This FAQ serves as an alternative towards helping fans search for some Q&A existent in Tom's endless Formspring page and also as a resource for Tom. This work is dedicated to Tom Brevoort for his continuous interaction with fans and readers.
It is acknowledged here that many Formspring questions regarding characters (encyclopedias), titles (comics sites), creators (wikipedia), publishing schedules (solicitations), plot speculation (spoilers), battle board scenarios (handbooks) or fan hate are not accounted for here due to either being questions of the moment, superficial or misplaced. Instead this FAQ focuses mostly on a more abstract questioning.
Note: This FAQ represents questions asked to Tom. The answers are in their original form written by Tom. (Minor spelling corrected) (Questions are in bold italics, answers aren't)
Code of conduct
When posting questions on Formspring remember:
- Be polite. Because it's civilized to do so
- Be succinct, direct and clear. Because an understood question is an answered one
- Be patient. Because questions may build up
- Do not repeat the same question nor insist in an already answered point. Because it may be deleted
- Avoid speculation questions (If…) as they tend to be unconfirmed scenarios or subjective to each person's opinion or taste.
Why can't I see more answers? Try using Firefox (it works)
Why are there repeated questions? Possibly a bug or glitch
Have you reached my question(s)? I try to answer virtually every question, though I don't always do them in the order they arrive--some questions require more thought and concentration, while others can be taken care of in a few words. And I will delete any questions that I find offensive or abusive (and questions from at least one person who just pissed me off.) Realize, though, that the number of questions I'm getting is growing every day. Right this second there are 338 of them left in the queue. So be prepared to wait for an answer--in some occasions, for weeks. But I'll try to get to as many as I can.
Why aren't you answering my questions? I don't know which questions are your questions. I get all of these things anonymously, after all. But it also doesn't hurt to be patient--there are a lot of questions in here.
How do you deal with insulting or abusive questions? I meet people in this forum as they come. If they've got a question, I'll try to answer it to the best of my ability. Sometimes people won't like my answers, but that doesn't mean that I'm going to tell them only what they want to hear. I'll never knowingly lie to you. But when somebody shows up here who's being abusive or insulting, I'm going to give back just as good as I get--just as you'd expect me to do if you came up to me and said these things in person. I also have no problem with replying to these people publicly, so that everybody can see exactly what they said and how they comport themselves. If you don't like this approach, then this probably isn't the place for you to be hanging around.
How much time a day do you spend answering these questions? I try to limit it to around 30 minutes an evening, though I've been going over that as more questions turn up. At present count, I've got 96 questions waiting, and I'm about to go off to C2E2 for a number of days, and won't be answering anything while I'm there. So I expect to return to triple-digits, easily. And I like to answer more or less everything, which does mean that the more complicated questions tend to wait for the weekends, when I can perhaps devote more time to them. I've already got some good questions that have been waiting three weeks for an answer--just haven't been able to get to it. Simple questions, though, I'll just pound through.
Do you view these questions as an extension of your job? Answering these questions is completely separate from my job. I don't get paid anything extra to do this, nor is anybody particularly gung-ho about my doing it. But I think it's a cool way to interact with the fans, which is something I like to do, whether on my blog, on Twitter, on message boards, in goofy videos at Marvel.com, in person at conventions, and now here.
Why did you decide to answer these questions? I do this sort of thing all the time and have for years, whether it's posting at my Marvel.com blog, or on message boards around the net, or hosting live chats as I used to do with Kurt Busiek a decade ago. I see it as all part of the same connectivity that Stan used to try to foster with the fans through his letters pages and Bullpen pages. I simply use the modern tools that he didn't have at his disposal.
What sort of questions do you most enjoy answering? I like those questions that make me think about something i haven't thought about before. They tend to be few and far-between, though, but they do come up. Also, I absolutely adore questions about how I destroyed the Ultimate Universe every five seconds.
Are there answers you feel you can't or aren't allowed to answer? In those cases (such as if it's a question about some ongoing litigation or something), I'll typically just say that it's something I can't answer, and leave it at that. And there are definitely times when I can't tell you absolutely everything I know about something, nor should I, since some of this info is confidential and privileged. But I never knowingly lie to you.
Do you mind joke questions or prefer serious ones? I'm honestly not always certain which ones are the joke questions and which ones are the serious ones.
Why do some people criticize your answers? The one thing you've got to understand and accept if you're going to ask questions here is that I'm going to answer them to the best of my ability, directly and without a lot of beating-around-the-bush. Certainly when I disagree with a questioner, or give an answer that they don't like, people can feel that I'm being tactless or too blunt. But the solution to that is very simple: stop reading this page. I respect each and every one of you as a reader, and consequently I'm not going to pussy-foot around or sugar coat the answers I give. With this many questions, there simply isn't time. I'm not doing this to win some popularity contest, too, I'm doing it to interact with you fans and give you a forum in which you can have some one-on-one interaction with somebody in a certain position at Marvel. But I'm going to be me--those are the ground rules.
How long will you keep your Formspring page running? Don't know. I kept my blog going for several years, far longer than anybody else at Marvel.com, but times change and new mediums for communication and social networking come about, so things change. At the moment, this is fun enough to so, so I'll keep doing it until it becomes more of a pain in the ass than it seems to be worth.
Who else in the industry (comics) is on Formspring? http://tinyurl.com/2wshsj6
Who is your favorite Marvel character and why? My favorite Marvel character is the Thing, a great character who's kind of fallen by the wayside in recent years. He's terrific in that he can work effectively in both comedy and tragedy, and he's got a very simple, very direct never-say-die attitude that makes every good Thing story like a Rocky film on paper.
Who are your other favorite Marvel characters? Spider-Man, Doctor Doom, the Golden Age Bucky, Cyclops.
Who's your favorite DC character? The Flash
Who's your favorite Spider-Man villain? The Looter
What's your favorite super hero movie? Probably Superman The Movie.
What was your favorite super hero video game? Way back in the Nintendo NES days, there was a super hero game called Nightshade about a retired super hero called back into action after years away. It was an adventure puzzle game, and it was quite witty. One of the coolest aspects of it was that, when you got "killed", you would be placed into a deathtrap if you were able to figure out how to escape the trap, you could then go back to the gameplay. And there were a succession of five deathtraps in all, each one tougher than the previous. The whole thing was very tongue-in-cheek and a hell of a lot of fun. Also, the Spider-Man 2 game was pretty great, as was Ultimate Alliance, though I played neither of these all the way to the end. The worst computer super hero game was Questprobe: The Human Torch and the Thing. It started out with the Thing trapped in quicksand, and he'd drown in a few turns if you couldn't get him out. And there didn't seem to be any way to do it--my friends and I spent hours one night attempting to do it with no success until we gave up frustrated. (We were convinced that the rest of the game didn't exist--that the programmer had only written this one unsolvable opening puzzle and run off with the money.) Years later once I began working at Marvel, I learned the secret of making the Thing escape the quicksand, and it was a colossal cheat. You had to just wait for two or three turns until he'd sunken down deep enough, then know to have him reach out and grab the big drain stopper at the bottom of the stuff (not that you'd ever been told it was there in the first place.)
