Classic Ben Dunn Interview - MARVEL's Mangaverse
Rasmussen : How did you first get involved in the Mangaverse project? You're already a well known American manga writer (Ninja High School, etc) but what drew you to work for Marvel Comics in creating their manga universe?
Mr. Dunn : I've always loved reading Marvel comics. I was a very obsessed collector back then and at the time my dream was to work for Marvel and be part of this Universe. I had planned to propose a sort of manga styled comic to them as far back as 1980 when I first became exposed to the SPIDERMAN manga when I was in Taiwan but I was no where near ready back then. It was about 1993 when my Japanese penpal showed me his dojinshi (fanzine) dedicated to American superhero comics. I was hooked and made it my goal to incorporate the manga style to Marvel comics. It took years to modify and work up the nerve to finally get a proposal ready. Finally in winter of 2000 I decided to put together a proposal and send it in. Joe Quesada had become editor of Marvel and I felt the timing was right to send it in. I did a series of six mock covers to show what could be done and sent it in. I really did not think that it would get beyond that. Low and behold I get an e-mail from Joe and he wants to do it. I was assigned Brian Smith and Ralph Macchio as my editors and they pretty much guided me through getting the whole thing done.
[image2]Rasmussen : Alternatively, what do you think drew Marvel Comics towards wanting to create their own manga universe?
Mr. Dunn : I think its great. Manga is a style that is coming in on its own and a growing number of American artists are adapting to it sensibilities. The readership for manga is also growing and it makes sense for Marvel to tap into that market. It is important though that careful thought is given to the story as well as the art. It is too easy to oversaturate. Seeing the Marvel Universe go manga has unlimited potential in my opinion.
Rasmussen : Was there anything about the first project (the Mangaverse Month) that you liked or disliked? Anything about doing it you liked more or less?
Mr. Dunn : Well, I would have liked to have done all the books since it would have been easier for me to establish things but I have no regrets. The biggest problem was that I had no way of knowing how the in-between material was to look like so when I did the last bookend I pretty much had to guess what was going on. That's why I think New Dawn turned out so much better than Eternity Twilight. My original plan was to release the Mangaverse in order of release of the original Marvel Universe. The Fantastic Four would come first, then Spiderman, then Iron Man, then Thor, then X-Men, then Daredevil etc., etc. I would do each one as an origin and pretty much would leave it from there. Of course that would have taken months and Marvel felt that it would work better as a fifth week event.
Rasmussen : Did you get to read some of the other Mangaverse month issues from the other writers and artists? I noticed some of them connected in some way to your two books, yet some pretty much walked off, left field and caught the bus.(Punisher #1, Fantastic Four #1 & X-Men #1 being the Worst culprits of Mangaverse Month books that lived in their own private Kyoto). (Not slamming the creators, mind you. I always give FF's Adam Warren glowing reviews when I read his Dirty Pair books, and have no gripes against the others). However, because of this, did that lack of connection to the bookend issues you wrote frustrate you as some creators pretty much ignored New Dawn/Eternal Twilight and didn't even link their month books to yours, making their books a tad pointless?
Mr. Dunn : Well, go figure. I think that Brian and Ralph were under pressure to produce the books on time and decided to pretty much let the other creators do what they wanted. I think that sort of worked as each books stood out on their own and connected themselves as they saw fit. Since this was considered only a fifth week event with no intention of it becoming on going everyone felt that it was best to just have fun and create what they wanted. I guess in retrospect I could have insisted on writing all the books but I was a greenhorn to all this and thought that my editors knew best. Since my original proposal was changed anyway I thought it best to go with the flow. I think overall the other books came out pretty good though and I hope that they do more.
Rasmussen : Did anyone over at Marvel kind of rib you or josh you for slipping in a reference or two to your own stuff like Ninja High School? Nothing bad, but did anybody notice?
Mr. Dunn : Oh, no. Brian and Ralph were really cool about that. They pretty much let me do anything I wanted so I did anything I wanted (within reason). However, now that it is a regular series under my new editor, C.B. Cebulski, I have to pay more attention to what I put in.
Rasmussen : What do you think of Mr. Cebulski? What makes him stand out as a quality Editor for the Mangaverse project? What do you think is his strengths that he brings to this title?
Mr. Dunn : C.B. is a miticulous editor and goes over everything with a fine tooth comb. His direction has been more hands on and is steering the series in a definite direction. I enjoy working with him because he is honest and straight forward. His editorial prowess has certainly come into play for the most part in determining what characters are to be used and the type of stories that is to be produced. He's axed several characters I wanted to use during the Captain Marvel storyline (the Silver Surfer and Kazar) but after explaining to me why I agreed with him. The only real frustration I've encountered is that I wanted to approach the series in a more Marvel Spotlight sort of way featuring a new character every 3-4 issues but Marvel wants to create a continuing storyline.
