Actions have consequences, even those that save the entire Marvel Universe from malevolent undying cosmic entities, a lesson the dual title characters of writer Jeff Loveness and co-writer and artist Ramon Perez’s “Nova” series will soon learn.
After he seemingly perished in the 2010 cosmic event known as “The Thanos Imperative,” former Nova Prime Richard Rider has returned and become a mentor figure to the Marvel Universe’s newest Nova, teenager Sam Alexander. The two have worked together for three issues now, and are quickly becoming friends — which makes what’s about to happen even more tragic.
Rider’s “death” happened in a dimension known as the Cancerverse, a reality where death does not exist, and all life had become twisted and corrupted. Perez and Loveness have hinted that some of that corruption has begun to taint Rider, his sheer force of will all that is keeping him from becoming something monstrous. But when the secrets behind Rider’s return are finally revealed, what will happen to the growing bond between the two Novas? What did Rider have to do and endure to escape the Cancerverse?
For the answers to those questions, and more, CBR spoke with Perez and Loveness about their plans for “Nova,” which include an upcoming arc that promises to reveal the mysteries behind Rider’s return. We also chatted about expanding their title characters’ lives on Earth and a future arc guest starring Captain Marvel.
CBR: Let’s start with the big development of your initial issues: Richard Rider is back, but clearly there’s something wrong with him because of his time in the Cancerverse. Is having Rich back among the living sort of a “be careful what you wish for” situation?
Ramon Perez: Yeah, I would definitely say that’s right. He was stuck in the Cancerverse. He did this thing to save the universe and his friends, he was then trapped in there. Now, he’s in this vicious circle and wants to get out. That’s something we’ll explore more in issues #5-7.
Jeff Loveness: Exactly. Death is such an open door in comic books, but we want to show that resurrection isn’t always a gift, especially when it comes to the Cancerverse.
One aspect of Rich that you seem to be examining is his sheer force of will, because as we saw in issue #3, it looks like he’s holding back something monstrous about himself.
Perez: Oh, yeah! This is a guy who’s done it all, and I think it’s through that force of will that he kept it together when he did things like sacrificing his life in the Cancerverse. That’s the staple of a true hero and a true warrior, so it’s something we’re exploring. It also sets a sort of precedent for Sam to look up to. He doesn’t have a father figure around, and Rich is a guy who’s willing to go all the way for the greater good even at his own peril.
Loveness: It’s a bit of a double-edged sword too. Rich is also a guy who HATES asking for help. With this older generation of tough guys, realizing that something is wrong is like acknowledging that you’re weak… or that you can’t cut it. It’s a vicious, poisonous personal cycle… and it’s going to blow up in Rich’s face. It never helps to bottle something up forever.
Sam is a good and pretty strong kid, but this is the second time he’s found someone who can assist him with and he can talk with about his life as Nova and this person is not exactly who they appear to be. So I imagine he’ll be pretty devastated when he first learns about Rich’s condition, correct?
Perez: Yeah, he’s not going to be too happy that’s for sure. [Laughs] This is something that’s going to come up in the next few issues and I don’t want to spoil it, but you’re right, this is something Sam has dealt with before. People have mislead and lied to him. That’s definitely going to take it’s toll. Rich is someone he came to trust.
Sam even had the Champions run their tests to make sure Rich was the real deal, and he still fell sway to the whole situation. So it’s not just a matter of having that trust shattered, but also rebuilding it. This begs the question of how much can you take and still trust people outright?
Loveness: Broken trust is so shattering when you’re a teenager. The first break-up destroys you. Divorce can rip you apart. Every emotion is dialed to 11… and Sam’s been burned badly before so… yeah. It may or may not go well.
In the short time they’ve been working together, Rich has become very important to Sam. He’s not just a partner, but almost sort of a big brother.
Perez: Totally. I almost think it’s kind of a reverse mentorship. Sam is a big brother, but he’s also a kid who is so pure and good and just trying his best even though he screws up every so often. That’s kind of a nice thing for Rich to see as well. He’s a guy who sacrificed himself to save the universe, comes back, and the universe has moved on. A few people remember him, but many don’t. The landscape has changed, and many of the individuals are different. It’s a two tier system with these two characters.
Loveness: Yup. I love how they both play on each other. Each guy gets their chance to shine, but we also get to showcase their frailties and hang-ups. It’s fun to write a buddy-cop adventure in space. Ramon’s art pops on every page. I really loved that movie “The Nice Guys” from last year. That style of fun and banter was something I wanted to emulate in a comic book.
In “Nova” #4, you bring Richard Rider’s ex-girlfriend, Gamora of the Guardians of the Galaxy, back into his life. What was it like writing her?
Perez: It’s interesting, because she’s often portrayed as an angry, killing machine. She’s a killing machine with other feelings too, though, and she did fall in love with Rich Rider at one point — and then lost him. She expressed that love to Peter Quill when they talked about what happened in the Cancerverse. To have someone you loved so much and believed to be dead suddenly return is going to mean a lot on so many different levels. We’re barely scraping the surface with her return.
There’s so much between those two characters that has gone on for so many years. I think we’re just putting the building blocks back into place. Their relationship is something that will be developed over time, but this is definitely going to be an important encounter between the two.
Loveness: Yeah, he nailed it. I’m glad we’re going a touch more sensitive with Gamora. Old wounds never quite close, and it was interesting to dive into the comic book equivalent of “running into your college girlfriend,” who you may or may not still be in love with… at all… I’m totally not. I don’t stalk her on Instagram at all. I’m fine.
