The Marvel Universe is a multi-faceted place, filled with champions who tend to specialize in certain kinds of threats and situations, from courtly intrigues to street-level superheroics to combating super terrorists. Of course, situations sometimes arise that bring heroes who don’t usually interact into each other’s orbits. Such a situation arises this month, when Spider-Man, the Inhumans and Captain America are forced to come together to stop a threat to New York City.
The team-up, overseen by “Jimmy Kimmel Live” writer Jeff Loveness (“A+X,” “Death of Wolverine: Life Without Logan”), kicks off in “Amazing Spider-Man Special” #1, continues in April’s “Inhuman Special” #1, and concludes in May’s “All-New Captain America Special” #1. We spoke with Loveness about the appeal of writing comics, the joy and anxiety one experiences when telling a Spider-Man story, the antagonist of his story — who happens to be one of Marvel’s oldest characters — and crafting his trilogy with three artists who are also relative comic book newcomers.
CBR News: Your next comic project for Marvel is a trilogy of connected specials starring characters that don’t often interact. Did Marvel come to you with this idea for this story?
Jeff Loveness: I’ve worked in different ways with Marvel; The Cyclops story I did in “Death of Wolverine: Life Without Logan” was a straight pitch that I sent them. Then, sometimes, they’ll come to you with characters they want you to play around with.
â€¨So, yeah they came to me and said, “We’re looking to do something with the Inhumans, the new Captain America and Spider-Man.” They also wanted to do something with this locale that you’ll see with a certain villain. They asked me if that was something I’d be interested in, and I all but immediately screamed, “Yes!”
â€¨As soon as I got off the phone with my editor, Nick Lowe, I was like, “Oh wait! How are those characters getting together? This is hard!” [Laughs] How do you get Medusa, Captain America and Spider-Man on the same page? And how do you get them united against a threat that relates to all of them?
â€¨So — there was a hard weekend of deep, panicky thought dedicated to that. Facing that challenge broke through so many of my self-imposed writer-brain story traps and forced me to create something brand new. It was scary, but exhilarating. That’s what’s cool about Marvel: Characters are constantly bumping into each other, and they all have different dynamics, fears, rivalries and crushes. It’s fun to put all of that in a powder keg and blow it up.
Your story kicks off in March’s “Amazing Spider-Man Special” #1. As a comedy writer, how does it feel to be tackling Spidey?
Writing in Spider-Man’s voice has made me perhaps the most nervous I’ve ever been. [Laughs] Spider-Man was my first exposure to comedy. I had to jump back into the recesses of my mind to remember that, but it’s true. Reading Spider-Man comics not only gave me my first insights into humor, but more importantly, how you use humor to deal with the difficulties of life.
Spider-Man is, flat out, the greatest character to write, because you put so much of yourself into him: all of your social problems, depressions and anxieties. You saddle Pete with problems all too familiar to you. But then, once you put that mask on him, he’s a great vessel to explore all your fears and social hang-ups and explore how to triumph over them. He can just say whatever you wish you could say to your problems. I can’t think of a better mirror for yourself as a writer than Spider-Man.
Your story continues in April’s “Inhuman Special” #1. In that series, writer Charles Soule has built a large, diverse cast of characters, new and old. Who are some of characters you’ll be playing with in your story?
Yeah, Soule had done an amazing job bringing this mythic weight to “Inhuman.” I also love the way he’s making them interact with humanity. It’s like if the gods of Mount Olympus were suddenly forced to dwell among the humans — great conflict.
Medusa is at the forefront of my story. She’s struggling to come into her place as the new ruler of the Inhumans in the absence of Black Bolt. I’m also playing around with the newer characters they’re using: Naja, Iso, Flint and Inferno. I really enjoy writing the Marvel Universe from the perspective of teenagers who have no idea what’s going on. [Laughs] I believe they’ve been superheroes for about 6 minutes — they wouldn’t even call themselves superheroes. There will be some small appearances from Triton and Gorgon too.
I miss Karnak though! He was my favorite. I’m kind of sad he’s gone. Lockjaw too! He doesn’t pop up in this one — too busy hanging out with Ms. Marvel — but he’s in great hands over there.
The concluding chapter in your trilogy is May’s “All-New Captain America Special” #1. So far as Cap, Sam has become comfortable in the world of spies, S.H.I.E.L.D. and Hydra. What’s it like thrusting him into the world of the Inhumans?
That was kind of the focal point of the story — I wanted to showcase the pressure that’s put upon the new Captain America. Now that he’s carrying the shield, Sam Wilson is expected to lead a team and stand for all these timeless, heroic principles. Sam is now tasked with the burden of being bigger than himself. I want to show the struggle that he’s going through, but also fully display the advantages Sam Wilson brings to the table, especially in our third issue.
He’ll definitely utilize his powers and unique fighting style. Sam is tremendous fun to write as he comes into his own and finally sees his differences as strengths.
It seems like both Cap and Medusa would have common ground in this story since they’re both getting use to large, new roles.
I think so. A lot of this story is about becoming comfortable with yourself, accepting your mistakes and limitations, and trying to live in your own skin. That struggle plays out on a macro, super-human level for Cap and Medusa. For Spider-Man, it’s more about general, everyday anxiety. Pete’s problems occur on more on a pedestrian level — like getting nervous around girls in coffee shops and eating breakfast burritos alone.
I see Spider-Man as the great socializer of the Marvel Universe, for better or for worse. Some people are fine around him, and some find him annoying as hell. I’m not a tenured scholar of Spider-Man canon, but he may or may not have a certain proclivity for redheads. So when he’s right next to Medusa, this redhead of almost mythical power, he may get a little flustered and try way too hard to impress her with terrible jokes.
