So, without further ado, let us introduce a man who's written 50 issues of the spectacular Ms. Marvel ongoing, which ends in March, as well as Secret Invasion: Front Line, New Avengers: Illuminati, Spider-Woman: Origin, Captain Marvel v.5, and much more, including currently working on what is shaping up to be a great mini in Siege: Embedded with Chris Samnee. Ladies, gentleman, and monkeys with carpal- tunnel syndrome: The Outhouse Interview with Brian Reed!
Jon Salwen: Our guest has written... let me just give you a quick breakdown of some of the stuff he's done so you can go, "oh that's right, I did read that!"; Spider-Woman: Origin, New Avengers: Illuminati, Captain Marvel Volume Five (which was the recent miniseries), Secret Invasion: Who Do You Trust?, Secret Invasion: Amazing Spider-Man, Secret Invasion: Front Line, Dark Reign: Sinister Spider-Man - The Circle, and for video games he actually wrote the script for Mercenaries 2...
Jude Terror: ...and he co-wrote Ultimate Spider-Man the video game.
Jon: Yes, and did design work for Ultimate Spider-Man, but he's also credited for Mercenaries 2. As well as one of things we'll talk most about today, which is his run on the current Ms. Marvel book. We have, on the line with us, Mr. Brian Reed!
SuperginraiX: And Siege: Embedded.
Jon: Oh yeah, and Siege: Embedded. Sorry.
Brian Reed: I feel tired, reminding me of everything I've done. Now I'm all worn out. I have no time for interviews.
Jon: Well, hello, my name is Jon Salwen, you're on with Jude Terror, Starlord, SuperginraiX, Hunter, and I think that's all we have on right now. Yeah, you can tell we all post on a message board.
Brian: Or you had really inventive parents.
Jon: Well, actually, I will have to tell you, Jude is just about to have his third child, that we know of...
Jon: ...a son, and he's naming him Hawkeye.
Jude: Middle name: Hawkeye. It was a big victory.
Brian: So first name Hawkeye, middle name Pierce...
Jon: ...and nobody under the age of twenty gets that joke. Well, Mr. Reed, let's jump right in, do you prefer to be called anything, "His Lord and Master...?"
Brian: Call me Brian. Mr. Reed is too formal for the nonsense I do for a living.
Jon: Well there's some people here who would like to trade that nonsense with you.
Jon: Well, I think we really want to talk about Ms. Marvel and some of the other stuff you do for Marvel. How did you end up on Ms. Marvel?
Brian: I had been lead designer on Ultimate Spider-Man, and I co-wrote that story with (Brian Michael) Bendis, and that led to, I'm not even sure what the chain of events was, but it led to Tom Brevoort suggesting that I write Spider-Woman: Origin. We did that together, and we turned in the first script, and Bendis was very forward with him about how much of that first script was me and how much was him. That impressed editor Andy Schmidt who was looking for someone to write Ms. Marvel, and had approached a couple of writers and not gotten a pitch he liked. I sent him my pitch, he liked it, and then, all of a sudden, I've written fifty issues.
Jon: Do you mind us asking: what was the pitch originally for Ms. Marvel?
Brian: I think the pitch that I used was that she's been part of the greatest band on Earth, and she's starting her solo career. That was the angle that I was taking, that she wanted to be the best superhero she could be, rather than being just the third stringer who was part of the Avengers. She's certainly at a respectable point in her life but didn't feel like she was doing everything she was capable of. That was the thing that Andy really liked, the idea of this has remained a theme throughout the whole story.
Jon: Absolutely. So, you would say that Marvel was looking to launch a Ms. Marvel book regardless. I mean you didn't go to them and say "I really really want to do this." They were looking to launch a Ms. Marvel book.
Brian: They were putting out House of M, and her role in House of M was that she was the most popular hero on Earth. They really saw that as a chance to really bring her up front and make her somebody important, and give her an ongoing. Bendis was planning to put her in charge of the Avengers anyway, so all the pieces were coming together for her to have an ongoing, and that's when they approached me and asked.
Jon: Well here's the thing, in this day and age of comic books, it's extraordinarily impressive to get fifty issues with a female lead. I mean, we all see this in comic books, it's a male-dominated subculture, basically. So to get this far with a female lead, that's pretty impressive. Did you feel any trepidation or resistance to the idea when you were about to start the series?
Brian: I was scared because I had never done it. I didn't know enough to be scared that I was writing a female character. Seriously, when I was writing Spider-Woman: Origin with Bendis, that to me was going to be my entire comic writing career: those five issues. I was a video game designer full time, and this was a cool chance that came up. We already had Spider-Man 2 on the plate. I was pretty sure what was coming after that. I was a game designer. And so for this to come up and, all of a sudden, not only have I co-written a story with one of the hottest guys, but now I've been handed an ongoing. I was entirely too freaked out by all of that to care about anything else.
Jude: A lot of people come into the comics business from other fields and they'll write a little bit, but you've been consistently writing for fifty issues now and doing other series as well. That's pretty impressive. What do you like better: video games or comics?
Brian: Comics are better because I don't have to get up and go to an office.
Brian: When I'm writing video games, I still love when I have to go in and have meetings with the video game people. That's always involving spending a day in the office and getting to collaborate with everybody. That's still a blast, and it's why I keep doing it. But yeah, comics are like: I think of some insane thing and I write it and an artist draws it and it happens. With video games, I think of an insane thing and twenty or thirty people have to get together and talk about schedules and allow for all of those aspects, and if the programmers can make it work, and "Oh god no, that will never happen." In that respect, comics are a blast because you can do absolutely anything you think of.
Jude: I don't always read all the solicits that come out, even though, funnily enough, I post them on the Outhouse as part of my e-job. So I was posting in a thread one day, in a preview for Ms. Marvel, I think #47, saying how I really loved the book, and someone was like, "that book is canceled, isn't it?" And I was like "What?!" So what's going on? Ms. Marvel #50 is the last issue? Was this the plan to end it, or what happened?
Brian: #50 came up, and it came time for them to look at what they had on their publishing schedule, what they wanted to continue with, what they wanted to cut, and it was just kind of deemed that this version of the book had gone on long enough. I've got a bunch of other stuff on my plate, so while it was kind of a bummer to not keep going with it, everybody agreed that yeah, it's time to step back and let this move on to someone else, or somewhere else depending on what they do next.
Jon: So you don't know the plans for Carol Danvers, Ms. Marvel, past issue #50, which would be the last one you're writing? Or do you know where you'd like her to end up? Do you have any knowledge of that?
Brian: I'm writing a Spider-Man story today with her in it that takes place after my issue #50, but beyond that, no, I'm not really involved with where she's at or anything. It's funny because I've written her for so long, I've become the Ms. Marvel writer. Everybody thinks I know everything that's going on with her. At the end of the day, she's still a Marvel Character, not a Brian Reed character.
Jon: Well, I think that people have to be pretty impressed with what you've done with the character. Did you know all of this stuff about the character going in, or was this research that you did after you found out you were getting the title? Because you really brought up every aspect of the character that's ever been used. You didn't retcon or casually forget major things that had happened in her past, or even minor things that had happened in the character's past. You brought all that stuff together for the title.
Brian: To me, continuity is a great tool to use, and there are certainly things that were ignored, and I can't tell you what they were because I don't remember them; but I've looked at stuff as I'm doing research and I say, "you know what, if I don't mention that, it never happened, and if I don't step out of my way to say it never happened, it kinda still happened, so we're fine there." But overall, if I was going to use a character that's been around before, I'd go online, I'd look them up, and I'd read everything I could about them. But the day Andy Schmidt asked me if I wanted this book, I said, "Ms. Marvel? Who is that?" I wasn't sure if he meant the Monica Rambeau version, or they were bringing back She-Thing Ms. Marvel. She was in that issue of Spider-Man Team Up with the Super Skrull, right? That was the limit of my knowledge because as a kid I spent all my money on Spider-Man.
Jon: Is that the reason why we get the Monica Rambeau nod in Ms. Marvel, by the way?
