Brainiac On Banjo: How Does Tom Brevoort Relax?

No place to hide… no place to run. The mutant age has now begun! Magneto’s hordes are on their way to pillage, burn and plunder, but there’s one team that will not yield, the team that strikes like thunder! — Theme song for Pryde of the X-Men (unsold 1989 television pilot) written by Robert J. Walsh.

It just so happens I have a lot of respect for Tom Brevoort. He’s been editing over at Marvel Comics since they were published on papyrus scrolls, and he’s been doing a damn good job.

That says a lot — looking at the history of our beloved medium, comics have had a tendency to eat up editors and spit them out due to our incessant squirming. The job takes knowledge, skill, and perseverance to keep straight all those characters, and Tom’s job for the past quarter-century has been to oversee the surfeit of Avengers titles.

The last time I counted, that means Brevoort had to keep track of enough costumed characters to squeeze out the population of Chongqing. Yeah, look it up.

I can understand why he’d be interested in doing something new. Sure, I’ve got a short attention span, but what the hell, he’s earned the right to kick back and try a few “new” characters on for size.

You know, like taking oversight over the X-Men titles.

Now, I suspect when Tom goes to the San Diego or New York comics conventions, he sees that as being on vacation. Being limited to the usual number of appendages, I can not guess which Marvel sub-universe has more characters. Moreover, storylines often get rather convoluted. After all, 84 years is a long time and we’ve had to invent the word “retcon” to help keep some of it straight.

Those of you who read last week’s Brainiac On Banjo — or, come to think of it, at least a half-dozen previous columns I’ve devoted to running this topic to the ground — know I have a serious problem with unlimited simultaneous manifestations of comic book characters. This is a bit different, as the majority of denizens within both the Avengers and the X-Men sub-universes are unique. Sure, there’s a lot of overlap and more than a bit of character cloning, but we’re talking about so many costumes that, if given a complete list, both Marty Scorsese and Bill Maher would have heart attacks.

Personally, when the X-Men faction started to expand I was… uncomfortable… with The New Mutants. Seriously. I really enjoyed the X-Men, and lord knows Chris Claremont has earned his place in history for steering that ship through his many voyages. But I found a second X-title undermined the sense of wonder I gleaned from the Uncannies. I’ve nibbled at the various X books over the subsequent 41 years — I loved Spider-Man vs Deadpool and I look forward to the movie adaptation — but they can not possibly make a GPS that will help me navigate the traffic in that corner of the Marvel Universe.

That’s just me, and clearly the weight of history runs against my predilections. The X-Men probably is the most successful franchise in comics history, and the number of different X-titles might actually exceed Richie Rich’s record. Of course, it’s been quite a while since any new Richie Rich titles have come out, but over all approximating the body count of either franchise is like guessing the number of jelly beans in an extremely old glass vase.

Chongqing, At Night

(That’s a trick question. They are jelly beans. After a while, the correct answer can only be “one.” But… I digress.)

Tom has had an amazing career. His love for the comics art medium is obvious and all-encompassing. He’s Marvel’s Senior Vice President of Publishing, he’s been a Marvel editor of one sort or another longer than any other earthling. Tom has won an Eisner Award and all kinds of other accolades, and, as I’ve more-or-less implied, he deserves every one of them. Including the one that looks like a loving cup but is really just chocolate wrapped in gold foil.

Without a shred of cynicism or sarcasm (trust me), I wish Tom well with the X-line.

Quite separately, I wish Tom’s sanity well. Does Marvel merchandising have licenses for really cool looking straight-jackets? How’s that Disney health plan holding up?