Talking Comics with Tim: Paul Tobin
As we noted a week or so back, the Marvel Adventures line will relaunch in April with Spider-Man #1 and Super Heroes #1–both written by Paul Tobin. Given how much I already enjoyed Tobin’s approach on the line, I was curious to get his take on the relaunch. We also got to cover a lot of Marvel Adventures ground, as well his current miniseries work (Spider-Man & the Secret Wars as well as Black Widow and the Marvel Girls), and amazingly enough, even Bing Crosby works his way into the discussion.
Tim O’Shea: From a writing standpoint, do you look to change your approach to the Marvel Adventures line, as the series reboots? For example, Invisible Woman has been at the forefront of recent Super Heroes issues, will her role remain prominent?
Paul Tobin: We’re not looking at these as reboots, but rather as relaunches. We’re very comfortable with the changes we’ve done to the Marvel Adventures line in recent months… in fact it’s those storylines, and the response they’ve garnered, that convinced us to move forward and relaunch the titles completely. Marvel and I are quite focused on making these stories sing… and we wanted to draw attention to that. So… bottom line, we’re continuing with what we were doing, and now doing it EVEN BETTER. And I love Sue Storm as a prominent character… so there she will remain.
O’Shea: Of issue 19, you wrote “in this issue where I think I really began to get a handle on this title”–what was the breakthrough moment for you in getting that handle?
Tobin: For a writer taking over a new title, there’s always a time period where you move from MAKING characters talk and interact, and then LETTING them talk and interact. It’s a changeover where suddenly the characters have lives and desires of their own… when they’ll let you know when you’re using them wrong. Sometimes I can feel a character staring up from a page and saying, “Yo! Paul! I would NEVER say or do that.” At that point, I always feel more comfortable with a title. Issue 19 was that way for me. I think it was Nova finally understanding his own place, and letting me know how he felt about being an Avenger. He was the final piece of the puzzle.
O’Shea: Can you promise me that Vision will be a regular in the new Super Heroes Marvel Adventures title, I love your approach toward him in particular.
Tobin: I can’t PROMISE anything, but I will say that I love the Vision, and my current plans for him are not small. I like his personal quest.
O’Shea: Who can I thank for the idea of building Avengers Headquarters around the old Barbershop/SHIELD office?
Tobin: That would be me. You can thank me. I had a stack of those old Strange Tales comics, given to me by a cousin, and that barbershop always struck me as the most wonderful thing… a secret base in a barbershop, accessed by the barber chairs.
O’Shea: In the Spider-Man Marvel Adventures universe, can you tease folks as to who you hope to feature prominently in the supporting cast–and where you’re wanting to take that series in general?
Tobin: Sophia “Chat” Sanduval will remain important. Emma Frost will definitely be around, even as her reasons for being around change. A member of the Torino crime family is definitely going to be featured. Gwen gets romantic. There’s a certain clawed mutant that I love writing. As to the direction I’m heading, I love working with what it means to be Spider-Man… the effect on Peter as a person, in his relationships, his life. And I also like to occasionally see those effects from different eyes. We’re dealing with a time period shortly after Peter becomes Spider-Man, so a lot of it is new to him… he’s having to make some rather pressure-filled decisions about putting on the suit, and just where it is that his responsibility ends.
O’Shea: How hard has it been to write a title that works for both kids and older readers? Did assistant editor Michael Horwitz and editor Nathan Cosby help you in keeping that broader audience appeal tone to the books?
Tobin: It’s actually not very difficult at all. I write so that I’ll enjoy it, and so that my wife (artist Colleen Coover) will enjoy it. All my life, in everything I’ve ever read, it’s been evident if a writer cares about what he or she is doing. In my own case, I’m very enthusiastic about these titles, and as long as I keep it that way, I think that the appeal will be there. I guess I don’t really write in order to appeal to a specific audience… I just write to tell the best stories I can. And yes… Nate and Michael help me quite a bit. I recently did an entire issue of breakdowns and sent it off to Nate, and he sent the whole thing back with a note that I’d gone off course. And he was absolutely correct, and I dumped the whole thing and went on to write my favorite issue so far.
