MARVEL T&A: Brevoort's March Madness

If it's Friday, it must be time to end your week with a little T&A! Or in this case, a little T&T!

CBR News is back again to present an open and honest Q&A with Marvel Comics Vice President Executive Editor Tom Brevoort while his partner in comics Axel Alonso has a few days off - the feature we like to call MARVEL T&A! An old hat in practically all things Marvel, this week Tom steps in to unpack a wealth of recent Marvel announcements for product hitting in March ranging from "Annihilators" to the launch of the CrossGen imprint! And fear not, Axel will be back next week to pick up in an all fan questions and answer column!

Each Friday, in addition to our regular Cup O' Joe installments, CBR will present a new interview with the T&A duo covering everything Marvel Comics, and this week Brevoort has insider info on why now was the time to compress the cosmic line into the "Annihilators" series, what the final details on the launch of the CrossGen imprint are, how Marvel will be celebrating Captain America's 70th Anniversary and even a little bit of background on Marvel's incoming April "Fear-based" event which will be announced in full next Friday. Plus, Tom's got a special question for Marvel readers who've come into the fold in the past ten years. Read on!

Kiel Phegley: Tom, we didn't get to catch up a whole lost last week as you were still getting settled back from vacation, but I did want to ask about your trip - I saw on Twitter that you were in Japan and went to the Miyazaki museum. Was this at all a business trip, or was it just for fun?

Tom Brevoort: I was in Japan, yes, and there was absolutely no business aspect to the trip whatsoever. I went to Japan to see the live-action "Space Battleship Yamato" movie on opening day. So my family and I flew to Ikebukuro, Tokyo, stayed a couple of days there, went to the Ghibli Museum which is devoted to the films of master animator Hayao Miyazaki and is wonderful, and it had nothing to do with Marvel at all. Aki Yanagi, who does some work for Marvel and lives in Tokyo, came out and showed us around, which was very helpful because we were completely functionally illiterate in that country.

Are you a longstanding fan of classic anime in addition to your comics stuff?

Brevoort: I'm an anime fan from way back in the day -  back when we thought of it as "Japanimation," before we knew any better. I was quite involved in the fandom in the early '80s. and "Star Blazers," as "Yamato" was called when it was brought to the U.S., was really my entry point. It had a huge influence on my life - what "Star Wars" or "Star Trek" are for some people, Star Blazers is for me. I met my wife indirectly because of "Yamato." So when a buddy of mine decided to make the trip to see the movie, even though it was all last-minute and I had to really scramble to get passports and such, I just somehow felt that I just had to go and be there.

And do you speak any Japanese at all? Were there subtitles in your screening?

Brevoort: Oh no, no subtitles! This was in a typical Japanese movie house, so the film was completely in Japanese. But I know the material well enough that following it wasn't any problem. I saw it twice, and I had no difficulty figuring out what was going on. And it was great! I enjoyed it a bunch.

The trailer for the film, with crude English subtitles, can be seen here.

So we're at that phase where the March solicitations are coming soon, and it feels like you guys have a lot of new product you're announcing in anticipation of that. And honestly, I feel like for a while we've been talking here, and you guys have been saying, "Wait until March!" Two things that jump immediately to mind are he incoming "Annihilators" series which answers the long-standing question of what's next for the cosmic books, and wave of $2.99 price point books that are officially on the schedule now. To a certain extent, does this all come now because the natural workflow, or is there a reason to have so many new initiatives hitting now?

Brevoort: Obviously, it takes a certain amount of time for us to get any project up and running. If I decided today, in December, that I wanted to do a particular project -  I have an idea for an Avengers special or something; It's the Avengers having a pie fight in "Avengers Pie Fight Special" #1 because the time is right for pie -  the soonest I could reasonably get such a thing onto the schedule would be April. It's more realistically a May book, and much more realistically June or July. If I really, really wanted to push, I could get it into March and back-solicit it. But there's a natural process these things go through, and when we say, "Let's figure out what's going to be next for the cosmic universe. Let's do 'Annihilators,'" there's a certain amount of lead time needed to put that project together - even today with the technology we have to zap files anywhere in the world. So this just happens to be when all this stuff is happening.

