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Tom Brevoort, VP of Marvel Interview by Alex Grand & Jim Thompson

Read Alex Grand’s Understanding Superhero Comic Books published by McFarland Books in 2023 with Foreword by Jim Steranko with editorial reviews by comic book professionals, Jim Shooter, Tom Palmer, Tom DeFalco, Danny Fingeroth, Alex Segura, Carl Potts, Guy Dorian Sr. and more.

In the meantime enjoy the show:

Tom Brevoort is an American comic book editor, known for his work for Marvel Comics, where he has overseen titles such as New Avengers, Civil War, and Fantastic Four. He became Executive Editor in 2007, and in January 2011 was promoted to additionally serve as Senior Vice President of Publishing.

Alex Grand and co-host Jim Thompson interview Tom Brevoort, Executive Editor and Vice President of Publishing of Marvel Comics discussing his childhood reading comics off the 7-11 spinner rack, his 1989 internship at Marvel with Bob Budiansky & Dwayne McDuffie, the highs and lows of Marvel in the 1990s including the Image Revolution, bankruptcy, ToyBiz acquisition, getting ready for the new century in the 2000s and beyond with Digital comics and the Disney acquisition. Tom also goes into detail about working with guys like Mark Gruenwald, Tom DeFalco and Bill Jemas as he reveals who exactly Tom Brevoort is?

🎬 Edited & Produced by Alex Grand, Thumbnail Artwork, CBH Podcast ©2021 Comic
Book Historians.

Images used in artwork ©Their Respective Copyright holders. Music ©Lost European

Tom Brevoort Biographical Interview 2020 by Alex Grand & Jim Thompson
📜 Video chapters
00:00:00 Welcoming Tom Brevoort
00:00:30 Family background
00:01:53 Childhood 7-11 Spinner rack
00:09:44 Going to Comic conventions
00:11:14 My tastes in those days…
00:19:00 Have Gun – Will Travel episode
00:19:53 Drawing in early age
00:21:04 1989 Marvel Internship – Fingeroth, Budiansky, McDuffie
00:27:33 Dwayne McDuffie
00:29:51 Revlon Perelman – Marvel, 1989
00:32:59 Tom Defalco editor-in-chief
00:36:59 Mark Gruenwald was like Jim Henson
00:41:41 Romita Sr, Romita jr, Virginia Romita | Bullpen
00:47:28 Replacing Claremont & Simonson
00:51:08 Image Revolution
00:53:56 Trading Cards & Hologram Cover
00:59:45 Heroes World Distribution debacle, 1994
01:05:47 Marvel Bankruptcy | Absolute chaos
01:11:30 Heroes Reborn 1996, ToyBiz Acquisition 1997, Licensing characters
01:14:38 Heroes Reborn successful?
01:17:44 Bill Jemas EIC
01:26:41 Bill Jemas & Joe Quesada saved Marvel
01:28:40 Jim Shooter Era
01:30:45 Blade, 1998
01:33:54 Kurt Busiek
01:35:06 Kurt Busiek’s Thunderbolts, Avengers
01:40:59 Ultimate Universe
01:44:06 Did Ultimate Universe fail?
01:46:38 Steve Ditko about Spider-man
01:49:33 2001: X-Force 116, Max comics | End of Comics Code
01:52:20 Alias
01:55:56 Avengers Disassembled | Bendis
02:01:29 Objecting to Brian’s work as an editor?
02:04:34 Editing Captain America book by Brubaker | Two Captain Americas
02:06:03 You had a great writers
02:07:22 Civil War
02:10:42 J. Michael Straczynski, Paul Jenkins
02:12:31 Various scripts for Civil War
02:14:58 Bringing Hickman on Fantastic Four
02:15:52 Death of the characters
02:18:48 Fantastic Four: Did you let it die?
02:22:38 Became Executive editor at Marvel, 2007
02:26:39 Bendis & Guardians of the Galaxy
02:31:05 Fantastic Four by John Byrne
02:33:07 Digital Comics, 2007
02:35:35 Disney acquisition, 2009
02:39:14 Online fan comments
02:43:50 Social media adding toxicity to the fandom
02:45:05 Promotion to Sr Vice President of Publishing, 2011
02:47:10 Are we in the movie age of comics?
02:50:56 DC’s downfall: Is it a positive or a negative for Marvel?
02:52:45 Young Adult Comics
02:56:54 Marvel is still recognizable
02:58:08 Your involvement with Marvel
02:59:45 Wrapping up

#TomBrevoort #MarvelExecutiveEditor #ComicBookHistorians #MarvelComics
#NewAvengers #CivilWar #FantasticFour #MarvelBankruptcy #ImageRevolution
#ComicHistorian #CBHInterviews #CBHPodcast #CBH

Transcript (editing in progress):

Alex Grand:
Welcome back to the Comic Book Historians podcast with Alex Grand and Jim Thompson. Some also call us the Colgate Comedy Hour. I don’t know if you guys know that. Jim, wave to the audience.

Jim Thompson:
I didn’t know that.

Alex Grand:
Anyway, we have a fun guest today, Mr. Tom Brevoort, Executive Editor and VP over at Marvel Comics. Tom, thanks for joining us today.

Tom Brevoort:
Sure. Happy to be here.

Alex Grand:
So we’re going to go hopscotch through your life. Jim’s going to start in your early years, then I’m going to hit you with some Marvel in the 90s. So go ahead, Jim.

Jim Thompson:
Okay, so you were born in 1967? Was it in New York? I wasn’t quite sure.

Tom Brevoort:
It was in New York, yes. In Queens.

Jim Thompson:
Okay, and your dad worked at a bank or was he a banker or what was his job there?

Tom Brevoort:
Yeah. My dad worked for Chase Manhattan Bank. He was like a loan officer and dealt with banking things.

Jim Thompson:
What about your mom?

Tom Brevoort:
My mom had worked for the bank as well. When they got married, she became a homemaker and took care of the kids and was just a mom for the longest time. Eventually, she went back to work and did other things, but during all of my formative years, she was around constantly.

Jim Thompson:
I know you had one brother, did you have other siblings?

Tom Brevoort:
I have three brothers. So I am the oldest and the others are all separated from me by periods of three years. So three, six, nine.

Jim Thompson:
So there was a schedule?

Tom Brevoort:
Yes. Yes, it was very regimented. It all timed out perfectly.

Jim Thompson:
Now, I was reading about your early reading and comics and things and how you would go in and I think it was 1973, your dad took you in a 7-Eleven and said, “Hey, you want a comic?” You said yes, because you’re no fool and that’s how it started. Is that right?

Tom Brevoort:
That is exactly right. My dad was a smoking fiend. He smoked a lot as a lot of people did in 1973. So he’d go through a carton or two of cigarettes a week. So 7-Eleven was a regular stop on our travels. So that particular day, and I don’t know why this was other than they must have been cleaning some area or doing something. Typically, it was a comic book spinner rack like the one behind me that I got the book off of and typically, that was further into the 7-Eleven more in the back where the magazines and things were, but this day, for whatever reason, it was right up in the front, right near the front door, which is an awful place to put it if you’re a 7-Eleven, because it’s the easiest thing in the world for somebody to grab a book and head out the door immediately.

Tom Brevoort:
For whatever reason, we were waiting in line to buy those cigarettes, to pay for them and I wandered over and was looking at the spinner rack, just looking at it and my dad said, “Do you want one?” I said, “Yeah, okay, fine.” I can still remember books that were on the rack that I didn’t buy, but I ended up with the safest choice you could make, which is I bought an issue of Superman.

Jim Thompson:
That was Superman 268 with Bat Girl, a Nick Cardy cover with Bat Girl and Batman’s inside of it.

Tom Brevoort:
Yep, wild weekend in Washington. Right.

Jim Thompson:
So that’s your first one, but out of that first year, and you’re six years old at the time, within that year, was there a better comic that spoke to you more, or is that the one that hooked you?

Tom Brevoort:
I don’t know if I was completely hooked at that point. At six, I could read but I was only so so at it. I was still learning. Really probably the book that kicked me over the edge and really made me a fanatic, I would have had maybe my second book, my third book, something like that was 100 Page Flash Super Spectacular that reprinted Flash stories from the 60s and even a Jay Garrick story from the 40s and an Elongated Man story and a Johnny Quick story and that book in particularly, and particularly the Flash and Carmine Infantino and John Broome and that period really clicked with me. That was I think, more than anything, the one book that got me on board full time.

Jim Thompson:
Oh, that’s great. Now, I noticed that even though you were buying DC books, when Halloween came around in October, you were dressed up as Spider-Man.

Tom Brevoort:
Yes, yes.

Jim Thompson:
Your younger brother was dressed up as Batman. You were the Marvel guy.

Tom Brevoort:
Yeah. Again, that didn’t necessarily have anything to do with the comic reading yet. That was just in those days, you had the Ben Cooper costumes and every year we would go out to the drugstore or wherever and pick a costume and that would be the Halloween costume. At that point, I don’t think there was any great thought process put into it.

Alex Grand:
You were just kind of consuming some merchandise a little bit.

Tom Brevoort:
Yeah, I knew Spider-Man from the ’67 cartoon, which would play regularly on afternoon television. So I was at least familiar with the character and the same thing with Batman ’66 show was still in reruns on channel 11. Spider-Man was on Channel 5.

Jim Thompson:
You were more of a DC and even Flash fan and a few years later, you had your mom actually make your Flash costume homemade, right?

Tom Brevoort:
Yes, yes, my mom was very nice and very accommodating and a lot of things did in fact, create for me for one of the later Halloweens, a full on Flash costume, homemade Flash costume. There’s a couple of photos of it that are floating around because I’ve posted them over the years. It’s obviously long gone now, and it was confusing for everybody else because nobody in 1973 or ’74, ’75, whatever it would have been, nobody knew who the Flash was.

Jim Thompson:
You know, it’s so funny because I went every Monday to 7-Eleven I would get there as they delivered the packages and wait for the guy to open, use the wire cutters, put them on the racks. I wasn’t allowed to touch them until they were on the racks and then I would get my comics and my first homemade Halloween costume was Kid Flash that my mom-

Tom Brevoort:
That’s amazing. We should have gone out together. We probably would have scored some nice swag.

Alex Grand:
That’s true. I think my first comics were also at 7-Eleven on the news rack. It was Power Man and Iron Fist with Chemistro on the cover shooting up and then Gargoyles to by Demetrius and I was like, oh, what’s this? Those are great memories that rack was by the door as well, like yours was.

Jim Thompson:
I loved that, and then there was a point where my dad started taking me to Clay Book Store in Richmond, Virginia, because they had a better collection and better stuff than what I was getting at 7-Eleven, and understanding is you had a similar experience with that too. Your father took you to a card store or it was something like that.

Tom Brevoort:
In the short term 7-Eleven was kind of my main source for a long while. Eventually around, I’m going to say 1980, maybe 1979 there was a strip mall that was closer to our home and a stationery store within there that started to stock comics and they were better and more regular than the 7-Eleven. So I kind of switched over to using them. Eventually, in the mall area where my dad’s office was, there was a Chase Manhattan Bank location there that he operated out of.

Tom Brevoort:
They opened up a Heroes World, one of the early comic shops based on Ivan Snyder’s mail service. So some day he came home in, I’m guessing it’s ’78 at this point, and said, “Hey, they’ve opened up this store.” He didn’t tell me it was where he worked, because he knew that once I found that out, and in fact, I absolutely did, I would abuse the hell out of that.

Tom Brevoort:
He said, “Hey, I’ve discovered,” I assumed he’d read the newspaper or something. “They’re opening this thing. Do you want to go check it out?” I was like, “Oh, yeah, I definitely want to go.” So I went out to this Heroes World, my dad drove me out to Levittown and that was my first comic book shop experience.

Jim Thompson:
Your dad was taking you into the city and conventions at this point too in the early 70s, right?

Tom Brevoort:
It was more like, it was probably closer to the beginning of the 80s. ’80, ’81. We were only in New York until November of ’81 and that’s when we moved, the family relocated to Delaware. In like 1980, ’81, maybe even ’79, we went to a bunch of conventions, which were more like, in those days, comic book shows. There were a few of them that were out on Long Island. There’s at least one I can remember that was in the Holiday Inn. That was really nothing more than a big room with a lot of dealers.

Tom Brevoort:
We would travel, take the LIRR into the city and go to the actual bigger conventions that were held in the hotels there and he let myself and whatever buddies might have come along with me loose into the place for a couple of hours and say, okay, be back here at whatever time, five o’clock and I would never make it back by five. It would always be 5:30 or six or 6:15. I would always be dreading like, oh, I’m going to get clobbered for not having been there, but it never actually became an issue.

Tom Brevoort:
I suspect him big smarter than me, he kind of figured that that was the way it was going to work. So if he wanted it to be six, he would say five.

Jim Thompson:
You were not reading right around the time of the classic Marvel stuff, but you were picking up all of the reprint books and discovering the classic era of Ditko and Kirby through reprints, is that right?

Tom Brevoort:
Yeah, I wasn’t the Marvel reader at first. When I started reading comics, I started obviously with the DCs and though I didn’t realize it at the time, my tastes in those days were very heavily for Julie Schwartz edited superhero comics, that what he did was what I liked. So whether it was Flash or Justice League or Superman or Batman or his stint on Wonder Woman or whatnot, that’s really the common factor that was there that really appealed to me.

Tom Brevoort:
I sampled other comics. People would buy me comics because they knew I was interested in I had three or four different attempts at reading Marvel books and the Marvel books just did not work for me as a seven year old. For one thing, they were always continued and that was always a problem because I could never be sure that I was going to be able to get a follow-up issue. It was also frustrating, because for whatever reason, I think Len Wein was the editor in chief at that time, and Len had a predilection.

Tom Brevoort:
He did it time and time again, where whatever the cover scene was, would end up being like the cliffhanger of the issue. So you’d buy a comic with whatever, Captain America is being thrown into a volcano, and you’d be like, oh, my God caps being thrown into a volcano. How’s he going to get out, and you’d read through the book, and the last page would be whatever, The Red Skull throwing Cap into the volcano going, you will never survive this volcano.

Tom Brevoort:
Star spangled schweinhund and I’d go oh, I’ve been cheated. I need the next one to find this out. Honestly too, a lot of the Marvel books at that time, we’re playing towards a much older audience than I was at seven. Some of the books that I read are just plain mediocre, but some of them are actually really good. They’re just not aimed at me. The first issue of Captain America I ever read, was the last part of the Nomad story that Steve Engelhart did and it’s a great issue now, but as a kid, it confused the heck out of me.

Tom Brevoort:
Because the lead character in this issue is Nomad, this guy running around in a black and yellow costume. Meanwhile, there’s another guy who’s Captain America who’s doing stuff with the Falcon and the Falcon is kind of training him and they run afoul of the Red Skull and it turns out that Captain America gets crucified on the top of this building by the Red Skull and Nomad shows up and it’s like, oh, my God, what’s happened? Then by the end of the issue, he puts the costume on and he’s Captain American. I went, did they just kill Captain, what is this? I didn’t have the next one. I didn’t have, all I knew was this was not what I wanted from my superhero entertainment at seven.

Alex Grand:
It was intense stuff. Yeah.

Jim Thompson:
If you had bought just two issues earlier, you would have had Nixon killing himself as the head of the Secret Empire.

Tom Brevoort:
Yes, yes. Although I don’t know that I would have gotten that reference, if I’d read it that early. So for the longest time, I was not really a Marvel reader and eventually in I think it was the summer of ’77, I made the leap and I became interested in the Human Torch, because I had Jules Feiffer’s book, The Great Comic Book Heroes, that was remaindered for like years. It was published in ’65, but there were copies all throughout the 70s. I got a copy of that. I bought it and I devoured it, except I didn’t read the Marvel chapters.

Tom Brevoort:
I didn’t read the Marvel stories, because I didn’t like Marvel. So I didn’t read them, which is crazy. There was one day sometime in the summer, where there was nothing going on and I went, I was looking at the book, pulled it out for some reason, and I just kind of went, okay, I guess I’ll read these. They’re here. I haven’t read them before.

Jim Thompsont:
They’re great.

Tom Brevoort:
Yeah, I liked the Human Torch story. So that made me go okay, I’ll see what’s going on with this now. Through osmosis and because there was enough stuff around I knew that the Human Torch was part of the Fantastic Four. In my area, what became my other big source of comics for a while was there’s a drugstore that my family used to go to, it was part of a chain. I stopped mentioning it by name because I don’t know if they still exist that I really don’t need to be sued, but they were drugstore and they had this really big bin, like a wire, chicken wire bin filled with comics.

