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Brevoort’s Back, Talking the Genre Diversity of “Secret Wars”

by  in CBR Exclusives Comment
Brevoort’s Back, Talking the Genre Diversity of “Secret Wars”

Fridays on CBR mean Axel’s In Charge — most every week! Not this one, though, as Marvel Comics Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso is out of the office.

So CBR turns to Marvel veteran editor and Senior Vice President of Publishing Tom Brevoort to step in and anchor the weekly AXEL-IN-CHARGE Q&A column. As anyone who follows his Tumblr knows, Brevoort is no strange to A’ing Qs, and he once hosted his own regular Friday afternoon chat on CBR, TALK TO THE HAT. He’s been with the company since starting as an intern in 1989, and as Executive Editor oversees some of Marvel’s biggest books and its major event series — including the upcoming “Secret Wars.”

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With a whole lot of “Secret Wars”-related series announced from Marvel over the past couple of weeks — falling under the “Battleworld, “Warzones!” and “Last Days” brandings — Brevoort discusses the development process of familiar-yet-different upcoming launches like “Planet Hulk,” “Spider-Verse,” “Inferno” and “Old Man Logan.” Brevoort also speaks in-depth about the opportunity “Secret Wars” provides for Marvel to explore a wider range of genres, as seen in series like “Where Monsters Dwell” — and the subsequent ability to attract talent like Garth Ennis, writer of that book, who aren’t typically seen contributing to big Marvel events. Brevoort also shares some thoughts, from his perspective as a comics publishing veteran and longtime fan, on the big news out of DC Comics last week, with 24 new series — and an increased focus on accessibility and inclusion — announced. All that and more, and check back next week for the return of your regularly scheduled AXEL-IN-CHARGE!

Albert Ching: Tom, let’s start with something outside of publishing, but certainly worth note: Do you have any reaction you’d like to share to this week’s major news that Sony and Marvel Studios have worked out a deal to share Spider-Man?

Tom Brevoort: Well, it’s pretty good! [Laughs] It’s pretty cool. Yay, everyone!

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Succinct! I wanted to talk about the various “Secret Wars” series that have been announced over the past couple weeks, specifically the “Warzones!” and “Battleworld” books. I’m interested to hear about the general philosophy behind them — it’s been a wide range announced already. Something like a “Spider-Verse” book seems like a natural fit, but “Inferno” is a little bit more of a surprise — it’s an older story, a well-remembered one but not necessarily something you’d expect Marvel to revisit in 2015. What was the development process in putting these series together?

Brevoort: As we were destroying the Marvel Universe and the Ultimate Universe and pretty much everything, that implies that as we’re recasting the Marvel Universe that is to come, you examine and play with all the various parts that have existed over the years that people remember, that people love, that people had a reaction to. Also, quite frankly, we saw this as an opportunity to do some stuff that is sometimes difficult for us when it’s just launched as a virgin thing — some projects that play more with genre, like the Garth Ennis-written “Where Monsters Dwell,” make a little more sense and have a little greater chance of being noticed maybe than if it was just a thing unto itself.

In building the super-structure of “Secret Wars,” we wanted to take advantage of the entire history of the Marvel Universe, because in effect, we’re recasting all of that history into the new Marvel Universe as we move forward.

So can this be seen as the last hurrah of the old Marvel Universe?

Brevoort: It’s sort of the opposite, actually. The last hurrah of the old Marvel Universe really is “Secret Wars” #1. This is far more the melting pot, the stew, from which the new Marvel Universe comes. Every one of these projects that we’re announcing is contributing something — some building block, some element, some story point, some character, some thing — to the new Marvel Universe. So the new Marvel Universe really does start in May, by the time we get to “Secret Wars” #2 and then beyond.

It’s kind of difficult to talk about this at this point, because obviously we’re not even into the story yet, and I understand why this is confusing to a lot of people, because we’re tapping into a lot of names and storylines that have strong memories associated with them. But in almost all cases, we’re doing something slightly different with them, although they all relate to the original source material in one way or another. It’ll all become clearer as we get up to May and all of these projects begin to come out.

You used the word “confusing” — is it a legitimate concern at all, with launching so many new things in a short time, that there is going to be some confusion? Or is it the thought that if people are confused a little, that can be a good thing, because they’ll be curious, and will want to keep reading, to find out what’s what?

Brevoort: I think, and I hope, it’s more the latter. Even just in the stuff that we’ve announced so far, it’s a lot of things, and there are more things to come. Clearly, just on that Battleworld map that we have up on, I forget off the top of my head exactly how many different labeled areas there are, all of which are associated with projects — and not every project that we’ve got has a spot on that map. And there may be two or three projects that are coming from the same area, or will cross areas. It’s a lot to take in. More than anything, I think that and the fact that it’s not really all set against the backdrop of the typical Marvel Universe, makes this difficult for people to completely understand at this point.

But that’s OK. If they are confused in a way that makes them intrigued, that’s great — that’s kind of what we want. And we are rolling these things out sort of slowly, partly so that people can digest each piece of this as it comes. If we dropped all the stuff that we’ve announced so far in one fell swoop, it would just be chaos. Nobody would be able to separate one thing from the next. It would just be a maelstrom of information.

We’ve elected to roll these out so that each project can have a moment for people to focus on it, get some understanding as to what it is, and some feeling for whether it’s something that they’re interested in.

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You mentioned Marvel experimenting in different genres within this event. What makes “Secret Wars” the right place to do so? It looks like it’s granted Marvel some boldness to launch books it might not normally.

Brevoort: As a big event series — and really, a bigger event series than we’ve done anywhere in the past, and one that’s going to range beyond just publishing, into other areas of our business — there’s going to be more marketing efforts spent against “Secret Wars” as a name, as a brand, as a concept, than just about anything within recent memory. So if you’re trying to get the tide to rise to lift all boats, that’s a good platform to be tethered to. It’s going to have resources thrown against it, whereas typically a “Where Monsters Dwell” would get a certain amount of a promotional push, but it would be in proportion to what the project represents against the entirety of the publishing line, and what other things are coming that month.

You still have that concern here, because we’re publishing all of this stuff in a fairly short period, but given that it’s all connected to and part of the larger sum total that is “Secret Wars,” the hope is that context provides more lift and more interest in some of these other things, than they would if they were just released by themselves. Also, they all take place in this new Battleworld environment, so you kind of have to release them now. [Laughs]

Are there any different genres that you’re personally excited to see explored within this event that Marvel hasn’t done in a while?

Brevoort: Unfortunately, the two that immediately come to mind haven’t been announced yet. [Laughs] But I like the fact that our editorial staff and our creative teams are really taking advantage of this to flex some different muscle, and to stretch themselves into different areas than we’re used to doing. We’ll take some chances, and I’m sure that, like with the Marvel NOW! or All-New Marvel NOW! books, not every one is going to work or is going to find its audience, or be an enormous success. But hopefully they will all be memorable enough that they all are going to be somebody’s favorite comic out in the world. And that’s pretty great. Nobody here is really swinging for the middle of the road — everybody is trying to do something that’s got a little more zip and zing and zest to it. And I think that’s super-cool.

So if these books are successful, will either these series, or more series like this — delving into different genres — have a life after “Secret Wars”?

Brevoort: Again, the stuff that we’re starting here is the seeding ground for the future. So yes, that’s absolutely our intention — and our intention with every piece of this, to one degree or another. It’s really, though, just sort of an extension of what we’ve been doing the last couple of years — maybe a little wider, a little broader, because we have the opportunity here, and we’ve set the expectation that we can do a “Hawkeye” or a “Ms. Marvel” or an “Ant-Man” — books that, on the surface, people might have gone, “That’s not going to work terribly well,” and have them come out with a unique voice and a particular point of view, and really capture the imagination of an audience. So this is just sort of trying to do that, but writ larger.

That’s interesting — so the slightly less than conventional books that Marvel has had success with recently have helped guide the “Secret Wars” series?

Brevoort: It really all just kind of comes from the aesthetic from the top. Axel has a love for doing all kinds of different comics. He started at Vertigo, where he did no superheroes, but in addition to doing what you think of as the core Vertigo fantasy, he did crime books, and he did weird twist ending anthologies, and he did “Gangland” — he did a bunch of stuff. “100 Bullets,” “Preacher.” There’s a range of material that appeals to him. All of this stuff does. And so the fact that it appeals to him makes it easier to get a project like that up and running and approved, because he’s more likely to be enthusiastic about it. His particular taste in terms of art style of creator approach are such that it kind of lets us explore some areas that we hadn’t done before.

It’s also interesting because it feels at this point — and again, it’s very early — that while in past events people ask, “Can I read the main series without reading the rest of the books,” in this instance, that these related series appear self-contained and that people can likely read, say, “Where Monsters Dwell,” and not necessarily read the “Secret Wars” main series. The event seems unique in that way — is that fair to say?

Brevoort: I think you could probably say that more with the Warzones! books than the Battleworld books. And that’s sort of why we have the sub-branding. The Battleworld books deal with the super-structure of Battleworld, this new aggregate planet. What that essentially means is, probably most of them are going to involve stories that don’t remain in one particular geographic area, but range from one to another to another — or that deal with the politics of Battleworld, or the machinery that allows this society to function. Therefore, the more you understand of the core “Secret Wars” series, the easier your buy-in is going to be on those.

The individual Warzones! books, however, largely remain within the confines of a single domain — in some cases, possibly two domaines that are adjacent. So you’re sort of getting a more micro-view, and those are designed such that you could read them and not feel like you were missing so much of the bigger picture. There is connectivity to what’s going on in the large in Battleworld, but those stories are more about the specifics of that particular environment.

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Garth Ennis is writing “Where Monsters Dwell,” and that’s not a creator we’d normally see on Marvel event book. Has this branching out into different genres given Marvel the ability to attract a wider variety of creators rather than who we typically see on your current books? And will there be more unexpected names in future “Secret Wars” announcements?

Brevoort: I think you’ll definitely see some people that will surprise you, or that will make you take a second look. With a range of books that’s as wide as what we’re doing here, it almost stands to reason that some people that you wouldn’t have anticipated would be part of a thing like this. It’s sort of difficult to say too much without saying anything, and I have to wait for the rest of these announcements to come out in their own time.

Last thing I wanted to ask about for the week — from your perspective as obviously a longtime comics publishing veteran and a comics fan, do you have any thoughts you wanted to share about DC’s big announcement from last week, with 24 new series debuting that, largely, look a lot different than the bulk of their output in recent years?

Brevoort: Unfortunately, the difficult part of this is, there’s no way I can phrase this that doesn’t sound like we’re trying to grab credit. [Laughs] But in essence, I think — and I’m projecting here, I haven’t talked to anybody over there, I don’t know what they’re necessarily thinking — but looking at the books they’ve announced, and looking at the most recent wave of books, particularly the Bat-books that have been getting attention, the Mark Doyle books, it seems like they are drawing similar lessons from the successes of the “Hawkeye”s and the “Ms. Marvel”s, to embolden them to try to do some different, wilder stuff. And I think that’s great, too. I don’t mean this to sound like, “Oh, they’re just following us,” because if they do a great book that breaks their mold a little bit, I’m all for that. I don’t want to cast any aspersion on that. I’m just sort of looking over the landscape and the zeitgeist and where things are right now. They’ve very aggressively, over the last three years, been focused on producing a very specific kind of comic, and a very specific kind of story. And if you liked that, they certainly had chocolate for you. There was a lot of chocolate, and some of it was really, really good chocolate. Now, it is kind of nice to see them spread out, and try to do some Tutti Frutti, and try to do some Rocky Road, and hopefully some of these things will be successful.

I genuinely think the industry is better when everybody does well. I want to do better than them, I want to beat them every single month, but I don’t want them to do poorly. I want to beat them by doing better than they do. It’s so difficult to talk about these things without it just becoming an argument or a pissing match, or a battleboards conversation, but I think it’s an interesting move. I will certainly be paying attention to check out some of those titles as they get rolled out, and we’ll see what happens.

Have some questions for Marvel’s AXEL-IN-CHARGE? Please visit the AXEL-IN-CHARGE Q&A thread in CBR’s Marvel Comics community. It’s the dedicated thread that CBR will pull questions for next week’s installment of our weekly fan-supported question-and-answer column! Do it to it!

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