For a character introduced during Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s legendary “Fantastic Four” run, there really haven’t been that many stories that featured Uatu, The Watcher, as a major component. Sure, he was the narrator of “What If?” and generally shows up a few times a year to break his non-interference vow and to signify that the Marvel Comics title you are reading is a big deal, but he’s rarely front and center.
That changes starting in May 2014 with “Original Sin”, Marvel’s freshly announced event series for this year, from the creative team of writer Jason Aaron and Mike Deodato Jr., with covers from Julian Totino Tedesco. And all it took for Uatu to garner all of this attention was to get murdered.
The eight-issue “Original Sin” — which will also include multiple tie-ins and a #0 issue out in April by Mark Waid and Jim Cheung — is described by Aaron as a murder mystery played out over a cosmic scale, with the original Nick Fury leading a group of Marvel heroes on a manhunt to both find Uatu’s killer, and to preserve the many secrets The Watcher had been keeping over the years.
CBR News spoke with Aaron in-depth about “Original Sin,” asking readers, “What does it mean for the Marvel Universe when suddenly no one is watching?”
CBR News: Jason, ever since the first “Original Sin” teaser image surfaced last November, folks have speculated that this story is connected to the “Point One” short from 2011 by Ed Brubaker and Javier Pulido. Is that indeed the case?
Jason Aaron: This is one of those stories that grew out of our retreats that we have a few times a year. “Original Sin” was something that had been in the ether for a couple retreats, and floated around. There are always stories that are out there that we know we want to get to at some point, it’s a matter of figuring out how things fit and how things line up.
“Original Sin” was floating around for a while, Ed was attached to it at one point. Some time last year it was floating around again, and I just kind of reached out and grabbed it.
What was it about the story that appealed to you?
The idea of doing on one hand a crime story — it’s a murder mystery — but played out on very much a cosmic scale. I had a lot of fun writing the “Thanos Rising” miniseries, which was kind of my first taste of Marvel cosmic. But it was still a very dark and gritty story. I think the first couple arcs with “Thor: God of Thunder” were the same thing — Thor chasing a serial killer, but it was this grand, epic, cosmic sci-fi/fantasy kind of story.
“Original Sin” is the opportunity to do something else like that, but on an even bigger scale. This is me getting to do that kind of story, that kind of murder mystery, but played out with all the major players of the Marvel Universe. This book has all the big characters, the A-listers, but also I get to play with some characters who don’t normally find themselves at the center of Marvel events. We see characters like Punisher, Ant-Man, Emma Frost and Black Panther all playing a big role.
Along with the big name Avengers, surely.
Right. Of course, the main Avengers are there right from the get-go. But I wanted it to be more than just an Avengers story. I wanted to reach out to all different corners of the Marvel Universe. We don’t always see the X-Men and the Avengers in an event together — unless they’re fighting each other. This one really pulls characters from all different corners, and a lot of them haven’t been a big part of Marvel events before.
Nick Fury is a big part of this. He sort of becomes the Marvel version of a homicide detective for the sake of this story. He’s leading the investigation.
The new Nick Fury?
Old Nick Fury.
What can you share about the significance of the title “Original Sin”?
Well, it’s certainly significant. But I can’t say anything more or [Marvel senior vice president of publishing] Tom [Brevoort] will have me laid out next to The Watcher.
Well, you’ve written big events before — you were one of the main writers on “Battle of the Atom,” and one of the five writers on “Avengers vs. X-Men,” but this is your first time doing something on this scale at Marvel solo, which has to feel pretty cool.
It’s been great so far. I’m glad I dipped my toe in this sort of thing before by doing it as part of a team; being involved in X-Men events and, of course, “Avengers vs. X-Men.” I’m glad I had a taste of that before diving into it on my own.
But this has been great. I love working with Tom and [Marvel editor-in-chief] Axel [Alonso]; I’ve worked with them on these kinds of projects before. It’s nice to sit back and know you’ve got every toy in the toy box at your disposal. You can really play with all of it. With this, I’m trying to throw everything I want to be able to use into this one story. It’s a big, action-driven story. There are tons of mysteries that are woven in this. It takes us to different corners of the Marvel Universe — a big, sprawling, epic, cosmic story all tied around a murder mystery.
Length-wise, it’s literally a big story — eight issues, correct?
Yep, eight issues. It’s a big story, there are definite acts involved, so other than expecting a murder mystery, there are surprises and revelations along the way. Things take some unexpected turns, and the book opens, of course, with the murder of The Watcher — that’s what sets everything into motion — but that won’t be the only murder you’ll see over the course of the book.
And having The Watcher at the center of a story, as the driving force kicking things off, is unique on its own. What’s it like to write a story that’s centered around The Watcher — by his nature kind of the ultimate background character — and getting your head around exploring his importance to the Marvel Universe?
It was about what he represents to the Marvel Universe. He’s literally this giant, cosmic godlike figure who stands on the moon and watches everything that we do. What does that mean for the Marvel Universe when suddenly that guy is dead, when suddenly no one is watching? He doesn’t just see the big, grand moments — it’s not just the moments when Galactus shows up — he sees the little moments, too. He sees the way the Marvel Universe has changed through its history. What happens when all those secrets are suddenly up for grabs? If someone’s killed The Watcher and stolen them, what does that mean for the Marvel Universe?
This is an outgrowth of the 2011 prelude written by Ed Brubaker, but for the story as a whole, do you see it as an outgrowth of other ongoing storylines, or themes that are currently running throughout the Marvel Universe? Are there clues in books that are coming out now?
