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#80: Here Today, Gone Tomorrow
This past week for no particular reason at all, I started to think about all of the assorted people that I’ve worked alongside as my Junior Editors over the years. Those people are instrumental to everything that I’ve done on a day-to-day basis editorially for the entirety of their tenure working with me. By necessity, you get tight with those folks, working hand-in-hand with them; you wind up hearing about their lives, their current situation and problems, you share plenty of time with them trapped in a small office where you put comic books together. And then, eventually, they move on; some of them get promoted or shifted to another area of Marvel’s production machine, and some of them simply leave to pursue other opportunities for themselves. And so these people that seemed so close to you, you lose touch with them, seeing them only infrequently, typically with years in-between moments where you are together. Like so many things, I relate it to DOCTOR WHO. The Doctor has had many traveling companions over his sixty years of existence, but eventually they move on and are left behind, mentioned only infrequently. I have people I worked alongside a decade, two decades, three decades ago, who are presently in very different situations and circumstances. But for me, I’m still doing much the same thing, living the same life. It’s weird to stop and think about it in this fashion. And it isn’t just my direct Assistants and Associate Editors, it’s also a whole swath of other people who worked at Marvel for some bit of time during my long tenure. I’d imagine that this is in my head because New York Comic Con is this week, and that’s where I’m the most likely to run into unexpected faces from the past. Or possibly, I’m just old.
Anyway! Let’s start things off like we always do with some questions that were put to me in the comments section. I really do appreciate all of these queries week after week—it makes it a whole lot easier to fill up this space with semi-interesting content. So here we go!
I imagine the “Gorms” in “Space Ninja Gorms” is another way of spelling “Gomu”, as in rubber. “gomu” is also used in association with fellow stretchy man Luffy from One Piece.
That makes perfect sense to me, Kris, so I wouldn’t be at all surprised if you were right. Now if you can explain to me how Reed Richards is a Space Ninja…
The cover for Daredevil #1 (2011) by Paolo Rivera is one of, if not my favorite cover of all time (miiight be tied with ASM #641). I remember the concept just blew me away when i first saw it. I have a poster of it signed by Stan Lee (I'll get Paolo and Mark Waid sigs one day). I still find myself staring at it, reading all the sound effects of the cityscape. Do you have any insight/background/history on how the cover/concept came to be?
It is a pretty great cover, isn’t it, Steve? I don’t really have any great insight into its creation apart from the fact that, when he took on the assignment of writing DAREDEVIL, Mark Waid was really interested in exploring how Matt Murdock sees and interacts with the world. But that particular piece is likely the brainstorm of artist Paolo Rivera, possibly with some suggestions put forward by editor Steve Wacker and possibly Waid as well.
Now that you've been back in the office a few weeks, how is it different from telecommuting?
Well, it’s more tiresome. It shaves about three hours off of my sleep each day that I do it. I’ve been out of shape in terms of the sheer amount of walking and transferring and racing around that has to be done to get from one door to the other, but that’s getting gradually easier again the more I do it. On the plus side, it is easier in some respects to be dealing with people in a face-to-face capacity rather than over Slack or Zoom. It’s easier to train people, to casually offer advice or guidance when it’s needed. It’s also a lot more likely to drive people a little bit crazy being trapped in an office with me for eight hours each workday. So it does have its benefits. But also, it’s a lot noisier, a lot more disruptive to getting tings done. I have to say that I think I’m generally more productive, more able to focus on a task at hand, when I’m working remotely from home.
I have greatly enjoyed reading the Mighty Marvel Masterworks collections with my kids, as I don't have to vet the content of the majority of those 1960s stories. I have also loved collecting the "True Believers #1" $0.99 reprint books from a few years ago as well as the current releases of facsimile comics. Is there a plan to do another facsimile of Fantastic Four #1 (1961) as the printing from 2018 now costs more on the resell market than many of the Epic Collection books. In terms of selecting which comics receive facsimiles, is it the sales department (like the variant covers answer from this week) or are in-house Marvel "historians" consulted on issues that deserve a facsimile edition?
