Marvel promised that "everything ends" with Secret Wars, but looking ahead to October everything will begin again.
Marvel Senior Vice President of Publishing Tom Brevoort spoke with Newsarama Friday afternoon about the information and images released in the two days about the forthcoming next stage of Marvel's comics line with All-New All-Different Marvel. Just as that "All-New All-Different" descriptor is familiar but used in a new context, so will much of the Marvel Universe according to the long-time Marvel editor.
How can something be new, different and familiar at the same time? Who's behind the mask in those teaser images? What does it all mean? While Brevoort leaves some questions hanging out there for speculation, he does provide some key context on what the publisher's goals are, where it comes from, and what happens next.
Newsarama: Tom, after this week’s first wave of press for All New All Different Marvel, the message seems to be this is bold and different and new and will feature lots of interesting changes, but it’ll also be familiar and recognizable to long-time readers.
Is that accurate and if so, how do you strikes that balance, being all-new, and all-different but familiar at the same time?
Tom Brevoort: We’ve sort of said all along that we don’t feel like our characters and our universe is broken or that there’s anything that direly needs to be fixed about it. So yes, when we come back after Secret Wars and into All-New All-Different Marvel a lot will be, in the broadest sense, familiar. But “familiar” doesn’t mean the same, or without surprises or changes or differences. Marvel characters and the Marvel Universe thrives on change, with things evolving, relationships changing, situations moving from one point to another, etc. So with All-New All-Different Marvel and the title that we’ll roll out there, we’re going to take advantage of the disassembling and reassembling of the Marvel Universe, but with a built-in period of 8 months’ time between the end of Secret Wars and the beginning of this. In that gap, all sorts of events may have occurred for any number of characters, so those that might be familiar to you – even from the final issue of Secret Wars – may be in a new situation.
As for how we strike a balance between being new, different while also familiar, on the one hand we don’t want the Marvel Universe to feel alien to people; particularly for those following our comic books for many many years. But that being said, we still want to surprise, shock and thrill readers, retailers and fans like we’ve always done when we’re on our game and doing our best.
Nrama: In a press release today it was described as a “spectacular universe that truly represents the marvelous world outside your window!” Do you consider that an editorial change from the pre-Secret Wars Marvel Universe and either way, can you more specifically explain what that means?
Brevoort: Regarding that specific line of the press release, it’s no real change from what we’ve done in the past. Certainly we have always striven to make stories relatable to the world we live in, and put our characters in situations where they have to grapple with real world problems and social situations that, while it has super powers and what have you, is something real people deal with.
Nrama: But what about that “world outside your window” mantra in regards to the visible diversification of characters?
Brevoort: Marvel has a history of being on the forefront and vanguard of diversity in comic books going back to our roots in the 1960s. Over the past couple years, we’ve made a concentrated effort to better reflect the sum total of people in all of the world in our books. That’s an ongoing process, and the sort of thing where if you try to do it all at once it feels artificial forced and fake to people.
So it’s a process, like introducing one character of a particular orientation, background or description, then slowly another. We’re doing this deliberately with a certain amount of focus over the past few years. And certainly, coming out of Secret Wars and into All-New All-Different Marvel gives us the opportunity to do more of that, while also putting characters back on the canvas and changing up some of the leading superstars in a way that may tap into a new portion of the audience.
Newsarama: In one of his interviews, Axel talked about Marvel moving towards more of a “seasons” approach to publishing. Is All-New All-Different Marvel the start of that or more of a continuation of a direction you’re already moving towards?
Brevoort: I think Axel is speaking about what he sees as the zeitgeist of the marketplace. Marvel doesn’t operate on a “one size fits all” model, however. We react to what readers, retailers and fans respond best to. It’s become more apparent over the years that the days of long, 400 issue runs, for all of the nostalgia it holds particularly amongst older readers, don’t seem to be the way it functions today. You can rail against that, or realize that media changes.
It’s not a “one size fits all” model, but it’s much more difficult to sustain a longer run by one creative team. It doesn’t mean that’s not going to happen, because Brian Michael Bendis does it pretty much every time he steps on a book, but other creators haven’t been so fortunate. We continue to create with that in mind.
This isn’t necessarily a moment where everything suddenly changes; it’s kind of been that direction for a while. But with the end of the Marvel Universe and the Ultimate Universe, Secret Wars, and then a new Marvel U with All-New All-Different Marvel, it gives us a unique moment to plant a flag to signal to people looking to get onboard that this is a great place to jump in.
