6/9/2012 – No, “Faerie” with an “e”, like Neil Gaiman would write it.

Someday, someone’s gotta write a comprehensive book about Jim Shooter. During his time as editor-in-chief for Marvel, there’s no denying he had an incredible impact on not just the company, but the entire industry. And depending on who in the industry you ask, this impact was either disastrous or fantastic or some mixture of the two. It’s pretty tough to find someone with real knowledge of the Shooter reign who doesn’t hold pretty strong opinions on the man. (Hell, it’s hard to find someone with hearsay knowledge who doesn’t have an opinion)

This strip goofs on Shooter’s policy of disallowing gay characters in Marvel comics, which resulted in the rewrite of a long-running Alpha Flight sub-plot. Northstar was still officially in the closet in those days, although creator John Byrne and later Alpha Flight writer Bill Mantlo would drop what hints they were allowed to make. Mantlo intended to go a lot further than hints, and over the course of several issues had Northstar suffer from a progressively-worsening sickness that was eventually to have been revealed as AIDS (Because he was gay, you see. Let’s not dwell on the appropriateness of the storyline as planned, lest we stray too far from our point).

Between Shooter’s policy and the Comics Code, the revelation was squelched. A new explanation had to be given for why Northstar was so sick, and Mantlo rose to the challenge by revealing that Northstar was actually part elf (or “fairy”, as it’s commonly told in the retelling. But again, let us not get bogged down by Mantlo and stay on-point). So he was an elf and he was dying of an elf disease and magic saved him and yay it was over. Northstar wouldn’t come out of the closet officially for another, what, 60 issues of Alpha Flight?

Some people take this and other instances (Google “Hulk” and “YMCA” and see what you find) as evidence that Shooter had a personal problem with homosexuality. I dunno, I think it’s just as likely he was afraid to go up against the Code or that allowing gay characters would lead to controversy that cost them readers. But the thing it, the reason why is largely irrelevant. If you’re the guy making the edict that _____ group is not allowed to appear in your company’s product, then whatever the reasoning behind it, you’re the guy who gets to hold the shit-bucket for as long as people care to recount it.


Quotable quotes from @JoshCritic:

“Before Marvel made an announcement about Northstar’s marriage, they should have made one reminding everyone he was still with the X-Men.”



  1. Bob

    Why aren’t there already ten books about Jim Shooter? The guy was either at the heart or on the fringes of just about everything that happened in/to/around comics from the 70s into the 90s. No joke, I’d gladly read just an unabridged transcript of his comics-related ramblings, but even better would be some kind of oral history of comics in the 80s and early 90s.

    I’m working my way through the first year-plus of the initial Valiant run (up to Unity and at least a few issues beyond in each title) and holy living crap, some of those books are phenomenal. “X-O” and “Solar” in particular are great, and they’re good in a way that is very much NOT like the rest of comics from that era. Tone down the violence and innuendo a bit and they could be sold on the stands in 1964 next to “The Avengers” and “Fantastic Four.” No one will ever accuse Shooter of not being a stubborn – borderline iconoclastic – jerkface, but there are no shortage of successful stubborn jerkfaces out there who are tolerated and even embraced because the end result is worth it*. The question that keeps popping into my head is, “how insufferable does a visionary-level artist like Shooter have to be for his co-workers/staff to refuse to work with him, to say “no amount of money and critical acclaim is worth this shit”?

    *the best modern example is probably Brad Bird. The special features DVDs for “The Incredibles” and “Ratatouille” are littered with not-so-subtle hints that he’s a bear to work with, yet the same people doing the griping are climbing over each other because they trust his direction.

  2. Sean

    At this point, I think I’M gonna have to write that Shooter book.

    And I can barely even come up with a stupid 2-paragraph blog post to supplement the comic each week, so it’s gonna take a few years.

  3. Bob

    I dunno if you guys get notifications when someone posts to an old thread like this one, but I recently finished “Marvel Comics: The Untold Story”, and it has plenty of juicy Jim Shooter chapters, and no shortage of interviews with the people who worked with him.

    Unfortunately, it doesn’t really get into Shooter’s “no gays” policy, though from what’s mentioned in the rest of the book, it wouldn’t surprised me if he was enforcing someone else’s edict.

  4. Sean Whitmore

    Ha, I actually saw that book in Barnes & Noble a couple weeks ago. When I saw Shooter’s name in the table of contents, part of me couldn’t wait to read it and the other part was disappointed I’d never get to write it.

    Glad to hear it’s good, though. I gotta get around to that after the holidays.

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