America is a weird, wild and wondrous country, and that’s doubly true in the Marvel Universe. New York City is a focal point for fantastic phenomena, but the strange and otherworldly permeate almost all corners of the nation, especially the backroads super heroes rarely visit. This March, the god-like hero known as Hyperion will set out to explore these strange highways and eerie locales on a quest to better understand the nation and world he calls home.
Armed with the power of flight and from behind the wheel of his civilian identities big rig, writer Chuck Wendig and artist Nicole “Nik” Virella will chronicle those adventures in the ongoing “Hyperion,” which sees the Squadron Supreme member fly solo. CBR News spoke with Wendig about Hyperion’s appeal, some of the strange characters his protagonist will encounter and the overall tone he’s shooting for. He also shared some details about his upcoming prose work including “Life Debt,” the next installment in the acclaimed “Star Wars: Aftermath” book trilogy.
CBR News: I’m under the impression Marvel Editor Katie Kubert offered you a chance to pitch for several Marvel projects after reading your prose work, and you chose “Hyperion.” What drew you to the character?
Chuck Wendig: I love mythology. Greek mythology in particular, when I was a kid. And part of the reason for that is how mythology paints the divine as intrinsically human. These are gods who are beyond man, and yet, they often act like people — because, of course, we made them up. But that’s an aspect that fascinates me about Hyperion. Here’s this individual with truly divine levels of power. He’s epic both physically and, to some degree, intellectually. And yet, how do we make him human even though he is explicitly not? Finding the humanity in him is a really fun challenge.
Writer James Robinson set Hyperion up as a truck driver in his civilian guise as a means for him to travel and get acquainted with the country. That setup and his super abilities mean your protagonist can literally go anywhere in the USA. Are there specific areas you want to focus on? What’s the draw of sending Hyperion into these areas?
From a simply narrative perspective, there are parts of this country that we just don’t see that often in pop culture. We get a lot of NYC and L.A. and so forth, but what about the interstitial places? Long highways and farm country and the so-called “flyover” states (which are anything but). Here’s a guy who wants to get away from it all while at the same time wanting to learn more about these hairless monkeys that gabble and squabble, so it seemed an interesting and satisfying place to let him have some adventures.
What does the peripatetic nature of Hyperion’s job mean for your book’s supporting cast? Will his Squadron Supreme teammates play a regular role in the book? Will they round out the supporting cast, or will you be introducing new characters as you go?
We’ll get there, but in the beginning it’s about setting the stage and introducing some new characters. Doll in particular is a lot of fun — she’s a young woman on the run from a very strange past, and she kind of plays Hyperion into helping her. Because she knows, or thinks she knows, who he is.
To my knowledge Hyperion doesn’t have a rogues gallery to speak of. What kinds of enemies will you put in his way? Is it more challenging than normal trying to create convincing antagonists when your hero is so powerful?
Well, see, that’s part of it! The fun of creating a rogue’s gallery is not to be ignored — so, for me it’s about finding a cabinet of villains that are both fun and freaky and that work as foils to Hyperion. And that help reflect the middle of the country — right now we’ve got the situation in Oregon with an armed militia taking over a bird sanctuary. Stuff like that is fodder for what we’re doing here.
What sort of teases can you offer up about Hyperion’s initial opponents? What I’ve read suggests that tonally first arc is the kind of story you’re familiar with, a bizarre horror-crime hybrid. Is that a fair description?
Let’s just say that Hyperion earns the ire of a gaggle of hyper-powered freaks, and they come at him like wasps from a stick-struck nest. And this definitely falls into that weird horror crime-flavored stuff — that’s definitely part of what I like to write and it shows here. Almost uncontrollably so!
Let’s talk a little more about your collaborator on “Hyperion,” artist Nik Virella, who did some fantastic work for Marvel both in the post apocalyptic “Return of the Living Deadpool” and her “Secret Wars” series “1872,” where she reimagined the Marvel Universe as an Old Western town. What’s it like seeing Nik bring to life a tale of the modern day Marvel Universe?
Human words cannot describe how awesome it is getting her art in my mailbox weekly. The only way to convey it is to show it, which I can’t do yet. But you’ll see.
I know you want to make sure “Hyperion” is an accessible title that works independent of the main “Squadron Supreme” book, but it does fall in that family alongside the upcoming “Nighthawk” series. What’s it like playing in this particular sandbox? Are you interested in including some ties and extra connective tissue for “Hyperion” readers who also read those two other books?
I want to form that connective tissue, but I also want to give this book time to form its own muscle, so to speak. We’ll get there, but first its about establishing this book and this voice and then reaching out to the larger world.
I’m excited as hell to have the book come out. I don’t know what the hell I’m doing, but I do know that I’m having fun doing it.
â€¨[Laughs] You’re still relatively new to comics. “Hyperion” is your second comic, the first being Dark Circle’s “The Shield,” which you’re co-writing with Adam Christopher. That said, you’re a fairly prolific writer who’s done everything from prose to RPG books, the most famous of which is “Star Wars: Aftermath” trilogy which began last year. The second book, “Life Debt,” is slated to hit in July, and if the cover and the title are any indication it looks like you story will involve some of the core characters from the original “Star Wars” trilogy. I know it’s early, but what can you share about that book?
I can’t say much about “Life Debt,” lest a red lightsaber lop my head off and into my own lap. I will say that the interlude chapter from “Aftermath” featuring an infamous smuggler and his furry co-pilot has relevance here, but also that “Life Debt” continues to follow the characters put forth in the first book. It’s set a few months after that first book, too.
That leaves us plenty to look forward to. Finally, some readers of this article might be curious about some of your original prose novels. Which of your books would you recommend to readers looking to get a good sense of your prose work and some of the themes that interest you as a writer?
A lot of folks start with “Blackbirds” — in that book, a girl who can see how you’re going to die by touching you gets into a fate-versus-free-will supernatural showdown in the same kind of spaces that “Hyperion” will occupy: rural, interstitial American country. It’s crime and horror and weird all in one, so that’s a good place to go, I think. If they want something a little more techy, “Zeroes” is about hackers going up against an NSA artificial intelligence.
“Hyperion” #1 is scheduled for release March 23 from Marvel Comics.