Marvel Comics finally gave the world a look at just how drastically things will be changing for the Marvel U post Avengers vs. X-Men - and the announcements were a doozy. No corner of the Universe will be affected more, though, than The Avengers. With Brian Michael Bendis leaving the franchise after a decade of nearly solo control, and new writers Jonathan Hickman and Rick Remender stepping up to the plate with Avengers and Uncanny Avengers respectively, there's going to be some huge changes for Earth's Mightiest Heroes.
The guy in charge of all that? Tom Brevoort, who edits the books, as well as most of the major events in the Marvel Universe. In light of these seismic changes, we chatted with Brevoort about his take on Marvel NOW!, what we can expect from the Avengers books post-Bendis, and much more:
MTV Geek: Okay, Tom, from the first several announcements - and the fact that you’ve been a lynchpin of the past few events anyway, a lot of the work on Marvel NOW! seems to rest on your shoulders... What’s it been like coordinating something like this, and how - in your mind - does it differ from working on a company wide event, like, say, Avengers vs. X-Men?
Tom Brevoort: It’s a different beast entirely, and spread out into more hands, as you’ll see as more and more of what we’re doing comes to light. But doing any big Event series is ultimately about telling a single story, whereas MARVEL NOW! Is more multi-focused, and aimed at creating excitement and energy throughout the publishing line. So while there are aspects of this initiative that grow out of AVENGERS VS X-MEN, the overall effect is to rejuvenate all of our assorted series, shining them up and making them fresh and new again. It’s also about pushing people, both creators and readers alike, a little bit out of their safe comfort zones and into some new territory, which ought to be thrilling to watch.
Geek: What do you think this change - or changes - does for Marvel as a whole? Why was this important?
TB: One of the strengths of the core of our line—a certain consistency of creative vision amongst many of our core titles—was on the verge of becoming a weakness, in that the same creators have been guiding our major franchises for so long that people had perhaps started to take them for granted—to feel like they knew what to expect from each title and, even if they liked the book in question, it wasn’t as thrilling as it had been at the outset of the run. So we took this moment as an opportunity to shake up not just AVENGERS and X-MEN but virtually every series we’re putting out, in one way or another. And the end result will be a Marvel Universe that, while familiar to people in that it’ll be featuring the same characters, will feel stylistically very different from what it had been before. It’s all about having new voices on old favorites.
Geek: Taking a look at the initial title list, it’s not like you haven’t worked with these authors and artists before - but what’s been different about working with them on The Avengers franchise in particular, versus the constant on Brian Michael Bendis anchoring all the titles for so long?
TB: At this point, Brian’s written more AVENGERS stories than literally anybody else. His was really the vision and the drive that propelled the series to the top of everybody’s must-read lists. And everything grew out of what Brian was doing, to the point where, while we once had only a single title, now there are multiple AVENGERS books coming out every month. So right away, having somebody different at the helm of the ship is going to affect everything—from the cast to the tone to even the style of stories that are being told. While they all like and respect one another’s work, I don’t think I’m spilling any secrets in saying that Jonathan’s stories aren’t like Brian’s stories aren’t like Rick’s stories. And rather than simply trying to be a continuation of what Brian has been doing for the last eight years, they’ve both been encouraged to make these titles, and the franchise, their own.
Geek: And what went into putting these teams together? What makes Remender/Cassaday, and Hickman/Opena the right teams for these books?
TB: Well, Rick was the one who pitched UNCANNY AVENGERS at one of our Editorial Retreats, as a natural outgrowth of the events of AVENGERS VS X-MEN. Being the immediate aftermath, as well as the first MARVEL NOW! series, we wanted to launch the book behind the most exciting artist we could get. And every time John Cassaday draws a series, it’s an event.
On AVENGERS, I need to correct you just a little bit. While the opening arc is by Jonathan and Jerome, they’re not the team per se. Rather, like AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, AVENGERS is going to be coming out on a twice-per-month schedule—just like AVX did—so there’ll be more than a single artist. Jerome will be kicking things off in style, and thereafter we’ve got sequences planned with Adam Kubert, Dustin Weaver and Mike Deodato, among others.
Geek: Let’s talk about Uncanny Avengers... It seems like this is a big step up for Rick Remender, and almost like working on Secret Avengers and Uncanny X-Force were training grounds for this new title.
