Former Marvel Comics Executive VP Michael Z. Hobson Dies
Michael Zametkin Hobson, a former Executive Vice President at Marvel Comics and Managing Director at Marvel UK, passed away on November 12.
Hobson had been battling heart failure for the past three months. He passed away peacefully at home and surrounded by loved ones. Michael Z. Hobson was 83.
The Gentlemen Mike Hobson
Hobson was born on December 8, 1936. He was adopted a year later by the late novelist Laura Z. Hobson, who wrote the Gentleman’s Agreement and numerous other works. Mother Hobson was also a successful writer of advertising copy. When she adopted her son Mike in 1937, it was an unusual action for a single woman at the time, and she considered herself a feminist.
When Mike Hobson got older, he graduated from Harvard College. Before his time at Marvel, he had a long and varied publishing career. He began his career at Little, Brown and Company in Boston, Massachusetts.
After working at Publishers Weekly and as a literary agent at William Morris, Michael Z. Hobson joined Scholastic Publishing Company, the global children’s publishing and media company. He spent thirteen years in various positions at the company, including acquisitions, editorial, marketing, and distribution.
Jim Starlin’s The Death of Captain Marvel
Michael Z. Hobson then came to Marvel Comics as a publisher in 1981. He was hired by Jim Galton because of his expertise in writing author contracts. And a few months after being hired, Hobson finalized the infamous contracts with the Jim Starlin for The Death of Captain Marvel and Dreadstar. And, from 1981 to 1994, Hobson was responsible for Marvel’s publishing operation, including editorial, acquisitions, marketing, and distribution.
Hobson was an important figure in changing the Marvel publishing and distribution landscape. He even brought the graphic novel to Marvel Comics in the ’80s with the Marvel Original Graphic Novel series.
According to industry insider Milton Griepp (President of ICv2 and former VP of CBLDF):
We remember an incident that exhibited his role in the nuts and bolts of Marvel publishing. It was 1991, Marvel had signed a deal with the NFL to produce comics tied to the league, and it had been left to Hobson to figure out how to do that. He was asking distributors for suggestions, noting ruefully that in a major deal like that, “after the kings have left,” he had to figure out how to try to make it work. The result, NFL Superpro, ran a year. The phrase stuck with us as a great description of how operating executives have to carry out strategies that at times are conceived without the early input that might have made the deals more successful.’
On Eliot R. Brown’s website, there are a lot of great photos of the Marvel Bullpen from 1975 to 1995 that fans might enjoy checking out.
Following his time as the Vice President of Publishing, he took over as the Managing Director of Marvel UK from 1994 to 1996. Hobson was in charge of Marvel in the United Kingdom and Italy, as well as the company’s publishing and licensing operations throughout the rest of Europe.
Hobson’s Life After Marvel Comics
Michael Z. Hobson returned to the United States after his time at Marvel. And, in 1998, he was named the president of Parachute Properties, which includes three divisions: Parachute Publishing, Parachute Entertainment, and Parachute Consumer Products.
Parachute packages successful fiction and non-fiction book series for pre-teens and teens. However, the most notable properties are Fear Street and Goosebumps by R. L. Stine and book series featuring Mary-Kate Olsen and Ashley Olsen.
However, those are not the end of Hobson’s achievements, i.e., Peppa the Pig.
Michael Z. Hobson’s Legacy
Marvel released an official statement on its official Twitter account last night.
Mike brought Stan Lee's tapestry of heroes to millions. Our hearts and thoughts go out to his family and loved ones.
— Marvel Entertainment (@Marvel) November 23, 2020
And, the official obituary posted on New York Times website reads in part:
Mike’s long career in publishing included major stints at Scholastic, Inc., where he helped foster equal status for women employees, and as vice-president and, later, London representative for Marvel Comics. After retiring in 2003, he was a consultant to several publishing ventures. Mike, who sometimes said his typical business role was as “the one sane person in the room,” for this reason, lived in caustic amazement at American racism, injustice, and politics.
Michael Z. Hobson was married to Ann Gould Hobson, with the couple having two children. He is survived by his wife, their two children, a brother, and two grandchildren. MarvelBlog sends its sympathies to the family.
I saw the tribute to Michael in Eternals #1 and it left me wanting to know more. Thank you for this piece which demonstrates the breadth of his accomplishments, at Marvel and elsewhere. Developing contracts for properties with at least some measure of creator control (Dreadstar) is an important legacy!!
Thank you for the comment. I thought it was important to write about his legacy. I will have to pick up an issue of Eternals #1.