Brian Reed grew up reading Marvel comic books, but he wasn't sure he'd ever write them professionally. Designing games for a living up until a meeting with Brian Michael Bendis during his work on the "Ultimate Spider-Man" game, Reed entered comics through the side door and never looked back. Since then, he's proven again and again that comics is his one, true calling.
In Part I of a two-part interview, CBR News sat down with Reed to talk about his upcoming projects for Marvel, his "Secret Invasion" tie-ins, his future on "Ms. Marvel," his views on the "spider-marriage" and more.
"Secret Invasion: Spider-Man - Brand New Day" #1 on sale in August
CBR: Whether intentionally or not, you've been placed in a position as one of the new architects of the Marvel Universe. Would you say this has something to do with -- at least in part -- with your membership in the X-Box Live cabal of Marvel creators that's been formed in the last few years?
Brian Reed: I introduced him [Bendis] to that whole thing. When we were working on the "Ultimate Spider-Man" game, he didn't own a PlayStation, he never played games. At some point in there he bought a PlayStation and "Grand Theft Auto" and that was it, it was over for him.
Who do you play with now? Yourself, Brian Bendis, Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction, with occasional cameo from Geoff Johns?
With an occasional appearance from a cast of thousands. We've got an email chain that goes out to a who's who list of creators. We'll say "are we going to play tonight?" and little chunks of us will show up.
And you actually plot stories during games?
Yes. I remember during "The Death of Captain America," I knew about it months before it was written because of X-Box. I was there when Ed and Brian really broke down [the specifics]: "Okay, when can I have the avengers here, when can I have Captain America there?" What's really funny is we've done it once or twice in really public rooms and we start speaking in code.
"So when Bob does this..." we'll say. And then Ed Brubaker will say, "You mean the Sentry?" and we'll be like, "Goddammit!"
I think most of the time people think, "If you're talking and I don't know you, I'm going to mute you." So we're safe. They're pretty much ignoring us anyways.
That happened because Steve Wacker, who is editor on "Ms. Marvel" and "Amazing Spider-Man," and I were talking and I told him, "Someday I want to be on the Spider-Man team. I know it's a slot I have to earn and all of that, but I just want to let you know I want it." And then he asked me to write a one-shot as a fill-in issue and I'd done that. Then with my history of writing Spider-Man video games -- I've done what, three of them now?- he was really open to getting me in. When ["Secret Invasion"] came up, he came to me and asked me to pitch for it.
The "Secret Invasion" tie-ins don't seem to be just dealing with the main events of the main miniseries. Are the creators very conscious of finding that twist on the premise that justifies a tie-in?
It's always about the twist. It's all about finding the reason for "Why should I ask you to give me three dollars for this book?" And if I don't have that reason, I can't expect you to give it to me, so let's not write the book. That's what this was. Us [trying to figure out], "Well, Spider-Man is in the Savage Land. We don't get him for two of our three issues. How do we make this something you want?" That's when we realized that most of the Brand New Day cast just hadn't been in the rest of the Marvel Universe yet.
So Spidey is not in the first two issues of "Secret Invasion: Spider-Man - Brand New Day?"
He is and he isn't. He's not there directly affecting current events or anything, but there is his involvement. It'll make sense when you see it. Everyone's going "Oh, it's an alternate universe" or "Mephisto's a skrull" and this is our chance to go: no, really, it's here. The only other reference really to the Brand New Day events has been in an issue of "Ms. Marvel" where I reference that Jonah had a heart-attack. That's because I had a subplot with Jonah that I had to drop.
Because ["Amazing Spider-Man"] is doing three issues a month, nobody's had a chance to catch up yet. If I read a comic today that has a plot I didn't know about, the soonest you're going to see it from me is four months from now. So this was our chance to put [that cast] in the middle of the world's biggest event.
Would it be fair to assume that someone in the Brand New Day cast is a Skrull?
Maybe. We get to see a lot of stuff. We get to see Jackpot in action. We've gotten hints that she's out there doing the super-hero thing but we haven't really seen her do it. We get to play with Dexter Bennet, Betty Brant, Joe Robertson, etc. There's a lot of fun with us getting to play with the secondary guys.
Did you have an opinion on Spidey's marriage or were you fine either way?
I'm totally of the "whatever is the best story" group. This is one where I said, "Okay, if that's what you're doing, maybe it'll be good, maybe it won't." I was way more interested in what came after that step. I'm just old enough that I was only ten or eleven when Spider-Man got married. So I remember him before, I have a huge collection of him from before. I just accept that with comics you get the big seismic shifts.
