The unsung heroes of the Marvel Universe get their chance to shine in the two-issue "Marvel Assistant-Sized Spectacular," in which the House of Ideas' assistant editors take the reins for six short stories written and illustrated by familiar and up-and-coming talent.
Released April 1, issue #1 saw a D-Man story by Brian Patchett and Xurxo Penalta, American Eagle by Jason Aaron and Richard Isanove, and a Mini Marvels Hawkeye adventure by Chris Giarrusso. The second issue, on sale April 29, features Luke Cage by Wyatt Cynac and Todd Nauck; Galacta, Daughter of Galactus, by Adam Warren and Hector Enrique Sevilla Lujan; and Elsa Bloodstone by Christopher Yost with art by Joh James and Victor Olazaba. All of this is wrapped within a framing sequence that shows the Assistants hard at work, contriving to show the senior editors they've got what it takes to revolutionize the Marvel U.
CBR News caught up with the assistant editors to get their take on the specials, their reasons for pitching their individual stories, and the thought that goes into choosing a creative team (it involves lunch).
CBR: Chris Eliopoulos wrote the framing story, and all of you assistants come across with very distinct personalities and appearances -- Alejandro is too tall for the panels, Tom blends into the background, Jordan always has a superhero prop and spouts dialogue, and so on. Do you guys know Chris pretty well, or did you have to give him character descriptions?
LAUREN SANKOVITCH: The real question is whether there's a single person in Marvel Editorial that doesn't know Chris. I've been fortunate enough to work with him on several different lettering projects, from Stephen King's "The Dark Tower" and "The Stand" to the loooooooong-awaited "Ultimate Wolverine Vs. Hulk," but this marked the very first time I've worked with Chris Eliopoulos, Big-Time Comic Book Writer. My mother says he captured my essence quite convincingly.
ALEJANDRO ARBONA: I've worked with Chris for over two years, and we've met in person a number of times--so I felt he'd know me well enough to nail my character description as "devastatingly handsome, suave, and sophisticated." But he took it in another direction...which was okay I guess. Although I've never thought of myself as being tall like that. I've always figured I'm average-height, and everyone else is a pipsqueak.
TOM BRENNAN: Well, everyone in comics knows I'm the white guy, so I suppose it lines up pretty well--outside of the other seven hundred and fifty two dull, pasty faced guys working in this industry. Actually, it's funny, I'd say Chris got us all down pretty well--Lauren's very take charge, Jordan's waaaay too into these comics, Daniel's very neat and organized, Nate can't function without a football in his hands and I've never seen Alejandro's real face.
NATE COSBY: I have only worked with Chris for four-and-a-half years, on "Franklin Richards" and the 47 books he letters for me, as well as an arc of "Marvel Adventures Fantastic Four" and the upcoming "Lockjaw & the Pet Avengers" mini I asked him to write, and the "Wolverine First Class Art Appreciation Cover" I asked him to draw, and I think I'd suggested him as the writer for this Assistant thing. I do not like him, and until this question was asked, I didn't even know his last name.
DANIEL KETCHUM: Chris and I spent many long hours working with each other on "Spider-Man: One More Day." I think we got to know each other pretty well, fleeing from angry mobs of Mary Jane fans when that final issue hit the stands. You really get to know someone when you're on the run together.
JORDAN WHITE: I've met Chris a number of times since starting at Marvel, and I am pretty confident he based my personality off those meetings. The first time we met was at a Christmas Party, at which my wife and I were both like "OMG, you're Chris Eliopolous?!? Of 'Franklin Richards' and 'Desperate Times' fame? WJDHJKLDJKAKNJDDLDKFJF!!!"
Though your group's antics in the framing story are quite amusing, how much funnier are the jokes if you know this crew in person?
DANIEL KETCHUM: They're not as much funny as they are startling! Chris really hit close to the mark with his depictions of the assistant editors. I think he did an excellent job capturing our personalities and our quirks.
ALEJANDRO ARBONA: They're definitely funnier when you can imagine each character's dialogue in the sound of their own voice, like Jordan's bellowingly operatic basso profundo, or Tom Brennan's shrill, insufferable wail. Or Nate Cosby, who sounds just exactly like Huckleberry Hound.
