Editors Tom Brevoort, Lauren Sankovitch and Jake Thomas give the ins and outs of this major event!
By Jim Beard
Not to get too romantic about it, but it’s hard not to picture the editors behind the cosmic saga of INFINITY as the command team of an immense starship, hunkered over the controls and fighting valiantly against all odds. That’s the feeling one gets from Tom Brevoort, Lauren Sankovitch, and Jake Thomas as they guide INFINITY toward comic racks everywhere beginning August 13.
Though busy as bees, the trio carved out a bit of time to answer a few questions about the nuts-and-bolts of the event and its tie-ins throughout the Marvel line of titles.
Marvel.com: Tom, let’s start with you; overall, how do you feel INFINITY fits into the progression of the past few years of events?
Tom Brevoort: I don’t know; I don’t really look at it as part of a progression in that way. If anything, it’s the first big overture to what we’ve been doing in AVENGERS and NEW AVENGERS since the beginning of the Jonathan Hickman/Marvel NOW! era began. So it’ll certainly be rewarding for readers who’ve been following those series these past few months. Beyond that, it’s a very different event series than anything we’ve done before, both in terms of its scale and its tone, and even in the manner in which it’s structured.
Marvel.com: Speaking of the INFINITY core book’s structure—oversize first issue, twice a month, six issues—why is that a good fit for the project?
Tom Brevoort: One of the things we’ve discovered over the last few years is that our readers and retailers tend to respond very positively to an accelerated shipping schedule, both on our regular monthly titles but especially on the event series. This is a reflection of the larger trend of “binge consuming” that’s become evident across all media. People simply do not want to wait as long for the next chapter as they once did. So here, we’re compacting the entire storyline down into four months, where it could easily have occupied six or even more.
Marvel.com: What makes Jonathan Hickman the best writer for the event?
Tom Brevoort: Without Jonathan, there would be no INFINITY; it wasn’t a matter of there being an idea and Hickman being the guy to execute it, as it sometimes might be. This is a story that he conceived, and that he’s been building up to since the outset of his AVENGERS tenure. There literally were and are no other options for who could have written this.
Marvel.com: How would you say this compares with other space epics that Marvel’s done in the past?
Tom Brevoort: It’s really nothing like them. This is going to be difficult to define for people until they get to read the issues for themselves, but INFINITY isn’t like any of the other space/cosmic storylines we’ve done in the past. It’s got much more of a genuine hard [science fiction] aesthetic to it; for a good portion of it, it’s barely a super hero story at all, simply because the scale is so absolutely large.
So on that level, it represents an experiment, an attempt to do something different from what we’ve seen before. Probably the closest thing I could point you towards, in terms of giving you an idea of what INFINITY is like, is the series of issues of FANTASTIC FOUR that ran from #600-604, the climax to the death and return of the Human Torch as well as the Council of Reeds/Celestials plotline, in which all of these threads that Jonathan had laid down were woven together into a pattern that provided payoff after payoff that you didn’t see coming, and for which the scale was large. This is very much like that, but even more so.
Marvel.com: What’s your secret for maintaining the coordination between the core book, the tie-in titles, the specials, and all the writers and artists?
Tom Brevoort: Well, the key tie-ins [in AVENGERS and NEW AVENGERS] are easy, as those are written by Jonathan himself, and have wound up being absolutely indispensable to the overall story. As we always do, we tried mightily to make this series work if you only read the core INFINITY series, but in this instance, I believe that we may have failed.
The AVENGERS and NEW AVENGERS issues are virtually core chapters of INFINITY, and so there’s a map graphic checklist that runs in the core INFINITY book and in AVENGERS and NEW AVENGERS that shows you where you are now, and what comes next.
Beyond that, there are tie-ins that are what I’d call both “hard” and “soft.” Soft is easiest, in that these are tie-ins that are dealing with the broadest effects of the events of INFINITY within the context of those series, very much like the average tie-in to past Events. The “hard” tie-ins, such as CAPTAIN MARVEL and AVENGERS ASSEMBLE key in on specific events in INFINITY/AVENGERS/NEW AVENGERS and expand on them and spin off from them and provide additional background and plot advancement and characterization. Those require a greater involvement in terms of coordinating things, since we’re often seeing sequences reflected precisely from one book to the next. But we’re reasonably versed in how to do this after so many years.
Marvel.com: How do you insure that the more Earthbound, mortal characters shine in INFINITY alongside the Big Guns like Thor, etc.?
Tom Brevoort: Every character has a role to play, and every character hopefully gets a moment, or moments. But that said, even in a story with the scope of INFINITY, not every character is going to get equivalent screen time. This has to be somebody’s story, or else we’re lacking the point of view that provides context to what’s going on. In individual stories, that point of view may shift; it’s Spider-Woman, for example, in the AVENGERS ASSEMBLE issues, and Carol Danvers in CAPTAIN MARVEL as you’d expect. And the fact that some of the more Earthbound characters are getting to provide a point of view is what brings them to the fore, at least in terms of the storytelling. We also made the decision to leave certain characters, such as Spider-Man and Wolverine, on Earth during INFINITY, where they’d be better able to contribute to events in a meaningful manner.
