Roy Thomas: Wikis

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Roy Thomas

Thomas at the Big Apple Con, November 14, 2008.
Born November 22, 1940 (1940-11-22) (age 69)
Missouri
Nationality American
Area(s) Writer, Editor
Notable works Alter Ego
Conan
Uncanny X-Men
Ghost Rider
Iron Fist
Brother Voodoo
Awards Alley Award, 1969
Shazam Award, 1971, 1973, 1974

Roy Thomas (born November 22, 1940,[1] Missouri, United States) is a comic book writer and editor, and Stan Lee's first successor as editor-in-chief of Marvel Comics. He is possibly best known for introducing the pulp magazine hero Conan the Barbarian to American comics, with a series that added to the storyline of Robert E. Howard's character and helped launch a sword and sorcery trend in comics. Thomas is also known for his championing of Golden Age comic-book heroes — particularly the 1940s superhero team the Justice Society of America — and for lengthy writing stints on Marvel's X-Men and Avengers, and DC Comics' All-Star Squadron, among other titles.

Contents

Biography

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Early life

As a child, Thomas was a devoted comic book fan, and in grade school he wrote and drew his own comics for distribution to friends and family. The first of these was All-Giant Comics, which he recalls as having featured such characters as Elephant Giant.[2] He graduated from college in 1961, having majored in history and social science, and then worked for four years as a teacher.

Thomas became an early and active member of Silver Age comic book fandom when it organized in the early 1960s — primarily around Dr. Jerry Bails, whose enthusiasm for the rebirth of superhero comics during that period led Bails to found the fanzine Alter Ego, an early focal point of fandom. Thomas, then a high school English teacher, was an enthusiastic contributor to AE, and took over as editor in 1964 when Bails moved on to other pursuits. Letters from him appeared regularly in the letters pages of both DC and Marvel Comics, including The Flash 116 (Nov. 1960), and Fantastic Four 22 (Jan. 1964) (in which a letter by Dave Cockrum also appears).

Marvel Comics

In 1965, Thomas came to New York City to take a job at DC Comics, as assistant to Mort Weisinger, then the editor of the Superman titles. "I'd already written a Jimmy Olsen script a few months before, while still living and teaching in the St. Louis area," Thomas recalled. "I worked at DC for eight days in late June and very early July of 1965"[3] before accepting a job at Marvel Comics:

I was hired after taking [Stan Lee's] ' writer's test', and my first official job title at Marvel was 'staff writer'. I wasn't hired as an editor or assistant editor. I was supposed to come in 40 hours a week and write scripts on staff. ... I sat at this corrugated metal desk with a typewriter in a small office with production manager Sol Brodsky and corresponding secretary Flo Steinberg. Everybody who came up to Marvel wound up there, and the phone was constantly ringing, with conversations going on all around me. ... Almost at once, even though Stan proofed all the finished stories, he and Sol started having me check the corrections before they went out, and that would break up my concentration still further. ... [and] they kept asking me to do this or that, or questions like in which issue something happened, or Stan would come in to check something, because I knew a lot about Marvel continuity up to that time. ... It quickly became apparent to them, too, that the staff writer thing wasn't working, and Stan segued me over to being an editorial assistant, which immediately worked out better for all concerned".[4]
The Avengers #57 (Oct. 1968), debut of the Silver Age Vision, created by Thomas as a homage to the Golden Age original. Cover art by John Buscema.

To that point, editor-in-chief Lee had been the main scripter of Marvel publications, with his brother, Larry Lieber, picking up the slack as a sometime-scripter of Lee-plotted stories. Thomas soon became the first new Marvel writer to sustain a presence, at a time when comics veterans such as Robert Bernstein, Ernie Hart, Leon Lazarus and Don Rico, and fellow newcomers Steve Skeates (hired a couple of weeks earlier) and Dennis O'Neil (brought in at Thomas' recommendation a few months later) did not.

His Marvel debut was the romantic-adventure story "Whom Can I Turn To?" in the Millie the Model spin-off Modeling with Millie #44 (Dec. 1965) — for which the credits and the logo were inadvertently left off due to a production glitch, resulting in this being left off most credit lists.[5] Thomas' first Marvel superhero scripting was "My Life for Yours", the "Iron Man" feature in Tales of Suspense #73 (Jan. 1966), working from a Lee plot as well as a plot assist from secretary Steinberg. Thomas estimates that Lee rewrote approximately half of that fledgling attempt.

