More Untold Stories #1:
Terry Kavanagh on working with Barry Smith and Tom DeFalco on “Weapon X”
Thought you might like to see some interesting behind-the-scenes details that didn’t make it into Marvel Comics: The Untold Story. This is an excerpt from my interview with editor Terry Kavanagh, talking about “Weapon X,” the Wolverine serial that ran in the pages of Marvel Comics Presents in the early 1990s.
I’ll tell you a little thing about “Weapon X,” and this is an example of how Tom was as editor in chief. I’ll say honestly Tom and I had a lot of arguments, and they were honest, in-good-faith arguments. And Tom would listen; he didn’t always force his way. He’d listen to what was said and would come around if you could convince him that your way made more sense than his way. He was willing to do that; he was willing to have a good old-fashioned argument with you and then come out the other side of it and everyone could just keeping working well.
And with “Weapon X,” what happened was that Barry Windsor-Smith and I had planned out the story line; it certainly caused a little friction between myself and the X-Men office because every Wolverine story had to get approval from the Wolverine office; every Ghost Rider story had to get approval from the Ghost Rider office. Bob Harras—who was the X-Men editor—and myself were good friends, but Bob’s job was to shepherd the X-Men line and to tell the important X-Men stories there; yet I was trying to tell good Wolverine stories in Marvel Comics Presents as well. Yet if it was too good or interesting Bob wanted it for his books. Understandably. So there was a little friction there, and Tom had to mediate in some cases there.
But in the case of “Weapon X”–once Bob and I hashed out our differences and figured out how it was going to go—the sales dept. came to Tom DeFalco and myself. When they would come and ask for nuggets of upcoming stories so they could start marketing and promoting, I told them about the “Weapon X” 13-part series that was going to appear. They came to Tom and I and said, “This is too good to go in Marvel Comics Presents; it needs to be a graphic novel, maybe even a hardcover graphic novel.” So I left that meeting and Tom said, “well if that’s what sales wants, that’s what you have to do.” So I left that meeting and I went back to Tom privately and said, “Tom, I just gotta get this straight: the mandate to me is that I have to do Wolverine stories—every two weeks there has to be a Wolverine story in Marvel Comics Presents—but if it’s any good it can’t go in Marvel Comics Presents it has to go in some other book. So really, the mandate to me is that I have to do crappy Wolverine stories every two weeks. I just have to get that straight, if that’s the rule.”
And Tom said, “Well, when you put it that way it doesn’t really make sense.” And we went to the sales dept. and said, “this is going to appear in Marvel Comics Presents first, and then we’ll print it as a hardcover graphic novel.” So that was a good example of Tom: he made his statements and he made the rules, but you could go and discuss it with him, and he’d hear your side, and act on that when he felt it was appropriate.
I remember silly little arguments. I remember an argument about one scene in the “Weapon X” stuff where Barry had Wolverine naked, and there were bubbles covering everything inappropriate. But Tom came in and wanted one scene changed so that you couldn’t see the side of Wolverine’s thigh; and I remember Barry being Barry, he was very specific and deliberate about his work. When I called and told him that, came in instead and the three of us had to have a meeting about whether the side of Wolverine’s thigh was an appropriate thing to have in a comic book or not. That was just a difference of opinion. It bothered me, Barry thought it was artistically necessary to the entire 13-part series or everything would fall apart; Tom thought it might wind up upsetting some people we didn’t need to upset; in the end, there were some extra bubbles. It was a compromise of bubbles.
Tom and I had a lot of arguments and some of them got loud, but I like to still think of him as a friend and I enjoyed working with him immensely.
(above image from Marvel Comics Presents #74. If you like what you read, check out my book!)