Sumner welcomes one of the most prolific Marvel Comics writers of the 80s/90s, the always-honest and endlessly fascinating Fabian Nicieza, to Hard Agree. Fabian worked through one of Marvel’s most turbulent decades, starting in 1985 in the production department before working his way into editorial (via sales & promotions). By the time he left Marvel in 1995, he’d scripted wildly successful runs on X-Men, X-Force, Thunderbolts, New Warriors (Fabian’s personal favorite), Two Gun Kid: The Sunset Riders (Sumner’s personal favorite), co-created Deadpool, Domino, Shatterstar & Silhouette and witnessed boardroom shenanigans almost wipe Marvel off the face of the earth. Now he’s back with his phenomenally-well-reviewed crime novel Suburban Dicks – and he’s here to tell Sumner about all of it.
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Fabian – Interview
[00:00:00] Andrew Sumner: Mate, you’re just about to tell me about your your impending guys weekend.
Fabian Nicieza: Not much to tell. Yeah. Hopefully there’s more to tell afterwards now it’s just a much,
pretending that they can cause trouble. It’s just, you know, it’s, it’s the kind of thing we would do once or twice a year in one way or another, which has always, I got like, I got, I have two separate kind of groups of friends, some of them overlap, but not all of them. So I would do like two different things, you know, with the two different friends and along with conventions and all that stuff.
It’s just, I like, I like getting it away. I like, I’ve been, I’ve been in the house for a year now. I’ve been here since I’ve not, and not really, we’ve not really gone anywhere since March of last year. You know, so I just, yeah, I just looked forward to hanging out or doing it since everything’s clearing up.
Like, we hadn’t like a dinner on our, on the porch where, [00:01:00] where I did the last interview with you. We had like four couples out there having dinner couple of weeks ago, which was really nice. Cause we hadn’t done that in a long time. So it’s good to start. It’s good to start having a semblance of of, of a social life.
I, I don’t mind being a hermit, but, but then you start to realize, wait, you need, you need some interaction. You need, you need some, some activity with people.
Andrew Sumner: Yeah, yeah. Mate, I couldn’t agree more. And that’s the thing, you know, I mean, I think everybody’s coped quite well with with the pandemic and the, you know, being, being locked away at home and all that kind of stuff.
But here in the UK, as we speak the the pubs and restaurants have just like reopened properly. They, they re open so you could sit outside for pre-ordered meals and stuff, but literally now pubs and bars, you can actually walk in them and get a drink, just, you know, on spec. And and I took a walk last night, you know, around where I live in west London.
And then I just popped into a pub and like ha had a drink and a bite to eat. And it just felt so human
Fabian Nicieza: normal. Yup. Yup. Yup. [00:02:00] And that’s what I’m, I’m looking forward to that too. I mean, I, you know, I, the, the stuff is all well and good, but sometimes, like you say, you just want to sit at a bar and have a beer.
You just want to it, and it’s not, it’s not quite the same unless you’re sitting in that kind of an environment. So yeah. Hopefully, hopefully it keeps going. Hopefully none of these variants. Kick our asses and, you know, hopefully finding that doesn’t have anything else cooking up in a lab somewhere.
Hopefully Russia doesn’t have anything cooking up in a lab that they can try to blame China.
Andrew Sumner: I mean, it’s, it’s a big fingers crossed me in a w we sort of see it, Scott. I think, you know, the next year in the world of the pandemic is going to be kind of a glorious adventure. Right. And there’s this really good podcast.
I’ll listen to you. That’s run by the economist. And most of the time I know it’s called the jab. Yeah. And it’s by there. I’d never read the economist and never had it in my life, but this is by their a scientific team, which I know is considered to be good. And it’s like an easily [00:03:00] explainable, weekly Roundup of what’s actually happened with regard to the vaccine and the medicine that’s fighting the vaccine and the science of it all.
And mostly I’ve found that heartening to listen to, but some of the time I listened to it and think, oh my God, you know, this thing is this is going to be with us for a long, long
Fabian Nicieza: time. Yeah. I think it’s going to be with us for a long time. Like any clue, you know what I mean? To me, I’m curious, I’m going to check that podcast out just because I’m curious about it.
I, I have zero issues with the science. I have 150% issue with human beings. So I couldn’t agree of the fact that the science has accomplished. What it’s accomplished in the last year is phenomenal and credible that the human species has shown itself so much. A percentage of it has shown itself to be what it is, is also phenomenal.
You know? So it’s just, it’s just, I really wish that we could eliminate borders. And geographic zones and [00:04:00] separate people by intelligence level. And then that way, those who want to be like that can be together and leave those who don’t want to be like that along, you know, so we don’t have to deal with it on a daily basis.
Andrew Sumner: You and I had certainly on the same page about this. And I guess before we go any further with this conversation, I’ll, I’ll, I’ll, I’ll just say welcome to our degree. I’m I’m here with one of my favorite authors Fabian Fabian. I had a chat recently for my day job about a book of his that we’re just about to publish suburban decks.
And I want to talk some more about that in a little bit. Yeah, come on, go. So next it was just a phenomenal book and anybody chaining into this really needs to check it out. It’s published by it’s published by Titan books in the UK and Europe rest of the world and have a different publisher in the U S favorites.
Fabian Nicieza: Putnam it’s poultry, north American territories. Yeah. Yeah.
Andrew Sumner: So if you’re listen to this and the states want to buy it from [00:05:00] Putnam, and if you listen to this in the UK and Europe you’ll want to buy it from Titan, but it is a,
Fabian Nicieza: if you live anywhere in the, in the solar system, you can probably just buy it from Amazon, I guess.
Andrew Sumner: Yeah, absolutely. What am I even, I mean, that’s a really good point. You know, do people even buy books, even drill down? I’m one of those people that I’ve always known whenever I’ve seen a movie or a TV show, and most of the people who work in the media that I know are like this or aware of. Who who is actually made the movie, what the studios that’s made the movie who’s directed.
It, he’s written there. And same with publishers. I’m always aware of who’s published a book, but what I’ve realized, given the fact that most of my extended family, virtually all of them do not work in the media and have what you call regular jobs. Yeah. I came to realize a while back that they didn’t notice any of that stuff.
You know, who’s, who’s produced a movie. No. Then a lot of people go to the movies, this fascinates me or read books [00:06:00] and sometimes don’t know who the author is. And sometimes don’t know who’s made the film and sometimes can’t even name the actor five minutes after they’ve seen it.
Fabian Nicieza: The easiest example I think of that is just ask. Ask any, any civilian who has seen a Marvel studios movie in the last 10 years, billions of people, what the differences between Marvel studios and Fox Fox made Marvel movie. If they don’t have all the civilians, don’t have a clue about their friends. Right.
So they don’t understand it, you know,
as well. It’s like, look, as far as the publishing is concerned, I really have been a willfully ignorant participant in, in books for, for quite a long time now. And, and I find it interesting getting back into the, the, the, the game as it [00:07:00] were to pay attention to book publishing, because I would just read a book based on an author and are based on word of mouth or a combination of the two.
It was rarely ever with an awareness of who’s publishing it. You know, I’m on a Michael Michael Connelly binge, like I told you last time and I, I gotta be honest with you. I’ve just probably read. 15 of his books in the last six months or so five months. I don’t know what publisher publishes in. And I’ve already read that many books because I’m not paying attention to the title page and I’m reading a digitally.
So you don’t see the spine spine or the cover or anything like that. You know, I just know who’s publishing my book that I’m aware of.
Andrew Sumner: It’s such a good point that I make because in this era of I don’t read a great deal of things digitally because I like to have, you know, the physical sensation, but, but nonetheless, leading life where I travel in a normal year, I traveled such a lot.
It has led me to consume books that [00:08:00] way. And you’re absolutely right. You don’t have the normal checks and balances that if you’re a book fan and you read a lot, you know, one of the reasons, you know, somebody published a book cause it’s there on the spine every time you pick it up, but it’s only on page one and you never see page one again.
