TGIF: Marvel Epics

Brian Bendis, Ed Brubaker, Greg Pak and many more explain what “epic” means to them when it comes to Marvel Comics



By Ben Morse When it comes to Marvel Comics, the term "epic" can mean many things to different people (and no, we're not talking about creator-owned comics, smart guy). "Epic" can mean a company-wide crossover involving dozens of titles or just one great story involving one character. It can be every Avenger ever battling their greatest foes or Daredevil facing his personal demons. We asked some of Marvel's finest creators and editors what they think of when they think of "epic." It's Friday, so kick back, relax and enjoy.
BRIAN MICHAEL BENDIS (writer of SECRET INVASION): SECRET WARS 2…no, wait, what was the question? Oh, favorite. Well that would probably be the "Kree/Skrull War." A high watermark for many of the creators involved and probably the first real event. The entire marvel universe in trouble. But I like CONTEST OF CHAMPIONS as well. It's genius in its dumbness. PAUL CORNELL (upcoming writer of CAPTAIN BRITAIN AND MI: 13): I think I'd like to go for the "Avengers/Defenders" war. These were some of the first American comics—as opposed to British reprints—I'd glimpsed, and the difference between the two—the British ones were from the earliest Stan Lee days—is an index of why I've loved the Marvel universe ever since. All these different Avengers, including the Swordsman! Wasn't he a villain?! And the Defenders seemed incredibly exotic, and included Hawkeye! And there was the Sub-Mariner battling Cap, but obviously as a hero, and there were all these gray areas of characterization. And some of those splash pages, with Loki bellowing, "The Avengers are fighting the Defenders?!" [Writer Steve] Englehart in many ways invented modern comics. His is the forgotten revolution, between Stan's and Chris Claremont's, where, as always in Marvel, the realism and characterization were cranked up a notch to keep pace with the world. And I even loved the Black Knight as a statue. ED BRUBAKER (writer of CAPTAIN AMERICA): [When] Cap resigned and became Nomad, I think. I read it as a kid and it blew my mind, and then I reread it as a teenager and realized that Steve Englehart was actually making metaphors for Watergate and the actual government corruption of the time. CHRIS YOST (co-writer of X-FORCE): Hands down, the original SECRET WARS from the '80s. There were so many huge moments that just blew my young mind, and it actually introduced me to the X-Men. But to see all of the heroes together, fighting all of the villains, it was everything I wanted. But the moment for me, the thing that stays with me to this day is Doom. Even as he's being dissected by the Beyonder, he doesn't give up. Forcing himself by sheer will to stay conscious, he reaches out and takes the Beyonder's power. It was amazing. ANDY SCHMIDT (upcoming writer of MARVEL COMICS PRESENTS): "Mutant Massacre" was the biggest, baddest thing I'd ever seen at the time. Sure, you literally needed a map to know what order to read books in, and sure some characters got lost in the shuffle, and to this day I still have no idea why Thor was in it, but it was amazing. It was so kinetic and exciting that I couldn't wait to get back to the store every week. Historically, events had been done before, but "Mutant Massacre" was so successful that it's the event that started the events and crossovers trend. You can curse it for that if you like, but at the time, it was insane and awesome and everyone wanted more stuff like it. Great moments like Colossus killing Riptide, Wolverine's fight with Sabretooth and Angel losing his wings just couldn't be topped. They felt really human—especially for them being muties and all—and vulnerable. And that's rarely achieved in super hero comics. For sure, "Mutant Massacre." CHRIS ELIOPOULOS (writer/artist of FRANKLIN RICHARDS, letterer of DARK TOWER: LONG ROAD HOME): My favorite event has been the "Dark Tower" saga. Just because I got to meet Stephen King and sit on a panel where Star Wars Stormtroopers patrolled the stage. That and the book looks awesome! TOM BRENNAN (Marvel assistant editor): Taking another trip through traumatic childhood memory lane, I'd like to cite INFINITY GAUNTLET as the event that had a huge impact on me. Why? Everyone died in issue #4. Seriously, I picked up a comic book, excited to watch my favorite heroes—Spider-Man, Wolverine, Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Cloak…you know, the big ones—team up to kick some Infinity Gem-wielding butt. And 22 pages later…they're all dead. Young Tom Brennan still didn't grasp the idea of a comic book death, but the WHAT IF? logo wasn't on the cover—so as far as I knew, my favorites were all dead. Again. [Confused, gentle reader? Check out this classic to experience young Tom's previous breakdown!] And I entered a cycle of depression I wouldn't get out of until late 2010…err, rather, until they came back to life. So began an abusive cycle of comics toying with my emotions. But hey, they all come back after dying and years later, all my favorites are still alive and kicking, never to leave again. Now if you'll excuse me, I've finally gotten a copy of CAPTAIN AMERICA #25. I can't wait to see what the fuss was all about… KAARE ANDREWS (writer/artist of SPIDER-MAN: REIGN): I'm not really one for company-wide crossovers but SECRET WARS gave us Spidey's black costume and eventually Venom. A little lesson that good can come out of giant gobs of sticky-messy inter-continuity after all. TOM DEFALCO (writer of AMAZING SPIDER-GIRL): I loved the moment in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #258 during the saga of the alien costume when Spider-Man suddenly learns his new black costume is actually an alien symbiote because his reaction is pure Peter Parker and later results in the Amazing Paper Bag Man. SKOTTIE YOUNG (upcoming writer/artist of X-MEN: DIVIDED WE STAND): "Age of Apocalypse" was my favorite. I think I was 16 or so and for a summer it seemed that the X-World just shut down and started over in some crazy "Mad Max" world. GENERATION X was my favorite book and getting to see [artist] Chris Bachalo go in and turn the world upside down for four issues in GENERATION NEXT was great. Also, it was the first time that I felt I was in on the ground floor of something. All other books were drenched in years of history that I didn't know about, but "AoA" was something that I could read from ground zero and understand. I think the scope of that crossover was impressive as well. It really did seem like everything at Marvel stopped, except for AoA. It was a hell of ride for a kid! MIKE PERKINS (upcoming artist of ULTIMATE FANTASTIC FOUR): There's quite a few favorite big events that I've loved. First and foremost has to be "Mutant Massacre" enveloping UNCANNY X-MEN, X-FACTOR, NEW MUTANTS, POWER PACK and even THOR. I was never a big fan of the falsely engineered crossovers, but this one evolved organically from UNCANNY #206 and had some great shock moments involving a constantly phased and disappearing Kitty Pryde, a paralyzed Colossus and a de-winged Angel thrown into the mix. Must go back and re-read it once more. MATT CHERNISS (co-writer of SUB-MARINER): It's really a series of many smaller events, but I loved Jim Starlin's whole Thanos vs. the Marvel Universe saga that began in the '70s with the Cosmic Cube in CAPTAIN MARVEL and AVENGERS, first culminating in MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE ANNUAL #2 and then returning with the soul gems in the '90s in THANOS QUEST, SILVER SURFER, INFINITY GAUNTLET and the subsequent mini-series. The entire event always felt so massive in scope and so unique to the Marvel U. TODD NAUCK (artist of AMERICAN DREAM): My favorite Marvel event was the "Mutant Massacre." It was early in my comic collecting career and I picked up an early chapter of the story, X-FACTOR I think. I was a little confused about what was going on. Then I saw the story breakdown drawn up as a series of sewer pipes in a flow chart showing which issues of UNCANNY X-MEN and X-FACTOR were a part of this crossover, as well as THOR and POWER PACK. I tracked down all the issues and was shocked to see Morlocks being slaughtered by Marauders, X-Men being critically wounded and the Angel having his wings snapped and broken. And the art was by so many incredible artists: Walt Simonson, Rick Leonardi, Alan Davis, Jon Bogdanove... I was inspired! WELLINTON ALVES (artist of NOVA): Well, I really liked [all of] ULTIMATES, where the government controlled the heroes; the cruelty they showed the enemies, it was terrifying. I always loved Thor, and when they defeated him, I was down for days. He was the only who knew the truth and was crucified. That really touched the reader's mind. I would love to see more of that Thor—and I would even love to draw that. Mark Millar, I'm here!! RICK REMENDER (co-writer of PUNISHER WAR JOURNAL): The first comic I read in my life was SECRET WARS #4. It had this cover of the Hulk holding up a mountain with all these beaten up heroes all around him and I was immediately brought in. Here is this desperate situation with all of these super heroes getting their asses handed to them by a gang of villains; I'd never really seen anything like that before on the Marvel