Mark Waid is an expert at Marvel lore - even hosting convention panels where fans and fellow pros try to stump him on arcana bits of 616 (and other history). And after decades of adding to that mythos here and there, and referencing in his stories, he is now getting a chance to write the whole darn thing.
Beginning July 24, the six-issue The History of the Marvel Universe will cover it all - from the beginning of the beginning to the end of it all. Like sneaking a peek at a Watcher's diary, it's all being covered by Waid, artist Javier Rodriguez, and the guiding hand of Marvel Executive Editor (and fellow Marvel historian) Tom Brevoort.
But this isn't won't be a dry encyclopedia entry, but a nuanced story touching on every corner of the Marvel U - reliving historic moments, giving some new facets, and adding a few pieces of its own.
Think you know the origins of Iron Man, the Fantastic Four, or the Punisher? They're revisiting those and revealing something new.
Do you remember the Marvel icon Tuk the Caveboy and all he did for Marvel U? Of course you didn't.
But you will.
Just one week out from the book's debut, Waid spoke with Newsarama about the origins of this massive undertaking, the full scope of it all, and where this ranks for Mark Waid with his other Marvel work.
Newsarama: Mark, there have been series that revisited portions of Marvel’s past before, but a story that tells the entire history of the Marvel Universe is unique. How did this series come about?
Mark Waid: Honestly? Like most of my favorite Marvel gigs, Tom Brevoort asked me. He and I are both continuity geeks who talk about this sort of thing all the time, so it's a passion project for both of us.
Nrama: How literally are we meant to take The History of the Marvel Universe? Is this a core-Marvel Universe, in-canon telling?
Waid: Completely, wholly, totally. This is canon, and the entire Marvel Research Team of Jeff Christiansen, Anthony Cotilletta, Kevin Garcia, Daron Jensen, Rob London, Mike O'Sullivan, Jacob Rougemont, and Stuart Vandal are keeping us honest with meticulous notes and corrections to reconcile some conflicting sources of info. Big props to those folks. Couldn't do it without them, and their lengthy end-of-each-issue annotations section is invaluable.
Nrama: You’ve got 6 issues to boil down 80 years of stories. How did you go about breaking things down in those terms?
Waid: Tom Brevoort originally sent me a rough page-by-page outline of events, which I followed pretty closely at first. As we went on, at one point or another one of us (including artist Javier Rodriguez) realized we'd overlooked this character or that event, so there's definitely been some nipping and tucking along the way.
Nrama: The solicitation for The History of the Marvel Universe #1 seems to suggest this series will go all the way back to the literal beginning of the Marvel Universe. Is this harkening back to that Galactus/birth of the Universe beginning I believe John Byrne created, or something else? What goes down as this series kicks off?
Waid: When we say "History," we mean it all - from the Big Bang to the heat-death of the Marvel Universe. It's not just a list of characters or events - it places each moment in official chronological history for the first time.
Nrama: Is there anything this series will touch that may surprise readers?
Waid: We made a pact going in that there'd be some pieces of new information in every issue. Sometimes it's minor - -you'd be surprised how significant Tuk the Caveboy really was - and sometimes it's major, as in issue two, where we reveal a previously unknown (but now in canon) secret that puts a new light on the origins of Iron Man, the Fantastic Four, the Punisher, and a few others.
Nrama: Javier Rodriguez is drawing The History of the Marvel Universe. What makes him the ideal artist to encapsulate the story of Marvel Comics?
Waid: Oh, my God, is this guy doing the heavy lifting. His imagination is incredible. His sense of design is awesome. And he loves Marvel. No one's ever seen anything like this work.
Nrama: You must be depicting some iconic Marvel moments. What’s your favorite thing he’s drawn for this series so far?
Waid: This one's a tough question, because there's just so much magic here. There's a page in #3 that shows the origin of Spider-Man in about the most clever way I've ever seen.
Nrama: On that same note, you’ve got covers from Steve McNiven, who has drawn some big moments in Marvel history in his own right. What makes Steve’s art the right fit to be the ‘face’ of The History of the Marvel Universe?
Waid: I've known Steve since our days together at Crossgen Comics, and he's always been spectacular. The way he deliberately evokes styles of different Marvel artists through history while keeping the work clearly his own is amazing.
Nrama: Is there a through-line to this historical document that readers should look for as it goes on?
Waid: There is a framing device, yes. We wanted it to be a story, not just a long Wikipedia entry. As established in Jonathan Hickman's Fantastic Four run, there comes a point when Galactus and Franklin Richards stand together at the end of time, and now we get to see exactly what they were doing there.
Nrama: Will this story set the stage for people who are new to Marvel to jump in to contemporary stories?
Nrama: To me this harkens back to Marv Wolfman and George Perez' The History of the DC Universe, and knowing you I have to think you'd be hyper-aware of that. How much of that, and that format, weighed on you in doing this for Marvel?
Waid: It's similar, to the point where I wrote to Marv and received his blessing, but the look and feel of the pages is wholly unique. No page is simply a collection of spot illustrations; each one tells a story in itself.
Nrama: Bottom line, what does it mean to be telling the history of the Marvel Universe in one document at this time?
Waid: It's incredibly daunting and a whole lot of work - you try distilling "Fall of the Mutants" down to one paragraph, smart guy - but it's one of my favorite things I've ever had the luck to be working on.