Tom Brevoort:
I remember it as being massive, although probably proportionally it wasn’t all that huge, but it was a bin, it was entirely Marvel pretty much. Every once in a while, a random copy of Detective Comics or Action Comics would sneak in, but it was all Marvel and it was all older books, all books that were between nine months to three years old. What I worked out years later, it took me a couple of years to have the background to figure this out is, these were all returns that had been reported destroyed, and that somebody had sold to the drugstore chain out of the back of the warehouse.

Tom Brevoort:
So there was this bin, and they would sell the books for like five for a buck. I went to the bin and I went digging around in it, and I pulled out three consecutive issues of Fantastic Four, 177, 178, 179. Cost me 50 cents and I went home and I read those, and I liked them. So the next time later on in the week, or the following week, we ended up back in the drugstore for stuff. I dug around in the bin again, and I came up with three issues of Marvel’s greatest comics, which was 58, 59 and 60 and those were Stan and Chuck books.

Tom Brevoort:
In the 70s, as you’ll remember, Marvel had a full line of reprint titles. Pretty much anything that was a mainstay book had a sister title that was reprinting stories from nine or 10 years earlier. So that’s how I experienced a lot of this stuff.

Alex Grand:
I like how affidavit return fraud is the genesis of your Marvel experience.

Tom Brevoort:
Yes, and so many. Eventually again, the other big clue to that was eventually that bin went away and instead, the drugstore started selling these pre bound wrapped in plastic, five books, all with the covers stripped, and those two were still illegal returns coming from the same source, but by that point, affidavit returns had ended and they were back to normal books, and that didn’t last very long.

Tom Brevoort:
I suspect those were not as appealing to consumers, and certainly a bundle of five, where you could see one, maybe two if the back one happened to be turned around, that was not a gamble I was willing to take a lot of the time.

Jim Thompson
So I want to get you to college, but I’m going to be intelligent for a second and ask you a question. Tell me what The Five Books of Owen Deaver is and what The Hanging Cross is. Do you know?

Tom Brevoort:
Yeah, those are both episodes of Have Gun – Will Travel.

Jim Thompson:
Yes. Very good. You like season two, my two favorite episodes are those two from season one and we can talk about this after. I just wanted to say, I’m with you on Have Gun – Will Travel. It’s a favorite TV western.

Tom Brevoort:
That is a great show. I came to it very late. I only came to it a couple of years ago, five years ago, maybe. I never saw it. I never watched it as a kid or anything. I was just not a Western guy. I’m still really not a Western guy, but that show is top to bottom terrific.

Jim Thompson:
The storytelling and that is just fantastic. So I’m with you on that 100%. So you moved to Delaware and you attended University of Delaware as an illustration major.

Tom Brevoort:
Yes.

Jim Thompson:
So I know you as a kid, you had drawn your own comics and things from early on, and I know you thought you were going to be in the industry. Did you think you were going to be a comic book artist?

Tom Brevoortt:
Yeah, that was sort of my aspiration. I drew comics for years. Again, starting when I was a very young kid, and progressively getting better, and I worked with other people. I would meet like minded friends and we would make comics. We sold copies of at least one book that we did out of the local comic shop for a little while. I got connected to fandom. So I did stuff in fanzines and jazz like that. So I definitely had a draw towards the idea that yeah, I was going to do this professionally and I was going to be a comic book artist. I wasn’t necessarily good enough, skilled enough to do that but that was where my aspirations lie.

Jim Thompson:
In your third summer at school, 1989 you applied to all the comic book companies for an internship, correct?

Tom Brevoort::
Yes.

Jim Thompson:
Marvel is the only one that contacted you back.

Tom Brevoort:
That is also correct. Yes.

Jim Thompson:
So playing the Marvel, what if game, what if DC had responded instead of Marvel? What do you think your career would have been like?

Tom Brevoort:
I don’t know. Well, certainly I would have interned at DC. Hopefully, in a perfect case scenario, I would have performed as well and been thought of as nicely as I was at Marvel, so that when there was an opening people might have hired me on over there. My career trajectory at Marvel is an outlier. Nobody else has one like it. It’s not even duplicable. So I don’t know with all the various changes and shifts and things that DC has gone through in that same period, what the situation would have been. Would I be DC for 31 years? Would I have done some time at DC had done work for other companies? Would I have gotten out of the industry at some point? It’s impossible to say.

Jim Thompson:
Only to watch your nose.

Tom Brevoort
Yep, yep.

Alex Grand:
It could have had one of those Roy Thomas what if endings where everyone dies. Who knows what could have happened.

Jim Thompson:
So at your internship, you had a natural flair, all modesty aside, you did a great job and you got an immediate offer to work for them, which is not an easy thing to have happen.

Tom Brevoort:
It wasn’t quite immediate, but it was close enough. It was within three months.

Jim Thompson:
Now, did you take that and finish school or what happened there?

Tom Brevoort:
I was made the offer in November, and that offer was made by Danny Fingeroth, who was running the Spider-Man group. I said, “Yeah, okay, sure. I’ll absolutely come up and be your assistant editor, Danny.” Then because I was up at the offices, I went around to talk to the people that I knew, including Bob Budiansky who was one of the three offices that I had interned for over the summer.

Tom Brevoort:
I told Bob, I’m coming back. Danny’s going to bring beyond to do this thing and Bob thought about it for a second. He said, “You know, we’re going to need somebody in this department too, but we don’t necessarily need them right away. If I could get you hired here at the end of the year, you could finish out your term, your semester, would you be up for that?” I went, yeah, of course. Then Bob kind of metaphorically rub your hands together and went, “Let’s tell Danny.” We went back through the offices to Danny Fingeroth’s office to tell him that no, I wasn’t going to come on to work for him. I was going to come on I worked for Buda.

Jim Thompson:
Oh, that’s great, Alex.

Alex Grand:
Yeah, so and Bob Budiansky, I think they portrayed him in The Toys That Made Us they had an actor betray him. So who would have thought that he would have an accurate portray him time. So that was 1989. So this is interesting, because you’ve mentioned we’ve listened to some of your other stuff that you’ve done as far as interviews, and you were working in front of three editorial offices. You mentioned special projects, Bob Budiansky and Dwayne McDuffie that they were doing posters, license art, movie adaptations.

Alex Grand:
The cosmic office, which you’ve mentioned, which was Craig Anderson, Renee Witterstaetter, that was like, what if Silver Surfer, Guardians of the Galaxy was coming out at the time, and then the managing associate editors, Marvel Masterworks, Avenger Spotlight with Evan Skolnick.

Tom Brevoort:
And Greg Wright. Greg was actually the managing editor. Evan was his assistant.

Alex Grand:
There you go, and Greg Wright. So during that interim time, were you just kind of assisting all these people? What exactly were you doing then?

Tom Brevoort:
I was doing whatever needed to be done. Those three offices all were sort of in at the end of one corridor of Marvel. So it was a little cul-de-sac, where those three offices existed and I had like a little Workstation or table outside of the three. So whenever there was something that people needed to be done, I would do it and from my work on fanzines, and art and such, I could do any task that was needed.

Alex Grand:
So you understood their printing process and things like that.

Tom Brevoort:
Yeah, I’m not a professional grade letterer, but I can letter. I could do any kind of paste up that was necessary, production, things like that. When I got to Marvel, and I’ve said this a lot of times over the years, there was only one computer in the place. There was a single, I think it was an Apple II, and I walk in the door, I immediately knew more about how to use it than anybody that was on staff because it was more of my generation.

Tom Brevoort:
So I did a lot of typesetting of captions and things. If you go to the Thanos Quest, the two issue Jim Starlin series. Yeah, there’s a whole bunch of balloons in that that are lettered in a computery font and I did the typesetting on all of that on the Apple.

Alex Grand:
So you were kind of the new guy that could help the older people out a bit easier.

Tom Brevoort:
Yeah, I was also capable of doing whatever was needed. Again, I don’t want to toot my own horn too much, but this was a common theme that came up is that people would throw me things expecting that that’s going to take four days to get done, and a day and a half later, it’d be like, here it is. It’s done. What’s next?

Alex Grand:
Yeah, that’s great. You were gung ho about it, too. It sounds like you enjoyed it.

Tom Brevoort:
Oh, yeah. It was a great experience and it was very much like, while I was still not fully formed or anything. Walking into that place and interacting there and being around that for the full working day, that was a very comfortable environment for me.

Alex Grand:
Then Dwayne McDuffie, as some people may know is that he worked on what, Milestone and comics at DC then he did some animation. He’s written Justice League Unlimited episodes and things. Do you have any particular anecdote about Dwayne McDuffie at all about working with him?

Tom Brevoort:
Shoot. I mean, it’s hard for me to find the one anecdote. Obviously, I worked under him as an intern and I worked alongside him as an editor and ultimately I edited books. He worked on Deathlok for me, years later did Beyond and Fantastic Four and a bunch of stuff and Dwayne was great. He was possibly the smartest person that was up there at the time.

Alex Grand:
He comes off as like he knows his continuity. He knows his universes. He loves the material. Is that how it came off to you?

Tom Brevoort:
Not even so much in terms of knowing the continuity, he knew the science. He knew the stuff behind it, he’d had a diverse career, he’d done a bunch of stuff. He’d written jokes for David Letterman, he’d had a background in physics. He had a very affable personality. So it was very easy to sit and talk with him or eat lunch and whatnot. He would always eat, and I’m hardly want to talk, he would always eat the worst lunches. Lunch for Dwayne would be a box of Entenmann’s cookies and a glass of milk, but we would do ridiculous things like there was one day when he’d gotten his hands on an eggs worth of Silly Putty.

Tom Brevoort:
He decided we were going to test Silly Putty on all of the various formats that we now produced to determine which of the Silly Putty could still take an impression of the ink off of and which it no longer could. Most of them were a failure. The printing had gotten good enough and sophisticated enough that you no longer could take it off with Silly Putty, but we performed that exacting scientific experiment for the good of mankind one lunchtime in the summer of 1989.

Alex Grand:
That’s awesome. So now 1989 also Revlon and the Proman Group, they took over Marvel that year. Did you make any notices that corporate wise things were different on a functional basis when that happened?

Tom Brevoort:
Going, in starting, it’s kind of hard to say because there’s no contrast. The big change that had happened before I got there was that Jim Shooter was out and Tom DeFalco was in. Even though like I walked in, in 1989, and that had happened at the beginning of ’87, two years earlier, it was still a thing that hung over that place, like nothing. Again, I’ve had only infrequent and not terribly deep interactions with Jim over the years, and they’ve all been reasonably pleasant for all that we’ve never been able to get things to work out where he would write a book for me or whatnot.

Tom Brevoort:
In the Marvel of 1989, even people who couldn’t stand one another on staff would come together in unity to agree that Jim Shooter was an enormous monster and it was a good thing that he wasn’t there anymore. It’s stunning. So the morale situation at Marvel in 1987, or the very end of ’86 really had to be awful for it to still reverberate two years later. So that I can say for sure.

Tom Brevoort:
The stuff I remember about Revlon coming in is not so much them coming in, but eventually, within a year or so of my being there, they were going to make the first stock offering. They offered us shares of the stock. You could buy in at, I think, $16 a share, but you had to buy a minimum of 25 and that was like $400 and I didn’t have $400 to spare. I was working on staff salary. I was making maybe 16-five a year.

Tom Brevoort:
So I didn’t do it and literally the moment the stock listed, it was already up at 19. Then it climbed and then it split, and then it split again. And some people, if they were able to get out at the right point, made a ridiculous amount of money, but generally I didn’t see any of that. What was going on at Marvel at that time really was the marketplace was exploding in a big way. That was the era of what we now think of as the big image craters, but in those days, it was just Todd McFarlane and the guy that draw Spider-Man. Then Jim Lee and Rob Liefeld and those guys coming in and getting hotter and hotter and these big sales happening to all these big books, and everything selling well, selling well and selling better.

Alex Grand:
There was a time when it was like booming for sure.

Tom Brevoort:
Yeah, it was definitely a boom time there for the first couple of years.

Alex Grand:
So then how is Tom DeFalco as editor in chief?

Tom Brevoort:
Tom DeFalco as editor in chief I think was pretty good. Again, my perspective on Tom has changed over time. Because coming in, I was a little piss ant assistant editor, and he was the editor in chief and he intimidated the shit out of me, and not necessarily deliberately. It’s funny because over the years, I’ve found myself doing the same kind of thing and I have to remind myself when I’m dealing with younger editors, they don’t have the context for this, but Tom had come up in the ranks. Tom was of the editorial staff of that time.

Tom Brevoort:
So Tom had a very comfortable and very friendly relationship with all of the editors that were now theoretically under him and now that Jim was gone, and Tom was in charge, it was like this cloud had lifted. So there was a lot of playfulness. There was a lot of joking around, and there was a lot of squeezing of shoes. As somebody coming in, you didn’t have that relationship, and you didn’t understand that relationship and Tom would every once in a while, delight in winding somebody up.

Tom Brevoort:
That was fine if you understood he’s just Tom DeFalco, that guy that used to work on the row, not really looking to do that, but if you don’t have that context, he’s a scary guy.

Alex Grand:
Interesting. Because he’s just doing business, but maybe there’s just something about that and his position that had felt intimidating.

Tom Brevoort:
Well, the story that I tell, and it didn’t happen to me. It happened to Eric Fein, who was the assistant editor eventually associate editor who ended up being hired because I didn’t take the Danny Fingeroth position. He worked with Danny on the Spidey books, and when Carnage debuted in the Spider-Man titles, and that was a huge thing. It sold out a couple of printings and whatnot and they rushed to do, and it was very rare that they would do it in those days, like a little mini trade paperback of all the Carnage stuff. Eric was assigned to put that together.

Tom Brevoort:
So he did, and he packaged it, sent it off the print and eventually weeks go by, and Eric’s sitting in his office working, and Tom DeFalco appears in his doorway and bellows at him, Fein. Eric looks up and Eric was kind of a jittery guy to begin with. So he looks up and he’s like, the editor in chief is in my doorway, and he’s bellowing loudly and Tom’s got a copy of the Carnage book in his hand, and he holds it up and he shakes it.

Tom Brevoort:
“What do you call this?” Eric starts to stammer and goes, collection of the and Tom walks into the office and he throws it down on the desk. “What do you call that? You know what I call that? I think call that a goddamn perfect trade paperback,” and Tom walks out. Tom just thinks he’s given the kind of compliment and he’s doing a little bit of theater, but I swear for the rest of the day, Eric walked around-

Alex Grand:
Kind of stared.

Tom Brevoort:
Jittering. It was all because like Tom would lose sight of the fact that people looked at him or saw him in that way. He’s actually a wonderful individual and a super good guy, and again, once he was out as editor in chief, and just working as a writer, and so forth, he wrote a bunch of stuff that I edited, and we worked together a lot. That was the point at which we could actually connect as people, but before that, he just had this ambience, and this way about him that he could be intimidating.

Alex Grand:
Nice. Interesting. Yeah, I guess, timing and position. Do you have any interactions about Mark Gruenwald you can tell us about, because I’m a big Mark Gruenwald fan. I loved his Quasar and all that.

Tom Brevoort:
Sure, sure. Well, Mark, again, I don’t know that I have like the best story.

Alex Grand:
The best story. No, that’s okay.

Tom Brevoort:
Other people will have much better stories than I do, but what I tell people about mark, because at this point, he’s been gone long enough that really, nobody is left, one or two of us that even had any interaction with him. The best analogy that I could give people, in terms of understanding what he was like, is that he was like Jim Henson. He had that sort of personality, there’s a sort of Midwestern center to him, but there’s also a zaniness and a craziness and an appreciation for certain type of chaos, and yet also very organization based, very solid.

Tom Brevoort:
So on the one hand, Mark would build the pan book of the Marvel Universe and attempt to quantify in exacting detail every aspect of every bit of this fictional universe and be very dedicated and focused on that as an objective and on the other hand, he would fill his office late literally waist high with crumpled up copies of return New Universe comics.

Tom Brevoort:
There were a couple of big things he did. Michelle Marshdae was one. In his office one weekend, he and his assistants build the platform and put the desks on a platform. It was literally like a platform stage and in theory, the reason that they did this was Jim Shooter was a big call guy. So he was intimidating. He’s been looking down on you, but if Jim came in, it was the one office where Jim would actually have to look up, but that’s not the whole of it.

Tom Brevoort:
The real secret is that the platform had a trapdoor and you could go down inside of it and inside of it, there was a little man cave, and the little man cave had like a place to sleep, and a little black and white television and so forth, and what they would do, because the amount of work that was necessary to do the handbook every month was so extensive, particularly when you come down to typesetting in a pre computer era, and paste up and so forth, is they would have guys stay the whole weekend in the office doing this.

