When it's time to make the big decisions on the nuts and bolts creation of Marvel Comics, people have to Talk to the Hat.
An outstanding industry vet and fashion forward editor, Marvel SVP of Publishing Tom Brevoort is back on CBR News for Marvel's TALK TO THE HAT. Our latest weekly look inside the minds at Marvel spotlights Tom along with his signature pork pie and loads of comics news, views and discussion. Anchored by regular question and answer rounds with the denizens of the CBR Message Boards, each week Brevoort will shake things up with special guest stars, exclusive art reveals and new interactive features.
This week, some of the biggest writers from Marvel's stable of Architects and event shapers were in NYC to plan out the future of the Marvel Universe, but in between the top secret planning, Tom carved out some time to talk directly to the readers with an all fan question column! Read on below as the editor extraordinaire reveals some of the craziest and most common pitches he's received over the years for Marvel's top heroes, shows off some exclusive new art and info surrounding the Avengers franchise and characters like Wonder Man and Black Panther and opens up the floor in terms of switching up Marvel's monthly creative teams. Read on!
Kiel Phegley: Tom, it must be a busy week at Marvel as you guys have swung back into another creative summit. At this point in the action, what can you tell us about who's in town and what characters and projects you'll be focusing on? Are we going to be seeing another dozen "Fear Itself" tie-ins announced at the end of the month because of this retreat?
Tom Brevoort: Probably not, in that "Fear Itself" is at this point largely locked-and-loaded. I suspect the worst that'll happen regarding it will be that we'll come up with some additional twists or outgrowth projects to emerge from the end of it, building on the finale we've already got in place. No, we'll primarily be focusing on 2012 at this retreat, and the publishing plan for next year. We've already got the core idea for what will likely be the main storyline spine that'll drive most of that year, so we'll be refining that over this retreat, mainly, as well as spending some time thinking about each area or office or group of titles in general. This'll be Axel's first retreat as E-i-C, so it'll inevitably have a different flow and a different flavor from previous ones -- we'll see what that amounts to in the days to come.
In terms of the folks who'll be attending, it's very much the usual suspects -- Bendis, Loeb, Fraction, Brubaker, Hickman, Aaron, Slott, Pak, as well as Rick Remender and Kieron Gillen in their very first retreat appearances.
Right on. Well, we've had a lot of responses on the board to our discussion of late about readership young and old, including a lot of questions from poster Brian from Canada. But after looking over some of his questions, I think a lot of that stuff was covered pretty well. Luckily, Brian also had a run of fun questions for you, Tom, so I thought I'd let him take over for a minute:
"Tom, you've been an editor for years. And a wonderful editor at that. But could you tell us, in all your years of experience...What was the funniest idea to be run by you?"
Brevoort: Well, Brian, I first have to apologize, because I'm never very good with these kinds of questions, but I'll try to give you the best answers I can. I never keep track of this kind of thing -- the stuff that doesn't stick tends to fall right out of my head, because I've got a million more important things to be focusing on.
Off the top of my head, the funniest idea I can remember wasn't pitched to me, but I came across it while clearing out the submissions pile when I started as an intern. It was a pitch for a Captain America story, set during the period in which Steve Rogers was working as the penciler for the Marvel Universe Captain America comic book. (Yes, believe it or not, that was the status quo for awhile.) In this particular pitch, Steve was at the Marvel Offices dropping off some pages when a murder mystery broke out -- somebody had killed Chris Claremont! There was a bunch of running around, and eventually the culprit was revealed as Mike Carlin (then the editor of the "Cap" series -- this had clearly been written before he switched to DC). Mike flees, running out into the street, where he's hit by a bus and killed. The End. I have no idea who sent it in, but it said more about the writer's personal predilections than his writing skill, clearly.
"What was the worst idea to be run by you?"
Brevoort: There's the one that half the people in the industry have pitched at one point or another: the villain who's so bad that Spider-Man has no other choice but to kill him. Taboo is such an attractive thing, I guess, but there are certain lines certain of our characters don't or won't cross, so it's attractive for people to think about the situations in which we might push them past that point. But most often, when this story is pitched, the writers haven't gone any further -- they haven't considered the after-effects, what killing somebody does to Peter Parker, how it changes him, what it does to his Spider-Man career. They're only truly interested in the shock value of the moment - and that's worthless without proper and compelling follow-through. It'd be the easiest thing in the world to suddenly have Spider-Man start killing people, but it would be a violation of his character as it's been established over the years. And there might be an instance when Spider-Man was forced to make the choice to kill -- but that would be a profound, life-hanging moment for the character, one that you might not really ever be able to get him back from. So you don't want to go down that road casually.
