Being a hero in the Marvel Universe means dealing with pain. Not just the physical pain that comes from an energy blast or a superhumanly strong punch, but the anguish of losing friends, the sacrifice of normal things for the greater heroic good, and the disillusionment of discovering some institutions you believed were heroic and good were actually more morally murky and complex.
Teenager Sam Alexander, the star of Marvel Comics’ “Nova” ongoing series, has already dealt with some of these painful moments, but this summer he’ll have to deal with all of them at once. CBR News spoke with “Nova” writer Gerry Duggan about the trying times that await Sam in the book’s “Original Sin” tie-in, which begins in issue #18 and finds him dealing with the death of his friend, Uatu the Watcher, his family’s financial troubles, and secrets that will come to light about his missing father and the role he played in the Nova Corps.
CBR News: Gerry, at the end of “Nova” #16 Beta Ray Bill gives Sam a pretty moving and beautiful speech about making the most of what you have even when times are tough. Can you talk about how that speech impacted Sam in that moment? Do you think he fully understood what Bill was saying?
Gerry Duggan: As a kid, sometimes it takes a little while for that kind of advice to resonate. The advice that Bill gave Sam was actually given to me, and it helped steady me during an unsteady period. Something bad happens to the Alexanders at the end of “Nova” #16, and it happened to me when I was exactly his age. It will be interesting to see if Sam can hold onto some of that.
Like you said, Sam got that speech right as he’s about to experience quite a few trials and tribulations. It seems like Sam is entering a painful period that all teenagers go through — the time they discover the world is a lot more morally complicated than they thought. Is that true?
I think so. Your first years are spent with everything in orbit around you; parents, school, toys, and play time with friends. Adolescence is a time where you’re expected to be pulled into more dense gravity and get with some programs. Nothing revolves around you anymore.
Part of that for Sam is a obviously more complicated because he has inherited this helmet from his father. He’s expected to go to school, and he’s expected to be the man of the house. He’s also the goal keeper for some cosmic threats. The fun thing about what Sam is going to experience is it’s an identifiable experience. I hope it earns Sam some fans and makes him relatable.
Will one of the big thematic elements of the next few months be Sam’s struggle to maintain his positivity and idealism as he deals with some pretty traumatic stuff?
For sure, and Sam’s also at an age where he’ll start to keep more secrets from his mom. I think all teenagers want a life of their own whether or not they’re ready for it, and a lot of “Original Sin” is about secrets. He’ll have to decide which secrets he keeps from his mom and which he shares with her. That’s fun too.
It’s a tough situation for everyone, but one of the things that happens in issue #17 is that even though there are some tough times I think it works that there is still some levity. The Alexanders are still a family that loves each other and I think that’s why it works.
While we’re on the topic of Sam’s family let’s chat a little bit about his mother, Eva. She’s a really strong woman, but I’m curious how she feels about the Nova Corps as a whole. Does she feel any resentment towards the organization for sort of splintering her family?
That’s an interesting point. I tend to view her sort of as a soldier’s wife. Sometimes I think they have the tougher job. I will say this to be sort of clear and concise, the Jesse Alexander [Sam’s missing father] story will move forward and with that I think will come some changes for Eva and for Sam.
Eva’s currently wearing a lot of hats. She’s a waitress working for tips, she’s a mother, and she’s the head of the household. Yes, it’s tough for her to watch her son fly off, and I think it’s why he tries to be conscientious. He does try to check in, and he has curfews. There are limits and of course teenagers like to test them. It’s fun conflict.
We’ve talked about Sam’s mom, so let’s shift to his dad. In “Original Sin” #0 Sam learned from the Watcher that his missing father is still alive. When does that issue take place in your run? And how has learning that his father is still alive impacted Sam?
Mark Waid and the team that brought you that book did such a wonderful job of making the Watcher human and relatable. The story was about fathers and sons and the Watcher maybe did break one of his big rules for Sam because that’s what Sam needed to hear. I very much view that as something that happened very recently in Sam’s life. That will be the last time that Sam sees the Watcher alive.