Yep. You know, of course it’s not the forefront of your mind.
Fabian Nicieza: Yeah. And then, you know, I, my attitude is not all that different than it’s really ever been. I don’t care if you spell the name right. As long as you read it, you know, and I honestly don’t even, it’s not right to say I don’t care whether you like it or not, because I do care, but I have a real healthy Spence of distance between my and engagement between whether you like it or not.
That’s, that’s up to you, you know, that’s on you. My attitude about that has always been, I don’t care if you like it, or don’t like it, as long as you paid to read it and not even down to taking it out from the library, that’s fine for me too. As long as you didn’t pirate it, that your opinion is your own, you [00:09:00] know?
And I I’ve had that for a really long time since, since very early in my writing career, because I was placed into situations that had a lot of strong fan opinion about. The characters are the books I was writing are the creators who had come before me. And, and it allowed me a sense of perspective that would prevent me from beating myself up constantly.
I, you know, there’s more than enough. I beat myself up about, as it is. I don’t need, I don’t need you. To be the problem or the reason, you know, I prefer, I prefer all of my insecurities to be internally driven, not externally provided. Yeah.
Andrew Sumner: Yeah. I think that’s very wise and you’re kind of backing into one of the things that I wanted to talk to you about because the premise of the podcast hard degree, it’s about.
The things about which we are passionate and we can agree with that. We strongly agree with people in our lives about not necessarily you and I disagreeing or agreeing, although I’m sure we will, but, but you, [00:10:00] whatever it is that you feel strongly about. And I wanted to talk to you a little bit as a way into that, about your, your journey into the comic book world.
You of course had long tenures on some massive Marvel titles or you’re the co-creator of Deadpool and you had those amazing runs on X-Men. And I guess that that’s the period that you are the most identified with, right? Fabian, in terms of comments. Correct. And you also created, as you know, and we’ve talked about before, one of my, actually one of my favorite Marvel books, which is your verse in the two young kid, which absolutely loved.
But in that lens, see career that you had working more. Am I right in that? I think one of the things that you and I have in common is that I believe correct me if I’m wrong. That you’re a writer who actually began by working in production.
Fabian Nicieza: Yeah. Yes, I did. I started in book production actually, initially out of college.
I got a job at Berkeley publishing, which was a subsidiary of Putnam publishing. What a coincidence? Not. Yeah. And And, and I was, [00:11:00] I started literally in the production department of Berkeley publishing. And then I moved up to managing editorial. So it was really about the nuts and bolts of, of getting the book to print or to the printers.
It wasn’t really about writing or editorial content. And I would’ve had aspirations towards that. Obviously had, I stayed perfectly fine. But a job opportunity awarded itself at Marvel, which again was in production. It was the production department for their nascent book division. And that was really dealing with.
The material coming from the Marvel books, editorial group, which was really tiny back then because it wasn’t comic book, trade paperbacks, or hardcovers the way you think about them today. And then dealing with the outside vendors, the, the separators, the printers, the paper manufacturers. Luckily I only did that job for like four months because it’s not what I really wanted to do.
I just need really used it to get my foot in the door. And then I got to move to a department where I really wanted to [00:12:00] work, which was the promotions and advertising. So
Andrew Sumner: this is fascinating to me because I, so I’m a journalist who started work in the production department and the early years of my life, I, I, I I worked for Macmillan publishers book division very briefly, but then spent a long period of time years working for the magazines division here in the UK and working on magazine production, everything you’ve just mentioned while I used to freelance as a, as a journalist in the evenings, you know?
And and I think it’s an interesting thing to begin with
Fabian Nicieza: production evening, journalists evening, journalists, journalists, journalists, there’s
Andrew Sumner: the not, yeah, exactly. That was my, you know, Batman S alter ego, you know, like somebody who would project the image of a typewriter onto the clouds. You know,
Fabian Nicieza: I just saw you standing on the street corner in a trench coat and saying, Hey, you a journalist, how much for a paragraph that was it.
Andrew Sumner: That’s, [00:13:00] that’s candidly close to what my actual life is like. But I think it’s interesting to work in, in book and magazine production production of anything, actually understanding the nuts and bolts of it all is, as your career goes along, you realize how kind of invaluable it is and how much of an edge it gives you some times in just talking about that, the fabric of publishing stuff, because a lot of people of course, work in the publishing business who flat out don’t understand how it’s put together and the basic things, you know, if you worked in production, like the fact that basically books have got to be divisible by four, they’ve gotta be divisible by eight.
All that stuff. You just know it’s in your blood. It’s amazing how many people, right. And how many people illustrate don’t know any of that stuff.
Fabian Nicieza: Yeah. Well, for me, it goes even beyond that, as far as comic books was concerned I, I learned really quickly that that editorial was a bit of its own island and they, they [00:14:00] were either willfully or, or, or, you know, negligently unaware of the nuts and bolts of the company’s functions, different departments, not just, not just say or, or, or promotion or the bowl or production, the bullpen, which automatically, and immediately interacted with them on a daily basis.
They didn’t understand international publishing. They didn’t understand licensing. They just didn’t know how those other other departments did their jobs. And. I got really, really lucky by, by being Marvel’s advertising manager. Cause I had, I was engaged with every single department in the company to one capacity or another on a regular basis.
And, and not only did it get me to know other, other people in the department, in other departments and have them know me. But it let me learn about what they were doing and how they did it. And I think that benefited me tremendously when it [00:15:00] actually came time to writing more and being an editor myself.
When I finally became an editor. Yeah. And even when I was an editor, I was always a little bit surprised at pulse shooter Jim shooter at Marvel, the company opened up a bit and there was more interaction between departments and there had been during the latter years of his tenure, which is when I started.
But even then, even with that opening up, even with that greater interaction editorial still, still have a bit of a, a bunker mentality. I never, I never quite understood it, but I, I simply. I want to take advantage of it for myself.
Andrew Sumner: I mean, I, I, I think it’s that way in, in many publishing companies having worked in quite few themself over here in the UK.
And I used to work for time Warner. I used to work for time, Inc. I used to work for a company called IPC, used to work for a company called Emam, which back in the day, all, all the big publishing companies over there. And I suspect that what lies at the heart of that. Honestly, having thought [00:16:00] spent all at 30 years of my career, thinking about it is it’s probably elitist more than anything else.
I think, I think you touched upon it. I think it’s willful. I think it’s a willful bunker mentality because in a way, if you, if you were the editorial team of a magazine or of a publishing company, you’re essentially the rockstars of that business. Right. You know, the, the editors of high profile, high profile mass market, like new Stan titles, they are the big net that the directors in the industry, or what have you.
And I think they are, I think the overriding thing is it’s like, they don’t need to know the rest of it. Cause it’s everybody else’s job to do that for them. But I think you’re absolutely right. I think if you take the time to drill into it’s like any, any, any environment you work in, if you take time to drill and get to know everybody, get to get to have good relationships with everybody, it’s hugely beneficial for your work.
Fabian Nicieza: Well, the other thing is that when you, when you get to know people on the other side of the wall, as people, [00:17:00] rather than the ones on the other side of the law, it changes your dynamic. It changes your perspective. And if you don’t want to change your perspective, then you’re doing yourself a disservice, you’re doing the other person at the service, but also you’re doing the company you work for the service, you know, so to me, getting to know everybody helped me deal with them as individuals, rather than as departments, where members of a department, because even within an accounting department, there’s different personalities.
So it gets to know the personalities and know which ones are going to work with you and which ones aren’t avoid the ones who aren’t and, and deal with the ones that well, you know, and, and you can’t, you can’t. Throw a blanket over a group of people and say they are that, you know, I guess what does that applies to life as well as it applies to working within a company?
