Matthew Rosenberg has been a steadily rising star in comics for the last few years. After acclaimed run for his work on the gorgeous We Can Never Go Home, he broke down more doors over at Marvel with his Civil War II: Kingpin mini-series. The reception of which lead to the ongoing Kingpin series he’s currently got the fourth issue of coming out. He’s a creator who’s worked on almost every side of comics. He’s as versatile and knowledgeable a comics creator as there is and with the debuting Secret Warriors #1 coming out next week, Matthew Rosenberg will shock the world with his first team book amidst the turmoil of Secret Empire.
A former Forbidden Planet comics slinger like yours truly, we talk about the series he learned to read from, when he knew comics was going to be his way in the world, and what to expect from the mix of characters he’s getting to write in Secret Warriors!
MK: Welcome to another Creative Conversation. I am joined today by THE Matthew Rosenberg. Thanks for coming in and talking with me today, sir.
MR: Thanks for having me
MK: One of the questions that’s always fun to jump in with is, do you recall the first comic or run that stuck with you?
MR: Well the first comic I remember ever holding was an issue of Fantastic Four that my brother had. I remember carrying it around with me and just staring at the art, but having no idea what was actually going on. The first run I ever read was [Chris] Claremont’s X-Men. I basically learned to read with those books.
MK: Did you ever figure out what issue of Fantastic Four it was?
MR: No, actually. I’ve gone back and tried, but once I learned to read I was a big Fantastic Four fan, so all those blurred together in my adolescent brain.
MK: I’m in a similar boat with an issue of John Ostrander‘s Suicide Squad.
MR: Yeah. I am 99% sure it was John Byrne stuff. But who can say for sure.
MK: Well, no one can say it wasn’t John Byrne (laughs). You talked about Claremont’s X-Men run as what you learned to read on, is it safe to say that run is one that’s influenced you as a comics creator?
MR: Yeah. I think it’s safe to say that it heavily influenced me as a person. I feel like every issue I read of that book exposed me to new ideas and ways of thinking. A lot of my core beliefs go back to that run. And, obviously, my love of comics comes from there as well.
MK: That’s amazing to have that connection so early on. Did you have any other runs early on that helped you fall deeper in love with the medium?
MR: The Marvel Star Wars and GI Joe books were really important to me. I still have complete runs of both. The Mike Zeck Punisher stuff was major for me. Claremont and [Frank] Miller‘s Wolverine stuff felt insane to me in the best way. And the original TMNT was really mind blowing for me.
MK: Tell me you’ve been begging Marvel to work on a Star Wars book.
MR: Begging is a strong word. But yes. I am begging.
MK: I’d love to see you on a Boba Fett or Han Solo series.
MR: Those books have been amazing though, Jordan and Heather who edit the Marvel Star Wars line do a great job of curating it. They aren’t just letting any old riff-raff in the door, which hurts me as a creator, but makes me so happy as a fan. Yeah. There is so much I want to see. I always joke about how much I want to do a podracing comic with Daniel Warren Johnson on art. But I really want to do a podracing comic with Daniel Warren Johnson on art.
MK: I’d read it! Do you remember when you decided that you weren’t just going to be a fan anymore but that working in comics was what you wanted to do? And was writing always the path you saw for yourself?
MR: Yeah. I was working in music for a while and was just getting really burned out. I love music and hate the industry. At that point in my life, the only other thing I was really passionate about besides music was comics. They were a constant for me for almost my whole life. So when I just couldn’t take doing music stuff anymore I started thinking more about making comics. I knew I couldn’t draw, but I wanted to be creative. My whole family are writers. My mom, my dad, my uncle, my brother. So, as much as it’s possible, writing is in my DNA. And I just sort of dove in from there, with no real idea what I was doing.
MK: You jumped in though! I mean one of the coolest things about your journey, knowing you as long as I do, is that you’ve seen a lot of different sides of comics that not every creator is familiar with. Can you talk a little bit about how you found your way in and the different aspects you’ve gotten to work on?
MR: Yeah. I’m sort of obsessive about stuff. I like to know how things work. So, I studied all aspects of comics I could. I was reading coloring guides and watching lettering tutorials, tracking down interviews with editors. But then I really wanted to know about things more hands on. I quit my day job and took a job at Forbidden Planet so I could really see how books were bought and sold. It’s so crucial for comic creators to understand their readers and their partners in retail. And it was eye opening. From there, I took a job at a few small publishers just doing whatever I could. Retail outreach. Publicity. Social media. Pre-production. Editing. I don’t ever like asking someone to do something for me, without really knowing what I am asking of them. So all of that was incredibly helpful. And it also helped me build relationships and open doors when I was ready to be making publishable work. Or semi-publishable work.
MK: I’d argue it’s all damn publishable! I mean you’ve been hitting home runs with characters like Kingpin and Rocket Raccoon, and now you’re getting your own team book in Secret Warriors, out on shelves May 10th! You’re really building a home at Marvel it feels like. How did this series come about? Did you go to Marvel with the idea for this team or was it a little more of meeting in the middle?
