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#81: Ore Wa Senshi
So this was by far the busiest, most event-filled week in recent memory, and even though I’ve spent the day to day removed from the action that’s still going on, my much more sedate body is still recovering from the additional strain placed upon it by the events of the past week.
To begin with, we held one of our regular Marvel Retreats on Tuesday and Wednesday. These are meetings in which pretty much the whole of Editorial and a number of key creators get together to map out storylines across the Marvel Universe for the coming months. What made this one especially noteworthy was that it was the first one we’d done in person in close to four years. And having struggled with trying to do these meetings over zoom and the like the past few years, it was a genuine relief to mostly be able to interact in person (aside from a handful of people who for one reason or another could not be in attendance in person. But it also took up a lot more stamina and endurance—especially because the process didn’t stop at the end of the work day. I stayed over in the city rather than commuting home between the two days, which meant that I hung around for the after-work dinner and drinks session which is where a lot of the real work gets done, in a more informal and collegial atmosphere. But it meant getting up early in the morning as usual, commuting into the city, working pretty much without a break all throughout the day, then racing over to get checked in and then walking across town to the restaurant. I was crashed out by the end of the evening, but wound up sleeping poorly, so i was a bit more ragged the second day—which was when I had to go over a big FANTASTIC FOUR-centered thing that you’ll hear about later on in time as well as outline my general composition of the X-Titles for the start of my custodianship of that line. It all went well—though I was constantly having to remind myself, as some question came up about something in the Avengers/Marvel Heroes area that I didn’t need to have an opinion on that any longer, and to let me successors carry the ball there.
Immediately after that, on Thursday, New York Comic Con began—and is still going on as of this writing. If you weren’t at New York Comic Con, then chances are that you don’t have Covid. For the rest of us, it’s a coin toss that only the next couple of days is going to decide. Apart from being potentially plague-ridden, the show seemed to be well-attended and busy, even on Thursday—which is the only day I was there. I had forgotten about how grueling the walk from Penn Station over to the far-away Javitz Convention Center was, and so I was pretty much jagged out before I even entered the show floor. But the one panel that I was on seemed to go over all right, and I got to see and/or meet a bunch of creators, though not everybody that I was hoping to check in with. To represent my new position as X-Editor Elect, I came attired in a print shirt featuring a vast conglomeration of X-characters, not really my usual style but I thought it was worth “flying the colors” for this initial outing. I bought nothing—I don’t really do any shopping at shows for the most part, largely because I don’t want to be burdened with carrying my purchases around for the rest of the day. It’s all weight, and just as easily found and shipped to my home if it’s something that I’ve simply got to have. I did get to confab with a couple of prospective X-creators, so that was worthwhile, and I made my escape by 5:00 in order to beat the traffic rush—and effort that wasn’t truly all that successful.
Because the real destination of the day was a memorial event that Marvel had put together to honor the late John Romita, held at the Society of Illustrators. And it was a lovely evening, with Marvelites past and present gathering to pay their respects. Virginia Romita, John’s wife, sadly did not attend, but both JRJR and his brother Vic did. It was the first time I’d met Vic, as well as his daughter (whose name starts with an A, but which I’m now uncertain of, so I’m leaving it out solely so that I don’t inadvertently get it wrong), and he has also inherited that sort of decent New York neighborhood outlook from John that JRJR also showcases. I hope that Eliot Brown won’t mind me appropriating the above panoramic photograph to give you a sense of the space and the attendees. There’s been a bit of consternation following this event from other Marvel-affiliated people past and present who were disappointed that they weren’t invited to attend. And I can understand that—everybody who worked with John had strong feelings for the man. But the venue was simply too limited in terms of space, and so hard choices had to be made
By the end of that night, I hadn’t had an actual meal all day, just a nibble at munchies here and there. So I wound up having to head out to the one McDonalds in my local area that has a 24 hour drive-thru. I figured that at 12:30 on a Thursday night, the place would be relatively empty, but I was wrong about that. It became very clear why their operation runs all night as the drive-thru was packed. I didn’t roll in home until after 1:00. Fortunately, I wasn’t going back into the city for the show for the rest of the weekend, and so was able to sleep in and recover a bit more readily.
