Amazing Spider-Man Extra #2, page 15Today at Newsarama marks an auspicious occasion. One that will certainly be looked upon in future months with the same feeling one has for binging at the Chinese buffet or coming home from the comic shop with $150 worth of books when you only meant to spend $20.
Today, January 9th, we welcome Steve Wacker back to Newsarama in a semi-regular fashion.
Oh, who are we kidding? It’ll most likely be weekly, and full of Spider-Man goodness.
For those new to the site, or who had the good fortune of missing it when it was here, Wacker (and his cronies from DC’s 52) used to show up weekly at Newsarama to talk about the weekly DC series 52, loft some abuse at the poor guy asking questions, tease the audience, and answer questions in their own, roundabout way.
Then, partway through 52, while out on the streets of New York City walking and talking with Joe Quesada, Steve was clubbed on the head like a baby seal after being lead to believe that he was going to meet the opening lineup for the St. Louis Cardinals, and woke up chained to a desk at Marvel with a signed contracted in front of him, and a mountain of Spider-Man scripts. On the scripts, a note that read, “Need these 36 scripts approved by tomorrow – by the way, this is only three months worth of Amazing Spider-Man issues. Luv ya, Tom Brevoort(*)”
((*) Of course this is a fictional account of how things went. Everyone knows Brevoort signs all his notes “Sincerely”)
Since then, Wacker has been the editor of Amazing Spider-Man, overseeing the thrice monthly shipping schedule. With a year under his belt, we figured he probably had some time to talk on a regular basis, so, without further ado, here’s Steve…
Great to be back, Matt. I look forward to talking with you regularly until I decide to move my always well-regarded interviews to a competitor who treats me like a human being and not just a cog in your never-ending hype machine, for god’s sake!
Amazing Spider-Man Extra #2, page 1I just hope you have room for this interview after that last novella by Ethan Van Sciver. (Gadzooks, Van Sciver, you could have drawn an entire page…well for you, just a panel I guess…. in the time it takes you to write all that. I pity the poor editor who has to find out that you’re really spending your days typing for hours just so the knuckleheads here at Newsarama can skim it on their way to the next Watchmen trailer.)
Matt again – I knew we’d regret this…let’s move on to some questions about the year that’s passed and more… (and for those new to the exchange between myself and Steve, it’s all in good fun. I love him like a brother, and thus he will never see me coming for my delicious revenge…)
Newsarama: Steve, it's been a year since the start of Spider-Man under the "Brand New Day." From our standpoint of seeing a lot of fan reaction, it seems to have been a bumpy ride initially in terms of response, but has perhaps smoothed out a bit. Do you feel that the controversy of the status quo change is largely in the rearview mirror, or do you still hear from fans about it?
Steve Wacker: You say it was “bumpy” because you really want to say it was a bad reaction but you’re being nice to a guest on your website, but I respectfully disagree. I loved the reaction from the get-go and continue to love it. I think these are the times when you want to be editing a book, when people care this deeply. I chuckle at the vitriol and get excited when it builds up again. Those are the time you know when you’re onto something. I’m thrilled that editors in chief of other comic companies get so upset they have to write columns about how upsetting your book is to them.
All that said, you really can’t start measuring the success of what you’re doing by immediate fan reaction or even the loudest fan reaction. You’d just end up going 30 directions at once. What I admire about One More Day, is that for all the controversy JMS, Joe Q and Axel did what they said they were going to do, they got the character to the place Marvel had been trying to get him to for years.
Amazing Spider-Man Extra #2, page 2In the end, the controversy was unavoidable given the massive change to the status quo and for everyone who likes to pipe in with how the controversy could have been avoided if only Marvel had done this, that, or the other thing I’d suggest that that’s exactly the wrong way to approach these things. My long boxes are filled with cancelled comics that were all very polite and never caused anybody any problems.
I think there are fans who are going to be upset about this the rest of their lives, but that comes with the territory. I’m pretty good at compartmentalizing this stuff. I was a chubby kid with a stutter and a funny name, so I don’t take much of the anger to heart.
The story that seems to have cheesed off the most people came out before I started on the book, so I don’t really think about those complaints that much. I believe in the stories my creators have come up with and I think Amazing Spider-Man is one of the best books on the stands today, so that’s really all I can ask.
NRAMA: Early on, Joe Q and you said that timelines would be filled in and questions would be answered. Do you think that, one year after the change, they've all been answered? What's left, in your view, to be addressed in terms of the change itself?
SW: I think using the word “timelines” is misleading here. There’s only one timeline. We still have two big questions left to answer, though: what happened the day of the Peter/MJ wedding and how did Spidey’s secret identity get put back into the box. Those are big set pieces coming up later in the year.
Amazing Spider-Man #585, pages 8-9I’m pretty lazy though, so more than likely, I’ll just wait to see what the newspaper strip does and copy that!
NRAMA: Scheduling-wise – your time on Amazing Spider-Man has eclipsed your run as editor on the weekly 52 a couple of times over at this point - is a thrice-monthly schedule something that you've gotten used to, or is it something that you can ever get used to?
SW: I hate it. It’s never easy and I’m sick of it. I don’t know how this became my thing, but I’m over it. The only way Carlin did this for so many years was because he didn’t have kids! My son calls me “the pasty guy upstairs”! My wife calls me “the tenant”! (Well, on every third Saturday night, she calls me “Mistress Yolanda of the Westchester County French Kissing Squad”, but I don’t want to get into that here on a private e-mail between me and you, Matt.)
Between the Extras!, Annuals and Spidey mini-series, Spidey’s world is essentially a weekly project right now, but with a ton of help from my assistant Tom Brennan and several production people who I mentioned in a recent letter column, we have gotten into a decent rhythm here.
