The scene: All hands meeting in Publisher Dan Buckley’s office at Marvel, some time back. (Author’s note: I realize you could never get all these people in the same room at the same time, but if you could…And while I wouldn’t know Dan Buckley from the man on the moon, in my mind he’s a Perry White sort of figure with suspenders and an ever-present cigar. And not a patriarchal, Frank Langella sort of Perry White. More of a gruff, Jackie Cooper Perry White.)
As everyone sits down Buckley (enraged) hurls copies of the
latest Diamond sales report around the room.
Buckley: Civil War is an editorial mess and 52 is Kicking.
Our. Ass. What are we going to do about it? Glares at Quesada.
Joe Q.: What do you mean? Civil War’s been the number one book every month we’ve published.
Buckley: Yeah? How many did we sell in August? Or October? You know how many issues of 52 were sold in those months?
(Blank stares around the room.)
Does the number “one
million” have a nice ring to it? In August those clowns actually had more books
in the top 20 than we did. That hasn’t happened since Christ left Chicago.
Look, we promised our readers they wouldn’t have to buy
every title to follow what’s going on and now every book in the line has a critical plot point. Our
readers need an apple and a road map to follow this thing. And in the meantime
Spider-Man and FF – our two most iconic titles – have had 8 minutes of plot
progression in the last six months. And we’ve got 132 crossover books and every one
of them has the same goddamn cover. I don’t know how anyone tells them apart.
Joe Q.: It’s simple rea…
Buckley: Quesada, if you tell me they’re color-coded one more time…dammit, we’ve got to get our act together on this. Now we’ve got this Black Panther mess. Did anyone actually read the ending of issue 21 before it went to print? Put your hand down Joe.
It’s taken 18 pages and four books to show Sue and Johnny leaving the Baxter building. And Jesus, Negative Zone prisons, cloning Thor and super-villains turned into rent-a-cops? “Whose side are you on?” Which side would anybody be on? We’ve turned this thing from debatable government policy to secret, evil government plot. What’s next, the serpent crown? And does anyone want to tell me how the hell you clone a god anyway? That was rhetorical Warren.
What I really want is for someone to tell me where this is going. I can't believe we're going to wrap this thing up in January. Millar?
Mark Millar: Well, Civil War is going to change the entire Marvel
Universe for the next five or ten...
Buckley: Jeez, save it for Newsarama. What I mean how are we going to bring all our books into alignment? Guys, look, Civil War is selling great, but we’re losing the focus. You all know I think big event comics are where it’s at. Pump up the mini-series volume! But we can't just let monthlies fall where they may. What are we going to do to bring this thing under control?
Ed Brubaker: Well, Stark’s talking about 50 super teams
across the US,
right? How about we have a book for each locale? Some of them could be gritty
crime dramas – SHIELD: New York could have a bunch of wise-guy heroes, SHIELD: DC could be a geo-political thriller and SHIELD: LA could be
anti-terrorist heroes and…
could have one where the government is searching for abducted heroes and some
shadowy bad guy is…
Buckley: (louder) Ed.
Dan Slott: Hey, can I have SHIELD: Las Vegas – Dancing with the Heroes?
Buckley: No. Maybe. You know what I want? An
answer to 52. Can any of you losers tell me why those schmucks at DC are
getting so much mileage out of series with a bunch of C-list characters chasing
18 impenetrable plot threads?
Joe Q.: Grant Morrison?
Buckley: (yelling) I don’t want to hear any of
those DC guys mentioned in this meeting again. And, no, it’s not because of
Grant. Effing. Morrison. It’s because rain or shine that book is on the shelf every
Wednesday (glares at Steve McNiven, who's looking away, whistling)
and somehow, DC got 100,000 comic book readers to believe a book that’s 52
issues long is a fucking mini-series! We need a counter punch, so what’s the
Buckley: (Stares at Millar blankly.) Hardy-har-har. I’ve read Douglas Addams too. Any of
you other jokers want to contribute?
Millar: I’m serious. We’re already setting the table for it.
The raft had 42 villains escape from it…
Brian Bendis: Well…we kind of revised it to 46.
Millar: So what? Just an error in accounting. We can edit it before it hits the trades.
Joe Q.: Too late.
Millar: And then there’s the Negative Zone prison, Reed
Richard’s project. It’s called 42 as well.
Buckley: Wonderful. I can hear Levitz now, “Well, those boys
over at Marvel just can’t count as high as us."
Warren Ellis: Actually, the number 42 has a great deal of promise.
It’s a meandric number, a Catalan number, it’s bracketed by twin primes, it’s the number of lines on each page of the
Gutenberg Bible, the Parthenon originally had 42 columns and 42 figures, the
ancient Egyptian’s Book of the Dead had a kind of moral code – the ma’at –
which contained 42 Declarations of Purity - some consider these a precursor to
the 10 Commandments - and in the Book of Revelation, 42 is the number of months
the Beast reigned over the Earth.
Buckley: (Sits down, puffs on his cigar and stares into space.) You know, Wikipedia Ellis here may be on to something. Mark
of the Beast, huh? I like it - it’s got a spiritual, supernatural quality. That's big these days. Let’s run with that.
Slott: Hey, this is just like my Defenders book! I knew that
would work its way into continuity. Busiek owes me five bucks.
Buckley: (growls at Slott) Here's the plan, for the six months immediately following Civil War I want six books a month - in addition to all our regulars - starring six big-time heroes battling six super villains. This will cover 42 months in Marvel universe time. I want outlines on Joe’s desk by Monday. And everyone start thinking about what comes after that.
Joe Q.: But what about the monthly titles? I thought...
Buckley: Ahhh, call Busiek. Let him figure that mess out. But after 42. Oh, and Bendis, we are NOT going to have a New, New Avengers where Thor, Iron Man and Cap spend the first twelve issues picking the team from a bunch of pictures. So stop asking.