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Useful Notes / Marvel Comics Editors In Chief

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I don’t know whether most people grok this idea, but the Editor in Chief is charged with governing, managing and protecting all of the characters. It was my job to make sure the characters were in character, and I was the final word on what "in character" was...The company relied upon me to manage and protect the company’s intellectual properties.
Jim Shooter, summarizing the job description

  • Joe Simon (1940-1941): Co-Creator of Captain America, and one of Marvel's earliest resident talents.
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  • Stan Lee (1941-1942, 1945-1972): Certainly the most famous comic editor ever, the real founder of Marvel Comics as a brand, and as overseer of Marvel Universe and as its face, he rivals Spider-Man as the company mascot. He's also Marvel's greatest publicist ever. Even those who think Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko did most of the hard work will acknowledge Lee's importance to the Marvel Universe (and the medium in general). Lee's innovations include full credits for the entire artistic team (Writer, Artist, Inker, Penciller and so on in each issue), the Marvel Bullpen, and generally encouraging and allowing writers and artists to put their spin on their stories, being quite a bit more laissez-faire than his successors would be. During his regime, the biggest titles were Fantastic Four and Spider-Man.
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  • Vincent Fargo (1942-1945): Handled the company while Lee was doing service in World War II. His main impact was a large amount of Funny Animal titles.
  • Roy Thomas (1972-1974): A natural choice to follow in Lee's footsteps, as the first Promoted Fanboy at the company, and was the writer with the largest pull after Lee.
  • Len Wein (1974-1975): Was editor for the briefest of the times, but he did make his mark by reviving a little book called X-Men and co-creating a certain hairy mutant...
  • Marv Wolfman (1975-1976): Editor who is often credited for codifying Marvel's shift away from Comic-Book Time towards the "illusion of change" Fleeting Demographic Rule.
  • Archie Goodwin (1976-1978): Would later make his mark handling Marvel's Epic line.
  • Jim Shooter (1978-1987): One of the longest lasting and most controversial editors not only in Marvel but superhero comics in general. Helped electrify the company after sagging sales, and spearheaded many beloved runs, but his tenure came to an end amidst micro-managing the talent, and conflicts with the powers that be. His regime oversaw the expansion of X-Men as the pre-eminent best-selling title in the Marvel stable, as well as several defining comics runs such as Walt Simonson's famous run on The Mighty Thor, Frank Miller on Daredevil, Roger Stern on Spider-Man and The Avengers, John Byrne on Fantastic Four. How much credit or blame for these runs falls on Shooter is of course contested. The likes of Stern have positive views on the man while John Byrne blames him for his shift to DC. In addition to serving as EIC, Shooter also continued writing in his time. Most notably, he was the author of Secret Wars (1984), the first major event comic, and an extremely profitable endeavor that many readers credit for introducing them to Marvel comics, which continue to have lasting effects on the Marvel Universe.
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  • Tom DeFalco (1987-1994): Succeeded Shooter, and was on board during the comics boom of the late eighties and early nineties. Interestingly, despite presiding over a period that was considered speculation-heavy and crass, he managed to deflect a lot of ire the industry pumps like oil. This is probably largely due to his laid-back persona, his quietly going back to writing (including the fan-favorite Spider-Girl the longest running title for any female character put out by Marvel ever) and Ron Perelman receiving more criticism. He's considered a hands-off and laissez-faire editor and was a much needed respite after Shooter. He oversaw Marvel 2099, an early attempt at projecting a future series of Marvel's Legacy Character.

In 1995, the decision was made to split the editor-in-chief position five ways. This lasted only a year, as Marvel's line shrank drastically as different editorial teams handling different titles engaged in fighting each other for event titles and sales rather than collaborating.

  • Bob Harras (1996-2000): Gained prominence by more or less running the X-Men line, so that when the editor-in-chief position was consolidated again, he was pegged as the natural choice. Word is, Harras made his enemies around the office, and some were not pleased at his resolution of the The Clone Saga (though to be fair, it was an inherited mess), but what may have ended his tenure was the inability of the X-Men comics to resemble, let alone capitalize on the upcoming film. Although a great deal of titles were bland, directionless, or even experiencing a Dork Age through his stewardship, a few of his efforts were positive as well. The majority of the non-mutant characters were reinvigorated and finally given top-notch creative talents in the aftermath of the Heroes Return event, which was sadly at the expense of the X-Men. Deadpool was tested out with his own book, and has become the Breakout Character of the nineties. Harras also greenlit Thunderbolts, a property that still sticks around here and there.

  • Joe Quesada (2000-2011): Currently Chief Creative Officer of Marvel Entertainment (which includes not only comic publishing, but video games, films, etc.), and the second longest-serving EIC of Marvel Comics after Stan Lee himself. Like all editors, he has his detractors and admirers, but he's credited for launching a number of great talents and especially for the successful Ultimate Marvel line. In his time, The Avengers moved front and center to the Marvel line over both the X-Men and the Fantastic Four. He stated once that his major goal was to put three genies back in the bottle, and before he ended his tenure, he did what he set out to do, though many of course question both the execution and the results:
    • Reduce the number of mutants so that they feel like a persecuted vulnerable minority and ragtag group of outsiders (which he did with House of M)note .
    • Make Marvel as unpredictable, out-of-control and lacking in status-quo as in The '60s (which he did with Civil War which pit heroes against one another, ended the collegiate bonds between different superhero teams, and re-introduced the anti-establishment sensibility of the old days)
    • End Spider-Man's marriage, (which he did with One More Day).

  • Axel Alonso (2011-2017): Alonso's appointment was well-received by Quesada's critics. The Alonso era was praised for an emphasis in character and creator diversity, but also received heavy criticism for a streak of yearly line-wide relaunches, flooding the comic book market with upwards of seventy titles at a time, and the Secret Empire story.

  • C.B. Cebulski (2017 - present): Current editor-in-chief of Marvel Comics. Cebuslki previously worked as a freelance writer and translator for Marvel, and was then promoted to associate editor under Quesada's tenure, editing titles like the original Runaways. He also served as a talent liaison for the company and later became president of international brand management in 2011.

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