The news broke on Sunday afternoon at Emerald City Comicon’s “Marvel: Next Big Thing” panel, and, as tends to happen these days, infiltrated the world at large through Twitter and <a href=http://blog.newsarama.com/2011/03/06/nick-spencer-latest-marvel-exclusive/>online news sites</a>: Nick Spencer, writer of a whole bunch of comic books, has signed an exclusive contract with Marvel Comics.
On one hand, it’s not so surprising: Spencer’s profile in the comic book industry seems to be increasing every day thanks to his success with creator-owned comics like , and he’s doing two Marvel titles already: , and , as of April’s #12.1. On the other hand, the announcement was made less than two weeks after the release of Spencer’s first Marvel comic book ever (), and less than two years after his first published comic book work ever, Image’s .
Newsarama talked to Spencer via telephone about the circumstances that led to the Marvel offer, what we may be seeing in the future, what it means for his creator-owned work, and how he’s able to stick with his DC Comics series, — plus what exactly happened with his aborted run on .Newsarama: Nick, I know you’re probably tired of people talking about how quickly you’ve risen in the ranks of comics and all that, but this Marvel exclusive deal — it sounds like it was probably in place before your first Marvel comic book, was even out, right?
Nick Spencer: The deal was signed before that came out.
Nrama: There’s probably nothing ready to announce at this point, but can we expect to hear about more Marvel work from you beyond and soon, or is that going to keep you pretty busy for the time being?
Spencer: It’s going to be a really big fall, and a really big winter. There’s a lot that’s in the pipeline that people don’t know about yet. It’s really funny because you go to these shows, and everybody says, “I can’t believe how many books you’re working on,” and “How do you keep up with all of it?” Every time I hear it all, I think, “If all I was working on was the stuff that you knew about, I would be on vacation right now.” There’s just so much coming through the pipeline that’s kind of getting prepped for another big wave of announcements and releases in the fall and winter months.Nrama: I’m sure it depends on the individual deal, but my general understanding is these Marvel exclusive writing contracts tend to have a minimum of 24 issues in a year. Is that somewhere close to accurate?
Spencer: Yeah, that’s close. [.] But those numbers, one of the first things that they tell you, those numbers are about guaranteed work. The reality is, if they like what you’re doing, and you’re a good fit for upcoming projects — I have more than 24 this year already in the works, and we’re in March. The way that those numbers work is that’s your minimum guaranteed amount, but I obviously turn out a lot more pages than that.
Nrama: Well, yeah. It seems like you’ve been doing about six or seven comics a month.
Spencer: I try to hold to writing eight scripts a month. Usually if I’m getting above eight, then it means I’m working through the weekend. Eight scripts a month is a nice, realistic goal for me to set for myself. That doesn’t necessarily mean you can do eight books in a month, because sometimes you’re writing for a couple of artists at the same time, or some assignment has come in at the last minute, or something like that. Usually, if I’m writing eight scripts in a month, I feel like I’ve done my job.Nrama: Eight scripts a month is obviously well above average.
Spencer: It’s just about your process, and it’s just about how you work. There’s no right or wrong way to do this. Some great authors will put a book out every four years, and some great authors will put a book out every six months. It doesn’t mean that one is a better writer than the other, it just means that their process and their speed is different.
Nrama: So when you were approached about the exclusive deal, was it a pretty easy decision, or did you have any hesitations?
Spencer: Obviously I had a relationship at DC, and really enjoyed working with Will Moss in particular, and Matt Idelson, in the Superman office, and had been talking to Mike Marts over in the Bat-office. Really like all those guys, and they’re fantastic to work with. I was in one of those rare and awkward positions where you’ve got offers from both on the table, and you’re trying to weigh the good and the bad of both. And it took me a while to figure out exactly what was the right path.
At the end of the day, I knew deep down that Marvel was the place where I really wanted to be. I’m in a nice position where my creator-owned work has been successful enough, and it’s sold enough, that I didn’t have to make this decision in order to pay the bills. I didn’t have to sign it for health benefits, or job security, or because freelance work wasn’t getting the job done. I wanted to sign with Marvel in particular because I wanted to be a part of that room that I’ve always dreamed of being a part of. When I thought about why I wanted to work at a big company, I thought about what Joe [Quesada], and Tom [Brevoort], and Axel [Alonso] would set up there — these regular retreats, and frequent collaborations between writers, and closer lines of communication between writers and artists. That’s something Marvel’s fostered that’s unique to Marvel.
The reality is, I could have continued to just do creator-owned work, I could have continued to do creator-owned work and freelance work. The reason why I decided to sign an exclusive agreement was because there’s always been something really exciting about that idea of getting to work with those guys whose books I enjoy myself. These guys that I respect and admire so much. To get to tell stories with those guys is really why this deal happened.Secret Avengers
#13 cover.Nrama: And all those writers were definitely influences on you as you were breaking in, right?
Spencer: Right. The reality is, without Brian Bendis, I probably wouldn’t be writing comics, in a whole bunch of different ways. Getting to work with him, getting to learn from him, it was a very big part of the equation for me. Same goes for [Jonathan] Hickman, who has become a great friend, and really kind of a mentor. Just somebody who I personally really look up to, and who’s writing I’m just a huge fan of, as well. Then there’s guys like Ed [Brubaker], and Matt [Fraction], and Kieron [Gillen], and Rick [Remender], Dan Slott, and Jason Aaron. The newer faces, too, like Kelly Sue [DeConinck]. These are people I really wanted to work with, and these are people I wanted to be on the same team as. That was the biggest piece of the puzzle for me.
