When 45-year-old Bill Rosemann talks about his love for comic books, especially Spider-man, you hear the childlike enthusiasm in his voice.
So much so, it's easy to picture him as a 12-year-old boy with a pocket full of allowance money, pestering his mother for a ride to the store because it's new-comic day. When he was young, new editions came out on Friday, and that's when he'd buy up what he could and head home for marathon reading sessions.
But his love goes back even farther. He remembers as a toddler seeing a cardboard cutout of Spider-man, and later buying his first set of Spidey comics while in the first grade.
The 1989 graduate of Notre Dame High School is still pretty much doing the same thing, only today Marvel pays Rosemann to not only read its comics, but to help create new ones.
After almost 15 years as an editor at Marvel, Rosemann has moved from the East Coast to the West Coast to take on the role of creative director for Marvel Games, which develops video games based on Marvel characters.
"Basically, right now my job is based on the knowledge of the characters that I have," he says from his office on the Disney Studio lot where Marvel Studios is located. "I'm there to make sure that it is authentically right. That the [game] characters have the Marvel look, the right costumes and that they have the right superpowers."
He also works with all of Marvel's divisions — comics, movies, games, merchandise, etc. — to make sure each is "walking in step."
As a fan, Rosemann is keenly aware that if video-game Spider-man is suddenly able to time travel, something comic-book Spidey can't do, readers will let Marvel know of the egregious error in a hurry.
"Our job is to read all the comics and to never assume that everyone else [at Marvel] has that same knowledge," Rosemann says. "Marvel has thousands of characters and each is different, and our readers' knowledge is deep and sharp."
Todd Anderton, who graduated from the same Notre Dame class as Rosemann and remains close friends with him (they were in each other's weddings), says he's not surprised his friend has moved up the ranks at Marvel. To illustrate, he recalls that, years ago, Rosemann's apartment caught on fire — and he rushed back in to save his comics.
"He is the perfect embodiment of a person who is living and breathing his dream," says Anderton, who now lives in Dallas.
For a time, Rosemann was an active gamer as well, and he anticipates that he'll eventually get back into that world, but for now he focuses his super comic books knowledge as it relates to the Marvel games.
"When I came here [Marvel Games], I was told, 'You will become a games [development] expert, but right now we need a Marvel expert.' The amazing thing about Marvel is there are so many divisions creating so many different things like games, films, comics, commercial products."
Rosemann also takes very seriously the impact that these characters can have on a reader, especially a young person looking for something to believe in or to be inspired by.
Last year, Rosemann was interviewed for an ESPN special called "Marvel and ESPN Films Presents 1 of 1 — Genesis," which compared superathletes to superheroes. In the piece, which debuted on July 14, Rosemann talks about being inspired by a Spider-man story that had him seemingly crushed beneath tons and tons of metal.
"For me, Spider-man was so inspiring," he says. "I was struck by him very early. We are all challenged and don't have it very easy, but we don't give up. That's what makes him a superhero, not his powers. Life is not easy, so it's good to just for a moment think back to when we were a child, and we were inspired by Spider-man to say, 'I'm gonna try again.'
"Spider-man — through comics, movies and TV shows — provides that."
While most Marvel games are inspired by the comics, Rosemann says he currently is co-editing a new project based on the mobile game "Marvel Contest of Champions." It is set in a new world called Battlerealm, a shattered piece of Battleworld, the planet created by the creature called the Beyonder in the 12-issue "Secret Wars" plotline from 1984-85.
"We just said, "Hey, what if we do a comic book based on this game?'" Rosemann recalls.
As part of his job, Rosemann travels the country talking to students. One of his messages is to find something you love and find a way to make a living at it.
"You can take a hobby or a passion and make it work. It takes a long time," he says. "It took me 20 years. For me, I just want to keep helping to create stories that, in turn, create the next generation of Marvel fans and to create stories that thrill and entertain the existing fans."
Contact Barry Courter at bcourter@timesfree press.com or 423-757-6354.
Get Off the Couch: Fat Shirley, Ghostface Killah and Fantastic Negrito make it a week for cool names