When I first tried to get a job in comics almost ten years ago, I spoke to a seasoned professional about what it was like to work in This Glamor Profession. He gave me some cautionary words of wisdom that, of course, I didn't believe at the time. Those words of wisdom? If you want to stay in love with comics, don't do comics for a living. I couldn't understand what he was talking about. I figured he must be a burnt-out hack whose love for comics had never been as great and unquenchable as mine. For my first year in the business, even the second, I proved him wrong. After a hard day at the office, doing assistant editorly things, what would I do to unwind when I got home? You got it-- curled up on the couch and read comics! And then, gradually, that compulsion began to erode.
Maybe I proofread one too many story that I felt I could have done a better job on than the writer who wrote it. Maybe as I learned more and more about the art and craft of creating comics, some of the "magic" left the finished product. Yeah, that was it. To some extent, it was like when I learned to play a batch of chords on the guitar. After that, I couldn't help but listen to songs with an anlytical frame of mind, mentally noting chord progressions. Certain groups I once liked (like, say, the Moody Blues), I couldn't stand to listen to anymore once I was aware how obvious and limited the chord progressions in their songs were! It spoiled my enjoyment of a song if I could figure out how it could be played! Well, I'm far from a professional musician, but I am a professional comics writer and editor. With comics, I became so well-versed in "writerly" techniques that it now takes a transcendentally good story to make me forget the craft the writer used to construct it so I can just react viscerally to the content of the story.
I used to voraciously read every word of every single superhero title Marvel and DC produced. Now I skim through most of Marvel's superhero product (in order to keep abreast of any developments in the Marvel Universe) and thumb through the bulk of DC's. There are now only between five and ten books put out by Marvel and the various other publishers that I actually take home and read for pure pleasure. And make no mistake, I'm not a burnt-out hack whose love for comics was never as great and unquenchable as yours. Really! Despite the fact that reading comics is not that much fun for me anymore, making comics gets more fun with each passing year! This really is the Glamor Profession, as far as I'm concerned, and I wouldn't trade it for any other. I guess the moral of all this is: if your hobby becomes your profession, you'd better find another hobby.
Okay, those of you who skip over this boxful of blatherings to read the pithy pronoucements of your fellow readers on the rest of this page, PLEASE READ THIS. What I have to say this month is more important than usual, and requires everyone's feedback.
We are thinking of changing the title of this magazine. Writer Steve Englehart and I have been discussing what factors may be keeping this team book from being as popular as say, the mutant team books, and one of the things that occurred to us is maybe some potential readers are turned off by the name. Sure, if you live on the West Coast (like Steve does), the words WEST COAST in our title may be an incentive to pick up the book. But what about the rest of the country? Could there actually be people in Colorado, Wisconsin, Ohio, New York, Texas, or elsewhere who look at the name WEST COAST AVENGERS and think, "I don't live on the West Coast. Why should I buy the book?" The informal survey Steve and I have been taking at conventions we've attended lately hasn't proven conclusive. We just don't know if there's prejudice among our audience to a title with geographic specificity (say that fast three times!).
So Steve and I came up with one alternate title for this book that we like equally as much as its current and original title. The title is...THE NEW AVENGERS! (After all, they are!) Now what we'd like to do is to throw it out to you, our raucous readership. What's your choice for the title of this book: WEST COAST AVENGERS or THE NEW AVENGERS? Cast your vote NOW-- and if you know anybody who isn't reading this magazine at present-- convince him to vote, too! The future title of Hawkeye's merry band of adventurers is in your hands! (Please be sure to put your address on the letter-- not just on the envelope which we throw out when the mail is opened!) Write today-- we want to make a decision soon!
I've always liked "split books." When TALES TO ASTONISH, TALES OF SUSPENSE, and STRANGE TALES broke up and begat INCREDIBLE HULK, SUB-MARINER, CAPTAIN AMERICA, IRON MAN, DR. STRANGE, and SHIELD, in 1968, as far as I was concerned the first era of the Marvel Age was over. Sure, Marvel attempted split books again two years later with ASTONISHING TALES (featuring Ka-Zar and Doctor Doom) and AMAZING ADVENTURES (featuring the Inhumans and the Black Widow), but neither book lasted more than twelve issues before full-issue stories took over and the second feature was eliminated. For me, some of the best Hulk, Subby, Cap, Iron Man, Doc, and Fury stories were told in 10-page segments and the heroes' adventures lost that certain something when they expanded.