Tom Brevoort:
At a certain point at night, a certain time at night, the building would close, and the motion sensors would go on and so forth. Before that would happen, you’d do your last bathroom run, and you’d climb into the bunker and you’d just be in there with your little mini fridge and your TV and your stuff and sleep for however many hours while the motion detectors were on, and eventually the next morning, you could get up, go out.

Tom Brevoort:
You could maybe sneak into Terry Stewart’s office where there was a shower, and then go back about the business of putting this thing out, all completely against building regulations, and certainly Marvel regulations. It was one of these things that was a secret known to very few, the few that worked on it. Mark did stuff like that all the time, and he really was the unofficial morale officer for Marvel in that generation.

Tom Brevoort:
Everybody kind of liked him. He organized all of the holiday parties and outings and he was big on games that he was big on participation, which I didn’t dig so much because I was not big on participation. I regret that a little bit in hindsight. Somebody recently put up footage from I think it was like a 1991 or a 1992 Halloween party, and I’m in it for like, two seconds. I walk through at one point, but everybody else is there and having a good time and goofing around and being silly and I can look back at that and go, yeah, maybe I should have done more of that and less of whatever it was I was doing that day.

Alex Grand:
Yeah, I see what you’re saying. Now there’s some other details. You were there when Walt Simonson was kind of working on X Factor and then Fantastic Four. John Jr. was there. John Romita Sr. Virginia Romita, his wife was there. She was running the bullpen any stories about the Romitas and the bullpen?

Tom Brevoort:
The Romitas were terrific. John in particular was great and was wonderful both to learn things from. You would always learn stuff dealing with John, because John was both an absolute perfectionist, and absolutely uncertain about his own abilities.

Alex Grand:
Yeah, he sounds like that in his interviews. He’s always saying something bad about his own stuff. I’m like, why? It’s cool.

Tom Brevoort:
He’s got a lot of humility about what he does, which is sort of ironic given the immense amount of talent that he has. I got to put together, when he in Virginia retired in ’96, we did an art of John Romita book and I got to prowl through his files, and pull together all the art and stuff for that and so forth. John was just a wonderful salt of the earth kind of guy. The first year I was there, I had a friend who was a huge John Romita fan. So there was a New York convention and John was going to be there and he sent me a sketchbook and said, “Could you get John to do a drawing of the Green Goblin in my sketchbook?”

Tom Brevoort:
So I went to the convention that weekend and John’s at whatever table he’s at, I stood in line, and I got up to the front of the line and John looks up at me and is like, “Kid, what are you doing here?” I said, well, I came to this thing. I got this sketch I wanted to get done. John’s like, “You don’t have to do this here. Bring it to me on Monday. I’ll do it the office.” I was like, “I don’t want to trouble you. I don’t want to,” and he’s like, “No, no. You come back, you see me and bring it to me Monday.”

Tom Brevoort:
So I got out of the line. I went down to his corner office on Monday, gave him the book and whatever, day later, beautiful Green Goblin for my buddy that I could send to him. He was just a really good guy. Virginia too, was sort of like the mother matron of the bullpen. Although she was much more of a hard ass. You could tell that within the family, she was the matriarch and she was the one that made the trains run.

Tom Brevoort:
So every week, we would have scheduling meetings, which came to be colloquially known as the Virginia meeting. All the editors would be there and she would go on the schedule and see where things were, and shake people down to make sure that books were running on time and if they weren’t, you caught a little hell for it. So, again, Virginia could be very intimidating in that scenario. She was actually a very lovely person. She oversaw the bullpen and was great there. It was nice having everybody kind of in house, it was like a family business but she was definitely more of an ass kicker than John was.

Alex Grand:
So that family vibe, that kind of changed then when Marvel went public in ’91, like that kind of changes some things, didn’t it? Other than the stocks that you were talking about.

Tom Brevoort:
The only real effects it had on Marvel internally, one, there was massive growth, that the number of editors and the number of books we were putting out, got bigger and bigger and bigger and bigger, because we were constantly chasing last year’s sales figures. It’s a thing that happened a couple of times over the years, and DeFalco talks about it quite a lot that the first year that they came in Marvel put out Todd McFarlane Spider-Man number one and it sold like a million and a half copies. At the end of that year, when it came time to do the next year’s budget, the higher ups said to Tom, “Okay, you did great. Now do it again, but more.”

Tom Brevoort:
Tom came downstairs and went, “I don’t know how the heck we’re going to match-”

Alex Grand:
Because they’re kind of unprecedented.

Tom Brevoort:
How we’re going to match the sales of Spider-Man Number One and they talked about it and they said, well, maybe if we do X-Men Number One, and we relaunch New Mutants as X-Force Number One at the same time, maybe between the two, we can just ick over the line and then it turned out that X-Force sold 4 million copies and X-Men sold 8 million copies. Then at the end of that year, they said to Tom, you did great now do it again, but more. Tom came downstairs and went, how the heck are we going to do this? The answer there was lines and that was the year that we launched Midnight Sons and the year that we launched 2099.

Tom Brevoort:
I think there was an epic launch line in there. I forget whether it was Heavy Hitters, or one of the earlier ones and through all of that, for three or four iterations, Marvel under Tom was able to meet those goals, but it was an ever expanding sort of house of cards that inevitably was going to fall in on itself at a certain point. You can’t sustain that growth forever and when it happened, it happened pretty much all at once.

Alex Grand:
Yeah, pretty hard. So that’s interesting. So it’s more like the corporate expectations on Tom is the change when it goes public, and the Revlon people are kind of calling the shots. So then there are a couple changes that happened, and what was your viewpoint? So Chris Claremont and Louise Simonson seemed like they were kind of replaced creatively on their titles of X-Men and mutants by even the writing direction by Jim Lee and Rob Liefeld. I think Bob Harris did that. When you were seeing that, were you like, okay, cool that’s a good change, or it’s going to speak to the new generation or were you really not involved in it and you didn’t have of any of that whatsoever?

Tom Brevoort:
I wasn’t really involved because, again, Bob was editing the X-Men books. He was the line editor of X-Men at that point and had been for a number of years. I think I must have been on a certain level surprised that Chris was out, but you have to also remember that for years, at that point, the hardcore fandom had been saying Chris is tired, Chris was done. You got to get him out of here. We need somebody new there.

Tom Brevoort:
It wasn’t necessarily the whole of that audience because X-Men still sold like crazy and people really loved what Chris was doing but the vocal segment of fandom for years have been saying, oh, no, he’s no good anymore. So on that level, the fact that it happened wasn’t to be like, oh, the earth has shook. It was just, okay, he’s whatever. Bob is making a choice. He’s going in this direction.

Tom Brevoort:
With Louise on New Mutants and X-Factor, it was kind of the same sort of thing. Louise had come in on those books at a certain point. She inherited New Mutants, I think from Chris and she inherited X-Factor from Bob Layton. So her going out, it was just business as usual. Okay, somebody run is ending, somebody new is coming in. There was an overall chase of the sales figures that was going on.

Tom Brevoort:
I can remember because the other part of this that people either don’t realize or don’t remember so often is during that period, and starting, to his credit with Jim Shooter, the editors got incentives as well as the talent did. So it was proportionally a much smaller slice, but if your book did well, that resulted in actual dollars in your pocket as an editor. So particularly as this chase for sales went on, and people started to get bigger and bigger checks as a result, the expectation and the sense of proportion got all out of whack.

Tom Brevoort:
I can remember people, editors complaining, because their book had only sold 500,000 copies and feeling like they’d somehow been screwed or the book hadn’t been promoted well enough, or whatever the hell for 500,000 copies, which is bananas, but all the sense of scale was out the window. That 500,000 copies, that was whatever, three, four grand in that guy’s pocket, but if it had been 600,000 copies, maybe it would have been six, seven grand or whatever. So people were legitimately thinking about that way in that mercenary, a fashion.

Alex Grand:
There you go. That definitely explains that culture ship at Marvel at that time. So then, were you surprised then when the image revolution happened and the creators that are creating all this money for the company, they just said, we’ll just create it for ourselves somewhere else.

Tom Brevoort:
Certainly everybody was shocked that it happened, because nobody really saw it coming that way and it hadn’t been done before. By the same token, I came out of the generation who, the direct market wasn’t a new thing for me. It all kind of evolved and became a thing right at the time point that I was reading those books. I read a lot of independent comics in those days, independent whether that meant a First or an Eclipse, or whether that meant an Aardvark-Vanaheim, or an Elfquest.

Tom Brevoort:
So I had a pretty good understanding of that world. So the idea that these guys would go out and do their own thing, it wasn’t alien to me. I think what was surprising both to me and everybody else, was that it was as enormously successful as it was. I think the other part of that is, I think everybody was a little taken aback by the fact that, and this should not have been surprising to anyone. It’s just nobody had done it before. The books that they went off and did effectively felt like they were quasi Marvel books, like they were very much straight ahead, right down the middle of superhero titles of one sort or another.

Tom Brevoort:
Wildcats wasn’t X-Men, but it was a superhero team the likes of which you could have found at a Marvel or DC and Savage Dragon wasn’t the Hulk, but you could see that character existing in a Marvel line or a DC line. So in effect, what those guys did, at least at the outset, was to do the same sort of material they had been doing at Marvel and really tap into and connect with the audience that had come to really love what they did on those older characters and make that transition to these new characters.

Tom Brevoort:
It really felt, I think, to a lot of younger readers at that point, like this was the beginning of the new Marvel. I wasn’t around when Amazing Fantasy 15 came out, but I’ve got my copy of ShadowHawk number one, and it’s going to be like Amazing Fantasy 15 when I’m a 40 year old man, because people are going to look back and I was there when that happened. I think it was a huge thing.

Alex Grand:
Yeah, that’s interesting. I like ShadowHawk but they don’t make ShadowHawks as much anymore. Jim Valentino is not really drawing stuff. So it becomes one of the things that comes and goes really. So then the trading card, and hologram covers, zeitgeist of the time, who would you say kind of came up with that or push that the most?

Tom Brevoort:
Well, there’s two pieces to that. Trading cards were kind of a separate thing. One of the first things that I worked on, when I came in working with Bob Budiansky was the first line of Marvel trading cards, the 1990 Impel set. That was the licensing deal like any other and in our special projects area was a thing that we handled. So creatively, Bob, and to a lesser extent I, as the assistant put those cards together and in fact, I wrote probably a quarter of that set.

Alex Grand:
Oh, you did? That’s awesome. I got those when they came out. That’s great.

Tom Brevoort:
That first set, there was an expectation for it, but it performed way better than anybody anticipated. So we ended up doing the second year set and then beginning to expand out from there and going, well what else could we do? We did the X-Men set and we did the first Marvel masterpieces set and we did Spider-Man said and that became more and more successful, to the point where one of the things that was going on with Revlon and Marvel is, they were on a buying frenzy.

Tom Brevoort:
They were ill capitalized and they were using a lot of Marvel equity as collateral in a lot of purchases in trying to stay ahead of their debt, which is ultimately what sent everything into bankruptcy because you couldn’t generate enough money to stay ahead of the curve long enough. At the time, they were on a buying frenzy and they bought FLIR, they bought the trading card company FLIR and their thought was, we have this licensing deal with Impel which became SkyBox, but if we do it through FLIR, we get to keep all the money.

Tom Brevoort:
So they did that and then people came in along with FLIR and that became a bit of a battle for control and ultimately, they ended up taking over the cards, and then eventually that whole market kind of collapsed and crumbled. So that was a separate thing. Enhanced covers came about slightly accidentally. There’d been a little bit of evidence beforehand, like there’d been two covers on Man of Steel Number One, and the first issue of Legends of The Dark Knight, they had shipped that with four cardboardy outer covers that were different colors, but what I think of is the first real cover enhancement was an issue of Hulk.

Tom Brevoort:
It was the Peter David, Dale Keown Hulk. It was the issue in which Peter integrated the various Hulk personalities into the one unified Hulk.

Alex Grand:
Yeah. Professor Hulk.

Tom Brevoort:
Yeah, the Professor Hulk and they did this cover where they printed it with a fifth color ink, a fluorescent green ink. That was an ink that was normally used on a cover, you had to pay for it special and they put that book out and it sold like crazy and they had to do second printings and things. So that plus the fact that we also had a trading card division where in every set of cards, you would do chase cards and the point of chase cards was, they’re harder to get.

Tom Brevoort:
You got to buy more packs to get them all and they were driver. Part of what made them unique was they’d almost all revolve around some bit of technology. They’d be holographic. They’d have foil, they’d be three dimensional. They’d have some gimmick that the trading card companies had figured out how manufacture.

Tom Brevoort:
So applying that thought process to comics, people began to be able to experiment with covers. They did the glow in the dark Ghost Rider cover, which is still a great cover and a great idea. It’s just Ghost Rider’s head on fire, and it glows in the dark. That’s super cool, but every time they did it, those books sold like crazy and consequently, particularly as the need to make that nut continued to elevate, it went from being, we’ll do one of these every once in a while to we’re going to do one of these every month, to we got to do two of them every month, to now you got to do three of them every month and not only were there not enough enhancements, like you ran out of stuff you could do, and you’re trying to come up with the weirdest thing.

Tom Brevoort:
There is some covers done in that period, that are bananas, they don’t make any sense at all and they look awful, because nobody had actually cracked whatever that technology is or figured out how to use it effectively but it had to be done. So go, let’s-

Alex Grand:
Make it happen. This sounds like the gorilla cover directive by Irwin Donenfeld at DC in like the 60s, right? Doesn’t that feel similar?

Tom Brevoort:
Sort of, although it’s kind of the opposite there. Irwin had figured out that gorillas were a thing that tended to spike sales and in fact, at a certain point, he put the brakes on it and went, we’re not going to have any more than one gorilla cover in a month. Because as people learned of this, or as he excitedly told editors about this, they immediately went, I better put a bunch of gorillas on my covers, that’s going to help me sell comics. Ultimately, Irwin was the guy that said, okay, enough, enough. We’re going to kill the golden goose. Only one of these a month from now on.

Alex Grand:
There you go. Then, whereas Marvel was like, let’s quadruple this and let’s go for it.

Tom Brevoort:
Yes, but again, that was all in service of the demands from higher up. If you need to do better than your record breaking year last year by X percent 10%, 20% and you don’t even know how you’re going to match it. You are literally just throwing everything you can think of.

Alex Grand:
Whatever tool you had. Yeah. So then when the 1994 Heroes World Distribution debacle happened and Marvel says we’re going to go through a distributor. There was a whole collapse of the distributors. The Heroes World distributors couldn’t really handle all that product moving around and then Marvel ends up going with Diamond. Diamond becomes kind of the, I don’t know if monopoly is the right word but it does. When you were going through all this, it was like all this rise and almost fall. The image revolutions happening all this craziness, what’s going through your head and were you still doing special projects at this time and were you like, okay, this might fall apart soon?

Tom Brevoort:
Again, you’re talking about a lot of events over a decent amount of time. So to kind of try to walk through it, eventually two things happened. One was FLIR came in and FLIR ended up absorbing the trading cards. Trading cards as a segment became larger and larger, it became more and more of what Bob Budiansky and I were focused on. So other stuff that was typically done by special projects ended up being outsourced other editors and other places. Movie adaptations and so forth, even posters, I think by the end of it.

Tom Brevoort:
So then the next thing that happened is the thing that ended up being called marvelcusion , which is at a certain point, the business guys got fed up with Tom DeFalco always telling them no for all their great harebrained ideas that we’re sure to bring ruin to the world, including things like Heroes World. So they decided we’re going to promote him laterally out of the way and we’re going to break up the editorial division into five sub divisions, each one of which will have an editor in chief.

Tom Brevoort:
That will prevent the editor in chief position from being too powerful in any given set of hands and allow our sales department to really drive the bus. In that process, because that was all happening at around the time that the trading cards were going away, Bob Budiansky was put in charge of the Spider-Man segment of Marvel. He was the editor in chief of Spider-Man during that year, which certainly was aggravating to Danny Fingeroth who had been the senior editor on Spider-Man, had been editing the Spidey books all the way through, at least up to the point where Jim Salicrup had left a couple of years earlier, and he and Bob, they’d known each other back in college and so forth.

Tom Brevoort:
They always had a certain amount of almost like a rivalry relationship. So this was kind of a bad Mojo situation, but I then segued myself and my assistant at the time, Glenn Greenberg segued into working in the Spidey area. That having been said that lasted a year and for that year, it was the worst year of the brakes are off of, we need more blood out of the stone. We need more, we need more, we need more.

