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REFLECTIONS: Talking with Marvel Editor Nick Lowe

by  in Comic News Comment
REFLECTIONS: Talking with Marvel Editor Nick Lowe

REFLECTIONS #212

“I’m what is called an ‘editor.’ Mainly I drink a lot of juice and eat honey barbecue potato chips.”

“X-Men: Messiah Complex”

Well somebody pop open the champagne bottle and hand me a glass or three!

This interview has been over a year in the making. It began last February at MegaCon when I introduced myself to Marvel editor Nick Lowe and we decided to do an interview together.

We kept starting and stopping and kept in email contact for months, but the interview never quite happened. I even had the opportunity to meet Nick again when I had lunch with fellow Marvel editor Bill Rosemann and it didn’t happen. It was getting ridiculous.

Now that it’s finally happened, I need to buy a lottery ticket and buy some land in Florida before my luck changes.

I’ve always been fascinated with comic editors because they are pretty much just your normal comic fan, but with the power to pick and choose the creators that rock out your favorite comics. Who wouldn’t want to do that? I might want to be a comic writer, but I secretly want to be an editor, too (think about it, Mark Waid writing and Dan Jurgens drawing “Superman”…oh my).

Robert Taylor: Hey Nick, how’s life?

“X-Men: Messiah Complex”

Nick Lowe: Life is crazy, Robert. So much going on.

My workload’s intense here at Marvel, but I love the projects, so I wouldn’t have it any other way

RT: Before we get into those projects, why don’t you tell us what exactly you do?

NL: I’m what is called an “editor.” Mainly I drink a lot of juice and eat honey barbecue potato chips.

RT: And why were you chosen for this all important editorial honey barbecue potato chip job?

NL: I am the love child of Boutros Boutros-Ghali and Patti LaBelle, so it was pretty much handed to me on a silver platter. On a slightly more serious note, I edit comic books, which means I work with writers and artists to bring you stories. I dance the line of giving constructive criticism and getting out of the way.

I got the job after doing an internship in college, like many editors in comics today.

RT: Tell me more about your internship and how it led to your current position.

NL: I applied for the internship when I was finishing up a semester abroad, in Rome. I was backpacking, stopping in internet cafes emailing the internship coordinator. Her name was Patty Banas and she told me that I could come in two days a week. But since I was moving up there to take the internship for the summer, I wanted to make the most of it. So I just came in every day. They never told me to stop. Nanci Dakesian and Kelly Lamy were in the Marvel Knights office at the time and they gave me a lot to do. We got along really well, so when I knew what my graduation date was, Nanci and Joe Q. hired me to work in that office.

RT: Give me the lowdown on a typical day for you in the office.

NL: The “lowdown,” Robert? You’re puntastic.

The office is basically an insanity-fest. I bike into work most days (I’m a real dork). When I get here there are usually about 100 emails waiting for me and a few phone messages. I start answering both. If scripts come in I’ll read them. We’ll have meetings to talk them over and get the writer notes that we have. I look over art that comes in, work with the artists on them and move them to the next person. We have general editorial meetings and such. It’s very fast-paced and hectic.

All day long.

RT: How often do you get to yell at people?

NL: Not often enough! I don’t think I’ve ever raised my voice, but I might just be blocking it out. I’m generally an easy-going person.

“Endangered Species” chapter 2, page 7

RT: Speaking of yelling at people, let’s talk about your convention persona, which is always quite vivacious.

NL: I have a penchant for yellow tux jackets.

RT: So you are either a big fan of De Palma’s “Carrie” or you are just trying to fit in.

NL: I always fit in and never embarrass people around me.

RT: Okay, I know you have them – tell me some wacky fan encounters!

NL: Honestly, I haven’t, really. Fans don’t really know who I am. That’s why we’re doing this interview, right?

RT: Oh come now.

Alright, I’ll rephrase. What is your interaction with fans like at the conventions? How do you react when fans badmouth creators during panels and the like?

NL: The fans I usually interact with are the ones who are looking for portfolio reviews. And the ladies. Oh, yeah.

I’ve found fans at panels to be, for the most part, very polite. There haven’t been too many awkward exchanges. But for the rare times when they do badmouth a creator, I try to bring up the concept of differing opinions.

RT: Speaking of differing opinions, how often do you read message boards and what do you normally take from them?