Also, in general, people who come to me looking for key super-villains for either their new villain or their lethal hero to kill, in order to "prove that he's a badass." These, too, tend to be throwaway killings, meaningless and not actually accomplishing what these writers think they're accomplishing. Ironically, these tend to be the same guys who come back months later, looking for other important villains for their characters to fight. If you kill off all of the villains, then the picking become slim.
"What is the story/run you're most proud of so far?"
Tom Brevoort: It's almost impossible to answer this without potentially pissing somebody off, Brian, and there are plenty of books and runs that I'm very proud of. But my favorite overall run on any title I've worked on had to be the Mark Waid/Mike Wieringo "Fantastic Four" run, which ran from v3 #60-70 and #500-524. I read through it again not long ago, and it still holds up for me.
"What is the one story idea that you think is laying out there that should be addressed one day because you think it would make an awesome story?"
Tom Brevoort: This one I can't tell you, Brian, because if I've got such a story idea, I want to wait for the moment when I can best leverage it within the Marvel Universe. I'm in a position where any ridiculous idea I come up with stands a half-decent shot of being implemented in the books, so there's not a tremendous backlog waiting to come out.
Actually, I can talk about something interesting that happened to me just the other week, that relates to this point a little bit. For the longest time, I've had this concept for the "Fantastic Four." It's not a story concept, but is rather a way of using one of the characters that I thought would be interesting.
I've long felt that Sue Richards should be the FF's "field medic." Using her powers, she could "diagnose" a problem using her abilities to make assorted layers of the epidermis invisible. Using her force-fields honed to a molecule's thickness, she could create and manipulate with uncanny precision scalpels, as well as clamps and retainers and all the tools one would need in surgery. And so forth. It was a cool bit, using Sue's powers in a logical yet novel manner, and casting her in a different role. I know I bounced this bit off of Jonathan Hickman when he was taking over the series.
But just last week, I picked up a copy of the Premiere Hardcover collection of the "Resurrection of Galactus" arc. The earliest issues of "FF" I edited were in that volume, picking up from previous editor Bobbie Chase. And I was stunned to discover that, in one of the parallel worlds that the FF visit in the course of that storyline, Sue is a doctor, using her powers in exactly the way I had been talking about. Now, I edited the issue in question -- it was one of my first, if not my actual first. But it had completely fallen out of my mind in the intervening years. So it was actually Carlos Pacheco or Rafael Marin or Jeph Loeb who had come up with this bit-of-business that I had been talking up as my brilliant genius for all these months.
That's one of the dangers of doing this; you hear an awful lot of ideas and concepts, and it's very easy for them to come popping back out of your subconscious when you least expect them -- making you think you'd come up with them in the first place. On occasion in the past, I've had to mediate a situation where writer 1 heard writer 2's ideas at some point, forgot about them, then months later wound up using them in a script.
Well, that was a hoot! Next up, we've got TMatthy83 who's noticed something interesting in Marvel's potential CrossGen plans. He asks, "I saw in the solicitations for 'Sigil' that Samantha is going to encounter the pirate ship, El Cazador. Any plans for that title to make a come back? Will other Crossgen properties appear in 'Sigil'?"
Tom Brevoort: Well, TMatthy, really only time will tell. I can say that we've got two or three other CrossGen series being worked on at the moment, and that you'll hear about them all in the coming months. And also that the premise of the new "Sigil" series will allow Sam to interact with all sorts of iconography from the previously-established CrossGen worlds.
Next up, we've got a run of Avenger questions from marvell2100, who starts out saying "With the return of Iron Lad in 'Avengers: The Children's Crusade,' will we see the return of the old Vision? He's been gone for a really long time. I've always thought of him as a cornerstone of the Avengers. Also, he needs to be with Wanda again."
Tom Brevoort: The only thing I can tell you at the moment, Marvell2100, obviously, is to keep reading "Avengers: The Children's Crusade," because if anything like that were to be happening, that's likely the place where it would occur. But no promises!
He also wonders "What's going on with Wonder Man? Is he destined to become the next, great Avengers villain? In a way I hope he does because he's someone that can really give the team a serious fight."
Tom Brevoort: Wonder Man will be appearing in and around the main "Avengers" titles over the next couple of months, culminating in a series of Annuals that Brian Bendis is working on with his "Secret War" partner Gabrielle Dell'otto. It's too soon to say precisely when these books will be released (especially since we want to make sure we've got enough of the material in hand so that there aren't enormous delays), but that's where Wonder Man's storyline will reach a head. And if I'm feeling extraordinarily nice, there ought to be a preview image from those Annuals around here on this page somewhere. Gab is turning out some extraordinary work on them!
In a break from our marvell2100 action, I wanted to throw a question in from Comicbookfan who was one of a few guys with commentary on the current state of the Black Panther and how long it'll last. "I have a question regarding Black Panther Man Without Fear. Now it seems to be that the general idea is that Daredevil will Return to Hells Kitchen. Black Panther's time in hell's kitchen is not open ended, there will be an end to his story as the man without fear. But what if Fans really really like The Panthers new role? I don't want to get to far ahead here but This Comic is Awesome! So have you guys made plans just in case this direction sticks?"
Brevoort: Glad to hear you've been digging "Black Panther: The Man Without Fear," Comicbookfan. And rest assured, whether or not Daredevil eventually returns to Manhattan, there should still be room for T'Challa on those same streets -- in the same way that there's been plenty of room for DD and Spider-Man and Luke Cage and Iron Fist and a dozen other characters up till now. And it'd make for a cool story for Matt to return to see just what T'Challa's done in the position. By that same token, there'd be nothing wrong with taking this iteration of T'Challa back on the road, either having him return to Wakanda for some particular case or situation, or have him travel someplace else. It's a big world out there, after all, and the possibilities are endless. Plus, what about his marriage to Storm?
Bill Rosemann: Hey, Comicbookfan! Writer David Liss and artist Francesco Francavilla, who are pulling out all the stops to deliver a thrilling and surprising chapter in the rich history of T'Challa, appreciate your kind words on "Black Panther: The Man Without Fear." You and Tom both bring up some interesting conundrums that will indeed be explored in the coming months. Will Matt Murdock return to New York City, and if so, will he once again set up shop in Hell's Kitchen? If he does, is the infamous neighborhood big enough for two vigilantes as strong-willed as T'Challa and Matt? Or will one of them move on to a new section of the city...and if so, who? Or, as we've seen with the X-Men relocating to San Francisco, are there other cities out there that Daredevil or the Panther could jump to? Who says Manhattan has to corner the market on urban super heroes? And, as Tom mentions, what roll will Storm play in her husband's ongoing quest? And what about the current Black Panther, Shuri? Yes, there are many burning questions, Comicbookfan, and the only thing hotter is this preview art from issue #515!
And back to marvell2100 with a semi-follow up/suggestion: "I know you guys are doing other things with T'Challa/Black Panther right now but is there anyway that he can get on Avengers or Secret Avengers somewhere down the line? Secret Avengers would be great."
Tom Brevoort: As I've said before, I'd love to see both T'Challa and Storm on the Avengers -- so maybe that's something that I'll get done this week at this retreat! We'll see!
One more from marvell2100: "Lastly, how much more of the "events" from the map in Avengers #5 will we be seeing in the coming months or year?"
Tom Brevoort: Some of them you've seen already, some of them are right around the corner, and some of them you won't see until near to the end of the year if all goes as planned. But they went up onto that board because they were things we had in the planning stages that we felt confident that there'd be follow-through on.
Last fan question of this week comes from Countgate, who asks "Will the Thunderbolts (especially Songbird and MACH-V) be more important in the MU this year, or at least have a significant appearance on 'Fear Itself'?"
Tom Brevoort: I'm not always certain what constitutes "important to the MU" anymore, Countgate, but I can tell you that the Thunderbolts will be dealing very directly with the events in "Fear Itself," stemming from something that occurs in "Fear Itself" #2, and that propels them through the storyline from that point on. It's entirely likely that we'll have a very different-looking Thunderbolts once again once "Fear Itself" wraps up.
Solid! Well, Tom...with the summit going on this week, what kind of feedback are you looking for from fans of the current Marvel U. Is there some specific issue you'll be grappling with in the week ahead that they should chime in on?
Tom Brevoort: Well, okay, let's ask this one. There are two schools of thought when it comes to the tenure of writers on our assorted titles. The first is that writers should be contracted for relatively short, finite runs, like Mark Millar in "Wolverine: Enemy of The State," in which they hit you immediately and all at once with all of their best ideas and don't outstay their welcome. And the second philosophy is the long-form approach, where somebody like Brian Bendis writes a title like "Daredevil" for as long as it's interesting to him and successful for us, and that enables the creator to tell stories across far greater swaths of pages and time. So, with all that in mind (and with a certain amount of decorum -- there's no need for name-calling here), I'd like to hear from the readers what regular title they think would benefit from a change of creative team, and why.
Have some questions for Marvel's Talk To The Hat? 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 Executive staff that CBR will pull questions for next week's installment of our weekly fan-generated question-and-answer column! Do it to it!