The super criminals of the Marvel Universe are a powerful bunch, and they’re even more formidable when they’re able to set aside their differing agendas and act as a group. High tech terrorists groups like A.I.M. And HYDRA have destroyed cities and super villain conspiracies like the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants and the Masters of Evil are more than a more match for some of the Marvel U’s premier hero teams, which is exactly why it’s become increasingly important to fight their agendas with more than just super heroes.
One way to do that is to offer participants in these villainous groups an out by turning State’s Evidence against their fellow members. Just like in our world, these villains then become part of the Witness Protection Program. This May, someone is targeting participants in the program, committing murders that attract the ire of the Sentinel of Liberty, as writer Ed Brubaker and artist Patrick Zircher kick off a new “Captain America” arc titled, “Shock to the System.” We spoke with Brubaker about the storyline, which begins in “Captain America” #11
CBR News: 2012 marks your eighth year writing “Captain America.” A run of this length is getting rarer and rarer in super hero comics, so before we get a little more into the details of “Shock to the System,” I wanted to ask you, what keeps the title and the character fresh and interesting to you after so many years?
Ed Brubaker: That is a long run. I think the only writer to have done more Cap issues than me now is Mark Gruenwald, whose record I have no plan of even trying to break. I guess I just feel like I’ve been a caretaker to this character, or a chronicler, and it’s always been fun. Not for Steve Rogers or his friends and lovers, but fun for me to come up with what comes next. I’ve always alternately had a plan or a roadmap, and left myself room to make it up as I go along in some places, too. That’s helped keep it fun. Sometimes even I don’t know what exactly is happening in the next arc.
The solicits for “Shock to the System” mention that the story involves the murders of ex-super villains who have gone into the Witness Protection program. That’s something you dealt with in your creator-owned Icon series “Incognito” with Sean Phillips, which stars a villain who had gone into Witness Protection. To my knowledge, though, this is an aspect of the Marvel Universe we haven’t seen much of. How similar and how different is it from the program in the real world? Is it still run by the U.S. Marshall Service, or is the program handled by a different agency?
I pretty much took our current Witness Protection system as a template and then added in a bunch of secret government agency stuff. I always wanted to explore that side of the Marvel U, like, what happens when some A.I.M. scientist turns State’s witness to get a lighter sentence? I just loved the idea that super villains will give up their partners and get out of the life, go live in the sticks or the ‘burbs.
“Shock to the System” deals with a mystery involving both a villain and a lover from Cap’s past. I know you don’t want to spoil things, but is it tipping your hand too much to talk about the eras of Cap history where these characters originated?
That would be telling, yeah, but one of the things I’ve tried to do throughout my run is make nods or you could even say homages (but they aren’t really) to various favorite runs of Cap from the old days. Obviously, much of what I’ve done is a nod to [Jim] Steranko’s three issues of Cap, and the current arc has nods to [Jack] Kirby’s run in the mid-70s and the [John] Byrne/[Roger] Stern run. It’s fun to bring in old characters or touch on some old storyline or bring back an old Cap villain. So this arc makes a few nods to the Gruenwald run, with some of the supporting cast and villains, while still being part of the larger run.
For “Shock to the System” you’re working with Patrick Zircher, an artist who is quite comfortable working in almost any kind of genre. What’s it like writing for Patrick? Which of his strengths do you really want to highlight in this story?
I’ve worked with Pat before, about 8 years ago, on a Batman story, and I really loved his attention to detail and scope, and the way he clearly cares about storytelling above everything. I don’t worry that he can’t draw everything I write, or that he’ll get the mood wrong, because he’s got the skills and he’s sharp as hell. It’s great to go from one fantastic artist to another — Steve McNiven, Alan Davis, and now Zircher. What a stroke of luck!