James E. Galton, the former president and CEO of Marvel Entertainment Group, has died. He was 92.
He died Monday at his home in Naples, Fla., while surrounded by his family, Variety has confirmed.
Galton spent 16 years at Marvel between 1975 and 1991. He is credited with improving Marvel’s fortunes by selling directly to the consumer and comic-book collectors’ shops, broadening exposure to characters like Spider-Man, Captain America and Iron Man, acquiring the rights to make Star Wars comic books and launching an animation studio in Los Angeles, with Stan Lee heading those operations.
His family said in a statement, “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.”
Marvel was acquired by Disney for $4 billion in 2009, elevating both brands to worldwide leadership in superhero movies. A year later, Galton said in an interview with the Naples Daily News, “No one could have ever imagined something like ‘Iron Man’ would be so successful. It wasn’t even one of our more popular books.”
Galton was a native of Lawrence, N.Y., and graduated from Antioch College in Ohio in 1946. He worked as an auditor at Main & Co., a treasurer at Cortes & Enloe Advertising and became president of Popular Library. He took the job at Marvel when the company was struggling.
“My friends told me, ‘The comic industry is dead. Don’t do this,’” he said in the 2010 interview. “But I had four kids — two in private school, two in college — and two mortgages. I had to take the job.”
Survivors include his wife of almost 50 years, Lydia; his children Beth, Jean, Maggie and Edward; and his grandchildren Ben, Nora, Claire, Sofia, Katya and Nadia.
Donations in his name may be made to the Naples Botanical Garden and Literacy Volunteers of Collier County. A private memorial will be held at a later date.