NL: I read message boards very rarely. I’ll breeze through comments on news items from time to time, but the truth of the matter is that it just takes too much time. I work more than forty hours a week on comics, sitting in front of a computer or reading scripts. There’s no time during my workday to peruse message boards, so the idea of going home, sitting in front of a computer, reading about comics is over the top for me. Just not something I’m interested in. There are far too many episodes of “Pimp My Ride” to catch up on.

RT: “Pimp My Ride”? Seriously? “Super Sweet 16” is totally where it’s at, dude.

NL: I never got invites to those parties when I was 16, so it brings back too many bad memories.

RT: Anyway, now that every speck of our manliness is gone, who are the writers and artists that you haven’t gotten to work with that you just really want to? Keep in mind, they may be reading.

NL: I’m dying, and have tried, to work with Bryan Lee O’Malley. “Scott Pilgrim” rocks my world. As far as artists, Frank Quitely is one of my favorite artists ever.

RT: Can you talk about any “dream-team” writer/artist pairings on your books that almost happened, but somehow fell through the cracks?

“Endangered Species” chapter 3, page 5

NL: Not really. Most of the things actually happened. I know that when I was still in the Ultimate office I really wanted to get Alan Moore to do an Ultimate book. Didn’t even get close. He is elusive!

RT: Let’s talk about the current BCE! (that would be text message-ism for Best Comic Ever!), “Runaways.” How in the hell did you hook Whedon in?

NL: It was kind of complicated.

RT: I like complicated. Insert Avril Lavigne joke here.

NL: Brian [Vaughan] told me that he was leaving and I cried for days. Then I had to start thinking about who to bring on to “Runaways.” One day I thought, “How awesome would it be if Joss could write it.” Which was followed by, “That would never happen. Not only is he too busy, but it won’t fly.” I decided to mention it to my then-boss and then-editor of “Astonishing X-Men,” Mike Marts.

Mike, who is a great guy and a hell of an editor, was gracious enough to offer at least reaching out to Joss for me. Joss said, “No.” Which I knew was coming. So, I started brainstorming about who else I could approach to write “Runaways.” The following week, Mike got an email from Joss telling him about how he couldn’t stop thinking about “Runaways” over the weekend and that he’d talked to BKV and really wanted to write it. The rest is history.

RT: Complete this sentence for me: Getting a script from Joss Whedon is like…

NL: Bathing in jello.

RT: The cherry kind?

NL: With the fruit chunks in it.

RT: Is it wrong that now I’m hungry?

Now that sales on the book have doubled, look into your crystal ball and tell me where you see that franchise’s future after Joss finishes his six issue arc.

NL: In the crapper.

RT: Ohmygodohmygodohmygod.

NL: I’m just keeeding.

RT: Don’t do that to me!

NL: My hope is that we can sustain those numbers. We’ve decided on our new writer and it is going to get people excited! He’s not a household name, but he’s no stranger to comic audiences.

RT: Don’t be a tease!

NL: That’s all I’m saying about it for now. But getting back to your question, the second best thing about Joss coming on the book is that these great characters get a shot at the wider audience that he brings to bear. The best thing about Joss coming on the book was just his amazing writing with these characters that he loves.

RT: Why do you, personally, love the book?

“Endangered Species” chapter 4, page 2

NL: I fell in love with Gert. The characters are just so real and flawed and unlike any other teen characters in the business. They felt real things and wanted real things. Real real real. But it was Gert that got me. I became very jealous of Chase.

RT: And then she died. Your reaction was…?

NL: Devastation.

I knew it was coming and that was the worst part. But Adrian and Brian and Craig and Christina and Randy came together and handled it so beautifully that I couldn’t be mad. But I was definitely sad.

RT: The books you edit seem to have a good mix of writers and artists who stay on the book for a given arc or year, and writers and artists who stay on the book for an open-ended run. Do you prefer either, both as a fan and as an editor??

NL: Every writer approaches books differently. There’s one school of thought, your Millars and Ellises, who like doing finite runs on books. They do one or two close-ended stories. And there’s another school of thought, your Brubakers and Bendises, who like to take characters on journeys.

The latter make my life a little easier because it involves looking for less creative teams over the years. But I do love the former, too. I don’t have a real preference, I just like good stories. You’d think I’d prefer the ones that make my life easier, but I guess I’m a bit of a masochist.

RT: Are you pro or anti exclusive contracts?

