Marvel's "House of M" Press Conference

Marvel Comics held their first phone press conference in quite some time Thursday afternoon, this time out to promote their upcoming eight issue, bi-weekly event series "House of M." In attendance at the conference were Marvel Marketing Director John Dokes, Editor-In-Chief Joe Quesada, Editor Tom Brevoort, Publisher Dan Buckley and series writer Brian Michael Bendis. What follows is a transcript of that press conference.

The press conference began with Dokes asking Bendis to introduce "House of M" to the assembled press.

Joe Quesada: In other words, Brian will be shamelessly promoting his product.

Brian Michael Bendis: Here comes the part you guys already know. Just to start off, the "House of M" mini-series is technically an Astonishing X-Men/New Avengers crossover that has birthed itself into a legitimately giant, Marvel universe mini that actually affects a great deal more than the two books it initially set out to affect. The reason why we've gathered you all here are to discuss the long term ramifications of the mini-series and how it will set the stage for what we're most happy about, which is new kinds of stories. We're setting the stage to make a change in the Marvel Universe that allows a lot of writers to tell a great many new kinds of stories. It involves the entire cast of the entire mutant population. It involves the entire cast of Avengers, both new and classic. And I know there are a lot of rumors on the Internet, but the fact of the matter is this is not a "What If…" story. These things are actually happening in the Marvel Universe, in mainstream continuity and we are not putting the world back the way we found it.

One concern we're hearing is that the "House of M" event is huge and so many books are being pulled in to it. Is it going to be necessary for fans to purchase every book that's a tie-in, or could you just purchase the "House of M" books and your favorite Marvel titles as usual?

BMB: The plan is that you'll hopefully pick up the main title and there are so many ideas put forth in the main title, to delve too deeply into would actually affect the main story, but you'll be reading it going, "Gee, I am really interested in what I just saw Spider-Man go through and I'd like to see the whole thing with what just happened to Spider-Man, so I'll go buy the Spider-Man parts." Or, "I really love Iron Man and that armor's freaking me out, so I have to go buy the Iron Man one." If you're so inclined to buy them all, you're going to get this massive epic, just like one of those giant mini-series that you see on television. I was thinking it was a lot like "Taken" on the SciFi Channel, this massive sprawling epic. Or you could just read your "House of M" and read the pieces that most interest you and enjoy. The only thing you have to read, not to be all self-serving, but the main mini is important to enjoy the others.

JQ: This event was designed pretty much the same as most other large Marvel events over the last three to four years, which is basically we don't want to force our readership into having to buy every single title in order to get the full story. I've always felt that once you ask your readership to do that on a consistent basis, eventually they tend to gravitate against it. As Brian was saying, in order to get the full experience of "House of M," that's where you really do want to get the crossover issues. Again, our advice to fans is basically we'd love for you to buy them all, but at the end of the day buy what interests you and buy what you can afford. This is something we've planned for quite a long time, it's super strong and at the end of the day it's just a lot of fun.

Brian didn't want to go into depth about this, but there are huge ramifications at the end of this that will be carried on into the Marvel Universe and felt in just about every title across the board, but again you don't have to buy every title to know it.

BMB: I will be honest, though, the way it's laid out, you're going to read what happens to Spider-Man in "House of M" and we're going to make it impossible for you not to want to pick that up. You could pick up what you want, but we're going to play hardball. Except for "The Pulse," you have to buy "The Pulse." (laughs)

You are promising a lot big ramifications and impact in the Marvel Universe and the solicitations for "House of M" #3 & #4 you're promising some big endings. Without letting the cat out of the bag, can you hint at some things we should expect?

BMB: Well, you haven't seen it before, that's for sure, and it's the kind of thing that…

JQ: (interrupts) It's Daredevil! (laughs) Go ahead, finish your response.

BMB: There are a great many writers involved with the birth of this. It's the kind of idea we showed a lot of writers and said, "Does this excite you as much as it excites us? Is this something you'd have stories to tell?" What you'll be getting is new kinds of Marvel stories. We're always looking for ideas that birth these great new Marvel, hopefully, legends instead of just repeating the same stories we've seen a million times. We're able to put the characters in new positions and new places, not just for the summer, but for a while. You'll be able to see these characters do things you haven't seen them do before. This is one of those kinds of stories.

What have you learned from writing a big event like "Avengers Disassembled" that helped your process for "House of M?"

BMB: Don't kill Hawkeye! (laughs)

JQ: If you had to do it all over again, would you do it?

BMB: Yeah! Here's the thing, you never go out to purposely piss people off or shock people. When the story's telling itself, you can't shy away from it. When I saw that scene drawn, I though, "Uh oh!" It always looks worse than you imagine it. You can't shy away from stuff, you have to let the story happen. There are things that I thought would piss people off that no one got pissed off about and there are things people got pissed off about that I don't even know what they're talking about. You can never gauge that stuff.

