Remembering Mike Hobson
Last month, longtime Marvel Comics Publisher Mike Hobson passed away. In remembrance of his life and work, two of Mike's friends and colleagues, VP of Licensed Publishing Sven Larsen and former Marvel Editor-in-Chief Tom DeFalco, each shared their memories of the Marvel luminary.
When Stan Lee decided to end his time as Publisher of Marvel Comics, he left his universe in the hands of one person: Mike Hobson.
While the name may be unfamiliar to many current readers, Hobson was one of the most influential figures in Marvel's publishing history, guiding the company through major expansions and some of its most successful years.
Hobson came to Marvel in 1981 after serving 12 years as the head of Scholastic Book Clubs. He was hired by then-President Jim Galton to take over from Stan, who had moved to the West Coast to develop Marvel’s television and film projects. The son of the famous novelist and screenwriter Laura Hobson, Mike took his experience as a literary agent at William Morris and as Publisher of Scholastic Book Clubs and applied it to a host of new initiatives. Among those were the launch of Epic Comics (for more adult-focused material), Star Comics (for Marvel's youngest readers), the Marvel Books imprint, and more licensed content initiatives including the debuts of G.I. JOE and TRANSFORMERS under the Marvel banner.
Successful licensed publishing partnerships would remain a hallmark of Hobson's 15-year career at Marvel, with the company releasing a range of titles featuring everything from BARBIE to BEAVIS AND BUTTHEAD, as well as international sensations like AKIRA and the MOEBIUS graphic novels. But Hobson was also instrumental in overseeing many other key moments in Marvel history. Marvel's first graphic novel, THE DEATH OF CAPTAIN MARVEL, was launched early in his tenure—the first of many format and packaging innovations spearheaded by Hobson. Key storylines like SECRET WARS, KRAVEN'S LAST HUNT, ELEKTRA: ASSASSIN, THE INFINITY GAUNTLET, and THE AGE OF APOCALYPSE were all published under Mike's watch.
On the business side, Mike helped oversee the growth of the Direct Market, greatly expanding the roster of distributors and encouraging the efforts of Carol Kalish and Marvel's nascent Direct Sales team to support this emerging channel. He also led improvements in Marvel's printing and color technology, literally changing the look of Marvel's comics and popularizing many of the formats still in use today.
After 13 years as the Head of US publishing for Marvel, Mike moved to the UK to oversee the expansion of Marvel's European publishing and licensing business. He was a key player in establishing Marvel’s partnership with longtime international collaborator Panini, and he helped create publishing programs that brought prominent artists like Salvador Larocca and Carlos Pacheco to the Marvel roster.
In 1996, Hobson left the company for other publishing opportunities. But he remained in close contact with many of his former colleagues and was always encouraged to see how the seeds he planted bore fruit for Marvel and the comics industry in general.
Mike Hobson leaves behind an incredibly diverse legacy of success, one that expanded and transformed the House of Ideas forever. Our hearts and thoughts go out to his family and loved ones.
Many are the unsung heroes of the comic book industry. These people are the hidden giants who work behind the scenes, without credit, fanfare or fame, but are essential to the creation of your comics. They are people like Mike Hobson.
As a supervisor at Marvel, Mike was the greatest. He encouraged initiative, listened with an open mind and always supported his people. He rarely raised his voice and had a near-magical way of defusing tense situations. (Mixing creative people with those from marketing, sales or accounting is usually a recipe for disaster.)
Mike defined the word “gentleman.” He was refined, soft-spoken, had an infectious laugh and was an intriguing conversationalist, well-versed in a variety of subjects. He knew the best restaurants, the tastiest dishes, the most flavorsome wines and finest hotels. An invitation to dine with Mike was always a treasured event. He was the adult we all wanted to be when we grew up.
Whenever I think of Mike, two occasions spring to mind. One is the very first time Marvel sent me on a business trip by myself. Mike asked to see me before I left. I went to his office with pen and pad, expecting some last-minute business instructions. Instead, he told me to make sure I made lunch and dinner reservations and gave me a list of restaurants.
I also recall sitting in my office one afternoon when a furious Mike burst into my office.
“Do you know what those two idiots are doing?” He asked.
“Which two idiots?” I responded.
Mike glared at me for a moment and then suddenly exploded in unrestrained laughter. He actually fell into to my couch and it took him several minutes to regain control. It seems two of my editors had stuck a fishing pole out our seventh-floor window with an old Milky Way for bait and were trolling for passersby. While Mike could appreciate the humor in the situation, he felt our editors needed to adhere to a higher standard of professionalism. That was Mike.
Mike Hobson was my boss and my friend. He will be missed.