JORDAN WHITE: I think it works both ways. If you know me, you know that, yeah... I probably am the comic geek of the assistant editors. So, it has that added funniness. But I don't really constantly speak in comic cliches, even if I am the best there is at what I do and what I do isn't pretty.
NATE COSBY: I am a serious, thoughtful person that hates football, loves comics, and has a full head of hair. I'll never forgive everyone involved in this project for making me look like a grumpy, bald football lover. Makes me sick.
What was the experience of editing your own story, in comparison with your normal duties as assistant editor?
DANIEL KETCHUM: Not that different, actually. At the time I pitched my "Assistant-Sized Spectacular Story," I was already editing "New Warriors," "Ghost Rider," and the "X-Men: Worlds Apart" limited series. The one way it probably differed from my other projects was that this story needed to introduce the character and also show readers what she's all about in only nine pages.
LAUREN SANKOVITCH: While I was doing many of the same tasks I tackle on an everyday basis for the short story, here I really got to pull the project together from soup to nuts...which is a truly terrifying and exhilarating experience. No holds barred and all that. Basically turning what I normally do up to eleven, if you will.
TOM BRENNAN: I find short stories to be much more difficult than longer ones to edit, so there's a massive balancing act going on to service the needs of the story with the realities of the space on the page. But at the same time, I was very much on my own to figure it out - my beloved boss Steve Wacker gave some fantastic advice and guidance, but the decisions were all squarely in my hands and I loved that. I also loved the chance to work with a new talent to comics like Wyatt Cenac.
ALEJANDRO ARBONA: The buck stopped with me, sink or swim. Overall, the work that went into it was about the same as my usual duties on other books I edit and assistant-edit, but with a much greater amount of independence. So the challenge was to tell a good, tight story without the benefit of a mentoring editor like Warren Simons or Tom Brevoort watching over my shoulder and keeping an eye out for me.
NATE COSBY: It was really amazing, because it was the first project I'd ever edited that I'd read before it was completed. Usually, I get a script in, give it to an artist without examining, give the art to a colorist and letterer without looking at it, then print it all out and let the proofreaders check it. But for this story, I decided to read it before it was drawn, mainly because it was short. I can read short things.
JORDAN WHITE: I was pretty surprised to learn that when you're editing your own stories, you get complimentary back massages and free refills on the beverage of your choice while reclining in a very cushy lounge chair in front of a holo-video display of the secret four hour edit of "Iron Man" that totally has Cap in it for reals. As an assistant, we're mostly moving files around and emailing all day.
What appeals to you about the character you chose to pitch?
ALEJANDRO ARBONA: D-Man is a super hero who started out as pretty much a washout and only went down from there. Every story that's progressed his status quo has only pushed him lower and lower. But in all that decline, he's never lost his good heart, his nobility, or his earnestness about doing good. He'll try to help people in any way he can, even if he doesn't totally think it through - and that inspires sympathy, hopefully even a little admiration.
TOM BRENNAN: I grew up in Harlem - Luke Cage's a superhero whose voice and attitude I recognize in the people and community I call home. Believe me, I've been to a ton of community board meetings, neighborhood watch meetings and other public events - there's always a straight talking, take-action Luke Cage-type present. The superpowers are just cosmetic.
NATE COSBY: Hawkeye is cool because he's purple and has arrows.
DANIEL KETCHUM: Elsa Bloodstone is a witty British bombshell who happens to have a penchant for beating the snot out of monsters. What's not to like?
LAUREN SANKOVITCH: For a character whose total appearances I could count on my fingers, not to mention having some of the worst costumes in the history of tacky superherowear, I felt American Eagle had such a tremendous potential within the Marvel U as a whole. With his strong identification to his Native American heritage and disaffected attitude towards the larger superhero community, he's a principled man with his own brand of justice. Pair that with his bone-dry sense of humor and take-all-comers power set, he is a force to be reckoned with.
JORDAN WHITE: "Galacta," as we've named Galactus's daughter, is just the sort of fun and somewhat out-there idea that makes the Marvel Universe great. Yeah, it's a universe where a dark regime of villains has overtaken the government and oppresses the heroes, but it's also the same universe with Impossible Man, and John Byrne's Fourth-Wall Breaking She-Hulk... and sometimes the serious parts and the fun parts can meet. It's a really elastic universe that can fit all stories.