Traditionally, I think March tends to be the first real ramp-up month in the calendar. Typically speaking, for all the companies January and February tend to be a bit on the light side, partially because it's right after the holidays and everybody is tired. [Laughter] But also you're just starting your fiscal cycle, and the pressure isn't yet there to have to make up for a bad month in terms of performance or get ahead on a good month. And I think even on a retail level, if I'm remembering correctly, January and particularly February tend to be fairly weak months in terms of customers coming in. So really, around March and heading into the spring and summer months tends to be where the biggest emphasis is. That's the cycle comics have followed for years.

On the creative side of things of "Annihilators," people, for a long time, have been wondering what would happen after losing two ongoing books and whether there would be another event or what have you. Now it feels like you're putting all of the cosmic line into one place...is part of the idea here to do one-stop shopping for people interested in that corner of the Marvel U?

Brevoort: It's definitely trying to bring it down to something manageable - not that there were a ton of cosmic books before this. But the fact is - and I don't think I'm revealing anything significant here - that the "Annihilators" book is half Annihilators and half Rocket Raccoon and Groot. The Rocket and Groot story started life as a separate limited series. But the market is just soft enough now that it made more sense to us to fold those together and do it as a bigger book at a slightly higher price point than to try and release them as separate projects. It's a tough world out there, and our fans have to decide where they spend their dollars. This works for us and hopefully will work better for them as well.

And for all those people that were barraging us with questions about what was coming next in the cosmic world and what was next for Dan and Andy on that front, hopefully they'll dig "Annihilators" and come out to support it and keep us thinking about further projects to do in that arena.

Marvel just announced that "Sigil" and "Ruse" will be the first books in the new CrossGen imprint. That pretty much lines up with what everyone expected based on the teasers released previously, but what can you tell me about why those two became the launch books, and what the creators are bringing to the projects?

Brevoort: I think the way we're approaching CrossGen is sort of literally going back to at least one interpretation of what the name itself means. It doesn't necessarily mean Sigils or fantasy or any of the various things that it had come to represent over the years. It doesn't even necessarily mean a defunct company in Florida. What it means to us is literally "Cross-Genre" -  that these are books that are different from our typical Marvel Universe super hero stuff while still having a larger-than-life heroic bent to them and maintaining that indefinable Marvel flair. CrossGen allows us to tap into a wide variety of genre publishing that typically we haven't done before.

I think I should make it very clear, even though we've said it before, that these are not continuations of the original CrossGen books. We're approaching all this stuff as if it's entirely new, and starting from square one. So people that didn't read the CrossGen titles six or seven years ago can still come to these books and get in completely on the ground floor. What we hope we've done is take some of the best ideas, elements, concepts and visuals from those quintessential CrossGen books and made them over in a very Marvel manner.

In terms of these books in particular, they're the first two but not the only two planned to come. As for why these particular titles are the first two, let me turn the question over to those books' direct editors, Nick Lowe and Stephen Wacker:

Nick Lowe: With the launch of Crossgen we needed to do two things, 1.) Not break what didn't need fixing and 2.) rethink what did. You'll easily see which book is which.

With "sigil" we took the name of one book and a concept deep in the Crossgen Universe (the shared Sigils seen in all the CG books) and ran with them. This incarnation of "Sigil" is an archetypal hero's journey, where Sam Reyes (a 16-year-old girl from South Carolina) gets caught up in a war whose battlefield is time itself. Sam, like all the warriors in this eon-spanning conflict, has a mysterious symbol (called a Sigil) emblazoned on her chest that grants her the ability to travel through time. But Sam isn't just a normal warrior. Something makes her different and much more important than her fellow soldiers... and it's not just the fact that back in high school, her grades are suffering and her Dad really needs her to straighten up her room.

As far as the creative team was the best to go with, I'll start with Mike Carey. I needed writer to think outside the box and Mike Carey has made a career out of it. All you need to do is look at "Unwritten," "My Faith in Frankie," or, frankly, his landmark 5-year run on "X-Men" to see that Mike is a font of original ideas. And he doesn't disappoint, here. As for Leonard Kirk, the guy can draw anything! That is a key skill for "Sigil." He is also amazing at conveying rich emotion and subtle characterization which this book has in spades.

Stephen Wacker: My answer is exactly the same as Nick's. [Laughter]

"Ruse" was a book I had always remembered fondly and I felt it had one of the strongest central premises of all the original CrossGen books. Along with the interesting mysteries, series artists Butch Guice  and Mike Perkins also accomplished some very innovative storytelling with their liberal use of double page spreads throughout the series. It really was a comic that felt different than anything else that was coming out regularly.