You know? So I, but I always, I always approached everything [00:18:00] with a completely undeserved, healthy arrogance and conceit. About everything. So it’s, to me, whether you, whether you were a good guy or a bad guy, worked in a, in a good department or a bad department, that you were still a human being and that made you a 90% stupid.
So I was, I
Andrew Sumner: just,
Fabian Nicieza: I think that’s what, my way around that, you know, I work, I worked within the context of understanding you are an idiot. It was so noble of me to just automatically make everyone equal equally stupid. There you go.
Andrew Sumner: So, Fabian, how did he manage to make that transition within Marvel from, from production to advertising promotion?
What was the what’s the conduit to do
Fabian Nicieza: just within four months of working there? The guy who had gotten the job that I had also interviewed for in 1983. So now we’re talking about it’s 1986 because I started in August of 85. So we’re looking at like January of 86. The guy who got the job instead of me, when we [00:19:00] both were apparently the last two, the, the two runner, the two finalists for the job at Marvel in 83.
His name is Steve Saffell was looking to hire an assistant because his workload was continuing to increase as a result of the direct market, continuing to increase in the mid eighties. So he was looking to hire an assistant and I was completely interested in working in promotions and advertising because that’s what I went to college for.
And my gut was that I knew I could make a mark in the company through that. I knew that I could really do a lot. Positively, not just for myself, for my own career and my desires to write eventually. And remember I was like 25 years old. It was that I knew that I could make a stamp in a positive imprint for that company for comics forever.
You know, I had, I really had that strong confidence and belief. So I wanted that job. It was actually a pay cut to take that job to by a little bit from what I was earning in the production department job. But, but I wanted it, so he offered it to me and I [00:20:00] accepted it. And. Moral woman who hired me, I left her after four months.
But, but it was, it was for a reason it was not, you know, not to sound too you know, hyperbolic, but it was for a better, a greater purpose for me by far a greater purpose for me, would be to advertise and promote the comics than it would be for me to work in a, in a production capacity. So, so, you know, so, so that’s why I did it.
And then I just seamlessly moved over and within a month or so Steve hiring me, he didn’t know that that someone was being hired over him to an essence, develop a promotion and publicity department that would be responsible for servicing the entire company. Not necessarily just as an adjunct of direct sales, which is what Steve’s role had originally been.
So a man named mark Ericson was hired as vice president Promotions and publicity, I think it was called Steve was folded under him. And since I was with Steve, I was folded under mark. [00:21:00] And then Pam rut, who was the publicity director of Marvel at that time was folded into, into his department.
And so it was advertising sales, which really was one of the two person crew. Because they, the running joke was the guy who ran an advertising sales would be done with his job by the end of January because they sold four month flats sell all the ads for all the flats for each of the quarterly. You know, there were three months, three months flat, so it was four, four.
Four quarters three months, each quarter. And you’re the same ads you bought, ran for three months. So all, you know, January, February, March, and then he needed to make sure we had ads for, you know, April, may, June. And for the most part, he was done with his job back then by January. And I’m not kidding, shut off the office maybe one day a week because he had done his job technically he had done his job.
So, so he was folded into that department too. And then we didn’t have our own work area at the time because there [00:22:00] was still expansion going on. So we were all kind of separated for the first year. I think we didn’t all come together until we opened up more space on the ninth floor. And then we had our own little, you know, department area down on that, which
Andrew Sumner: iteration of the bullpen, where you up at this point, which is the Marvel offices where you.
Fabian Nicieza: Oh, we were at three 87 park avenue south, and it was the, it was the, it was the shooter year. So it was really a post Madison avenue. They moved over to park avenue south about three years before I started. And we were there until quite a few years after I left and I left in 95. So they were there at that office until late nineties.
And that was when we were expanding. Cause we, we, we were just, we were the ninth, we were half the ninth, the 10th and the 11th floor. So then we became all of the ninth. The 10th, the 11th, the Uprint house office area up on the roof. That’s where a joke is started. And Jimmy Palm Yachty eventually had their multiple nights off.
This is the [00:23:00] best
during renovations of the 10th floor. At one point we were down on four for half a year or a year. There’s other people who have a much better recollection of the dates and the years. And I made a because of how much work I was doing. I I’m a little, I’ve always had a little bit of a blur of memory when I try to recall anything from 89 to 93, in terms of where were we?
I don’t know. We were, I moved three times. I think just when I was an editor alone, you know, to different offices and my, my old assistant habit on we, we weren’t in the office, you know, over there at that point, we were in the office in the middle at that point, I’m like, oh, we were okay. You know, my, my recollections of that time editorially is really more by flash moments.
You know, like something happened that, oh yeah. I knew I was in the middle office in the bull pine area because I [00:24:00] remember the day Bob Harris asked me to script the next minister overnight. And I said, no. And behind Bob shoulders through the glass door wall that we had in each of our offices, I still Scotland, Dell walking down the hallway to go to Terry Kavanagh’s office.
And I looked at Bob and Bob looked at me and he goes, no, I go, yes. And he goes, yes. And he goes, huh. And I go, he’s going to do a great job. As in Bob, went out and chased Scotland, Dell down and asked them to script an issue overnight and snap of course did it and did a good job. And then they ended up becoming one of the excellent writers, you know?
And so Scott Scott’s. Never-ending jet to my heart is the result of me saying, go for it. You know, go, go get him because I’m not going to script the industry over burn overnight. Oh, wait.
Andrew Sumner: That is brilliant. I mean, in terms of the personalities that, who were around at that time, when you were an editor and funestus and whatnot, I just wanted to back up on, how did he find shooter personally?
What was your experience of him? Mine.
Fabian Nicieza: I was very young [00:25:00] and my initial interactions with Jim were based on my role as advertising manager. And he was incredibly accommodating incredibly fair. Not, not them, not the most personable you know, fun, loving jokey kind of guy. But, but, but, you know, he had a lot of pressure on him.
He had a lot of responsibility and there was turmoil beginning to. Percolate above the surface rather than below the surface at that point. So in 86 was really my first main interactions with him. And and, and they, they were not negative in any way. I, I, you hear a lot of things though, from other people, so some are negative and some are some are.
Okay. So you have to start to balance that out. Look for signs on your own as to whether, whether you’re getting a negative reaction or you’re getting a status quo reaction. I got more involved in him with him when the new universe line had to be reduced in [00:26:00] size. So sooner after it started publishing like the, I think it was like 15 ish a year end the sales or not there, the, the, it was a real problematic launch for the company on many levels.
And myself as an advertising manager was not. Wholly supportive of the entire endeavor. That didn’t stop me from doing my job in advertising it. I just didn’t think it was the right thing for the company to be doing in the way they were doing. That, that makes it hard to be very enthusiastic about promoting something you don’t strongly believe in.
But it also giving me my first writing opportunity and when the line had to be reduced from eight titles to four titles, Jim gave all four titles to one editor instead of how they had been diffused among a bunch of different editors, which also was probably a mistake because it prevented the line from having a sense of cohesion to it editorially.
And in terms of the voice and tone in the book, you know, and Howard Mackie became that editor and Howard had [00:27:00] no choice, but I was going to be the monthly writer of Sai force because Jen said, so. On the one hand, I’m getting a monthly book, not even six months after I sold my first issue. But on the other hand, if Jim is saying, he’s going to be the writer, then an already very trepidatious editorial department is going to look at me negatively.
You know, so I was really on the fence there. And in some ways for my career, I was very fortunate that the gym didn’t last much longer. And it sounds horrible to say, but it’s been 30 years and you haven’t had multiple meals together. So I can say that we have you know, because the fact he got fired then allowed me to earn my, keep on my own and build a relationship with the editor on my own without being the golden boy as it were in quotation marks, you know, because that would have been an, the spurt.
And so I, I heard. A lot of really bad things about Jim from a lot of [00:28:00] people and they are all people I respect and trust and are friends with that having been said, though I believe that people can easily be prone to group think exaggeration and bogey man is when, when they have been put upon and he, and a slight that might be a six on the scale, turns into a nine on the scale, just like that, you know?