Brian: That's because when we were doing the story arc where that happened, I had wanted to assemble a team for her to work with and give her some people to bounce off of, but I didn't want them to be the Avengers. I wanted her to have her own thing off to the side. And I was asked, "who do you want?" Somewhere in the middle of the list, I thought it would be really funny if they let me use Machine Man, and to do the Warren Ellis Machine Man. That was me mostly thinking they'd never say yes when I put that on the list, and then that was the first one they approved.
Jon: Well, you used him to great effect. For anyone not familiar with the Ms. Marvel book, what Brian did was, Machine Man joins Ms. Marvel's team, but he joins only on the condition of one thing, which you don't know for a while. What it turns out to be is that he gets a life model decoy...
Jude: SPOILER ALERT!!!!
Jon: Well it's been a few years, right? (laughs) The deal is that Machine Man gets a life model decoy, basically an android version of the Monica Rambeau Ms. Marvel, Captain Marvel character. and during part of the storyline, he's actually forced to use the body, the female body, as his own. So yeah, you missed good times if you missed those issues. Used to great effect. That's what I wanted to ask about, because it was funny that you mentioned Monica Rambeau.
Jude: Speaking of characters in Ms. Marvel, we have a couple of reader questions from people on the Outhouse forums which we'll throw in on the way here, but we're talking about guest appearances. We have a question from a user on the forums named Dazzler, this is the biggest Dazzler fan on the face of the planet...
Brian: Oh god, it's Jim McCann isn't it?
Jude: Yes. He writes, "I read somewhere that you requested Dazzler as a member of Ms. Marvel's cast but Claremont had her tied up in New Excalibur at the time. What would have been your plans for the character, and which singer would you have modeled her after?"
Brian: (laughs) You know, I honestly don't remember asking for her. That doesn't mean I didn't, and it doesn't mean that I didn't say in an interview somewhere that I did, but the funny thing is that the easiest way to trip up a writer is to ask them trivia about their own stories, and then on top of that, to ask them trivia about things they thought of but didn't get to actually write.
Brian: I did, once upon a time, right when I very first got Ms. Marvel... I'm not even sure the first issue had come out yet. Bendis was leaving his book, The Pulse, and they were discussing if they wanted to keep it going or not. So that led to a couple of people being asked, "what would you do if we continued it?" One of the stories I pitched for it was an investigation into Dazzler, and how it had come out that her pop career had come back into the fore and she was helping somebody run MGH, mutant growth hormone. I don't remember all the twists, but it was my attempt to turn Dazzler into a villain, so the Dazzler fan is probably happy that never happened.
Jon: Probably. I would love to see that story. Speaking of this list, by the way, was there a character that you really wish that you could have worked with? One character that you really wish you could have gotten on the cast?
Brian: The only thing I've ever been told 'no' to is that Mystique had been tied up here or there in the past...
Jude: I'll be she has...
Brian: ...and then as it came down to the last three issues, I said, "Look, she's the one thing fans have asked for that we've never done, and I haven't asked for in two years now, so can we have her?" And that was when I got the green light to put her in the book.
Jon: I just read that. You sort of prefaced it when she's having the discussion with Spider-Man, on the date, about who is her arch nemesis, which of course leads into this Mystique story. So that is the one that you weren't allowed to use for some time?
Brian: Well, not allowed makes it sound so much more serious than it is. It's like there is this big sandbox, and there are so many toys in it, and I have rarely been told no, and I've always been told no with good reason. In the five years I've been doing this, I'd say that maybe twice I've been told a character wasn't available. Otherwise, it was just like, "look, they're busy over here, but if you give this justification in dialog, you can have them." That's how it happens nine times out of ten. With Mystique, I wanted to use her right when the X-Men books were really getting her back into the fold and getting her going again, so it wasn't really in the X-Men books' interest to have her pop up in an Avengers book. That was really all it was at the time, and I had so many other ideas that we really didn't need her. But now, we're at the end, and I never did go back and try to do that again, so let's do it!
Jon: That's pretty cool. You always heer these horror stories of writers who say, "I would have done this if I had the chance." So you've had a pretty good working relationship with Marvel, you'd say?
Brian: Across the board, with any book I've worked on, I've never been told no or asked to scale back what I do. As long as you've got good justification and good objects behind it, almost never have I been told no. If I walk in the room with all the tools in place to tell the story... They want a good story before they want anything else.
Jon: Well, here's the thing, when I was reading the Ms. Marvel stories, and I'll have to admit to you, I didn't read them until recently when I found out we had the interview, so I wasn't reading along the way, despite the–
Brian: End of the interview! End of the interview!!!
Jon: Well, I will have to say that you do have at least three fans here who have been saying how much they love this book, and have said so since pretty much... Super, have you read it from the start?
Super: I've read it since Secret Invasion...
Jon: And Jude started with Civil War...
Hunter: I started with Civil War...
Jon: So they've been singing your praises for quite some time, but I have to say I can really see why Marvel likes you a lot. You've figured in those storylines better than many writers I've seen. You've found ways to use Civil War and Secret Invasion, I've felt, to great effect in the book. In fact, reading your Civil War issues now, after the fact, made me wish the event was longer, because I thought you did a fantastic job with Ms. Marvel. I thought she was one of the best three-dimensional characters written during Civil War. She believes in Stark and what he's doing, but she's torn by the conflicts that all the other heroes were torn by, but I thought you actually justified it well. Did you feel that you got to tell stories that you wanted? It's obvious from early on that there's a storyline with Cru going on that you wanted to tell, and you obviously figured out ways to use things like Dark Reign and Civil War and Secret Invasion in your stories, but did you find that they interfered with your plans, or did you think that you got to tell the story so far that you wanted to tell with the character?
Brian: When you work with a big event, you get the planning sheet that says, "Here are the major beats of the big event coming up. If you have stories that fit in this, go for it. If you don't, go for it." There's never been anybody coming to me going, "You need to be part of this." For example: Planet Hulk. I just didn't see how to tie into it. I felt like it was a solid story on its own. I felt like there wasn't a lot of wiggle room for me to get in there, and so I didn't do anything with it. Instead I went off and did the issues with Rogue and whatever followed immediately after that.
Like I said, writers and trivia on their own work... But it's always been like, "Ok, what is your next arc?" They're asking me, "What is your next story," and it's always me giving them the pitch, "Here's what the next three issues are, here's the next four after that," two or three sentences for each one, it's always been whatever I think of. A few times stuff has come up where the editor has an idea and pitches it to me, but it's never been presented as, "You're going to write this!" One of the best ideas that's been pitched to me is the Spider-Man and Ms. Marvel date. That was just Steve Whacker saying, "I think it would be funny if they went on a date," and I was like, "You're right!" That's one of the issues that's gotten the most fan mail lately, with people going, "I love this! I want to see more!", and I say, "Did you read it? Did you see how much they shouldn't be near one another?"
Super: We love those comedy situations where people don't belong together.
Jon: It's funny, you mention a situation like this, and we mentioned earlier where Spider-Man actually asks her for the date, and those two things, two issues, can become lore. It can become canon in comic books. You could have changed Spider-Man forever with that.
Brian: Well, the thing that makes the lore stick is the stuff that the fans like. The stuff that comes back and it's like, "I wish I'd seen more of that. Oh, I love that!" That's the things we always go back to. You always hear fans freak out and say, "oh they've changed everything," but if you look, the things people love are the things that keep getting touched on. New stuff gets built and everyone hates it when it happens, and then, ten years later, everyone is like, "Why aren't Spider-Man and Ms. Marvel dating?"
Brian: It's really kinda cool to learn how that eco system works and watch things come back and see people go, "Wow, I really like this character. I want to see more of them."
Jude: So when is the Ms. Marvel Spider-Man wedding issue coming out?
Jon: And then, more importantly, when will they make One More Day 2 to retcon it? Has that already been planned out? Have you talked to Joe Q about this?
Brian: No, no...
Jon: Because you have to plan these things out. Fans take it a lot easier when you say you've been planning this for ten years.
Brian: Well they always say that, don't they?
Jon: That is true.
Brian: Sometimes it's true. Sometimes it's not.
