Wacker Goes West: Transitioning from Marvel Editor to TV VP
CREDIT: Marvel Animation
If you’ve read a comic in the past 14 years, you’ve probably read one with Steve Wacker’s name on it. But that’s all over now, as Wacker has transitioned from his long-held role as Senior Editor at Marvel to a new position, a new coast, and a new medium: Vice-President Animation-current in Marvel’s Television division in California. The former New Yorker is no stranger to change, however; Wacker oversaw Marvel’s web-crawler through “Brand New Day” and Superior Spider-Man, and at DC he shepherded the landmark 52 weekly series, and before that worked as a newspaper sports journalist. To put it in sports terms, he’s been drafted to animation.
Newsarama has spoken with Wacker on numerous occasions in his 14 year career in comics, and even hosted a short-lived column by the editor titled Weekly Webbing, and now we circle back with him for this exit interview of sorts talking about his final days working in comics, his first days working in animation, and the stories he’s been a part of in comic books and behind-the-scenes.
Newsarama: Steve, your new title is Vice President Animation-Current. Besides getting a new business card, what does this new position entail for you?
Steve Wacker: It puts me right in the middle of Marvel Animation’s shows currently airing on Disney XD which includes Marvel’s Avengers Assemble, Marvel’s Hulks: Agents of S.M.A.S.H. and Marvel’s Ultimate Spider-Man.
My job so far has been to oversee the storytelling and writing aspects of the show, running the summits and vetting scripts with my team. Plus, a bunch of boring paperwork stuff.
I also spend one long afternoon every week washing Mr. Loeb’s car, caring for his bee collection and doing basic repairs around his vast Hollywood compound. It’s all right there in my horribly negotiated contract!
Nrama: Contract or not, you seemed pretty settled in over in Marvel Comics’ offices in New York City. What brought about this move from comics to animation?
Wacker: Jeph had been inviting me to animation summits over the past couple years mainly to talk Spidey and laugh at Joe Quesada’s “jokes”.
Jeph runs a very loose but focused room with the writers and I enjoyed it a lot. I was intrigued by the different challenges in bring these characters to a new, younger audience and mentioned to Jeph, Joe and Dan Buckley that if anything ever opened up out there, I’d be interested in talking about it.
And apparently they remembered because late last year I got a surprising call from Jeph with an offer.
Alternatively Tom Brevoort and Axel Alonso just wanted me and my 80s music out of the office and this was a nice, quick way to do it.
Nrama: Is animation something you’ve always been interested in working in?
Wacker: I have to admit, like comics, it was never something I ever thought much about working in before I did it. I’m aware of some of the history of animation just through osmosis, but basically I just like a good story regardless of format/medium.
I also work with a well-oiled team here that includes Harrison Wilcox, Dan Evans, Wendy Willming and Diana Theobald. They actually run the various shows and are experienced boots on the ground, so I’ve learned from them.
Nrama: I know you’re still new to the job, but I have to ask; what is your take on Marvel animation currently and the possibilities for its future?
Wacker: I’m still at the stage where I’m impressed daily at what our folks in production have created over the past few years. Eric Radomski heads up the team that does the actual animating and to see them do so much, so fast at such a high quality is staggering.
My job in the near-term is to make sure our stories rise to the occasion…and to keep driving the animators nuts with impossible, Marvel-sized requests.
Looking ahead, there some big plans that include the productions currently on the air and for some new surprises that Eric and Development VP Cort Lane are working on to be announced in the coming months.
One thing I’ve been able to do right from the get-go is to help our animation plans feed off some of the things going on in publishing that I’ve been privy to. I hope to help continue bringing the two worlds closer together in small ways.
Nrama: What skills from your 14 years as a comics editor do you think will be most at use at Marvel Animation?
Wacker: Hopefully, I learned something about editing stories and working with writers to get their best work. I also think I can help keep the writers’ room moving after sitting through so many Marvel editorial summits.
I can also be useful in pointing out to people in Los Angeles that New York City pizza is way better.
Nrama: I’ll be sad not to see your name in the credits on a regular basis, but will you remain involved in comics in any fashion?
Wacker: Nope. I got may last directly-edited project out a couple months back (Spider-Man: Family Business! Go order it now!) and I’ve been on the sidelines since then. I tried to help with my books’ transitions to the new editors, but those folks know what they’re doing (excluding Mike Marts).
And I know you’re not really sad, but I admit it really was a tiny bit emotional for me to leave comics. My wife can attest. It was a real honor to sit in that chair for a while and be a small part of those characters’ history.
Nrama: You worked at Marvel as an editor for seven years, taking Spider-Man through “Brand New Day” and that weekly shipping and on through to Superior Spider-Man. What would you say to what you’ve accomplished in the comics you’ve edited at Marvel?
Wacker: I did a lot of books I’m extremely proud to have my name on from Spidey to Captain Marvel to Daredevil to Hawkeye to Nova to Ms. Marvel and hopefully entertained some readers.
I got to work with the best writers, artists and creative minds around (excluding Mike Marts) and I think I spent the company’s resources well. I’m not sure what other measures there are.
Nrama: What would you say is the most memorable experience or project you’ll take with you as you move on from comics to animation?
Wacker: Working with Stan Lee on a few Spidey stories and getting John Romita to do a couple covers. Those were both “pinch me” moments.
Oh, and one day I tied a string to a donut and tried to get Brevoort to follow it out the door. Didn’t work, but I got to eat a donut after.
There was also one fantastic Buckley-led practical joke at my expense that I can never talk about.
Nrama: Up until recently you proudly self-proclaimed yourself as “America’s 12th favorite comic book editor” in social media. Will you keep that title and add an “emeritus” to it, or bequeath it to someone else?
Wacker: Honestly, I’m not sure I was that high. Anyone but Marts is free to have it.
Here’s a real true story. I started that gag years ago back at DC calling myself the “6th favorite assistant editor” (out of 6) and I actually got a call from someone offended that I was calling myself that because they didn’t feel I should be ranking people.
Nrama: You’re best known for editing comics, but this job in Marvel’s animation digs brings up your background as a performer – a singer, a dancer, and even the face behind some small comedy shows put on in NYC. Any chance we could see your name in the voice credits of an upcoming Marvel animation?
Wacker: None, whatsoever. I auditioned for myself and got so nervous I threw up on me, so afterwards I told myself off and stormed out of my room.
Nrama: Enough of this comics talk – what’s the actual move like, from New York to Glendale? And did Krypto Charlie Wacker make it okay?
Wacker: My family and my dog will be out here by the summer. I’m still back and forth for a bit. So if anyone is in St. Louis and sees a plane going by, wave hello!
Nrama: You’re well-known for your love of the St. Louis Cardinals and your derision of the New York Mets – with this move to California, will you be taking advantage of the nearby baseball games there?
Wacker: The plan is to catch some Dodger action, but good lord the traffic! And the pizza!
And the Mets aren’t a baseball team….they’re just an excuse for Quesada to go to Queens twice a week.