#72: I'm the X
This News Really Changes Everything
In case people missed it on Friday, here’s what I posted over on Facebook about the secret news that I alluded to last time:
There’s been a bunch of chatter this past week concerning the “secret mission” that Dan Buckley spoke with me about that got mentioned in my Newsletter—some of it pretty funny. No, I am not becoming EIC. That’s hardly a thing that we’d announce in a Newsletter, guys. C.B. is welcome to the position, it suits him and he’s good at it.
No, the big story is that, after a quarter of a century editing AVENGERS and its associated titles, I am going to be moving away from those characters and titles and instead stepping into the world of mutants. Yes, that’s right, I’m afraid that it’s true—I’m the X.
This isn’t going to happen for a good long while yet—I still have a ton of stuff cooking in AVENGERS (including next year’s big crossover event series) that needs to be seen to completion. And at the same time, current X-guru Jordan White and his team have a massive story that they’re in the middle of and that won’t run its course for a long while. What I do will grow directly out of what they’re doing—provided they leave me anything to work with. Did you read that HELLFIRE GALA book? Cripes!
When we’re closer to the switchover happening and there’s something worth reporting on, you’ll hear more from us. For now, I’m still trying to figure out which one is Professor X.
So that’s it! A big change, but not really that big of a change. Appreciate you all for reaching out. I’m excited for what’s to come.
And while I’m sure that everybody is going to have a million questions about this, I’m not actually going to talk about it for some time yet—both because I have plenty to do in terms of wrapping up my current assignments and handing them over to others but more importantly, because the current X-creators and editors are in the midst of an epic and long-gestating storyline, and it’s only right that the spotlight remain on them. So I ask everybody to be patient for a while—I wouldn’t even have written the above except that I seriously underestimated the cyclone of speculation that last week’s Newsletter would set off. Seriously, there aren’t all that many of you guys, I foolishly didn’t think this would get so big so fast. As usual, I’m the chump.
Oh, and the title of this week’s Newsletter of course refers to the very clever song performed by Ethan Peck on the recent excellent musical episode of STAR TREK: STRANGE NEW WORLDS, which can be heard at this link. The timing was just too good not to play into.
I had planned to fill this space with tales of drinking with John Romita Jr., but between the above and the quantity of questions that showed up over the course of this week, I think we need to get right into things. So you’ll have to fill in your own adventures for at least another week.
I don't mean to drag the Ms. Marvel controversy out in this space, but I feel compelled to say this about it: I buy comics through DCBS out of necessity, so I have to buy everything in advance. The absurd turnaround on her "death" and rebirth meant that I was being asked to buy "CLASSIFIED #1 by TBA," before any details were revealed, which I obviously did not do. And then, once it was too late for me to get it, Marvel announced that it's the new Ms. Marvel comic, which I absolutely would have purchased. So, not only does her "death" seem more cynical than any comics death I can think of, the manner of its execution cost you my business. Against my will, even. This will be the first Ms. Marvel series I don't buy since Kamala's introduction. This has been an extremely disappointing experience.
Sorry to hear that, Dewey. Tell you what: why don’t you get me an address and I’ll see what I can do.
Was wondering your thoughts on licensed comics - there seems to be a resurgence recently (The Kirkman Transformers shared universe, the new Conan series, the fox properties at Marvel, etc) - I find there is a rich history in comics of toy/movie licensed material that could have been fluff but was elevated in comics form (as a child of the 80s I find that Gi Joe is better than it has any right to be under Larry Hama).
Any favourite licensed books? Or properties you think would be fun in comic book form (Indiana jones?)?
