When teenager Sam Alexander donned a mysterious helmet he blasted off on a journey that took him out into deep space and back home again. That story was chronicled in the opening arc of Marvel Comics’ latest “Nova” series when Sam put on a helmet that belonged to his missing father and became the newest and perhaps last member of the Nova Corps, a group of intergalactic, super powered law enforcement officers.
The next leg of Sam’s journey in “Nova” will find him becoming better acquainted with his super heroic responsibilities as he meets other Marvel heroes and tries to protect Earth from the invading armies of Thanos during the series’ tie-in arc to Marvel’s “Infinity” event. Then in November’s “Nova” #100, the 10th issue of the current volume of the series, new writer Gerry Duggan comes aboard for a series of stories that will have Sam exploring his home planet, the depths of outer space, and investigating the mystery of what happened to the Nova Corps.
CBR News: Gerry, “Nova” is a unique Marvel series in that it’s both a super hero book and a space opera book. What’s it like writing a title like that? It seems like it would be pretty liberating in terms of where you can take the character and what you can do?
Gerry Duggan: The first movie I remember seeing was “Star Wars” at a drive when it was released before Empire, and it was a crazy experience. My family fell asleep, and I say bouncing around in the backseat. There was nothing else like it. So a love for space opera was imprinted on my soul early, and my favorite comic books are in that classic Marvel style of a young, inexperienced hero who may be in over his head, but wants to do the right thing, and has unexpected and fantastic adventures.
So “Nova” is a perfect book for me because I think I have that one-two punch. Obviously, only time will tell, but I’m having a lot of fun writing the adventures of a 15 year-old kid who’s funny, but maybe not so wise. For me, the opportunity to do that is a real treat.
You mentioned the classic Marvel style of young, inexperienced heroes and Spider-Man, Marvel’s flagship hero, was originally a teenager like Sam, and both heroes have to balance the responsibilities of their civilian and super heroic lives. Do you feel that’s a valid comparison?
Yes. Sam’s understanding of his responsibilities to the entire Marvel Universe initially came from the Guardians of the Galaxy when they visited him in the first arc. Then it will develop some more from the adventures he’s currently having.
I think we have a fun beat set up where he’ll be able to access some of the helmets worn by other members of the Nova Corps. That does a couple of things for us. The first is it gives a sort of Indiana Jones-style adventure in space, which hopefully would be worth the price of the admission. The other is the opportunity to learn about the Corps and glean information about space, enemies, and ways to use the Nova Force.
And as you said, it all goes back to the early adventures of Peter Parker for me. We’ll have the types of scenarios where maybe if Nova wins Sam loses, and if Sam picks up some responsibilities maybe Nova loses. That’s a wonderful equation that you can’t go wrong with. It won’t be paint by numbers like that, but that’s the sort of style we’re going for here.
Sam is a really compelling character with a lot of real 15 year-old problems that are going to come out, and obviously space is not going to be any easier.
In my initial pitch to my editors Steve Wacker and Ellie Pyle I gave Sam as many real world issues as he had Nova issues because those are fun to burden a character with.
You’re taking over “Nova” right after the book’s “Infinity” tie-in where Sam tackles his first major cosmic crisis. I know you’re wary of spoilers, but can you talk at all about Sam’s mindset when your run begins?
He obviously will have met and gone up again some of the more major bad guys that are out there. So he’ll be a little seasoned and a little confident after coming out of those experiences without dying. [Laughs]
When my run begins I’ll have a couple of guest stars in that first arc that I would like to see. Sam doesn’t have a mentor, and I don’t necessarily want to give him a permanent one, but it’s fun to be able to bounce him off some of the more established cosmic characters.
I believe we’ve hinted very strongly that you’ll see Beta Ray Bill pop up. I’ve been a fan of that character since he first appeared in “Thor” #337. So to be able to use him in “Nova” even if it’s just for a little bit is a real thrill. It’s fun to have that sort of experienced character with a guy like Sam who is still learning the ropes.
I know the space and cosmic elements will be a big part of your “Nova” run, but I understand that Earth may be just as important. Is that correct?
It is. We’re going to have some fun exploring Earth in the book. Part of the fun of writing a 15 year-old character is sitting back and asking, “What would you do with the power to fly anywhere on Earth?” I for one have still never been to Japan and would love to go. I think one of the first places a 15 year-old kid would go with that power is Tokyo.
So flying off to different locations is something he’ll be able to do, and it’s something he’ll do pretty early on. That allows us to work in some guest stars if we want, but traveling is one of the best experiences you can get it. It’s true for anyone and it will be for Sam. That will of course mean he’ll have some issues about what happens when he misses as much school as he does. That’s not going to be a six-issue arc or anything like that [Laughs], but it’s fun to have your character deal with those problems while they’re trying to handle a cosmic threat. That to me is a classic comic situation, and that’s what I’m trying to go for with the help of Wacker, Ellie, and my artist Paco Medina. I’m especially excited to be working with Paco. I was thrilled to death that he was able to stay on the book for my run.
