When World War II erupted in the Marvel Universe, thousands of courageous soldiers stepped forward to answer the call of duty and stand up to the tyranny of Axis forces, not the least of which were Nick Fury and his Howling Commandoes, the costumed super soldier, Captain America and Margaret “Peggy” Carter, whose war time exploits later inspired her niece Sharon to join the espionage organization S.H.I.E.L.D..
When the Nazis took over Europe, Peggy decided she had to do something to help fight them. She left her wealthy American family, sought out and joined the French Resistance. Carter quickly became a valuable member of the organization and her missions for the group introduced her to first and greatest love Steve Rogers, better known to the world as Captain America. In the March one-shot “Captain America and the First Thirteen,” writer Kathryn Immonen and artist Ramon Perez transport readers to World War II to show that Cap and Peggy’s relationship was a complex and complicated one. We spoke with Immonen about the project, which is part of a series of one-shots that celebrates Captain America’s 70th anniversary by spotlighting the Sentinel of Liberty’s allies and enemies.
CBR News: Kathryn, One of your earliest comic works is the graphic novel “Moving Pictures,” an intrigue-filled story about a female protagonist protecting art treasures during World War II, so I imagine telling a story about Peggy Carter’s exploits during World War II was kind of like working in familiar territories. What was it like telling a Marvel story set during World War II?
Kathryn Immonen: I would also say that “Moving Pictures” had about as much to do with being asked to do this one-shot as you would imagine, which is to say, rather a lot. Having said that though, it did present some singular challenges. I wanted to do something a little old-fashioned, for lack of a better word. Cap is a little unique in that there is a body of WWII stories with the character that were actually published at the time, but there’s a lot about the, let’s say “flavor” of the material that presents some obstacles — and smoking is the least of it. So, it was fun to try to figure out ways for Cap to get his metaphorical jabs in. Beyond that, though, and this is very similar to the approach I took on “Moving Pictures,” I’ve got nothing to say about the events of WWII. And by that I mean, what could I possibly contribute to anybody’s understanding of an event, or a series of events, that in so many ways defies parsing. But, I’ve got a lot to say about the relationship between two people at a time of crisis.
When Peggy first appeared, Sharon Carter was actually her younger sister causing some of the backstory of Captain America and his related characters to be changed and updated because of Marvel’s sliding time scale. So I wanted to ask, has Peggy’s background changed at all for “Captain America and the First Thirteen?” Is she still an American teenager who’s joined the French Resitance?â€¨
No on 1 and yes on 2. But she’s not a teenager in this story. This one-shot takes a look at Cap and Peggy’s early relationship and really focuses on what they were like together when they were both missing a crucial piece of the puzzle. Here, you’ve got two people bound together over deeds, not words, and really being privileged to know only the best parts of each other in the worst of circumstances. But you don’t have to look too carefully at the story to see that Peggy is fully aware that they both have to bury a certain amount of emotion. And that there are things she does which are not available to the man she loves.
Which of Peggy’s personal qualities do you find most intriguing as a writer?
I would say she’s not been particularly fleshed out (although I like that one of her most endearing qualities seems to be that she’s handy and impulsive with a firearm) so for me, the choice was really to see her as part of the continuum of women who were part of the French Resistance or the British SOE. They were well trained, as brave as anything and paid as dearly as their male counterparts particularly under the Nacht und Nebel edict. But again, that is a research hole that you can fall down and never climb out of. So really, the question is maybe just, what kind of woman would Captain America fall head over shield for? And I think we make a pretty strong case in this one-shot!
How would you describe the dynamic between Cap and Peggy in this one-shot? What are their impressions of each other?
Slightly, okay maybe more than slightly, combative; which is not to say that they’re fighting and bickering with each other, but they both have obligations to organizations which have the same goal but which employ very different strategies and tactics.
Structurally, it’s a pretty straight up “mission” story. Cap and Peggy are in it together, up to their necks in it but they’re sure not playing by each other’s rules.
Who are some of the other important supporting players in “Captain America and the First Thirteen?”
It’s got a fetching assortment of impetuous Nazis, dispassionate Doctors, deadly women with deadlier senses of humor, Frenchmen who can really drive and V.I.Ps which stands for Very Important blue-Prints.
How would you describe the tone of this one-shot? Is it more of an all out action story? A war story? An Alan Furst style historical spy thriller? Or is it a little bit of all three?
That sounds nice. Let’s go with that.
What does Ramon Perez bring to this book as an artist?
I was at TCAF a couple of years ago and RamÃ³n, offhandedly (or so it seemed) mentioned that he’d like to work with me and I immediately mentally filed it in the “Please, Please Make That Happen” drawer. I was so happy that an opportunity came up so quickly. There’s such a classic feel to a lot of what he does and he inks with such strong blacks and directional light that there’s often the possibility for a real undercurrent of tension verging on horror, which is kind of perfect for this. And we both agree that this is all about the girls, so that’s pretty terrific.
Finally, do you have any upcoming work, comic or otherwise, that your fans should be on the lookout for?
“Wolverine and Jubilee,” issue one of which is in stores now ! And a Hellcat story with Stuart [Immonen’s husband, artist Stuart Immonen] in “X-Men: To Serve and Protect.” But also, Stuart and I are trying to get “Russian Olive to Red King” done this year as well as get the second volume of “Centifolia” together, which will be heavy on the comics and include a lot stuff we’ve done together. And we’ve got a story in the second volume of “Outlaw Territory,” which I think is finally coming out this year. And then, as per usual, as per most folks, a couple of things in the pipeline which are so embryonic as to be thoroughly unmentionable.