Hello, everyone! Got a lot of disparate ground to cover this time, so let’s get started!
To being with, this week’s background score has been the soundtrack to Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, a movie that still holds up and remains the second-best time travel film of the 1980s (right behind Back To The Future.) I’m not especially a metal-head when it comes to music, but the soundtrack contains some really good cuts and is well composed altogether. So it’s been playing in the background on and off as I’ve gone through my work-week.
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A distressing note that led off the week was the fact that artist and friend Carlos Pacheco revealed to the world that he’s been diagnosed with ALS, otherwise known as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease”, an incurable malady that eats away at the nervous system, steadily degrading motor functions. As a result, Carlos has had to retire from illustrating comic books, which is terribly sad, especially because in addition to being a fantastic artist, he was also a true fan of the medium and its practitioners. I worked with Carlos on and off many times over the years, beginning with AVENGERS FOREVER, which became something of a seminal storyline in the history of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. And it turns out that the last piece that it’s likely that Carlos will ever draw professionally is the cover to DAMAGE CONTROL #2, which he did for me. It’s a strange piece to go out on, with Ant-Man and the Wasp about to be consumed along with the burrito they are running along—on the one hand, hardly indicative of Carlos’ skill set, but on the other entirely in keeping with the depth of his Marvel knowledge. This isn’t quite meant to be a eulogy, though it kind of is one for Carlos’ ability to contribute to the field—he’ll work on regaining his health and stopping or at least slowing the spread of the disease. But it feels like writing up another obituary nonetheless. 2022 has been relentless in terms of impacting on the great practitioners of our art.
Next up, I need to make a correction, which was brought to my attention by Patrick Reed, the curator of the MARVEL'S SPIDER-MAN: BEYOND AMAZING – THE EXHIBITION, at Comic-Con Museum in San Diego:
That Stan script page in our Spider-Man show is owned by Ben Saunders, my co-curator on the exhibition (and the series editor for the Marvel Penguin Classics line).
The original art for the splash from ASM #82 (which is in the exhibition too, side-by-side with the script page) is from the collection of Mike Burkey, who loaned the bulk of the artwork that's on display in the exhibition.
David Mandel does have two pieces in the show as well – a Ditko ASM page, and a classic Todd McFarlane Marvel Age cover – but neither of the items you showed are from his collection.
So let the record show!
And now, let’s head into the weekly Q & A session, beginning with a query from Jaime Weinman
Thanks for posting that Stan Lee script page, because it brings up something that has always fascinated me, the old rule that periods were not allowed in comic books and everything had to end with an exclamation point! because periods didn't always show up in print. (I may be remembering it wrong, but I recall Elliot Maggin was billed as Elliot S! Maggin as an in-joke about how periods always got changed to exclamation points.) Different companies and writers moved away from it at different times -- Lee experimented with periods but then went through a weird phase where he just left every line unpunctuated. (Sort of like how comic strips like "Peanuts" would leave sentences unpunctuated rather than resort to a full stop.)
As he notes, using periods gives a "classier" feel than the exclamation point tradition, but comics had been written that way for so long that it may have looked weird to do it the other way, even after the printing issues were no longer a major concern. Some writers were still doing it well into the '90s like Tom DeFalco.
Well, sure, Jamie. That rule existed for such a long time because it was justified. The technology used to print comic books back in the day, coupled with the crappiness of the paper stock the books were being printed on, meant that this was a genuine concern up through the late 1980s at least. By that point, reproduction techniques had improved to the point where you didn’t really need to worry quite so much about periods disappearing in the printed copies (though that would still occasionally happen.) For people who were trained in this period such as Tom DeFalco, that habit of always using an exclamation point rather than a period can be difficult to break, so ingrained was it as common knowledge in the field.
Next up is regular correspondent Evan “Cool Guy”:
I also just wanted to say that I love when Marvel explores stories with characters from all sorts of different backgrounds, identities, orientations etc. People who disagree can sometimes be very loud so I wanted to throw that out there :-)
Anyway, my question is very broad! Interpret it however you’d like, ok enough preamble here it is: What do you think will be the future of comics?
