Turn off the Lights

My First (and Last) Day at Marvel Comics

As I sat waiting outside Axel Alanso’s palatial office, my confusion over the previous working hours only grew. How could this have happened? A dream come true turned so… wrong. Was I a target? Did the others not like me? I got this position fair and square: mailing my idea for a comic, “Wolverine in Victorian England, also he’s a dinosaur”, to Marvel’s corporate HQ. That’s how everyone breaks in.

It couldn’t have been the orientation. Everyone was so nice! Dan Slot in his hammock, Jonathan Hickman in his Doctor Doom costume, Brian Michael Bendis with his desk made of money, and all those X-Men writers in their closet.

Maybe the pitch meeting? I thought it went pretty well. I mean, I kept throwing out characters and kept asking if they could be witty and roguish. Also, they turned one of my pitches into a blue hulk. And one of my pitches is now in the Guardians of the Galaxy. Oh, I had an idea for a virus that turns mutants into Inhumans. That went over pretty well.


Alanso’s office was filled with mementos of Marvel’s history, something that sparked a kind of joy in me. I’ve been a lifelong Marvel fan. They all know so, I tell them all the time. A huge golden-framed painting of Stan Lee was hung above Alanso’s desk next to a tiny Polaroid of Jack Kirby and a rough sketch of Steve Ditko.

Alanso asked me to have a seat and I reminded him of my lifelong fandom. He sighed heavily and rubbed his temples. From my brief time in New York, this seemed to be how most people show their appreciation.

“I’m going to have to let you go,” he said, interrupting my list of Spider-Man-related dreams.

“Excuse me?” I replied.

“We’re firing you. You’re just not the best… fit.”

“Is it my idea for a tree-based character? Because I realize The Ash Man may present a few problems–”

“It’s not The Ash Man, it’s not his introduction arc–”

“Son of a Birch.”

“You keep pitching these new stories and characters and, ah. We’ve gone a new direction here and the focus is on more… visible characters.”

“You mean like the MCU?”


“Is that why I’m writing three Rhomann Dey books?”

He has a dark past, an enemy long thought forgotten, a secret that could end us all…

“Look, it’s not like we’re shackled to the MCU, okay. Did you try making a new character with Spider-Man powers? Or a new kind of Wolverine? Did you chose a new person to lead the X-Men, they showed you the wheel, right?”

“I had an idea for a Machine Man reboot–”

“Now see, he’s not slated for adaptation until 2034, live in the now.”

“Man, Axel… I dunno. See, one of best things about Marvel comics was that the stories shifted to reflect at least a part of world they were made in. There was a connection you could feel, a history. Now it seems that the comics are shifting to reflect what’s making the most money. I wanted to make comics, not marketing material.”

Axel looked to the camera in the corner of the room, the camera pointing right at him.

“We’re increasing our synergy, Mike, simply giving the people our most recognizable characters. Nothing’s really changing.”

Then why the name?

I mouthed the words ‘do you need help?’. Tears welled in his eyes.

“I’m sorry,” he said, “we no longer… need… your… services.”

“Well I thank you for the opportunity,” I said, rising from my chair, “and maybe things’ll change one day when you’re not so tightly controlled by Dis–”

“DON’T SAY THEIR NAME,” Axel shouted, slapping his hand on the desk, “THAT’S HOW THEY GET TO YOU.”


I edged toward the door, now suddenly aware of the cameras in all four corners of the room. Axel stared at me, his eyes pleading. As I slipped through the threshold, a compartment above him opened and a pile of money came fluttering down.

He laughed.

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