From wallcrawlers to hellcats; from murder mysteries to World War II conspiracies; and from high heels to mighty shields, "Marvel Comics Presents" offers something for every Marvel Comics fan – and perhaps a lot more, too. CBR News spoke last week with "MCP" editor John Barber about the return of Marvel's signature anthology series and its bold mission to bring the biggest names and the brightest new talents together to create all-new tales of Marvel's most beloved heroes.
"'Marvel Comics Presents' is going to be the premiere place for new stories starring fan-favorite characters that haven't got their own series at the moment, and for off-beat, unusual stories about characters that do," John Barber told CBR News. "It's really a chance to see some characters and creators that you're not used to seeing, or seeing them in situations that you're not used to seeing them in."
Along with Barber, Marvel editors Nick Lowe, Warren Simmons and former editor Andy Schmidt assembled a hugely respectable creative roster for "Marvel Comics Presents'" first year, with new stories by the likes of Dave Wilkins, Andrea DeVito, Kathryn & Stuart Immonen, Stuart Moore & Clayton Henry, Nelson Decastro, as well as Marc Guggenheim and Rich Koslowski, who spoke with us last week about their Captain America and Weapon Omega stories, respectively.
Joining us this time is Dave Wilkins, illustrator of Marc Guggenheim's 12-part "Vanguard;" Stuart Moore, who with artist Clayton Henry turns in an eight-page Spidey story; and Stuart Immonen & Kathryn Immonen, who took advantage of the unique possibilities of "Marvel Comics Presents" to tell a Hellcat story unlike any fans have read before.
"After 'Nextwave,' Stuart wanted to do another odd story, as he was working on 'Ultimate Spider-Man,'" John Barber explained. "Kathryn is a really great writer-a lot of people only know Stuart from his high-profile superstar work, but he and Kathryn have been working together on comics for years," like their webcomic, "Moving Pictures."
"Stuart and I have a deep-seated love for the romance and fashion comics of the '40s and '50s," Kathryn Immonen told CBR News. "So when Nick Lowe mentioned the possibility of doing a Patsy Walker story, Stuart's eyes immediately glazed over and he started mumbling 'high heels' and 'wardrobe.'"
Added Stuart Immonen, "We share a fondness for the fashion comics of the mid-20th century, as well as for Joss Whedon's supernatural comic-melodrama series 'Angel.' "When Nick proposed doing a multi-part Hellcat story, it really seemed like a perfect opportunity to merge the two. So there are a lot of dresses and heels and fighting and explosions... you know, fun. Patsy Walker has such a complex and unlikely back-story; equal parts tragedy, romance and comedy-- I'm surprised she isn't everybody's favorite character, since there's something there for everyone."
The Immonens' Hellcat story is about Patsy Walker's alter ego invading her personal life. "And it's not alone," teased editor John Barber."
"This four-parter is an attempt to address Patsy's career-killing resume as well as those some twenty years she had before she was even brought into Marvel continuity," explained Kathryn Immoen. "And we're doing it backwards in high heels. With lots of kicking and lots of Hellcat and lots and lots of Patsy. It's a supernatural tale of romance and dating. We're tearing up apartments and restaurants and mystical contracts. We love Patsy, but we would have hated her guts in high school.
"We take Patsy and have her amazingly varied past not so much come back to haunt her but rather more like it gets into a really cute car and drives right through her living room window and crashes into her enormous walk-in closet. It's about how sometimes certain plans for the future were really just thoughts you had in passing, not really plans at all, and it's probably better to let them go."
As if offbeat, high-heeled action weren't enough of a draw (pun not intended, but acceptable), "Marvel Comics Presents" provided Stuart Immonen with opportunities to indulge himself further, reuniting the artist with some of his celebrated collaborators. "It was a chance for me to get to continue to work with the 'Nextwave' art team of [inker] Wade Von Grawbadger and [colorist] Dave McCaig, who are both turning in stellar work, as per usual," gushed Stuart Immonen. "It was a bonus to get Todd Klein on letters, who not only made Superman: Secret Identity a pleasure to work on, but he likes birds, which is okay by me."
Another multi-part story beginning in "Marvel Comics Presents" #1 is "Vanguard." Written by Marc Guggenheim and illustrated by Dave Wilkins – who, although he's impressed quite a few "Moon Knight" readers with his stunning and moody covers, is still a name many readers aren't familiar with – yet. Said Marc Guggenheim of his talented collaborator, "Dave's art is going to render everyone barefoot - i.e., knock their socks off."