First off, let me say that I appreciate you saying that, Evan, and that I think you’re far from alone in that sentiment. While those who seem to be bothered by the inclusion of characters who aren’t straight white males tend to rage the loudest, that seems to me to largely be an effort to conceal the fact that their numbers are relatively small. Sure, not everybody is going to like every character or every comic book, but I think most of our readership is open to any sort of stories that connect with them on an emotional level. And, of course, everybody is perfectly within their rights not to follow any title whose content they don’t care for, for whatever reason.
I think the future of comics is a tough question to answer and get right. Having been asked it in the past, I would for years knee-jerk towards the rise of screens as access-points for entertainment and the inevitable growth of a digital audience. And that is happening. But at the same time, print has proven more robust and adaptable than anybody back then would have believed. So at the moment, I don’t really see print comic books going away any time soon (barring some catastrophic event such as DC shutting down their publishing division.) I think the range of available material has broadened considerably and will continue to do so. And I suspect and hope that the wide acceptance of comic book stories in the form of young readers and YA graphic novels is going to create a wider audience-base who will be conversant and comfortable with the medium, and therefore more likely to check out something new and interesting that they hear about, provided that they can get easy access to it. But I’m sure to have gotten some things wrong in this prediction—so we’ll all see in the days ahead.
In response to our discussion of the passage of time in the Marvel Universe, Steve McSheffrey asked:
Doesn't Magneto being returned to infancy and then returned to adulthood create the out for his age thing? It doesn't help explain why the High Evolutionary kept the twins on ice for decades before passing them off to the Maximoffs (or I guess lied to Magneto that he kept them on ice for decades so he could pass them off as Magda's children)
Putting on my “Doc Brown” hat for this explanation: No, it does not, because Magneto’s first battle with the X-Men in X-MEN #1 takes place within the bottle of time that is moving forward. So, sure, for everything after X-MEN #104, you can assume that when he was restored to his adult form Magneto came back more youthful than before. But even so, the Fantastic Four have only been around for 15 years Marvel time, more or less, which means that first X-Men mission happened around 14 years ago—in 2008 at the moment. If Magneto was a kid in Auschwitz in 1945 (let’s assume that he was 18 when he escaped just to have a baseline), then that means he would currently have been 81 years old when he first attacked Cape Citadel in X-MEN #1. Clearly, that doesn’t work—and as time marches on, he’ll progressively have been 82, then 83, and so on.
Switching gears a little bit, Jason Holtzman wondered:
Your preamble actually reminded me of a question I’ve always wondered about but have yet to ask -- how does an editor take a vacation or time off? As we all know, comic books are ever ongoing and in process. Is the work passed on to different editors with any complications forwarded to others? Or do you have to be “on call?”
Well, in a very real way, this is why we have assistant editors and associate editors working under us. In my office, I encourage my junior editors to take ownership of the books we work on together, to feel empowered to make necessary decisions on them as they come up. The caveat, of course, is that I can disagree with a decision and overrule it if necessary, so there tends to be a lot of discussion before triggers are pulled. But in practical terms, even in my absence, Annalise Bissa and Martin Biro should be able to keep our office functioning smoothly for a week without any great jeopardy. They’re as plugged into the workflow of our titles as I am, they’re in touch with all of our creators, and they are experienced enough to make decisions on any matters that come up along the way. And of course, I will have access to my work e-mail and will likely check it regularly, so if a crisis comes up, I can weigh in on the situation as appropriate.
Getting down to the end for this week, Jamiejames requests:
Who is it that would need to be bribed to bring back thought balloons, and how much are we talking about it in USD?
You’d pretty much need to bribe the writers here, Jamie. There isn’t any sort of prohibition against thought balloons in any Marvel title—they’re another tool in the writer’s toolbox, to be used when needed. But that said, at some point around the mid-1980s, the overall sentiment towards thought balloons changed, and they came to be seen as too overtly “comic booky”, too artificial, but any number of writers, and so they fell into disuse. Partly, this was due to the massive influence of Frank Miller, who would use a lot of first person narration in his scripts to get inside his main character’s head and which seemed more gritty and realistic than those clumsy old thought balloons. So writers began emulating that approach. And now, years later, thought balloons can be difficult to find. But all it would really take is one writer finding a clever, modern, stylish way to use them again, one that found favor in the eyes of the readership, and likely a lot of others would follow the example. Hasn’t happened yet, but you never know what tomorrow will bring.
