This week, writer Jonathan Hickman dared to go deep into territory few other comic writers will travel through: message boards. With 30-plus pages of queries and responses, the writer took to the CBR Forums for an open Q&A with fans about his upcoming runs on Marvel Comics “Avengers” and “New Avengers” titles as part of the publisher’s Marvel NOW! relaunch.
With so much info trickling out over the extended thread, CBR News combed through to pick out some of the most relevant bits revealed by Hickman and have gathered it here for all to see.
Known across comics for his meticulous plotting and long term planning, the writer revealed that “Avengers has a different structure than anything I’ve done before” though he did say that “New Avengers” as a title will be “probably closer to ‘FF'” as a title that works with the core book (“Avengers” publishes 24 issues a year to “NA’s” 12). At the same time, Hickman promised, “You will absolutely not need to read both books to get a story, but, in fairness to those who buy both, you will absolutely get something extra from the story if you do read both.”
On “Avengers” itself, the massive cast (drawn in its opening arc by Jerome Opeña) was discussed at multiple points with Hickman explaining that the reasoning behind such a huge roster of characters “will all become apparent pretty quickly.” As the series rolls along, stories will be broken up into smaller teams led by Captain America, Iron Man and Captain Marvel. The writer described the arc format as being “3 issues, everyone. 3 issues smaller teams, rinse, repeat (until I don’t)” adding “The teams will change. Significantly, as we go from 18-24.” Though he wouldn’t reveal what the specific makeup of any teams would be.
Hickman commented on the diversity of power sets as well, saying he didn’t believe any character he’s using has redundant powers. “Sure plenty of guys are strong or can fly, but that doesn’t make, say, Smasher and Hyperion remotely the same because of the things that come with them,” he said.
Story-wise, more of what wasn’t coming was discussed than what was, but Hickman did say, “There’s only ‘some’ cosmic stuff in the first 15 or so issues (which is all I have finished plotting as of tonight). — I could change my mind.” He also said that there would be fewer opportunities for classic Avengers villains at the start, nor would there be stories about more recent foes like Norman Osborn and no plans for “big mutant villains for a while.” The series will also not tie into the incoming “Age of Ultron” event, nor will it crossover with other Marvel U titles for at least its first year.
The writer also answered questions on the motivations and capabilities of the team as a whole, saying, “The scale of threats Avengers face, the various nightmare scenarios, I’ve always felt like any of them was capable of killing someone — especially if the stakes demanded it.”
On the opposite side of the coin, “New Avengers” was discussed at length, a project Hickman called “pretty much my dream Marvel gig.” The series focused on Marvel’s “Illuminati” of super science superheroes will eventually feature Captain America in addition to the likes of Black Panther, Namor and Iron Man. Comparing the two books, Hickman said, “‘Avengers’ will be hopeful, optimistic and utopian. ‘New Avengers’ won’t. At all” adding “‘NA’ is the more shadowy book.”
As to how “New Avengers” would build on the Illuminati premise created by Brian Michael Bendis, the writer revealed, “This is the logical continuation of what Bendis started. In fact, the first page of the book is that scene from the first Illuminati story Brian and Alex [Maleev] did.” He gave a “yes” to the question of the Infinity Gauntlet playing a bigger role in this story than past Illuminati tales. And overall, the issue of trust would play a big role in the book: “I say the level of trust is low, and it won’t get that good again.”
Digging deep into one fans query, Hickman said, “The Illuminati are the exact same Illuminati that Bendis / Maleev introduced a few years ago. Beyond things that could not be casually explained (Cap having an Infinity Gem — there’s no getting around that), it’s meant to be a direct continuation of that extremely conceited concept.” He added that the inclusion of the Beast in the book was a necessity since he was unable to use the currently dead Professor X whom he wanted in his series.
Additionally, the writer hinted that the New Avengers will continue to be a secret, clandestine organization. While Captain America remembers his interaction with the Illuminati, the writer definitively stated “Avengers don’t know about New Avengers.”