Thomas' earliest Marvel work also included the teen-romance title Patsy and Hedy #104-105 (Feb.-April 1966), and two "Doctor Strange" stories, plotted by Lee and Steve Ditko, in Strange Tales #143-144 (April-May 1966). Two previously written freelance stories for Charlton Comics also saw print: "The Second Trojan War" in Son of Vulcan #50 (Jan. 1966) and "The Eye of Horus" in Blue Beetle #54 (March 1966). "When Stan saw the couple of Charlton stories I'd written earlier in more of a Gardner Fox style, he wasn't too impressed", Thomas recalled. "It's probably a good thing I already had my job at Marvel at that point! I think I was the right person in the right place at the right time, but there are other people who, had they been there, might have been just as right".[6]

Thomas took on what would be his first long-term Marvel title, the World War II series Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos, starting with #29 (April 1966) and continuing through #41 (April 1967) and the series' 1966 annual, Sgt. Fury Special #2. He also began writing the mutant-superteam title [Uncanny] X-Men from #20-42 (May 1966 - March 1968), and, finally, took over The Avengers, starting with #35 (Dec. 1966), and continuing until 1972. That notable run was marked by a strong sense of continuity, and stories that ranged from the personal to the cosmic — the latter most prominently with the Kree-Skrull War in issues #89-97 (June 1971 - March 1972).

X-Men #63 (Dec. 1969), art by Neal Adams and Tom Palmer

Thomas, who had turned over X-Men to other writers, returned with issue #56 (May 1969) when the series was on the verge of cancellation.[7] While efforts to save it failed — the title ended its initial run with #66 — Thomas' collaboration with artist Neal Adams through #63 (Dec. 1969) is regarded as a Silver Age creative highlight.[8] Thomas won the 1969 Alley Award that year for Best Writer, while Adams and inker Tom Palmer, netted them 1969 Alley Awards for Best Pencil Artist and Best Inking Artist, respectively.

In 1971, with Stan Lee and Gerry Conway, Thomas created Man-Thing and wrote the first Man-Thing story in color comics, after Conway and Len Wein introduced the character in the black-and-white comics magazine Savage Tales.

Editor-in-chief

In 1972, when Lee became Marvel's publisher, Thomas succeeded him as editor-in-chief. Thomas by this time had already launched Conan the Barbarian, an initially low-selling surprise success due to Thomas' accessible adaptations and original stories, combined with the detailed, Beaux Arts-inspired illustrations of Barry Windsor-Smith. Thomas, who stepped down from his editorship in August 1974, wrote hundreds of Conan stories in a host of Marvel comics and black-and-white magazines. During that time, he and Smith created the sword-wielding woman-warrior Red Sonja, initially as a Conan supporting character.

Thomas also continued to script mainstream titles, including Marvel's flagships, The Fantastic Four and The Amazing Spider-Man. He launched such new titles as the unusual "non-team" series The Defenders, as well as What If, a title that explored alternate histories. In addition, he indulged his love of Golden Age comic-book heroes in the World War II-set superhero series The Invaders. Thomas also helped create such new characters as the superpowered martial artist Iron Fist, the supernatural Brother Voodoo, and the demonic, motorcycle-driving Ghost Rider; had a behind-the-scenes role in creating the revamped X-Men team that would emerge as an eventual blockbuster; and was instrumental in engineering Marvel's comic-book adaptation of the movie Star Wars, without which, 1980s editor Jim Shooter believed, "[W]e would have gone out of business".[9]

DC Comics and later career

All-Star Squadron #1. Cover art by penciler-inker Rich Buckler.

In 1981, after several years of freelancing for Marvel and a dispute with then editor-in-chief Jim Shooter, Thomas signed a three-year exclusivity writing/editing contract with DC. There he began scripting Wonder Woman and, with artist Gene Colan, updated the character's costume. He also created the sword-and-sorcery series Arak, Son of Thunder and the funny animal comic Captain Carrot and his Amazing Zoo Crew.

Thomas realized a childhood dream in writing for the Justice Society of America (JSA). Reviving the Golden Age group in Justice League of America #193 and continuing in All-Star Squadron, he wrote retro adventures, like those of The Invaders, set in World War II. In addition to the JSA's high-profile heroes, Thomas also revived such characters as Liberty Belle, Johnny Quick, the Shining Knight, Robotman, Firebrand, the Tarantula, and Neptune Perkins. He also addressed the complicated and sometimes contradictory continuity issues surrounding the JSA.

Thomas and All-Star Squadron artist Jerry Ordway also launched a JSA spin-off, Infinity Inc., set in the present day and depicting the adventures of the JSA's children.

By 1985, following a second three-year contract, and Jim Shooter's departure from Marvel Comics, Thomas returned to Marvel, scripting titles starring Doctor Strange, Thor, the West Coast Avengers, and Conan, now often co-scripting with his wife, Dann Thomas, or with Jean-Marc Lofficier.

During the 1990s, Thomas began working less for Marvel and DC than for independent companies. He wrote issues of the TV-series tie-ins Xena: Warrior Princess and Hercules: The Legendary Journeys for Topps Comics, and collaborated on an adaptation of Richard Wagner's Ring cycle with Gil Kane. He also began writing more for other media, including television, and relaunched Alter Ego as a formal magazine in 1998. As of 2008, he lives in South Carolina, and is co-chairman of the board of directors of the comic-book industry charity The Hero Initiative.