But enough about my not-terribly-thrilling adventures, let’s see what you guys have on your minds this week:
I loved those Walt Simonson FF books; they're just rollicking good fun. I'm curious; I've heard so many stories about why Walt left the title. I've heard Marvel fired him because he was constantly late on the book; I heard he left because he was made that his wife was let go by Marvel; I heard that he was pushed off the book so Tom DeFalco could take it over.
As a younger, gullible man, I probably believed at least one and probably all of these rumors at some point. But as a saner, more mature grown-up, I realize that these are probably all inventions of a fanboy's mind. Since you were there, what's your recollection of why Walt left? And what did you think of Tom's subsequent run with Paul Ryan?
I got to enthuse to Walter on Thursday about just how good that Artist Edition of his FANTASTIC FOUR run was—Jonathan Hickman and I brought the Marvel Retreat to a full stop at a certain point as we geeked out on its majesty. But the honest answer is, Ray, I don’t know why Walter wrapped up his run when he did apart from the fact that it may simply have felt like it was time for him to do so. I wouldn’t want to conjecture at this late date. As for Tom and Paul’s follow-up, I thought that it was all right, but not as good as Tom’s similar throwback approach on THOR with Ron Frenz. In great measure, that was due to the fact that Ron always functioned as a co-plotter with Tom, helping to keep the stories on the beam. Whereas Paul was content to simply draw the plots that Tom gave him. So when Tom’s EIC duties would take up a bunch of his attention, the particulars of his FANTASTIC FOUR stories tended to wobble a bit. I can remember my assistant editor of the time Glenn Greenberg putting together the Trade Paperback collection of “No One Gets Out Alive!” and us trying to work out what to do, if anything, as there were plot points that would change without explanation from issue to issue—something that became readily apparent when it was all collected under one cover.
It's my strong belief that THE WALKING DEAD (and all the other zombie-related movies and stories that were about to engulf American pop culture in the early 2000s) greatly benefitted form the tragedy of 9-11. Not intentionally— I'm sure Robert (like myself) simply loves zombies and wanted to do an ongoing series set in a Romero-style universe— but the timing could not have been better because zombies are the perfect analogy for terrorism.
• You cannot reason with zombies
• Zombies are single-minded and relentless
• Kill one zombie, more will take its place
• Zombies could be anyone. Your neighbor who always tells those bad jokes you love to hate? He could be a zombie tomorrow.
• Zombies look like us, but they AREN'T us. (A basic tenant to any us/them scenario.)
• Zombies will either convert you or kill you. There is no peaceful co-existence with them.
The best monsters always work on a symbolic level— as different symbols in different stories— and when terrorism became real for Americans, it's no wonder zombies suddenly became a monster to be feared. And dealt with.
That’s a pretty cogent analysis, Karl.
I recently was digging through some boxes of random comics and came across a checklist-style Marvel comic entitled Marvel's Greatest Collections #1 from 2008. In the back you were quoted as saying Spider-Man omnibus 1 was your top desert island pick. That leads me to two questions:
1 - Does this still hold true?
2 - What's your approach to rereadability when you're already spending so much time with both current comics and recently-republished material?
Well, Brian, I think that the first AMAZING SPIDER-MAN Omnibus is still a pretty strong contender as it collects the entirety of Stan Lee and Steve Ditko’s collaboration on the strip. For all that I love the Lee and Kirby FANTASTIC FOUR more, Lee and Ditko’s ASM was pretty clearly the best-crafted series that Marvel was doing in the early days. In terms of rereadability, while I do occasionally attempt to go back to certain stories when the mood strikes me, I’m much more likely to do so when a new edition is published and so falls into my hands. I wouldn’t have reread Walt’s FANTASTIC FOUR without that Artist Edition, for example. Frankly, I’ve been known to order a collection of books that I want to revisit rather than to go upstairs and try to dig the copies out from the massive number of long boxes that they may be scattered among. Which is crazy, but that’s the way I roll from time to time.
Do you see a need for a modern day EPIC line at Marvel? I think originally it was there so that creators would be attracted to Marvel as a place where they could do work for hire and creator owned? Same with the ICON line. Some very cool books were produced while keeping creators happy.