Yeah. And I think Jim was. Jim’s not innocent or in the role he played to create divisions within editorial or the divisions that existed within the company. Yeah. And I just, it right before the pandemic hit, we were at a convention together, I think, down in in Kentucky. And so we spent a tremendous amount of time together that weekend.
And then I, I respect them a lot. I still, like, I like to hear him talk about comics and storytelling. I listened to his stories about Marvel with. With [00:29:00] curious interest because I, I probably wouldn’t I probably would believe half of what he says to be true. And, and, and 25% of what he says, I know his insurance and then 25% of what he says would be true.
And as far as Jim is concerned, it’s not anything. I wouldn’t say that to him directly. It’s sometimes we make ourselves the hero of the story, whether, whether we were not that that’s understandable. I don’t agree with making yourself the hero of every story. That’s not right. Not real feasible or realistic.
And often I feel that that Jim makes himself the hero of every story. And again, I get that too psychologically because he’s gotten, he’s gotten so much shit for so long from so many people who knew nothing, you know, because most of the people who were on the inside, didn’t talk at the time and didn’t really talk afterwards, publicly that they [00:30:00] kept it to them.
I’ll say, now they might’ve talked among as people among friends, but then it becomes a game of telephone that by the time you hear the story that I heard that from me, that I heard from someone else who heard it from someone else who was there, you know, who knows what’s what you know. But, but, but, but Jim has, Jim has told his own story a lot and, and other people that were involved and affected.
Or affecting the situation really never did you know? Yeah. I, I never saw a book. I never saw my cops in the publisher write a book. I had a site I never saw a time to Falco the executive editor became editor in chief, right. The book.
Andrew Sumner: Well, I was getting, I was getting to ask you what, how was it for you personally on the transition from shooter to Tom DeFalco, how did you find the Tom DeFalco era?
Fabian Nicieza: It, I think that the Tom to Falco era for the first four years, five years was a phenomenally positive and successful time for the company. I think that [00:31:00] him and mark Greenwald, who is the executive editor and then ultimately, you know, Bob, budiansky becoming executive editor of special projects and Carl Ponce becoming executive editor.
Oh, epic. I think. All of them brought a general positivity and interactivity within the company that really made it a fantastic place to work from 88 to 92. I think, I personally think the editor in chief job is a job you should probably do for five years, because once you, once, if you’re doing it right, you’ve made your mark and then it’s either time for someone else to make their mark, or you start to, you start to make mistakes.
You start to either repeat mistakes that you’ve already made, which compounds them or, or you try to find something to fix that doesn’t need fixing. And that was a problem that Jim had, in my opinion, Jim, for all intents and purposes, Jim created the, the, the system of editorial administrative function that exists at Marvel comics to this day, [00:32:00] Jim created it and he turned it.
He turned An absolute mess of the seventies into a professionally organized department whose job it was to produce comics first and foremost, and their secondary job, whether they want to admit this as being a reality or not. It is the secondary job was trying to produce good comics. You know, when we were on the new and primary job was to produce comments on a monthly basis because you couldn’t lose out on that news stand slot.
And, and Jim did that. And then as a result of. Literally creating that. Then he started to micromanage in a way that it didn’t need, because you’ve already hired the people who can do their jobs. And, and when you can’t let them do their jobs, that’s when the problems start, you know? And, and Tom, Tom got to a point where I think that there was so much pressure on him in the, by the time the Perlman group took over and the company went [00:33:00] public and we had stock issues to deal with.
There was so much pressure on him to produce content are in above the ability for the department to produce it far and above the ability of the market to absorb it. And that that’s a bad equation. So what ended up happening is, is too much mediocre product was going out the door and it was not.
So fulfill creative ambition or creative obligations, it was to fulfill financial and corporate obligations and ambition. And that’s again, a really bad equation. So Tom, after five years probably should have walked away. And he, you know, he got, he got fired after seven, I think. And, and it, it was, it would have been to his benefit emotionally, but just to walk away probably professionally too, because too many people want to cite the bad stuff we did in the 92 to 94 stretch and, and failed to take into account all the [00:34:00] good things that happened that allowed the company to kind of stabilize itself, allowed for much better internet, internet interaction between departments.
All of that. A lot of that was, was because of mark and Tom making editorial far more approachable. On the, on there, on the face and Tom could still be crusty and he could still be a curmudgeon. But those of us who knew him well knew that was 80%, you know, we did that act a lot just to protect his editors from having to deal with stupid stuff that they, he didn’t want them having to deal with.
You know? So I wrote Tom, Tom, Tom, Tom was and remains a good friend of mine. And when I get to see him, I love seeing him. And I love spending time with him in his wife. Now held him as Nick was an editor at Marvel, too. She took over the party titles after I stopped editing themselves. There there’s a sense of camaraderie there.
It was born as much out of the office as it was in the office because I was doing so much convention [00:35:00] work and traveling to different retailer thing, events and distributor events. As the advertising manager, I was like the. I was the one with the microphone on my hand doing the presentations and a lot of these functions.
So Tom would be out at those a lot for his job related reasons, or mark would be out there a lot. So we got to interact outside the office on a social level that, that in and start dynamics in the office, but also gave me an opportunity to have relationships with them in a way that some other people in the office may not have had, you know, there, there are still people from that time will tell you, Tom, Tom was an ass.
He was just a jerk, you know, so rough and rude. And I’m like, I’m like, oh, you know, I get how you think that, but that’s not the time that I deal with, you know? So, so it was good and it was absolutely to my benefit. As an immediate thing, it wasn’t like Tom became editor in chief and all of a sudden I had four monthly titles, you know, but that took me a couple of years to earn my way back to that.
I thought when OSI [00:36:00] force the new year or spokes were all canceled, I honestly thought I’m going to have another monthly book in a week. You know, I really did. And it was well over a year and a half before I did. So it was a lot of, a lot of scutwork during that time period, a lot of inventory stories and backups for annuals and Marvel comics presents.
So it was just, was gearing up its inventory needs. Cause it was going to be a weekly book. So they, they were buying, you know, four years worth of material all in one year, you know, and, and I sold a lot of eight page stories for Marvel comics presents at that time too. And all of that ultimately ended up both make it both being good for me.
It was a very frustrating year, but. Right. Having to write different size format stories was incredibly beneficial, you know, having to write inventory stories, which are self-contained one and done issues that can’t alter the status quo of a book, because it’s just meant to be slotted at any given point in time in the schedule when, when the schedule needs it.
That me, it [00:37:00] got to expose me to multiple characters and multiple editors, you know? So he wrote a Dr. Strange inventory story for Ralph mock yellow Ironman inventory story for Howard. There w inventory’s story was that I’ll film. Maybe I was often, so I got to just interact more with different editors.
And they got to know me as a writer, not just as the appetite.
Andrew Sumner: Once you had the battle over the corporate boardroom battles over the future of Marvel and the ownership of Marvel,
what was that like
Fabian Nicieza: it, it taught me do not wish for you may receive when new world bought the company from cadence, we thought that was great because that was an entertainment company that would have a far greater understanding of what we can do.
You know, new world was a useless owner because they had neither the capital nor the organizational vision to do anything with what was happening. So that was a bust. When, when Perlman brought, bought the company [00:38:00] MacAndrews and Forbes was the inspired, the management company, whatever the financial company that he ran that was buying things as diverse as Coleman, you know, outdoor camping gear to Revlon, to Marvel comics.
When, when he bought the company, we thought this is financial capital that can help us expand our marketplace beyond just comms. We can, we can start doing a lot more because we’ll have more financial capital to do it again. It was a complete, naive, idealistic way to think about it. But any worker at any company always wishes that their owner, whether it be an existing one or a new one is going to bring better times or create better opportunities.