Jon: I know you're not allowed to make fun of the competition, but DC caught me with that. I actually believed them when they said it. Those bastards. Those rat bastards! They were lying when they said it! Now Brian, looking through the Ms. Marvel run that you've done, and all the other work you've done, which is all fairly recent, you've worked with some fantastic artists.
Brian: Haven't I though?
Jon: At least with Ms Marvel, there was no prolonged run with a single artist, which is a shame, but you've really gotten to work with some fantastic artists. Is there anyone out there you'd say you'd love to have a good five issue or ten issue run with?
Brian: I wouldn't mind a good run with Jim Lee just for the trade residuals.
Jude: Well if you get started now you can have that completed by 2020.
Brian: Now now...
Jon: Maybe you guys can do an MMO together.
Brian: There you go.
Jon: You heard it here first.
Brian: The cool thing with Ms. Marvel is we've been the launchpad for artists. Rob De La Torre, who started the book with me, is off with Brubaker doing Captain America stuff. Aaron Lopresti got nabbed by DC so he could do Wonder Woman and other books for them exclusively. Sana Takeda, who's working now, is going to rule Marvel in a few years because everything you hand her turns to gold. I've had the most amazing luck with new artists being brought onto Ms. Marvel, and every one of them is knocking it out of the park.
Jon: Yeah, I would have to say, there were some that I enjoyed more than others, but for the most part I think you definitely got some great storytellers to tell your vision. But so far, Jim Lee. Nobody else? Deodato? No? Have you had a chance to work with him?
Brian: I think he did some covers, but no pages. He's done a cover or two.
Jude: I just want to get one more good Ms. Marvel question in here, because I feel us moving away from that topic. I've been with the book since pretty much the beginning. I've loved it, It's been one of my favorite series which I look forward to coming out each week, so I'm really sad to see it end. Do you think you've accomplished everything you wanted to with this character? Do you think that by the time issue #50 comes out, you will have said everything you want to say with Ms. Marvel?
Brian: Yeah. I think that's what the last few pages of issue #50 are: me stepping back and not really speaking through Carol, but letting her say the things she's feeling about where she's gone these last fifty issues. Yeah, I feel like she's definitely had a good, solid story arc over those fifty issues. Of course, I could have written fifty more, but that's the case any time. You're always coming up with new ideas for things. But I definitely feel like I got from point A to point B and I told the story I wanted to tell when I pitched this idea originally.
Jon: I did have a question, with Agent Sum, do we know if we're gonna see any more of him near the end? It seemed like you had a lot more to tell in that sense. In looking through your run, it looked like you got to tell a lot of what you wanted, but did you have something more with him?
Brian: At one point, Brubaker was gonna use him for like about five minutes one afternoon. So we were on the phone talking, and I was like, "Oh, you could use this guy," and then I think it fell off the table. Bill Roseman, who was editor on the book for a little while, really turned me onto the idea of 'leave breadcrumbs'. You don't have to tie up every single loose end. Leave some threads out there because you're gonna want to come back to them some day, or a writer working with them in five to ten years is gonna go, "oh crap, there's this thing, there's Agent Sum who never got used! Let's use him! There's Head Case who never got developed. Let's use him!" Those are things that, yes, if I was still writing, I would go back to them and bring them back into the fold, but no, they weren't left on the side of the road with things untold because I didn't get to them. They were left because I did get to them, if that makes sense.
Jon: That does make sense, leaving something for other people to use is something that not enough writers do nowadays, so I definitely think there's something there. We do have a couple other questions from people here in the chat with us. Chris and Hunter both wanted to know, do you have any creator owned plans? Things that you'd like to do with your own stuff?
Brian: I've got some things brewing this year, hopefully, but nothing I'm ready to talk about yet. For the last few years I've had so much work coming in from outside that I've been doing all of that. And then over this last fall I really started to realize I need to do some of my own stuff for a while. So Ms. Marvel being canceled has really been a good opportunity to take part of my week and say, "I can spend Tuesday focusing on this instead of the seventeen other things that are going on." So there is some stuff brewing that will hopefully come together later this year. Maybe as late as early next year, but there are definitely some things on the way.
Jon: Well, maybe we can interview you again to help you promote those things. Fantastic. Guys, anything else on Ms. Marvel? I do have some questions on other projects, but I don't want to jump off Ms. Marvel yet if...
Hunter: I have a quick followup question. Brian, now that you've had some of these issues clocked in with Ms. Marvel, if you were to do your own creator-owned character, do you feel more confident about doing a creator-owned female character now that you've had so much experience with Ms. Marvel?
Brian: I've always had the attitude that it doesn't matter if you're writing a man or a woman or an alien. People all want the same things. We all want to be happy. We all want our family to be taken care of. We all want bad guys to stop doing bad things. That's true for you and me as true as it is for Spider-Man or Ms. Marvel. I think as long as you approach a character that way, it doesn't matter what their sex is or what their species is even. You're gonna get a good character. But if you sit there and go "Oh crap, how do I write a woman? How do I write a man?" I think that's when you start to fall into pitfalls and get stereotypical characters.
Jon: So you've done Spider-Woman: Origin and a fifty issue run on Ms. Marvel... that doesn't ever concern you? Whether you're gonna be stuck with your main character always being a female lead.
Brian: I've always said, as soon as someone tells me that Joss Whedon's career is suffering because he writes women well, I'll start worrying about mine.
Jon: Do you find that's an attitude in the industry? Do you find there are writers that would prefer not to work with female characters or not have them be leads because they have difficulty writing them?
Brian: I can't say it's ever come up, honestly. Most of the people who talk about that are the readers. I've had a couple of people tell me that they love everything I write, but they refuse to read Ms. Marvel because the lead character is a female. How do you get around that? It doesn't matter if I wrote a story that is gonna cure cancer when you read it. If you're not reading it, how do I beat that mindset? I don't get that. I'm always of the opinion that as long as you're entertaining me, I don't care who the lead is.
Jon: Well, I really have to say I was very impressed. I was fan from the X-Men days of Binary, and I loved how you used that aspect of her character, the Brood, harking all the way back to the Brood Queen days; which I thought was pretty amazing to bring all in, with everything else that you were setting up and building. And the memory thing, the fact that she had her memories... that's a small thing that writers had put in. She had them, but she had no emotions tied to them. You did the strong issue where she goes to see her father. I just wanted to know about that issue. Was there anything personal regarding that issue, or did you think that was something that Carol need to do when you looked at her past or her structure? Was there something that you had gone through with regards to that issue?
Brian: The year before I wrote it, my father passed away. Unlike Carol, I was actually very close to my dad, and that's what struck me as interesting when I had this opportunity to do this very quiet issue right after Secret Invasion. I wanted to get her family involved, and that again was a 'breadcrumb' thing. If I can just get them on the page, I can come back to them in fifty issues if I want to because they're there now. We had a reason beyond my dad as to why her dad was ill, but it was this chance... I knew all the emotion I went through with that, and it was like, "What's it like to go through that event with no emotion?" It was a chance to really explore her character, and also a chance to lay all the breadcrumbs for the upcoming story with all the spy stuff and everything with her going back to the beginnings of her own story.
Jon: Yeah, the spy stuff was very interesting. It was an absolute change of pace for the book. I mean, you're doing Lightning Storm, she had her own thing, that was going for a while. She was like the vanguard of Tony Stark's new world order for quite a few issues, and then you switch it up and go to Rossi and Mason and her, and suddenly they're doing spy stuff with the Ascension thing, and I will have to say it caught me completely off guard...
Brian: As it was supposed to. (laughs)
Jon: Well, job well done, because it really did. Even when, I believe it's the last issue of your secret invasion stuff, you throw in two pages of the ascension. I read back and forth. I felt like a complete moron, flipping back and forth, going, "are these pages right?" I really, really didn't expect it. It came out of nowhere, and then suddenly, you delve back into her past which had a really great payoff. Again, was that just because... it's hard to think right now what Marvel was doing at the time... was that a story that you wanted to tell, or was it because you weren't into what Marvel was doing at the time, or did you feel that there was something about this side of Carol, the non-superhero side, that needed to be explored?
