Fridays on CBR mean Axel’s In Charge.
Except this week! Today on CBR, it’s time for WACKER-IN-CHARGE as Marvel Senior Editor Steve Wacker fills in while Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso is out on vacation.
An editor with over a decade of funnybook making under his belt, Wacker has been the guiding editorial voice on acclaimed and best-selling projects from DC’s “52” on through the Brand New Day era of “Amazing Spider-Man.” He currently oversees Spidey’s world as well as shepherding titles like the Eisner-winning “Daredevil” and new launches like “Captain Marvel” and “Hawkeye.”
After kicking off his special WACKER-IN-CHARGE guest run with a round of fan questions and exclusive covers from Marvel Marvel titles earlier today on CBR, the editor is back now for a massive Q&A covering the final fate of Peter Parker in “Amazing Spider-Man,” the long term plans for Marvel NOW! title “Superior Spider-Man,” the health of fan favorites like “Captain Marvel” and “Hawkeye” and the future of Marvel’s Cosmic line. Read on!
Kiel Phegley: Steve, the thing that I was struck by reading “Amazing Spider-Man” #699 is that even as we’ve had this big twist that takes Peter Parker’s mind out of Spider-Man’s body, the title is still very much Peter Parker’s story. The action remains with his character wherever he is. Is that something that will definitively change about Spider-Man by the end of #700?
Steve Wacker: Yeah. That’ll change dramatically just because of necessity of story. But I think for years to come the shadow of Peter Parker is going to be draped over the book. There’s nothing you can do about that. But new cast members will come in. Life goes on. Peter Parker fans will sort of fade away over the months and years, and you’ll have a bunch of people who only know the new cast. It’s probably similar to what happened with Ben Reilly back in the day. And fans seem to want him back.
People have an expectation that everything will revert back to normal eventually, but the way Dan Slott has talked about this story feels pretty open-ended. Did you view #700 as a real finale for Peter and try to figure out the best way to wrap that run going all the way back?
Wacker: Yes. This has been in the works for a few years now, and the plan always was to make this the last issue and make it a definitive end for the character. It’s been 50 years,a helluva good run. The 700th issue happening around the same time was just sort of serendipitous.
This type of thing has been done in comics before during the Silver Age when Julie Schwartz, Gardner Fox, John Broome and the guys at DC brought out new versions of classic characters like the Flash and Green Lantern. That’s the kind of worldbuilding scenario we’re playing with.
And you mentioned Ben Reilly earlier, but you’ve also brought back ideas like Kaine serving as the Scarlet Spider and Flash Thompson taking over for Venom, so I don’t think the Spider suit going to someone else is out of place right now in the line. With so many non-Peter Parker Spider-Men running around now, what’s the chances we’ll see these guys all get together sooner rather than later?
Wacker: Not in the way that you’re describing, but it’s funny. In a way, you just hit on something that Dan and “Avenging Spider-Man” writer Chris Yost were talking about today. There’s some big stuff coming in 2013 with “Superior Spider-Man.” But I do think that what “Scarlet Spider” and “Venom” have shown is that we’re not afraid to make real, lasting change to the characters. Whether it’ll last forever? I don’t know. I don’t know what’s going to happen 20 years from now when Marvel Comics are being downloaded into your eyes. But I do know that as far as we’re concerned, this is the status quo. We have no plans to get away from this.
The first time you’re going to see Superior Spider-Man dealing with more of the Marvel Universe is at the end of “Daredevil” #21 this month. And then in January, you see a fully-fledged team-up between the two, and we see Superior Spider-Man getting into some of those relationships that Peter had fostered over the years.
Coming up you’ll see the character in “Avengers” and “Journey into Mystery” as well as in “Age of Ultron.”
I haven’t looked at the credits from all the issues, but is “Superior Spider-Man” the only relaunch title that you’re working on right now?
Wacker: It is. Until now I couldn’t really relate to the Marvel NOW! Gang, but now I have something to talk about at the snack machine.
The other NOW! books we’re getting out from my office are [Joe] Keatinge and [Rich] Elson’s “Morbius” (which I’m overseeing but is really Sana Amanat’s book editorially). I’m also editing a couple new outer space centered books starting in February – “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Nova.”
