Return to Marvels Pt. 2

Our roundtable discussion of MARVELS: EYE OF THE CAMERA with Kurt Busiek, Roger Stern and Tom Brevoort concludes!

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MARVELS

By Kiel Phegley Yesterday , Marvel talked to legendary writer Roger Stern about jumping on the hotly anticipated MARVELS: EYE OF THE CAMERA series with co-writer with Kurt Busiek. Today, we present the second part of our exclusive interview with the writers and Executive Editor Tom Brevoort, covering the story specifics of what readers can expect to learn in the series about photographer Phil Sheldon, plus a lost AVENGERS scene that will finally see print after over 20 years!
Marvel.com: For both Kurt and Roger, I was wondering what differences—if any—you've found on this project from your past collaborations? Has the relatively different type of story from books like AVENGERS FOREVER changed much in your scripting styles? Has the fact that Kurt plotted the series from the start changes how you're working back and forth? Kurt Busiek: Everything we've worked on together has been done a little differently. When we worked on AVENGERS FOREVER, we'd work out the plots together, then Roger would type them up, I'd tweak them, and then script over [artist Carlos Pacheco's] art. On IRON MAN, we did it the other way around: we'd co-plot in much the same way, but then Roger would do the finished script. Roger Stern: And somewhere in there I helped plot a couple issues of THUNDERBOLTS, and wrote most of another issue while Kurt wrote the framing sequence.

Preview art by
Jay Anacleto

Kurt Busiek: On EYE OF THE CAMERA, since it's a full-script project, it works a little differently. We start from my series outline, and talk through how to flesh it out; which stuff is important, which is secondary, which emotional beats to hit the hardest, that sort of thing. And then Roger delivers a page-by-page outline, which we mess around with, revising and tweaking. And then he does a script draft, and I do a rewrite on it. So it isn't co-plotting with one of us doing the scripting, it's co-writing, all the way down the line. It starts and ends with me, initial structure and final polish, but everything in between, we're hashing out together. And of course, Roger's done the bulk of the actual research, for which I'm sure he occasionally curses my name. Roger Stern: Curse you, Busiek. You made me re-read comic books. Again! Kurt Busiek: But that's been an absolute godsend. Roger Stern: Ah, the sacrifices I make for art! [Laughs] Marvel.com: As for the nuts and bolts of the series itself, EYE OF THE CAMERA takes place mostly in a period for the Marvel Universe that publishing-wise took place between the 70's and 80's, but it starts off with the introduction of the Fantastic Four origin. Do you kick start with Phil flashing back to that event from the "present" or do we just pick up a new story thread from FF #1 and continue in a linear fashion from there?

Preview art by
Jay Anacleto

Tom Brevoort:
For people who never read the original MARVELS, we "start at the start" with Phil and the emergence of super heroes in the Marvel Age, a time period that got skipped over in the original series. [EYE OF THE CAMERA], while a sequel, was designed to be a story unto itself, so we begin at a beginning, and then there's a through-line that runs through the rest of the series from there. Kurt Busiek: One of my regrets with the first series was that we skipped over the debut of the Fantastic Four—we had done a "birth of the marvels" [moment] in #1, so it didn't make sense to do another one in #2, and the developments with the X-Men, the Avengers, the Sentinels and the FF wedding were what we really needed to focus on, so we hopped over it and did what we needed to do. This time, we did need to start with something that set the foundation that showed you where Phil was coming from. So it made sense to do something similar to what we did the first time: start with a "birth of the marvels" story, then leapfrog over a bunch of events and move forward with the next part of the story. Only this time, it's a "rebirth of the marvels" moment, as the FF's spaceflight triggers the Marvel Age. It's not a flashback, but it shows you a lot of what Phil was doing and thinking about that matters to what's going on with him in the rest of the series. By the end of #1, we're in the [70's], shortly after the end of the first series. So part of #1 takes place before MARVELS #2, and the rest of the series takes place after #4. Roger Stern: I can't wait until it's all in print, so I can read the two series together as one huge saga. Marvel.com: For everyone, I was wondering if you could tell me a little about Phil's journey this time around. What is it that Phil wants to achieve here and how do the Marvels get in the way?