cartoons I'd watch growing up. I haven't gone back to re-read SECRET WARS as I prefer to keep the version of it filtered through my 11-year old brain but I've thumbed through it and reaffirmed Mike Zeck and John Beatty to forever be one of my top five favorite art teams. BILL ROSEMANN (Marvel editor): "Daredevil: Born Again." Yes, it might not have crossed over into other titles, and yes, it only guest-starred three other heroes—which happened to be one of the Avengers' and Captain America's greatest appearances ever—but Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli's exquisitely crafted psychological pulp thriller set the bar for modern, self-contained story arcs. Razor-sharp dialogue, breath-taking visuals, risk-taking storytelling—while it may not be "big" in [terms of] issues, surely this eight chapter pot-boiler nailed everything that many much-longer stories strive for. Never before had we seen a hero brought so low, so personally destroyed, only to see him rise against all odds in the name of justice and the redemption of his own soul. So if you've never had the pleasure of reading "Born Again," and want to check out a story that many creators today are still inspired by, do yourself a favor and pick up the handy collection…and prepare to learn, in the words of Wilson Fisk, that "a man without hope is a man without fear." RALPH MACCHIO (Marvel Executive Editor—and editor of "Daredevil: Born Again"): My favorite epic story in Marvel history was the incredible, mind-staggering Dr. Strange story entitled "The Defeat of Doctor Strange" that ran in STRANGE TALES from issues #130-141. This just blew me away—and still does when I reread it. Dormammmu teams up with Baron Mordo to destroy Doc in a story that goes from the shadowed alleyways of Greenwich Village to the unimaginably distant realms of the Dark Dimension and Eternity itself. This storyline had everything: Doctor Strange minus his powers hunted like a criminal by the minions of Mordo—saving his mentor, the Ancient One from certain death—finding the unfathomable entity called Eternity and earning a new amulet of Agammotto—engaging Dormammu himself in hand-to-hand combat in the Dark Dimension. If you want to know what the quintessential Marvel story is—you read this one baby! It doesn't get any better! Taman Shud. MIKE CAREY (writer of X-MEN: LEGACY): I'm going to go for "Mutant Massacre," because—bumpy though the storytelling was in some ways—it had a real edge to it that made it stand out from almost everything else that was around. It felt like an actual crisis unfolding in real-time, and it felt like the consequences were going to be huge and irreversible. "The Dark Phoenix" saga would be my second choice. The amazing thing there was how it opened out from the Hellfire Club arc, so we got this incredible raising of the stakes when we thought we were just coasting into the happy ending. CHRISTOS GAGE (co-writer of AVENGERS: THE INITIATIVE): I discovered it in back issues, probably a decade or more after it came out, but I think my first "event"—at least that I was aware of as such—was the "Avengers/Defenders War." It crossed over between the two books at a time when that was a rarity and had great moments like the Hulk vs. Thor, Captain America vs. the Sub-Mariner and Loki teaming up with Dormammu! There have been others that were more epic in scale and scope, but for me, that was the first time I realized big stories like this were even possible! HUMBERTO RAMOS (upcoming artist of RUNAWAYS): "Kraven's Last Hunt." I like the idea of a poetic edge to a mainstream character like Spidey and the story itself is a classic. JORDAN WHITE (Marvel assistant editor): My favorite event was probably "Inferno." I liked how it was something that crossed over into lots of books, without the main story actually being there. Basically, a bunch of demons came from Limbo and took over New York, and pretty much any New York super hero had to deal with demonic hordes and inanimate objects coming to life. As a kid, reading it, I didn't read the X-Men story it all spun out from, but I loved all the crazy Spider-Man vs. demons stories, Daredevil vs. Mephisto and the Excalibur visit to demonic Manhattan as well. Just a crazy idea for a story, and one that I thought played out well. Plus, when I finally read the X-Men story, it was cool. STEVE SADOWSKI (upcoming artist of AVENGERS/INVADERS): I would have to say, excluding all the Marvel stuff from my childhood that I grew up reading, because it was dribs and drabs as I found them, the AVENGERS re-launch with [Kurt] Busiek [and George] Perez was probably the closest I felt to being a kid reading comics again. I