For many of the Marvel Universe’s heroes, crime-fighting is a calling, not a career. While Spider-Man and Daredevil have day jobs that they balance with their heroic responsibilities, some heroes don’t have that option. Take Luke Cage, who received his super-abilities while in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. He used those powers to escape prison, but once he was out he had no way to make ends meet.
Cage decided that he could use his new abilities to both do some good and make money, becoming a “Hero for Hire” and offering his abilities to desperate New Yorkers that needed the kind of help that only a superpowered crime-fighter could provide. Cage later cleared his name, but the business model he designed lives on. The “Heroes for Hire” collective is currently run by police detective turned private detective Misty Knight. Knight serves as the “Control” of the group by handpicking operatives for missions, providing them with payment and intelligence, and occasionally joining them in the field.
Writers Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning chronicle the adventures of Misty and her agents in the monthly “Heroes for Hire.” This November, Misty takes Luke Cage’s idea in a dark and unexpected direction when “Heroes for Hire” relaunches as “Villains for Hire,” a series that was announced by Marvel yesterday at their “Next Big Thing” panel at Comic-Con International in San Diego. Why would Misty Knight suddenly turn to the dark side? And what sort of operation is “Villains for Hire”? For the answers to these questions and more, we spoke via email with Abnett and Lanning, who collectively answer their questions as DnA.
CBR News: Dan and Andy, before we get to “Villains for Hire,” you have to get Misty Knight and “Heroes for Hire” through the remainder of the series’ current “Fear Itself” arc, the attempt to shut down a pipeline of the Atlantean narcotic Hook and a “Spider-Island” tie-in. How big of an impact will these events have on Misty?
DnA: Misty and Co. are well and truly wrung out after their adventures during the “Fear Itself” and “Spider-Island” events. “Fear Itself” drops our “street level” characters into the middle of an Asgardian civil war, a potentially extinction-level event for Earth, and we get to see how they deal with the chaos and fallout that breaks out in the streets of New York in the wake of the rampaging Hammer Wielders. This has Misty deploying her heroes to the Raft, which has been devastated leading to a mass breakout of extremely dangerous super-criminals, and to Yancy Street, where the transformed Thing is rampaging. Misty knows that it’s best to use her operatives to tackle the chaos in the streets caused by the mass breakout, putting out the fires that threaten to consume the city and leaving the main conflagration to heavy hitters like the Avengers.
Her practical approach can be seen further in the “Spider-Island” one-shot, where she organizes her many contacts to help Mayor Jonah Jameson’s efforts to contain and quarantine the city during the spider-powers outbreak.
Against the backdrop of these tie-in events, we also get to move the Heroes for Hire’s ongoing story forward, as each arc reveals more details that effect Misty’s mission to uncover the mysterious figure who was manipulating her into setting up this new version of H4H, and they directly play into the events that unfold in “Villains for Hire.”
How much time passes between the end of “Heroes for Hire” and “Villains for Hire” #1? Are you able to comment on her motivation for adopting this new modus operandi of working with villains?
That’s tricky because we don’t want to spoil the story, and the reason why Misty is doing what she’s doing is key to the plot: Has she gone bad? Is she being manipulated again? Is the whole operation some sort of elaborate sting? You’ll have to read the series to find out!
Fair enough. Are you able to discuss the types of villains Misty is looking to hire? Are these mainly the professional types that are motivated by cash, or might we see some big-name, world-conqueror types, as well?
No world-conquering types, sorry; their price would be too high. Unless Misty can find some other payment or motivation that would entice a Doom or Kang, she’ll be sticking to the world she knows and the sort of street-level contacts she’s used to operating with, which still offers us a wide choice and rich mixture of characters to have fun with.
What can you tell us about the group dynamic in “Villains for Hire”? It seems like any alliance between villains would be an uneasy one. Is this a book that will feature plenty of double- and triple-crosses?
The one thing that is absolutely for certain with this series is that when you are dealing with villains, you need eyes in the back of your head. These guys will screw each other over without batting an eye. These are not noble characters. They all have their own motivations and back stories, but at the end of the day they are villains and Misty can never lose sight of that. She’s well aware that whoever fights monsters should see that in the process they do not become a monster!
“Heroes for Hire” was centered in New York City. Will that be the case with “Villains for Hire”? How important is setting to this series?
Manhattan is Misty’s home turf and is as much a character in the book as the heroes and villains we deal with. We’ve tried to use the city in interesting ways and really want to use the fact that we’re in Marvel’s version of New York to give the series its own unique flavor. When we are coming up with crimes for the team to deal with, we’re always trying to put a Marvel Universe spin on them — hence Atlantean drug-running, Savage Land people-trafficking and demonic arms sales. It offers so much more action potential to think of the setup this way, and gives the teams Misty puts together more of a challenge and ramps up the potential danger.
Speaking of challenges and dangers, in “Heroes for Hire” Misty primarily used her agents to attack and shut down organized crime rings. What types of missions will the “Villains for Hire” pursue?
Without going into story specifics — the Villains for Hire setup is a dark mirror of the H4H M.O. — teams are put together for specific missions based on their skills and powers. Obviously, the nature of these missions are somewhat more “villainous” and self-serving that the heroic model.
“Heroes for Hire” featured a rotating cast of characters, but it also starred Misty and the superpowered mercenary Paladin. Will “Villains for Hire” have a permanent cast besides Misty? If so, what can you tell us about these characters?
Misty’s using a rotating cast of operatives, specifically keyed to the mission at hand and is forced to be very careful with how she handles these dangerous villains. Her relationship with these shady characters is by necessity a bit more remote and cautious; she’s dealing with criminals who would stab their mothers in the back if it served them. Things could backfire on her badly if she’s not careful, and as a result, Misty is constantly on her guard. And it soon becomes clear that Paladin is not very happy with the situation, which just adds to the potential problems Misty could face as she is forced to go deeper and deeper into the criminal underworld.
In the recent “Captain America & Batroc” one-shot, artist Renato Arlem gave a glimpse into the occasionally gritty, often humorous and always dynamic world of one of the Marvel U.’s most flamboyant professional criminals. Can we expect him to do something similar here? Or will the nature of the story require a different approach?
Renato’s style — his dark, gritty, semi-realistic approach, with echoes of Alex Maleev and Al Williamson — is perfectly suited to a story dealing with the shadowy, seedy underbelly of the superhero world. He’s producing some of his best work — his fantastic attention to detail, brilliant action sequences and wonderfully rendered shots of the city have us really excited to see the pages rolling in. They are awesome!
What’s the overall feel and tone that you want to convey with “Villains for Hire”?
We’d like people to be on the edge of their seats reading this one — it’s the dark mirror to the super-shiny, bright and breezy world of “Heroes for Hire.” Misty’s having to deal with some seriously dangerous people in the story, so it’s more serious and gritty, but there’s a thread of gallows humor running through it and some stunning action sequences that will hopefully make the price of admission worth it. Plus, we’ve thrown in a fair few twists and turns, surprise reveals and some jaw-dropping cliffhangers.
We’re having a blast writing this story as it offers us (and the readers) a glimpse into the dark, edgy corner of the M.U. that the villains occupy, where the only thing you can be certain of is don’t trust anyone, not even yourself!
“Villains for Hire” hits stores in November