I don’t know what it means more or less than that. Whomever the creators are that are writing and drawing in the first month, it doesn’t mean necessarily that they won’t be doing it 12 months later, or 24 or 36. The same is true for Iron Man, the Hulk, Fantastic Four or whomever.
Nrama: You mentioned the Fantastic Four there; are you inferring that the Fantastic Four has a place in All-New All Different Marvel?
Brevoort: I don’t know that you should take that to mean anything while we still have five more issues of Secret Wars to go.
Nrama: Point taken. Getting back to seasons and as you say the end of the idea of high-numbered series, as a long-time fan yourself that understands other long-time fans, will you miss the era of long-running series at all?
Brevoort: Yes and no. And this is a question you grapple with as you work in this business. It’s different for me than someone working in the world. Out in the world there’s an emotional connection, tied into nostalgia, time and effort devoted to book. It’s different for me, as I have to follow what the marketplace demands. I can wax nostalgically about a series getting to issue #600, but what’s most important to me is what’s inside the book: the actual story.
Issue numbers are, to a certain degree, a confidence trick coined by someone back in the 1930s to put issue numbers rather than just dates like most other magazines had and continue to have. It’s a false thing; as far as the number goes, there’s no real specific difference between #100, #99 or #64, other than what we choose to invest in it.
What I want is great material – great stories – that is informed by the past but looks to the future. If I have good comic books, I’m not worried about what number it is.
I certainly understand all of the complaints about how it makes filing and storing books or shopping for back issues more difficult; those are legitimate concerns, but that’s not at the forefront of my concerns. My chief concern is making sure Marvel makes the money it needs to make so that our editorial crew can continue to do a good job, that the talent can be happy, that the lights will stay on and that we get to continue what we do.
I’ve long since come to grips with the fact that issue numbers are going to roll over.
Nrama: Let’s get into the two teaser images released thus far. First of all, of all characters, why does Iron Man appear front and center in both? What’s the message there? He’s always been a prominent character, but you seem to be saying he’s the character right now..?
Brevoort: I think Iron Man’s prominence is something pretty much everybody who encounters Marvel in every other medium already knows. While the masked head of Spider-Man has historically been most associated with Marvel as a defacto mascot, in the last ten years in every field outside of publishing Iron Man is Marvel Comics. If you’re talking about the people who see the films, buy the t-shirts or merchandise, watch the television shows, it all comes back to Shellhead. We’re going to make a concerted effort with All-New All-Different Marvel to make Iron Man the forefront of the comic books’ universe as it is elsewhere.
The Iron Man movie was the spine that the Marvel Cinematic Universe grew out of it. Once you look globally, Iron Man the character is Marvel’s Mickey Mouse. I Hate to put it that way, but no disrespect to Mickey. When people think of Marvel and not steeped in our world of comic books, they think of Robert Downey Jr. and Iron Man.
Nrama: OK, getting past Iron Man there in the teaser images, some characters are noticeably absent - Odinson, the Hulk, Captain Marvel, not to mention Sue and Reed (although the Thing Is there in a Guardians of the Galaxy uniform and the Human Torch is confirmed to be with the Inhumans)… is their absence an indication they’ll be playing smaller roles for the All-New All Different Marvel, or would including them give stuff away?
Brevoort: It’s not quite “one size fits all.” We could’ve had three dozen characters in those images and still not included everyone. We’ve done these kind of promotional images every year for the past four or five years, but this is the first year we did two – and it’s because we had so much. But with only a finite amount of space available, you run the gamut.
Axel did mention that there is in fact a new wrinkle on the Hulk, so maybe showing the All-New Hulk would give away more than what we want to do right now.
In other cases, it may just be that the character is the character and there was not enough room. David Marquez draws comic books for us, not thousands and thousands of figures other than to say they’re all great characters.
Nrama: As you said, Axel did mention that the Hulk will no longer be Bruce Banner. Any more you can say there on who the Hulk is – or isn’t?
Brevoort: It won’t be Axel. [laughs] I have no claim beyond that.
Nrama: So any other member of Marvel editorial could be a possibility.
Brevoort: [laughs] Yes.
Nrama: Axel said Spider-Gwen will still inhabit her own world, but crossover with the Marvel Universe from time to time. Fair to say then, multiple universes/realities/dimensions will be reestablished after the Secret Wars smoke clears?
