Marvel Comics' 80th anniversary has been (like most publisher anniversaries) an opportunity to put more comics on the stands. But unlike past celebrations of the Marvel line, this year's milestone efforts extend beyond the traditional anthology format projects.
Marvel Editor-in-Chief CB Cebulski explained the approach to the comics focusing on eight decades of the House of Ideas by tying them to his general editorial approach for Marvel in the here and now. "We were figuring out how to celebrate the 80th anniversary. Going back to [that idea of] 'Look back to the past to respect the future,'" told CBR at Comic-Con International. "We knew we wanted to go back to past creators, bring back past storylines and tell one-shots and miniseries – not just with the superhero genre but with horror, romance, sci-fi...the other things that Marvel and Timely and Atlas were known for previously."
For August 28th's Marvel Comics #1000, it's no surprise that the publisher saw the huge sales numbers put up by DC Comics' recent Action Comics #1000 and Detective Comics #1000 anniversary issues and prepared a similar product. But Cebulski says that the Marvel take on the massive one-shot stands apart. "Our Distinguished Competition put out two amazing specials celebrating their 80th years with Batman and Superman [hitting issue] #1000, and we looked at those and said, 'Those were great. But they were pretty much the same in scope and formatting. We want to do something completely different.' That's where Tom Brevoort came up with the idea of 'Let's get one creative team to tell a story about one year in Marvel Comics history with one character...and then somehow tie them all together.'"
That act of typing it all together fell on Marvel's longtime executive editor, and the E-i-C is still not sure how it actually happened. "I read it in different stages as it came through, and I kind of knew what Tom as going for. But seeing it all put together, I still do not know how him and his team of editors and his team of creators put this thing together so seamlessly with Al Ewing writing the spine, which did a lot of lifting here," he said. "That [comic] connects Marvel Comics #1 to every Marvel comic we've seen since, telling a story that we've never seen told before about the background of the Marvel Universe, introducing a new character and tying everything seamlessly together – with facts about Marvel Comics hidden on every page throughout! It is a monster. And after I read the final version and sent it off to press, I talked to Tom and said 'Hats off to you, because there is no other person in the editorial history of comics who could have done this except for you.'"
A similarly daunting project is the recently launched History of the Marvel Universe from Mark Waid and Javier Rodríguez. The mini series tells the history of Marvel Comics as a narrative from the early celestial beings that created the universe on through the modern-day superheroes that star in the line. "It is absolutely beautiful," Cebulski said before detailing its origins. "We did a story back around Captain America's anniversary where it was the history of Captain America told in splash pages. I think David Aja drew it. We wanted to do something similar to that, so that's where the germ of the idea came from. And then Mark took it and said 'Oh no, I have much bigger plans!' and almost turned it into this beautiful illustrated story of the history of Marvel across – it's not fully like this – but double-page spreads. The story just moves from left to right. It takes full advantage of the medium of comic book storytelling to give you this beautiful visual history of the Marvel Universe from the first seed of Marvel history, chronologically up to where we are right now."
In an era where writers call most of the shots in mainstream comics, History has been a more traditional Marvel project. "He's done it Marvel style," Cebulski said of Waid's post-art scripting. "He's working with Javier Rodríguez. Javier is a masterful storyteller and a Marvel fan through and through just like Tom, Mark and myself. He's been able to add his own flair to it visually to bring Mark's story to life. Mark is going to have trouble finding places to put the word balloons and the text boxes because there's almost no piece of art in any corner of any page that's not beautiful and that you'd not want to cover."
Stay tuned for more with CB Cebulski on CBR.