And lastly, David Baroldy had a big question:
Tom, I'm wondering who you'd point to as the definitive Marvel writer/artist of each decade from the 60's through the 10's. This doesn't necessarily mean the people who did the best or most work during each decade, though those would certainly be considerations, but the people who best defined or represented Marvel.
That’s a big, big question, David, and I don’t know that I’ve given it enough thought to come up with a definitive answer. But let me go through the various decades here and see what we find.
So, starting with the 1960s, I think it’s a no-brainer that the predominant Marvel voices were those of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. They invented the Marvel style and remained at the forefront of it all throughout the decade. Everybody that’s come since has to some degree emulated their approach.
In the 1970s, I would say that Roy Thomas was probably the most influential writer, both directly as an inspiration on the page and indirectly as he gave so many young up-and-comers their first chance to do the job professionally, and his expectations were what they were attempting to fulfill. Art-wise, this is a much more difficult question, but I think I probably have to give it to John Romita. John withdrew from doing a lot of regular comic book assignments s the decade went on, but his work became the face of Marvel in licensing, appearing on lunchboxes and pillowcases and such throughout the decade. And he was the one called upon to mentor younger artists in the Marvel style, and to correct their work and keep it all on model when they strayed. 1960s comics tried to look like Kirby, 1970s comics tried to look like Romita.
The 1980s are relatively simple. There was no more influential writer during the period than Chris Claremont (though I’d guess that Frank Miller comes close in terms of his impact on the field.) On the art side, while there are one or two contenders, I think it really has to come down to John Byrne, doesn’t it? His was the ideal look of Marvel comics during that decade, a smooth synthesis of Kirby’s power with Romita’s polish (and a few other influences mixed in as well.)
The question of influential Marvel writers in the 1990s is a bit tricky to parse. I’m tempted to give it to Rob Liefeld as the exemplar of the eventual Image style that put dynamic images above storytelling, which became a huge trend throughout the field for years. That sort of writing exerted a gravitic pull upon Marvel’s many titles throughout much of the decade. On the artistic side, while again there are a few other contenders, I think the decade definitely belonged to Jim Lee. His work was the platonic ideal of what a Marvel comic should look like—even after he had left the company and was doing his own thing elsewhere.
Moving into the 2000s, there’s really only one writer who stands head-and-shoulders above everybody else in terms of influence and impact, and that’s Brian Michael Bendis. Again, there are a couple of other contenders (Mark Millar, J. Michael Straczynski, etc) but I feel like Brian had the greatest impact both in terms of influence and the sheer amount of work produced. He altered the landscape concerning how writers thought about super hero scripts. On the artist front, it’s perhaps a strange choice in this context, but I think it has to be Joe Quesada. Joe may not have done a huge body of work during that decade, but in his role as EIC, his aesthetic was a strong guiding force concerning what Marvel comics looked like.
In the 2010s, I think the clear influencer on the writing end was probably Jonathan Hickman. He made a massive impact on all of the titles he worked on, and became somebody that other writers would attempt to emulate—a difficult task, as Jonathan has such a singular mind. It’s more difficult to nail down the most key artist somehow—there were a lot of styles and approaches on display during this decade. But for now, I’m going to point to David Aja, whose approach to doing HAWKEYE with Matt Fraction changed the game in terms of what a Marvel comic book was expected to look like and opened the doors for a wider breadth of modern styles to become acceptable.
I’m certain that I must have overlooked some better candidates in some of these eras—so I’ll depend on you readers to set me straight.
Behind the Curtain
.A couple of weeks back, I spoke about the spreadsheets I use to keep track of what’s going on in whole swaths of titles as we plan out future events and the year in general. And I promised to share one if I could dig one up. And so I have. The format isn’t truly conducive to being easily translated into images that can be sent in this Newsletter, so I’ve taken multiple shots of this to give you the overall idea.
