When it’s time to make the big decisions on the nuts and bolts creation of Marvel Comics, people have to Talk to the Hat.
An outstanding industry vet and fashion forward editor, Marvel SVP of Publishing Tom Brevoort is back on CBR News for Marvel’s TALK TO THE HAT. Our latest weekly look inside the minds at Marvel spotlights Tom along with his signature pork pie and loads of comics news, views and discussion. Anchored by regular question and answer rounds with the denizens of the CBR Message Boards, each week Brevoort will shake things up with special guest stars, exclusive art reveals and new interactive features.
This week, Tom carved out some time to talk directly to the readers with an all fan question column! Read on below as the editor extraordinaire reveals his big ideas on how the scheduling of mini events from “Shadowland” to “Spider-Island” and how issues of violence and sexuality should be portrayed in Marvel Comics. Plus, special guests Mark Paniccia, Nick Lowe and Jeph Loeb stop in to share word on upcoming events surrounding the impending end of “Incredible Hulks,” the expansive cast of “X-Men” and the animated future of “Blade.” Read on!
Kiel Phegley; All right! All fan week! Let’s get the ball rolling on the big macro Marvel level with Dog asking, “Why do smaller events like, say, Spider-Island and Schism, seem to get scheduled at the same time as bigger events such as Fear Itself? If I’m not mistaken, the same thing happened with Civil War and Annihilation. Might those smaller events draw away a few more dollars if they ran unopposed, so to speak? It’s almost like the shadow of the “company-wide” event dooms them to sales mediocrity from the get-go. Conversely, couldn’t having something to hook people in sell a few more books during the lean, winter months?”
Brevoort: From what we can tell, Dog, it doesn’t really make much of a difference in terms of sales — readers are either interested in these stories or they aren’t, and they come out for them regardless of when they’re released. Part of the problem is that we’ve got so much stuff happening in the Marvel Universe at any one time that it’s impossible to not have any overlap. (We certainly don’t want to have huge swaths of time where nothing interesting or important is happening in titles not in the center of a crossover, as they wait for their turn in the spotlight.) But we do this both ways — “Shadowland,” for example, was released without any immediate competition. Thing is, there are only so many months in the year to work with, you know?
Next up, Comicbookfan wants to know what I’m sure a lot of people are wondering: “Hey Tom I see that incredible Hulks will Be ending, i just wanted to Know if you guys had any Plans for a New Hulk comic staring our favorite green hulk? maybe something along the lines of an Astonishing Hulk on going?”
Brevoort: I put your question to “Hulk” editor Mark Paniccia, who responded:
Mark Paniccia: Possibly, depending on if he makes it out of “Fear Itself” okay.
Brevoort: And regardless of what happens after Greg’s run closes, we’ve also got the other “Hulk” series that Jeff Parker is writing, starring the Red Hulk. So it’s not as though we’ll be Hulkless any time soon.
Tom, even though the secret of how Greg is going to wrap his years-long Hulk run, I think it’s fair to say that no one is expecting Marvel to not publish an “Incredible Hulk” comic of some kind in the near future. How do you generally approach a core franchise when someone with such a long, well-recieved run is stepping back? Is there an urge to really blow things up from the status quo?
Brevoort: It honestly depends on where you are with the characters and what the most recent things that’ve happened with them are, and how those things have been received. In the case of “Hulk,” for example, we’re coming out of a period in which we’ve had a veritable explosion of Hulks running around: Skaar, Lyra, Red Hulk, A-Bomb, Red She-Hulk, etc… So, to me, it feels like the right time to scale things back, and to bring the focal point back down to a single character again. Not that this expansion of the cast was bad — we may decide to do projects featuring some of these other guys as we move ahead as well. But that’s just me speaking extemporaneously. In other instances, if you’ve got something that’s really working, you might want to try to create a smooth handoff for a sense of continuity, such as when “Uncanny X-Men” went from Ed Brubaker to Matt Fraction, and then from Fraction to Kieron Gillen. It’s very much a gut instinct kind of a thing.
