Marvel's Spidey Team Swings

Everyone knows New York City is a central locale for the superheroes of the Marvel Comics Universe, but for the Editorial team in the Spider-Man office at Marvel's NYC HQ, the city has taken on a whole new level of importance.

With the massive "Spider-Island" event starting later this month in "Amazing Spider-Man" #666, the Marvel U's version of Manhattan will be overtaken by spider-powered citizens from the Financial District to Washington Heights. But even beyond that run of books, New York-centric heroes from The Punisher to Daredevil have found their way into the hands of Senior Editor Steve Wacker and his team including Associate Editor Tom Brennan and Assistant Editors Rachel Pinnelas and Ellie Pyle. And the Spider-Man Office isn't looking to let go of those heroes any time soon. In fact, they're hoping to bring them closer together.

In a week when the Marvel Editorial staff is making the interview rounds across the net (check out a chat with Tom Brevoort's office at Marvel.com and Nick Lowe's X-Men team at Newsarama), CBR News is proud to present an in-depth interview with the four-person Spider Office. Below, Wacker and company swing through every corner of their stomping grounds, revealing the evolution of the cast and world of "Spider-Island" and how it will affect books from "Venom" to "Cloak and Dagger," point to the NYC connections of series like "The Punisher" and "Daredevil," call out under the radar favorites including "Thuderbolts" and "Vengeance," describe the new marching orders for Marvel Adventures all-ages comics, key in fans to news of two brand-new Marvel series and much, much more -- all while showing off a load of exclusive art!

CBR News: Steve, everyone knows that when you came to Marvel your main task was getting the thrice-monthly "Amazing Spider-Man" on track with Brand New Day, but since then you've done a lot more books and expanded your mandate in different ways. Do you guys still consider yourself The Spidey Office first and foremost, or is there another angle on your books people may not consider at first glance?

Steve Wacker: I think we're still referred to as the Spidey office, but it's sort of grown, though that's all been happenstance. When Editor Warren Simons left, I got the "Daredevil" book. When Rick [Remender] ended his "Punisher" run, I ended up with that book since I was already working on Shadowland "street level" stuff. I forget how "Ghost Rider" happened. I think I was just sitting at my desk one day, and Tom Brevoort came by and said, "Do you want to edit 'Ghost Rider?'" Who says No to that?

I think as I've envisioned it -- and we're having a retreat with some of the talent on this later this summer -- we've sort of become the "Marvel New York" office, focused on the material that's really centered around the heroes of New York City... even though I don't think Marvel's ever had an office that was just dedicated to the City.

In general, we're still called the Spidey Office.

Rachel Pinnelas: It kind of just happened that all these characters are bridged together because of where they're located.

One of the things I find interesting is that beyond stand-alone heroes like "Punisher" or "Ghost Rider," we've seen some growth in Spider-Man-related titles since "Amazing" went twice-monthly -- "Venom" as an ongoing, "Spider-Girl's" relaunch and so on. Did you come to those comics wanting to let the Spidey supporting players shine some, or did everything that fits into the franchise crop up on its own terms?

Wacker: Look, I'm no idiot. I know I've got to create work for myself so they'll keep me here. [Laughter] None of the stuff that has come out of these extra Spidey books has happened by complete happenstance. A lot of it was built off of stuff that Dan [Slott] was doing. That's certainly the case with "Venom" and some other stuff we have coming up. With a book like "Spider-Girl," that was something happening off to the side where former editor Nate [Cosby] was working with Paul Tobin. Before Nate left, we had been talking about bringing Spider-Girl more into Spider-Man's world. Brennan and I were already working on "Grim Hunt" in "Amazing Spider-Man" that she was a big part of, so we started asking if there was a way to launch that monthly out of "Spider-Man."

But I am excited about creating that sort of universe amongst the books that are under my purview including Tom's and Rachel's and Ellie's. It's not that you necessarily have to read every single comic, but if you did, you can feel like these are taking place in the same world. My hope is that it all hangs together in the same way that people loved about the early Marvel comics and now the Marvel movies with references big and small peppered throughout.

Spidey has always been a tough title to have a whole line of books around because he's not like the X-Men, where there are a million characters. He's one guy. And if you start just doing a ton of stories about Spidey, they end up stepping on each other's toes. It's difficult to tell your own comic book stories that actually say something about the character's world... that's always been the challenge with the Spidey satellite books: making them count.

But I have been purposefully trying to build the universe a little bit and find a place where readers might be interested in following the stories and where I think we can sell some comics. The "Carnage" book is like that. It was a book that had originally been set off to the side as an "Astonishing" title, but it is going to have some impact on Spider-Man's world and Venom's world as well.

Tom Brennan: One thing to add to that is that having been there when Dan started ramping up Big Time and the universe-building began, what excited me about working on all these books was "Yeah, let's expand the world, but let's also make sure each individual book is its own story and universe." Certainly in "Spider-Island" you'll see all these characters cross paths, but something like "Venom" is the perfect example of where it's Flash Thompson's story and his world. Spider-Man shows up every once in a while, but if you had no conception of who Spider-Man was, you can still read this story and jump in pretty quickly. I just finished an issue the other day where Peter Parker helps Flash with something, and if you didn't know who Spider-Man was, it would still make sense. Peter Parker is just his friend. It's cool to build that universe in a way that you can see it from another point of view besides Pete's. That's been a lot of fun.

Steve, we've talked in the past about the idea that while the thrice-monthly "Amazing" was an awful lot of fun for you, it also provided a lot of juggling and logistical challenges balancing those stories between up to six or seven writers and a ton of artists. Now that Dan is writing "Amazing" solo and you've got a stable of guys like Zeb Wells on "Avenging Spider-Man" and "Carnage" and Rick Remender on "Venom," has part of your plan been getting them to talk to each other more? Is something like the hand off from the "Amazing" Point-1 issue to the "Venom" series something that we could see more of as the creators hook up?

Wacker: Yes, over the past years I definitely have enjoyed building teams of creators who can share ideas with each other. Writers especially seem to really enjoy that. They're anxious to be a part of a team. As an example, in the short time I was editing "Iron Man," Matt Fraction was just filled with questions about the process when I worked on "52" at DC. He really wanted to know what it was like to be in the room with those four guys. (Or he just wanted me to stop giving him Iron Man notes).

Historically, most comic book writers -- and I guess most writers in general except for on TV -- tend to work alone in a vacuum with only their producers or editors giving them responses. When Dan took over solo writing on "Amazing" -- and I'm not realizing this until now -- I think I did subconsciously try and create a team of writers including Zeb on "Carnage" and "Avenging Spider-Man," Rick on Venom, as well as Mark Waid on "Daredevil" and Greg Rucka on "Punisher."

I just thought how I would love to sit in a room with these guys over the next year and plan out a bunch of NYC-based books. So I did recreate a writing team, even though it wasn't conscious. We do tend to share a lot in the office between reading each others scripts and letting everyone know what's happening in the books. Particularly with Dan and Rick on "Spider-Island," they took to each other like... I have no end to this metaphor...

Pinnelas: Like sugar likes ice cream.

Wacker: Like sugar likes ice cream! Like Rachel loves scarves.

Pinnelas: I do!

Wacker: But that impacted tremendously both Venom's importance to "Spider-Island" and events in the "Venom" comic, which spins off in a completely new direction after "Spider-Island" is over. That cohesiveness really came about because Dan and Rick were working so closely together. Plus, with so many writers working on the books, they can fact-check each other so I don't have to worry about so much stuff! [Laughter] They just tell each other what's happening in their own books.

With "Carnage USA," it feels as though that's one where you did the initial "Carnage" series and found you got more mileage from that book and that creative team than you initially suspected. Is this book's existence a method of ramping that interest up further or to let the creative team go wild on the concept?

Wacker: Mostly B. We wanted to let them go wilder. I was stunned at the reaction to "Carnage." We just sort of did it on a lark, and it was really big for us. Zeb had a great angle for a follow-up story that's actually going to touch on something that's happening in "Venom" as well. Rick is going to reflect "Carnage USA" in his book. Truth is I just wanted to do those covers with American themes featuring Carnage. [Laughter] That was really my only goal with the book, and Clayton Crain certainly delivered.

