A post from my old Marvel blog answering reader questions about the creation of the HOUSE OF M Event.
Day two of “viewer mail”.
Take us into the process by which a “big event” takes place that has far-reaching influence on the entire MU landscape. Can you tell us how a CW or a House of M gets going and where it comes from? Tell us about the retreats and brainstorming and the naysayers and the champions of such events. I would love to hear about it.
Posted by bigdaddyhub2 on 2006-10-19 12:45:01>
No two “big events” are conceived in quite the same way–there isn’t a standard methodology, not for the good ones. Once you boil this down to formula, these things lose their snap. In the case of HOUSE OF M, that started out at an editorial retreat with Brian Bendis talking about where he wanted to go next with the Scarlet Witch after Avengers: Disassembled. Initially, the idea was to simply do a Wanda-Pietro-Magneto project of some kind–something that would likely have ended up similar to SON OF M. But as we talked, the potential for the story seemed bigger than that, and it evolved into a line-wide crossover. The name HOUSE OF M started with me–I already had BOOKS OF DOOM on the schedule at that point, so during the discussion, I said HOUSE OF MAGNUS. That wound up shortened down to HOUSE OF M.
Once Brian and I had hammered out the basic beats of the story he wanted to do in the main title, we sent around an instruction sheet to all of the other editorial offices, to give them a sense of how the story would unfold, and how they could tie in were they so inclined. Just for fun, I’m copying the text of that planning document below, since any storyline secrets have now long since come out.
HOUSE OF M
WHAT IT IS:
HOUSE OF M is Marvel’s major crossover event for the summer of 2005. It will run between June and September, with any crossovers falling between July and the first few weeks of September.
Using the reality-altering powers of his daughter, the Scarlet Witch, Magneto has remade the world in his image, ending the struggle between humans and mutants and giving most of the prominent heroes their fondest desires, so as to prevent them from undoing what he has done. As far as all of the characters within this new “World of M” are concerned, this is the way the world has always been–their new histories are completely real to them. This gives us the opportunity to boil the characters down to their essence.
THE WORLD OF M:
In a macro sense, the World of M is a place in which mutant Homo Superior culture is dominant. The human/mutant struggle is over, and mutants have won. There are far more mutants amongst the landscape than even in the Marvel Universe proper. They are everywhere. There are relics and memorial parks to a great struggle in the past–the remnants of Sentinels turned into monuments and such–but they’re clearly of the past in the way that World War Two is to the youngsters of today.
Normal humans make up the minority in the World of M. They’re not specifically a slave race necessarily, but there is the underlying understanding that they’re on their way out, that within a generation or two, everyone on Earth will be either a mutant or a superhuman of some kind. This inevitability gives a quiet desperation to the lives of most normal “Sapiens”.
Sapiens tend to occupy the lower social and economic classes. The more strident among them have begun to form an underground resistance movement, but there’s a feeling of futility to it–they could maybe overthrow the mutants in power at the moment, but with the widespread mutant birth rate, there’s no easy way to put the genie back in the bottle that doesn’t involve wiping out the majority of the earth’s population. The center of this movement lies in Hell’s Kitchen, more popularly referred to as “Sapien Town”.
The House of Magnus is the monarchy that rules and oversees the World of M.
Because this is a patchwork world that needs to accommodate all sorts of characters’ backstories, there may be deliberate discontinuities. For example, there may not have been a Vietnam War in the World of M, yet Frank Castle may still have been a veteran of it. The longer the storyline goes on, the more these discontinuities are likely to surface.
THE BIG FINISH:
At the climax of HOUSE OF M, we’ll be restoring the Marvel Universe more or less to the state we’re all familiar with. However, as a result of this storyline, assorted key elements can have changed as regards the characters’ history or status quos or whatever. A number of characters will be rebooted whole cloth. However, this is a device we’re going to be using sparingly and selectively, so as not to undermine the underpinnings of the universe. If there’s a change of this nature that you’d like to make, talk it over with your editor and have him present it to the HOUSE OF M braintrust, and we’ll make a determination as to whether it makes sense in the big picture. This is an opportunity to clean up the messes of the past, not to create new ones.
HOW YOUR CROSSOVER WORKS:
There’s a bit of visual iconography set up in the first issue of HOUSE OF M to indicate that the world has changed, in which the preceding story page distorts and fades away to white in an effect not unlike a strip of film being burned away as it touches the hot lights of the camera. We’ll be designing a template for this effect here that can be used throughout the line as the first page of the first installment of each tie-in book, similar to the recap pages we normally run.
Because of the nature of this story, you can cut to a crossover right in the middle of an ongoing multi-part story. The HOUSE OF M crossover chapters will be collected together in separate TPBs, so they’ll be removed from the regular collections of each book. So, for example, if DAREDEVIL #74 is a HOUSE OF M crossover, the storyline begun in #73 can be continued seamlessly into #75 with no outward acknowledgment of the issue that fell in-between.
Each crossover story should be complete in itself, in one, two or three issues. The larger storyline will play out in HOUSE OF M itself. Certain elements of the crossover stories may be reflected in the core book, but the idea here is that HOUSE OF M itself is the backbone of the event. Because we don’t enter the World of M proper until the second issue of HOUSE OF M, shipping at the end of June, we’re asking that any tie-ins not ship before July.
Once the HOUSE OF M storyline is concluded, most everyone involved will have forgotten the events which occurred in the World of M. Ideally, however ,there may be some elements of the crossover storylines that will bleed over into the regular books once the status quo is restored (in the manner of the AGE OF APOCALYPSE crossover of years ago)–whether this is the relationships between characters, or the readers having a deeper understanding of who they are and what they’re about, or whatever. So as much as possible, try to plan your tie-in storylines taking this into account. We’d like to avoid having these crossover chapters come across as nothing more than meaningless What ifs.
This shouldn’t be approached as a shtick, or a Days of Future Past, or an Elseworlds. Its really happening and it will affect the characters. We are only as good as our weakest link in terms of selling the importance of the event to the audience, so the more gravitas you can give your individual tie-in stories, the better.
As you can see from the above document, the initial impulse for the climax of HOUSE OF M was to use it to help clean up some larger continuity messes. In the end, we didn’t really go that route, instead focusing on one or two big turns that would propel the Marvel Universe and its characters into interesting directions: the elimination of most of the world’s mutants, and the restoration of Wolverine’s memories of his entire life.