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Duggan & Thorne Take Solo to an Unexplored Corner of the Marvel U

by  in CBR Exclusives, Comic News Comment
Duggan & Thorne Take Solo to an Unexplored Corner of the Marvel U

The Marvel Universe is home to a seemingly endless stream of world-threatening espionage crises, and most of the time they’re tackled by A-List heroes like Captain America, Black Widow and Nick Fury. When people get really desperate they might call Solo.

RELATED: Bunn’s “Deadpool & the Mercs for Money” Lets Him Cash in on Bigger Stories

Long time Spider-Man fans might remember Solo from his appearances in Spidey books from the late ‘80s and early ‘90s where he conducted a “one-man war on terror” against some of the Marvel Universe’s sinister subversive organizations. For the past several years he’s operated as a soldier of fortune, and up until recently, he served as a member of Deadpool’s Mercs for Money. This October, Bourne will live up to his codename and strike out on his own in the all-new “Solo” ongoing series by co-writers Gerry Duggan & Geoffrey Thorne and artist Paco Diaz; a series that will mix comedy and action with an exploration of the side world of the Marvel Universe where the obscure, forgotten, and B- and C-List characters live when they’re not mixing it up with the big names.

CBR News spoke with Duggan and Thorne about their take on what motivates Solo, his family life, the exploits he’ll embark on, and the antagonists he’ll encounter along the way.

Solo #2 art by Paco Diaz

Solo #2 art by Paco Diaz

CBR News: Gerry, Solo isn’t the most well-known Marvel character, but you recently brought him back into prominence in “Deadpool” where he served a supporting role, and even stepped into the spotlight a couple times. Where did your affinity for the character come from? And Geoffrey, what was it about the character that made you want to co-write a book starring him?

Gerry Duggan: We were looking for a way to complicate Deadpool’s life and we had this big story to tell with this group of people that were going to be sort of bonded to Deadpool after “Secret Wars.” Part of that was leaning into the meta of his popularity. I think readers who are current know that this is all sort of beginning to crack in a fun way. Obviously the higher we take these guys the bigger the fall.

So we thought coming back from “Secret Wars” that it would be very fun and disorienting to have these other people around “Deadpool.” And for them it makes sense. The way Deadpool pitched the operation that became the Mercs for Money to Solo was, “Half of my Deadpool rate is still twice your Solo rate.” So it was sort of good for everyone to do business together.

It didn’t quite work out, but here we are getting to tell some stories with some of these other characters that there wasn’t a lot of. There wasn’t room for a “Solo” or “Slapstick” ongoing in the old slate and in this one we sort of nudged some out. Solo is a great character. I was reading the Spidey comics that he appeared in back in the day and I enjoyed that stuff.

RELATED: Axel Alonso Talks “Solo,” “Slapstick” & “Foolkiller” Ongoing Series

So, for me, even though he’s not a Stan [Lee] and Jack [Kirby] character he’s a legacy character. He’s got a tragic origin and a unique power set. We’re putting a little more action-comedy pixie dust in his adventures than you may have seen in the past, but I think that’s okay. I think that’s what modern audiences are more accustomed to.

Geoff also cooked up some real interesting things that I wouldn’t have come up with for his current situation. We knew he was going to be a little down and out, but there’s also a lot of reasons for him to have his chin up. Things aren’t quite as bad as they appear.

Geoffrey Thorne: The short answer to the second question is Gerry asked me. He said, “Would you like to write a book with me?” And I was like, “Sure! What book?” He said, “’Solo.’” I was like “’Solo?’ Solo, Solo?” [Laughs] And he was like, “Yeah, Solo.” Then he told me all the stuff he just told you. So I checked it out and it was a lot of fun.

Duggan: This was also a pitch that I knew you could hit. Since I knew you from your TV stuff.

Thorne: That’s true. My TV stuff is very similar in tone with what we’re doing with “Solo.” It is lighter than people might expect for the “One-Man War on Terror,” but I think one of the things that doesn’t get talked about a lot with characters like Deadpool, and more importantly his supporting cast, is the sort of, “What’s going on outside of this giant fight that the Avengers and X-Men are involved in?” That’s what interests me about the Marvel Universe. That question of what is everybody else doing?

So we’re going to see bits of not the underworld but the sort of side world. Solo and some of his cronies will be doing things that you don’t normally see, but do happen in the Marvel Universe. So Gerry and I started banging our heads together and came up with a really fun back story. It’s stuff that I don’t want to spoil because the jokes are in the actual script, but Solo has a richer life than we’ve been led to believe.