I think the "Carnage" miniseries and now its follow up are going to be the kinds of Marvel mini series that you don't realize at first are as it important as they turn out to be. In the end, I just love working with Zeb and Clayton. The pages from the second book are so different from the first book. In the original book, it was mostly dark and taking place at night, but in these we open on sun-drenched vistas of Americana. You can always tell in Clayton's art that there's something going on in the background behind the figures. There's something bloodcurdling about to happen, and it's a book I'm very excited about.

As you're working on something like "Spider-Island" where there are a lot of tie-ins coming up like a new book for Spider-Woman, Editorially how does that work get divided amongst you? Does someone just say, "I really want to work on this book or this piece?" For each of you, what's your favorite "in" to the event, and how did that play out across the line?

Pinnelas: On one level, and this relates to what Steve was explaining before, it's a function of geography and character availability. Specifically I can point to a surprising Punisher cameo that we'll be seeing in the "Spider-Island: I Love New York City" one-shot coming up. I'm privileged to be assisting on the new "Punisher" series and so while the Punisher is a solitary character on his own missions, we were able to bring him into the event ever-so-slightly because he is in New York when all this stuff is going on, so he organically fits into the universe. And with Frank Castle, it's always fun -- and potentially lethal! -- to see what happens when he pokes his head in on something.

Brennan: And the division of labor also comes down to who's been working on what characters leading up to the story anyway -- not just the characters but the writers and the art team. That's why I'm working on "Spider-Girl." I think in a crossover event, it can be very easy to lose sight of telling a story that has a lot of meaning, and having a team that's invested in this character from Editorial down helps make the strongest possible story while being a part of this bigger story.

Ellie Pyle: Like Tom said, a lot of it had to do with which characters and books we were already working on. I've been very fortunate to have a chance to read just about everything that's tying into the crossover to help track how it all fits together. It's hard to pick a favorite "in" because there are just so many fantastic moments across the books from a nightmarish look at Spider-Woman's origin, to the overwhelming humanity in "Venom," to a Herc soliloquy that cracked me up, and a moment from J. Jonah Jameson you never thought you'd see... there are strong stories about great characters and somehow it's all fitting together.

Wacker: For "Spider-Island," where we started out was Dan wrote an initial outline, and he and Tom Brevoort are very close, so he tends to bounce ideas off of Tom before I see them. Dan came to me with a general outline of some places we could tie things together. He had something for Venom to do, some ideas for Spider-Woman because we knew we wanted a one-shot for her, a Hobgoblin beat and a Jackal beat, which we've played out in the "Deadly Foes" one-shot. From there, I think I sat with the group, and we talked about other places where various characters series could be affected by "Spider-Island." What you want with these crossovers is a nice, simple hook of an idea that you can take to other books and have it affect those characters to give them exciting, important stories. We're all working to make it a complete reading experience and not just a collection of random tie-ins.

"Cloak and Dagger" #1-3 come out of "Spider-Island." It's affected Ty and Tandy from the very beginning, but Nick Spencer also found a story for those characters that worked independently of the main series as well. It gives them an emotional journey and sets them up for places we can take their story beyond these three-parters. It came together easily. At some point, Brevoort handed me Nick's pitch for "Cloak and Dagger" that had been sitting around for a while, and I'd just worked with artist Emma Rios on "ASM" and "Osborn." Nick and I talked about how a book like "Cloak and Dagger" is a risk in even the healthiest market and certainly in a weak market it was going to be a challenge. Nick was able to find a unique way to tie in to the "Spider-Island" stuff, and suddenly we have a "Spider-Island: Cloak and Dagger" series.

The same kind of thing happened on "Deadly Hands of Kung Fu" with Antony Johnston. Shang Chi was a character Antony and I had been talking about for a long time, but it was Antony and editor Alejandro Arbona who really found an angle on the book giving it an exciting place in Spider-Island. I, Brennan and Paul Tobin on "Spider-Girl" -- same thing.

From there, I threw it out to the whole Editorial crew -- everybody up here -- to see if there were any fun places they could tie-in at. That's how we ended up with "Herc" by Van Lente and Pak, "Heroes For Hire" with Abnett and Lanning and "Black Panther" from David Liss. Once they saw the outline, they had an idea for stories that added a lot of texture to the main book and -- I hope -- set their characters up for new things.