This particular snapshot dates back a couple of years, dating I believe to April of 2017. I know this because every month, the column on the leftmost side gets deleted, whereas new columns on the right get added or updated as we finalize out Previews solicitation catalog for coming months. So this was right at the beginning of Jason Aaron’s run on AVENGERS, for example. And you can see here that he had in excess of a dozen issues broadly planned out. Now, a few of those specific issues changes somewhat in the doing—the World Tour storyline wound up splitting up into a few related storylines starting with the establishment of the Vampire Nation. And there’s not yet any mention of the Agents of Wakanda. But still, you could look at this chart in April and see what you’d theoretically be publishing in the book the following January at least. You can also see that character anniversaries and media release dates are tracked at the top, because we’ll typically want to plan storylines to coincide with either. The color-coding is relatively random, just a way to separate one storyline from another. The exception here is that all of the new launches for this period are in primary blue, the better to be more readily able to spot them and group them across the spreadsheet.
Here’s a slightly closer look at the upper portion of the same screen. This is at its 100% size, so none of the fonts are being substituted and it’s a bit easier to read, for all that you can’t see quite as much about quite so many titles. Typically, launches also identify the creative team, as with Zub and Izaakse taking over CHAMPIONS with issue #19 (as well as the fact that I was thinking about renumbering the series after #25—something that didn’t wind up happening until a couple of issues later.) nd while I don’t typically keep track of the X-Men titles, I was monitoring the assorted HUNT FOR WOLVERINE series since they featured a number of Avengers characters, so I wanted to be aware of where they would be falling on the publishing chart.
One last look, this one scrolled out so that you can see the whole of the chart all at once, for all that it’s effectively illegible at this size. But you can see just how far forward plans were solid for AVENGERS, FANTASTIC FOUR and THOR at this point, with other titles not being quite so solid. Some of that is down to the fact that I was directly editing AVENGERS and FANTASTIC FOUR and so had the best optics on them, as opposed to other titles where I’d need to get information from other editorial offices. The whole thing is a rolling, living document, where new information is added once it’s made solid, old information gets deleted on the left once it’s seen print, and individual titles, storylines and events can be slid around and updated as things change within our planning structure. This is literally the same chat that I’m using today, it’s just got information in it now that’s five years more current. It isn’t the only planning chart that I use, but it is the one that gives the best sense of the line as a whole.
Pimp My Wednesday
More full-color treasures coming to your local comic book retailer just a few days from now. So what’s on tap?
A side-story to the main AXE JUDGMENT DAY event, but one that’s nevertheless important to the storyline as a whole, AXE: STARFOX focuses on the resurrected Eros, as writer Kieron Gillen and artist Daniele Di Nicuolo redefine him for the modern era. Starfox is one of those characters who’s gotten a bad rap over the years as certain writers have chosen to interpret his powers and personality in the most unsavory way. Here, Kieron and Daniele redress that, giving Eros a personal ethos that makes sense with his backstory and setting him on a path that makes him distinctive and unique as a hero.
Closer to home, AXE: X-MEN #1 is in practical terms, AXE JUDGMENT DAY #5B as I’ve said before. As AXE: AVENGERS #1 last week focused on Tony Stark, this book is all about Jean Grey of the X-Men facing her own judgment for her past sins. And boy, she’s got a bunch of them to atone for over the years. It’s another nuanced deep dive by AXE Overseer Kieron Gillen with dramatic artwork provided by Francesco Mobili.
Over in SAVAGE AVENGERS #6, our team has said goodbye to C*nan as he goes off to be licensed to other companies, and now finds itself in the far-flung future of 2099 for an epic that builds upon what the initial five issues laid out. It’s written by David Pepose and drawn by Carlos Magno—Carlos is presently penciling issue #9 without missing an issue, which is the kind of unbroken run that fans often say that they want but seldom think to praise while it’s happening. I had intended to put the original 2099 circuitry border around this cover in emulation of the first issues of the initial 2099 titles. But there simply wasn’t enough room to do so without horribly crowding the art, so I let that idea fall by the wayside. But now you know.