Overall, “New Avengers” was described as “The most ‘important’ book in the most successful corner of the Marvel Universe will be New Avengers, people just don’t know that yet. It may not sell quite as high as Avengers, but the things going on in that book will affect the broader MU, and it’s a good thing for the character that [Black Panther] is in there.”
“I’ll only say that there’s an intentional contrast being setup between the books,” the writer addd. “One is a progressive, more global group (‘Avengers’) and the other is essentially an old boys network (‘New Avengers’) is worth noting. There’s a point being made. Perhaps I’m going to hammer you over the head with it. Perhaps that’s why I’m not worried about it.”
As to the expansive lineup of heroes in the book, Hickman had much to say about his casting choices. So far as to his favorite Avengers, he said, “Stark is fun. Thor. Panther. Carol Danvers.” And on his “Yes List” of characters that may be included, the writer said that more women characters overall were likely and possibly more would get involved with that “old boys club” of “New Avengers.” Hickman further confirmed that there are plans for Spider-Woman, and he “maybe” has plans for Hank Pym, Jack of Hearts or Nova.
The incoming changes to the “Superior” Spider-Man will impact on the book starting with “Issue #6, I think. It’ll be subtle, as it should be. After a while you become numb to the secrets, but Dan [Slott] did a good job on this, no doubt.” Hickman was asked about the original Nick Fury appearing, to which he said, “I’ve got something rattling around in my head regarding him.”
The writer will also have some supporting players and guest stars involved including his “Secret Warriors” cast member Eden Fesi/Manifold, and Validator and Omega Flight will be appearing in issue #10. However, he mentioned that other than Manifold, readers won’t see the rest of the Secret Warriors as ongoing characters.
On the “No List” for the books are the likes of Vision, the Sentry, Daredevil, Wonder Man, Captain Britain, Quicksilver, Pete Wisdom, Blue Marvel, Red She-Hulk, Ghost Rider, Bucky Barnes, Iron Fist, Prince of Orphans, Damion Hellstrom, Psylocke, Moon Knight, Magma, Richard Rider, any of the staff from Horizon Labs or the Agents of Atlas. Hickman also noted Mockingbird, Sersi, Sharon Carter, Crystal and Firebird would not be appearing in his Avengers-related books in “any significant way.”
Hickman was asked about an appearance by Power Man and Iron Fist only to say, “No they are not, but I don’t think it will be long before you see them again. Tangentially, I really think because of the good work done over the last few years, a Powerman / Iron Fist book would do well in the market with the right team.” Another street-level character, Elektra, “almost made the team.”
On the cosmic front, the writer said “I actually have no idea what’s up with Adam Warlock,” but did confirm the Shi’ar Empire will play a role. When asked about Monica Rambeau he stated, “I mentioned this other places, I’ve got zero interest in writing any of the Nextwave characters ever. I don’t think I could ever see them any other way.”
There will be no resurrections of dead heroes in the book and no major deaths planned for the cast as of now, but readers might be able to expect some revivals of characters at some point — just not Ares.
There was also a fair amount of talk for the obscure characters of the Marvel U, though it’s tough to tell whether the characters discussed would necessarily get involved in the book. “I actually had no idea who the Blue Marvel was because of the time period he was introduced (I was BURIED and broke making my indie books),” he said to one fan’s question. “So I didn’t know about him until people started bringing him up. I’ll tell you, I really love the design.”
While Captain Universe, the Marvel franchise that can jump from character to character, will play a role in the book, the identity behind the mask remains a secret. Hickman did reveal, however, that “Captain Universe is black” when asked about series diversity. Asked who his favorite character in the classic “616” Marvel Universe is, the writer pointed to Commander Arcturus Rann -Â the hero of the Microverse who’s recently shown up in the publisher’s “Minimum Carnage” event. Similarly, he said “[I] Love Songbird. LOVE!” though whether this passion for such characters means an appearance in the book is anyone’s guess.
Hyperion of the Squadron Supreme will play a role in “Avengers” as the book’s “biggest ass-kicker,” and Hickman gave a “maybe” to other Squadron members showing up in the series. Speaking of universe crossovers, asked which Ultimate character he’d play with if one COULD come over, Hickman’s response was “The Xorn/Zorns.” He also gave a “yes” to some form of appearance by other New Mutants besides cast members Sunspot and Cannonball but not immediately.
