Aaron Talks with Marvel Vice President and Executive Editor Tom Brevoort
Published: November 23, 2010 - 10:04am
EXCLUSIVE: Marvel Comics Vice President Executive Editor Tom Brevoort knows comics. I daresay he knows them more than anyone else in the industry. He has overseen the biggest Marvel events of the past few years (Siege, Secret Invasion, Civil War) and is the longest running editor ever on The Avengers.
More than any other comic executive, Tom also makes time for the fans, answering questions via Twitter (@tombrevoort) and Formspring (TomBrevoort). Tom recently took time out of his busy schedule to talk about the industry, the relationship with Marvel Studios, and some character-specific teases.
Aaron: In the past several years Marvel has had a number of universe-wide, large-scale events (House of M, Civil War, Secret Invasion, Siege)...now that the Heroic Age is in full swing, how does the focus shift from an editorial point of view? Is it a nice change of pace to focus on more specific, focused events?
Tom: It's a slightly different animal, in that there isn't one single colossal thing that's taking up the lion's share of our time. In some ways, it's harder, as it falls to the creators and editorial staff of each individual series to try to make every storyline they don in their books an event in and of itself. So the need for promotional attention is more widespread, and it's also more challenging to message the readership as to which titles and stories are the most game-changing in terms of our publishing line. Certainly, from where I sit, I get a sense of confusion for a certain segment of the audience. They're used to us lighting up a big neon sign over one thing for several months, so in the absence of that, and the appearance of all of these assorted X-Mas Tree lights shining for attention, they're uncertain as to where to look first. But we're taking some steps to relieve some of this pressure in the weeks and months to come.
Aaron: Has the emergence of digital comics affected the creative process? For example, has the layout process for an issue been modified so that it can transfer easily to the digital medium?
Tom: We haven't quite gotten to that point yet, although I would assume that it's going to be a natural outgrowth of our continued endeavors in this direction. Part of the problem is that everybody's screen size is a little bit different, depending on what device or computer you're looking at, so there isn't any one standardized set of dimensions for the digital realm. That makes it difficult to easily translate to what we do, whereas our artists instinctively understand the page as a unit at this point. However, over time, certain experiences are going to trend out, and the more canny of our artists will be looking at those events and adjusting their approach to take full advantage of the new medium. One step at a time.
Aaron: Does the geographic locations of Marvel talent pose any issues? Many writers are based on the west coast, with artists in the U.S., Brazil, England...how tough is it to coordinate people from all around the world to meet tight deadlines?
Tom: Given the technology of today, it's extremely easy. There's no need at all for our creators to live in proximity to Marvel headquarters anymore--using FTP sites and E-Mail and texting and chat functions and so forth, we're in touch with our talent around the globe, and can manage the workflow of pages from one stage to the next even over vast distances. And every couple of months, we bring our key creators together for an Editorial Retreat, where we work out the overarching themes and story directions for the next year. And we also see many of our creators on the convention circuit.
Aaron: In this tough economic market, can you comment on the difficulties of launching a new series? The Agents of Atlas series has been critically acclaimed, yet has been cancelled...Hawkeye and Mockingbird seems to be on the bubble - in your opinion are people just not willing to give a new series a shot? Is it even harder without an event like Secret Invasion to launch a series as a tie-in (like Captain Britain and MI:13)?
Tom: The short answer is yes, of course. Our readers only have so many dollars at their disposal to purchase our books, and our mainstay titles already loom large in their hearts. But that's really always been the case, going back years. I can't think of a time in recent memory when it hasn't been difficult to launch a new series. And yet, new series continue to get launched, and some of them do well, or at least hold their own. It's never a good idea to stagnate and simply hold the line at whatever books you've got--there's always a hunger for new characters, new approaches, and new ideas. Not all of those ideas are going to prove viable, at least not in the short term, but as long as you manage expectations appropriately, and keep an eye on your overall costs, the risk is relatively small, and you stand the chance of potentially stumbling onto something really great.