When you’re at that company we, we were doing it. We were in hindsight, we should have been far more confident about ourselves and far more aggressive in how we interacted [00:39:00] with our corporate owners, because we were the ones who were increasing the revenue. We were the ones who were increasing the size of the marketplace.
Not them. We were doing it. All they were doing was siphoning the money we were earning. And as our earnings increased on a yearly basis, their demands for us increased exponentially. So you made, you make $250 million on your publishing program. Next year, you got to make 300 million. We under a million dollars and you’re probably going to the next thing you got to make $350 million.
It, you know, the, the S the, the, the stone can only give up so much blood, you know, before you let it dry. Right. And, and that’s exactly what, what Perlman and his little Audra scumbags did. They, they, they let it dry so that they could just put it all into their own pockets. So it was, it was, it was an, it was a tragic because if you’re on the inside, [00:40:00] you’re watching yourself escalate to literally unparalleled Heights in terms of revenue and sales, since the war, since world war two, you know, but, but you’re, you’re starting to realize the slowly creeping and realization that.
That’s not a good thing. Yeah. That’s not a positive. So I’m, I’m making more money every single year more and more and more than I ever thought I would honestly making my whole life I was making. Right. Yeah. But I’m thinking, I was thinking to myself, I wouldn’t probably give half of this back right now.
If I could be assured that 10 years from now, I will get that back because I will still be there. And that, that wasn’t going to be the case because you saw, if you had, if you had half a brain and half an understanding of, of, of business in the marketplace and peoples people in general, in psychology, you knew that, that they were going to burn it out really fast.
And they were [00:41:00] trying to burn it out because their goal was to raise it, raise it to levels so high that it couldn’t sustain itself because they that’s, when they walk away. That’s exactly what they did. I mean, it’s exactly what they did. I mean, he, he declared a company bankrupt that he pocketed $330 million.
You know what I mean? So, you know, you tell me how can a company be bankrupt when, when not only is the owner walking away with three 30 million in his pocket, but it had a publishing revenue of $350 million a year and a licensing revenue. At that time, we were about $45 million a year at the height of having two cartoons nationally on air every weekend it’s been X-Men and Spider-Man, you know, it’s because they purposefully leveraged debt on the company to increase the stock price.
And that was good for them because they’re the ones that had the vested options. It wasn’t good for the company because the company couldn’t handle that leverage debt that was placed on. [00:42:00] So I was already gone by the time the bankruptcy BS happened. Yeah. But to this day, I got to argue with people when they sit here and told me, Marvel went bankrupt in the nineties because it was publishing so much crap.
And I’m like, you know,
Andrew Sumner: people who don’t understand the fabric of how big and St Louis businesses, how publishing businesses work.
Fabian Nicieza: Yeah. I gotta be honest, Andrew, 90% of the times, people who are in the industry who say that, and 90% of the time, my arguing is with people is with latter generation creative talent and in the creative talent in their thirties and forties now who were 14 years old in 1995, when they were buying whatever, you know, it’s just incredible that.
It’s incredible how fallacy and can solidify itself as reality in people’s minds. Just because it’s a pithy sentence. You know, Marvel went bankrupt because it published so much [00:43:00] speculator crap in the nineties. Like, you know, the complexity of that sentence is, is a book’s worth of information. You know what I’m saying?
And they want to walk away with it as if that sentence speaks to it all, you know, it’s exhausting. It’s exhausting because I was always. I was always a fan of history. I was always from the time I was 10 years old and I saw goes history of chemicals, you know, giant tabloid volume, where I saw some of these artists like bill Everett and guys like that, whose name might have been in some of the reprints comics, you know, like Marvel’s collectors item, reprint comics.
So might’ve seen bill, right? Yeah. But you didn’t, you never saw him draw a full page image of submariner and human torch and all their glory. And I, I became incredibly interested in the history of the media back when I was 10, 11 years old. So I got, I got like all in color for add-on and I got Juul [00:44:00] fifers greatest American heroes book.
And I tried anything I could find that would help me learn about what happens in the ebb and flow of the history of the media, you know, and. And, and I went into Marvel in 85, having a very solid understanding of the generational ebb and flow of the business, you know, not the, not it’s details. Cause those only come from when you’re on the inside, but a general awareness of how that side came in and out, you know?
And, and I, I deal with a lot of creative talent in terms of our interactions nowadays, who haven’t necessarily had an interest in doing that, that kind of history. No research, they just don’t
Andrew Sumner: know. No, it makes sense. And increasingly of course, we live in an environment where I noticed this working in the magazine business as well, you know, where quality long [00:45:00] form journalism gets boiled down to, they use term terms like snackable consumable information.
So, so rather than you read, you know, a hundred thousand words on something, you’re going to read 300 words on something. And at that point it’s just bullet point narratives. And that everything becomes very, very simplistic, you know? And and you don’t, the reality is, you know, history is something that you, you have to spend time with and absorb and steep yourself in and also gain some level of yeah.
Fabian Nicieza: Yeah. That’s really, it really makes, made me unhappy. It makes me fall on the question. Any of the history that I ever learned, you know, because now that I see my, my living existence in what is considered history by others, you know? Yeah. Very fascinating sort of a journey. You, you, you, you [00:46:00] hear their interpretation of history from the standpoint of how they have learned it or not learned it as the case may be to be, to be fascinating when you yourself were actually there when it happened, you know?
I would love the, I would love the founding fathers to have like, you know, a little, a little conversation that gets videotaped in the United States about how history presents them versus probably really like in the day, you know? And it’s just, it’s. It’s frustrating. It’s understandable, but it’s still frustrating and annoying.
It’s you know, that lack of awareness I think is just as much born of social media and what social media has done to us as anything else. I don’t know that it’s I think that social media has dumbed us down to detail for the point where it’s very understandable. Why, why people only are able to digest that bite-size bullet point, like you mentioned, you [00:47:00] know, it’s, it’s not even an individual lack of frying.
I think it’s a collective inability to try. I think that’s what social media has done down. It started before social media, because. I like the blink Sesame street itself, but it
Andrew Sumner: shouldn’t be just the accelerant. Isn’t it?
Fabian Nicieza: Social media has become the accelerant on a global level. And look, we are headed, whether it’s a hundred years or 200 years or 300 years, we are, we are headed to that movie.
Idiocracy we, you know, we, we, we absolutely are only suddenly the only plan, the only positive I draw from that. And it’s a healthy, positive, I think is that I’ll be dead before that happens. I feel, I feel blessed that I won’t be here hopefully, unless we accelerate it a lot quicker than that,
Andrew Sumner: it looks like we might
[00:48:00] Fabian Nicieza: be doing very well.
When it, when it was Boris on either side of the ocean, very stared there for a little while.
Andrew Sumner: Yeah. I mean, we’ve still got our we’ve still got a blonde herd sort of privilege, fucking jackass running the country. You know,
Fabian Nicieza: we, we don’t, we don’t have that running the country, but we still have that as a ridiculously prevalent voice within the country, you know, it’s, it’s like.
You know, the, the person who introduced the tumors into the body may not, you know, may not be there, but the tumors are still there, you know? Yeah, yeah, no, I get it. They really were given an opportunity to flourish just wonderfully. Yeah. So, you know, as far as the comics industry is concerned that I just, I find the longer we get away from that time period, 90 to 96, the last [00:49:00] focus group has two people’s perceptions of it, you know?
And I fought it a lot for a while. And then I, and then I realized what I, yeah.
Andrew Sumner: I think that is so healthy, mate. I think that is.
Fabian Nicieza: So if I was working at Marvel, if I was working at Marvel and had been working there, not that there’s many people, there’s like two or three people at Marvel who been there consecutively since I was there in the early nineties. It, if I were Tom Braveheart, I’d fight it tooth and nail every single day of my life.
