Blah Blah Blog: Blades and Crowbars

A post from my old Harvey Award-nominated Marvel blog in which I answered some reader questions of the time.

Blades and Crowbars

April 28, 2007 | 1:00 AM | By Tom_Brevoort | In General

Continued from yesterday, more “viewer mail.”


I was reading Blade yesterday and I really enjoyed it. I even read Marc Guggenheim’s “commentary” in the back. It was kind of fun I must admit. One part had me a little saddened though. You thought we wouldn’t get the time-passage bit? Come on Tom, give us some credit. It worked perfectly, and it really made the story carry well. I don’t think it could have been done any other way.

You’ve got a writer who wants to try new things and an artist who can succeed at these new things, I hope you aren’t turning down too many of their out there, innovative ideas.

Posted by IanZL on 2006-10-19 15:42:52>

I’m all for being innovative in terms of the way we tell stories, but I’m absolutely against being impenetrable. If the average reader is going to be confused or frustrated by the storytelling, and not be able to follow it, then your story is going to be a failure–so I always concern myself with such things. And while you may not think this could have been done a different way, you weren’t privy to the original script drafts, nor the various iterations we went through along the way to a final comic book in terms of making sure that this whole magilla did come across on the page. I’m glad you liked it, and it worked for you–means we did the job right.

>How do you break into comic book shops?

or, seriously,

Have you ever had to veto a creator’s idea that you thought was absolutely brilliant? If you could edit one DC title (whilst magically keep your job at Marvel) what would it be? Take us through a “cattle call”– why initiate one? What do you see? How do creators feel about them?

Posted by jake saint on 2006-10-19 15:44:18>

I tend to use a crowbar.

I can’t think of an occasion on which I had to veto an idea that I thought was brilliant–it’s the brilliant ideas that I’m most likely to want to publish. The closest thing to this I can think of is from an old Roger Stern-written article in MARVEL AGE, entitled “Stories I Never Want To Write”, in which Roger laid out some concepts for tales that would overturn cornerstones of the Marvel Universe, but were interesting and compelling. The one I remember the best was a story in which it would be revealed that Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben was actually moonlighting as an underworld fence–that the burglar who shot him had actually come to the house looking to unload some hot merchandise, he and Ben got into an argument about the price, and a gun was fired. This is a great “everything you know is wrong” scenario, in that it would turn Peter Parker’s whole life and belief structure upside down, but it also does more damage to the canon than good.

My favorite super hero is the Flash, but I love all of the Julie Schwartz characters, so I’d be happy to work on any one of them. I also like a lot of the more minor, offbeat DC concepts like Metal Men and Doom Patrol. And, of course, Superman. The one character over there that I think I’d be of no value on whatsoever is Batman.

And we tend to call them “bake-offs” rather than “Cattle calls”, and we only use them when we have a decent idea for a book or a story, but may not have a strong idea as to who should execute it. These are the cases where the initial idea is conceived within editorial itself–certainly, when a writer walks in the door with a story idea, we either buy the story from him or not.

>As an editor do you try and keep your personal opinions out of your work? For example, if you don’t like a character, do you try and give them a hard time or, on the flip side, try and give other characters that you like a push? I ask because it seems to me that Marvel’s been playing favorites with their characters despite the wishes of fans.

Posted by Canemacar on 2006-10-19 21:13:07>

When he was editor in chief, Tom DeFalco used to say that all an editor was was a walking opinion. So no, you never keep your personal opinions to yourself–that’s really all you have to bring to the table. I don’t think anybody necessarily sets out to give a hard time to characters they don’t like–they either use different characters, or they try to figure out what it is about a given character that they dislike, and try to fix it. And I don’t know which characters it is you think we’re pushing, but that sort of thing tends to happen when people around here like a given character or book, and are excited about it. But we don’t control the tastes and wishes of the fans. I’d be curious to hear which characters you think we’ve been pushing despite the wishes of the fans–or which characters you feel the fans want to see that we’re not using.

More later.

Tom B

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