Jackson native celebrated for his work with Marvel
On Feb. 23, fans lined the street of buildings decorated with super heroes, barbarians and other fictional characters created by Jackson native and former Editor of Marvel Roy, who was presented the key to the city. The date is now officially known as Roy Thomas Day.
“I don’t think I actually deserve it,” he said. “I feel like it’s overvaluing me, but what the hell, I’m here, I’ll sign some comics. It’s nice to be back.”
Thomas, who succeeded the legendary Stan Lee as editor-in-chief of Marvel Comics, grew up in the city and attended St. Paul Lutheran School, where he said he would draw in his spare time between assignments.
“It wasn’t like I was eager to get out of Jackson,” Thomas said. “I like Jackson.”
Thomas told the crowd comic books were not viewed as kindly when he was growing up as they are today.In the early 1950s when comic books were seen as controversial, Thomas said there was a public burning of the publications, and he had felt pressured to give up some of his collection.
“I spotted two comic books in the pile that I hadn’t before,” he said. “I remember that I’m the only person that came home from comic burning with two new comics.
Thomas graduated from Southeast Missouri State University with a history degree, and he spent some time as a teacher.
Though he is known for creating impactful characters such as Wolverine, Thomas said he had not intended to create characters when he initially went into writing comics.
Originally, Thomas went to work for DC Comics, but he “wanted to be Stan Lee.” Lee would eventually hire Thomas in 1966, with Thomas replacing him as editor-in-chief in 1972.
Thomas said he loved to see the comics being adapted onto the big screen. He and Lee always had believed comics deserve more respect, he said.
“It’s not the great American novel,” he said. “It has its place. Comics can be used for anything.”
World War II-related material was some of his favorite to write, he said, and his favorite comic he had written was the “All-Star Squadron” from DC Comics about a superhero group commissioned by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to fight America’s enemies.
Comics cannot convey everything a novel or movie could do, the former screenwriter said, but “it’s not impossible it could be great literature.”
He said the internet could provide newer writers and artists several opportunities to get their work noticed he did not have when working his way up. But there are other things to be considered.“Getting a day job is a start,” he said.
When asked about what advice he would give to aspiring creators, he said he would recommend putting work out there in the hope of getting it seen.
“It might happen. If it doesn’t, well, maybe you’ll get a real job,” he said. “There’s nothing special about doing comics. I happen to like it.”
The celebration was this year’s February Annual, hosted for the fourth year in collaboration between the Uptown Jackson Revitalization Organization and the Cape Girardeau County History Center.
Uptown Jackson Revitalization Organization board member Craig Milde hosted the initial ceremony where Thomas was honored, with one recognition coming from the current Marvel editor-in-chief C.B. Cebulski.
The framed letter detailed how Thomas had read his first books at the Jackson library, with the city ultimately producing an “esteemed writer, editor and historian. Roy created characters that jumped from the printed panels to invade the small and big screen alike,” Cebulski’s letter stated.
“We thank Jackson for lending us their hometown hero and look forward to many wonderful works still to come.”
Captain Marvel, whose development can be credited to Thomas, is set to hit theaters March 8. theaters March 8.