I don’t think there’s any plan to do a new facsimile edition of FANTASTIC FOUR #1 any time soon, Matt, sorry. We tend to do those once only for the most part. it’s possible that we’ll get to some point where there’ll maybe be a need or a desire for another one—I’d bet that’d be much closer to the release of a Fantastic Four movie, though, so you may have a while to wait on that score. And the titles that are selected to be done as facsimile editions are largely overseen by the Sales department, yes, working in tandem with our collections group. As those facsimiles are reprints, they fall under the remit of that area.
Is this the first appearance of the particular bar on page 7 of G.O.D.S. #1 (I won't repeat its name so everyone can enjoy the reveal)? Or has it made its way into older Marvel issues?
That is the first appearance of it, yes, Jon, and I’m a bit sheepish about the whole thing. I’ve mentioned in passing before I think about my discomfort with editors promoting themselves in the pages of their books. It strikes me as unseemly. But in this instance, Valerio Schiti just went ahead and did it on some pages and turned it in—it wasn’t specified that way in Jonathan’s script, it was simply “a bar” there—and at that point, it was simpler just to roll with it and let it go rather than asking Valerio to go back and change it. And really, he named it thusly as a show of respect, and so I couldn’t turn it away. So I’m weak. But I still don’t like it when this sort of thing is done.
Dear Tom, may I know what is in store for the character, Clint Barton, aka Hawkeye? I know it's a silly question to ask. But I really miss Hawkeye a lot since the beginning of 2023. He didn't show up anywhere in Marvel runs aside from being in flashbacks. Every big name hero has their own ongoing runs and even freaking guest star. But Clint Barton, on the other end looks like he has completely vanished from the year of 2023 with no presence with him at all. It's almost year end of 2023. At least, let Clint live out throughout the remaining months, and don't tell me, Marvel even forgot about him especially 2024 is the 60th Anniversary of his debut or else I won't be nice about the way Marvel writers treat him.
Caleb, there is an upcoming Hawkeye project that you should be hearing about any time now, though you won’t see it until 2024. Hope that suits.
Is it true that there won't be a third Ewing/Rodriguez Defenders series? From the text itself and interviews at the time it seemed like they were setting up another book but Al later mentioned in his newsletter that they "guessed wrong" about Marvel wanting a third series. That along with how long it's been since Defenders Beyond seems pretty conclusive but I can't help but hold out hope that there might be more one day (fwiw I think that book is Al's best Marvel work outside of Hulk and Javier might be the best artist working in superhero comics today). Is this an issue editors run into often - creators risking what they put into a story assuming they'll get more runway, and how often does this actually work for them?
Glad you liked those DEFENDERS projects, Anthony, and yes, there are currently no plans to do a third one. If I had to guess, I’d say that the biggest culprit was probably the fact that, between the time when the first and second series came out, the status quos of a couple of the core Defenders characters got complicated and prevented them from being in the second series. It consequently sold a lot more poorly than the first one did, and that was the end of that. Nothing really to be done about it, I’m afraid, that’s what happens in a shared universe from time to time. But I’d also expect Al to continue to pick up on the seeds he laid down there in his other future assignments as the opportunity presents itself. But it’s always dangerous to assume that you’re going to be able to get a follow-up to any limited series, so you need to plan your stories accordingly.
So if my math is right (but that's never been my forte), your 25+ years tenure as Avengers editor could end (emphasis on could since we readers don't know obviously when it will end exactly) roughly 20 years or so after Avengers Disassembled or New Avengers #1 (the start of the Bendis era as we all know), a year or so before Avengers #800 (published in early 2026 in theory).
I will take your word for it, Pierre, I haven’t looked for myself. And it’s looking as though my final issue of AVENGERS will be #12 in a few months. So start counting down!
I know it's a project that would never be greenlighted but I've long been curious if anyone has ever pitched or broached pitching ending the Eternals Saga from the point where volume one was canceled, setting it in the world of that series with no MU crossover. It's always been a fertile thought experiment for me and I'm just a lifelong reader.