Licensed property comics have a history that goes back to the very beginning of the medium, JV, when the earliest comics were simply repackaged versions of popular newspaper strips. So that’s always been a valid thing. And for me, it all comes down to what the execution is. As a general rule personally, I tend to think of the “proper” version of a given property to be that which is created using the medium in which the property first was created. For example, I’m happy enough to read DOCTOR WHO novels or comics or listed to audio productions from time to time when there’s some reason for me to. But none of that material really “counts” for me in the way that episodes of the TV show do. So it’s entertaining, but all a bit superfluous to my sensibilities. On the other hand, I do Read-Out on the assorted Marvel STAR WARS books, and maybe because that’s a property that I don’t have such a strong attachment to—I like it just fine, but it doesn’t loom large in my world—I think they’re all mostly strong and well done. And earlier licensed books such as MICRONAUTS, ROM, G.I.JOE, TRANSFORMERS and others had much of their mythology originated in the comics before migrating over to other media, so those books carry a greater feeling of weight as well. And I don’t know that I really have any particular properties that I yearn to see adapted into comics—though if any such thing is done, then depending on the story direction and creative team, I might check them out—or I might not. And I’ve enjoyed working on the licensed ULTRAMAN series, and approached it no differently than I would any other Marvel title.
Were the concerns centered around making the new CM female? Monica Rambeau was one of better holders of that title, I thought, and given Carol's historic ties to Mar-Vell, she seems like a natural successor.
No, Matt, the concern wasn’t about making Captain Marvel female, it was a concern that Captain Marvel would be carrying the company’s name, and so needed to embody whatever-the-heck the idealized image of the organization was. Remember, this was when Marvel was starting to become a thing in movies, we didn’t have a studio yet (though the planning to have one may or may not have already been going on, it’s been long enough that I don’t specifically recall) but the Marvel characters and logo were appearing on a bunch of different films and getting greater exposure throughout the world. So the concern was that a hero with the Marvel name needed to represent the whole of Marvel in some manner.
You mention how cover concepts for that seven years in development project have changed as the marketplace has shifted. I was curious how today’s covers are different than other eras? (I’m loving those Alex Ross covers for the current F.F. run!)
Also, I know the Star Wars comics have been a big success. Has there been consideration of a line of books set in the MCU continuity? I’ve always thought the five years directly after the Thanos snap could be a rich area for stories. But I could also see not wanting to compete with your own line of books or confuse readers (something Star Wars doesn’t have to worry about.)
I don’t know that I can really explain the impulse to make a change without showing you the covers in question, Alan, which we’re not ready to do yet. And honestly, as much as anything, one of the big motivators to me was that I realized that I had used the concept of the first cover on another project during the interim, and even though that had been done a number of years ago at this point, it still struck me as being too close too soon. So he overarching reason was commercial, but that helped to push me over the line to actually do it. And the new covers look spectacular, so it’s going to have been worth it.
Everybody under the sun has suggested a line of MCU-based titles, but the difficulty there as much as anything is the coordination involved—especially at times like now, where the SAG strike may impact production and the timing on when projects will be released. Back in the day, IRON MAN: VIVA LAS VEGAS, my great unfinished symphony, was intended to take place within the not-yet-the-MCU, but today it wouldn’t be, as some of the characters and concepts involved have gone a different way in the time since that project was started. Plus really, so much of what makes the MCU special isn’t duplicable on paper, starting with the performances of the actors. Better, I think, to keep the two separate and for the MCU to be able to adapt, adopt and improve upon any parts of what we do in the MU to best fit their needs.
Has Marvel ever packaged any runs or arcs in an Absolute-style edition? I know there are some hardcover deluxe versions of certain arcs, but nothing quite like the oversized Absolute versions that DC has done. At least none that I can think of. Any reason why Marvel hasn’t done something similar? Any runs or arcs you think would fit that kind of format? Civil War, Marvels, and House of M came to my mind.
I don’t think we’ve done anything exactly like the DC ABSOLUTE editions, Sergio, but we have done some massively large books, including things like KIRBY IS FANTASTIC or the WOLVERINE ADAMANTIUM EDITION. There’s also a really incredible line of early Marvel reprints from Taschen that are pricey but which represent in my mind the best was to read that material, and I’d stack those up against the ABSOLUTE hardcovers.
It's a passing reference, but why do you call playing fast and loose with the set-up a “Roy Thomas violation”? Was he particularly keen that people didn't do that, or famous for doing that himself?