But “Superior” is the first real Marvel NOW! book I’m involved with soup-to-nuts. (Whatever that means. I just hear Brevoort saying it a lot. Though come to think of it, he might just be talking literally about “soup and nuts”)
And “Superior Spider-Man” is a change but not too much of a change in creative team. Since so many of your books are kind of staying in place through the relaunch, do you feel like you dodged a bullet, or did you lose a bet?
Wacker: [Laughs] I certainly would have liked the sales bump, but I had enough books that were pretty recent launches between “Hawkeye” and “Captain Marvel” and a book that was creatively successful in “Daredevil” that it just didn’t fall into the plans.
I guess I generally like to be left alone, so maybe I’m in the “dodged a bullet” column a little bit. But it’s a bullet made out of candy corn and Nutella that I wouldn’t have minded being hit by either.
And let me say, too, the coolest thing that everyone from Axel Alonso to Tom Brevoort to Joe Quesada to Dan Buckley did is let us stay the course simply because they knew this is a story Dan’s been building for years.
They could have easily made the argument that it was time for a creative change-up on “Spider-Man.” But they liked where things were going and liked what Dan was doing on the book, and so they not only allowed him to stay on. it was their idea…which I think is pretty cool. They could have easily come up with some sort of arbitrary, hard line rule (which I think happens occasionally at comics companies). But they didn’t. They allowed Dan to tell his story and I think they’ll be rewarded for it.
You mentioned “Captain Marvel,” and I wanted to ask about that book. It’s a title that some fans seem to love passionately while some fans also seem to be passionate about worrying over its cancellation. Does that relatively tough market space the title holds impact what you do at all?
Wacker: I tend not to worry too much about that kind of chatter because in this day and age, it’s inevitable. The moment any kind of media is successful, out come people with swords saying that their predictable buzz phrases about “it’s not going to hold up,” “cancelled by issue six,” etc.
If you get too wound up in that, it’s a never-ending dilemma. There are people all over who will try to convince you that something successful is actually a huge failure. It’s negativity disguised as criticism, and it’s boring.
Regardless of debates about what kind of footing some of these books are on, are there ways you’re looking to draw some extra attention to them as these NOW! books launch all around them?
To get attention on my line of books, what I have tried to do is that when those books get the new Marvel branding on their covers — from “Daredevil #22” to “Hawkeye #6” to “Captain Marvel #9” — I’ve worked with creators so that the issues feel like jumping on points.
I think we will get some readers who are drifting over to try all the Marvel books around the NOW! launch. In general, I trust the audience’s instincts. If they’re not picking up a book right now, it’s up to us to give them a reason to pick it up.
Everyone in my group (Sana Amanat, Tom Brennan, and Ellie Pyle) works pretty hard on making sure people have a reason to pick up each issue of their books. I don’t take lightly the idea that people have a finite amount of money and time, and — entertainment-wise — there’s a lot of competition for both in 2012.
I have a sign by my desk that says “No one owes you their attention” which basically remind me that we have to re-earn it each month (or every two weeks, or even hourly as it seems with some of our books!).
So if there’s a book that’s really good and it doesn’t find an audience, I don’t think the readership should be blamed for that. It’s up to us in Editorial and Creative and Marketing to give them a reason to pay attention.
And that means boobs, hot guys and mega-crossovers. [Laughter]
Wacker: Every Day!
Anyway back to “Captain Marvel,” that was a lot of time and work just to get pitched and approved. It’s a direction I’ve wanted for the character for a couple of years now and I think I found the right person to execute that in Kelly Sue.
The fact that the bosses ay Marvel gave us a shot and that the launch has been successful as it has been is great. I don’t think this is a launch that would have been a slam dunk in any era of comics, and now we’re talking about the second year of “Captain Marvel.” I don’t care what you think about the future of the book, that’s huge.
All credit to Kelly Sue DeConnick and Dexter Soy and Sana for making that happen. And a TON of credit to Jamie McKelvie for designing that costume that seemed to engage a ton of people out there in fandom. It gets me a little weepy when I see the many cosplayers and the reams of fan art.
