Last Friday, Marvel senior vice president of publishing Tom Brevoort took over our Axel-In-Charge Q&A column for the week, discussing 2014 event “Original Sin” while Marvel editor-in-chief Axel Alonso represented the company at the South By Southwest Interactive festival in Austin, Texas.
Brevoort had plenty more to say, CBR News presents a special Brevoort Bonus Boogaloo, with the veteran editor’s thoughts on Dan Slott and Mike Allred‘s “Silver Surfer” series, debuting later this month; the long-game storytelling of Rick Remender on “Uncanny Avengers”; the need for further diversity he sees in Marvel’s line; and whether or not he’s feeling separation anxiety after ending his series-record editing run on “Fantastic Four.”
CBR News: Tom, when “Silver Surfer” was announced last fall at New York Comic Con, many readers got excited for that pairing of creative team and character. Readers won’t see it until the end of this month, but as someone who’s been involved since the beginning, what’s it been like watching “Silver Surfer” take shape, and has it met your expectations?
Tom Brevoort: Well, I’m sort of a biased witness here. [Laughs] I love that book dearly, even though it will inevitably shave years off of my life, solely because in doing it we’ve added one more book to Dan [Slott]’s schedule than he can possibly get done, with all of his Spider-Man commitments. There are definitely going to be some nail-biting, hair-whitening moments during the course of this adventure. [Laughs]
I think it’s great. It’s definitely the Silver Surfer book I would want to read. It’s definitely the most inviting, the most human Silver Surfer that we’ve seen in a long while — the most lively. That book is just alive, and there’s nothing else quite like it that we’re publishing. There’s a difference of ethos that is hard for me to quantify now before people have read too much of it, but it will be pretty apparent once you get into it. I just think it’s supercool, and I hope people check it out.
Dan, because of his travels in the world, slipped a copy of the first issue to Toby Whithouse, the creator of “Being Human.” Toby wrote us a glowing, wonderful laudatory note that we’re going to print in our second issue letters page. So we can unofficially officially say, “Endorsed by Toby Whithouse, creator of ‘Being Human'” — and if that doesn’t get you to put your money down, I don’t know what would.
The Mike Allred-illustrated pages that have been revealed so far have definitely been getting attention.
I think the Surfer is perhaps Doc’s favorite Marvel character. If not, he’s definitely in his top 2. When the idea for the book came up, and I knew Mike was going to be winding up on “FF,” I was able to go to him and say, “Hey Mike, we’re going to be wrapping up ‘FF.'” “Aww.” “But, we’re going to do ‘Silver Surfer’!” “Ooo!” He was on board in a second. I think he’s been waiting since he was like eight years-old to draw a Silver Surfer comic, and he is like a full-on ray of sunshine. If Mike and Laura are working on your book, the world is just 20 percent brighter. The positive energy that those folks radiate when they’re working on anything is ridiculous. Dan is an enthusiastic cat — you can see that from talking to him about Spider-Man and every other thing. But putting him in the orbit of Mike on this stuff, it’s sort of like him dealing with what he’s like to the rest of the world. [Laughs] It’s that level of unbridled joy and enthusiasm to be doing the stuff we’re doing, and telling the stories that we’re telling, and all the craziness that comes with it.
I think it’s a special book, and I’m hoping that it’ll find a good response, and have a long and happy life.
“Uncanny Avengers” is another book under your watch. I talked a little about it with Axel last week, but wanted your take — that series is seeing these incredibly major things happening — it looks like Captain America died and the Earth literally broke apart in pieces in the last issue — but it hasn’t yet been touched on in the rest of the Marvel line, and some readers don’t have a lot of patience for that kind of thing. Have you noticed much of that kind of response, from people who aren’t sure how it all fits in? And what would you say to those folks in terms of when they can expect to see the bigger picture start forming?
Some of this was a deliberate choice that we made early on, because we were going into such a long story. The Apocalypse Twins story really started in the framing sequence of issue #5, and issue #17 is the one that just came out. It’s been a dozen issues, and we’re not done yet. A lot has changed in the Marvel Universe since we started. So we took the approach that we were going to treat this the way we treated Joss [Whedon] and John Cassaday’s “Astonishing X-Men.” That book told its story, and events transpired around it in the other Marvel titles. Eventually, by the time you got to the end and Kitty was in the giant bullet being shot into space, everything kind of synced up again and away you went.
There will be a point — I want to say “Uncanny Avengers” #23 — where everything will kind of sync back up again, in terms of the Marvel Universe and where we are. The good part of the response that I’ve been getting has been from people who say either, “I don’t know where this fits in” or “you’re just going to press the magic, cosmic reset button at the end of this” — as they come back for each issue. [Laughs] And that, to me, is the key. Being invested enough and astonished enough in the ridiculousness that is coming out of Rick’s brain to carry you on that journey — and that the emotional beats of that journey are genuine, and have a lasting impact on the characters. Which all of this will. We’re about to move into the third and final phase, starting with #18, which is entitled “Avenge the Earth.” The scale of wackiness and absurdity that we’ve had up to this point has only been the prologue. You hit issue #18, and you are on another planet entirely — but in a good way. In a way that’s fearless in the bravura of its storytelling. Everything is going to begin to come to the crescendo, and then when the dust settles, we’ll see where we’re at. Hopefully, if nothing else, it will have been a crazy, exciting run.
