When the U.S. government initiated “Project Rebirth” during World War II, the goal was to give the United States the Marvel Universe’s first ever army of super soldiers. Unfortunately, the machinations of a Nazi spy led to the program’s destruction shortly after Professor Abraham Erskine’s Super Soldier Serum transformed frail Steve Rogers into Captain America, the Sentinel of Liberty. Over the years a number of heroes have taken Rogers’ place and wielded Cap’s signature shield. After Rogers lost the Super Soldier Serum that kept him young, he selected his friend and former partner Sam Wilson to carry on the fight in his stead.
Wilson has done an admirable job as Captain America, but things are about to change. For the first time ever, the Marvel U will be home to two Captain Americas at the same time, just in time for the Sentinel of Liberty’s 75th anniversary and Marvel Studios’ upcoming blockbuster, “Captain America: Civil War.”
Writer Nick Spencer will steer both Captains’ adventures across two titles — the current “Captain America: Sam Wilson” series featuring art by Daniel Acuña and the all-new “Captain America: Steve Rogers” drawn by Jesus Saiz that finds the original Cap back in action with a new costume and shield designed by Acuña. CBR News spoke with Spencer who explained the goal and tone of each series and how the “Avengers: Standoff” crossover lays the foundation for the second “Cap” title. The writer also explains the mammoth undertaking that is “Captain America: Sam Wilson” #7, the enormous issue that celebrates the character’s big milestone this March.
CBR News: Nick, let’s start with the big news — Steve Rogers is returning as Captain America and will star in a second “Captain America” series that you’ll be writing in addition to “Captain America: Sam Wilson.” How did this come about and what made you want to tackle both books?
Nick Spencer: Insanity and poor time management. [Laughs] When Tom Brevoort first asked me about doing Sam’s book this was always on the horizon. We hadn’t decided when or how it would happen, but of course it’s Steve Rogers! He’s been Captain America for decades. He’s a huge part of the story and a central character. So we’ve been having conversations about the appropriate time to bring him back and in what fashion do we do that?
I thought the 75th anniversary was the perfect opportunity. It would have felt really wrong to have that go by without Steve being the central focus of it. So I kind of put a marker there. It’s a big year for all things Captain America obviously because of the anniversary and because the “Captain America: Civil War” film is coming out. So it felt like it was the right time to tell this story.
I know you can’t reveal how, but I imagine it’s safe to assume the title character of “Captain America: Steve Rogers” will have regained his youth and his enhanced physical abilities?
Exactly. We’re announcing this pretty far in advance because ABC is doing a Captain America 75th anniversary special, and it really felt like that was the perfect place to build awareness for Steve’s comeback. It was a way to get the word out to the broadest audience possible. So that requires us to do a little bit of spoiler gymnastics because it’s something that occurs during “Standoff” and we obviously haven’t released a lot of details about “Standoff” itself. The rest will have to remain shrouded in mystery.
Will your two “Captain America” titles be connected or are Sam and Steve on their own separate adventures?
There will definitely be two separate Captain Americas. Sam will continue as Captain America and I’m still going to be writing that book. We’ve got big plans there and I have a long term plan. So he’s not going anywhere.
The interesting thing to me in terms of internet chatter about Sam was everybody was very aware of the ticking clock of Steve’s return, but we never saw it as a binary thing. We never saw it as when Steve came back Sam would need to give up the identity and go back to being Falcon or what have you. In the same way that you now have Peter Parker and Miles Morales as Spider-Man you now have Sam Wilson and Steve Rogers as Captain America.
So the books will be connected. There’s obviously a close friendship and a strong bond there. Captain America is such a symbol and means so much to the public at large of the Marvel Universe and our world so obviously there will be moments when the two stories converge and both men will feel the impact of the other’s actions.
Your run on “Captain America: Sam Wilson” has a very Mark Gruenwald era feel in that the stories you’re telling are super hero adventures with elements of political drama and satire. Will “Captain America: Steve Rogers” have a similar tone?
It’s its own thing and that’s part of what really got me excited about it. The opportunity that I saw was to tell two very different kinds of Captain America stories. The story we’re telling in Sam’s book is like you said — it’s very topical. In some ways it’s political without being partisan. It’s very much of the moment and has a lot of humor and satire as well. So if you’re enjoying that that’s exactly how Sam’s book is going to continue to go.
â€¨With Steve’s book it’s the opportunity to go back to the classic formula a little bit; to tell a book that’s very much steeped in Steve’s history. It’s something with a lot of hat tips to the Golden Age and Steve facing off against his very classic, high profile rogues gallery.
I think the books will be nice compliments to one another. That’s something that I really like. We’ll have two very different books telling very different kinds of stories, and I think between the two, long time Captain America fans will be really happy.
