In the second of three interviews, Nick Spencer talks about his Marvel work, why he went exclusive and hints whats to come in Iron Man 2.0 and Secret Avengers!
Nick Spencer is the Eisner Award nominated writer of Morning Glories, Iron Man 2.0, and T.H.U.N.D.E.R Agents. Over the course of the last year, Spencer has experienced a meteoric rise through the comic book industry, culminating in a Marvel exclusive contract and multiple Eisner Award nominations. Nick graciously spoke with the Outhouse about his career, his Marvel contract and answers readers' burning questions. In the second of a three-part interview, Spencer talks about his decision to go Marvel exclusive, why he loves Jim Rhodes, and what's coming up in Secret Avengers. Part one can be found here.
OH: You've worked for Marvel, DC as well as a lot of your own work over the last couple of years. What made you decide to commit fully to one company?
NS: The nicest thing about the position that I was in was that I didn't have to go exclusive. There's a lot of guys who come up doing indy work and do phenomenal groundbreaking indy stuff but it's not selling. If they want to make a living, they have to sign with Marvel or DC to pay the bills.
I was in a very good situation where my creator-owned work had luckily found a good enough audience that I could do three or four creator owned works a month and be fine. I'm very lucky and blessed that there were enough readers for me to make a living doing that. Eric Powell has that video where he was talking about creators going to a heartless employer doing soulless work to feed their kids. I wasn't in that situation.
I wanted to sign with one of the Big Two because I grew up reading that stuff and it has been part of my entire life. I had dreamed about working with all those universes and writing those characters. On top of that, I did want to have that broader audience that only reads Marvel or DC to be aware of my work and have an opportunity to introduce myself to them.
As far as why Marvel specifically, I got the rare opportunity to work for both companies before making any decisions. I was in a very fortunate situation where both companies were interested in having me aboard. What I was immediately attracted to about Marvel is that I had earlier in life had interactions with Joe Quesada and David Mack and some of the other guys who were part of that initial changeover in Marvel over a decade ago when Joe Quesada came in and did Marvel Knights. As a young fan, I had some very positive interactions with those guys. That has always stuck with me and hit some parts of the narrative of my career. There was something that felt really right about joining up with those guys.
Since Joe had come in there, Marvel has been known to be a very rewarding place to work for creative people. It's a place that has really fostered an environment that appreciate creative, that appreciates writers and artists and collaborative process. When you're working with Tom Brevoort and Axel Alonso and Joe and Steve Wacker and Alejandro Arbona and Mark Paniccia and Sana Amanat and C.B. Cebluski, you're working with people who really care about making good books and that you're doing the stuff that you enjoy and making sure that you're part of the process.
Marvel, from my very first time sitting down with them, was exactly what I was looking for. From day one, they were asking me what I could see myself doing, what artists I wanted to work with, what characters I was passionate about and how can they could make this work. And they weren't just talking about it, they did it. They got those artists and I'm working on those characters. Even beyond that, they asked what type of books I wanted to do and whether I wanted to be involved with the big events and initiatives of the year or if I wanted to tell smaller stories of my own. They were very thoughtful questions that they offered right away. Starting with that first conversation with C.B. and Alejandro, they really made me feel welcome. I'm working on some of the biggest things Marvel has planned for the next year. As a new face and a guy that has not been around for that long, for them to show that sort of confidence in me has meant a lot.
OH: Let's talk about the two Marvel projects you're working on right now. First off: Iron Man 2.0. Why did you feel that James Rhodes needed an upgrade from War Machine to Iron Man 2.0? What was the thought process behind that?
NS: I think more of this will be clear when issue three comes out. I think we've seen some of the shortcomings of Jim Rhodes' current status quo and how ill equipped he is to deal with certain things. That's really what the book is all about. The book is about the changing face of war and what our military has been dealing with for the last ten years which is the fact that the enemy has changed and the way the enemy fights has changed. Pointing a gun at it or dropping a bomb just doesn't work the way it used to. There are some various obvious changes in the way Jim upgrades in issue three but in the second arc you see more of that.
He's going to be in a constant state of evolution during the course of the story. There's been a lot of talk about the armor changing and there are some major changes in issue three. However, going forward you'll see changes in the way Jim reacts and responds and thinks. Again, it's all a story about that game changing. If Jim is the perfect solider then it makes sense for him to be part of the story about how a soldier's job is changing. If every enemy that Jim faces is willing to show up at a predetermined place and time and show up face to face, Jim would have been fine the way he was. But he's run into something that doesn't fight that way and is very effective and getting what it wants by playing with a different set of rules.
