This week, Marvel Comics has brought a full regiment of live press conference calls to help inform about the upcoming Marvel NOW! publishing initiative. The roster of titles and creators has so far included Si Spurrier on “X-Men Legacy”, Jason Aaron on “Thor: God of Thunder”, Mark Waid and Leinil Yu on “Indestructible Hulk”, Brian Michael Bendis and Nick Lowe on “All-New X-Men” and Gerry Duggan and artist Tony Moore on “Deadpool.” Wrapping up the full week of Marvel NOW! calls is writer Rick Remender and artist John Romita, Jr. along with editor Tom Brevoort discussing their take on Marvel’s Sentinel of Liberty in “Captain America” #1.
Moderator and Sales & Communications Coordinator James Viscardi started things off introducing the creative team, and asked Remender to speak about what fans are in for when they pick up “Captain America” #1. The writer stated the book will shift in tone, but stay true to the core character of Steve Rogers.
“Looking into the fiber and heart of Steve Rogers is the focus,” said Remender. “The tone … is more high adventure/science fiction. Visually, it’s going to be pretty crazy. John’s plugging away on #3, so we’ve got a really good idea of what this looks like.”
“You’re only saying that because I got on the line,” said Romita, who joined the call.
After brief joking, Remender continued his compliments of Romita’s Cap work, also calling out colorist Dean White. “It’s a large step away from the espionage stuff that Ed’s been doing,” said Remender.
“It’s a departure from the standard operating procedure of Captain America, definitely,” said Romita. “We are in a different ballgame here. This is as far away from what I expected for Cap as you can get and I’m really enjoying this.”
Romita stated the craziest thing he’s seen from Remender’s script is a page that recently came in. The artist said Remender asked for a scene where a human Arnim Zola went into his lab. “It’s a 1960s movie of gore, let’s just put it that way. Bodies hanging, experimental combinations of animals and humans and he described it in the way he’d like it,” said Romita. “The image is this house of horrors with a combination of a couple of species — let’s just put it that way. It actually gave me the willies while I was working on it. I can chop people into little pieces with Kick-Ass and Hit-Girl, but here we are doing this thing and it gave me the creeps.”
Remender said the scene was meant to establish Zola in one page. “You can do it visually like this if you have it in capable hands,” the writer said. “[Zola] is Mengela. He’s a nightmare. This scene establishes what a nightmare he is.”
The scene is representative of the way “Captain America” will subvert expectation — while it still meets its rating, it’s very inspired by EC horror of the ’50s for Remender. “Even what Bernie Wrightson did on the Frankenstein book,” said Remender. “It has a purpose for being there.”
“There will be ultra violence, but there will also be moments of ultra peace,” said Remender, stating that the hero is only as good as his villain and praised Romita’s Zola redesign.
The artist said the image on Zola’s chest will be much more organic, and Remender stated he always saw it more like a hologram.
“Because he’s such a bizarre design, the scale and the menace of that villain were almost taken away,” said Brevoort. “He was almost like a comical figure. That’s all going to go away when this book comes out. He’s not going to be a figure that anybody’s going to laugh at. He’s a creepy dude. The more into the onion you peel, the more creepy and unsettling he gets.”
Romita stated Zola’s daughter is a “statuesque warrior” with other supporting cast including a little boy, mutates and “this whole other species of characters that Rick came up with.”
“We’re working on a whole civilization here,” said Romita.
Brevoort stated there’s almost an “element of Frank Miller-ness to what’s going on here.” The editor compared Remender and Romita’s “Captain America” run to Miller’s “Daredevil: Born Again” in that the character gets place completely out of his element. “We’re basically stranding him on metaphorically on this desert island in this new situation, getting down to the crux and the core of what drives this character,” said Brevoort, saying readers would learn something about Steve Rogers that would drive the next year of the book. “Rick and John are telling the story of Steve Rogers’ early days. … We’ve always really said the guy who is Captain America is Steve Rogers. The story that we’re getting to see that runs parallel is the upbringing of Steve Rogers.”
Remender agreed about the tonal comparison to Miller’s “Born Again,” and Romita described the importance of balance of melodrama and character to the book.
“We’re going to show the choices that Steve made and how his upbringing informed the decisions that he makes, but also who he becomes,” said Remender. “You have to earn that.”
“Being a young guy in the ’30s where you didn’t know where your next meal was coming from was tough,” said Brevoort. “You’ll get to see Steve as a fighter of a different sort in a different environment.”
