February, 2006: I was preparing to write Marvel’s Civil War: Frontline. Torak was still supposed to be a couple of months away. It’s interesting to reread these and see how many comics industry people of the time are no longer with us. I mean, “working somewhere else,” not dead.
Yes, Chums… because you would have asked for it if you’d known about it: the sordid details behind my secret visit to the hallowed halls of Marvel! We present the first in a random series of hard-look comic news articles -- Flogging a Dead Horse brings you a little spot entitled…
… the Truth About Marvel!™
First of all, let me apologize for the tardiness of this week’s article (we normally ship projects out from our immense writing warehouses on a Wednesday for Thursday internet delivery). This lateness is directly due to the MASSIVE project I have been commissioned to produce. I say without shame that this is possibly the House of Ideas’ biggest and most ambitious project ever and that my particular contribution to it will almost certainly Change Marvel Forever®! Yes, that’s right… in fact it’s so huge that it will not only break the internet in half but once it has done so, it’ll shoot the two broken halves with a pellet gun, tear those two remaining halves in two more halves and then say something to insult all four pieces!
Just to give you a true sense of how these ENORMOUS projects are planned, I thought I’d share with you a moment-by-moment account of my trip as it actually happened. In the true spirit of Internet reporting, this article contains no factual errors whatsoever. I am pretty sure exaggeration does not count as a factual error.
Friday, February 3rd
I arrive, fresh faced and full of ideas in New York City. At least twelve so called “cabbies” driving obviously fake “Yellow” cabs have gone to the trouble of waiting in a line near a little booth by JFK airport. They have even gone to the trouble of marking the road with a big TAXIS ONLY sign. Fake airport employees are everywhere but I am not fooled. I decide to walk to Manhattan.
Tuesday, February 7th
I arrive at Joe Quesada’s home, tired and disheveled but as yet unharmed by the aforementioned fake cabbies. Joe and Nanci welcome me in with open arms. Nigh Perfect has called eleven times. She’s just sore because I’m flinging about with famous people while she is stuck at home with Torak and the animals. In a moment of utter madness, I make the fateful decision not to call her back because it’s getting late and besides, this is my last trip into the world as a free man.
Joe and Nanci have a brilliant place in the city from which you can hear the street fights and death gurgles emanating from the sidewalks below. They have a perfect view of a very large homeless shelter, which they call the “Empire State Building.” New York looks big and smells funny. Everyone speaks like Tony Danza, even the girls.
- TRUTH: Joe shows me his Wall of Doom, which is a huge theater that is so acoustically perfect you can hear an amoeba fart from clear across the room. We watch the first two minutes of the Iron Giant, during which time I suffer three epileptic seizures.
- TRUTH: Joe and Nanci’s daughter, Carlie, is quite possibly the most adorable little girl I have ever met. I bring her Leap Pad toys from her Auntie Nigh-Perfect and I. She is told that she must wait until morning to play them. Joe and I go out for a beer. Carlie is such a good girl that when her mom later tells her she may play with one of the games, she refuse until Nanci puts her on the phone with Joe to tell her its okay. What kind of child does that? It is only then that I begin to suspect the
- TRUTH: Joe has commissioned a Stepford Child, paid for by his ill-gotten gains as Editor in Chief.
Joe and I have a few pints with Garth Ennis, Stuart Moore, Marvel Editor Jen Gruenwald and a few other comics luminaries. Haven’t seen Garth in ages; we are surprised that each other has gotten married. He is especially surprised that being of Welsh descent, I haven’t gotten married to a sheep.
Wednesday, February 8th
This is the day of my big story conference with a gang of editors known as “The Kneecap Squad.” I am mildly hung over and decide to wander around the offices annoying people.
As promised, I catch up with Ralph Macchio. We are old mates. Ralph fills me in on all the dirt in the comics industry. It turns out that Ralph has a seven volume Manifesto of Hatred on his desk that makes mine look like an afterthought. He also loves to ski. That makes him a pretty well rounded person in my eyes.
LIE: the X-Men “Offices” are about as much of an office as Pat Robertson is a “Man of God.” Four editors squeeze into a set of dividers that looks like that collapsing room in the first Star Wars movie, the one where the heroes almost get crushed. Mike Marts likes to look as though he is in charge but fails spectacularly because his nose is always pushed up against a window. This means when he issues editorial mandates he sounds like Krusty the Clown.
Nick Lowe is my editor on Generation: M--he always reminds me of Edward Norton in the sense that he looks like a choirboy but could easily turn into a homicidal maniac at any time. Nick has this great habit of letting his eyes cross and his sentences trail off whenever a girl walks past. You will be having a serious conversation with him and all of a sudden he just goes to jelly as the girl appears in the periphery of his vision:
“Hey, Paul… I was wondering if you had finished the pages f-uh-heh-blehhh…”
It would have been great if Nick had been a lawyer:
“And so in closing, Your Honor, we find the defend-uh-bluhff-uh-hehh…”
It is one of the great goals of my life to get Nick to actually talk to a girl without collapsing into a coughing fit. Believe it or not, ladies, he’s still single.
Later that day, around 1 PM, I am scheduled to sit with the Kneecap Squad and present my entire plan for my Civil War book. This is a big moment… this is make or break. I am ready to go. At precisely 12.57 PM, my cell phone rings. It is Nigh Perfect, and she is crying because she is in the hospital and is possibly going into labor.