Or as a training ground that the aborted 2000 era EPIC line could have been? Seems like a good endeavour for the industry (maybe not too profitable though?) Your thoughts Tom? Do the big 2 need to give creators/the fans an outlet for creator owned/new work?
The issue here has always been the same, JV. By definition, any creator-owned title nets Marvel less of a return on investment than any book featuring Marvel-owned characters. And Marvel books need to contribute to the overhead of running the company, paying for the offices and editorial salaries and production and so forth. There’s a magic margin number that we need to hit to keep the trains running, and creator-owned books really haven’t been able to provide us with that margin. So while it’s a thing we’ve experimented with in a bunch of different ways over the years, the underlying circumstance is that for every creator-owned title that Marvel carries, we need to produce at least one more Marvel-owned book in order to help make up the difference. Consequently, it can’t be a part of our core business. As for a training ground, that’s really what all of the other publishers are for, as well as online. Marvel shouldn’t be publishing the work of rookies, Marvel is the Big Leagues—like it or not, there’s a bar of performance that you need to evidence that you can hit before Marvel will become an option for you as a creator.
What are your internal calipers for how “shattered” a cover logos can be before it's unreadable? Or, conversely, if lots of small cracks and crumbs are worthless to added if they don't "read" like a shattered logo at first glance?
I don’t know that this is something that I can get into purely verbally, Jeff. But the answer, for what it’s worth, is that the logo still needs to be legible even though it’s being destroyed. So it’s really a “know it when I see it” sort of a judgment.
Like Matt Harris I've also been enjoying reading the Mighty Marvel Masterworks collections. They are an affordable way to pick up early Marvel issues, and I've been happy to discover than the slightly smaller size isn't hard on my increasingly older eyes. One question, though: Do you have any idea why, going on three years, there has yet to be an Iron Man volume? Could it be due to content? I know some of those early stories contain depictions that wouldn't fly, these days.
I don’t think it’s a matter of content, Michael, though I could be wrong. I suspect that it may have more to do with the fact that Iron Man has been pretty much on the bench in other media since the conclusion of AVENGERS: ENDGAME, and so there hasn’t been a particular reason to do an Iron Man volume since then. As those books are aimed mostly through more mainstream bookstore outlets, that’s a legitimate sales driver.
The Defenders Beyond section reminded me of a recent frustration I've had with Marvel, where new series are relegated to only four issues(see the new Thunderbolts, even Defenders: Beyond), instead of the usual 6 that other publishers give. To me, I think four issues doesn't really allow for stories to really expand and live up to their full potential, now granted, the book isn't even out, so who knows what it'll end up as - just initial concerns is all!
Is there any reason why Marvel has shifted miniseries down to that number, or is that one that creative teams just choose to stick with?
We’re constantly having to adjust the parameters of our publishing based on the marketplace, Zero, so this is simply another example of that. What’s become clear over the last few years is the fact that, if we’ve got a limited series that isn’t doing great business, it’s almost impossible to do an issue #5 that makes that necessary margin that I spoke about a few questions earlier. At that point, you’re actually digging the hole bigger rather than filling it up. So with that in mind, we’ve shifted things more often to a 4-issue model, in order to make certain projects that may have some aspect of risk to them more likely to be viable given that reality.
I’ve recently read the first few issues of Strange Tales that introduced Paste Pot Pete and I’ve always been meaning to ask someone who knows: but PPP’s name was based on the dirty limerick P*** Pot Pete right? If not, it’s a wonderful coincidence. If so, do you know if that was something slipped by editorial or if no one cared? And have there been other Marvel or DC characters named after dirty Limericks? I’d love to see “Paste Pot Pete versus the Girl From Nantucket” (who, given her propensity to wear a bucket over her head is something of a prototypical superhero or at least a relative to Irving Forbrush).
It certainly seems likely that Stan, Jack and Larry Lieber were pulling inspiration from that old limerick, Giovanni. I would guess that Kirby at least, given his military service, was aware of it. And since there isn’t anything dirty about the name Paste-Pot Pete per se, there really wasn’t anything to sneak past anybody.