You know what? Twenty years from now he'll probably be married again. Someone who grew up with Spider-Man married will change it back. You'll have a great creator who's the next Bendis and he'll have a really great story and a really great reason why it should be changed back.
The funny thing is, all of the things from the last few years: his organic web-shooters, you had him die, he was in a cocoon, all of these things that fans complained about at the time are now part of the legacy.
How long-term are your plans for Ms. Marvel?
I've got the next year and a half in my head. I need to get it down on paper and make sure it's as long as I think it is. I've been waiting a bit for some of the post "Secret Invasion" scripts to come in. I know what the state of the world is but I know it in broad strokes and I want to see some detail before I get too far into my own writing.
Fans love the Son of M.O.D.O.K. character. How did you come up with that?
I wanted to have a guy that was inside AIM and he was breaking things up and causing a lot of stress, and I knew M.O.D.O.K. needed to have this weird illness. That's about all I had. Then I started writing the story and I thought: well, why is this guy causing trouble? M.O.D.O.K. was a normal guy before he was a head in a chair -- what if he was his son? I bounced it off Bill Rosemamn and Bill said, "Yes!"
I've got to give credit, Headcase, which the character became, was all Bill Rosemann. He said let's leave a toy in the box rather than just take them and play with them. Now I'm dying to get him back in the book at some point.
You and Brian Bendis are both consistent about that. You sometimes take old toys out and break them, but always put new ones back in the box.
Right! Because it's really easy to re-write all your favorite stories from childhood. And that's the trick: just... don't. That was the first lesson I learned: don't be afraid to break it. Because you can always find some way to put it back together.
Would you like to stay on "Ms. Marvel" past what you have planned?
You know, when I got the gig my whole goal was to make it to issue #25 because there were only 24 issues in the 1970s run. So I thought, if I get to 25, I win. Of course, back then we'd have been lucky to survive to issue #6. Now I'm joking that my goal is fifty issues. Then when I get to fifty, I'll try for a hundred.
I enjoy it. It's a book I've changed the central theme in three times now. It's about to change drastically again, but it's really fun to put Carol in these new situations and watch her world react to her.
Aside from Spider-Man, what would you really like to write for Marvel?
Oh, everyone wants "Cloak and Dagger" don't they? Everybody has a "Cloak and Dagger" pitch. That and "Doctor Strange" are the two things that absolutely everyone pitches. So as a point of the interview, if you're looking to break into comics: don't pitch those. Seriously, from Bendis right on down the line to the guy who just today got his first Marvel work, everybody's had one. And everybody thinks, "I'm gonna be the guy to crack that nut!"
I'm loving it. Because writing about people who aren't superheroes in a superhero universe is a lot trickier than it sounds like it ought to be. [It's about] just learning to put superheroes in and make them feel big. We're so used to seeing guys fly and crawl on walls and whatever that it's no big thing for us.
I keep going back to [this metaphor]: the NBA finals are on right now. Everybody knows who Kobe Bryant is. Very few of us have ever met him in person. That's kind of what it is. When Captain America comes running into the scene, that's what it is. He's a celebrity. And getting to play with that in the middle of a war zone -- it's fun.
It would certainly seem a challenge to introduce that street-level sense when dealing with someone like Ben Urich. Surely, there's very few heroes he hasn't met at this point?
Well, Ben is interesting because he's the bridge between the Marvel Universe as we know it and then the Marvel Universe as it would be for everyone else. There's a cab driver character and he's in Times Square as the Skrulls come down, as seen at the end of "Secret Invasion" #2. We've already established that he's a tough guy. He burst into tears, he's running for his life, he admits a couple of issues later to almost peeing himself! It's the worst thing he's ever seen.
Later, when he talks to Ben, who was also in Times Square, we see it from his perspective and we get this nice bridge between worlds. Once he's away from the super-heroes and away from the invasion, this cab driver actually starts saving people's lives, getting them to safety. That works because he's back in his world: he knows where he is and what he's doing now.
In Part II, Brian Reed talks to CBR News about the video games "Spider-Man: Friend or Foe" and "Spider-Man: Web of Shadows," the new "Mercenaries" game from Pandemic Studios, his upcoming two-year arc on Dynamite's "Red Sonja," and his creator-owned work at Image Comics, "The Circle."