But, your initial question about what I learned, well, the cool thing about this job is that it's a constant learning experience. Everything you do you learn from. Writing is such an organic process that it has that constant fear that comes with it, but at the same time excitement because you're always trying to do something you haven't done before. There's definitely, not only from books that I've written but events that have come before it, you've learned the lessons of history in saying, "What worked about that event, what didn't work about that event?" Most importantly, the thing I'm most happy about in "House of M" was the planning of the aftermath. You've seen certain events happen at any company where the event itself was spectacular, but the aftermath was almost disastrous. I'm very proud of what Tom and Mark and Joe and Dan were able to put together as the kind of stories that will be told afterwards. It really made the whole thing worthwhile for everybody. I think that's what I've enjoyed the most about it, that we've looked at what's gone on in the past, both in our lives and the history of comics, and tried to do something new and improved upon the action of it.

You've mentioned that this series will enable you to tell a lot of different types of stories. We've already seen espionage type stories with Morgan's "Black Widow." Are we going to see more western stories, sci-fi stories, etc., more stories that will broaden the genre?

BMB: To answer your question, it would spoil a little much to give it away. Let's just say we're putting the main Marvel characters in a position they've never been in before and watching them deal with it emotionally and physically and also the new types of villains that can pull out of a story like this can't help but be intriguing to either new readers or some of the more classic readers.

So "House of M" is sort of similar to what DC is doing with their four mini-series kind of revamping their genres?

BMB: I know a little bit about what that is and I'm proud to say that they're both very different animals with different goals for what they want. We're not…nothing feels like it needs to be fixed and this isn't anything like that. This is more along the lines of here's a story that birthed itself out of Marvel continuity from years past, and more recently "Avengers Disassembled," and from there the wheels start turning.

JQ: You know, a lot of people are sort of speculating that "House of M" is going to be sort of fixing things, that maybe we're fixing things that maybe were mistakes in continuity or just different directions, and setting the clock back. In no way is it doing that. Everything that happens after "House of M" are completely new takes and spin. As a matter of fact there are even some books that are spinning out of this.

BMB: One of the things I'm most proud of and I think surprised some people is how emotional the story is. I can't speak for those other events and what they tried, but I'm very happy with how emotional the story turned out, the quality of the artwork and stuff. This is our own animal. I don't think it can be compared to anything that's come before it. It'll be up to you guys to decide, but I look at it and think "I really haven't seen this before." You get pretty excited and nervous.

You're saying that everything in this event is going to change Marvel for the future, so does that mean if I hate what happens in "House of M," does that mean I'm basically screwed for the next 10 years?

JQ: When we say changes to the Marvel Universe, there are certain micro and macro events that will change things. This doesn't mean the Daredevil title you're reading will be radically different, but the world that Daredevil exists may be. Did I say too much Brian?

BMB: No, it's not like Wolverine's going to turn blue and that's what his story's going to be about. It's still going to be the Marvel Universe, it's just that something will have happened to the Marvel Universe and now the characters will be dealing with that and from there you get new kinds of stories. We love the Marvel Universe. We're not just turning it on its head just because we think we know better, it's a love letter, if anything, to almost every Magento and Avengers story that came before.

The order cut off for issue #1 is next week. Is this looking like "Ultimate" numbers on this? Is this meeting "Avengers Disassembled" or surpassing?

John Dokes: The only thing we can say right now is that so far it's surpassing all expectations.

BMB: Oh really?

JQ: Everyone here has a very big smile. I'll call you later Brian.

BMB: Yeah? You know how sad my brain is? All I can hear is all the crap I'm going to take online.

JQ: Or you could hear all the registers ringing.

BMB: Allright, good. I gotta tell you though, [artist Olivier] Coipel killed on this. He really killed on this. And he doesn't even speak English.

JQ: Yes he does!

BMB: Have you talked to him recently? (laughs)

What kind of stories are you going to be able to tell that you couldn't tell before?

BMB: Well, I'll tell you how it started. After "Disassembled" I muttered to Joe, "You know, Magneto is here and Wanda is here and Pierto is here and this could really screw the Avengers and X-Men at the same time." From there, the idea was put forth to a lot of the writers at Marvel saying, "Hey, if we did something like this would it excite you or annoy you?" And a lot of the guys said they were in, they had something to do with this. From there it started building and then the aftermath started coming with where we all got together in a room and plotted out what would be a very tight and hopefully profound aftermath to all this. A lot of really talented guys jumped in to carry the torch. That's probably the most fun part of it for me. Writing is such a solitary endeavor. I'm alone in my basement, even as we speak, and to have everyone else and a lot of people that I admire greatly jump in and believe in it enough and see the value of it dramatically, I guess was the best part of it.

Why does Iron Man looks like a Gundam?

BMB: Mock it all you want. All I've heard about has been Iron Man's armor. There are cool things coming. You've seen a little bit of it in "New Avengers" #2. There is a lot of effort being put forth into making Iron Man the shining knight of the future he's supposed to be. I've said it before, it's amazing that my cell phone can take a picture, but Iron Man is still on roller skates. You're going to see a lot of future thought being put into the way Tony Stark thinks and how he applies technology.