Speaking of Avengers that aren't in the main series (and inspired by this week's question about Hawkeye), I wonder if there are any further plans for the Black Knights? Si Spurrier's recent work with the characters created a really interesting status quo, which was built on by David Pepose in Savage Avengers and Spurrier himself in Legion of X. With those titles gone, and the line-wide push to include Dane in more things now ended now Eternals is in the rear-view mirror (and sales presumably not being what was hoped) Dane and Jacks are homeless - any chance there's anything on the horizon?
No immediate definite plans for the Black Knight right this moment, Alex. But Dane did come up at least once during our Retreat, so maybe that will spark something.
Back in Timeless (2021) y'all ended the issue with the Miracleman logo. Feels like that got derailed at some point (unless I'm just assuming and Marvel was teasing a story 2+ years in advance). Is whatever that was still in the works?
Not at all, Zack. That MM symbol was intended to represent the publication of MIRACLEMAN: THE SILVER AGE, which has been coming out for the past few months. In the story, Dr. Petrov sees that symbol, and presumably the person wearing it, in one of the other timelines he glimpses in Kang’s citadel.
As someone who has limited space, I typically read via Marvel Unlimited. Does Marvel track how many readers a book has on Marvel Unlimited and take that into consideration for how successful a book is?
The honest answer here is not really, Ryan, not in the way that you mean. Because while we do track the number of reads for stuff on MARVEL UNLIMITED, by the time the books get released there, months have passed since they were on sale new. And the subscription fee for the service doesn’t generate the same return that a sale of the actual tangible comic book would—and so doesn’t contribute in the same way to that ever-present overhead.
Hello Tom. Good to see "Avengers United" serves as a replacement for the "Avengers Unlimited" Infinity Comics. Also, would this new Infinity Comics run only focus on the current roster of the Avengers team after this arc? Or are there any other Avengers member who isn't on the team (Monica, Wonder Man, Mockingbird, Hawkeye, or Tigra) would have a chance to get a story arc? Because otherwise having two Avengers run focus on the same roster team would be increasingly boring and repetitive. This is different from 'X-Men Unlimited Infinity Comic' where C-D list mutants get story arcs. Let's hope to have some big changes happen compared to previous Avengers Infinity runs.
Well, Simon, we’re kicking off AVENGERS UNITED with a 25-part story featuring the standing Avengers team. And after that, the series will be Wil Moss’s problem as the incoming AVENGERS editor. So it all really depends on how Wil chooses to use it. I’ve liked playing around with assorted characters and story types in AVENGERS UNLIMITED, but the analytics we were shown indicate clearly that longer stories are more likely to capture and retain readers, so I don’t know how much he’ll be pivoting back in that direction.
I’m probably the minority of readers who collected Crimson Dynamo in real time, and I enjoyed that series a lot. Though I do remember the slow release schedule and change in artists abruptly. Do you remember any other Epic concepts that were pitched at the time?
If you were reading CRIMSON DYNAMO in real time, Justin, then you were certainly in the minority. But I’m glad you liked it. As far as other concepts that were pitched to Epic, take your pick. If there was a character that was around back there, chances are that some prospective would-be creator pitched a book to Epic starring them. There were mountains of submissions, enough so that it took editorial a concentrated effort for a week just to go through and reject all of the unsuitable ones.
Behind the Curtain
.Let’s look at a piece of artwork, shall we?
What you see above is an unused cover to AVENGERS WEST COAST #55 as penciled by John Byrne. John produced covers for the series way ahead of the contents of the issues, and in this case his plans had to change when AVENGERS WEST COAST became dedicated to the concluding chapter of the ACTS OF VENGEANCE crossover that ran across the Marvel books that year. For those who can’t make out the penciled-in word balloons and the note from John to editor Howard Mackie, Magneto’s balloons are: SAVE YOUR STRENGTH, WONDER MAN! YOU CANNOT PIERCE MY FORCE BARRIER! and THE SCARLET WITCH BELONGS NOW TO MAGNETO! And the note reads; HOWARD—IF YOU FEEL TOO MUCH OF THE LOGO WILL BE COVERED BY MAGS & WANDA’S HEADS, FEEL FREE TO REDUCE TITLE AT BOTTOM & LOWER ART ACCORDINGLY.—POPS
Pimp My Wednesday
You know the drill! Here’s what’s coming at you from my office this week!
