When a murder of an omniscient cosmic being occurs, the heroes of the Marvel Universe have to pull out all the stops in order to find out who it was who had both the means and the motive to pull off what was previously unthinkable. In the wake of the Watcher’s violent and shocking demise, and the subsequent ransacking of his collection of rare and immensely powerful weapons and artifacts, the Avengers, the Fantastic Four and more find themselves turning over every stone and opening every closet to apprehend the murderer — no matter what secrets may end up coming to light as a result.
The search for Uatu’s killer and his missing collection is unfolding in the pages “Original Sin,” an eight-issue Marvel event by writer Jason Aaron and artist Mike Deodato Jr., with Doctor Strange, the Punisher, Gamorra and more unlikely heroes banding together to solve the cosmic whodunnit.
Over the course of the series’ run, CBR News will follow those investigations and other developments in MURDER MOST COSMIC. For our inaugural installment, we spoke with Aaron and Marvel Executive Editor and Senior Vice President of Publishing Tom Brevoort, for some commentary on and insight into “Original Sin” #1
CBR News: Jason, you’ve written X-Men events before, like “Schism,” but “Original Sin” is your first event encompassing the entire Marvel Universe. How does it feel to have the first issue in stores?
Jason Aaron: It feels great. Whenever you’re doing something that’s this big it’s a long process. The origins of “Original Sin” go back a few years, I think — Tom probably remembers better than I do. It’s something we talked about at retreats starting a few years ago, and I came on board last year. I started writing it months ago.
Putting together these big event books is a long process, so it always feels great when things start to come to fruition and you can get the work out in front of fans and see what people think.
Tom, there have been mystery elements to past Marvel events, but how does it feel to be overseeing a story that, at least at its start, is a full-blown detective tale?
Tom Brevoort: It’s a bit more nerve wracking. [Laughs] Typically, I need to be conscientious and careful about what we’re saying, showing and previewing in upcoming issues, but all of that is exponentially greater on a story like this. There’s even things like — we’ll typically share information with other departments in the company, like our games or merchandising guys. On “Original Sin,” though, I’ve had to be much more circumspect about who gets to see what because I don’t want the information leaking out ahead of time.
â€¨It makes it much more difficult to do, even in terms of the tie-ins and things.
It’s almost like you’re overseeing an intelligence operation and have to compartmentalize who gets what specific details.
Brevoort: Definitely, and hopefully we’ve done a good enough job that we can get through all eight issues without spilling the secrets of the story ahead of time. [Laughs] Only time will tell.
Aaron: That all kind of fits with the nature of the story, too. It’s a story about the secrets of the Marvel Universe escaping.
Brevoort: I’m living it right now. [Laughs]
It seems pretty apparent that this was not a crime of passion, since the killer — or killers — shot Uatu with a gun before stealing his eyes and artifacts for what appears to be a specific reason.
Aaron: I don’t want to comment yes or no on that. It says on the cover “Who shot the Watcher?” So I’ll give you the gun, but as for everything else? There’s a lot of different mysteries involved with what’s happening here. Just in this first issue, you get a taste of a few different shadowy characters. So there’s a lot of different mysteries beyond who killed the Watcher and why would they take his eyes? There are a few others that we haven’t gotten to yet. There’s more going on here than who killed the Watcher? That’s the big question that a lot of these mysteries revolve around.
Brevoort: That’s definitely our entry into the story, but there’s a lot more at play here than I think people necessarily realize at this point. It will become clearer and clearer over the next seven issues.
So it’s way too early to speculate on things like motive?
Brevoort: Well, you can speculate all you like. [Laughs] Please do! But you’ve only seen a bit of what’s going on. You only have so much information to go on. Every thing we’ll discover will theoretically lead us to another thing.
Captain America charges Nick Fury Sr. with finding the Watcher’s killer. If this were a DC story, Batman would be leading the investigation, but I don’t believe the Marvel Universe has a pure detective archetype character to step into that role.
Brevoort: Not in terms of a real A-List player. There are characters like Hannibal King, Dakota North and Jessica Jones that have been investigators, but those characters tend be a little more around the fringes of the Marvel Universe than at the center. So Nick Fury seems like the closest thing that we’ve got to that sort of a guy.
Aaron: I don’t know. I changed my mind. I think I want to make the investigator Hannibal King. Can we change that for the second printing?
Aaron: Or maybe a Director’s Cut?
Spy stories are often detective stories anyway, so it seems like Nick Fury Sr., being the consummate Marvel spy, would fit this type of tale.
Aaron: Yeah, and you get to see more of the older Nick Fury in action in Issue #2. You get to see me and Deo doing our best Steranko. Nick won’t just be standing around grumbling. He’ll get to kick a little butt, just like he did back in the old days.