Nrama: You’ve addressed it already on Twitter, but we shouldn’t be seeing any slowing down of your creator-owned work, correct?
Spencer: Yeah. One of the nice things about not needing to do a deal out of necessity, and that’s really because people have been so supportive of and . The reality is, I’m very lucky to be one of the few that are able to make a good living [from writing creator-owned comics]. To be able to make that work was a big part of the long-term goals for my career. The first thing I said to both Marvel and DC when the word “exclusive” first came up was that I had no interest in slowing down on my creator-owned work, that I thought it was very important to be doing two or three creator-owned books a month. What I’ll say about this deal — and a huge amount of credit goes to C.B. Cebulski and David Bogart for this — is [Marvel was] incredibly generous on that side. Not only do I not have to slow down in terms of what I’m already doing, but there’s room for me to do more on the creator-owned side.
In addition to that, what I thought was an incredibly gracious gesture, I can continue to honor my commitment on , and see that story through. That was very important to me, because even though I don’t own that book, and obviously it’s at DC, I think that those guys recognized that it’s a story that I was very passionate about telling, and that I was very concerned about not letting the fans of that book down, and giving them the full story that they deserved. So as long as DC is interested in having me on board , I’m there. To be honest, that was my biggest concern going into the deal. The issues raised were never about the page rate or the fine print, it was always about making sure that I could still tell those other stories. Marvel bent over backwards and was very kind and understanding of that.
Nrama: Hearing you say “see that story through” kind of sounds like the end might be near for , though.
Spencer: I certainly hope not. I know a lot of people are assuming that; they’re hearing this and they’re saying, “Oh, he’s only going to be on it for a couple more issues.” The reality of is that for all the acclaim that it’s gotten, and all the great word-of-mouth it has, more people need to be supporting that book. If people want to see that book live on, they need to tell their friends about it, and they need to scour and find the issues that have already came out and share them around. Myself personally, I’ve fallen in love with writing that book as if it were one of my own. I have a lot of emotional attachment at this point, and it’s one of the best-received things that I’ve ever done, and I know that there’s a very enthusiastic fanbase for it.
A lot of people look at these exclusives and the first thing they think about it what he can’t work on anymore, and what he won’t be doing anymore. This deal, again, it was nice because nothing happened out of necessity. Nothing happened because it had to. This happened because I wanted to do it. Marvel were much more excited about getting me in that room that we talked about, getting me started on the big initiatives that they’ve got moving forward. It’s a huge year for Marvel in terms of some of the stories they’ve got coming up, and to really be a part of those, for the most part, you need to be a part of the family. You need to be an employee of Marvel, in a sense. Marvel really wanted me to be a part of that, and I wanted to be a part of that. This means more stories, not less.
I’ve looked through what fans are saying on Twitter and the Internet about this, and it seems like everybody’s really excited, and really happy, and that’s what you want to hear. But at the same time, I’m seeing lots of people worrying about their favorite book. If I can get one thing across, it’s that they have nothing to worry about. I’m not going anywhere from anything that I’m working on.
Nrama: So it sounds like most readers won’t notice an immediate difference as a result of this deal.
Spencer: It’s going to mean some big assignments at Marvel. It’s going to mean some big new stories. I didn’t want to get in this sandbox so that I could sit in the corner and not play with the toys. In fact, my biggest challenge right now is I’m new there, I’m still a relatively fresh face in comics period, and it’s always a challenge when you’re sitting there with Brian, and sitting there with John, talking to Ed — the biggest challenge for a guy like me, who came up as a fan, is you want to be deferential. You want to hear everything that they have to say. Now it’s my time to add something to that conversation, and to bring ideas of my own into the mix. And that’s what they’re bringing you on board for. They’re not just bringing you on board to smile and be the intern. That’s what I’m excited about — coming in, giving it my absolute best, taking a shot at this, and hoping that I deserve a spot at that table.
Nrama: And that’s got to be a crazy, daunting, yet also exciting, challenge — going from admiring these people’s work from a distance, to essentially being their co-worker.
Spencer: It’s so easy to look at Brian and just say, “This is the guy that’s written 150+ issues of ” Or look at John, and say, “This is the guy who’s turned into the biggest comic of the year.” But the reality is, you are there to add something. You’re not there to watch, you’re not there to listen. You’re there to add something to the mix. That’s what those guys want you to do.
They’ve all been so amazingly supportive, and they’ve all been so kind in helping me navigate my way through these first weeks and these first months. Now it’s my time to step in and hopefully really add something of my own to the mix.
Nrama: On the subject of creator-owned comics, what’s the status on the project over at Image’s Skybound imprint? There hasn’t really been an update on that since it was announced.
Spencer: “Still happening” is all I can say about that.
If you’re looking for proof of how doors aren’t closing here, doors are opening, that’s it. That hasn’t come out yet, I’m not even allowed to talk about it yet. It’s all part of the plan for the year. That’s going to be a great story. I’m neck-deep in it right now, actually.
Nrama: And I think a lot of people are still curious as to what exactly happened with you and .
Spencer: I’ve been reading a lot of folks sort of assuming, “Oh, Nick left because of this deal.” Or, “Nick left to do Secret Avengers.” Nick didn’t leave to do anything else. I didn't leave it because of my workload or deadlines. The reasons for that are obviously internal, and I want to respect that. It was all amicable, and I think the world of Will and Matt.
I would never abandon a book for a contract, or abandon a book for another assignment. I leave books when I’m done telling the story. I care way too much about the people who go out and spend 3, 4 bucks on a book to just leave them hanging like that, so I can go play with something newer and shinier. That’s just not me.
This deal didn’t cause any books that were going to come out to not come out, all it’s really done is helped more books come out.