Brian: That was the end of Secret Invasion, and all of the Dark Reign stuff was planned at that point. We knew Norman was gonna be in charge. Remember, I'm writing things five or six months ahead of the curve. Every once in a while, I'm working three months ahead, but at that point, I knew how the invasion ended. I knew Norman Osborn was in charge, and I knew who the Dark Avengers were. That was about all that was really nailed down when I got to that point in the story, and I said to Steve Whacker, who was editing the book at the time, "Look, we've done event, event, event, and we've done superheroes punching each other for twenty five issues now. What if we take a break for six to twelve months and do this completely different story that's still totally in character, but that people don't see coming?"
And he was really open to that, and I knew there was time to do it. I knew with Dark Reign coming, and Siege coming after that, I wanted to get Moonstone into the book. I started trying to concoct, "How do I do that?" I went through every idea in the book of how to get her there.
Jon: That was pretty huge what you did with Moonstone. As a Moonstone fan, I won't ruin it for anyone who hasn't read it, but you basically set the stage to change the character pretty dramatically.
Jon: Do you know if anybody plans to do anything with that? Because I was a big Moonstone fan. I loved her from the Thunderbolts and everything like that back in the day, and it's nice to see her kinda get back to that. They kinda just regressed her character for a while with Dark Reign, and you were the only one that I saw do anything to that extent.
Jude: The final scene in that arc was really powerful, I really liked that.
Jon: Has anybody called you and said, "What do you envision for that?"
Brian: The funny thing is, once you put your character back in the sandbox, you kinda stop paying attention to it, which sounds horrible, I know. The thing is, a lot of us are all working the same way, in that I'm writing this stuff five, six months in advance, but I'm, reading what's coming out now. I know nothing about what's happening in the X-Men office until I read X-Men this month. I know a lot about what's happening in the Avengers office because I'm working on Avengers-related books. Spider-Man is the same way. I know a lot about the next year of plans, but I only know about the parts that I'm touching. So somebody may be doing an ongoing with Moonstone for all I know.
Jude: Great, so who dies in Siege? Can you tell us?
Brian:I have read all of Siege, so yes.
Jon: Can you ruin any Peter David stuff for us? Because he hates that. Have you read anything that's coming up in X-Factor? Because then we can blame—
Brian: The biggest thing that I've read recently are the scripts for Siege.
Jon: Dammit! Let's get a few reader questions from the Outhouse. King Impulse wanted us just to tell you that your Captain Marvel mini was awesome. So we though we'd pass that along.
Super: Yeah, that was really good.
Brian: Well, thank you.
Jon: But on a followup, Rick Odinson wanted to ask a question. When you started making plans to do the Captain Marvel mini, did you know all along that he was meant to be a Skrull?
Brian: Yes. When they first brought him back. This is what we were talking about earlier. Sometimes things are planned. Sometimes plans change. When he did that first Civil War issue where he came back, that was Captain Marvel. That was the intent. But no one had any time to do something with it, and it kinda got left on the table.
Jon: That's when he was the warden, right?
Brian: Yes, it was a one shot called "The Return."
Jon: So that was really meant to be Mar-Vell?
Brian: In everybody's head, that was Mar-Vell, and it was the thing I kept playing with all the way through, that he had been pulled out of time before he died of cancer. He already had cancer, was already going ahead, and that was kind of the idea, but because that never ended up in print, that's not really what the intention was. (laughs) That's how, when stories are developing, you can have an idea when you're writing act one that's not really legit when you get to act three, and you have to go back and rework things. That's the fun of writing comics every month. Sometimes you're writing the fifth issue of an arc and you go, "Oh my god, this is all wrong," and you scramble and try to fix it and make it all work. The cool thing with Captain Marvel is when we started talking about doing the mini, I sent two pitches. One was "this is Mar-Vell," and the second was "he's a Skrull." And I said, "look, I would have a blast writing 'this is Mar-Vell,'" and I put everything into that that I thought would be great, but for my money, if I'm handing you three dollars a month to read this story, I want him to be a Skrull; because something happens, and at the end of the story, things have changed from where they were. We're not just telling you another superhero story. And everyone agreed with that. He needs to be a Skrull, and we massaged it into the story.
Jon: Well that's pretty amazing then. It was you! You ended up deciding he would be a Skrull. If it wasn't for your pitch, we could have gotten the fanboys... people would have lost their minds. Some people might have died if you hadn't made him a Skrull, because people would have freaked out online.
Brian: I don't know where the concept of him being a Skrull came from. I know I didn't think of it. But I'm the one who wrote the pitch that made him that, yeah.
Jon: Wow, that's really huge. I honestly thought, asking you that question, you were gonna say right off the bat, "Yeah, Marvel knew. That was the intention all along." You completely shattered all that.
Brian: I wasn't in the room, and I didn't talk to Paul when he was writing it, so that might have been part of it, but from everything I was told... I knew other people who were Skrulls then that weren't when the story finished. There was a big list at one point of all these characters. This person's a Skrull, this person's not, there's the logic of when they dropped out of continuity, here's when they came back. And as the story developed and as Secret Invasion was written, things changed. And it was decided, "No, we can't afford to have this character be a Skrull because it breaks this part of the story," or, "no, we don't think this is right." Sometimes you extend the logic of, "I just don't like it." So there are clues in Ms Marvel that explain how Simon Williams is a Skrull. Until he wasn't. There is dialog in there that I set up specifically to have her find out he was a Skrull, and then a change happened along the way where they were like, "We don't think we're gonna do that," so he wasn't.
Jon: Was that the whole love angle?
Brian: That was part of that, yes.
Jon: It felt a little out of character, and it's interesting that you wrote it like that.
Brian: Well, Carol was the instigator in all of that. That was Carol on a self-destructive streak through that period in her story. She wasn't becoming the superhero she wanted to be, and while that's never spelled out on the page, that's entirely what's driving her. "This isn't working. Lightning Storm's not doing what I want it to do. I'm not doing what I want to do with the Avengers. Oh, I hate my life. I'm going to go fuck Simon." It was totally like one of those bad relationship calls that everybody's done at least once in their lives. That's entirely what it was. The payoff for that, originally, was, "and now he's a Skrull." And I had already written that far ahead and I had gone off to work on other things and, during the time I was off working on other things, the decision kinda gets made of "hey we're not gonna do this." Marvel history, all the way back, is littered with "we had this idea but we did this instead."
Jon: It's true, as you mentioned several times, when you write an issue and you don't see it in print for six months...
Brian: Depending on your schedule, there's some stuff I've written three months ahead and there's stuff I'm writing because it's due tomorrow, which means it's out in three months.
Jon: That's still a huge amount of time. As readers, we don't thinkof that sometimes; that there is that kind of lead time between when you plan a story arc, sometimes a year beforehand, if not longer.
Brian: Any story at all on any book I've worked on or any game I've worked on, and any writer will tell you this, is almost never what it starts out as. There's always something that comes up where a character surprises you or a situation surprises you and you think of something. It just happened to me today. I was writing outlines for a thing, and right in the middle of it, I had this idea and it all took a sharp turn from where I knew it was going when I sat down to write it. Spider-Man asking Ms. Marvel out on a date is exactly one of those moments. It was Whacker's idea later to come back and actually do that issue but, when I was writing that script, him going "You gotta go out with me on a date." was something that I did not plan, was not in the outline, was not anywhere. I'm writing dialogue and I wrote it and I was like, "Oh my god that's great, I love it." Sometimes characters do things and say things you don't expect, and that's the best part of the job.
Jon: It seems like you have a real love and I would have to say, looking at your body of work, between Marvel characters like Ms. Marvel and Captain Marvel, because you've had a pretty big impact on what they've been doing recently, but also Spider-Man. I know you've answered earlier in the interview that you were a big Spider-Man fan growing up. You've had a chance to write him now. Is that something you'd like to do even more of in the future?
Brian: Oh it's something that, every chance it's offered, I take it. Even with some ancillary character like with the Jackpot story I did for Secret Invasion. Getting to play in that corner of the universe is why I love working for Marvel. For me, Marvel is Spider-Man and every chance I get to play with him is great. Fortunately, I'm friends with the editor and he loves what I do with the characters, so luckily I get to do more of it.
