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December, 2006

Doctor Strange Masterworks Vol. 3
Due March '07

Once again, I'm happy to bring you an interview with Cory Sedlmeier, editor of the Masterworks program, and it's a pretty good time to be talking to him. In a couple short weeks, this site will be launching the yearly installment of the Masterworks Survey, and we also had the privilege of announcing two big Masterworks that will see release in January 2007, Warlock Vol. 1 and Atlas Era Heroes Vol. 1! We caught up with Cory to discuss these two particular volumes specifically, as well as a couple other topics at hand.

GORMUU: A couple months ago, you rumored that Subby 2 would be ready to "thaw out" sometime this year. For those who missed your message board banter, can you put a finer point on this rumor about SA Subby being on the 2007 schedule? (This has been a popular question: one person asking even promised you a supply of canned tuna!)

CORY: I think poor Namor would freeze in these cold temperatures. Look at him in the preview pages from Atlas Era Heroes Vol. 1. Guy looks cold to me. The first Marvel Age Sub-Mariner volume was the first Masterworks I edited, so, I suppose you're right, five years on, it would seem to be about time for a sequel.

P.S. Tuna with water. The oily stuff is nasty.

GORMUU: Fans spend a lot of time pondering the production benchmarks for the different lines of Masterworks published each year (currently Golden Age=4, Atlas Era=?, Marvel Age=12). At this point in the Masterworks program, at least in regards to GA and MA Masterworks, are these numbers fluid and changeable, or are they a locked-down certainty?

CORY: There's certainly a degree of flexibility. I think more than 12 with Marvel Age might be getting a wee bit insane, but then look at our Omnibus schedule. I guess that means we've lost it.

GORMUU: Following up on the last question, we saw 2 Atlas Era books in 2006; can we presume there will be more in 2007? And how bullish are you on AE prospects beyond 2007?

CORY: I [how do you do a heart in this message board thing?]. I (heart) Atlas, or however that goes. Definitely plan on seeing more Atlas books in '07 than we rolled out in '06.

GORMUU: Someone asked the following question, which I'd love to have answered, but also contains a conversation point I'd like you to expand on:

"Are you guys gonna include the Wolverine/Herc Treasury story and the Storm/Panther Marvel Team-Up story in the next UXM Masterworks?"

Beyond simply answering the question, it brings up a larger question: what is your policy concerning Masterworks lines rounding up material that was printed outside that line's main focus? We've seen the Spectacular Spider-Man magazines included in Amazing Spider-Man Masterworks, and Bizarre Adventures stories collected in Uncanny X-Men Masterworks, which are very nice treats for people who like to feel like they're getting the full scope of stories from the era they're reading. But are those "special case" instances, or are you trying your level best as Masterworks editor to "leave no story behind" when prepping new volumes, including all the little blips like a Wolverine/Herc story that appeared in a Marvel Treasury?

CORY: That's a tricky question. The Spectacular Spider-Man magazines were included because without them the Green Goblin storyline makes no sense. If only the ASM issues were included Norman's memory would slowly come back, he'd remember he was the Goblin, and then he'd just disappear. They have to be included for the storyline to make sense.

The Bizarre Adventures story was included in UNCXv5 as a bonus, pure and simple. It was a short story that fit within the page count, and did a nice job of capping the sentiment of the Dark Phoenix storyline. You'll notice that issues included as bonus material, not as meat-and-potatoes material aren't included on the main table of contents and have their own, separate credits page in the back of the book.

Warlock Masterworks Vol. 1
Due January '07
As to how this will be addressed going forward? On a case-by-case basis. I like to be as complete as possible with the Masterworks, but I still retain a degree of flexibility. A hard-set policy would eliminate so much of the craaaaazy planning that makes the job interesting!

GORMUU: There has been much discussion on the Masterworks forum about the merits of a Silver Surfer Masterworks Vol. 3, which would conceivably feature material like the Kirby/Lee graphic novel, the two French issues, the Epic Illustrated short, and the John Byrne one-shot from 1982, among others. However, the Essential Silver Surfer Vol. 2 is slated to not include most of this material, so is there some reason we might expect the Masterworks would also skip that material?

