The un-told story of the Micronauts re-launch...that never left the launching pad
Interview with Shon C. Bury Part 1 02/02/07
C. Bury) is the next Chris Claremont"
Almost a decade ago Micronauts
fans were finally given a reason to rejoice…well, they would have that
is, had they known why. After being trapped in limbo since 1986 The
Marvel Micronauts- Commander Rann, Princess Mari, Bug, Acroyear and
the evil Baron Karza- were about to make a stunning comeback, and at
the helm was an up and coming writer named Shon C. Bury. At his side
was a fledgling artist by the name of Cary Nord, and the two budding
talents were given carte blanche to do whatever they thought necessary
with the book to make it a top seller once again.
Shon C. Bury photo by Karynna McGlynn
cover colors/digital finishing by Will Jones
ISO: So how long have you been in the comics business?
Shon C. Bury: I think I'm going on about 10 years, there's some broken time there. I left for about 6…
ISO: What year did you first get into writing comics?
SB: My first published work came out in '95, which means I probably wrote the thing in '94, but started breaking in about '92. It took about 3 years to get anything published. This was through DC, a little feature in "Showcase" in '95. It was a fun process; I got to pitch all the characters I wanted to write, all the stories. I think I wrote about 20 pitches for a silly little 10 page story, then it got all boiled down to just the one. Seeing the DC editorial process, to watch them figure out what they would and wouldn't publish was very insightful.
ISO: Did you enjoy working with DC at the time?
SB: Yeah…I was really young and didn't know exactly what I was doing, I think I was 22 at the time, so I was really thankful that they were allowing me to do this, print my stuff and paying me for my work!
ISO: So at this time were you just submitting stuff or did you also have an inside friend…?
SB: It's always a combination of the two. I started submitting stuff to everybody; Marvel, DC, Image…I was submitting all over the board to anyone who I thought would pay a decent page rate. So I kinda skipped the whole "indie" comic proving grounds altogether…
ISO:…and went right to the pros?
SB: Hey, I was young and bold and it made sense to me.
ISO: So how did that lead to Marvel?
SB: Marvel was actually a few years later. I went from that one little feature at DC to Wildstorm. My friend Dan Norton was interning as an artist there at that time. From Wildstorm I went to Acclaim and Marvel simultaneously. It was all freelance for hire work, but one thing which I was allowed to do (which really struck me as odd considering my age and experience level) was create properties for both Wildstorm and Acclaim. For Wildstorm it was "Black Ops" co-created with Dan, which had 2 mini-series back in 96-98 among other books…
ISO: So was your Micronauts proposal another type of submission thing?
SB: Yeah…as things started winding down at Wildstorm I then began to send stuff to everyone and specifically targeted Marvel, cuz I've always been more of a Marvel guy than a DC guy. And there was a significant difference between the 2 companies; their editorial environments are totally different. DC has always been far more corporate, rigid, structured and pedantic where at Marvel you write the proposal, it's approved you write the script and it's off to the artist and it's kind of like a big relay race. Personally, I think the DC way of doing things is better, but I'm kind of a control freak so… I started getting nibbles from Marvel and the first person to offer me work there was the senior editor of the X-Men books Mark Powers. He put me on a Cable fill-in, and then put me on his regular list of people to get proposals from. I pitched him everything he asked me to pitch, I was like one of three guys that was asked to pitch for the Wolverine ongoing book when Larry Hama left.
ISO: Did you feel like you just had tons of ideas you wanted to get out?
SB: Sometimes you throw stuff out there to see what sticks, but I stood behind the fact that I knew I'd be able to turn 90% of those ideas into good solid stories if given the opportunity. But when you're asked to pitch an ongoing series you have to write a synopsis for every issue for the next year plus overviews for a couple of years into the future. So I was in the pitching pool with guys like Joe Kelly, Steven T. Seagle…so I was felling pretty good. I was young and running with the big guys.
ISO: Micronauts made a brief appearance in Cable around issue #38 (?) Did this spark an interest in writing them for you?
