In “Avengers,” Jonathan Hickman and Dustin Weaver introduced readers to the Marvel Universe incarnations of characters from the 1980s “New Universe” line — Starbrand and Nightmask. During their tenure as some of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, the cosmic-powered youths traversed the universe and helped save it from a multitude of intergalactic empires and entities.
But while they have experience defending their world, they don’t have much knowledge of it. That will change in December when writer Greg Weisman (a comics and animation veteran known for his work on “Gargoyles,” “Spectacular Spider-Man” and “Young Justice”) and artist Dominike “Domo” Stanton (also known for both comics and animation, whose credits include FX hit “Archer” and “The Big Con Job” for BOOM! Studios) kick off a new “Starbrand & Nightmask” series, where the titular duo will try to balance their responsibilities as cosmic defenders and college students. CBR News spoke with Weisman about his characters’ new scholastic endeavor, the college they’ll be attending, and the established Marvel characters they’ll encounter on campus.
CBR News: Why Nightmask and Starbrand? Were you a fan of Jonathan Hickman’s take on the characters, or perhaps the original 1980s “New Universe” incarnations?
Greg Weisman: Both, actually, though I’ll admit I had to do some memory refreshment on the latter, and some catching up on the former. Basically, I’m just fascinated with where both these incredibly powerful characters are in their lives. They are so unformed — not as characters, but as human beings. Adam was almost literally born yesterday, and Kevin was this unnoticed, unappreciated and relatively unaccomplished kid. They both have so much learning to do, both as heroes and as human beings. And that is always fascinating to write.
In “Starbrand & Nightmask” #1 you’re picking up the title characters’
adventures eight months after the events of “Secret Wars,” with both characters adjusting to college life. What can you tell us about their sort of status quos and motivations when readers catch up with them in issue #1? Have they totally given up super heroics for the pursuit of higher education?
They haven’t given up super-heroics at all. Frankly, Kevin would prefer to just be an Avenger, but Adam insists Kevin experience normal life for someone his age, i.e. college. (Kevin is against the plan: his last stint in college did not end well.) The book picks them up just a bit before their first college semester starts, so it’s something the readers will be exploring together with our two leads from moment one.
What inspired this direction?
I love the juxtaposition of huge cosmic complications with really mundane life
milestones. It’s a sci-fi buddy adventure, but that’s not all it is. There’s drama and pathos and romance and mystery and discovery and tragedy and even a little horror. Folks familiar with my work know I like to write densely plotted stuff, really packing stuff in. “Starbrand & Nightmask” will be no different.
What can you tell us about the college Kevin and Adam are attending? Is this Empire State University, where characters like Squirrel Girl are currently matriculating?
Yep. E.S.U. And though we won’t see Squirrel Girl right away, Doreen Green does appear in issue #1. But it’s not like they’re the same person or anything, right? Of course, not. Why would you even think that?
Will Kevin and Adam have any roommates or new friends when when issue #1 begins?
Kevin and Adam will be roommates, but we’ll be introducing a lot of supporting characters, rapidly. Probably the most important is their R.A., Imani Greene, who is destined to become an extremely significant character in the mythos. There’s also dormmates Kenny Kong, Shelly Conklin and Krysta Brown, Campus Security Guard Tiny McKeever, and Imani’s physical therapist Sha Shan Nguyen (one of my favorite characters in the canon). Plus, what would an E.S.U. education be without a course from a certain Professor Warren?
Diversity has always been an important issue to me, going back to “Gargoyles” at least. This is going to be a book with an extremely diverse cast of characters, which is part of the reason I wanted Nightmask to share billing with Starbrand.
What kinds of antagonists are you interested in pitting Starbrand and
Nightmask against? Will we see new or established super villains and
You’ll be seeing some familiar — and downright old school — faces in a new light, as antagonists on a cosmic scale actually “team-up” with more standard Earth-bound super-villains to take on our two powerful heroes. We’ll also have new opponents. One in particular will be introduced by the end of the first arc, and she will eventually emerge as one of Starbrand and Nightmask’s most dangerous foes.
The art we’re debuting with this interview, by Dominike Stanton, conveys a definite sense of character and energy.
I think Domo really captures the youthful energy that the book embodies. We’ve only just started working together, but it’s been extremely exciting to see the stuff he’s turning out.
Can you give us a little more detail about the adventures “Starbrand & Nightmask” will get into early on?
You know, I’m kinda famous for hating to reveal SPOILERS, so you’re making it very tough. [Laughs] Our first arc is called “Eternity’s Children (Attend University).” It’s about a handful of cosmic entities who have decided that the Universe is out of balance — and that the stumbling block to correcting the problem is Earth’s Planetary Defense Mechanism, a.k.a. Starbrand/Kevin.
Meanwhile, things are brewing on multiple fronts. There are issues with the Superflow, with Starbrand’s powers (in fact, with the entire Starbrand Creation System) and with the origin of the very name “Nightmask.” We’re going to be picking at loose threads left dangling by Hickman’s “Avengers” run and following those threads to their logical ends. All this, while our two leads try to settle into their new lives at Empire State University.
You’re best know for your work in animation, but before that you were a writer and editor for DC Comics. Even though you’ve been heavily involved with TV, you’ve never been far from the world of comics. What’s it like to be writing an ongoing series for Marvel, now? How important is it to you to have your foot in the world of comics in some way?
Comics are still my first love, and I really, really like writing super-heroes. It’s such a bastard genre, comprised of every other genre ever conceived. So this is a huge thrill for me to get a shot at writing an on-going super-hero title, my first since co-writing “Captain Atom” in the late 1980s. And getting to dip my toes into the Marvel Universe is incredibly exciting. I want a really long run on this book. There, I said it. Probably jinxed it too. But I’m in it for the long haul, because there’s no better way to explore a character.
Greg Weisman and Dominike Stanton’s “Starbrand & Nightmask” #1 arrives December 2015.