Welcome to NYCC 2014's Marvel 75th Anniversary: Crafting the Marvel Event panel! Some of the top creators in Marvel history have come together to talk about their inspiration, and the creative collaborations that lead to the biggest events of the Marvel universe.
Joining moderator Tom Brevoort on the dais are Jim Starlin, Brian Bendis, Fabian Nicieza, and J.M. DeMatteis.
Brevoort opened the panel by saying that at least one creator couldn't appear on the panel. When he declined to say who was unable to make it, Bendis quipped "Who didn't make their deadline?"
Jim Starlin launched into discussing the evolution of Thanos's story into the Infinity Gauntlet saga. Brevoort mentioned that he type-set the Thanos Quest storyline as an intern. Starlin explained, "They kept asking me to add more characters, but no one wanted their characters to appear in the book, We had to negotiate for two X-Men."
Now joining the panel are Tom DeFalco, Kurt Busiek, and Al Milgrom.
Brevoort asked DeFalco about the genesis of the first Marvel event, Contest of Champions. "You can blame it on Jimmy Carter!" DeFalco quipped. DeFalco went on to explain that Marvel had done a comic about the summer olympics, but when President Carter pulled the US out of the winter olympics, they took the art and pages for the winter olympics comic, and turned it into Contest of Champions. "We had to do massive art changes, massive re-writes, and we put it out just to recoup our money. But to our surprise, it sold very well."
Three years later, spurred on by competition from DC's Super Powers line, Mattel purchased the rights to Marvel action figures, leading to Secret Wars, the first real Marvel crossover. Explained DeFalco, "They wanted a comic to support the toy line, and we said, 'Good news! We beat you to it!'"
Eventually, EiC Jim Shooter agreed to write the Secret Wars series, launching a series of major crossovers for years to come.
Brevoort passed the baton to Bendis, saying that Bendis had written or been involved with more major Marvel events than any other creator. Bendis explained that he started with Secret War, which was billed as a non-event, but something that was always meant to stay in print.
It was Jeph Loeb who spurred Bendis into writing House of M, by asking about Magneto's reaction to Scarlet Witch's breakdown.
With Secret Invasion, Bendis was trying to recapture the surprise factor of major storylines. "You young guys may not remember this, but you used to read a comic, and you didn't know what was gonna happen!"
Brevoort asked Nicieza about his involvement with Age of Apocalypse, saying that despite it was "just an X-Men event," it was a huge success. Nicieza explained that there were immediate expectations for the new wave of X-Men creators to create two crossovers in short order. "We were crossovered out! But Age of Apocalypse came out of publishing expectations. The story came up because Bob Harras just had to take a shower that morning. He came up with the idea in the shower."
Bendis confessed that Age of Apocalypse is the publishing benchmark by which he has measured all his other events. Nicieza confessed that there was internal strife about the event, saying supporters and detractors were even in number.
Brevoort explained that, although there is an expectation for an event to happen every year, the stories now come more organically from what's happening in the universe. Bendis confessed that the summit that Civil War came from a summit where a different event was being planned, but the original story wasn't working. The writers came together, and created Civil War to do something that might actually work as a story.
Brevoort then asked DeMatteis about his lack of involvement in large events, to which DeMatteis responded, "I was always the kind of guy that, if there was a choice between participating and not participating, I would stay home." DeMatteis then explained that Kraven's Last Hunt, his most major Marvel crossover, was born solely out of necessity, because Spider-Man couldn't appear to be dead in one title and still be active in another.
Discussion then turned to the Clone Saga, which Brevoort called "almost the worst way to do a crossover." DeMatteis explained that the problem was marketing. The story was only meant to last six months, but the marketing department wanted it expanded, and it ended up running wild.
"My favorite comic that's ever been published," quipped Bendis, "Was the book 22 Ways to End the Clone Saga that Marvel published during the Clone Saga!"
DeFalco told a story about checking in for a convention, where someone recognized him as a creator of the Clone Saga, sparking a huge argument about its quality. "You invented the message board!" Bendis joked.
Busiek explained that Marvels was meant to be a prestige book, not an event. He and Alex Ross pitched the story based on a series of Ross's paintings depicting major events of the Marvel Universe. "Initially, we had a story where Phil Sheldon was a reporter witnessing Marvel history, but all of the events he reported on were made up for the story." It was Tom DeFalco who suggested they tell the actual stories that actually happened in the Marvel universe.
"It wasn't until the convention season, when the president of Marvel was hand selling the book to fans that we knew it was going to be big."
Busiek said, "A lot of events have long-running story consequences, like Wolverine has no bones."
"No adamantium skeleton. No bones would be boring," corrected Nicieza.
"That would be AWESOME! Next year!" retorted Busiek. "Floppy Wolverine!"
Busiek went on to discuss a story that never happened called "Y2Kang," in which Kang reverted the Marvel universe to the year 1900 on January 1st, 2000. It never happened because the publisher did not approve it until after January 2000.
Brevoort asked Al Milgrom whether it was daunting to draw Secret Wars 2, following up an incredibly successful event, and working with the EiC as writer. "Jim had all these rules for how comics had to be created. He had it down to a science. But it's not a science. It's a creative art!"
"People always asked me how I dealt with Jim Shooter. And I would go in and say, 'Jim, I understand your perspective, but what about this?' and he'd always say, 'OK, but I still think my way is better.' So I decided to do Secret Wars 2 to see if maybe I could help him learn something, or if he really was correct 100% of the time."
Milgrom got the art job when Sal Buscema refused to redraw his art for the first issue. "I had seen Jim work with other artists, and come away thinking they were not as good as he did when they went in. I never had those repurcussions, but I never got any insight into making him see things my way."
DeMatteis asked the audience if they were tired of the Marvel event cycle. One fan said that the major events were what got him involved in comics, and introduced him to many characters he would not have been familiar with otherwise.
Milgrom asked Starlin how he got away with his major events without stepping on everyone's toes. "I didn't!"
A fan asked if event books hurt regular series, inviting fans to read only the events and skip individual titles. Nicieza explained that tying into events gives smaller titles a bump that may help them survive longer than they would otherwise have lasted. Bendis chimed in, syaing events are good for setting the theme of each year of the comics.
And with that, Marvel 75: Crafting the Marvel Event is over! Stay tuned for more NYCC '14 coverage right here on Newsarama!