Developing a Voice, Fine Tuning Scripts, and Getting Neurotic About Hair Color: An Interview with Marvel Comics Assistant Editor Xander Jarowey

Saturday, March 14th, 2015 | Posted by Derek Kunsken


Did someone say “press gang”?

life after wolverineI recently interviewed Marvel Comics Associate Editor Jake Thomas, and now I’m having an e-conversation with Xander Jarowey. Xander is the Assistant Editor on All-New X-Men, Amazing X-Men, Uncanny X-Men, Guardians of the Galaxy and Legendary Star-Lord (all under Editor Mike Marts), Nightcrawler, X-Force and Magneto (under Editor Daniel Ketchum), and All-New X-Factor and Guardians Team-Up (for Editor Katie Kubert). He’s recently become the editor on Amazing X-Men and has also edited the Death of Wolverine: Life After Logan, and is the Editor of the upcoming X-Tinction Agenda.

Thanks for taking the time for the interview, Xander. How long have you been with Marvel and how did you get in? Internship? Job application? Press gang?

Thanks for having me! My path to Marvel was circuitous. I moved to New York to work in theatrical management. I worked a few internships and had a ton of fun, but I came to a point where I wasn’t 100% sure that I wanted to stay in the industry. I’m a huge comics fan and Marvel has always had a special place in my heart. Maybe I should blame it on the X-Men cartoon?

I looked at the Marvel site on a whim and saw an editorial assistant job. It sounded a lot like what I’d been doing in theatre. I got an interview, but lost the job to Devin Lewis (who is now the assistant editor for Nick Lowe on Spider-Man). He doesn’t know it yet, but payback is coming one day. Marvel got in touch with me after the interview and asked if I’d be interested in interviewing for an assistant editor position. I had to hold in my fanboy squeal. They gave me a script and a day to give them notes. After that I went through a series of interviews and somehow hoodwinked them all into hiring me. It’s been a fantastic year and a half ago since then.

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What to Read Next?

Wednesday, March 11th, 2015 | Posted by Elizabeth Cady

Ocean_at_the_End_of_the_Lane_US_CoverHow do you choose what to read next?

That’s not a rhetorical question. I’m genuinely curious, for a number of reasons.

I tend to have a set list of authors whose work I will pre-order the instant I hear about it. Neil Gaiman, Sarah MacLean, Kate Elliot. I have authors I forget about for a few years and then dive in to read everything they’ve put out in the meantime (Stephen Brust tops that list: I can’t quit Vlad Taltos). I have graphic novel series I follow closely (Pretty Deadly, Ody-C, Rat Queens) and others I dabble in when the mood strikes.

Pretty_Deadly-01I am deeply blessed to have friends who throw books at me, as well. One of my oldest and dearest friends recently sent me an entire box full of books, including Trudy Canavan’s Traitor Spy trilogy; another hounded me until I read Cold Magic (thank goodness!).

But it’s easy to find oneself in a reading rut. Which is a shame, given the wealth of material out there. Self-publishing and digital publishing can make it easier to be published, but that isn’t always a good thing. Finding quality work in those muddy waters is its own trick. So how do you find something new?

Sites like our own here are helpful. I discovered Saladin Ahmed because of a review here, and that has been an absolute delight. (And if I’m dropping names and titles left and right, it’s because I’m returning the favor.) But even comprehensive sites can’t cover everything.

So how do you find new stuff to read? And how do you find new stuff to read when you realize you’ve gotten in a rut? When you discover that everything you’ve read in the last year is, say, fantasy by white women, or all space sci-fi? What are your favorite resources, and what was your favorite surprise find lately?

Representations of the Amazon in Poul Anderson’s Virgin Planet and in DC’s Wonder Woman

Wednesday, March 11th, 2015 | Posted by Gabe Dybing

Legolas_portrait_-_EmpireMagBut first, I’d like to ask readers a very important question:

Do Tolkien’s Elves have pointy ears?

This came up after my last post, in which I wondered why Anderson and Tolkien (and many other fantasy writers) agree that elves are tall and have pointy ears. After reading this, Frederic S. Durbin contacted me to say,

Does Tolkien ever say that the elves have pointed ears? To my knowledge, he never does. Please correct me if I’m wrong! This is a bone I had to pick a few years back, when some writer somewhere described hobbits as having “hairy toes and pointed ears.” I think this misconception about Tolkien’s elves and hobbits has come from artwork. Artists need to have a way of making magical races look different from humans, so they go for the ears. We need Spock to look different from humans in a cheap and easily-reproducible way from day to day in the studio, so we give him pointed ears. People have been seeing illustrations of pointy-eared elves and hobbits for so long that they’ve begun to believe Tolkien described them that way. I don’t think it’s true. (Again, I’m willing to stand corrected if someone shows me a passage!)

