Jim Shooter, Marvel's Editor-In-Chief from 1978-1987, used to insist that every comic book the publisher released was new-reader-friendly. He believed that every story could be a reader's first introduction to any given comics title, so why confuse that new reader by dropping them into the middle of a story they couldn't hope to understand?
This argument continues today: does continuity hurt or enrich stories? How should it be used? And what kinds of stories should the Big Two publishers tell, especially with respect to children and younger readers? This last question has been the subject of much debate lately, especially in light of "Invincible" writer and Image Comics partner Robert Kirkman's video editorial posted last week here on CBR, in which he mentions specifically the Marvel Adventures line of all-ages superhero books, saying the titles "talk down to kids to a certain extent."
Two writers who've spent a lot of time in the Marvel Adventures universe are today's guests, Fred Van Lente and Jeff Parker, who also pen the popular "Wolverine: First Class" and "X-Men: First Class," respectively. Both writers craft stories that any reader -- regardless of their X-knowledge -- can pick up and enjoy, yet they still take advantage of past continuity. The two books have quite a following, with fans eager to have their questions answered. Thankfully, the two writers are ready, willing, and able to share their insight in this edition of X-POSITION, along with a few chuckles and a response to Kirkman's remarks about the Marvel Adventures line.
Kicking us off today is werther, who was curious about continuity.
I loved ["Citidel,"] the recent Wolverine team-up with Alpha Flight in "Wolverine: First Class!" It was one of the best explanations I've ever heard for Wolvie's memory loss, etc. When you tackle a subject like Wolverine's origin, do you have to talk a bunch with Editorial so you don't conflict previous explanations? And as this book is "First Class," can we consider it gospel?
Fred Van Lente: Not only should you consider it gospel, at the end of this interview there is an address where you should mail in your tax-deductible donation (payable to Fred Van Lente) to keep the Lord from calling me home!
Actually, Jeff and I have do have to talk a bunch with Editorial and our Continuity Cops when doing past tense series like "First Class," but no one voiced a peep when they read Citadel." I was pretty happy, since I was proud of the story, but since it's in-continuity, yeah -- consider it canon. (I know I will!)
Npeters seemed to enjoy the recent "First Class" issues as well and sent a couple of queries our way.
1) The recent "FCs" with Alpha Flight and Machine Man were awesome! Will we be seeing more of these characters down the road in either book? How about other Marvel characters? Maybe...Northstar?
FVL: As the Continuity Cops laboriously explained to me, Northstar was the last Alphan to be recruited, since he was recruited by his sister, and Aurora was actually recruited by Wolverine (in the back-up to "Alpha Flight" #8 or something).
Wait, I guess that wouldn't stop him from appearing in "W:FC," since that issue was a flashback in a past-continuity story...
Sorry. My brain hurts. I am going to go lie down now.
2) Will you guys ever tackle past major events in these "First Class" books? For example, would you take an event like Onslaught or the first appearance of Apocalypse and give it a new perspective (if you were writing about that time frame)?
Jeff, will you always be staying in these early years in "First Class?" Do you think you'll ever reach the period when Beast gets fuzzy or Warren becomes Archangel?
Jeff Parker: Npeters, funny you should ask that. Very funny. Very, very funny. Okay, maybe it's not that funny, but developments are coming very soon that you've touched upon here.
Sounds like a bit of serendipity, which is something Frederico was pondering too.
Do you ever look at present events of the X-books and plan stories that will seem serendipitous with what's currently going on? For example, have the First Class kids go to San Francisco? Or have Wolverine meet the woman that will eventually give birth to Daken?
JP: Usually no, but in the upcoming "Halloween Giant-Size Issue," of "XFC" does do that for a change. We set up something that is going on in the [Marvel Universe] right now.
Jaymz sent in two questions. One is practical, but the other? Well, you two signed up for this gig -- good luck!
1) Will the X-Men of FC ever get updated costumes? How about Kitty? The over-the-head mask just looks bad on the ladies...
FVL: Kitty absolutely despises the X-Hoodie, which is why she will forever wear it in my book, since pain = funny.
2) Jeff and Fred, I think you two are hilarious, but I gotta ask - if the two of you got into a Yo Momma face-off, who would win?