No, I think of it this way, Chris, because Roy was the first person to my memory to codify the manner in which alternate realities were meant to work. He did so specifically for Marvel in WHAT IF #1, but in a larger sense he laid out the rules for how his fictional approach worked and then operated within them. There have been a bunch of WHAT IF stories over the years that haven’t followed those same rules, making arbitrary changes in the history to create the desired alternate timeline. And some of those are really good stories, but they violate the structures that Roy set up. Hence, a Roy Thomas violation.
Comics’ page counts have moved way up and down. 64 pages, down to 17, now around 22. 17-pagers had fewer subplots and less action, but each page became more consequential. Do you think there’s some Aristotelian length that makes for the best monthly comics story? Or can good people tell good stories regardless of page length?
Well, Jeff, as every writer will tell you, whatever the length, everybody wishes it was maybe three or four pages longer, so that they could include some bit of business that they’d come up with that had to be cut out in order to make the necessary parts of the story fit. Doesn’t matter what length you’re talking about, typically it’s always three or four pages too short. For me, for an ongoing comic book series, 17 pages is too short, too tight, and doesn’t give you the necessary space to tell an effective story and still service characterization or subplots or the like. I’m comfortable with 20 at the moment, which is what we’ve been using for the past bunch of years, but I was also comfortable with 22, which is what we had before that. And the switchover from 22 to 20 was a bit rough for awhile, until our writers adapted to the tighter confines of construction. Still, Will Eisner and his team did really excellent SPIRIT stories on a weekly basis at a 7-page length, so you can make almost anything work if you built to it correctly.
Looks like the reason 2001's "Incredible Hulk" #26 came inside a polybag was because it also included a CD that allowed you to sign in into something called "MARVELONLINE.NET", according to this eBay listing: https://www.ebay.com/itm/275630642729
Thanks for the info, Rodrigo! Now Sean McKeever can finally sleep soundly!
Thanks as always for the detailed answers! I look forward to watching that deep dive into Secret Empire. I'm curious if you could point me/us to the best place to read your answers on Fantastic Four and/or Inhumans, as most of what I can find is from places that have a more critical or even suspicious approach to the "company line."
On that note, can you shed any light on what precisely happened with the 2020 New Warriors title? I'd always assumed that the superhero names teased in the promos were intentionally a little tone deaf, and that part of the story (ala Heinburg/Cheung Young Avengers) would be the heroes stepping out of the conception of what the adults wanted and carving their own. It seems some of the ideas may have been used in Children of the Atom, but I could be entirely wrong, on any or all points.
Also, Supreme Power was a very important gateway comic for me, so thanks helping bring that to life. It always felt to me like a popcorn version of Watchmen, which I mean entirely as a compliment (I've re-read the series many times). Can you share what things Marvel had to avoid to not piss of DC? I've always felt the very clear alternate superman but treated "realistically" was one of the best parts of that story.
Finally, not a question, but surely a Hey Jude moment has been the decision to kill of Ultimate Peter Parker and replace him with Miles Morales. I don't remember what the state of the Ultimate line was at the time in terms of how risky it might have been, but I think there's a case to be made that Miles Morales is the most successful new Marvel character of the 21st century.
EDIT: Sorry, one last question. What's with the Nick Lowe "hate"? I can't imagine you actually being so publicly rude to a colleague if it weren't tongue firmly in cheek, but I also feel like I came to late to the newsletter to follow what is probably at this point an inside joke?
For those old answers, Bojack, you can probably attempt to dig through the many answers stacked up over at my old Formspring page at Tumblr, there are likely still some of them in there somewhere. But good luck finding them.
With NEW WARRIORS, I think a lot of the blowback was a tempest in a teapot and would have dissipated somewhat had we gone ahead with putting the book out. But then the pandemic hit, everything was shut down, and as we began to reactivate projects again, it just didn’t seem worth the aggravation to reactivate it—especially with OUTLAWED, the teen initiative that it was created as a part of, having been rescaled on the fly.
I can’t really get into any legal specifics about anything such as this SUPREME POWER question, Bojack. I’m sure you understand.