So there you have it, folks! Please help! Is there a passage anywhere in Tolkien’s writings that suggest that Elves (or even Hobbits) have pointy ears?

And now let’s turn our attention to Poul Anderson’s Virgin Planet.

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Get in the Dungeon with Munchkin #1

Tuesday, March 10th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Munchkin 1 comic-smallEarlier this year Boom! Box comics, publishers of Lumberjanes and Mouse Guard, released Munchkin #1, the first issue of a new ongoing series based on Munchkin.

What the heck is Munchkin, you ask?

Munchkin is one of the most popular fantasy games on the market. Designed by Steve Jackson (creator of Ogre, Melee, and Car Wars), it’s a card game that pokes fun at role playing, and especially gamers who play to win at any cost. In his review last year, Bob Byrne called it “the funnest (Most fun? More fun than any other?) game I play.” Since its release in 2001 Munchkin has become a true phenomenon, winning the 2001 Origins Award for Best Traditional Card Game, and accounting for more than 70% Steve Jackson Games sales for much of the past decade. It has been followed by dozens and dozens of expansions, accessories, and spinoffs, including Munchkin Quest, Star Munchkin, Super Munchkin, Munchkin Cthulhu, The Good, The Bad, And The Munchkin, and Munchkin Conan.

As you’d probably expect if you’ve played the game, the comic adaption is clever, highly irreverent, chaotic, frequently very silly, and occasionally laugh-out-loud funny. The art is universally excellent, and the scripts… well, the scripts are downright goofy. I expected a character-based narrative, something akin to the excellent Skullkickers, but what I got was closer to Bongo’s Simpson comics — an anthology that goes for strictly laughs, rather than attempting to tell any kind of cohesive story.

There are four tales within: “What is a Munckin?”, a 3-page introductory strip which gets the concept across pretty well; “Humans Got No Class,” in which a wizard, dwarf and ranger deep in a dungeon attempt to figure out what a long-haired slacker is doing in their midst; “Ready for Anything,” in which an experienced Munchkin shows a newbie the ropes (with predictable results), and a 1-page gag by John Kovalic. The humor is a little uneven, but fortunately you don’t have to have played the game to appreciate most of it. I definitely look forward to future issues.

Munchkin #1 was written by Tom Siddell, Jim Zub, and John Kovalic, and illustrated by Mike Holmes, Rian Sygh, and John Kovalic. It was published by Boom! Box comics in January 2015. It is 24 pages, priced at $3.99; each issue contains a unique card usable in the game. The cover is by Ian McGinty. For more details, see the Boom! Box website. Check out all our recent comic coverage here.

Bernie Mireault: The Forgotten Herald of the Modern

Monday, March 2nd, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Bernie MireaultOver the weekend, Mark Shainblum pointed me towards columnist Timothy Callahan’s article in Comic Book Resources discussing the work of artist Bernie Mireault. It’s been around for a while, but I’d managed to miss it, so I appreciated the link. Here’s a snippet:

If we look around the axis of American superhero comics, at the groundbreaking Modern work produced in the mid-1980s, it’s the same four or five names that keep popping up in our conversations: Alan Moore, Frank Miller, Rick Veitch, Howard Chaykin, maybe Matt Wagner. These were the creators who changed the landscape of American superhero comics, for better or worse. They heralded the Modern.

Yet there’s one creator who doesn’t get mentioned nearly as often. A writer/artist who was combining the high Romanticism of the fantastic with the mundane life on the street as well as any of the others. A comic book creator whose visual style has rarely been duplicated… I’m talking, of course, about Bernie Mireault.

Mireault (rhymes with “Zero”) has been working continuously in the comic book industry for the past 24 years, but he gets almost none of the acclaim given to his peers… in the mid-to-late 1980s and early 1990s, Mireault produced or helped produce three essential texts of the Modern era, and it’s time those three books were given their due.

I first met Bernie in 1985, when he crashed at my home in Ottawa, Canada, while attending a local comic convention. I was impressed with him immediately — especially his groundbreaking work on the hilarious Mackenzie Queen for Matrix Comics. He’s extrememly gifted as a comedic artist, and his character design is second to none — as you can see from his marvelous panel illustrating “The Loiterer in the Lobby” by Michael Kaufmann and Mark McLaughlin for Black Gate 4 (above). I hired Bernie as an illustrator when I launched Black Gate, and he graced virtually every issue of the print magazine. I profiled him back in 2009, and Matthew David Surridge wrote a detailed review of his excellent comic The Jam last December. His other work includes Grendel (with Matt Wagner), The Blair Witch Chronicles, and Dr. Robot.

