Marvel's latest "Next Big Thing" conference call with the comic book press features a marquee name at the center of it: Writer Warren Ellis, returning to superhero comic books this October with the Avengers: Endless Wartime original graphic novel.
Naturally, that's exactly the project he's discussing on the call, with Marvel senior vice president of publishing Tom Brevoort and Marvel editor-in-chief Axel Alono also on the line. Things are slated to get started at around noon eastern time — we'll be listening intently, asking questions, and providing updates of the newest details right here, so keep hitting refresh for the latest. Courtesy of Marvel, we've also got new black-and-white pages from the book, presented throughout our recap.
Brevoort starts the call by discussing the story. "A mysterious threat that's tied not only to a tech company that is providing hostile weapons to folks that perhaps shouldn't have them, but also have ties and connections back to an experience Captain America had back in his past, and also an experience Thor had in his history." Brevoort calls Endless Wartime a movie-type, feature-length adventure and "evergreen, standalone."
"We've sort of been talking about wanting to do OGNs for a long while," Brevoort says, and that they're planning for the new line to roughly coincide with movie releases — thus the big role for Thor (lining up with the release of Thor: The Dark World in November) and Captain America (with Captain America: The Winter Soldier out the following spring).
Alonso says he knows there are a lot of readers interested in the original graphic novel format, and also writers who enjoy the format more than serialized stories.
"It's something that I have been nagging various people at Marvel about for what probably seems to them a really long time," Ellis says of Marvel doing OGNs. "We're talking about a thick book, we're talking about a proper original graphic novel as we conceive them today. That was something I was interested in being a part of."
"You can't make it up as you go along," Ellis says of the difference in writing for the OGN format. "You've got to know all of your beats, and how it wraps before you even start. There is a hard page count that I can't go over. It's not like an ongoing book where you can say, 'I'll leave that scene for the next issue.' There's no faking it. You get it right or you don't, there's no middle distance."
Ellis says that Endless Wartime isn't a story he had in mind previous to the assignment, and the only guildelines he really had was that the story needed to prominently feature Captain America and Thor, and to keep to the 110-page count.
"We probably came into Marvel at roughly the same time," Ellis says of Endless Wartime artist Mike McKone. "I first noticed him on an X-Men project. I noticed the quality of his line: How good he was at staging and lighting. I've kept an eye on what he's been doing ever since. It's a graphic novel, it's nice when it's one artist, one colorist, one letterer. You form a nice little team."
Rian Hughes is designing the book. "I had mentioned Rian's name in sort of a hopeful way, not thinking we would get him, and then he came on," Ellis says. "Anything Rian comes up with is automatically 25 times better than anything I can think of on my best day. It was great, I could just sit back and watch the brilliance roll in."
First press question, from CBR: "What was your 'in' to the story?" "My 'in' to the story was drones," Ellis says. "It's something that's been on my mind. Without getting in too deep, drones and warfare."
Next press question, from us: Does writing an evergreen story aimed at least partly to the movie audiences change Ellis's approach at all? "There's the old [saying] that every comic book is somebody's first. Even though with the Avengers film these characters have a much bigger awareness than they had a few years ago, I don't think you should assume too much," Ellis says. "Also, there are a couple characters of there who aren't in the film."
"From the point of view of someone knowing nothing about comics picking up a Marvel comic, they don't necessarily know that they'll never see an Avengers film with Wolverine in it," the writer continues. "It's actually kind of amusing to me to make a space to put Logan in this graphic novel, because it's something you won't see on screen for a great many years, if ever. And just to balance the team a little bit, I placed the Captain Marvel character [Carol Danvers] on the team."
Next question, from the New York Post: In what ways does the story contain the "Warren Ellis touch"? Ellis concludes the question may be "based a little too much on other people's perception," and jokes that he's not sure what that touch might be — since there's no cursing or smoking in the book.
Next question, from The Beat: Why graphic novels now? "Obviously it's a format that's gained greater and greater perception among the world audience over the years," Brevoort answers. "It was always sort of a fiscal problem on our end. The fact is that over the last couple of years, with some restructuring in our company, and the opening of all these other distribution channels that are open to us, we could make this work — aided by a whole slate of films that make our characters much more well-known to a general audience."
Marvel sales and marketing's James Viscardi says it's important to note that the book will be released globally simultaneously, and a partnership with Panini is ensuring that the book will be available in multiple languages.
The Beat's Heidi MacDonald follows up by asking if working with Panini has made an OGN more financially viable. "I don't think, so honestly," Brevoort replies. "It's a nice advantage to have in terms of creating a footprint, but it's not like Panini is underwriting any more of the book any more than they would anything else that they're reprinting by us."
Next question, from Marvel.com: "Does this take place in Marvel Universe continuity?" "For those who care, yes," Brevoort says. "It takes place between the issues of Jonathan Hickman's run, somewhere. It's entirely possible, and even likely, that once the book comes out, that if there's a time and a place that we could refer book to these events, that we'll do so. It counts towards the legitimate Marvel Universe, but it's absolutely standalone. It's a very inviting piece of work."
Going back around, to CBR: What's the audience for the book? "We want the greatest possible audience," Brevoort says. "There should be something in this story for readers of every stripe. It's absolutely an entry-level story, so you don't need a lot of previous knowledge to get into the reading experience. That being said, if you're a dyed-in-the-wool Marvel reader, you're going to get an adventure on the scale we haven't really ever been able to do before. The flow of it is very different than what you would get from a collected edition of our serialized books. And it's just a big, crackin' adventure."
Back to us: How do you differentiate the current graphic novel line starting with Endless Wartime from the Season One graphic novels? "The Season One graphic novels were a very different initiative, partially testing the water with our toes," Alonso says, saying that the new line are, "stories that count with what's going on in the Marvel Universe now, which wasn't really true with the Season One graphic novels."
"It's forward-looking rather than backwards-looking, in a sense," Brevoort adds. "Season One was very much going back to the core, whereas Endless Wartime and the OGNs that are coming after are really looking forward."
"The Season Ones, obviously, were a factor in us being able to move forward on this larger initiative," Alonso says.
Another question from The Beat: Any characters that Ellis particularly enjoyed writing? Ellis says that there's a scene with Bruce Banner in it that he had a lot of fun with it.
Brevoort adds that he really likes Ellis's portrayal of Carol Danvers. "The really hard one for me is Captain America," Ellis says. "I have a really hard time getting all the way into that character's head enough that the dialogue seems true." "Why is that not a surprise?" Alonso asks.
Last question, from Marvel.com: Is there room for a sequel? "Absolutely," Alonso says. Ellis says if it was up to him, probably not, but who knows. "We'll get Si Spurrier to write it, Warren," Alonso quips.
To recap: Avengers: Endless Wartime is out in October, by Warren Ellis and Mike McKone.