There hasn't been a Marvel Masterworks: The Silver Surfer Vol. 3 announced yet, so I wouldn't presume that any of that material has been ruled out. What I can tell you is that many of those stories have special rights associated with them that would need to be sorted out. The 1978 graphic novel, for instance, was published by Marvel in association with Simon & Schuster. It's something we've discussed briefly, and perhaps, given time, we'll be able to tee up a third Surfer volume including those rare 1970s and early '80s stories.

GORMUU: We're about to turn the Masterworks Survey results over to you for your edification. Are there any ties that need breaking or decisions yet to be made that you think the survey will help out with?

CORY: The easiest way to win a tiebreaker is to tell David you're going to do another Captain Marvel volume. After that he's pretty much willing to let you get away with anything. He also tends to forget things, so even if you're NOT doing a new Captain Marvel volume, this ol' chestnut can just keep on givin'.

#1: Is there any chance of the Marvel Age Masterworks schedule being upped, even if only by 1 or 2 books per year? Or failing that, is there any chance of having genre books and/or Bronze Age books come *on top* of the 12/year, instead of coming out of them?

CORY: Right now I'd have to say that that would be murder. With the new Omnibus volumes we're doing from scratch like Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 1 that's like a five Masterworks month on my schedule. To put more on top of that might risk sacrificing the timeliness or the books or the quality, and I'm not willing to concede either of those.

Daredevil Masterworks Vol. 4
Due February '07
#2: Are you conscious of the dangers inherent in having too many simultaneously open lines, and the decrease in consumer excitement that can occur when lines have to wait too long for a follow-up? If so, what are you doing to avoid these dangers, and how many simultaneously open lines do you think are ideal for the Masterworks program? Do we already have too many open lines, or are we just right, or are we looking to increase the amount of open lines?

CORY: I have no concerns about the number of lines we have going right now. I think a few more would be plenty healthy for the Masterworks. It's a given that as we move further into the '70s, and the number of titles available to pull from expands, so will the number of Masterworks lines. Just as Marvel's publishing line expanded at the time.

At the same time don't expect us to spend eight out of twelve months of the year adding new volume one's to the line. The growth of the Masterworks line has been carefully orchestrated, especially since we started rolling out the brand new volumes.

2004 was a trial run. 2005 was where we learned how to manage the monthly grind. 2006 was where we started to get aggressive, building the number of lines, books, and our talent pool. That leaves us poised to make 2007 unequivocally the best year the Masterworks have ever seen. Toss in the Omnibus books, and I start to laugh at the number of corresponding Masterworks volumes on my plate for 2007. Like I said before, we have gone certifiably insane.

I'm sure those of you who have been around since Day One remember when it was, what three Masterworks a year grouped together at the end of the year? With sixteen in 2006 alone I think we're doing pretty damn fine right now.

#3: Have you given any thought to the contents of Masterwork #100 ?

CORY: Sure have.

#4: Who or what is 'Pond Scum'?

CORY: Marvel's secret weapon. Every time you look at those market share and dollar share sheets, know that the true reason for Marvel's dominance is one thing, and one thing only. Pond Scum.

#5: What percentage of art restoration in the Masterworks needs to be redrawn by hand by folks like Mike Kelleher? (Amazing job he's doing, by the by.) Is it on the order of a page or two per volume? More?

CORY: I couldn't give a direct percentage across the Masterworks. It's something that varies widely. The Golden Age books are all fully reconstructed from copies of the original books because none of that material exists in Marvel's archives any longer. Back in the '40s no one could have guessed that almost 70 years later people would be pining for these stories!

That said, any of you Golden Age collectors out there that have original Timely issues, we're always, always, always on the hunt for materials. If you might be willing to lend a hand, please contact me at cmsedlmeier@marvel.com.

Meanwhile back at the ranch, the Atlas Era has proven to be either completely hit, or completely miss so far. These issues have either been intact in the film library and in great shape, or completely missing. For instance, Marvel Boy #1 and #2 were found and in sparkling condition (the earliest finds from our film warehouse yet, which is not to say there isn't earlier material, we just haven't gotten around to reprinting it yet); however, Astonishing #3 and #4 were completely missing.