How did you go about putting together your creative team for the story?
NATE COSBY: I called Chris Giarrusso. Then I had a salad.
ALEJANDRO ARBONA: It's hard to find a project to try out new talent on, and with a flagging economy it's gotten even harder because the stakes are so much higher. So given a shot like this, with a shorter story and a freer editorial hand, I wanted to take full advantage of that opportunity. Brian Patchett is a talented young writer who had done a hilarious, silent two-pager for me with Sergio Aragones in "Avengers Classic" #12, and I wanted to try him on something with dialogue and a more conventional super hero sensibility. And I had encountered Xurxo Penalta's work at a convention in Spain last year, and wanted very much to work with him ever since. I think their work paired up extremely well, and the two of them really enjoyed working with each other and exchanging ideas.
TOM BRENNAN: Wyatt Cenac, who you can see weeknights on "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart," appeared on a local comic book comedy show, "Comic Book Club Live" here in New York City, along with Executive Editor Tom Brevoort. I discovered he already had a writing background for television on shows like "King of the Hill," so I e-mailed him and asked if he had interest in working on the story. We met up, tossed around some ideas and landed on an idea I'd long had - Luke Cage runs for public office. Todd Nauck, on the other hand, is someone I will work with whenever I can. He's a blast to talk to and is a pro, through and through. Beyond that, he's a fantastic visual storyteller and I wanted to have someone who could help a new writer best organize their pages. And to top it off, colorist Rain Beredo and letterer Joe Caramagna are two guys who always give me top quality work in a speedy fashion. It's my dream team, really.
DANIEL KETCHUM: The creative team for my story just kind of fell into place. I was working with Chris Yost at the time on X-Men: Worlds Apart and knew he could write a strong female lead. Also, he rocks. And I had been looking for an excuse to work with Joh James, whose art had a quality that reminded me of Nextwave's Stuart Immonen...a perfect fit for an Elsa story. And, of course, Victor Olazaba, Ulises Arreola and Jeff Eckleberry do superb work, so this was a nice excuse to work with them again.
LAUREN SANKOVITCH: When you think badass action coupled with rich character development, there was only one man for the job in my mind and that was Jason Aaron. It was a trip fitting this little piece into his busy schedule, but after our initial conversation about the project in general he was pumped about joining my scheme to bring this crazy little-known D-lister to life. Having worked with Richard Isanove on the "Dark Tower" books, I knew he'd nail the sweeping visuals and stark desert landscape we wanted for the story. He and Jason immediately established a rapport and more often than not would celebrate all things Springsteen under the guise of "giving notes." The Boss would be proud.
JORDAN WHITE: Working with Adam Warren was a pretty high priority for me, so I sought him out as soon as I could. I've long been a fan of both his work at Marvel and elsewhere. I'd hoped he would draw the story, too, but unfortunately he's too busy doing pages upon pages of "Empowered." Adam actually recommended Hector to me, and he came up with some pretty impressive visuals for the Gal.
What can we look forward to in issue 2?
DANIEL KETCHUM: Free money and puppies for everyone! And also, Elsa Bloodstone, Luke Cage, Galacta, your favorite assistant editors and sparklers.
LAUREN SANKOVITCH: More of the same! But newer! And different-er! (and just wait 'til you hit the last page...!)
ALEJANDRO ARBONA: I haven't read my three fellow assistant editors' stories just yet. We've all been collaborating on the framing sequence for a few weeks, but until the whole book is put together and about to go to the printers, I remain in suspense about the soon-to-come adventures of Elsa Bloodstone, Luke Cage, and Galacta. I'm eager to see it!
TOM BRENNAN: Will Luke Cage run for Borough President of Brooklyn?! Who is LONE SHARK?! Will Jessica Jones wear a pill box hat?!!!! Find out in Citizen Cage: Political Power Man by Wyatt Cenac & Todd Nauck!
JORDAN WHITE: You think it's easy being the daughter of Galactus? Think again. Sure, there's the near limitless cosmic power... but what if you have a little thing called a conscience? Gali doesn't want to be anything like her father... despite sharing his... dietary restrictions.
"Marvel Assistant-Sized Spectacular" #2 goes on sale April 29 from Marvel Comics.