Wrapping up, you are taking on the cosmic books in February, and for a long time those books were beloved by a smaller but dedicated segment of fans. Do you come into this with a specific era of that line in mind to build on? Like, were you a big Jim Starlin guy?
Wacker: I was, but the Jim Starlin stuff that I loved was the work he did at DC because I was a DC guy more than I was a Marvel guy.
I (rightfully) got in a bit if trouble with some fans for speaking too quickly and stridently in an interview about “Thanos” a few months back, but having gone back over all Jim’s original stuff, I was impressed by the depths of character that is in those books.
(And that counts both for the Starlin stuff and what Keith Giffen, Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning constructed over the past few years with the Annihilation books). A lot of talented people have contributed to the Cosmic world over the years.
Can the dedication of the fanbase to these cosmic books be intimidating at all, though?
It’s not terribly intimidating in that I’ve edited “Spider-Man” and “Legion of Super-Heroes” and all sorts of books with huge fan bases that are anxious to pounce on you at a moment’s notice.
But you have to be excited about the books in front of you and unafraid to go off the map to follow your writer and artist’s stories. I’m looking forward editorially to taking this through fresh eyes.
I do think what we have going for us on these books is that there will be a lot of new people picking these books up because of Loeb and Ed McGuinness’ involvement and because of Bendis and Steve McNiven’s involvement.
We’ll get a bunch of readers who may have been ignoring what has arguably been Marvel’s richest mythology over the past few years.
So because of the potential fresh eyes and new readers, I’m cognizant of making those books more approachable. The creators are doing that to make sure a new generation can find their way in. But like any new kind of art, it’s risky. I hope people can get excited about it. I think it’s some of the best work these guys have ever done.
Is this your first time editing Bendis on a book? I feel like you’ve interacted with these other creators at various time, but Brian has mostly been over in Brevoort’s office with a side of Ultimate stuff for a while. He’s got a very specific style, and I wondered how you’ve approached him as an editor.
Wacker: I’ve haven’t edited Brian all that much. I worked on the last few issues of “Moon Knight” with him, likewise I took over editing “Daredevil: End of Days” in progress. He’s done a few things on “Amazing Spider-Man” for me over the years, but it’s never been anything of any magnitude. So overall this has been new.
As an editor, I’ve approached him like I do just about anyone I work with: with a long cascade of defensiveness, obfuscation and insults disguised as “jokes”. But (and I keep this to myself usually) my initial reaction to almost all my creators is as a fan. I usually work with someone simply because I’m interested in what they do.
The Brian whose work I fell in love with was the guy (with hair!) from 1992 doing those great black-and-white books like “Goldfish” and “Torso.” When I was working at the Golden Apple on Melrose, those were my “picks”, the books that I thought were the best things coming out at the time. So my respect for Brian is pretty high. (at least my respect for his 1992 work is!)
But that’s all just my private thoughts. It’s easy to put that aside and get to work. We’ve been at plenty of retreats together and he loves to bust my balls, and I could make a second career of busting his little bald hump.
But what’s important is that we’re on the same page about Guardians. There hasn’t been a lot of back and forth necessary. Does he get too many balloons in a panel sometimes? Yes. So I give him that note. But he knows what he’s doing and has a clear vision. It’s pretty cool to do this book with him and Steve.
(As a side note: It’s been interesting to watch his process because he approached the book – particularly the first “Point One” issue – in such a left field way. I like how his mind works. )
In the end, the best thing about working with Brian’s scripts is that he gives editors a lot to do. [Laughter]
Moving on to part two of our massive fan question rundown, campion questioner Spidey616 had several Spidey-related queries, starting with, “After becoming the new Toxin have we truly seen the last of Eddie Brock or can we expect to see him again in the near future? What about some of the new Symbiote characters Zeb Wells/Clayton Crain created like Scorn or the Mercury Team?”
Wacker: Toxin is a HUGE part of Cullen Bunn’s upcoming “Venom” story. “Venom” editor Tom Brennan and I — along with Cullen and artist Declan Shalvey — just had a big conference call about this earlier in the week.
So, yes…my god yes!
And if you haven’t been picking up “Venom,” we just published a Point One issue that serves as a great jumping on point. “Venom” #27.1 is on sale right now.