Read the complete CBR article here.

High Space Opera: Jim Starlin’s Metamorphosis Odyssey and Dreadstar

Monday, March 2nd, 2015 | Posted by Matthew David Surridge

Marvel Graphic Novel #3: DreadstarRecently, Black Gate overlord John O’Neill reported the news that Jim Starlin’s comic-book creation Dreadstar was in development as a TV series. Starlin will be a writer and executive producer of the new show, which is to be developed for television by Universal Cable Productions and Benderspink. No network was announced for the series, but io9 observed that Universal’s behind a number of shows for Syfy, where a Dreadstar show would presumably fit nicely.

As it happens, I was a fan of Dreadstar when it was being published back in the late 80s. It had been years since I’d looked at an issue, though, so the news of the TV deal prompted me to dig out the old comics and go through them again. I ended up with mixed feelings. For me, at least, the golden age of Dreadstar was about twelve. But if I can see problems with the book more clearly now, I can also see what works. And I can see how an ongoing TV show makes a certain amount of sense.

To explain that I need to start by going through the book’s publishing history. This gets complicated. Before Dreadstar there was The Metamorphosis Odyssey, a painted serial that ran for the first nine issues of Marvel’s Epic Illustrated. Epic was an anthology of creator-owned work somewhat along the lines of Heavy Metal magazine. By the time Starlin’s serial ended, late in 1981, he’d also published a related story through Eclipse Comics, a painted story called The Price. (Originally in black-and-white, it would later be reprinted by Marvel in colour. The Metamorphosis Odyssey, meanwhile, was in black-and-white for its first few chapters, then switched to colour as it went on.) The next chapter of the story came in Marvel’s third “graphic novel” — a line of books which somewhat resembled softcover European graphic albums — called, simply, Dreadstar.

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The Son of Satan: A Gem from the Marvel of the 70s

Saturday, February 28th, 2015 | Posted by Derek Kunsken

Son of Satan 2

So many demons to fight.

While interviewing Associate Editor Jake Thomas of Marvel Comics for my last blog post (see Middle Child) , we also talked a bit about horror in comics and where it fits, what fans are looking for, etc. It turns out that until recently, I hadn’t gone all the way to thinking about comics as a horror medium, partly because I’d never found them scary.

Marvel Spotlight 22

Human side versus devil side plus sister thrown in for family angst, and a guy on a flaming motorcycle. Freud! Help!

The old saw is that, other than superheroes, comics chased movies and TV, so that when westerns were popular, the comic industry produced cowboy books, and when SF movies were popular, they made SF comics, etc. And the 70s of course was the era of The Exorcist, The Shining, Jaws, and so on.

Some of the grotesqueries of the 1950s drove the creation of the Comics Code, but I guess I’d looked at the post-Code books like Tomb-of-Dracula and Man-Thing and Werewolf by Night as monster books, rather than horror.

There’s only so much you can do within the code, which was part of the reason why Marvel experimented with magazine-sized black and whites in the 1970s, which, by today’s standards (ex.: Severed or Wytches, from Image) look like a tea party… the little kid play, not the political movement.

However, despite being not scary, there was a rich subtlety in some of Marvel’s spooky books, an unreliability of perception, that drew me in, as a pre-teen and teen, and probably helped form some of my tastes.

In the summer of 1981, my mother gave me four comics, one of which was Doctor Strange #43. Doctor Strange was soooo wierd, but good, knock-off Chthulhu good.

And I hunted down Doctor Strange everywhere I could find him, which led me to the Defenders, another oddball child of the 1970s.

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Jim Starlin’s Dreadstar in Development as a TV series

Friday, February 20th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Dreadstar 3-smallJim Starlin, who has seen several of his most famous comic creations transition to the big screen, has reportedly signed a deal to bring his long-running space opera Dreadstar to television.

Jim Starlin is famous in comic circles as the creator of Thanos, the villain of the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War films, as well as Drax the Destroyer and Gamora, two members of the Guardians of the Galaxy. His run on Captain Marvel, which introduced Thanos and his quest to end all life to prove his love for Death, was a high-water mark for superhero comics of the 1970s, and elements from his Infinity Gauntlet storyline have become the unifying storyline for Phase II of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

In 1980 Stalin introduced a new character, Vanth Dreadstar, in Epic Illustrated #3. Dreadstar’s early adventures were eventually collected in Metamorphosis Odyssey, a grim far future tale of a desperate battle against the Zygoteans, who conquer and enslave virtually all life in the Milky Way. Metamorphosis Odyssey ended with Dreadstar and his companions destroying the entire galaxy, rather than have it fall into the hands of the Zygoteans (I told you it was grim).