NL: Jeepers.

RT: I love that word.

NL: Let’s see. I like that it gives a lot of freelance artists a chance to get health insurance for themselves and their families. In a purely freelance environment, that wouldn’t happen. I don’t like that I can’t work with several people that I miss working with from their time when they were exclusive with Marvel. But the former is better to me than the latter. So I’m pro exclusive contracts.

RT: If you could steal one exclusive writer and one exclusive artist from DC, who would they be? And by steal I mean hit over the head, throw in your trunk and kidnap.

NL: I did that to Adam Kubert once when we were working on “Ultimate Fantastic Four” and it made for one hell of a camping trip.

Man, I don’t even know.

I worked with Greg Rucka when I first came to Marvel and I’d like to work with him again some time. I’d love to have Alex Sinclair color a book, but I don’t think that’s going to happen any time soon.

RT: Now I know you are talking about that little X-Men event in the weekly X-POSITION series here on CBR (don’t miss week three where Nick was interviewed), and I don’t want to step on their toes, but I do want to ask you about how you approach managing such a major crossover like that.

“X-Men” #203

NL: Our main strategy was getting way ahead in planning. We started a long time ago. Right now it’s a matter of making sure we have a lot of weekly progress.

RT: So your stress level isn’t that high? Wow, you better knock on wood.

NL: My stress level about “Messiah Complex” isn’t incredibly high yet, but you need to remember that we’re knee deep in “Endangered Species” and that takes a lot of energy. Well, that plus the other eight projects I’m working on day to day.

RT: Okay, tell us something quirky and embarrassing about another editor in the Marvel bullpen!

NL: Warren Simons can do the whole “Thriller” dance. Ask him.

RT: Alright, we’ve reached the question every comic writer/artist wannabe wants to know: what can they do to separate their submissions from the rest of the pack? And how often do editors have time to look at writing and art submissions?

NL: For writers, keep the submissions short and please, only send published work unless asked otherwise. It’s important to have published work in order to get a job at a big publishing house like Marvel or DC. That’s how we know you can get jobs done. That’s how we know you have experience. It doesn’t have to be comics, but we need to see a finished product from you. In comics, I suggest starting with independent companies or try self-publication.

For artists, keep it short. Only show your best stuff. Make sure that what you’re sending is professional quality. How do you know? Look at what professional artists are doing. Is your work as good or better than theirs? Then ask an honest friend. Do they agree? Then send it in.

RT: Do you have any writing or artist aspirations?

NL: Not right now. I’m too busy with this work and life in general.

RT: But in the future?

NL: Who knows. I write in my freetime, mainly for myself, but the future is foggy, Rob. So many paths.

RT: Ready for the lightning round, editing style?

NL: Silly.

RT: What was your first comic book?

NL: Read? An old Uncle Scrooge book. Worked on? “Daredevil” #32.

RT: What comics can you never miss?

NL: “Ultimates.” “Iron Fist.” “Y.” “New Avengers.” “Scott Pilgrim.” “Scalped.” “All Star Superman.”

RT: Say you are editing a weekly comic book series and must choose four writers, who would be your dream team?

NL: Anyone with a connection to a mental hospital so I have a place to go when it blows up. I’d put Joss Whedon in charge and let him take it from there.

RT: What is your favorite comic book of all time?

“Endangered Species” One-Shot

NL: “Daredevil: Born Again.”

RT: Has there ever been a comic that touched or changed your life? What was it and why?

NL: “X-Men” #13, which isn’t a particularly good issue, got me back into comics and “Watchmen” made me stay. As for comics that touched me, there have been many. Recently, “Ultimates 2” #13 had me in a puddle on the ground with the last scene between Steve and his sweet heart. Her line about looking fat in the picture resonated as some of the most real dialogue I’ve read in comics and the ending it all lead to was just beautiful. “The 49ers” is such an emotionally rich comic. Gert’s death in “Runaways” #18 is up there.

RT: What’s the best comic book movie ever made?

NL: “X-Men 2.”

RT: What is your weirdest convention experience?

NL: My first one. Chicago 2002. Just being there and seeing the insanity.

RT: Oddly enough, that was my first convention, too.

If you were remembered for only one thing in your career, what would you want it to be?

NL: Being part of “Nextwave.” God, I loved that book.

RT: Yeah, I miss it too.

Discuss this story here on CBR’s X-Books Forum.

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