For the Marvel Age, it varies. Some volumes require no full reconstruction. Others require two or three pages, and others, say where a complete story is missing, 20 plus pages. Earlier material tends to be in poorer condition. Most likely because it was duplicated over and over again throughout the '60s, '70s, and '80s for various reprint comics. I've heard word that the first generation photostats were sent out West for use in the 1960s Marvel Super Heroes cartoons.

Conversely, the version of Amazing Fantasy #15 the film warehouse located for the ASM Omnibus is bar-none the absolute best version ever. I put my word on that—you can see the pencil line from where the captions were sketched out on these proofs! Jean, Ryan, and their crew at Jerron deserve huge kudos for their hard work searching the tens of thousands of photostat reams. The reproduction quality of every Masterworks starts with these guys and girls.

Before I close this out one thing I'd like to clarify here is that the folks that do this work are reconstructing the artwork from an original printed copy with utter faithfulness to the originals. There have been hullaboos about how reconstruction is a disservice to the original talents, and I hate to say it, but I take offense to that.

Folks like Mike Kelleher, Wil Glass, Dale Crain, Matt Moring, All Thumbs Creative, Pacific Rim Graphics, and Secret Agent Pond Scum put an intense effort and an enormous amount of time into every page, and its all to honor the original artists. There are no bigger fans than these people. They've made this their life's work, and for the record, they rock. I'm spinning plates, and figuring out plans, and chasing schedules, but these are the people that really deserve your thanks and respect. They make it happen.

I really appreciate the kind words that the person who asked this question had for Mike and his work. Thank you!

#6: When will we see OOP volumes go back-to-print? It's been almost two years since we were told this would happen and there appears to be no progress. If and when they go back-to-print (BTP), how often will they be released? All at once? Monthly? Every so often? Are there some volumes, like Spidey Vol. 5 and FF Vol. 5, that Marvel has placed a priority on reprinting first (those being probably the most expensive on the secondary market)?

CORY: I can speak to this from editorial angle. Our Salesmeister, David G., I'm sure, will field it from the mystical world of inventory, sell-in/sell-through, and the many other factors that give him giant-sized headaches that are involved in such a decision.

The initial work on BTP is conveniently taken up by the Omnibus volumes. You all know that the Uncanny X-Men Omnibus completely restored the entirety of X-Men #94-131. I'm nearing the finish line on completing ASM #1-38. That's eight volumes worth of Masterworks right there. Done, set, and ready to go, and I'm not mentioning the other three Omni-thingers I'm working on right now!

The Omnibus books are great projects because:

a) They give great exposure to the material during ideal times, such as when Marvel's movies hit the public's imagination.

b) It's a lot in one shot. Four books done and ready at once is always better than one.

c) From my in-the-trenches POV this is perhaps the most important, they allow us to build our talent pool that will give us the staff to carry out BTP. You can't just up and roll 10 new books onto the schedule out of the blue. Building resources, and we only accept the best, is one of my most important and time-consuming contributions to the Masterworks. As I said above, in 2006 we made substantial progress in building our talent pool.

#7: Any plans on including letter pages in re-released Masterworks, and future Masterworks (the one's that come out in sewn binding)? I think the unrestored format similar to the FF Omnibus would be great. I know it's not essential material, but just for completeness' sake.

CORY: I don't see that as a likely change that the Masterworks will see. Although the letters pages are a heck of a lot of fun, I wouldn't want to sacrifice including another story/issue in a Masterworks in exchange for letters pages.

#8: How about a true “collectors edition” of Masterworks volumes? I’d suggest a higher-end binding (perhaps leather) and a new dustjacket design to go with them. Marvel Masterworks Deluxe Collector’s Editions!

CORY: That's up to you guys. If there's a market, who can say? They'd be pretty pricey, though. Cowhide does not come cheap.

#9: Any chance of dropping the volume numbers on the spines of the variants? It was an okay idea at first, but is sure looks funny when you put the books by title.

CORY: Nah, the variants are for the folks who dug the original line-based numbering. To change tack on this part of the audience 75 volumes in would probably get me strung up.

There are a good number of Masterworks readers in New York. I wouldn't be safe here.

