Though there was plenty of talk coming out of last week’s Emerald City Comicon, one of the surprises pieces of news came from Marvel Comics’ Next Big Thing panel where it was announced the publisher had signed writer Nick Spencer to an exclusive contract.
Launching into comics quickly, the writer’s first gig came only in 2009 with the Image Comics mini “Existence 2.0,” but soon after a string of other creator-owned comics earned the scribe a reputation with readers for head-turning twists on classic pulp formulas. Last year, Spencer launched the acclaimed “Morning Glories” ongoing at Image, focusing on six students trapped in a mysterious and deadly private academy, as well as two projects at DC Comics -Â a series of “Jimmy Olsen” stories and a revival of the Wally Wood classic “T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents” -Â which helped his star rise further.
The writer’s first Marvel book is the War Machine-centric “Iron Man 2.0” whose first Barry Kitson-drawn issue hit in February. Though in recent months, the House of Ideas has made moves towards utilizing Spencer’s talents more often including an incoming “Fear Itself” tie-in arc on “Secret Avengers.” With the cat out of the bag on his Marvel gig, CBR News spoke to the writer about how the collaborative atmosphere of the publisher’s creative retreats combined with some key gigs on books impacting the Marvel Universe made up his mind for him and how the deal won’t step on the toes of his current series for Image and DC.
CBR News: Nick, congratulations on the exclusive. This seems the capper on a lot of activity for you over the past few years, from launching multiple series at Image through taking on a boat load of work for hire gigs in the past year. Was there something specific when it came to Marvel right now that made you want to take your career in the company exclusive direction?
Nick Spencer: It’s a funny thing. I’ve been very lucky in that my creator-owned work has built up enough of a following and has enough support from retailers and fans that I didn’t need to do this. I didn’t have a bunch of long-suffering creator-owned books that weren’t paying the bills and so I had to sign an exclusive to get a payday. Thankfully, that wasn’t the position I was in because of “Morning Glories” and “Infinite Vacation.” This was all about me getting to do something I’ve wanted to do for a long time and something I’ve had as a career goal pretty much from day one -Â that is to be a part of that writing group that’s powered Marvel forward over the last ten years. Rather than any guaranteed amount of work or anything else in the fine print of the contract, this was about getting to work on the stories with a lot of guys I respect and admire at Marvel -Â guys like Brian Bendis, Jonathan Hickman, Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction, Kieron Gillen, Rick Remender, Kelly Sue DeConnick and Jason Aaron. Like a lot of fans and a lot of Marvel Comics readers, I’ve always been fascinated by the whole “retreat culture” and the atmosphere of collaboration that got started under Joe Quesada. That’s something I’ve always been interested in and have always been excited about becoming a part of.
What has been the experience so far working with these guys? I know you haven’t been at a big retreat yet, but over the past few weeks as you’ve been working on “Iron Man 2.0” and being at cons like Emerald City, have you gotten a good idea for how you’ll fit in to Marvel’s plans?
Yeah. So far people know about me doing “Secret Avengers” and “Iron Man 2.0,” but there’s a lot more on the pipeline that I’m working on right now. When I came in and sat down with the Marvel guys for the first time, it was Joe, Axel [Alonso] and Steve Wacker and all the guys that steer the ship at Marvel. For me, it was immediately a signal that they were interested in having me there to not do things off to the side. They wanted to get me involved in the big things that they have planned for the next couple of years. It’s been a real deep immersion for me in what’s happening at Marvel, and it’s all really exciting stuff. It felt like they really wanted me to dive in head first, and a lot of what I’m working on is big, big stuff that people will be excited about reading.
I’m sure you can’t spoil what you’ll be working on down the line, but are there any pieces of Marvel that as a fan you’re drawn to playing with at some point in your tenure?
It’s a really tricky thing, obviously, because you can’t tip your hat to what you’re working on, and if there’s a character that you’d like to work on that somebody else is using now, you don’t want to step on their toes or feel like you’re angling for their job. That’s a tough question to answer. What I can say is that one of the first things Tom [Brevoort] and Axel said to me was “What do you see yourself working on? What do you want to be doing here?” And it was not just in terms of characters but also what artists I saw myself working with and what kinds of stories I was interested in telling. What I can say is that so far, it’s all been a dream come true. They really lined up a lot of the stuff I expressed interest in and that I thought I’d be a good fit for. And I’m getting to work with some of my favorite artists now on some of my favorite characters. That’s really all you can ask for. They really brought me in and showed right away that they were interested in having me. They showed from day one that they wanted me as part of the team, and that was a huge factor in the decision to me.
When I’d heard from the con that you were going exclusive, I immediately knew that “Morning Glories” was going nowhere, but I was surprised to see that you’ll be continuing on “T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents,” right?
Yes. Again, this is a thing where I didn’t have to do an exclusive. I was getting plenty of work to keep me busy at both companies, and I have a lot of creator-owned work. And the stories that I’m telling, I get very invested in them – very emotionally attached. Thankfully -Â and all the credit for this goes to C.B. Cebulski and David Bogart at Marvel -Â they never made me choose. They were more than clear from day one that whatever existing commitments I had and whatever outside projects I had on my plate were ones I could see through to the resolution I saw fit. And also, they gave me a lot of room to do more creator-owned work. It’s not just a thing where I can finish what I’ve already done. I can do more. They were very generous in allowing that, and they understood how important my creator-owned work is for me. And on “T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents,” it’s a funny thing because I go to the Marvel offices, and lots of the editors there say, “You’re doing a nice job on that book, and I really enjoy it.” That was fun for me that they’re fans of the stuff too. They go into the shop on Wednesday and pick stuff up too. A lot of those guys don’t want to see that book have a premature ending, and they knew it was very important for me and that I felt strongly that I didn’t want to let the fans of that book down. So they made it happen, and all credit goes to them.
What have you found is the max out level for Nick Spencer? We’ve seen so many projects come from you, do you know how many monthlies you can reasonably handle, or are you still figuring it out?
[Laughs] It’s still a process of figuring it out and learning this stuff. I’m proud to say that I’m a very prolific writer, and I like to manage a substantial workload. All the guys I’ve been the biggest fans of were guys who could shed a lot of energy putting out a lot of stories. That’s something I’ve wanted to be known for, and it’s very important to me. So far, I haven’t hit whatever that ceiling is, I suppose. I don’t get drained by these things or worn out by them. I enjoy what I do and look forward to it. I don’t get blocked or find myself with a shortage of ideas. I think the only things that slow you down as a writer are self doubt and insecurity. I try to power past that and respect my deadlines and make my editors lives easier. So I haven’t found that limit, I guess, and I don’t feel like I’ve had to sacrifice quality in the books yet. Hopefully as times get going, you get faster. So far, no problems!
Knock on wood, right?
[Laughs] Right! Believe me, I’m aware of how big the workload is. I go to shows and people are talking to me about how they’re amazed by my workload, and I just think “If all I was working on was what you know about, I’d be on a beach somewhere right now.” And if that’s all I had in a day, my life would be a piece of cake. The reality of publishing is that you’re working way ahead of where everybody else is and what’s in shops. There’s a lot of really exciting, intensive stuff coming up. That’s a big part of what made this deal fun.
“Iron Man 2.0” #2 goes on sale March 16, 2011.