Tom Brevoort has been at Marvel Comics for more than two decades, and has seen a whole lot of change in that time. So there might not be anyone within the company more qualified to speak of the scope and scale of their latest initiative — "Marvel NOW!" — which Brevoort calls a "big shift for pretty much the entirety of the Marvel publishing line."
In a conversation with Newsarama, Brevoort discussed the reasons behind the revamp, along with providing much more detail about the first three announced series, Uncanny Avengers, All-New X-Men and a relaunched Avengers.
Specifically, Brevoort clarified that New Avengers — announced Thursday as relaunching in January 2013 from the creative team of Jonathan Hickman and Steve Epting — will continue, along with Secret Avengers and Avengers Assemble, those creative teams for those books have yet to be announced. Avengers, as noted, will launch with art from Jerome Opeña, before transitioning to Adam Kubert, then Dustin Weaver, then Mike Deodato.
Our full conversation with Brevoort, Marvel's senior vice president of publishing, follows.
Newsarama: Tom, as someone who has been at Marvel for more than 20 years at this point, how do you compare the scale of "Marvel NOW!" to other big changes during your tenure at the company?
Tom Brevoort: Certainly, it's a big change. Have there been bigger changes? There certainly have been similar changes, and different things over the years where big chunks of the Marvel Universe have shifted around all at once. I don't know if I could legitimately say, "There's been no bigger change." That just seems like empty hype to me.
That said, this is substantially a pretty big shift for pretty much the entirety of the Marvel publishing line. It's going to look and feel and read and be different once we get to that point in the post-AvX world than it was before, and hopefully that will be interesting and exciting to people, the same way it's interesting and exciting to us.
Nrama: Just in terms of the number of new or relaunched series, it has to be among the biggest at Marvel within one initiative — it's something like 15 to 20 books?
Brevoort: I don't have a concrete number. Even now it's tending to shift a little bit. We just did a retreat, and one or two things changed slightly there. I'm guessing more than 20 — more than 20 titles changing and shifting around, and going through some manner of alteration and rebirth and renewal. It's a pretty significant thing.
Nrama: This is something we talked about a lot last year with Fear Itself, and is relevant once again. Has it been tricky to promote what comes after Avengers vs. X-Men, especially something as large as this, without spoiling the actual ending of the story?
Brevoort: Somewhat. The difference here is that, more than anything, what we have to hang our hat on is the fact that we've got creators in significant and new places. Even if we don't tell you a heck of a lot about what's going on in X-Men, and that's not to say we're not going to, just saying, "Brian Bendis is now going to be writing X-Men," that's a massive thing for people. And saying Jonathan Hickman is going to be writing Avengers — nobody else has written the main Avengers book other than Brian for the last eight or nine years. Saying Rick Remender is going to be doing Uncanny Avengers — even if we don't say anything much more than that, we have plenty of things to talk about. So the actual story beats and things at the end of AvX, we kind of have the ability to jockey around some things that we don't want to talk about, because there are other things we can speak of in almost every case.
Nrama: With major change coming to Marvel after AvX, it begs the question, is the change to the Marvel Universe itself more like one after, say, Secret Invasion, when Norman Osborn was in charge of national security and much of the books reflected that under the "Dark Reign" banner, or one like post-House of M with "no more mutants"?
Brevoort: I'll say this: There's no reboot, there's no reworking of time. We're not doing anything like that. Certainly at the end of AvX, things will have changed for a bunch of the characters, having gone through this big, massive story that we're telling. Some of the landscape of the Marvel Universe will be different. It won't be different in exactly the same way it was after Secret Invasion, or the same way it was at the end of House of M.
It's not just where the characters themselves will be, it's the people that are in the driver's seat, especially in the case of things like Avengers, who have been in one set of creative hands for so long. There are now long-time fans, people who have been reading comics for seven or eight years, who have never read Avengers except under Brian. This is a huge change, not that Jonathan Hickman is any better or worse than Brian, but what he does is different. Many of our creators are in different places, so suddenly you have a different outlook on the X-Men, a different outlook on the Avengers, and a different approach to the stories that are being told there. Hopefully, that's just interesting and exciting. I want to see what Brian and Stuart do to, and with, and about, the X-Men. I know that he's going to bring as energizing and radical and probably divisive an approach to taking on X-Men as he did eight years ago to Avengers, and that was terrifying to some —including myself at points — and it was also incredibly energizing, and Avengers benefitted phenomenally from that. The hope is that people will just be excited and interesting to see these guys doing stuff.
