Like its real world counterpart, the science of the Marvel Universe is neither good nor evil. Heroes like Mr. Fantastic and Iron Man use their aptitudes for science and technology to improve the lives of their fellow man, while others like the terrorist organization Advanced Idea Mechanics, better known as A.I.M., use their inventive minds to design ways to oppress or destroy mankind.
A.I.M.’s ability to do that was recently made that much easier when their island fortress was declared a sovereign nation. Nations need people to govern them and in “Secret Avengers” #2 writer Nick Spencer and artist Luke Ross introduced readers to the villainous cast of characters that compose A.I.M’s High Council: Supreme Scientist Andrew Forson, Yelena Belova, Jude the Entropic Man, Superia, Mentallo, Graviton and Taskmaster. Comic Book Resources spoke with Spencer about these characters and how they’ll make life miserable for the spy agency S.H.I.E.L.D. and their “Secret Avengers” team going forward.
CBR News: Nick, “Secret Avengers” #2 went a long way toward establishing A.I.M. as the book’s main threat. What made you want to tap them as the book’s overarching villains? And what potential do you see in the group?
Nick Spencer: Whenever you’re working on a S.H.I.E.L.D. book you immediately look at the big, evil terrorist organizations of the Marvel Universe. My favorite of those has always been A.I.M. I’m a sucker for mad scientists.
I’ve loved every iteration and incarnation of the group. They’ve been a lot of things through the years and there’s an appeal to all of them. I especially love their beginnings as an offshoot of HYDRA that dealt and manufactured arms. Then I loved the stuff that embraced them as sort of an anarchic cult. So they’ve had a lot of different organizational identities and I’m a fan of all of them.
Let’s talk about the opening scenes of issue #2. From what I gathered Andrew Forson, the Scientist Supreme and ruler of A.I.M., saw something apocalyptic in the future and he also saw what he needed to do to keep those visions from becoming a reality. Is that true?
Forson certainly saw something. We’re being purposefully vague here in terms of exactly what he’s connected with, but yes, clearly he’s received some sort of vision of the future and he has his own plans for it. Whether or not it’s preventing that particular apocalypse remains to be seen.
So from Forson’s point of view is A.I.M. a heroic organization? Does he feel they’re trying to save the world?
Forson’s ideology and thinking here is that he’s going to do what’s right and focus in on the best potential outcome. Whether or not he consider that saving the world remains to be seen.
I noticed the images Forson saw were very deliberate. The one that stuck out for me appears to be a member of the old HYDRA High Council from Jonathan Hickman’s “Secret Warriors,” Gorgon. Is that indeed Gorgon in that image?
Yes that is Gorgon. He’s one of my favorites. There’s the reason why he’s appearing so early in the book. I’ve got a pretty exciting story planned for further down the road and this is just a little foreshadowing. So he’ll eventually play a role in the book.
The other two visions Forson saw didn’t jump out at me. Can you talk about them at all?
Yeah the other two images are a little bit less recognizable to most folks, but they’re all seeds for future story elements that we have coming. So there’s a pretty long game in play in this book and these pages were really the ones where I indulged in that. So these will be images that you can come back to later on down the road and see that we knew where we were going back in issue #2.
Gorgon was part of the HYDRA High Council featured in “Secret Warriors” and in “Secret Avengers” #2 you give A.I.M. its own High Council of interesting and distinctive personalities. Was the A.I.M. Council inspired by HYDRA’s ruling body?
Very much so. This issue actually owes a lot to “Secret Warriors” #2, which is the first issue where we saw the HYDRA High Council. I’m such a huge “Secret Warriors” fan that I thought it would be fun to tip my hat to it in a couple of places. It’s also structured a bit similarly.
One of the things that I think Jonathan did really well in “Secret Warriors” and one of the things that I responded to was when he took this big, often faceless organization like HYDRA and really firmly entrenched the sort of core leadership group by bringing in the most recognizable characters that had been associated with them in the past.
â€¨We do something slightly different here. There is some connective tissue between the A.I.M. High Council members, but we don’t quite know what that is yet. There’s a reason why it’s this particular group. I’m really excited about this group of villains. Again, it’s a bit of a long game. It’s going to be a while before we spend a lot of time with them. When we do, I think it will be worth it. They are a fun bunch.
So we’ll get issues and story lines that spotlight them like we did in “Secret Warriors?”
