If it’s Friday, it must be time to end your week with a little T&A!
CBR News is back again to present an open and honest Q&A with Marvel Comics Vice President Executive Editors Tom Brevoort and Axel Alonso for our regular MARVEL T&A. Aside from being the minds behind the biggest franchises at the House of Ideas, the pair have taken the reins of the editorial staff on day-to-day since the many changes that have upped the profile of both Marvel and the company’s senior staff in the past year. So who better to look inside the halls of Marvel and make some memorable reader Q&A?
Each Friday, in addition to our regular Cup O’ Joe installments, CBR presents a new interview with the T&A duo covering everything Marvel Comics. This week the pair unpack a string of recent high profile news stories from the surprise cancellation of the Man Without Fear’s ongoing series to the return of Alpha Flight from the grave. Along the way, they’ll explain their theories for resurrecting characters who have fallen by the wayside including Doctor Bong and much bigger fish and tell how they’re working on their first official use Disney properties with Marvel U characters in the form of “TRON” variant covers. Read on!
Kiel Phegley: Solicitations for Marvel’s November books just hit, and each time those get posted on CBR, we notice a handful of new projects, ideas and initiatives that catch us a little by surprise even after everything we’ve already heard about Marvel’s upcoming plans. This month was extra chock full of new items, and I wanted to start this week by asking about these TRON variant covers Marvel will be doing. We knew Marvel would be serializing the “TRON: Betrayal” OGN that Disney publishing is putting out, but these variants are the first time we’ll be seeing Marvel characters and Disney ideas cross in an official way. How did this idea roll out? Something suggested by Disney’s movie folks?
Tom Brevoort:Â Within ourÂ fan circles, there’s sure to beÂ a lot of interest in the newÂ “TRON: Legacy,” so that gives us a chance to play with some of the iconography of that world and do some cool things because we are part of Disney.Â But the intention isÂ no different from our Iron Man By Design variants and our Wolverine Art Appreciation covers…
Axel Alonso: All of this, of course, is just baby steps to reach the ultimate “Deadpool vs. Goofy.” [Brevoort Laughs]
Brevoort: Axel has been talking about “Deadpool Vs. Goofy” literally for the last year!
Alonso: I asked Bob Iger. He…well, he did not answer. [Laughter]
I imagine Bob Iger going, “Who in the hell is Deadpool?!?!” But when the buyout was announced, we did see a lot of fan made art and newspaper cartoons with Spider-Man in Mouse Ears or whatever. Has part of your discussion since that time been circling around Disney properties that work to cross over with Marvel heroes that aren’t just those silly corporate iconography gags? Is this TRON thing the start of more such projects?
Brevoort: This is something we’re doing because it’s fun, nothing more.Â
Alonso: We’re doing the comic book equivalent of fantasy baseball over here. I only half joke about “Deadpool Vs. Goofy.” Our characters are part of a huge pop culture spectrum – it’s fascinating to see how we can play off other worlds. After Disney bought us, one of the most inspiring commentaries [on the deal] I saw was a cartoon in “The New Yorker” – Spider-Man, Wolverine, Iron Man and Hulk sitting at a bar, and the bartender delivers a round to them, saying, “It’s been taken care of.” Sitting at the other end of the bar are Mickey and Donald. Cotdang, I’d love to see that story continue!
When you do these high concept cover promotions, which I think really picked up originally with the big run of “Marvel Zombies” variants, what are the train tracks you’ve built to run these promotions on? Do you internally say, “We want to do a new one every four months?” or is it more a matter of waiting for a tie-in thing like a movie to come that lets you test the waters?
Brevoort: This is more of a question for David Gabriel, our SVP of Sales. He determines how many of these things we do and how often we do them. We try not to do them too often, but we also try to maximize whatever appeal they have. When it comes from these larger initiatives, it comes more from his division than ours.