Ever since I started working at Marvel in 1978, I harbored a secret plan to create or revive at least one split book. Now, a hair shy of ten years later, I've gotten my wish with the premiere of SOLO AVENGERS! (Yeah, I know "Solo Avengers" is an oxymoron-- contradiction of terms-- since "solo" means one, and "Avengers" is plural, but if you think of it as "SOLO adventures of the AVENGERS" it won't bother you as much, will it?) It's true that Bob (Special Projects) Budiansky almost got a split book off the ground (featuring Sandman in one feature and Vision and the Scarlet Witch in the other) a few years ago, and Carl (Punisher) Potts succeeded in reviving STRANGE TALES (featuring Cloak and Dagger and Dr. Strange) currently on its ninth issue, but all that means is certain other oldtimers share my fondness for the format.
Okay, so I like the format already. As an editor, it offers me something other books don't-- variety. As much as I like working with my regular teams on their regular assignments, I crave variety once in a while, the opportunity to work with other talented writers and artists without adding regular ongoing books to my already-burgeoning editorial stable. Not only that, but there are also certain creative types who are not willing or able to commit to a regular monthly book or regular creators on other books who have a hankering to do something different once in awhile. Books like this are a haven for these folks, and I get to work with them all!
So enough talk about generalities. Let's get down to specifics. The purpose of SOLO AVENGERS (besides giving your editor his jollies-- ahem!) is to give the various Avengers some more space to strut their stuff. What with two teams of Avengers, each of which has at least seven active members, and over a dozen currently inactive Avengers who are undoubtedly having adventures we don't get to hear about, there are plenty of candidates for solo stories. In the group books we never have the chance to see 11 pages of solo action for a given member so we really get an in-depth look at the character. Here in SOLO, we'll be able to do just that. This is the place where exciting new character developments can and will occur which will affect the solo Avengers' lives and become part of their status quo in the pges of their team book. This is the place where personal foes will premiere, giving those heroes who never had their own series before the makings of a rogue's gallery. This is the place where you will see the solo Avengers challenged to their utmost, without another Avenger around to back them up. My hope is that each 11-page feature will serve as a "pilot film" or tryout feature to test the waters to see if any of our solo Avengers is deserving of his or her own feature. It's up to you to write and let us know.
Originally, I wanted to make both features in SOLO rotating, so that every month you'd be surprised by which two Avengers got their shot at the spotlight. But I soon realized that that would be placing this book in double jeopardy. Not only was I uncertain if Marveldom at Large shared my passion for split books, I was also taking a big gamble by not giving readers some idea of what to expect every month-- in other words, a regular feature. So, in order to insure the longevity of this book, I decided to take the character who seems to be the most popular Avenger who doesn't have his own solo book-- Hawkeye-- and make him a continuing feature. That way, every month, you readers will know at least half of what you'll get for your hard-earned quarters-- a frenetic Hawkeye adventure. And, with any luck, you'll like the agonizing archer's co-star to boot! (And if Hawkeye proves to be the superstar we think he is, why, we'll just have to give him his own book, and promote some other Avenger to our lead slot!)
After eliminating the four Avengers (present and past) who currently have their own solo books (namely, Captain America, Iron Man, Thor and the Hulk), who does that leave eligible for our co-feature slots? Well, on the East Coast, we have Captain Marvel, the Black Knight, She-Hulk, the Sub-Mariner, and Doctor Druid. On the West Coast, there's Mockingbird, Wonder Man, Tigra, Moon Knight, and the dynamic Doctor Pym. As for the ranks of the inactives and reserves, there's the Wasp, Hercules, the Black Widow, the Black Panther, the Falcon, Moondragon, Binary (the original Ms. Marvel), Quicksilver, the Scarlet Witch, the Vision, Hellcat, Starfox, the Beast (now with X-Factor), and Mantis. If I really wanted to stretch it (with reader approval, of course!), we could also feature the Thing and Espirita (who were offered membership but declined), honorary members Stingray and Rick Jones, and friends of Avengers, Ant-Man and Paladin. Let me know if you only want official members past and present to appear, of if we can play fast and loose now and then.
The HAWKEYE feature will be brought to you each issue by Tom DeFalco (THOR scribe and spanking new editor in chief), Mark Bright (IRON MAN penciler) and Josef Rubinstein (MARVEL UNIVERSE inker). With top pros like these, you kno what good stuff to expect. The co-feature this issue-- Mockingbird-- also written by Tom, features the artistry of Jim Lee (whose credits include ALPHA FLIGHT) and Al Williamson (who's currently embellishing DAREDEVIL). Next issue our co-feature will star none other than the current head of the East Coast Avengers, Captain Marvel, in a story produced by AVENGERS writer Roger Stern, CAPTAIN AMERICA penciler Kieron Dwyer, and NEW MUTANTS co-creator Bob McLeod. And the month after that...? Well, let's not get too ahead of ourselves, okay?
Address your comments, quips, and (ulp) criticisms about SOLO AVENGERS to Single File at the address above. And please put your address on your letter not on the envelope with is thrown away when the mail's opened! Till next time, Go Solo!