Mark Bagley: A Mighty Farewell

With his final issue of MIGHTY AVENGERS on the way, the veteran artist bids Marvel farewell and talks about his career

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By Jim Beard Earth's Mightiest Heroes against Marvel's most nefarious villain in a spectacular showdown with New York City at stake—not too shabby a way to make an exit! Superstar artist and beloved Marvel icon Mark Bagley brings the curtain down on his over two decade-long stint with the House of Ideas with MIGHTY AVENGERS #11, and Bags wanted to make sure he goes out with a bang. "Knowing these are it really made me want to knuckle down and go out strong," says Bagley as he looks over what will be his final Marvel pages for the immediate future. "I didn't want anyone thinking that I phoned these issues in. I'm proud of my reputation as a pro who really delivers, and I wanted to be sure I wouldn't have anyone thinking that I was disrespecting Marvel or [writer] Brian [Bendis] by doing less than my best."

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The soft-spoken artist has never been known to give anything but his very best in his tenure with Marvel and has earned the respect of the entire industry in the process. Bagley's achievements delve into the territory of legend, his Marvel work the very definition of dynamism and dedication, and his professionalism the envy of his peers. Winning the fabled Marvel Try-Out Book contest in 1983, Bagley embarked on a career that included lengthy runs on titles like NEW WARRIORS, AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, and THUNDERBOLTS early on that blew away both fans and fellow creators, and drafted an army of admirers the likes of which the industry has seldom seen. The pinnacle of the artist's success came with his senses-shattering 111 issues straight run on the mega-popular ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN with Bendis, a creative partnership that outlasted even that that of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby themselves on FANTASTIC FOUR. Yet, let not this loquacious list of Bagley brilliance wring a sob from your lungs, dear friends. Wipe away your tears, Bagley fans! In mere weeks we'll possess his last—for now—Marvel work to savor and celebrate when MIGHTY AVENGERS #11 leaps onto stands March 26.

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"It's basically Tony Stark and the team being real avengers," Bagley excitedly explains of the conclusion to the title's second arc. "New York suffers from an unprovoked attack, and the Avengers decide its time for some payback. Dr. Doom pays for leaving some bio weapons lying around." One might speculate that after more than 20 years of drawing Marvel heroes and villains, Bagley would have wanted to take it a bit easy on his swansong, but no dice. "Joe Quesada gave me a few really choice offers," recalls Bagley. "And this one just seemed the most fun. It's the Avengers, its Brian…and hundreds of symbiotes. Actually, I didn't know about the symbiotes when I said yes. I think it was Brian's revenge for me leaving him. Hell hath no fury, and all that!"

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With so many of Earth's Mightiest—not to mention a certain fantastic guest star—filling the pages of his coup de grace, who did Bagley enjoy drawing the most? "Loved drawing The Sentry," muses the artist. "The girls were all fun, though it sucked following [previous artist Frank] Cho's girl-greatness. Doom is always a blast to draw. I swear he is one of Kirby's best designs. So regal and menacing." Growing a bit somber and serious for a moment, Bagley reflects upon his growth as an artist at the House of Ideas: "I look back at where I was at the beginning of my career and I sometimes can't believe I won the MARVEL TRY-OUT contest. I know that there are things in my past that some fans really loved, and bless 'em. But, I really have tried to improve my skills, and continue to do so. I think the worst thing

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that can happen to an artist is to figure out what they are trying to do…that is a sure sign of becoming a caricature of yourself. I'm still a sponge, absorbing everything I can, and trying to incorporate what works into what I do." Speculating on might-have-beens isn't exactly Bagley's bag, but when pressed he did ruminate on a bit of unexplored territory in the Marvel Universe at large. "Ahh," he begins, lighting up at the possibilities. "Would have loved to have had a good run on the [Fantastic Four]. But really for me it's always been about who I'm working with. I really stayed on the books I stayed on for as long as I did because of the folks I was working with. This is such a fun way to make a living, and I'm really proud of both my career at Marvel and that I've left on such good terms, and with real well wishes from everyone.

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"Also," he notes with a final chuckle. "There is the axiom: 'Always leave them wanting more'!" Mark Bagley delivers his Marvel Comics final bow in MIGHTY AVENGERS #11 on March 26, a one-of-a kind finale for a one-of-a-kind artist. You can check out some of the classic covers he's produced over the years in the gallery below, and an extensive catalogue of his work courtesy of Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited. We'll miss you, Mark!

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