David Gabriel: We tie in the cover promotions to a marketing push for that month.Â If we think something can be fun, grab attention, and make money for our retail partners then we move forward on it. We tie them into movies, cartoons, anniversaries, and smaller, non-serious events like Zombies, Apes, etc.
Alonso: David might pick a character that’s hot right now, who has a lot of “bounce,” like he did with the Deadpool variants, or a character who’s celebrating an anniversary.
Brevoort: Or key in on a larger initiative like Women of Marvel, the “Iron Man 2” movie opening or anything along those lines.
Alonso: We were going to do “Hunky Editors of Marvel” variants, but there’s only two of us.
Brevoort: And we feared overexposure. In more ways than one.
Getting back into solicitations and speaking of new audiences, I’m betting that Axel will draw the attention of a different niche audience with…is it Doctor Bong?
Alonso: Oh yeah. Doctor Bong. He goes way back to Steve Gerber’s “Howard the Duck.”
Brevoort: I wonder what inspired him? [Laughter]
Alonso: Hey, kids, do you like bells!? Then Dr. Bong is the super-villain for you!
Well, I’ll admit to not being intimately familiar with Doctor Bong’s history. What was the impetus for pulling this particular piece of obscure Marvel history out and into “Deadpool?” Is it just a matter of the name making him a good foil for the book?
Alonso: You’d have to ask [“Deadpool” writer] Daniel Way that question. I think he was just looking for a goofy super-villain. And there are a lot of Doctor Bong fans out there. He’s got a fan base.
The last bit of solicitation news we’ll hit is the fact that “Daredevil” is solicited as the final issue, which took a lot of people by surprise. Last week, we talked about how when creatively things weren’t lining up, Thor went on what became a kind of needed break. With these teasers coming for a new “Man Without Fear” are we to expect that Daredevil will be taking a similar turn off the pages of comics for a while?
Brevoort: I should never be surprised by the reactions our audience at this point, and yet time and again, week in and week out, they surprise me. We’ve been promoting “Who is the new Man Without Fear?” for something like three weeks now, and yet everybody is surprised that “Daredevil” is ending. One pretty clearly follows the other, so I was sort of taken aback by the response to the solicits being, “Oh my gosh! ‘Daredevil’ is ending!” What did you expect was going to happen when we asked who the new Man Without Fear would be?
Obviously, I can’t get into the story mechanics behind any of this, but it’s all an outgrowth of “Shadowland” and its finale. We absolutely could be looking at a situation where, as with Thor, there is no Daredevil series for a while, but there is somebody else in an equivalent role. That’s hardly earth-shattering, and in fact, taking a character like Daredevil off the canvas for a little while may make the heart grow fonder due to absence more so than just having him around doing his thing and being overlooked because he’s always been there. It certainly did with Thor.
On top of that, whenever we do one of these event stories we like to have them result in change. We like for them to “matter”, as Axel was saying earlier. So clearly the world of Daredevil and Hell’s Kitchen and all the street-level heroes and their titles is going to be impacted in a major way by the end of “Shadowland.” The fact that “Daredevil” is ending is one of the effects of that but not the only one.
Well, I’ve got to say, Tom. I think the thing that made this move really shocking was that you just made the move to renumber at issue #500.
Brevoort: That was 12 issues ago! It’s been a whole year! [Laughter] I cancelled “Avengers” three issues after reverting its numbering to #500. And it’s not like if we brought the title back, you couldn’t bring it back at #513. It’s not as though those issues go away.
Well, that’s how comics worked back in the ’40s and ’50s, right? When one title didn’t sell enough, a new title would be launched with its numbering.
Brevoort: Very often, because the publishers had to pay for Second Class mailing privileges, and those permits cost money. So if you had a book that wasn’t selling, you’d roll a new book into its numbering and didn’t have to pay for a new permit….unless the Post Office caught you.
And so in the end, “Shadowland” came down to mail fraud.
Brevoort: That was Daredevil’s mistake. Taken down by mail fraud. [Laughter] He never saw it coming.