AVENGERS INC. #2 continues the mystery of Victor Shade and brings him face-to-face with special guest star the Vision, who he is decidedly not. There’s also a murder mystery at Avengers Mansion, one that requires the Wasp and her two associates to solve. And a bit more on the revelation that closed out our first issue. It’s brought to you by Al Ewing and Leonard Kirk.
And over in MOON KNIGHT, the three-issue crescendo that ends with the title character’s demise begins in issue #28, as having located Black Spectre and learned of his plans for the city, Moon Knight and his allies storm his citadel in the hopes of taking him down before he can bring his design to fruition. It’s another bone-crunching little epic from Jed MacKay and Federico Sabbatini.
And Thursday’s the new release day for installments of the all-new AVENGERS UNITED, so this week will see the second of 25 chapters coming to a screen near you. The Avengers are trying to prevent a falling spacecraft from annihilating Manhattan while also dealing with a deadly danger that’s aboard it. It’s written by Derek Landy and illustrated by Marcio Fiorito.
A Comic Book On Sale 55 Years Ago Today, October 15, 1968
Even ten, or twenty, or thirty years after this comic book first came out, most would consider the feature that debuted in its pages to be relatively obscure and unheard of. And yet today, it’s a name that is well-known to viewers of a trio of popular films as well as a very cool Holiday special. Which only goes to show, at Marvel even the failures are successes if you simply wait long enough. In any event, Fifty-Five Years ago, the first story to feature the Guardians of the Galaxy was released in the pages of MARVEL SUPER-HEROES #18—and thereafter promptly forgotten about for several years more. MARVEL SUPER-HEROES had started out as FANTASY MASTERPIECES, a reprint title that re-presented stories done by the current Marvel artists back in the company’s pre-super hero days. Eventually, it expanded its focus to reprint first Captain America stories from the Golden Age (as Cap co-creator Joe Simon was attempting to recapture the copyright to that material, Marvel publisher Martin Goodman wanted to reprint those stories to assert his rights to them) and thereafter Golden Age stories of the Human Torch and the Sub-Mariner as well. With issue #12, the name of the book became MARVEL SUPER-HEROES and rather than an all-reprint format, each issue led off with a new story starring a different character in emulation of DC’s successful SHOWCASE series. But MSH’s batting average was relatively poor. The first two issues featured Captain Marvel, the Marvel version intended to capture the copyright and trademark to the name away from a rival publisher, and which consequently received its own series thereafter. From there, the book fielded a lot of odds and ends: a rejected Spider-Man story illustrated by Ross Andru that Stan didn’t think was good enough for the main series, solo adventures of Medusa and the Black Knight and a new WWI character, the Phantom Eagle. And after this issue, stories starring Ka-Zar and Doctor Doom. None of these later efforts spawned any sort of follow-up, though a few of them would get regular strips in the years ahead. But let’s look a bit more at the Guardians of the Galaxy. It was the creation of writer Arnold Drake and artist Gene Colan, and for all that it was dressed up a bit to look like a super hero series, it was actually a science fiction adventure. Martin Goodman notoriously didn’t think that SF was saleable in comic books, so there was a need to obfuscate the genre here in order to get the okay to proceed with it.) It was set a thousand years in the future, in the 30th Century, where astronaut Vance Astro awakens after a Buck Rogers-like voyage through space and time to find himself in a solar system that has been conquered by the alien Badoon, a race that had recently been introduced in Stan Lee and John Buscema’s SILVER SURFER series. On the defensive almost from the start, Vance winds up teaming up with a trio of fellow travelers, each of whom comes from a different planet in the solar system and beyond it and who have been genetically modified to survive in the ecosystem of those worlds: Martinex from icy Pluto, Charlie-27 from massive Jupiter, and Yondu from Alpha Centauri, an actual alien. Vance has also gained telekinetic abilities during his thousand-year sleep, but his body has atrophied, and so if he removes his skintight space-suit, his body will decay into dust in instants. Battling their way clear of the Badoon and gaining an early victory over the Earth’s oppressors, the quartet decide to band together to liberate all of their homeworlds as a freedom fighter unit. And that’s all we heard from the Guardians until Steve Gerber brought them back in the pages of MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE many years later. As for MARVEL SUPER-HEROES, issue #21 was intended to feature a new character, Starhawk, but like Guardians of the Galaxy, the series was science fiction rather than super hero, and this time Martin noticed. He had the strip spiked—it was never completed, and the book went back to being all reprint, albeit reprints of more recent vintage starring the Avengers and Daredevil and the X-Men at the start.
