On sale now is the first issue of "Marvel 1985," a comic book more than three years in the making. Written by Mark Millar ("The Ultimates," "Fantastic Four") and illustrated by Tommy Lee Edwards ("Bullet Points," numerous "Star Wars" projects), the six-issue miniseries is for the fan-favorite creators a true labor of love. The story of Toby, a young Marvel Comics fan living in the Real World, and what happens when his beloved comics characters begin to invade his reality, "Marvel 1985" has already connected with fans and retailers, with the first issue having sold out of its initial print run before the book even hit the stands.
To learn more about their intentions for "Marvel 1985," its connections to "Wolverine" and "Fantastic Four," and what fans can look forward to in future issues, CBR News spoke with creators Mark Millar and Tommy Lee Edwards.
CBR: How does it feel now that "Marvel 1985" #1 is finally out? You've been trying to get this project released for quite some time.
Mark Millar: I actually wrote it about three years ago. I went through and tweaked it again last summer, but I did most of it about three years back. It was a real labor of love for me; something I really, really wanted to do. So I wrote it really quickly and I remember thinking, "This is great, I can't wait to see this in print." And since then, my God, Sadam Hussein's dead, it's been a long time but here we are and it's out and I'm really happy.
Tommy and I have been frantically looking online for every review that's come in and we've been emailing them to each other. We're really delighted that everyone seems to love the book. It's funny, after three years, it's lovely that it's got a good reaction. I would have been soul-destroying if people hated it.
"Marvel 1985" is obviously a very personal story, with the majority of the first issue dedicated to following young Toby as he visits the comics shop, argues with a snobby Cerebus fan, splits time between his divorced parents, reads comics ceaselessly -- even with a long box on his bed -- and just goes through his life as an adolescent. How much of Toby's story is based on your own?
MM: Toby's life is just that classic story of the troubled child whose mom and dad are going through a divorce and he's in a bad place. He's the kid in every Steven Spielberg movie from the 1980s, I suppose. In that sense it's not autobiographical -- my parents never split -- but I think coming from a happy home, from loving parents, that's kind of dull as a story. Whether it's Bambi or Luke Skywalker, it's always interesting if one of the parents is killed or the parents are in conflict. It's very interesting when children are forced to grow up quickly. That's what happened to Superman, that's what happened to Bruce Wayne, that's what happened to Spider-Man, and Toby as well.
Tommy Lee Edwards: Mark always has suggestions on how to enhance a character by designing their environment. In the script, Mark has Toby on his bed, escaping from reality while enjoying "Secret Wars." I think the comic box and soccer ball and all that was me. I lived in Texas for a while during the early 1980s, and all the kids were on a soccer team. It was pretty huge, from my memory. But I guess that goes to show you that not everybody grew up the same way. Lots of kids didn't read comics like I did. Lots of them didn't obsess over drawing and "G.I. Joe" and "Star Wars" the way I did, either. But I think Toby is a definite amalgamation of Mark and I. I definitely draw Toby and his clothes and his room and his house and everything based on my memory of being 12-years-old.
And the comic book store with all the toys and posters and t-shirts?
TLE: I lived in Michigan in 1985. I was in the sixth grade, and once-in-a-while was lucky enough to have my Dad take me to Classic Comics in Livonia. It was huge back then, and had a lot more than comics. They had shirts! They had tons of old model kits and some toys! They had movie memorabilia! Scripts! Years later, I came home from college and visited Classics. This was now 1992 and post-direct sales. Comics had entered a dark era in my opinion. Classics was now one third of its original size. It may be gone now.
I based the comic shop in "Marvel 1985" off of my memory of Classic Comics. I know it's not really a completely accurate depiction, as we tend to see those types of childhood memories with rose-tinted glasses. I've also added in things I always wanted from that era. Things like "Shogun Warriors" and "Battlestar Galactica" and "Robotech." I know that some goober is going to post on some forum that "Battlestar came out in 1978". That's right, it did. But it didn't go away. In a way, Toby's surroundings are based on all of my childhood influences "up-to" 1985.