Jabare has a note inspired by the Ultimate U, asking, “I was wondering if there was any plans for Mark Millar to write a Blade series in the future? He is doing a great job with him in the Ultimate Universe and I personally would love to see a Blade series written by Mr. Millar. Than I was wondering if the Blade anime does well I was wondering if we might see a Blade animated series, maybe one more on the mature side with lots of blood and gore?”
Brevoort: Hey, Jabare, sorry to say, but at the moment there aren’t any plans for Mark to write Blade outside of the pages of “Ultimate Avengers.” But you never know what might transpire down the line, as I know that Mark is a big fan of the character.
As for your question about Blade animated, I lobbed it over to Marvel’s TV sensation Jeph Loeb, who said:
Jeph Loeb: The Marvel Anime series (Iron Man, Wolverine, X-Men and (yay!) Blade!) will premiere this summer in the U.S. on G4. It’s insanely great — and the Blade series is all kinds of wow (based on stories by Warren Ellis!) that we hope you’ll be happy with, Jabare! Can’t speak to any future plans beyond the Blade Anime series — but if that’s successful, it certainly can’t hurt! So tell your fellow Vampire Hunters!
Back to the comics, we’ve got a new one from king questioner Spidey616 who asks “After having Madame Masque’s face healed in his second arc of Avengers, curious if Bendis has any future storyline plans for the character like say his upcoming Moon Knight title?”
Brevoort: I wouldn’t be at all surprised, Spidey! Good instincts!
Chiming in with what may be the best “Who is that again?” question I’ve seen in a LONG time is another asking all-star Hypestyle, who had this to say: “Whatever happened to 1980s-era X-Men supporting characters like Tom Corsi, Sharon Friedlander, and Stevie Hunter?”
Brevoort: It’s almost like you’re speaking Swahili to me, Hypestyle, so I thought I’d hit up X-Men senior Editor Nick Lowe with your query instead:
Nick Lowe: No real plans. But with Dani Moonstar’s surge in popularity, I don’t put it outside the realm of possibility to see Tom and Sharon. As for Stevie, you’ll see her as soon as Cyclops decides to fit ballet into the class schedule at Utopia!
Let’s hope we can make one fan with a long-standing query happy today as we’ve got a classic from Captain_Mar-Vell, who says, “I’ve been patient. I’ve asked Joey Q and he has stated that there are plans for a “Captain Marvel” in the Marvel Universe. I haven’t seen anything yet. Now, we did just see a future Hulkling as Captain Marvel, so are plans for Captain Marvel tied to Avengers: Children’s Crusade?”
Brevoort: I’m sorry to say, Joey, not really, not beyond what you’ve already seen. Sorry.
On a bigger question level, Bob-el is looking at all C-list characters when he’s asking: “Several series have started with long arcs (5-6 issues). Suppose fans like a character but don’t like the arc – maybe because it takes the character in a direction they don’t like or maybe just because it isn’t interesting enough to persuade them to by multiple issues to see where it goes. Sales wouldn’t be good. How do you avoid the assumption that it is because the character just doesn’t have enough fans to support a title? How do you tell if the character really can’t carry a title? Isn’t harder to tell when the title is launched with a long arc than it would be with a series of one and dones or two parters?”
Brevoort: Bob, the truth is that there are so many variables involved in why a book does or doesn’t find an audience that it’s exceedingly difficult to ever absolutely know why it happens. The best you can do is to analyze what was done and what the response was, and draw the best conclusions you can from that information. Having said that, I don’t think there’s any evidence that doing a longer story at the launch of a series is any more or less detrimental than doing shorter stories. What’s important is that, whatever the length of the initial story, it grab the readers, interest them, and compel them to purchase the subsequent issues.
Finally, while I know there’s sometimes just different standards that different people bring to their entertainment, I thought this long question from EarthOneComics was so polite and well-spoken even though it’s a tricky subject for many.