[Laughs] Why do you think Gamora and Rich became so important to each other? At first glance, they seem like an unlikely pairing.
Perez: They met during a time of war and chaos. Plus, opposites attract. You have Rich, who was a leader and a true hero and sometimes a person like that sees potential in people that others might disregard. She was raised to be a killer, she rose above that, and in his absence has become an even greater hero in her own right, even though her methods may not always be pretty. [Laughs]
I think he may have seen something in her that offset people’s perceptions about her, and maybe he compliments her dark side as well. He understands what she went through.
Loveness: Yeah, there are certain people you meet at a certain point in your life, where you are both perfect and exactly what the other needs. Maybe it doesn’t last, but maybe it doesn’t have to. I see Rich and Gamora that way. Who knows if they’ll actually be good in the long term, but it’s nice to wish for that.
Gamora isn’t the only woman in your Novas’ lives — Sam also has a big crush on a classmate named Lena. Going forward, will we see more of Sam’s interaction with her? And how important is it to you to show Sam’s life on Earth with his friends, family and classmates?
Perez: It’s very important. Sam is a teenager, and this stuff has been touched on very briefly in some previous runs, but we really wanted to go out of our way to present his high school years, his first crush, his first love, and his first break up.
We also want to present more of his family. Coming from a Latino background myself, I know that Latino families are very close. We wanted to bring in some aspects that hadn’t been touched before in previous runs, like cousins and grandparents, and really show the unique family culture that Sam has.
That also illustrates how Sam and Rich compliment each other. Rich’s father passed away and his brother is missing. It’s just him and his mom. So that’s another dynamic where they can play off of each other.
We definitely want to explore things like families and Earth life, but we also want to keep a balance. Rich and Sam are Cosmic heroes. We don’t want to keep them trapped in Arizona or New York. They should be hopping galaxies, which is something we’ve gone out of our way to do.
Loveness: I’m very excited for issue 4. Issue 3 had insane action, but we slow-down a bit in issue 4 to really show the heart of these guys, both of them trying to figure things out — with women and themselves.
There’s a moment that’s very important to me, as a nervous teenager. I always had/have/will have trouble being confident around women, and it was cathartic to put Sam through those paces too… but find himself at the end. There’s a monumental moment in your young life when you finally find someone who you connect with, someone who brings out the best in you. It was emotional to write that, and I could learn a lot from that fictional space-helmet boy. He’s doing way better than I am, at the moment.
I always responded to Cyclops in that way. He’s a monster and a repressed loser — but he found someone who brought out the best in him, and they flourished together. (This is my contractually obligated, shoehorned Cyclops reference. I get one per interview)
Will we also see some more of Rich trying to reconnect with Earth?
Perez: Definitely. It’s his home. It’s where he grew up. No matter how long you’re away home is always home. That’s something we’re going to develop. We wanted to focus on Sam at the beginning, but we’re trying to give both characters equal exposure. So we’ll switch back and forth depending on the storyline.
Loveness: I’m so glad the fans resonated with Rich’s isolation in issue 2. We’re definitely gonna keep exploring that.
It looks like issue #5 kicks off a new arc that sheds some light on Rich’s return. Is this an arc that’s firmly set in the present? Or will we get some flashbacks to what happened to Rich in the Cancerverse as well?
Perez: Actually issue #5 ends our first arc and segue ways into issues #6-7, which will focus on Rich’s return and how things came to pass. So there will be flashbacks to his time in the Cancerverse; what drove and allowed him to come back to Earth, and how he brought this Cancerverse entity with him.
Loveness: Yup. Things go pretty south in issue 5, and issues 6 & 7 finally answer every fan’s question about what happened to Rich Rider. It was gut-wrenching to write, but I hope everybody likes it — it’s gonna be rough.
One fun element of the Cancerverse was its twisted and horrific incarnations of Marvel characters. Are we going to see some of those characters in “Nova” #6-7?
Perez: Yes, you will. I’m actually going to be taking a break from those two issues to finish up some other obligations, so Scott Hepburn, who was the artist on “Drax,” is going to be tackling the art on those two issues. He’s going to have a good time rendering some dead versions of Marvel heroes.
Finally, with Sam and Rich having a foot on both Earth and outer space, and some authority as intergalactic law enforcers will we see them interacting with characters that also run in those circles like Captain Marvel and the new director of S.H.I.E.L.D., Steve Rogers?
Perez: There’s going to be a lot of stuff happening outside of Earth in the Marvel Universe in the coming year. So, yes, we’re definitely going to be encountering and relating to those characters and their jurisdictions if you will.
Following the Rich centric arc of issues #6-7 issue #8 will actually start a whole new adventure for our two Novas where we’ll definitely be playing off of Captain Marvel and a little bit of S.H.I.E.L.D. We’ll look at Captain Marvel and her crew and how Sam and Rich relate to Earth and the legacy that is the Nova Corps. Because essentially Sam is wearing a stolen helmet. [Laughs] It was his father’s, but no one really gave him the permission to use this thing other than a raccoon and Gamora. So that will open up some interesting storylines in the future.
Loveness: This story is about Rich and Sam, and the people in their lives. It’s about finding your confidence as a young man and regaining your hope as an old man. It’s about taking that first step into yourself and finding yourself again. I’ve been so happy that the fans are responding to it. We’re gonna go big in the next couple issues. Hope people like it.