It goes back to that double-edged sword thing — fans will tell you that they want to be surprised by stuff, that they want to feel things when they read their comics. And yet, sometimes when you do those things, they get nervous because it’s outside of their comfort zone. “Age of Ultron” is a good example of that. While “Age of Ultron” was coming out, pretty much right up to that last issue, there were people that were either outwardly sort of angry that it existed, or just confused and befuddled by how it fit together with the rest of the Marvel Universe. Then when it was all over and done, and they could understand how it fit together with everything, going back and reading the collection — they’re much happier with it. Brian [Michael Bendis] got a whole slew of new feedback when the hardcover dropped, and it was very different than the feedback that was going on while the issues were coming out. Now that it was fait accompli, people didn’t have to be so nervous.
To me, that roller coaster ride is part of why you’re buying the books. If we don’t take you at least a little bit outside of your comfort zone and make you nervous and make you appreciate the things that you have in the books month in and month out, or take you to places that you haven’t been before, then really all we’re doing is spending a lot of effort publishing new reprints. That’s not a game that has a lot of long term in it.
It seems to be a case of Marvel giving Rick Remender a lot of room to tell the type of long-form story he’s known for.
You begin to see it even in the end of #17, where Odin comes back and says, “I told you, all those years ago, back in issue #6, that this would be a problem, and you didn’t listen to me — or you forgot it, because it was 11 issues ago, son, you schmuck.” You can begin to see there are plot elements and themes and ideas that have been seeded for literally months that are going to come back together in what is, hopefully, a really satisfying and emotional conclusion over the course of the next bunch of issues — that you can only do if you give Rick the time to do his build, and do his set-up. Hopefully people will enjoy the end of the ride.
In the past few months, Marvel has debuted a lot of new titles under the “All-New Marvel NOW!” initiative, which have helped to add diversity, especially with more female-led titles. When you look at the current Marvel line, do you see further room for growth? Is there more of something you’d like to see? Or are you pretty content with how things are right now?
There’s always room for more; there’s always room for further diversity. Whether it’s more Latino characters, or more Black characters, or more LGBT characters — you pretty much can pick any group of people, and as long as you’re not talking about middle-aged white men like myself, they’re probably underrepresented in the world of superhero comics. It’s tough from a sales perspective, because all of the characters that are still the bedrock, firmament characters tend to be guys that were created in the 1960s if not earlier, at a time when comic books were predominantly, if not exclusively, white. While it’s nice that we’ve made some steps — we have more female-led books than ever before — that doesn’t mean we should stop coming up with them. Just because we have a few books that have Hispanic characters, that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t look for more opportunities to do more there. The same thing is true with every demographic that you can speak to. No matter where you happen to sit within the cultural zeitgeist, it’s never mission accomplished. It’s always, “What’s next?” There’s always going to be somebody who is underrepresented, or that you could represent more truthfully or more affectingly.
I would be a terrible editor for “Ms. Marvel” because that is not a culture I understand anything about. I just don’t have the background in it — I’d have to research it. I could do that, but it would be clinical research. It’s not genuine. It’s not my experiences. But the folks working on that title have that experience, and bring it to the project. On the one hand, I read it and I go, “This is great, it’s like reading something like ‘Ultimate Spider-Man’ — a new, young character’s heroic journey on a level that I can relate to and understand.” On the second level, it’s almost like a civics lesson. I feel like I’m learning about a culture and a set of experiences that I just haven’t had. And I think that’s cool.
I feel like we could use more books like “Ms. Marvel.” We’re capable of being more sophisticated in our storytelling these days than people were able to in years gone bye. The audience is older, the audience is more accepting and more sophisticated in terms of what they want in terms of characterization and emotional depth and emotional maturity. It really gives us the opening to explore any of these situations that human beings happen to exist in across the world. Hopefully, we’ll be able to continue to do that to a degree of infinite diversity.
So now that you’re a few months removed, are you having any separation anxiety from no longer editing “Fantastic Four”?
Strangely, not really. Once I was done, I was kind of done. I was able to say, “I’m finished, and now it’s the next guy’s turn.” I’m sure that at some point it will happen — probably as soon as somebody puts out a crappy issue. [Laughs] But that hasn’t happened yet. I’m a few issues deeper into what James [Robinson] and Leonard [Kirk] are doing than has been released so far, and while there are moments in each issue that are not necessarily things I would have done, there’s nothing in them that makes me go, “This doesn’t work, this isn’t the Fantastic Four, this is all wrong.” It’s great that somebody is bringing a fresh energy and a new perspective to this thing, and hopefully can take it to new heights, as great or greater than any that I had. I did send them a fan letter after the first issue dropped, and I made sure to point out that my text page was better than Mark [Paniccia]’s.
Stay tuned to CBR News for more on the many Marvel Comics projects edited by Tom Brevoort.