It's "All Good Things Must Come To An End" time again. Not to mention the Changing of the Guard. It is with a mixture of pride and regret that I must announce that Howard Mackie, my assistant editor, right hand man, office design consultant, and all-around good guy, is being promoted to the position of Managing Editor of Special Projects. That means he'll no longer be working with me on the AVENGERS family of books, no longer be sharing an office with me (sniff!), and no longer be around trying to make me lookg good. It certainly has been a gas these past two and a half years, sharing with H-- the industry's first office designed to look like a dungeon (complete with simulated stone walls, rats, bats, nooses, crawling hands, and the ever-popular Chair of Insanity), and then the industry's first split level office (our deaks are currently on a three-foot high platform enabling us to see eye to eye with Jim Shooter-- while sitting down!). I hope Howard walks away with as many fond memories of our time together as I do. So let's all give Howard a hearty farewell from these pages and keep our eyes scanned for evidence of his handiwork elsewhere in the Marvel Universe.
So where does that leave me-- assistant-less? Not quite. Stepping up to the editor's platform to co-pilot the AVENGERS books with me is Gregory Wright, formerly an editorial assistant for the Epic line of books. Greg's raring to go, and anxious to fill the Howard-sized niche in this, the industry's hardest-working editorial office. Greg, like Howard, cannot stand on the desk platform without bumping his head on the ceiling, so you knwo he's off to a promising start. Maybe once he gets his bearings, I can coax Greg into telling you a little something about himself in this space. Until then, remember: the Gru/Mac Team is gone, long live the Gru/Wri Team. (Gee, somehow that's not quite as easy to say! We'll have to work on that.)
Chris Jam of Seattle, Washington asks a lot of interesting questions. In a recent letter to this column, Chris poses no less than nine intriguing subjects for me to wax knowledgeable (or at least opinionated) about. Here's one of them...
Q: How do you feel about bringing back characters who have seemingly died? Does a certain amount of time need to pass before you do it? When you kill off a character, do you leave a way out?
There are a number of different kinds of deaths in comics. There's the Arbitrary Plot Device sort of death, where a character (usually a villain) seems to die for no other reason than to make the end of the story seem more dramatic and final. If a character comes back from this type of supposed death, it doesn't really bother me. Then there's the Compelling Storyline Denouement sort of death, where a character has sown the seeds of his or her destruction in the course of the story and it would be a cop-out for him or her to escape scot-free at the end of the story. If a character comes back from this kind of supposed death, it generally negates the entire dramatic point of the previous story. I'm against those kind of resurrections. There's also The Too Stupid or Complicated to Let Live kind of death, where a character has either been ill conceived to begin with (such that any story s/he is in weakens the credibility of the Marvel Universe) of has become so hopelessly complicated and convoluted in history, powers, or motivations that you'd need an encyclopedia to figure out what his/her concept is. (The MARVEL UNIVERSE book of the Dead issues are full of these folks that deserve to die.) Resurrecting characters like this only makes their histories, powers, and motivations even more complicated. These guys deserve to stay dead, and there is a special circle in Dante's inferno for writers who bring these characters back. To sum it all up, if there's a good compelling reason for a character to die in the first place, as far as I'm concerned, there's a good compelling reason for him/her to stay dead. If there's not, then we'll probably bring him/her back after a "reasonable" time. (Does anyone think Doctor Doom is ever going to die a permanent death?) If a character has a few good traits mixed in with the overall mess, a writer can always take what works and make a new character out of it, recycling a good name, a good power, or even a good costume.
That's all the room I have this time. Hey you out there, you too can pose quesions for me to answer in this space. Just writer to Mark's Remarks at the address above.
In the world of cinema, they give out Oscars, Golden Globes, and People's Choice awards (among others) for excellence in the various disciplines of that medium. In the world of comics, we also have awards, although none of them has been around long enough to become a household word yet. In one awards presentation, sponsored by the Comics Buyer's Guide, a popular weekly newspaper for comics enthusiasts, I was voted Number Six Favorite Editor of 1985. I felt that this was quite a distinction, considering how many comic book editors there are in the field today (why, there are twelve at Marvel alone!). In announcing the results to you, the reading public, in my various letters pages last year, I remarked how proud I was to be known as Number Six, that being Patrick McGoohan's designation in The Prisoner television series back in the late sixties, a long-time favorite of mine. I then asked for your input on how to improve the editorial content of my books so that if I followed through on some of your suggestions, you readers would not only get more of what you wanted for your money, but you'd also have ample reason to think even more highly of me when the 1986 polls came around. Specifically, I was hoping to catapult into the Number One slot, seeing as how Patrick McGoohan (Number Six) "became" Number One in the last episode of The Prisoner.
Well, folks, I didn't become the new Number One Favorite Editor in the '86 awards. But I did become Number Two! I find it quite remarkable that any Marvel editor did so well seeing as how, unlike most of the other publishers, Marvel did not print the CBG ballot anywhere (we figured that in interests of fairness, we would not promote one awards program over any other). That means that anyone who voted for me or any other Marvel editor was not prompted to do so by seeing the ballot in a Marvel magazine. So I'm pleased as all get-out to be voted Number Two. (And as far as my Prisoner analogy is concerned, Number Six's perennial nemesis was Number Two, and in one episode, Number Six actually ran for Number Two's office!)
Suffice to say, being Number Two feels great, and like a certain car rental company, you know I'm going to try harder. I may never make it to Number One-- after all, there are a lot of great people editing comics these days and the comics I edit are the grand old guard not the fan-faves of the week, but hey, I'm going to hang in there trying. I'd do that even if there were no popularity contests to compete in. I'm here to make comics as good as I can make them. I'm here to pay back my debt to the comics creators of my youth for giving me so many hours of great reading pleasure, by trying to provide the same for the youth of today. Let me know how I'm doing, at the polls, and particularly in your letters.