And talking about the creation of Miles is a long and winding story, and would take far more space and effort than I have time for here. But the short answer is that killing off Ultimate Peter Parker and replacing him with Miles wasn’t all that difficult a decision at all, primarily because Brian Michael Bendis, who was writing the series, was excited about the possibility of doing so.
And my abiding disdain for Nick Lowe goes back to when we were in the promotional phase for AVENGERS VS X-MEN. For whatever reason, Nick and I decided to engage in a bit of performance art in which we’d tear one another down humorously in public on behalf of our respective franchises, mostly to amuse ourselves but also to give the fans some ridiculous entertainment along the way. We did this all through AvX, and we enjoyed doing it enough that we’ve simply never stopped. I suspect that’s mainly due to the fact that Nick has just such a punchable face.
Coming from a background in film history, I don't find the argument "you’re not entitled to know how the cake is made, any more than I was back in the day" especially convincing. We know a great deal of how Alfred Hitchcock made his movies for instance thanks to documentary evidence (production notes, drafts, etc), much of which contradict his own claims. The same is true of the Making of Citizen Kane, or J. W. Rinzler's books on the making of Star Wars or Joseph McBride's biography of Frank Capra. A number of biographies of artists and politicians make a great deal of use of archival material, as and when applicable. I don't think there's an argument for claiming that comics as a medium are any more entitled to privacy than any other art-form.
Jack, you make a very long, very reasoned argument throughout your comments. But none of that really changes what I said last time. You really, genuinely, have way more transparency and way more access to all of the people who work on the books today than at any point in the past, in particular all of those periods that you talk about. And at least some of the difficulty here is that you simply don’t want to believe the truth in what people are saying to you about the way that ASM story played out—you’re convinced that your own conspiracy theory version is the right one. But given that your theory is off-base, there really isn’t any proof that I or anybody else could give you that would convince you, is there? Anything that I say or show would be brushed aside as just another part of the cover-up, another part of the conspiracy. This is why conspiracy theories are so comforting to so many, I expect, because they’re much more certain and unshakable than actual chaotic reality. In any event, just because you think you deserve to have access to whatever you think you should have access to doesn’t mean that you automatically get that access. I’m under no obligation even to answer this question, let alone any need to litigate the story. If you didn’t like it, that’s fine—not every story is going to work, and not every story is going to be for every reader.
Mortimer Q. Forbush
If I recall correctly, you have written in the past about decidedly avoiding the EIC job — can you elaborate about what perils that position represents (or has in the past?)
The Editor in Chief gets to do an awful lot of things, but one thing that the person in that position doesn’t get to do is to make comics—not directly, not in a hands-on way. As what I like to do is make comics, that’s a bit of a drawback to me. And I’m not really interested in power for its own sake or anything like that, so the marginally bigger title doesn’t appeal to me particularly either.
I’d love to hear more about your flirtation with DC. Was Mike receptive? Did Joe and Bill find out and try to make amends?
Mike Carlin had made it abundantly clear as we were working on AMALGAM 2 and the ACCESS projects and similar crossovers that he wanted to get me over to DC. This would have been back in the late 1990s, when Marvel was on relatively shaky ground. And I took a lunch with Mike and DC Publisher Paul Levitz where they tried to woo me over—I can recall that I perplexed Paul a little bit when I told him that the thing that was attractive to me was that people retired from DC, where relatively few had ever retired from Marvel. And DC made me a very nice offer, to come over as an Associate Editor under Bob Schreck in the Batman office. It was better money but a lesser title—I was a full editor at that time—and when I thought about it, I came to the realization that, at that moment, I was editing AVENGERS and THOR and THUNDERBOLTS among other books, all of which were outperforming a big chunk of the DC line. I was also aware that, while Mike and I liked one another, we also had similar temperaments and were likely to eventually kill one another if we worked together—with Mike likely getting the better of that exchange. So I didn’t go then—but Mike made it clear that if my situation should change, I should give him a call. But by the time it did, I was just a little bit too late, and he wasn’t in the position any longer. I did take a lunch or two with Dan Didio, but he didn’t seem particularly interested in me. Which I’ve arrogantly seen as something of a loss for DC, in that at the height of the craziness at Marvel, they could have offered me half my then-current salary and I’d have gone. On the other hand, I wouldn’t have wanted to make the move to California, so something would have had to give at some point, and all seems to have worked out for the best.