JP: I have to give that one to Fred, because he has all the experience from growing up with his momma. His momma drives so bad, she flipped the Zamboni. His momma supports the Iraq War by protesting outside the International House of Pancakes. His momma is so nearsighted she tried to call in sick to her pimp and tased herself. So he's got a lot of experience to draw upon.
I'm just kidding. I know the verb would actually be tasered.
FVL: That's just cruel. Jeff's mother still hasn't gotten over from giving birth to him -- when he came out, the doctor slapped her.
Next up are a few character requests from our readers -- we sure get a lot of these. Let's try a few. Soulkiller is up first.
Is Rogue going to be showing up in Wolverine: First Class?
FVL: If I can think up a decent story for her, sure -- but we do have quite a few awesome guest-appearances coming up, including the Soviet Super-Soldiers, Shang-Chi (Master of Kung-Fu), and Werewolf by Night, so I definitely have no lack of supporting cast members at the moment...
And now, Mimic 616's turn.
Will the Mimic appear in X-Men: First Class or Wolverine: First Class? Also, I continue to enjoy the amazing stories of both series and look forward to the next issue.
JP: Hey, what a surprise: Mimic 616 wants to know if Mimic will be showing up! Okay Calvin, you wore me down. Yes!
And closing out the appearance pleas is Num48champ.
First off I gotta say, "X-Men: First Class" is one of my favorite X-titles. You are doing a great job with it. Now for my question: I see that Iceman will be teaming up with Human Torch and Spidey in the near future. Will we see any Firestar in the book? It would be really cool to see Jean and Angelica team up in the book. Anyway, keep up the great work. This is one book I will probably never drop ever.
JP: Num48champ, this is not "Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends!" Though maybe we will start having Bobby yell Iceman! and always ice up by putting himself in a big block of ice that he busts out of.
Fred might be able to make Firestar work out, timeline-wise, but I can't.
FVL: I want to get in that cute little dog that Aunt May owned that had the pink ribbons in its fur. So Wolverine can skewer it.
Our final question of the day brings things full-circle and refers to a certain editorial mentioned at the beginning of this edition of X-POSITION. So Andre4000, take it away!
As the writers of Marvel's kid-friendly First Class books, what did you think of Robert Kirkman's video mission statement at CBR?
JP: I think "Walking Dead" talks down to Zombies. Seriously, I don't think he's read any of the Marvel Adventures books, he's just assuming. A lot of people do that, many still think it's the previous incarnation, Marvel Age, which was nothing like the Adventures line. All we do different, really, is make the stories done-in-one and lean harder on the humor aspect. We never think, I must spoon feed this story so an eight-year-old will understand.
He's right though that everyone needs to be doing more original material in addition to licensed work. Is anyone against that?
FVL: Well, I'm very disappointed in Robert's characterization of the Marvel Adventures line -- that we talk down to kids. Someone as passionate and knowledgeable about comics as he is should know better than to make such a blanket dismissal. Jeff and I have been associated -- and proudly -- with the Marvel Adventures line for many years and we work just as hard on them as any of our other works, creator- or corporate-owned, to make them the best comics they can be. I would have to say anyone who says that the Marvel Adventures or "First Class" books talk down to their readership -- of any age -- hasn't actually read many of them. Since Robert made his statement in such an off-the-cuff fashion, I'd assume that's the case with him too.
Anyway, that was a pretty minor part of his editorial. Yes, I agree that comic creators should never stop creating their own work. For one thing, there is the very practical consideration that we are freelancers, not employees. We don't have a retirement plan. If we fall out of favor with the Powers-That-Be at Marvel or DC -- or just choose to move on -- there are very few of us who can make a living off of the future royalties of our past work-for-hire books.
We need to create our own properties to try and ensure some kind of financial stake in our own future and to generate revenue for ourselves and our families beyond whatever editorial directions Marvel or DC go to, which may not have us as a part of them.
I know that's kind of harsh, but this is showbiz, kids -- it ain't beanbag.
That concludes a very entertaining and insightful X-POSITION. Next week, prepare yourselves for even more fun as we discuss another group of X-students -- the Young X-Men, with writer Marc Guggenheim takes a quick break from his TV show "Eli Stone" to join us and discuss the series.
"Young X-Men" #5 arrives in stores this week, so do your homework! Read it, ponder its complexities, and email us with your queries as soon as you can. Putting "X-Position" in the subject moves you to the head of the line, so don't forget!