Since the early hints on its “Heroic Age” publishing initiative late last year, Marvel Comics has been hammering home the idea that the branding would not just mean a brighter, shinier Marvel Universe, but also that its marquee titles would walk their own path for the foreseeable future. For Ed Brubaker’s “Captain America” ongoing, that solo path involves the armored Captain America that is James Bucky Barnes facing down the one and only Baron Zemo starting in May’s issue #606. Joining the fray as the new series ongoing artist is acclaimed creator Butch Guice, who’s been contributing to Brubaker’s storyline off and on over the past year, including finishing over Bryan Hitch’s pencils in the recent “Captain America: Reborn” series.
Speaking first with CBR about the new, permanent gig, Guice explained that for him the story centered around the Cap cast “being re-explored and re-established. Ed wrote a simply terrific bit of Baron Zemo dialogue in ‘Captain America’ #606 that while I won’t give it away, I thought captured the essence of the entire story arc shift perfectly. At their core, I don’t believe there is another collective group of characters who better embody the concept, courage, and conviction of what truly defines a hero better than these characters – and for me, Captain America is the poster boy for the word hero.”
Though he has been happily contributing work to the Captain America franchise for a while, the artist noted that coming on as the full-time penciler and inker provided a different work circumstance that he’s excited to tackle. “I find I have always been more comfortable with having an artistic home, so to speak – a regular series – a title I can focus on and grow with as an artist. There is certainly great fun to be had drawing the big event visuals, but for myself, the long term monthly assignment is where the real heart of this craft occurs.”
And as previous “Captain America” artists have brought their own signature style to Brubaker’s lengthy run from Steve Epting’s cinematic action to Luke Ross’ classic superhero stylings through Hitch’s epic widescreen event comics, Guice plans on adding his own flourishes now that the Heroic Age is here. “I certainly have a visual look in my head I will be exploring – I started playing a bit with it in the ‘Who Will Wield The Shield?’ one-shot – but honestly, I try not to overthink my process too much. I’m most comfortable with trusting my instincts and drawing from the gut. I try and let the material lead me in the best direction, as opposed to forcing a particular approach or style upon it. Every issue, really every page, can be like walking through an artistic minefield with a metal detector – you follow the path you are given, and hope something doesn’t blow up in your face along the way. But I deliver the most personally satisfying work using that approach.
That personal satisfaction also comes with working solo, as Guice will complete the line art soup to nuts. “My pencil work really isn’t intended to be handed off to another inker. I prefer to be solely focused on the storytelling challenges of the job on hand when penciling, instead of fretting and fussing over some silly stylistic finish for the inker to duplicate. So my inking myself frees me up mentally to keep those priorities in order. No amount of decorative finish really hides badly executed drawing underneath.
“As the old saying goes, you can put lipstick on a pig, but at best, you still only have a pretty pig.”
Early details indicate that with #606, the current Baron Helmut Zemo will attempt to “finish the job his father started,” so to speak, in killing Bucky Barnes. While Guice couldn’t reveal more details as to how the Baron’s plan would take shape or whether Steve Rogers would be stepping in along the way, the artist did note that with the familial bent to the villain’s plans, more classic Cap flashbacks are in store as those World War II elements have had a strong impact on Brubaker’s previous Cap tales. “I’m not sure just how much flashback storyline Ed will include – although I suspect there will be ample opportunities,” Guice said. “Ed loves to layer those scenes in a story, and I love to draw them. The actual differentiation might involve something I do myself in the art, such as rendering them in ink wash in order to give the reader an impression of looking at vintage black and white photography – or the effect could ultimately rest with colorist Dean White. We’ll be hammering the best approach through numerous emails, I’m sure.”
What the artist guarantees will be in store for this arc and beyond is an exploration of the mix between political thriller and superhero spy drama that has become the cornerstone of the modern “Captain America.” “I love the genre myself – as a fan and as an artist – so I relish any opportunity to illustrate exotic locations, high tech gadgetry and weapons, remote hidden lairs, fast cars and beautiful women. In fact, I’m pretty sure I used those exact same phrases to Ed in describing what would be my ideal comic assignment, shortly before ‘Captain America’ was offered to me. Ed seemed to be of like mind on the subject, so while we haven’t really discusssed it further, my hope is we can find lots of opportunities in the upcoming issues to explore that sort of material, especially now that the Cap storyline is entering a new dynamic, post-Reborn.”
Most importantly, Guice is ready for the Heroic Age’s breaking of the event model of comic storytelling, even though it won’t necessarily change his job on the boards. “The job requirement is the same – try and do your very best with every page in a timely fashion – but as someone who grew up reading these characters several decades ago, I was inspired as a kid to try and find work in this field by that experience. I couldn’t be happier to see this happen now,” he concluded. “The big events of the past few years have been engrossing and exciting and nigh overwhelming, but at the end of the day, I think it is vitally important for both the creators and for the fans to break from the big events, and be reminded what genuinely defines a hero. Otherwise, despite our best efforts or intentions, we run the risk of telling stories about a bunch of supers, but not superheroes.”
“Captain America” #606 ships in May from Marvel Comics.