"This is a pretty good question, Matthew, but the answer is even simpler than you might think."
It was a terrible question, which is why I deleted it.
Not sure where I got the idea from (early Amazon listings that weren't finalised yet perhaps?), but I'd been under the impression that each TPB was 5 issues long, leaving #21-25 uncollected. Of course, when I double-checked immediately after posting the question (because why would I do that before?!), I realized my mistake and finally bought them.
The important thing is that you bought them, Matthew! There are no bad questions that lead to that result!
My questions are about that Treasury Edition, and the line in general. How did the recent reprint project come about, anyway? Most importantly, how did it do? Did it sell well? Was it successful enough for Marvel to consider reprinting further Treasury Editions? Most of them were reprints, or cross-company efforts, but there were a few Treasury-sized Marvel originals.
I do still have some of the old editions, you know. Dr. Strange, Howard the Duck, Thor... I haven't given them all away! But the one I would most like to see again is another Jack Kirby original - his adaptation of "2001: A Space Odyssey." I am sure the legal rights would be complicated, or perhaps impossible. Still, as "Bicentennial Battles" showed, you never know. Especially with Kirby.
I don’t know all of the ins and outs, but as far as I can tell, that reprint of CAPTAIN AMERICA’S BICENTENNIAL BATTLES was just something that Sales honcho David Gabriel decided to try, possibly influenced by DC’s reissue of the SUPERMAN VS MUHAMMAD ALI Treasury Edition. I have no idea how well it performed, but I’d expect that it will probably wind up an outlier. And as you intuit, reprinting any and all of that Kirby 2001 work is a tricky beast given the complex rights-holders involved. Still, we’re doing ROM and MICRONAUTS collections in the near future, so it’s not completely out of the question, just unlikely.
Behind the Curtain
.Since we’ve got a somewhat X-themed Newsletter this time, let me show a page from something related to that concept.
This is, I believe, the opening page of the first X-MEN story that I ever worked on editorially. It was a short three-page teaser story produced for FOX KIDS Magazine in advance of the premiere of the 1992 X-MEN animated series, to prime the pump a little bit for that audience, most of whom would likely have no idea who the X-Men even were in those pre-movie days. I was able to recruit Scott Lobdell, who was writing the main X-MEN series at the time, to write it, and it was Scott, I believe, who suggested that we reach out to Dave Cockrum about drawing it. Jimmy Palmiotti inked it, and the color was done by Paul Mounts using the same blueline approach that we applied on our trading card artwork, which gave us a much wider range of colors than usual. That’s why those registration marks are at the bottom of the board—the page was reproduced in non-photographic blue on thick watercolor paper with a clear acetate transparent film for the black plate. From that, Paul would paint the color on the watercolor board, which would get combined with the black plate to produce the final image. Those last two balloons from Rogue and Gambit read in the wrong order, a fatal problem in a story aimed at novice readers and a failing on my part as the editor. Probably should have cut Gambit’s line.
Pimp My Wednesday
But it’s not all going to be X-Stuff, not for many months to come. In the meantime, though, we can start with a title that’ll help to bridge the gap a little bit.
As part of the overall FALL OF X initiative, UNCANNY AVENGERS makes its return in a new iteration this week. Previewed in this year’s Free Comic Book Day entry, the series puts together a new Unity Squad of Avengers pulled from both mutant and non-mutant ranks to deal with the ongoing threat of Orchis and more specifically, the terrorist mutant who has stolen the identity of Captain Krakoa from Cyclops. It’s written by X-MEN’s Gerry Duggan, illustrated by AVENGERS’ Javier Garron, and it’s an essential piece of the total FALL OF X experience. Plus it’s just a lot of balls-to-the wall fun. And it’s got another page setting up elements of Jonathan Hickman’s upcoming G.O.D.S. project with Valerio Schiti.