And assistant editor Martin Biro wraps up the throwback NEW FANTASTIC FOUR series, which flashes back to the substitute FF team of Wolverine, Spider-Man, Ghost Rider and the Hulk who made a trio of issues in the early 1990s into must -read event comics. Peter David supplies the plot and the words, while Alan Robinson handles the visuals. It’s a lot of fun, even if you aren’t familiar with the initial story from which it’s riffing.
And over on MARVEL UNLIMITED, the AVENGERS UNLIMITED track starts off another two-part adventure, this one written by Jim Zub and illustrated by Enid Balal. This first half focuses on an underground fight club being dominated by the formidable mutant killer Mister X. But the arrival of an unexpected Avenger changes the odds of engagement dramatically.
And of course, associate editor Annalise Bissa along with writer Stephanie Phillips and artist Nick Roche continue with the delightful danger-laded and fashion-conscious exploits of Millie the Model in her new role as a secret agent in MILLIE THE SPY chapter five. It’s a concept that might not have been considered viable as a print comic despite its merits, so I’m glad that we have an outlet where we can try experimental ideas such as this one. It’s tremendously fun, a genuine favorite of mine (and I have nothing to do with it, I’m simply a reader and observer. it’s all Annalise’s baby.)
A Comic Book On Sale 80 Years Ago Today, October 2, 1942
HIT COMICS #25 came out eight decades ago today, introducing the world to a new super-star who would become quite popular over the next batch of years. Displacing Stormy Foster and the Red Bee as the cover feature, neither of whom really caught on with the public, Kid Eternity made his debut in this issue. The provenance of this first story is in question—some believe that Otto Binder was the writer, where others disagree. But everybody seems to agree that Sheldon Moldoff drew it. The Kid—he was given no other name until years later when DC revived him, something we’ll talk about in a few seconds—was traveling with his grandfather when their boat was torpedoed by Nazis and he was killed. Hell of a way for a super hero to start out. But here’s the thing: the kid wasn’t supposed to have died. The spirit who brought him to the hereafter, Mr Keeper, had made a mistake, it was only his grandfather whose time had come. To rectify this error, the Kid was sent back down to Earth, not entirely dead not quite alive. He was given the ability to assume an immaterial ghostly form by speaking the magic word Eternity, and by that same utterance, he could call upon any personage from history, whether fictional or real, who would manifest and provide him with aid. And Mr. Keeper came along as, well, the boy’s keeper, making sure that he stayed out of trouble and used his new abilities in the service of righteousness. HIT COMICS was published by Quality Comics, a firm owned by Everett “Busy” Arnold, and they lived up to their name. Among the features that debuted in the Quality line were Blackhawk, Plastic Man, the Human Bomb, Uncle Sam, Doll Man, The Ray, Phantom Lady and even Will Eisner’s the Spirit (Arnold helped to set the feature up as a newspaper insert, and reprinted each Spirit story in POLICE COMICS monthly.) it was a strong line with a strong aesthetic sense—Arnold preferred clean, open artwork and strong, fun storylines. Eventually, in the 1950s as the comic book business contracted in the wake of the Senate hearings on the connection between comic book reading and juvenile delinquency, Quality Comics got out of the game, selling its remaining few titles and its backlog of characters to DC. (Eisner retained his rights to the Spirit, though.) In the short term, this meant that DC took over publishing BLACKHAWK and G.I. COMBAT and one or two other titles on the fly. But as super heroes saw a resurgence down the line, it proved to be a canny purchase (especially when it came to Plastic Man.) Anyway, the real reason I’m spotlighting this first appearance of Kid Eternity and have given you this long preamble is that the Kid was part of one of the cleverest historical retcons I ever saw executed. It was the brainchild of DC writer E. Nelson Bridwell, who was writing the SHAZAM strip in WORLD’S FINEST COMICS at the time. Bridwell had been a fan of the Quality line (and also the Fawcett books where Captain Marvel and his Marvel Family had debuted) so he had a real soft spot for them. And he saw a connection that nobody else did—largely because the two characters had been published by different