A Comic I Worked On That Came Out On This Date
This final issue of DOUBLE DRAGON, #6, was released on October 15, 1990 and was co-written by myself and my writing partner Mike Kanterovich. It was based on the popular video game series of the same name, though there really wasn’t much backstory in place yet about it. Mike and I were brought on board by editor Evan Skolnick, a friend of mine, after the writer of the first four issues, Dwayne McDuffie, got too busy with other assignments to finish out the run. So we had to pick up the story threads that Dwayne had left behind and craft a fulfilling conclusion to the story from them. I’m not certain that we entirely succeeded, but I think that few enough people read these final two issues for it to matter either way. Regardless, this was the first “straight” action-adventure sort of a series Mike and I worked on. The issue was drawn by Sal Velluto, who’s best known for his extended tenure on BLACK PANTHER a decade later with Priest. But here’s the thing I wanted to talk about in relation to this issue. At the time, as young editors, both Evan and I had problems with the status quo up at Marvel, wherein editors were encouraged to write and often gave one another plum assignments. Established editors were also more likely to have their ideas for new projects accepted. We saw this as a corrupt system, one that rewarded glad-handing rather than quality or skill, and we would rail against it as our ideas for projects were rejected or sent back for revision. Like all of the younger editors of that era, we all had aspirations of writing freelance, of being able to parlay our skill and talent and revolutionize the industry with our wonderful ideas. I see the same sort of desire today in our modern junior editors, though not in regard to writing per se. It’s the nature of the young to think they know better than they do, and to bristle at the more established people who are ahead of them in the pecking order. All of which is a long-winded way of saying that, when the opportunity arose, we acted no differently than the established editors did. I was in no way qualified to be writing even a licensed tie-in series such as this one, and I only got the gig because Evan believed in me and my ability to tell a story—the more fool he. On the flip side, I also hired Evan for a bunch of gigs over the next few years, the big one being succeeding Fabian Nicieza on NEW WARRIORS once Fabe’s time had come to an end. I did a full-on bake-off for NEW WARRIORS, so concerned was I about not appearing partisan, and I got in about a dozen pitches which I still have in my possession today. (The most interesting one was by Warren Ellis, as it included prototypic versions of a few characters he would go on to use in other series later on.) Looking at those pitches today with more experienced eyes, the best-written one was Warren’s, but he characteristically wanted to turn the table over on the concept of the book, and that wasn’t something I was keen on doing. So with what remained, Evan was the best choice—but it still feels like a partisan move, because it is. When push came to shove, we acted no differently than the predecessors whose actions we spent countless lunches railing against. And over time, advice or guidance that had been given to me by some of those more experienced editors that I thought was foolish and out-of-=step with the marketplace at the time I now find myself saying to modern Marvel’s junior editors. The point being, I suppose: don’t be so sure of yourself and your purity, and pay attention when those who have been around longer than you have speak. They might know something worthwhile after all.
