I must keep this one short, due to the annual Postage Statement. And fortunately, reader Rich Cataleno of Tempe, Arizona has provided me with a topic. Rich wants to know what happens to the original artwork once it is drawn and used to engrave the printer's plates. The answer is this, Rich...the artwork done for Marvel Comics about Marvel characters is created on a "work-for-hire" basis, meaning that Marvel owns the characters, the drawings made of them, and the stories which they're in. As a matter of fact, since we supply our artists the paper and tools to work on it, we own the paper too. But since we're basically a creator-friendly kind of organization, we return the artwork to the artists who drew the pages, for them to do just about anything with they want short of publishing the pages again without our permission. On a 22-page story where a penciler and inker worked on a given page of art, 14 pages go to the pneciler, and 8 go to the inker. If the penciler did loose pencils or "breakdowns", and the inker tightened up the pages before inking ("finishing"), the split is 12 to the penciler, 10 to the inker. Which pages go to which artist is determined by our artwork return department (hi, Dwight Coye) by a random shuffle. (Writers and letterers get none of the pages). As for what the artists do with the pages once they get them, some sell them themselves at conventions, others turn them over to an agent who sells them for the artists on commission, still others keep all their artwork forever. If you're interested in obtaining original art from a specific artist, write to that artist in care of Marvel at the address above. We'll see to it that artist gets your letter.
This edition of Mark's Remarks I'm writing not as Mark the Comics Editor, nor as Mark the Comics Writer, but as (ta-daa) Mark the Executive Editor of Marvel Comics. The topic: Just what does an Executive Editor of Marvel Comics do anyway? Glad you asked! (Oh, you didn't? Regardless...)
The Executive Editor...serves as Editor In Chief when the Editor In Chief is absent, handling whatever can't wait till the e-i-c returns...coordinates crossovers involving more than two editors' stables of characters...arbitrates on questions of proprietorship of characters...writes or compiles the Bullpen Bulletins pages...consults with the e-i-c on freelancer rates, assignments, and inquiries...attends business and sales meetings as the Editor-In-Chief's aide de camp...co-conducts editorial staff meetings and seminars...serves as the third party in disputes between the Editor In Chief and line editors or Editor In Chief and freelancers...and does whatever the heck the Editor In Chief tells him to do. Other than that, I'm my own man! I might end up doing more than the above, but hey, I've only been at this a little more than eight months by the time you read this.
So I'd hereby like to say that I may no longer be the hardest working editor in the comics industry today (and when I say the industry, I mean the business), but wearing three different creative caps is no picnic in Central Park.
This edition of Mark's Remarks is brought to you by Mark the Comics Writer rather than Mark the Comics Editor. At some point in his/her career every writer is asked, "Where do you get your ideas?" This has always struck me as an odd question, because it seems like the asker of the question expects you to name a single source for plot material. In actuality, I can't think of anything that can't provide some germ of an idea for incorporation into a story. Everything a writer sees, hears, does, or otherwise experiences contributes to this pool of raw images and impressions that can be drawn upon for use in his/her work. Sometimes I'll experience something and immediately know how and where to use it in a story. Other times the incident will just gestate in my subconscious until I'm looking for some missing element of a story and the incident will re-emerge. I get some of my best ideas in the morning shower while I'm trying to make the transition between sleep and wakefulness. The barriers between my consciously creative mind will be down and my brain (in its seeming stupor) will make connections it wouldn't make before.
One of the reasons why I love the medium of comics is that there is such great potential to inject personal material into one's work. (And because it is personally meaningful to me, I can give it a greater emotional investment than a purely contrived plot incident.) How do I work my life's relatively mundane experiences into larger-than-life stories about heroes who are better than I'll ever be? By exaggerating a bit, of course-- taking what's emotionally true and authenti and embellishing it just a bit, by say making the stakes higher-- a matter of life and death. Here's just one example of how I put my own life into a story: Steve Rogers broke up with his long-time girlriend Bernie Rosenthal in the same manner as I was once dumped by a girlfriend. So when I advise would-be writers to live good, interesting lives so they have plenty of experiences to draw upon, I'm not kidding. Otherwise you tend to simply recycle what you've read or seen on T.V. That's not to say that you can't be inspired by someone else's fiction-- you can, provided that when you process that inspiration, it is changed enough in its passage through your personality that it truly bcomes your own. Mark the Comics Writer signing out.
The expression "swan song" is used when someone does something for the last time. I think the expression comes from the old legend that a swan, whose natural call is a rather ugly sound (not unlike the honk of a goose) will produce a lovely, haunting sound with its dying breath. We've got a couple of swan songs to tell you about in regard to IRON MAN (though the parties involved would strenuously object to the inference that what they've done has produced anything analogous to a rather ugly sound-- so much for metaphors!).
First up, there's penciler par excellence Mark D. Bright. The issue you are reading will be Mark's last IRON MAN for the foreseeable future. Mark signed on with the book way back with issue #200 and has racked up a most impressive-looking run on this book. Having seen ol' Shellhead through the agonizing Armor Wars, Mark has opted to move on to other projects. Bright-fans, take heart-- he'll still be doing the Hawkeye feature every month in SOLO AVENGERS. Replacing Mark in the penciling department will be a fellow named Jackson Guice, bashful Bob Layton's collaborator on early issues of X-FACTOR, who's just completed a distinguished "run" on a certain third-generation speedster for DC. But before Jackson starts in issue #233, we have a special artistic treat for you next outing, as a chap by the name of Barry Windsor-Smith joins with our remaining creative cohorts David Michelinie and Bob Layton for a most offbeat epilogue to the Armor Wars. You have a month to prepare yourself!
The second swan song we have to sing...we'll tell you about that next issue.