If Steve Rogers did not receive the Super-Soldier serum, Romita said he thought that the character has the true grit. “You don’t go back and face the bullies the way he does if you don’t have the grit,” he said. “There’s a lot of guts in those people. I think he would have become a cop, would have gone into the military. He would have been something more than just the guy on the street. Without it, he would have been something more than the average joe.”
Remender emphasized the relationship between Steve Rogers and his mother and the influence of that relationship will be seen.
The book takes place in the Great Depression, and Remender has done a lot of research online including personal essays and recounts from folks who lived during that time period.
“The depression was a decade,” said Remender. “Five years into that depression, having hope it’ll end? It’s crazy! … It’s just a tumultuous time in American history. … I think we saw it after 9/11, the optimism of the book and the optimism of the character is something I’m really excited about.” The writer said the tenacity that people showed during the depression really spoke to him.
“I actually just got into a conversation with my father, who was a depression baby,” said Romita. “I have a morgue of photographs that my father handed over to me when he was done using them. There are also movies that are in black and white. When I see photographs in color from that era, I don’t want to see it almost. I want to see it in black and white. … There was no parachute in the depression. There seems to be more cushion [in modern day]. Visually, I have no problem getting it. I see the visual online. That’s easy to do, but the emotional part of it — no way that we can feel it unless you go through it or you can have someone explain it to you.”
From a visual standpoint, Romita said he got more of a kick out of working with a writer who is an artist than not. “It has more weight because you know the guy has visual sense,” said Romita of Remender’s descriptions, which have weight because he comes at the writing from an artistic standpoint. The rest of the art team, Klaus Janson on inks and Dean White on colors, was also praised.
“I pitch in and do a lot of art when John is hung over,” joked Remender, who also praised the art team. The writer, an ex-storyboard artist, said he sometimes fears he gives too much description in panels and “shot calls,” but emphasizes that a lot of it is completely suggestion.
“John’s free to add panels, cut panels, shift things because he’s a master storyteller,” he said, noting everything that happens with Dimension Z will have “massive ramifications” for the Marvel U moving forward. Remender further describe the book as “a visual piñata.”
Beyond Zola, who is meant to be the big villain and madman of the book, there are henchmen — including a character that is featured on the cover for “Captain America” #4 named Doughboy, who Remender said looks a lot like Jabba the Hutt and will have a lot of time as a villain. However, he did say that adding more villains would take away from developing Zola and Steve Rogers’ past.
“Unfortunately, we are in an era where a billion and one things that have been done before us,” said Romita. “How do you come up with something distinct? So here I am sitting at my desk with Rick’s tome of an outline. I have to do something I’ve never done before and something nobody else has done before. … I’m struggling with the visuals in that I want to do something I haven’t done before. … So, I’m intimidated in that way.”
Both creators said that the attention to detail and design for the story and setting was a huge advantage when it came to following up a very popular “Captain America” run. “I know that this is a huge departure, but I’m so proud of it,” said Remender. “It’s going to stand on its own.” Romita stated it’s less about design at this point and more about flow, which makes things easier.
“To get to this point was difficult for me, but I don’t know if it’s going to live up to that standard, but now that we’ve gotten to this point, I’ve gotten more comfortable working in this ocean,” said Romita.
As for reveals, Remender was playing things pretty close to the chest in terms of characters like Sharon Carter. She’ll be there, according to the writer, as will Hank Pym, who will serve as the Q to Cap’s James Bond. “I think the important thing here is for this era of Cap to be defined by some of the new cast members,” he said. “I think that was one of the things I wanted to make sure we did. Establish a new cast while intermingling the new cast with the old.” Character-wise, he stated the team has plotted up to 24 issues and at the end of the second year, there are some big, fun surprises coming.
In terms of flashing back to the Great Depression, the writer said it might be self-contained in the first year. “I don’t know if we’ll got back to it after the first year,” said Remender. “Whether it’s worth going back to after that remains to be seen. One thing I don’t see myself doing is going back to World War II much. It’s become such a staple and we’ve seen it so much. If I go back to the Great Depression era stuff in year two, it’ll be because I have a story point or a part of Steve I want to unearth from that era.”
Remender teased that Bucky will probably show up in arc three or arc four once the direction of Marvel NOW! lines up. Falcon, as a full-fledged Avenger, will “not play an integral role in year one of ‘Captain America.'”
Finally, in issue #1, Remender said there will be a big progression in the relationship between Steve Rogers and Sharon Carter.
With that, the call wrapped. “Captain America” #1 by Rick Remender and John Romita, Jr. goes on sale November 24.