What animated series you like or dislike? Like the Simpsons, really dislike Family Guy and its assorted spinoffs.
What's your favorite Spider-Man story? Don't know that I can narrow it down to just one, but three come to mind. First of all, I consider the Stan lee/Steve Ditko run on AMAZING SPIDER-MAN not only a brilliant run of comics, but the bible of the Marvel approach, from which almost all else is descended. And their best story, as virtually anybody will tell you, was #31-33, the Master Planner saga. I also really like the Death of Gwen two-parter in #121-122. And finally, I've got a real goofball love for #87, in which Peter seems to be losing his powers, unmasks himself in front of his entire supporting cast as Spider-Man, realizes that all that's wrong with him is that he's got the flu, then needs to get the prowler to dress up in a Spider-man costume to try to convince everybody that he's not Spider-Man again. It's also the issue in which a beleaguered Spider-Man almost robs a jewelry store to get Gwen a present for her birthday.
What's your favorite Fantastic Four story from Lee & Kirby? Doctor Doom steals the Silver Surfer's Power Cosmic.
Do you have kids? I have two kids
Do your kids like comics? No, my kids aren't into comics at all. That's "Dad-stuff."
How did you meet your wife? This is an easy question to respond to, as I wrote the whole thing up as part of my introduction for Sean Kleefeld's book on Comics Fandom. So, quoting from that introduction:
It was because of Fandom that I got married.
Well, not comics fandom, but that's beside the point, really, since all fandom is pretty much alike.
By the early 1980s, as is typical for kids of a certain age, I was beginning to drift away from comics a little bit. I never quite stopped reading them entirely, but at that point a family relocation to the underdeveloped wilds of Delaware had cut off my main source of income, a paper route that I wasn't able to replace in this new area. This was also about the time that the then-new Direct Sales market began to explode with new publishers, companies with names like Pacific and Noble and Capital and Eclipse. There was suddenly a wealth of new material available, material that at least held the promise of being more substantive and more interesting than the comics I had been following up till that time.
I had been buying and following just about the entirety of the Marvel and DC lines when we lived in New York. I had more than enough money to do so, and was enmeshed enough in a completist mentality that I continued to follow even titles I wasn't that wild about at the time, such as GHOST RIDER or DEFENDERS or SHE-HULK. They were cheap, I loved comics, and so I'd make that mental leap each week at the 7-11 or Card Store and add them to the stack. But now I'd hit a bit of a crisis point, in that my finances had diminished to the point where I knew that I had to trim the fat off my buying habits.
As it turned out, once I made that mental leap, I jettisoned something like 80% of the books I was following. Even beloved titles such as FANTASTIC FOUR got the cut, as I just wasn't enjoying what was going on in them at that particular moment. (I'd return to FF about a year later.) And once I'd committed to the course of action, I found it was incredibly easy to make the leap. Plus, I'd found something else that captured my heart. Star Blazers.
The translated version of the Japanese series Space Battleship Yamato, Star Blazers had aired in New York only briefly, and then only incredibly early in the morning. But in Delaware, it had built up a sizable following, and was a perennial part of Channel 29's afternoon line-up. The series concerned the journey of the battleship Yamato (or Argo in Star Blazers), reconfigured into a spaceship through the use of alien technology and tasked with completing a journey of 148,000 light years in order to recover the only device that could decontaminate a hopelessly poisoned Earth. In style and tone, I found it held similar appeal to me as the early Stan Lee Marvel Comics—it was a serialized story that continued from day to day, possessed a deeper sense of characterization than any other animated show I'd ever seen, had a talented if largely anonymous voice cast, and a spectacular soundtrack whose music pulled you into the adventure.
At that time, there wasn't an organized Anime fandom per se. In fact, the word Anime was unknown—in those less politically-correct days, the genre was known as Japanimation. And a network of fans was beginning to sprout up, based around the love of Star Blazers, and Battle of the Planets, and Astro Boy, and Gigantor, and Kimba the White Lion. These groups, like the Cartoon/Fantasy Organization (better known as the CFO) tended to be offshoots of SF fandom, people from those circles who shared a common love of cartoons from Japan., and so decided to organize.
As is typical of me, having found something I liked, I wanted to know everything there was to know about it. So, in my limited way, I began to seek out more information. I lucked out, and the timing was right, because I located a mail-order dealer who was selling Japanese film-books based on the series (and on the subsequent movies and television series that hadn't been imported, which was a mind-blowing revelation.) He, in turn, was able to direct me to Mike Pinto's nascent Star Blazers Fan Club, which published a regular newsletter and held get-togethers at local science fiction conventions to screen tapes of Japanese animated series that had been recorded off the air (typically four or five generations of copying down from the originals, so they were grainy and tended to skip a bit. But we loved them anyway.) From there, I branched out, and found a similar organization, the EDC, or Earth Defense Command, a Texas-based Star Blazers/Japanimation fan club that was just starting up.
Most of my resources had been going into gathering information and videotaped episodes both on Yamato as well as the other, similar shows of the period such as Mobile Suit Gundam, Super-Dimensional Fortress Macross and Blue Gale Xabungle. This meant that, while I was far from comprehensibly knowledgeable, I was better informed and often better stocked that the folks who were running the EDC, and as I shared my resources and materials with them, I gained a little bit of notoriety; this despite the fact that, to this day, I've never met any of these people face-to-face.
Some years later, the family of Jessica Reynolds was making one of their periodic relocations, from Texas to Virginia. She had been active on the fringes of the EDC through a friend of hers, and was prevailed upon to attempt to start up a new chapter of the club in Virginia upon her arrival. She was given the names of fans in the area ("in the area" being a relative term, since almost all of them were still dozens if not hundreds of miles away, closer than in Texas but just as remote.) Among the people she was told to contact was me ("He's a very interesting person," they told her, "and should be able to help you.") A decade after that, after years of on-and-off correspondence and a year or two of dating, we were eventually married. Fandom wasn't the reason we got married. But without Fandom, we never would have met.
What's your favorite memory of your father? All of my early comic book memories are tied up with the fact that my father smoked, as he'd head down to the 7-11 to stock up on cartons a couple of times a week. It was on one such visit that he saw me looking at the comic book rack, and asked me if I wanted one. Big mistake. I can still recall other books that were on that rack at the same time, but I played it safe and went with SUPERMAN #268, the first comic book I ever bought. The downside of all this is that smoking helped kill my father at 41 years of age--I am presently older than he ever was.
How long has it been since you were beardless? Twenty years, give or take. Grew it within six months of starting at Marvel.
Where have you bought your hat? It's a Kangol porkpie hat. I got mine at Hats In The Belfry in Baltimore, but you should be able to find them online at assorted retailers as well.
What kind of cell phone you have? I currently have an iPhone that I seldom use for calls--it's mostly for e-mail and Twitter and my schedule and stuff. I was a relative latecomer to cellphones, having resisted them for years, and even then, my first cellphone wound up unused most of the time, just being routinely charged and carried around for days on end.