Uncanny Avengers is effectively the bridge book. It's the first book off the boat. But it's also the bridge book between the world of Avengers and X-Men and a very new sort of relationship that we have going forward in the Marvel U, post-AvX. And that hopefully is interesting to people — getting to see some characters and some relationships and some things that we really haven't seen, or haven't seen in a million years. It's less about, now Thor is three-legged and Iron Man can't fly, or whatever particular thing there happens to be. It's not like there's none of that, but really, to me, the more interesting and exciting part is, it's a creative renewal.
Nrama: So with so many long-running runs at Marvel ending, will there be a few that remain intact?
Brevoort: It's not an absolute thing. There are a couple of books that are in the hands of guys that have had them for a significant amount of time who will still have them. Those choices were made on a case-by-case basis, and a creator-by-creator basis. None of this was forced on anybody, and it was all predicated by a couple of guys getting to the point where they felt like it was time for a change.
Brian had been starting to feel like it was getting time to wrap up Avengers before he overstayed his welcome. He's very conscious of wanting to go out on top and leave the stage before people want to take the hook out and pull him off the stage. The fact that he was at least starting to think that way got us thinking, "What would be exciting for Brian to do?" Going to him and saying, "Would you be interested in doing X-Men?" and starting to have that conversation, was a cool thing. The flipside of that is, if Brian is coming off of Avengers, then we've got to spend some time thinking about, "Who is going to do Avengers? Who can be that guy?" Once you land on that, it's like dominos — if Jon's going to do Avengers, well, he's not going to do Fantastic Four. Who's going to do Fantastic Four? It wasn't like an absolute, "Everybody must give up the thing that they're doing." The idea here is to make the books better, not just to make them different. So we didn't really want creative change for the sake of creative change.
Nrama: It sounds like things might have started out organically to a degree, with a few creators all winding down their long-term stories at around the same time.
Brevoort: There was a decent critical mass. And once we started talking to the group of creators in aggregate, as tends to be the case, at first everyone's sort of shocked, and panicky, and looking around, and then they all got excited about the possibilities. What stuff do you want to do? What kinds of stories do you want to tell? What characters do you want to play with that you haven't played with yet? It just became a process of figuring out where everyone fits, where everything goes. It took a little while to set it all up.I'm focusing more on the writers because that's the easier thing, because of the fact that we're putting out so many titles, and many of them are shipping more than 12 times a month. Artists being on a title for a really long run of time, other than a couple of guys like Salvador Larroca, there really aren't too many of those. But this is an artistic switch as well. It's not like Stuart Immonen has ever done X-Men on a regular basis before, so that's cool. It's not like Jerome Opeña has ever done Avengers. That's cool and interesting, too. Certainly John Cassaday drawing anything is a pretty big deal, so that's a win as well. It's a very creator-based and creator-oriented movement, even more than it is a story movement.
Nrama: So will "Marvel NOW!" include some creators that have been around but might be new to Marvel, or perhaps folks who haven't been at Marvel in a while?
Brevoort: You'll see a little of that, probably more on the artist side. Not just Cassaday, there's a few other things yet to come. So there will definitely be some creators who either you haven't seen around Marvel's parts in while, or you haven't seen at Marvel before.We have a really good bench of talent, and at the end of the day, only so many books. So it's not like there were that many open berths, quite honestly. There are some guys that are coming in, and it's always good to refresh our world, and bring new guys into it, but at the same time, a lot of our methodology has always been finding great creators, bring them into the fold, and then sort of building them and elevating them from project to project. Rick is a good example. Rick came in, and was doing Punisher, and then did Uncanny X-Force, and Venom, and Secret Avengers, and now he's doing Uncanny Avengers. There's a real deliberate escalation, because he's done well at every level, and found success. Readers are excited about what he's doing. The drive is always, "What can we do to make more of that?" and put him in a position to do bigger and greater things. That tends to be our trajectory.
Nrama: Let's talk about Uncanny Avengers a bit. The natural reaction some fans will have is, well, we've already seen Wolverine as an Avenger for years, plus Beast, and Storm recently, too — what makes Uncanny Avengers distinctly different than that, and the book that is kicking off "Marvel NOW!"?