outfits in the 1940s. You see, the origin of Captain Marvel Junior was that he’d been on a boat with his grandfather when their craft was smashed and destroyed by the villainous Captain Nazi. Captain Marvel arrived too late to save the grandfather (after their parents had been killed, each boy was adopted by a different grandfather), but Freddy Freeman still had a spark of life in him. To fan that spark back to full flame, Captain Marvel agreed to share his power with Freddy, so that the utterance of the words “Captain Marvel” would transform Freddy into a younger version of the Captain attired in blue: Captain Marvel Junior. Junior also went on to have a long career, both in his own title and in the pages of MASTER COMICS throughout the 1940s and early 50s. Anyway, after a number of stories in which a mysterious figure provided assistance to the Marvel Family by proxy through a series of historical figures, the Marvels uncovered the helper and learned the truth: it was Kid Eternity, and not only that, he was Freddy Freeman’s long-lost brother! You see, the two accidents happened on the same day, and Mr. Keeper was meant to have escorted the demised Freddy to the afterlife. But because he’d screwed up, Freddy got to live on as Captain Marvel Junior (albeit with a bad leg that never healed correctly) and the brother, Kit, became Kid Eternity! So rather than a dead child, Mr Keeper’s error had created two linked super heroes. It’s an amazingly clever way of tying the mythologies of two such similar characters together, and afterwards, Kid Eternity became a recurring figure in the SHAZAM strip. The story revealing their connection was published in WORLD’S FINEST COMICS #279.
A Comic I Worked On That Came Out On This Date
Released on October 2, 2013, AVENGERS: ENDLESS WARTIME was the first of what became a short-lived line of original hardcover graphic novels, a format that Marvel was interested in exploring. The problem was economic: in order to cover the expenses of producing 100-120 pages of content, you either needed to sell an incredible quantity of copies or charge a ridiculous price per release. I think it all we wound up doing four of these, two of which were put together by me. The intention here was to create a stand-alone story that would slot smoothly into Avengers continuity but which was universal enough that somebody who had seen the previous year’s AVENGERS film could pick up, understand and enjoy. Consequently, the story focused primarily on the “big three Avengers”, Captain America, Iron Man and Thor, though other characters such as Hawkeye, the Black Widow, the Hulk and Wolverine were also featured. It was important to both EIC at the time Axel Alonso and myself that we put our best foot forward creatively on this first release. And to that end, we recruited Warren Ellis to write what became ENDLESS WARTIME. Warren’s reputation has suffered in recent years given details that surfaced about his interactions with female fans on his forum, and I completely understand how that can taint the work for a reader. But at the time, Warren was a respected writer, an author whose work tended to sell better in book form than as individual comic book releases, and one that could be depended upon to take advantage of the 110 page length and not simply craft six 20-page chapters in succession. Filling the artistic assignment proved to be more challenging, as we needed it to be a creator with a very mainstream-friendly super hero style, but one that wasn’t already locked down on a monthly title elsewhere within the line. In the underrated Mike McKone, we found our man. I don’t remember exactly how long it took us to complete the entire project, but it was the better part of a year. While he outlined the entire story, because of his other commitments, Warren would write it in ten-page increments, so it took some time to get through it all. In attempting to create a more sophisticated package that immediately looked and felt different from our usual comic book releases, we engaged the services of designer Rian Hughes, who designed the book, including its stylish cover. And while it’s not called out on the front cover, we were able to prevail upon Clark Gregg, who played Agent Phil Coulson on film and on television to write the introduction, something he was happy to do as he was a fan of Warren’s work. While it didn’t quite make the impact we were hoping for, AVENGERS: ENDLESS WARTIME remains a project that I’m quite proud of and satisfied with. I think it’s still a striking -looking book.
