Tuesday Q&A: J.M. DeMatteis & Brian Reed

Tuesday Q&A: J.M. DeMatteis & Brian Reed

By Jim Beard

Marvel Annuals claim a unique spot in the House of Idea’s universe of titles, and this year’s offerings spotlight not only your favorite characters, but the very best in creative teams. Extra-sized and many times standing alone outside ongoing continuity, Annuals present big ideas in sprawling stories that may refuse to be contained in a normal-sized issue.

So, in looking forward into 2012, we checked in with writer J.M. DeMatteis to talk about MIGHTY THOR ANNUAL #1, out June 6, and writer Brian Reed to preview AMAZING SPIDER-MAN ANNUAL #39, due on May 30.

The Mighty Thor Annual #1 preview art by Rich Elson

Marvel.com: J.M., with MIGHTY THOR ANNUAL #1 you’re returning to helm a new Thor adventure after your 2011 CHAOS WAR: THOR limited series—how does it feel?

J.M. DeMatteis: I had a wonderful time writing this story because it was an opportunity to really go off the deep end of the Marvel Universe and into the cosmic. Although Chaos War itself was quite the cosmic event, my chapter was a smaller in scope and more internal. This time I got to go very big and it was a blast.

Marvel.com: “Big” seems to be the operative word in this Annual; you're using some pretty cosmic characters here, like Galactus and The Silver Surfer; how does Thor fit in?

J.M. DeMatteis: Although the Surfer, Galactus, the Other, Oblivion and Scrier all play pivotal roles in the story, it's Thor's story first and foremost and begins in a very personal way, when Don Blake discovers that a dear friend isn't what she seems. That discovery leads him from Earth to the edges of the Creation and involves him in an ancient conflict that nearly destroys the universe—[though] I don't think I’ll be spoiling anything if I reveal that the Marvel Universe survives this story!

Marvel.com: Good to hear! So, how do you write such lofty characters and still ground them for the readers? Where does the "humanity" come in?

J.M. DeMatteis: Whether it's the man on the street or Galactus, you've got to ground the characters in real, relatable emotions. We create—and write about—these larger than life characters in order to reflect what's going on in our own hearts and souls. As long as they're mirrors of our psyches, they'll be as human as we are.

The Mighty Thor Annual #1 preview art by Rich Elson

Marvel.com: You mentioned Scrier, a character from your own SILVER SURFER run; how would you define his motivations in the Annual? What makes him a catalyst, a credible threat in the tale?

J.M. DeMatteis: One of the wonderful things about Scrier, and about the story, is that his motivations are like mercury. Just when you think you've got him pinned down, just when you think you understand his agenda, he does or says something that brings it all into question. That's one of the themes of the story: the exploration of what we appear to be versus what we are—leaving us in that confusing-but-fascinating world between.

Marvel.com: Artist Rich Elson joins you on MIGHTY THOR ANNUAL #1. What's getting you excited about his art? What aspects of it really allow him to strut his stuff?

J.M. DeMatteis: Rich did an incredible job on this story, really grabbing on to the cosmic aspects and pushing them to the limits and beyond. But what's truly wonderful about what he does is that he also keeps the emotions real; so, to refer back to your earlier question, you've got a great balance of the cosmic and the human. I wasn't familiar with Rich's art before working on "Scrier's Game," but I've quickly become a huge fan.  

I also have to mention the coloring, by Morry Hollowell, which is bold and cinematic and adds so much to the visual storytelling.

Marvel.com: Let’s swing on over to Brian Reed now, author of the upcoming AMAZING SPIDER-MAN ANNUAL #39. Brian, how did this particular story come about and how did you become involved? 

Brian Reed: I was pitching Spidey stories to “Dancing with the Stars” Season 6 runner-up [and Marvel Senior Editor] Stephen Wacker, and this is one of them he liked enough to offer me cash money in return for writing it. There's your "How to break into Marvel Comics" tip for the day: have an idea an editor wants to buy.

Amazing Spider-Man Annual #39 preview art by Lee Garbett

Marvel.com: Great, now we have that Wacker image in our heads! Your tale concerns a world without a Peter Parker in it—what kind of general impact will that have on Spidey? What are the potential effects? 

Brian Reed: The "Parker Luck" strikes hard on this one. It's bad enough to discover you've never been born, and everyone you know and love has no idea who you are. But imagine you learn that the world was actually a better place without you? Of course, all is not as it seems, especially when it comes to time travel in the Marvel Universe. And in Peter Parker's life, the worst day ever is always just prelude to something really, really bad.

Marvel.com: Why do you think stories of alternate worlds with drastic changes from the normal Marvel Universe enthrall us so? In your opinion, what is their draw to readers?

Brian Reed: Because for all its turmoil, the Marvel Universe is familiar, and that familiarity is comfortable. You know who the good guys and the bad guys are, and you know the rules of how the Universe behaves. So turning all of that on its head is always exciting. 

Marvel.com: The Avengers guest-star in the story. Are they "our" team or are they the Avengers of that alternate universe?

Brian Reed: They are the Avengers of this world where Spider-Man never existed. And they show up because, as it turns out, removing Peter Parker from the timeline has some pretty serious repercussions. The real fun is, when Spidey's never existed, you get to watch him meet all these other heroes again for the first time. And this time, Spider-Woman gets to be the one irritated about name similarities. 

Marvel.com: What's the greatest joy for you about working with an artist the caliber of Lee Garbett on the Annual? What's he been doing here that really inspires you as a writer?

Brian Reed: Lee's got a great sense of motion to his work that makes even quiet moments of dialog feel very fluid and alive. And in a story like this, where you have quiet contemplative moments, as well as big crazy action sequences, you've got to have the dynamic sense of motion that Lee does so well. 

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