You know what I mean? But, but that’s because I’m an idiot and Tom’s not an idiot, so he’s smart enough to be smart enough to go, you know, I’ll, I’ll take care of the truth that I can, I can take care of my own truth. I won’t worry about everybody. Else’s, you know, I would’ve probably be the opposite and just exhaust myself on a daily basis trying to explain reality to be,
Andrew Sumner: yeah, no,
Fabian Nicieza: I’m so far so [00:50:00] removed from it now.
And especially in the last five years, my brain just really started to turn in different directions that. It it’s, it’s really a part of my past that has a lot of good in it and a little bad, like anybody’s hopefully does, you know? And, and I just move forward, you know, I ju I just move on, but, but certainly I’ll be honest with you from after I left the claim in 98 until the mid aughts to 2005 or six or so.
I was still emotionally invested in my mind and Marvel, I was still emotionally invested in what I could have done or should have done, or you know, it, and that was unhealthy. Cause it was kind of stupid. Right. So how long,
Andrew Sumner: how long were you there for, from beginning to end Fabian?
Fabian Nicieza: Yeah. August of 85, I think I’m not even sure.
December of 95.
Andrew Sumner: Yeah.
Fabian Nicieza: Last year. That last year I was only going in a couple days a week as a consultant, kind of like I did, they wanted to me to still be in the office, but I was doing so much writing and they understood that. So I was like, basically an intern departmental ombudsman. My job was just to talk to people and every department when I was in and create a report that I would give to the different, higher ups about.
Things going on and what I saw positive negative almost as an outsider’s perspective in a way with an insider’s knowledge, you know? And they did that for, I did that for most of the 95 and then that was it. Then I was
Andrew Sumner: that, that, that’s that’s a very interesting way to bail out, I think before we move on to, I want to explore some of you your current focus, but just before we do that, when you look back on that 10 year period, when if you look back dispassionately upon your time at Marvel, what are the things, what would, what would you say represents you, your [00:52:00] absolute peak in terms of being an editor in terms of what you’re most proud of and then in terms of being a writer, what is it that you’re most proud of?
Fabian Nicieza: Well, as an overall whole I’ll answer, when I look back on that I stutter at the, the greatest time of my life. And I hope the next 10 years op it, but as far as the collective whole, the, the, what I learned, how I grew w what I became and the people I interacted with it, it was the best time of my life and many people who were there around that same time will say the same thing.
So, so that being the overall caveat, it, you know, the, it, the bad stuff becomes secondary to all of the good, right? Yeah. And I’m glad about that. I’m glad that I’m glad that I didn’t, I don’t, I didn’t leave. I didn’t leave with the bad overwhelming, the good, you know, so that’s still, that’s still a positive element.
So for me, [00:53:00] from an advertising standpoint, the single ad I did that I loved the most was this half page black and white. You can registration. And it had four black and white pictures of little kids. The last one is Franklin Richards and it has the word Mudie scrolled over his face. And the headline was it’s 1987.
Do you know what your children are? And it was paid for, by citizens for the mute and registration act. They didn’t really, it wasn’t advertising a comic book. It wasn’t advertising anything yet. Cause it was a teaser at the museum registration storyline. Wasn’t going to run until later that year.
And I had a half page available to me that cause an ad sales thing happened where I had a half page. So I had John Bob, Donna do the art and he used duotone shading to do the black and white images of the kids. You can look it up online, you can Google it. And to this day, people still say, I saw that in the comic and I froze it, scared the hell out of me.
We got it. We got this, the letters of complaint [00:54:00] about that ad from parents and, and. I, that, that to me was my crowning achievement in terms of advertising, because if you can get 50 parents to complain about an ad, you did. Yeah. Clearly must’ve been extremely well. Yeah. Yeah. So I loved my advertising manager job.
I only left it because I, it burned me out. I had done, I had done so much of it that I was repeating myself and I needed to stop doing it and I needed to do something else. But I love the job. So, among many things I’m really proud of at that time period that, that ad was my single personal greatest accomplishment.
As far as an editor is concerned, that’s, that’s an interesting one. I’m, it’s not so much a single issue that I can recall. Because I, I, wasn’t a very happy editor. I didn’t like it that much. Not the least of which was like, I edited most of the licensed books, like how to interact a lot outside licensing departments who,
Andrew Sumner: and I know what that’s like, that that’s
Fabian Nicieza: one word them, as you know, are incredibly stupid [00:55:00] people.
Talk about bullet points, man. So bullet points are even too complicated because it’s not the little circle. So, probably the success that we turned the Ren and Stimpy into is something I was very proud of because I hired a. I hired my intern who had only written a couple of stories to be the writer of the book.
And now it’s a bit of a risk, but I knew what I knew, how smart he was and what an idea man. He was. And that little kid, Dan Slott clearly grew into quite an accomplished Conor McGregor over the last 30 years. But I hired him to write an inventory story for me on mighty emails. And then I offered him running Stimpy and, and, and it, it, it was it was golden because the book was a challenge to do.
And we were selling over 300,000 copies a month. So, you know, we, we, we were working really hard within the parameters that were unfairly being placed on us by Nickelodeon to the softer than the actual TV show they [00:56:00] were airing was, you know, and we succeeded quite well with it.
Andrew Sumner: It’s funny because I know a friend of mine here in the UK comics editor, he’s a comics editor at time naturally used to be, there’s a guy called David Manley, leach, and David Leitch used to be the editor of running stem pit, Marvel UK, almost certainly at exactly the same time.
So I remember talking to him about perhaps some of his experiences, you know, in terms of putting the UK book together. So it sounds like you both had very similar experiences.
Fabian Nicieza: Oh yeah. I’m sure. Look, every licensing department, I had to train three different licensing departments at Mattel on how comic books are made within a one-year span on Barbie, because pre launching the book, I had to fly out to LA and teach Mattel what comics are and how it’s different than anything they’ve ever done with Barbie.
Then once I gotten them to understand that. At least to the degree that allowed me to begin to commission stories and [00:57:00] get art done on them because the book had been languishing for a year under the previous editor. So Jacobson who wasn’t able to get either the right talent or to get Mattel, but understand that they were entering new territory with Barbie who had never really been used in storytelling format, you know?
So, so I got that licensing department understanding what we were doing and they all got fired in mass. Like I think by issue six of Barbie. So I had to reteach an entire new licensing requirement, you know, and then it happened again right as I was ready to stop my tenure at Barbie. And I think building as Nick inherited the new, the third licensing regime that I had to deal with, you know, Nickelodeon was a different beast because my main role licensing contact was a wonderful woman.
The name was Susan, the blues, the act, she was young in her twenties, really vibrant and positive and, and understanding completely of what we were doing. It was just that she was so young. She didn’t have as much [00:58:00] experience internally at Nickelodeon to navigate their mind field on our behalf, but she was always fighting on our behalf.
And that was rare too, to have a licensing contact who fights for you? You know, we loved her, she was great. And she kept, she kept climbing up the ladder and she moved on to do a lot of good things in, in, in licensing. But in that time period it was Nickelodeon above her level was terrified that Ren and Stimpy was so successful because it was so.
Edgy for what they thought of themselves as that they wanted the licensing to be what they thought of themselves as, instead of the product they were putting on air, which makes no sense to me whatsoever, because if you want it to be softer, then how has that in any way, shape or form driving you to the cartoon?
You know, and you should want the cartoon to, to appeal to the audience that’s buying it, you know? And I can understand them thinking [00:59:00] consumer products that are going to be minimal for this, this property, if it’s so scary and adults, because no little kids are gonna want to buy, flush, running Stimpy toys.
And I get that, but you’re the ones airing the car. Yeah.
Andrew Sumner: It’s so interesting talking to you about this because I think that working within licensed creative Endevor is one of the most massively undocumented documented elements of, of not just the the comics business, but the TV and movie business as well.
It’s something that broadly speaking, if you haven’t worked in the media. There’s no books written about this stuff. There’s no stories about our behind the scenes of our licensing relationship with X, Y, and Z. And it’s such a facet and it, but if you’ve ever touched any of those industries, you’ll know what a big deal actually is at how much of your time can be absorbed dealing with those kinds of
Fabian Nicieza: relationships I had, I had an eight to 10 title line and I [01:00:00] think seven of them are licensed properties.