Why are you so interested in the reaction to this particular book? Why are you checking the reviews so diligently?
MM: It's a bit of a labor of love, it really is. I very consciously picked the year 1985 because, for Marvel and DC, it almost felt like the end of everything, the end of superheroes. I wanted this to have a timeless feel, and for me 1985 was kind of the end of my childhood. I was 15 in 1985, and after that it was goodbye to the Silver Age stuff and the characters being very uncomplicated. Superman was revamped the following year by John Byrne and it was very different from the Superman I'd grown up with. At the same time, we were starting to see much darker books influenced Frank Miller and much darker books coming into Marvel. "Secret Wars" was really the last almost kind of Silver Agey kind of story; where it was a real gee-whiz factor to all these superheroes getting together and fighting the bad guys.
For me, in that sense "Marvel 1985" is very personal, but it seems to really resonate with a lot other people as well; a lot of people felt the same way. I think it is important to me because it resonates with me on a number of levels. With Wolverine or Spider-Man or X-Men or Fantastic Four, you just try and tell a good yarn. But with this, I wanted to create something that was timeless; almost like a fairy tale. And because it's set in the past, it's never fashionable and it's never unfashionable. Kind of like "Raiders of the Lost Ark," it never feels out of date because it was always set in the past. I wanted to do a Marvel story like that as well, with a timeless quality, where Captain America's simply Captain America, it's not somebody else in the costume. Iron Man is just Tony Stark. The characters are their most basic and primal.
"Marvel 1985" is touted as being a kind of spiritual sequel to "Secret Wars."
MM: Thematically, "Secret Wars" is very important because "1985" is about a kid at his most obsessed with Marvel Comics, and to me "Secret Wars" was a great moment like that in the same way that a lot of fans got created by "Civil War" last year; we had those crazy big sales and everything. Similarly, "Secret Wars" just blew the roof off Marvel. Any "Secret Wars" tie-in was just enormous. It was a very exciting time.
For those who haven't read "Secret Wars," are they meant to understand how the Marvel characters came to "our world" or who Dr. Doom is acting in defiance of, or are those mysteries to be revealed in later issues of "Marvel 1985?"
MM: Don't worry, you can absolutely read "1985" without reading "Secret Wars." It's a very, very self-contained story. Over the next few issues, there's a mystery unfolding. There is someone who has brought these things here and we found out little clues until it's finally revealed in the last couple of issues
TLE: If you've read "Secret Wars," you'll know exactly what part we've depicted. But in no way do you need to have read "Secret Wars" in order to follow the story in "1985." You actually don't need to know anything about comics at all. You'll get more out of it if you do, as "1985" is a sci-fi story with parallel worlds and super powers and all that good stuff. But also, Mark's crafted an adventurous timeless tale here that (at it's core) deals with imagination, bravery, growing up, determination, death, and lots more.
Was is it you find so appealing about the superheroes in our world?
MM: Two things, really. I remember seeing an episode of that really bad 1970s TV show "Buck Rogers in the 21st Century," where they came to our world. I remember sitting and watching it with my friends and I was saying, "This is so cool," because you're seeing things that don't look that interesting in the 21st century setting, but when you see [the characters] in our world it's instantly fascinating because it's stuff we don't see in real life. It's such a simple trick and I realize now as an adult that they'd simply run out of money and they couldn't afford to build sets! But for me it kind of sparked off this love affair with seeing extraordinary things juxtaposed with the ordinary. To me the idea of a story about Man's first contact with superheroes seemed really, really intriguing; a really good basis for a story.
The other thing that was important was that I really wanted to do something that ordinary people could read. The thing I really admire about the early Marvel stuff, the first couple of years, is how mainstream it is. Anyone who's never read a comic before can pick up an early "Spider-Man" or an early "Fantastic Four" and understand it. It's a world very close to our own. But within the Marvel Universe itself, there's about 4,700 characters now, and they've all got costumes and histories and stuff. It can be quite daunting to new readers. Even the Ultimate Universe has quite a lot of characters now, so the idea of something that's a real ground zero approach; someone can just pick up issue #1 and see the Marvel Universe for the first time through the eyes of someone from our world, I think would be easy for a mainstream audience to pick up.
