This November, Marvel Comics will relaunch a number of core titles following “Avengers Disassembled.” Out of that event titles like “Iron Man,” “Thor” and “Captain America” will find all new creative teams looking to push the envelope with stories that take those characters in very high profile directions. At that time, “Captain America” will be put into the able hands of critically-acclaimed writer Ed Brubaker (“Sleeper,” “Gotham Central” “Catwoman”) and artist Steve Epting (“Crux,” “El Cazador”) as announced during a panel at Comic-Con International in San Diego. CBR News caught up with the writer to learn a bit more about his plans for the title and his thoughts on the character.
“For the last six months or so I’ve been planning to go freelance once my contract was up with DC [in August],” Brubaker told CBR News. “Just through sheer luck I was talking to Brian [Bendis] about that and suddenly he’s asking me ‘What would you want to do at Marvel?’ I said I didn’t know. There were a couple of characters I’d love to write, but most of what I’d want was already being written by good people. So I just tossed out Cap, because I’d heard Robert Morales was leaving the book. Next thing I know I’m getting a call from Joe Quesada saying, ‘I hear you want to write ‘Captain America.” So it went from there, with me explaining when I’d be available and us kicking around ideas of what I’d like to do with the book, and what they’d like to see.
“Then I spent a few weeks thinking on it, and finally gave them a basic pitch on what I’d do if I got my hands on ‘Captain America.’ They really dug it and were willing to make it work around my schedule with the end of the exclusive, and they gave me an artist I love in Steve Epting. Also, I gave them an outline for a couple of years, so, unless they drag me off of it, I plan to be on that book for a while.”
With Brubaker exclusive to DC through August, the writer hasn’t yet started working on the series, other than the afore-mentioned pitch.
The plan always was to have new writers come on board the individual Avengers-related titles once “Avengers Disassembled” was completed. So this is not Brubaker replacing Kirkman, or Warren Ellis replacing Mark Ricketts on “Iron Man,” but the next step in the evolution of these books.
“‘Captain America’ was the first comic I picked-up as a kid,” said Brubaker. “It was a book that I always followed even when I hated what they were doing with it, which for any real hardcore Cap fan back then was probably pretty often. I mean, the longest run in my childhood was the Englehart run, and then it was rotating crews of people for years. Then you got really excited for the Roger Stern/John Byrne run, and that didn’t last long at all. But I stuck with it for a long time, because I really loved the characters. I loved the whole man out of time concept. A guy from World War II who’s frozen in ice and wakes up in our day, but is haunted by the past. All of that really appealed to me, even as a kid.
“So, when this opportunity presented itself, I was literally flooded with ideas for things you could do with Captain America that would be relevant today, feel modern, and still go to the heart of who and what Cap is.”
For his pitch, Brubaker decided to simply roll the dice. “I’ve done this two or three times, where I’ve written up a pitch that contains everything I think they would never let me do with the book, exactly what I would do if I could do anything, and miraculously every single time I’ve done that I’ve gotten the job. Some of what I’ve come up with [for ‘Captain America’] is going to shock people, I think. Long term fans of the book are probably going to see some things that piss them off, but if they stick with me for the ride for a while, I think they’ll come around once they see where I’m going with all this.
And honestly, with what happens at the end of my first issue, I think even people who are pissed off about it are probably going to come back for the next issue just to see what we do next.”
As you might expect from a story written by Brubaker, his first arc will have something of a mystery to it, but he doesn’t want to spoil anything for the fans.
“I could sit down and write a happy Captain America super hero comic, but that wouldn’t really be bringing myself to that book, that would be trying to be something I’m not” said Brubaker. “So, I came up with a mystery angle for my doorway into the character. Something awful and unexpected happens, and Cap gets involved with a sort of espionage mystery. Not like ‘Secret War’ where he’s going on black-ops missions, it’s a very Captain America-centric story, but one that makes him look for a lot of buried secrets. But still with the requisite amount of shield tossing, amazing feats, fights with HYDRA and AIM, yet at the same time the first arc is really a mystery-driven character piece.”
Brubaker is in a unique position writing Cap. He’s writing one of the great icons of comics, yet in many ways the modern Captain America’s really never been definitively defined, which will allow Brubaker the opportunity to put his stamp on the character. This is definitely something he couldn’t do with characters who have a more established base like Spider-Man or Batman.