MR: Well thanks. I hope Marvel fans like what I’m doing. As for Secret Warriors, it’s a bit of a funny story. Wil Moss, who was my original editor on my Kingpin mini-series got put in charge of the Inhumans. I am a big Inhumans fan but a huge fan of Quake. I immediately emailed Wil to say that I had an idea for Quake that I wanted to pitch. I sent in the pitch and Wil was really enthusiastic, but he came back and said, “What if Quake was part of a team? We need a new team book.” And from there it all came together in bits and pieces. I feel really lucky because I love our cast. Ms. Marvel is bar none one of the best books at Marvel right now. Moon Girl & Devil Dinosaur has been a favorite of mine since it began. Inferno is a great part of Charles Soule‘s Inhumans run. And obviously Karnak is one of the great Marvel characters. So getting all of these wildly different together it just felt like we had a chance to do something really different and not what folks expect. I’m pretty proud of it.
MK: It’s a very cool mix of characters. What are you excited and hope readers will take away from the first issue on May 10th and from the rest of the first arc?
MR: I really hope people like what we do with the characters. I tried to be really faithful to who they are and what they are about, but we are putting some of them in very new and tough situations. I love them all, and really believe in them, but I want to see them tested. And I hope fans do, too. This book is a little darker and crazier than I think people are expecting. Things are really scary in the Marvel Universe right now, and our Secret Warriors are figuring out the best way to fight back. And that’s not always easy.
MK: Team books like this are always so compelling because of the relationships between teammates. Who do you think would butt heads the most, who might be the wild card, what makes these characters the best fit for this team? If they are.
MR: Well the first part is easy. Quake and Ms. Marvel butt heads the most. Ms. Marvel is a hero through and through. She wants to inspire. She wants to lead by example. And Quake was a spy and a weapon trained by Nick Fury. She knows that sometimes you have to do things that don’t sit right with you because they have to get done. I think Moon Girl is a real wild card. She’s not a team player, per se. She’s smarter than everyone else. And she is really just a kid. As for why they are each the best fit for the team? They aren’t. That’s sort of a real point in the book. They are six characters who are thrust together because of awful circumstances. They each have their own reasons for being there, their own agendas, and their own way of doing things. It’s a stretch to call them a team.
MK: That’s awesome.That’s just juicy to think about and see how they can coexist, if they can.
MR: Yeah. I think people will be surprised at where things end up. Or not.
MK: I love you bringing up Quake being Nick Fury’s apprentice. I remember it was you in fact who got me to read Jonathan Hickman‘s run on Secret Warriors where that relationship developed.
MR: Yeah. Hickman’s Secret Warriors is one of my all-time favorite comics. The way he has Quake and Fury working together, this troubled family dynamic, is so beautiful and heartbreaking.
MK: Totally agree and now she’s kind of in the Nick Fury role herself.
MR: It is something we are going to go into as the series goes on. Fury is gone and Quake is still very new to all of this. She’s tough and capable, but she never had the chance to grow into it. Fury dropped her in the deep end.
MK: To bring things back around a little as we head into the home stretch. you talked about how your whole family are writers. Why write comics? What is about comics versus say film or T.V. or the stage that sets it apart for you as a creator?
MR: I love all types of writing. People in my family have written novels, essays, movies, T.V. shows, plays, you name it. But for me, comics has always been my love. Everything about it from the worlds and characters, to the the tactile feel of a comic, to comic shops and culture. I find it all energizing and inspiring. That’s what attracted me.
MK: Thank you for that. If you could go back, what advice would you give the Matthew Rosenberg who was just starting out?
MR: Save more money. Sell more of your stuff you don’t need
MK: Fair. Totally fair. Which creators are on your personal Mount Rushmore of Comics?
MR: Oh man. Okay. Brian Michael Bendis. Frank Miller. Brian K. Vaughan, Chris Claremont. The Hernandez Bros., Osamu Tezuka, Charles Schulz. My Mount Rushmore is bigger than the other one. Wait! I want to change my answer
MK: Do you need a lifeline?
MR: I’d put Bill Watterson over Schulz. It’s blasphemy, I know
MK: I don’t know if it’s blasphemy. Calvin & Hobbes can be read at eight and twenty-eight and fifty-eight and mean something incredibly important and different at each age.
MR: True. I think Peanuts works on that level, too, in some ways. But Calvin & Hobbes always felt more like a narrative to me. Peanuts was much more of just moments in time. Oh, and Alan Moore. I’m bad at this
MK: You’re not bad at this, you just need a bigger mountain And last but not least, if you were working in a shop and someone came up to you saying, “I’ve never read comics before, what should I read first?” What five books would you tell them to pick up?
MR: Y: The Last Man. V For Vendetta. American Splendor. Powers. Love & Rockets.
MK: It’s a good list…It’s a good list. Well thank you, sir, for taking the time to talk with me today. I can’t wait to read the first issue of Secret Warriors!
MR: Thanks so much for having me.
Make sure you pick up your copy of Secret Warriors #1 coming out next Wednesday, May 10th!