Another Comic I Worked On That Came Out On This Date
CAPTAIN AMERICA: LIVING LEGEND #1 came out on that same date, October 2, 2013, but its gestation period was even longer than that of AVENGERS: ENDLESS WARTIME. Its roots went back to the aftermath of the SIEGE crossover in the late 00s, an event that was going to segue into our next marketing umbrella, THE HEROIC AGE. As part of THE HEROIC AGE, in response to readers who had been complaining about Event fatigue, we decided to not do any line-wide Events during that year. Instead, the plan was for us to instead generate a series of bimonthly limited series of high quality that would be called the ASTONISHING line, following the success of Joss Whedon and John Cassaday’s ASTONISHING X-MEN. Only one of these projects came out in that format and under that title: Jason Aaron and Adam Kubert’s ASTONISHING SPIDER-MAN AND WOLVERINE. A few others were started, including what became AVENGERS: THE CHILDREN’S CRUSADE, but they wound up taking enough time to be completed that by the time they were released, the zeitgeist had moved on and they were renamed accordingly. So CAPTAIN AMERICA: LIVING LEGEND started life as ASTONISHING CAPTAIN AMERICA, and was intended to be a high-end self-contained action-oriented adventure of the Super-Soldier that would stand on its own off to the side of Ed Brubaker’s continuing tenure on the main CAPTAIN AMERICA series. I tapped Andy Diggle to write it, having been impressed with his action approach on his 2000 AD work and elsewhere. He turned in a great script with action split between the World War II era and the present day. But the piece that was meant to kick things over the top was artist Adi Granov. Adi had done the well-regarded Extremis arc in IRON MAN, which became something of a visual template for the first IRON MAN film—a film that he was called in to do some design work on. But apart from some covers and an aborted project with Jon Favreau that was never completed, he hadn’t done any other long-form comic book storytelling. So his involvement made this something special. Until it didn’t. You see, with the success of IRON MAN and the series of films that came after it, Adi was in greater and greater demand from Marvel Studios to work on their upcoming projects. He completed the first issue, but thereafter had to bow out of the project because there simply weren’t enough hours n the day to do everything. This left me with a daunting task because Adi’s work was both painted and distinctive—it wasn’t an easy thing to match. And so the project got back-burnered for a number of years while I looked for a replacement without much luck. Andy had completed all four scripts and was paid for them, but it was looking as though the story would never see the light of day. Eventually, though, I came across the work of Agustin Alessio, whose style, while not identical to that of Adi’s was enough in the ballpark that I thought it would complement Adi’s pages effectively. The project was reactivated, Agustin illustrated issues #2-4, with Adi providing covers so as to maintain a sense of visual consistency, and the project was retitled CAPTAIN AMERICA: LIVING LEGEND—which is a bit awkward, but we wanted the name CAPTAIN AMERICA first so that it would appear on Retailers’ order forms alongside the regular CAPTAIN AMERICA title. Given the passage of time, though, there was one other adjustment that had to be made throughout the first issue that required Adi to make some changes. Throughout the 2000s, starting in THE ULTIMATES, Captain America had been steadily depicted as more of a soldier than a pure super hero. As such, he was regularly see carrying and even using firearms on the battlefield. At a certain point, Captain America with a gun became so ubiquitous that it began to impact on other lines of business, and people began to be concerned about the message we were sending, myself included. So at a certain point, we decided that we needed to scale back on depicting Captain America using real-world firearms. Because the first issue of CAPTAIN AMERICA: LIVING LEGEND was set during the war, Cap was strapped throughout much of the issue. So I prevailed upon Adi to find the time to go back into the book and take out all of Cap’s guns. It was more of a pain for Adi to do given his other commitments than a big deal, and it didn’t impact on the story in any real way. Below, I found a copy of the original version of Adi’s #1 cover in its original unaltered form floating around on the net. You can see that Adi changed Cap’s prominent carbine rifle into a flag on the final released issue seen above.
