Monday, August 30, 2010

Paul Tobin Interview -- Writer of Marvel Adventures Super Heroes Part 1 of 3

Hi everybody! I'm filling in for Jim this morning and I was going to do my version of Jim's "What I'm Getting", but it turns out I'm gettin' nothin' this Wednesday! Actually, that's a good thing since I'm planning on spending some money at Comic-Con tomorrow (two-days past for you readers -- time travel is always so confusing). Fortunately, I've got something even better for you -- Part 1 of my interview with writer Paul Tobin!!! I contacted Paul prior to writing my review of Super Heroes and he graciously agreed to answer my questions. I'm telling you, his responses were awesome. But don't take my word for it, read on...

This interview was conducted by e-mail via a Word file between 2010 Aug 13 and Aug 26. Paul was super-busy, so I really appreciate him taking time out of his schedule!

First, let’s focus on some questions about the Marvel Adventures Super Heroes title itself:

Matthew: I had originally thought that issue 1 was the start of the series, but it looks like it actually began in issue 17 of the last Marvel Adventures Super Heroes title, correct?

Paul: Correct indeed. That was the launch of me on the title, and a new direction for the title itself. We’d originally launched Super Heroes as a venue to showcase heroes that didn’t have their own Adventures titles, but with issue 17 we decided to do that within the greater scheme of the Avengers… so that we’d have a team book, and single issues would highlight members of that team.

Matthew: Was this a subtle reboot of the Marvel Adventures (MA) Universe? The Giant Girl (Janet Van Dyne) who starred in the MA Avengers title originally written by Jeff Parker has never been a member of the Avengers in the new PTU (Paul Tobin Universe), right?

Paul: Maybe a VERY soft reboot. The Adventures line was never all that concerned with continuity, but it was about that time that I really noticed how many of the books I was doing, and that I might as well institute a sort of broad scheme continuity. I always like shout-outs to things that have happened, and plot clues to what might be upcoming.

Matthew: This is really an Avengers book and now that there is whole Avengers franchise out there is there a specific reason why this series doesn’t use the name “Avengers” in the title?

Paul: Mostly because we do still want to highlight individual characters. We see “Avengers” as the family from where we draw the characters of the moment. The rest of the characters play sideline to whoever is stepping forward in any given issue.

Matthew: Is any of your work on the late MA Fantastic Four series part of this new universe’s continuity?

Paul: I consider it to be that way, yes. But as far as it be “officially” that way, not as much.

Matthew: Was there any change in the way you wrote the book from the “red banner” days to the new incarnation? It seems a little different to me (better…more subplots), but it could also be the difference of having rotating artists versus a consistent artist. Please tell me Cliquet and Santos are coming back after issue 5!

Paul: I’ve been given the go-ahead to go a little deeper into storylines, as long as each issue is still contained, and I’m certainly taking advantage of that. I love building stories over time. So, while each issue IS complete to itself, previous issues have events that lead into them. And Ronan will definitely be around. Scott Koblish will have some upcoming issues, and then we cycle back to Ronan Cliquet. Ronan is currently turning in pages for a Thor / Pirate story that is Knocking My Socks Off.

Matthew: Do you write out detailed scripts or do you collaborate with the artist using the “Marvel Way”? Do you modify your story based on what you know are the artist’s strengths or would artist A and artist B get the exact same story from you?

Paul: I’m very detailed with my scripts. I have a pretty clear vision of what I’d like to see, how I’d like to see it. At the same time, I realize it’s my job to stand back and let the artist do his job, so unless there’s a specific reason, I stay away from calling shots. And I love aiming scripts towards specific artists, but sometimes (due to deadlines, potential artist availability, etc) I’m writing scripts blind… not knowing who is going to be illustrating. If I DO know, and I have time, I like to ask an artist what kinds of things they find exciting to draw.

Matthew: Did you get to pick all the team members or were some editorially mandated for you?

Paul: A little of both. It’s not uncommon for me to pick what artist I want to work with… but quite often I’m picking from a small pool of available people. There are three or four artists I’m trying to work into our regular stable, at this point.

Matthew: I really love the inclusion of the Invisible Woman, Nova, and the Vision. As a fan what’s your history with these characters and which comic stories (I’m thinking specific issues or runs) in the past are most influential on the way you write them today?

Paul: I have a horrendous memory, so I rarely think in terms of the past in specific, but I certainly think of the characters in overall themes. I like to strip a character down to what’s essential to them, why they put on the costume, what would make them stop, where his or her boundaries are set, and really play with those elements. Cap, for instance, is an Avengers leader because he is driven to do the right thing, whereas Sue (in a very subtle difference) is a strong leader because she’s afraid of what would happen to the people she cares about if she doesn’t do the right thing.

Matthew: I love the romance between Sue and Captain America. She’s really going to fall for Steve once she discovers whatever secrets Reed’s been keeping from her (via the Black Widow). Do you actually have the freedom to break out of the 50-year cycle of Reed and Sue as a couple? I’m not just talking a temporary break, I’m actually hoping to see Mrs. Susan ROGERS in the PTU someday!