For Sam, “Original Sin” is especially devastating because not only is his friend murdered, but Uatu was his best avenue to find his missing father. These events will spring Jesse Alexander’s story forward in a fun way.
While we’re on the topic of the Watcher’s death, teenagers often have Â a sense of invincibility and immortality, which can make coping with death really hard for them. Was that magnified by Sam getting super powers? Has he dealt with the death of anyone close to him in the past?
This will be the closest that death will have struck to Sam. It won’t be the last if he keeps wearing the helmet. The story necessitates that Sam very much be in motion. So the Watcher’s death will hit him like a ton of bricks, but he won’t have a moment to grieve for him until after “Original Sin.” Sam’s in a battlefield situation and there’s not a lot of time in those scenarios to stop and grieve.
Can you hint or tease who or what this threat is? What can you tell us about the antagonists of the story?
The “Nova” tie-in to “Original Sin” sends Sam down a path to a former Nova that may not have Sam’s best interests at heart, and Sam is starting to get wise to that kind of duplicity. He had his adventure where he trusted the wrong guy (Skaarn) and now Sam may be a bit more skeptical about folks he meets. I think he’ll be able to judge things a bit better now that he’s misjudged so badly.
So we’ll see a former Nova that is up to no good. We’ll get a few secrets of the Nova Corps especially as they relate to black helmet Novas and we’ll have at least one friend pop back up, Rocket Raccoon.
Is this your first time writing Rocket Raccoon?
It is. I’ve got to say he’s a lot of fun to write. It’s a different kind of energy than Deadpool, but it’s in a similar vein.[Brian] Bendis does such a good job writing him, it’s a little intimidating having him guest star in “Nova.”
David Baldeon draws a really fierce Raccoon. We give him some really fun things to do. The “Original Sin” story sets Sam on a path where he makes this remarkable discovery almost by chance, but it’s really fate that guides Sam to this moment. At the end of issue #20 something very important happens to Sam.
What can you tell us about the dynamic between Rocket and Sam? Sam recently had a pretty positive interaction with Beta Ray Bill, but it feels like the past relationship between Rocket and Sam has been a little more adversarial.
Yes. I remember as a kid hanging out with — I don’t want to say the wrong crowd, but I was definitely in a scenario where I thought, “I may get in trouble for this.” That’s the feeling Sam has with Rocket; that something extraordinarily bad might happen. [Laughs] It’s a dangerous feeling and the kid has got a head on his shoulders now.
I think the fun thing after Beta Ray Bill is that Sam got a little bit of seasoning. Rocket Raccoon is another really fun guest star. Sam and Rocket are a fun odd couple, and I’m no stranger to writing odd couples.
We talked a little bit about artist David Baldeon, and I believe Paco Medina will also be drawing some issues. Is that correct?
Yeah Paco drew “Nova” #17 and that was really wonderful. That issue is a moment to catch our breath after our recent space adventure. I’ve really got to tip my hat to Paco. The issue turned out much better than I was hoping. It’s one of my favorite scripts that I got a chance to wrench on, and Paco made it much better than what I gave to him. There are a lot of emotional beats in there that I ended up being happy with. It’s an important story for Sam.
Speaking of important stories, we know that the “Guardians of the Galaxy” tie-in to “Original Sin” by writer Brian Michael Bendis will reveal what happened to Richard Rider in the Cancerverse. Is that a story fans of Sam will want to keep an eye out for?
Yes, that will get back to him. I don’t want to elaborate any more on that particular story, but obviously Sam’s interest in the past of the Nova Corps means the revelations that we glean from that story are something he will 100% be interested in following up.
â€¨Bendis, [“The Legendary Star-Lord” writer] Sam Humphries and I actually went to lunch in Hollywood not too long ago and had fun discussing working in the Marvel Cosmic Universe. Maybe something big and fun will come of that! [Laughs] Thanks again for reading our comics.
“Nova” #17 by Gerry Duggan and Paco Medina is on sale tomorrow, May 21.