By Will Henderson
What was billed as a chance for Marvel Editor-in-Chief C.B. Cebulski to “talk about anything and everything involved in what’s next for Marvel” became something of a confessional, with lapsed and upset comic readers sharing with Cebulski what led them away from comic books, and Cebulski doing his best to grant them absolution and, in some cases, welcome them back into the Marvel fold.
There was the fan who didn’t understand why there was so little shared continuity between the comic books and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. There was the fan who wanted to know Marvel’s process for creating and introducing new characters. And then there was the fan who quit reading comics after the 2012 Avengers vs. X-Men series.
Cebulski said he understood that all readers won’t like all stories, but that “our job is to identify why certain stories work and why they don’t work.”
“Winning back relapsed readers with stories they’re going to enjoy is a priority,” as is “bringing in some amazing artists from around the world. We’ll spare no expense.”
Marvel has big plans for the Young Avengers, Conan, Thor (Jane Foster Thor and Odinson Thor), Spider-Man Noir, and the X-Men in 2019, as well as for making sure that readers know who Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel is before the Captain Marvel film is released in February.
Cebulski admitted that continuity is sometimes a problem for readers, with nearly 80 years of continuity to remember. He knows that every comic book published is someone’s first comic book, and he wants that reader to have all of the information he or she needs to fully enjoy the issue in the issue. Because, he said several times, he knows that every comic book published is also someone’s last issue.
When recruiting artists and writers for Marvel, Cebulski (who served as Marvel’s talent manager for more than a decade) looks for artists who are good storytellers who can move characters from panel to panel and from page to page without someone having to necessarily read dialogue, because “a reader should understand the story based on the artwork.”
Still, words matter because of course words matter, and Cebulski knows that. He brings on writers who are well read (outside of the comic book world), who know how to tell stories that have not been told before, and who respect characters – but not so much that the writer won’t put the character in a position that we haven’t seen before.
“Anything a writer breaks, we can fix again,” said Cebulski.
Cebulski talked about the characters who were introduced around the time he started reading Marvel comics, and how these characters are still around, like Kitty Pryde (Shadowcat), Cloak and Dagger, and the Hellions (except, of course, most of the Hellions were killed in Uncanny X-Men issue 281, unless they are somehow still alive after Selene resurrected them during the Necrosha saga – and it’s sentences like that sentence that lend credence to Cebulski’s comments on continuity sometimes keeping readers from going all-in on comics).
Cebulski also talked about Marvel’s commitment to making available characters with whom everyone can identify, and also admitted that it’s the unsung heroes – the Aunt Mays and the Gwen Staceys and the Mary Janes (the character, not the band from Earth-65) – that matter most in the world of Marvel Comics.
“Marvel is the world outside your window,” said Cebulski. “Truly, Marvel Comics are for everyone.”
As for rumors that Cebulski has coaxed artist John Byrne to return to Marvel, sorry True Believers, nothing to report on that front, despite a photo of the two at August’s Boston Comic-Con looking quite chummy as well as Byrne posting pages from his take on the world of the X-Men.
“I grew up a John Byrne fan, and I was happy to meet him, but that was more me being a fan,” said Cebulski. “We haven’t really discussed anything formally. The opportunity for conversation is open, if he wants to open the door and come in.”