Comic book history was made in 1939 with the release of “Marvel Comics” #1, which introduced readers to Carl Burgos’ original android Human Torch and Bill Everett’s Sub-Mariner. It was the first title from publisher Martin Goodman’s new Timely Comics imprint and it was such a pivotal moment in the company’s history that years later Marvel Comics would become the company’s official name — a name change that marked the beginning of period in which Marvel revolutionized comics with the introduction of classic characters like Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, the X-Men and more.
75 years later, Marvel Comics is more successful than ever with a history that includes a wealth of characters and stories produced by some of the biggest and best names in comics. This October, that history will be celebrated in the “Marvel 75th Anniversary Celebration,” an anthology featuring an all-star collection of characters and creators. CBR News spoke with Marvel Executive Editor and Senior Vice President of Publishing Tom Brevoort about the book, 75 years of Marvel, and what’s next for the groundbreaking industry giant.
CBR News: Tom, how did this project come about? What inspired the anthology format instead of, say, a miniseries? Or a series of specials?
Tom Brevoort: Well, the project came about because our company lasted 75 years. That was pretty much it, and doing a special seems more commemorative than doing a series of things or what have you. Plus, while it’s a wonderful thing for us that our company has been around for over 75 years, I don’t know how much overall interest there is from everybody else in the world to generate excitement for issue upon issue. It seems to me that one excellent celebratory special will do the job and make the point better than a miniseries or several specials.
What was it like putting this special together? Did you know from the get go which characters and creators you wanted to involve?
Not especially. I made it up as I went along; [Laughs] I called people for stuff as myself and the rest of the Editorial crew had ideas for stories. I didn’t start out with a laundry list. I had a sense of what the vibe should be, the sort of material it should contain, and the sort of breadth it should cover, but the specifics of it came as we started to reach out to people.
In terms of vibe, the current Marvel 100th anniversary specials sort of celebrate Marvel’s possible futures, but I understand this anthology is about revisiting and celebrating some great work done by past creators. Is that accurate?
I don’t know if it’s as much revisiting as it is commemorating. We’re not specifically trying to do stories that say, “Gee, we did really good stuff 20-40 years ago.” We’re trying more for “look at all the stuff we’ve done during these 75 years, and will continue to do in the 76th year.”
Let’s break down the stories for our readers. I understand this book has a “Captain America” story by Bruce Timm?
Yes, technically by Bruce and Stan Lee.
â€¨The first thing Stan wrote for Timely back in the day, and it’s been reprinted a bunch of times over the years, was this little two-page text filler. Back in those days in order to classify for second class mailing permits any magazine publication had to have at least two pages of text. So they would run these two page text stories that as far as most people were concerned nobody read. The kids of the day would read the comics and skip over that stuff.
â€¨So the very first thing Stan ever wrote was this little two-page story, “Captain America Foils the Traitor’s Revenge.” It’s a vintage Cap story and Bruce is basically taking that as his starting point and adapting it into an actual eight-page comics adventure. It’s sort of his homage to the original Joe Simon-Jack Kirby stories of that era. Then theoretically, assuming I get it all together in time and Stan has the time, Stan will dialogue it. So it will be both Stan’s oldest story and newest story at the same time.
Speaking of Stan’s work, I believe the “Marvel 75th Anniversary Celebration” also features a story by James Robinson and Chris Samnee that goes back to Stan’s classic “Fantastic Four” run. Is that correct?
That’s not quite right and it’s not entirely a Fantastic Four story. It’s a story that’s set around the rocket voyage that created the Fantastic Four, but it’s really about the first real day of the Marvel Universe.
â€¨While there are stories and elements that go as far back as the Golden Age, we really track Marvel as an entity since 1961; since the publication of “Fantastic Four” #1. That’s when what we think of as Marvel today really began. So this story takes that moment where the Fantastic Four sneak into the missile base, steal their rocket, and go up into space and get their powers and it sort of becomes a montage across the Marvel Universe as we get to see what other people were doing while these events were going on.
So we get to check in with people all across the Marvel Universe. And not necessarily just people who were ’60s characters. We’re going to check in with heroes and villains all the way up to more modern figures such as Ms. Marvel and the newest Nova, Sam Alexander.
So it’s not really fair to say it’s a Fantastic Four story and it’s not really fair to say it’s completely a vintage story. It’s a Marvel Universe story in the same sort of way that there are big, significant events. Where were you when President Kennedy was shot? Where were you when the Towers fell on 9-11? This story is really where were you when the Fantastic Four took their space flight?
