Monday, December 21, 2009

Remembering Randy And The Infamous No-Prize

Heh. Here's a little story that must be told. In light of Marvel's merger with Disney becoming official on the first of the year, as well as Marvel's legal woes in the field of 'who owns what'; the companies latest strategy involves having the artists in the bullpen complete a list of what characters they have created during their employ with Marvel... To make matters even stranger, an old case has resurfaced to haunt them yet again. The case of Randy Schueller. If the name doesn't ring any bells, then his contribution would. You see, this guy is the original creator of the Black Spider-Man (which would later evolve into Venom).

What follows is Randy's statement, in his own words, taken from 2 years ago. PLANET GRIFFIN even found the original letter sent from Jim Shooter himself. Upon reading this, I found it to be funny as well as sad... It's funny because, despite how it sounds, Marvel can't necessarily be blamed for this now (Shooter would be fired years later, and even though he was gone, some of his 'practices' continued...), and sad that even today, Randy has no gripes, yet he continues to gripe about it. To those of you aspiring fans out there, let this serve as a gentle reminder to what many of my NEXT 100 Creators already know... Deals are made by handshake over lunch everyday, but they're enforced by iron-clad contracts... And despite the fact that this post is merely a small piece of history retold, the very fact that history repeats itself should never be underestimated. Ever.

Back in the early 80s, Marvel ran a competition for aspiring writers and artists. Being a life long Spidey fan with delusions of comic grandeur, I took a stab at a story idea. (You can almost feel the band-aids coming...)

I thought it would be cool if Spidey needed to upgrade his powers and his look, so I came up with this idea that Reed Richards had made a new costume for Spidey using the same unstable molecules that the FF costumes are made of. The unstable molecules would flow into Peter's pores and allow him to cling to walls better. I think my original idea was to increase his sticking power by 25% or something like that. (To give such a precise percentage like this, it translates to '5 hit points in damage to your Wizard of Moordoor'...)

For some lame reason, I had the Wasp involved since she was the resident fashion plate of the Marvel universe at the time. Remember when Jan would show up in every other issue of the Avengers sporting a cool new costume? (Who could forget? Perez was nice like that.) I loved when they did that! So to me it made sense to have her design the new spider suit when she was over at the Baxter Building for cocktails or something. (ooookaaaay...) Anyway, I saw the new suit as a stealth version of the original costume - jet black so he could blend in with the shadows. At best, all you could see of him was the blood red spider emblem, emblazoned on his chest. (Yeah, in my design the spider was red, not white. I also gave him underarm webbing like in the original Ditko design.)

Oh yeah, and I stole an idea from Iron Man and made his web shooters work using the same cybernetic technology that Tony Stark used to control his armor. (So basically, Marvel merely took it back for pennies) Peter just had to mentally imagine the kind of web line he wanted to shoot and the suit would do it for him. (Keep in mind, this was 25 years before Civil War and "Iron Spidey"!)( 25 years later, and most of us still don't care)

A few months after submitting the story I received a letter from Jim Shooter saying he liked the idea and wanted to buy it for $220. I was thrilled! But the best part - they offered me a chance to write the story. How cool is that?

I ended up submitting a second version and even had a follow-up phone call or two with Tom DeFalco to discuss the script. Wow! Me, on the phone with a real live Marvel editor. I still can't believe this happened!

In the end, the whole scripting thing just didn't work out for me - I don't remember the exact reasons. I submitted another version of the story, they didn't like it, I stopped sending in letters. The whole thing just kind of fell apart. Regardless, I had no regrets. (Keep reading...) As a true blue Spidey fan, this was a very cool moment in my life.

A year or so later, when Secret Wars came out and I saw my costume idea executed in a completely different way than I had envisioned it, I was simultaneously thrilled and saddened. (You got what they paid for.) And when the idea of the black costume caught on, I was even more thrilled. And then when VENOM was created I was...disturbed. (An analogy of a simple idea in corporate hands, but I digress...) I was never a fan of the costume-turned-villain idea. Give me the classic Ditko villains any day! Venom just never really seemed to work for me. But I digress...

Now, fast-forward to 2007. I see that the black costume (MY black costume, sort of) is making it's way to Spider-Man 3. Wow! I couldn't stand it anymore - I had to come out of the closet and tell my friends and coworkers about my contribution to this year's BIGGEST blockbuster. And I had all the documents to prove it even if Marvel never mentioned my name.

Since Marvel paid me for the story, I have no real gripe, but I do feel bad that they didn't give me any kind of acknowledgment in the comics. ( If you said it like this, you actually do.) You know, something like, "costume concept by Randy Schueller" or "Thanks to Randy Schueller for inspiration," or "Randy Schueller, you Spidey fan-boy stud, you rock!" But no, I got nothin'! (Imagine if you worked in the bullpen now...) That's my one disappointment in this whole story. (Honestly, there shouldn't be any disappointment at all... Randy got paid AND recieved the infamous Marvel No-Prize!)

I've written to Tom Defalco before, but I've gotten no response. (You were paid back in 1982 on a 'work-for-hire' issued by a man who would later get screwed over himself.) Maybe Marvel is afraid I'll sue them or something, (hmmm...) but that's not the case at all! (So why make one now, eh?) I don't want any money, (We're talking upwards of $750 million today) I don't want any legal rights to the Venom character. All I want is this: a mention in the letters column of Amazing Spider-Man recognizing me as the nameless fan who (WHO shall remain nameless) sparked the idea for the black suit which eventually led to the idea for Venom which eventually became the basis for this freakin' monster movie we call Spider-Man 3. That's all I want. (Good luck in your future litigation)

Thanks for letting me vent!
Randy Schueller

No comments: