You talked about Loki betraying the readers. For me his ultimate betrayal came in Doctor Strange #382 where his actions lead to the death of an adorable talking dog named Bats. I blame him for what happened to Bats, and want him taken down for that. It broke my heart.
[Laughs] Yeah, that was rough, right? It's funny, too, because I felt so terrible when the previews came out for issue #382. They were just of that scene where Strange is trying to perform his job as a veterinarian and Bats walks in. People instantly fell in love with Bats. And I, being a monster, tweeted out, “Issue #382 is the first appearance of your favorite new character, Bats!” I was like, “You're a monster! What are you doing?
When I got the Doctor Strange gig, my cat, Autumn, died. She was my best buddy and she was always there. She would sleep on my lap everyday when I wrote. My wife works as much as I do, and her job has late hours. When I had Autumn, though, it was very nice. I had a companion. Then, like a week before I got Strange, she passed away. So I was in a pretty dark place and at the time the people at the veterinarian office were my heroes. They were so awesome about it and they really helped us through it and took care of everything. So I considered them heroes. That's why Strange is a vet.
I was in love with the idea that even though Stephen has lost everything he's found a way to be someone's hero on even the smallest scale that he can. Something beautiful about Stephen that's not really prevalent in a lot of other Marvel characters is that he was a hero before he was ever a sorcerer. He was saving lives everyday as a surgeon. Then he became a Marvel hero. So I wanted to dig into and explore that. In issue #381 he says, “I didn't fix my hands to become a superhero. I fixed them to save peoples' lives and help them. Now I am.”
Other people look down on him for this, and certainly the superhero community gives him flack, but if you're that couple there with their cat, he's your hero. He's exactly who you need him to be in that moment, and that to me is very beautiful.
So yeah, the death of Bats was tough. But it's me trying to inject some of my personal life into this; of dealing with the heartache of losing an animal. It was really tough for me to write that. His final words were, “Don't ever let anybody hurt your friends.” That messed me up man. It's not something that I did lightly.
What I really liked about it is that it was a massive dose of real in an otherwise completely fantastical book. You've got the God of Lies and Stories, a sorcerer, a floating house, and the Sentry. Then in the middle of it you have something that's probably happened to a lot of people who read this book. You have a very real thing; a dog dying. The loss of a pet is really tough. It's something that can lead you down a path that might be a little extreme.
You talked a little bit about Gabriel's work already, but part of the reason Bats' death was so resonant for me and a lot of other readers was, of course, the work done by him and colorist Jordie Bellaire.
When you have someone like Gabriel on the team, it allows me to write moments and scenes that maybe I wouldn't do with someone else. Because in the wrong hands these scenes came seem easy or unearned. It is a testament to Gabriel and Jordie that the death of Bats resonated in the way that it did. Especially considering at that point you had only known Bats for maybe eight pages. His first appearance was on one page in #381, and then he's in like six pages in #382. His death was still profound for a lot of people though. That's crazy! It shouldn't have worked! It did work though because of Jordie and the acting that Gabriel was able to pull off... on a dog! That's bananas!
And Jordie is maybe one of my favorite human beings inside or outside of comics. She and I had lots of conversations about color palettes and how to pull this off. Something that no one has picked up on is that her color palettes for each issue correspond to the season and the month that the issue comes out in.
That's something that wasn't in my script, and wasn't something that we really talked about. You'll notice in issue #383 that the palette is snowy with Christmas lights and things like that. We wanted to do that to try to ground this book as much as possible. Because a lot of times these magic books, especially when there are gods involved, can kind of get away from you as far as how to relate to them. That's always been what's set Marvel apart; this idea that it's the world outside. It's all these crazy and fantastic characters, but it is your world. So to that end, a lot of what grounds this book and makes it so relatable and real is the work Jordie is doing.