In 1965’s “Strange Tales” #135, readers were introduced to one of the most enduring evils of the Marvel Universe, the terrorist organization known only as HYDRA. Nick Fury’s old foe, the Nazi soldier Baron Wolfgang Von Strucker, is generally credited with establishing HYDRA as a modern day threat with his takeover of the organization in the aftermath of World War II, but there have been hints that organization’s roots stretch all the way back to ancient Egypt. Under Strucker’s leadership, HYDRA became a secret society of fanatics armed with high tech weapons and bent on world domination. And like it’s mythical namesake, attempts to destroy the terrorist group often result in one cell disappearing and others popping up to take it’s place. The current incarnation consists of Strucker, several other high council members and their legion of followers, all of whom have been making life miserable for Nick Fury and the other cast of characters that populate the monthly “Secret Warriors” series.
Over the years, HYDRA has been one of Fury’s chief opponents, but they’ve also frequently locked horns with several other Marvel heroes, including Wolverine, Elektra and perhaps most notably, Captain America. In January 2011, writer Jonathan Maberry and a team of artists kick off “Captain America: Hail HYDRA”, a five issue miniseries that will chronicle the Sentinel of Liberty’s decades-spanning battle against a particularly insidious arm of the fearsome terrorist organization.
CBR News: Based on your previous comics work on “Black Panther” and “DoomWar,” and your thriller novels like “Patient Zero” and “The Dragon Factory,” it seems that Captain America is a character that would really be in your wheelhouse as a writer. What is it that interest you most about Steve Rogers?
Jonathan Maberry: Like most writers, I love conflicted characters, and Steve Rogers has been wrestling with some pretty heavy issues for a loooong time. He was created to be a super soldier and a symbol of everything for which America stands. If the motives of everyone in government were pure, it would be an easy role for someone like Cap to play, but we all know that’s not the case. Different groups and people within the government have shifted the focus of policy, occasionally strayed off of the moral high ground and sometimes tried to run the Constitution through the shredder. More than once, Cap has come into ideological, philosophical and ethical conflict with the nation that wants him to be their symbol.
Cap is too honest, too innately honorable to be the whitewash over the stains on the wall. One of the most dangerous viewpoints is “my country, right or wrong,” which sounds patriotic but isn’t. It enables policies and practices that can stray from the heart of the Constitution and every core value on which America was built. Cap’s view is that he will always defend his country, but he won’t be a PR tool or its apologist, and he won’t enable or support corrupt behavior.
I’ve always admired that about Cap. He is a symbol for what America should always strive to be. The anguish and torment he’s gone through over the years has kept the character consistently fascinating.
What can you tell us about the title character of this series? Is it strictly Steve Rogers, or are other Captain Americas involved, like the Cap from the ’50s and the current Bucky/Cap?
Steve Rogers is the main player, though we will also see the new Bucky/Cap as well as Steve Rogers: Super Soldier. We won’t be including the 50’s Cap except in side-note material. This is really the story of Steve Rogers and his conflict with an organization that stands for everything he despises. We’ll also see Steve in his Nomad identity.
You’re working with several great artists on this series, including Sergio Cariello, Tom Scioli, Phil Winslade and Kyle Hotz. What’s it like working with these guys?
I struck gold with the artists Marvel picked for this series. Each of them would be a godsend for the series and I got five of them! Wow.
What can you tell us about the tone of the series? It sounds as though, depending on the time period being covered, it will range from pulp adventure to high tech thriller…
It’s a dark story with plenty of action, humor, social commentary and a kind of wistfulness on Cap’s part as he realizes more and more that he’s always going to be a bit out of sync with the flow of ordinary time.
This will be a good jumping-on book for new readers who are interested in Cap because of the upcoming movie, but who don’t quite have a handle on his history. They’ll see who he was, what he’s done and get a clearer grasp on the state of things now with the roles Cap and Bucky now play.
In terms of plot and theme, what is “Captain America: Hail HYDRA” about?
The story spans the years from 1944 until right now, but the back-story spans thousands of years. We learn that HYDRA is a vastly old organization which has existed under a thousand names over the centuries. One particular branch of HYDRA is the focus of this story, which deals with the search for immortality and the various ways in which the conquest of death can lead to the conquest and enslavement of humanity.
Cap encounters the Lazarus Project in Germany during World War II and believes that he’s torn it down. But HYDRA is virtually impossible to stop. As he destroys one aspect of it, another will eventually rise to take its place and carry on its nefarious work.
How does the story unfold in “Hail HYDRA?” Will each issue cover a certain time period and serve as a standalone story that links together to tell one big tale, or will you be jumping back in forth between time periods throughout the series?
The first issue takes place in 1944. The second issue jumps into Cap’s life shortly after he’s been recovered from his long frozen state by the newly formed Avengers. Then we jump forward to the days when Cap first met the Falcon; then to his days as Nomad; and finally to modern day, where Steve Rogers is the Super Soldier and Bucky Barnes carries the shield of Captain America. There are also flashbacks to other eras of Cap’s life, as well as flashbacks that detail the ancient and very sinister history of the Lazarus Project.
What made you want to pit Captain America against the Marvel U’s premier terrorist organization?
HYDRA represents the elusive and mysterious nature of world terrorism. They are so secretive that most of their own members don’t know the identities or plans of other cells and groups. They are ancient, patient, intelligent and almost impossible to eradicate. How perfect an enemy is that for a hero who symbolizes the superior soldier, a weapon forged to fight evil?
Also, I wanted to give HYDRA some additional dimensions. Jonathan Hickman has been doing some superior work with HYDRA in “Secret Warriors,” and I think there is so much more that we can tell. I’m creating a new aspect for the group. Not a retcon at all, but a different sub-group within them, composed of an ancient order of sorcerer-scientists. They are very powerful and very, very determined to succeed in their goal.
The character most associated with HYDRA has been Baron Strucker. Will he be part of this series? And will we see other HYDRA leaders as well, like Viper/Madame Hydra?
Baron von Strucker is a player, but he’s a supporting character. Madame Hydra may make an appearance, but the Lazarus Project works with a great degree of independence and report directly to a different set of masters (whom we’ll meet). The project is spearheaded by Dr. Geist, a brilliant scientist whose family has been tied to HYDRA for thousands of years.
And we get some other new players in the form of the Resurrection Corps – a team of new immortal warriors. The HYDRA version of the Super Soldier.
Who are some of the other supporting players in this series? It sounds like you got to choose from throughout Cap’s history.
Bucky is there at the beginning and in the last chapter (in radically different forms!). The Falcon is on board from issue #3 – and he’s always been one of my favorite characters. We also see a couple of different versions of the Avengers line-up, and a guest shot by D-Man, one of Cap’s former partners. And expect other guest stars. Should be lots of fun!