Roy Thomas' Final Thoughts on the Kree/Skrull War Debate

You may have been following the back and forth on the Neal Adams Vs Roy Thomas debate over the origins of the Kree/Skrull war.

The latest chapter saw Roy Thomas address some issues point by point, with lots of other people chipping in. Roy Thomas' manager John Cimino now sends Roy's final thoughts on the Kree-Skull debate. Though I don't think it will end here…


I suspect it's time I got off this particular merry-go-round. Neither Neal nor I am likely to convince anyone who isn't already in "our corner" (to the extent that's a valid boxing metaphor) of the truth or falsity of what happen on THE X-MEN, the Kree-Skrull War, or at Original Joe's pizza house on NYC's East Side. For my part, I've always seen and admitted that Neal did more than simply draw the stories… and I've always felt, but never more than recently, that he seeks to bundle unto himself rather more credit than he deserves. I suppose I'll have to respond if he makes some new allegation that seems worthy of being responded to, but at this point I'll mostly just make this pair of statements:

(1) Neal Adams came along at a crucial point in the Kree-Skrull War and influenced its particular events greatly, but its general direction and its outcome virtually not at all. Beautiful artwork, though.

(2) He errs when he says there was ever any plans (except in his own mind) to make the War any longer than it was.

As a matter of fact… and I feel I need to repeat this, though I believe I've aired it elsewhere, like in AE V2#4, the issue after his interview in V2#3 saw the real launching of his claims to be the main writer of all our collaborative efforts… the very work that I finally had to reject for AVENGERS #97 was drawn by Neal to be the END of the Kree-Skrull War.

We had settled on the ending in our usual brief discussions, and Neal told me–either then or soon afterward in a separate conversation in person or by phone–that he'd like to "wrap" that ending with a scene set (on Earth, I think… or perhaps on the Kree world) in a museum dedicated to the Kree-Skrull War… a framing sequence, in other words, with the main part of the issue being in essence a flashback to the climactic end of the War.

I disliked the idea at the time, and I'm pretty sure I told him so… but (a) I respected Neal's talent and figured he might pull it off; and (b) the last thing in the world Marvel or I needed at that particular juncture, on a title where each issue he drew (not wrote, but drew) seemed to be coming in later and later, pushing our over-extended deadlines and threatening to force a reprint issue of AVENGERS, was to make Neal unhappy by rejecting what I considered a basically nutty notion of his. There's no better way to put this: I went along with Neal's future-set, War museum, flashback concept almost entirely to humor him, by acceding to a framing sequence I didn't think was a good idea and which would only take vital pages away from the final issue.

And then I waited. And waited. And nothing came. Calls to Neal brought no response except promises of pages "tomorrow," a day that, of course, never comes. John Verpoorten, the production manager, grew more and more surly about the deadline, and at some stage could reasonably have gone over my head to Stan about it. At last, at a time when the entire story should have been delivered to me (and, for that matter, been written and lettered and mostly if not totally inked), I finally gave in to John's threats/pleading, banged out a version of the story as I recalled it from Neal's and my discussions (although likely mixed with elements that Neal wouldn't have drawn), and got it to John Buscema as an emergency measure. I don't even recall at this point whether we Special-Delivery'd the written plot to him by mail or whether I simply phoned him and relayed it to him. John, ever the professional (unlike some), banged out layouts for the story and shipped them back to me as quickly as possible, I had to write the material virtually overnight as I got it, and Tom Palmer had to kill himself to ink the pages in time to avoid paying exorbitant late-fees to the printer. (This is probably the stage at which Tom told me that he was through with the book after that, and words very close to "I've stayed up all night for the last time making up for the fact that Neal can't make a deadline." Tom may or may not recall today that he made that statement… but it was certainly embelazoned on my brain. The crazy thing is–I liked Neal's artwork so much that I'd have worked with him again…and did… I just had to find more and greater creative ways to avoid his propensity for lateness and self-deception as to the reasons therefor.)

At this point, I didn't even bother to call Neal again. Why give him any more consideration than he'd given me. So naturally, a day or two after I've put John on the case, Neal showed up in the Marvel offices… looking sleepless and disheveled… with a handful of pages… whether they were even full pages or just breakdowns, I confess to forgetting, because I never really gained possession of them. It certainly wasn't anything like half the story, let alone the long-overdue whole of it. It began with the museum sequence, and that's about all I remember of it, because at this point it was out of my hands. I told Neal that, because of his non-deliverance (a couple of weeks past, or more, if I got technical about it), I had had to have John Buscema draw the story, so I couldn't use the pages and Marvel wasn't going to pay for them. Neal seemed unable to believe his ears. Clearly, in the odd little world in which he lived, he felt betrayed. He promised he'd have the whole book fully penciled for me "tomorrow." I seem to recall that, susceptible to Neal's spell as ever, I said that, if he did, perhaps I could still find a way to use them, since John was still finishing up the story. That would've put me under some pressure, because Marvel would have wound up having to pay Buscema for his layout work, as well… but I figured I'd worry about that if it came to it… which I didn't figure it would.

It didn't. Neal went away with his pages, and I never saw either them again, nor any added pages. John's version came in, telling just the story I wanted to wind up the story, I scripted it quickly, and Tom performed his wonders… perhaps with another sleepless night. And Neal, ever the ingrate, bad-mouthed AVENGERS #97 when it came out for not being as good as the way he'd have done it. I sent Neal a nasty note about that public comment, saying that with all the trouble he had caused, a bit of silence for a change would not be amiss. (I didn't say it quite as politely as that, of course.) I closed by saying that his talk was cheap, but that, "in the arena of deeds, you are a whispering gladiator." Overly poetic, perhaps, but I felt I had it coming, after all I'd put up with from him.

Little did I realize that, more than four decades later, he'd get even worse.

Actually, over the coming months and years, Neal told me a couple of times that one of these days he was going to finish up his own version of that final issue and plop it on my desk. I told him that, if and when he did, I'd try to find a way to script and publish it. It never came of course, and such pages as he had were carried around him, allegedly, in a big briefcase with several other unfinished comics jobs. There were a number of them. Later–and I didn't hear this from Neal himself–someone told me that that story was that someone stole that briefcase from him on the subway. The person who told me that said he didn't believe the story, and when I asked him why, he laughed and said, "Because if all the unfinished Neal Adams stories were all together in the same briefcase, no thief could have even lifted it, let alone run off with it! A bit of hyperbole, of course… and as I said, I never heard any aspect of that story from Neal so of course I can't vouch for it. But anyway, the completed chapter never turned up.

Anyway, I've had my say now. Believe what you will. I'll freely confess my own opinion: By my lights, if you believe the main thrust of Neal's version, you and he were made for each other. And I don't mean that as a compliment.

Brilliant artist, though.

Best wishes,

Roy Thomas' Final Thoughts on the Kree/Skrull War Debate

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About Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.
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