Originally published in May of 2001. Ouch, I was hard on Fabian here. In short Thunderbolts went from one of my favorite titles to one I dropped during his run as writer. I had a few friends that felt the same way and we’d gather in chat rooms and complain about the book getting worse. Neither of these were Jason Borgeois or Sheryl Roberts who helped provide questions for the interview. Jason was a fellow writer (and sometimes interviewer) for CollectorTimes and Sheryl was our editor. Jason likely provided the Gambit, Cable and Sinister related questions and I’m not sure which questions are Sheryl’s or mine. Fabian was a champ though, answering a lot of questions and being professional about it.
An Interview With Fabian Nicieza
Fabian Nicieza is a name many of you are familiar with, especially if you’ve been reading Marvel Comics over the last 10 years. He has written many different comics and even worked as an EIC of Acclaim Comics at one point. Currently he is working on Thunderbolts and with this interview I ask him all about that, about some previous X-men related work and where the comic industry is going.
* Special Thanks to Jason Bourgeois and Sheryl Roberts for providing some questions *
Jamie: I can’t help but notice a few people on usenet keep calling Thunderbolts #50 a ‘good jumping off point’. Does that worry you at all?
Fabian Nicieza: If 5 people say they’re leaving, I shrug my shoulders. If 5,000 people say they’re leaving, THEN I’m worried! So no, I’m not surprised if a reader chose Mark’s leaving the title and a temporary status quo shake-up as a reason for stopping. Just like I wouldn’t be surprised if an equal number use it as an opportunity to jump ON the book. I also wouldn’t be surprised if the vast majority of people who might not buy the book anymore don’t peek at the coming issues and – based on all the fun stuff we have planned — slowly start to come back into the fold.
Jamie: Between your start on T-Bolts and issue #50 there have been a whole lot of changes to several characters. Jolt died and came back with different powers, Atlas has died after his powers went into overdrive, Techno died but but the Fixer is back, The Beatle (Abe Jenkins) became black. What is it with you and making major changes to characters?
Fabian Nicieza: A better question to ask is why WOULDN’T I do these things? The lifeblood of monthly superhero comics are good characters and good soap opera. In TBOLTS, I feel we have both.
Jamie: Do you feel there is an area where too much change can be a bad thing?
Fabian Nicieza: Sure, but the writer is usually the last to know! Hopefully, you have an editor who can see the bump in the road before the readers do!
Jamie: With Thunderbolts #51 you added a number of members and the remaining (alive) original criminal members are out of costume. You also replaced Hawkeye with Captain America as the teams trainer. What made you believe the title needed this much of a drastic change?
Fabian Nicieza: If you read the issue, you’ll know it’s not a drastic change at all. The core characters needed a chance to breathe and reflect on having attained a pardon for their crimes without the need for involving them in superhero action. I felt the best way to do that was to smack them in the face with unexpected freedom and the illusion of redemption and let them all start seeing if the grass is really greener on the other side. Between subplots in the monthly title and the LIFE SENTENCES TBOLTS special, I feel we get a look into their minds in ways that we haven’t had a chance to do since I took over the book. The book still remains about THEM, not about the Redeemers. But it’s a superhero comic, so we still need some slapping and kicking, and we can show that for a few months through the Redeemers. And, with Cap leading them, through those characters, we can also show other sides of the thematic coin in regards to what the book is all about.
Of course the TBOLTS will be back together again and back in action. The question is not if, but WHEN, WHY and HOW?
Jamie: I assume your writing the LIFE SENTENCES TBOLTS special, who is doing the art and when will it come out?
Fabian Nicieza: I have written it. Charlie Adlard is doing the art. I have no clue when it comes out. I think between issues #52 and #53.
Jamie: Why are Meteorite, Mach-1 and Songbird out of costume? I think most fans know it’s only a matter of time they’ll be back in them.
Fabian Nicieza: Asked and answered. We can learn just as much if not more about them by seeing them trying to maintain 9-5 jobs as we can watching them fight bad-guy of the month.
Jamie: Do you think the new Thunderbolts characters will be published after their time in Thunderbolts is done?
Fabian Nicieza: I don’t understand the question. The Thunderbolts characters ARE the Thunderbolts comic. 😉
If you mean the Redeemer characters, I can unequivocably say NO, they will not be published after their appearance in TBOLTS is over.
Jamie: Do you know how Patrick Zircher got the job to take over T-Bolts after Mark Bagley left? I know he took over the art cores on New Warriors when you left that title.
Fabian Nicieza: We ran through a list of potential artists and Pat was at the top of that list. Being able to get him is a privilege. His art gets better on the book each and every month!
Jamie: Have you had to change your writing any to compensate for Zircher’s strengths and weaknesses? If so, how?
Fabian Nicieza: In very little ways. No more or less so than with any creative team change. You feel your way out slowly over the course of a few issues and develop a rapport where you know each others’ strengths and weaknesses. Pat is an excellent storyteller and draws elegant figure work, so I have to do more character interaction. He hasn’t worked on a group book in a long time, so he needs to get the hang of choreographing multiple characters in movement through a scene, so I have to pay attention that my plots are clear in regards to action. But like I said, Pat’s doing great work. I’m sitting here scripting #54 and I think it looks like dynamite!
Jamie: How do you feel about the event like “Silent” month on all Marvel Books and do you have any ideas on how your going to do your silent TBolts issue?
Fabian Nicieza: Well, part of me thinks it’s a bit forced, like any editorially enforced crossover tends to be, but the other part of me likes the creative challenge. I am more than half way through plotting and doing rough 8-1/2 x 11 breakdowns for the pages and it has been fun.
It helps that the timing fit perfectly for a Songbird story I had intended to do all along, so the “stunt” fits in smoothly to the normal flow of the TBOLTS storyline. In fact, the silent pages make the surprise ending work even better!