Tom Brevoort:
I tell this story to the younger editors as a cautionary tale too, because when the five editor in chiefs were set up, each one was given a goal. Bob Harris’ goal was to grow X-Men by 20%. Bob Budiansky’s goal was to grow Spider-Man by 10% and then Mark Gruenwald, Bobbie Chase and Carl Potts, who did the Marvel Heroes what was called Marvel Edge but was kind of Ghost Rider and Friends, and then the epic line. All three of them didn’t have to grow at all.

Tom Brevoort:
They just had to stay level. They couldn’t lose anything over the course of that next year. The only one of the five that actually achieved that goal was Bob Budiansky and he was subsequently fired for it.

Alex Grand:
What year was that?

Tom Brevoort:
That would have been. I’m going to say ’95.

Alex Grand:
Is this like Spidey Clone Saga era, then?

Tom Brevoort:
Yes. The Clone Saga had started and was going and was about to reach a certain level of resolution. Part of the reason it never did for the longest time was the sales guys were saying this is going too well, and it’s selling too good. Keep it going. You got to keep it going and you got to do more and what other Spidey books can you do and how can you expand the line? 10% more, we need 10% more. So that was the driving force and Buda did it honestly by strip mining the Spider-Man world. He dug deep into the bedrock there and I don’t know if he’d had to do it for a second year or third year, if it would have been able to be continued, but he was very effective at being able to do that, even though in trying to do that, he drove everybody absolutely crazy.

Tom Brevoort:
That was the mission that was set down by the company. So that was what he had to try to do, like it or not. So in the aftermath of that was we called marvelcusion which is when by this point, even the ownership of the company, my sense of the timing of this gets a little muddled in my head, but there was already beginning to be fights over control of the company, because these debts that had been accumulated were building up and people were buying the debt in the hopes of staging a hostile takeover and so forth.

Tom Brevoort:
So at a certain point, the powers that be of that day decided, nope, no more five editor-in-chiefs. We’re going to go with one editor in chief, it’s going to be Bob Harris. The market is crashing, we need to cut costs. We are going to fire tons of people, and pretty much a third to a half of the staff were all laid off in that, whatever, it was January 6.

Alex Grand:
That’s around the time when Gruenwald had a heart attack and stuff.

Tom Brevoort:
It’s a little after that. From this point of view, it’s all about the same time.

Alex Grand:
It’s all around the same time. How did you survive the calling?

Tom Brevoort:
On one level, it’s a mystery and I’ve talked to people about this over the years. Jim Sokolowski, who was at that time, the publisher told me at one point, that in the end, it came down to a choice between you, me and Joey Cavalieri and they figured that I would be more of a team player. My interpretation of that is that it came down to me and Joey and Joey was making more money than I was. So he was probably a better savings than I was, but for whatever reason, literally, everybody else that was a part of that Spider-Man team was killed all around me. Myself and Glenn, my assistant were the only ones that survived it.

Alex Grand:
This is like a Roy Thomas what if ending.

Tom Brevoort:
Yes, yes, yes. This whole period for the next five years, as we descended into the point where Marvel went into bankruptcy and control of the company, who was overseeing it, who was running it and what its goals and objectives were, would change on almost a week to week basis. You’d come in on a Monday, and some guy you’d never seen before would walk into the center of the bullpen and go, all right, listen up. I’m the new president and I’m here now. Now, we’re going to do things the right way and we’re going to dig our way out of this, and we’re going to, and he’d have a bunch of things that he’d want to do. Then the next week, another guy would come in.

Alex Grand:
This is like a newspaper strip.

Tom Brevoort:
Yeah, and everything he would tell you would be completely the opposite of what the last guy did. So it was absolute chaos.

Alex Grand:
Were you thinking like, man, this place is going down the drain. What were you feeling about the place or were you just saying, hey, I’m just glad to still be here.

Tom Brevoort:
I think it was more of that and it was much more focused on, there’s no other thing you can do, but walk forward. There’s no other thing you can do, but keep going.

Alex Grand:
You were a good soldier through the whole thing, it sounds like.

Tom Brevoort:
Bob Budiansky was really my touch point and my mentor coming in and he was gone and I had no particular relationship with Bob Harris, other than I guest starred the X-Men and some comics and had Bob had not liked the depiction at some point. So I had no support structure at all after that was gone. It was just me, I was all that was left. So I had to figure out how to do that, and how to prove my value and my worth actively. That’s really, I think the point where it’s not like I didn’t have some editorial skills or some acumen or whatever before that, but that’s really the point where I became or started to become the Tom Brevoort that I am now, because there was no other option.

Tom Brevoort:
Your back was against the wall, and you were still here, they were still paying you, you were still employed, you want to still be employed, you still want to do this. Lots of other people went out and looked for other jobs and other things, and every once in a while, I would talk to somebody or I would entertain something, but I’d never actually really act on it because I’ve wanted to be at Marvel. This is what I wanted to do.

Tom Brevoort:
My attitude was always just, you just got to keep slugging. Got to keep plugging on, got to do more. That very quickly turned into my philosophy of, I am going to do twice as much as any other person, because my thinking was, if they’re going to get rid of me, they’re going to need at least two guys to replace me. It almost doesn’t matter what they’re paying me, it’s going to be cheaper for it to be me than it is for anybody else.

Tom Brevoort:
So in those days, I set records in terms of the amount of stuff that you would do. On the org chart of the day and editorial workload was five monthly titles, and then maybe a sixth special project in any given month. That was objectively the amount you’re supposed to be doing. There were months in there where I put out 15 books. Once I got a head of steam, and once I started to figure out how to make the levers work a little bit, I got in tight with some of the guys that run our P&Ls. I began to understand that process.

Tom Brevoort:
I got to understand and how to make something profitable or where the lines were and I would pitch any stupid project that came into my head that I thought was halfway decent. I was pretty good at being able to understand that system well enough to go, well, if you do this and this and this, I can make the thing I want to make and it will make money. So you should let me do it because I want to do it and for the most part, the answer that came back was, okay, you want to do it? We like making money, go make money, don’t lose money. You’re good. So I did a lot of scrambling there. By any metric, it was not a fun, pleasant time.

Alex Grand:
Right. It sounds like there is a lot of stress too.

Tom Brevoort:
Oh yeah, it’s a huge period of uncertainty.

Alex Grand:
Of uncertainty. Yeah, that’s the main word. So then in 1997 when Toy Biz bought Marvel, and then Perlmutter stabilized it financially, was that the feeling on the ground floor like okay, the nightmares over or was there a thing like okay, this might go nuts too. What was the overall vibe with that purchase?

Tom Brevoort:
We didn’t think too much about that purchase, I don’t think because that was just the latest scrimmage in a series of scrimmages. Probably the bigger turning point there was when Bob Harras got fired and Joe Quesada came in as editor-in-chief. Joe had been around, Joe and Jimmy, as part of Marvel Knights and Marvel Knights was another, during this period we skipped over Heroes Reborn.

Alex Grand:
Yeah. Let’s talk a little bit about that too. Yes.

Tom Brevoort:
Heroes Reborn was, again, the business folks upstairs saying numbers are in the toilet everywhere. We can’t seem to reverse this. When was the last time numbers were good? It was when these guys were doing the books. What if we offered them a deal where we licensed the characters to them-

Alex Grand:
To the image guys basically, to do Marvel.

Tom Brevoort:
Yeah, Jim and Rob will license the characters there and we’ll make out. They did that deal and that deal in particular was usually traumatic for Marvel editorial staff, because the one two punch of that is you’ve just eliminated a third to half of the staff and now you’re starting to outsource the characters. That was definitely, the feeling there was oh, this is all done. They’re going to shut this place down.

Alex Grand:
Who originated that idea? Are you able to say?

Tom Brevoort:
It wasn’t anybody in editorial. It was all above.

Alex Grand:
It was all the corporate stuff.

Tom Brevoort:
Or higher ups. I don’t know exactly who. I’m sure Rob Liefeld just did a bunch of podcasts about this recently, over the last couple of weeks. I haven’t listened to any of them, frankly, because while I’m innately curious, I’m also sure they’ll aggravate the hell out of me. So I’ve kind of stayed away from them, but I bet he talks chapter and verse about who it was that contacted him and Jim and what the deal was, and so forth. That was a whole process and that was enormously scary.

Tom Brevoort:
That was the point at which it was entirely not even possible, but likely that Marvel was just going to be broken up and sold as parts and somebody would buy Spider-Man and somebody would buy the Hulk.

Alex Grand:
That’s what it kind of feels like, like you’re licensing out the stuff.

Tom Brevoort:
Right, and ultimately for a myriad of reasons, including shifting people at the top and so forth. Again, my understanding is Rob goes into this in complete depth and while having not heard, so I can’t vouch for his account, he at least was there, so he’s probably got some good insight. By the end of the year, this was kind of done, but the idea of it perpetuated and so Marvel Knights was kind of a second attempt at doing this.

Alex Grand:
Okay, so that’s like a reaction to the, is Heroes Reborn seen as a successful endeavor?

Tom Brevoort:
I guess it depends on, do you mean at the time?

Alex Grand:
Yeah, at the time as far as like sales and did it work?

Tom Brevoort:
On the most basic level, those opening issues sold as well as those books have ever sold. Rob has continually pointed out the fact, and he’s not wrong, that his Avengers number one is the best selling issue of Avengers ever and he’s right about that. I’ve edited that Avengers now for like 20 some odd years, and I’ve never put an issue out that’s sold as well as his Avengers one. His Cap, Jim’s FF and Jim’s overseen Iron Man, those books all sold very well. That having been said, they also cost a lot more to produce, because of the deals involved and so forth.

Tom Brevoort:
I don’t know enough about the finances there to really get into it. at a certain point, for whatever reason, and again, it may have even been just a shift in who was at the top and what the goals were, somebody decided they didn’t like the deal and wanted to renegotiate the terms. There was some question about delivery, and there was some question about characters. Rob, literally, this weekend put up this drawing he had done of a piece for an upcoming Captain America issue that was going to feature Daredevil and I remember that being a huge problem at the time, because when the Heroes Reborn deal was made, those guys had access to only a certain list of characters, and Daredevil wasn’t on that list.

Tom Brevoort:
Marvel Central was still publishing a Daredevil book at that point. So the idea that suddenly that character was going to be showing up in issues of Captain America sent people spinning wildly. Whether that was something that Rob just did on his own, or whether that was something that Rob had talked to somebody up the chain at Marvel about, I can’t speak to that, but definitely that deal became problematic.

Tom Brevoort:
Rob butted heads with whomever. He got out fairly quickly. Jim stuck around for the whole of the year, and did the year and eventually all those titles and things folded back into Marvel editorial. So it was successful on a certain level. It popped the numbers, it re energized interest in those characters and things. Creatively, was it successful? Again, I don’t know. You see it now. There’s certainly a generation that grew up with those books coming out that were really excited.

Alex Grand:
If it hits you at that age, then you found love.

Tom Brevoort:
In the history of Marvel, there have been some stuff that’s been pulled out of it and there have been some things that have been used and gone on to be other stuff, but it’s not like it casts that huge of a shadow.

Alex Grand:
So now, Bill Jemas or am I saying it right? Jemas, J-E-M-A.

Tom Brevoort:
Jemas, Jemas. Bill Jemas.

Alex Grand:
Bill Jemas. So tell us about working with Bill Jemas because honestly, I kind of like the stuff that he was kind of doing it At the time, he was kind of a nerdy guy. How was working with him in comparison to Joe Quesada as editor in chief in the late 90s?

Tom Brevoort:
Well, again, there is no differentiation. Bill and Joe came in more or less together. Bill was there first and Bill had been there before. If I had any advantage at all during that time, it was the bill at first work for Marvel because he came in with FLIR. Bill was the person specifically who took over trading cars and took them away from Budiansky and myself. I had history with Bill even before he came back.

Tom Brevoort:
So my analysis of Bill is very personal and perhaps very slanted and I tried to be even handed about it. I really do, because the plain fact of the matter is, Bill is a very smart, very sharp guy. He knows a lot about a lot and when he’s in a good functioning mode, he was very good at cutting through a lot of the red tape and BS that built up around the field and he was very good at saying, why not in cases where something was an institutionalized belief or policy, that you don’t do this or you can’t do that.

Tom Brevoort:
Well, why not? We have to submit our stuff to the Comics Code, or we can’t publish it. Well, why not? He was excellent at that. He definitely had an interest in the comic book medium and the comic book field. He’s shown that even since leaving Marvel, where he’s had a number of different ventures that have been comics related. There’s something about this process in this field that speaks to him.

Tom Brevoort:
He could be sometimes, like a generous and reasonable cat, but he was a fucking monster, and a bully, and a tyrant and Mercurial and he created a work environment that was as bad as I could imagine it being. We talked at the outset of this, at least for me, other people may feel differently. Certainly other people got along with him better or worse. I don’t want to speak for a Joe Quesada or Axel Alonso or anybody else who might have been up there, Bobbie Chase. I can only speak for myself.

Tom Brevoort:
We spoke a while back about the Jim Shooter era and I don’t know what that was like I didn’t experience it. I wasn’t there, but the closest I can parallel to was when those couple of years when Bill was running Marvel. There was an analogy that Joe used and I will credit it to him, although I don’t want to, I’m saying this. So take this as coming from me that, what Bill was really good at is if you had a classic car, and if you think of Marvel as a classic car, that it’s been on the road for a while.

Tom Brevoort:
It’s kind of worn down, and he’s going to refurbish it, he’s going to restore it and polish it up and put it back and make it shine again. Bill was great at doing that, and he did it but then he wouldn’t stop and he kept polishing and he polished and he polished, and he polished his way through the hood and polished his way down into the engine and started to polish all the bits off of the engine until what was left was a wreck.

Tom Brevoort:
He couldn’t stop at a certain point. There was a point where you just don’t need to be pushing in that same way and Bill was constantly pushing in that same way.

Alex Grand:
So it’s like a proctology appointment gone wrong.

Tom Brevoort:
I’ll leave that part to your imagination.

Alex Grand:
When you say he was a monster, because I’ve one more question after the monster part, and then Jim’s going to take over on the 2000s, is, give me one example of your interaction with him that was monstrous.

Tom Brevoort:
I’ll give you one. It’s not directly mine, although I was a part of it. One of Bill’s theories at a certain point was that comic book covers should be more like magazine covers. This started out, one of the things that would happen with Bill is what I tend to think of is sort of like mission drift. When he started out what he was reacting to is, we’d done a lot of covers that were like fight covers. Here’s the Avengers fighting the Lethal Legion and there’s 70 figures and they’re all tiny and they’re all fighting and Bill liked very simple, straightforward covers.

Tom Brevoort:
You can kind of See this if you look at all the early Ultimate Universe covers. they’re all just, here’s Spider-Man. Spider-Man’s on the package, that’s what you’re getting. So he wanted there to just be single figure covers. Past a certain point though, he got more attracted to the notion of bad girl comics. So that mission tended to drift towards, we want them to all be single character covers, and they should be effectively a porn actress bending over a Maserati.

Alex Grand:
I remember that. I remember those covers very well, very clearly too. Yes.

Tom Brevoort:
If you look at any cover to Marville past the first one, that’s kind of what he was aiming for.

Alex Grand:
Yeah, that was his manifesto, right? Marville?

Tom Brevoort:
I don’t know if it was a manifesto. It started off as a gag challenge that kind of grew into something else as it went. It’s sort of a fascinating study. I don’t know if it’s a great comic, but it’s a fascinating sort of character study if you can dig through it all. Anyway, this was the thing and in fact, there was a meeting which Bill He was unhappy with the covers and he brought the stack of comics. He proceeded to throw them at people across the table. This is shit. This is awful. This is crap.

Tom Brevoort:
There was a new assistant editor and I don’t want to mention her name because why drag her into this after all this time, who had started not that long ago, was very intelligent, was very promising. Went on to be a significant young YA author, and she had a comic thrown at her and it wanged off of her head and she left the meeting. She went to the HR department, and went, “I am done, I quit. I’m out of here.”

Tom Brevoort:
Then the HR department was like, this is a lawsuit waiting to happen. Bill, we need you to go and fix this. We need you to do to apologize to this woman and make sure this doesn’t become a problem. Bill apparently called her to his office to talk to her and his opening line was reportedly and I say reportedly, but I heard this from her. So I feel free really confident in it. “Don’t be a dick.”

Alex Grand:
That’s horrible.