You speaking on finding an event hook that can serve as platform for a lot of characters reminds me that this is the first time we've had a big Spider-Man event since the string of crossovers in the '90s like "The Clone Saga" or "Maximum Carnage." We've heard from Dan on how he wants to make this a real Pete-centric Spidey story. In what ways have you guys talked about making this a real Spidey event comic?

Wacker: These guys grew up reading comics in the '90s. For me, it had been a while since I'd read a huge Spider-Man event at all. I don't think there's been a huge one like this since back in the '90s, and I don't think I remember ever reading one -- with all due respect to the talented people who worked on those books -- that I completely understood. So my biggest bugaboo in this whole thing has been, "Give me a story that I can rope into that's logical and that has a lot of powerful emotion I understand as a human being."

Brennan: One thing I loved about those stories -- especially "Maximum Carnage" which you mentioned -- is that as a kid I was a regular "Spider-Man" reader, and these terrible things would happen. Giant monsters attack Manhattan, but somehow Spider-Man was the only person who could possibly do anything about it. Meanwhile, there's Avengers Mansion uptown or the Fantastic Four, and they were always conveniently out of town so they couldn't help him.

Wacker: Every kid who reads comics struggles with that. [Laughter]

Brennan: Well, he should call for help! But what I liked about "Maximum Carnage" was that suddenly he was in a circumstance that brought all these other players in. That's also what I liked about "Spider-Island." He's in a circumstance that everybody else can't possibly ignore. The Avengers can't ignore it. The other heroes of the city like Venom and Punisher have to step in in some way. Or, in some cases, the ones who can't help out can't help because they're affected by this. I thought this a lot during "Brand New Day" as well -- that too often Spidey was off in his own corner. It's great for us because we can tell our own stories, but I think you sometimes run the risk with some comic fans of "Well, where is everyone else during X, Y and Z?" It's good to have an event which acknowledges that and says "They're fighting on this bridge here. He's got these powers. This happens." That's one of the cool things about this story for me.

Pinnelas: It even propels into the modern use of GPS! Marvel.com has launched an exciting cartographic tie-in for "Spider-Island!" If you want to know where some of the explosive moments are happening, the "Spider-Island" event page on Marvel.com has a map, and when each related issue comes out during the months of the event, there's an update for where something has gone down in a book. Avoiding spoilers, certain locations will be highlighted in conjunction with the release of the issues. Now that's a checklist for the modern age!

Brennan: As someone who lives in New York now but also who grew up in New York, I love any comic stories that really dig into New York and doesn't just make it the background city that's getting destroyed. Between the map and the story itself, it's very centered on New York, and that's important to me.

Wacker: Within the main "Spider-Island" story, Dan is really writing a love letter to the city. The story opens with this majestic shot of the city by Humberto [Ramos] and it's kind of a theme we come back to a lot -- how important the city is to Spider-Man. It's the only city in the world where Spider-Man could have been created. He needs these streets and these tall buildings to swing through, whereas another character like Thor you can move anywhere and still get a visually interesting Thor story.

Pyle: And Dan has been putting a lot of thought into not just including specific landmarks, streets and neighborhoods, but WHY? He's done an excellent job of capturing the personality of the places and why they mean what they do to the characters. All of that has been particularly neat for me because I'm still relatively new here. It's like a crash course in where to go explore next!

Swinging to a different area where Spider-Man remains important, you guys recently took over the Marvel Adventures line of kids comics, which I may be more interested in than a 29 year-old should be. That aside, it's always exciting to see how a publisher like Marvel uses these series for outreach to new, younger readers. What kind of stories are you guys looking to tell to get that important mission accomplished?

Pinnelas: Within the parameters of the all-ages stories, you don't necessarily have to have graphic violence or sexual situations to tell an exciting story. What you want to do is find out what's cool about a character that the youngest of kids would like and communicate it in a way that's appealing across the board. I've been pleasantly entertained by some of the scripts I've seen [for "Marvel Adventures Super-Heroes"] that feature some more provocative characters, but ones that are always really visual in their nature. That's what's so great about the Marvel Adventures line. You can take a character like Hawkeye who, in some ways, is a Robin Hood-type in purple and jazz him up with all of his trick arrows and his acrobatics. That in and of itself is attractive about the character to an adult who is a fan and something that a kid can get on board with and be pumped about in a super hero. Gravitating to those elements with the characters and stories has been my goal so far.