Definitely. They all have their stories here and they have threads that we will be following for quite awhile. We’ll start dealing with Mentallo a bit in issue #3. Then as we get into issues #5-7 and beyond you’ll start to see them pop up more and more frequently.
Can you talk about how you put the High Council together? I noticed you have a couple of characters with direct ties to A.I.M. such as Yelena Belova and Jude the Entropic Man.
I think Jude was my most obscure pick. There was a little bit of discussion about that, but I got everybody I wanted which is nice. I think my editors Lauren Sankovitch and Tom Brevoort were really up for the idea. So this is the group I asked for, and like I said they all sort of have a reason for them to be at that table.
Jude is the one that I’m especially excited about. I think he’s a character that’s long over due for some extended screen time.
It feels like this is a group with some considerable power. I believe Graviton alone is an Avengers-level threat correct?
Yeah, just between Graviton and Jude you’ve got a couple of very serious heavy hitters. Plus it’s been established that Yelena in her Adaptoid form is someone else who’s capable of taking on an entire Avengers team on her own.
So none of these characters are slouches. The only one I think people might look shake their head at is Mentallo, but that’s entirely purposeful and we’re going to have a lot of fun with that.
Can you talk at all about how Forson views the members of his High Council? Does he trust them?
I think it’s a mixed bag. One of the things we established pretty early on issue #2 was that for whatever reason he certainly feels a kinship with Yelena and seems to be sticking close with her early on.
Forson is not someone who is intimidated easily. He’s someone with a high degree of confidence in himself and his leadership abilities. So he definitely feels like he’s worthy of leading these folks.
The end of issue #2 seemed to suggest that High Council member Taskmaster has been put in charge of creating an armed forces division of A.I.M. I imagine your artists are going to have a little fun with that…
Definitely. It’s always been Taskmaster’s role in the Marvel Universe to train the lackeys of organizations like A.I.M., HYDRA and the Secret Empire. What I wanted to do here was grow that story out some and make it about him building an entire army and being a general. So it seemed like a natural progression for the character.
While we’re on the topic of your artist, it seems like Luke Ross has been having a lot of fun with the A.I.M. elements of this book. I can just imagine his face lighting up when you say, “A.I.M. needs marines and an air force. Have fun.” Is that the case?
[Laughs] Yeah, I think part of the fun of working with Luke is his enthusiasm. He’s a really positive person. His responses in our e-mail chains suggest that he’s having a lot of fun, and that shows in his work. Every time I get his pages in I’m blown away by what he’s done. He’s really putting his all into this book and that’s always great to see.
Back on to the topic of Taskmaster, we saw the word “reverie” appear on the table he was sitting at on the final pages of “Secret Avengers” #2. Was that our indication that Taskmaster is now part of the S.H.I.E.L.D’s black ops team of “Secret Avengers?”
Definitely. He’s on the board now. He has a very different role than the operatives we’ve seen so far. Obviously, with the way the programming works when he’s on the clock with A.I.M. he truly believes that he’s 100 percent on the clock with A.I.M. So it’s going to be fun to see how all of that plays out.
Based on the solicit text, it sounds like the war between S.H.I.E.L.D. and A.I.M. will escalate quite quickly across the first five issues of “Secret Avengers.” Is that correct?
Definitely. Issue #3 hits pretty close to home. Things go pretty bad, pretty fast for everyone involved.
â€¨Then in issue #4 we’ll see a steady escalation of a threat that A.I.M. has helped create. That really leads us into issues #6-7, which is just wall-to-to-wall craziness as everything explodes. So we’re driving forward at a pretty steady pace and the aftermath of it all is going to be pretty messy.
A.I.M. also has a presence in Jonathan Hickman’s “Avengers” series, which you’re currently helping him co-write. I imagine some of your toys like the High Council will be played with over there as well?
Yes, that’s been part of the fun in working with Jonathan. I got to sneak in some of my cast with the A.I.M. references. So it will all fit and work out pretty well together.
It sounds like you’re having a lot of fun with “Secret Avengers,” especially since it’s allowed you to build up new concepts and ideas like the A.I.M. High Council.
Yeah it’s been really cool so far. The response to the book has been great. It seems like everybody is having a lot of fun, and like I said where we end up is going to be a pretty exciting place. We are definitely just getting started.
“Secret Avengers” #4 by Nick Spencer and Luke Ross goes on sale May 8.