He said: “My questions are about the content of your various A rated titles. To give a bit of context, it seems to me that in that last decade or two comics have been infused with a greater degree of violence and sexuality. The amount of blood shed in any given injury seems to be in excess of the actual damage the wound would cause – an example being Spider-Man fighting the Thunderbolts in the New Ways To Die arc. Compare that to the Uncanny issues of Mutant Massacre, a story you would expect to contain lots of bloodshed, and you see a vast difference in terms of what is seen on panel. With regards to sexuality, in some ways I will admit what is portrayed in the books is in line with other forms of media, but sometimes the costumes can be a little too revealing. The occasional use of outright (though shadowed) nudity also strikes me as odd as it never seems to serve the story in anyway – in particular Brian Bendis has done this twice in Avengers. As a devout Christian and a young father it’s unnerving to see what’s out there some weeks and I adjust my purchases accordingly as best I can. I thoroughly enjoy the books I buy and it pains me to have to skip out on some of my favourite characters’ stories, but at the end of the day I have to do what’s best for me and more importantly my son. I want to know how Marvel decides what’s acceptable content in it’s books. How are these allowances improving the stories? I get that creative types need to be able to express themselves but it seems to me that MAX and Icon are more suited to liberal amounts of violence or sexuality. If it’s really a comic for as many readers as possible, shouldn’t it try to appeal to the broadest sensibilites as well?”
Brevoort: I think it’s no surprise, EarthOne, that there’s been a greater permissibility in entertainment across all media over the 25 years since “The Mutant Massacre” saw print. For example, language is now allowed on basic cable channels that was considered a little shocking on pay stations in 1986. This is the world and the culture that we live in, and comics tend to keep pace with the larger trends in this regard.
Even within a company like Marvel, there are numerous points of view on this subject, because it’s an issue that is very much subjective. Each person’s personal line for what is and is not acceptable is a little bit different — and even that might depend on the circumstances. There have been occasions I’ve been privy to, for instance, where a particular editor or creator was against a depiction of violence in another person’s book, but was perfectly fine with doing the same kind of thing in their own book. That’s not hypocrisy, that’s a person making a judgment call based on his subjective reading of the context. I find that there is no absolute right-and-wrong definition that will make everybody happy when it comes to these kinds of questions.
At Marvel, we’ve got broad guidelines about what we think is acceptable in all of our different titles, but we will adjudicate specific instances are acceptable or not. There’s a different yardstick we might use, for example, when dealing with “Amazing Spider-Man” and “Wolverine.” But for the most part, we depend on our individual editors to use their own judgment when it comes to these matters, only involving people further up the chain of command, such as myself, Axel, Joe Q, Dan Buckley or Jim Sokolowski, in an instance where the decision could have a greater impact on our business, or might have ramifications beyond just publishing — the greater the impact, the more people who might be consulted. And then we make the best call that we can.
But make no mistake, one of the fundamental appeals of comics, and Marvel comics in particular, is the fact that they’re dangerous. They’re edgy. There’s an aura of the illicit to what we do that’s extremely attractive to our audience, and a necessary part of our appeal. Marvel Comics have always been dangerous and on the far edge of popular culture — those Frank Miller “Daredevil” and “Wolverine” comics, for example, while they might seem a bit quaint by today’s standards, pushed the envelope when they first came out. We try not to do violence simply for the sake of violence and sexual material simply for the sake of sexual material, but in that same spirit, we’re likely going to be more permissive than some. The vast majority of our titles are rated at the T+ level or higher, which means that they’re aimed at a teenaged audience. And that audience is exposed to far greater amounts of violence and sexuality at an earlier age than anything you or I would have experience in our youth. Video games alone have redefined the standards for where the line is when addressing that audience. And it’s an audience that doesn’t want to feel talked down to, or that will accept a sanitized product. In a very real way, parents aren’t supposed to feel completely at ease with them — that’s part of why kids like them!
I do also want to say that I think it’s great that you’re monitoring this stuff, and making decisions about what you feel is and is not appropriate for you or your son to be reading. I wish more parents would be this conscientious.
Have some questions for Marvel’s Talk To The Hat? 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!