Marvel editor Bill Rosemann carries the cape
Eagle News: So just to be clear, your title is “Director of Marvel Creative Solutions,” correct? Bill Rosemann: Well, so my title is “Creative Director,” and I kind of have a hybrid role, so I work both for Marvel Publishing, and I also work for Marvel Custom Solutions. So half my job is editing mainline Marvel comics. There’s a book coming out in a couple weeks that’s called “Avengers Undercover,” so I edit that and I edit about four or fi ve other comics. And I also am creative director for Marvel Custom Solutions, so what we do is we’re an in-house creative agency, so any outside partner or client, whether it’s Harley-Davidson or Visa or William Sonoma or Cirque du Soleil or you name it— Dr. Pepper! They come to us, and we create comics, we create ads, we create posters, we create characters for them. Whatever they need, we create it.
EN: I actually met David Grant from Parr Media, who handles the Harley-Davidson account, and he said that he had done work with Marvel.
BR: Yeah, so in that case, Harley is a close partner with Marvel, and we’ve worked with them through the “Captain America” movie and “Iron Man.” So, with Harley, we fi gure out, “OK, what’s the most organic way to create something that’s connectable with Marvel fans and Harley fans?” We decided, looking at Marvel characters, who would make the most sense to be involved?
Now luckily, in the “Captain America” movie, Cap rides a motorcycle. That’s a connection people get. We’re not going to put Doctor Strange or the Hulk. It’s funny to see the Hulk on a motorcycle, but he doesn’t need one. Cap uses a motorcycle. That’s always number one. We start with our partner, we talk about their message, what do they want to say? Then we fi gure out what’s the best Marvel character to do that. Because I always remember, when I was a kid, I would get these comics, and I would know if they stunk, or if they were good. Many more people see our custom comics than normal comics. Custom comics are delivered through all sorts of mass-market chains. For instance, we did one with Wal- Mart, where if you bought M&Ms, you got a code, and you could get a comic. So, anywhere from half a million to a million people will see these comics. So, I want them to be the very best they can be. Not only for our partners, of course you want to make them happy, you want to create a great, great product for them; but we also want people to read these and say, “Oh, I remember Marvel Comics, this is cool,” or “I never read Marvel Comics. I saw the movie, I’m going to start reading comics.” So these custom comics are really a calling card for Marvel. So my job is to look at all the products I know from my Marvel editorial work, and bring the best creators, and the best writers to the custom comics.
EN: You were an editor on “Guardians of the Galaxy,” which is obviously now getting a big screen adaptation. So what does that feel like taking an obscure title and bumping it up to the big leagues?
BR: Well, as an editor, you’re always sort of… You never want anyone to know you exist. You want people to think that the writer and the artist just sat down and created a comic book and it was perfect. The truth is that every single comic is also created by the editor, who works hand in hand with the entire creative team: writer, inker, colorist, penciller. And we do want to stay on the sidelines and let the creators do their best work and help them do their best work, but at the same time, we step in and we brainstorm with them, and it’s a very collaborative medium, comic books.
So in getting “Guardians,” I was editing a book called “Nova,” and we were doing big cosmos events once a year, and I thought “Well, we have our solo cosmic book. Let’s do a team book.” And so, I sat down with my Marvel Handbooks I had when I was a kid and started fl ipping through them. I started marking them with stickies and my wife’s like, “What are you doing?” I said, “I’m trying to fi nd all these crazy, old, cosmic characters that we can bring back.”
So then, to see, that fi rst image, when they announced “Guardians,” I thought it was going to be the original characters. There was a Guardians team back in the 70s that we took the name from. They were from the future and I said, “Well, why can’t we have a team now, called that?” And we thought it was going to be those original Guardians, and then when I saw the art, *gasp* it’s the Guardians from our book! So, I was very excited, and the writers, Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, are also very excited, and they’re proud papas that we get to see our characters on the big screen. Now everyone’s going to know how great these characters are.
EN: Now, kind of going off of that, how do you think fi lm and advertising can help comics, and the superhero genre in particular, move beyond being seen as sort of “kids’ stuff?”
BR: Well, I love that comics are actually called “kids’ stuff.” They’re for the kids in all of us. I think what the Marvel movies do very well is they remember the fun, they remember the humor. So all the Marvel movies, they are cool, they are fi lled with drama and romance, but they always are very funny, and people are surprised by that. You know, when the crowds fi rst saw “Iron Man,” Robert Downey Jr. was so funny and so charismatic. The fact is that superheroes can be serious but not brooding like Batman. So the Marvel movies are for the kid in us all, but they’re for the kid in us all at every age. So, whether you are seven or 27 or 37 or 77, you can fi nd something to appreciate in the Marvel characters. As long as they apply that to everything we do, cartoons, video games, custom projects, comic books, movies, as long as they apply that, the audience will fi nd them and love them. And then what our job is to steer them toward all of our different components. So if they want to read comic books, we have to educate them about the Marvel comics app. So if they don’t have a comic shop near them, they have a comic shop on their smart phone. They can buy the comics day and date they come out in print with the Marvel app. It’s really all arms of Marvel feeding into each other and it builds from there. We’re happy, no matter how anyone discovers us, whether it’s through cartoons or video games or the movies or seeing a T-shirt and then fi nding out about the comic books. No matter how they come in, it’s great. Then our job is to craft really good stories that keep them coming back.
EN: Can you talk about any sort of partners that you’ll be teaming up with in the future through Custom Solutions?
BR: Let’s see, well, one partner I really love working with is the United States Military. We create comics for AFES, Armed Forces Exchange Service. They have these stores on every military base around the nation and around the world. We’ve created 17 comics for them and the print run is a million, and they’re given away free, but you have to be a soldier. Any soldier, man or woman, can go onto the base and into their exchange store, and pick up a comic for themselves or take it home to their families, and we’ve seen these comics, they travel around the world. They’re distributed globally, so those soldiers that are overseas, it really makes us happy that we can create something that for 20 minutes can entertain them, take them away from their worries, and when they come home to their families, they can enjoy it with them. It’s a partner I really enjoy working with.
We’ve also created comics for Make-A-Wish. That’s great. There’s one teenager, and his dream was to have Marvel do a comic based on his character. So then we got his outline, and the drawing for his character, and I hired some really great creators, and we made a comic. So, anytime we can do good while we’re doing our customizations work, that’s great. I really love making any custom comic because I love introducing people to comics, and that’s a great way to do it. And I love when our client can see that we get that, they can work together with Marvel to create something very cool and reach a big audience. But to add on to that and do some good, that’s always my favorite project.
EN: And my last question was “What is your favorite part of the job?” I guess you answered it.
BR: Yeah, I remember being that lonely kid in the backyard reading comics, when comics were there for me. So everyone at Marvel, we try to remember how lucky we are and that we can create these things that we always enjoy. They are things that bring joy to peoples’ lives that entertain them and inspire them and are there for them every week. We are very lucky to kind of carry the torch forward. So I think that’s it: creating cool things that True Believers can enjoy, just like I did.