Sam Alexander, the teenage hero and star of Marvel Comics’ recently relaunched “Nova” series, has super powers and a youthful and idealistic desire to help Earth and the greater universe. However, that universe is a very large and dangerous place, while Sam is a relative newcomer to the cosmic super hero game. This unfortunately means some opportunistic criminals could take advantage of Sam’s good nature and use it for their own twisted purposes.
That’s exactly what happens when new “Nova” writer Gerry Duggan begins his run on the book. Then in February’s #13, Duggan and artist Paco Medina kick off their first arc on the series, “Nova Corpse,” which follows up the aftermath of Nova’s exploitation and brings him face to face with the heroic, mystical hammer-wielding alien known as Beta Ray Bill. CBR News spoke with Duggan about his first arc, Beta Ray Bill and his plans for the series.
CBR News: Sam has been on several space adventures now between his origin story and the recently concluded “Infinity” tie-in arc. Now that he has some experience under his belt, do his age and ignorance about the larger order of the Marvel cosmos mean he’s still naÃ¯ve? It seems like there would be plenty of intergalactic, unsavory elements looking to exploit a novice super powered space cop.
Gerry Duggan: Issue #12 is an important moment for him. In the issue he does some good things all on his own for a group of travelers in bad shape. That leads to him feeling pretty good and believing that he could make a career out things like that. Then when [Beta Ray] Bill come to Earth in issue #13 to confront him Sam is made aware that he’s sort of scored on his own goal. Everyone improves through mistakes and it’s fun to find new and exciting mistakes for Sam to make.
Is the larger cosmic universe aware that there is a new Nova who resides on Earth?
That information is slowly trickling out as Sam encounters more of these cosmic characters. Plus as Sam finds some of the helmets that were worn by deceased Nova Corps members he’ll be making his presence known. That will lead to some long term repercussions. It’s nothing you’ll see in the first or second arcs. So yeah, the Universe is slowly coming around to the fact that there’s a new kid in town.
In “Nova” #9 we saw him come into contact with one of those helmets and it looked like a transfer of information was going on. Can you elaborate on what happens when Nova comes into contact with these other helmets?
There’s a limited black box effect with some of the lesser damaged Nova Corps helmets. These helmet projections can show Sam how their wearers died, so we’ll be using them to learn about other members of the Nova Corps and introduce some new threats.
Plus, part of the fun of Sam being a member of the new Black-helmeted branch of the Nova Corps is that not all the abilities of those Novas have been laid out. So it’s sort of fun to reveal some of those abilities.
As you mentioned, Sam’s exploitation at the hands of some space faring criminals brings him to the attention of Beta Ray Bill, a character I know you have a real affinity for. What do you find most interesting about him?
I first read and enjoyed Bill’s adventures back in the ’80s, and they stuck with me. I think there’s something fun about a nomadic character like him who’s sacrificed so much. In a lot of ways he was the precursor for characters like “Halo’s” Master Chief. Bill was one of those characters who gave up a lot of — I don’t want to say his humanity — but he was bio-engineered for his heroism.
I’ve always been a fan of Bill and I’m excited to write the character, but his presence in “Nova” is really to create an impact on Sam. He’s there to show Sam, who recently dealt with and was deceived by some really despicable characters, that there are still good people out there in the Universe. It’s important to have a figure that can show you the ropes and that’s how I’m using Bill. He’s there to season Sam.
Obviously it’s a thrill to play in that corner of the Thor universe, plus it made sense. I don’t think I would have scratched that itch if it wouldn’t have benefited Sam’s character by showing him some things and giving him a sort of rock to hold on to when the chips are down.
Will this story allow you to show off some of the cool, larger trappings associated with Bill like his sentient spaceship, Skuttlebutt?
Maybe not as much as you think, but yes, there will be some fun nods to those things I think we all love about that character and his universe.
Can you talk about the dynamic between Bill and Sam in “Nova Corpse?”
Bill arrives in issue #13 with a very legitimate bone to pick with Sam. Then in issue #14 Bill has a quest he’s on to help his people that Sam has made more difficult. So Sam will be very motivated to clean up his mess. Then there’s almost the celebrity aspect of Bill. Sam greatly admires Thor and here’s someone who’s very close to Thor and this is one of those situations where you’d want to put your best foot forward for a friend of a friend.
