For a while, this wasn’t even the last issue…

In the same way the actual name of the series kept changing (from FF Tales to Marvel Age FF Presents The Thing to Tales of the Thing, then back to FF Tales) the duration of the mini shifted a couple times. We’d started prepping this issue, when word came down there’d be another installment, and after some discussion, it was going to feature Daredevil. Can’t find the solicit I whipped up, but it gave DD and The Thing a mutual adversary, one too dangerous for DD to touch, and too fast for The Thing to see. So, Ben had to be “talked” through a relatively difficult fight by Matt Murdock, perched on a building blocks away, and tracking the guy with his hyper-senses. Somethin’ like that anyway. Probably would’ve made a fairly cool story, but with a new Marvel Adventures FF monthly dropping right near the movie, they didn’t need too many all-age FF books competing within the same space. Which ultimately made “Invisible Things” my final exam, the last chance to put three months of on-the-job training into practice.

Was placing additional pressure on myself, since this was my first, and now only, completely original story of the batch. Really needed to show the dude who adapted that first Black Panther story was becoming slightly more accomplished, and that this shouldn’t be the last you hear from me. And with only one clear directive here, there was no better place to cut loose, because adapting something is one thing, and then handling just the final scripting is something even removed from that. So, I wanted to close things out with a story that’s a little 22 page mission statement for the Marvel Adventures line, with an undeniable spark and flair that appeals to readers of all ages and backgrounds. I know, I know, what does that even mean? Just aiming to showcase a noticeable level of elevation, and luckily, my editor gave me a secret weapon…she gave me Susan Storm.

Every writer is going to gush about those characters that they’re able to just write over and over again, cause somethin’ about them just speaks to them. Now, I can’t pretend this has never happened before, and naturally, I expect to get this charge in a lot of different situations in the future, but usually, only my own characters feel this obvious. Guys like Quint Black and Damon Cross, whose personalities are based on some piece of myself. I’m supposed to be able to get in those dudes’ heads, with little or no effort. Along those lines, there’s very little reason to be finding so much to love about Sue Storm, but man, you add those incredibly cool powers, to her varied emotional roles within the FF, spin it around that look, and you’ve got an undeniable bad-ass on every level. At quite a few points in the initial drafting, my editor expressed concerns that I was pushing Ben out of the story, and I really couldn’t disagree with her. Still can’t actually. Because it’s more interesting that way, let’s take a closer look at how Susan systematically took over this issue, with my blessings.

First scene was smooth as hell, went down exactly as I wanted, launching with a pullout this time, starting close on the hostage and dropping back to set the scene. O’Hare really nailed the establishing shot, which I know was difficult because of all the different elements I needed in the composition. There was the rooftop part, and the hostages behind the force field part, and the headset part, and chiefly, the Bulldozer part, that all required their own little pocket of space, so they didn’t all grate against each other. Shouldn’t have been worried, but we’ll get into that a little later. Right now, Mike hooked me up with a really nice opening visual of Wrecking Crew member Bulldozer, whose actual role changed a couple times from outline to script. Originally, the entire Crew was just a smaller piece of the overall scheme, handling only the armored car hijacking further along in the story, with separate groups of petty crooks responsible for the other stuff. My editor thought having the Crew handle all of the various heists made more sense, and helped keep track of everything better. As usual, she was right, because from a mechanics point of view, having everything more centralized left more room for the actual telling of the story.

Page 2 knocked me back quite a bit, because when you’re writing this stuff, one of the first things you’ll realize, is that pages will never come back exactly as you imagine them. You hope for close, and try to write the panel descriptions to increase the chance of this, and actually, even though I’ve just started, I’ve gotten better on more than a few occasions, but seldom will somethin’ come back exactly as I “saw” it. Especially when I haven’t developed that symbiosis with my artist, that only comes from time. Point being, this is the image I was thinking of, right down to the actual posing of Sue and Ben (which wasn’t described that precisely), and O’Hare just slammed this out the stadium. We had a short talk before things got started, where I told him that I hoped this issue would stand as our best work on the series, and this one page made it apparent, that we were both intent on serving that up.

Only thing I’d change has nothing to do with the artwork, and is a lettering suggestion I kept telling myself to make, but ultimately left unsaid, cause it was striking me as a little too particular. Should’ve went it for it though, since it was the last issue. Nothing huge, but I wanted to make the title “Invisible Things” a little more visual, having the word “invisible,” you know, barely visible, and “things” composed of orange rock. Like I said, a tiny flourish, but wish I’d asked for it. Woulda looked cool.