O’Shea: Recently on Twitter, you asked followers: “Trying to decide what “lost” Marvel characters need love.” Is that a question posed for your Marvel Adventures work or for your upcoming work on the Hercules and Hulk titles?
Tobin: Neither, really. I just love talking about comics. I suppose at some level I might be thinking about reviving some characters, but for that particular tweet I was just curious about who people miss, and who they’d like to see more of. Some of the answers surprised me. It was fun. Several people mentioned one of my favorite “lost” characters, too… so it was gratifying.
O’Shea: In terms of your upcoming Hercules/Hulk work, what can you tell folks about this?
Tobin: Not much, at this point. I’ll be doing some shorter stories for both these title. Really excited by them. It’s always nice to expand into other areas, and in this case I’m working with some of my favorite writers at Marvel, and it’s been a blast. Honestly, though… I think ANYWHERE I work at Marvel these days, the writing is amazing. Between Parker and Van Lente, Brubaker and Bendis, Fraction and Remender (Rick’s work with Tony Moore is SO much goodness) I honestly can’t remember a better time for writers. I’ve lived through some BAD times in comics… the current age seems like the payoff.
O’Shea: In teasing issue 2 of the four-issue Spider-Man & the Secret Wars, you wrote it’s an issue “wherein I answer two problems that vexed me for years in Secret Wars. … I would have needed 1000 pages to answer the first question, and only one panel to deal with the second.” Two questions about your two questions–what were the questions? And did you growing up were you more of a Marvel or DC fan, in other words, did you come to the Marvel Adventures assignment knowing about the complex and rich Marvel continuity to play with for your new stories?
Tobin: Secret Wars # 2 is out, now, so I don’t want to spoil it by over-explaining it. And I grew up a Marvel fan, though with great respect for DC characters. When I write Marvel characters, I have a pretty good memory bank of how I think they should act and interact. I’m not quite as solid in the DC area. I suppose I could learn. Lots of amazing artists on that side of the fence, and Batman and Catwoman are two fantastic characters. I love characters with that “pulp” feel to them. Spider-Man is the same way for me.
O’Shea: The original Secret Wars was a 12-part series (plus the plot threads that played out in each Marvel ongoing series)–you’re pulling off your own Marvel Adventures version of the Secret Wars in only four issues, how challenging was it to tackle the plot in four issues?
Tobin: Very challenging. And we’re by no means tackling the entire plot… that would have been way too much material. Instead, what editor Nate Cosby and I wanted was to choose several moments and deal with them in greater depth, and also to explore the untold stories… what might have been happening off stage of the original series. Nate and I brainstormed about what moments were most deserving of further exploration… knocking heads surprisingly little.
O’Shea: You’ve gotten to work with a wide variety of Marvel artists in your myriad projects, can you single out favorite scenes or artistic approaches among your various collaborators?
Tobin: Ramon Rosanas was amazing on my Age of Sentry material. That was (I think) the first time I ever used Blonde Phantom in a story… and since then I use the art from that story as Blonde Phantom reference for artists who work with her in my Spider-Man material. Patrick Scherberger is ALWAYS up for huge battle scenes… especially ones of cosmic proportion. Matteo Lolli fills out the streets of New York so beautifully… as does Christian Nauck, who is on some of my upcoming material. Salva Espin draws such beautiful women… so he was perfect for Black Widow. Chris Samnee drew EVERYTHING beautiful, and I hope for further chances to work with him. And… of course… I’ve worked several times with Colleen Coover… and that’s always just an amazing experience.
O’Shea: With Black Widow and the Marvel Girls, how did you decide who Widow teamed up with in each issue?
Tobin: We picked from a group of possible characters. We definitely wanted characters that speak to the Marvel audience at every level… comics and movies and what-have-you. And we wanted a mix of characters who work really well with Natasha… like Ms. Marvel and the Wasp, but then we also wanted some characters who fit really strangely with Natasha… like Storm, and definitely the Enchantress. It was really fun to match the Black Widow with the Enchantress: a strange pairing really catapults me as a writer.
O’Shea: Anything I forgot to ask you about?
Tobin: My hat. You completely forgot to ask about my new hat. It’s “Bing Crosby” style. I’ll be a better writer now.