SB: Not really…they both actually came up independently. It was kinda weird, the two editors involved in both the ongoing series I pitched and the guest appearance didn't know what the other was doing. I started pitching everything around to all the Marvel editors and Tim Touhy was the only editor out of 15 to finally call me up. He had gotten my submission packet and was really impressed with most of my stuff, particularly my "Black OP's" thing, and he wanted me to pitch Micronauts. I was really surprised because it was the first time I was asked to pitch an ongoing series. Every writer wants to get an ongoing book, its guaranteed income. So I did it. Tim was into it, but at the time I had only read maybe a dozen Micronauts comics including the New Voyages stuff, so I went out to try and find all the back issues I could. The first 12 issues were impossible to find, but the cool thing about Marvel is that they have all of their books bound in hardcover, they would take the first year of a series and bind it in this big leather hardcover edition, and they would send it to creators for research. So I was finally able to sit down and read the first 60 issues. And it was these issues that I based my revamp around, because after that everything started getting all helter skelter. The first 16 issues was key, the Mantlo and Golden stuff; I was able to go back and look at the original toys they were basing everything off of and it was fun. You could identify some cool things, Mantlo was obviously very influenced by "Chariots of the Gods" and "Star Wars" and "Battlestar Galactica", and including the toy line that inspired him to pitch it to Marvel in the first place was cool.
ISO: Yeah, it was when he bought his son the toys for Christmas one year…
SB: I believe it goes he was playing with one of the action figures, which eventually became Bug, and he said, "Wow, these are really cool and would make a great comic book…" and he pitched it to Marvel. They went out and got the license…that's awesome!
ISO: After reading your scripts and proposals it seemed like you really knew your Micronauts history and had a real grasp on what the characters were all about.
SB: And again, I wanted to be really faithful to the Micronauts fans because they were obviously very serious about the property. There was no way the book would be a success if I insulted them somehow. So even though I wanted to do a whole, like 98% retrofit of the thing, the heart of the book had to stay the same. Back to the basics. Karza needed to be the big villain. There are so many things you could explore with Mari; you could do a real kind of "feminist" thing with her instead of her being Commander Rann's doe-eyed sidekick. She was a warrior just like all the rest of them, and for God's sake she was the crown princess of the entire empire! And why not go back to the original elements. It's classic Greek tragedy; it's golden age god's Greek tragedy. It's Shakespearian and there's tons of Arthurian legends stuff going through there with Commander Rann…even his name Arcturus, named after the old dog star, that all interlinks with Arthurian legend. There's a reason why all those things are so firmly cemented in our literary history, in the gestalt of our society. Why wouldn't you want to go back to all that?
ISO: Well, your proposal featured all the classic characters, but the Cable guest appearance only featured three characters, the three that Marvel owned the rights to. None of the A.G.E. ones were used…
SB: They used none of those A.G.E. licensed names and that was intentional. At the time they started getting the sense that they weren't going to get the license when that came out. Which was odd considering they were also developing the ongoing revamp of all the licensed stuff at the same time…
SB: I had written 5 scripts, all the pencils had been done for the first 3 issues…thousands and thousands of dollars had already gone into this. The first book was completely done- colors and letters, the second book penciled and inked, the third (which was a double sized issue, 36 pages I think) penciled, inked and lettered…at that juncture with the page rate we were looking at for 3 issues you're looking at tens of thousands of dollars. Maybe as much as forty grand.
ISO: And you guys got paid for this, correct?
SB: Oh yeah, I got paid on time, no problem with that.
ISO: Were you ever told the exact reasons why this got stopped dead in its tracks?
SB: I think it was that A.G.E. wanted too many changes with everything and they just put kibosh on it.
ISO: Did you ever speak to anyone personally at A.G.E.?
SB: No, I didn't. As a work-for-hire thing at a large publisher you would get to do that. You would let the corporate guys take care of those conversations. I was just waiting around for the word…I had written like the first 5 issues and Cary Nord, the penciler, was already doing layouts for issue #4. Yeah…that's the one where Acroyear brakes his son's arm…
ISO: That's the shame of it all…story ideas like that were catered to Micronauts fans! So how did you hook up with Cary Nord for this project? He certainly is a big name now…
SB: He had been bouncing around Marvel and DC for a couple of years by then, he entered the industry about the same time frame as I did. It's actually kind of odd how our personal and professional lives dovetailed; we got into the industry at the same time, we're about the same age, got divorced at the same time, our careers tanked at the same time…(laughs), but then he got a little more famous earlier than I did…but we met due to the normal editorial kinda thing. Touhy was the editor and he hired the creative team. He stole Cary off another Marvel book cuz he was a huge Cary Nord fan, and Cary was really struggling at that time to make headway there. I remember having conversations with him about his frustrations because artists who had entered the industry at the same time as him at a comparative level had a much bigger name than him.
