With news breaking unceremoniously in Diamond’s “Previews” catalogue for September-shipping comics, J. Michael Straczynski’s Eisner-nominated run on Marvel’s “Thor” is coming to an end.
Two “Thor” books are solicited for September: a “Thor” annual by Peter Milligan, Mico Suayan and Clay Mann, and a 64-page “Thor: Defining Moments Giant-Size” #1 by Straczynski and Marko Djurdjevic. The solicitation notes the issue will conclude Straczynski’s run with the character.
CBR News checked in with the fan favorite writer and Straczynski (better known to his fans as JMS) confirmed that he is indeed leaving “Thor” later this year. As reported by ROBOT 6, the writer had been considering ending his run with the hugely acclaimed book once he saw what he called “The Siege of Asgard Big Crossover Event” looming before him.
Straczynski, who has made no secret that he longs to write a Superman title one day, also teased that he may be moving from the House of Ideas to the House of Kal-El at some point too.
CBR: Why is it time to leave “Thor,” a book that you’ve led to an Eisner nomination?
J. Michael Straczynski: When I took on “Thor,” I asked if I could keep him out of the rest of the Marvel Universe books for the first six issues, just to give the character time to get back on his feet and so that I could define him on his own terms. And to Marvel’s credit, they agreed.
The one concern at the back of my head was that of being pulled into a Big Event that could affect the forward momentum of the book and alter its direction. I’ve said elsewhere that in many cases — and this isn’t just Marvel, the trend is pandemic — such an event can sometimes result in the individual books serving the event, rather than the other way around, and you have to spend months and issues afterward stitching everything back together. I’m the kind of writer who likes to write in a straight line and know for certain the terrain he’s standing upon. Some writers can handle all that and never break a sweat. For me, it’s just not something I can do competently. That’s a shortcoming on my part and I recognize it as such.
Prior to the reboot, when “Thor” was selling in the mid-50s, a Big Event wouldn’t have been much of a concern, but now it was selling in the top ten month after month, and that increased visibility meant it could precipitate an event. And, again without saying much because this has to come from Marvel, such an event appeared on the horizon.
I agonized over this for months, then finally — and I’m trying to remember when the email chain took place, but I think it was somewhere either just before or just after the first of the year — I went to the ever-patient and wonderful [editor] Warren Simons, and the equally patient, warm and fuzzy [Publisher] Dan Buckley, and said of the coming event, “I really, really hate this, because creatively I’m having the time of my life, but I think I need to let go of the book or risk screwing it up when we hit the Event.” It was an awful decision, not just because it’s a hit book, but because it’s the only place I could do that sort of faux-Shakespearean style of dialogue that I love so much. There’s simply no other book out there where you can indulge in that.
There were no creative differences, no animosity, no rancor… just the question of how to handle being caught in the switches by my own shortcomings and ineptitude. I have to say here that Warren and Dan were absolutely understanding and supportive and gentle with me — there are no horror stories here. They are gentlemen and scholars and the kind of business-men you want to work with, because through it all they remain human beings, and that’s rare.
The publishing schedule for the book was then slowed down and stretched out to accommodate the search for a new writer, because finding someone to come on with short notice is tough. I have no idea who they’ve chosen — I imagine that will be in the release or, at latest, at [Comic-Con International in] San Diego — but I’m sure it’ll be a terrific choice.
Why do you think your re-launch of “Thor” proved so successful?
I’m the last person to ask, being very subjective about the book, but my sense is that it came from several aspects: First, the terrific art by Olivier [Coipel] and Marko [Djurdjevic], who are just stunning talents. Second, the choices we made in re-booting the character – the new costume, and in particular dropping the faux-Chaucer and going with faux-Shakespeare or, maybe more accurately, faux-Christopher Fry. Third, constructing the issues so that they somewhat stood alone, telling a full tale, while advancing the overall arc. And fourth, I think that keeping Thor out of the MU allowed him to really stand on his own as a character.
Are you going to have enough pages to give your run on a proper ending in the remaining issues of “Thor” and the “Thor: Defining Moments Giant-Size” #1?
Actually, unless I missed an email somewhere — which is altogether possible, you should see my desk, so if I’m wrong I’ll take the rap for it — I wasn’t aware there was going to be a Giant-Size issue until I read about it in the online solicits. That aside, I’m leery of giving it too much of a hard ending because whoever takes the book on next has to begin seguing it into the Big Event, and I don’t want to accidentally cut him off at the knees by making it too much of The End, Full Stop, Everybody Go Home Now. The forward momentum of the book has to be preserved. But I do plan to tie up a lot of the loose ends that might get in the way of a new writer. The rest of the planning beyond that point will have to come from Marvel.
The only other thing I can say with regard to Marvel is that after finishing “The Twelve” — and yes, it’s going to be finished come hell or high water — future projects for Marvel will probably be mini- and maxi-series where all of the scripts are written and being drawn before the book is even solicited. We did this with “Bullet Points” and “Silver Surfer: Requiem” and that worked out just right. The readers can often be very patient, and they’ve had to bear the burden of the slowed schedule on “Thor,” but going on from here I really want to ensure that books come out when and as they’re supposed to. The only way to do that is to have the whole thing written before anyone says boo about it. Not that I know a lot of people who go around saying Boo…I’m just saying.
What can you share with us about what we’ll see as Thor events unfold between now and September?
Not a darned thing.
Can fans expect to see you take more work at DC Comics?
Before getting to DC, one of the things that will be facilitated by the time and space previously occupied by “Thor” is the deal I made with Image Comics to do two creator-owned titles for them. We made the deal almost a year ago, but I felt guilty about doing something of my own that would take away time from my obligations on “Thor.” So I can now address that deal with, as Balzac said, “clean hands and composure” and get those two books on the rails.
The DC work has gone and is going extremely well. We’re about six scripts deep into “The Brave and The Bold,” believe it or not. I just wrote Batman and Brother Power, the Geek, and it may be the best of the bunch, so we’re way ahead since the first issue doesn’t ship until September. All four Red Circle scripts are in and drawn, and I’m working on a secret project for DC that I hope we can discuss at San Diego Comic-Con. Suffice to say: anyone who knows me knows that there’s something I’ve wanted to do for my entire creative life, something that I’d give my right arm to write…something I’ve been actively chasing for over ten years. There’s one character, one property, that if George Lucas said “Here’s a million dollars, go write whatever you want and I’ll shoot it, but you’ll have to drop that book,” I would say no and never, ever look back.
And I hope I can explain that in more detail at San Diego.