So in a way it’s a prologue to the Marvel Universe?
Sort of. It’s kind of the first day of the Marvel Universe. It’s a very James Robinson story. It’s of his oeuvre. If you think of the sort of things he did in the past whether it’s “Starman,” “The Golden Age” or some of the other things he did around the Justice Society characters that really played with and played into the history of the characters and the lineage of the publishing. It’s that sort of story and Chris Samnee is illustrating it.
I sent it over to Chris and he was like, “Wow! This eight-page story crosses off so many things on my bucket list! I don’t ever have to draw another story after this.” [Laughs] I said, “I’m glad you’re excited Chris, but you can still draw another story after this.” I think it’s going to be a fun, strong piece.
Again, not quite. Bendis and Michael Gaydos are going to do a Jessica Jones story. The way I define that is “Alias” was a MAX series. It was set in the Marvel Universe, but it was a MAX book. In terms of the tenor, language, violence and content it was hardcore.
â€¨This is a Jessica Jones story. So it sits in the Marvel Universe. It’s the same character. She just won’t be working quite so blue here. I’m really splitting hairs here though. It essentially is an “Alias” story. It’s a Jessica Jones investigation; a case that she takes on that has ties back to events earlier in the history of the Marvel U.
Is this an “untold tale?” Or is this Jessica as a working mom and detective?
It is Jessica in the present. So it’s not an “untold tale.” It’s happening right now and presumably she’s a working mom although I don’t know how much we’ll really see of Luke Cage or Danielle in the course of this story because it’s only eight pages.
And speaking of creators returning to the characters they created, we’ll also be getting a Wolverine story by Len Wein, correct?
Yes, that story is being illustrated by Paul Gulacy. Len is doing a story of Wolverine that is set very early in his X-Men tenure. It’s pretty much set during that brief blip right at the beginning when Len was writing the new X-Men; right before he handed the book over to Chris Claremont. You don’t really need to know that to understand the story, but it’s set that early and it’s a story about Wolverine.
Len, for all that he created the character, hasn’t really written a whole lot of Wolverine. So this is a chance for him to dig into not just the character as he originally conceived him, but the character as he’s been built, and developed, and fleshed out over all the decades that have come.
It’s a Len Wein story so it’s got a real core of emotionalism to it and it should be lovely. Especially given that, by this point, Wolverine will be dead. So it’s the only Wolverine story you’re getting that month. You better like it because there’s not going to be another one!
[Laughs] I also understand there’s a Stan Goldberg story. What can you tell us about that?
There’s a story by Tom DeFalco and Stan Goldberg and inked by Scott Hanna. It’s a Spider-Man story set back during the days when Spidey was in college. It’s a Spider-Man story with action, adventure, and what Tom would call “Hoo-Ha,” but really it’s about Peter, Mary Jane, Gwen, Harry, Flash and the gang in College or at the Coffee Bean.
So it’s very much in keeping with the work that Stan has done the most of over the last 30 years or so. Whether that was “Millie the Model” or all the “Archie” work that he did following that. Most people probably don’t realize this, but in addition to being a fine artist and cartoonist Stan Goldberg was also Marvel’s staff colorist back in the early days and is the person that made the decision that the Thing would be orange, that Spider-Man would be red and blue, and that the Hulk would originally be gray and then green.
He picked the colors for all of those classic characters. So he’s really a forgotten forefather in a way because there were no colorist credits in those days. So Stan has been around and part of Marvel proper really since the dawn of what we think of modern Marvel and before. So it’s very nice to have him and his work represented in this thing.
Beyond those stories there will be some other features. We’re still fleshing some of them out. Brian Bendis and I have been talking about doing a series of covers to issues that Marvel never published or wouldn’t publish. Assuming that we do that it will be done by a bevy of artists. We’ll reach out to a bunch of different artists that Brian wants to do a page or a fake cover with.
We’re also going to have some manner of memorial section to commemorate all of the various creators who are no longer with us, but who have contributed to the tapestry of Marvel over 75 years. Plus we’ll have some other behind the scenes things as well. There will be some material that ran on Marvel.com.
So it’s going to be a fairly complete package as an edition. And it will have a great painted Paolo Rivera cover that he really killed himself on.
“Marvel 75th Anniversary Celebration” #1 arrives in October.