4th Floor Interlude Pt 2: The Bullpen in an Alternate Universe

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For something like the next two months, the 4th Floor at 387 Park, was Marvel Comics! This doesn’t sound like much all these years later. But the massive indifference to the discomforts of the art and editorial side of the business was grinding. Yes it was amazing that it worked at all, but it was still a job just doing your job.

387 Park Avenue South, located between 27 and 28 Streets and right on Park Ave South, was an old factory building. Which means there were huge, open expanses with very high ceilings only interrupted by a regular pattern of vertical steel beams. When we moved in back in 1982, the nature of the building tenants was changing. “We” were the desired type, publishing; a nice paper-oriented business. In fact, that part of Manhattan was where New York City publishing was moving to. Marvel was a publishing company after all. What was at 387 before was still in the process of leaving. I recall stopping on the floor just below Marvel and being able to see straight through the building. The floor was a mind-boggling wood beam floor fitted between the building’s steel frame. At a guess, the beams had to be 12×12 inches. On that 9th floor were still some leather working machines, big ones and long tables with a range of hand tools. I’m not sure at all, but it seemed like handbags and shoes were made there.

Of interest now, so long hence, is that we never really cared what was done on other floors. We had quite enough to do on ours! Whatever was on 4 was left intact. In looking around with a more experienced eye for office spaces, it seems this could have been publishing of some kind, book or magazine editing. A lot of small, open cubicles, a design style which was taking over the urban office landscape of the 1980s. Personally abhorrent but apparently the theory was that no one could goof off with their every gesture on open display. I always took that to be the best sort of attitude between an employer and any employee. Another consideration might be that a regular old sheet rock wall could run $30-40 per linear foot while a “stub” wall, maybe 3-1/2’ high, would be far less. And a conventional office door might be as low as $300 – so not having doors on all those offices is a right smart saving.

4 had a straightforward layout, there was a sandwich of conventional “executive” offices on the building’s perimeter, then a “power corridor” finally an inner core of larger but enclosed spaces. Very similar to the style effected at Marvel’s offices when we moved down there.

So here is an Alternate Earth… could it be Earth 616B? or 616-3/4? Earth 711? Certainly an Alternate Marvel Comics/Bullpen. Check out the peek-a-boo open plan that stretched on for the length of the building and get a load of those black ceilings!  For however long was necessary, the Marvel gang was stuffed in wherever they fit– to quote Maxwell Smart, Agent 86: “—And, loving it!”

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Oops! I was backed into a corner and shot the flash at just the wrong angle to blast my front lens filter! A nice shot of Paul Becton and Jack Abel plus an intern who looks a lot like Polly Watson. It is not true at all that those two guys just watched this poor intern do all the work, all day long…

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Ah, I see now I was crammed against a wall in order to ruin that former shot. Note all the junk still lying around, just dumped on any surface. But the work continued!

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The Bullpen!

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Steve Bunche– (“The One-Man Bunche”) if one was interested, it was possible to catch his desk with an elbow!

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Bullpen Production and Lettering Correction Artist, Jared Osborn

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Designer Cindy Emmert, flogging the super-computers of the day! (Maybe as much as a 25MHz processor ploughing through a 200MByte hard drive, probably running Quark (an early desktop publishing program!)!)

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This is the view opposite from the elevators and the Main Entrance to Marvel on 4. Back to the camera is sweet, late Erica Mitchel, facing is unknown and side-on is Dahlia Aponte. Erica was Marvel’s main receptionist she is here as well. Hard to see, next “unknown’s” head is a thrown together company “logo.” Well, you can see the M and A or Marvel, in reverse.

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I think that’s Ed Murr, can’t tell who is at his table.

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That plaid shirt is most likely filled with stalwart, Bullpen production worker, Kevin Tinsley!

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Twilight of Editorial… That blur is Tom Daning.

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A mysterious soul wondering who in hell was setting off a flash.

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One of my favorite pictures taken at Marvel, period. The 4th Floor allowed Mark Gruenwald and Tom DeFalco (Snr. Executive Editor/Editor In Chief) to be in the same office. That corner office was that large. Up on 10, the same area on the floor plan was chopped into by a small conference room that had been quickly made an office. I believe Dave Wohl, seated, was either Assistant to Mark, Tom & Bob Budiansky (another Exec Ed.) or an Editor on his own. Behind is legendary immortal Mary “Mac” MacPherran! Who started out long, long ago when the world was young, as Stan’s secretary and now was Tom’s Executive Secretary! Maybe it’s Dave’s praying to Heaven but there’s something individually hilarious about everybody. Note Tom’s dragging one foot during an intense phone conversation. Gruenwald smiling despite still slogging at something. Captures a lot of what went on.

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I believe that’s young Tony Matias breezing in.

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Those were the days! You never knew who was going to bust into the offices. L-R: Tom, John Romita, Jr., Bob Budiansky, Mary Mac, Gruenie and Ralph Macchio (yes, the movie star).

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Apparently, I decided to follow John Jr. into Tim Tuohy’s office and there was everyone’s favorite tank commander and inker, Mike Harris (I encourage everyone to visit his Facebook page, check out his serious new look and tell him to audition to be the next Fred Thompson!).

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Executive Editor Bob Budiansky looking just a little slow in unpacking…

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Editor Terry Kavanagh entertains an emotive freelancer, Sam Keith, obviously talking about “hanging ten” on Big Sur.

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Ronnie Lawlor, freelancer exquisite and dubbed by Jack Abel, “The 6-Foot Leprechaun” –and he should know. Ronnie is sporting her DOT-Approved New York City Street Wear Certified pixie slippers. She is dropping off work to a very satisfied Editor Dana Moreshead!

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I can’t tell who the heck the blonde gal is, but L-R: Editor Tom Brevoort, artist Rodney Ramos, Manny Galen, unknown gal and Assistant Editor Mindy Newell.

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The Xerox Room (alright, I’m sorry;) The Electrophotostatic Copy Room better known as Tom Daning’s office. That’s Editor Marcus McClauren punching the buttons and unknown to image left.

 

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Editor Joey Cavalieri greets freelancer extraordinaire James Fry, who is greeting him back!

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Just a hint of some of the chaos. I believe that’s Editor Mark Powers, ignoring it all!

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A lot of staffers up on 11 were also moved down to 4, here are some of them. I think these gals were part of the Subscription Department. Featured prominently, is a ghostly image of Nancy Murphy. Nancy had not only been on staff almost as long as Stan but was responsible for single-handedly preserving the “proof rolls.” Which were a by-product of the engraving part of printing and which provided a super-sharp and clean version of comic book artwork in B&W. One of the very nice, great ladies of the old Marvel.

 

End of part Two!

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4 Responses to 4th Floor Interlude Pt 2: The Bullpen in an Alternate Universe

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  • Bob Budiansky says:

    Wonderful photos, Eliot! FYI–Rodney is not with Mark Siry–I believe that’s Manny Galan.

  • Mark Drop says:

    Hey! Anybody in any of these pics have a band in the 80s. We shared a practice space with another band made up of Marvel guys 84/85/86. Don’t remember the name of their band. The place was at 38th and 8th.

  • Lisa Trusiani says:

    Enjoyed! Thanks so much!

  • Frank Lovece says:

    Love it! I remember Erica very well and was so sorry to hear of her passing. Marcus was my main editor when I was freelancing in the ’90s, and I’m still in touch with him and Tom Danning … one of his various assistant editors, along with Marie Javins, Chris Cooper and Spencer Lamm.