Do you believe in extraterrestrial life? I tend to agree with both Jack Kirby and Stephen Hawkings in this regard: while it's romantic to think about life existing on other planets, I'm in no rush to contact that life--if it's more advanced that we are, the likelihood is that we'd end up in a situation analogous to that faced by Native Americans when the Colonists showed up.
What's your favorite comic shop? Jim Hanley's Universe on 33rd in the shadow of the Empire State Building is my comic shop of choice, and has been for twenty years. But there are other great shops in the area as well, particularly the Midtown Comics locations.
Does your comic store know who you are? My comic store, Jim Hanley's Universe, is well aware of who I am.
Have you ever been recognized by a fan in public? It's happened on occasion, more since that episode of Food Network Challenge I was on--I got recognized in my dentist's office from that one. But I've met very few angry fans in public. Even the ones that have a beef tend to be well-behaved and cognizant of social mores when face-to-face. Most fans I've met have been perfectly nice people.
Have you written comics? Yes, I've written a stack of mediocre comics; one of the reasons I don't do so any longer.
Would you like to write comics? I am able to write comics. Just not well enough that I think I have any business doing so on a regular basis.
Would you like to draw comics? I've got some feeble and atrophied drawing skills, but not at the level that'd enable me to do what the pros in our industry do. But it's also not something I envy too much--I've gotten too far and had too many breaks to envy anybody else their abilities.
What comic book is most special for you? You mean like an individual issue? My FANTASTIC FOUR #1 is pretty cool. And I've got a bunch of comics from my early youth that are really just tatters, missing covers and even pages. I've since replaced them all with better copies, but I still have those early books I bought, for the most part.
What's the average day for you? Every day is different in its particulars, but the quickie breakdown is: Up at 6:30 to catch the 7:04 train into the city. Get to Marvel sometime between 8:30 and 9:00. Work through until between 6:30 and 7:30 on the average day, then grab a train back home. Roll in, grab some dinner, maybe watch something quick on the Tivo, check e-mail and the internet as a whole, answer a bunch of Formspring questions, and then into bed between 1:30 and 2:00 am.
What's a day like in the Marvel offices for you? I did a number of meetings: our regular Senior Staff Meeting, and a meeting to arbitrate whether a particular set of characters were new or derivative of existing Marvel characters. I had lunch with Steve McNiven, who was in town for Book Fair along with his wife, Lisa. I read and gave comments on a number of scripts, including an issue of INCREDIBLE HULK, an issue of BLACK WIDOW, an issue of STEVE ROGERS, SUPER-SOLDIER, and a number of others. I tried to figure out what pages we had in hand for the FANTASTIC FOUR ANNUAL Bryan Hitch has been working on. I received a bunch of artwork in, and made sure that all of the files got to the next person in the production chain. I selected artwork for a couple second printing covers that we'll be announcing shortly, and worked with Bullpenner Jeff Powell to get them put together as covers. I encouraged Paul Mounts to complete the coloring on the issue of FANTASTIC FOUR he's in the middle of. I weighed in on a discussion about a new costume for Daken. I did the final pass read-out on an issue of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN. I signed out a small stack of covers, both of individual issues and collected editions, and approved some cover sketches for upcoming books as well. I went over the notes from yesterday's meeting outlining the publishing plan for the next year and made a few corrections and additions to it. I exchanged e-mails with a number of people about a number of different things, including answering some questions for Matt Fraction concerning a storyline he's developing, and checking with Steve Wacker to make sure that a storyline that Ed Brubaker is proposing for SECRET AVENGERS doesn't conflict with an element of SHADOWLAND. I sent a creator a communication letting him know my perspective on a change in story direction and planning that he was proposing. And I got a bundle of free Marvel Comics to carry home with me.
What's the favorite part of your job? It's always good getting the finished books in and finding them looking good and reading well.
How do you deal with projects/stories you may not like as a reader? That sort of thing happens all the time, and starts even before there are any stories to sign off on. As an editor, you will eventually be called upon to work on a character or a series that you don't like or care nothing about. In those instances, the thing you've got to do is analyze why the series works for the audience that likes it, and ways it could do this better, then bring on board the creators you think can do this.
Is it frustrating to know future storylines? It's fun, in that you get to influence the outcome, and hopefully come up with new and better ideas along the way.
Do you spend time on fan/amateur review pages? I read assorted reviews of the various titles on occasion, sure.
Do you get Marvel comics for free? I get a bundle of most of the regular comics and our TPBs every week, but not hardcovers, and none of the MAX titles, and a few other exceptions. Still, it's a lot of comics.
How come you get a bundle of DC comics? Marvel and DC have a trade program in which they supply us with a certain number of bundles of their books, and we do the same for them. It was arranged back in the 70s and has been in place in one form or another ever since. So I get the DC books so that Didio and Berganza and whomever else can get the Marvel books.
Do you care for battle board questions? Not in the slightest. I don't tend to prefer one character to another based upon their Marvel Universe Handbook stats or overall level of power. For the folks that do, that's fine for them, though.
Why do you use "beaucoup"? I use "beaucoup" to describe certain characters because it is intentionally unspecific. In all honesty, I'm not much interested in the eternal fan arguments over who is stronger than who or who could beat up who, and so when fans try to either draw me into those discussions, or want to use my comments to club fellow fans who feel differently over the head with my words, I'l tend to resort to something like it. So really, any character for whom you're asking me an is-he-tougher-than-dirt question about could be considered beaucoup powerful.
Have you noticed that you misspell "the"? That's what happens when you type quickly at 1:00 in the morning because you want to whittle down the number of questions in the queue as much as possible and still get to bed.
Have you ever been close to working for other companies? I've had lunch with people from DC a couple of times over the years, but that's about it. And for a time, before it fell apart, people wanted me to head up editorial on Gorilla Comics.
Do you own any original artwork? Yes, I own an assortment of original artwork, mostly stuff that was given to me by artists over the years, as well as a handful of pages I bought on my own.
What's your favorite? Can't really designate a favorite piece, but I've got a Jack Kirby page from FANTASTIC FOUR #76 which is probably the rarest thing I own. I've also got the original color guide to FLASH #DC-22 by Jack Adler. George Perez gave me the original art to the cover to AVENGERS #4 and despite some lucrative offers, I've never sold it. And I own the original to Mike Wieringo's caricature of me from the back-pages of FANTASTIC FOUR #500. And a stack of other pages besides from people such as Denys Cowan, Joe Quesada, Jimmy Palmiotti, Karl Kesel, Paul Ryan, Mike McKone, Nathan Fox, Dave Cockrum, and several others.
