Editor’s Note: Shirrel Rhoades recently signed on as Adams Publishing Group’s movie reviewer, having provided insightful reviews and critiques for years with The Key West Citizens and other newspapers throughout the country.
Some come and have to work hard to live, while others come to live after years of working hard — and then there’s Shirrel Rhoades, who moved to Key West to live after retiring and never got around to the “retiring” part.
When contemplating retirement, or in Shirrel’s case, not having what he terms a “real” job, Shirrel said his wife, Diane, asked him: “What kind of place do you have in mind? I said, ‘I’m looking for three things: some place warm; a place with a sense of history; and a place with eccentric people.’ That narrowed it down.”
Having vacationed in Key West as a child, Shirrel and Diane were frequent visitors to the city until making it their permanent home in 2002. Both spent their careers around writers and artists, so an isolated enclave with such a strong creative vibe was irresistible. Shirrel says Key West allows him to “sidestep normal society, mingle with interesting people, and live on the edge of the world.” Raised in North Carolina, Shirrel has the manners of a Southern gentleman with only a slight accent left after years spent living in various cities.
Referring to himself as a Renaissance Redneck, Shirrel cuts a dashing figure about town as he moves effortlessly between projects, from writing weekly movie reviews for The Key West Citizen to planning the annual Key West Mystery Writers Festival. In between, he finds time to run his publishing house, Absolutely Amazing ebooks, with more than 400 titles published in four years.
Decades working in the publishing industry in New York City have left him with enviable credentials, from Scholastic to Reader’s Digest, working with such notable publications as Redbook, Ladies’ Home Journal, Sport, Cricket and Harper’s magazines, along with the Saturday Evening Post. But the one publishing house that he called home that has given him the most notoriety is undeniably Marvel Entertainment.
In 1996, Shirrel was named executive vice president of the comic powerhouse and succeeded Stan Lee as publisher of Marvel Comics. Lee, who passed away last November at 95, retained the title of “Publisher for Life” even after numerous acquisitions, buyouts, sellouts and even a bankruptcy forever altered the company. Shirrel spent three years with Marvel before he — and even Lee at that time — were ousted during what has been dubbed “The Comic Wars,” pitting wealthy moguls Ron Perelman, Carl Icahn, Ike Perlmutter and Avi Arad in a battle rivaling that of the Avengers versus Thanos.
Although he’s left his Superhero days behind him, Shirrel still remains connected through his weekly movie reviews, which he manages to squeeze in between all of his professional and philanthropic activities, including chairing the board of the Key West Art & Historic Society for the second time.
Trying to describe Shirrel Rhoades in a few words is as impossible as it is to write about his life in a few pages, so perhaps the best way is to sum him up as simply ... Mr. Marvel-ous.