Another Comic I Worked On That Came Out On This Date
This issue of AVENGERS, #71, was released on October 15, 2003 and hasn’t been reprinted in its entirety in years. And that, my friends, is a story. So, first off, it’s worth knowing that, as I believe I detailed in a previous Newsletter, Marvel President Bill Jemas had been growing steadily more and more dissatisfied with the writers then working for Marvel, to the point where he started up the Epic Comics program in the hopes of bringing in some fresh talent that he could mold in his image. Bill certainly didn’t like my books—we had history that went back to his earlier days working on trading cards at Fleer, so ours was a complicated relationship. To try to improve relations, at a certain point when he was trying to get stories paced out more in the manner that he preferred, I wound up having new AVENGERS writer Geoff Johns speak directly to him, and to get his notes on the long arc we were planning, “Red Zone.” Bill’s opening line to Geoff was typical of him, “You don’t know how to write.” But Geoff had been trained in Hollywood and he’d taken aggressive notes from executives before, and so rather than being cower by Bill, he met each challenge head on, and in doing so, while Bill never entirely came around on his writing, he did gain a little bit of Bill’s respect. Now, at this time, Bill was pushing for our material to be edgier. THE ULTIMATES had been launched which featured more extreme versions of the Avengers characters—more violent, more sexualized, more dangerous—and it was a huge hit. Bill wanted to push the envelope in these directions a lot more. He felt that any attention was good attention, even if it was seemingly negative. And he made these preference known to Geoff through their discussions. Consequently, Geoff plotted a sequence in AVENGERS #71, the first issue after “Red Zone”, designed to steer into what Bill said he wanted. The issue focuses on Hank Pym and Janet Van Dyne, who had been estranged for years but who had been coming back together across the length of this run. The scene opened with a shot of a Las Vegas hotel with shouting coming from inside one of the rooms, shouting that made it apparent over the next few panels that the persons involved were Hank and Jan, and the misdirect was that Hank was striking her as he notoriously had in the past. But at the page turn, we find that Hank and Jan are rather in bed together, and that Hank has shrunk down to his ant-size in order to pleasure her more directly. It’s a dumb, adolescent shock-scene, the sort that really doesn’t have a place in a book like AVENGERS. But when Bill heard about it, he loved it, and pushed for it to be even more graphic and shocking. So these were the marching orders. End of the day, though, none of that abdicates me from my part in allowing all of this, I could have stopped this page at any point. There’s also a digression I need to talk about to give you some context for a bit of what came next. Bill was in his final days at this point, though nobody knew it yet, and he was growing more regularly erratic. Upset at the artwork in some recent issue of some title—I don’t recall which one—he decided that, going forward, EIC Joe Quesada would have to sign off on every page of every issue that was being produced. It was a tremendous bottleneck, a waste of time and resources and this only lasted for as long as Bill remained in charge, which wasn’t long. But this nonsense provided me with some good fortune. Because by the time AVENGERS #71 hit the stands, Bill was out, and so the shitstorm over this page fell directly on me alone. Fortunately, I had both the e-mails from Bill expressing his love for this scene and the sign-offs from Joe proving that everybody involved had both seen and blessed this sequence before it went to print, and so I wasn’t solely responsible, Marvel had approved the sequence. In the end, the decision was made to drop the offending page from the collected edition, and it hasn’t been reprinted since that initial printing so far as I know.
On a more prosaic note, cover artist J.G. Jones included the likeness of editor Lysa Hawkins on the cover of this issue, behind that big die in the foreground.
Been a bit busy to watch or read much of anything this week. I have been enjoying the second season of WELCOME TO WREXHAM, the documentary series focused on the Welsh Football Club that Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney purchased a few years ago. I liken it to watching seasons of TED LASSO except that it’s all real.
And I’ve been working my way through the latest hardcover collection of cartoonist Lynn Johnston’s FOR BETTER OR FOR WORSE as issued by Fantagraphics. It’s a strip that I truly enjoy, and so getting the entire thing in nice, sturdy well-designed volumes is a definite upgrade from the earlier paperback volumes issued when the strip was still running. It’s a bit of a cartooning master class and a lot of fun to revisit.
Posted at TomBrevoort.com
Yesterday, I wrote about the very last story featuring the Golden Age Fawcett hero Bulletman in the pages of MASTER COMICS #106.
And five years ago, I wrote about the first issue of FANTASTIC FOUR that I bought new off the stands.
Phew! Looks like that’s another installment in the can! Thanks as always for your attention and support—somebody else turned up this week pledging eight bucks per release, which is very nice even though I’ve no intention of ever charging for this service. In related news, I had the realization the other day that we now have more than enough followers to field our own Green Lantern Corps if we wanted to, so everybody stake out your space sector before somebody else gets there first!
See you all next time! Hat’s All, Folks!
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