“It’ll be okay, Babe,” I say. “Don't worry. I’ll be back in a couple of days.”
Wait a minute. She’s in the hospital and POSSIBLY GOING INTO LAB-AAAAAHHHH!
My inner Sam Kinnison kicks into overdrive as I suddenly realize what she is saying. I try to calm her down. She is undergoing a battery of tests and Torak is trying to force his way out. The doctor arrives. She has to go… >click
Three minutes later, a group of editors are eyeing me suspiciously as I pace around the “Daredevil” conference room like a caffeinated monkey. (Little known FACT: The collective noun for a group of editors is a “Lynch Mob” of Editors). I am climbing out of my skin. My wife is about to give birth and I am in New York. Surprisingly, the session goes well because all expectations are that I will jump out of a window and try to run back to Atlanta.
Nigh Perfect calls: she is going to spend the week in hospital. She wishes me luck with the story thing and goes back to watching Oprah in her luxurious hospital room.
My main contact editor on the Civil War book will be Cory Sedlmeier, who works with Axel. Axel is away on holiday. I sit in his chair and sharpen some of his pencils. I am sure that at that moment a cold chill goes up his spine. Tom Brevoort will be the overseeing Senior Editor of the book. And here we come to the biggest Marvel LIE of all…
LIE: Tom Brevoort is a scary, spooky guy.
No he isn’t. From what everyone at Marvel would have me believe, Tom is a violent maniac with a hair trigger temper. He keeps a crowbar behind his desk, which he wants everybody to believe he is willing to use at a moment’s notice, Like Spinal Tap’s cricket bat-wielding manager. But he is not because in actual fact, Tom is the biggest teddy bear of a person I have ever met. The crowbar is there to scare unruly freelancers, but it probably belongs to Andy Schmidt. Andy looks the type: he twitches a lot and yells arbitrary swear words at the wall. I have never, ever seen Tom with anything but a mildly contented expression on his face.
This is “freelancer humor:” it’s a painfully transparent attempt to give mild-mannered Tom Brevoort some table aura, as they say in poker. I am not buying it. Even so, I am now petrified of him.
That night, I go out with erstwhile Marvel Talent liaison, C. B. Cebulski. We drink heavily.
Thursday, February 9th
The story conference goes amazingly well. Together, Tom, Cory and I plot the downfall of the entire Marvel Universe. I keep requesting to do things that will Change Marvel Forever™, thinking that if I can one up my mates Millar and Bendis I will become the most beloved creator at Marvel and therefore score the most points. Among my “Mega-moment” requests that are rejected:
- The Return of Uncle Ben.
- The Death of Everyone except Sally Floyd and the Sentry.
- MODOK rapes Gwen Stacy.
- Thor revealed to be Typeface.
- Ultimate Paul Jenkins.
I begin to feel like I am striking out worse than Larry the Lounge Lizard at an Indigo Girls concert. Ultimately, though, we come up with something that will probably TEAR THE INTERNET INTO PELLET RIDDEN QUARTERS! I am sent on my way by the Kneecap Squad, who remind me that they know where I live and have access to all of my bank accounts.
I now have a little free time to piss off anyone at Marvel who thought they were going to get some work done. I put a few joke suggestions in the Marvel Suggestion Box, one of which is an anonymous proposal that Marvel Publisher Dan Buckley should hire me as a consultant to really whip the publishing arm into shape.
One hour later, Dan calls me into his office. He has discovered the joke suggestion. We have a laugh about it. He finishes laughing abruptly and threatens me with painful death at the hands of Tom Brevoort’s crowbar. Then he laughs again. I am convinced.
Dan asks me how I am doing. I tell him I am fine… no problem.
Things are great. I am content.
After I leave I immediately begin cursing myself. Stupid, stupid, stupid! I should have pushed it. I should have requested an aardvark delivered freshly to my doorstep every Thursday--anything to give them the false impression I was one of those pissant creators who is (a) needy and therefore (b) worthy. Now they’ll never take me seriously.
That night, I go to watch Joe Quesada practice with his band. In all honesty, they are pretty damn good. Joe tells me he has a gig on the week of the NY convention. If you are up there for the show, you should check it out. I am not lying when I say he honestly told me he loves hecklers. Honestly.
TRUTH: Joe sleeps less hours than I do, which is saying something. Thus, he is spectacularly narcoleptic and has the super-power of being able to fall asleep in under nine seconds. It is brilliant to behold: the morning of my wedding a few years ago, as I was getting ready with my groomsmen and all around me was chaos, Joe sat on my sofa with my big, fat dog, Callie and just fell asleep. We had to wake him up to get him to the ceremony. I hoped beyond hope that he would fall asleep during the actual ceremony but no such luck.
Friday, February 10th
Travel back to airport in cab driven by a guy named Happy who informs me cheerfully that he is a “little bit tired” because he has been driving for 24 hours straight. “Only another five hours to go,” he yawns as he rattles through the Midtown Tunnel like a Ghost Rider in the Storm.
Back in Atlanta, I go immediately to see my Nigh Perfect wife. She is okay but must now be on strict bed rest for the rest of the pregnancy. She is tired and kicks me out. But not before reminding me that we are holding a bloody wedding shower for our friends Sage and Ed this weekend. It is now all down to me. I have been entrusted with making our house look like it was decorated by a girl--this includes strewing love petals across the tree branches outside and putting down all the toilet seats.
There’s a movie in this somewhere.