image from issue #1 page 19
SB: Absolutely! He dared to have his own voice, that was his crime. Unfortunately, those who dare to have their own voice, or just have a strong voice whether it's as a writer or an artist, often suffer like that for a long time. I mean, how long did it take Brian Michael Bendis to become the name he is…? So Cary was on the book…and then something amazing and funny happened. On the first issue, his style was just the normal Cary Nord style. Dan Green, the inker, then called up Cary and said, "Hey man, your pencils are digging way too much into the art board. You're pushing too hard, please lighten up because my ink is pooling up in the troth that is your line weight!" So Cary lightened up and overnight, between issue #1 and #2 he had a brand new style. A style that's much closer to what he does now than what he did previously. It was a hundred times better, but by no means was a shoddy artist to begin with, but it was so much better than before. He relaxed, wasn't so tense…(laughs)
ISO: I know…with characters like Commander Rann, he really captured what we fans always thought he would really look like, like a haggard old space traveler…
SB: Yeah, it was my idea to "age" him up a little bit, I told him to make him a "young Lance Hendrickson"…
ISO: Well the dude is a thousand plus years old you know…
SB: Yeah, he's a weathered commander, he's gotta look it.
ISO: In the previous Cable appearance he looked all dashing and superhero-ish, and it just didn't look right.
SB: Exactly…and that's the same approach I took with Huntarr. I always thought he was a fascinating character; he's a heroic monster. And to top it off he's got the whole "morphing" thing going on, which was hugely popular at the time. He was like a decade ahead of his time when you look at all the "morphing" characters now and how cool they supposedly are…he was a dark, anti-hero…Wolverine meets Clayface in many respects.
ISO: So was he your favorite character, the one you wanted to more fully develop?
SB: Probably. All the others had already gotten plenty of their own screen time, but Huntarr was always kinda kicked to the curb. And there was certain dynamics I really liked as well; the whole Bug/Huntarr dynamic worked well, Bug/Huntarr/Acroyear was a nice little triangle. I like to break ensemble casts down into little dynamic groups and see how they interplay with each other.
image from issue #1 page 13
ISO: And you started off the series by really messing his character up…!
SB: Hell yeah! From the bottom of the abyss…that's when people really start showing what they're made of.
ISO: You took that idea further throughout the rest of the cast too…taking those tried and true beloved characters and making some drastic changes it seemed like. With Mari you took off her right arm!
SB: Yup…she was too perfect. She needed to suffer. They all needed to suffer.
ISO: You planned on Cary redesigning Biotron and Microtron too…
SB: The original designs were fine for 1976, but not for 1998. They needed to be updated but it was secondary to me. I wanted a good supporting cast for everybody including the villains, but still wanted to keep all the main villains as the main villains. Juice things up a bit by letting both have a good supporting cast, and the robots were already a solid support for the heroes. But I didn't want to bring them back in the first 2 arcs because it was already a bit crowded, and wanted to wait until we had a cool look for them and a story where they could be actively involved in instead of just being panel fodder.
ISO: You brought back a laundry list of old characters too via the Body Banks; D'ark, Degrayde, Shaitan, Slug- who was Force Commanders girlfriend, you took sweet little Slug and decided to mutate her…
SB: First of all, I wanted a foil for Huntarr and her name was fitting. She wasn't a "slug", in no way, shape or form was she characteristically or physically slug-like, she was a very beautiful woman…and I needed more enemies for the Micronauts. I needed someone that was more on their same level in terms of physical power and more importantly on a visual level they needed to be able to stand toe to toe with the heroes of the book. From what I can recall, she wasn't all that developed as a character to begin with so I didn't think it would do anything but enhance her as a character. Sometimes you have to move them onto the next level so to speak.
pencils before (left) by Cary Nord and inks after (right) by Dan Green image from issue #1 page 2
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