In the Marvel Universe Captain America (AKA Steve Rogers) serves as a beacon of hope. He sends a message to the world about the potential of both his country and the human spirit. Of course, that also makes him a target for people who want to silence or change his message. Some of those foes have been gunning for Cap since he first donned his costume and picked up his shield back in World War II, and more always seem to emerge.
This February in “Captain America” #16.NOW writer Rick Remender and artists Pascal Alixe and Nic Klein kick off a new arc that finds Captain America and his protege, Jet Black, dealing with old enemies like the Red Skull and his S-Men, and new ones like Doctor Mindbubble, the psychedelic super soldier from the 1960s. CBR News spoke with Remender about this story line, which was announced by Marvel today at their “Avengers” panel at New York Comic Con.
CBR News: Rick, let’s start off by chatting about the new character that will emerge to make Cap’s life miserable in this arc, Doctor Mindbubble. He’ll be making his debut next year in “Captain America,” but you first hinted at the character’s existence two years ago when a statue of him appeared in “Uncanny X-Force” #18. How long have you had the idea for Doctor Mindbubble and why did you wait for him to make his debut? What made “Captain America” a good title for him to debut in?
Rick Remender: He’s actually a character from a book I developed back in 2002 called, “The Inexplicables.” When I really got my head around who this guy was, how his powers work, and what he was doing it became clear that he was a real super villain. So I never really worked him up into any of my creator owned stuff because I never really did much in terms of super hero stuff other than “The End League.”
So he just kind of fell away, and as I was building some of the Weapon Plus stuff in “Uncanny X-Force” I realized I had some ideas for the Weapon Minus program that would be devised as a counter measure to them. So Doctor Mindbubble fell into my “X-Force” plans, and when I didn’t do my third year of “X-Force” a lot of those ideas [Laughs] found a way into my other books.
That said, I went to great lengths to take everything that I had that made the character work and focus it on a “Captain America” story. It worked perfectly because Doctor Mindbubble is a product of the Weapon Minus Program using the Super Soldier Serum and LSD. Because of that mix, he’s constantly tripping. I don’t want to say too much about his powers right now because I think they’ll be a fun reveal; they’re one of the most interesting things about him.
As I was building the “Captain America” stuff he kept popping into my mind because he was intended to be a counter measure against super soldiers and really anything that was created by the Weapon Plus Program. The group who primarily developed him was S.H.I.E.L.D. Nick Fury knew about the Weapon Plus program and that led the guys in S.H.I.E.L.D. to decide that they needed a counter measure because there was a lot of crazy experiments going on at Weapon Plus.
So Doctor Mindbubble became their counter measure, but he was also a man of the era he was created in. He was a beatnik turned hippie. He was basically Timothy Leary as a super soldier. His methodology was to try and be the nice assassin. He was the psychedelic super soldier and he had plans on how he was going to change the world and what he was going to do. Those didn’t gibe so well with S.H.I.E.L.D. and he was taken down at great expense and was caged in The Hub, which is the S.H.I.E.L.D. base in the side of the Grand Canyon.
That’s where he’s been since the late 1960s. So this story sees his release and I think how we get there is pretty fun. We then see his connection to the Iron Nail and Captain America and the plot builds from there. It involves a plot that would change the landscape of the planet in a way that suits the Iron Nail’s purpose, which is far from being revealed, and it also suits Doctor Mindbubble’s purpose, which is to pleasantly assassinate things that are stopping the world from becoming a better place.
He has his ideal utopia in mind and he has strong feelings on how mankind should get there. He’s accepted that some militaristic leanings are necessary, but he’s going to do things in a really “compassionate” way.
Like Cap, Doctor Mindbubble is also a man out of time. He’s basically a member of the Flower Power generation that never had the experience of the Altamont concert?
Yeah, that’s about right. Whereas Nuke was the super soldier for Vietnam, Doctor Mindbubble is the super soldier for the era just preceding that, but he was more than just that. He really was a countermeasure to the super soldier program and everything that Weapon Plus was doing.
What can you tell us about the visual appearance of Doctor Mindbubble? The statue of him in “Uncanny X-Force” #18 suggested that he was a very dapper individual.
When you see the final Nic Klein design of Doctor Mindbubble you’ll see that he’s an amalgam of many things. He’s got the old ’60s Converse on, he’s got a Willy Wonka style suit and top hat, and he’s got a pipe jutting out of his forehead that releases the mind bubbles that are constantly percolating in his brain. So visually he’s a psychedelic Willy Wonka blended with the designs of the thugs in “A Clockwork Orange.”
Let’s move from Mindbubble to your protagonist. What kind of shape is Captain America in as issue #16.NOW begins? I understand the events of your previous arcs will be on his mind, but the issue is also a good jumping on point for new readers?
It’s a good jumping on point because #16.NOW is really a Jet Black story. Then issue #17 really picks back up with Cap’s story.
#16.NOW gives us a chance to see who Jet Black, this person that Cap is living with, really is. She’s presented with an offer from the Red Skull and his S-Men, who have been percolating in the background of my books. So I’m starting to bring that story to a head. It’s going to become the big, focal point of my books coming up.
So #16.NOW is a good jumping on point because it sets up pretty much my next year of “Captain America” and who Jet Black is. Cap’s been living with and confiding with her since she came back to Earth with him in the aftermath of the “Dimension Z” story line, and Earth to her is the place she was supposed to be queen of. It was a place her father trained her to rule over one day because it’s populace would be infected with the consciousness of Zola and become her minions.
