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Spencer for Hire Part One

From the indies to the big time in just over a year, newly-exclusive Marvel writer Nick Spencer talks Iron Man 2.0 and more

By Chris Arrant

Although Nick Spencer debuted in comics only a year and a half ago, he’s quickly established himself as a rising star.

He debuted on the independent scene with a string of unique imaginative limited series, and quickly caught the eye of the talent scouts at Marvel. His Marvel debut came in January’s INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #500 telling the prologue of his new series IRON MAN 2.0, and he’s taking the lead with Steve Roger’s super-secret super hero squad with this month’s SECRET AVENGERS #12.1. Marvel Senior VP of Publishing - Executive Editor Tom Brevoort said recently that this entrepreneurial author has more projects to be announced in the coming months, and he’s on target to become one of Marvel’s key creative talents in 2011.

Spencer took time from his busy—and getting ever busier—schedule to talk about his upcoming work with us.

Iron Man 2.0 #3 cover by Salvador Larroca

Marvel.com: You’ve really taken comics by storm in these past few months, Nick. What’s that been like for you?

Nick Spencer: Well, it’s been a bit of a roller coaster but a lot of fun. It’s been a really rewarding experience. But this was always the plan. It’s nice when things come together the way you hope they will.

Every day I’m a little more surprised at what the editors at Marvel will let me do, and what readers stick around for. I try to take it a day at a time and just focus on the work that’s in front of me, and it just continues to grow from there.

But on the other hand I have a long way to go where I’d like to be. You can sit back and say ‘job well done’ but tomorrow there’s a new challenge and a new goal.

Marvel.com: How has your work day changed?

Nick Spencer: My work days back then used to stop. [Laughs]

I’m in a pretty much perpetual state of writing these days. That’s not something I’d ever complain about though, because I like being able to stay up in my head and dream it all up. It’s a nice play to be; in fact, I prefer it to the old days with just one or two books to focus on. I like being able to go to so many different places with the projects I’m working on. I like being able to stay occupied and focus on what’s in front of me. That’s more fun to me than just having one or two scripts to do a month; with that you have weeks to ponder what you’re doing, to tweak it and be nervous and obsessive about them. My current workload is more fun because it forces me to move at a much faster pace.

It’s like Tetris.

Marvel.com: [Laughs] Tetris?

Iron Man 2.0 #4 cover by Salvador Larroca

Nick Spencer: In Tetris the levels start real slow and then by the end of level 12 or whatever it just comes faster and faster.

[Laughs] I’m lying; I can never get past level 9 in Tetris. But in Tetris, the key lies in knowing how the pieces fit together. Speed doesn’t matter; if you know how the pieces fit together, you should know how to do it where the blocks are coming down slower or faster. My life is like Tetris.

Marvel.com: How many projects do you have on your plate right now?

Nick Spencer: I’ve got 11 projects right now, with one or two more down the road. That counts everything from those that are just beginning to things I’m cycling off of, and even those that are on the horizon.

Marvel.com: Your first project at Marvel was launching the IRON MAN 2.0 series starring War Machine. Can you describe your big goals coming into this series?

Nick Spencer: My first goal was a Rhodey story that felt like Rhodey. There have been a lot of attempts to do War Machine stories that would take him a crazy new direction and dramatically alter the natural status quo of the character. I felt like it was a good time [to] do an entry-level, new reader friendly, continuity-free Jim Rhodes story. I got very lucky in that Matt Fraction had done a good job of putting Jim back in familiar territory and a recognizable place in INVINCIBLE IRON MAN. So from there, I just let Rhodey be Rhodey and set up the story about a guy who acts as the bridge between Tony Stark and the U.S. Military.

Marvel.com: What makes Rhodey Rhodey, if you know what I mean?

Nick Spencer: He is a good friend and a good soldier; those are his defining characteristics. Rhodey’s life balances delicately between a friend who he admires and the country that he serves and military he serves in. I wanted to tell a good story about that dynamic and also about how the role of a good soldier changes and the way we fight changes. It’s very much about the changing face of war as seen through Rhodey’s eyes. Rhodey is the perfect character to ask those questions with.

Iron Man 2.0 #5 cover by Salvador Larroca

When you look at the image of War Machine with all those guns and missiles, it’s a cool visual. But what I come back to is that if we actually had that, if we had an Iron Man loaded up with guns and bombs and dropped it into Afghanistan or Iraq a couple years back, it wouldn’t change much in terms of the situation on the ground. Inserting War Machine into a warzone wouldn’t be a conflict-ending response. That struck me as the real story of War Machine; the futility of that kind of approach. There’s a million ways that the brute force of War Machine isn’t a sufficient answer to the problems we face today. Rhodey’s story in IRON MAN 2.0 explores that, to find new solution in this changing world. It’s about changing the way you think and react to the current worldview in new and unconventional means.

Marvel.com: And now that your boots are on the ground and issues of IRON MAN 2.0 are on shelves, what’s going through your mind on what you’ve done so far and what you want to do next?

Nick Spencer: I’m really satisfied with the first mini-arc of 3 issues and #4 which acts as an epilogue of sorts. I think that we did what we set out to do: establish Rhodey in a new status quo and to present the problem he’ll be faced with for the rest of the story. We’ve begun to the see the beginnings of his response to that, and we’ve put the pieces into place to move forward from here. By the time readers get to the last page of IRON MAN 2.0 #3 they’ll have a better sense of where we’re going. They’ll also see some ways that we’ve changed the armor that I think will get people excited. It’s a new day for Rhodey and the beginning of something big for him; that’s what we aimed for when we started.

These first issues are hopefully the introduction to what will become the definitive Jim Rhodes story. IRON MAN 2.0 #4 is an issue that I’m especially proud of. Without giving too much away, it’s a story that can stand on its own two legs regardless if people have read the first three issues and I’m very lucky that Marvel let me do it. It’s a very unconventional story; I wouldn’t use the term “controversial,” but I would say that it’s delicate. I really think people will stand up and take note of it. I think that I’ve done enough books by now to recognize when one hits a special note. I’m as proud of this upcoming issue as anything I’ve done in my career so far. I really think people will talk about it. Artist Ariel Olivetti just nailed it. It feels so right, and I’m positively thrilled with it.

Come back next week as we talk to Nick about SECRET AVENGERS and his Marvel future!
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