Rasmussen : Just how long will this Captain Marvel story arc last? And, If possible, can you tell us Who'll take the reins of the next story arc if it isn't yourself? (and who'll be in the next story arc character wise?)
Mr. Dunn : Kevin Gunstone, my co-writer, and I originally planned the Captain Marvel arc to be 4 issues but was cut down to three. The next arc will actually be the start of the continuing storyline. It features Dr.Strange, Tigra and Black Panther as the main characters. (Dr. Doom is the main bad guy in this one). After that there will be a 2 issue arc featuring Spiderman by Kaare Andrews and then I return with Kevin on the next arc. Kevin and I have a ton of story ideas and we could keep this going for a long time.
Rasmussen : I heard your working on a project outside of the Mangaverse continuity. What can (or alternatively can not) tell us about this new project?
Mr. Dunn : Hmmm. That I have not heard. I did propose a POWER PACK series but I have not heard back from them about it. I would love to do a spin off book if they will let me.
[image3]Rasmussen : Why Captain Marvel? Why him as the first character out the door for an Ongoing? It's a little strange that characters who appeared during the Mangaverse Month (like Dr. Strange, or Spider-Man which would have made more sense in light of the May 3rd release of the Spider-Man movie) wasn't used for the Ongoing's launch. Why is that?
Mr. Dunn : I dunno really. I guess if I was marketing savy I should have done Spiderman, but I wanted to do Captain Marvel. I proposed the idea as a Huck Finn/Tom Sawyer in space (with Kazar about Marvel's age) and it was approved so I proceeded. I had already started on it when C.B. became my editor and started to change the direction. I have never been one to do things just for the sake of sales and I was a little spoiled in doing things my way since I was running Antarctic Press so I wanted to do Captain Marvel.
Rasmussen : In light of the recent woes between regular Captain Marvel scribe Peter David & Marvel Comics, It smacks me as abit strange that, as his regular Captain Marvel title experiences creator woes with Marvel, that Marvel would launch a Mangaverse Captain Marvel at the same time they're having difficulties with the regular Captain Marvel series. So, why Captain Marvel in consideration of these situations and strange events? When was this decision made to start with him (Captain Marvel), and what's your take on the Peter David situation and how the launch of a Mangaverse Captain Marvel might help or hurt his attempts to keep the Regular Captain Marvel series from going under?
Mr. Dunn : That's certainly an interesting conspiracy but the honest truth is that I wanted to do Captain Marvel. When I proposed Mangaverse originally I wanted to draw all the major Marvel characters in a manga style. Captain Marvel was not picked out of any sense of how it was doing or who was doing it. He was picked because I always enjoyed the character and wanted to do my take on him. Spiderman was already done in my mind. Andrews did a great job on him and I didn't really want to follow up on it. In fact the Fantastic Four was not in my original proposal. They were added in to give the book some continuity. If my proposal to do Captain Marvel helped the regular series, that's fine, but I certainly don't need to tell you that Peter David stands on his own and doesn't need any of my help. The simple fact of the matter is that I loved the character and I wanted to do him.
Rasmussen : Why wasn't Spider-Man used? In light of the movie release I would have thought that bringing back the manga version in time for the movie's release would have been on the top of Marvel's agenda, but strangely it wasn't. Why is that?
Mr. Dunn : That's a good question. If I were to speculate I would assume that there was already a lot of Spiderman product out there and adding another title might have diluted it. But the most likely explanation is that they allowed me to set the agenda and I am grateful for that. Doing Spiderman would have probably been good saleswise but that's not what it's all about. To me its about story and character. It's about having fun and doing kooky things with the Marvel Universe. I wanted to do a comic that didn't take itself so seriously. If I wanted to sales then all I would be doing is Spiderman/X-Men.
Rasmussen : Who was your favorite (and least favorite) Mangaverse character in the books you wrote? And, alternatively, who was you favorite/least favorite Mangaverse character in the books written by the others during the Mangaverse Month?
Mr. Dunn : Gosh that's a loaded question. If I were to hazard to pick then I would say Dr. Strange in the books I wrote. My least favorite character? Probably the Executioner. I liked all the in-between books as they all had something different to offer stylistically.
Rasmussen : Already Mr. Cebulski has noted his choices for Japanese talent he'd like to audtion to come aboard the project (during his interview with Wizard-The Guide To Comics). If you and he could switch places (and you were Editor), what creators would you want to audition for the Mangaverse? (Not just Japanese but creators you might have known or worked with at Antartic Press, etc).
Mr. Dunn : A what-if question eh? I guess if I was the editor of the Mangaverse I would choose:
Japanese artists: GO NAGAI to do IRONMAN. Otomo to do anything he wanted (maybe Nick Fury of SHIELD). Takahashi to do Spiderman. Ted Nomura to do Sgt.Fury. Toriyama to do X-Men perhaps.
American artists: David Hahn, Josh Gainsborough, Craig Babiar, David Hitchinson, Rod Espinosa, and Fred Perry.
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