Victorian England has always seemed an interesting setting to me ever since I saw the movie "Time After Time" years ago. And of course "League of Extraordinary Gentleman" is on the top of my recommended reading for anyone. The time period always comes off as a hotbed of creativity, crime and passion that I figured this would be my one chance to ever work on a comic set there given that the Marvel Universe is set squarely in the here and now for the most part.

I have a good relationship with series creator Mark Waid (or at least as good a relationship as anyone over has with the man known as the "Southern Slubberdegullion"), and I knew the book still had a strong place in his heart, so I took a chance that he'd have a "Ruse"-sized hole in his schedule since he was just coming off of Spider-Man.

Mark I think has a sense that there was unfinished business with the characters, so I'm happy to be able to have him along with Butch, Mike and new series artist Mirco Pierfederici on board for 4 issues of clues, closed-doors and - possibly just a pinch of - romantic intrigue. (sounds like a regular day here at Marvel).

I understand you've got some Cap one-shots coming up in March. As a lot of the more recent tie-in product for the movie, you've been doing some stand alone series and specials that anyone, from old school fans to kids can pick up. I get the impression that these stories are a bit more connected to the world Ed Brubaker has built in the main "Cap" title. How did you come up with these stories, and who was involved?

Brevoort: It's Captain America's 70th Anniversary this March, and that's why we're doing these five one-shots. We gave some thought to the fact that there's going to be a film, of course, but really, the purpose of doing these books was to take a snapshot of where Captain America is at after 70 years of publishing.

Not every one of those books is set contemporaneously. "Captain America And The First 13" is set in the 1940s during World War II. Peggy Carter's story has never fully been told. We've done a couple of three-panel flashbacks here and there, and there was one little 12-page story in the '60s that Stan and John Romita, Sr. did, but we've never gotten to see Cap and Peggy interact in a meaningful way. So this nice Kathryn Immonen one-shot will delve into their relationship amidst the War. And it also kind of drops a little seed for a moment that'll happen in "Cap" in a couple of months.

We're doing the "Captain America and the Falcon" because Sam's been a regular presence in the book for so long -  particularly since Bucky's taken over the role -  and by virtue of the fact that the main series is called "Captain America" rather than "Captain America And The Falcon" like it was in the '70s, he tends to not get as much of the spotlight as we might like. So here's a story that'll focus on Sam Wilson and what he's about and his background. It'll flesh him out a bit more for people who aren't as familiar as guys who remember "Captain America And The Falcon" from the '70s...guys like me. [Laughter]

We're doing a "Captain America and Crossbones" story, which is a fun chance to take a character who up until now has been appearing primarily in "Thunderbolts" and who got some notoriety as the guy who killed Captain America and set him down in a black ops, behind-the-lines mission that's so ugly and dirty and awful that they'll send the worst guy there is in because they don't care if he gets killed getting the job done. It's a fun adventure that will hopefully give you a little insight into exactly what it is that makes Crossbones tick and makes him cool. It'll also hopefully set him up for things down the pike.

We're also doing "Captain America And the Secret Avengers" which is primarily focused on Sharon Carter and the Black Widow, both of whom are important characters in Cap's orbit. It'll give them a little more spotlight and screen time than they usually get.

And I almost forgot what may be my favorite one of all -  "Captain America And Batroc!" Batroc is one of those characters that hasn't always been treated with a lot of dignity, but here is a one-shot of him interacting with Cap and showing just how cool and formidable and interesting that wacky master of savate is. It's a great little one-shot. It's not necessarily what you'd expect from a story starring Batroc.

So we've got those five one-shots in March in addition to "Captain America" #616 which is going to be a 100-plus-page monstrosity devoted to celebrating the fact that Cap is now 70 years old. That'll have material by Ed and a bevy of guest contributors. In this instance, I've been turning to creators who have never really written Captain America before, so there'll be pieces by Howard Chaykin, Mike Benson and Paul Grist, Frank Tieri, Kyle Higgins and Alec Siegel, Cullen Bunn and one or two surprises. It's going to illustrate ena illuminate all kinds of interesting facets about Captain America and the different men who've worn the uniform and carried the shield.

Another piece of news is that Mark Bagley is coming back to work with Bendis on "Ultimate Spider-Man" during the "Death of Spider-Man" story. What's it like to have Bagley back in the fold and to see that pairing back together?