And also, Spider-Man respects the station of Captain America so much. He’s a little hard on Sam, but in a playful way. He takes him down a peg or two with his jokes, but that’s Spider-Man’s way of trying to make him more comfortable and welcoming him to his new position. He also asks to throw the shield at every opportunity. He’s always wanted to. Who hasn’t?
What can you offer up about the antagonists Cap, Spidey and the Inhumans are up against?
That was a lot of fun to craft because we’re using a character that is older than the original Captain America himself, and there’s not a lot of continuity for this guy. The continuity that does exist kind of conflicts with itself, so in a way, I could write a fresh take without having to worry too much about decades of backstory. How often do you get to write a Marvel character that is almost untouched by time?
Some villains have decades of dying, resurrecting and getting all sorts of amazing retcons. For example, when you write Magneto, you have to consider 50 years of continuity just to make sure nothing conflicts. Magneto was magically transformed into a baby for a while — he’s been through a lot.
The character I’m writing is the Red Raven, who was this old kind of pulp hero before Marvel was firmly established in itself. Historically, he’s older than Captain America. He was one of the very first superheroes, and that’s a very interesting premise to explore. What brings about that grand, inspired decision to become a superhero? What sort of beautiful idea do you discover within yourself to choose that life?
â€¨And also, if he was one of the first, what happened to him? Why don’t people know who he is? Where did he go? Maybe he came up with a better idea. Maybe he thought being a superhero wasn’t as cracked up as it was supposed to be. I really like exploring that angle and I tried to make a broader statement about superheroes in general. Because, at its worst, being a superhero seems like this endless cycle of punchfests in central Manhattan. It’s an endless life of fighting, refighting and eventually having the people you love die around you. So maybe it’s not that great?
â€¨All three of our main characters: Spider-Man, Medusa and Cap have been in these endless cycles of loss and defeat. So they have to confront Red Raven’s philosophy as well as the direct physical threat of the story.
How big is the scope and scale of the story you’re telling?
It starts off with kind of a broad, traditional Marvel threat. New York is in peril and under attack by these monsters, but then I tried to make it more focused as the story goes along as the heroes figure out what the real threat is and maybe feel responsible for its escalation. I try to make it feel more intimate as the story moves forward, which might be a huge mistake! [Laughs] Usually with these things, you end up with the fabric of time itself being threatened by Galactus, but I tried to make this story start broad and action-packed and become more intimate and character focused as it moves along. We’ll see if that works. If not, you are allowed to tweet mean things at me. I’ll deserve it.
As we all got deeper into the story, I really wanted it to be about the characters and their relationships between themselves and the “villain.” I wanted them to realize that this endless cycle that they’re in does have some real consequences and actual collateral damage. You can’t just fight in Midtown Manhattan and expect to go back to normal every day. If Black Bolt makes a decision for his people, it’s going to affect a lot of societies that aren’t his people. I really wanted to explore that theme of cosmic collateral damage and the responsibility that comes with it.
Let’s talk about the artists you’re working with. Luca Pizzari is the artist for the “Amazing Spider-Man Special,” and Ryan Lee is slated to draw “Inhuman Special.” These guys are just as new to comics as you are, so how does it feel to be writing this story and its character with artists who are also getting their feet wet in the Marvel Universe?
I just met Luca maybe a month ago. I was doing some traveling and we grabbed a drink in London. It was so cool to meet the collaborating artist, talk shop with him, and hear what they love drawing about a character.
Sometimes, being a writer can be an isolating job. You’re in your room toiling away at a script, wracked with self-doubt and loathing, and you don’t even know if someone will ever read it. What’s cool about working with Marvel and all these artists is that it very much feels like a partnership. I wrote these scripts a couple months ago, so to get an e-mail and see that someone has brought your words to beautifully illustrated life — it’s the best feeling you could ask for.
With Luca, we’re both telling a Spider-Man story together and it’s first time for both of us. It’s a lovely, simpatico partnership, and it’s fulfilling to work with all these guys who, like me, are creating Marvel stories for the first time. I feel like we’re all coming up together.
They’re both doing an amazing job. I can’t wait for you guys to see the art.
And on “All-New Captain America Special,” you’re working with Alec Morgan.
He’s a king of men. Luca, Alec, and Ryan draw Spider-Man exactly the way I love to see him drawn: very gangly and scrawny, and always hanging off some loose fixture. He’s kind of uncomfortable with his own body language. I love that style of Spider-Man, and they’re bringing that to life in their various ways. I love scrawny, slightly creepy Ditko Spider-Man! [Laughs]
As a writer for “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” you’re another person with a pretty busy day job who’s heard the siren song of writing comics and indulges in that whenever the opportunity presents itself.
That’s a very kind description. [Laughs]
I’ve devoured Marvel Comics ever since I was a kid and it’s truly been an amazing opportunity to freelance for them whenever they want me. The “Kimmel” job keeps me pretty busy, but I will always try to make time to write Peter Parker.
What is it about the act of writing comics that you find so appealing? Is it simply your love for these characters? Or is there more to it?
It’s the characters, and it’s also the huge, limitless canvas that comics give you. I’ve always loved how comics are full of big ideas and grand emotions. It’s really fun to know that if your story is grounded in some sort of emotional truth, you can go as big as you want. It’s the place where you can really cut loose with fiction. I think comics are maybe the best medium for that.
It’s a completely unique, beautiful style of writing — and it’s a great challenge. That’s really what draws me to comics.