So the way she sees the world is going to begin to potentially infect Captain America as he begins to question his own methodology based on the events of the current Nuke arc. That starts to get us into the threats that are bubbling around Steve beyond just the Iron Nail and Doctor Mindbubble stuff. I can’t say much more about that except things are going to get bad for Steve before they get — worse.
After issue #16.NOW, which is a nice intro to some of the threats that Cap isn’t even aware of yet, we have #17 which gets into the main story with artist Nic Klein who will be joining us for at least five issues. “He’s going to do the Mindbubble” story. So #16.NOW gives you a look at the dangers lurking below the surface and #17 kicks off a story with the immediate above the surface threats.
As for Steve’s headspace, he’s still reeling from the loss of Sharon and Ian in “Dimension Z.” He’s basically a guy who just lost his family. He lost the woman he wanted to marry and he lost his son. So Steve is completely shattered and he’s having a very hard time especially coming out of the Nuke arc and how he deals with some of that stuff. He’s having difficulty reconciling the events of that with his own methodology and he’s questioning how he goes about things.
You brought up Nic Klein’s work on the story. So let’s talk a little more about art. I understand that Nic isn’t the only artist on this story, correct? Is Pascal Alixie is also doing some work as well?
Yeah, Pascal is doing #16.Now. That’s the issue with Jet Black, the Red Skull, and the S-Men which really ties into and builds off what I’ve been doing in “Uncanny Avengers.” Pascal’s stuff looks stunning.
Then you’ve got Nic joining you for the “Mindbubble” arc. I loved what Nic did with the strange super hero spy elements over in “Winter Soldier” and it sounds like he’ll be doing some of that here in “Captain America.” Is that correct?
Yeah, Nic is a tremendous illustrator and story teller. He really does manage to do something unique with espionage, especially with psychedelics. If you saw the book he did with Ivan Brandon, “Viking,” then you know that when he goes to crazy places he goes there well. [Laughs]
So mixing those two as we are in the “Mindbubble” arc, Nic was a perfect choice. Plus, he’s somebody who I’ve been trying to work with for a long time.
Earlier we talked about the return of the Red Skull and the S-Men and how it connects to what you’ve been doing over in “Uncanny Avengers.” Moving forward what kind of connection will “Uncanny Avengers” and Captain America” have?
You don’t have to read one or the other to understand what we’re doing. I go a long way to make sure that they’re both explained on their own. There’s usually a lot of connective tissue between my books. There were connections between “Punisher” and “Venom” and there was a lot of connective tissue between “Uncanny X-Force” and “Secret Avengers.” I can’t help but cross pollinate the titles I’m working on. So “Captain America” and “Uncanny Avengers” will both be sister titles in how they affect one another, especially moving into the future and with what’s coming with the Red Skull.
So the Skull will continue to be a presence over in “Uncanny Avengers,” but “Captain America” #16.NOW marks his big return to that book?
Yes, the Red Skull will play a role in both books moving into the future.
We’ve talked about who will be involved in the upcoming action and who will be drawing it. Let’s talk a little bit about where everything will take place. What can you tells us about some of the settings in the “Mindbubble” story?
We’ll see a lot of various S.H.I.E.L.D. installations. We’re going to reveal that S.H.I.E.L.D. has been working on a giant endeavor for a while now. It’s been peppered in conversations that we’ve been having about them, and the “Mindbubble” arc is where we’re going to see what S.H.I.E.L.D has been up to in terms of their reaction and response to all the alien invasions and all the giant threats that the Marvel Universe is now dealing with that are so world wide and catastrophic such as “Infinity.”
In reaction to “Infinity” and these other invasions and events, S.H.I.E.L.D. has been creating something monumental; bigger than anything we’ve ever seen before and Doctor Mindbubble is going to become aware of that. So we’re going to see some new S.H.I.E.L.D. installations, some giant new S.H.I.E.L.D. inventions and weapons, and we’re going to explore a lot of Steve Rogers’ mind.
Finally, how will the scope and scale of “Mindbubble” compare to your “Captain America” arcs leading up to it?
The Nuke story is a set up for the Mindbubble arc, and “Mindbubble” is a set up for the story with the Iron Nail that comes after it. The scope continues to escalate as we move from arc to arc, but the scope in “Mindbubble” is large and the threat is huge. Both Doctor Mindbubble and the Iron Nail will become pretty big characters in Cap’s cannon.
While it was unfolding, nobody understood just how much the “Deathlok Nation” arc of “Uncanny X-Force” was setting up. It involved the cloned Kid Apocalypse, the World, and all that other stuff, but It seemed like a nice self-contained three-issue story at the time. The Nuke arc will also seem like a five-issue self-contained story, but it’s very much like that Deathlok arc in that it’s setting up all kids of things that are going to come into play in the Mindbubble and Iron Nail arcs.
We’re doing some exciting stuff in “Cap” and I’m doing a slow build approach to earn it. It’s the same with “Uncanny Avengers.” Both those books are building into some wonderful big stuff that is just as much character driven as it action adventure driven. So I think if you haven’t been reading “Captain America” now is a really good time to get on board.
Stay tuned to CBR News for more on “Captain America” and other developments from New York Comic Con.