How has your job changed from the 80s to now? Well, everything has changed in that time. The biggest thing is that, when I began, all of the work on each issue was done directly on the artboards themselves, whereas today that work is done electronically by computers. When I started at Marvel, there was only one computer in all of editorial, and I immediately knew how to use it better than anybody else on staff. This also meant that, in those days, those physical boards would have to travel all over the world, including to the printer, so the books took longer to complete due to the time needed to ship the pages all over and they needed to be sent to the printer much earlier as well. Another big change is the manner in which computers have changed the coloring of the books. When I began, there were only 64 colors in total available in comic book printing, varying degrees of Yellow, Magenta, Cyan and Black. In those days, color guides were done on copies of the original art using Dr. Martin's dyes, markers or colored pencils, and then "coded" as to the specific color each area was intended to be. (Y2R2B). These guides went to a separations house, at which largely-unskilled workers would cut rubylith film to match each element of the page in those four colors, which would become the film masters for the story in question. Consequently, even though we would scrutinize proofs of the coloring ahead of time in order to make corrections, there were constantly innumerable mistakes. These days, coloring is done on computer in programs such as Photoshop, and we have got an infinite number of colors available to us. And the color file that the colorist prepares is the exact file used to print from, so while there are some variations (due to the differences between how a computer monitor might be calibrated, and the way ink goes on paper) the results are much, much truer to the intention of the artist.
How many comics do you read daily? Depends on the day, really, and also whether you're talking about for work or for pleasure. In the course of the average day I likely read in the neighborhood of six lettered comics, not counting scripts or outlines or the like. And when I sit down just to read a stack for pleasure, I can easily polish off twenty books in a shot. I can read very quickly. But despite that, I've got a backlog of unread books here some of them going back to 2007, because there just isn't as much free time for reading comics as there used to be.
Have you heard of "The Marvel Reader's Bill of Rights" written by Stan Lee in 1993? I've not only heard of it, I know that it was actually compiled by Mark Gruenwald at one of the weekly junior editor classes he would lead, and then given to Stan to run.
Why did Marvel partnered with Disney? Because Disney bought Marvel.
Is working under Disney any different than before? Not really on a day-to-day basis, no.
What are the perks of being a part of Disney? Disney is a global colossus, in terms of getting characters, their merchandise and the fact of their very existence into the hearts and minds of people worldwide. They've got connections and infrastructure in place that are staggering to behold. So I think they're going to be ideally suited to making the Marvel characters and even the Marvel "brand" itself better known and better recognized all over the planet.
Do you at Marvel care about polls? Not really. Those polls often tend to be skewed by the very nature of the location in which they're taking place (News flash: People angry about Spider-Man don't like "One More Day" says poll!) and the total number of respondents don't usually represent even 1% of the overall audience.
Do you focus on groups of marketing research? Not on any kind of regular basis. Once in a while. And we're constantly eliciting feedback from the retailers, as well as gauging the reactions of our fans at personal appearances at conventions, and through the letters and e-mails and message board posts and so forth that they make.
What was the cause of the Marvel bankruptcy? This is a question that would take more time to go over and explain than I have time for. So as my answer, I would direct you to a copy of Dan Raviv's book COMIC BOOK WARS, which tells the story of those times. It's a financial history book, so it does tend to be a little bit dry, but it recounts the ins and outs of what was going on in those days better than i could in this limited space, and in far greater depth.
What is a necessary profit for Marvel comics? There's an operating margin that allows us to pay our rent and keep our lights on, and keeps us a healthy company. And every book we put out needs to meet or exceed that necessary margin. But if we really wanted to, we could do all sorts of things to increase it--everything from cutting down on page counts (the books were only 17 pages long in the 1970s) to increasing cover prices even further. But we attempt to strike a balance between what we need and what's good for the industry and the readership. Short term greed inevitably leads to long term harm, so we try to take the long view on questions like this.
What are the Marvel summits like? They're a fairly intense couple of days talking about all facets of the stories we're planning and the characters, looking to find new and interesting things to do with them to carry them to new heights.
Do you worry about flooding the market with too many choices? That's definitely a concern, sure. But so long as people are buying DC comics or Image comics or Dark Horse comics, or whatever other kinds of comics that you like, that means that there's more money and more interest out there in the world, and it's our job to go get it.
Who writes Marvel video game scripts? The software companies generate their own scripts and story concepts, and get them approved by Marvel. In recent years, they've sometimes turned to Marvel writers such as Matt Fraction or Dan Slott to help conceive the storylines.
Are there any new plans for the subscription service? Not really, no. The books all get sent out from the printer at the same time, and the route to first Diamond and then your local comic shop is just shorter and more well-worn than the route to the subscription fulfillment house and then to your mailbox.
Is Marvel concerned with making "new reader friendly" comics? "New Reader Friendly" isn't synonymous with "Old Reader Off-Putting"--it's not an either/or proposition. But it's just common sense that you'd want to create stories that the widest possible audience can engage with and enjoy. You're not unwanted as an Old Reader, but if the stories you started reading comics with were confusing and impenetrable, you likely never would have gotten into the hobby in the first place. The subsequent generations deserve the same opportunities.
Does Marvel try to simplify stories for new readers? I don't think there's anything in the world wrong with clarity--in fact, it's a storytelling imperative. If the audience can't tell what or who you're talking about, then there's no way to bring them into the story and for it to affect them. I don't expect anybody to know the life story of any of our characters from even a handful of books, and they're certainly always welcome to go on that larger road of discovery with us, but if a reader reads just one Marvel comic, they ought to be able to walk away with at least a basic understanding of who the players are. A lack of clarity isn't sophisticated, it's crap storytelling, it's amateur hour, and it's something we work very hard, not always successfully, to stamp out.
What are the major character differences between Marvel & DC? I think that, as a general rule, DC's characters are more fanciful, and Marvel's characters are more grounded. So typically, I like it best when DC plays to the strengths of their characters, rather than trying to reinvent them in a more Marvel-style way, or make them seem edgier or more violent or what have you. This is also why my answer to any question about swapping characters between universes is the same: with the best of these characters, when you move them to the other universe, you lose some ineffable part of what makes them what they are.
Why is it hard for Marvel to work with DC? It's not that hard, really--we've done it on numerous occasions. But there really isn't much of a return on it. It's a lot of effort for very little benefit. And in the final analysis, they're our competition, and as such, part of our job is to outperform them at every turn (and theirs is to attempt to do likewise to us.)
Do people at Marvel read fan fiction? No, we very specifically stay away from fan fiction of any kind for a variety of legal reasons--the same reasons why we don't read any unsolicited submissions.
How do you come by "Because you demanded it"? "Because You Demanded It!" is typically hyperbole--possibly in response to stuff we've simply heard, from fans at conventions, or in letters or e-mails, or around the internet.
Why use the "it sells well" response sometimes? Sometimes, though, "it sells well" is a valid defense of those criticisms. I've very consistently stated that not every comic book is for every reader. Some people dislike almost anything we put out, as is their right. Nobody's mandating that they follow any of it. But when they ask especially repeatedly, why did you do such-and-such, I didn't like it, sometimes the only answer is to say, "Sorry, but a bunch of other people seem to have liked it, and you're not the entirety of our world."
Does Marvel have any animated series coming out? Sorry, but this would be a question for our animation guys, not I.
Do you ever foresee a reboot of the Marvel Universe? I don't think there's a need for it, nor has there been.
How much involvement does the Comic department of Marvel have with the movie, cartoons and all other properties? There's a Marvel creative committee on which Joe Q and Dan Buckley sit, among others, and which oversees Marvel's expansions into other media. So the publishing side's point of view is well represented in these discussions. Individually, it varies. If the film or animation guys have a question that only I can answer, they'll reach out to me.