Nick appeared reluctant to become involved. Was his apprehension simply based on what he told Cap about the investigation possibly leading to some dark places? Or was he reluctant for other reasons?
Aaron: Yes, he’s retired. He’s supposed to have left that life behind and passed that baton on, but like he tells Cap, he realizes that following this investigation could lead to some uncomfortable places.
It also appears that Nick isn’t the only one investigating the murder of the Watcher — we see a shadowy figure who quickly puts together a team of investigators of his own, and is holding what might be a glowing green bullet in one panel. That’s not Nick, right?
Brevoort: In the cast page for Issue #2 that character and his shadowy head shot is listed as “Mysterious Boss.” So that character is Mysterious Boss — at least for now.
Are you able to reveal if this “Mysterious Boss” is an established Marvel character?
Brevoort: What else do you want from me? I’ve given you Mysterious Boss! A peek into Issue #2!
Brevoort: I’ve said too much! It’s all over now. [Laughs]
Aaron: I’ll just say, yes, this is a separate investigation from the one Nick Fury is leading. And as you’ll see, this secret investigation is one that’s going in some different directions. We see these three different teams that we establish going to different places.
â€¨The team with the Winter Soldier is headed out into space, Doctor Strange and Punisher disappear, and Black Panther’s team is headed down into the Earth. So their investigation starts from the same place, the death of the Watcher, but they’re going to very different places than where Nick Fury is headed.
Can you talk about how quickly the news of the Watcher’s death spread? It feels like this Mysterious Boss might have known about it before some of the other heroes.
Brevoort: I don’t know how much we want to say. Certainly, it doesn’t become much of a secret in the super human community as things go on. We see a couple of people in tie-in books and things be notified of this, and we see that news beginning to disseminate. The Avengers are there on the moon. It’s not absolutely every single one of them, but it’s a bunch of them, and effectively it’s an Avengers case, so to speak.
I don’t know if every single person knows about it. The Thing finds out about it at the end of the issue in the aftermath of the Mindless One fight. It’s not something that’s being advertised, but certainly some people know about it.
So we can assume that news starts to spread through the grapevine right around the time Cap, Wolverine, the Black Widow and Nick Fury’s dinner is interrupted with that phone call.
Brevoort: At least in terms of their immediate constituency, so to speak.
â€¨Aaron: Yeah. Black Panther says that he just heard about the murder from Cap, so the super heroes in the know initially find out that something is going on. Then, by the time we get to Issue #2, we start to see that lots and lots of heroes are getting involved.
Let’s talk about some of the pairings the Mysterious Boss puts together. We got some interesting team-ups, like Doctor Strange and the Punisher; Black Panther, Emma Frost and Ant-Man; and the Winter Soldier, Moon Knight and Gamora. Jason, what made you want to bring these characters together?
Aaron: There’s a couple of different reasons why we put these characters together. One was I liked focusing on some characters who don’t usually play such a prominent role in a big event like this. I liked bringing in characters like Doctor Strange, Emma Frost and Punisher, and having them be a big part of a Marvel event.
â€¨There’s also a very specific story reason as to why this group of characters is brought together. You look at these characters and you see, not a lot of them cover the same ground. They cover all sorts of different aspects of the Marvel Universe, which I think makes them a very good investigation team.
I hear you’ve had quite a bit of fun writing the dynamic between Punisher and Doctor Strange.
Aaron: Yeah, writing the two of them turned into one of my favorite things. The scenes of the two of them off on their own investigating this murder have been a fun little, weird, buddy cop story to write.
It’s not about changing these characters. It’s not about making Doctor Strange more gritty and street level, or Punisher into a supernatural expert. It’s about taking exactly what I love about those characters, throwing them together and watching them rub each other the wrong way.
Brevoort: It’s going to be the spinoff book, for sure. We’re going to do Doctor Strange and the Punisher.
Aaron: That would be a fun comic book.
Brevoort: One more issue in, and I think everybody’s going to want that
In this issue, we follow the Mysterious Boss’ teams, and Cap, Wolverine, Fury and the Widow. Is this our core cast for “Original Sin?” Or will other characters become involved while some of these characters shift into the background?
Aaron: Yes, there are more characters that will become involved, and some characters will shift into the background. We’ll be changing the cast as we go along. The Black Panther secret investigation team will be a part of the story through its entire run.
â€¨It’s a huge cast, and the focus will shift a little bit as we go along. There are still a few characters we haven’t even seen yet.
On the final page, we get a glimpse of two characters who appear to be behind the Watcher’s murder. They also appear to be the ones responsible for mutating the Mindless One so that it developed self-awareness. Are these established or new characters?
