Marvel's Tom Brevoort Tries to Keep SECRET WARS' Secrets Secret

Marvel's new SECRET WARS
Credit: Marvel Comics
Secret Wars images
Secret Wars images
Credit: Marvel Comics

Apparently Marvel has some rules about Secret Wars, and the first rule of Secret Wars is you don't talk about... well, you know the rest.

To be fair, the publisher does have two things going on. One, the readers want to enjoy the end of the Avengers/New Avengers "Time Runs Out" story arc and then the Secret Wars event by actually reading it. But they also want to sell it by making comic book retailers and readers know ahead of time that it involves the end of the Marvel Universe as fans have known it since 1961 and that it's going to result in the creation of an 'all-new' Marvel Universe. So naturally, readers are going to be curious about that last thing now.

In the aftermath of the January 20 announcement, Marvel gave Newsarama the opportunity to ask a handful of questions regarding to the event to SVP of Publisher and Executive Editor Tom Brevoort, and we tried out best to get information out of him regarding the future of Marvel and he did his best walking the line between answering our questions and not giving away every Secret Wars secret now. Here's the result:

Newsarama: Tom, this isn’t Newsarama’s first rodeo but even as practiced as we are at distilling this stuff, there seems to be a lot going on here and presumably a lot still left unsaid.

So let’s start by breaking this down to its essence. Can you fact-check these:

1.) By Secret Wars #1, the Marvel and Ultimate Universes are combined, Everything else (universes, dimensions, timelines) are destroyed, and that’s the only Universe left in the multiverse.

2.) Then that new combined Universe gets destroyed too and the only cosmic ‘entities’ including suns, planets, dimensions, timelines and any form of life exists only on Battleworld, which is a melting pot of (potentially) every Marvel story ever written.

3.)Then sometime during or after Secret Wars, a new, singular familiar (Earth, the populated cosmos) Marvel Universe will emerge?

Is that all correct?

Tom Brevoort: Let me preface my remarks by saying right up front that this may turn out to be the least-informative interview you’ve ever done, in that there are still many, many specifics about Secret Wars and what it will mean for the Marvel publishing line going forward that we’re not entirely ready to reveal yet. So I’m going to attempt to answer your questions as best as I can, but don’t be surprised if precious little actual information is conveyed.

So taking these points briefly one by one:

1.) Not quite. By Secret Wars #1, the Final Incursion will have begun, which has the Marvel Universe and the Ultimate Universe on a collision course with one another, and only eight hours to prevent mutual annihilation.

2.) Again, not quite. In the aftermath of Secret Wars #1 and as will be explored in Secret Wars #2 and beyond, all that remains is Battleworld, a massive patchwork planet made up of the assorted surviving remnants of dozens of destroyed universes.

3.) At this point, Battleworld pretty much is the Marvel Universe—it’s all that’s left of everything. And the storyline that plays out across its surface, both in the core Secret Wars series and in the assorted tie-in projects will put into place the building blocks for everything moving ahead.

Nrama: Can you explain how time is included?

Secret Wars #2 cover by Alex Ross
Secret Wars #2 cover by Alex Ross
Credit: Marvel

As opposed to alternate timelines, you seem to be including individual chunks of time from the main Marvel Universe timeline – like Civil War and Avengers vs. X-Men. Are you treating this like the ultimate extension of the Butterfly Effect – every action results in a branching off of a new reality?

And any fear readers are going to get too caught up in the existential mechanism of all this?

Brevoort: I really can’t explain Battleworld in any greater depth at this point, sorry. But Secret Wars #2 takes you all throughout this new world and reveals much about its workings. It shouldn’t be too difficult for people to work out how all of the pieces fit together at that point—we’re just not yet at a point where I can give you a lot of additional details.

And if the readers want to debate the existential merits of what we’re doing and how we’re doing it—or how they think we’re doing it—more power to ‘em! That’s part of the fun!