With the immediate conflict and the situation the characters are being put into, as the changes are occurring are the characters going to be able to will against the situation or will it just be completely subject to whatever is happening in the Marvel Universe.

BMB: They're fighters. They're going to fight.

But what I'm saying is, are they aware of the changes going on around them, or are some of them going to be completely unaware and subject to the changes?

BMB: That's one of the mysteries of the story. Not be all vague on you, but that's a big spoiler. You'll find out at the end of issue #3 where everybody stands, what everyone's doing and what everyone plans to do. It's a very tight first act. Issue #2 has 21 scenes in it. For me that's a miracle.

21 scenes in 22 pages?

BMB: Yup.

Will things that have come to play before still be valid?

BMB: That's a big spoiler too, but I will tell as I said before it's a very emotional book.

Who is Layla Miller and can we have a hint about what she's going to mean to Marvel?

Tom Brevoort: She's an all new character and is crucially important to "House of M" and crucially important to some plans we have for stuff that's happening after "House of M" that it's still a little early for us to speak to. She's a character that's somebody you're going to want to watch going forward and that we clearly have plans for and hopefully the first of another stage of new characters that we're trying to introduce throughout the Marvel Universe.

Is this something that's going to draw Marvel continuity together on all the titles, or will it be breaking them apart?

TB: The way it'll work in the future is sort of the way it's been working in the more recent past. Look over the last year, particularly in the case of "New Avengers," which now has Spider-Man and Wolverine and the Avengers characters turning up in "Amazing Spider-Man" and elsewhere and so forth. All these characters share the Marvel Universe. Quite often, particularly over the past couple of years, we've done a lot of stories that have focused a little more insularly on individual lives and habitats and so forth. The opportunity for connection, for crossover, for the effects of one book to have an affect on another book, will continue to be an element going forward. We're definitely not putting everybody in their own little box. Everybody's going to get to play with everybody else.

That's one of the beautiful things about "House of M" and "New Avengers" in that we're taking characters that haven't spent a lot of time together and we're mixing them up and putting them together in new arrangements and seeing what new elements, what new friction can come out of their interactions and these interactions you've never seen before.

BMB: There's always that feeling when we say we're going to try something new that we're going to destroy something old. That is the opposite. I remember when we announced the Ultimate universe the initial reaction was we were going to destroy the Marvel Universe and that sentence was never uttered by anyone involved in it. Years later we've shown that that was never the case. Same here. New doesn't mean destroying old. If anything it's kind of a valentine to what Marvel was in the early '70s when they were trying to make new Marvel legends and everyone rolled up their sleeves and said, "OK, let's one-up Stan. Let's try to push this forward and not just retell old stories over and over again." That's what we should be doing, too. New characters with new kinds of stories with new villains. All that can be accomplished and still be a love letter to what came before us.

Another thing we haven't brought up is this "Pulse" newspaper that's coming out. This is a fun little bit that I think people will really enjoy, too. It's cheap. We actually put a newspaper together, Andy's working really hard on it, and all the writer's involved in "House of M" wrote the articles. It gives lots of bits of information that you'll get only there.

Is Layla Miller the only new character?

BMB: Nope.

Why bring in all these new characters when you've got so many in limbo you could still be using.

BMB: We'll be doing that, too. You'll be seeing old characters come to the forefront; you'll be seeing new characters sharing the spotlight with very popular characters. We'll see what the public likes.

What about Hawkeye?

BMB: He passed away very suddenly. (laughs)

Are you going to be killing people again?

BMB: You know, I won't say no, but I will tell you that there was a weird three months there where there was an inordinate amount of killing in a lot of my titles, even though they were written over the course of a year and a half. So, it did seem very Hannibal Lecter-ish of me for a while, but that wasn't the intention. I'll tell you I did make a promise to myself that this year will be all about creation, birth and the new. You'll be seeing things from the re-introduction of the Sentry, to new villains in "House of M" to new villains in "New Avengers."

"House of M" is so massive, how are you guys making sure you're not putting all your eggs into one basket?

TB: We tend to go forward with stories and ideas we have confidence in. It's not really a question of putting all our eggs in one basket. We have a lot of confidence in "House of M." We have a story that we feel is going to excite readers and fans, but these are not the only books we're putting out in that month as a glance through our Marvel Previews catalog will show. It's not that we feel any less excited about the other stuff we have coming out. The basket is no different than it was before. This just happens to be the shiniest thing we have in the basket this month.

Is there any word about the cover image that's been bandied about that looks rather similar to a photograph? [A reference to a promotional image depicting Magneto in a photo that closely resembled an official photo of the King of Spain.]

BMB: The King of Spain is not the biggest universe in the Marvel Universe…no laugh from the Marvel side, OK! (laughs)

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