In the Marvel Universe, the traditional paradigm of super villains performing nefarious deeds has been flipped on its head by two teams: The Thunderbolts, a group of villains seeking redemption through re-inventing themselves as heroes, and the Dark Avengers, a team of villains masquerading as established Marvel heroes, hiding their unsavory goals by performing occasional acts of heroism. Recently, these teams faced-off with each other, a confrontation which ended with the Dark Avengers on their way to prison — but they never got there.
An escape attempt resulted in the Dark Avengers being transported by the Man-Thing to a world that they’re uniquely qualified to save — if they decide to. In this strange reality, several of Marvel’s most celebrated heroes have been corrupted, carving New York City into sections to create their own private kingdoms.
The question readers are now asking is, how will this team of villains react to their new surroundings? Will they follow the example of the heroes they’re masquerading as, or will they become worse than the twisted Marvel heroes that have taken control of NYC? For the answers to these questions and more, we spoke with “Dark Avengers” writer Jeff Parker about his plans for the title.
CBR News: In “Dark Avengers” #184, you sent your title characters to an alternate reality where it appears that some of the Marvel Universe’s biggest heroes have become warlords who have divided Manhattan into their own territories. You did this shortly after completing a story about a team of “Thunderbolts” that had been lost in time. What is it about taking villains forced into heroic roles and placing them outside of the main Marvel U?
Jeff Parker: It seems a little close, but you’ll find as we get further in that’s it not an alternate reality in the sense we’re used to thinking. It will become clear that we’re also not in a “Star Trek” “Mirror Mirror” place, where everyone has goatees and is evil. Someone has been tampering horribly with the situation here.
What inspired the creation of this new reality? Is this a “What If?” style reality that diverged at a certain point in established Marvel history?
I wanted it to flow naturally from the last story and the fact that they ended up there by Man-Thing lashing out protectively. All he was thinking at the moment was “New York.” But I did want the Dark Avengers dropped into a place where they were unfamiliar with the rules and status quo, and what if they weren’t the worst people for a change.
Man-Thing sending the Dark Avengers to this new reality seemed like an accident, a defensive reaction. Was it, though? With the Man-Thing’s new-found intelligence, is it possible that he was sending the Dark Avengers to a reality where they were desperately needed?
That’s a good point — Man-Thing is first and foremost a protector of our reality, and even not thinking on it (maybe precisely because he wasn’t thinking), he’s going to put something in place that needs to be there. I’ll give something away — this world they’re in relates back to a not-distant Avengers storyline.
The line-up that was sent to this reality includes the present “Dark Avengers” and one past member, Moonstone. What made you want to bring Moonstone into this story instead of wrapping up her tale with the other Thunderbolts?
I love the idea that Moonstone is so resilient that even with a book shifting into a new title, she still connives and contrives to be in it so she’s still in the spotlight. That’s a little meta, but we’ve done a lot of that all along. Also, she was a Dark Avenger when Norman Osborn first created the idea, so it made sense.
Raft Warden and former U.S. Agent John Walker is another character who isn’t part of the current Dark Avengers official line-up, but he’s found himself transported to this reality just the same. You’ve been writing Walker as a supporting character for some time. How does it feel to explore his character in an ensemble book?
Again, it was another perfect opportunity that was pointed out to me by editor Tom Brennan. All along we’ve had the ‘dark’ Captain America right in our cast, and when he has had the stage, he’s really shined. Some of my favorite stuff is when he gets back in action thanks to June Covington, “The Witch.” The DA really needed a battle leader, and there’s maybe no one better.
The DA are immediately pulled into the feudalism of this new environment, and couldn’t have been less prepared for it. As far as most of them knew, they were heading back to prison, and then they wake up in a place where nothing makes sense. But as we’ll see, a world that’s seemingly chaos is also a place where they can thrive.
I’d imagine part of the fun in telling an alternate reality story is introducing readers to the different counterparts of established characters. We’ve already met some, like Iron Man, Hank Pym and Doctor Strange. Who else will we meet in this initial story? And can you hint or tease as to the roles they’ll play in the story you’re telling?
I’m really taking the characters who always who stood closest on the line of being corrupted, and running with that. Pym isn’t actually corrupt — he’s got a big mind implant Tony Stark stuck in his head. Even when he looks in the mirror, his mind won’t let him acknowledge the existence of this big chunk of metal that influences him.
Stark has embraced technology to a great extent, and you’ll notice he never takes his helmet off or comes out of the armor. Ben Grimm has joined the Monsters as he was once invited to by the Mole Man, and now has the role of being their King. Dr. Strange has clearly just gone completely dark sorcery; I don’t think there’s any good left in him anymore.
Your collaborator, artist Neil Edwards, has to have been having some fun designing some of the alternate reality Marvel characters. Which of his designs did you find especially impressive?
Neil is sooooo good at this. He’s had a dozen new designs to do and aced all of them. I really love the look for Ben Grimm he worked up. Every time a Grimm page comes, I scramble to open it before all other mail.
This is such a demanding story, and Neil somehow never complains. He just draws the hell out of it. The guy is workhorse who never stops improving his skills! I’d urge any up and coming artists to watch and emulate Neil. And, boy, does he depict a great Moonstone/Dark Marvel.
Let’s finish up by talking about your long-term plans for “Dark Avengers.” Will the action in upcoming issues primarily revolve around the title characters in this new reality, or will we also see some characters from the main Marvel Earth notice their absence and come looking for them?
I’m working to bring them to a place where their counterpart identity fills a logical ongoing role and allows for more story possibilities. Though, surely, someone must die.
Can you hint, tease, or talk about your plans for “Dark Avengers” following this current arc? What will 2013 be like for your characters?
Things will get much worse for them before they get better — if they really do! Ragnarok will emerge as his own demigod — he’s been in an odd kind of middle-state for a long time. And our Spider-Man has a strange development that makes me laugh every time he turns up in a scene in the next couple of issues.