Anthem, a comic book series by Thomas and artists Daniel Acuña, Jorge Santamaria Garcia and Benito Gallego, about World War II superheroes in an alternate reality, began publication by Heroic Publishing in January 2006. Thomas returned to Red Sonja in 2006, writing the one-shot Red Sonja Monster Island for Dynamite Comics.[10] In 2007 Thomas wrote a Black Knight story for the four-issue miniseries, Mystic Arcana, his first work at his old company in several years.

Awards

  • 1969: Alley Award for Best Writer.
  • 1971: Shazam Award for Best Writer (Dramatic Division)
  • 1973: Shazam Award for Best Individual Story ("Song of Red Sonja", with artist Barry Smith, in Conan the Barbarian #24)
  • 1974: Shazam for Superior Achievement by an Individual
  • 1974: Angoulême International Comics Festival Award for Best Foreign Author
  • 1977: Favourite Comicbook Writer at the Eagle Awards
  • 1977: nominated for Favourite Single Comicbook Story at the Eagle Awards for Fantastic Four #176: "Improbable as it may seem the Impossible Man is back in Town" with George Pérez
  • 1978: nominated for Favourite Writer at the Eagle Awards
  • 1978: nominated for Favourite Continued Story at the Eagle Awards for Star Wars #1-6 with George Lucas and Howard Chaykin
  • 1979: nominated for Best Comic Book Writer (US) at the Eagle Awards
  • 1979: nominated for Best Continued Story at the Eagle Awards for Thor #272-278 with John Buscema
  • 1980: Roll of Honour at the Eagle Awards
  • 1996: Author That We Loved at the Haxtur Awards

Bibliography

See also

Footnotes

  1. ^ Comics Buyers Guide #1636 (December 2007) p. 135
  2. ^ The Avengers Annual #1 (1967), biographical text page
  3. ^ Alter Ego Vol. 3, #50 (July 2005): " 'Roy the Boy' in the Marvel Age of Comics" (interview), p. 4
  4. ^ Alter Ego vol. 3, #50, pp. 4-5
  5. ^ Alter Ego vol. 3, #50, p. 8
  6. ^ Alter Ego vol. 3, #50, pp. 9-10
  7. ^ Stiles, Steve. "The Groundbreaking Neal Adams", n.d.
  8. ^ For example: Hill, Shawn, "Essential Avengers v4" (review), Comics Bulletin, February 15, 2006, re: the "Kree-Skrull War" arc: "This story set the standard for years to come, even if it has since been surpassed"; and Sanderson, Peter. Marvel Universe (Harry N. Abrams, 1998) ISBN 0810981718, ISBN 978-0810981713, p. 127: "Running nine issues, much of it spectacularly illustrated by Neal Adams, the Kree-Skrull War had no precedent in comics.... With this story The Avengers unquestionably established its reputation as one of Marvel's leading books"; and Stiles, Steve, "The Groundbreaking Neal Adams", re: X-Men: "Even knowing that the book was slated for the axe, Adams poured out some of the finest, most innovative work of his career".
  9. ^ Comic Book Resources (Oct. 6, 2000): Jim Shooter Interview, Part 1: "We had been losing money for several years in the publishing. And y'know, actually a lot of credit should go to Roy Thomas, who — kicking and screaming —had dragged Marvel into doing Star Wars. If we hadn't done Star Wars — what was that, '77? — well, we would have gone out of business".
  10. ^ "Newsarama article on Mystic Arcana". http://forum.newsarama.com/showthread.php?t=102774.  

References

Preceded by
Stan Lee
Marvel Comics Editor-in-Chief
1972–1974
Succeeded by
Len Wein
Preceded by
Stan Lee
(Uncanny) X-Men writer
1966–1968
Succeeded by
Gary Friedrich
Preceded by
Stan Lee
Avengers writer
1966–1972
Succeeded by
Steve Englehart
Preceded by
Arnold Drake
(Uncanny) X-Men writer
1969–1970
Succeeded by
Chris Claremont
Preceded by
Stan Lee
Daredevil writer
1969–1970
Succeeded by
Gerry Conway
Preceded by
Stan Lee
Incredible Hulk writer
1970–1972
Succeeded by
Archie Goodwin
Preceded by
N/A
Conan the Barbarian writer
1970–1980
Succeeded by
J.M. DeMatteis
Preceded by
Stan Lee
Amazing Spider-Man writer
1971–1972
Succeeded by
Stan Lee
Preceded by
Len Wein
Man-Thing writer
1972
Succeeded by
Gerry Conway
Preceded by
Stan Lee
Fantastic Four writer
1972–1973
Succeeded by
Gerry Conway
Preceded by
Steve Englehart
Incredible Hulk writer
(with Gerry Conway)

1974
Succeeded by
Len Wein
Preceded by
Gerry Conway
Fantastic Four writer
1975–1977
Succeeded by
Len Wein
Preceded by
Jack Kirby
Captain America writer
1977
Succeeded by
Don Glut
Preceded by
Len Wein
Thor writer
1978–1980
Succeeded by
Mark Gruenwald & Ralph Macchio
Preceded by
Ron Marz
Thor writer
1994–1995
Succeeded by
Warren Ellis

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