Pittsburgh-born Marvel writer hasn't lost thrill for comics


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Catching up with Jim Shooter starts with an imaginative boy growing up in 1950s Bethel Park and then travels through time, the past 40-plus years, of comic book lore.

The writer and former editor-in-chief of Marvel is in town Sunday for the Pittsburgh Comic & Collectibles Show at Century III Mall in West Mifflin.

DC Comics first accepted a Jim Shooter story when the writer was 13, in 1964. He went on to create characters for the Legion of Super-Heroes and other DC books, jumped ship and led Marvel through a tumultuous decade (1976-87), including putting Spider-Man in a black suit, and later spearheaded Valiant, Defiant, and Broadway imprints. He is currently writing Doctor Solar, Magnus and other titles for Dark Horse.

Do you still consider coming to the Pittsburgh area coming home? How much of what you were doing as a teenager is still part of what influences your work today?

Pittsburgh Comic
& Collectibles Show
  • When: 11 a.m-5 p.m. Sunday.
  • Where: Second floor of the Century III Mall, West Mifflin, near JC Penney.
  • Admission: $3.
  • Details: Show-runner New Dimension is offering a limited-edition print by "Mighty Samson #1" illustrator Pat Olliffe, and a Doctor Solar/Magnus Robot Fighter comic book, while supplies last. More info: www.ndcomics.com.

Pittsburgh is home. I grew up during remarkable times, the 1950s and 1960s, while Pittsburgh was going through its first Renaissance. I remember the smog and the black buildings. I remember Forbes Field, seeing Roberto throw out a runner at third from the right-field corner. I watched with wonder as the city evolved during my teen years. I've seen both sides of a great watershed -- the coal-powered, steel city days and the advent of this brave, new techno-town. Pittsburgh and I came into this new age together, and all of what I experienced back then still qualifies as core influence. If there's a theme to my stories, it's regular people rising to conquer formidable challenges. Yep, it's a 'Burgh thing.

How do you account for your amazing longevity in the industry?

Someone told me recently that I'm the longest-tenured (though not the oldest!) active comic book writer, with 46 years of service. I think I keep getting gigs because I out-work, out-care and out-try the younger, gifted people for whom writing is easy, apparently. Someone also told me that I'm 59. Not inside my head, I'm not.

What's next for Doctor Solar and any of your other characters that you might want to share?

Coming up in "Doctor Solar, Man of the Atom" issues #5-8 is the four-part origin of the Doctor. He grew up in suburban Pittsburgh, by the way. I think it's the best thing I have ever done.

What do you make of the multimedia nature of the industry today? Everything new in the superhero realm seems to have to be conceived with a motion comic and/or a digital/TV/movie afterlife as well. Do you think that's healthy for the future of comic books?

I think technological innovations and alliances with other media are positive things. I've been hearing about the imminent death of print media for decades. First, I'd say that people who love comics love the unique nature of the comic book, the tactile, page-turning experience. The physical books are a joy. A lot of comic book readers are collectors. They want books, not bytes -- or possibly both. If print media does eventually become extinct, comics will be the last to go.

One more thing -- we're storytellers. For 40,000 years or more, that's been an essential role in the spectrum of human endeavor. The comics medium is the only visual storytelling medium that's eyes-only, the only one you take at your own pace. There is great iconic power in that form of presentation. I don't care if we're telling our stories via skywriting, the visual/verbal language created and developed in parallel by film and comics will persist.

Is there anything new or unexpected on the horizon that we haven't seen yet?

Watch for the Mighty Samson, a saga of the rebirth of the world post-apocalypse, Spektor, a cutting-edge science fiction/supernatural thriller and M.A.R.S Patrol, a future-war epic, all from Dark Horse Comics.

Sharon Eberson: seberson@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1960.


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