Brian Reed: Understanding Ms. Marvel

A comics interview article by: Tim O'Shea
Last month I briefly spoke with Bill Rosemann regarding Ms. Marvel. And in the intro to that interview, I teased we’d be talking to other members of Ms. Marvel’s creative team. Thanks to the series writer, Brian Reed, giving me some time, I’ve been able to keep that commitment. After reading the interview, be sure to check out Ms. Marvel 17, which was released last week.

Tim O’Shea (TOS): You're now well into your second year of writing Ms. Marvel, how far into your run did you have to get before you thought you really had found her voice in your writing?

Brian Reed (BR): With Carol, I knew who she was and how to get into her voice pretty quick. Almost as soon as I wrote her opening monolog of the first issue, in fact. What took me awhile was the voice of the book itself. The first issue of the Civil War tie-in was when I really felt like "okay, I know what my job is and how to do it." It was when I felt like I’d settled into my corner of the Marvel Universe and started to make it my own.

TOS: I really appreciate how you use the narrative boxes, in a sense as this era's version of thought balloons--sometimes to comedic effect, when did you decide to use that approach?

BR: My wife will tell you that no matter how much I may try, at heart I am nothing if not a cynic and a smart ass. I constantly find myself thinking of things I’d never say out loud in the real world, but I sure do think them - so that bleeds over into my characters as well. Also, I find that I’m more apt to get drawn into a tense situation when someone takes a moment to just take the piss out of the whole thing. When I know the characters are having a hard time believing what’s happening to them, or when they’re trying to deal with being scared by being funny, I feel it makes them more human and makes them easier to relate to than if they were able to deal with anything thrown their way.

TOS: You already had a strong rapport with former series artist Rob De LaTorre (who left for an opportunity to work on Iron Man), but it seems that you have and Lopresti have been quick to connect, working well together. Were you surprised at how easily your talents have clicked, or did you and/or Rosemann tap him for the job, expecting there to be a synergy?

BR: I was sad to see Rob go because I’d really hit my stride with writing scripts to his artistic strengths. When it came time that Rob was moving to Iron Man, Bill Rosemann called me up and said he really liked Aaron Lopresti’s work - particularly his work with Ms. Marvel in the recent WHAT IF? issue that had focused on an alternate outcome for the Avengers Disassembled plot. Look at that book sans dialog and you’d think it was an issue of Ms. Marvel. She just dominates every page and looks fantastic in every shot, so I was more than willing to give Aaron a chance. Folks have just started to see things written specifically for Aaron since I'm always several scripts ahead and had still been in "Rob mode" when Aaron started drawing.

Aaron has brought something exciting and new to every page he's tackled. Your greatest hope as a comic writer is that the artist will take what you've written and make it even better. And Aaron always does that, with every single page. He always adds something to the panel layout, or the page design that makes me happy and makes me wish I'd thought of it myself. You can't ask for more than that.

TOS: In the opening of issue 16, you had a MODOK mind-controlled Wonder Man trying to kill Ms. Marvel, prompting her to comment that she'd forgotten the villain could even do mind control. Is it important to you, when you use a long-established character (be it villain or hero) to tap into what made them unique (or have their power) in the first place? I ask because it seems some writers in an effort to take characters in a new direction, or trying to add a new wrinkle, forget the essence of what distinguishes the character and/or his or her power from others.

BR: It's rough when you're playing with long standing characters, hero or villain, because you want to treat them and their history with respect, while also doing something new and interesting with them. If all you do is re-tell the same stories you grew up reading, then what's the point, right? You're being paid to create, not reenact.

Now, the flip side of that is, you can't make a character unrecognizable to old readers just to keep from doing the same things with him as every writer before you.

I try very hard to use continuity of a character's powers/behavior/personality/whatever as a guide rather than as the law. If you consider the continuity law, you risk stagnation. If you forget to even treat it with enough respect to use it as a guide, you render the characters you are being paid to write unrecognizable.

TOS: With all the various books that Ms. Marvel is involved in, is it easier or harder to utilize a "regular" supporting cast to great effect in your series?

BR: So long as you're not trying to build a supporting cast of main characters from other books, it's pretty easy to get a supporting cast up and running, really. And if you are ever doing anything that touches on another book, you hear from the editors what your boundaries are and you work within those boundaries.

TOS: The current arc features Puppet Master--post-Civil War is he still some sort of SHIELD witness protection program? And what are the odds that his step-daughter, Alicia Masters will make an appearance?

BR: Puppet Master has decided to head south of the border - waaaay south. He's set up a little slice of heaven in Chile, and in the process he draws the attention of Ms. Marvel and her crew. Alicia will not be making any appearances. I just didn't feel like she should be part of this particular story.

TOS: It seems that in this coverage you make a hint that Machine Man might be appearing in the near-term. Can you either confirm or deny, or discuss other potential guest stars for upcoming issues, it would be gratefully appreciated.

BR: The end of issue 17 is, well, bloody. Not everyone on the Lightning Storm team makes it out alive, so Carol asks SHIELD to send her some super powered replacements. What she gets are a drunken sociopath of a robot, and a man who only has super powers when he is asleep. So, yes, Machine Man in all his Nextwave glory is joining the Lightning Storm team in issue 18, along with 1990's "sensation", Sleepwalker.

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