Still, doesn’t stop me from loving this sequence, as we never started any of the stories quite this quickly, and think it turned out well. Some of Bulldozer’s dialogue is a little clunky, due to the content of the exposition, but having him slip into a typical villain rant makes Sue’s very sudden dive tackle that much cooler. The plunge down the face of the building was originally all silent, but it seemed uncomfortable so I added the scream to Bulldozer, then yanked it on page 5, cause it had already gotten overbearing. Having him faint was better anyway. Nothing else to say about this one, liked it a lot, set the high-octane tone I wanted, and let O’Hare show off a bit.

The armored car robbery was scaled down from the initial notes, because there, Sue beats the crap out of the entire Wrecking Crew. Yes, I was getting a bit carried away with my personal mandate that “Sue takes down everyone in the coolest way possible,” but after the Crew became a more integrated aspect of the story, they all got spread out, leaving Sue with less of them to pummel. Simultaneously, anyway. Again, some of the Crew’s dialogue isn’t as fluid as it should be, especially the transition between the taunting and the laughing on page 8. Probably should’ve burned another panel, but the cool shot of Sue and Ben in the car would’ve gotten cropped, so I can live with it, mainly due to the page turn between 8 & 9, which is always gonna feel right to me. Supervillain laughs at female hero, flip and said female hero is kicking the shit out of aforementioned supervillain. And the invisible Bo staff!? Know that if I ever get the chance to write more Sue, that’s coming back in some form. Definitely feelin’ that.

Dogfight was a formal acknowledgement that Sue had gotten all of the cooler bits thus far, and stands as my “Ben Grimm moment” of the story. With another maybe two pages, this sequence could’ve really shined, with a much larger version of the panel where Ben jumps onto the hood of Piledriver’s car, and a slightly longer chase scene, showing off the weapons’ systems of both cars a lot more. As it is, think it does much of the job, and got in all the shots I wanted, chief among them, the one from page 13, with Sue speeding to catch a plummeting Ben Grimm. Hadn’t realized it until I went back and watched the other Star Wars flicks recently, but the exact same thing happens in Episode II, so that probably explains why I thought to ask for it in the first place. Ben weaving through the sky mines is something else that O’Hare made look far better than described, and even though the whole sequence is overly compressed, gave it enough scale that it works.

There was a really cool image I wrote for page 16, but it didn’t fit cause it was too much else goin’ on. When Sue figures out the whole thing, and climbs back into the Fantasticar with Ben, I scripted somethin’ like “Sue bounding up a flight of invisible steps leading up to the Fantasticar, again hovering over the scene.” Don’t know where I thought that was gonna fit on the page, but I’m still attracted to the idea of that visual, so it might turn up again.

Revealing the Mad Thinker was fun, ‘specially since it’s not really him, and that in the notes, he was Doom. Marvel thought they were nearin’ a point of Doom over saturation, so Tom Brevoort suggested using the Thinker, cause the caper would still work along the same lines, and after some research, learned I should’ve used The Thinker in the first place. Made fun of my Doom idea on page 16 too, but ultimately, liked the final small action piece, with Thinker hopping around like Spidey, and the editors’ kind of saved me here, cause there’s no way in Hell I would’ve been able to topple Doom in the space I had left by this scene. Again, O’Hare rocks it, and I love that shot of Ben hitting the robot, and it exploding into pieces, appeals to the kid in me.

Last page had a ton more dialogue on it, but worked much better in a more “naked” format. Prefer the ending of the Hulk issue, but this isn’t too awful.

Despite much of my moaning, this is easily my favorite story of the bunch, and I made a lot less mistakes here than some of my earlier attempts. I’m a much better writer than I was when I started, and that’s the most important thing. Want to use this opportunity to identify the shadowy “editor” as Nicole Wiley, and say thanks for her attention and infinite patience. Props also due to the talented artists that brought the scripts to life, chiefly Michael O’Hare, but also Ron Lim and Scott Hepburn. My first official Marvel mini-series was a relatively painless experience, and the people around me made it that way.

Thanks also to you guys for reading through all of these columns the last few weeks. Definitely an experiment, haven’t decided if I’ll do somethin’ like this again, so as usual, your thoughts are much appreciated. Were they too indulgent? Too critical? I already know to include scans next time around, but any further suggestions or comments are welcome. And if you don’t have it yet, run out to your local supplier and grab a copy of Fantastic Four Tales: Clobberin’ Time.

Back in two weeks’ time, this weekly thing is a young man’s game 😉

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