The Marvel Universe is a dangerous place, especially for characters like Thor and Iron Man, and in order to be a part of their world and survive, you have to be as capable and courageous as the famous heroes. Time and time again, the Asgardian goddess Sif and Pepper Potts, who recently became the armored hero known as Rescue, have proven themselves invaluable allies of Thor and Iron Man by demonstrating these qualities. This spring, the pair get to show the world that they’re just as heroic in their own right with the publication of “Sif,” which hits stores April 14th, and “Rescue,” which is in stores May 5th. Both one-shots are penned by writer Kelly Sue DeConnick who spoke with CBR News about them, as well as her Satana-centric short story which appears in issue #3 of Marvel’s anthology miniseries “Girl Comics.”
DeConnick is primarily known for her English adaptations of notable manga titles, like “Sexy Voice and Robo,” “Slam Dunk” and “Blue Spring.” Her independent comics work includes titles such as “30 Days of Night: Eben & Stella,” which she co-wrote with Steve Niles, and several of the short stories that appeared in “Comic Book Tattoo”; an anthology of stories based on the works of musician Tori Amos. “Sif” and “Rescue” mark her first Marvel Comics work, and she’s thoroughly enjoying working for the House of Ideas. “It’s been an entirely pleasant experience,” DeConnick told CBR News. “I don’t know why I say that as though it surprises me. I wasn’t expecting it to be awful or anything, but working with Marvel editorial has been a genuine pleasure.”
In fact, it was her love of “Thor,” especially the acclaimed run by Walt Simonson, which drew DeConnick to the “Sif” assignment. “It happened that Matt [DeConnick’s husband, writer Matt Fraction] was talking with Editor Alejandro Arbona about the Women of Marvel Initiative that was being put together, where they were taking some of the iconic female characters and doing one-shots. They were looking for women to work on the titles. Matt asked, ‘Hey, what about Kelly Sue?'” DeConnick explained. “Alejandro blind submitted my work to Editor Ralph Macchio, who didn’t know my relationship with Matt. I was asked to pitch based on that review. Once my pitches were approved, they told Ralph I was Matt’s wife and asked if that presented any problems. That was my only caveat. I was fine with blind submitting – in fact, I preferred it – but I didn’t want to get too far into the process without Ralph knowing so that he’d have time to find a replacement if he wanted to pull the plug. Apparently, he thought it was funny, though.”
Some of the aspects DeConnick finds most interesting about Sif are her prowess and background as a warrior, so she wanted those to play a central role in her story. “I like tough girls. The thing that was interesting to me about getting this particular opportunity was that the character had just been put through something both humbling and humiliating. She did get to flex her muscles again later, but at the time I was writing my pitch, she’d last appeared on panel leaning weakly against Thor. And I was like, ‘Nooo!'” the writer remarked. “I remember Simonson’s Sif. I wanted that. So this was my chance to bridge the gap, to help her get her chutzpah back.”
“Sif” takes place shortly after “Thor” #602-603, which saw the Asgardian goddess return to her own body after being trapped inside the form of a mortal woman with terminal cancer. She then joined Thor in exile in the town of Broxton, Oklahoma. “When this story begins, everybody else is out of Broxton dealing with more pressing matters, and she’s the one that’s left there to kind of hold down the fort. Her old flame, Beta Ray Bill, shows up, and there’s a possibility for a spark there, but then right behind him is his new love interest. So, you know, nothing like getting kicked when you’re down,” DeConnick said. “And to make matters worse, Bill is not even looking for Sif. He’s there for Thor. I won’t get into why, exactly, but he’s insistent that he needs Thor. So Sif is kind of like, ‘Yo! I’m right here! Right in front of you!'”
Fans of Beta Ray Bill know that the character’s current stomping grounds are the space ways of the Marvel Universe, so it’s no surprise that much of the action in “Sif” will unfold there. “We go cosmic, baby!” DeConnick revealed. “I think that aspect was a really fun part of the old ‘Thor’ runs and I’m thrilled to see it coming back.”
DeConnick couldn’t be happier with the way her collaborator, artist Ryan Stegman, brought to life all of the cosmic action of “Sif.” “I wish I could say, ‘Oh yeah, I totally asked for him.’ I didn’t though. I wasn’t familiar with Ryan at all, which is weird because it turns out we know a ton of the same people. I’m pretty sure C.B. Cebulski recommended Ryan to Alejandro. Alejandro sent me his samples and I flipped,” the writer stated. “He was so wonderful. He really got it and he seemed to be having fun. So it was cool.”
Like “Sif,” DeConnick’s other one-shot, “Rescue,” is also a sci-fi tinged adventure, which the writer was asked to pitch for at the same time she was pitching for “Sif.” She felt she would get one book or the other, but much to her delight, she landed both assignments.