Speaking of how fans will react to certain things put out by Marvel, after last week’s column when you’d spoken on Alpha Flight being dead, there were more than a few people who felt kind of burned on the boards only to have you announce the expected “Alpha Flight” book as a Chaos War tie-in by Jim McCann and Reilly Brown.
Brevoort: We like to keep our readers on their toes here at T & A.
As was revealed earlier this week, the Alpha Flight project that we’re doing is “Dead Alpha Flight” much like the “Dead Avengers” series we announced previously, both of which connect to the Chaos War storyline that Mark Paniccia and his group are heading up. So the fact that they’re dead has not stopped them from having a book and appearing in print to baffle and befuddle us. [Laughs] The idea came from Mark and the creators who’ve been working on the “Chaos War” event – Greg Pak, Fred Van Lente and the rest -Â finding an opportunity where an Alpha Flight project would make sense within the context of what was going on. It gives us a chance to test the waters. If the teeming throngs of Alpha Flight fans that were ready to string us up last week go out and support this little project, maybe that will grease the wheels a little bit for a larger Alpha Flight series of one sort or another.
One of the things you both spoke about during our first T&A call was the idea that when you both started working together to look at the entire Marvel line, you had a selection of properties that had fallen a bit by the wayside that you wanted to try and reinvigorate. I don’t know if it’s too early to get into some of that, but I wanted to ask after where you’re at in that process. Are there some things that have come closer to fruition in that discussion because it feels to me that there’s not an awful lot from Marvel history that’s entirely off the table these days?
Alonso: While we’ve talked about a few beloved B and C-list characters, we’re also hunting bigger fish.
Brevoort: This is going to be an ongoing process. Part of that process is that we don’t want to rush things. If we think there’s a concept that has some genuine potential in it, and that over the years, it’s not quite caught on or has been allowed to tarnish or been mishandled, or just not come together in the proper way, we want to give those ideas the best possible kickoff that we can. We need to make sure that the project we launch with is the right pitch, the right approach and the right creative team – the right everything!
We’re having another creative retreat in a week, and we’ll be talking about a couple of these properties fairly extensively there to see if the groundwork we’ve laid down will bear fruit over the next year. Or we may back away from certain things momentarily, much as we did with Thor when we couldn’t get the creative team that we wanted. It was better to wait for the point that we did have a team and a situation we were comfortable with, and that really paid off. So we’re following that same approach with the other three, four or five characters Axel and I have earmarked as potentially perennial parts of the Marvel publishing plan or the Marvel Universe in general. We’re going to get to them all when the time is right. It’s just not going to be machine gun fast.
Alonso: Except for Doctor Bong.
One last bit of news working its way around this week was the so-called “Monster Sex” scene in “S.H.I.E.L.D.” #3 where Dustin Weaver came out and showed his unedited original online. Axel has spoken about his desire to see more mature readers books, and while “S.H.I.E.L.D.” isn’t that, I think it’s fair to say that the book is a bit more complex and meant for an older audience in general. We know there’s a tension for you guys in that you know you have largely and adult readership while you also know that characters in the Marvel Universe go on lunch boxes and action figures and all of that. Does the issue of sex in the books become something you watch out for more often, or is it a case-by-case gut check on how you think those scenes work towards the final product?
Alonso: An editor has to be mindful that any image can be isolated, taken out of context, and plastered all over the internet as evidence of editorial irresponsibility. As we know, Americans are much more comfortable with violence than they are with sex, so we have to be careful about the staging of the latter. A decision like [the one we made with the panel in “S.H.I.E.L.D.”] was one in which [editor] Nick Lowe conferred with Tom and myself, and we had the same reaction. One standard I employ when I’m looking at a panel that portrays sexual activity is, “Would a 7-year-old know what they are looking at? If my son Tito were to see it, would he be, like, “Papa, what are they doing!?”