Brennan: I think the easy mistake to make within any comic -- not just ones for children -- is to think, "Oh, kids like this so let's give them a lot of it." And "This" means something that talks down to them.

Pinnelas: And candy.

Brennan: Yes, and candy. I think the approach that we've taken as the marching orders were given is to make really awesome comic books. I grew up reading "Amazing Spider-Man" as did Rachel, and while a panel here or there might make you worried, I would have no real problem handing a copy of Dan Slott's "Amazing" to a younger cousin to read. The goal is to tell stories in Marvel Adventures that have that feeling of sophistication. Obviously we have certain parameters that we have to abide by because they're all-ages titles, but these are just really strong super hero stories that a kid can enjoy but that they won't feel is talking down to them. That's the goal.

Wacker: I feel sometimes, particularly at Marvel and DC, there have been times that we have stories labeled for kids that are really for 35-year-olds. And sometimes I've felt like I don't understand why people are writing and drawing these comics as if they're on a budget. I'm puzzled why there isn't crap exploding in every panel for our superheroes to deal with. My experience is that kids will read comics, but want to be dazzled... particularly with so many other "toys" vying for their attention.

I think the core of the Marvel kids books for a while -- and what I want to continue -- is that I want a lot of action that kids can dream about doing. Stuff kids would pretend to be doing when they go out to the playground -- well, if they still go out to the playground instead of staying in to play video games. [Laughter]

The book that inspired me the most for this gig is "Axe Cop" which Dark Horse just put out. That is what a kid thinks about. And there is no such thing as a boring page of "Axe Cop." That's the sort of energy I want in these books.

Right now, people haven't seen the stuff we've been putting together for these books over the last few months, but I've been very happy with the work Tobin's been doing on the Spidey book. In the coming months, we've brought in short stories by a lot of creators you don't normally see on the Adventures line. We're doing short stories too because a lot of these will be repurposed for new Disney magazines. These books are going to have more readers than anything else we do, so we're making sure that if any kid picks up one comic in their life and its our chance to grab them, this will be the most awe-inspiring Hawkeye story they've ever seen.

They're going to have to come back to the Marvel Universe. This is the gateway drug... Boy, what a way to pitch our kids comics! [Laughter]

Brennan: A few weeks ago we were in a meeting, and someone asked, "What do you think makes a good writer for kids comics?" And the answer is...

Wacker: A baboon with no fear!

Brennan: Yes, a baboon. And also, it's just a good writer. I think the stories for "Sesame Street," rather than looking to hire good kids writers they hire sketch comedy writers because what they essentially do on that show is sketch comedy. If they need to plug in three lessons, they'll plug them in. That's what we're trying to do here. We've got ratings restrictions, but we're just trying to give them a kick-ass superhero comic... but we won't say "kick-ass" anywhere.

We've talked about the big, overarching stuff, but there are lots of solo titles in your office from "Punisher" and "Daredevil" to newer projects like "Vengeance" which just hit. What are some of those books that you guys feel are firing on all levels right now that people may be missing out on?

Brennan: "Thunderbolts," man.

Pinnelas: Yup!

Brennan: And even though that's not really part of the New York books, it's a comic I've steadily fallen in love with over the past couple of months. After our "Fear Itself" tie-in wraps up, the Thunderbolts pull off the greatest escape in history with Captain America and Namor joining the team. It's a lot of fun, and Jeff Parker is at the top of his game here, and Kev Walker and Declan Shalvey really have a distinctive ability -- both of them -- to hit that big superhero action feeling while still being totally different. That sounds like a nonsense statement I just made, but trust me, it makes sense in my head. As I've found talking to people who read the book, they share that feeling.

Pinnelas: "Thunderbolts" #160 has just come out, and it's got probably one of the most unique, stunning spreads ever seen in a comic. As Tom mentioned, Jeff is really hitting his stride, but so are the characters. The sequence I'm referring to here has the team trying to bring each other together and work their way out of some of the destruction of wrought by "Fear Itself." Their relationships have become really defined now it's so evident here. Although "Thunderbolts" may not be set in a specific city like New York, it very much has a specific place in the Marvel Universe. It's an incredibly important title.