Tom Brevoort:
That just sort of sums up the kind of, it was almost like a frat ish persona.

Alex Grand:
Yeah, I see what you’re saying. Did she leave after that or did she stay?

Tom Brevoort:
Oh, yeah, she left she was gone. It was sort of an Ivy League, frat ish persona. He’d also come out of the NBA, so he was very basketball focused, which was weird. He’d always want to like, take people out and play basketball with him and show you how great he was, even though I’m hardly a basketball player, but he was a middling player at best.

Alex Grand:
I see.

Tom Brevoort:
That was a part of his persona. Bill was always very effective in any room where he was the biggest guy. Again, when you talked about Tom DeFalco earlier, Tom was intimidating and didn’t really realize he was intimidating. Because as much as anything, it was the position that made him intimidating. Bill could only function in a position where he had that authority. In a fair fight, that’s a guy that would have been beaten up a hell of a lot by people because he was just such a prick in the way he interacted with human beings.

Tom Brevoort:
The only thing that kept him out of it was he was absolutely rock smart and he was very savvy and he had connections, and he knew how to make things happen. I don’t want to uncredited him. He was phenomenally instrumental, along with Joe. Without Joe, none of it would have worked because Joe creatively had the vision and had the insight that made that go.

Tom Brevoort:
So whenever Bill would have a crazy idea, like, oh, we should restart Spider-Man, it was Joe, who would go, hey, we should get this guy, Brian Bendis to write it. That was the piece that was almost more important than that initial idea. Joe was the one that actually I think, enabled all of that stuff to function, but it wasn’t just Joe, it was Bill pushing against all of this stuff and without him there, I don’t know that you could have turned around that business in the way that it happened.

Alex Grand:
So basically Bill and Joe Quesada together turned Marvel around.

Tom Brevoort:
Yeah. It’s proportional and like I say, I try to be as even handed with this as I can, because there’s personal feeling and there’s professional feeling. Even personally, I don’t have any particular ill will towards Bill. He’s working on the new Venture AWA right now. I’m following a bunch of those books that Axel is working on over there and that’s a very nice line, and I hope he’s successful with it. I don’t actually wish him any ill will. I don’t necessarily want to hang out with him.

Alex Grand:
No ill will. No ill Bill.

Tom Brevoort:
The persona he would put on for the public where he would do these weird wrestling style interviews and things, he would be like that internally sometimes, too and that’s when things were the craziest.

Alex Grand:
I got you. I think that’s the double edged sword with Shooter is I think, financially, he did turn Marvel around in 1980 or so, but then, creatively, there’s a lot of crazy interpersonal things, and it sounds like it’s similar like what you said.

Tom Brevoort:
Yeah. Again, going back to Jim, obviously, I said some things earlier that can maybe be taken as unkind, but I can only report on what Marvel was like after him. There’s no denying the fact that Jim did a lot of good in terms of getting creators incentives, in terms of building reprint structures, hell, putting the editorial staff structure that we still use today into place, and teaching a lot of people fundamentals about storytelling. I think Jim sometimes gets a little dogmatic about certain aspects of that, but that doesn’t change the fact that a lot of that lesson was good and necessary.

Tom Brevoort:
While when I think of the Jim Shooter era as a reader, I feel like it became a less interesting time. What I think he did was, at any given point, there’s the best comic you’re putting out and the worst comic you’re putting out and that field is the distance. Everything else is between them. So Jim maybe took the best comic down a little bit, but he raised the bottom comic up a lot.

Tom Brevoort:
So the whole of the line was a better line pound for pound that it was in the more wild west days, where you’d occasionally get this weird, miraculous jewel that Steve Gerber or somebody did, but alongside something that was just the worst kind of we’re banging out 17 pages because we have a job to fill, kind of stories. He was very good at equalizing the line and bringing up the level of craft all across the Marvel titles.

Alex Grand:
So last question that Jim takes over, is in 1998, the Blade movie comes out. Do you feel like that basically starts off the movie saga of Marvel because that movie did well, and when you watched it, when it came out, were you like, wow, they could actually make movies out of these characters pretty well now? What was your take on that?

Tom Brevoort:
The Blade movie wasn’t the one for me that made Marvel movies a thing. They did it obviously but Blade had been at best an ancillary character at that point. He never even had a book of his own until right before that. He’d been in Nightstalkers and he had been a player at Tomb of Dracula and had a couple of Black & White magazines appearances and such, but he wasn’t a big character. So the idea that you could take that and make a vampire movie out of it, it was great that it was a Marvel thing and it was great that it did well, but that didn’t translate in my head to, they’re going to make a Spider-Man movie now.

Tom Brevoort:
That property by itself came out of a certain sort of 70s blaxploitation hammer film monster thing that Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan tapped into in the 70s. They were doing the 90s version of that. It was great. It was terrific that it was successful and so forth, but it wasn’t the thing. The one that probably made it seem more like oh, yeah, you’re going to get Marvel movies now is X-Men.

Alex Grand:
Yes. Okay. So that’s really the beginning for you.

Tom Brevoort:
Yeah. Again, like so much of this stuff you can look back and go, well, no, really, it was blade and it was, but at the time living it, that movie opened and it was great it’s a Marvel movie, but it’s not the beginning of stuff. I don’t feel like I’m going to get Thor next week.

Alex Grand:
Yeah. You would say it’s more like a beta version of Red Sonja rather than the ending of the Marvel Studios era.

Tom Brevoort:
It was an outlier. It was a weird thing. It was the equivalent of DC having a Swamp Thing movie in 1980. Like yeah, that’s great. That doesn’t mean that we’re going to be doing The Flash next year. That’s very much on the outer edge of what we publish and it’s great that it got done and it’s great that it was successful, but it doesn’t necessarily have an impact on the core of this. Whereas once you got to X-Men, and you could do not only a superhero movie, but a team of superheroes, which is, we now take it for granted, but it was a huge thing in 2000.

Tom Brevoort:
You had half a dozen superheroes, all of whom had their own weirdo power and all of whom were able to be explained and gotten across and emote and for all that, you look back at it now and it looks like such a tiny little movie in terms of its scale and in terms of its budget and all like. That seemed like a huge big thing in 2000.

Alex Grand:
Oh, yeah. Bryan Singer did a great job with that.

Tom Brevoort:
So from that you could kind of go, oh yeah, they really can make a movie of all this stuff and then following up on that with Spider-Man in 2002

Jim Thompson:
I want to raise the bar a little bit in terms of some of the characters, the people we’ve been talking about because I’m not like a huge fan of the Heroes Reborn stuff. It was not my thing. What saved me in terms of loving Marvel, this was in ’90s, so I was really into Vertigo, DC at the time. I’m just a few years older than you are. What saved me from Marvel was Kurt Busiek that he was starting with Marvel with Alex Ross, but then you came to work with them with the second or so issue of Night Thrasher?

Tom Brevoort:
Yeah. Night Thrasher run was the first time we actually did a comic together. We had talked a bunch. He had been on staff when I started. He was in the sales department. He was only there for maybe a year before he left and moved to Portland and became a full-time freelance writer. But he’d been on staff and so we’d had conversations and things. Particularly on his end, there was an understanding that I had a similar enough ethos to what he had that I would be a friendly port of call so to speak.

Jim Thompson:
Yes. I’m saying this is a compliment to you, that the two of you together because Busiek was the one that in some ways gave highest career accolades, right? You won an Eisner for best editor?

Tom Brevoort:
No, I was nominated for Eisner.

Jim Thompson:
You were nominated for best editor.

Tom Brevoort:
I was beaten by Dan Raspler for Kingdom Come.

Jim Thompson:
Ah. Well, okay. But that was mainly in relation to Untold Rales of Spider-Man?

Tom Brevoort:
Yeah. At that time that would have been just about all that anybody was paying attention to. I was editing a lot of other stuff, but in terms of getting on an Eisner ballot, it would have been from that.

Jim Thompson:
And then while in my mind Heroes Reborn is destroying everything that I like about Marvel Comics. He saves it to some degree with Thunderbolts and then in 1998, because you were talking about being associated with Avengers, he brings between Avengers Forever and Avengers with George Perez. He brings it back and saves it in a heroic way. And you were part of that as well, correct?

Tom Brevoort:
Yes, I edited all of those books that you just talked about.

Jim Thompson:
And did you think that it needed saving? Was this something where you thought we’re putting it back on track from where I wasn’t necessarily going to go?

Tom Brevoort:
Yes, and no which is to say at any given stage, my goal was always kind of the same thing. I just wanted to do good comics, whatever I thought was a good comic or whatever comprised that. So going into Thunderbolts, it was an idea that Kurt had. He had it years before in another context for a pitch that never had worked out called Avengers Hit Squad. So with Heroes Reborn happening, we had a retreat, a writers’ and editors’ retreat where all the editors and a couple of key writers were going to be gathering for two or three days to try and figure out what the heck do you do with the Marvel Universe and with the publishing line without all of the characters that are now going over to be as part of Heroes Reborn.

Tom Brevoort:
So leading up to that, Kurt was still working on Untold Tales of Spider-Man with me and he was coming to this retreat. He called me up and said, “I’ve got this idea.” He laid it out for me and we talked about it a little bit over the phone and then we came to the retreat. He and I, mostly he, pitched it to Bob Harris in the bar of the hotel where we were staying and Bob went, “Okay, yep. Let’s do that. Let’s go.” And that wasn’t so much about us going. “We’re going to do the right thing so much as this is a cool idea. There’s an opportunity here. The timing is great. Let’s do that.”

Tom Brevoort:
Then when the Heroes Reborn books came back for Heroes Return, it wasn’t so much about now we’re going to fix them, so much as what it really was, was those books all sold really, really well under Jim and Rob and those guys. Even by the end of it like they tapered off a little bit, but they were still super strong. So the mission statement going into that thing was really we got to show we can do these and make them perform just as well as the guys that were just shown the door.

Tom Brevoort:
So everybody, not just myself or Kurt, but everybody involved in all of those launches was very much dedicated to, “We got to put our best foot forward and we got to kill on these and load them up and really make them excellent.” In terms of Avengers, I had read Avengers for years. It was a book that I was familiar with, but I didn’t have a strong connection to it. My book was always Fantastic Four and still really kind of is.

Jim Thompson:
Oh, we’re going to get to that for sure.

Tom Brevoort:
Yeah. So taking over Avengers, it wasn’t so much like, “Now, I’ll edit Avengers and I’ll do it the right way.” It was more, “Okay, we’re going to do Avengers.” Kurt and I got on the phone as we often did and we would spend about three hours on the phone, on a phone call, because we used to have that amount of time and talked about the Avengers and what we thought, and which characters, and how to approach it, and all of that stuff. Then ended up with George. Especially George is a huge key part of this whole question.

Tom Brevoort:
But ended up making the comics that we made and they struck a chord with an audience like yourself, and with a young audience that had been reading the Heroes Reborn books too. Those books did well and so on that level, we succeeded in what the objective was. But it wasn’t so much, other than it was, it’s Kurt’s aesthetic, it’s my aesthetic, so there’s a lot of us, and really more Kurt and George than me, but there’s a lot of us in that run. But it wasn’t so much going, this is the right way, so much as it is let’s do a good comic.

Jim Thompson:
And what I would say is I don’t mean to imply that Heroes Reborn ruined the Avengers and that they were pretty much in a down slide way before that. I mean, the Roger Stern, John Buscema stuff was great and then after that, they started to go down pretty quickly to teenage Tony Stark and stuff that was just unreadable. So it got saved though by Burchett bringing it back in under your editorial.

Tom Brevoort:
Thank you. That’s nice of you to say. It certainly worked out okay for the Avengers in the years since then.

Jim Thompson:
Yes. Very, very much. I wanted to ask you about the ultimate universe that comes in under this. Now, it was almost like Heroes Reborn, but done much, much better and it had staying power. What was the consensus around editorial about that? Were people in favor of it? Were they nervous about it?

Tom Brevoort:
They tended to vary from person to person. The ultimate universe was very much Bill Jemas’s baby. He had a lot of belief in it and he also tended to stock it up and give it the same kind of advantages that Heroes Reborn and had before that which is to say you could spend more money on it, you could risk thinner profit margins. Those early ultimate books, not only were they priced at 2.25, which I think was less than or the same price as the other Marvel books but they had card stock covers and they spent more on the coloring and more on… He really saw that though as the thing that needed to be done to save Marvel and to save the industry because he felt rightly or wrongly that the Marvel books of the period were too in steeped in years and years of continuity, and that a civilian audience so to speak could not pick up a Marvel book and fathom it, couldn’t understand it.

Tom Brevoort:
It was just argo-bargle to them. So he wanted to build a universe that would be very clean, but also a universe that would then be contemporary. It would be the 2000 version of these things. A year or two before that, John Byrne had done Spider-Man chapter one and Spider-Man chapter one was not what Bill wanted to do. Bill looked at that and went, “This is stupid. You’re telling 1962 stories in 1997. No kid is wearing a sweater vest and no kid is fumbling around with a microscope. You have to think about your audience today. You have to build these characters, keep the essence of them the way they were, but you need to make them function for an audience today.”

Tom Brevoort:
A young ostracized smart kid isn’t going to be the picked on nerd like the Peter Parker of 1962, he’s going to be much more an emo kid like this because if you look at the pop culture of the time, this is much more where the zeitgeist is. So Bill’s approach and all that stuff was kind of let’s do that and he really believed in that very strongly. He associated with it very strongly.

Tom Brevoort:
He was very involved in all those books and they really had his fingerprints on them in terms of that part of the mission statement, again to the point where it was almost an unfair advantage for the Marvel previews catalog, Ultimate Spider-Man was the cover six months in a row. And the only reason it wasn’t seven months is in the seventh month, they launched Ultimate X-Men. So if you were just doing Iron Man at that time, you were not getting the same level of resources that were being given to these new titles.

Jim Thompson:
So why do you think ultimately… And really the book that was a standout was obviously Ultimate Spider-Man, but why do you think that ultimately Ultimate Universe failed?

Tom Brevoort:
Well, I think it’s a couple of things. One, when those books launched, and this is really a credit to Joe, I feel like particularly they were good. They had good talent doing good work and people really responded to that. On top of which, they had an aesthetic. They had an ethos. And the longer that went on, two things happened. One, a lot of that talent tended to migrate from the Ultimate Universe further out into the mainstream Marvel Universe. Once upon a time, Brian Bendis wrote Spider-Man and then he wrote New Avengers, and that’s a different place.

Tom Brevoort:
So the specialness of the Ultimate Universe as a boutique line kind of eroded. Plus as time went on, as different creators rotated in and maybe didn’t have runs that were quite so long or weren’t seen as quite so special, that particular friction that the line had began to erode away. There were still people that loved it and were super invested in all the way up to when it was eventually stopped in 2015 or so forth, 15 years later. That’s a hell of a run for a line like that.

Jim Thompson:
And has great impact in terms of the Marvel movies today, probably more than the comics.

Tom Brevoort:
Sure, sure. But that initial moment of excitement just couldn’t be maintained at that level, partly because it got bigger, partly because its own continuity began to be just as long. Once you’ve done 160 issues of Ultimate Spider-Man, you can’t pretend it’s as new reader-friendly as you wanted it to be when you started. You just can’t. All of these things together basically conspired to take the ultimate line from being this is a super boutique line. It’s like the black label of Marvel. It’s the special stuff over here that’s really, really good and really pure to being its books Marvel publishes. Not materially different or better or worse than that month’s issue of Amazing Spider-Man. You got Amazing Spider-Man, you got Ultimate Spider-Man. They’re kind of the same thing, it just kind of depends on whether you want the peppermint flavor or whether you want the butter pecan flavor.

Jim Thompson:
So one additional Spider-Man question talking about Untold Tales of Spider-Man and that revisionist going back and dwelling on the past, is there any truth to that Ditko was talking about doing something related to Spider-Man and he got mad at Untold Tales of Spider-Man and backed out of it?

Tom Brevoort:
Yes. Although, I don’t know that Untold Tales itself was the reason he backed out of it. Ralph Macchio who was then the Spider-Man editor, long-time Marvel editor, spoke to Ditko a couple of times about reuniting him and Stan for one last Spider-Man book. And Ditko had serious conversations with Ralph about this, deep enough that I know that he was saying, “Well, we’ll set it during his last summer before he graduates high school, because Ditko, his opinions over the years had only grown more intractable and he was really of the opinion that they never should have graduated Spider-Man from high school to begin with because it’s okay for a high school kid to be sort of insecure and to make mistakes and to foul up, but if a grown man does that, he’s not a hero anymore. He’s a failure. He’s not allowed the same stumbles as a kid is.