“Captain America has gone through a lot of reboots. Hell, he’s part of the first retcon in comics history. He was published all through the fourties and fifties, yet he appears in Avengers in the early 60s having been frozen since the war. But there was never any comic where he was blown off a plane, knocked into a block of ice and remained frozen for twenty years.”
When Brubaker landed the assignment he asked Marvel to set him up with copies of Mark Waid’s run on “Captain America.” He had heard good things about it and wanted to see what he had done with the character.
“I was especially thankful to see that Mark brought Sharon Carter back,” admitted Brubaker. “Because even as a kid I was really mad when they killed her in this sort of off-handed way. At least when they killed Gwen Stacy it was a big deal. I was talking to Steve Epting the other day and told him, ‘I want you to know that as far as I’m concerned Sharon Carter is the Gwen Stacy of Captain America.’ I’m not going to make the same mistake I think everyone but Waid has made, which is, she’s going to be in the fucking book. I don’t know to what extent at this point, but I like when Cap goes on missions and works with S.H.I.E.L.D. and Sharon’s an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. who works with him and they have that chemistry. I like that Cap, the one who has a real life.
“One thing I’ve not found a way around is the fact that Cap has revealed his secret identity. I couldn’t think of a logical way other than something like what my pal Geoff Johns did in ‘The Flash’ where the Spectre wiped the world’s memory of that knowledge. So, unless I get to do a cross-company Spectre/Cap mini, I have to deal with the fact that Captain America is public. Then I started thinking about how if he’s just walking down the street as Steve Rogers, he looks like every other Marvel character except his hair is parted on the other side. He’s just a regular guy, it’s not like everyone is going to point and say, ‘Hey, it’s Captain America!’ So, in a lot of ways, it’s okay that he doesn’t have a secret identity, I can work with that, actually.”
It’s been said in the past, by both fans and professional alike, that in order to write Captain America stories you have to be a hardcore patriot, someone with an intense love of America. Brubaker shares those feelings, but feels that the definition of patriotism needs to be clear.
“I was talking to Bendis about this recently. His idea of Captain America is that he is America. Whatever way the country is feeling, he’s the personification of that. I can see where he’s coming from and I don’t want to say I disagree with him necessarily, but I think there’s a difference in the way Cap acts when he’s part of the Avengers and the leader of a team versus the way he is when he’s in his own comic.
“My idea is he’s more the embodiment of the ideals of America, of what America could be or should be, as opposed to what America often is. To a large degree, Cap is a solider so he’s going to follow orders, but he’s not necessarily going to follow orders he doesn’t believe are right, whereas a lot of other soldiers would. I see him as more of a Thomas Paine or Thomas Jefferson kind of patriot, where he sees what America’s supposed to be and fights for that. For example, he’s not a guy who would really be in favor of corporate-run political campaigns, you know?
“You look at that Englehart story where Cap resigns over basically a Watergate-era thing. He resigned and became Nomad and I think that was a very patriotic thing. His government had disgusted him, so he quit. One of the greatest things about America is we have freedom of expression and speech, and questioning your government isn’t just your right, it’s your duty. So, you’ve got this guy who works for these people, but at the same time when the President orders him to do something he thinks is reprehensible or not the sort of thing an American President should be ordering someone to do, he could actually tell the President ‘no.’ And he’s the kind of person who, while he may be a solider, world leaders want to shake his hand, most of them more than they’d want to shake the President’s hand, you know? This is definitely something I think about when formulating everything. I keep all that in mind.”
When it comes to politics, though, don’t expect Brubaker to push his own politics on his readers.
“I’m honestly not looking to do a lot of politically-oriented stories in the book, because it is a super-hero comic, after all, but I also don’t think writers should really push their own political agenda within their work for the most part. It’s an argument I have with other writers all the time and I know Diego Rivera said that all art is political, but I feel that as a writer you’re supposed to be objective. You write the characters. You don’t write your words into their mouths, you write their words into their mouths. And I would never want to pick up a comic book like Captain America and expect to read a liberal rant, at least, not coming out of the mouth of a guy who’s spent his entire adult life in the military.”
Look for the Ed Brubaker written “Captain America” this November from Marvel Comics.