Elsewhere, Associate Editor Annalise Bissa (Hi, Mr. Bissa!) has put together her contribution to the CONTEST OF CHAOS storyline running through our Annuals this year, with IRON MAN ANNUAL #1 in which the Armored Avenger is pitted against the mutant mistress of the elements, Storm. Jason Loo wrote it, and it was illustrated by David Cutler. And it advances the story of Spider-Man and Jessica Jones’ investigation into just what is behind the Contest of Chaos in a short back-up by Stephanie Phillips and Alberto Foche.
Not to be outdone, Assistant Editor Martin Biro has shepherded the latest entry in our DARK WHAT IF series of titles, WHAT IF DARK: MOON KNIGHT. In it, on an earlier mission, Marc Spector is killed, and another avatar of the ancient gods will need to rise to take up his fight. Erica Schultz provided the scenario and the words, and Edgar Salazar took care of the visuals and the storytelling.
And Iron Man and Captain Marvel take on a mission to aid an intergalactic hauler in jeopardy! But events take a turn for the worse as our heroes discover just what the cargo is that’s being transported. It all happens on a screen near you in AVENGERS UNLIMITED #60 by Tim Seeley and Davide Tinto, the start of a new multi-part adventure on MARVEL UNLIMITED.
A Comic Book On Sale 55 Years Ago Today, August 13, 1968
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN ANNUAL #5 has a number of interesting things going for it. But the big one is that it was the story that delved into exactly who and what Peter Parker’s birth-parents were like and what happened to him before he was taken in by his Uncle Ben and Aunt May. In the six years that the web-slinger had been doing his thing, the question of his parents’ identities or whereabouts had never been brought up. Which seems like a real oversight, but speaks to just how loosey-goosey a lot of comic book plotting was in these days. So it’s the kind of story that used to fill the pages of the Marvel Annuals back in the day—really big, really exciting seismic events. But in this instance, I would argue that perhaps scripter Stan Lee and co-plotter John Romita made something of a bad call. This was the 1960s, and spies were hot as exemplified by James Bond, so Stan and John decided to reveal that Peter’s Mom and Pop had been secret agents who had died in disgrace, seemingly having betrayed their country and working with the Red Skull. Which raised its own problems—at this time, the passage of time in the Marvel books was still relatively real-world, so the disappearance of the college-aged Peter’s folks would have had to have taken place during the 1950s. But everyone involved had forgotten that they’d revealed that, like Captain America himself, the Red Skull had been in a state of suspended animation since the end of World War II, and so he couldn’t have been around to have been the string-puller behind the Parkers’ acts of sabotage. (Years later, Mark Gruenwald decided that it had been the substitute Red Skull of the 1950sera who had recruited the Parkers—which somehow made an ill-fitting story even more ill-fitting.) Anyway, the big problem with this whole conceit is that up to this point, Peter Parker had been a regular kid, an everyman. But no everyman has a father who’s Napoleon Solo and a Mom who’s Diana Rigg. The whole idea doesn’t really jibe. But it was Stan and John, so we all sort of just roll with it. The Annual was penciled by Larry Lieber, who worked hand-in-hand with John Romita to illustrate the thing meticulously over the course of a year. In fact, it took long enough that the size of Marvel’s original art boards changed halfway through the job. The back half of the story beginning on Page 21 is drawn on the smaller size paper, and you can see the size of the lettering jump up and the amount of copy per panel go down as a result. There were a number of short features in the back of the book, including a fictionalized and humorous account of how Stan, John and Larry came up with the story. It’s the only thing that Lieber didn’t pencil in the issue—Larry had done a version, but somebody, likely Stan, didn’t think that it was funny enough, so he had Marie Severin take a stab at it, and she killed on it. In any event, despite the fact that the main story was perhaps an error in judgment, this is a thoroughly great, thoroughly consequential Annual of the sort that you seldom see anymore.
