Jim McCann interview

A number of people may know Jim McCann as a voice on podcasts talking about Marvel comics. Others may know him from the many conventions he works at for Marvel. You may not realize that he is a fine writer as well, but that’s sure to change once you read New Avengers: The Reunion. Westfield’s Roger Ash recently spoke to McCann about this new mini-series.

Westfield: What’s the set up for the book? What should people know going in?

Jim McCann: If they picked up Secret Invasion, which I’m assuming a lot of people did, then they know that Mockingbird [Bobbi Morse] is back, Clint’s [Clint Barton, Ronin] long time love interest who has for a long time been thought dead. Mockingbird has not been dead all these years, but held captive by the Skrulls. Then, if you read Dark Reign: New Nation, you’ll see the 8-page prologue in there. While these two lovebirds may have been reunited, all is not well with them. One of the things that’s always attracted me to them as a couple is the ability to be able to play a couple that’s a real, honest to God couple. In the Marvel Universe, for a long time you didn’t see a lot of that. Even Reed and Sue didn’t necessarily have marital issues beyond the occasional spat. Clint and Bobbi had an enormous arc. They met, fell in love, and eloped immediately. They formed the Avengers West Coast and were happy for about 39 issues, then things started to fall apart very quickly. They separated. They were going to be divorced. Then she came back, or did she? I can’t tell you that yet. You’ll find out. And then she died. Clint had to go on and find a way to live without her. Now that she’s back, what does that mean? What does that mean for him? What does that mean for her? Since the last time you saw her was 15 years ago in Avengers West Coast #100, not counting the occasional times that you’ve seen something that looks like her in Hell, I don’t want people to have to go back and re-read 100 issues of history just to get a sense of what these two are. The set up of this is to refamiliarize old readers, and introduce new readers, to these two amazing characters and show what they do to, and for, each other; what they bring out in each other, both the good and the bad.

Westfield: What can you say about the story in the mini-series?

McCann: The story has a lot to do with what happened to Bobbi while she was gone and what she’s brought back from the Skrull homeworld. There is a mystery underlying there, so I can’t say much, but there are a number of hints in the prologue. In the prologue, you see her have these weird flashbacks. She’s going to continue to have those Post Traumatic Stress Induced visions. Those aren’t just throwaways. They are clues and hints and actual things that have happened to her. So, that will unfold. She has brought information back with her. There was a lot that happened to her while she was there. It goes into another layer of what the Skrulls discovered while they were observing us for years. As you read in Illuminati and Secret Invasion, they’ve wanted to get back at us since the Kree-Skrull War. They’ve been doing things since then to try and get back at the Illuminati. How Bobbi and other people play into that is key in The Reunion.

Also, it is a chance to define their relationship. You could just say, “Yay! They’re back! They kissed at the end of Secret Invasion and all’s well.” But there are so many questions left unanswered, and this gives us the opportunity to answer a lot of those questions. Yes, they kissed at the end of Secret Invasion, but what’s been going on while they’re around other people versus what’s going on behind closed doors with the two of them are two different things. They’re kind of keeping up appearances. This mini gives a chance to really dive in. Brian Bendis has been amazingly generous to let me tackle that aspect of this couple. They will be in the New Avengers, but they’re going to be part of the ensemble cast. Clint will have his arc, and Bobbi has her reasons for being there, but as far as what the hell’s going on with the two of them, this is where you’re going to find that.

Westfield: Is this your first writing project?