I’m sure that people have thought about this over the years, Steve—fans if nobody else. But I think the real problem is that nobody else is Jack Kirby. Nobody else possesses his specific imagination, nor any insight on where he might have gone and what he might have done in such a conclusion. Other creators could certainly finish it up as you say, but it wouldn’t really be the same.
Behind the Curtain
An interesting bit of Marvel history popped up at auction at Heritage this past month, and so I snagged a scan to share with you al here.
This random piece of paper contains Wally Wood’s very first sketch for what would become Daredevil’s new red costume, introduced in DAREDEVIL #7. Interestingly, according to the notes scribbled in the margin, Wood’s initial idea was for the outfit to be primarily blue-black, with only the eyes and the DD symbol in red. Couldn’t tell you whether it was editor Stan Lee who made the switch to all red, colorist Stan Goldberg, or Wood himself. But that costume would look pretty great in all black with the red eyes and insignia. This sheet also includes a couple of other brainstormed notions for Daredevil stories—one in which the sightless crusader faced off with a gang of sharpshooters in a totally dark warehouse, their rifles equipped with infra-red sniperscopes. And another in which recognizes Peter Parker as Spider-Man and learns his true identity. I love Wood’s dopey quick sketch of Peter here. Bits and pieces of stories such as these did wind up getting done, but some of them well after Wood had left the series, and almost all in ways that make it seem likely that it was just parallel development. (It was eventually Spider-Man who connected the dots between lawyer Matt Murdock and Daredevil in the early days of that series, and who sent Matt a letter saying that he wouldn’t tell anyone. The fool! Who did he think was going to read his letter to the sightless Matt?)
Pimp My Wednesday
Just in time for your enjoyment as you make your way to the Javitz Center for NYCC, here are a couple more books that’ll be showing up on store shelves this week.
AVENGERS #6 brings the “Cityslayers” storyline to a close, with the Avengers closing out their conflict with the Ashen Combine, the first of the predicted Tribulation Events. It’s written by Jed MacKay and illustrated by Ivan Fiorelli. And the issue also includes a second story edited by Assistant Editor Martin Biro featuring Firebird. It’s the work of Kalinda Vazquez and Alba Glez.
And the fourth issue of MOON KNIGHT: CITY OF THE DEAD by David Pepose and Marcelo Ferreira sees the Crescent Crusader consumed in the afterlife and having to face the decisions he made during his time in the land of the living.
And over in the land of MARVEL UNLIMITED, we begin a new era for Earth’s Mightiest Heroes! AVENGERS UNLIMITED is over, but this week we launch AVENGERS UNITED! What’s the difference? Well, on top of calibrating with the line-up change that’s taken place in the main AVENGERS series, we’ve also discovered that the Infinity comics that tend to attract the greatest readership are the ones that serialize for a while. Which was a surprise to me, I thought that the shorter bits that we had been doing were more likely to do well in that space. So we’ve thrown caution to the wind, and AVENGERS UNITED will open with a 25 part story written by Derek Landy and illustrated at least at the start by Marcio Fiorito. I say at the start because, in order to give people easy places to hop on, we’ve subdivided the 25 issues up into chapters of 5 parts each. But it’s by far the longest storyline we’ve attempted in this format—and this is your chance to see if we are able to pull it off or if it all comes apart at the seams! I’m hoping for the former.
