Originally published in September 1999. Around this time I was on an Avengers mailing list with a bunch of other die hard Avenger fans (some of whom are still my friends today). Also on that list was Kurt Busiek (whom I already interviewed) and Tom Brevoort. It is interesting to see that he’s still at Marvel today and how he’s evolved along the way, particularly on the idea of diluting a concept title with multiple similar titles.
An Interview With Tom Brevoort
Tom Brevoort is one of Marvel’s most respected editors by online fandom. Fans that frequent the usenet rec.arts.comics.marvel.universe group will often see him answering questions by readers and correcting false information. Currently he is editing Avengers, Avengers Forever, Avengers #1 1/2, Avengers / FF Domination Factor, Avengers: United They Stand, Blaze of Glory, Captain Marvel, Heroes Reborn: Doomsday, Marvel Mystery Comics, Hulk, Timely Presents All-Winners, Thor, and Thunderbolts. As you can see he’s a busy guy! I’ve made it my goal to try and get through this interview without any “Wait and See” responses, as online fans know he does so often. Wish me luck!
Jamie: What did you do before becoming an editor at Marvel?
Tom Brevoort: I was a college student.
Jamie: How did you break into the editing biz?
Tom Brevoort: I started out as a college intern in the summer of 1989, and ended up hired as an assistant editor in December of the same year.
Jamie: Did you ever want to become a freelance writer or artist? If so will you ever try again?
Tom Brevoort: I’ve written a number of stories for Marvel, and have no doubt that I will eventually do more in the future. And my background is as an artist–I was an illustration major, though I’m not good enough to do monthly work for Marvel. But I like the structure of a regular 9 to 5 work-week, so I’m not really looking to go freelance.
Jamie: Unlike most editors, you hang out online answering readers comments and even debating with us once in a while. Why?
Tom Brevoort: When I was simply a fan, if access to the internet was as easy as it is now, I would have been on those boards constantly. That being the case, it seems like the right thing to do to make my self available, and try to eliminate some of the more egregious misinformation that gets disseminated through the electronic forums.
Jamie: Where do you get your assistant editors from?
Tom Brevoort: There’s a company in Iowa–three for a dollar.
Jamie: How do you decide on which freelancers will do fill ins or take over a title?
Tom Brevoort: There’s not a formula to it. I determine who’s around who can bring something to the series–either by being similar to the guys they’re subbing for, or by being radically different, or by having some sort of historic connection to the character, or by just being cool–and then I call them. It’s all gut-level instinct.
Jamie: Has there been any changes to the writing situation on Hulk and Iron Man?
Tom Brevoort: I don’t edit IRON MAN, but the plan is still for Joe Quesada to take over with #26 in January and do at least 4 issues–more, if things work out to everyone’s satisfaction. As of this writing, there is still no regular writer on HULK–Ron Garney and Jerry Ordway will be co-plotting #9-11, with Jerry scripting, however.
Jamie: It’s well known that Erik Larsen really wanted to be the Hulk’s regular writer. Why hasn’t he gotten the job?
Tom Brevoort: I try not to hand out assignments in an off-handed way. Erik has certainly made his desire known, and has sent me a treatment. Whether or not he gets the series depends on what he wants to do, what ideas get pitched by others, where I think the book should go, and how strongly the sales and marketing guys feel about the pluses and minuses of any given approach. But Erik is hardly out of the running, and he’s writing #8.
Jamie: I understand that Busiek and Perez were picked for the Avengers before you became the titles editor. If you were the editor first and had to pick a creative team for the Avengers, what freelancers would you have tried to get?
Tom Brevoort: Probably Kurt and George. I wasn’t the one who called George, but I was involved in the discussion before the call was made. And I became involved again when George asked about Kurt writing the series–since we were already working together, Kurt sent me his AVENGERS treatment to get some feedback before it went in.
Jamie: Practically all the books you edit have high or stables sales. To what do you owe to your success?
Tom Brevoort: Um…people reading the books, mostly. There are some really terrific people working on those titles, and I’m glad that the audience is enjoying their work. But I don’t think it’s any sort of “golden touch” or anything.
