James "Jim" Shooter (born September 27, 1951) is a notorious American comic book personality, known both for his work as a writer and editor, and for the controversies surrounding him.
Shooter began his career at the age of 13 (!) after a script for Legion of Super-Heroes he sent to DC Comics was accepted by the famous DC Editor Mort Weisinger. Weisinger eventually invited the young Shooter to New York and impressed with his talent put him to work at the age of 14. His run helped to modernize the series, bringing it out of its Silver Age status, most notably by causing the death of Ferro Lad, the first Legionnaire to be Killed Off for Real. He eventually went to work for Marvel Comics, writing among other things The Avengers. One of his most notable stories there was "The Korvac Saga" in which a supervillain gains cosmic powers but decides to use them for the good of the universe; however, an attack by The Avengers (who were not aware of his motives) ruined his plans, leading him to commit suicide, an unusual Downer Ending for such stories at the time.
Shooter eventually became an associate editor, then rose to the position of Editor-In-Chief at Marvel in 1977, at the age of 26 (which is actually on the older side when one considers that Stan Lee's first turn as EIC in the Timely era was at 19 years of age and Gerry Conway, Shooter's predecessor was in his early 20s too).
As EIC, Shooter was committed to getting issues out on time (a major problem for the company earlier in the 1970s), and that meant a heavy handed approach and dictatorial command of his staff and pressure on writers and artists. This needless to say did not make him very popular among his co-workers. Jennette Kahn, the new publisher of DC Comics, took advantage of that to woo many of those disgruntled talents like Steve Englehart, Marv Wolfman and George Pérez to her side to jumpstart her company's competitiveness.
Shooter did make positive innovations, such as providing royalties for writers and artists of Marvel for the first time, even if as the face of Marvel, he became a popular target in the period of the creator's rights movements when Jack Kirby wanted the return of his original art (which Shooter negotiated on his behalf).
Some of his notable works in that position include:
- Ordering the death of Jean Grey at the end of The Dark Phoenix Saga on X-Men since he felt the character's murder of billions of alien beings (even though done while insane) needed to be properly punished (while Chris Claremont wrote the story, that was not the ending he had intended for it). Although highly controversial at the time, this was later generally accepted as an appropriate ending and a classic storyline.
- Starting the whole Crisis Crossover fad with the two Secret Wars series (in which the Beyonder, an omnipotent being, first made everybody fight, then tried To Become Human) which he wrote himself. The first was a roaring success. Secret Wars II... wasn't. The first was done in part to compete with DC's announced earlier, but still gestating, Crisis on Infinite Earths, and is considered the very first "event" Crisis Crossover.
- Starting The New Universe line of comics, in celebration of Marvel's 25th Anniversary. Shooter wrote the main series, Star Brand. The line was not successful, however.
- Signing off on the story for Avengers #200, where Ms. Marvel is impregnated by Immortus' laser beam, gives birth to a clone of that supervillain who rapidly ages to an adult named Marcus, falls in love with Marcus who admits to using more science to make her fall in love with him, and disappears into another dimension with Marcus, with none of the other Avengers saying "This is pretty fucked up, we should put a stop to this."
- Having Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson get married in the main continuity of Spider-Man and producing the famous "The Wedding" issue, which he plotted out by himself, to coincide with the Spider-Man newspaper strip written by Stan Lee. Shooter did it despite the fact that his writing staff had a small window, and that Mary Jane had fairly recently returned to the supporting cast, and while she and Peter had become very close friends with considerable romantic tension between them, and had dated in the past, they certainly weren't at the time. The decision polarized the Spider-Man writing team and regular fans, and it led to what many scholars note is one of the most contentious developments in the history of the character. Having said, The Wedding issue was highly successful and very popular among the public, both comics and non-comics fans and it remains an iconic part of Spider-Man's history.
- Pushing for stronger characterization and consistent continuity. His time as Marvel EIC is actually stunning in how consistent the continuity was kept across such a wide selection of books.
- Requiring writers to approach each issue with a view to it being a potential reader's first ever comic; Louise Simonson and Ann Nocenti recalled in later years (discussing their tenure as Chris Claremont's editors on Uncanny X-Men in the 1980s) that Shooter insisted that every issue, even those part of a larger arc, needed to introduce and resolve its own episodic conflict, and furthermore every issue should be careful not to presume too much familiarity with characters and concepts on the part of the reader, in the interest of ensuring that new fans were getting a story with a beginning, middle and end even if the issue it was in was itself the "middle" of a bigger story.