#10: Can you explain how you envision the Atlas Heroes line? What would and would not fall under that umbrella? Would things like Sub-Mariner and Venus be collected in that series?
Warlock Masterworks Vol. 1
Due January '07
Or would they have their own individual lines? For example, Atlas Era Sub-Mariner 1 vs. Atlas Era Heroes 3 featuring the Sub-Mariner.

CORY: Atlas Era Heroes will cover the 1950s incarnations of Marvel Boy, Captain America, Human Torch, Sub-Mariner, Black Knight, Yellow Claw, Venus and the various Spaceman series. In keeping with that, Atlas Era Heroes Vol. 3 will feature Sub-Mariner and collect the whole of his 1950s solo series.

#11: So far with Masterworks, we’ve had Atlas Era (post-code) horror/sci-fi and super-heroes (coming in January). Is there any chance you could tell us what genre you’re planning to dip into next? (Pre-code horror/sci-fi, jungle, crime, war, western, humor, romance?) And - assuming it isn’t next - how long before we might see a crime title?

CORY: I'm a huge fan of the EC New Trend comics, so I'd love to get into some of the Atlas pre-Code horror. How long it will be before we hit all of those genres? Well, that comes down to how many titles you guys want. The survey says...?

#12: For Atlas Era Journey Into Mystery and Strange Tales, have you decided if these will be starting at the Kirby/Ditko Era (issues 50 and 67 respectively), or will they begin from #1?

CORY: Be pretty wacky to start a series with #50, wouldn't it?

#13: What are the chances of an Atlas Era Timely Superhero Revival Omnibus being printed? It would encompass about 600 pages which seems ideal and would include all of the Atlas Age appearances of Captain America, Submariner and the Torch.

CORY: Lovin' your Atlas enthusiasm, but let the printer finish Volume 1 for us first! I wouldn't see this as a likely collection until some time after all of the related material had its day in the Masterworks.

#14: With Atlas Era and Bronze (or should I call it "post-Silver"?), does Marvel have overall long term plans that are similar to the completion approach in Silver, particurly with Atlas where there is a beginning and an end to what is termed Atlas Era? Or is Atlas and Bronze/Modern more of a "picking one's spots"?

CORY: All categories are fluid things, and none of them can accurately describe what they're representing. They just make it less cumbersome and easier to wrap your head around what you're attempting to describe. (Answer too many questions one shot, and you'll start going off the rails a bit, too!) There will be some Atlas material with 1940s cover dates, and some Atlas material with 1960s cover dates.

As for what collectors term "Bronze Age" and/or "Modern Age" that doesn't really apply to the the structure of the Masterworks. We've broken the line into three categories that represent the different stages of Timely/Atlas/Marvel's publishing history. From the point that the super-heroes hit in 1961 the company's identity has been consistently Marvel and primarily based around the underwear-on-the-outside guys, so all material from that point forward falls under the Marvel Age of Comics. So speaketh Stan!

#15: Can we expect Ant Man 2 and SA Human Torch 2 in 2007, so we can wrap those short runs up and move on to other things?

CORY: Sure we can, but may we? Oooooh, I'm in fourth grade art class all over again.

#16: What about Marvel Super-Heroes and Tales of the Watcher? Most of the Marvel Super-Heroes stories have Masterworks they can be reprinted in, but Phantom Eagle and Black Knight really don’t. Likewise about half of Tales of the Watcher could(/will?) be covered in AE Tales of Suspense, but the other half was in Silver Surfer 1-7. Any idea how these stories will be handled?

CORY: Black Knight has a home with the Avengers. He was part of the team after all. Phantom Eagle we'll see. As for Tales of the Watcher, the stories in Silver Surfer were simply newly illustrated versions of stories originally written for the post-Implosion fantasy/monster titles. I don't see them as being markedly Marvel Age content, and besides, he's The Watcher. It's his gig to look in on other realities. Bald little monkey was probably peepin' on the Atlas Era the entire time.

#17: Is there any chance of seeing the original material produced for Marvel UK in Masterworks, Essentials, or some other format? (Examples are Captain Britain, Black Knight, Hulk, and Nick Fury.)

Golden Age USA Masterworks Vol. 1
Due March '07
CORY: I wouldn't rule it out.

#18: Are there any plans to make an annual slot for Marvel Age genre work (western and war)?