Wacker: I don't think we've done a great job messaging on "Thunderbolts" over the past few years, because it's stunning to me that there are fans of Marvel Comics not reading this comic book. I think we need to be better getting out the word, and I think the new stuff Parker has coming up is going to put it back in our readers' minds.

Unfortunately with a book like "Thunderbolts", it's so dependable and has been there every month since 1996 or whatever that I think people just assume things about it. Part of what we need to do is remind people about the fantastic work being done on that book right now.

Brennan: It's an interesting balancing act because on the one hand we do tie in to so much of what's going on in the main Marvel U, but at the same time, it is one of the few places you can see certain characters. I see people online asking, "Where is Boomerang?" and he's in "Thunderbolts."

Wacker: Really? Boomerang?

Brennan: I do read that a lot online!

Pinnelas: I have a Google Alert for Boomerang, actually.

Brennan: And I feel like a lot of our smaller characters and characters you don't always hear from can be found in "Thunderbolts," and it remains an important part of what we do in the Marvel U. And I think Jeff does a wonderful job, like on the "Fear Itself" issues now, making sure that his crossover tie-in still pushes the main story forward. He was already on a path to have Juggernaut leave the team, and then this came along and it was like "Perfect!" He's done a great job using the Marvel Universe as a backdrop for his story without limiting it.

Wacker: One book that just came over into our office a few months ago is "Anita Blake," and that book is one where we're adapting Laurell K. Hamilton's very popular novels. Marvel's been doing that a few years, and it's been incredibly successful for us, and now Rachel is taking it over. In a world with "Twilight" and "True Blood" and all that stuff, this project has been a huge boon for us.

Pinnelas: If you want to talk about a gateway drug, this book is one! I'm learning more and more about Anita Blake now that I'm on the Editorial side of it and not just the reading side of it. I've seen and enjoyed the series, but getting to know the inner workings of the character and to talk to Laurell and her team for the comic book adaptation, I've discovered there's A LOT of love for this character, and she's KICK-ASS. And because of the extreme rating, I can describe it as so! [Laughter]

Wacker: That is one sexy, sex-filled, blood-laden comic.

Pinnelas: There is staking and making out and enchantment, and I am enchanted by Anita.

Wacker: If you love making out, which I do...

Pinnelas: If you love making out with vampires with long, luscious hair!

Wacker: Which I do...

Pinnelas: The hairstyles on these guys are awesome. There's a lot to love in this book.

Brennan: And there's "Vengeance!" I'm very excited about this book. It's Joe Casey and Nick Dragotta exploring good and evil though the next generation of heroes and villains in the Marvel Universe: the Teen Brigade and the Young Masters. It's a fascinating experience because it's part of the ongoing Marvel U, obviously, but it's also its own thing off to the side. As we've talked about in interviews, it's Joe and Nick tossing bombs down a well to see what works. Each script that comes in has a certain amount of, "Wow! I didn't think that's what would happen!"

Pinnelas: It's another book where if you have a Google Alert for characters like Nighthawk or Stacey X, it will provide you with what they've been up to as well.

Pyle: You mentioned it briefly, and no one's missing out on it yet because issue one doesn't come out until Wednesday [July 20] but the new "Daredevil" series really is extraordinary. Paolo Rivera and Marcos Martin have very different styles but their art is equally beautiful and you'll get to see some of both in the first issue. Mark Waid is just so great at writing about people who are too smart or too perceptive for their own good and the way he applies that to Matt Murdock's attempts to cope with his past by living in the moment is really fascinating. Of course my favorite thing Mark Waid wrote recently, that people might have missed out on, was a four-issue mini series of CrossGen's "Ruse." The concept is basically Sherlock Holms if Watson was a woman or "Moonlighting" in Victorian England. It's deliciously clever and a whole lot of fun.

Wacker: That was always my favorite of the CrossGen books, and I was absolutely thrilled to be able to bring it back for four issues. The collection is coming out soon, and other than "Amazing Spider-Man," we've gotten more mail about "Ruse" than anything else coming out of our office. And my hope is that we can do more. I love mystery comics. I think their relationship is one of the best things Waid's ever written, and I hope people will take the chance to check it out over the next couple of months.