Does Marvel sell comics all around the world? Yes, though in certain countries we license the rights to republish our stories in their native languages rather than doing the job ourselves. but you can find Marvel material all throughout the world.
How exactly can leaks be damaging to Marvel? Leaks about projects can both affect how a book is ordered (if information comes out too early, thus having become more "old hat" by the time it's actually time for retailers to place their orders) and by what impact such revelations might have on other books the creators are working on (such as knowing that creator X is going to be doing a new project, which implies that his current project will be coming to an end.) Plus, it's unfair to the creators who work very hard to not only come up with these stories, but to deliver them and the message behind them in a specific way.
Do you think there's room for a third big publisher? I think the marketplace as a whole would be in a much better place if there were a third major player on the scene, but as to how to manufacture that, I work at marvel, so I'm not going to be of much help. For a time, Image was the third player, and since then there have been a bevy of also-rans who've held that spot for a short while. Maybe one of the smaller outfits will be able to build themselves up slowly to that level over time--IDW seems to be making some progress in that direction, for example.
Have you been an editor longer at Marvel? No, Ralph Macchio has been an editor at Marvel far longer than me--he started towards the end of 1976.
Which editor(s) did you work under? I was hired by Bob Budiansky in the Special Projects Department at Marvel, and worked directly under him (after a month or so of assisting Marcus McLauren, who then moved out of his department.)
What does an executive editor do? I directly edit somewhere in the neighborhood of a dozen titles a month, and I oversee the work and activities of seven to ten subordinate Editors, Associate Editors and Assistant Editors.
How many editors does Marvel have? There's one Editor in Chief, 2 Executive Editors, 3 Senior Editors, 3 Editors, 3 Associate Editors and 9 Assistant Editors, if my count is accurate. Each editor is assigned to certain specific titles, and larger editors may oversee groups of books.
What's the difference between editorial positions? Joe's the Editor in Chief, responsible for overseeing the entire publishing line. Below him, there are two Executive Editors who serve as his wingmen, each one overseeing approximately half the line while directly editing a number of titles themselves. Each Executive Editor oversees the work of a team of lesser Editors, Associates and Assistants. Below the Execs, there are Senior Editors, who are editors who've been around for awhile and established their skill level and abilities. They tend to take on larger editorial responsibilities and to oversee more than one subordinate Assistant or Associate. Editors are the backbone of the operation, each one overseeing somewhere between 6-12 releases monthly, assisted by their direct Assistant Editor. Associate Editors are a step down from that, typically handling around half the workload of a full editor, but without a direct assistant. Some associates will also directly assist a higher-ranking editor on his or her projects. Finally, you've got the Assistant Editors, the entry-level training position. Most Assistants will after a time edit a few projects of their own directly, but typically their job is to assist their reporting editor in getting his or her books out on time.
What does a publisher's job entail? The Publisher deals primarily with the business side of the business--working out the overall operating budget, negotiating distribution deals of one sort or another, generating new business and maintaining the existing business--all of that.
Do comics have an "executive producer"? At Marvel, yes. Alan Fine, who gets that Executive Producer credit, has been extraordinarily helpful in the Marvel hierarchy, and is one of the most important players in the industry that nobody knows about. More than anybody else, he's the person most responsible for the fact that the Marvel movies and animated series and toys and everything else feels like it all stems from the work that's done in publishing. So I don't have any problem with him getting a credit--he's earned it.
Why are there few people making a 20 year like career at Marvel? Well, don't forget, Marvel went through a whole period of bankruptcy fifteen years ago, and massive waves of layoffs as a result. So there are fewer people of such tenure in place as a result. But there are other people who've been around for almost as long as I have--folks like Sue Crespi and Dann Carr in the Bullpen. There are also people who worked at Marvel, had to leave, and then later returned, such as Jim Sokolowski and John Dokes, and publisher Dan Buckley as well.
What does "VC" mean in credits? Virtual Calligraphy, Chris Eliopoulos's lettering firm. And you get into it by being hired by Chris.
What does it take to be a Marvel intern? You need to be getting college credit, be able to get into marvel on a regular basis, and get through our grueling interview process to snag one of the available slots. For more info, write to the Intern Coordinator at the regular Marvel address. (If you can't find the regular Marvel address, then you don't have the stuff to be a Marvel intern.)
Why do interns have to receive college credit? Because it's the law. Marvel internships are unpaid, so in order for you to be legally able to work for nothing, you must be recompensed with College credit. Sorry.
Who are "Stan & Jack"? Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created most of the bedrock of the Marvel Universe. Almost everything we do today extends from their work.
Do all full time writers or artists work in NY? Virtually every writer and artist in the business lives outside of New York at this point--they're scattered all throughout the globe.
Why don't artists stick with a series for years? There are any number of reasons for this, I think. The first is that, as opposed to the past where any individual issue was seen as a throwaway product that wouldn't matter all that much after the month it came out, these days almost everything is collected, so artists are much less likely to want to cut corners or blaze through an assignment just to hit a deadline--that crummy art job will now be available for people to look at potentially forever. Secondly, the way our marketplace and out audience has developed, there really isn't any benefit to staying in one place for a long time. All that tends to happen to the creators that do is that they're taken for granted, and interest in their work tends to wane. This may be a reflection of the overall acceleration of our culture. Either way, an artist is more likely to attract notice by moving to a new assignment rather than staying put in one place. Finally, artists get bored, especially of doing the same thing all the time, over and over, and with the plethora of possibilities now available, are more likely to want to move on more readily and try something new.
Do script writers have any theoretical formation? No not as a requirement. Our writers need to possess the skills to write compelling stories, that's about it. How they get there and what their educational background might be is all secondary to that one fact.
How is it like to know how to write a character? I think it's all about expressing the essence of the character, those quintessential elements of who and what he is that make him unique and distinctive as an individual--and in a way that's true to what has come before, so it seems genuine, but which reveals new facets about that character. That's a pretty abstract definition, I know--but that's really what it's all about. The best writers can sum up a character well in a single scene, and make you look at them or appreciate them and the choices they make in a new way over and over again.
Do creators entice readers with lies or mislead them? There are different benchmarks for everybody, of course, but I don't think most creators actively lie about their work or upcoming stories. However, I think that misleading the readership is all part of the game. To give you a for instance, were you to ask me who the mystery villain in the next issue of Avengers was, I could tell you and ruin the surprise, I could simply refuse to say anything, but that doesn't really do anybody any favors, or I can do a little verbal dance with you and hopefully keep you intrigued in what's coming up. And it's even easier when the fans themselves are coming up with their own ideas and theories, often ones that are so far afield from what's actually coming up that they may as well be describing a different comic book entirely. In those cases, you can easily just let them go. The tease is a part of the whole promotional dance, and everybody does it a little bit differently.
How do you deal with late work? Depends on the creator and the circumstances, and even the book. You're always trying to cajole, and sometimes you need to bring in other creators to help get the book done, or to replace the late creator entirely. And sometimes, if the assignment is key or the series is important, you begin stealing time from the other disciplines in the chain so as to give the late creator more time. But you never do nothing (though sometimes nothing you do generates a positive result.)