Another Comic Book On Sale 55 Years Ago Today, August 13, 1968
At the very same time, FANTASTIC FOUR ANNUAL #6 was making its appearance on Newsstands coast-to-coast as well. Marvel, like most companies, would release their Annuals during the summer, when kids were out of school and families might be going on long car trips and need something to occupy their children for the duration of the road trip. And like the AMAZING SPIDER-MAN one, this FF ANNUAL is a milestone turning point, featuring the birth and introduction of Reed and Sue’s child, an event that the series had been building up to since the previous year’s Annual. It’s also the introduction of Annihilus, the last truly great super-villain that Jack Kirby would create for the series. For the past year or so, having seen his creations distorted from his intent and even taken from him and given to other hands to work on, Kirby had decided that he wasn’t going to create any further new characters for Marvel. But in situations such as this one, he was simply too creative for his own good, and he just couldn’t help himself. Unlike the ASM Annual, this book is a cover-to-cover single 48-page epic story, the longest self-contained tale that Lee and Kirby would do together during their glory days (Their eventual SILVER SURFER graphic novel in 1978 was longer.) Wally Wood provided unexpected inks on this cover, while regular FF embellisher Joe Sinnott handled the interiors. This is also the point where time started to really slow down for the Marvel characters as creators got an inkling that they might be a going concern for a very long time. So Sue’s pregnancy had lasted more than 12 months and it would take the newborn Franklin Richards more than a decade to age only a couple of years.
A Comic I Worked On That Came Out On This Date
People had asked a little bit about ORIGINAL SIN when it came up in conversation in the recent past, so i thought I might as well focus on an issue and give you all a quick rundown. This seventh issue was released on August 13, 2014. But the basic idea for what became ORIGINAL SIN had been kicking around for a couple of years by this point. It originated, I think, during a Marvel Editorial Retreat that we were having to talk about the story that would become FEAR ITSELF. FEAR ITSELF was the first big Event we’d done since we’d gone into THE HEROIC AGE, where we paused on yearly Events concerned about the so-called Event Fatigue. The birthing process for FEAR ITSELF was pretty rough, owing to the fact that people at the top weren’t entirely sold on the concept of that project. Even the name FEAR ITSELF was a late-in-the-game compromise, after we had gone through a ridiculous number of alternative suggestions for what the story ought to be called. People were also worried enough about the story and the marketing of same that we screwed ourselves a little bit by revealing most of the major story twists well in advance of when the issues in which those twists happened came out. But I digress. At this particular Retreat, conversation had come around to the concept of FEAR ITSELF, and somebody, I think it was EIC Joe Quesada but he may have just been one of the voices involved, started pitching an alternative idea for the Event, one in which somebody or something would learn devastating secrets about each of the Marvel heroes and use them to upend their lives in interesting ways. I don’t recall who named this notion ORIGINAL SIN, but we had that title during that same Retreat, I believe—and had also determined that things were already too far down the road on FEAR ITSELF to pivot to a completely new concept. So we kept ORIGINAL SIN in our back pocket as something that we would do in the future. I know that I spoke with Allan Heinberg about potentially writing ORIGINAL SIN in the aftermath of that meeting—he had been in attendance. But he disagreed fundamentally with some of how Joe Q had laid his ideas out, and so didn’t want to take it on. So the notion laid fallow for a while, with no writer claiming ownership of it and wanting to do it. We also hadn’t worked out anything about how whoever was behind the story was going to learn all of these secrets. At one point, we half-planned to do ORIGINAL SIN in 2012, but then there was a leadership shift and Axel Alonso came in as the EIC—and Axel had been hot to do a different idea, AVENGERS VS X-MEN, for a while. So AVX came next, and ORIGINAL SIN waited some more. There was an aborted attempt to get the storyline moving, but I forget a lot of the details. I only remember that Ed Brubaker and Javier Pulido did a framing sequence in the first MARVEL POINT ONE special that was meant to set up certain elements for it. Possibly I was trying to convince Ed to write the thing, but that clearly didn’t happen. By that point, though, i had figured out that the person who would have access to all of the secret knowledge that we’d need would be the Watcher, and so that framing story involves a pair of shadowy figures making a raid on the Watcher’s home upon the moon during the period when the galactic being communed with