He’s not the perfect engine of espionage and destruction that he’s presented himself as to everyone else. A good portion of the Solo we’ve seen has been him acting for other people. We’re going to see Solo as he actually is.

Solo #2 art by Paco Diaz

Solo #2 art by Paco Diaz

That begs the question of is the Solo we initially saw in the Spider-Man comics who was to terrorists what the Punisher is to organized crime the real Solo? Does he have the ruthlessness and anger we saw while he was waging his one-man war on terror in him?

Thorne: I wouldn’t say he’s a particularly angry character at the start, but if you hit the wrong button you will get the horns. For now, the Solo we’re presenting is a guy trying to make ends meet. Would you agree with that?

Duggan: I would and the other thing is there is a character called the Punisher and he’s part of the Marvel Universe. So the question is what does guy waging a “one-man war on terror” mean in 2017? And a lot of what we’re doing is about the “business” of being in the war on terror.

Thorne: Yes, so his villains will be people you expect them to be. We’re probably not going to make up any brand new acronyms, but you will see some brand new villains and groups. It’s not played for laughs. Deadpool is a lot more intentionally laugh out loud funny. This has almost more a “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” type vibe to the humor.

Duggan: Yes, there’s a surprise with his home life that we don’t want to spoil. Hopefully this stuff is familiar as an action-comedy, but there’s also an element of mystery to our first story too that Solo is basically dropped into the middle of. He’s forced to try and make sense of a few things.

We caught a glimpse of Solo’s home life back in Gerry and Phil Noto’s short story in issue #7 of the current volume of “Deadpool.” It looked like he had a wife and a kid. I assume they’ll play a significant role in the series?

Duggan: Not quite a wife, but definitely a baby mom. They are domestic, but it’s sort of unassigned. So he’s doing the right thing by them, but in a cool way, he’s not really in the driver’s seat that you think he might be. She’s taking care of the kid they have together, but if you could only ring up one of them I’m not sure Solo would be your first choice.

Thorne: [Laughs] We’re also going to start off with something very interesting in that there’s a weird underworld in the Marvel Universe. It’s the nature of the kind of fiction that it is. The villains pop up, they get defeated at the end of the story, and some of them go to prison or they might get banished to other dimensions; things like that. So we don’t really see them again until we need them.

In this case, all of those kinds of characters? That’s the story and the world. The universe Solo lives in is like, “Whatever happened to the Cactus?” Not that we’re going to use that specific character.

Duggan: Or are we?

Thorne: [Laughs] We’re going to feature some weird characters that sort of exist in this nebulous place of “We don’t really dislike them, but we can’t figure out why we would use them. Are they villains? What if they’re not?” That’s an unexplored part of the Marvel Universe and it’s the canvas on which our “Solo” stories take place.

What does the mercenary life mean for Solo’s sort of moral compass? Is he perfectly comfortable living in the often morally gray world of merc work?

Thorne: So far he’s fine with it. He’s not Paladin. Solo has never been Paladin. Paladin is a good guy who’s trying to be a mercenary at the same time and I’m sure he has massive internal conflict because of that.

Solo was born to show up and murder people. He was created specifically to do that job. It was like, “Oh my god! Who’s that guy? He just killed that person! Now he’s gone again!” That was the gist of Solo’s career until Gerry brought him out of mothballs.

We’re trying to flesh him out a bit. He’s going to be a more three dimensional character in this book than he has other places because it’s all about him. So if he has conflicts you’ll see them, but right now he’s a high level merc. He’s good at his job, and he can’t be that good at it if he has a lot of moral quandaries about killing people. [Laughs]

I suppose if he was asked to mop up an orphanage he might say no, but he probably wouldn’t take that job.

Duggan: You’re right. That’s a gig you pass on.

Thorne: There’s a particular tone to the book. It’s not a super introspective, deep dark “Solo” book though. [Laughs]

Solo #2 art by Paco Diaz

Solo #2 art by Paco Diaz

From what you’re telling me and what I’ve read about the book so far it sounds like the jobs we’ll see Solo undertake most often are fantastic Marvel Universe style takes on classic action-thriller tales like fighting arms dealers and going undercover. Is that a fair description of what we’ll see?

Thorne: Yes, Gerry did see you see that CBS is about to redo “MacGyver”? Solo is kind of like a reverse MacGyver

Duggan: [Laughs] Yeah!

