By Matt O’Keefe
For someone who describes himself as America’s 14th favorite comic book editor, Steve Wacker has edited a lot of beloved books. I first became aware of his work with 52, a weekly comic with some of DC’s biggest creators. He soon joined Marvel to edit an almost-weekly Spider-Man. Today, he’s editor of such acclaimed titles as the Spider-Man line, Daredevil, Punisher War Zone, Captain Marvel, Hawkeye, the Marvel Animated comics and the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy & Nova. I spoke to him about his current workload.
How did you start out in comics? What was your educational background?
I studied Theatre and English and at Stephens College and at the University of Missouri, but mostly just read Sandman and Hellblazer over and over.
I got my start in comics after creating a comic book themed show here in NYC called “Ka-baam!!”It ran for a couple years and at one point I somehow managed to get comic pros like Darick Robertson, Kevin Maguire and Heidi MacDonald as special guests. Two editors at DC (Dan Raspler and Kevin Dooley) came to the show a few times and, after knowing them for awhile, I was offered a chance to come in to interview for an open assistant editor position working for Raspler and Pete Tomasi on the JLA and JSA books.
I aced the interview, got the job and comics have stunk ever since.
Joe Keatinge, a new name to the Big Two, is writing a Morbius ongoing under your watch. What’s your approach to finding new talent to work for Marvel?
It’s pretty straightforward, I read a comic and if I like it and have an open project, I try and work with that person.
In Joe’s case, I was building a short Thanos mini-series and his work on Glory made me think he’d be a good for it. I didn’t really know much about him, but I got in contact with him on a whim figuring it was an Image guy, so if nothing else, he’d love to turn down Marvel and tell all the guys at the home office about it.
But he took the gig, came up with a solid pitch and –along with artist Rich Elson– we started on it. But as happens from time to time, that particular project changed shape and morphed into something else, so we started talking about other characters… which is how and why those guys are on Morbius: The Living Vampire which launches in January.
Greg Rucka said that you had to convince him to write the Punisher ongoing. Is attracting talent a big part of an editor’s job?
I think so. Our job comes down to being advocates and caretakers for projects and characters….both inside the company and outside the company.
In Greg’s case, we’ve worked together many times and I think he’s one of the most thoughtful writers in his generation. He’s one of the best writers around and, like Charles Foster Kane, I selfishly feel all the best people should be working on my books, so I went and got him.
After Rick Remender’s run, did you make a conscious decision to return Punisher to a street level feel when selecting the creative team?
Yes. Rick’s run is underrated gem and I didn’t feel Like I could out-weird it, so my philosophy and approach in those situations is to sort of reset to back-to-basics and build out from there.
I knew with Greg, he’d focus on the very fine details of Frank’s life and that was interesting to me.
Rucka expressed some dissatisfaction with the Punisher joining the Thunderbolts because it interfered with his plans for the character. How do you balance the needs of the creator with the needs of the overall Marvel U?
Basically, on everything from deadlines to character management, I just try to be upfront and realistic with the talent. The situation you refer to weren’t ideal, but I also don’t think there was any malice meant on anyone’s part. All of us have been around the block enough on these sort of things that we understand it happens.
The thing I’m happy about is that Greg gets to end his story as he intended in the Punisher War Zone mini-series going on now (with Carmine DiGianfelice and Matt Hollingsworth on art). Issue #1 has gone back for a second printing and it is gut-wrenching. I have to read #4 right now and I’m kinda terrified to.
It sucks to be in the middle of the drama sometimes, but the good news is that there’s always a different drama waiting for you tomorrow.
Daredevil also went in a new direction with its relaunch. Was that a decision you made when you sought out a creative team or did that come after you’d hired Mark Waid, Paolo Rivera, and Marcos Martin?
It was similar to what I described above. After Andy Diggle’s epic Shadowland story (and the very cool DD: REBORN followup with Davide Gianfelice), the character was left back at more-or-less at center, so it was a good opportunity to try something new.
I find Daredevil to be particularly challenging because that book has been l “hard acts to follow” for 35 years.
I don’t think any of those guys were an obvious choice for a DD relaunch at the time (hard to believe there was a time just two short years ago when Waid wasn’t writing every comic published), but my bosses had faith and allowed us to try something kinda new.
What made Chris Samnee the right artist to take over for Rivera and Martin?
Storytelling. Chris is one of the freshest and brightest new talents in years and I feel very lucky to have him.
Are he and Waid going to be the creative team for the foreseeable future?
Yep. Unless Marcos and Paolo both convince him to leave the book, too. Those guys are jerks!
The Marvel Cosmic titles have generally been more niche. Other than putting big name creators on the books, how do you push the line to the forefront?
Well, announcing a movie helps!
Marvel’s cosmic mythology has some of the most die-hard fans around and I think they’ve been very well-served the past few years by folks like Giffen, Abnett and Lanning, and (editors) Andy Schmidt and Bill Rosemann. But for whatever reason, I think some readers who would have loved the books felt like they weren’t central enough to our Earth-based comics, so they would be skipped.
So for one thing, I hope that not having these books in a separate “Marvel Cosmic” line will help remind folks that these aren’t books from some sub-imprint…these are “Marvel Comics” and they will slice your brains open with idea swords!
Guardians of the Galaxy has generally been a more whimsical book. Will that continue with the new series?
Well, there’s a talking raccoon, but he ain’t too “whimsical”.
GotG is high adventure set squarely in the middle of the Marvel U. dramatically drawn by Steve McNiven There are moments of levity (since it’s Bendis, I’m sure a “Shake Shack” reference can’t be too far behind), but overall the tone is “Holy crap! We have to save the galaxy!”
Do you consider Captain Marvel to be part of the Marvel Cosmic line? Can you share some future plans for the title?
There is no “Cosmic line” in any strict sense, but I would like Cap to meet the GotG, and even better, Nova!
Future plans for Cap’s book include a huge story with Avengers Assemble that Kelly Sue is working on.
Unlike most Marvel NOW relaunches, Spider-Man is going to continue with the same writer. Without spoiling upcoming events, why did you decide to keep Dan Slott at the helm?
I could tell you that Spidey ended up being an exception because Dan (along with Ramos, Stegman and Camuncoli) was still in the middle of a long term story that we’d been setting up for awhile where as the other books all had points where the writers and artists were wrapping up stories.
I could say all that, but the truth is that Spidey DOES have a new writer we haven’t really talked about. He just happens to look exactly like and be named Dan Slott. We think he’s gonna be a fan favorite.