CORY: I'm a genre junkie. I'd love to see as much of the Atlas and Marvel non-super-hero material as possible. Takes all kinds. I know folks who wouldn't touch a spandex Masterworks for all the tea in China, but Sgt. Fury? That they'll lay money on...then they'll buy the spandex ones. ;)

#19: The covers from the reprint mags in Rawhide Kid Masterworks were much appreciated. How about some more in the Avengers, FF or Spidey titles? Four to a page would be adequate and they wouldn't have to be stories featured in the same volume either. Also some house ads, please.

CORY: I'm glad you enjoyed them! Anywhere we can get some John Severin Western artwork in print, I'm all for it. The man is a master. We'll include reprint covers wherever we're able.

In regards to house ads, the everyday average house ad, you know, where it's two or three tilted covers, often with poor repro and wonky colors, underneath a banner? Those don't really strike me as something as unique enough to warrant taking up a page. The Spectacular Spider-Man ads (included in ASM v7) those had a little something more that called for their inclusion. The house ads announcing new series like the ad promoting Dr. Strange's debut as a solo series that I'd consider game, but the standard ol' ones? Not at the expense of story and/or more interesting bonuses.

#20: Do you anticipate Silver Age material up to about 1969 - including Not Brand Ecch but not the romance or war titles - to be completed in the Masterworks in approximately two years?

CORY: Why's everybody gotta hate on the war titles? Is there no love for romance! ;) They're important, too! I don't really follow the calendar too much when I plan these. I follow the content and the creators. I think the answer would be maybe yes.

P.S. Thanks for the Echh! love.

#21: When Dr. Strange #1 goes BTP, will the covers be added?

CORY: Mmmmm...most likely no. We included the Doc-centric covers from the Strange Tales run in the back of Vol. 2 to make up for the lack of them in Vol. 1. Why was it like this in the first place? The storylines for Doc Strange just so happen to fall into page counts that are mucho unwieldy. Either way too big or way too small for what is profitable or saleable.

#22: Speaking of DOCTOR STRANGE, will you please increase the frequency of Masterworks publication to weekly and fast track DOCTOR STRANGE to one every four weeks until every DOCTOR STRANGE comic book ever published is available in the hardcover format?

CORY: You're going to have to get an OK on that from everyone else first.

#23: Will there be any more "true" bronze-age books in 2007 like Warlock. (Deathlok?)

CORY: Holy wow, you gotta love characters with "lock" in their names! They just all happen to be really cool! It's not even 2007 yet, so I'm not tipping my hand. If you guys want a Deathlok Masterworks then say it loud and proud. That's how Warlock made it on the schedule.

#24: Would you have any reservations about publishing a Masterwork containing a licensed property (e.g. MOKF or Micronauts) given that if/when Marvel subsequently lost the rights again, you would no longer be able to keep it in print (as happened with Essential Conan)?

CORY: A Master of Kung Fu line would be excellent! This is more up to the rights holders than it is to us, however.

#25: Will something along the lines of Pussycat and other black and white series or anthology tales ever appear in masterwork form? Other hardcover form?

CORY: I've never heard of that one. Sounds racy. I'm interested!

#26: Cory, what classic comics are your favorites, (to read when you're not actually working on Masterworks?)

CORY: When you spend so much time hip-deep in something you have to take your down time away from it, otherwise you'll go completely nutters. I do pick up The Spirit Archives, Krazy & Ignatz, and the Peanuts collections, though, and Mike Allred, Alan Moore, Peter Bagge, Charles Burns, Dan Clowes, Frank Cho, Mike Mignola and some other folks' work when it comes out.

#26a. What's your Zodiac sign?

CORY: Shemp.

#26b. Do you enjoy long walks on the beach?

CORY: I live in New York, bro. The first time I went to Coney Island I saw what looked like a breast implant on the beach. Lemme get back on you on that after I return from Central America in February.

#26c. Who's your favorite Beatle?

CORY: Grew up on punk. Hated the Beatles for years, but gave them another shot a couple years ago. Ringo will outlive everyone just to spite the world.

#26d. Amazing Fantasy Masterwork?

CORY: How else?

Doctor Strange #174, opening splash
From upcoming Dr. Strange Vol. 3
#27: I think there would be definite interest in Cory's take on the reissuing of variant covers for remastered books.

