If you read comics and have never heard the name Fabian Nicieza, you’re a rare breed. Fabian has written just about everything at one time or another, but has been most associated with his work for Marvel Comics. Randomville sat down to talk with Fabian about the past, present and future of his time in the industry.
Randomville: First, let’s talk a bit about how you got into comics in general. As a fan. How old were you when you picked up your first comic? What was it? What was the hook that turned you into a regular comic reader?
Fabian Nicieza: I followed my older brother’s footsteps. I looked at what he looked at. In Argentina, there was a comics magazine called Antiojito y Antifa. It was a kids’ magazine with mostly comic material. I do remember that one and I was only about 3 or 4.
When we came to the United States, we were all into the Batman TV show, and we saw Batman and Superman comics. We bought those and they helped us learn how to read and write English – especially my brother – at a much faster rate than we normally might have. Then a school friend of my brother’s told us we should be reading Marvel, because they were cooler. This is like 1967. So we tried some – Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, Captain America. Since we drew as well, reading and drawing from the comics was almost a full-time gig! I just kept reading them because I loved them. I also devoured all kinds of typical kids’ books from paperbacks reprinting Peanuts cartoons to Hardy Boys.
RV: What made you decide to pursue comics as a career?
FN: I always wanted to be a writer but I understood that I needed the foundation of some kind of a career before I could ever try to develop those aspirations. I graduated from college with a degree in Public Relations and Advertising, hoping to get a job at Marvel or DC. That didn’t initially pan out, but I did get a job in publishing, which as in most fields, is like the Kevin Bacon game. Eventually, a co-worker had a sister working for Marvel who needed an assistant, and I applied and got the job.
RV: How did you score your first paying gig? What was it? Did it take a long time to get that first call? Looking back, were you happy with not only the work you produced, but the job itself at the time? Now?
FN:[I did] a “Guest Meanwhile” column in a month’s (or one week’s, I forget) worth of DC titles. I did send several story submissions while I was in college, to Jim Shooter at Marvel and to Sal Amendola at DC, who was the head of new talent development at that time. Just your average lame stuff almost anyone at 18 or19 would hand in. It did nothing to help me break in. Only getting a staff job at Marvel and learning the ropes from the inside did that. All my submissions ever did back then is provide editor Ralph Macchio the fodder he’d need to abuse me in the future on his Door of Shame.
My first story writing work was about a year and a half into my job at Marvel on a Spider-Man inventory that was never drawn. It was dropped in the transition from one editor to another. I got a kill fee for that. Two years into my job, I sold my first published work. PSI-FORCE #9 for the New Universe.
How it came about is that I was walking down the hall doing my Advertising Manager job and editor Bob Budiansky stopped me and asked, “Do you want to write?” Yes, he was THAT desperate. The New Universe titles were in THAT bad a shape that he’d ask an “outsider,” since Promotion/Sales and Editorial were supposed to be mortal enemies back then.
I said I did. He asked if I could pitch some one-issue inventory ideas for Psi-Force. I went home, read the first few issues that had been released, typed up about ten different story ideas, he bought one of them. Liked what he saw. Bought a second. Liked what he saw, then Jim Shooter realigned the editorial assignment on the book and named me the monthly writer.
Looking back, I’m pretty darned happy with a lot of the work. I see the passion, the energy, the desperate desire to try and be Alan Moore, failing miserably at it! But I look back on Psi-Force with tremendous pride, because we did a lot of good things with those titles in terms of shaking up the status quo of the books and changing the perceptions of what a superhero comic could be. In some ways, they were precursors to lots of the excellent “realistic” superhero work being done now.
RV: What happened from there? Did the gigs start rolling in, or did you have to pursue them with vim and vigor?
FN: Actually, I thought the gigs were gonna roll, but they didn’t. Shooter left, so that actually was a good thing for me, since it eliminated the spectre of being considered his “golden boy.” Jim is a friggin’ genius, but for my career, at that time, with his relationship among the editorial staff, if would not have been good for me to be too closely identified to him.
After Psi-Force was cancelled in – 89 was it? – I had a year of “scut work.” Lots of inventory stories, Annual back-ups, 8 page stories for Marvel Comics Presents. And lots of rejected proposals. It was a frustrating time because I was close enough I could almost touch it, but not quite… and the taste (and added paycheck) of monthly work was very alluring.
The big break came when editor Danny Fingeroth made the very risky decision to award me a new title he’d been given to develop…
That would be New Warriors.
RV: What do you consider your seminal work? The one book you feel most readers probably immediately associate with the name Fabian Nicieza. Tell me about that work, and how you feel about it today.
FN: Unfortunately, those are two different answers. I think most people associate me with X-Men, which I find unfortunate, since so much of that material wasn’t even remotely indicative of my real work or my preferred creative direction. Those who read New Warriors might consider that book to be my “seminal work.” Others who have read Nomad might think that is. I still get reader mail from people who loved my X-Force run with Gregg Capullo. They were all different books. Personally, I think I did some of my best work on Turok, but no one ever read it. Or everyone might just think I suck.