Brevoort: Yeah! For all that he's been absent for two years or so, Mark is like family. He's a classic Marvel artist. He got his start winning "The Marvel Try Out Book" contest, for crying out loud. He's done two great stints on Spider-Man - a big run on Amazing back in the day...and then of course the 100 and some odd issues of "Ultimate Spider-Man" with Brian. Going into the "Death of Spider-Man" story, it's fortuitous that Mark is able to be a part of that because he and Brian not only established that book but worked on it together longer than any other team on a single book in Marvel history. If Ultimate Spider-Man is confronting his mortality in some way, it only seems right that Mark is there to illustrate that moment. Plus, it's just great to have him back. I'm sure we'll see him in other places as well. I'll be happy to have him in the Marvel Heroes world again, and I'm sure that, if Axel was here, he'd be touting wanting to have him on X-Men. Mark is terrific, and we're going to take advantage of his return to remind fans why he is such a stellar comic book artist. He's going to be very much back in the spotlight again, in a big way.

Finally, I understand you guys will be announcing the next Marvel event in the coming week at a live press conference in New York. That sure is different! I'm not sure there's much you want to say about the story of the project outside the "fear-based" teasers that have been hitting, but considering our talks in the past about events, I was wondering if this will be another step up in size from the recent run of family events? Are you planning on letting the pendulum swing all the way back to a line-wide event like "Siege" or "Civil War" or "Secret Invasion?"

Brevoort: You know, we went into the Heroic Age, and we took a year or so off from doing big, interconnected event series, because we sensed a certain fatigue was setting in, both on the part of the readers and our creators. And fans seemed to like that for the most part. But now we're all well-rested and it's time to get back to business again.

So the thing we're going to be talking about a week from now is massive. It's incredibly huge, incredibly far-reaching. It's a big ol' bombshell to drop, and there's not much more I can say about it ahead of time. But yes, this will not be a small thing. This will be a grand, sweeping, epic Marvel event the likes of which you haven't seen in a few years. It's definitely larger in scope than "Siege," more on the scale of "Secret Invasion," and as ambitious in its way as "Civil War."

To that end, we're having a press conference on Tuesday at Noon Eastern at a location we can't reveal quite yet. But if you can't make it, we're streaming the whole thing live on Marvel.Com.

So what is it you're afraid of?

Brevoort: [Laughs] That's a good question. I fear doing these columns without Axel!

Tom, next week we're coming back with another full-force all fan Q&A with you and Axel, but I understand you've got a question for the boards this we'd that you'd like to ask them, right?

Brevoort: Right. I have a question I want to pose again to the audience because we had a good response to that in the past, and I got some really good information. Well, I've been thinking about it recently, and again, I am very, very old...older every single day. So to a certain extent, my experiences are the stuff of nostalgia. I was curious as I was thinking recently about our readership. This is mostly aimed at people who started reading Marvel Comics and comics in general over the last decade, give or take. It's not going to be a hard and fast thing. If you started reading 12 years ago, we'd still love to hear from you.

But the question is: how did you get into reading comics? What was your exposure? Where did you first come across comics, and what drove you to seek them out? How did you get into it in general? I've got plenty of information and have heard from plenty of people who started reading in the '70s like myself and in the '80s and '90s. But it really dawned on me this past week that I don't know so much about how this latest generation of people started reading our books. And that's some pretty important information to have as we figure out where we're going moving ahead. Was it the movies? The cartoons? The toys? Did you run across comics in a bookstore or the 7-Eleven? Where did you interact with comics for the first time, and what brought you into the fold and made you a Marvel reader or just a comics reader if you're one of the people who read the column but hate everything we do? [Laughs] I know there's at least two of you out there!

But I'm curious about that, and I'd love to hear your stories about getting into the wonderful world of comics.

Have some questions for Marvel T&A? Please visit the CUP O' Q&A thread in CBR's Marvel Universe forum. It's now the dedicated thread for all connections between Board Members and the Marvel staff that CBR will pull questions for next week's installment of our weekly fan-generated question-and-answer column! Do it to it!

Disney's Aladdin Spinoff Has Already Missed the Mark

Tags: captain america, mark bagley, avengers, axel alonso, tom brevoort, ultimate spider-man, annihilators, crossgen, t&a

More in CBR Exclusives

Covering the hottest movie and TV topics that fans want. Covering the hottest movie and TV topics that fans want. A one-stop shop for all things video games.