Nrama: From personal experience I know Marvel doesn’t like being compared to DC  unless favorably [laughs] – but regardless of any chicken and the egg questions, you and DC will both being doing major events that have similar concepts – characters and concepts collected from various historical continuities/realities and placed under one ‘roof,’ for lack of a better log line.

Why do you think, in the spring of 2015, combining multiple realities and maybe coming out the other side with a whole new Universe is the major comic book publisher zeitgeist?

And an optional question - would you like to address how Secret Wars is different than Convergence and whatever comes after for DC?

Brevoort: Couldn’t really tell you, apart from the fact that stories of this nature have been part of the fabric of shared-universe storytelling since at least as far back as the original Secret Wars and Crisis on Infinite Earths.

In the case of Secret Wars, this isn’t a stopgap project or anything that’s being pulled together in haste to compete. It’s something that we’ve been building to for almost three years now, since the very first issues of Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers and New Avengers runs—there’s language in the first few issues of both titles which, now that you know we’re heading towards Secret Wars, pretty clearly signifies that. It’s the bedrock of our publishing plan and has been so for months and months now—as anybody who’s read me saying that New Avengers was the most important title that not enough people were paying attention to in interviews going back to before the Infinity event.

SPIDER-GWEN #1 Adam Hughes variant
SPIDER-GWEN #1 Adam Hughes variant
Credit: Marvel Comics

Nrama: You’ve recently launched or are relaunching a few titles that take place in alternate realities. You guys brought it up on your own in the announcements on January 20, so to follow-up: can readers assume you’re not launching Spider-Gwen just to cancel it a few months later, and that would necessitate the assumption Spider-Gwen will reside alongside Spider-Man in the eventual, new, singular Marvel Universe?

Brevoort: I don’t think you should make any assumptions about where characters are going to reside. But we didn’t launch any of our recent titles—including Uncanny Avengers, Ant-Man, Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Silk or Spider-Gwen -- with the intention of just shutting them down a few months later. Those all remain ongoing series for us—but then again, so are Avengers, New Avengers, Fantastic Four, and so forth...

Nrama: Can readers expect to find new characters on Battleworld they’ve never seen before despite whatever encyclopedic knowledge of Marvel Comics they may have? Or in other words, will there be new concepts here alongside existing ones?

Brevoort: Yes, there will absolutely be new characters and concepts included on Battleworld. And since I’m not sure how much we’ve said about this publicly, I ought to point out that the Battleworld map that we’ve shown you isn’t absolutely all-inclusive. There are some additional domains that aren’t on the existing map, plus some whose borders may change during the course of a particular storyline (or may have changed in the recent past, absorbing other neighboring domains.)

Nrama: Any particular characters you can identity that you think will play a big or perhaps surprising role in Secret Wars… some potential breakout stars?

Brevoort: Rabum Alal.

[editor's note: Alal is the mysterious off-page character mentioned by Black Swan in Avengers/New Avengers that would seem to have a major hand in the collapse of the Multiverse.]

Rabum Alal mentioned in New Avengers #27
Rabum Alal mentioned in New Avengers #27
Credit: Marvel Comics

Nrama: Will Battleworld be the Marvel Universe for longer than the duration of Secret Wars? Will Battleworld be the Marvel Universe into late 2015 or 2016 or does the new more familiar Marvel Universe debut once Secret Wars the series ends?

Brevoort: Wait and see! We haven’t even decamped onto Battleworld yet!

Credit: Marvel Comics

Nrama: Can you explain more about the umbrella titles Last Days, Battleworld and Warzones!? Will every Marvel title throughout Secret Wars be under one of these three umbrellas? Will it be just existing titles, new limited series, new ongoing series, or all of the above?