"Dave Wilkins is a guy I've known for years-an amazingly talented artist and designer, so he was the first guy I thought of to draw it," added John Barber. "He's not a big name yet, but he's got the talent and people will be amazed by his work on 'MCP.'"
"John Barber and I have been friends for awhile and have wanted to work together on a project for years," Dave Wilkins told CBR News. "After 'What If? Age of Apocalypse' I started doing covers, the upcoming Moon Knight annual, 'Black Panther' and the whole time John and I were trying to figure out something we could work on. It was really challenging to put together because I work as a concept artist fulltime so a short run or slow burn series was what we were trying to do.
"Then 'MCP' came on line and John said, 'Hey man, I got something that might work out.' All he had to say was 'Marc G' and I was in. I'm a huge fan of Marc's 'Blade' and 'Wolverine' work, so the chance to work with him was a total no-brainer."
"Vanguard" is a 12-part Manhattan murder mystery starring a character who some Marvel fans may remember, Stacy Dolan, in what appears to be a straightforward investigation that leads Dolan on a terrifying trail that goes back to World War II and collides with a top-secret team that's been operating under the radar in the Marvel Universe for some time.
"During the course of the investigation," said Guggenheim, "we'll cross paths with many different people in the Marvel Universe, on our way to uncovering the existence of... well, that would be telling."
Featuring Wilkins' combination of traditional pencils, digital rendering and painted art on covers and interiors, "Marvel Comics Presents" is sure to get the artist noticed by a potentially enormous new audience. "I love all the beautiful painted covers all over Marvel right now," said Wilkins. "Marko Djurdjevic, Nic Klein, Lee Bermejo; and to get a rendered or painted book with full interiors is always an event comic, so the goal [with 'Vanguard'] is to have a monthly, painted short story, and with the tone of the series it feels right. Tony Washington, who we've worked with before, is a longtime Wildstorm veteran and colorist of 'What If? Age Of Apocalypse' will be coloring 'Vanguard' -the guy is a beast!"
"Marvel Comics Presents" #1 also features new work by Stuart Moore ("Lone," "Firestorm") and Clayton Henry ("Uncanny X-Men," "Exiles"), who've authored "Unfriendly Neighborhood," a stand-alone Spider-Man story. Said Barber, "Stuart Moore and Clayton Henry are both great creators, and this was a case where Andy liked both of their work, they both had the time, and they came together to do a one-off Spider-Man story that's just crazy - in a good way."
"It's hard to talk too much about an eight-page story without giving it all away," Stuart Moore told CBR News. "But here goes: With 'Unfriendly Neighborhood,' basically I started with a (hopefully) funny idea about Spider-Man that plays directly into his basic, neurotic character. It was a tricky story to write because it suggested a lot of big visuals and spin-off ideas, but at the same time it wasn't the kind of tale you wanted to stretch out too long.
"Clayton Henry took my somewhat jokey script and played it absolutely straight, which was exactly what the story needed. I'm hoping it'll be a nice chocolate surprise in the center of the big, tasty ice cream bar that is 'Marvel Comics Presents.'"
Writer-artist Nelson ("Action Comics") finishes off issue #1 with a touching tale of Ben Grimm AKA the Thing. "Nelson's Thing story shows us what it's like to be Alicia Masters and to try to live a normal life when your boyfriend is a huge, orange, rocky dude," explained Barber, who has been a fan of the artist for years. "Nelson's a great guy and a supremely talented individual. For the past few years, he's been mostly known as an inker, but he's actually a jack-of-all-trades. Andy put this one together with Nelson, but I remember Nelson writing, penciling and inking back at Dark Horse years ago, and the only surprising thing about this story is that he's even better now than he was then!"
The previous series of "Marvel Comics Presents" ended in 1995. A decade on, with titles like "24Seven" and "The Goon: Noir" and "MySpace Dark Horse Presents," the comics landscape is once again one where anthologies are viable and, occasionally, hugely successful showcases for new work and new talent. Judging by its first issue alone, "Marvel Comics Presents," with its mix of popular characters and passionate creators both mainstream and underground, seems more than ready to return to comics stands in full effect.
For more on "Marvel Comics Presents," check out CBR's previous interview with Marc Guggenheim, Rich Koslowski and John Barber.
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