CORY: To be honest, I wasn't a big fan of the variants when the Masterworks were relaunched. There was a moment where we were possibly going to revert to that format as the sole design of the Masterworks, and I felt that it was far too convoluted a system to bring in new readers. It confused ME, and I was practically eating this stuff morning, noon, and night.

They were also extremely difficult to print. Take a look at the original 27 even. The colors are all over the place on any number of the character lines! Oddly enough the ones that utilized Pantone colors (a specially mixed ink that corresponds to an exact color) like Thor were also the hardest to print. Thankfully, after a loooooot of work, and harassing three different printers to the extent that they all probably hate me, we've got that color thing nailed down.

I see the function that the variants served for our long-term fans, and I think that they shouldn't be left out in the cold. They've supported us for going on 20 years now, and that is important to us.

At the same time, I think that it's unfortunate that they've turned into such a pedigree item. Comics, like all books fer the luvva Pete, are meant to be read! We're taking in what readers here have to say, and we'll also likely consult with our retailers just as we did in the past—as I said in a post somewhere else, without direct input from our retailers we would have forgone doing variants at all—and make a decision based upon our audience's demands. If the majority doesn't want something, it won't happen. That's business.

#28: Any plans to ever including the pre-Timely pulps covers/contents (Marvel Science stories,Ka-Zar,Marvel Tales,etc...) in a future GA book as "bonus" material?

CORY: That's a pretty intriguing idea. I have to confess, I'm not familiar with Martin Gooodman's pulp magazine output.

#29: I don't know if this is your bailiwick, but what about DVDs for Dr. Strange, Nick Fury, Submariner, Captain Marvel, and Silver Surfer?

CORY: I was talking with Ray from GIT last week. He has some cool plans for future Marvel DVD-ROMs.

#30: How many GA and Atlas volumes are you anticipating getting out this year?

CORY: More than last year to be certain. Four and four seems like a good goal.

#31: How do you see the GA and Atlas masterworks program developing over the next few years?

CORY: Hair in strange places.

#32: Tells us a little about your first intro to comics as a fan and which comics you remember with the greatest fondness.

CORY: I read my older brother's Richie Rich comics when I was in grade school, and the other of my two brothers bought Transformers, which I'd read now and then, but mostly be confused by. (All that lousy karate-chopping Ralph Macchio's fault.) As a kid I didn't ever think about reading comics that weren't already associated with a TV show or game I was already exposed to. Just never occured to me. Perhaps because of lack of exposure, and perhaps because the little town of Woodville didn't have a fast food restaurant, much less a comic shop.

I have to blame the first Batman movie for getting me into comics by and large. I don't know that I would have looked twice at that issue of Batman with the Mike Mignola cover and all the corpses on it if the movie didn't already get my interest in the character. Guess I'll always have a soft spot for the Riddler storyline from those issues.

The first Marvel book I read was Infinity Gauntlet #1, which explains why I think Adam Warlock is tha @#%$.

#33: When are we getting a Tales of Asgard Omnibus?

CORY: Have you tried the Captain Marvel trick on David yet, Ray? It works real good.

#34: Iron Fist Masterworks?

CORY: Are you reading the new series by Fraction and Aja? Strong monthlies make for strong Masterworks tie-ins.

#35: It seems very clear that Marvel's intentions are to Masterwork the entire Silver Age, and a lot of it has been done to date. Any real risks to the completion happening?

CORY: Me getting hit by a bus.

#36: Who is better looking: Cory or David?

Warlock #2, cover
From Warlock Vol. 1
CORY: If you let David's head get any bigger he might fall over. Then where would we all be?

#37: Do you expect that the emphasis will remain in the foreseeable future that a volume of each title will be issued at least once every 2 years? I think this has been, overall (as there are exceptions), a critical element of success with the Masterworks program.

CORY: Sounds fair.

#38: What is the airspeed velocity of a fully laden sparrow?

CORY: I was a culture studies major so I can't give you the math on that, but what I can tell you is that we have officially jumped the shark on this thing.

Hope this was fun for all y'all. Thanks for your support, and before the year is out I'd love to hear what your favorite Masterworks of 2006 was. There's a sweet sixteen to choose from.


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