OH: What sort of stories can you tell with Jim Rhodes that you can't with Tony Stark?
NS: There are a lot of ways that they're different. Their headspaces are completely different. They're best friends but they're not similar guys. Jim has his feet firmly planted in the ground; he's a meat and potatoes guy. He constantly cleans other people's messes, including Tony's.
I really like Jim because he's a guy who's constantly surrounded by geniuses, charismatic types, egomaniacs and megalomaniacs. Jim is so much more effective at getting what he wants than those guys and he does it quietly. He does it his way. I like Jim because I feel like he's constantly rolling his eyes at all these guys who dream these grand big plans. Jim just wants to make sure a few less people die today. He's very secure in his place in life, for the most part. However, there are some things that are frustrating and concerning to him on a personal and professional level. You'll see more of that in the second arc.
OH: Moving on to Secret Avengers, how does it feel to follow Ed Brubaker on that book? Do you feel the bar has been set high because of that?
NS: Yeah, yeah that can be terrifying! Look, it's Ed. He's the guy who killed Captain America. He's the guy who brought back Bucky. He's the guy who launched this book! That's another thing, it's his creation. The book has had his name on the top since it's been around.
But you know, you let that into your head for a few seconds and then you put it aside and get to work. When you're sitting down and coming up with a story, you're not really thinking about who wrote it before. You think about what's the most rewarding story you can tell.
With the way my Point One issue and the Fear Itself issues work, I knew that I wasn't going to be on this book for years. I was there for a very specific purpose, which made it a little easier. When you know where the finish line is, you know how fast you can run. It's been a really amazing experience getting to work on a book with that sort of profile that so many people are reading and care about. I'm really satisfied about how the book is coming out.
When I wrote the Point One issue, I think that it's a very solid twenty-two page beginning middle and end type of story. That's been a big objective for me with Secret Avengers is that all the issues I'm writing are self-contained. I've gotten to the point in my career now where I can walk into a room and say "I have a thirty issue story or a sixty issue story or a hundred issue story" and I won't get laughed out of the office. Morning Glories and T.H.U.N.D.E.R Agents and even Iron Man 2.0 to some extent, are long form stories. It was nice to sit down and write a story that starts on page one and ends on page twenty-two. It's been a real fun exercise for me to get back into that zone of doing short stories.
OH: How does the book tie into Fear Itself? What's the general plotline...without giving too much away?
NS: I would say that it's a close tie-in. When they came in and told me that they have three issues that they wanted to tie into Fear Itself, Tom was very clear that I could do something either close to the event or find some little facet and run with it. I looked at the tie-in stories that I responded to the most as a reader and a fan.
I immediately thought what Brian Bendis would do in the Avengers books during Civil War and Secret Invasion. He would take a splash page in the main event book and talk about how that impacted someone in his twenty-two pages. So my Fear Itself tie-in issues really occur in between the panels of what Matt Fraction is doing. They should feel very much supplemental and in close relation to his book. Even some of the later things in the Secret Avengers book are in lockstep with Fear Itself.
We got our first issue very focused on Beast, then we're doing a spotlight on Valkyrie, then a spotlight on Black Widow. All of these characters have big things happen to them in Fear Itself. They're all going to walk out of the event different than they walked in and it will have a profound effect on their life. It's a chance to get to spend time on those characters and see how they're feeling and how they're responding and how they react to these world changing, ground trembling, earth shattering events of Fear Itself.
OH: What other Marvel characters do you want to write? Which parts of the Marvel universe do you want to explore?
That's always a tricky question to answer. It can cut you a few different ways. If you say somebody that someone else is currently working on, you sound like you're angling for their job. Also, in some cases you might already be working on them and people don't know, so you can't say too much for fear of giving away the announcement. That's definitely the case for me. There are some characters that when I sat down at Marvel for the first time I said I wanted to work on. Marvel is doing a fantastic job of lining up characters that I'm passionate about. There are some big announcements coming up this spring and summer that I'm really excited about. There's not much in the Marvel universe that I don't want to play with at some point in time. I'm looking forward to the next however many years that I'm here.
Tomorrow: Nick Spencer answers all your burning questions!
Written or Contributed by: Christian Hoffer
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