So it was ridiculous. And I wasn’t a good editor and my assistants had to do a tremendous brunt of the work. And, and I had two really good assistants in Scotland first, and then Carlos Lopez afterwards. And, and they, they had a handle, a brunt load of the work because I couldn’t, I couldn’t navigate in dealing with the licensors as much as I had to combined with all the writing I was doing freelance.
And the lack of sleep, but that was averaging, I think, three to four hours a night, every night back then for a couple of years. And, and as a result, they had to handle almost the brunt of all of the internal trafficking, all of the scheduling. Most of the freelancer relations, quite frankly, because I didn’t have the time for the patients in my brain to deal with freelancers or weren’t turning in work.
So I wasn’t a good editor because being an [01:01:00] editor requires you to be a good psychological babysitter. And I was not I just wasn’t, I couldn’t handle someone giving me any excuse for why they didn’t hand in the work when I had. The, the load on my plate that I had, because I also was going through, I mean, you know, my parents were divorced at that time.
After 30 years of marriage, my, my, my girlfriend’s mother was dying of cancer. Like we talked about earlier by select two young kid. So it was a lot, you know, I’m buying my first townhouse at that time. And then, and then going from the townhouse a few years later to a house house full of all those life burdens that, that you’re getting hit with for the first time in your life, when you’re in your late twenties, early thirties, you know, I don’t need an artist, you know, flipping his hair in front of me when I’m losing all his money and telling me that he didn’t, he didn’t, he didn’t hand pages in for three weeks because he didn’t feel the mojo.
Andrew Sumner: I I’m trying to support into our family. I’m telling to lead my [01:02:00] life. You know, what may, this is such an interesting Thing to discuss that maybe we should come back to it some at the top, cause it’s it it’s largely undocumented logs in discussed, but it’s a big, what you’re talking about of course is the reality of the fabric of what being an answer is actually like, you know, when you’ve got a nine to five gig at a company that you work for, and it’s very, very different to what people who sit outside the industry think it is, you know, cause the reality is, and I, and
Fabian Nicieza: to be honest with you, I think that the reality for editors today is very different than my experience.
Just because the digital transfer of content has really changed the dynamics of interaction for editors and I can’t speak at all. So my editors have to move things today and interact today. I don’t know that I would want to be an editor today. Just do I think the job is thankless, but but because I think that a lot of the [01:03:00] interpersonal interactions kind of been taken away a little bit from them as a result of all the digital transfer.
Andrew Sumner: Yeah. I think that’s true mate. And before we transition into talking about what you’re doing right now when you look back on your, your comics writing what is the thing that, what is the thing that you think is the purest distillation of, of comics rights that you look back on it and go, man, those are the books, or that is the book that I’m proudest of, or
Fabian Nicieza: the thing that probably new new warriors, one through 53, I wrote the book for the first 53 issues.
And I think more so than nomad, which was more personal book for me, the new warriors was, but it was a failed. Experiment to me in hindsight, because I didn’t have the experience or the or the maturity to tell those stories, right? The fact that I wanted to tell those stories says something and I’m pleased and proud of what it says about me back then, that I wanted to tell the [01:04:00] kinds of stories we told him nomad, but my lack of ability to execute those stories will always kind of dampen that in comparison to new warriors, which foreign away succeeded both financially, commercially, and I believe artistically to, to, to achieve what I wanted it to be, which was very entertaining, but also thought provoking mainstream, Marvel superheroes, you know?
So, so, so it’s, to me it’s not even hands down far and away as a result of The, the execution matching the intent and then the, the S the reaction matching the execution because of that, it’s, it’s by far the, the most kind of symbiotic synthesis of, of what I wanted to be back then. And I think that, you know, fandom of that book is still, it’s still quite alive and [01:05:00] still quite vibrant.
And, and, you know, it was a top 25 book, but it was never a top 10 book. And, and they all feel the same way I felt back then, which is you’re part of something that is not. Necessarily part of what other people are aware of, you know, it’s our, it’s our little 250,000 person, like,
Andrew Sumner: which is as a fan is always a lovely place to be.
I think the fact that you all said that it’s all you for that 50 issue run, I think means that, you know, it’s, it feels like a body of work when you read it. That sense of identification and ownership is enhanced. If you have it, it’s like, it’s like, I, I loved your nomad by the way, man. I thought it was great, but it’s very interesting hearing you talking about how, and I’m aware of that creative distance sometimes what your intention is.
Does it match your for you what your personal delivery is? And that’s also a complex relationship, but as a fan, I [01:06:00] love nomad. I thought
Fabian Nicieza: it was great for the most part in my career. I think that I’ve only successfully in my mind executed. So my intention and that was new warriors, cable and Deadpool and, and Robin, Tim Drake, Robin red Robin.
Yeah. When I got to write the bookends of that, you know, that’s it, I’ve done. I’ve done. I’ve done some good work on, on thunderbolts. I’ve done some good work on gambit. It’s just that those three titles are the only times in my entire career. And now we’re talking about a lot of comments. So clearly I failed far more often than my mind than I succeeded.
But those are the only times where all, all three things merged the way, the way they did when the warriors, you know? Yeah. So it’ll always be, it’ll always be the, the, the fondest memory I will have, I believe in my calm experience. Because of what it meant to me, it was what it meant to me at that time, at that age.
And, [01:07:00] and to have that opportunity and basically, you know, Brett grab the brass ring because, because it’s stated beyond anyone’s expectations. And the reason that that happened is because the stories were characters were good. The people who were reading it were enjoying it and telling other people, you gotta read it.
It, it wasn’t, it wasn’t a word of mouth based on, on, on hype or hype. Like I think the X books often were, you know, so, so cheap. I mean, it was hype, it was hype based on the people liking what they were reading. Not, not hyping it because they thought, yeah, They should be reading, you know,
Andrew Sumner: I think, yeah, it was a very grassroots book.
And in the way that you said it, wasn’t a question of a marketing campaign saying to you, man, you’ve got to read this, which by the way, we can have a whole conversation about it. That’s my view of a hole. As much as I’m a Marvel fan. I’ve got quite a big void in my Marvel knowledge, which is want sex. Men [01:08:00] gets beyond.
The kind of Claremont and Bernie era. And once it becomes the sprawling, you know, multi-multi books, soap, opera, that it became, you know, very much driven by like sales and marketing. I had a lot of trouble identifying with it at that point. So, so while, while I’m read everything up to a certain point, once, you know, once you hit the nineties, my X men really massively takes a step back for that one.
Fabian Nicieza: I was writing a lot of that and not, I, I, I
Andrew Sumner: couldn’t connect to that. Yeah. So to have the grassroots success that you you had and the love, therefore that your new warrior is fantastic. I can totally understand why that, that specialty and speaking of being in that sweet spot of working on stuff that you love let’s close out by, by having a chat about the Genesis of your new book, suburban decks for anybody who is listening to this, who doesn’t know.
One of the things that I do is a, is edit, editing all fiction. So this is a, [01:09:00] this is a, this is a subject we’ve talked about this book before, but it’s a subject that’s very close to my heart and very, very pleased that my day job at Titan, that we’re involved with it in the, in the app outside of the U S publishing.
But if you could just get into. What the book is and how it came to be. I’d love to hear those are
Fabian Nicieza: two. Those are two interestingly different. Yeah. What the book is, is a sarcastic suburban mystery about a 33 year old pregnant with her fifth child homemaker who should have been an FBI profiler, but the birth of the first child derailed her career in her mind.