Brevoort: It's the first book for a couple of reasons. One, it's new. Two, it's a direct outgrowth of where AvX winds up. We've seen mutant characters, even going back to Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch, on Avengers many times over the years, but really the world of the Avengers and the world of the X-Men at a certain point in the '90s diverged, to the point where it almost seemed like they were living in two separate universes. They would show up, they would cameo, they would have team-ups, but generally speaking, those two worlds didn't intersect too much. In the post-AvX world, we are making it a mission to not have that be the case.
Uncanny Avengers is at the forefront of that. It is an Avengers title, but it is an Avengers title that has one foot in each of those worlds. They're as likely to be fighting Apocalypse as the Red Skull.
In AvX #1, on the beach, Captain America and Cyclops have a fairly frank discussion about the fact that whenever the X-Men seem to be going through hard times, the Avengers are nowhere to be seen. Cap's point of view was, we were respecting you, and we were staying out of your way, and we were letting you deal with the stuff you had to deal with, and we were always there to lend a hand. But by the end of AvX, and the things that happen during the course of it, and the place we're at, his point of view on that has somewhat changed. He realizes, for good or ill, "Maybe there's more we could do." And this is something, honestly, the fans talk about all the time, too. "Where do the Avengers allow there to be such mutant hatred? Why don't they come out and take a stand, and lend their weight to the cause?" So Uncanny Avengers is really all about that. The Avengers, and their point of view, and the things that they've learned and experienced, changing their outlook, and finding a way to try to reach across the aisle, and to embrace the mutant side of the Marvel Universe in a meaningful way. Whether that'll be successful or unsuccessful, if nothing else, there will be a lot of things blowing up, and being thrown at once another, and zap bolts will fly.
It will also be cool because there are characters who are huge characters, who have been around for decades, and are beloved, that you really haven't seen interact in a meaningful way with one another. This is a place where a lot of that will get to play out. Rather than having another story with Cap, Thor and Iron Man — and there's nothing wrong with that, these are great characters, they interact terrifically — but there have been a lot of stories about that. There are not a lot of stories where Captain America and Havok interact in a meaningful way. So Uncanny Avengers will be a place where that sort of thing can happen.
Nrama: Taking a bit of a guess here because of the Remender connection, but is Uncanny Avengers taking the place of Secret Avengers?
Brevoort: It does not take the place of Secret Avengers. It is a new book. What will become of Secret Avengers, and who will be doing Secret Avengers, that's a story for another day.
Uncanny Avengers is a new group, they will have a very defined point of view, they will have a very defined mission statement within the Marvel Universe. That'll become clearer as we get closer to the end of AvX. It'll be a very "Rick Remender" book, so a lot of things will happen, and there will be a lot of personal drama and angst, and a lot of what Rick calls "power chord" moments. And the tremendously beautiful, flawless work of John Cassaday — it's great to see him back doing Marvel Comics again. You've seen Cass draw Captain America, you've seen Cass draw Astonishing X-Men, this is like seeing him draw all of that stuff, and more, in one place. There's no more hard sell I have to do at that point.
Nrama: Let's switch gears to Brian Michael Bendis and Stuart Immonen's All-New X-Men, which has an attention-getting hook of bringing the original X-Men into the present day.
Brevoort: Brian decided that if he was going to write X-Men, he had to start at the beginning. [Laughs.] He knew nothing, and he read X-Men #1 and went, "Great! I want to write that now."This will involve the legitimate, 1963, Stan Lee/Jack Kirby X-Men in the here and now. It's got a very cool core idea to it, which in essence is, starting back when Claremont and Byrne were doing the book, there have been all of these "Days of Future Past" stories, in which the X-Men get a glimpse — either by going there, or guys from the future have come back — and seen the world to come if the X-Men don't succeed and excel, if they give up the fight, the world will be an awful place for mutants. At this point, it occurred to us that if you took the original X-Men, and popped them out of where they are and dropped them down today, that would be, to them, like jumping into Days of Future Past. Good, bad or indifferent. Those characters, and their legacy, and all the stuff that surrounds them, have been through enormous changes. What would that do? How would they react? How does a 17-year-old/18-year-old sort of introverted, sort of uncertain of himself but growing into leadership Scott Summers, react and relate to the guy who's the general of the mutant army, that have been bunkered down in Utopia, almost like a militia. Is this where he thought he would be? And not just for Scott, for all these characters. They've been through a lot of stuff, and they're going to have different individual reactions to all of this, but for them, it's Days of Future Past. This is weird, and strange, and bad, and how did things get to here?
Nrama: It's funny because you had previously ruled out Jean Grey coming back during AvX and it turns out she is coming back, just directly after AvX, and not in the way people would have likely expected.