Marvel.com: Is keeping the synergy between the Marvel films and an event like this going something that is consciously maintained or simply a nice by-product on its own?
Tom Brevoort: Certainly there’s been a renewed interest in Thanos since he made that cameo appearance at the end of “Marvel’s The Avengers,” and we’re definitely trading on that desire among people to know more about him in generating interest in INFINITY. But really, we’re just kind of doing our thing, and letting the Studios guys do their thing, and then seeing if there are places where one can feed into the other and vice versa.
Marvel.com: Let’s shift over to Lauren now; Lauren, how would you describe your role in the INFINITY event?
Lauren Sankovitch: Essentially, with Jake and Tom, we’re running a bit of editorial tag team: Tom goes high, Jake goes low, and I punch right up the middle. I bridge the gap between Tom’s macroview of the event as a whole and Jake’s boots-on-the-ground responsibilities in getting the various pieces of each book together for print. I serve as an extra set of eyes, a spare pair of hands and the mediating influence between these competing, but necessary, forces to get that big ol’ event book into your eager paws.
Marvel.com: In general, what are the joys in such a sprawling saga for you?
Lauren Sankovitch: Getting to play with all the toys, of course! Especially with such a star-spanning epic like this event, we’ll see the usual suspects of course—the Avengers and the X-Men—but we’re also going to spend time with our heroes on the street, regular citizens, villains of all stripes and, my personal favorites, the countless bizarre alien races in the Marvel Universe. And believe you me; you’re going to be surprised at the people you’ll end up cheering for by the end of this.
And, really, as a lifelong Star Wars fan, how could I not get behind Giant Outer Space Saga?
Marvel.com: What about the challenges of working on it? When does it get crazy?
Lauren Sankovitch: Clearly the level of coordination is a key component of any successful—or unsuccessful—crossover event. Not only do we have three artists to keep in sync [on the core book], we’re actively working across offices to make sure story points, characters, color reference, and even on sale dates are in sync. There’re always going to be a few mistakes here and there but hopefully we’ll manage to bob and weave successfully through this INFINITY gauntlet; yeah, I went there.
And the answer to when does it start getting crazy: it never stopped.
Marvel.com: What’s been your most favorite personal moment while working on INFINITY?
Lauren Sankovitch: At this point, just seeing this behemoth take shape in the first place. There’s always a bit of risk involved when planning a large event, from Siege to Fear Itself to Avengers Vs. X-Men to Age of Ultron and now INFINITY, and it never ceases to amaze me when we actually get it to fly. The tremendous amount of work put in by everyone involved, from Jonathan Hickman all the way down to our plucky interns searching for reference, is an awe-inspiring thing. Sending that first issue to the printer was a source of a lot of satisfaction. Now we just need to do it five more times!
Marvel.com: And lastly but certainly not least, Jake Thomas—Jake, what’s the feeling like on a project the scale of INFINITY compared to some of the others you’ve been involved with?
Jake Thomas: I recently worked on AGE OF ULTRON, where we totally broke the time stream, and now I’m on INFINITY, where the Builders have come to destroy all of space. So now that I’ve helped ruin all of space and time, I can’t help but wonder where I’ll go next…
I love these big, crazy adventures, and I’d say INFINITY feels particularly epic. The way Jonathan’s working all the action on multiple fronts makes it feel like one of those classic large-scale war movies like “A Bridge Too Far” or “The Longest Day,” something that really takes on the challenge of portraying the scope of something so incredibly massive but still makes room for the personalities involved.
Marvel.com: What’s your day-to-day INFINITY involvement like?
Jake Thomas: I’m mostly here to help out Lauren and Tom with trafficking files, checking corrections, reaching out to freelancers regarding schedules and such, and working with production to get it all put together. So I’m actually right there in the thick of it, helping to coordinate between everybody. It’s a great place to be! I have my fingers in all the pies!
Marvel.com: What would you say is the greatest thing you’ve learned as an editor on the event, something that will carry over to your next one?
Jake Thomas: Watching Jonathan Hickman execute a story on this scale is like watching a true maestro conduct a symphony. He knows just how to make the whole thing swell to a crescendo, but he also knows when and how to single out one small little area to really make a moment sing. And Jim, Dustin and Jerome are all right there with him, they all understand exactly where to pitch each rise and fall.
So, to put it in a word, scale. Finding the right balance of scale is key to this event, and it’s been incredible to watch some extremely talented people pull it off so well.
Marvel.com: You’ve got to have a favorite moment in the overall story, right?
Jake Thomas: Well, I don’t know how much we can reveal here, but I love it when a character out-foxes another character by simply going bigger/harder/crazier than anyone expected. Black Bolt has a moment like that about midway through the series that makes me want to stand up and cheer every time I see the art or read the script. It’s incredible, and it’s absolutely my kind of crazy. I hope readers out there lose their minds over it exactly how I did; it’s the kind of moment I hope to see every time I crack open a comic book.
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