Thorne: You know what I mean? He can’t make a jetpack out of shoestring and shoebox, but given the right tools he is a one-man army.

Duggan: I think it’s been a long time since there was a spy story that wasn’t necessarily, “Here’s an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. running around.” So this is kind of like the off brand version of some of that. The soul of it, that Geoff sort of hit on, is a lot of times when a bad guy or a gray area character disappears from a comic after a fight is over is where these stories start. What happens to these characters when the fight is over?

There are slice of life books that have done really well like “Hawkeye” and the stuff that Nick Spencer and Steve Lieber did with “Superior Foes of Spider-Man.” Tonally this would fit on the bookshelf next to those books.

We already touched upon two important supporting players in “Solo” — the mother of his child and his baby — but what can you tell us about the rest of the book’s supporting cast?

Duggan: Dum Dum Duggan puts in an appearance, but I think some of the more interesting people that we’re going to run across are some of these characters we’re just starting to flesh out.

Thorne: The other great thing about “Solo” is that even though he only made several appearances, including his own miniseries back in the ’90s, he has a rather interesting background. It’s largely just bullet points though. So there are huge gaps that never got explained because who cared about Solo back then?

Gerry introduced this woman he had a child with and is still hooked up with in some ways in what we think is a love relationship. Catita is proving to be an interesting character, but Gerry invented her. I just took what he had created and asked, “If that’s true what about this?”

Duggan: Even with that I was sort of waiting for Geoff to come along in a weird way. I knew she was part of his life and what I wanted her to become, but it wasn’t until Geoff was able to come in and go, “This is who she is.” That it all clicked. By elevating her we make Solo better too in a fun way.

If you look at a preview with just the art and without any words you’d be like, “Oh she’s around just to be one thing.” When you see the tone of their relationship though you’ll see that it’s actually something quite different.

Thorne: Their relationship is something very unique in the realm of comics. You may not have seen something like this before, and Catita is a really fun character.

Paco Diaz is bringing you characters to life, and it seems like he’d be a perfect choice for this book given his long history with Solo’s former boss, Deadpool.

Thorne: Paco’s work is just gorgeous.

Duggan: Yeah, it’s crazy good.

Thorne: My partner and I have done some indie comics. We work the Marvel way. We do a lot of pitching in here and there. Like I’ll do the flats for his colors and the lettering. It’s very much a garage band kind of way of making comics.

What interests me about this process where we write the script send it off and then start seeing breakdowns, then fine art, and then the inks and colors is sometimes the page will not be complete before the colors are in and it’s like “Oh! That’s what they meant!” With Paco though it’s like, “This is so good that we could almost release it in black-and-white!” Then we get the colors and it’s like “Holy Crap!

Earlier you talked about some B- and C-List style characters appearing. It sounds like in terms of the larger Marvel Universe, “Solo” will be digging deep into the bench and looking at fan-favorite and obscure characters and seeing how they bounce off of your protagonist?

Thorne: Absolutely! Plus, some characters may not appear, but they will be in the book obliquely. You’ll get that right off the top. The first thing Solo does involves an oblique character that really hasn’t been used in the way we use him. When you get to that it will be like, “Holy Crap!”

I hope we can keep that going. There are a lot of those sorts of characters back from the old Stan and Jack days that we’d love to use in something. It’s like “Okay! Use the Pole Vault Man!” [Laughs] Some of those characters have popped up enough times though that whether we agree with it or not they’re formidable simply because they kept giving “Daredevil” a hard time.

Duggan: These are characters that we have an affinity for, but are also easier to own for a little while. It’s not like we’re reaching for the Red Skull or that sort of thing. A lot of times if you’re the only one playing with a character you can really make some interesting things happen.

Thorne: That’s very true. There was a take on “Heroes for Hire” that involved Misty Knight and Colleen Wing and the Humbug was one of their supporting characters! I was like, “Humbug! Really?” Then the way they used him I was like, “Okay! Yeah! This is great.” It’s something no one else would have thought of. That character could have stayed in limbo for a million years.

If you use a character right then they become very interesting. The current “Ant-Man” book is a perfect example of that. So we’re on a fun playground and it’s largely a wide open field since most of these people are considered B- and C-List, and they haven’t been defined enough

“Solo” #1 goes on sale October 12 from Marvel Comics, and you can read a preview right here on CBR. “Solo” #2 is scheduled for November 2.

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