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December 18, 2008

Life According To Maddie

A visitor came to my office at Marvel and, finding the door locked, knocked. The door opened about eight inches to a hard stop at the foot of my assistant editor who scowled through the opening, “What.” Material would then be passed through the opening with the door locking securely thereafter. And that was the only way I ever got any work done around there. Thank God for Adam Blaustein.

I didn’t know Maddie Blaustein. By the time Adam became Maddie, we were orbiting different planets. There was absolutely no animosity or falling out, more like a falling away, with my moving in new directions and living far from New York. So I wouldn’t be able to tell you much about Maddie, who passed away this week, but I can share an awful lot about Adam. These are just a few highlights:

I’d known Adam for at least a year before it even occurred to me to hire him. He was working as a framer at an art supply store a few blocks from Marvel, and I routinely had things framed for the office. When my assistant, Keith Williams, went freelance, I remember whining to Adam about the politics of replacing him. I caught a lot of grief for hiring Keith, who was black, some people figuring that’s why I hired him—which wasn’t true. I’d interviewed a bunch of writers and one artist. I hired Keith because he was an artist, because he could circumvent the at-times arduous production delays by closing the door and doing things ourselves. I was a writer, I didn’t need another writer in the room.

While waiting on my framing job, Adam suggested himself for the AE position, and I actually tried to talk him out of it. It paid next to nothing and it was often thankless work. I may have been one of the least popular editors at Marvel Comics in the early 1980’s, and I rightly assumed the immeasurable maturity level of most Eds working there at the time would invite hostility toward Adam. If he actually wanted a career in comics, being my assistant was probably not the best way to go.

But, surprise, this Blaustein guy was a comics fan who knew the universe. He became my assistant and, ultimately, one of my best friends. He married my wife’s best friend, and for awhile it was one of those sickening sitcoms with the two guy best friends and the two girl best friends.

He had amazing insight and depth of character and was a constant source of personal and professional advice. He had a great place in Jersey City, where we could climb up on the roof at night and watch the most spectacular view of the New York skyline you could imagine. He got arrested once for carrying a dull sword on a New York subway. That sword is in my house, now.

We tended to close bars even though neither of us drank. Some of the best times of my life, the very best, occurred with Adam riding shotgun on some night adventure in lower Manhattan.

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