NRAMA: Speaking of the scheduling, it looks as if there are only two issues of Amazing coming in March. How did that happen?
Amazing Spider-Man #587SW: Because I’m a freaking’ genius who deserves a break!
Truth is, besides getting the books out every week, I have one eye on the “buy-in’ we’re asking of fans to pick up Spidey’s whole story (this includes Annuals, the Amazing Spider-Man Extras! and the other assorted titles like Amazing Spider-Man Family).
Our new story, “Character Assassination,” ended up growing larger than originally planned with the first and final parts becoming double-sized issues (along with regularly priced issues getting extra pages for free) and we already had an Extra! planned for March, so it just seemed like a good month to release the valve a little bit and give the pocketbooks and the production schedule a chance to catch up.
This also allowed me to move some stuff around later in the year and give the artists another week here and there. You’ll still be getting 34-36 issues this year, so don’t think I’m just sitting around staring at my toes like Quesada.
NRAMA: Something that's looking more flexible than it has been is the use of the relatively "strict" Brain Trust of writers - we've seen Joe Kelly, Mark Waid and Roger Stern come in. Do you still view Marc, Dan, Bob and Zeb as your core team of writers, or do you feel that you need a core team of writers anymore?
SW: We definitely have a core team of writers: Bob Gale, Marc Guggenheim, Joe Kelly, Dan Slott, and Mark Waid. These five guys are the main Web-Heads
From time to time we may see also some other folks drop in for a story if it fits into what we’re doing. March’s “Return of the Spot” story by Fred Van Lente and Paulo Siqueira being a good example as well as Roger and Lee Weeks’ upcoming Juggernaut vs. Spidey story. Even artist Phil Jimenez is at the center of the huge Sinister 666 story we announced a while back.
Amazing Spider-Man #589, page 3We’ve got our main crew giving the book a direction and then I get to also work with some of my favorite writers at the same time. (Speaking of which, next time ask me about J.M. DeMatteis’ Harry Osborn/Peter Parker story in Amazing Spider-Man Family #4).
I should also mention that starting after “Character Assassination,” we all voted to retire the term “Brain Trust” since neither word applied to anyone on the team. (Ha! Got there first!)
NRAMA: You win on that one. As for artists - you've been all over the place in the last year, from McNiven, Larrocca and Jimenez to Romita Jr., Weeks, Martin and more. How do you go about managing the artists on the issues and arcs?
SW: I am the luckiest editor in comics right now because Amazing has just been blessed with a murderer’s row of artists since last January. There’s not a guy who has worked on this book who I think hasn’t delivered some of the best work of their careers. It’s like the 1927 Yankees mixed with the original Van Halen and NBC’s 1994 Thursday night line-up. Just the best.
I just try to match artists with a story they’re best suited for. For example, when Slott started pitching his Spidey/FF two-parter it just screamed Kitson who was coming off of his Secret Invasion Fantastic Four mini-series. The calendar also makes some decisions smarter than others. I generally know how long each of our artists takes, so I can be smart and slot them in with enough time to get their whole story done.
NRAMA: Let's talk "in progress" right now - what's on your desk at this moment, and what issues are in what stages?
SW: What’s on my desk at this moment is Brennan’s program from his visit to the State Capitol for the New York: State Of The State Address. My assistant is a giant political nerd and it’s all I can do not to pants him hourly. Thanks a lot, Human Resources!
Amazing Spider-Man #598, page 6Amazing Spidey-wise, I have the lettering for #585, all the pencils and half the inks on #586, final scripts for #587 and #588, half the pencils on #589, plot for #590 and #592, script for #595, and outline for #596, all art for Extra #2, scripts for Extra #3. And lots of to other stuff. It’s enough to choke a Brevoort.
NRAMA: Given that we’re looking back a little with this first installment, are there things that you were planning on getting to in the first year of the 3x monthly shipping and storytelling that you weren't able to?
SW: Only in a roundabout way. The original plan was for all the election and Spider-tracer stuff to wrap up in December… the very end of the first year…but that all got extended a bit after we decided to give some beats the room they needed rather than hit an arbitrary deadline.
Beyond that, I was extremely focused on making sure the books got out on time for all of 2008 to show the naysayers that Marvel could do something on such a large scale with top talent.
NRAMA: Speaking of things you're getting to in one way or another - where did the idea of the Amazing Spider-Man Extras come from? What kind of stories are in there?
SW: They were actually an idea I had at home on a sick day last year. We had a couple little pieces of story that we could quite fit into regular issues and I didn’t want them to be completely lost. They were stories that enhanced the regular Amazing book and gave some background and dropped some hints to future stories, but they weren’t eventful enough for an Annual.
So in my fevered daze, I suggested the idea for a one-shot to Brevoort and our sales team and it just took off from there. The plan was only to do the one as an experiment, but thanks to the great stories by the writers and some absolutely gorgeous art by Chris Bachalo, Marcos Martin and Patrick Olliffe, the reception was strong enough to warrant a few more in 2009.
NRAMA: Finally for this time out, we're on the cusp of a new year of Spider-Man stories, and although we'll be chatting with you and/or the creators once a week from here on, let's hit with the teases of what 2009 holds for Spider-Man - villains? Friends? Foes? Allies? Stories? Romance? Nervous breakdown of creative team and/or editorial staff?
SW: I’ve mentioned things like Vulture, Doc Ock, Sandman, Flash Thompson and a big wedding later in the year, but this week I’m mostly excited about the cover I just got in for #596…unfortunately it spoils the ending of “Character Assassination,” so hit me again in a few weeks.
That’s it for me.
Ethan, take two hours and go draw a nose, ya freakin’ super-star!