Preview art by
Jay Anacleto

Tom Brevoort:
At the original's conclusion, we saw that Phil had made plans to retire from photography and reporting, to get out of the business. What draws him back in to covering the Marvels is really what this series is all about. Kurt Busiek: I flinch at the very thought of telling people more about Phil's journey, because it's very much the heart of the story this time around, and I don't want to give anything away. But while we did see a lot of Phil's private life in MARVELS, I'll say that we see more of it in EYE OF THE CAMERA, as Phil deals with some life-changing issues that play into how he looks at what's going on in the world around him. So his story affects his outlook on the news of the day, and the news of the day affects how he deals with his personal life. It's very tightly braided together. Marvel.com: On the flip side of that for Kurt, what did you think when you first saw Roger's drafts of #3? Was there anything about his approach that changed the way you looked at the series? Kurt Busiek: It was odd, getting Roger's first script drafts, because MARVELS had been so personal a project—I don't think I'd seen anyone else write Phil except for Stan Lee, and he wasn't doing it in the same kind of story. So it was an adjustment, seeing someone else do it, but I got to be a complete megalomaniac about it, reworking the pacing and narration and such when I wanted to make sure we had "my" kind of emotional beat at this point, or pacing out a bit of business at another point. I think, with one previous series, two finished scripts and an outline for the rest of the series already under my belt, it wasn't so much a matter of changing our approach, but of using Roger's work and research and scripting as a foundation, and editing it to make it sound more like my own sensibility, like the tone already established for the series. The idea was for us to have the benefit of Roger's skills, helping make it what we had already set out to do, rather than reworking things. I will say, though, that there's a bit Roger did about Wolverine on a TV interview show that would never have occurred to me, and makes me laugh every time I see it.

Preview art by
Jay Anacleto

Roger Stern: Did I come up with that? I thought you came up with it! Kurt Busiek: No, no—that was you all the way. At least, I'm pretty sure it was. Dammit, Stern, now you've got me doubting my own memory! Anyway, there are bits here and there where Roger's contributions didn't get buried by his egomaniacal collaborator, but overall it wasn't so much a matter of changing our approach to the series as bringing in Roger to help deliver the approach we'd already started on. Roger Stern: In a way it's like taking part in a road trip. Kurt had already decided where we wanted to go. I got to help plan the route, point out the scenic vistas along the way, and make sure we were well stocked with root beer and pork rinds. Kurt Busiek: And once we've got to the end of the trip, if we've done it right, readers won't see a difference in tone between #2 and #3. But it'll still have been a huge contribution from Roger—without him, I'd still be looking at all those long-boxes and clutching my head in my hands. Marvel.com: Obviously, a lot of how the scripting comes out is dependent on Jay's visuals. Could each of you tell me about a moment he's painted in the series that really connected with you in terms of how you wanted to represent this particular period of Marvel history? Kurt Busiek: Jay did a page that's already been shown in some previews, where we see Thor whipping up a storm to put out a fire, that's just gorgeous—it really gives you a sense of what it would feel like to see something like that from street level, through the eyes of an ordinary guy. He's also done great work with the Thing, and some extraordinary pages showing the aftermath of SECRET WARS II, and the Silver Surfer and Molecule Man rebuilding the Rocky Mountains.

MARVELS: EYE
OF THE CAMERA
#1 cover by
Jay Anacleto

But Jay's also great at what I think of as the "still" stuff, with Phil just standing or sitting, and it's all about the expression on his face. Wonderful character work. I'm thrilled with how the book is looking. Roger Stern: I'll second that. There's a scene where Phil is walking the streets of the city, and a couple of women pass by, dishing on the celebrity life of the Wasp. It's the kind of everyday, quiet drama that so few artists can pull off. But Jay does—magnificently. Marvel.com: All three of you are looking at a period of Marvel's history where, unlike the original's focus on the Silver Age, there's some overlap with your own careers. Has taking a look at comics that came out contemporaneous with your early work changed how you tell this story? Tom Brevoort: Not me. All of the events of [EYE OF THE CAMERA] predate my start at Marvel—if you can believe that. Kurt Busiek: In my case, I did write some stuff for Marvel during this time period, but none of it actually turns up in the stories. I think all I'd done by then was a year on POWER MAN AND IRON FIST, and maybe a few Spider-Man fill-ins that weren't the kind of event that would show up. But it was an odd experience, at least, switching from the stuff I read as a reader to the stuff I read as a writer. I had to sort of step back and readjust, because of that different perspective. Roger Stern: A few of the stories that I had written turned up in here. I felt a little self-conscious about that at first, but Kurt kept saying, "No, that was important, of course Phil would be connected to it." It was great fun revisiting those stories. I'd written a scene for AVENGERS many long years ago—a scene of some average Joes commenting on a big, epic event taking place all around them—that had gotten cut for space. And in my research, I came upon a rough draft of that scene. I restructured it, with Phil there taking pictures, and it worked beautifully. So, a scene that I'd originally thought of 22 years ago finally made it into print.

MARVELS: EYE
OF THE CAMERA
#2 cover by
Jay Anacleto

Kurt Busiek: Hey! I didn't even know that! Wow, secrets of the comics revealed. Not only does EYE OF THE CAMERA show you Marvel history through a different viewpoint, it shows you history you didn't even know existed! And this amazing set of steak knives! MARVELS: EYE OF THE CAMERA premieres on December 3, with issue #2 following on December 31. In the mean time, check out the original MARVELS on Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited. Check out the official Marvel Shop for your favorite Marvel Heroes!

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