He continues with, “Sure Bendis got his fill of Skrulls after decimating them after Secret Invasion, but don’t suppose he’ll be revisiting everyone’s favorite alien shapeshifters in Guardians of the Galaxy?”
Wacker: It’s hard to find an alien race that Brian ISN’T using in that book.
Swinging back to Spidey, he wonders, “Slott’s dropped some big hints recently the Osborn family will be appearing in the Spidey world once again, do those plans include the return Lily Hollister mother of Stanley Osborn?”
Wacker: I don’t normally like to spoil surprises like this… but I will say there are no Lily plans at the present.
“At the Present“…being the operative phrase there.
Finally on the kids comic beat, Spidey 616 asks, “Can we expect comic tie-in series for the upcoming ‘Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H.’ and ‘Avengers Assemble’ cartoons much like the Marvel Universe Ultimate Spidey and Avengers series currently being published or is it too early to say anything?”
Wacker: I think that would be a pretty wise assumption. Someone’s been paying attention…
Prince Of Orphans had a specific question on “Venom,” asking, “Since you’re senior editor for ‘Venom,’ could I maybe get some insight to where Daimon Hellstrom is headed in that title? He seems to have descended more into villainy in comparison to his other cameos in ‘New Avengers’ and ‘Journey into Mystery.'”
Wacker: I went right to the source on this one…Venom writer Cullen Bunn:
Bunn: That’s a great question, and I can understand the confusion. I think those kinds of discrepancies are often written off with some fancy chronological footwork, but that’s not the case here.
There is a story reason for the different portrayals of Hellstrom. And there is an explanation as to how he’s been in two (or even four) places at once. It’s something I’ll address in an upcoming arc of “Venom” (sometime after issue #36, I believe).
Suffice it to say, Hellstrom is still in prison… he has betrayed everyone and put poor Flash Thompson through Hell. Everything else… all the confusion… is all part of his plan.
cambrown99 swung back to the new Spidey title, asking, “Since it looks like ‘Superior Spider-Man’ will be a monthly title, how will you be keeping Mr. Slott busy with all of that extra time he’ll have?
Wacker: Not so fast, cambrown99. “Superior Spider-Man” is coming out twice a month — same schedule we’ve been on for years now.
I’m tired, Dan’s tired. We’re all tired, but assistant editor Ellie Pyle keeps this crippling schedule alive for some reason. Please hate her.
Majinoaw went villainous with his question: “Wacker, are there any plans in the immediate future to use Cardiac? And if not, then why?”
Wacker: Yes. Keep reading the Spidey solicitations every month. Also I assume this is Slott since I’m 100% positive that no one on earth cares about Cardiac.
Someone called Potty-Man went continuity diving with this: “Now that the organic webshooter period is officially back in canon (Spidey mentions having had them in #693), will we ever learn how/why Spidey lost them?”
Wacker: The organic web-shooters were always part of the “Other” powers Spidey got a few years back. Those were always shown to come-and-go. So for right now those powers are still gone.
I can tell you though that if you ask me this question again in 12 months you might get a slightly different answer
KurtW95 comes back to a fan question perennial: “Would you consider bringing Gwen back if a really good story comes out of it?”
Wacker: There is no “good” story that brings Gwen back.
Finally, Spidey_62 has another common question that I figured we were due for an update on: “Any new details on the long in production Jeph Loeb/J. Scott Campbell Spider-Man limited series?”
Wacker: Not much only that it’s still long in production. Still being worked on.
To be frank, you probably won’t see it for a while still because things in the main book have changed so much from when it started that it’s not an easy fit at the moment.
Plus Jeff and J. Scott have a few other projects that they’re working on…including this beautiful cover for “Superior Spider-Man” #1 that connects to his great cover for “Amazing Spider-Man” number #700.
But we all know that people want to see it. (hard to blame you!) Honestly this is just the danger of announcing projects too early. (We never solicited it though, so officially the book is still on time!)
Have some questions for Marvel’s AXEL-IN-CHARGE? Please visit the CUP O’ Q&A thread in CBR’s Marvel Universe forum. It’s now the dedicated thread for all connections between Board Members and the Marvel Executive staff that CBR will pull questions for next week’s installment of our weekly fan-generated question-and-answer column! Do it to it!