Whether it’s bringing the Ultimates through “Divided We Fall,” opening a new chapter for “Uncanny X-Force” or introducing a new team of automatons to the Marvel U in “Avengers A.I.,” Sam Humphries has taken on quite a few characters in the publisher’s library. Now, Humphries turns his eye beyond Earth for “The Legendary Star-Lord,” penning the adventures of Peter Quill in a new series with Paco Medina on art. The ongoing series debuts in July.
Joined by Marvel Executive Editor Mike Marts and Marvel EIC Axel Alonso, Humphries is on hand in a special press conference call to discuss his upcoming adventures with the Guardians of the Galaxy’s leader and what to expect from the All-New Marvel NOW! series leading up to the character’s debut on the big screen.
Marvel PR guru Christopher D’Lando kicked off the call, prompting Humphries to discuss the overview of the series — the character’s first ever solo ongoing. “Star-Lord is a really fun character to write because he’s very bold, he’s very confident,” Humphries said. “The book is going to be Peter’s adventures away from the Guardians. … I like to call him the original outer-space scoundrel — he actually pre-dates Han Solo. He likes to fight, he likes to flirt, he flies by the seat of his pants.” The series is more ground-level, taking place in bars and orphanages and Humphries described the stories as “high-flying, heroic adventures of a space cowboy.”
Opening the series is a set of done-in-one stories that build on one another. “These are stories that take place on the fringes of the Marvel Universe where you see civilizations breaking apart,” said Humphries. “Places in space where people fall through the cracks. Someone like Peter has the opportunity … to prove what kind of hero he is.”
Humphries is no stranger to team books, having done Ultimates, Uncanny X-Force and more, but “The Legendary Star-Lord” is a solo title, and the writer described the situation as “a lot of relief on my end.” “Peter is bold and he’s charming but he really does have a heart of gold, the heart of a hero,” he said. “He’s out there having big grand adventures and following his eyes in a sense, following his id,” but his gut is always telling him to be a hero. “The dichotomy of his heart is what’s driving the [story] in this book.”
“He’s not Lobo by any means,” said Humphries. “He’s a guy that had a tough childhood and he made it into space. Damned if he’s not going to have some fun exploring, seeing some strange aliens and killing them!”
Peter Quill’s father, J-Son, and the Spartax empire may play a role in the series as well. “Marvel is practically built on daddy issues,” Humphries said. “I can’t say too much about that without spoiling events that come up immediately in ‘Guardians of the Galaxy,’ but Brian has this really great story coming up that’s started already in books that are out now. At the end of it, there’s a turning point for Peter and for J-Son and the whole Spartax empires that sets up ‘The Legendary Star-Lord.'”
The writer said a character like Star-Lord is constantly caught between two sides — including his human/Spartax side as well as his desire to do the right thing. A new bad guy will also surface, a cosmic gangster called Mr. Knife. “He puts a blood bounty on Peter’s head. We go from there with the entire galaxy trying to hunt down Peter and get a reward,” Humphries said, also teasing a new team of cosmic bad guys that he couldn’t elaborate on.
With Brian Bendis working on “Guardians of the Galaxy,” Humphries said he would be working very closely with Bendis. “Brian and I started working closely when I was on my first title with ‘Ultimates,’ so this is kind of like coming home again,” said Humphries. “We started talking about ideas, where he’s going to lead the character and we did that all through the retreat, and outside the retreat. We’ve continued that even afterwards — not just with Brian, but with others as well, this collaboration has yielded some big ideas coming out of this book down the line.”
Humphries said he would “absolutely” be following up on the kiss between Kitty Pryde and Star-Lord at the end of “The Trial of Jean Grey.” “It’s the ultimate long-distance relationship,” said Humphries. “They’ve got this two-way holographic phone setup, it’s like a cosmic outer-space Skype. … Kitty is going to be a member of the supporting cast. There’s definitely a flirtation there, but we get to find out if there’s any true heat between them.”
Paco Medina is set to illustrate “The Legendary Star-Lord” — and it’s another connection from Humphries’ time as “Ultimates” writer; Medina was drawing “Ultimate Comics X-Men” at the time. “You see what Paco is capable of when you throw him in an environment like outer space,” said Humphries. “I think it’s going to bring out a side of Paco that people haven’t seen in his Marvel Universe work. His emotions, his acting is so strong and that’s such a powerful combination in an artist. We’re going to be really leaning into that and exploring that, throw all sorts of crazy things for him to draw. … It’s so great to have him on this book, and I can’t wait for people to see a full issue done by him.”
“The Legendary Star-Lord” is the latest title to expand to the cosmic side of the Marvel Universe, with many Marvel heroes headed to space, and Humphries said to expect a few familiar faces, but it was definitely Star-Lord focused. “This is definitely Peter Quill’s book,” said Humphries, who described the book as “Star-Lord unleashed,” but readers will see some of his Guardians teammates. He elaborated, saying that there were “very big, very exciting” plans in store for the series and the Marvel U at large.
Star-Lord is back to his role as a “roguish half-outlaw” in this series, but it’s “tempered by his conscience” and the legacy of his youth and his mother. “I think it’s tempered by the legacy of his dreams of wanting to go to space,” said Humphries. “Even though he is the rogue character, he is the outlaw.”