Jon: You're such a big Spider-Man fan, before you came on the show we were talking about the movies. What did you think of the three movies we already got, being a big Spider-Man fan, and, now that we've heard that the cast is basically out for 4, what do you think?
Brian: I was a huge fan of the first two movies. I felt the same way everybody else did about the third one.
Jon: What could that possibly be? "I love Peter's dancing?"
Brian: I watched my ten-year-old son squirm and want to go home in the middle of Spider-Man 3, so I think that sums it up. I know what was coming in Spider-Man 4 because of things that NDAs keep me from talking about and I gotta say that there's some stuff I really would have liked to have seen. But, as always, the weird thing is I don't really know anything about any of the movies that are coming out but, because it was related to something ancillary to Spider-Man 4, I knew something about it. But Iron Man 2 is a big mystery. I know nothing about it. So a lot of times, with the movies, I get to go and be the fanboy that everybody else is and I love that. So with Spider-Man rebooting: sure, hey, why not? It'll be fun.
Jon: That seems to be the big thing right now, to reboot.
Brian: It worked for Batman.
Super: And the Hulk.
Brian: The beauty of Hulk is they rebooted without rebooting. The opening credits said look, here's the story that came before, all you need to know, done, go.
Jon: Right. I think that hopefully they learn that story with Spider-Man because another origin story would kill half the comic book population. It might very well do that.
Brian: Hulk's opening credits are really probably my favorite part of any superhero movie. Look, he's the Hulk, go!
Super: That's all you really need for him. Everybody knows who the Hulk is.
Jon: Well, I'm gonna go with the fact that Blade is the best. I still like Blade. I think that thing lives up to... Brian, you gotta go to Marvel and tell them you should be writing Blade. I think you could give that character what it desperately needs, which is character. (laughs) seriously, judging from your Ms. Marvel, I gotta say that I think you hit upon what Marvel tends to do very very well which is to humanize it's characters. I don't know if that's something you were trying to do with Ms. Marvel or whatnot, but I think that is something that they do well, which is that she is flawed.
Brian: Yea, to me that is why I grew up a Marvel fan instead of a DC fan. As much as I love what Geoff Johns is doing now and as much as I really do dig a lot of what DC is putting out right now, their writers grew up on Marvel, too and you're starting to see the humanizing of people happening over there. It's not the stalwart Superman who's here to save the day that it was when we were kids. I was a kid and I totally identified with Peter Parker. Here's this guy who's got no money, who can't get a date to save his life, who's totally tied down with family at home, and, "Oh crap the bridge is gonna blow up and I'm the only guy who can stop it!" That's the thing that all of Marvel really clicked with me as a kid. I believed that Reed Richards was living in that tower in New York, I believed Peter Parker was in Queens. These were not comics, these were documentaries. That's why up into the 1990's the entire industry as a whole kinda fell apart because we quit making human beings and started making comics. That's what the whole resurgence that I'm writing on the tail end of, that the Bendises and the Millars and the Geoff Johns started; that these are people, and as long as we treat them like they're people, we'll tell better stories. That was my biggest lesson walking into all of this. They're people. They have flaws. They're gonna have good days. They're gonna have bad days. Show all of them.
Jon: I think that shows through. If nothing else shows through in your Ms. Marvel work, that is the first and foremost thing that comes through is that she is very much a human being with flaws.
Jude: I look forward to the issue where Balder goes on a date with Spider-Man. But Brian, I have to get this question out there because I was threatened with consequences if I didn't ask this particular question. Outhouse poster Eyp wants to know, "Any known plans for the Infinity Gems distributed in New Avengers Illuminati?"
Brian: Santa Claus has them.
Brian: Seriously, I wrote that story in the Christmas Special last year online, the premise in which he got them. For whatever reason, the Illuminati came together again and Santa Claus got them because he needed help getting his toys out that night, and he went evil and they had to beat up Santa Claus.
Jon: Do you find that you get tapped by Marvel a lot because you seem to have a pretty decent ability to tie past continuity into what they're currently doing? I mean, we would have to say with something like Ms. Marvel and Illuminati that you've done it quite well. Do you find that at all?
Brian: That's just one of the things that I know gets me gigs. It's kind of like when you're in grade school and you have "plays well with others" on your report card.
Jon: "Handles continuity well" is the Marvel report card?
Brian: I know when and when not to be a slave to it, and I know what you can get out of it and what can hurt you, and that is a thing that I try to bring to every project. What are we building on here? What are we ignoring? What are we making stronger? What are we setting up for tomorrow?
Jon: Well, did Jeph Loeb fail that course?
Jude: Oh come on!
Brian: The continuity between Teen Wolf and Teen Wolf 2 was fantastic.
Jude: Well played, sir. Well played.
Jon: It honestly fascinates me. There are some writers who can write with continuity in mind and there are some who can't. And you obviously can. It shows through in your work. I'm sure it was more than a challenge in Illuminati. How much research do you find yourself doing sometimes when you're walking into a book like Illuminati.
Brian: Illuminati was crazy because it was touching every corner of Marvel history, and it was this case of you couldn't break it but you had to bend it. So when we did the Infinity gems, even though not a lot of the story ends up in the Illuminati book, I read all of the Infinity Gauntlet, all of the followup arcs, tons of tie-in books and everything, just because I wanted to see what had been done with it before. That's one of those cases where we had another story we were gonna do and we ran out of pages, so you saw the first two acts of our story, and I won't tell you what the third act is because we've always talked about bringing it back and doing it again, but you read a lot and you find out what you need to pay attention to and what you don't. Honestly, this job would be so much harder if it wasn't for Wikipedia, and if it wasn't for fan web pages, because you pick up quickly on what matters to the fans, and kinda what continuity has been voted off the island and what continuity hasn't. Nobody talks about Spider-Man's baby anymore, and it's totally because the fans just don't want to talk about it. So the baby kinda ceased to exist from continuity because nobody talked about it. You see that with a lot of stuff. As long as you don't talk about it, it goes away, but if you bring it up and you have a story... Brubaker's Captain America is all about the fact that he brought up Bucky again. As long as nobody mentioned Bucky, Bucky was this guy that was there and died, but Ed brought him up again and had a story for it. That to me is the coolest part of continuity: when you find that little gold nugget and go, "Well, if we talk about this, that's a story."
Jude: Moving on to Siege:Embedded, because we definitely have to get some questions in there: the character that's not so subtly Glen Beck...
Jude: In that issue, are you worried when you do something like that that you're going to alienate the crazy right-wing section of your audience?
Brian: It was 24 hours into the new year that I got my first hate mail of the year and it was about that character. Here's the funny thing: Glenn Beck is definitely where I started. There's no denying that. We all know that's what it was. But his opinions about Osborn and the things that I say throughout the issue that Osborn was doing... This guy who wrote me this hate mail went down this list, pointing out all these things as, "this is something Obama did. This is something Bush did. You can't even keep your arguments straight!" and I was like, "that's not really my argument!" Anyone who knows me, at the end of the day, knows I'm not really liberal or conservative. I'm "people in charge suck."
Jude: Hear, hear.
Brian: That's what that character is for me. He's somebody kissing the ass of everyone in charge, and the fact that I build him off of Glen Beck is because Glen Beck has a really good act, and as much as you may despise what he's saying, watch him some time. He's fascinating, because he has got a message and he does it and he sticks to it and he does it in an entertaining way. Even if I may disagree 900% with what he's saying, I cannot deny the man has got skill.
Jon: Well, he's gotta think about something sad for the next segment.
Brian: What's funny is I wrote that scene about two days before the video came out of him having Vaseline smeared in his eyes so he could cry on camera, and I was like, "oh, I should have done that!"
Jon: I didn't even know about that.
Jude: This will be a 40 page thread on the Outhouse tomorrow.
Jon: Absolutely. Do you find yourself gravitating towards stories, like the Ben Urich kind of thing, which are less superhero? I mean, of course there's always gonna be a superhero aspect, but you've written Front Line before. Do you like that kind of thing where it's an 'everyman' kind of look at superheroes?
