“I’m not an angry person, which you can probably hear from just me talking to you,” Jim Starlin tells me over the phone. Then he sighs. “But Marvel tends to bring out the worst in me, at times.”
That’s a bitterly ironic statement, given what the multi-billion-dollar Marvel brand owes to Starlin. The 70-year-old writer-artist is a giant in the comic-book industry, with hundreds upon hundreds of credits to his name. He’s primarily known as the leading light of so-called “Marvel Cosmic,” the general term applied to the company’s printed tales of trippy adventuring through the far reaches of time and space. Most important, he’s the guy without whom this month’s Marvel mega-blockbuster movie Avengers: Infinity War couldn’t have happened — in the pages of his comics, he created its supervillain, the intergalactic killer Thanos, as well as its magical MacGuffin, the Infinity Gauntlet.
And he swears he’ll never make another comic for Marvel again.
To be clear, his main grudge is with Marvel Comics, Marvel’s publishing arm, not the filmmakers at Marvel Studios. But even that is a recent development — just a few years ago, he threw shade at Marvel Studios for paying him an unsatisfying amount after using his characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He reached a financial détente with them, but his feud with the comics folks has only grown. In December, he announced on Facebook that a recent editorial dispute has led him to decide he’s “moving on” from the publisher.
It’s a situation that’s awkward but far from unprecedented. Starlin has a relationship with Marvel Comics that stretches out over four and a half decades, and it’s long been a turbulent one. He’s acrimoniously quit working for the publisher no fewer than six times, periodically coming back largely because of his love for creating Thanos stories. Now, on the eve of Infinity War — what should have been the apotheosis of his time with Marvel — he thinks relations are worse than they’ve ever been. “I’m not working for them anymore and this time, I think that it’s for good,” he says. “Because this last [dispute] was exceedingly bad.”
On its surface, the present disagreement may seem like a tempest in a proverbial teapot. Indeed, to a layperson, it might be hard to even understand what’s going on. There have been, confusingly enough, two un