The book has such a wonderful artistic and editorial team. I’m really the luckiest guy in the world. I’ve only been working with Marvel for a year and I’ve worked with some names that I wouldn’t expect to have worked with if I had been there for 10 years. So I’m thrilled at the way things have gone.
You mentioned earlier that we’ll find out more about the Nova Corps via Sam’s encounters with various helmets. Will we also find out more about the Supernovas, the branch of the Nova Corps that Sam and his father are a part of?
Yes, but my main goal is to build Sam up. If you’ve been reading Jeph Loeb and Zeb Wells’ take on Sam you already care about him. They’ve done such a good job making him a fun character that you want to root for. All I’m trying to do is continue that and build him up as a character.
I want to season him with problems that he’s not going to be able to put on a helmet to solve, like the financial troubles that come with a missing father. So he’s in a position that I think anyone can relate to or root for. Sam’s an underdog both on Earth and in space. That’s fun for me to write.
Sam is just the latest in a long line of Novas that include both his father and Nova Prime Richard Rider. The whereabouts of both those characters are currently a mystery. Are those mysteries you plan on addressing right away in your run? Or perhaps further on down the road?
If I answer that question the Nova Corps helmet on my head will self-destruct. Those things will be answered in time. The priority is Sam. He’s the last Nova right now and the focus of what I’m writing.
Let’s move from mysteries and the Nova Corps to the rest of your supporting cast, such as Sam’s mother and his little sister. What’s your sense of them? How important are they to who he is as both a kid and as Nova?
A fifteen year-old boy won’t admit it, but he does need his mom [Laughs], especially when his father is out of the picture. Sam’s family is sort of committed to this lie now that his father has run off and that locks you onto a certain path. The father was earning the money and had the insurance. His job was providing for the family.
With him gone they have to recover and figure out what that means for their family. We’re not interested in doing some “After School Special” about that, but there are repercussions for any family in that type of situation. The entire Alexander family will have to deal with those repercussions too. It’s uncomfortable and could lead to embarrassment. Having a parent who is out of work is bad enough for a 15 year-old kid, let alone a parent who was the school janitor and then up and left because he supposedly couldn’t hack it.
So Sam was a target of bullies before and that will remain true, but I had teachers in my life that had said one or two things to me that can change the way you think and that in turn can change your life. Sam’s got some teachers like those and I’ve got a couple plans for Philbin, the Principal as well. He’s obviously an adversarial character, but you can emerge from those conflicts a better person. So Sam will have some Earth bound moments that will really help him grow.
Let’s move to another group of supporting characters — the adversaries that Sam will face as Nova. Can you reveal any of the villains you plan to use in “Nova?” And what types of villains make the best foils for Sam?
I have a couple of new threats that I want to get into before I went back and looked at any of the old ones. It’s a new threat, though, that I think might bring together some familiar faces.
So Sam is going to meet some pretty terrible people in space, which is an area that’s filled with a lot of scoundrels; scoundrels that might lead a 15 year-old kid astray. And I’d like to just leave it at that.
Finally, it sounds like your run on “Nova” will have something to offer longtime fans of the character, and new fans of all ages. Can you give us a taste of what we’ll see in your initial backup story in “Nova” #100, and your initial arc on the book that begins the following issue?
It’s a super fun adventure that leads into a mystery that we’ll dive into in the main “Nova” book. It will be a fun thing to kick off and it’s a little bit of a scare for Nova that most people could relate to.
If you’ve been reading “Nova,” and I hope you have because it’s been a very fun book, hopefully you’ll give me a chance to continue that fun. And if for some reason you’re a lapsed “Nova” reader or Odin forbid you’re not actually a “Nova” reader, I hope you give my run a shot; especially if you’ve been enjoying the work that Brian Posehn and I have been doing on “Deadpool.”
“Nova” will be different in tone, but I want the books to be fun. I promise that in any issue of “Nova” there will be fun adventures and action as well as real world problems. It’s the classic, fun, Marvel title that follows the adventures of an inexperienced and youthful super hero. I’ve been having a lot of fun with that. My only litmus test for anything I write is that I try to always write a comic that I would want to buy. That may sound corny but honestly and earnestly that’s my only measuring stick, and it’s led to some really fun things on “Deadpool.”
Someday hopefully in the far future when I’m wrapping up my “Nova” run I want to be able to say I left the toys in that toy box in pretty good shape. So I care about Sam and I want other people to care about him too. I hope that will come through in the comics.
Gerry Duggan makes his Nova debut in November’s “Nova” #100