It was one of the most important days in the history of the Marvel Universe. It was a day when Earth’s mightiest heroes found themselves standing united against a common threat. It was the day the Avengers were born. Readers first saw that momentous combining of Marvel’s characters way back in 1963’s “Avengers” #1 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.
The circumstances of that meeting may have brought the founding Avengers: Thor, Iron Man, Ant-Man, Wasp, and the Hulk together to fight the villainous trickster god Loki, but it would take more than a chance gathering to forge this diverse group of heroes into a team. In the five issue mini-series “Avengers: The Origin,” writer Joe Casey and artist Phil Noto reveal the untold story of how five of the Marvel Universe’s premier champions became more than just a random group of individual heroes. CBR News spoke with Casey about the series, which kicks off in April.
CBR News: Joe, “Avengers: The Origin” marks your third Avengers miniseries since 2005. What is it about the Avengers that makes them so compelling to you as a writer, and why did you want to tell this story in particular?
Joe Casey: It’s been pretty well established that I’m a die hard Avengers fan like no other. It’s really a sickness that I still haven’t been able to shake. But it was the one book that completely captured my imagination as a kid and engendered the most loyalty as a fan, and I still go back and read those stories with buckets of enthusiasm. A week ago, I went to three stores in one day just to track down a copy of “Essential Avengers Vol. 7,” and I’ve owned all the original issues for more than twenty years! What was I thinking? Now, the evil and manipulative Tom Brevoort knows this about me, so I suspect that he uses that knowledge to rope me into these projects, which he knows I will jump at, almost without thinking.
In “Avengers: The Origin” you’re dealing with the original Avengers line-up of Thor, Iron Man, the Hulk, Wasp and Ant-Man. What do you feel are the essential character traits of these heroes when the series opens? Are any of them truly team players?
The whole point of this series is that none of them are team players at the beginning. Fate – and Loki, of course – throws them together to team up and forces them to work together to get the job done. One of the main things that people forget, mainly because a lot of these characters have become such icons, is that these heroes were fuckin’ weird when they first showed up. They weren’t the square-jawed, Boy Scout heroes that the world might’ve embraced and trusted immediately. No, these guys could’ve been mistaken for villains when they first debuted. Some of them were.
In hindsight, I think it’s hilarious that, back in the early 60’s, Marvel tried to sell the X-Men – five good-looking teenagers with fairly aesthetically-pleasing superpowers and fashionable, matching costumes – as the freaks. When it was really the Avengers – a guy in a scary metal suit, a Shakespeare-spouting “god” that could level a city, a gamma-irradiated brute with an anger problem and a pair of insect-sized heroes that hung around with ant swarms – who really looked freakish, who looked like characters you wouldn’t wanna mess with. Those five teaming up is a pretty frightening thought.
In terms of continuity, when does “Avengers: The Origin” take place? Before 1963’s Avengers #1? After? Or does it take place sort of in between the panels and pages of that issue? And, what is this mini-series about? Does it involve the established story of the Avengers being gathered by Rick Jones to battle Loki, or is this a completely new tale?
Make no mistake, this series tells the origin of the Avengers. Period. The original 1963 #1 is our jumping off point, but this series goes much more in depth than that comic, simply because we’ve got five issues where they had one. You gotta love modern comics, huh?
The spine of the original story is still completely intact. The theme is what it always is in an origin story: it’s how a legend got started. It’s Day One. It’s cracking open the original story and seeing what kind of details we can explore – especially when it comes to characterization.
What can you tell us about the supporting cast of “Avengers: The Origin”? Which characters play major roles?
Well, there’s not much of a supporting cast, in the manner you’re asking. There’s a bit of Marvel Universe stuff that shows up, a few cameos. But the main thing I’m kinda digging on is the Teen Brigade, the guys that Rick Jones used to hang around with back in the day. Trust me, you only think you know what the Teen Brigade was and what they did (that is, if you’ve even heard of them at all).
What’s it like working with Phil Noto on this series? What do you feel he brings to this story as an artist?
Phil’s great. He told me he wanted to do a big, colorful Marvel superhero, soap operatic slugfest, and that’s exactly what this is. We’ve danced around the idea of working together ever since we met in San Diego one year, and I’m glad it was on something like this. After “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes II,” I was pretty gun shy when it came to finding the right artist. Both Tom and I went over a lot of names and traveled down a lot of blind alleys. But, out of the blue, Tom asked me if I liked Phil Noto. At that moment, it was a done deal.
You mentioned “Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes II,” which was your follow up to the original “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes” mini-series; both of which featured times past tales of the early Avengers line-ups. In terms of tone and feel, is “Avengers: The Origin” similar to those books?
I think the reader will have to judge if there’s a different feel to this one. It’s been three or four years since “EMH2,” and I’m probably a different writer. So I would hope there’s a bit more craft involved. I look back on the first two “EMH” series, and I see a lot of places where I could’ve done it better. Hopefully, I’ve learned my lessons. I take this shit pretty seriously – mainly because I owe it to the 8-year old me who would’ve killed for this gig, even then.