Brevoort: Had this been a MAX book, probably we would have been more comfortable with letting it go through. But the “S.H.I.E.L.D.” book, while it’s a sophisticated series, it’s still set within the context and confines of the larger Marvel Universe, and it will feature characters that, if not in that particular issue, will show up on lunch boxes and toy shelves and so forth. We have a responsibility to police what we think is appropriate and how far we should push the imagery in those situations. If it was a crucial scene, a crucial moment, then there’s an argument to be made that, in this case, it is necessary and warranted. As a throwaway, as a beat, I don’t think that moment is any less effective in the published version than it was in the unexpurgated version.
Alonso: Even “mature readers” comics should be subjected to editorial standards. Some years ago, I edited a story that featured a scene portraying the aftermath of a rape that was, to my mind, staged in a salacious manner. The rapist was a character the reader had been trained to cheer for – everything he did was, well, too cool for school. And there was nothing about the way the scene was staged to make them think any different about that character – the fact that he’d just violently raped a woman was just one more thing to add to his resume that made him look like a badass. After a discussion with the writer, we agreed and came up with a way to stage it so it didn’t come off that way. So it gave the reader pause, took them out of their comfort zone.
Brevoort: But it’s easy to be salacious.
Alonso: Too easy. It’s why I’m always salacious.
Brevoort: This is editing.
Alonso: There is no spellcheck [program] for sex scenes. [Brevoort Laughs]
On to fan questions! After last week’s discussion on marketing versus story needs, DownInAHole had a query focusing on some of the promotional copy connected to certain Marvel books. He asked, “There’s something that really sticks in my craw and I’m hoping you guys can correct it. In solicitation copy it is fairly common to read the words ‘double-sized.’ Now, when I see those words I expect 44 pages of story (a standard comic is 22 story pages so, logically, a double-sized issue would be 44 pages of story). Unfortunately when I have these “double-sized” issues in my hands they almost always contain 30 story pages, 14 pages shy of what was advertised. Now, I’m sure some people will accuse me of splitting hairs but words matter and I feel like every time you guys fail to deliver on your promise that you are lying to me. No one likes to be lied to. However, there is a simple solution. How about replacing the phrase ‘double-sized’ with the phrase ‘extra-sized’?”
Brevoort: From a marketing standpoint, DownInAHole, we try to make sure that all of our press releases and promotion for such books do say “Extra-Sized” rather than “Double-Sized.” But the term “Double-Sized” has referred to this particular package for decades, going back to when I was just a reader. It’s a hold-over from when the books were only 17 story pages in length – and when the page count increased on the normal books, it still didn’t on the “double-sized” ones, remaining at more-or-less 34. But you raise a good point, maybe it’s time we changed the terminology
Someone who goes by the name Tracks had a question that I’m assuming we’ll revisit further down the line when they asked, “Any news on how the vampire movement will effect the avengers or marvel universe as a whole?”
Brevoort: It’s going to suck.
Alonso: “Curse of the Mutants” wraps up in December, establishing the long-term status quo and power structure of the Marvel Vampire-verse. Who’s running things and where do they land next? Stay tuned.
In the meantime, the core story can be found in “X-Men” #1-6 – “Curse of the Mutants.” Vampires have descended on San Francisco, dispatched by the new Lord of the Vampires: Dracula’s son Xarus. What do they want from the X-Men? Where do Jubilee and Logan fit into their plans? That will become apparent soon. In the meantime, Cyclops’ best hope to combat a limitless army, seemingly bent on the destruction of the mutant race, lies in the former Lord of the Vampires, Dracula, whose corpse has been strewn about the globe by his traitorous son.
That’s right, the X-Men are going to resurrect Dracula. To do that, they must first retrieve his severed head from the darkest depths of the ocean. That story can be found in “X-Men: Curse Of The Mutants – Namor The First Muntant” #1, in stores August 25, which also kicks off Namor’s own ongoing series. Then they must retrieve his body from a heavily guarded vampire fortress on a remote Greek Island. That story can be found in “X-Men: Curse Of The Mutants – Storm And Gambit” #1, also in stores August 25. And then, they’ve got to put Humpty Dumpty back together again…and pray their plan doesn’t explode in their face. That story can be found in “X-Men” #3, in stores in Sept. 8.
