The alien assassin turned intergalactic superhero Gamora is believed to be the deadliest woman in the Marvel Universe. Those who have fought beside or against her, and were lucky enough to tell the tale, testify that she has more than earned that reputation. It’s a good thing, then, that she broke away from her adoptive father Thanos and decided to use her superhuman combat skills and physical abilities to fight on the side of good.
What led to that decision, though? What caused the sole surviving Zen Whoberi to turn away from the man who raised her and turned her into a living weapon capable of wreaking vengeance on the marauding empire that wiped out her people?
Those are two of the questions Nicole Perlman and artist Marco Checchetto will answer this December when they kick off their ongoing “Gamora” series, which flashes back to a pivotal point in the adolescence of their titular character. We spoke with Perlman about the time period she’s exploring, her take on Gamora and Thanos’ relationship, and the joy and freedom that comes from telling a grand scale sci-fi story via the medium of comics.
CBR: It looks like for the initial story in “Gamora” you’re winding back the clock and looking at your protagonist’s early years. What time period are you covering? What made you want to delve into Gamora’s past?
Nicole Perlman: I’m interested in pivot points in characters’ lives, those moments where they redefine who they are, and what matters most to them. I’d always wondered what the pivot point was in Gamora’s adolescence, when she made the decision to turn away from Thanos and toward being someone who defends lives instead of taking them. She had such a traumatic upbringing, not just from Thanos’s hand, but also the survivor’s guilt of being the only one to survive the Zen Whoberi genocide. She had every reason to grow into a force of darkness rather than a force for good. So I was drawn to creating a story that detailed what that catalyst was in her life, that helped her transcend her past and take the first step toward being an eventual Guardian of the Galaxy.
Who is your title character when “Gamora” #1 begins? What’s the sort of ‘inciting incident’ that sets this story in motion?
Gamora is on the brink of adulthood – an eighteen-year-old whose entire worldview has been molded by Thanos, the only father figure she has ever known. Gamora is already in peak form as a cold-blooded assassin, but is still in some ways a typical teenager, fighting with her sister, rebellious and snarky to her father. She carries the burden of her anger without the tools to handle it yet; she is fixated on the idea of vengeance upon the Badoon who killed her family. One of the themes of the series is that blind rage makes people easier to manipulate – and it is something we see Thanos use to his advantage with Gamora.
The inciting incident is Thanos’s birthday gift to her: the chance for Gamora to finally reap her vengeance by assassinating every living member of the Badoon royal family, who have gathered together for an inauguration on Moord. Of course, Thanos always has his own agenda.
What’s your sense of Gamora and Thanos’ relationship? Ultimately, what do you think they meant to each other?
I’ve been interested in Thanos and Gamora’s relationship since the early days of developing the “Guardians of the Galaxy” screenplay. There is a 1992 Marvel Holiday special that shows Thanos giving a five-year-old Gamora a doll that she treasures, and it reveals a softer side of their relationship. At the same time, this is the same father figure who physically and psychologically tortured Gamora and Nebula into becoming his personal assassins. Showing the emotional complexity of dysfunctional families – where both teenaged Gamora and Nebula both hate Thanos, but still crave his approval – seemed like the right place to open the series.
So Thanos and Nebula both play roles in this story. Who are some of the other supporting characters Gamora will encounter in the arc?
Yes, Thanos and Nebula will both make appearances, as well as others. I’m also introducing several new characters, including an illegitimate half-Badoon Princess named L’Wit, and a bounty hunter/recovering addict named Klaxon.
What sorts of hints and teases can you offer up about the antagonists Gamora will run afoul of in this initial story?
I think the most difficult foes to face are the ones we once considered allies, or even family. Gamora is going to push herself to a very dark place very quickly in my run of this particular story, in pursuit of her desire to eradicate the entire Badoon royal lineage. There is nothing else in her life that matters more to her than avenging the Zen Whoberi, yet how much does she really know about her extinct people?
I’ve read you’re a life long science fiction fan, so what’s it like being able to let your imagination run loose with “Gamora” and tell big intergalactic stories via the unlimited budget the medium of comics affords you? And how does it feel to be writing you first Marvel ongoing?
That’s a great question. First of all, I’m just honored to have been given the opportunity to kick off a comic book series about a strong female character like Gamora. In the last few years I’ve become a huge consumer of comic books and I realize what a gift it is to be given the chance to tell a story in this medium. On one hand, it is intimidating to have the very first issue I write be published – in screenwriting you usually have to write many scripts before you get your break. Those drafts are where you hone your style and craft. So I’m learning as I go, and I feel the weight of wanting to do Gamora’s story justice.
On the other hand, it is fantastic to have the freedom to shape the story to such an extent, without having to keep budgetary constraints in mind, or whether so-and-so star will be available to play a part. Plus, being able to tap into the character’s internal thoughts at will is a very fun tool for storytelling, which screenwriters rarely get to do.
Your “Gamora” tales are being brought to life by Marco Checchetto, an incredibly diverse artist who’s fantastic with action and at home drawing almost any genre. What’s it like working with Marco? What do you enjoy most about his style?
Marco has been an absolute joy to work with – and he has taught me so much about telling stories visually. His style is electric and perfectly-suited for science fiction. I love his landscapes, which are incredibly detailed, and I’m in awe of his ability to capture action and chase sequences so well – they all have that frisson of dynamic movement. Macro’s character design is incredibly inventive, and really made me fall in love with the new characters – especially one inspired by Iggy Pop.
Can you leave us with some final teases about the scope, scale, and tone, of this initial “Gamora” story? What kinds of action will we see? And what kinds of backdrops will said action unfold against?
One of the things that drew me to this story was the opportunity for some true world-building. Much of the action of the first five issues centers on Ubliex, a former pleasure planet which has since been abandoned, as it drew too close to the event horizon of a supermassive black hole called Mori. Over the years most of the inhabitants of the planet fled, knowing their window for escape was closing. The nearer the planet drew to the singularity, the more powerful the thrust a spaceship would need to break free of the pull being exerted upon the planet – and now there is no spaceship strong enough to escape its pull. So Ubliex has become a dystopian planet populated with stranded former residents, survivors of spaceship crashes, or those dispatched to die a slow death on a planet that is spiraling the drain. Doomsday cults have sprung up in this lawless atmosphere, cults that worship Mori and hope to appease the Black Hole with human sacrifices. There is a hidden mafia that runs the day-to-day, and all manner of characters who live under the looming prospect of the void.
The action that plays out in the first five issues of “Gamora” will be all the things Gamora does best – infiltrating strongholds, serious ass-kicking, and getting way in over her head. There will be lots of combat, space battles, and maybe even some spaghettification. Death by astrophysics! Woo!
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