Who has the final say in the decision to kill a character? Depends on the character. But ultimately, the EIC has more say than the writer or the editor. If you're talking about killing off a minor character, like a rank-and-file villain or a supporting cast member of no real importance outside of that one title, the writer and the editor will make that decision among themselves. But if you're talking about a more significant death, then you'll want the EIC to know about it and sign off on it beforehand. And for really big deaths (Captain America, etc.) you'll likely want to let people in other divisions know about it ahead of time.
Do creator-owned properties ever mix with works-for-hire? A creator-owned character can certainly team up with a Marvel character if a deal can be struck--that's how Spider-Man met Invincible, for instance. But a character introduced in a Marvel book is owned by Marvel, so creator-owned ideas can only be carried out in creator-owned titles.
Is it harder to write corporate characters or creator owned stuff? I think there are plusses and minuses to each. If you're writing, say, Spider-Man, then you're immediately starting with a lot of good will, with a character that a ton of people already love and are invested in. And also, the character's world and behavior have been well-defined by a thousand previous stories. On the other hand, a completely new character in a completely new world starts from absolute zero, and it's up to you to create that interest and connection on the part of the reader. On the other hand, with a new character you can go absolutely anywhere, whereas with an established character like Spider-Man, not only have a lot of things already been done, but there are a lot of things that that character simply would not do, which can limit things as well. But one isn't better than the other, it's just different.
Under what circumstances is it appropriate to change a script without telling a writer before the book goes to printers? You never want to do this unless there's simply no other choice. At Marvel, the editors' work in partnership with the writers, so you want them to know about any changes that are necessary and to have the chance to make those changes themselves--their names are on the book, after all. But sometimes, situations arise where this isn't possible.
I had one of these crop up just this Friday, where an Assistant and Editor on a particular title came to me as the highest-ranking editorial person still on the premises There was a situation on a title where they felt that something needed to be changed, but they'd not been able to get in touch with the writer because he was traveling to the Heroes Convention, and the book had to go to the printer that night. I looked over the text, made a couple of suggestions as to how I would word the change that was necessary, and gave them the go-ahead to proceed. But in so doing, the Editor and the Assistant were to send the changes to the writer, explain the situation, and let him know that he could yell at me if he had a big problem with it. But these sorts of situations are exceedingly rare--on a regular basis, we communicate closely with the writers, and give them the chance to see everything that's being done.
What is a "story concept"? "Story concept" is exactly what it implies: the idea for the story. "The Marvel heroes are divided by legislation requiring super heroes to register with the government, and they fight with one another" might be the story concept of CIVIL WAR, for example. It's the core premise of the story that's being told.
How important is it that a writer has a broader theme for a story? Theme is one of the least-understood elements of storytelling, and one that typically hasn't been taught all that well. I know for myself, despite many years of English study, I didn't feel like I understood theme until I started actually working in the business and dissecting stories.
Theme in a nutshell is what the story is actually about, what it's trying to communicate about its characters, and by extension the greater human condition. And it tends to be what separates great stories from mediocre stories, ones that aren't really about anything (or that are about nothing more than the continuity of the characters.) At Marvel, we strive to make our stories relatable and relevant to the lives of our readership, and theme is a big part of that. Bill Jemas used to constantly ask "What's the metaphor?", and while that can lead to stories that are too concretely about their themes as opposed to revealing their themes through the plot and the actions of the characters, it's never a bad question to ask.
I think it's rare that a writer begins the writing process with a concrete theme in mind (though it can be done that way.) Rather, the themes will tend to reveal themselves as a writer gets into the grist of the story he wants to tell. CIVIL WAR was very plainly about one proposition: how much freedom are we as a people willing to give up for security? SECRET INVASION was about issues of trust. But those are the underpinnings; on the surface, CIVIL WAR is about two groups of super heroes beating the hell out of one another, and SECRET INVASION is about shape-changing aliens attempting to take over the Earth.
So yes, it is very important that a writer pitching a story has a theme or at least a point he's trying to get across--something that makes it more than "Spidey fights Electro, beats him." Some observation about the characters that will separate it from every other story told in our medium. But if it makes it easier to grapple with, think of the theme as "the point" of the story, or "the punchline" of the story.
Could you explain the released Eisner testimony? As most people know, Superman debuted in 1938 in ACTION COMICS #1.As the story goes, Victor Fox, a guy connected in some loose way with DC in the early days saw the initial sales figures for ACTION COMICS, realized what a gold mine it was, went out and started his own comics company.
He turned to Will Eisner and his partner Jerry Iger to provide the contents of his first release, WONDER COMICS--specifying that he wanted a Superman rip-off called Wonder Man as the lead feature.
As soon as WONDER MAN #1 came out, DC's owners sued Fox for infringement. For years, the story Eisner told was that Fox came to Eisner and Iger and told them that they had better claim on the stand that Wonder Man was their own idea, and not originated by him. Fox owed the pair around $3000 at that point, a ton of money in 1939. But as Eisner recounted the story many times over the years, he couldn't bring himself to commit perjury on the stand, so he told the court that Fox has requested a Superman knock-off, Fox lost the lawsuit and Wonder Man was eliminated, and Eisner and Iger were out the Three grand.
Except that this court transcript tells a different story. Turns out that Eisner did lie on the stand, and did claim that he had created Wonder Man completely on his own, and before Superman came out. (Additionally, Eisner was one of the people whom Siegel and Shuster shopped the Superman strip to as publisher when they were trying to sell it years earlier, and he turned it down. So he'd definitely seen it, even before it had come out.)
Why is saving on the inking task becoming common? It allows 100% of what the penciler puts down to make its way to the printed page undiluted. Inking was originally devised as both a labor-saving device and as a necessity to make drawings ready to print. But now the technology exists that allows us to get there another way.
Do writers use any certain scripting style at Marvel? Are you talking about a particular formatting? Not especially. Each writer tends to have his own particular format that he's adapted to suit his needs. But almost all of our writers are working full script style now, and use programs such as Final Draft to format their scripts.
What factors go into assigning artists to titles or vice-versa? The biggest one, of course, is what they want to draw. This is the one most overlooked by fans who ask "Why don't you get so-and-so to draw such-and-such?" sometimes the answer is "Because so-and-so doesn't want to draw such-and-such." Outside of that, the casting of creators on series is a very specific skill; being able to intuit which creators have the right sensibilities to enhance the series they're on. There's no real way to explain how this is done--it starts with a vision for the series, and once you've got that, you cast about for the best people to bring that vision to fruition. There are also questions of availability, and penciler speed, and whether the assignment is the best use of that artistic resource to provide Marvel with the best return on its investment of time and money.
What can I do to support a low selling title? The simplest thing would be to buy it. Beyond that, you can spread the word about it to other fans and potential readers. But it is very difficult for a single lone fan to have much impact all by themselves however, grouped together, fans like the Spider-Girl aficionados have kept that series going for a decade. So you might take a look and study what they did and how they approached things.