You mentioned Captain America’s rogues’ gallery. It seems like two Caps running around means it will be an especially interesting time for Cap foes new and old.
Yeah, in terms of Steve’s book, again, it’s the year of the 75th anniversary and “Captain America: Civil War.” So we want to tell the biggest possible story and that means you have the opportunity to bring in some of Cap’s biggest foes. So you’ll definitely see some familiar faces that are in many ways more dangerous and threatening than ever before. So it’s a big, big story.
In terms of Sam’s book you’re going to continue to see more of what we have been doing, which is sort of mining through the history of Cap comics, taking some villains that you maybe haven’t seen for a while and giving them a fresh spin.
That’s always really fun for me. You mentioned the Gruenwald era Cap, and I think it’s obvious from what we’re doing in Sam’s book that I’m a huge fan of that run. I read it as a kid and it was just massively inspiring to me. It’s one of my all-time favorite runs so you’ll continue to see a lot of hat tips to that run.
Yeah, I love what you’re currently doing with the Serpent Society and making Viper a sort of super villain version of Ned Beatty’s character from “Network.”
[Laughs] That whole arc has just been a blast. The thing that people forget about the Gruenwald run is how much fun it was at times. It didn’t get trapped in taking itself too seriously, and I think as a result of that it really got to poke into some pretty heady subject matter. So it got to do really good, topical stories. The danger with that is if you take it too seriously it can come off as preachy. What I took from that run and what we try to do here is make sure that everybody gets that we’re doing it with a wink and that we’re smiling while we’re doing it. So far people seem to be responding.
So you mentioned each book having its own feel, and each will also have its own incredible artist. I understand Daniel Acuña is continuing his work on “Captain America: Sam Wilson,” and for “Captain America: Steve Rogers” you’ll be continuing your collaboration with Jesus Saiz, the artist of the upcoming “Assault on Pleasant Hill Alpha.”
That’s right. Daniel is one of my favorite artists. It’s fantastic to be able to work with him. He’s doing incredible work on Cap here.
I’ve been a fan of Jesus’ for a long time, but the stuff that he’s doing now is just on a completely different level. I think people are going to be stunned by how beautiful the book is. It’s phenomenal work.
Let’s back up a little bit and talk about the Captain America work in your immediate future. Next month’s “Captain America: Sam Wilson” #6 brings your current storyline to a close with an epic battle that pits Sam and the new Falcon against Serpent Solutions. Is that right?
Yes, issue #6 will conclude this arc and really the story that we’ve been telling since the first issue. Obviously, we’ve seen a lot of Serpent Solutions, Viper’s new take on the Serpent Society, and how they handle big corporations’ dirty work for them and are getting rich in the process. We’ve also seen the birth of a new Falcon. That will be a major part of issue #6 as well.
From there you move into issue #7, the giant-size 75th anniversary celebration issue. How does it feel to be part of that milestone?
It was a lot of work. [Laughs] We wanted to tell the best possible story that we could. It’s obviously a key moment in the story that we’re telling in “Standoff.” So we wanted to strike that balance between furthering the event storyline, but also making sure that it was a story worthy of Cap’s 75th. It was a huge challenge, but I think we got there. I’m really proud of the story. I think it will resonate.
The cover to issue #7 also hints that the Winter Soldier is coming back into Captain America’s life. How does it feel to bring Bucky Barnes back into this world?
Before I get into that I really should say that the cover to “Captain America” #7 is just an homage to the first Cap cover! I promise that Sam will not punch Old Man Steve. [Laughs]
It was just a fun cover image. Sam is not going to be abusing the elderly.
The one thing on the cover that is true is that Bucky will be coming back. He might even be back a little sooner than that. He’s going to be a key part of “Standoff.” He’s got a major role to play there.
We wanted to make sure that both Sam and Bucky were key parts of the 75th anniversary because their tenures as Captain America are pretty major moments in the character’s history.
Have you written the Winter Soldier before?
Not really. I think I’ve written him for a couple of pages here and there, but I haven’t gotten to do much with him. He’s fun to write. I’m digging it so far. There’s a really fun Steve and Bucky scene in “Standoff” that I think came out pretty well.
I want to wrap up by looking even beyond “Standoff.” “Civil War II” breaks out this summer and we already know some of the details; mainly that Iron Man and Captain Marvel will be on separate sides of the conflict. Considering Steve had a major role in the original event, will he Sam each have to pick a side?
Absolutely. “Civil War II” is going to be a major part of both books. We’re not just tying in in a ceremonial or perfunctory way. It’s a vital part of the story that we’re telling. So Sam and Steve are going to have to pick sides. They may take different sides, or they may stand together. There are big decisions to be made, and it’s going to have a major impact on both characters.
“Captain America: Sam Wilson” #6 is scheduled for release Feb. 3. “Captain America: Steve Rogers” debuts this summer from Marvel Comics.