TB: Not training grounds per se, more like places where Rick had the chance to show what he could do, and what he was made of. Between those series and VENOM, Rick’s had a tremendously good track record of late—he taps into a particular sensibility among the fans with a combination of soap opera, continuity and over-the-top action. And for all that he’s been around the business for years (he inked issues of AVENGERS back when Kurt Busiek was writing the book), his is something of a new voice on a title like UNCANNY AVENGERS. It also helps, no doubt, that he’s worked “both sides of the street” on X-titles and Avengers titles, so he’s in a unique position to be able to understand both viewpoints and to create a series that interfaces and bridges between the both of them.
Geek: And how about the focus and tone of the book? This almost seems like the key book for the entire line, in a way, the cream of the crop if you will... What are fans in for?
TB: Tough to say too very much without spoiling certain aspect concerning the end of AVX. But one of the points that Cyclops made in AVX #1 was this sentiment that the Avengers have remained apart from the world of mutant affairs for so long, rather than using their influence to help the cause. And that’s something that Captain America has ruminated on and come to see the truth of. So he’s trying to do better—and a part of that lies in trying to pro-actively set an example, and a part of that is in trying to offer mutantkind an alternative viewpoint different from those espoused by Cyclops or Wolverine.
UNCANNY AVENGERS is going to be a series that, as I mentioned earlier, “crosses party lines.” By which I mean that it’ll have a regular and lasting impact on the world of the Avengers and the world of the X-Men, and maintain a foot in each area. So for people who’ve always wanted to see the Avengers battle Apocalypse or the X-Men take on the Red Skull or whatever—this is the book for you. And the cast won’t be limited to just the people we’re showing you on the first cover, either.
Geek: Now, ‘Avengers’... When Jonathan Hickman came on to Fantastic Four, he famously had a long range plan to rejuvenate the book. Are we seeing the same long range planning here? I imagine he isn’t flying by the seat of his pants or anything, but how is this book coming together?
TB: I think it’s safe to say that Jonathan is the new master architect where the Avengers are concerned. In addition to writing AVENGERS itself twice a month, he’s also going to be writing NEW AVENGERS, which itself will have a new mission statement and a new cast of characters. And as you’d expect, he came in with a well-thought-out multi-year plan, even taking into account the double-shipping schedule on AVENGERS. I could tell you about stuff that he’s got planned for 2105 already!
The watchword of AVENGERS is going to be “bigger.” So bigger threats, bigger cast, bigger scope. There’ll be a core Avengers team consisting of more than a dozen characters, including a number of faces new to the team. It’s the same kind of massive world-building that Jonathan performed on FANTASTIC FOUR and SECRET WARRIORS, but built around the themes of AVENGERS. So the first year is broadly called “AVENGERS WORLD”, then comes “AVENGERS UNIVERSE”, then comes “AVENGERS INFINITE” and then--!!!
Geek: And how does this title work with Uncanny Avengers? Or does it not? How about the rest of the line?
TB: AVENGERS and UNCANNY AVENGERS co-exist in the same way that AVENGERS and NEW AVENGERS and SECRET AVENGERS and AVENGERS ASSEMBLE co-exist now. They’re all component elements of the franchise, each with its own specific mission statement, tone and approach as directed by the creative team. UNCANNY AVENGERS is specifically about the intersection of mutant affairs and the core heroes, it’s the vanguard, whereas AVENGERS is the core series, coming at you twice a month, the keystone. If that makes sense. UNCANNY AVENGERS is the best energy drink ever, whereas AVENGERS is a twelve-course meal laid out over time.
Geek: We’ve certainly heard grumblings before about Avengers titles relaunching frequently in the past few years - though I think realistically it’s only happened twice in the past decade. But do you have any concerns about “relaunch fatigue?”
TB: Not really. For all that fans sometimes complain about fatigue, what they really don’t like is when things get stale. Change scares people, but change is exciting, too! This is the moment that all of the AVENGERS readers who haven’t liked what Brian’s been doing have been waiting for—and now we’ll start hearing from all of the AVENGERS readers who have been liking it that they’re upset he’s moved on. In any event, it’ll be the first time in a very long while that the AVENGERS books will have a different outlook and a different voice behind them.
Geek: Okay, just to wrap up, what’s one thing you can’t wait for fans to see from these books? What are you most excited about?
TB: The art. Jerome’s earliest AVENGERS pages are just dynamite, and it’s such a joy to see John drawing not only characters such as Cap or Wolverine that he’s handled so well in the past, but heroes such as Thor or Rogue that he’s not done as much with. These are going to be outstanding-looking comics!
Marvel NOW! launches in October from Marvel Comics - and stay tuned to MTV Geek for plenty more on the initiative!