Brian: I really wish the market would support a book, like one of my favorite books to read was Gotham Central, because it was about us living in that world. When Batman showed up on the page of that, it was terrifying, because you saw him from the cops' point of view, and you saw him the way that the criminals were supposed to see him. Kinda like, "is he a real person, or not?" That's what I went into with the first Front Line series I did. I wanted to show the alien invasion from a human point of view, and it's really tricky, because as readers, we are totally immune to superheroes. It's not special to us that Ms. Marvel flies or Spider-Man climbs on walls or Captain America is from World War 2 and still alive, because we're used to it. We've read this. We've seen it. But think about if you were really driving to work one day and Doctor Octopus smashed out of a building and started throwing rocks at the cars in front of you. Really stop and think about how horrific that would be. That's what I love about Ben Urich. He's dealt with Spider-man. He's dealt with Daredevil. But he's still one of us. He still goes home at night and props his feet up and watches TV. He's just a regular guy with regular job who just happens to run in these crazy circles, and that's why I get such a kick out of writing him, because it's that chance to put this human spin on this outrageous thing.
Hunter: I really dug the way Ben Urich was depicted when you wrote him. It was really solid.
Brian: Thank you very much.
Super: So is this a planned direction over what you wrote in Secret Invasion? Is this sort of the spiritual sequel to that? Are you gonna kinda follow up that last issue of Secret Invasion: Front Line in Siege: Embedded? What are you planning on doing with the storyline?
Brian: Well, it's always been story, and even though in Secret Invasion he ran into this cast of dozens, their stories were told and moved on. Ben's here now, so we're still seeing Ben's story, and I want to say it's issue #1 where he talks about what happened to his wife...
Brian: Secret Invasion: Front Line was a pretty "downer" story for Ben. His wife died. He was laughed out of a press meeting in front of the entire world. Ben did not have a good day, and this is about Ben's redemption, because now the thing he was saying is being proven true, and he is gonna be there, dammit, when it happens. That's what this is all about, and you see that in his friend Will. Will was somebody who was on top of his game and fell. This whole thing is a big story of redemption for these guys.
Jon: Quite an interesting fall by the way. Jude?
Jude: How much fun is Volstagg to write?
Brian: He's so much fun that we have to tone him down.
Brian: You have to remember that he's involved in the thing that killed thousands of people, and that maybe we should remove a couple of these punchlines.
Brian: But yeah, he is a lot of fun to play with.
Super: You can tell he's moved by what has happened. He's down. He just doesn't look in a good mood. But as soon as he sees that hamburger, he just lights up!
Jude: I'm looking at the page right now. The smile on his face as he's putting the hamburger in his mouth... visually he's a funny guy.
Brian: Chris Samnee just comes in and takes these little scenes that I write... That scene at the diner in my head is just guys at the table talking, and Chris Samnee comes in and draws that and there are beats in it that... I was laughing when I saw the art, like "aw, thank you!" That is the greatest gift: when an artist comes in and just sells your beat better than you wrote it, and you come off looking better for it.
Jude: Did you ask for Chris Samnee or were you guys just thrown in together?
Brian: We were just kinda thrown in together, and we just completely clicked. I wrote the first issue before I had any idea who was drawing, which is always dangerous. For example, because I was working so far ahead once upon a time on Ms. Marvel, I was writing all of this AIM stuff with high technology and sharp edges and everything, and then Aaron Lopresti started drawing the book, and he really liked to draw monsters and things with curves. So he was in hell because there were these two or three scripts that were already done that were all sharp edges and angles and everything, so I instantly started writing monsters for him just to make it up to him, like, "I'm sorry." So with Chris, he came in and I had not written issue #2 yet when he started turning in pencils on issue #1, so I was instantly able to be like, "Oh, here's the thing you're gonna do great," so by the time I was on #3 it was just completely tailored to him, because I'd seen two issues worth of stuff, so I was able to say "Oh, well here's something you'll enjoy. Boom!"
Jon: So you find that you change your writing style that dramatically depending on the artist if you know what the artist can do?
Brian: Yeah. You cracked this joke about Jeph Loeb a few minutes ago. His greatest strength in the universe is that he knows exactly how to pump an artist. He knows exactly how to write for this guy to make Jim Lee come out and do Jim Lee things, and that is a skill a lot of writers lack. A lot of writers will just tell their story, and it's a thing that Bendis drilled into me when we first started working. I wrote a scene in Spider-Woman: Origin, and he was like, "You need to go read Ultra again because this is not Jonathan Luna you're writing for here. This is a good scene, but the way you're telling it is not the way he's gonna draw it, and you're not gonna be happy." So I went back and looked at and it and said, "You know what? You're right," and I changed things and got in there and really catered so that Jonathan could come in and shine as bright as he could.
Jon: That's good advice for any up-and-coming writers. I think writers tend to have this idea that you should write how you write. I'm sure people who aren't in the industry specifically think they should write how they wanna write and it's up to the artist to interpret that vision.
Brian: It's entirely a collaborative thing. When you look at great directors, they have cinematographers they like to work with because they know this guy is gonna light this scene the way they want, and it's the same thing with writers and artists in comics. It took me a while to learn that, and it's one of the most valuable things to learn. If a guy hates drawing cars, don't make him draw a car, because what he's gonna do is take forever to get that car looking great because he hates drawing cars and knows he doesn't do it well. So he's gonna spend three times as long on that car as he would on that spaceship that he loves to draw, and you'll get a much better spaceship out of him than a car.
Jon: Well here's an interesting question then. We asked this of Chris Claremont and he completely dodged us, which I don't blame him for, but is there an artist that you've worked with that you thought you could write anything for. This is not a slight to any other artist that you might have worked with...
Brian: Chris Bachalo on Sinister Spider-Man made that book crazier than it was because I realized partway into his penciling issue one that there was nothing I could do that would throw him off.
Super: Your Doctor Manhattan character in that, by the way, was hilarious.
Brian: The rest of that book ended up being me trying to come up with something that Chris couldn't make better than I wrote it, and every single thing that he did ended up better than I wrote it. (laughs) That book was a joy and I could have written that for twenty years just trying to outdo Chris.
Jon: We've had Mark Brooks on the show in the past and he has nothing but great things to say about Chris as well. I'm a huge fan of his work from before even Generation X days, when he did the Ghost Rider issues, Ghost Rider 2099 and whatnot. He's absolutely ridiculous.
Jude: speaking of 2099, we have a reader question. The Outhouse poster, Goof, wanted us to ask you about Timestorm. Is that being collected in a trade? When will it be out, and do you have any other plans to visit the 2099 Marvel universe in the near future?
Brian: Did they not do a trade of that? Because that's a thing that I don't pay attention to. But I'd like to thank Goof, my one reader of 2099.
Jon: That's not true. There's at least two because I read it.
Brian: We know of at least four.
Jon: So you're not usually made aware if they do make a trade?
Brian: I know a trade is coming out because I get a copy of it in the mail. That's really about as much as I know about trades. I know numbers weren't great on the book, but I don't know where that figures into if they do a trade or not, and because numbers weren't great, I don't think there's any other plans at the moment. I set up a lot of stuff in there in case we did get to do other things, but at the moment, I'm not doing anything with it.
Jon: That's too bad, because 2099 is one of my favorite little corners of the Marvel Universe. Was that something you went to Marvel with, or volunteered for?
Brian: That was somebody looking in the calendar and going, "it's 2009... 2099... Hey!"
Brian: It kinda snowballed from there. I honestly don't remember who had the original idea, but it was Marvel asking me if I was interested, and me thinking, "that sounds like fun."
Super: Well, as far as making pitches go, I know you did Secret Invasion: Front Line. Did that pretty much give you a direct "in" on Siege: Embedded, or did you have to pitch that storyline as well?
Brian: I still had to come to them and say, "Hey, I would like to do this." Front Line was one of those things where, it doesn't matter how long you work with Marvel, you never quite understand the pitching process. I say that because I've talked to other writers who don't understand it either, and they've been there longer than me, so it's OK. It's always evolving. The Marvel universe is a living thing where somebody has an idea on Monday, and by Friday, it's law, and the next Tuesday, it turns out it's a terrible idea and we're not doing that. It's always kinda moving and reshaping itself. Tom Brevoort described it to me as a window. "Sometimes, the window opens and we're open to anything and everything anyone pitches. Sometimes the window is closed and all that's gonna happen is stuff that we call you and ask you about. There is no rule as to when that is. Don't let it bother you."