Tom Brevoort:
So Ditko said that during his last summer. So Ralph sent him some books for reference to showing what was going on and to keep him enmeshed and stuff as they were going to plot this out. As Ralph relayed the conversation to myself and Glenn Greenberg after it all happened, he got on the phone with him and Ditko said something like, “Oh, I have collaborators now, do I?” Talking to the Untold Tale stuff. And it was one of the things where the very fact that that stuff was there and whether or not… I don’t know, maybe, I would have been egotistical enough to say, “Oh, no, no, no. Ralph, you can’t let him do that because it’ll contradict Untold Tales of Spider-Man.”

Tom Brevoort:
I like to hope that I would have been smart enough to go, “Steve Ditko, let him do whatever the hell he wants on that Spider-Man story. It’ll be fine. It’s not going to hurt Untold Tales. But either way, Ditko felt like this stuff was there. It was more of an impediment and between all of that, that project never happened. It actually transformed. It turned into the Spider-Man Kingpin: To The Death book that Stan did with John Romita instead of Ditko. That was the book that took its place. If things had gone differently, it might have been a last Stan and Steve Spider-Man story.

Jim Thompson:
So in 2001, there was also sort of a becoming the end of the comics code partly because of X-Force number 116, the Allred-Milligan and a move toward maybe the precursor to what the MAX Line was going to be that you were pushing the boundaries in terms of adultness and violence. Were you involved at all in the X-Force decision how the tone that was to take?

Tom Brevoort:
No, no. That was all Axel, and Joe, and Bill. I think Bill had been looking for an excuse to get rid of the comics code because he didn’t believe in it, he didn’t understand it. We were paying these people money to tell us what we could and couldn’t publish and his take was, “My judgment is going to be as good or better than theirs, and we get to keep the money.” So whatever we feel comfortable with is what we publish, so why should we do this? The days when anybody cared whether a comics code sticker is on a cover or not are long past.

Tom Brevoort:
So he did it with theater, but he quit the code very intentionally and X-Force 116 was the first piece of that doing a book that was deliberately in “transgressive”. It’s sort of a weird thing because that seemed like a big step, but it’s not like Vertigo hadn’t been around for 10 years at that point. The sort of books that Joe had gravitated to as a reader getting back into comics. He had read comics as a kid and then outgrew them and then in his early 20s found comics again and the comics that brought him back were things like Watchmen and Dark Knight, and Preacher, and Sandman. The more vertigo skewing, more adult sensibilitied comics, Frank Miller’s work.

Tom Brevoort:
So aesthetically, that was always more in Joe’s wheelhouse to begin with and Bill was completely comfortable with that as well. He didn’t see a reason not to do any of that stuff. So coming in, these beliefs that the characters have to behave a certain way or there’s a limitation as to how far you can take it, Bill’s take on that is why? Why not? What happens if you don’t do that? What happens if you let those restrictions up and let the creators tell the best stories that they can tell and work within your own boundaries as to what is right or wrong or tasteful and not tasteful?

Jim Thompson:
You were part of it in terms of the MAX series though and talking about taking the boundaries as far as you want to take it. I think of that first page of Alias, number one.

Tom Brevoort:
Right.

Jim Thompson:
You were the editor on that. That was something.

Tom Brevoort:
No, I was not. I edited that Alias, but I edited it at the very end of the run.

Jim Thompson:
Oh, so you weren’t there for that first issue?

Tom Brevoort:
No, no. Again, I was around but I didn’t edit it. That was Brian and Michael. Again, Bill I think loved that because Bill delighted in creating controversy and turning controversy into press, into sales. He didn’t think there was any such thing as any bad publicity. So again, in a sort of Stan Lee through a broken mirror kind of approach. The idea that there’d be a book that would start off so transgressive and that maybe we could find a printer who’ll refuse to print it, and then we can make a story out of the fact that they refuse to print it and that’ll make people want to read it even more because it’s the thing that they shouldn’t have. He was very canny about how he presented that stuff.

Jim Thompson:
Was there a lot of feedback in the office? Can you believe what we just put out? Were people excited, troubled, any reaction?

Tom Brevoort:
Again, I think it differed from person to person. Was it to everybody’s tastes how strongly or poorly did they feel towards it? I think as a series, people all liked and respected Alias. Whether or not they felt that that opening bit was just sensationalism for the sake of sensationalism or not, I think that’s an individual, massive agreement on that. It was there to make a statement and the statement was MAX comics, we’re willing to go this far right up front, right on the first page. So this is not the Marvel that you’re familiar with. In fact, it doesn’t even have a Marvel name on it. So if you’re coming on board for the MAX experience, this is what you can expect to find at least at the outer edge of it.

Jim Thompson:
Once you came on board on Alias, was this your first working together with Bendis?

Tom Brevoort:
Yeah. I think that Alias was the first thing I did with him. Although again, I only kept the book for an issue or two before I handed it over to my associate editor Andy Schmidt, because I was busy doing a lot of other things. I know I did by hand the two issues that were the secret origin issues. And the whole reason I remember that is I know I had a conversation with Brian about how the lettering was going to be handled and the flashbacks. And the way we decided to do it was that all of the existing amazing fantasy 15 characters spoke in all caps and all of the new Jessica Jones characters spoken up or lower as they typically did. The very fact that I had a conversation about that and that was something I was thinking about is the thing that lets me go, “Right, that’s the point in which I was involved. I think it was 23. It might have been 22.

Jim Thompson:
Did you play a part in the decision to disassemble the Avengers and then turn it over to Bendis and go forward with that? Was he a choice on your part to take over the Avengers?

Tom Brevoort:
I was involved in that whole process. That wasn’t necessarily my choice. One of the things that had happened at that point is as we tend to do now routinely, we had an editorial retreat where we brought a lot of talent and all of our editors and got together for three days or so to talk about the book to chart out the future. We talked about Avengers at a certain point and what was going on, and what the book was missing and that sort of thing.

Tom Brevoort:
Mark Miller did a whole little dissertation as to what he thought Avengers should be about and what was missing from it. His take was it should be all the best characters. It should be what the Justice League is to DC. It should be all the headliners because that’s what I wanted when I was a kid. If you had all the headliners in one book and all the biggest guys that’d be the best book ever. I know that whatever, Spider-Man and Wolverine haven’t been in the Avengers, but why haven’t they? They should just be in the Avengers. They’re the biggest characters. Put them all in a book together.

Tom Brevoort:
So we walked out of that day of the meeting. Clearly something was going to change and this was a problem for me because at the time Chuck Austin had only just taken over Avengers and he was leading up to Avengers 500 and the launch of Invaders and so forth. Suddenly, all of that was being thrown out. So I was very focused at that point on managing triage on that situation. I thought, “Okay. So Mark’s going to write Avengers.” I was fine with that.

Tom Brevoort:
I had a history of Mark, the first Marvel work he did for me on Skrull Kill Krew. He did a bunch of things over the years. I knew Mark. I was comfortable with him. So I knew. And the next day of the retreat, everybody came back in and while they were out like that night, Brian and Mark were both staying in the same hotel, they had dinner together and so forth and Brian said, “Hey, I really want to do this Avengers book. Would you mind if I did it?” Mark said, “Yeah, okay. You do it.” So Brian came in and he talked to Joe and whatnot and it was okay, Brian is going to do Avengers and I sort of whiplashed like, “What? Brian is going to do Avengers now?”

Tom Brevoort:
I had no particular relationship with Brian at that point other than the understanding, the realization that he had a real favored nations situation. He was very tight with Joe. Bill was kind of out of the picture by that point so he was a non-issue and he had a contract that guaranteed him certain things that made him more difficult to edit than the average person. I mean, I say that Brian was never particularly difficult to edit your work with. I don’t want to frame it that way, but Brian had aspects of his deal that guaranteed him things like artist approval.

Tom Brevoort:
So I always work with a writer, with a creator on who the other people involved in a book are but theoretically on any given title, the final call ultimately is mine whether or not I choose to use it that way or not. And on a Brian book, it was Brian’s. So it’s just a different situation. So going into that, it was a little dicey because I didn’t know this guy and I didn’t know where he was going to be coming from or how he was going to go.

Tom Brevoort:
Brian is kind of copped to this later on. Brian came in with a, I’ll call it a punk sensibility, although Brian is not at all from punk culture. He kind of came in with, “I’m going to burn it all down,” and then build it all back up in a better way. And the part that he kind of realized particularly as fans started to respond to some of what he was doing that he really understood was, the stuff he was burning down was stuff that a bunch of people really liked. I had spent at that point 10 years, seven years, whatever working on it and you’re coming in and you’re telling me you’re going to burn it all down. There’s no way to not take some degree of umbrage at that.

Tom Brevoort:
So again, Brian and I felt each other out and over the course of a couple of issues, we got comfortable and we found a rhythm like he says that the moment he felt like, “Yeah, okay. This was pretty good and this was all going to work,” was the moment when I got George Perez to draw the very end of the Avengers finale book. That was a big thing for Brian because he was a fan of George’s and he always wanted to work with him, but also that felt like a good handing of the baton.

Tom Brevoort:
I always knew that commercially New Avengers was going to work. There was no way it wasn’t. It was the getting to it that was the rough part. So once we were there, it was a lot easier to kind of click in and go, “Right. We’re doing this now and we have to figure out how to make this go.” Obviously, I worked with Brian an awful lot for an awful long time and that was a very fruitful relationship.

Jim Thompson:
So as an editor on a group of characters that you knew very well at this point, were there ever points where you thought to yourself, “Well, that’s not what Captain America would do. That just sounds like Bendis. It doesn’t sound like Captain America.” And if so, could you say to him, I don’t like that or was he kind of in charge almost… Not self-editing, but you said he had a lot of power.

Tom Brevoort:
Yeah. And honestly the answer to that really comes down to is it’s all about relationships. So at that outset, I didn’t have the relationship with Brian. So I feel like it was tougher initially to get him to really listen and take on board something that I would say. At the same time, I was really in a defensive mode. For Brian’s first script, for Avengers 500, I sent him back notes and I think there were about 16 notes all told, pretty much none of which actually got done as it turned out. Some of them, I haven’t looked back. I don’t have that set of notes anymore, but some of them I suspect were notes that were more about me and the Avengers that had come before versus where things were going and where things were going to be happening now. So it’s a learning process.

Tom Brevoort:
You build the relationship with the people that you’re working with and you win not by force, but you win by convincing people that what you’re saying is correct. For all that I can look at something like the Death of Hawkeye in Avengers 502 and go, “Yeah, that’s not what I would have wanted it to be.” I also know that that’s better than the first version where Brian did a first draft and I called him on the phone or sent him reactions and he revised it to bring it more in line with what I had to say.

Tom Brevoort:
So Brian was never intractable on any of this stuff. It was just always a question as to whether or not I could convince him that what I was saying was right. And what that meant early on was I very quickly realized I have to pick and choose my shots very carefully. To use an Axel Alonso term, “I had to deal with the gut wound and not the scratches and the abrasions because I could get a scratch or an abrasion, but the patient is going to bleed out in the meantime.”

Tom Brevoort:
So really it was, at least at the outset… Again, as we worked together longer, it became a much more simpatico relationship where we could talk to one another and there was mutual respect. So at the outset… Again, a lot of this was probably on my end, more than anybody’s. I was just in a very competitive mental state because of all this stuff.

Jim Thompson:
You were editing Brubaker’s Captain America at the same time, right?

Tom Brevoort:
Yes.

Jim Thompson:
Did you feel like there was a consistency in the two Captain Americas and the voice or was it hard to juggle the two of them?

Tom Brevoort:
I didn’t worry about it on that level and that I was more focused on make the book good. In the broadest sense as long as Captain America is Captain America, does things that Captain America does, exposes the virtues that Captain America stands for, seems to behave as Captain America would, I was fine. The other piece that was there at that time that has long been forgotten now, was I was also editing Priest’s Captain america and the Falcon book, which was the third title that Cap was in and that also had a slightly different point of view on the character.

Tom Brevoort:
One of the beautiful things about the Marvel characters and most of the fictional characters in comics is that they are broad enough to contain multitudes, and there are a lot of different ways of approaching them that are valid or can be valid. I wasn’t at any point thinking about well, the guy in Avengers doesn’t seem like the guy in Captain America. It was more let’s make the Captain America issue good. Let’s make the Avengers issue good.

Jim Thompson:
You had a great stable of writers at that particular juncture, especially on Avenger related books because you had Fraction working on Iron Man and Brubaker working on Captain America. And it was as good as it ever got in terms of those core characters. They were just great. And then you had Bendis and the Avengers which was harder for me as an Avengers fan. But it had some good stories.

Tom Brevoort:
Again, I can understand that and certainly having been on Avengers for so long, I’m in the weird place where I could talk to Avengers fans of different eras and I’m either… Like you were saying earlier, I’m the guy that saved the Avengers or I’m the guy that destroyed the Avengers.

Jim Thompson:
Or both.

Tom Brevoort:
And sometimes both in the same conversation. Some of that is just the nature of you do it long enough and everybody is going to like or hate something that you do. It’s kind of inevitable, but that constant role of change and that constant need for the characters to be dynamic and to reinvent themselves and to push into areas that you’ve never seen them do before is all necessary to keep them alive and vibrant, I think.

Jim Thompson:
So speaking of destroying the Avengers, let’s talk about Civil War for a minute. Was there a point where people were concerned that you were making the entire Marvel Universe so unlikable where Reed Richard’s is like the biggest dick on the planet? He wasn’t the only one obviously. I mean, the hole that was being dug for characters like Spider-Man, where it’s like did you all see riding off a cliff that it was going to be hard to come back from some of these character developments?”

Tom Brevoort:
I would say no. Again, obviously you had a strong reaction to that storyline and that’s fair. Every reader comes at these things from a certain point of view and a certain place, but there’s no question that all of those characters have continued to be successful since then. There hasn’t been any need to repair them or fix them. Any damage that was done to anybody was not lingering, it was passing damage and it was mostly in the heads or in the emotions of the individual audience, members who felt that way about stuff.

Tom Brevoort:
I can say that there are aspects of Civil War that went further in certain respects than I would have liked, but that has a lot to do with the fact that a lot of those books were done by people who were not Mark. And this is maybe the place where I differ from the audience a little bit. Going into Civil War from the jump, I could have told you right away that the fan audience is going to be entirely on the Captain America side and not on the pro registration side. But I can also tell you absolutely that in the real world, I would be and most everybody would be on the pro registration side and not on the Captain America side.

Tom Brevoort:
This was all being done. That story developed in the shadow of 9/11 and it came from days in which I’d passed through Penn Station on my commute to work and there’d be national guardsmen in full riot gear with enormous AK-47s there in case something happened. Theoretically, those guys are there to protect me and protect the peace, but there’s nothing more unnerving than walking through an area that’s like aligned with those guys.

Tom Brevoort:
So being able to take that idea and go right, if they were superheroes, if they were guys who put on masks, who had crazy amounts of power, who ran around beating up whoever they felt like it because they said they were bad people and nobody knew who they were and nobody had any control or oversight on them, you bet everybody would be like, “We got to put a stop to this.” So that question and that metaphor was very much of its time, but also very potent and very direct.

Tom Brevoort:
So the place where some people ran into trouble. And I’m going to point to him directly now, although I don’t see this as a condemnation of him, so hopefully he’ll feel the same way. But Joe Straczynski wrote a lot of the tie-ins on Spider-Man and on a few other things. And Joe on this particular point, politically had a very strong belief. He is absolutely 100% the Captain America side. That’s Joe’s fundamental at his gut, at his core feeling. So any time he had to write a scene from the perspective of somebody that was on the other side, Joe is an excellent writer and Joe is really good at being able to put his mind in his head into viewpoints that are not his own, but for this particular issue especially then, especially in the shadow of 9/11 and the way the country had been going around that time, he couldn’t do it. His interpretations of Iron Man, and Reed, and so forth, he could not find ways to make them sympathetic in their point of view.

Jim Thompson:
He made them total fascists, didn’t he?

Tom Brevoort:
Yes. He certainly was on the most extreme end of that. There are a couple of other guys too. Paul Jenkins did a couple of things in the front line book that kind of verged that way as well. So while I feel like if you just read Civil War like the main seven issues that Mark does, I feel like it’s reasonably even-handed. I feel like everybody in that seven issues, they come off as right, they come off as wrong, they make good choices, they make bad choices and everybody kind of comes out evenly. Once you add in all of the other tie-ins and all the extended stuff, it’s a somewhat lopsided presentation.

Jim Thompson:
So is there one person that oversees all of that on some level or is it not that consolidated?