Brevoort: You’re asking a good question but I don’t want to give an answer while there’s five more issues of Secret Wars to go.
Nrama: But do you stand behind what Axel said?
Brevoort: I cannot confirm anything. I may have even lied about Axel not being the Hulk. [laughs]
Nrama: Speaking of identities, Citizen V is an interesting inclusion. Can readers assume ala Ronin that his or her identity is intended as a secret for now, or is it Baron Zemo?
Brevoort: I think in the same sort of way, these are teasers meant to generate speculation. We will answer in due time who they are, what their appearance in the teasers mean, and what the future holds for them. I don’t want to give answers for the teasers.
And for that matter, I wouldn’t assume anyone else in the teasers are who you assume they are.
Nrama: So assuming Iron Man is still Tony Stark is out?
Brevoort: I will not confirm or deny who he is.
Nrama: But you did just say “he,” denoting a male – so that narrows it down somewhat if its not Tony. Can I confirm that?
Brevoort: [laughs] Yes.
Nrama: I want to get back to Citizen V. Although you weren’t the editor when Citizen V originally debuted, you were the one when the character returned in the debut of Thunderbolts in 1997. Can or should fans look to the prominence of Citizen V here as a sign of the Thunderbolts returning on the horizon?
Brevoort: That’s certainly the natural conclusion, but the correct conclusion remains to be seen.
This is kind of where it becomes tough. These teasers makes people want to know what it all means, but we don’t want to show our cards just yet. By all means, speculate, think, wonder, fear, quake. More information will come in due time.
Nrama: You sound like you’d be a good poker player, Tom. [laughs]
Brevoort: We dealt with something similar with Thunderbolts back in 1997, when nobody knew who he was or that they were the Masters of Evil. Keeping that secret for a time worked out pretty well.
Nrama: OK. In the teasers, there’s a few surprising and newish characters– Inferno, Red Wolf, Dr. Spectrum, but assuming that X-23 in Wolverine clothes, no literal whole cloth new characters. Will readers be getting anything brand spanking new?
Brevoort: Yes, as part of All-New All-Different Marvel absolutely. There’s not necessarily a point to showing a new character in a teaser because fans would be like, “who is that person no one recognizes?” and it would be unsatisfying. But yes, some brand spanking new characters are on the Marvel horizon.
Nrama: Will they be heroes and protagonists?
Brevoort: There will be those as lead characters or protagonists as you say, but also others.
Nrama: Anything you can say about Doctor Strange’s axe or why Karnak is grim and gritty beside “wait until October”?
Brevoort: Wait until October! [laughs] The last we saw Karnak he had recently escaped from inside Lineage, so “grim and gritty” might not be the best place for him but “bright and rainbow-y.”
Nrama: I’m sure you’re read some online reaction. Anything in the images fans aren’t paying much attention to but should?
Brevoort: Honestly I haven’t seen as much reaction as I normally would. I saw stuff regarding the first one, but the second one came out and I haven’t had a chance. In this conversation I think of the 23 characters in the teasers we’ve talked about 22, so it’s pretty well covered.
Nrama: For that #23, should readers take the censored sign over Rocket Raccoon’s gesture to mean anything? [laughs]
Brevoort: [laughs] That’s just Rocket being Rocket.
Nrama: Ok let’s flip the question. Is there anything or anyone not in the images that fans should still look out for?
Brevoort: Real answer is that there are dozens not in the two images who are going to play key, crucial roles. You’ll see them reasonably soon, then relatively soon, then soon. But there’s nobody specifically I’d point to except pay attention to Doom in Secret Wars.
Nrama: Finally and more generally, it was also called an “absolute game changer.” Thing being a Guardian, the Hulk being not being Banner. Those are player changes. The intersection of multiple realities has been territory the Avengers and Spider-Man have played in recent years, so how does this change the game on the fundamental level?
Brevoort: For all the familiar things in the world coming, it’s an All-New Marvel Universe. This is kind of the beginning of the next 50 to 75 years of stuff that we do. It represents our best and brightest putting their best ideas onto the table. Hopefully the breadth and span of it will be enticing to all facets of readers, regardless of what their interest in comic books happen to be. I don’t know if it seems earth-shattering enough as we’ve done degrees of this in the past, but not on this scale with Secret Wars. All-New All-Different Marvel is theoretically a once in a 75-year lifetime kind of situation.