I haven’t written my seminal work yet. I don’t know that I ever will, quite honestly. I might not be talented enough to inseminate a comic book. (Smiles). I just want to entertain and be loved. Is that so much to ask?
RV: Let’s get current. Tell me about Hawkeye, the Deadpool/Cable series and the Avengers/Thunderbolts mini. How did each come about?
FN: I think all editors and publishers have a list of characters “To Be Developed.” Hawkeye came up on the list and I was asked for a take on it. I wanted to do the first arc as Crime Noir, knowing full well there might never be a second arc, in which case, you might as well do something a little different with the character.
Cable/Deadpool was the result of Marvel’s desire to keep these characters going, since both have very strong followings – which has a bit of an overlap between them. They called me to pitch since they were trying to find a writer who “understood” these guys. Having been there from the beginning, I think I qualified.
Avengers/Thunderbolts was a direct result of editorial wanting to give the T-Bolt characters a “proper” sense of closure, since they were basically kicked out of their own book – and maybe even a new beginning as a result.
RV: Since you mentioned it, how did the Thunderbolts revamp sit with you?
FN: I never read it, so I can’t speak on it creatively. They are good creators who were given an editorial mandate to do something different. From many accounts, it was very good work, it just shouldn’t have been called Thunderbolts. That marketing maneuver backfired because it underestimated and disrespected both the audience that existed for the original book and the audience that should have existed for the new book.
RV: So, what’s going on in your current monthly books right now?
FN: Hawkeye has to figure out how to protect a relic of Christ that shouldn’t be where it is. After that, in #7-8, he’ll have to figure out how to solve a murder when one of the world’s deadliest killers might not want him to solve that murder.
In Cable/Deadpool, they’ll have to figure out how to survive three consecutive pages without killing each other. I’m working on #6 next and so far, they’ve failed miserably.
Avengbolts #1 came out to some good buzz. The people who love their “traditional” Marvel Superheroes are very happy to see them back. It’s almost as if the characters became a rallying cry in a bit of a silly Us vs. Them war. A war, by the way, precipitated by the Them, not the Us. In my opinion, Us and Them should all read whatever they want and enjoy it, without bashing each others’ tastes. That’s like a viewer of The Shield bashing Judging Amy. Different things appeal to different people. Enjoy diversity. Spandex or leather, who cares? Take a chill pill and relax.
RV: Looking to the future, what’s on your plate?
FN: Comics wise? Just the stuff above right now.
I’ve been spending a lot of time working on “Red Wind,” which is a live-action short film project that will be available for viewing on the Internet between late March to mid-April. I wrote and produced it. It’s been a tremendous amount of fun and a great education all at the same time.
RV: Anything the public hasn’t heard about or something that’s newly announced?
FN: Comics wise? A new Marvel project I am attached to that I don’t think has been officially announced, so I’ll shut up about it. Retro fun that felt like the right thing at the right time.
As for “Red Wind,” once the film is complete, I’ll be begging for publicity all over the Internet telling people about it and providing URL links for where it can be downloaded.
RV: Do you see yourself doing another creator-owned book like Blackburne Covenant anytime soon? Anything you’d like to tackle that hasn’t been presented to you yet?
FN: The Blackburne Covenant wasn’t creator-owned. Dark Horse owns the puppy. And it’s available in trade paperback right now, go buy it! I’d love to do more along those lines, sure, but right now, I’ve been concentrating on lots of other stuff.
RV: If you could pick one established property to work on and had your choice of creative team, who and what would it be? Would this be your dream project, or is there another (something creator-owned perhaps)?
FN: Geez, that’s a tough question. There are simply too many characters I still want to write and too many people I want to work with.
But if I had a dream’s dream for established superheroes, I’d say it’s a toss-up between two: I’d love to write Superman – just for one year (unless they want me to stay on forever) – and have Mark Bagley draw it.
And I’d love to write Nightwing and have either Rags Morales and Michael Bair do the art or Patrick Zircher. See, now answer a question like that just makes me sigh and feel all sad inside.
RV: What would you consider your defining moment as a writer to date?
FN: I haven’t written it.
RV: What are you most proud of in your comics work?
FN: What I am most proud of, sad as it might be, since I wasn’t proud of the work itself, was the run on X-books that gave me the financial security to take care of my family. Knowing I’ve provided for them makes any and all creative frustrations a pretty moot point in my mind.
RV: Who or what keeps you inspired today?
FN: I think there’s plenty of lunacy, stupidity, decency and hope all around me on a daily basis to provide the necessary inspiration to write stories.
RV: What do you hope to be remembered among the comics community for?
FN: My luxurious hair.