A Comic Book On Sale 20 Years Ago Today, October 8, 2003
Again, not much real choice when it came to the book to spotlight this week. When it first came out, nobody paid a whole lot of attention to THE WALKING DEAD. For one thing, it wasn’t a super hero title, it was a zombie book (although you’d be hard-pressed to tell that from this first cover). Writer Robert Kirkman had just started to make a name for himself, having launched INVINCIBLE after earlier doing series such as BATTLE POPE and a bit of work for Marvel, notably a JUBILEE series around this time. and Tony Moore wasn’t a well-known name either. As you’d expect, the book started out slow, but then it began to catch on, to get some attention. It’s core concept of being a zombie apocalypse film that simply doesn’t end and which follows the characters through their hardships and tribulations as they attempt to survive in a world gone mad touched a bit of a nerve. But it was really the arrival of the Television adaptation that shot this book into the stratosphere—for months and months, the back-catalog of trade paperback collections of the entire run so far became the best-selling books in the marketplace. And in retrospect, you can understand why. It was the perfect comic book to give to people who didn’t ordinarily read comic books. It was certainly violent and gory, but it was also funny and life-affirming and affecting. And Kirkman wasn’t precious with it—he’d kill and main his characters with abandon (sometimes with regret afterwards, as he eventually realized that having protagonist Rick Grimes lose a hand made it difficult for him to do a lot of things—oops.) I think it’s a book that read well in singles (which is how I read it throughout its run) but which probably reads even better in collected form, where you can better feel the ebb and flow of the storyline, and events that happened issues earlier are still fresh in the reader’s mind when they become important again later. Famously, Kirkman had a bit of a time getting Image to take on THE WALKING DEAD. In order to get them to bite, he fibbed to Image’s then-publisher that the cause of the zombie outbreak was a pending alien invasion; an invasion he had no intention of ever realizing in the series. But it did its job, it got the series picked up, and both Kirkman and Image benefitted from that untruth. I also have to give Robert props for ending the series on his own terms when he wanted to, despite the fact that it was still red hot and could have kept running indefinitely. Pretty much anybody else would have kept that freight train rolling and counting up the stacks of cash, but not Robert. He’s a contrary son of a gun, but Kirkman did things his way, and through a combination of talent and timing and luck, he wound up creating one of the most successful properties of the 21st Century.
A Comic I Worked On That Came Out On This Date
IRON MAN #73 was released on October 8, 2003. This was not a great period for old Shellhead in that there was a ton of creative turnover on the title, and it shifted directions almost haphazardly, often due to outside factors. In particular, it was a book that Marvel President of the time Bill Jemas didn’t really care about, and so it became a ready dumping ground for a number of the new writers he was attempting to bring into Marvel from other fields. Bill had decided that the existing bench of comic book writers didn’t really know how to write (or write in the manner that he preferred) and so he intended to recruit from outside the industry and indoctrinate these newcomers into his way of thinking. This didn’t go so well, though Marvel did get a few good longtime contributors out of this process such as Greg Pak. In any event, this issue began the writing tenure of John Jackson Miller on the book, John was a very nice guy, but he got this gig by fiat; this was during the time when Bill was getting his “Project; Greenlight”-style initiative EPIC COMICS off the ground. The idea behind EPIC was that prospective new Marvel creators would submit a pitch and five sample pages of a new series. If it was given the go, they would be paid a lump sum to produce the book, out of which all associated costs would come. So Bill would get new creators that he could mold in his image, and Marvel would get a bunch of new books that cost relatively little to produce. The problem was that, pound for pound, the people who weren’t working for Marvel yet weren’t ready to work for Marvel yet—they didn’t have the necessary chops to play at that Major League level. But to make things work, Bill needed for the first EPIC books to be stepping stones into genuine paying work. One of the first EPIC projects to be given the go-ahead was CRIMSON DYNAMO, a limited series written by John Jackson Miller and illustrated, at least in the first issue, by Steve Ellis. It was about a punkish Russian kid who found a suit of the Crimson Dynamo’s armor and used it for personal gain. becoming a target in the process. Pretty much before the book even came out, Bill decided that John should be given the regular IRON MAN series to write. John had written up a proposal, but I don’t think Bill ever even bothered to read it. This was all presented to me as pretty much fait accompli. John’s concept was relatively clever: he had Tony Stark, the former arms manufacturer, taking on the job of the Secretary of Defense of the United States of America. Now, this wasn’t