Why did (insert title) sell (insert number) copies? As I have said time and again until my mouth is sore and my throat bleeds, all of those numbers that folks like you dig up around the internet to bolster whatever argument they're putting forth are inevitably wrong. They are not correct, they are not accurate, they are in error, they are wrong. I understand that you're working with the best data and information that you have, but can we please take it as a given that I am working with better and more complete and more firsthand data than you are? I don't mind being corrected when I'm in error, but when you're talking about speculative online estimates based on the ranking of titles sold and how they compare to BATMAN, it's a bit ridiculous. I expect that if you look hard enough, you can find evidence that the world is flat and that gravity is a confidence trick. I'm sure the figures are out there.
Is it safe to assume that (insert action) happened in (insert book name)? Until this is spelled out in the books, it's just conjecture.
What's the Spidey Ominibus & why do you consider it the "bible"? It's the Omnibus edition of the entirety of the Stan Lee & Steve Ditko run of Spider-Man, AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #1-38 and AMAZING FANTASY #15. And I call it the bible because every single element of the marvel approach to storytelling comes out of what was established in those stories. It's the Rosetta Stone.
What else would you call the 616 universe? I just call it the Marvel Universe. Or "The Real Universe" if I'm talking to Mark Paniccia.
How much time has passed in the 616 universe? The Fantastic Four got their powers approximately 13 years ago, give or take. And everything else follows on from that.
Are Uncanny X-Men and Amazing Spider-Man titles that haven't changed their numbering? UNCANNY X-MEN hasn't. AMAZING SPIDER-MAN has.
What's the best example of a Marvel story: Amazing Fantasy 15 or Fantastic Four 51? I don't know that you could boil this down to just a single story. But if you had to, AMAZING FANTASY #15 is a pretty good choice.
Why do books get renumbered? Typically to attempt to attract new readers to the series. It's no great surprise that retailers order more of a first issue, and readers are more likely to check a first issue out. Ipso facto...
Why aren't letter pages mandated for every title? Because letter pages are a lot of effort for very little return. I like letters pages in principle, but that doesn't mean that I or any of my guys has the spare time to generate them on a regular basis. So I leave it to the discression of each individual editor. Some, like Steve Wacker, really like them and put in a lot of effort to get them done and make them good every issue. But I think I get a better return on time spent on things like this Formspring page.
What's the process for cover art selection? The covers are commissioned by the editor, often before there's even a script (which is why there are sometimes covers that don't have a whole lot to do with the interiors.) And we do keep a supply of evergreen iconic images available to use as covers in emergency situations as well.
How are credits allocated in comics? It's individual preference, more than anything else. For myself, I think that three credits look best, but I'll go to four if there's a need. Five credits starts to look like the book was a big jam issue or something--it's actually off-putting to the buyer. But typically, these days we try to credit the writer, penciler, inker and colorist on the cover.
Who writes the recap pages? Depends on the title. Sometimes it's the writer of the series, sometimes it's the editor or the assistant editor, and sometimes it's a third party entirely.
What is a giant-sized book? Giant-Size book tends to be an issue of an ongoing series that is larger in terms of its page count than normal. Whereas a one-shot is just what it suggests: a single one-off publication featuring some character or story.
Is it necessary to have characters die for a story to be interesting? No, I'm saying that's the nature of storytelling. Ongoing serials aren't helped by solid-state situations--it's always going to be more interesting to introduce an element of chaos into the relationship. Peter Parker can win some of the time, but he can't win permanently--if he did, there'd be no point to reading the series.
Is Spider-Man an "All ages" comic? AMAZING SPIDER-MAN is meant for readers of all ages in the most general sense, and it doesn't carry an ALL AGES rating at all, but the A-rating, which is roughly analogous to a PG in film.
Can you explain Thor? Originally, Don Blake was simply a human being who found the hammer and became Thor. Then later, it was revealed that Odin had turned Thor into Blake in order to teach him humanity. Still later, it began to seem as though Blake was an independent person who had been merged with Thor. So I can understand your confusion. And I don't know that Thor "needs" to be merged with Blake, that's just the way it happens to be at the moment.
Why do people call the avengers "A-vengers"? They probably get it from me. I've used that term in a few recorded interviews to differentiate AVENGERS from NEW or SECRET or ACADEMY.
Is there maximum number of titles you let a writer write? Typically, when we find a writer who's good at what he does and who connects with the audience, we want him to write at least one book if not two books more than he can possibly handle; that's just the nature of things when somebody new and exciting comes along. So really, the only real limiter is how much a writer can handle without the quality of what they do suffering.
Why do comics come out at Wednesdays as opposed to Fridays for example? In most stores, you got a ton of business from Friday-Sunday when the books were released on Friday, but almost nothing the rest of the week. By moving the release date to Wednesday, this problem was alleviated.
Who has written the most marvel comics ever? Stan Lee, Peter David, Chris Claremont, or Mark Gruenwald? I haven't really done any of the math, but Stan is a relatively safe bet.
Who actually inked Fantastic Four #1? George Kelin.
Why are more series being produced despite the poor economy? This is a very relative question, in that, compared to the 1990s, we're producing far fewer titles a month. As you'd expect, we produce new titles when we have an idea we think works, a character we want to spotlight, or a story we want to tell. And while there are still DC or Image or Dark Horse or whatever publisher's comics selling, that means there's potential readers we're not reaching, at least not completely. We're competitive, we want all of your money and all of your attention, and we'll work hard to try to achieve that.
Do you find the long term story over several years worth the reward? If you can do it, the long game can be very rewarding both for creators and for readers, feeling like their investment of time and attention has paid off. But there's nothing wrong with having a storyline just hit like a lightning bolt either. Both approaches are valid, and they should be used interchangeably for the sake of mixing things up a bit.
How do comic characters make the jump from the comics to another medium? Typically a license is purchased by a production company to make a show or a movie, that grants them the rights for a certain amount of time. And then they try to get it made and sold within that time. This has changed more recently with Marvel Studios, since there's no license necessary, and we've got access to the entire library of characters. These days, the Studio guys pore over the catalogue of characters past and present and work out what they think is going to be viable as a film or a television series or cartoon, then begin to develop the property for those mediums.
Do you think that there has been a stylistic shift towards more "cinematic" comics? I think there's definitely been a shift to more cinematic comics, and I think it's been going on a lot longer than most people credit, back to the mid-1980s. It's part of the reason why devices such as thought balloons have gone so out of fashion. I think the big plus of the cinematic style is that it's streamlined--stories tend to move when told in this way, they don't get bogged down in a lot of over-writing or buried under a ton of prose. They're very visually-oriented, with the visual storytelling driving the narrative to a much greater extent. On the flipside, that's probably why a certain segment of the audience finds the individual issues a quicker read, and are less satisfied with them. (The knowledge that there would eventually be a collection plays into this as well.) It also means that the audience keyed into liking this approach (which owes some of its pacing style to that of manga as much as cinema) are very hard-wired to not find the older, denser story models as appealing.
Why do you think people are so focused on continuity? As a tool in the toolbox, continuity can be a very powerful thing. It rewards a long-time reader in a way that no single 22 page story really can. It's the heart of why serialized storytelling is so attractive (the demand for which seems to have taken root in mainstream television as well at this point)--the idea that there's some larger payoff to all of the time and energy you've spent following these characters and reading these stories. The problem comes when the weight of your continuity becomes so great and your backstories so byzantine that anybody who hasn't been following the characters and stories for years doesn't stand a chance of understanding what they're looking at.