Jamie: There was a Great Lakes Avengers (or Lighting Bolts) mini series planned. Is it still coming out?
Tom Brevoort: Not to my knowledge. That was something that Matt Idelson wanted to do with Joe Kelly. Now that Matt is at DC, it seems unlikely that this project will happen.
Jamie: Hey, who keeps sticking in the Pro Wrestling references in Thunderbolts? Is it Kurt Busiek or Mark Bagley?
Tom Brevoort: Kurt if they’re in the script, Mark if they’re in the artwork.
Jamie: You mentioned that you were interested in bringing back the Official Marvel Universe Handbook in one form or another. Has there been any progress on that?
Tom Brevoort: None to speak of. We’ve got around two and a half issues finished at this point, but the market is simply too weak for us to proceed with it–I don’t want to bring the book out and have it get canceled with ‘L’. Until the market improves, the HANDBOOK is on hold.
Jamie: Between The Essential Volumes and various reprint TPB’s you’ve been in control of re-selling Marvel’s past. What other projects are coming up?
Tom Brevoort: I think this is a misreading of the situation, as I’ve never edited any of the ESSENTIALS books (though I do consult on things like mistakes that were made in the MASTERWORKS printings so they can be fixed for ESSENTIALS.) But in the immediate future–October–I’m doing both TIMELY PRESENTS ALL-WINNERS, which reprints the first appearance of the All-Winners Squad, Marvel’s first super-team, in a format like that of the recent HUMAN TORCH reprint, and MARVEL MYSTERY COMCIS, and 80-page comic-book collection of golden age stories. And there’s some initial talk about producing new MASTERWORKS volumes, although it remains to be seen if that’ll work out.
Jamie: With the popularity of Avengers, we’ve seen several spin off titles like Avengers Forever and the soon to be published Domination Factor. But we don’t see more ongoing Avengers title’s like Spider-Man or X-men have. Why?
Tom Brevoort: I think regular secondary titles tend to dilute the core concept of a series, so I’m adamantly opposed to there being another regular, ongoing AVENGERS title. We’ll do limited series and one-shots when we have interesting ideas for them, but I think the Avengers are better served by only headlining in one title. One team, one book.
Jamie: Why was Black Panther moved from the Marvel Knights group and brought into normal Marvel Publishing?
Tom Brevoort: Jimmy and Joe want to do other things, and there are only so many hours in the day. but PANTHER is still selling decently, so there’s no reason to just cancel it. So it’s moving over to mainstream editorial–which shouldn’t really impact on it too much, in that Priest will remain as writer.
Jamie: Who will be the editor for Black Panther when it comes to the normal Marvel publishing? Any idea on if it will keep it’s ‘almost vertigo’ style stories?
Tom Brevoort: Ruben Diaz is editing PANTHER. I don’t expect that it’ll change from what it’s been up till now.
Jamie: Avengers Forever #8 was loaded with retcons and changing Marvel History, what was your reaction when you saw the script? Was their any uneasiness? Did you have to request any changes?
Tom Brevoort: First off, I don’t think FOREVER #8 was “loaded” with retcons and changes to history–there’s only one major one that I can think of. And I was involved in the conception of that issue, so I didn’t have any problem with anything that was in it.
Jamie: With much of the comic industry news being so glum, how do you stay positive?
Tom Brevoort: There are more good comics available today, from a variety of publishers, than ever before. So yeah, there’s a lot of crap, and sales could certainly be better. But how bad can it be when I can get a hardcover volume of the earliest PLASIC MAN stories?
Jamie: Who came up with the idea for the Marvel Militia? How can you gauge if it’s working?
Tom Brevoort: The Marvel Militia was conceived and largely executed by my assistant, Gregg Schigiel. I don’t know that you can tell if it’s working–but doing something is better than doing nothing. And anything that helps bring readers into the hobby is something to be encouraged.
Jamie: Where do you see the comic industry 5 years from now?
Tom Brevoort: Hopefully still around, and expanding in new directions.