Not in a direct sense. I don’t think we’ve got stories right now that are directly building towards “Original Sin.” Even Ed’s prelude, I’m not writing the same story Ed would have written. Ed didn’t leave me an outline that I went by or anything like that. It’s still me taking that little story he wrote and the idea that was circulating around the room, and crafting my own story from that.
Just in terms of what’s fed into it for me, I’ve been rereading a lot of Steranko’s “Nick Fury.” I want it to be that kind of story — it’s very much a whacked-out, action-driven story that plays with all the cool toys in the Marvel Universe.
The artist for “Original Sin” is Mike Deodato, and the two of you actually have worked together before — on, of all things, a Brooklyn Nets comic from Marvel Custom Solutions distributed to fans last NBA season.
Right. We did the origin story of the BrooklyKnight, which was a weird thing for us to have worked on.
I’ve done these kinds of stories before, like “Avengers vs. X-Men,” where you’ve got a bunch of different writers and a bunch of different artists involved. And that’s cool, I think you get a cool story out of that. But it’s nice with this one that it’s me and it’s Mike. Mike’s the kind of artist who can do this whole thing by himself. It’s a big project, there are tons and tons of characters in this, tons of different settings, lots of different action, big, big moments, and he’s the kind of guy who can pull all that off in a very timely fashion. He’s super-fast. It’s the first time I’ve worked with a guy where I’ve said, “Man, can you slow down a little? I can’t keep up! It’s Christmas! Slow down, give me a break.” [Laughs]
It’s been great. I’m glad we get to do something big now, rather than just our initial basketball story — which was fun, too. The most fun I’ve ever had writing a basketball story.
Deodato seems well-suited to a story like this with so many characters, because the Marvel characters he draws definitely look iconic.
Sure, and what’s great about this is, he’s getting to draw everybody over the course of this story. It has a huge cast. It’s cool to get to see Mike’s take on The Punisher, and Doctor Strange, and Fury, some of those sorts of characters — Gamora, from Guardians of the Galaxy.
Being the sole writer of this event, and surely one with multiple tie-ins as these things tend to do, how does that change your experience in being the sole writer — are you also writing some tie-ins? Are you in the loop on other books more than normal? How does that change your workload?
I’ll be writing some tie-ins. I think the nature of the tie-ins for this book will be different than what we’ve done before. I don’t know how much I can say about that, but it’s a very different kind of set-up.
Coming into something like this, one of the worries is always a book like this, an event like this, is going to be judged in part based on all those different stories. You don’t want it to be judged by the weakest of the tie-ins. You don’t want things that are tie-ins for the sake of boosting your numbers; that’s just a story that doesn’t really have anything to say. We’ve been very conscious with that with this book, and making sure that if we’re going to do a tie-in, let’s make sure there’s a valid reason for it and a real story to tell. Given the nature of this book and the nature of the tie-in, I think it’s made it a lot easier than the kind of book we’ve done in the past.
You mentioned a few of the Marvel heroes playing a big role in this, can you talk at all about villains?
That’s the big question at the beginning of the book. “Who killed the Watcher?” A big part of that first arc is a Marvel Universe-wide manhunt for our killer. In terms of who those villains are, there will be teases and clues right off the bat, but it’s something that will come to be revealed as we go along. With most stories like this, even when you think you know what’s going on, maybe you really don’t. There will be lots of surprises and questions right out of the gate in issue #1. Of course, that’s the biggest — “who’s the villain?”
To be slightly more specific, that original Point One story mentioned something called “The Unseen.” Is that still part of the story?
That’ll come up right out of the gate in issue #1. We will find out who that’s referring to.
Since you’ve now been a part of so many big events during your time at Marvel, presumably you must be enjoying writing these types of stories. What do you find to be the central appeal? Is it in part, as you mentioned, the fact that you can use so many different characters?
I think the appeal as a writer is the same thing that appealed to me as a fan growing up, the first time I read “Secret Wars” or “Crisis on Infinite Earths.” The scope and scale of the story; that this is a story that impacts the entire comic book universe, and features this huge cast of characters, and a threat that nobody can stop but the entire universe teaming together. Those kinds of stories are fun to read. That’s why we continue to do them over the years. They’re fun to write. I loved reading superhero comics as a kid, and that’s why I still like writing them.
If you’re going to do that, I think it’s nice to at some point grab that brass ring and do a big, universe-spanning event story, at least once. If I screw this one up, at least I got this one. I can say I took my shot. This is me doing very much the kind of story I love to do. I think if you liked the stuff I’ve been writing the last couple of years, you’ll be into this. If you liked those first couple arcs of “Thor,” I think you’ll be a fan of “Original Sin.”
It also seems that there’s an obvious importance in making each event, since there are quite a few, feel different — this one, genre-wise, being a cosmic-scale murder mystery, that feels different. How important was that to you? Doing something that has a lot of the hallmarks of the past events readers have seen before, but making it uniquely your own and making it different?
That’s kind of what we talk about at these retreats. Like I said, “Original Sin” was an idea we’ve been talking about for a while, it was a matter of figuring out when we should do it, when it works best. A big part of that is making sure we’re not repeating ourselves every year with this kind of stuff. You do want to mix it up, and do an event that seems very different than the last one we did. I think this one will be.
The thing the hooked me, that I gravitated toward, was that murder mystery aspect of it; the crime story part of it. I love the idea of doing a crime story that plays out in such a grand and epic way across the whole Marvel Universe. I think those are the kinds of stories you don’t get to write every day, so once it comes along, I grab for it.
“Original Sin” rocks the Marvel Universe in May 2014.