Sequels are always a popular draw with superhero fans, but when it comes to crafting a sequel to a hit that has had massive amounts of critical acclaim on it as well as being pointed to as a great crossover comic for non-readers, the follow up can be long in the waiting.
This weekend at Fan Expo in Toronto, Marvel Comics let it be known that "Marvels: Eye of the Camera" " the sequel to the hit series chronicling the early years of the Marvel Universe by photo journalist Phil Sheldon by original "Marvels" writer Kurt Busiek and painter Jay Anacleto " will finally see print as a six-issue mini series starting in December.
"This series actually started production about six years ago, and the original intention was to do it as a tenth anniversary celebration of 'Marvels,' and we blew that deadline so that didn't happen," Marvel Executive Editor Tom Brevoort told CBR News. "It's taken us this long to get to the point where we're halfway confident that we're going to get it out there on time... We get asked about it at conventions every year. People keep asking about it, and the answer has been, 'Yeah, we're working on it.' And now comes the point where we've working on it enough where we can go, 'OK. December.'"
While the original four-issue series by Busiek and then newcomer Alex Ross reinterpreted the impact of the early years of Marvel's publishing history from its anti-heroic titans of the '40s to the companies revival under Stan Lee's pen in the '60s, "Eye of the Camera" (whose scripts were completed before Busiek went exclusive to rival DC Comics) takes a similar approach to a different time period and some different heroes.
"Once again, our point of view character and the guy we're with is Phil Sheldon, and we'll be picking him up sometime after the original 'Marvels,'" Brevoort explained. "Along with him on this particular story over these six issues, we'll be walking through the Marvel universe of the '70s and of the '80s and also revisiting a couple of key moments from the '60s that got skipped over in the original 'Marvels' series because they weren't germane to that story. We're very much of a kind in terms of the story in the original 'Marvels' and a direct sequel in that this is all the stuff that happens to Phil after the end of 'Marvels' #4.
"The comics of the '70s and '80s have a slightly different flavor, and that will impact on the story as Phil experiences the changing of the universe and the world around him. He'll react to that and respond to that as you would expect having seen the original book. We'll be covering everything. You'll see the Punisher appear for the first time in Manhattan, and we'll see the rise of monsters like Werewolf by Night and Man-Thing and Son of Satan, and we'll see the X-Men die in Dallas during 'Fall of the Mutants,' and we'll see the climax of 'Secret Wars II' where a huge gash is taken out of the middle of the continental U.S. and all the stuff around that."
However, even though the tone of the comics published by Marvel went through many changes in the decades that will be the focus of this new series, Brevoort stressed that the tone for the latest "Marvels" project will fall in line with the first series' sensibilities. "In terms of Phil's outlook and the tone of the series, it's important to keep in mind that Kurt was a reader of these books as well in the same way that he was a reader of the period in the '60s. He just went backwards to get it."
One glaring omission from the creative lineup of the book is obviously superstar Ross who made his name in the industry with "Marvels" in 1994. Brevoort said that Ross was aware of the new series, but for various reasons including scheduling conflicts over the past six years, he was unavailable to contribute. "Way back six years ago when we first started this Kurt had a conversation with Alex, and then some time later I spoke to him, and at that point he wasn't interested in working on the project or being involved. So this is 'Alex free' in a sense. Not to make that sound like a good thing or a bad thing. It just is what it is."
Brevoort acknowledged the massive contribution Ross' art made to the original series' success, but he also noted that their search for an artist on this project ended with a talent in Anacleto (who's previous work had appeared in Image series such as Brian Haberlin's "Athena, Inc.") who could meet the requirements and expectations readers would have for a "Marvels" story.
"There was a certain benchmark set by the original 'Marvels' " that was really Alex's breakout series, and it took a certain look at the Marvel characters and the way he depicted them coming from the art background that he has and the way he can paint them in a super photo-realistic way where they seemed real but it still retained their fantastic elements. We needed someone who could do something like that," he said. "[Jay] didn't catch on [earlier in his career] because, I think, he didn't do anything at the majors. He's been picking away at this for years, so that's why. His stuff has the realism that you need because you're really coming at this from the point of view of Phil...Jay can depict of that, but he can also make the superhero stuff look like big, impressive, lookin' up at it superhero stuff.
"You're not going to be able to duplicate or capture exactly what Alex brought to the original. That said, Jay brings a lot of game to doing this project."
As for skeptics who are unsure that this project could serve as a worthy successor to the sequel or finally hit the stands after six years of waiting, Brevoort said that the project would not have been announced for release if it wasn't ready for print both creatively and in terms of completion. "Nobody wanted to rush it and have it become a hacked out piece of crap because we couldn't get our ducks in a row. The original 'Marvels' is really too important " and is at this point a legacy book " to throw something out there half-assed and have it be perceived as just a cash in or to not put our best foot forward on it."