Do you know of any Marvel stories that have never been public? There are occasionally projects that don't make it all the way to print for a variety of reasons. Sometimes they're inventory issues that never get used and eventually are out of date. Sometimes they're projects that are begun and then something changes with the characters or the marketplace. Sometimes creators drop the ball, or lose enthusiasm for the story they're working on.
Is something canon if it's established in the handbooks, but not in the comics first? In general, we try not to establish things in the Handbooks first, but yes certain information gets established there.
Who decides which stories are collected? This is primarily decided upon by our Collections Department, working hand-in-hand with our sales team headed up by David Gabriel. And it's all based somewhat on knowing what things are coming up in the monthly titles, and what things the readers and retailers are asking for, as well as what collections have sold well or poorly in the past.
What do I need in order to work at Marvel? Talent, perseverance and luck.
What's the best way to approach Marvel for work? Doing some manner of initial contact with a given editor and then sending them samples of your published books is a pretty sound strategy.
How many chances does a writer have to get a job with Marvel? Nobody is guaranteed a seat at the table--if your work isn't good enough, if you can find no takers among the assorted editors at the company, then that's the way it goes. But there's no time limit on being able to break in either. If you pitch for sixty years and then suddenly make a breakthrough and are thereafter a spectacular writer, then you're going to be able to find purchase. The only corollary to that is that it may be more difficult to get people to take a third, fourth or fifth look after a number of bad early showings (or bad behavior when being evaluated.) People will tend to carry their impressions with them.
What should any starting artist use for artwork? It absolutely has to be original work--we don't make up out comics out of remixed tracings of older work, so somebody who can't create original story pages and sequences is of no real value to us.
How can letterers break into the industry? As you'd expect, there isn't as great a need for letterers, since the average letterer can work on multiple titles. But the methodology is exactly the same as with artists: show that you can create fonts and sound effects and so forth that look good and read well and communicate properly, and then show them around in the hopes of getting a break to get your foot in the door. Lettering is often undersold, but when it's done well, it's every bit as much of an art as any other element of comic book production.
Where would someone start in order to become an editor? You'd need to go out and build a resume of editorial experience of one kind or another, or any other related experience that might help to make you a good candidate for any such open position. And then you'd have to convince the person in a position to hire you that you were the best person for the gig.
Would someone who has multiple skills have better chances to get a job at Marvel? Not necessarily. It's all about your skill level in any particular area. Being a good writer doesn't make it more likely that you'll pick up coloring assignments--those are all evaluated based on your coloring skills.
Once an Editor likes the writer's sample, what is the next step? If an editor is interested in working with a writer, he'll speak to the writer, and perhaps invite him to pitch something--either a one-shot or story from whole cloth with perhaps some guidance as to what characters or series he might be in the market to buy something for), or by pitching the writer a particular project that he's looking for a writer for, and having the writer work up a pitch for that.
How to get artwork to an editor if going to the larger cons is out of one's price-range? If you're looking to break in as an artist, the best thing you could do in terms of Marvel is forward your samples to CB Cebulski. But reach out to him first before you bombard his e-mail box with a ton of huge attachments.
Have you got advice for aspiring writers? If you want to be a writer, then you shouldn't narrow your focus to simply wanting to write Marvel stuff. You need to write, hone your skills and your craft, and take advantage of any opportunity to get your work into print. Listen to advice, both positive and negative, but don't be so swayed by either that it discourages you. Study the work of people whose writing you like, analyze it, and figure out why it has the effect upon you that it does. And be persistent. But most of all, don't limit yourself to only trying to be a Marvel writer or a comic book writer--you need to be a writer, period.
What do you think of DC? I like DC, I like many of the characters and a decent number of their creators and staff. I must admit that I'm very often mystified by the creative directions they choose, the way they've seemingly decided to turn their back on expanding the audience and instead pander to an aging nostalgia marketplace. And their seeming obsession with mutilation as entertainment. But I suspect that some people over there could make similar claims about what we do at marvel, and maybe that'll all start to change under this new DC regime.
I had a conversation with somebody today in which we compared reading the modern DC Universe with Captain America coming out of the ice to a modern world that's totally different and strange and more violent and brutal, but which is just familiar enough for it to hurt.
Why is DC multiverse confusing? I think it gets confusing when one thing is piled atop the next. When there were only two Earths, it could be difficult enough for some people to fathom, but by the time you got to infinite Earths, it became all the more difficult.
Would you like to exchange character guest appearances between DC & Marvel? Not especially. I think most of the things that make the Marvel characters and the DC characters unique come from their relationship to the larger world they exist in. If you plop Batman down in the Marvel universe, he's not the same, and neither is Captain America if you drop him into the DC Universe.
Why do people complain less about DC characters' age? In terms of the iconic DC characters, most of them were created during a time when the conventions of the medium said that the costume and the powers and the super heroic persona was more important than the person inside the costume. That was the great innovation of Stan and Jack and the early Marvel pioneers. As a result, there's a greater expectation that the Marvel characters will grow and change, whereas it's more natural for Superman and Batman to remain pretty much the same.
What creative work from DC you admire as a fan/editor? Over at DC, I tend to like and follow the Geoff books and the Grant books most regularly, and everything else a little bit as it catches my fancy. I expect I'll be adding the JMS books to that list as well, presuming he delivers at his usual level. And, of course, there are characters and concepts for which I have an affinity.
How do copyright issues affect the industry (comics)? Sorry, but I can't comment in any way on ongoing legal situations that Marvel is involved in. You understand.
Why are they called "fanboys"? "Fanboy" is the slang term for people who take their comics way too seriously (and who typically are a big socially inept.)
Would you consider character revival requests? Not on their own, no. However, reading about a character like that might put him in the back of my mind--and later, when we were looking for an opponent for a given story, that might make me more likely to think of him.
Are you familiar with the statement: "These stories are there to tell the universe, the universe doesn't tell the stories"? That sounds like me. And it's true--the continuity exists in the service of the stories, not the other way around.
Why do women say it's difficult to read comics? This isn't something specific to women, but to all people beyond a certain age. It seems that reading comic books is a learned skill, like any other, and if somebody doesn't learn the language at an early enough age, it can be difficult for them to decode it later. This relates to the fact that comics are one of the few mediums that engage both hemispheres of the brain at the same time--one half actively decoding the words while the other passively absorbs the images. For people who never picked up the ability, they tend to have to process the elements individually: they read the words, then they look at the pictures, and then they try to marry the two in their minds. It's an excruciating process, and a very real part of the reason why it's difficult to get adults who never read comics before to try them.
Are scans illegal? I'm not a lawyer, so I cannot give you any solid legal information about this. But I would expect that, if you're not copying it or providing the files to other people, there'd likely be no real problem with scanning your comics for your own use.
What do you think about people who pirate comics due to lack of access, overtly cost or slow shipping? I think it's still illegal, no matter what excuses they use to justify their actions.