When the current season of “Avengers Assemble” debuted earlier this month, the titular team immediately faced a formidable threat in the Super Adaptoid. While the team survived its encounter with the superpower-copying android, there’s an even more dangerous robotic threat on the horizon: Ultron.
Of course, that’s no surprise, given this season’s subtitle of “Ultron Revolution.” But while viewers knew to expect the metallic villain, the Avengers won’t be prepared when he pounces. Luckily for them, they’ll have some new teammates to help them out, with Ms. Marvel, Black Panther, Captain Marvel and more set to join the heroes’ ranks. However, according to VP – Current Animation at Marvel Entertainment Steve Wacker, one of the Avengers might not see the end of this season.
We spoke with Wacker about the series’ plans for the third season, and how it ties into the overarching Inhumans subplot that’s been running through Disney XD’s other Marvel cartoons with an episode helmed by animation great Paul Dini. Wacker also goes into how the show chooses the villains with which to plague Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, the “World War Hulk” arc arriving late in the season, and, once Ultron has been dealt with, the impending threat of “Civil War.”
CBR News: Marvel’s animated series often have parallels to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, even though they’re not really connected to each other. How closely do you work with the film and television side, if at all?
Steve Wacker: All the divisions of Marvel try to bounce off each other. I spent a long time in publishing where so much of the mythology comes from. In the case of Ultron, I was lucky enough to read the script for last year’s film and knew where we could build from, but we don’t we really go so far as to work together to build the story. Each arm operates independently, but we use each other for inspiration. Certainly we are very inspired by the film side and the comic book side, and I think we bring stuff from both to shows.
It seems like you can cast a wider net with the animated series than the live-action movies and shows.
I want to be able to pick from 50 years of Marvel history, but have a great villain to craft our season around that everyone recognizes, particularly kids, from last year’s film.
What other factors go into deciding who to include in the animated series?
It all comes from our story editors — they’re the first line of creativity for our shows. In the case of “Avengers Assemble,” we have co-story editors this season, Danielle Wolff and Eugene Son. Both of them have done work for us on our other shows — “Ultimate Spider-Man” and previous seasons of “Avengers.” They’re people we trust, and they’re people who have been Marvel fans for a long time.
We crafted the big idea for the season together. We throw ideas around, and then they go away and come up with a pitch for what the season could be. I knew we wanted to hang the season around Ultron, I knew I wanted us to be able to build to a big story at the end of the year, to have a big “Civil War” story, and I knew we wanted to introduce some new characters into the mix for the third season. The reason we pay them is to be able to go off and take all those story threads of ideas and craft a whole season around it.
And they go off and come up with things like Baron Zemo and Kang the Conqueror.
We got super lucky, particularly with Baron Zemo. We’re able to do a Thunderbolt story, which really pulled at the geek strings in my brain.
I’ve read the Avengers line-up is going to fluctuate throughout the season. Tell me about how it will change and how group dynamics might be affected.
One of the things you’ll see this season is we’ll continue building up the Inhumans story that we’ve seen throughout our series with “Ultimate Spider-Man” and “Guardians.” We have 26-episode seasons, which is a lot of animation, and we have an episode about a third of the way into “Avengers” by the great animation scribe Paul Dini. He brings the Inhumans story to a real head and that leads into the first time we see characters like Ms. Marvel and Inferno. Then, that brings things in a little bit to the world they’ve built on the live-action side. People understand the idea of the Inhumans now because of “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” Introducing our audience to that concept is a big part of this season. It’s a big part of what we’ve been building towards across our shows.
We see a lot of new characters. The ones I’m most excited about include Black Panther, Captain Marvel, Ms. Marvel. We find out what Ant-Man’s been up to. Oh, and the Vision! Coming out of the film, we see the Vision take a larger role here.
The entire season builds towards “Civil War,” which is how we’re ending season three. I don’t know if we’ve said that or not, but that’s what we’re building towards. But right before that, we’re going to have a little “World War Hulk” happening. With all these stories, Danielle and Eugene are trying more than we have before to give the entire season a real thrust and making sure we end in a different place than we begin. There’s more ramifications in this season than we’ve seen in the series before. For one of the Avengers, one of the Avengers you love, there’s going to be a major change by the end of the season — a major status quo change. It might be the end of that Avenger.
And we’re going to see the Thunderbolts have a big story, too. I’m a comic geek so the original run of Thunderbolts by [Kurt] Busiek and [Mark] Bagley really sang to me when it came out back in the ’90s. I hope we do justice to their great work with this story.
So you have a few things happening over the course of the season.
Yes. Plus, we’re going to see more Bruce Banner than we’ve ever seen before. We’re tying in with “Better Call Saul.” [Laughs] I’m kidding.
I don’t think anyone owes us their attention each week, so we’re trying to make very sure if parents sit down with their kids, or if kids watch it on their own, or if 40-year-olds sit down to watch the show, that there’s something pulling everyone back every single week.
You’re very active on Tumblr, and answer a ton of fan questions. It seems like that could be stressful, but you appear to have fun with it. What do you like about engaging with the fans in that way?
I have a job in comics because of the Internet. I was a poster years ago before I even started in comics. I posted on old Usenet forums, and that got me a job at DC Comics, which led to the job at Marvel. I sort of come from that world. One of the things I’ve always loved about Marvel is that it always felt like as a fan, you were part of a community. And when I started I think that had gone away a little bit.
Letter pages in the comics had gone away, and Twitter was just starting up and I don’t think Tumblr was even an idea yet. I’ve always dug talking to fans. I think it’s an absolute honor to be able to speak to fans as one of the people who’s lucky enough to guide these characters and these stories. I don’t fret about Internet rage. I’ve dealt with lots of it. If you think about all the Internet rage you’ve read about in your life, most of it’s probably gone now. I think the debate is healthy, too. I think the more people who are spending their brain power thinking about Marvel, the less they’re thinking about our competitors.
“Avengers: Ultron Revolution” airs on Sundays at 8:00am on Disney XD.