With Further Ado #107: The Marvelous Mister Beard

I’ve known Jim Beard for a while. He’s a dedicated creative writer with a plethora of passionate interests . He’s got his fingers in many pies, and I’m always excited when he teases new projects. We’ve worked together a few times, and I’m especially a big fan of his Sgt. Janus series.

With all that as background, there’s another writing gig that keeps Jim busy.  He’s been a writer for Marvel.com for years. It’s fascinating stuff, and I had to corral him and find out the story behind these stories.

Ed Catto: How did you get involved with Marvel.com?

Jim Beard: I tried to approach Marvel about writing for the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe series from back in the day, and they replied they didn’t currently have any openings, but did I possibly write press releases? I thought, huh, doesn’t sound too hard, and lied and told them yes. So, for about a year or so I wrote Marvel press releases for a variety of things and eventually they moved me over to the “dot com” to write content for that. Been there ever since.

EC: And how long have you been doing the “Didja Know?’ column for Marvel? 

JB: Every single week for, oh, I believe at least sixteen-seventeen years now? Longest job I’ve ever had, come to think of it now.

EC: How does that process work? How do the topics get assigned?

JB: That’s changed over the years. Used to be, I got assignments from my editor and that was that; promo pieces, Q&As with creators, etc. At one point we – myself and other freelancers – were able to pick from a list of assignments, and then that changed to us suggesting things we’d like to write about from the publication schedule. These days, I’m writing a regular column, Didja Know?, doing character bios for the website, and taking on occasional other assignments like maybe a history piece or something from Special Projects, the Marvel department that puts together in-print giveaways for comic shops and even an actual book here and there.

EC: Which of your Marvel writings do you like best?

JB: Ones where maybe I got to veer as close to actually writing fiction for the characters as I possibly could for a non-fiction freelancer. It’s something that has always been treated carefully so as not to cross over into Editorial’s jurisdiction. For example, several years ago I wrote a piece promoting the Damage Control characters and each entry was in the characters’ own voices–that was a lot of fun. That kind of piece doesn’t really happen anymore.

EC: What have been some of your favorite assignments?

JB: Hands down, the day in 2009 I got to interview Stan over the phone for about twenty minutes. I still have my audio recording of it (for transcription purposes), but I can still hear him talking to me in my head. “Thrill of a lifetime” doesn’t come anywhere close to describing it, and I’m forever in my then-editors’ debt for assigning me that one.

EC:  Just awesome.  “Stan stories” are always great to hear.  And are there parts of Marvel’s rich history that you are less passionate about, or less knowledgeable about and how do you handle them?

JB: I can write about anything, even things I’m not terribly interested in, and find something about it that will spark with me, especially if it’s a history piece. That said, I’m not the biggest X-fan in the world, but I’ve written plenty about the merry mutants over the years.

EC: What are the next ones you are working on?

JB: Right now I’m simply doing my Didja Know column (written in the peerless puffery style of Stan himself) and waiting for the next list of character bios to dig into.

EC: Who’s your second-favorite Marvel character of all time, and why?

JB: Second favorite? After Bashful Benjy, the ever-lovin’, blue-eyed idol o’ millions, thousands even, The Thing? Well, that’d be the Big Brain himself, ol’ Stetcho, Reed Richards.

EC: I know you do a lot of prose writing too. What are some of the exciting projects you have in the works?

JB: I just re-edited and refreshed my first two Sgt. Janus novels and finally released the all-new third book in the series, as well as a fun pulp collection of three stories based on my love for early 1970s action figures entitled D.C. JONES AND ADVENTURE COMMAND INTL. Beyond all that I’m currently in the middle of writing my first epic fantasy novel.

EC: Yeah, I need to read that 3rd Sgt. Janus book and your new D.C. Jones books looks brilliant! And I like forward to reading and reviewing your fantasy novel someday. You are a regular Gardner Fox!  Thanks for your time, Jim.

Here’s a few of the latest Didja Know? columns from Jim here, here and here.