necessarily the most exciting place for the character to be in order for super hero stories to break out, but that wasn’t really what Bill had been driving at anyway. He was putting forward the idea, based on the success of the opening of ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN, that the characters could go for issues without putting on their costumes or doing anything heroic, just so long as there was drama there. As everybody was being directed towards building all storylines at six issues so that they could more readily be collected in book form, this led to a bunch of saggy plotting, as situations that might have made for a good four-part adventure wound up ballooning to six in order to make the page counts. This happened in a relatively short window, but it coincided with the launch of this era of IRON MAN. The artist on the series was Jorge Lucas, who had a style that contained echoes of Jack Kirby’s work. Initially, it was going to be Salvador Larroca who drew this series, but he wound up needed for something else—I forget precisely what, but it may have been Bill’s NAMOR series, which was coming out at around this time as well. Anyway, Jorge was a good, hard-working contributor, as was John. But the direction didn’t really catch fire. And when Bill was shortly thereafter sidelined, the decision was reached to relaunch and refocus the assorted AVENGERS titles under the AVENGERS DISASSEBLED banner, with Brian Michael Bendis and David Finch on the main series. Brian brought Tony’s time as Secretary of Defense to a quick, dark close in those pages, wherein the Scarlet Witch secretly hexes Tony while he’s giving a live interview, intoxicating him and making him seem unfit for office. The whole matter was dispensed with in just a few pages. And CRIMSON DYNAMO didn’t fare much better. After the first issue was released, the subsequent ones ran into production problems, with other artists being pulled in and the release schedule collapsing. Additionally, and unsurprisingly, the sales numbers for a CRIMSON DYNAMO series were bleak, and even at the reduced rates the title was being produced under, the back end of the run failed to make any money. The EPIC experiment was a well-intentioned idea, but one that was built on a foundation of hubris and fantasy that evaporated the moment it came time to actually produce and sell the work.
I spent a portion of my Saturday today reading through the newly-released WALTER SIMONSON FANTASTIC FOUR ARTIST EDITION from Scott Dunbier at IDW. For those who may be unaware, the ARTIST EDITIONS reproduce vintage stories from the original artwork boards at the size that the work was originally drawn. So these are monster volumes, big and heavy, the closest thing there is to reading the stories directly from the original boards you can get outside of the offices. This particular tome collects the entirety of the first five and last three issues of Walter’s FANTASTIC FOUR run from 1989 and thereafter. This was the last run that I started reading as just a fan—I was hired after the first issue or two had come out, and I can recall briefly conversing with Walt one Friday night after hours as he brought the very late boards for an issue in to editor Ralph Macchio. It was a run I really enjoyed, and reading it here again for the first time in years, I think it’s even better in black and white and ad size, where you can really appreciate the boldness of Walt’s Jack Kirby-inspired designwork. The stories here are epic, and in some ways only marginally revolve around the Fantastic Four themselves—the opening five-part adventure picks up on plot threads laid down in Walter’s recently-concluded AVENGERS run, and contain so many guest-stars that the cosmic quartet are often bystanders in their own series. And yet, the sweep and scope of things still make these adventures work. The volume also includes the stories that introduce the Time Variance Authority and Mr. Mobius, late of LOKI fame, who was based visually on Marvel’s continuity-minded Executive Editor Mark Gruenwald. And also a fabulous one-off in which Mr Fantastic and Doctor Doom duel through time across a span of five minutes, shifting backwards and forwards through the comic while the other characters experience events linearly. It’s a complicated build but one of the most audacious experiments with the form Marvel had published up to that time, and a little bit of an inspiration for us to try things like the much later SILVER SURFER Moebius Loop issue we did. In any event, I had a blast revisiting these stories, and I’d recommend the volume to anybody who might be even a little bit interested or who is trying to figure out how to add a bit more scale and scope to their artwork. It’s graphically superior.
Posted at TomBrevoort.com
Yesterday, I wrote about the first issue of DEVIL DINOSAUR by Jack Kirby.
And five years ago, I posted about the first of three issues of MARVEL'S GREATEST COMICS that I bought featuring Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s Fantastic Four.
My dumb realization of the other day: we now have enough subscribers to this feature to start our own Green Lantern Corps, so that’s pretty cool (and miles beyond the sort of audience that I expected to be able to draw with this thing.0 So thanks for being around, and have yourself a good week—we’ll resume again next Sunday!
Hat’s All, Folks!
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