By Chris Arrant
Last week, Marvel’s Senior Vice President of Publishing and longtime editor Tom Brevoort sat down with Marvel.com to talk about his memories as an intern at the House of Ideas. In his final year of college and final months of the 80’s, Brevoort learned the basic skills of comic publishing and assisted editors in putting books together. Now 20+ years later, he sits at the top of the heap and reflects on his experiences.
|Marvel internal memo on making copies|
Marvel.com: From what I read, one of your biggest achievements as intern was clearing out the huge pile of submissions that had built up at Marvel in the summer of 1989. Describe the pile for us and how you make sense of it all.
Tom Brevoort: They were stacked up everywhere: under the desks, in the closet, spilling out into the hallways. My editors gave me the task of working my way through them, pulling out anything that seemed like the submitter had the potential chops to work professionally, and sending back a form rejection letter to everybody else. I cleared out the backlog in about a week, which astonished everybody. Actually not as hard as you would think; most submissions, then and now, aren't anywhere near a professional level. I even found some of my own submissions buried deep in the pile.
Looking back on it today, nothing stood out. I could have flipped through the submission of someone really good, but I don’t know. At that time, there weren’t any names you’d recognize. I could have come across a submission from a young Jim Lee in that pile, you never know.
Marvel.com: I remember in an interview between former Marvel editor Danny Fingeroth and Brian Michael Bendis that Brian said that he had gotten a rejection letter from him as a Marvel editor once.
Tom Brevoort: Brian also tells a story from early on in his time at Marvel. Brian would send in packages of stuff every once in awhile to Marvel, and I had kept a stack of his stuff in my office. I had a stack with the big Jinx phonebook, Aka Goldfish and some other work but hadn’t been able to do much with it. I had it in a stack behind my desk in my office and kept it because I wanted to take a look at it when I had the time, but with those things you inevitably rarely do because there’s never enough time. But [one] day Brian toured from office to office and he came into my office to be introduced. He looked over and saw this big stack of books with Jinx, Aka Goldfish and Torso; he said it was so depressing to see his work in this big untouched mountain of stuff, and he said he thought no one would ever crack those open—but that’s how the business works.
|Cartoon by Rick Parker|
Marvel.com: When people ask you about your internship, do you have any unusual or funny story about the experience you can tell?
Tom Brevoort: It's only a funny story now, years later, in retrospect. But in my first week at Marvel, I put a hole in a Kevin Maguire original. It came from the CAPTAIN AMERICA: SENTINEL OF LIBERTY project that Kevin worked on. He drew at least the first issue of that series on these big boards intended to be used for graphic novels, so they were much larger than typical pages. I had been sent to make some copies of the penciled pages, so I put one of them onto the Xerox machine—the edges of the board extended way off past the edges of the machine—and the lid fell down on it, driving the little underside-hook that kept the lid closed straight through the board. I panicked for a minute, opened the copier back up, looked at the page with the hole now punched through it, then finished copying the rest of the pages and put them all back into the flat file without telling anybody. I still have no idea when someone discovered it, and how they reacted. I didn’t damage it too severely, but it was something that I should have come forward with at the time.
|Marvel internal memo on coloring|
Marvel.com: I think Marvel’s forgiven you. Have you and the other interns from that era ever got together to reminisce over that a shared experience, like a graduating class?
Tom Brevoort: No, we haven’t that much. In reality, I haven’t seen most of those guys in quite some time. Mark Powers worked here on staff for awhile and we’d occasionally laugh about doing something that reminded us of our intern days, but we largely tended to float in different circles. Every time Alex Chung comes in town he normally emails me or gives me a call and we meet for lunch. And I haven’t spoken with Cynthia Ignacio in about 15 years, ever since she left the east coast to become a Disney animator.
Marvel.com: You interned under several editors in the summer of 1989, and much later I see you hired one of your former bosses Dwayne McDuffie to write a stint on FANTASTIC FOUR. What’s it like being at the top of the company and seeing and still working with these guys in the industry?
Tom Brevoort: Honestly, it’s not that different from hiring anyone else. I don’t hire people that won’t perform the job. Maybe that’s strange, but not to me. It’s not like I hired a whole lot of them; Greg Wright did great colors back in the day before digital coloring came along. It’s the same sort of thing with Dwayne; I remembered back when I interned he said that he always wanted to write FANTASTIC FOUR, and I promised him that if I ever became editor on that book I’d give him a chance.
|Marvel internal memo on "Making the Comic"|
Who knows, there might be others I don’t remember sitting out there in the world, going grey and holding onto a promise I made for them on a book back when I interned.
Marvel.com: Maybe this will bring them out of the woodwork! Since you’re a former intern that’s risen through the ranks to the top tier, have you had the opportunity you feel to give back your knowledge with your own interns?
Tom Brevoort: Honestly, not in a while. Over the last eight or nine years, I haven’t had the latitude and ability to really interface with the ones working in the office. Before that, I think I was reasonably good with interns. For most of them, they probably perceive me as always grumpy and gruff and someone they’re scared to interrupt. For awhile, I had a pretty good track record of former interns who went on to work at Marvel. That list included Kevin Kobasic, Joe Andriani, Gregg Schigiel, Marc Sumerak, Andy Schmidt and more recently Rachel Pinnelas. In the past few years, my Associate Editor Lauren Sankovitch [has handled] the interns and [found] ways for them to contribute.
Marvel.com: Let’s flip that, then, for our last question—back when you were in their shoes as an intern, was it difficult to approach then Editor-In-Chief Tom DeFalco?Tom Brevoort: Tom appears fearsome but, you know, he’s a big goofball once you get to know him. But back then, Tom was a big figure with smoke coming out of his ears—a real J. Jonah Jameson. Back then you might bump into him or Mike Gruenwald or someone, but you wouldn’t really interact with them. Everybody around here, then and now, are always busy getting stuff done, and you don’t really have time to have a conversation. Interns are sort of like fax machines that can walk around, so most of your interactions are with the editors you’re directly working for. With those editors, you can have long, involved conversations over lunch with them, and perhaps do a business lunch where you meet with a writer to talk about a story, but outside of that it’s all work.