the rest of his kind, sharing what he had seen and receiving what they had seen in return. In any event, after having been one of the real anchormen of AVX along with Brian Bendis, Jason Aaron expressed some interest in taking on the ORIGINAL SIN concept when it came up at our next post-AVX retreat, and that was fine by me. It was Jason who worked out that the story would be a murder mystery surrounding the killing of the Watcher and the theft of his all-seeing eyes. He also came up with the idea that the culprit would be Nick Fury. The elder Fury was becoming something of a problem, both because of his age (with his unbreakable ties to World War II) and the fact that in film and on television, most of the public knew Nick Fury as Samuel L. Jackson. We’d introduced Fury’s more Jackson-aligned son in the aftermath of FEAR ITSELF, and so this looked like a good moment to retire the old soldier permanently, having him go out in a blaze of glory. And it was Jason who conceived of Fury’s secret history as the Man On The Wall, as well as coming up with his predecessor in that role. Mike Deodato was recruited to take on the art duties, and from there our production was smooth as butter, with Deo bringing his A-Game to the visuals. The toughest bit was in getting the creators of the individual titles who would be tying in to come up with secrets that would be shocking enough and life-changing enough to have the impact we needed. Dan Slott, for example, had to be strong-armed into being a part of things, despite the fact that he instantly came up with a perfect ORIGINAL SIN for ASM: what if somebody else had also been bitten by the spider that empowered Peter Parker? This became Silk, a character who has gone on to be something of a mainstay of the Marvel Universe in the years since.
My mainstay viewing this past week has continued to be JUSTIFIED, which I’m consuming at a rate of more-or-less one episode a night. I’m into the midst of the second season so far, and while the show has drifted a bit away from the elements that made the pilot episode so compelling, it’s still pretty good. I’m trying to get things wrapped up so that I can plow ahead into the currently-airing sequel series.
Having finished the twelve-episode television series, which was really good, I moved ahead into PUELLA MAGI MADOKA MAGICA III: REBELLION, the third film. (The first two movies were compilation features made by cutting together footage from throughout the twelve TV episodes, a common practice in Anime.) And I have mixed feelings about it. First off, it was a graphically stunning production, it looked excellent in every regard. I wouldn’t be surprised if the team had more money to spend on these two hours than the entirety of the television season. And it was pretty cool to spend more time with these characters and in this world. But while the show was an almost perfect unit, holistic in every way, I didn’t care for the manner in which this film concluded its story. It left matters a bit ragged at the end. There’s been a rumored fourth film intended to pick up where this one left off supposedly in the works for years, but whether or when such a thing will manifest itself remains to be seen. So I don’t regret watching the film, and if nothing else it was dazzling. But I know folks for whom the TV series was perfect unto itself and who consequently don’t want to continue into the movie, and I can’t say that their choice is the wrong one. For anybody who might want to judge for themselves, the trailer for the film can be seen here and the full dub is available to view here. I always prefer a subtitled version, but most seem to like a dub instead.
And finally, ONLY MURDERS IN THE BUILDING is back on Hulu for its third season, and frankly feeling just a little bit long in the tooth. Given the premise of the series—that the main three characters will only get involved with solving murders that take place in the Arconia, the building they call home, it begins to stretch credibility to have a third body and a third killer show up in such short order. It’s still fun to watch Steve Martin and Martin Short go through their paces, but at least based on the first two episodes, the formula is beginning to strain a little bit. There are certain series that are best left with only one or two strong seasons, and I’m beginning to fear that OMITB may turn out to be one of those. Still, it’s not too late for them to turn this season around, and the title sequence for the show remains one of the finest on the air today.
Posted at TomBrevoort.com
Yesterday, I took a closer look at three early issues of JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY starring Thor to try to work out whether they were all written by the same person or different people.
And five years ago, I wrote about the fifth episode of STAR BLAZERS, which focused on the very first firing of the terrifying Wave-Motion Gun.
Until next week then, people! And let’s try to not let speculation run rampant this next week, shall we? Thanks!
Hats All, Folks!
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