The character is also funny, and very charming, though Humphries noted he “wasn’t like Deadpool, by any means,” but he also doesn’t “mope and listen to The Smiths.” “He’s always looking to poke a hole in anybody who is pompous or is threatening him, even if they have a dozen gun barrels pointing at him,” said Humphries. “It definitely has a different tone than my other Marvel work, but it really [has to do] with who Peter is as a character.”
In terms of costuming, Star-Lord’s appearance will reflect Chris Pratt’s look in the upcoming “Guardians of the Galaxy” film.
While the series will take place in the cosmic Marvel U, it won’t be the same book as “Guardians of the Galaxy” or “Infinity.” “‘The Legendary Star-Lord’ will frequent places more like bars and gambling halls in the life of the Marvel Universe. Not everybody lives in a silver gleaming spaceship in the depths of space.”
Humphries theorized that Star-Lord has begun to catch on because he was somewhat off to the side in his early appearances. “When [Abnett and Lanning] brought him into the Guardians of the Galaxy a few years ago, that was a huge change in the positioning of the character,” he said. “You saw how he was connected and involved in the core of the Marvel Universe. … Peter is going to remain part of the Marvel Universe. Things you see in this book are going to have some big, large-scale reverberation. You’ll see him palling around with his pals [in space] and on the Earth.”
“The Legendary Star-Lord” launches a single month before the film launches, and accessibility is certainly important — though, Humphries has not yet seen the movie. “I’m just as excited to see this movie on August 1 as everyone else is,” he said. “That said, it’s pretty clear from the trailer and what we’ve got in the development of this book is that the book and the movie are on pretty parallel paths. I’m gambling here, but I really believe that if you are somebody who enjoys Chris Pratt’s portrayal of Star-Lord in the movie, you’re going to love the hell out of ‘The Legendary Star-Lord.'”
Alonso said both he and Marts were familiar with the movie and that Humphries “certainly understands the tone and tenor of the movie, and you’ll see it reflected in the comic.”
Peter Quill has a very specific music taste in the film, but Humphries said music was hard to portray in comics. “What we’re going to touch on in the comic books is Peter is a space cowboy, but he grew up on Earth,” he said. “He’s kind of a dork on Earth. He’s the dork with the Walkman and making the ‘Friends’ references when they’re way out of date. I love that dichotomy of the character … he’s really this nerdy dorky guy who got lucky and managed to make his way off Earth.”
The title wasn’t chosen lightly, and Humphries said the creative team would be developing the “legend” part of it over time. “If Peter is truly legendary, the way people become legends is by unlocking the good that is within themselves,” he said. “It’s not about winning every hand at blackjack, it’s doing the right thing and leaving the world better than you found it. The question for Peter is what kind of legend does he want to be in the Marvel Universe?”
For guest appearances, the Guardians will appear, and there’s certainly a “very deep bench” of characters that have come into space. “We’re definitely going to take advantage of that. There’s a lot of connections there,” said Humphries. “[The book] is a chance for us really to get to know [Peter], but even in space, nobody lives in a vacuum.”
Humphries enjoyed the “Guardians of the Galaxy” Point One story, saying Brian Bendis did a lot of great work “bringing the heart of the character forward.” “It’s a great foundation to build the book on,” he said. “[Star-Lord]’s past does weigh on him, so we will catch glimpses of his life on Earth and his childhood as needed. They’re like flashes into Peter’s head, what is he thinking about right now? There’s still a strong memory coming back to him that’s significant to him.”
The writer couldn’t say very much about Star-Lord’s return from the Cancerverse, but said that it “would be a factor” in “The Legendary Star-Lord.” “I know that’s a story that’s weighing on everybody’s mind, and that’s not a story that’s going to be dodged or swept under the rug,” said Humphries.
Earthbound heroes may also make an appearance, with Humphries saying there’s a story early on in the series that’s going to come up with Peter coming to Earth, and has some conflict with some “very big Marvel Universe characters that you normally do not see in space.”
This will be the first solo book Humphries has written in the Marvel Universe, and the writer spoke briefly on how his work on the team books influencing his approach to solo. “In team books, all the juggling is characters and you learn to be very economic with everything your characters do and say, because you want them to move forward, you want them to change — in a team book, you have to value every panel and every line of dialogue, so your economy … is really strong in a team book,” said Humphries. “Being able to build on that economy in a solo story with a character who’s virtually on every page; it’s something you’ve already learned not to go too overblown in it. You’ve already learned the value of making every scene count. … I’m not going to put in a lot of superfluous themes or stories. My goal is to make every line count.”
Marts said that bringing more characters to the cosmic realm was “the right time.” “This is all before the movie, which is fantastic. It’s exciting to think about where we’re going to go after the movie hits and the mass audience gets an idea of who the characters are,” said Marts.
Alonso said plans for cosmic were “well under way for publishing” before fans got a glimpse of Thanos in “The Avengers,” though that’s when the greater public started to be aware of the cosmic realm.
“The Legendary Star-Lord” #1 hits stores in July.