eagerly awaited each new issue like it was Christmas morning. While it probably doesn't stand up as an "event," per se, to me it was the best thing being published in all of comics. I actually loved the fact that there weren't any tie-ins to follow or anything. These were the Avengers to me—big heroics done with style, humor and drama. Just perfect. MARC GUGGENHEIM (writer of YOUNG X-MEN): I'll have to go with SECRET WARS. Now, I know that the execution of this idea wasn't all it could be, but this was such a seminal moment in my comic book-reading life. I mean, it's the very first big crossover that invented the genre, so you've gotta give it props for that. And it completely blew my mind when it came out In fact, now that I'm thinking of it, I'd also have to give a nod to CONTEST OF CHAMPIONS, which not only presaged the company-wide crossover, thus laying the track for SECRET WARS, but also introduced the limited series format to Marvel. MOOSE BAUMANN (colorist of IRON MAN: LEGACY OF DOOM): Hands down, it's the "Kree/Skrull War." Classic cosmic Marvel. Roy Thomas was at his best with amazing, unforgettable art by John Buscema and Neal Adams. [AVENGERS v1 #93], where Ant-Man has to go on a fantastic voyage inside Vision's body, is still one of the most visually spectacular books I've ever read. ALEJANDRO ARBONA (Marvel assistant editor): Interesting question. My comics upbringing was woefully deficient; I came into comics during the '90s, and I spent that adolescent decade reading only some of what came out at the time, along with the [Stan] Lee/[Steve] Ditko, Lee/[Jack] Kirby classics as Marvel Masterworks hardcovers, Watchmen in trade form and some of the era's indie gems. It wasn't until my adult life that I discovered, well, pretty much everything else. So with a couple of notable exceptions, I never developed much of a whiz-bang nostalgic fondness for the mainstream super hero comics of my youth, because they were either the forgettable stunt books of the '90s or well-trod milestones that I knew were already legendary works, not a jolting revelation that felt like it was only mine to treasure—that level of personal attachment is reserved for Flaming Carrot. However, I do have a singular favorite event from reading comics at the time, and it came early in my experience:the freaking INFINITY GAUNTLET. Even if—even if—and I'm not saying this is the case—even if I'm only fond of it for [it] being the first time that comics had so thoroughly blown my little pre-teen mind, that counts for enough. I was barely out of knee pants—my favorite comics featured everyday muggers webbed up outside the police station with a note from your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man—and suddenly here was a comic chockablock with A-list charactersdying, colorful, eye-dazzling armies made up of every super hero I'd ever heard of—and a good one or two dozen I'd never even seen—gods coming together to fight and losing, the very fabric of reality being re-shaped! And it's interesting that I should remember this [limited series] of my comics infancy so fondly, because it didn't even end up influencing the kinds of stories I like today; I much prefer the low-key, street-level human stories like the Spider-Man comics I grew up on to the space-operatic, cosmic-war epic that INFINITY GAUNTLET was. But to my then comics-virginal eyes, it was a revelation of the potential of this medium to ply the imagination, with its vast expanses of stars and nebulae—no doubt much vaster and more impressive in my imagination and memory than in pulpy four-color print—the unfathomable, Space-Hitler evil of a purple megalomaniac called Thanos, and the inconceivable majesty of Eternity himself, which I later learned had been one of the mind-bending designs of Steve Ditko. It showed me that in comics, more effectively than in movies or any other medium with the sole possible exception of your own dreams, worlds could be re-shaped, space and time could be warped and life and death could be manipulated with the snapping of fingers. I can still vividly feel the antsy, tumultuous, exuberant impatience I suffered waiting out the final issues—and here I'll unceremoniously borrow Junot Diaz's description of the final issues of Watchmen in his amazing novel, "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao"—"which were unfolding in the illest way." GREG PAK (writer of INCREDIBLE HERCULES): Clearly, the correct answer is "Secret Invasion." You reading this, Brian? Love ya, baby! BENDIS: Oh, I meant "World War Hulk."
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boogydown member

Why didn't anyone say The Korvac Saga?????