“Pepper Potts is Rosalind Russell. She’s the wisecracking, smart-as-a-whip woman who runs the show…from slightly behind the dude that runs the show. I loved what Fraction was doing with her in ‘Invincible Iron Man’; letting her step up into the spotlight herself,” DeConnick remarked. “Pepper is somebody who can wisecrack in a foxhole because she’s so certain she knows who she is and what she does. Now suddenly she’s out of her comfort zone. This armor has changed everything. She doesn’t know what her role is anymore.”
DeConnick is referring to the Rescue armor which was given to Potts in “Invincible Iron Man” #10, the third part of the epic “World’s Most Wanted” storyline. “I don’t think her becoming a superhero was a natural progression at all, but I love it. I think we’re very comfortable with letting these supporting women stay on somebody’s arm or tied to the railroad tracks,” DeConnick said. “We’re used to them being plot devices – lures, rewards, motivations. So for her to become the protagonist? I do think it’s a little unusual. And delightful and interesting. Plus, Pepper is a lot of fun to write.”
The “Rescue” one-shot takes place in between the “World’s Most Wanted” and the recently completed “Stark Disassembled” arcs of “Invincible Iron Man.” “This starts right as Pepper arrives in Broxton after she’s escaped Osborn,” DeConnick explained. “It’s literally about Pepper learning how to throw a punch. Thematically, it’s similar to ‘Sif.’ It’s about Pepper giving herself permission to try and be a hero, even though no hero can save everybody. Some level of failure is inevitable, and the reality of that just kills Pepper. She’s used to being perfect.”
When she’s wearing her Rescue armor, Pepper has a number of special powers, but none of them are offensive as the suit is not equipped with any weapons, a feature that was instituted at Pepper’s request. Desppite what some people see as a drawback, DeConnick doesn’t feel that it diminishes her effectiveness as a hero in any way. “I think it’s a wholly plausible character choice. Yes, she’s worked for an arms dealer for years. I enjoy a good steak, but I couldn’t shoot a cow. Human beings are full of little hypocrisies. We have lines. At some point she may decide that she’s ready weaponize, but right now she’s trying to figure out what type of superhero she is and wants to be.
“I read a piece online where some guy called the choice misogynistic, which very nearly made my head explode. I have a problem with that on multiple levels – the simplest of which is a very petty matter of word choice. Misogyny is, by definition, a hatred or contempt for women. How exactly is Pepper’s eschewing weaponry a display of misogyny? That doesn’t even make sense. And throwing that word around willy-nilly takes the tooth out of it when it does apply.” DeConnick continued. “I suspect what he was trying to say was that it was a weak choice, and thus it was a statement that women are weak. Well first, Pepper doesn’t represent all women. She represents Pepper. And second, I think it’s an incredibly brave choice! She’s opting to go out there in bright primary colors looking like a gun – looking like Iron Man – but when the bad guys take their shot, she can’t and won’t shoot back. That’s not a coward’s choice; that’s the high road. Argh. It makes me nuts. Nobody said it revealed Brad Bird’s secret anti-robot agenda when the ‘Iron Giant’ didn’t want to be a weapon.”
Italian artist Andrea Mutti is bringing DeConnick’s script for “Rescue” to life. “His English is pretty good, my Italian is pretty rusty. Our e-mail conversations are hilarious! He may also be the single most enthusiastic human being with whom I’ve ever corresponded. I think he drinks a lot of espresso.” DeConnick said. “But for all that energy, he’s absolutely nailed a couple of beautiful quiet moments in panels that I was, frankly, nervous about, because there was the possibility of them being over-acted and that would just kill the thing. He brought a gorgeous subtlety to the table. I’ve been consistently impressed.”
After “Rescue” hits stores, fans of DeConnick’s work won’t have long to wait for her next Marvel work, a short story in “Girl Comics” #3, which hits stores just two weeks after “Rescue.” “It’s a Satana story, and it was a gas to write. They cut her hair and changed her character a bit recently, which completely made sense in context, but I missed her nastier side,” DeConnick remarked. “This is Satana, agent of chaos. In fact in one of the panel descriptions, I said, ‘Please, I want the long flowing mermaid hair, and if you can make it pink – even better!'”
In addition to her work on “Sif,” “Rescue,” and “Girl Comics,” DeConnick also has a story in the recently announced “CBGB” anthology miniseries from BOOM! Studios. “I’m going to be working with Chuck BB on that,” DeConnick said. “I think he’s hilarious. Plus, when I was 8 years old, I was a card-carrying member of the KISS Army so I’ve decided that Chuck and I are kindred spirits. He should probably be afraid.
“The timing of these shorter projects has been ideal because we’ve got a baby coming and I’m going to need to take a few weeks off, soon. I’ve gotten to play with some of my favorite characters without feeling pressured or stressed doing it,” DeConnick continued. “I’m taking a couple of weeks off, but I’m not going away. I’ve got other projects and pitches in the pipeline that I’m not liberty to speak about just yet. What’s the appropriate cliche here? ‘Stay tuned?'”