Tom Brevoort:
There is in that in theory. Technically, I was looking at all of the various scripts and things for Civil War tie-ins as they came in. On a practical level, one, it’s a lot of material and two, I don’t know that it’s smart or right from my ethos to be the one that guides every creative choice that everybody makes in the course of telling a story. I directly edited JMS on some of the Civil War tie-ins he did. I was editing Fantastic Four and he was writing it. So everything he did in those books has a full-on sign-off from me regardless of whether or not. If you ask me in the abstract, “Well, that scene he did in 541, do you agree with that? Do you think Reed or Ben or whomever would do that?”

Tom Brevoort:
I would go, “Well, I don’t know if I do entirely.” But he does and it’s his job to write the story. And particularly when you come down to writers who are working in other editorial offices and with other editors, you’re now negotiating through another editor, to another creator about what they’re doing. A lot of that is a question of degrees. Again, for all that, I could say, “Yeah, Joe really had a point of view on Civil War that was not fair and balanced because he believed in it so strongly.” The pull quote that everybody still uses, the one that ended up in the movie is a Joe Straczynski Captain America quote. Tree of truth, tree by the river of truth. You stand there.

Tom Brevoort:
So by letting him tell his story, my theory on it was you’re going to end up having creators that are all over the spectrum on this. They’re each going to believe the right and the wrong things are slightly different and if you let everybody have the same kind of equal opportunity to do their thing, in aggregate, you’re going to end up getting something that’s more or less balanced. In practice, I don’t know that that actually worked out that way, but in trying to make this all happen, that was sort of the method in which I tried to approach it.

Jim Thompson:
All right. So I have to wrap up this decade within 10 minutes. So I’m going to be fast about it on some things. But Fantastic Four, my understanding is you were a big push and advocate to bring Hickman in on Fantastic Four to give it a new feel to it. Is that, right?

Tom Brevoort:
Yeah. I hired Jon to do Fantastic Four, yes.

Jim Thompson:
And I love that series. The two books, I mean that’s one of my favorite Fantastic Fours right up there with just very few that are actually as good as the Stan and Jack stuff. This one really understood those characters. You were happy with it I assume?

Tom Brevoort:
Oh, yeah, yeah. John did great work on that book and I wish he had been able to do more to go longer. It was a good run. He probably ended at the right time, but I liked it and I wouldn’t have minded doing another year or two.

Jim Thompson:
I thought the death of Human Torch worked well. Do you think Marvel went to that well too many times between death of Captain America, death of Human Torch and death of Wolverine?

Tom Brevoort:
I don’t know about too many times. It’s obviously one of the, for lack of a better term levers that can be pulled that can garner reader interest and enthusiasm. And to me on the one hand, all of these characters are fictional. So they live and die by the whims of whoever’s creating them at any given point. And the idea of permanence, as a younger reader I believed in the permanence of the fictional universe and I didn’t understand the idea that people just make it up every month. I still see that from readers today, audience members who will write in upset about a particular story development or a thing, and the way they react to it is as though somewhere there’s a massive book in Lucian’s library that says everything that happens in the Marvel Universe and you’ve transcribed something wrong like they really have a belief where the fact is we make it up every month.

Tom Brevoort:
We come up with it out of our imaginations. So to me, the death of a character, the deaths in comics that I hate the most are the self-aware, self-parodying, deaths. I tend to think of this as a thing that Peter David has done more often than most people. But the example I’m going to point to is Grant Morrison who’s a writer that I like and respect an awful lot. I think it was during Final Crisis. Final Crisis opens with the Martian Manhunter dying.

Jim Thompson:
Yeah. Oh, that was a cheap one, absolutely.

Tom Brevoort:
And all of the Justice League get together at his funeral and Superman says, “I hope he has a swift resurrection.” On the one hand, you go, “Well, that’s somebody playing into the fact that we all know these are fictional characters and they’re going to come back from the dead.” On the other hand, it’s emotional bullshit because what makes the death of any character powerful is what makes the death of any human being powerful. The fact that this is an inescapable finality and a fate that is awaiting all of us. And if you can play into that truthfully, you can do stories even if the character comes back again that really carry weight and have an impact. And the ones that piss that away for a knowing joke, right, I’m as smart as the audience is, I feel like that does a disservice to the story and even to the medium. I don’t like them.

Jim Thompson:
Although, I would say Hawkeye was one of those as well, but yes.

Tom Brevoort:
Fair enough.

Jim Thompson:
My question about Fantastic Four is it must have sold reasonably well because even after Hickman left, you guys were still publishing it as two different series. Why did y’all let it die? I know that was incredibly sad to long-term Marvel people to not have a Fantastic Four. How was that decision made?

Tom Brevoort:
It’s a couple of things. One was that John was doing Secret Wars and the secret wars or the underlying idea of Secret Wars was something that he had come up with when we were working on Fantastic Four. In fact, if he had stayed on Fantastic Four, we would have gotten the Secret Wars there rather than in Avengers. But once we did AVX and decided we were going to mix all the teams up and John ended up on Avengers, we moved all of those ideas over to the Avengers side.

Tom Brevoort:
The reality of Fantastic Four, and it makes me sad as much as anybody else is it’s tough to sell a Fantastic Four book today. The audience today sees those characters as being somewhat out of step or passe. And not always, people can do good things and do good stories and do big stuff with them. But John left Fantastic Four and Matt Fraction had a very nice run on it and James Robinson had a very nice run on it, but all throughout those runs, your sales tended to taper off and go down and so forth.

Tom Brevoort:
There is a point at which sometimes the best thing you can do for a character or a property is to take it away for a while, because the month before Fantastic Four went away, 27,000 people were paying attention to that book maybe. And the month after it went away, everybody was like where is it? Why isn’t it here? You’re of the right generation for this. I liken this to the Flash. I was a huge fan of the Flash, the Barry Allen, Flash. But I stopped reading it before it went into the trial of Barry Allen.

Jim Thompson:
And that was a good place to leave too because that was hard going.

Tom Brevoort:
Yeah. But I came off, and a lot of people came off. And then they got up to Crisis and they announced that in the course of Crisis, on Infinite Earth Barry Allen is going to die. And not myself, but a lot of people around me were like, “How can they kill Barry? Oh, this is a tragedy.” And you would ask those people like when was the last time you actually read Flash? And they would say, “Well, it’s been five years, but I love the character and I love the…” And you kind of go, “Well, that’s the problem right there. You’ve taken this thing for granted. You assume it’s a constant. You assume it’s always going to be there.”

Tom Brevoort:
Sometimes you have to walk away from it to make it work again. The same thing was kind of true as much as I don’t necessarily want to admit it with Thor. Thor didn’t have a book for a bunch of years there. And when Thor came back, and Joe, and Olivier Coipel came on to it, that book was a top selling thing. Everybody was excited about Thor again in a way that they had not been when we closed it out two or three years earlier.

Jim Thompson:
Yeah. It needed a break, I think.

Tom Brevoort:
So between the fact that John was doing Secret Wars and that was intended to be ultimately a big Fantastic Four-centric story, and the fact that it was always difficult to keep FF going as a concern, we said, “Okay, let’s make this in ‘the last’ Fantastic Four story and take them off the board for a while.” Then our hope was we would get exactly the reaction that you’re talking about from people and build up to the point where when we bring it back, it’ll be a real event at a triumph and people will really love it and embrace it again the way we want them.

Jim Thompson:
So in 2007, that’s when you became executive editor. Besides your job title, what changed with that designation?

Tom Brevoort:
At Marvel, I think more often than not, the way it works is first you do the job and then you get the title. Becoming executive editor was a huge surprise to me. I wasn’t particularly working towards it. I had no idea that it was a thing and whatever that year was, that post-Civil War year, when I came in to do my yearly performance review with Joe which was always a fairly perfunctory thing where he’d say, “Yep, you’re doing great. Everything’s fine.” But he told me this and I was like sort of stunned by it, and I was stunned by it for about a week.

Tom Brevoort:
Basically as executive editor it means I have more eyes on more things in a broader sense. I oversee more people and have maybe a slightly louder voice, although I always have a loud voice in the shape and the direction that the Marvel Universe as a whole is taking. Nobody has an absolute voice in that, but like I was saying earlier, it’s all about being able to convince people that you’re right.

Tom Brevoort:
So I went from directly overseeing a crew of four or five other editors to pretty much sort of overseeing at least half of the line. And that doesn’t mean, I was editing it, that means I was checking in. I was another sounding board and another voice as people came up with stuff. I could keep stupid things from happening every once in a while and I could hopefully throw out ideas and improve on ideas that people already had when they had a story and there was something that was of value there. They could take it and incorporate it and if there wasn’t, they could discard it and move on with their lives.

Jim Thompson:
So was it more fun or less fun, having the additional power?

Tom Brevoort:
Honestly, I haven’t quite quantified it that way. Certainly, it’s always nice when people listen to you. But I don’t feel like for the most part people didn’t listen to me before I was executive editor. So there are days when it’s better than other days and those days tend to be the days when you have to do something bad. We just went into COVID four or five months ago and there were points where I had to call up a lot of people and go, “Hey, we don’t know when Diamond is restarting again. We don’t know when books are going to come out. I need you to halt work at the moment and I’ll be in touch when I can tell you to start up again.”

Tom Brevoort:
Those are terrible days to have to live through both for the people that you’re working with and for yourself and the rest of your staff. Having any sort of degree of authority means you have to be able and willing to do the dirty work when the time comes and it has to be done. On the flip side, it means that if I get a stupid idea for something, I could probably more often than not make it happen.

Tom Brevoort:
So consequently, the comic book racks for the last 13 years have been littered with my stupid ideas. Some of which were good and some of which were maybe not as good. Even in the worst periods, I’ve never not enjoyed doing the work, doing the job. I’ve not enjoyed parts of it. I’ve not enjoyed particular interactions or the particular vibe on the floor or whatnot or where things were, but the actual work of making comics, I’ve never not liked doing. So it’s all kind of the same to me.

Jim Thompson:
I’m going to ask you one more fanboy question and then I’m going to let Alex ask you about Disney and then he and I are going to go back and forth asking you sort of rapid fire questions for the last half hour or so. My question is I thought the Abnett and Lanning cosmic stuff was one of Marvel’s great runs in terms of that. All of those books, all those series were so much fun. Why were they pulled or left and Bendis put in charge of Guardians which never quite recovered what the cosmic aspect that Hickman had he was doing in Fantastic Four and building a lot upon the Abnett-Lanning stuff. But what happened there?

Tom Brevoort:
I think what you’re sort of asking in a sense is why did this change? And the answer to that ultimately over time is always that everything changes. People do runs, people stay on books, people transition off of books, new people come on to books. I don’t know that there was anything bigger about it than that. Certainly when Brian came in, it was with the knowledge that there was going to be a Guardians movie of some sort at some point in the future and so us bringing Brian in and Steve McNiven who I believe did his first two arcs.

Tom Brevoort:
The idea was this is going to be big and important to Marvel as an entity. So we put our biggest guys there and show that we’re committed to it and we’re behind it. It’s in a way no different than we just announced literally this past weekend that Kieron Gillen and Esad Ribić are going to be doing Eternals. And that’s the same kind of thing. We know an Eternals film is coming. We know Eternals is going to be a big thing for everybody and we’re going to put the best foot forward that we can with those characters and with that property so that hopefully not only is there some excitement in our world that helps to set up what gets done elsewhere, but also so that when it comes time to make Eternals 2 or Eternals 3, there’s a new chunk of cool material that those guys have to draw on.

Tom Brevoort:
So it was the same kind of opinion. If I’m remembering right and it’s been a while so forgive me if I’m getting my timeline wrong, it wasn’t that Dan and Andy were replaced by Brian, it was that book ended and then Brian’s book started I’m going to say six months later.

Jim Thompson:
Yeah, that’s about right.

Tom Brevoort:
Yeah. So the end of that run was the end of that run. That was happening either way and it was really only the fact that, “Oh, there’s going to be a Guardians film and we should probably be doing something here,” that made people go, “Right, we better get on with this now.” Otherwise we might have gone two years or three years without a Guardian’s book as we often do with other properties. But there wasn’t anything especially sinister about it. If anything, it was kind of the opposite. It was trying to do the best with the biggest guys that we had.

Alex Grand:
Right, right. It sounds like you’re like, “Okay. We’re going to make this, want to keep this cool. We’re going to put some cool people on it. There’s a movie coming out.” I would say probably maybe the question would be more directed more toward Bendis and why he kind of let go of some of the stuff that the previous guys built and I think that’s probably more of an individual creator rather than a Marvel corporate kind of thing.

Tom Brevoort:
Again, I didn’t work so much directly on that book. I had some conversation with Brian at the very outset because there was two seconds when it looked like I might. And Brian approached it like he approaches everything that he does. He stared at it, he read up on a bunch of stuff. He found the pieces that spoke the most to him and he went out to try and tell stories that felt valid to his sensibility. And he doesn’t come from the same place that Dan does or that Andy does or that any of the other predecessors come from, he comes from the world he lives in.

Tom Brevoort:
But as long as he’s telling his stories with emotional truth driving them, that’s what ultimately will make them work. But there’s no such thing as a magic bullet. We were talking about FF before and John Hickman succeeded Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch on Fantastic Four. They came on to FF after finishing up Ultimates. And that’s about as close to a slam dunk creative team as I could imagine at that point. That was going to be a monster and yet somehow for whatever reason, it’s not like the book sold poorly, but it never quite caught fire the way I would have anticipated.

Alex Grand:
It’s like making a stew, right? It doesn’t always come out.

Tom Brevoort:
Yeah. You just can’t tell what the zeitgeist is or what’s going to work. So when it came time to succeed them, one of the reasons I went to John was I thought about who else could do this and they had done it and before them JMS had done it. I had put a bunch of really big guys on the book. Maybe it was time then to take a guy that was not yet big, a smaller guy, but who had a voice that I liked and plugged them in there and that was John. He was doing Secret Warriors with me and was looking for other stuff to do, but he hadn’t really cracked through in a big way.

Tom Brevoort:
But from Secret Warriors I could tell he’s a guy that’s got a particular brain, a particular mindset and he’ll do some interesting things here. He hadn’t been a Fantastic Four fan at all. He was never a reader. So he read up on all that stuff and he distilled it as he tends to do down to I think three volumes of notebooks and things that were his thesis on Fantastic Four, and that worked out.

Tom Brevoort:
You never tell. Every time you end up casting a series, you take the best shot you can, whatever your instinct is for what the series needs, where the world is right now, what the last guys did that worked, what the last guys did that didn’t work so well, all of that stuff. But then it’s ultimately down to what the audience feels. It’s not math, it’s alchemy.

Alex Grand:
Yeah, right, alchemy. The stew. Throw some meat, throw some onion, we’ll see what happens. So then Marvel having the digital comics in 2007, that’s kind of a bit of a milestone. Has that improved sales or maybe even awareness of people see a digital comic and they say, “Oh, I want to go buy one”? Did that improve as far as sales goes? Was that a good step forward as far as entering the future?

Tom Brevoort:
I think it was definitely a good step and one of the things that’s proven itself out over the course of that time, for all that everybody particularly retailers were very worried about digital at the outset, was that digital doesn’t seem to cut into the sales of tangible, which is to say that whether or not there’s a digital copy of Avengers, Avengers tends to sell what it sells and there’s a reader that likes it, that likes having that physical copy whether it’s the monthly release or whether it’s the trade paperback or the hardcovers, or hopefully all three.

Tom Brevoort:
But there’s a separate audience that likes digital, whether it’s for the immediacy and not needing to go out to a store or whether it’s not having the space or the room to store it all or just being more comfortable with a screen. Whatever the case may be, that whole sales model tends to be additive. In terms of proportions, it’s still not even half of our audience, but it’s a place where clearly over time, there’s the potential for growth and a lot of growth.

Tom Brevoort:
So I think it’s an absolutely necessary step in terms of keeping Marvel and keeping the characters and the series viable into the future. There hasn’t been any real downside to it. There’s a certain number of man hours it takes to prep a comic for digital release, but once you’ve got the comic that you’ve done to print, it’s not that labor intensive. And then all the revenue is gravy.

Alex Grand:
Yeah. It sounds like it didn’t really take away from heart, it just added more sales in general.

Tom Brevoort:
Yeah, whether those are sales of… Like the digital sits on top of the monthly or there are people that buy stuff digitally and then buy collections of the stuff that they really love to have it on their shelves permanently. And that’s another way that that feeder system works.