Now that the first issue's been released, have you anything new to say about each others' work?
MM: I'd love to say everything you like is me and everything you don't like is Tommy. But in fairness, Tommy had brought so much to this. He's given it a weight and a real world depth. The characters just absolutely live off the page, they have more of a life than I have at the moment. When I flip through it, there's so much character. It might be a bit boring if drawn by another artist. Toby and his dad out for a walk in the fields, we've got that for three pages. For me, that was part of my childhood, going for a walk with my dad and my older brothers and having a big conversation about comics, that was a real thing for me. In the wrong hands, that could have looked so dull, but he brought the whole thing to life and just made it very atmospheric. Actually, like most of the guys I work with, 90% of what's good about it is the art.
TLE: I was not familiar with Mark's writing until Marvel sent me the script and plot outline for "1985." I was blown-away and signed on immediately. We have a lot of communication, and I feel that both of us truly care about our work and how it's received by the readers. A lot of blood-sweat-and-tears going into this miniseries. Mark and I get along well because we both believe in what we're doing and we work very, very hard at it.
I've since read some of Mark's other books. And although I'm partial, I feel that "1985" is by far the best thing he's written.
Have you any favorite pages or moments from issue #1?
TLE: My favorite page is the last one, where we see Toby facing-off with a well known monster from the Marvel Universe. It was a joy to draw, and I think that the lighting and setting and composition all came together to tell the story. This also shows what I've done with Toby's contrasting size. Having him generally on the smaller-side works a lot better than a realistic 13-year-old. That's one of the things I didn't like when I saw the old "photo-style" pages from the early attempts at illustrating "1985." I couldn't tell who was the dad or who was Toby. Toby looked like an adult, and therefore hindered the story. Everything in this story is much-more threatening to a small boy.
Tommy, what goals did you set for yourself with the artwork for "Marvel 1985," and do you feel you achieved those goals?
TLE: I think so. My goal is to serve the story. Luckily, I think this story and I are well suited. My goal in this issue is to set-up the "real world" and Toby and all of the possibilities. There are tons of challenges coming-up as we see many more Marvel characters entering this world. The biggest challenge, though, is in drawing the actual Marvel Universe. It's very different from the "real" world I've set up here in #1. You'll have to wait a couple issues to truly get it, though.
What can we expect in issue #2?
MM: We see a little bit more of the villain. The villain may not be quite who seems at first. There's a mystery running through this thing. This also ties-in with [my "Wolverine" storyline] "Old Man Logan" and also ties-in with my run on "Fantastic Four." "Marvel 1985" is essentially the origin of the big villain coming up in "Fantastic Four." [Series artist] Bryan [Hitch] and I have Dr. Doom's two masters, the guys who trained Dr. Doom, coming into the story towards the end of the year. "1985" stands very much on its own as a series, but also as the origin of the Fantastic Four's greatest villain ever, the guys who trained Dr. Doom, essentially.
Are there any clues in "Marvel 1985" #1 that readers should pay closer attention to?
TLE: In issue #1, pay attention to all of the hours and hours I spent recreating comic-book covers from the spring of 1985 and earlier. For issue two, be prepared to have some questions answered about how and why these things are happening. This story is very thought-out, and there are no loose ends. Watch Toby's dad.....
MM: Even in "Fantastic Four," there's already been quite a lot of clues that you won't appreciate for a few months yet, and when you go back you realize the story started months before you even thought it did. So the next "Fantastic Four" storyline begins in about three weeks' time and it's called "The Death of the Invisible Woman." That has a lot of stuff in it building up to the big storyline called "The Masters of Doom" which begins in December. But when you read "Marvel 1985" you'll start to notice all these things in "Fantastic Four" that are important.
And likewise, "Fantastic Four" crosses over very directly with "Wolverine" and "Old Man Logan," which also starts in about three weeks.The three form one colossal story, but they absolutely can be read on their own. But if you have all three then you really see the big picture.