McCann: This is my first solo long form writing project for Marvel, which is a long way of saying yes. [laughter] Prior to Marvel, I majored in Radio/TV/Film and minored in English and Theatre at Xavier University. While I was there, I wrote a number of plays, one of which won best writer. I got my start playwrighting which then lead to me being accepted into the ABC Daytime Writer Development program which takes young writers and teaches them how to write serialized fiction. That’s what soap operas, and comic books, are – taking characters that have been around for 60 years and continuing to move them forward and telling compelling stories where you have to come back the next day or, in the case of comics, the next issue. It was a very unique opportunity and something I was very happy to be a part of. While I was being trained in how to write soap operas, I was also being trained in how to write comics. The parallels were immediately apparent to me because I have been a comic book fan for 25 years, at least. I wrote for One Life to Live briefly, then came to Marvel where I was more on the office track, doing marketing and PR and publicity and conventions; all the things that people who do know of me at Marvel know me from. I did get a chance to write an 8-page backup in Kid Colt and the Arizona Girl when we were doing the Marvel Westerns a couple years back. My past training came back in a very surprising way when I was able to write The Guiding Light soap opera/Marvel New Avengers crossover 8-page backup story that appeared in a number of things around the time of Civil War. It was the comic book half of a crossover that took place on an episode of The Guiding Light. That was surreal to say the least, but amazing and so much fun. Recently, Brian Reed and I co-wrote What If? House of M that came out last week. I did an 8-page holiday story which is part of the Marvel.com digital holiday special that goes live on the 17th. All of those were 8-pagers, or in the case of What If? , a one-shot with a co-writer who was able to save me and catch me if I fell. Brian Reed taught me tons. This is my first solo long term project. By long term, I mean 4 issues. Hopefully more, sales gods willing.

Westfield: You’re working with David Lopez on the book. How is your collaboration with him?

McCann: Amazing. David is perfectly cast for this book. Jeanine Schaefer is our editor and she and I are of the same mind in that Bobbi needs to be strong and determined, but also beautiful and yet realistic. When paired with Clint, these two are the Mr. and Mrs. Smith of the Marvel Universe. Brian Bendis has pointed out that when I said that, that was what sold him on it. We have to deliver on that high octane action, but they’re also very expressive. I also like to think of them kind of like Nick and Nora Charles, from the Thin ManCatwoman series, of the Marvel Universe just as much as they are Mr. and Mrs. Smith. They have that repartee. That’s a tough role to cast for an artist; somebody that can handle expression as well as action; feminine beauty combined with a strong female role; and then also Clint who is an incredibly dominant character himself. She knew of David’s work from and showed me some pages. I thought “That looks pretty cool. I can see that.” And then he started turning in pages and designs. We’re giving Bobbi an updated look that he has done and he just nailed it. I think he draws the most beautiful and intelligent looking Bobbi Morse I’ve ever seen. What I’m trying to get across in the script, he gets across on the page. Here’s a woman who has a PHD in biology, is a trained. S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, and co-founded an Avengers team. That’s a pretty good character with a lot of history and a lot of tricks up her sleeve and a lot of things to be able to fall back on. Clint has almost that Puckish charm that I’ve always thought Clint should have, while still being able to know when it’s time to get down to business. He’s getting across the emotion. When I write the scenes, I see it in my head with these characters really existing and fluidly moving as though it were a TV show or a movie. I see a wide range of emotions and facial expressions that can be difficult for artists to capture sometimes. He nails it. Sometimes he gives me back expressions, and I’m like, “David! Were you in my head? How did you do that?” Sometimes it’s even better. I got a layout today and there’s one panel in particular where I was like, “That is brilliant.” He interpreted the script in a way that made it so much better. And it got across, visually, an important bit of information. I honestly can’t say enough good things about David. I am so happy that he is at Marvel now and working on this with me. I like to think of David, Jeanine, and me as the Three Musketeers on this. We all have such love for this book and these characters that I hope it shines through and resonates with people.

Westfield: Any closing comments?

McCann: I’m having so much fun with this book. I’m so thankful to Marvel for letting me do it. To Brian and Tom Brevoort for letting her come back. For everybody that’s involved in the book. I’m also really happy to see that fans seem genuinely excited and interested in where these two are going. These are legacy characters. These are characters who have been around for a while, even if we haven’t seen them in various shapes or forms for quite some time. To the fans, I would like to say thank you for expressing an interest in the book. I hope you like it. I hope you get all your questions answered. Trust me, I know there are a lot of questions behind this return. Fans are going to be in for quite a surprise when they see this and how it all plays out. Everything should be answered by the end of this between the characters, and everybody is going to be set up in a way to move forward. If people really like it, I am praying that we actually do get to move forward with more adventures. It’s wonderful to have Bobbi back in the Marvel Universe and I feel honored to be part of that.

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