By Frank DeAngelo IV
Andy Schmidt knows his comics.
A dedicated student of the craft, he has taught classes at the university level on the comics medium, worked on nearly every character in the Marvel Universe during his time as an editor at the House of Ideas, and most recently started his own school, the Comics Experience, to help aspiring writers and artists hone their skills.
Come April 30, Andy makes his Marvel Comics scripting debut in MARVEL COMICS PRESENTS #8 with an important story that picks up the pieces from the fall-out of the "Rise and Fall of the Shi'ar Empire" epic that ran through UNCANNY X-MEN last year.
"[The story] picks up on an important event: Cyclops's father, Corsair, was recently killed," Schmidt recaps. "Corsair died out in space with his son Havok, Cyclops's brother, but we never saw the impact of Corsair's death on Cyclops himself. That's where my story comes in."
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"Oh, and of course it's got Wolverine too!"
Schmidt himself hoped to read UNCANNY X-MEN scribe Ed Brubaker tackle the hero's loss, but unfortunately, the writer never had the chance.
"Corsair's death gnawed at me," Schmidt admits. "I thought Ed was going to get to it and I was looking forward to him writing the scene, but as it turned out, I found out when we were planning 'Messiah Complex' that he just wasn't going to have the time."
Schmidt refers to the X-Men mega-event he, alongside Nick Lowe and other editors, helped to plan during his final days at Marvel. In retrospect, he realizes the push towards the larger story may have diverted focus from quieter moments like Cyclops' mourning.
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"I just felt like it needed to be dealt with," Schmidt argues. "For me, it was the elephant in the room. I've lived with Cyclops and Corsair and Wolverine and Havok for nearly my whole life. In some warped way, they're real to me."
While disappointed that this key character moment may never get explored, Schmidt saw an opportunity to tell the story himself.
"When I left editorial I asked [Ed] and Nick for permission to tackle it and they agreed," the editor-turned-writer recounts. "Then I pitched it to MARVEL COMICS PRESENTS editor John Barber and he liked it."
As one of the masterminds behind 2006's cosmic "Annihilation" event, serving as both editor and developer of many of the concepts featured alongside head writer Keith Giffen, Schmidt has had his share of experience as the man behind the curtain, but even so he has found his new role to be a completely different type of journey:
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"It's not fun and it's not easy. At the same time, it's very exciting. I refuse to think of my friends as 'business contacts.'"
"That said, if I want to pitch a Marvel story, I still have to go to people I know," Schmidt continues. "I don't expect special treatment and I don't think I get it. John worked me over hard on this script and it's all the better for it. I really appreciate the hard work he puts [in] and I learned valuable lessons from him that I'll take with me to my next project."
However, he divulges that transition to full writer has had its bumps.
"I didn't expect rewrites to be as difficult as they are," Schmidt admits. "They don't always require a lot of change, but it's more fine tuning and it can be extremely difficult to hit these things just right. I'll never feel like I hit any note perfectly. But if John and [artist] Marco [Turini] are happy, then I'm happy.
One tip Schmidt picked up during his years in editorial and carries into his new role: don't get wrapped up things you can't control, just focus on the work.
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"It's about making great comics," Schmidt insists. "Don't worry about why writer X is getting work and you're not or why so and so gets paid more per page than you do. Let the world be the way it's going to be. You do what you do best—write great comics and get published any way you can."
Ok, Andy, so why should fans pick up MARVEL COMICS PRESENTS #8?
"Did I mention that Wolverine dies in my story?"
"Seriously, though, I'd love to say [buy this] because I'm so great a writer that it can't be missed, but I'm new at this and still have on my training wheels to some degree. John and [assistant editor] Mike Horowitz are putting together one hell of an anthology book. [Besides] my story with Cyclops and Wolverine—which everyone will love, of course—Vanguard is very cool, as is Weapon Omega, and this issue has Machine Man too—Jack Kirby's last Marvel creation. So cool. That's a great package!"
While you wait for MARVEL COMICS PRESENTS #8 to come your way on April 30, you can learn more about Andy's Comics Experience at his web site. Also, get a crash course on the life and death of Corsair with Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited.