80 years of Marvel Comics history is celebrated, explored, and expounded upon in August 28's Marvel Comics #1000.
Although there haven't been 999 issues of Marvel Comics as a title before that, there have been thousands of Marvel Comics issues - and this unique project is an anthology of interlocking one-page stories that will act as "a long-form mystery... intertwined with some meditations on what makes [Marvel] heroes tick" according to lead writer Al Ewing.
Ewing will be joined by a host of other current and past Marvel Comics creators - 80 teams, in fact - to crisscross Marvel lore, even including licensed characters like Conan and Star Wars' Darth Vader.
Marvel pitched the project to Ewing as a puzzle - and if you've read the writer's work on things such as You Are Deadpool, you know he likes puzzles. Newsarama spoke with Ewing about this unique project, putting it all together, and celebrating 80 years of history - while creating some new history of his own.
Newsarama: Al, this Marvel Comics #1000 (and now #1001) project seems immense - and I'm told you're a bit of a ringleader, opening it up, closing it out, and doing some bits inbetween. How would you describe your role in all of this?
Al Ewing: I'm providing what we're calling the "spine" of the book - where everyone else is doing one page, I'm doing a long-form mystery story made up of one-pagers. Individually, the single pages work as mini-stories in their own right, but the real story comes when you put them together and see the big picture spread out through Marvel history, intertwined with some meditations on what makes our heroes tick, as provided by some of the other Marvel writers, and with plenty of super-fun done-in-one single-page stories. It's a party, after all, so there's plenty of fun baked in.
Nrama: Let's back up a bit - how were you first presented with the idea to do Marvel Comics #1000... or was it something you came up with?
Ewing: I did not come up with it - I was sent an email by [Marvel Senior VP of Publishing/Executive Editor] Tom Brevoort with his thinking on the project so far, so I knew it was going to be eighty pages of one-pagers, and it was going to need a narrative spine, and he basically pitched it to me as a puzzle to solve. Which is a good way to get me to do something - I like puzzles, I like storytelling challenges, I like putting pieces of continuity together and making big, fun things out of them.
Nrama: How baked-in was the concept before you got involved, and did you contribute any tweaks outside of just what you did with the story?
Ewing: The baking process had begun - Tom and [Marvel Chief Creative Officer] Joe Quesada had had a conversation about what they wanted out of it, and Tom presented those things to me to see how many of them I could fit in.
It was Tom who suggested, as a possibility, doing a page for every year of Marvel's publishing history - which I jumped on immediately, because that sounded ridiculous and wonderful - and he asked about various other things, like bringing in a brand-new character, and asking a question of Marvel's heroes, and one or two other things that are a bit spoiler-y. So I had a list of ingredients he wanted me to make the cake out of, so to speak, but they were all things he wanted the book to achieve rather than plot points.
Nrama: And the story is about something called the Eternity Mask. Can
you tell us about that? Is it related to the Marvel character, Eternity?
Ewing: Almost definitely! It'd be a bit weird if there wasn't some relation. The Eternity Mask is the macguffin of the mystery, and it's actually got a pretty cool power that I'm not sure has come up in Marvel before - in fact, I'm struggling to think of a super hero who's had this particular power. (Which doesn't mean much - if I've learned one thing from this project, it's that there are an awful lot of goofy Golden Age guys with strange, oddball powers floating around.)
One thing I will say - the explanation for the Eternity Mask is new to Marvel, but if you're a long-lived or well-read Marvelite, you've seen the mask itself many, many, many times...
Nrama: Hmm.. just speculation, but you could look at the right side of Eternity's face as a mask.
Marvel Comics #1000 is a symbolic tribute to Marvel's 80-year history. How are you working that in without it being a history lesson?
Ewing: There are little slugs of information peppered throughout, so history does have a place. But mainly, we're going a more symbolic route - as the story winds its way through the Marvel universe, it touches a lot of characters in publication order - but it also bounces back and forth through time, revealing small details pretty much as the investigators working on the case find out about them. You kind of have to see how we do it for yourself.
Nrama: Solicits say a "a new player will make their startling debut". Can you say anything about who they are?
Ewing: It's all to do with that mask! They've got a name we've seen before - a name that's been missing from Marvel for a very long time.
Nrama: Big picture, what are your goals with this project?
Ewing: I hope we've told a good story, first and foremost. I hope we've brought in a new character - or characters, plural - that other writers will be excited about including in their stories. And I hope people come away from this special having had a good time - from what I've seen so far, it's a pretty meaty stew we've ended up with, though, so I don't think the readers are going to be disappointed.