Former CEO James Galton, who helped revive Marvel comics, dies at age 92 – USA TODAY

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NAPLES, Fla. — Spider-Man might not have shot another web. Iron Man may have never made it to the big screen — multiple times. And Netflix could have easily overlooked investing millions in the backstories of Daredevil and his fellow Hell’s Kitchen superheroes.

But thanks to the genius of James Galton, who paired with his more famous colleague Stan Lee, Marvel Entertainment is the gargantuan conglomerate that it is today. 

There were obviously many others who played roles in keeping Marvel afloat, but legions of fans have Galton’s 15-year reign to thank for saving their favorite Spandex-wearing heroes.

He believed in the mystical powers of what many called a dying art form. Like the colorful characters that graced the pages of the comic books he presided over, Galton rescued them from extinction.

On Monday, the former president of the entertainment powerhouse died at his Naples home at 92.

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“All of us at Marvel are saddened by the loss of Jim. Jim was truly a super hero and we are greatly indebted to him for the leadership he provided our company, which served as a strong foundation on which today’s Marvel rests,” said Dan Buckley, the president of Marvel Entertainment. 

“I personally had the pleasure of working briefly with Jim when I first joined the company. I will always appreciate how generous he was with his time and how thoughtful he was in all of his decisions. Our thoughts are with his family.”

When Galton took over the reins at Marvel in 1975, the company was on the brink of potential demise. The new CEO restructured the distribution models, getting the comic books directly into the hands of the fans, rather than through a third party. 

He also secured the rights to create Star Wars-based comics and founded Marvel Studios, putting Lee in charge of the offshoot to focus on animation and live action vehicles for the company’s multitude of characters.

He stayed with Marvel until 1991, but Galton never realized how big Marvel would one day become.

In 2010, the Naples Daily News interviewed the then 85-year-old, who lived with his wife, Lydia in East Naples.

“No one could have ever imagined something like Iron Man would be so successful,” he said. “It wasn’t even one of our more popular books.”

It’s likely that folks such as Robert Downey Jr. are happy Galton didn’t let Marvel fold. The Iron Man franchise is worth billions today, with the first movie alone bringing in $585 million at the box office. When Galton took over Marvel, the entire company was worth $12 million.

“My friends told me, ‘The comic industry is dead. Don’t do this,’ ” Galton said in 2010. “But I had four kids — two in private school, two in college — and two mortgages. I had to take the job.”

Galton found an industry that was mired in an antiquated distribution model and without a great deal of accountability. Marvel published 75 comic books each month, but they were rarely distributed on time. Fans never knew when the next installment of their favorite stories would come out. So Galton’s first mission was to establish serious deadlines and enforce them.

“But Jim was great about letting creative people be creative,” Tom DeFalco, who was Marvel’s editor-in-chief for 10 years during Galton’s run, said in 2010.

Following his career with Marvel, Galton enjoyed helping others. In Naples, he volunteered as a mentor, served on boards and helped others learn English.

Elaine Mayrides, the former executive director of the Literacy Volunteers of Collier County, said Galton was a “fabulous” man who was a “born leader.” She said he started a fundraising program called the Alphabet project, in which letters from A to Z were sold to local companies. Often, the business leaders would pick a letter that matched the first letter in the name of their business.

“He raised $44,000 in the first year of the program,” Mayrides said. “His talent was he could go into a CEO’s office and talk to them like one CEO to another.”

Along with coming up with fundraising ideas, Galton also mentored new homeowners for Habitat for Humanity and served as a board member on the Literary Volunteers of New York, as well as the Collier County chapter.

The family, which is planning to hold a private memorial at Fuller Funeral Home in North Naples, released a statement to Variety about Galton:

“He maintained that comic books were a legitimate form of literary expression that deserved respect and he used the medium to bolster social change like energy conservation, civil and women’s rights, child abuse prevention and universal literacy.”

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