And a 29 year old reporter who in college won a Pulitzer prize in journalism. And now at 29 is working for a weekly suburban newspaper. And now the two of them get together to try to solve the [01:10:00] murder of a gas station attendant in west Windsor, New Jersey, a small semi affluent suburban town, and how that murder Is actually part of a coverup of of a deeper story and a deeper incident that occurred 50 years earlier, that ends up having tangled roots in the police and the government structure of Westminster, New Jersey, and speak very strongly in a humorous, sarcastic manner.
I’ve been told by the reviews about
Andrew Sumner: w by the way, the view, the reviews have been spectacular. You know, I, I, I can say that because, because I, I, you know, I’m not you, I, but I want the people everybody’s listening to snow, the books, the books, phenomenal. You’ll get a real kick out of it,
Fabian Nicieza: So the book’s themes really, as much as solving a murder mystery the books themes really are [01:11:00] about white fear of change and the cultural demographic changes that are occurring in many of our suburbs.
Not, I think that UK suburbs are just as illustrative of this point as the U S suburbs are. And, and how that theory of change drives people from the ability to, to accept the other. So, you know, the, the. It’s a, a Jewish female lead and then Asian American colleague as far as the book is concerned and because the, the, the town that the mystery of Seddon is actually the town that I live in which is like 60% Asian population from, from China, Korea, India, Pakistan and, and, you know, a diminishing slowly percentage of Caucasians over the last 30 years.
I, I, I, I think that that ultimately is what the book is about, but it, [01:12:00] it, it gets there through the murder, mystery, procedural, and, and kind of the quirkiness of the two lead so percuss gave it a starred review. Publishers weekly gave it a starter view. Booklist only gave it a name minus I was very disappointed in them.
I’m only kidding book lists. So
Andrew Sumner: coming out of the gate and getting those of the reviews you have off Kirkus publishers weekly, that’s great. That really is.
Fabian Nicieza: I, I w my, because of my lack of real awareness of, and not having a pulse on publishing for so long, I I’m following my publisher’s lead in terms of understanding their enthusiasm.
So they’re really enthusiastic about it. And I’m glad I have a very. Oh, be skepticism about reviews in general, mostly because I never usually go the ones, my good ones come from the fans, generally, not from the publications. And, and the minute like the Eisner is nominate me for a comic book [01:13:00] award is the minute that, that the eyes and nose should cease to exist.
Any, any organization that would want me as a member is not an organization. I would want to be a member of. Well said, I, I was aware of publishers weekly from back in my days in publishing, you know, in book publishing. And I was aware of her, but it’s, it’s almost a femoral for me at this point. Cause it’s been 30 plus years almost.
Geez, almost 40 now, since I worked at Berkeley publishing, right. I left Berkeley publishing in 1983 and 1985. I’m sorry. So I’m like, you know, it, it, it’s a part of a world that I kind of stopped being actively engaged in a long time ago. And just because I wrote the book doesn’t in any way. Shape or form make me think that part of the book publishing world, because I, I, I really, I feel like an intrude or an outside or I’m the obnoxious guest at the party.
Yeah. So, so I’m just taking all of it with a grain of salt, because if I didn’t, if I didn’t live or die [01:14:00] by reviews for the last 30 years in the comic book marketplace, I really shouldn’t in your book market place either. You know? Ultimately to me, I. Sales have always been my parameter, unfortunately, because it’s the cheap thing I had to fall back on.
So, so it was the only thing that provided me security and sound for my soul. If it sells, then that means people are, are interested in it. And then if the second book sells, that means people like the first book. So I’m going to try to, I’m going to try to stick with that. I’m going to try to stick with sales, being a barometer for people’s engagement and interest and
Andrew Sumner: Fabian.
You’re already contracted to do the second book. Am I right?
Fabian Nicieza: I, yes, I’ve already actually finished. The second manuscript book and it’s back in the editor’s hands after some tweaking and rewriting, the manuscript went back to them. There’s no title for it yet. He goes the word we’re negotiating on the title.
I don’t think it’s going to be suburban Dick’s too. I think it’s going to be [01:15:00] title and then a suburban Dick’s mystery underneath it. Oh, it looks like, yeah. Okay. I hope that, you know, it’ll get picked up in for UK again. I hope Titan wants to do the second book. And I hope that I get a contract offer to do more.
Cause I would like to do more. I, I don’t, I’m not Janet Ivana venture, Sue Grafton. I don’t have 26 of these in me until I’m 90. But, but, but I know I have I have five or six solids stories that I’d like to tell with suburban dicks. And I know that I have some spinoff things I’d like to do with some of the characters as well.
If I get an opportunity to do that in the next 10 years, that’d be, that’d be great. It’d be gravy. It’d be gravy or icing on the cake of the career as it.
Andrew Sumner: Both everything from soup to nuts that I have to say may is a very hard degree for me, because I want you to have the space to explore these characters further.
And the [01:16:00] fact that you’ve got the concepts that you have up there inside your head already, that’s a great place to be when you’re just publishing, you know, your first installment,
Fabian Nicieza: you know, based on the home, based on being a comic book guy. And then based on working on, sorry, world development for franchise cons characters for Hollywood studios and all that stuff.
I I’ve always had that, that Marvel universe mentality, you know, characters in an interactive interconnected story world, right? The con the combination of that DNA in me, With the fact that the original impetus for the book started in 1994, 1995. So I’ve had this book, these characters, this story in my head since 1995, you know, it, it, it wasn’t always resonant or prevalent in my creative thought patterns, but.
There’s always a road I would drive [01:17:00] by that had an interesting name. I go, oh, that would be interesting in the book that never existed, you know, or, or read an article in a newspaper and you go, oh, that would make an interesting suburban mystery for the suburban dicks that don’t exist anywhere. But my own brain, you know?
Yeah. That was 20, 20 years of that, you know, writing the book until 2017. For real, I tried a couple of times in the, in the decades prior, but I stopped really quickly. We’re talking about, you know, 15, 20 pages in, I just stopped cause I, I shrieked like a baby and ran away. So, but the idea never left.
They always percolated. I discussed them as being possibly, you know, a graphic novel line 10 years ago with someone, but. No one was going to buy a graphic novel line of suburban mysteries for me when they’re expecting spandex and fights. You know what I mean? So it just became the, the, it became this [01:18:00] thing that I always had and never thought would be, you know, now that it is, is when the arrogance kicking in and I wanted to succeed that, you know, so that I could do more.
You know, now, now I want to tell the offshoot stories that I want to tell, you know? So I, I hope it does well enough. I, I would like it because it’ll make, it’ll make for a really ultimately it’ll make for a really fun 10 to 15 years, you know, I’m turning 60 this year, so I can do this until I’m 70 or 75.
Wow. That’d be. That’d be kind of a miraculous cap to all of them, you know, Fabian.
Andrew Sumner: I’m sure you will. It, it’s a great book. It’s a real, anybody who’s listening to this and picks it up. You will see it’s a real treat. And I think that’s a great moment for us to round out this this lengthy conversation about.
Yeah. Wonder your wonder years at Marvel from 85 to 95 and your, you know, our mutual beginnings in the [01:19:00] production era, your background in sales and and just the great work you do with suburban decks, which is available for putting them in the U S and from Titan books in the UK. And it is, is a great, intuitive, rewarding read that everybody listening to this will really enjoy.
And may it’s also, so it was great to chat with you so I can talk to you
Fabian Nicieza: too, Andrew. I really appreciate it. And I just want to. All the readers to know that what you just said about the book, it was a hundred percent accurate. So I really, I don’t want them to think that you were lying to them or over-hyping you’re right.
It is that good, everybody. So please go get, and why would you want to deprive yourself of something so good in your life is what I’m
Andrew Sumner: thinking? So I am I’m famous world famous for telling the absolute truth and I would never steer anybody wrong. It’s a, it’s a great book. And it’s always great to see your favor and you take care of yourself.
Good to see you too, Andrew.
Fabian Nicieza: Thank you very much for the time. I [01:20:00] appreciate it. Take care of me all the
Andrew Sumner: best. Bye bye.