Brevoort: As we go into Secret Wars, every tie-in title that we produce will fall under one of those three umbrellas, yes. It may not literally be every single title we produce every month, but it will be an awful lot of them. And yes, that will include existing titles, new ongoing series, new limited series, one-shots, and everything in-between. To define the three categories a little bit better for people:

1.) Last Days: These projects, as the name implies, will tell the final stories of particular characters within the as-you’ve-known-them Marvel and Ultimate Universes during the events of the Final Incursion. So these are all about what particular characters do when faced with the end of the world.

2.) Battleworld: These projects will all deal with the new planet as a whole, with how the assorted domains function and interact with one another, with what the politics are, how Battleworld functions, who keeps the law and who is in charge. So these are macro projects dealing with the whole of Secret Wars and the new landscape to one degree or another.

3.) Warzones!: These projects focus in specifically on a single domain within Battleworld, or perhaps two adjacent domains, and deals with events taking place primarily within those specific zones. In essence, these are all like micro-event series each on their own

Credit: Marvel Comics

Nrama: In the past Marvel has identified your creative architects. Jonathan Hickman is obviously the creative force behind Secret Wars, but he's stated that this is his Marvel swansong (for now).

Are there any creators you’d like to identify as the architects of the All-New Marvel Universe that emerges during or after Secret Wars?

Brevoort: People have put too much stock into that one “architects" campaign we did around the time of Avengers vs. X-Men in terms of the importance of that term, or that it means anything more that “creators who are doing work for us.” Everybody who contributes to a Marvel title is an architect both of that title and the overall Marvel Universe as a whole.

But you’re really asking which creators are going to be on the biggest and most central titles, I expect. And again, that’s not quite something that I’m ready to disclose in detail, apart from saying that most all of the creators who have been associated with Marvel in recent memory will be involved in some capacity with Secret Wars and its many components, and will be involved with the Marvel Universe going forwards. And you’ll also no doubt be seeing some new and unexpected names in the mix as well.

As for Jonathan, I expect that when Secret Wars is concluded, he’s going to want to collapse for awhile. But it’s nobody’s intention that this project represents his Marvel swansong, but merely the ending of the story he began in Avengers #1. But this is something that’s probably best spoken about with Jonathan directly—it’s not for me to put words into his mouth.

Nrama: I’ll put this one to you simply and straightforwardly: Is this all new reader-friendly?

Brevoort: It’ll be as all-new reader friendly as we can make it, that’s for sure. This is why we’re doing the Secret Wars #0 as one of our Free Comic Book Day offerings, to give people who haven’t been following Jonathan’s story for the past three years a nice, easy place to get caught up on exactly where the ball lies before diving into Secret Wars #1. And as we always do, we’re going to spare no effort to make every release we put out during and after Secret Wars engaging and understandable, even to a newbie. But typically, sometimes we do better and sometimes we do not as good. Only time will tell how well we hit it in this instance. But I’m sure your readers will tell me!

Nrama: Okay, final questions – we’re going to assume the new Marvel Universe that emerges is going to “best of” a melting pot of both iconic versions of your characters and popular alternative, past and future versions of characters and concepts. Is there anything you want to say to talk us out of our assumption?

Brevoort: I wouldn’t dream of eliminating any possibilities this early in the game—as I said earlier, speculating on what might be to come is all a part of the fun! So you can assume away, and I’ll simply correct you when you’re off-base in a manner that makes a difference to whatever we might be discussing in that moment.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Nrama: Finally, can’t let you go without asking this one – this isn’t your first rodeo either and you know fandom as well as I. Comparisons to Crisis On Infinite Earths and the "New 52" and reminders of past statements about Marvel ever needing a "Crisis," and the reboot or not a reboot questions will likely follow this event.

Do you want to expand on your answer from Tuesday as to whether this or is not going to ultimately climax with a reboot of Marvel continuity?

Brevoort: No, of course not. Whaddayou, nuts?

I did say at one point, though, that if you take a boot and replace the sole and put new laces on it and dye it a different color, is it still the same boot? Or reboot? Yes? No? You tell me.

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