- Not allowing any explicitly gay characters in Marvel comics, leading to characters like Northstar not coming out until after Shooter's tenure and at best being gay coded or heavily implied to be gay. Shooter himself previously penned an infamous issue of The Rampaging Hulk where Bruce Banner was almost raped by gay men.
Despite his writing talent, Shooter came to gain the enmity of some writers, artists and editors at Marvel, reportedly because of his authoritarian way of running things (most infamously John Byrne, who purportedly held a party where Shooter was burned in effigy after his old boss's eventual sacking). It's notable how several of his stories were later attacked and parodied after he left the company: The Beyonder was revealed to not really have been an omnipotent being after all; Korvac was now Evil All Along; and the New Universe was reinvented in a Darker and Edgier form, with the hero of Star Brand being to blame for it, and Shooter's hometown of Pittsburgh being destroyed. And Ms. Marvel's "happy ending" with Marcus... wasn't. All of these seem to be a series of Take Thats aimed at Shooter, done regardless of their effects on the characters (or their fans). An overt one on the DC side in Legends (written and drawn by folks who defected from Marvel because of him) involves an Expy of Shooter (and Star Brand) getting his ass kicked six ways to Sunday by Guy Gardner, with the Expy almost-literally shooting himself in the foot, viewable here. Joe Quesada cited Shooter's editorially mandated wedding of Peter and MJ as precedent and justification for editorially mandating One More Day. The pressure eventually lead to Shooter being fired from Marvel.
After trying to buy Marvel (and missing the bid by less than 2 million), Shooter decided to move on from the Big Two for a while. For his own part, Shooter has opined in interviews years later that he had difficulty finding work in comics at the time because his reputation had been tarnished so badly in the press that nobody would hire him (according to Shooter, Wizard magazine in this era would habitually reprint any first-hand gossip they could get from disaffected former Marvel employees with an axe to grind without any further investigation). Shooter found himself working as a writer of children's non-fiction, but remained keen to continue working in comics and soon decided to get back into the business. The experience of trying to buy Marvel led him to realise his ability to raise substantial amounts of capital very quickly and, assisted by former Marvel employees with whom he remained on good terms and contacts he had made in the publishing business immediately following his departure from Marvel, he decided to set up his own company.
After an attempt to buy Harvey Comics went nowhere, Shooter and his partners established Valiant Comics, which successfully modernized several old existing characters licensed from Gold Key Comics and continued Shooter's emphasis on characterisation and continuity. It was successful for a time, even pioneering several marketing tricks and techniques (collectable coupons given away with issues which could be exchanged for a free exclusive comic, variant covers by "superstar" artists, holographic and holofoil covers, "zero" issues etc.) which earned it considerable attention in the burgeoning collectors' market and earned both the company and Shooter himself several industry awards, but internal politics resulted in Shooter leaving the company after a couple of years and, one ill-fated crossover with Image Comics and a corporate takeover and poorly-handled reboot later, eventually closed down. Shooter tried a few more times, but without success.
In the early 2010s, Shooter was hired to write Legion Of Super-Heroes again—however, he was dismissed soon after, because (according to him) DC Comics did not like the direction he was taking the story. He was also attached to a Dark Horse Comics revival of some old Valiant Comics characters before Valiant's revival as a separate entity.
In 2011, he started his own blog. For the best part of two years he updated almost daily with entries about his experiences in DC Comics, Marvel Comics and other companies, anecdotes and homages to legendary comic-book writers and artists, comic-book reviews... but updates have become very sparse since. While Shooter continues to be controversial, some recent comics scholars and fans have actually revised their opinion about his time as EIC, with many feeling he was rather overly blamed or scapegoated, and trying to balance the bad with the good.
TV Tropes articles where Shooter is mentioned include:
- Armed with Canon
- Author's Saving Throw
- Comic-Book Time
- The Dark Age of Comic Books
- Executive Meddling
- Executive Veto
- Expansion Pack World
- Flash Forward
- Future Slang
- Gay Panic
- Hide Your Lesbians
- Horde of Alien Locusts
- Joe Quesada
- Karate Kid
- Organic Technology
- Pardon My Klingon
- Revised Ending
- Running the Asylum
- Take That - Comic Books
- Legion of Super-Heroes
- The New Universe
- Valiant Comics