Tom Brevoort on how things are done at Marvel, in terms of important decisions:
Everybody takes a blow to the gut at some point where a story they thought was going left suddenly is going right because someone had a better take on it. But those turns don’t happen against the will of the creators involved. If Brian was absolutely dead set on not killing Ultimate Spider-Man, it wouldn’t have happened, or he wouldn’t have written it. If we were convinced that Ultimate Spider-Man must die and he didn’t want to do it, it would have been Jeph Loeb or Jonathan Hickman or Nick Spencer. But the fact that Brian wrote it should tell you that he got on board with the idea. He came to embrace it. The first moment it came up I’m sure it sent a chill down his spine, but it’s a story. He’s a storyteller sitting there, thinking about it, tossing the ideas around and seeing if it works. And he found a way it worked for him. That’s why our creative environment is better than anybody else’s in the business at this point. We have fans that poo-poo us without really understanding how this all goes down. They think that either every creator just does what they want or that everything is mandated from above or that everything is decided by a star chamber of five guys in a secret location. Maybe that’s how other people do it.
Okay, I can’t be the only person who doesn’t see a large amount of difference between “everything is mandated from above” and “If we were convinced that Ultimate Spider-Man must die and he didn’t want to do it, it would have been Jeph Loeb or Jonathan Hickman or Nick Spencer. But the fact that Brian wrote it should tell you that he got on board with the idea,” right? The latter just means that Bendis got behind the mandated from above idea, but admits that, if he hadn’t, he would have been replaced on the book. In what way isn’t that mandated from above?
I think I know what Brevoort was trying to say – Essentially, When it was discussed in the room, Bendis liked the idea and ran with it - but when you’re trying to argue that everything is collaborative, adding in things like “if we decided it’s the way we were going to go and Brian wasn’t onboard, someone else would have written the book” pretty much entirely undercuts the entire point.
I admit, I’ve occasionally thought that “editorially mandated” was a strange, straw-man argument to use when complaining about the direction of comics, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, some of my favorite comics have been “editorially mandated” – Half of the Silver Age stuff at DC came from Julie Schwartz or whoever coming up with an idea and telling the writer to make it work – and, secondly, I’m not sure why something being “editorially mandated” necessarily makes it a worse idea than something a creator comes up with themselves (For example: Superman walking across America for a year to find himself and/or the true America? Not editorially-mandated, but also not a particularly good idea. If the editor of the Superman titles had nixed that idea because he’d decided to mandate that Superman stories should feature the Man of Steel flying around Metropolis doing good deeds and rescuing kittens from trees, would that have been a bad thing?).
The issue gets cloudier with the advent of franchises and creative summits. To use the example of the death of Spider-Man: It wasn’t Bendis’ idea, according to Brevoort’s own account, it was Mark Millar’s. It messed with years’ worth of plans Bendis had created for an Ultimate Spider-Man title that starred Peter Parker, but he was convinced that it would be the best thing for the book and/or the Ultimate Universe, and so came up with what we saw conclude last week. So… is that editorially mandating the storyline? Is it creator-led? Because, after all, Millar came up with the idea, so it’s not as if it was an editorial decision… but at the same time, it contradicted and ultimately – no pun intended – overwrote what the creator of the book was intending to do, to the extent of killing the title character and relaunching the book. So which is it?
(Consider, as well, things like the creators of the X-Books. When Jason Aaron comes up with the idea for Schism, does that mean Rick Remender or Kieron Gillen or whoever has to change their plans because of editorial mandate, or creator-driven impulse?)
This isn’t claiming that there’s no such thing as “editorial mandate,” because – well, clearly, there is. But it is protesting the idea, I guess, that there’s some kind of massive line separating that from creative decision, or that one is necessarily “better” or more worthy than the other. Bad ideas are bad ideas – and vice versa – no matter where they come from, and the reality of comic publishing is far more complicated than creator vs. editor.