Mobius craves a jet ski in Loki because his inspiration, the late Marvel editor Mark Gruenwald, loved them. Gruenwald had so much fun with jet skis that he used to insist the Marvel attendees join in the “fun” in the early days of Comic-Con in San Diego.
It was many of the fascinating stories told about Gruenwald at the New York Comic Con panel: “What Gru Knew (And You Should Too).”
Mobius is Mark Gruenwald
While Gruenwald is no doubt familiar to readers of Atomic Junk Shop, who are interested in nerd history, he’s much less well-known to the general public. I know his work mostly through his underrated, incredible run on Quasar in the late 1980s.
Aside: the most well-known story featuring an Eternal until the recent movie has to be Gruenwald’s speedster race in Quasar #17 that had Eternal Makkari being beaten by a shadowy figure called “Buried Alien.” Spoiler: Buried Alien was a tribute to DC Comics’ Barry Allen, who had recently died in Crisis on Infinite Earths.
However, Gruenwald contributed so much more than his run on Quasar.
A quick biography: Gruewald started writing with his own fanzine as a teen. He was hired at Marvel Comics in 1978, became a full editor in 1982, and became a Marvel executive editor in 1987, a tenure that included some of the most tumultuous years at Marvel, as the company faced bankruptcy, but also some of the most creative. He edited numerous Marvel comics, his writing credits include over 20 series, including Quasar, Captain America, Spider-Woman, and D.P. 7.
As for what part of Gru particularly inspired Mobius other than the jet skis? That had to be his landmark work on the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe #1-15. Gru was well-known in the comics industry as the repository of all that could be known about the Marvel Universe. When Walt Simonson and Sal Buscema created the Time Variance Authority (which is at the heart of the Loki television show), all the TVA agents were originally clones of Gruenwald.
Sadly, Gruenwald died in 1996 due to a heart attack caused by a previously undiagnosed congenital heart defect. His ashes were famously mixed with the ink of the first edition of his Magnus Opus, Squadron Supreme.
Gruenwald as Marvel Editor
While you can still pick up most of Gruenwald’s creative work (sadly, used, as much of it is out of print), the NYCC panel focused on contributions less well-known to the general public, namely his work as an editor at a time when Marvel faced an uncertain future.
The panelists included Catherine Schuller-Gruenwald (his widow), Carl Potts, Dan Tandarich, Daniel Hort, Jason Olson, Lysa Hawkins, and Nikki Mannes. It was a free-ranging discussion. Some of the highlights:
- Gru created a written, codified year-long assistant editor program designed to teach all new assistant editors all aspects of the job, rather than relying on what individual editors would teach their assistants. “It was a curriculum that went through all the aspects of comics and nothing like that had been done before,” Potts said.
- Gru believed that fun was related to creativity. Hort said, “There was a sense that Marvel would close, as hard as it might be now for some people to imagine that.” The emphasis on fun was to keep everyone invested in their work at a time when things could have been grim. That, for Gru, included his famous reliance on practical jokes, a tendency that spread throughout the Marvel bullpen at the time.
- The Marvel offices at that time had little separation between their personal and professional lives, including Gruenwald, to the point, Potts said, that a group locked themselves in their offices at night to finish work. (They had to lock themselves into a specific office all night so as not to set off the night alarms.) But Potts said it was nights like that which created a bond between the creatives.
- Lysa Hawkins, who is now a senior editor at Valiant, talked of how encouraging Gruenwald was to her aspirations to become an editor, crediting him with encouraging her to apply for an open editorial position. She spoke of how often she uses his advice. “If the reader can predict an ending,” Hawksins said, “Gruenwald said that was a crime. But if a reader can predict a better ending, that’s a sin.”
- Manes talked about the impact of the Mark Gruenwald Foundation for the Arts, which offers two scholarships a year to aspiring creators.
- Schuller-Gruenwald offered the story of how she met her husband. She came from the world of fashion and showed up as part of a casting call for models at a comic con. They were looking for plus-sized models for She-Hulk. Her future husband told her she’d be much better as the Enchantress, then asked her out. She replied she never dated anyone she worked for and he responded with “well, you don’t have the job yet.” She did eventually fall in love with the comic business as much as her husband. She even brought part of his ashes with her to the NYCC panel.
It’s clear that the comic world lost Gruenwald too early. Kevin Feige is credited as the guy who shepherded the Marvel Cinematic Universe into becoming what it is by overseeing an increasingly connected universe yet still keeping room for different types of stories.
Gru did that for comics, a couple of decades previously. (Incidentally, my autocorrect changes “Gru” to “God,” which seems entirely appropriate given the subject matter.)
I hope Mobius gets his jet ski in the next season of Loki. And, Marvel, please, let’s have an omnibus collection of the full 61 issues of the Quasar run.