Brian: But Secret Invasion: Front Line was just me noticing there wasn't a front line happening, and my saying I want to see Ben Urich running from monsters. To me, that's always a litmus test for anything I'm gonna write. Do I wanna read it? Would I pay money for that? I try to never take a job because I need the money, because I've done that and it sucks. I wanted to write Ben Urich, so I sent Tom an email and said, "Hey, is there room for this?" and he said send me a pitch, and I pitched what turned into Secret Invasion: Front Line. Then, as Siege was coming together I said, "Hey, can we do a Front Line for Siege?" and the talk got to changing the name to Embedded and it being about embedded journalists, and it kinda grew into the thing that it is. What's funny is Volstagg wasn't even in my pitch. As I was writing the script, I realized something was missing. I called up the editor on the book and said, "Hey, something's not right here," and as we got talking about it, we realized, "let's throw Volstagg in." The story kinda grew from there, and now what was my original issue #4 pitch in the outline doesn't work because I need to involve Volstagg.
Jon: Brian, we've had you on for an hour, and we'd love to have you on for even longer, but I know there are some listeners that would love to hear more about your video game work. But before we move on to that, I have to say, if that's the case, where you can email any pitches that you have, may I please suggest that you do something with New Warriors? I am, like, the only New Warriors fan left, by the way.
Hunter: Me too.
Jon: There might be like two of us, I'm not sure, ok fine five us...
Brian: I could double my audience of 2099, you're saying?
Jon: I promise you at least 8 readers.
Jude: If you do New Warriors 2099 you could get up to 20 readers.
Jon: I'm just saying, with your penchant and ability to handle a team and your ability to humanize characters, and with what the New Warriors have actually been through... I'm just saying I think you've got something there.
Jude: On that note, after Siege: Embedded, and after Ms. Marvel wraps up, what's next for Brian Reed? Can you tell us anything?
Brian: I'm doing a lot of Spider-Man stuff right now, but it hasn't been announced, and things that tie into things that haven't been announced.
Jon: Is this gonna be for Amazing, or are these gonna be minis?
Brian: Mostly tie-in miniseries right now. There's some potential main book stuff on the table, but it's on the table. It's not anything official. There's plenty of stuff coming. It's just that fun time right before an event where people can't talk about anything following the event because you're gonna totally give stuff away. So damn, I've ruined it: Spider-Man survives Siege. I've screwed it up.
Super: Oh! Spoiler alert!
Jude: Luke Cage gets it though, right? Big death in Siege? Yes or no?
Brian: (laughs) If you looked on Newsarama the other day, they were showing of the new Luke Cage mini, and Eric Canete's pencilling, and he has got The Hippo from Sinister Spider-Man in that miniseries, and it made me so happy.
Jon: Brian, New Warriors, ok? They have a tie to Spider-Man. The Scarlet Spider was actually... So you could, you know... I'm gonna push it one last time...
Super: They don't survive Siege.
Brian: (imitating sad trumpet) Wah wah wah.
Jon: My worst fear.
(sad trumpet plays)
Jon: I thought we'd heard the last of that. We'd like to ask you a little bit about your video game design work. When you say that, what exactly does that entail? What's usually your role when it comes to a video game, such as Ultimate Spider-Man?
Brian: Well, with Ultimate Spider-Man, I was lead designer as well as co-writer with Bendis. Lead designer is the guy who sits down with the design team, and you just start talking about, "What is the player experience? What is the game we want to play?" And as you start hashing that out, it turns into level concepts. I just run meetings and say, "what do we want to see? I don't care how we implement it. What's the thing we want to see?" And one of the designers said, "I wanna fight Rhino in a used car lot and have him throwing cars a me," and we're like, "Boom! On the board." We'll figure out how we get to it later. And then you work out everything. You sit down with programmers and figure out the math for the combat. (You sit down) with the artist and figure out how the animations are gonna look. The lead designer is in the middle of all of that. Finding out what's gonna work and what's not. The whole reason I ended up as co-writer was, at the beginning, Bendis wasn't on the project, and I said, "Look, I've always wanted to write Spider-Man. I've kinda been trying to get a screenwriting thing going on the side so I know how to string words together. Can I write?" And they were like, "OK. Sure," because that's how video games work with writers most of the time. "Well, we've got Bob. He knows how to write a sentence."
Jon: Well, apparently you can, because many other video games don't have that level of success when it comes to storytelling.
Brian: Well the funniest part about that project was the day they found out they could get Bendis on. They get me into this meeting, and there's this real worry on the producer's face. He's like, "They want to hire Bendis, but I don't want you to take it personally," and I just started laughing. The dude who created the thing is gonna come onto the project and write, and you're worried about how I feel about it? No, please! Let him in the studio!
Jon: Well that probably got you far: that attitude. Seriously, not fighting something like that? I'm sure someone else might have.
Brian: The biggest rule in collaboration is: always take the best idea. The second biggest rule is that you do not always have the best idea; knowing someone else is going to be better at something than you and letting them do it. And that was it. I just read my first issue of Ultimate Spider-Man two weeks ago. This guy's been writing it for two years. Yes, of course he's going to write the game. And when he came on, I just pitched him, "Here's the story that I came up with. This is where we were going. We can do anything you want. We just need to have Venom involved." And he read the story ahead, and said, "Nah, this is actually pretty good. Let's do this."
Super: That sounds like the story I hear a lot from Brian Bendis, that he works with people, like you, and gives you a lot of credit for what you're doing. Who's the other one he worked with...
Brian: Jonathan Hickman, lately.
Super: Exactly. He's a big promoter of some of the people he's collaborated with.
Brian: And he's fantastic to work with. Like I said, collaboration is give and take, knowing when you're right and knowing when you're wrong, and knowing when to tell the other person they're wrong.
Jude: Work on that, Jon.
Jon: It seems like you're doing a lot now that you've broken into the comic book business. It's fantastic. For one, you seem to have a really good grasp of how to write for it, quite quickly no less, but now that you seem to be doing a lot more comic book work, what has this done for your design work? Because we really could use a couple people that know something about comics working in video games.
Brian: I don't do anything design-wise anymore. I get hired to write a lot, but sometimes they've already got a story in place, which was the case with Mercenaries 2 when they hired me. The story was already in place and they needed dialog.
Jon: So you didn't come up with the guy getting shot in the ass.
Brian: I wrote all of the cut scene dialog, and I honestly don't know how much of that made it to the final product, because I never read anything I've written and I never play video games that I've written either, so I have no idea what's actually making it to the screen.
Jon: Wow. Well, I've played the game. it was interesting to me when I saw that on your list of credits.
Brian: Like with Ultimate Spider-Man, everything there that's good and bad is entirely my fault. I take the credit and I take the blame, no matter what it was. With Spider-Man: Friend or Foe, which was a kids game they made right after that I wrote, that plot is mine, and that was them coming to me and going: here are all the pieces we have, what do we do with them, and then talking to the designers and finding out what order they wanted the levels in and stringing a story together that made it work. Mercenaries 2, there was already a plot in place. It's different from project to project.
Jude: You say you don't play the games you write, so what have you played lately?
Brian: Modern Warfare 2. Spend a lot of time in there. I fell back into a lot of Team Fortress 2 of late. World of Warcraft. I go through phases where I buy everything that comes out on the X-Box and I play it all at least for a couple of days, and days where, like for the last two months, I've been so busy working I haven't been playing anything and I can't think of anything. I'm still playing a lot, I'm still on the gaming news websites every day. I'm still on top of all of that. I was hired for a game a while back and the first thing they said was, "Have you played Batman: Arkham Asylum?" and I was like, "Yes, I have." So we have a starting point for how they want to tell a story.
Jude: My god, what I got out of that is that you play World of Warcraft and have time to have a career.
Jon: Jude didn't think it was possible to have both.
Jude: I had to make a choice.