Brevoort: I've been kind of chuckling a little bit as the Jean Grey fans have been getting more and more outraged at the fact that I told them, "Jean is not coming back in AvX. She's not a part of it." Because from day one, I've known we're going to do this story. So there will in fact be a Jean Grey. It is the earliest Jean Grey. So the fans who have really come out in support of that character will get the thing they wished for, in a sense. And hopefully they'll like it, and probably there will be more campaigning — "How dare you do this?" And that's fine, too.
So, yes, there will be a Jean, and there will be a Warren Worthington — an Angel who remembers who he is, and didn't go crazy to try and go all Apocalypse and destroy the world, and hasn't sort of died and been reborn. And there will be a young Iceman who hasn't quite grown into his powers and himself yet, and there will be a non-furry Beast. It's definitely going to be an interesting story.
Nrama: It's the kind of story that at first seems like a miniseries or maybe an opening arc, but it appears that this is the plan going forward, right?
Brevoort: I don't want to say too much, but the stuff that comes out of it, the fact that the X-Men come here, and see the world, and go, "This is pretty weird;" that's not a six-issue story. The choices they make, the decisions they come to, what they decided that has to be done, that's the kickoff point, that's going to propel the X-Men titles as a whole for a good, long while. Without getting into the specifics, it's not a, "we have a little adventure with them and we're done." In the same way that "Avengers Disassembled" changed and informed every Avengers story that Brian wrote, this opening arc of All-New X-Men is going to have that same effect on probably years worth of X-Men stories.
Nrama: Then there's Avengers, which is said to be widening the membership base even further than it has been in recent years.
Brevoort: There's a little more to it than that. First of all, Jon is going to write both Avengers and New Avengers. Both of those titles exist. Avengers, the core Avengers title, will, like Amazing Spider-Man, come out twice a month.
Nrama: So there will be three Avengers books a month written by Jonathan Hickman?
Brevoort: Basically, almost every week of the month, there will be a Jon Hickman-written Avengers, and that's worth saying, because I want to make sure people get this information as well:, Jerome's drawing the first few issues, but then immediately after that, Adam Kubert, then immediately after that, Dustin Weaver, and then immediately after that, Mike Deodato. Those four guys are going to do the first 12 issues of the new Avengers book, which will come out in six months. As a series, Avengers is going to have the same kind of story velocity that AvX has had — or, if you look at in a different way, the same kind of series velocity that Fantastic Four has had, having two books, Fantastic Four and FF; except it'll all be that one book. And there will be another book that Jon is writing, that is also crucial to his Avengers world.
Nrama: Given how many unexpected characters have been members of the Avengers in recent years, are there really that many left that haven't been on the team yet?
Brevoort: [Laughs.] You would be so surprised.
It's all subject to change, because stories grow, and stories shrink, and things come up, but right now, Jonathan has 63 issues of Avengers figured out. So when we talk about, "he's got a master plan," the man has a master plan that will include a larger-than-normal roster of Avengers. The fact that the book comes out twice a month, we're going to be much more inclined to break the group up into smaller groups, and send four guys off on a mission here, and send three guys to do something over there, and not feel like everybody has to be in every story. There will be a big cast, but it'll really be for the biggest of big stories that you'll get everybody together.
There will be the predominant Avengers. It's a fair bet, I would say, that if you were in a major Marvel Studios motion picture this year, you will be represented in Avengers. There is a core of existing Avengers who will remain in Avengers even beyond that, even if you were not in a major Marvel motion picture. There will be other beloved Marvel characters who will be in Avengers, and there will be a swath of brand-spanking new characters that Jonathan is bringing in who will be Avengers. In typical Jon fashion, he has organized it into a series on concentric circles that make up the different spheres that each of these groups of characters occupy. It starts ostensibly small on the Avengers scale and small on the Jonathan scale, and it just gets bigger and bigger and bigger as you go, where every time you think, "That's as large as he can think," no, he's got another one next issue. And it all fits together. Everything that people loved about what he did on Fantastic Four and Secret Warriors and S.H.I.E.L.D. and for a short time on The Ultimates, it's going to be all of that and more. It's a really massive undertaking.
Nrama: So to recap: The team will consist of familiar Avengers, new characters, and existing Marvel characters who haven't yet been Avengers?