“I have a Eternals/Celestials/Deviants thing, but that’s for later,” he said when asked of the former Jack Kirby creations. “Not happening in ‘Avengers.'” Hickman played coy on responding to queries about Captain Mar-vel and specifics on Doctor Strange’s role.
In fact, fans seeking out direct info on the plot of future “Avengers” stories showed up all over, but Hickman held back from spoiler country. He did, however note that “I’ve always liked that promo a lot though” in regards to the New Universe lightning bolt image whose homage on an incoming cover has led many to speculate that characters from Marvel’s 1986 universe may appear in the books before too long. “I like ‘Newuniversal’ a lot. No surprise, I like Warren a lot,” the writer said when pressed on the matter.
When asked about crossover potential early in “Avengers,” the writer noted he wanted to try to keep things self-contained at first, stating both teams of Avengers would not work alongside Rick Remender’s team in “Uncanny Avengers.” “I think it’s best for now to only expect Avengers to be Avengers,” he said. “I don’t think you’re going to see much cross over at all for the first good while during Marvel NOW!”
No crossover doesn’t mean no connection, though, and Hickman confirmed the event Franklin Richards told Black Bolt about in “FF” will factor in to “Avengers” or “New Avengers.”
Hickman also addressed the new-character-connundrum of mainstream comics, characterizing the problem as “tricky.”
“Most of the talent creating books at Marvel are fairly progressive, so generally we all want diversity in the abstract,” he said. “The problem comes from the fact that the catalog of Marvel (and DC) characters are predominantly straight white male because of the era they were conceived in — and it’s the basic building blocks of what we have to work with. Which begets the question: Well Jonathan, if this is really one of the root causes of the problem, if you really feel that way — if you’re not a fraud — why don’t you just go create some new, more diverse characters?
“Which is where things get tricky,” he continued. “In light of numerous historical examples, contractual realities, and the shelf life of creators, is it really in a creator’s best interest to be making brand new IP for the big companies on the cheap? I mean, we still do it sometimes, because, frankly, we can’t not…it’s in our DNA as storytellers and problem solvers — but is it the ‘right’ thing to do? Would it be right for people to ‘expect me’ to do that? I don’t think so. But that’s just one example — There are others (some even more negative, plenty positive).”
Hickman also declined to list his major influences on the book, saying, “I can’t really answer that now. Ask me down the road.”
On the other side of the coin, there was some info dropped on how the comics sausage was made from time to time. Asked whether he’d be carrying over plotlines from the Marvel books he left to take on “Avengers,” Hickman wrote, “My leaving was a bit more complicated than that. Yes, when it became obvious that I was getting Avengers, I needed to leave, but a bunch of that was also the Ultimates relaunch being swallowed alive by DC’s New 52” before adding “All of this is completely different [story ideas]. Except maybe one exception.”
As far as keeping pace with 24 issues a year, the writer said “I’m only a little ahead of the artists right now” adding that Opeña will return to the book some time after the opening arc is done.
Characterwise, there were some behind the scenes changes made as well. “She-Hulk was originally going to be on the team with Hulk (boom), but what Matt [Fraction[ is going to do is much, much better than I was going to do [in his ‘FF’ run].”
The writer also admitted to some influence from the “Avengers” movie, noting that while his won’t revel in things like the Tony Stark/Bruce Banner relationship in the same way that Kelly Sue DeConnick’s “Avengers Assemble” will, “I think everyone writes Iron Man as Robert Downey now.”
Overall, asked whether he’d utilize “a heavily structured style with profound plot planning like the one you used for your Fantastic Four run,” Hickman said yes for the most part. “It’s the only way to do two connecting flagship books that drive a franchise like Avengers on the time table that we have…I’ll do more of the [loose plotting style of ‘Manhattan Projects’] with Marvel stuff when I’m done with Avengers in a few years.” He added that some of the “FF” characters he played with during his time on that franchise were played up because “I was using some of that to set up this.”
“Avengers” #1 is available in stores now.