Alex Grand:
That’s kind of cool. So now another thing as far as preserving Marvel for the future when Disney bought Marvel in 2009, were like, “Okay, here we go again. Another corporate shake-up.” Or were you like, “Hey, this is a good move. This actually is the real deal.”

Tom Brevoort:
I was relatively nonplussed having been through this kind of thing before. And what made it most or at least unsettling, let’s say was that in the run-up to it, Joe had gone out and a couple of our other key people had gone out and talked with people and taken meetings with Disney people and hung out at Pixar and done all of this stuff. So Joe coming back and saying, “Yeah. Look, I’ve talked to all these guys. I’ve seen how they operate. This is all going to be good,” makes that feel a little more real than somebody you’ve never heard of walking into the bullpen saying, “Hey, I’ve got mouse ears and I run the place now.”

Tom Brevoort:
While it was a Disney purchase there’s much more of an aspect of it being a merger creatively to it. And again, everybody, since then wants to blame Disney for whatever it is they don’t happen to like about Marvel at any given point. It’s a commonly thrown around thing in fan circles. And for the most part, it’s just not true.

Alex Grand:
So it’s more just the basis of like the current staff at the time not because Disney is diluting the brand or directing it in some way?

Tom Brevoort:
Yeah. Ultimately, all the Disney stuff has been positive. The one thing Disney has had and you’ve seen it happen over the last decade is they’ve always had a massive global reach. Their characters and their properties in film and television as merchandise, as tchotchkes, they’re everywhere. And that ability to get these characters out onto a worldwide stage has been absolutely invaluable to the point now where forget about like Iron Man. People on the ass end of the world know who Groot is, which is bananas. Anybody that would have thought that that was the case in 2009. Put aside the fact that he was in a movie, they know that character and they know there’s a little version that dances, because they’ve got one on their desk.

Alex Grand:
Yes, true. Disney does help that. I mean, who would have thought the Planet X guy from the ’50s would be all over the place?

Tom Brevoort:
All of that stuff is hugely helpful. And really for the most part in terms of particularly when it comes down to like comic book publishing, our day-to-day isn’t really any different. There haven’t been a lot of mandates, there haven’t been a lot of… Oh, it’s got to be this and whatnot. All the stuff that fans fulminate over, oh, they’ve lost the whatever, if it is true, that we have lost the whatever, it’s because we lost it. Not because Disney made anything happen. There’s no choking noose around anybody’s neck keeping them from making whatever imaginary comic you want them to be.

Alex Grand:
That’s why we haven’t seen, Jim, Carol Danvers as a princess and Marcus as prince charming. It’s no wonder we haven’t seen that because Disney’s not telling them to do it.

Tom Brevoort:
There might be a couple of other reasons there too.

Jim Thompson:
Tom mentioned fandom and that was going to be my next question. We live in a moment with social media and things where I read in researching this, just how vicious attacks have come against you personally bringing up your family, bringing up everything from the comics gay community and all of that, taking it very aggressively personal against you because Bobby Drake is gay now or things like that. Do you ever get nervous? How do you feel about that? When you’re making decisions and you’re fighting with people who are 50 years old about these characters, when you’re trying to sell to a younger audience, how do you balance this and how do you not lose your temper?

Tom Brevoort:
To your last point first, sometimes I do lose my temper.

Jim Thompson:
Yeah, I know.

Tom Brevoort:
But a couple of things on that. The first one is I genuinely like the fan community. For the most part, I genuinely do like the fans and I appreciate and understand their point of view. They’re no different than me. I was a fan and a reader. I’m still a fan of the reader. I buy and read books every week although now with Corona, I have to have them sent to my house rather than going to a shop. But I still do that and I understand that psychology, I understand the thing that drives them because I’ve been there.

Tom Brevoort:
That having been said, bad behavior is bad behavior. People being jerks are people being jerks. For a while, I was a good lightning rod because I would answer questions on Formspring or whatever. I have not had it as bad as a lot of people in this industry who have been hounded, and doxxed, and tortured, and tormented for the crime of being able to do a creative endeavor that the people that are poking at them would dearly love to be able to do, but can’t or haven’t. That behavior is just reprehensible and it ought to stop.

Tom Brevoort:
But that all having been said, I appreciate the idea that any given reader’s experience is going to be their own experience. So if I put out an Iron Man story, whatever story that is, there are going to be people that love it and think it is the greatest Iron Man story that’s ever been done. There are going to be people that like it and enjoy it and buy the next one. There are going to be people that are so, so about it. There are going to be people that didn’t love it, but it doesn’t ruin their lives and there are going to be people to whom I have forever destroyed the character of Iron Man.

Tom Brevoort:
And that whole range is fine. It’s all about how it gets expressed and how it gets acted upon. In terms of am I ever scared? I don’t know if I’m ever scared per se. Every once in a while there was one during the Secret Empire storyline where there was one death threat that seemed like… No, that could be a legitimate death threat and it came from a guy that had a history of mental problems and so forth. That one went up through Marvel security and so forth. And anything like that, we’ll take seriously. But I also know that most of this stuff is just people blowing smoke.

Tom Brevoort:
I go to conventions, not this year so much, but I go to conventions, I’m easy to find online. I’m not hard to get a hold of. Publicly, and to my face, nobody’s really been awful. Even people that haven’t liked a certain thing have observed the social niceties when they’ve been there. Either not saying anything or saying, “Yeah, I didn’t like that.” And that’s fine. I understand. You have a love for this just like I do and you don’t like whatever creative choice was made. That’s fair. Hopefully the choice we make next month will be better for you.

Alex Grand:
Jim brought up the comic gig people and there’s also just the flip end of it. There’s the cancer culture thing of sometimes someone sees a panel from maybe 10 years ago that was okay then, now it isn’t. That group wants that person to be fired. It all feels like social media is adding a certain toxicity to the fandom issues that used to be contained in letters, pages that you had some degree of control over. Has it ever gotten to that point emotionally where you’re like, “I just kind of want to retire and get away from this”?

Tom Brevoort:
No, it hasn’t gotten to that. I think honestly, that toxicity doesn’t come from the fandom. It doesn’t come from social media, it comes from the zeitgeist in the world. We’re in a very contentious period right now and have been for a couple of years and that’s tended to bring out the worst extremes of people on all sides of all of these issues. So this is a symptom. This isn’t the illness. When the situation itself changes, or improves, or gets better that I think you’ll see people behaving slightly better.

Alex Grand:
You’re promoted to senior vice president of publishing in 2011. So you have that title and the executive editor title, I think currently, right?

Tom Brevoort:
Yeah. I keep a lot of titles around. It’s good for impressing people.

Alex Grand:
Did that change your job titles as far as being senior VP of publishing or is that more a testament of like this guy’s been a solid company man. He’s doing a lot of things around here. Let’s throw that title there. I mean, what is it? What happened?

Tom Brevoort:
There’s more to it than just, “Hey, let’s give him a title.” It’s not like my job with the VP of publishing on it versus before that, was all that materially different. It’s a reflection of mostly honestly is the Disney structure that within the Disney hierarchy and dealing with people in other divisions, it’s helpful to have a title that makes sense to those divisions where they can go, “Oh, that guy’s a VP. So when he says, whatever, Iron Man should be red and gold, he probably knows what he’s talking about.” As opposed to anything else.

Tom Brevoort:
Again, I won’t say it was an empty or a meaningless title. I’ve got more responsibility with that than I had before. But really the free-for-all there is really more about the internal political dynamics of the engine that is all the various Disney companies.

Alex Grand:
Yeah. I think Paul Levitt said that with the Warner structure that once that happened then things were structured to reflect that, the new owner kind of thing.

Tom Brevoort:
Yeah. It’s exactly that sort of thing. So my day-to-day hasn’t changed all that much, but the title just means that if I get a call or I have to interface with somebody at, I don’t know Disney parks or something, they understand instinctively, they’re dealing with somebody on whatever level I happen to be on, and not just a guy from the mail room.

Alex Grand:
Yeah, I got one more question and Jim is probably going to ask one more, then we can close it.

Jim Thompson:
I had two more, but go ahead.

Alex Grand:
Two more questions. There you go. As far as the movies, are we kind of in the movie age of comics where the movies are kind of driving a lot of the creative choices. Before it was like let’s get movies based on the comics that were made in vacuum without movie concerns. Now, that the movie concerns are here, does that create like this almost, I guess, you could call it a corporate synergy, but does that also reduce in some way the genuineness of the product? Does it in some way dilute the Marvel brand and that it’s become a bit more movie-oriented or is that not real at all?

Tom Brevoort:
I don’t think it’s done most of that stuff. What it does do is it means that everything influences everything. On a day-to-day basis as somebody working in Marvel publishing, what my job is and what my goal is always is to be doing the stories that on some level can be raw material for what studios does a couple years from now. The most obvious example of something like that is I do Winter Soldier, they make a Winter Soldier movie. Their Winter Soldier movie is not like the comic that Ed, and I, and Steve Epting did. It takes a few pieces of it. It remixes them and it’s built in a way that works really excellent for a two-hour movie structure as opposed to a serialized comic.

Tom Brevoort:
But it’s raw material and it’s stories that got a reaction and that got people excited that they can look at and go, “We could do something great with that in film.” So on all the books that we work on, we’re constantly looking to be at the forefront of stuff. That having been said, it’s not like the films don’t have a huge influence over everybody and that includes our creators. The example that we always use, and it’s not the only one is that after the first X-Men movie came out, everybody started drawing Cerebro as a giant round chamber with a catwalk in it.

Tom Brevoort:
And that wasn’t anybody at Marvel going, “Now Cerebro needs to look at that.” It was everybody coming out of the movie theaters who draws our books going, “That looked cool.” So when Cerebro shows up in a plot, that’s what they think of and that’s what they draw. There are times when the way the films will distill a character down or the way they’ll interpret them or the way an actor will portray them, will naturally translate back.

Tom Brevoort:
I believe it is impossible today for anybody reading an Iron Man comic to not read it in Robert Downey’s voice. It almost doesn’t matter who writes it or what the dialogue is, that actor is so associated with that character that you almost can’t help, but hear it as Downey when he speaks. So there’s always going to be that synergistic influence. And there are times like I said earlier, we know that an Eternals movie is coming, so we’ll do a book. The book we’re doing is not going to be their movie. Will it take bits and pieces from it?

Tom Brevoort:
If we happen to know characters are featured or that they’re doing something specific, that’ll inform our choice making and our decision process, but the stories that we tell… Again, the hope is really, maybe this will be Eternals 2 or Eternals 3 that there’ll be stuff here that they go, “Yeah.” This is in the same way that as they do whatever films that they’ve done so far and will continue to do, they get to cherry pick all the best stuff from all the stories that have existed so far.

Jim Thompson:
Okay. Very quickly, what about going for DC comics from new 52 to the recent news and the basic destruction of DC? Do you all view that as a positive or negative in terms of Marvel because isn’t it good to have a competitor to have a strong Democratic and Republican party to have a rivalry?

Tom Brevoort:
Look, I want to do better than DC on the racks, but I certainly don’t want DC to fail or to fall apart or to go away. I think the industry as a whole is better and stronger, and better for everybody, retailers, creators, editors, publishers alike. Technically, in my perfect world, there’d be three companies at a certain level, and there tends to be more like two and a half these days. But yeah, I want DC to do well. I want to do better than them and I work and fight every month to try to do better than them and they hopefully are working and fighting every month to try and do better than me.

Tom Brevoort:
Some months I win and some months they win. But again, I went through those Marvel layoffs of the ’90s and I know a bunch of the people that got taken out during this wave at DC and a bunch of the people that are still there. So I know what they’re in for and I know what they’ve experienced. It’s horrifying and heartbreaking, and I hate it. But again, all I can do is hope for the best, hope that things turn around for them and move in a positive direction, and that everything works out.

Jim Thompson:
My next question is some of my favorite books of the last two years have been published by First Second or young adult in nature and they’re really doing some interesting things. Marvel is doing it as well and they’re very aware. When fan people, sometimes at Comic Book Historians talk about Marvel failing and sales being down and everything, I think they don’t understand how much business y’all get from that kind of selling to a different audience, the book fairs and the children’s bookstores and that. I just wanted to ask you to confirm that and talk about that for a second.

Tom Brevoort:
Yes, you are absolutely right. Obviously, we don’t sell the same thing through every chain to every person. And what a particular product does in one distribution market does not reflect what it does in all of them. We are very simple folk at Marvel. We like to make money. We like to make a lot of it. As much of it as we possibly can. So if you’re looking at a situation and going, “Well, that book doesn’t seem to be performing very well. It can’t be making much money or any money at all. Why the hell are they doing it?” Chances are the answer is because it makes a lot of money over here, where you just don’t happen to be seeing it and we like having a lot of money and we don’t care so much that it doesn’t make as much money over here.

Tom Brevoort:
At the end of the day, all the loot goes into the same big bag with a dollar sign on it. As long as that money is coming in and there’s an audience there that can be tapped and we can expand the scope and the reach of the Marvel characters and further conquer the world, that’s something that we’re all about doing. Certainly that YA space has been exploding for a decade now as a category in publishing. We certainly have taken steps and will continue to take more to expand what we’re doing there and to capture a portion of that audience until we have it all.

Jim Thompson:
So you’re not doing it to bow to social justice warriors or some feminist agenda or anything else, it’s because you make money off of it, correct?

Tom Brevoort:
We are greedy. Certainly there’s nothing wrong with putting forth a positive message. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being inclusive and having comics that reflect the wide variety and spectrum of human experiences, because we want to get everybody and we want everybody to feel like there’s a place for them at Marvel. But when you dig down, we’re a very profit-oriented organization and we want to have more money at the end of the year than we started with. And that’s always going to drive our business decisions in aggregate. So yeah, the people that are like, “Oh, comic sales are failing.” I’ve been hearing that since before I was in the industry.

Tom Brevoort:
Again, if you bet on failure, long enough, sooner or later you’ll be right because eventually the sun goes nova, the universe ends, heat depth of the universe. It’s a safe money bet, but I’m doing well. Marvel is doing well. We did well last year. We’re doing better this year. Hopefully, we’ll do better next year. We’re doing really well right now in the middle of a pandemic where our whole distribution network fell apart for a couple of months. So the sky is falling rhetoric. If it serves some people, it makes them happy, whatever, God love them, there ain’t a lot of reality to it.

Jim Thompson:
I just want to close with saying that what I like about Marvel is it’s still recognizable under all circumstances. And this morning at 3:00 in the morning, I’m reading the snapshots of Fantastic Four that Dorkin wrote. It’s a beautiful book and it’s Johnny Storm, and I recognize who it is. I can’t wait for the Mark Russell Captain America. And you guys understand your characters and we appreciate it.

Tom Brevoort:
We love the fact that not only are you reading, but you have been reading for so long. I quite like the fact that you had a Kid Flash costume even though that’s not a Marvel thing. Thank you so much. We try not to take your readership for granted. We know that we have to earn your allegiance one comic at a time, one story at a time, every time you go and that’s what we try to do. Sometimes we don’t do as well and sometimes the cake doesn’t come out as good as we’d hoped, but our goal is to hit it as often as possible and provide everybody with some entertainment and some enjoyment, and some joy in their lives.

Alex Grand:
Yeah. Something I want to kind of point out is that when it comes to Marvel and your involvement with Marvel, you are that Marvel company guy that weathered all sorts of crazy storms. John Romita, Sr. was like that like the way you are with that and then Stan Lee obviously. He was there longer than anybody. But are you there longer than the years that John Romita was there?

Tom Brevoort:
Well, I think the answer is ultimately yes, because John retired in ’96.

Alex Grand:
Yeah. So that’s like 29 years or 30 years or something, right?

Tom Brevoort:
Yeah. He came back to Marvel in ’66. So that’s a 30-year thing. But when he came back, I don’t know that he was working in the office. He wasn’t necessarily on staff. He would come in and he would operate as Stan’s pair of hands to do corrections and things, and work in the office. But even assuming that you say that that’s 30 years, I’m longer than that. Stan obviously was longer than me. Ralph Macchio was still longer than me. So there are a few people who’ve been at Marvel longer or who are more long tenured than I, but not many.

Jim Thompson:
Over 30 years, wow.

Alex Grand:
Yeah. More than 30 years. Yeah, absolutely. I mean, you’re there longer than Romita senior. That’s a testament to you being truly a Marvel guy, although it was from affidavit fraud, but still. But at any rate, thanks so much, Tom Brevoort. We had a great time chatting with you today. You gave us some great insights on some goings-on and we’re always excited to hear about what’s next coming from Marvel.

Tom Brevoort:
Excellent. Well, thanks so much for having me.

 

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