From the “regular” Marvel Universe titles to the more teen-oriented Ultimate books and to the versions seen in films and cartoons, there sure are plenty of Marvel universes out there. But one version that’s caught on with readers in a big way is the Marvel Adventures line, which has built for itself a loyal following among readers both young and old. In this first part of a two-part series, CBR News will take a closer look at Marvel’s all-ages line and talking to some of its architects about what makes it tick.
Consisting of its own versions of the “Spider-Man,” “Fantastic Four” and “The Avengers” titles, the MA line of books offers “done-in-one” issue tales of Marvel’s biggest heroes that are appropriate for all ages. Created by rotating teams of writers, the MA books specialize in fun, goofy tales like Spider-Man “adopting” Doctor Octopus’s stray arms as pets, and the fan-favorite “Doom, Where’s My Car?” in which the Human Torch inadvertently buys Dr. Doom’s old car and wackiness ensues.
Paniccia also believes that the unique structure of the titles also contributes to the line’s success, explaining, “Because the stories don’t rely on long arcs [nor are they] affected by current continuity, [readers] end up with a ‘done-in-one’ that pushes the boundaries and is usually off-the-wall fun. And the essence of the characters is preserved. This is the same Spider-Man or FF that many of the older readers fell in love with [as children].”
“I made up my mind when they gave me that year of ‘Marvel Adventure Fantastic Four’- to hell with the other FF books being done now, this is the real ‘Fantastic Four’ comic! And adopting that attitude freed me up to do stories I was very happy with. You can use being out of continuity as a strength and do things the other titles can’t.”
“The obvious thing to compare it to is the Bruce Timm ‘Superman’ and ‘Batman’ cartoons, where you get to use all the toys, but you have this great opportunity to, in the case of the Marvel characters, take 40 years of appearances and put it in a blender and make this gestalt out of all the best parts of the character. In February, in the last issue of the “Marvel Adventures Spider-Man,” I get to introduce Venom, and do him in one issue, and that’s a lot of fun.”
“Second, we’re very careful content-wise. There are things we stay away from such as guns, risqué situations or anything we think might be too graphic. And you know what, you don’t need those things for a great story. The books are straight up, awesome adventures that an adult can read and feel comfortable passing on to a younger reader.”
Zeb Wells, who’s completed a four-issue stint on “Marvel Adventures Spider-Man” and is currently in the middle of a “Marvel Adventures Fantastic Four” run, explained the process in more detail. “There are, you know, little guidelines here and there, because it’s a pocket universe, where there’s a little less talk of death and no guns and stuff like that.
Parker says working with Paniccia is, “A constant, pleasant surprise. Mark calls and says ‘Would you be interested in working on…’ and then the thing he says is always something I would have asked for myself.” Parker added, “Often, I’ll write part of a story thinking, ‘they’ll never let me do that.’ And Mark will give that part the thumbs up and egg me on to do more. When he does ask for changes I tend to get cranky because it means there really is a problem I need to address. He’s extremely concerned with making great stories and has a strong intuitive sense of what will take us down that path.
“Editing is an unsung craft, because the reader with the finished book can’t tell what the editor did. But you may be able to point at some of the most interesting books coming out from Marvel and note how often his name is in those credits.”
Coming up in in Part Two, the MA Mafia discusses the specific challenges of creating single-issue stories, the place of all-ages books in today’s marketplace, and gives us a sneak peak at the book that’s got everyone talking: EVERYBODY BECOMES MODOK! (or MODOC, as you’ll see).
CBR Staff Writer Andy Khouri contributed to this article.
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