When making a list of the most prolific comic book writers, it's hard to ignore all the work being done by Brian Reed these days. Not only is the writer involved in every aspect of Marvel's Secret Invasion from Spider-Man to Ms. Marvel, but he's the architect of the surprising new direction for Dynamite's Red Sonja.
This week sees the beginning of his new mini-series Secret Invasion: Front Line, an examination of the Skrull invasion through the eyes of the regular citizens in the Marvel Universe. Featuring the pencils of newcomer Marco Castiello (discovered through the recent Chesterquest talent search), Front Line continues the thread started with the Civil War: Front Line and World War Hulk: Front Line series by telling a Ben Urich newspaper story for the Front Line paper, but expands upon it a little by just telling stories of the invasion's "front line" itself.
Last time Newsarama talked to Reed about the series, he told us he doesn't know if he was a good enough writer to tell this story -- until now. Feeling he has grown as a writer, Reed is now taking a leap into a story angle he hasn't explored before.
In the first installment of our discussion with Brian Reed about all his work, we discuss Secret Invasion: Front Line, the challenge of writing what it's like to still be amazed by superheroes, and the obvious Skrull "tell" of unshelled peanuts.
Use the arrows on the upper right image to cylce through and preview the first six pages of Secret Invasion: Front Line #1.
Newsarama: Brian, you're doing two Secret Invasion series. How is Secret Invasion: Front Line different from Secret Invasion: Spider-Man?
Brian Reed: Oh, it's the polar opposite. All the fun and goofiness is gone. This is a look at the impact of the invasion on the Marvel Universe itself through the stories of regular people.
NRAMA: Kind of a street's eye view?
BR: My pitch has always been that it's the Secret Invasion as seen by you and I -- people without superpowers, people without any hope of fighting this thing off as it's happening. And people whose only solution to the problem is to run and hide. And in the middle of this invasion, it turns out running is not an option. So it's seeing these people on the ground, in the street, stuff blowing up around them, aliens in the sky, and this is what their day is.
My example for it has always been you and I see every night about bombs going off on the roadside in Iraq. But it doesn't really mean anything to us. We think it does, but if you're driving to work tomorrow and a bomb goes off and blows up the car in front of you, you're experience of that is going to be 1000 percent different than hearing about it on TV. The people of the Marvel Universe hear about Spider-Man fighting Doctor Octopus and the Fantastic Four beating Galactus -- they hear about all this stuff -- but they don't necessarily see it. New York is a big place. The world is a big place. There aren't superheroes everywhere. And even though they see it on the news, they don't always experience it. This time, they experience it.
NRAMA: That sounds a lot different from what you've written in the Marvel Universe before. What's been the biggest challenge for you in writing this series?
BR: Because we see the superheroes from the person's point of view, the biggest trick is reminding the reader that, you’re used to seeing a guy who can climb on walls, you're used to seeing someone who can fly, you're used to laser beams shooting out of eyeballs. These folks we're looking at right now are not used to this. The challenge is making it feel as big and as super as it is.
NRAMA: How do you do that as a writer? Comics readers have imagined themselves in that world a million times, and they're usually cheering the superheroes or very familiar with them. How do you portray this in a way that we can relate to and understand on an emotional level?
BR: Well, let me give you an example. The opening of the first issue is a cab driver talking about the night before the invasion, when he catches his girlfriend screwing around with his best friend. He's mad about it, he leaves the apartment, and he's driving away. And all of the sudden, Spider-Man and Menace fall out of the sky and crash into the hood of his car.
Now, in a Spider-Man comic, at this point, Spider-Man starts cracking jokes, he's punching Menace, he's talking to the guy in the cab to make sure he's OK. In this, Spider-Man doesn't say a word, Menace doesn't say a word, and all we're hearing is the cab driver's point of view. He was so shocked, he didn't notice what they were doing. He just knows these two god-things fell out of the sky onto his car. And he's relaying things like, "I think he asked if I was OK." And then they were gone, just like that.
And what we see is the real impact on this life. He rents this cab or his job, and now he's got to pay back for the damages. For him, it goes from being this, "Oh my God! What just happened?!" to, "My life is ruined. Thanks." And Spider-Man is there for six panels, but this guy's life goes on.
NRAMA: So you're really showing an impact on the Marvel Universe but at an up-close level?
BR: Yeah. And it's been a trick of getting moments like that in so when Ben Urich goes into Times Square and sees what's going on in Secret Invasion #3, we see it from this little guy on the ground's point of view. I'm trying to always tell it from that little guy on the ground's point of view and not letting it be, "Oh look! Superhero action!" but instead, "Oh my God! What's happening?"
NRAMA: And showing the ramifications on his formerly normal life.
NRAMA: But now, we've seen mostly superheroes being replaced by Skrulls. Are they also targeting normal people on the street?
BR: There are definitely some cases of normal people being replaced too. And I'm talking about the guy you just passed on the sidewalk.
NRAMA: So it doesn't have to be Dum Dum Dugan -- it could be Joe Blow who lives next door?
NRAMA: But wouldn't a Skrull have to have a reason to do that? Or is it just random placement of Skrulls?
BR: A lot of it is random confusion. A lot of it is being able to be someplace that you couldn't be if you weren't this guy. Bob from Accounting is just Bob. But if Accounting is in a business that's inside Stark Tower, that's a place you might want Bob to be.
NRAMA: But Mrs. Bob is really freaking out right now.
BR: Yes. [laughs]
NRAMA: Bob used to unshell his peanuts, and suddenly he's eating the shells.
BR: [laughs] It's part of what Ivan Brandon's doing with his story in the webcomic he's doing on Marvel.com.
NRAMA: Yeah! The webcomic and the viral marketing on Myspace with the young girl.
BR: Yeah. It's just this girl's brother. And why did they replace him? Once it can be anybody at all, it's now 3000 percent scarier.
NRAMA: Now with Front Line, is the framework of it the newspaper, like in past Front Line series?
BR: At the beginning of the story, Ben Urich is doing a story for Front Line. And then the invasion hits, and Front Line begins to mean you're on the front line of the war.
NRAMA: And you're working with this brand new Italian artist that C.B. Cebulski found during Chesterquest, right?
BR: Yes and the art is amazing. I was just looking at the art from Issue #2 colored, and I spent like, half an hour flipping back and forth through it. It's amazing. That's the biggest thing. I know people have seen a couple pages of preview art, but I don't think they truly appreciate what they're in for with that issue. You can take all my words off the page and it would be worth buying. I'd still buy it.
NRAMA: This story seems like it's a really different style for you, isn't it?
BR: Oh yeah. And my big argument, always, whenever I come up with any idea is, why is this worth three dollars? What would make me as a customer pick it up and pay for it? And if it's just another comic with guys in tights punching each other, I don't care. With this, it's a story that we've kind of seen before with Marvels, but it's something we haven't seen in awhile, and it's something we haven't seen in this scope. So to me, that was interesting enough to pitch it, and it was apparently interesting enough for Marvel to buy it. And my goal is to make it interesting enough that everyone else will be glad they bought it too.