Paul: I have quite a lot of freedom in the Adventures line, yes. How best to utilize that freedom is always interesting to me… and Steve’s attraction to Sue is definitely going to become a front story element quite soon.

Matthew: Any hints at what’s coming up next in the series?

Paul: Unexpected romances. Betrayals. A trip to Asgard. Pirates. One of the Avengers very much is AND isn’t who you might believe. And sea monsters.

Matthew: Do you know if this series will be collected in digest form or regular trade paperback?

Paul: Digest size, I believe, but I haven’t talked to the marketing people about that, so I can’t say for sure.

Matthew: I’m already sold on Super Heroes, how about you give me some reasons why I should be reading MA Spider-man too? It would help if you could highlight any similarities or differences between the two titles and how they’re written.

Paul: Spider-Man is actually a more “pure” book for me. The fact that I can focus on Spider-Man rather than a cast of seven heroes (in the Avengers title) means that I can go more in depth, and can really focus on characterization, plot development, relationships, and all the other aspects of storytelling. Because of this, I also have room for a strong supporting cast, like Sophia “Chat” Sanduval, who is a girlfriend to BOTH Peter Parker and Spider-Man, as opposed to so many girlfriends in the past. And I can also play with the Blonde Phantom in a reoccurring role, and of course the younger years of Emma Frost. She’s currently a character called the Silencer. She isn’t really sure if she likes her best friend, Chat, to be dating such a cool guy as Spider-Man, and she isn’t really sure if she’s a good guy or a bad guy. Lots of fun tension in poor ol’ Pete’s life.

Matthew: I heard that you’re writing the new spider-girl series that takes place in the regular Marvel Universe. Now, I am a HUGE May “Mayday” Parker (the one and only) Spider-Girl fan and normally, I wouldn't give any other “spider-girl” the time of day; however, with you writing it I’m willing to at least try out the first issue. I think you could engender a lot of good will with the MC2 Spider-Girl readers by saying some nice things about May and the phenomenon that’s about to end (only if you really mean it though).

I actually own this piece of artwork folks!

Paul: There seems to be a small segment of people that are making this an either / or situation, but I’m not really one of them. Mayday Parker was a great character, and continues to be a great character. Nothing we do is going to change that. What we can do is add ANOTHER character to the name, and that’s really my aim. I want Spider-Girl to be her own character, her own life… not standing for any replacement of all the great works that DeFalco did with Mayday. I hope that Anya Corazon is around for a long time to come, and I hope that Mayday sticks around, as well.

Matthew: Now, that you know which camp I belong too, can you make a pitch for why any other MC2 Spider-Girl fan should try out the new title?

Paul: Same reason that drew me into comics in the first place… a fascinating character in fascinating settings, dealing with the fantastic. And, I like to think that I’m bringing, to this title, what I’ve been known for in other titles, strong characterization that leads people to care about the people behind the masks. That’s what it’s all about for me… the human side of those that we comic creators Toss Into Chaos.

Matthew: How will your writing of spider-girl (you may have noticed that the lowercase is intentional kind of like God versus any other “god”) in the Marvel Universe differ from how you’re writing Spider-man in the Paul Tobin Universe for Marvel Adventures? What sort of “code” do you have to follow within MA (I thought the avoidance of saying “Deadpool” in issue #4 was hilarious)?

Paul: There are certain elements we shy away from in the Marvel Adventures line… the “blood n’ death” aspects are at a lower level. To be honest (and this is something I’ve discussed with my pal Jeff Parker, who agrees with this line of thinking) I think ALL writers should have to start in the Marvel Adventures line. Because we have certain restrictions, we have to learn to have stronger characterization, more inventive styles of drama, and so on. This means that when we do work within the 616 line, we’re coming into that market with a bigger bucket of storytelling tools, and it only leads to better stories.

Matthew: The regular Marvel Universe isn’t very all ages friendly at all most of the time. Since you’ve been so heavily into the Adventures universe, do you have any qualms about writing “darker” things? I guess I’m wondering is there a line that you won’t cross as a writer (i.e. No Sue Dibny tragedies or Sins Past fiascos)?

Paul: I’m by no means adverse to darker themes. I like having them around as a way of raising the ante, upping the drama, stacking the deck in favor of the villains… BUT… I’m hugely against using such “dark” elements as crutches. This is a rant I could go on for hours, and I often do… writing such as the Sue Dibny episode are created as no more than shock value, throwaway elements to make a story seem important. In turn, though, they ultimately devalue the story and the writer both. If people are always dying, then each death lessens the impact of the next, until it graduates to the meaningless. And if a writer can’t think of a better story than “SOMEONE DIES!” then that’s pretty sad. This medium is rampant with creators that think, “I’ll be remembered because this story is important,” when is should be filled with writers thinking, “I’ll be remembered because this story is good.”

That's not nearly all folks come back on Saturday for Part 2!
And come back later today for some pictures from the Baltimore Comic-con!

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