That’s their dynamic. I think this story will ultimately end with the two of them as friends. That’s important because Sam doesn’t have a lot of great friends and I remember what that was like. He’s got close ties with his family, but his life at school and his life as Nova means that an important part of growing up is in jeopardy for Sam.
So we know that the story starts off with a misunderstanding and leads to a quest. Is the misunderstanding that kicks “Nova Corpse” off an old school Mighty Marvel Manner-style slugfest?
Yes, there’s the first meeting where we have a little fun with Stormbreaker and Bill. Sam’s big screw up in “Nova” #12 means his confidence really gets hammered and that’s never a good thing. Sam’s a tough character though so he’ll find a way to persevere.
Since Sam and Bill only battle each other in the initial issue of “Nova Corpse,” What can you tell us about the antagonists they’re up against in the rest of the story? How dangerous are they?
I wouldn’t say that the power threat level is Thanos or Galactus level, but this story might have some dire consequences for people that Bill loves, and Sam gets close to one of them as well. So they’re in dire shape and this isn’t how Sam wants to start his cosmic career. He doesn’t want any red ink on his ledger.
So the threat in this story is to some innocent bystanders who are swept up into things. That will also show the character of Sam. He’s going to drop everything and head into space to try and fix this situation before anyone gets hurt. Whether or not he’s successful will have a lot to do with him keeping his cool and allowing Bill to guide him.
It sounds like “Nova Corpse” is a story that takes place predominately in outer space. Will Earth factor into it at all?
Yes, because there is another thing happening to the Alexander family. They’ll struggle mightily to do what are ordinary things that can sometimes be very hard like keeping the lights on and a roof over their head.
Years ago my father was unemployed for a stretch after a market crash. He said something to me then, which has stuck with me. He said, “The hardest job is finding a job.” Sam’s Mother, Eva, will be going through some of that, and Sam will be asked to help the family. He thinks he might have a couple of easy short cuts, but in that regard there are very rarely any short cuts. As a member of a family with money problems he’ll be very much stuck between two worlds. It’s a complicating factor.
I think it’s something we’re all sort of inspired by. In the classic Spider-Man stories there were just as many money and real world problems as there were Spider-Man problems. That’s something we’re trying to capture here, but in a way that I think will make it a comic that is of the now, no pun intended. A lot of people are hurting and the Alexander’s money problems unfortunately won’t be special or unique. I think a lot of people will see either someone they know or even themselves at those stages.
Let’s talk a little bit about artist Paco Medina’s work on “Nova Corpse.” What can we expect from him? And are there any characters or elements of the arc that he seems to really enjoy drawing?
Paco, Juan [Vlasco], David [Curiel] and the whole art team are making me look really good. There’s no such thing as a dead page with these guys. The pages look wonderful even when I call for things like the Alexanders to not have money to pay a bill at a doctor’s office. The art team’s importance to this story and the book is critical. I love what they’re doing.
I know these guys are excited to draw the big fight in issue #13 between Bill and Sam. As we talked about, cooler heads will win out in the end, but Bill is a scary looking guy. So there’s a lot of reasons why the fight breaks out.
I know that fight scene is what they’re working on now and they’re having a lot of fun with it. When someone is having fun it’s easy to see the love on the page. So all of these guys are making everything I do very exciting and I’m immensely grateful for that.
Finally, we know that Nova will be a cast member in the recently announced “New Warriors” series. Can you talk about how that will impact his solo book? Will his already complex life become every more complicated?
Yes it will, and Sam’s life in 2014 may be even more complex than that. In a good way for readers though. He’ll be a visible character in the Marvel Universe and have some large roles to play. As I plan out the larger stories and talk with my editors Steve Wacker and Devin Lewis it’s become pretty clear that there’s going to be some big stories that Sam will be part of. So I’m really looking forward to that, but now I have do the annoying thing and clam up. [Laughs] I’m sorry, but I can’t say any more without spoiling things.
I do want to thank everyone for giving me the benefit of the doubt. Jeph Loeb and Zeb Wells have done such an excellent job creating and building up Sam that it was a little intimidating to to take over the book, but I feel I’ll be a fun caretaker for Sam. I want everyone to know I love the guy, even though I’m going to make his life very difficult.
So if you’re enjoying “Nova,” stick around, and if you haven’t tried it yet I think you’ll enjoy it. My first couple of issues are a lot of fun then things become a little more serious.
“Nova” #10, featuring Duggan’s first story with Sam Alexander, goes on sale November 27.