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Introducing: Jamie Rich

A new Marvel writer celebrates the holidays with The Thing

By Jim Beard

The MARVEL HOLIDAY SPECIAL—available now on the Marvel Comics App —affords readers not only an opportunity to hear holiday tales of some of their favorite characters, but also to witness the first Marvel work of a special group of new creators. Writer Jamie Rich recently found himself in the enviable position of putting words in the mouth of the one and only Ben Grimm, The Thing.

MARVEL HOLIDAY SPECIAL 2012 art by Paco Diaz

“I kind of landed on The Thing by accident,” he reports. “I've always liked the character, because he's got such a tragic backstory. He's a kind and gentle man trapped in a body that is rough and separates him from the world. That kind of thing really appeals to me; I like angsty super heroes like the X-Men. Still, he wasn't someone I thought of immediately. I actually had four other ideas that I had fully fleshed out and was ready to go with, stories featuring other characters.

“I was hanging out with Joelle Jones, an artist whom I work with regularly on my creator-owned books, and had mentioned that I had wanted to pitch something for Chanukah, because I figured everyone was going with Christmas and New Year's. My research had led me to discover that, except for Kitty Pryde, the main Jewish characters in the Marvel universe were all muscle men: Sasquatch, Doc Samson, Ben Grimm—big dudes! My only problem was I couldn't think of a story to tell that fit that theme.

“Then Joelle said, ‘Have them all go out for Chinese food for Christmas.’ It was such a great idea, it pretty much sank all of my other ones!”

As with many creators, Marvel loomed large in Rich’s formative years, with titles that drew him in and led him down the path to be a writer himself.

“I first started buying comics seriously in fifth grade when I bought GI JOE #2 from a tiny comic book shop in Agoura, California,” he remembers. “This guy had a store in the back of his father's real estate business, and up until then, I had only read Donald Duck and stuff like that. The TV commercials advertising Marvel's GI JOE comics got my attention, and of course, I would start with what would be the rarest comic in the run.

“I think shortly after, I bought a PETER PARKER, THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN. I was big into John Byrne around the time he was doing ALPHA FLIGHT and FANTASTIC FOUR and of course his just-finished UNCANNY X-MEN run, and also it was the 1980’s so there was an explosion of independent comics. It was pretty easy to immerse yourself in everything back then, and Marvel had the Epic line and ALIEN LEGION and [Frank] Miller and [Bill] Sienkiewicz doing ELEKTRA: ASSASSIN, so as my tastes expanded, there was plenty to sample.”

Flash-forward to this year and the gig of a lifetime: the MARVEL HOLIDAY SPECIAL.

MARVEL HOLIDAY SPECIAL 2012 art by Paco Diaz

“I started talking to C.B. Cebulski back in the early part of 2011, we chatted at the Emerald City Comic Con in Seattle,” says Rich. “I wanted to start pitching ideas, and C.B. mentioned having a need for holiday stories. Short stories are always a fun challenge, so I jumped at the chance.

“Getting the art to go with your script is always a big thrill. It's one part of the job that never gets old. It's exciting to see what the artist has chosen to do and how they interpret something that up until then was only visible in my head. Paco [Diaz] really brought a sense of dynamism to the piece. He hit the big moments with a lot of flare, making for several knock-out pages that have a genuine wow factor. I've only dabbled in super heroes prior to this, mostly with Mike Allred on Madman-related projects, so it was neat to do something more traditional that also had a lot of oomph.”

Of course, with the finished Ben Grimm story in the can and ready to join the other MARVEL HOLIDAY SPECIAL tales for free online on the Marvel Comics App , Rich’s thoughts drift towards the possibilities of working with other characters in the Marvel pantheon.

“I've always had an affinity for Cypher and Warlock from the New Mutants,” he notes. “The appeal of the mutant books for me as a teenager was that the X-Men and everyone were these conflicted individuals at odds with their own bodies, which is very much the experience of most adolescents. I always found Doug Ramsey very identifiable because he got super powers, but they were still kind of lame, and he needed this other thing to help him out—and that thing was a crazy shapeshifting alien!

“Maybe I could mess with the whole New Mutants team. I also wouldn't mind taking a crack at Runaways. Or maybe Hellcat, just to see if I could do something even half as good as Kathryn Immonen.”



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