And Yet Another Comic I Worked On That Came Out On This Date
I’m really only including this issue of FANTASTIC FOUR, #15, which was released on October 2, 2019, the second part of the “Point Of Origin” storyline, because I love this variant cover that we did for it. Since the issue was told from the point of view of the newly-introduced super team of the planet Spyre known as the Unparalleled, and the Fantastic Four were seen as invaders (all of the FF’s speech was rendered in an unreadable alien font until their universal translators eventually worked out the Spyrian language) we set the issue up as though it was an issue of their comic—the recap page was centered on them, and so forth. In all honesty, if I could have gotten away with it, I would have made this the main cover of the book in a heartbeat, but this definitely would have confused readers and cost us sales, so doing it as a variant cover was probably the correct compromise. But I love the old school trade dress, the snazzy Unparalleled logo and the cover composition that makes the FF look like threatening monsters from space. It’s a fun piece that unfortunately a lot of readers never got to see, since it was only a variant.
Another relatively quiet week when it came to new things to read and watch. Scratching around for something new, I did watch the three-part Netflix documentary EAT THE RICH about the explosive rise and fall of the GameStop stock just a few years ago. I had heard about it at the time, but never explored the situation in details, so it was a crazy and amazing ride, watching a few well-placed actors overturn financial institutions and walk away enriched, for all that thousands of people were left impoverished in their wake. It’s the kind of thing that you would think only happens in movies, and the individual episodes are short enough and tightly focused enough that it was easy to get through the entire thing in a day or two.
Also, SPY X FAMILY is back for its second season, its storyline still focusing on the master secret agent Twilight who, in order to succeed in a mission that will safeguard the security of his country, must put together a fake family so as to enable him to infiltrate a high-class private school connected to an important foreign dignitary. Unbeknownst to Twilight, who adopts the alias of Loid Forger for the mission, the woman he take on as his pretend wife, Yor, is secretly a deadly master assassin, and their adoptive daughter is the byproduct of a covert medical experiment that left her with the ability to read minds. None of the three main characters are aware of the truth regarding the others (except for the telepathic Anya, and she’s young and inexperienced enough whereby she doesn’t always understand what her make-believe parents are thinking, or why.) It’s a super fun series about a fun family with great action and great comedy—the first episode back introduces a new member of the family, a big shaggy dog who was likewise experimented on and who seems to be able to catch glimpses of the future. It’s that kind of a show. One of the best anime currently airing.
Posted at TomBrevoort.com
A new addition to this Newsletter where I’ll occasionally post links to new features that I’ve put up over at the web page. I have a pair of things that I want to share with the wider audience here: the first is Fifteen Thoughts about Superman: The Movie , which, as the title implies, is me taking a bit of a deep dive look at a seminal film in my own upbringing as well as the world of super hero cinema. The second piece is related it’s Fred Hembeck Reviews Superman: The Movie , a three-page strip done by the famous fan cartoonist in which he reacts in real time to the premiere of the movie back in 1978. It’s a fascinating glimpse into what the fan community was thinking about the impending picture back them—I specifically appreciated the fact that Fred not only wrote up his impressions before seeing the film and after seeing it, but he also did an entire page on his second impressions after seeing it for a second time.
And that ought to about do it for us this week. Next time, we’ll be in the midst of New York Comic Con, but I don’t anticipate that having a real impact on next week’s Newsletter getting posted on time. But I suppose we’ll see. Be good, and I’ll see you then.
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Very sad to hear about the great Carlos Pacheco - a wonderful talent and human being. I wish him well.
Talking about Avengers Forever (a fave of mine) made me think about the reference pages in the back ("This sequence happened in Avengers 8") that i found was less obtrusive than in panel editor notes (that also got tiresome when they tried to be too funny) and informative as it led me to dig up other stories, trades, back issues.
I remember them in series like Hobgoblin Lives, Untold tales of Spidey and Marvel Universe. I think the recent Marvels series by Busiek and Cinar (which i loved) would have benefited from this back matter. What are your thoughts Tom? Is it from a bygone age or could be useful in some series like Avengers Forever?
(not that i was confused in any of these series as they all worked but it added another level of enjoyment for me).
I think that excel document is an amazing historical artifact, and I'd hate to see all that history lost as each column is deleted once the month expires, so I'm going to ask if you'd ever consider right-clicking and just hiding the colum so it's gone from view, but not from our hearts...?