All right, well when we started the process for this interview someone at Marvel forwarded me a document of what everyone in the office was working on, and there are a few titles here I'm not sure have been 100% announced that I wanted to check on...

Wacker: Fire! Everyone out! [Laughter]

Not so fast! First up is a project called "The Cat" which I'm not sure if it's a reference to Patsy Walker or one of the many other characters that Marvel has had go by that name in the past.

Wacker: This is a series that was actually announced years ago. It's a Warren Ellis book.

So is the fact that I'm seeing this on the list one where we can assume it'll be in stores before too long?

Wacker: It's not terribly close to completion. It's still being worked on slowly. That was a book that was with Axel Alonso, and when he got promoted to Editor-in-Chief it meant he wouldn't be directly editing books anymore, so some of his projects have moved around. That was one that landed in the office with Rachel and myself. But when we get it together and Warren's schedule opens up as well as David Yardin's schedule, it's going to be gorgeous.

Pinnelas: What we've been given from Axel is really exquisite stuff.

Wacker: Warren Ellis is a very good writer. You can print that!

One of the other things listed here that stood out is "Avengers Retro" under Tom's purview. What's the story there?

Brennan: You'll find out! It's a five-issue Avengers series. The talent is waiting to be announced, but it will span the Avengers entire history. It's the one mystery that got away from the original team, and it'll wind its way through the West Coast team, the [Roger] Stern run and our modern day team. And more info will be announced about that shortly.

Wacker: It's sort of a celebration of Avengers history. You know, there's a movie coming up!

The last thing I have on here is something called "Marvel Comics: Shame Itself." Pleeeeeeease tell me what this is.

Brennan: Greatest tie-in to "Fear Itself" ever! More will be announced as it develops, but it's a comedy one-shot "celebrating" the Marvel Universe, and the writers coming on for it are from the world of comedy although they're all comics fans including Wyatt Cenac & Elliott Kalan of "The Daily Show." Both guys have done some work for us; recently, Elliot Kalan wrote "Iron Age" #2 and a Captain America story for the "Age of Heroes" anthology. We have some more folks whose names will be announced in the coming months.

Wacker: One thing we've historically had no problem doing at Marvel is making fun of ourselves. We did "Captain America: Who Won't Wield The Shield?" last year, the old "What The?" comics, even just employing Ralph Macchio. (It's Time-Warner, but that new "MAD" show on Cartoon Network makes fun of Marvel every other episode, which I think is great.) This is in the vein of those. Tom Brennan is wry and critical about everything that happens here, so we put his wry, judgmental sense of humor to work allowing him to show us his genius because he thinks he's so damn smart.

Brennan: Mmmm Hmmm. It's the best thing I've ever done!

Wacker: It's probably his last comic.

Brennan: There's a two-page spread by Jacob Chabot in there that's the greatest thing I worked on that day. It's instructions on how to make your own Marvel crossover event. And as soon as that sees print, if you need someone to review comics on CBR I'll be available for work. [Laughter]

Wacker: We're all assuming that each of the Architects have a good sense of humor. I mean, I know Brubaker doesn't, but the rest of them I have faith in. [Laughter]

Brennan: And let it be known that Tom Peyer does a two-pager in there that insults nobody.

Wacker: And let me end by taking a moment to plug "Criminal" by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips. It's excellent.

To wrap, I know that things at Marvel get mapped out at least a year in advance if not further than that. What do you guys view as your goals going through the end of this year and into 2012?

Wacker: For next year, the big major thing in our office is going to be Spidey's 50th anniversary. Dan right now has more plans than we can fit into a year of publishing. There will be other projects happening around that anniversary. Really, when we get into the early months of next year, we're going to be out of the time where we're launching a lot of books and into a phase where we're building towards something. Both with "Punisher" and "Daredevil" and "Spider-Man" and "Ghost Rider," we'll build each book to reflect their place in the world.

I'd love to do a Punisher/Daredevil thing and a Daredevil/Spider-Man thing. There are some other maximum-sized stories -- not quite as big as "Spider Island" but definitely attention-getting plans -- that will run through those books. I hate the time when we have to talk so vague about these things, but there are certainly a few "water cooler" comics coming from our offices that may affect the rest of the line. And most of that needs to wait to get announced.

You'll definitely know it when you hear it because it'll be massive.

Vampirella #2

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