No one really dies in comics though, and Dreadstar eventually returned in Dreadstar #1, one of the flagship titles of Marvel’s new Epic comic line, in 1982. Epic published 26 issues before Dreadstar switched publishers to First Comics. Starlin wrote and drew all the issues until he left with issue 41 (March 1989), and Peter David took over writing chores. Dreadstar lasted a total of 64 issues.

Dreadstar had a very different feel to Metamorphosis Odyssey. Whereas the latter is considered an allegory, Dreadstar is straight-up space opera. Set a million years after the destruction of the Milky Way, and halfway across the universe, it follows the adventures of Vanth Dreadstar and his crew of gifted oddballs, including the powerful sorcerer Syzygy Darklock and the wise-cracking Skeevo, as they get caught up in a galaxy-spanning conflict between the Monarchy and the tyrannical Church of the Instrumentality. Dreadstar was closer in spirit to Star Wars than anything else, with desperate battles, betrayals, robots, and ancient and mystical powers influencing events at critical moments.

Variety reports that Universal Cable Productions and Benderspink will develop the series, with Starlin serving as executive producer and writer. No word on a release date yet. See the complete article here.

The Middle Child of Editorial: An Interview with Jake Thomas, Associate Editor at Marvel Comics

Saturday, February 14th, 2015 | Posted by Derek Kunsken

I’m having an e-conversation with Jake Thomas, an Associate Editor at Marvel Comics. punisherHe’s got a ton of editorial credits, as Assistant Editor on titles like Captain America, Avengers, Age of Ultron, and many others, as well as Editor on Iron Fist the Living Weapon, Deadly Hands of Kung Fu, The Punisher and others.

Let’s cover some of the basics first. Jake, you started at Marvel as an Assistant Editor. Editors oversee production. What do Assistant Editors do for the production process?

Marvel editors are involved in a lot more than just production.

A main Editor helps develop projects, gives story and art notes, helps with the marketing of the books, all kinds of things. The nuts and bolts of production are by and large the purview of the Assistants. Assistant Editors keep files moving, track schedules, write recaps, do ad lineups, gather reference, run proofs through our various checks and balances, a bunch of the behind-the-scenes work that allows the machinery of comics to keep functioning.

They also act as another set of eyes; they can give script feedback to their editors, check the art as it comes in to make sure the storytelling is solid and everyone’s in the correct costume. Important stuff!

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Marvel Team Up: Spider-Man to Appear in Captain America: Civil War?

Tuesday, February 10th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Marvel Civil War-smallWhen unidentified hackers released a host of embarrassing Sony Pictures internal e-mails last year, one of the things they revealed was that Sony, who owns the film rights to Spider-Man, had unsuccessfully negotiated with Marvel Studios, producers of Iron Man, Captain America, and The Avengers, on a possible Spider-Man/Avengers crossover. Just the possibility was tantalizing to Marvel fans, even if it looked like it hadn’t amounted to anything.

Now Marvel and Sony have announced that the crossover will occur after all. Both studios have confirmed that Spider-Man will first appear in a Marvel film, followed by a Spider-Man film to be released on July 28, 2017. While exact details have not been released, speculation is rampant that the likeliest candidate for the first project is the third Captain America film, Captain America: Civil War, based on the best-selling storyline that prominently featured Spider-Man, Iron Man, and Cap in its comic book incarnation back in 2006.

The announcement is bad news for fans of the Mark Webb-Andrew Garfield incarnation of Spider-Man, however, as BuzzFeed has confirmed that Garfield will not be reprising the role of Spider-Man. That’s unfortunate, as I thought he did a fine job.

The announcement clearly took some major behind-the-scenes effort, as it has shuffled the release dates for Marvel Studios major projects, pushing back almost all of their upcoming films to make room for Sony Pictures’ third Spider-Man picture. The release date for Thor: Ragnarok has been moved from July 28, 2017, to Nov. 3, 2017; Black Panther has been re-scheduled for July 6, 2018, Captain Marvel to Nov. 2, 2018, and Inhumans to July 12, 2019. The three announced Avengers films, Avengers Age of Ulton and Infinity War Part 1 and Part 2, are still scheduled to open on May 1, 2015, May 4, 2018, and May 3, 2019, respectively. Sony Pictures is also moving forward with their previous plans for Spider-Man spin-off films featuring the Sinister Six and Venom, although those release dates will likely be impacted as well.

Read the complete details at Marvel’s website.

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