An Interview with artist James Felder


How did you get the job of editing the 2099 books (FF 2099, Spider-Man 2099 and then 2099: World of Tomorrow)?

Why did Marvel choose to combine the 2099 books into one series as opposed to ending it all with the final issue of each individual series?  Did the video game being produced around this time have any impact on the World of Tomorrow series being made?

James: Let me preface this with two caveats:

1) This was a long time ago. My memory of it might be wrong!

2) I came into it very sideways. 2099 was always Joey's vision. He and his creators did something very specific and special. When I came into the picture, the curtains were coming down and the nature of it had changed quite a bit.

Those years at Marvel we were victims of impossible expectations. The corporate folks wanted the comic books to make large amounts of money even though the sales were shrinking and their expectations were rising in direct proportion to the drop: sales are down? Put out more titles to make more money!

My memory of it was that Joey had been forced to expand the line further and faster than he wanted. They had him expand, he had editors under him to edit the titles. Then they made him fire those editors. Then they got rid of Joey and decided they were canceling the line. It was all sales based. It certainly was not Joey's fault - those books, when he was left alone to craft them, did what they did and did it well. The audience for them might not have been an X-Men-sized readership, but the readership that liked that type of universe liked 2099.

I knew nothing about the video game and as far as I know it had no impact on the cancelations. The line got "uncanceled" because Mark Powers and I had an idea on how to wrap up the line in a big, satisfying way, and the bosses liked it enough that they decided to keep the line going. We were quite surprised at this, and a little daunted.

When they had decided to shut down the line they gave the remaining books to Associate Editors (these were not full editors and were given heavy workload and little assistance). We were told to end it however we wanted. Lots of books were going away, things were contracting - this wasn't like people anticipating the last episode of Breaking Bad. It was: you have X number of issues left, get 'em done by this date and move on.

Mark and I were sitting around after we got the assignment, I think, or maybe we didn't have any of the books (I honestly can't remember) and we thought the idea of ending a universe - being allowed to end-end it - was sort of exciting. You didn't get to do too much of that back then. We were discussing that, and we remembered as kids how cool it seemed in Beneath the Planet of the Apes (SPOILERS) that they just blow up the planet. We thought, it might be neat to have a big apocalypse and show the characters doing big, noble things - real end-of-the-world melodrama - folks sacrificing out of love, knowing there would be no tomorrow.

We mentioned it to, I think, Suzanne and Jay Gardner (?), who were doing the other books. And they dug it. Then we mentioned it to the editor in chief and he liked it. So we thought, great, we'll give the whole thing a big send off for the readers.

I don't know who it was, but once they got wind that we actually thought we had a good story, the order came down: great, we love it. End the world, but don't end it. We're going to do an Unlimited that this will launch. Those were big books. Lots of pages, almost no time to produce them.

Maybe the Mindscape thing informed that. It was never mentioned to me. If they had, I would have just called up the video game company and tried to work out a continuity with them. Would have been an interesting experiment.

What do you recall about working with the writers of the series: Joe Kelley and Ben Raab?

James: Anyway, lots of page, no time. We were scrambling. Joe I had started teaching in the Stanhattan Project (I still teach in the Dramatic Writing Department at Tisch/NYU - typing this email after my Friday class), so I pulled him in. Figured it was a good place for him to cut his teeth. Ben was a friend, and had really hit it off with Joe, so it seemed like a good team to handle the workload. This was the type of assignment, where it wasn't a plum, the deadlines were horrific, and we needed to communicate a lot with the story team. So to have two in-house writers made it all doable. Relatively.

Why was the series cancelled? Do you know if the writers had plans for the series beyond the Phalanx invasion?

James: I have no memory of the further plans for stories. Again, it was very much of its time: I remember them asking for the Unlimited...and then it getting canceled pretty quick when the numbers weren't through the roof. That being said, it was fun, even if the hours were nuts. Joe, Ben, Mark. I seem to remember Pasqual Ferry worked on some bits of the art - it always made me happy to have his work on my desk.

Of the many characters in the series, did you have a favorite?

James: I have almost no memory of the characters, other than the fact that I loved working with the FF team.

As far as 2099 during its main run, I liked the Peter David/Rick Leonardi run. Every issue of that was like champagne and caviar as far as I was concerned. I got the opportunity to work with Rick years later. Unbelievable draftsman. I still have a pin-up of Daredevil playing the bagpipes (that's another story) framed on my wall.

I also liked Ravage in a kitschy way. I do like reading Stan stuff. Joey thought I was making fun of him initially because I had a Ravage t-shirt I wore around the office. I really did like reading it. I had bought that t-shirt at St. Mark's comics on my own dime.  



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