Aaron: How much does the work of Marvel Studios affect the publishing line? With the Captain America and Thor movies coming out next year, will the comics make any kind of shift to meet movie continuity? Is there any worry that new readers coming to the comics because of movie hype will be confused that Bucky is Cap and that Odin is dead?
Tom: There's no particular pressure to conform to the look or feel of the films, no. It's really more the other way around; our Marvel Studios guys use the comics as their starting point when it comes time to realize these characters in live action. Now, that being said, there's certainly a two-way street when it comes to influence. For example, nobody told us that we had to make Cerebro look similar to the way it did in the X-MEN movies, but once that first film had come out, our artists were inspired by it, and the shift happened naturally. The same thing is true for some of the ways that Matt Fraction has been building Iron Man's world in the wake of his films--he's picked up some terminology, and certainly folded his appreciation of Robert Downey's performance into how he writes and envisions Tony Stark now. We also feel like our readers are savvy enough that if we make sure to be conscientious about making sure our recap pages are clear and that the essential information is included within every issue of the books themselves, it'll be all right to have Bucky as Cap, or for Odin to be dead (though as I'm sure you know by now, he's back.)
Aaron: With the Steve Rogers: Super-Soldier mini-series concluding and Bucky wielding the shield in Captain America, is there going to be an ongoing Steve Rogers solo title in the future?
Tom: Not as such, no. But Steve will continue to appear regularly in CAPTAIN AMERICA, and in SECRET AVENGERS, and there's going to be a STEVE ROGERS, SUPER-SOLDIER Annual coming up. Plus he's showing up all across the line in his new role. But he won't be getting his own separate ongoing title any time soon.
Aaron: At NYCC it was announced that Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev will be teaming up for a new Moon Knight series. Was the decision to give Moon Knight a superstar creative team driven by Brian and Alex themselves, or in cases like this do you (and your team) reach out to creators that would fit the bill for these sorts of projects?
Tom: In the case of Moon Knight, we were kicking around thoughts about what to do with him at one of our editorial retreats, and Joe Quesada kind of pitched the idea of taking on Moon Knight to Brian. (In fairness, he also pitched it simultaneously to Jeph Loeb, which may also happen at some point.) And Brian went away, thought about it for a little while, had a few conversations with Alex, and came back with a cool new take and approach to the character that's really fun and that's going to quickly differentiate him from any other hero in the Marvel U. He and Alex are really making the character their own.
Aaron: Is there any worry about over exposure with Moon Knight? Looks like he's going to be in Secret Avengers, Heroes for Hire, and his own ongoing title...
Tom: Look, if we're not worried about overexposure with Wolverine, or Spider-Man, or Deadpool, then we're certainly not worried about it at this point with Moon Knight. And him playing a larger role across the whole of our publishing line can only help to cement him in people's minds as a genuine figure of some importance within our cosmology.
Aaron: The Red Hulk has recently been added to the Avengers roster - can we expect any other roster changes to any of the Avengers teams in the near future?
Tom: It's the AVENGERS, so of course there are going to be line-up changes happening almost constantly. That's one of the hallmarks of the series, and has been going all the way back to AVENGERS #16, when Stan booted all of the heavy hitters and filled the crew with reformed baddies. So while there'll be a general sense to the core cast of each individual AVENGERS title, every once in a while a Protector, or a Prince of Orphans, or a Red Hulk, or a Squirrel Girl is going to come in, and knock the character dynamics for a loop. That's one of the most fun elements to the AVENGERS books, that ability to incorporate just about any character into the mix, and then get them causing sparks by rubbing up against other heroes you might never have imagined them hanging out with.
Aaron: Is there one juicy teaser you can give Blammers about an upcoming Marvel title?
Tom: I don't know about a teaser per se, but I can tell you and your readers that, in their own titles, THOR and CAPTAIN AMERICA, Matt Fraction and Ed Brubaker are building the elements of the next massive story to quake the Marvel Universe. So those are two books to keep an eye on in the coming months.