But wait, there’s more: Providing background on Xarus’ plan and the fate of the world’s vampire slayers is “X-Men: Curse Of The Mutants – Blade” #1, on sale August 25. Illuminating the big picture of the war between mutants and vampires is “Curse Of The Mutants – X-Men Vs. Vampires” #1 and #2, in store September 22 and October 1, respectively. And to get a look at the X-Men’s Science Team’s run-in with bloodsuckers as they race to find their own cure for vampirism, check out “X-Men: Curse Of The Mutants – Smoke And Blood” #1, in stores September 1.
And if you’re into the darker side of Marvel, you can’t miss “Marvel Universe Vs. The Punisher,” a great new limited series that’s getting great reviews everywhere and setting the stage for big things. Here’s an exclusive preview of issue #3.
Keeping on in the X-Men’s world, I love it when we get questions from fans who name themselves after a character they want to know about. On that front, onslaught616 said, “My question is about Onslaught. Why have we not seen or heard anything from him since he ended up near the Negative Zone prison? Originally he was supposed to be the x-men’s Galactus…is there any chance of Onslaught returning to this status and haunting the x-men?”
Brevoort: He got lost. I think he’s in the Milestone universe at this point. But Onstar is helping him out.
One final piece of X-Questioning comes from coolbeans74, who is what I’m assuming is a legion of “Generation X” fans on the boards. He asks, “i just read that ‘Uncanny X-force’ is going to be dealing with Apocalypse, is there any chance that Jonothan Starsmore will be appearing? He was last seen as (the slightly crappy) Decibel in the New Warriors, but he has an Apocalypse connection. and if so would it be possible for him to be re-powered back to his original omega level incarnation as Chamber? Always looking for ways to get british Marvel characters back in regular books :)”
Alonso: I’m going to turn this over to “Uncanny X-Force” writer Rick Remender:
Remender: Chamber is, in my opinion, the very best character to come out of “Generation X.” As a Yankee married to a Brit, I’m also something of an anglophile. So, yes, the idea of seeing Chamber return is one I’ve considered, especially considering the resurgence of Apocalypse and clan Akkaba. However, while I don’t want to give anything away, there won’t be time to touch base with Mr. Starsmore in the first arc. That’s not to say we won’t see him later, but this first arc is loaded up with so much new stuff, so many revelations, so much fast action, so much of Apocalypses new plan and new place in the MU, I’m afraid there won’t be time. That said, there is so much amazingly crazy stuff being seeded in this first arc, Akkaba stuff to be specific, I wouldn’t be surprised if things, one day, lead the Uncanny X-Force to a run in with Chamber.
Let’s wrap this week with Spidey616 who was asking after a series I’m sure a few folks are curious about. He said, “I’m sure a lot of readers are curious now that Iron Man 2 has wrapped when we can expect the last issues of the Iron Man: Viva Las Vegas mini by Jon Favreau and Adi Granov? Speaking of Granov, any interior projects coming up from him that we should be on the lookout for?”
Brevoort: Sad to say, Spidey616, but I don’t think it’s likely that we’ll see “Viva Las Vegas” finished any time soon. All of the other demands on Jon Favreau’s time and attention pulled his focus away from it months ago, and I think it’s unlikely, given all of the various things he’s got on his plate, that it’s something he’s going to soon be able to get back to. But we’d love to have him be able to finish it. As for Adi, he’s got the script to his next project now, about which we’re not yet prepared to tell you. But he’ll also continue to contribute covers across the line, as he has for the “Second Coming” crossover and will be for the upcoming “Captain America: Hail Hydra” series.
And as for Iron Man? Courtesy of Senior Editor Steve Wacker, we’ve got a sweet “Invincible Iron Man” preview for you.
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!
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