Blah Blah Blog: Reader Questions 8

A post from my decade-old Marvel blog in which I answer some questions from the audience.

Reader Questions 8

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

Home sick, but the Blog must go on. Plus, we’re almost finished with the Reader Questions segment. So let’s go!

>Just how would a Skrull go about impersonating the Vision (I) convincingly?

I’m not sure anyone at Marvel Editorial has considered that point regarding SECRET INVASION (SI), or any other plot point, besides trying to make as many heroes suspects as the writers can. It’s odd that, in MS. MARVEL #25, Stark jumps to the conclusion that the Carol Danvers look-alike *must* be a Skrull, forgetting that there are other means of impersonating people.

In a way, I can understand why, in SI #1, Bendis tries to eliminate all known means of detecting impersonators, even without a basis for doing so, because his storyline would fall apart if anyone started testing the heroes. Still, there will be readers who know something about DNA tests, EEGs, MRI of the brain, and other means of differentiating species. It’s more than a little ironic that H. G. Wells was able to refer to biology in WAR OF THE WORLDS, whereas Bendis is apparently unable to, but, considering that there might not be a storyline if the Illuminati hadn’t acted like posturing idiots in ILLUMINATI #1–is it too late to cancel SECRET INVASION?

Perhaps the single weakest aspect of the Marvel Universe as a concept as this point is the cosmology, which seems geared to grade-schoolers. Interstellar distances have been handled badly in Abnett & Lanning’s ANNIHILATION: CONQUEST, but not as badly as Mantis has been handled. Doesn’t anyone at Marvel Editorial know that she’s never been a pyrokinetic, Giffen’s claim in STARLORD #1 notwithstanding?

The attention that Marvel Editorial pays to critical plot points in its storylines seems to be declining fairly steadily.

Posted by Steven R. Stahl on 2008-03-30 14:22:27>

You’re a regular reader of this blog, Steven, and a regular critic, so your question–less a question than a bit of a stump screed–is not all that surprising. Especially when it comes to the Scarlet Witch, the Vision, and the work of Steve Englehart, you’ve been plenty consistent in not liking much of anything that’s happened with any of these characters in the past ten years or so. They’re clearly characters for whom you feel a deep connection, an affinity. And that’s all fine, you’re paying your money for the books, so you can air your grievances. That seems to be where you get your greatest enjoyment from the books at this point. It’s also fairly certain that you’re not going to like any answer that I give you–but what the heck, let’s try it anyway. In terms of the Vision, I see no reason to believe that it’s any more difficult for the Skrulls to impersonate him than it is for them to impersonate the Thing, or a wooden table. That’s the buy-in of the way their shape-changing powers operate, always has been, and is no more implausible than the fact that the Vision can soar through the skies without any apparent means of propulsion that makes sense. In any event, until somebody can examine a Skrull posing as the Vision (which isn’t something we’ve actually seen yet), the quality of that disguise and its ability to escape close scrutiny is just a subject of conjecture.

>Question: Without getting into specifics, has there ever been an approved project that was completely derailed because of an impasse between a writer and editorial?

Posted by friskydingo on 2008-03-30 19:48:51>

Sure, this has happened on occasion. For example, there was the earlier version of what became NYX that Brian Wood was working on, but which reached an impasse at some point because of disagreements over storyline and content. And the same sort of thing has happened on assorted other projects that never actually saw print. It’s not a regular occurrence, but it is something that happens from time to time.

And because I’m feeling this way, let’s go back and answer PseudoSherlock’s two questions, the vetoing of which caused quite a stir a couple days back:

>1. My biggest interest: What is it that Marvel editors, being as general as you can be, look for in hiring writers that haven’t previously written for Marvel? In other words, is it only previous, professional writing experience, or is there a chance for someone unproven to prove writing ability?

(Joe Q’s answer at a con that was taped and put on this site was that writers have to show they know the Three Act Structure. But if no one ever bothers LOOKING at a writer’s work, it’s like saying you have to prove to a blind man how bright you can paint the color red.)

Posted by PseudoSherlock on 2008-03-28 11:07:22>

Nobody among the aspiring writer community likes to hear this answer, but the reality of things is that, while it’s not impossible for somebody to walk in off the street with a killer idea and get an assignment writing for Marvel, it’s about the next best thing to impossible. Other previous professional writing experience certainly helps, but it mostly helps by getting your work in front of people who might be in a position to hire you, in a form that they’re likely to look at. But what a writer needs walking in the door is almost something that can’t be taught: they need to have good, fresh, interesting ideas that catch people’s interest, and the ability to bring those ideas to fruition in an effective way. This is where previously-published writers have a massive advantage, as they’re able to show that they can do this, and entirely apart from the typical conditions where a newbie might be able to show his work. Working for Marvel is like playing in the Major Leagues–you’ve got to work your way up to that level, it’s not likely that you’re going to start out there. And with the influx of talent from television, from screenwriting, from novels and short stories and everywhere else, the bar has been raised in terms of how good you have to be. Those authors, by the way, don’t have an unfair advantage–they have the advantage they’ve earned by practicing their craft, honing their talent and pursuing their desire to write dogmatically enough so that they’ve been given an opportunity to do so on a large stage, and have succeeded at it.

<2. What do you, personally, think Marvel should or could do to keep the comic field alive – or better yet, flourishing – in the face of dwindling attention spans and TV/Movies/Video Games dominated media to avoid becoming a movie/video game company based off of characters that “once were in comics?”

Posted by PseudoSherlock on 2008-03-28 11:07:22>

We should keep doing what we’ve been doing, or trying to do: telling stories that resonate with a broad audience, including people who aren’t regular readers. We’ve got the same problem that television stations have, that book publishers have, that film studios have: with the greater range of choices for entertainment out in the world, the audience for any particular thing is shrinking as the base of options grows wider. So in order to compete, like everybody else, we need to provide an entertainment experience that can’t quite be duplicated anywhere else, and good value-for-time-and-money.

More later.

Tom B

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