Brian: You do make a choice. All of your friends are level 60, and you're level 25.
Jon: That's the choice!
Super: A followup question to that: since those are the games you play, what comics are you reading?
Brian: My favorite, period, and it was true before I knew Bendis, is Powers. That and Ultimate Spider-Man are legitimately the books that got me back into reading comics after ten years of not. I was the worlds biggest Spider-Man fan. Like I said, I was buying everything as a kid, as a teenager. I was married and was still buying Spider-Man, and the Clone Saga started, and I said, you know what, screw this noise.
Jon: So you were one of the ones...
Brian: I was not just buying Spider-Man at that point. I was buying a lot of Marvel, a lot of DC. I think the Vertigo books were going by then. I was buying a lot of stuff, and a good deal of my paycheck was going to comic books, and about six to eight months into the Clone Saga, I went, "oh, fuck this," and I stopped buying comics as a whole, and did not even go back to a store for almost ten years. It was a friend of mine, who had been to a convention, had met Bendis, Powers was just getting started, like maybe the first two trades were out, and he goes, "I was talking to this guy and he talked me into buying his book. I think you'd love it. Go to a comic book store, find it ,and while you're there, find Ultimate Spider-Man. The first issue just came out." And I didn't do it for six months, but right before we did Ultimate Spider-Man, we were trying to get the Superman license, because we knew Superman Returns was coming, and we wanted to make that game, so we all went to the comic book store one day, and I went, "Oh yeah, I heard about Powers and Ultimate Spider-Man." So everybody's buying Superman stuff to research for our pitch, and I buy these two, and those two got me back into reading comics. They've really stayed my favorite things since then.
Jude: Did you have any good ideas in mind for, like, rocks that Superman could lift up in the game....
Jon: Yeah, would he have punched something in your version?
Brian: That's the problem, I didn't realize Superman Returns was all lifting, and I had punching and eye beams in my version, so it was never gonna fly.
Jon: It would not have been true to the orignal vision.
Brian: We would not have done Superman Lifts quite as well, no.
Jon: They are threatening an extended DVD where, I'm not joking by the way, I saw some clips that some fans put together, but I think he lifts more stuff. It's a thing like extended scenes that fans put in, and two of them I think were him lifting other things. I was like, "Oh my god. This is just unbelievable. It's just more lifting." I think you chose right with Spider-Man, by the way. And good game, Ultimate Spider-Man. I 've actually enjoyed Spider-Man games since, I think the Playstation 1, when they first really started geting good games to come out. Not quite as open-world, but all the way up to Ultimate Spider-Man.
Brian: That first Neversoft Spider-Man game on the PS1 was fantastic. That was a real groundbreaker when it came out.
Jon: I'm not sure which one I liked more. The one where Doctor Octopus and Carnage become one villain...
Brian: Which one was that? The second one was Electro, so I think it's the first one.
Jon: I played most, but I liked that one specifically. I think that might have been the first one, but yeah, good stuff.
Jude: Do you find it's difficult to write an open world game like Ultimate Spiderman where you need to worry about things like the missions being too repetitive, too much of, "go to person A on the street and get told to chase person B, repeat fifty times" throughout the game?
Brian: No, because with the open-world stuff, in reality it's not open at all. Even with Grand Theft Auto 4, as open as it looks, there is a paperwork flow chart that you can sit down and look at and see the structure of the game. So you kinda compartmentalize the open-world stuff, and the mission stuff, and everything, and you know what you gotta work in and all that. The biggest stunt is nobody's ever gonna write enough dialog so that the thugs you beat up on the street don't say the same thing twice. It's a real pain in the ass when you spend a day and you've written 80 different versions of, "there's Spider-Man! Get him!"
Brian: If you wanna melt your brain, sit down and write 80 versions of that line for five different characters, and at the end of the day, you're like, "there's gotta be a better way to make a living."
Super: Well, looks like you've found it- so awesome.
Jon: Do we have any other questions? We've had Brian on for an hour and a half, and I'd hate to think that we're wasting Ms. Marvel time here. He could be writing Siege.
Super: Do you have anything you wanna plug?
Jon: Yeah, that's the last thing, we've loved having you on. I'd love to keep you on for another hour, but is there anything coming up? I know there's not much you can say. Is there any place we can look for your stuff?
Brian: Plugable at the moment is really Siege: Embedded. It's the one thing I can really kinda talk about a lot. There's definitely some Spider-Man related things coming this summer that should be announced before too long. But again, I can't talk much about them at the moment. And then there's the potential creator-owned stuff, and, like I said, that's gonna be late this year or early next before it gets to the point that it's being unveiled to the public. So it's one of those fun times that you talk to me and it sounds like I'm doing nothing. Meanwhile, I haven't left my office for four days.
Jon: Well here's the thing, you are listed as having a homepage. Your own. Is this correct? I don't wanna plug it without knowing it's really you.
Brian: Yeah, it's there, it's me, it's SavageBreakfast.com , but it's a blog that I forget about all the time because I post things on Twitter. I've watched a lot of my friends who have blogs and forgot about them because they have Twitter now. Twitter's crossed over into Facebook and I actually talk to people on both of those, whereas the blog is just shooting stuff out there...
Jon: But you do update at least the latest things that you're doing. When we get big anouncements, you'll post it on this page?
Brian: When something big comes along I'll post it on there yeah.
Jude: And if people want to follow you on Twitter that's BrianReed on Twitter?
Jon: Yeah, and also, by the way, so we can just plug this page too, it is Savage Breakfast, exactly how it sounds, dot com. SavageBreakfast.com. And there's a feed for your Twitter right on the page. So for people who are also following that, you can find all of it on Brian's homepage, because we'd hate to conclude this interview and not plug that.
Jude: Well before you conclude, I have two very important questions.
Jon: By all means.
Brian: Go for it.
Jude: Starlord had to get off the phone already, so he is gonna be very disappointed tomorrow morning when he remembers he forgot to ask you his signature question, which he last asked Mike Carey when he interviewed him, which is: Boxers or Briefs?
Brian: Really? Either one? Has to be one or the other?
Jude: I think if you have something more exotic, that may be even more thrilling for Starlord.
Brian: Boxers. There ya go.
Jude: Ok, and the other thing is, we've still got, from our Mike Carey interview, and this is a few months ago, his quote floating accross the top of the site: "That's a cool site you've got there." Can you top Mike Carey's quote for the Outhouse?
Brian: I don't know... uh... lookin' pretty good, I guess? I don't know. Mike Carey's got me beat on that one.
Jude: The Outhouse: L"ookin' pretty good - Brian Reed. Lookin' pretty good, I guess." Look for that on the site tomorrow.
Jon: That's what we rate. Thank you so much Brian.
Jude: Yeah, thanks a lot.
Jon: No, Brian, really thank you so much for being on the show. We really appreciate it. I know we can't talk about a lot of the other stuff you're gonna be doing soon, but we really, really hope that you continue to do it for Marvel. I think most of us here who have read the stuff that you've writen, specifically Ms. Marvel, have defintely enjoyed it. I think we've also convinced some people to check it out. Unfortunately, at the end of its run, but still...
Brian: Hey, there's still trades. The trades are out there.
Jon: I do think maybe you'll see a minor spike in those trades in the coming weeks.
Super: And a minor demand for 2099 trades.
Jon: Exactly. Jude said it correctly. New Warriors 2099. Get on that. Ten readers. I promise you. That's all I'm willing to put on paper, but I promise you that. But if you do have anything else coming up, you can talk to us about it. By all means please give us a look, look us up at www.theouthousers.com and plug it! We would love to help you get the word out there with any new project.
Brian: Will do. Thank you very much you guys.
Jon: Thank you very much for being on the show with us, Brian
There you have it, Outhousers! As mentioned above, you can find Brian Reed on Twitter and Facebook, as well as at his blog at SavageBreakfast.com. Siege: Embedded #2 will be in stores soon February 3rd. The penultimate issue of Ms. Marvel #49, is in stores this week, January 27th. Spider-Man stuff is on the way. Creator-owned stuff by early 2011. Come and discuss this article on the forums by clicking on the comments link below!