big boss – now, while that’s true in the sense that he ran the show, Marvel’s actual kingpin was Martin Goodman.

Goodman happened to be Stan’s uncle through marriage and it’s because of this relationship that Lee got his job in the first place.

  • Goodman was part of a large Russian immigrant family, and left home in his teens. He spent a good deal of those years traveling across the country by freight train, spending much time in hobo camps.

Not exactly the superhero story you’d expect for this man.

  • Unfortunately, a portion of Marvel’s success was the result of Goodman’s devious nature.

He once arranged for Marvel and DC to hike the price of their comics to a universal to 25 cents a piece, up from the highest price of 15 cents an issue in 1969.

Part of the deal was to hike all issues up to 52 pages each.

Immediately after the agreement went into action, Goodman cut his page count as well as dropped the price of his comic books to 20 cents an issue and also offered newsstands a bigger cut for more rack space.

DC thought they could win with a higher page count for a higher price, but by the time they reversed course to catch back up to Goodman, it was too late.

Goodman didn’t reserve his devious nature only for his competitors. He also had a notoriously adversarial relationship with his staff.

One of the worst examples of this would be the infamous contract trap.

  • Marvel used to have a dirty way of claiming ownership over the work produced by freelancers.

It was an age in which the only way to get paid was with paper checks, so management would rubber stamp a “contract” to the back of pay checks, granting Marvel full ownership of the work.

If you wanted to cash the check, you had to sign it to endorse it – and by signing the check, you signed the contract.

  • Because of the fact that Marvel didn’t have the best relationship with its staff and freelancers, missed deadlines were a constant problem.

In 1975, they sought a permanent solution to the problem by having Bill Matlo work on Marvel Fill-In Comics (office name, not the actual title).

The comics would feature random Marvel characters in random stories assembled from archived work and those issues would be deployed to newsstands in the event a regular title was to arrive late.

While most staffers hated Goodman, there was also a lot of animosity reserved for Stan Lee.

  • Members of the staff would sometimes write fake letters to the editor to back-up storyline decisions they made by way of fake fan support or to rip on management without any fear of repercussion.
  • On more than one occasion, writers and artists have attacked Stan Lee and other managers in the pages of their work.

Jim Starlin once created two clowns named Len Teans and Jan Hatroomi to attack Stan Lee and editor John Verpoorten – and these attacks went undetected.

Jack Kirby also did this, but it went very detected and deeply hurt Stan.

And here are a couple last tidbits that aren’t talked about enough when reflecting on Marvel’s history:

While there are many accomplished writers and artists to speak of at Marvel, it was Jim Starlin, Al Milgrom and Alan Weiss were the initial staffers who began to experiment heavily with LSD.

They would drop acid and incorporate its effects into their work. The most prominent title to be created and developed through LSD being Doctor Strange.

  • When the first issue of the Fantastic Four came out, it was a reaction to the release of the Justice League of America. Despite being something of a knock off, it was completely different from all other comic books.

The main characters had no formal uniforms, they bickered amongst one another. It was the first time in which heroes were portrayed as essentially human, and this took Marvel into an entirely different and far more successful direction.

  • Back when Marvel was working with the band KISS and producing comics about the band, there was once an instance in which Stan Lee and the band flew to Buffalo to visit the printing plant where their comic book was to be printed.

During the visit at the plant all four members poured a sample of their blood into the ink supply.

Now that software like Midjourney is allowing for comic book fans to create their own work without having to belong to a label or even leaving the house and interacting with other humans, it’ll be interesting to see how the latest generation of illustrated books will play out.