Brevoort: Yes. There will be a couple of characters who are around in the Marvel Universe that haven't been Avengers, there will be some characters who were Avengers in the past but haven't been around the book all that much, there will be characters like Carol Danvers as Captain Marvel — she wasn't in the movie, but she's a cool, solid, central Avengers character, so she'll be in the book. We end up by issue #12 at an active roster of about 18 guys. It's not like all 18 will be in every issue and every story, but the central premise of what Jonathan is doing, and where Avengers is after AvX, is the Avengers as an organization, and the Avengers leadership, has to think bigger. They need to think bigger, they need to get bigger, and think broader about what they're doing, and why they're doing it, and how they're doing it, so they're going to act upon this need, because in typical Hickman fashion, there's big stuff coming! AvX is sort of the tip of that. If the Avengers had been bigger and better and more prepared, maybe that situation would have played out in a different fashion from the get-go.
Nrama: So will New Avengers still be more of a street-level Avengers book, as it has been at times in the past?
Brevoort: No. New Avengers will have a new premise, a new hook, that once I tell you what it, you'll go, "Oh, of course, I see exactly what that is and how it fits in." But we're not ready to talk about it quite yet. We will get to New Avengers shortly, and it really is the yin and yang to Avengers.
The reason I bring it up is because it's all of a piece, and so that when I tell you, "Avengers is going to be coming out twice a month," people don't immediately go, "Oh, they're getting rid of New Avengers."
Nrama: Right, you're definitely taking a shrewd approach at anticipating responses to this news — especially since people would surely complain about a different artist coming on the book quickly after Opeña.
Brevoort: Yeah, "Oh, you lied, you told us it's going to be Jerome Opeña, but it's only Adam Kubert!" We are going to be doing our best to continue to stock Avengers with the crème de la crème of Marvel's artistic talent, and be able to put it on the shelves every other week.
Nrama: Will Avengers Assemble continue?
Brevoort: Yes, it will. See, people thought that was going away, too, but it's not. Avengers Assemble, too, will have new things, and you'll hear about those in the course of time. And Secret Avengers isn't going away. There is an awful lot of Avengers, and it shakes me to the core, but we have different things for each book to do.
Nrama: Right, well, people seem to like Avengers.
Brevoort: They like it $600 million worth, and that's just at home. [Laughs.] I feel on a certain level like if you're an Avengers fan of any stripe, and you can't find an Avengers title that scratches the itch that you're looking to scratch, you're just not looking hard enough.
Nrama: Broadly speaking, it seems that Marvel NOW! is at least partially the realization of a couple of things I've heard for a while now at Marvel convention panels — bringing the X-Men more to the center of the Marvel Universe, and giving more visibility to Marvel's cosmic characters. Is that accurate?
Brevoort: Yes, with one caveat. Essentially it's our own fault — when we were launching Annihilation and doing all of the books that came out of that, the term that got bandied about in the past for it was "cosmic." "These are the cosmic books." That quantifies them, but it also put them in kind of a box. We're not looking at characters like Nova and Rocket Raccoon, as, "Well, they're cosmic characters." These are Marvel heroes. These are Marvel superheroes, and they're going to be in the mix the same way Daredevil is, the same way Rogue is, the same way the Invisible Woman is.
Is there going to be a greater push and emphasis on some of those characters, are we doing a concerted effort on re-establishing their footprint in the Marvel Universe? Absolutely. And it's not running from the fact that these are characters whose adventures take place on a galactic scale. But we're not really thinking of them as, "Now we're doing cosmic books." We're doing Marvel Comics.
You see some of that for certain right now in the story that Brian is doing in Avengers Assemble. That sort of puts the Guardians [of the Galaxy] back on the map, and puts them into context with the Avengers, and let's them all interact, and away we'll go. In a month or so, people will start to get an understanding of what the Guardians' remit is, how they interact with the rest of the Marvel Universe, where they stand, and what they're like as characters and as people. That'll be fun, too. Those kinds of characters will cross-pollinate with as much ease — probably even with greater ease, in a sense — as the X-Men and the Avengers. These characters, they just haven't had titles [recently]. There's no reason why Nova, or Rocket, or Star-Lord couldn't be in the Avengers, and may not be in the Avengers. They're Marvel characters.Keep reading Newsarama for much more on Marvel NOW! More from Newsarama:
- What NOW!? 10 Questions About Marvel's Non-Reboot Revamp
- Alonso on Why The Time is Right for the MARVEL NOW! Revamp
- NEW, Updated MARVEL NOW! Info, More Series Details