Brevoort: Again, I don’t know how much we want to say about shadowy characters beyond what’s on the page. The truth of it is, Marvel readers and fan are so sharp, and there’s so many of them that look at this stuff that I’m absolutely certain that if I were to go online now and poke around, there will be people who have already figured out who every shadowy figure in this book is.
Brevoort: They’re just that good, which is one of the things that makes doing a mystery story much more difficult. Then, there’s the fact that with the Internet, one guy in the middle of nowhere over here can come up with one thought that’s right, and that thought can be connected to another idea that’s also right by a guy that’s thousands of miles away. It’s much easier for people to put the pieces together because they’re not all off in their own separate areas anymore.
Consequently, when it comes to things like, “Who was that guy? Can you tell me anything about him?” No!!! [Laughs] I want to take those panels back! Don’t look at those! Our readers are way sharp, and we are going to have to be much, much eviler to stay ahead of this. [Laughs]
Aaron: [Laughs] Keeping everything under wraps is clearly one of the challenges of doing a story like this, involving a lot of mysteries and mysterious characters. I think at the end of the day, when you’re doing a murder mystery, it can’t be a game of “Clue.” It can’t just be a “Whodunit?” where everything revolves around the answers.
Aaron: You certainly want twists and turns along the way, and you want those mysteries to pay off, but at the end of the day, a story can’t just hinge upon a page-turn surprise. Even if somewhere along the way, as a reader, you figure out the answer to a mystery, hopefully, it doesn’t matter. Hopefully, you still want to read the story. There’s a very specific story being told in the midst of these mysteries.
Right. The best detective stories are more about how the case works the detective than the detective who works the case.
Aaron: Sure. I think whether people figure out the mysteries, and whether things leak out or not, hopefully people will enjoy the story that’s happening in the midst of all of that.
I wanted to touch on another piece of the story that you might not be able to say much about — what is going on with the Mindless Ones? Are they subjects of an experiment?
Aaron: Not necessarily, no; not an experiment. I think what’s going on with them will become a little clearer with the next issue.
The fact that these characters rounded up so many Mindless Ones suggests to me that this is something they’ve been working on for quite some time.
Brevoort: Assuming you can get to where the Mindless Ones are, it’s not that hard to get a bunch of them. There’s a lot of them there, all running around mindlessly. [Laughs] You just have to have a big enough net to grab them all in.
On the other hand, the fact that they could get Mindless Ones does show the scope and scale that this story is operating on, in the same sort of way that the Watcher being the murder victim does, in that the Mindless Ones aren’t from around here. They’re from an entirely different, mystical, Dark Dimension that doesn’t typically interact a whole lot with ours. So the fact that they’re here gives you a sense that this is much bigger than a shooting on a street corner. This is going to cover the length and breadth of the Marvel Universe.
Jason, have you and Mike Deodato worked together before?
Aaron: Only on the origin story of the Brooklyn Nets’s mascot, the BrooklyKnight. We did a comic that was given out at opening night for the Brooklyn Nets a couple years ago. This is the first big thing we’ve done together.
Was there anything you were particularly pleased or surprised by when you saw the art?
Aaron: You’ll see as the series goes along that Mike’s getting to draw a lot of different characters, and a lot of different locations. He’s drawing all sorts of different Marvel Universe genre books all in this one story, and doing all of it extremely well. This is some of my favorite stuff I’ve seen from Mike in a long time. He’s a guy who can handle the scope that a story like this demands; where you’ve got dozens of characters and battles that play out on these really grand stages. He can also pull of the little character moments and there are a lot of those sprinkled throughout the story.
Brevoort: He’s also clearly, and you’ll see more of this too as we go along, inspired by the fact that Fury is in this story, and he’s bringing a little more Steranko styling to his page layouts and even the stuff he’s doing with the strong shadows is kind of like what Steranko did in “Red Tide” and “Outland.”
â€¨Deo has a tendency, as he moves from project to project, to change up his style; to do things a little differently. Both to keep things interesting and to get in sync with what the project is. So the fact that this is a cosmic murder mystery, and the fact that he uses this bunch of characters, means that he’s getting to draw some stuff in a way that he hasn’t had a chance to before and is trying to stretch himself as a result.
It sounds like the next issue is where we’ll get to see Nick Fury Sr. do what he does best.
Brevoort: Yes, we do, and there will be more of his flying car. Because who doesn’t like his flying car?
Hopefully “Original Sin” #1 was the start of what will be an intriguing, fun and occasionally frustrating mystery-laden ride for people. Hopefully they’ll enjoy the experience, and we’ll keep them on board all the way to the end — and beyond.