Jamie: I noticed in both Gambit and in Thunderbolts you played around with character power levels. Why?
Fabian Nicieza: I find it to be an entertaining way of putting a character through a physical and emotional ringer.
Jamie: You seem to have a penchant for using past works of your own in your latest projects, like Nomad in Thunderbolts recently. Why?
Fabian Nicieza: It’s easy to use what I know and apply it in the right ways. The two main reasons for using NOMAD supporting characters was to A) point out obviously the clues needed to guess Scourge was Jack Monroe and B) to get Andie Sterman into the V-Battalion because I wanted her POV in that organization. Why create a new superhuman psychotherapist, reporter, FBI agent. etc. when there are pre-existing characters that are begging to be used? And why not use characters I’m comfortable and familiar with since it makes their application into a crowded story easier?
Jamie: What are your feelings on leaving Gambit and then having the book promptly canceled so soon after?
Fabian Nicieza: Better to have been canned and then see the book canceled than to have it canceled while I was writing it! For those who liked my work on the Gambit character, there may be an interesting non-comic Gambit announcement soon.
Jamie: Can you give us any hints?
Fabian Nicieza: Not yet. It’s not real until it’s real.
Jamie: Did you accomplish everything you wanted to do with Cable and if you were offered the chance, would you go back to writing him?
Fabian Nicieza: No and No.
Jamie: What didn’t you accomplish with Cable that your really wanted to?
Fabian Nicieza: Pass. Not worth getting into.
Jamie: Is there any chance the Sinister miniseries, which was cancelled/put on hold may still have a chance of seeing the light of day?
Fabian Nicieza: Highly doubtful.
Jamie: Why was it stopped?
Fabian Nicieza: I think the core editor and core writer simply preferred I not play in that particular sandbox.
Jamie: Can you give us a hint of the premise?
Fabian Nicieza: 4 self-contained stories set in different time periods all linked together by an underlying story thread, all pretty harrowing stories of Sinister’s emotional devolution. And all a moot point.
Jamie: Acclaim Comics is dead, they just recently removed all mention of comics from their website. Was your book Troublemakers owned completely by Acclaim or was there any creator owned deal like Priest had with Quantum and Woody?
Fabian Nicieza: I had the same deal as Priest, but having been a co-author of that deal, I know how the lawyers got involved in it to the point where it is too much of a hassle for me to bother with.
Jamie: Are Acclaim lawyers fighting the contracts on creative owned deals?
Fabian Nicieza: In order for lawyers to fight, someone usually has to throw the first punch. I am not aware of that having been done by anyone.
Jamie: After your experience being EIC of Acclaim Comics, would you be up for another EIC job at another publisher?
Fabian Nicieza: Sure, but it would depend on the circumstance and the place. I loved my time with Acclaim – the EiC job moreso than the President/Publisher job, which was too much responsibility regarding details I lacked experience, or interest, in attending to.
I am a social creature, but I’m also very happy working out of home and trying my hand at a variety of different things. If a company were to call with an interesting 9-5 opportunity – and not just a comic company – I would certainly listen.
Jamie: Over the last few years you have been bouncing between Marvel, Acclaim and DC. Have you ever thought of self publishing?
Fabian Nicieza: I’ve thought about it. Then I look at the finances involved and realize it would be just as easy to throw my money off a bridge.
Jamie: So the success of Dave Sim, Jeff Smith, Terry Moore & others doesn’t convince you to take a gamble?
Fabian Nicieza: Define success? Creative fulfillment? Financial fulfillment? If the gentlemen above have been successful enough that they can pay the mortgage and their kid’s college educations without concern, then more power to them. I would prefer not to jeopardize my family’s financial comfort for the sake of my own ego. There are plenty of other, more enriching ways, for me to flex my creative muscles than self-publishing comics.
Jamie: It seems the comic book industry is moving away from monthly titles and into TPB’s or Original Graphic Novels. Do you see this as a good or bad thing for comics?
Fabian Nicieza: I see that as good if it expands the horizons for distribution and content. I think it’s bad if it forces the continued whittling away of the comic book specialty shops and the regular weekly customer visits.
Jamie: Some think the market is moving towards comic specialty shops that rack only or mainly TPB’s and customers come in and buy on an somewhat infrequent basis, very much like the typical bookstore. Is that good for the industry?
Fabian Nicieza: I don’t particularly think that would be a successful financial business model, but I’m not informed enough to be certain. Whatever floats their boat.
Jamie: Marvel’s no reprints policy have caused a stir among retailers. Do you think this will be to Marvels benefit?
Fabian Nicieza: As I’m not privy to enough information from either side of the issue, I have no comment.
Jamie: Speaking of reprints, I tried to buy your new Citizen V mini at my comic shop today so I could ask you about it. But it was sold out and they can’t get anymore. So tell me about it, what are you trying to do with the Citizen V character?
Fabian Nicieza: CVB is about old soldiers facing the end of their fight and new soldiers who don’t think they want to ever become old ones! It is about a sleek paramilitary organization that has been “fighting the good fight” for so long, that they might be willing to compromise their methods and ethics in order to finally win that never-ending battle. Citizen V is their point man, a covert op. He’s the kind of character you hate to love and love to hate. He has style, panache, wit and intelligence, but he is also very arrogant, very selfish and very indifferent to the obstacles he has to walk over on his way to accomplishing a given assignment.
It’s a fun adventure book that explores aspects of the Marvel Universe rarely visited — namely older characters and the mantle of responsibility borne on the generations that followed the soldiers of WWII.
Jamie: Do you have any other work coming out soon?
Fabian Nicieza: None that I know of. That could always change tomorrow.