Marvel's SHAME ITSELF Features Comedians, 'Hunan Torch'

 

Dating back to the 1960s and Not Brand Echh, self-satire has long been a part of Marvel's DNA. The latest example is the Shame Itself one-shot, which, as the title helpfully suggests, is in part a Fear Itself parody, with plenty more mirth and merriment sprinkled throughout the anthology comic.

Among those contributing to the book are The Daily Show's Wyatt Cenac and Elliott Kalan, plus multiple names from the world of comedy and veteran comic book creators including Colleen Coover, Clayton Henry, Dean Haspiel and Tales Designed to Thrizzle's Michael Kupperman; all wrapped up in a Skottie Young-illustrated cover depicting a strikingly ungodlike Thor.

At the center of it all is editor Tom Brennan, who talked to Newsarama via email about how the book came together. If this sounds up your proverbial alley and you happen to be in the New York City area as of right now, Brennan, Kupperman, Haspiel, Kalan and a whole lot more Shame Itself contributors will be signing at Jim Hanley's Universe at 6 p.m. today (Wednesday, Nov. 2).

 

Newsarama: Tom! Shame Itself looks sort of like a hybrid of the Wha… Huh? one-shot from a few years back and, based on some of the creators involved, Strange Tales. Is that on-base at all? If so, what makes now the right time for such a book?

Tom Brennan I’d say your comparison is completely on base. And what makes now the right time? I don’t know. But in the words of Jon Lovitz, I can tell when I’m not wanted. And that’s when I’m needed the most.

Nrama: Obviously, the name plays off Fear Itself. (Obviously!) To what extent is the issue actually a Fear Itself parody?

Brennan: There’s only one story that really refers to Fear Itself directly. The rest is really more of a metaphor. Or a simile. Wait, which one has "like" or "as" in it? Simile? It’s a simile. Next question!

 

Nrama: There are a lot of folks from outside the comic book world — and, in fact, from the comedy world — who worked on Shame Itself. How did you go about gathering the list of creators for the project? Is the world of comedy one you're pretty tapped into?

Brennan: I’m a huge comedy fan, so I keep tabs on what’s going on. Wyatt Cenac, Elliott Kalan and I have worked together on a few projects at Marvel and I’m fans of their writing. The idea for this book spun out of an idea they had for a series of web comics exploring the weirder side of the Marvel U. The rest of the talent were comedians I admired. I knew Kurt Braunohler’s work from the web series Penelope: Princess of Pets that he produced and starred in with Kristen Schaal and met him through classes at the People’s Improv Theater here in NYC. I knew Victor Varnado from his movie The Awkward Comedy Show on Comedy Central, but he and Stephen Wacker performed improv in the '90s and '00s, and Steve’s always commented on how much he loved Victor’s writing. I’ve been fortunate enough to perform in Sara Benincasa’s storytelling show, Family Hour with Auntie Sara, and I know she can write a hilarious, engaging story. It’s a great mix of funny people who have love and respect for Marvel’s characters. And of course, Michael Kupperman consistently stole the show in Strange Tales. I had to have him on board.

 

On the art side, I wanted to team these folks with people who knew how to tell a visual story and who knew Marvel’s history. Clayton Henry, Colleen Coover, Dean Haspiel, Jacob Chabot, John Tyler Christopher, Horacio Domingues, Dalibor Talijic and Stephanie Buscema were all (no lie) the first choices I had in mind for each of their projects respectively, and I’m so happy they could leap on board.

And of course, a big shout out of thanks to Tom Peyer and Karl Kesel who stepped in to do a frame story to help this almost make sense.

Nrama: Given how many comedians worked on the book, it would stand to reason that as editor you worked with some people pretty new to the comic book world. Does comedy writing translate pretty well to comic book writing? (At least in these instances?)

Brennan: It’s two different things — comic writing requires a very specific structure that, while challenging, can be taught. Being a good writer (and a funny one) can’t. All of these folks can write stories, and that’s more than half of the battle. I was impressed at how all of them adapted to the form. 

 

Nrama: If this does well, would you like to see a more regular Marvel humor book in the future, in the vein of What The--?! or Not Brand Echh? Or is it the type of thing where the impact works better when it's more spread out?

Brennan: I would love to be able to do this every month. It sure seems like, given the state of the economy, our best bet is to spread it out. But I’d love to do it every month. You be the judge, America!

Nrama: To wrap up — what would you say to a theoretical comic book reader who might be on the fence about picking up Shame Itself?

Brennan: The Hunan Torch. You read that correctly. 

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