Between executive producing "Arrow" & "Legends of Tomorrow" and writing comics for both DC Comics and Marvel, Marc Guggenheim keeps himself plenty busy these days. But the writer/producer still found time to sit down with Jonah Weiland aboard the world famous CBR Floating Tiki Room at Comic-Con International in San Diego to discuss writing the new "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." comic during "All-New, All-Different Marvel," developing the "Arrow"/"The Flash" spinoff "Legends of Tomorrow," what to expect from "Arrow" Season 4 -- including the arrival of a very different kind of season-long villain -- and what it's like splitting his time between two major comic book rivals.
Asked what it's like writing a Marvel series while working for DC, Guggenheim explains how much he loves working for both companies and how far his career goes back at both DC and Marvel. The writer then details some of his plans for the upcoming "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." comic featuring covers by Mike Norton, discussing how not being limited by a budget allows him to thrust the characters into insane situations worthy of the greater Marvel Universe.
On what to expect from his "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." comic:
Marc Guggenheim: It will have elements of show -- certainly the characters you know. You've got Fitz and Simmons and Coulson and May, and we're doing Daisy Johnson, which is Skye in the TV show. So it'll have those familiar elements. My goal with the book is to really appeal to just fans of the Marvel comics 'cause it really is like a deep-dive into the Marvel Universe. Basically, the high concept of the book is: the "Mission: Impossible" movies set in the Marvel Universe, but it draws on these familiar characters from the TV show. So, if you're a fan of the TV show, my hope is to bring you over and get you reading some Marvel comics -- because, believe it or not, there's not as much crossover between the TV audience and the comic book audience as one may think.
In the second part of the conversation, Guggenheim delves into his TV work, talking about the tone of the "Flash"/"Arrow" spinoff, "DC's Legends of Tomorrow," what fans can expect and what sets it apart from The CW's other comic book shows as well as Marvel's TV efforts. He then dives into "Arrow" ahead of its fourth season, explaining his goal for the show from the outset and how the series has both grown and changed across the first three years.
On the unique tone of "Legends of Tomorrow":
Guggenheim: Kind of a mix between ["The Flash" and "Arrow"], in a sense that it's going to have the lightness of "Flash." It's definitely tonally more similar to "Flash" than it is "Arrow." That said, it has a cast that is older than "Flash," so it'll have like a gravitas to it that "Flash" doesn't have. So, our hope is that it'll -- it's like "Avengers" the TV show. It's fun for the entire family. You know, I wouldn't encourage really young kids to watch "Arrow," but I encourage them to watch "Flash." Families can watch "Legends of Tomorrow" without any problem.
On how "Arrow" is slowly moving even closer to its comic book roots:
I think, actually, this does go back to your tonal question, which is, ["Arrow"] was always conceived of as an origin show. We always said, "we're doing 'Arrow,' not 'Green Arrow.'" And that each year, whether it was depressing and dark or light and hopeful, we were always progressing Oliver's character towards becoming the Green Arrow, the superhero, as opposed to "The Hood" of season one, who was a dark -- basically, a serial killer. So, I think season four really shows you where we always thought we were heading. There will even be, I think, stuff this weekend that people will find out that will excite them along those lines.
In the final segment of the discussion, Guggenheim weighs in on the recent casting of actor Neal McDonough as "Arrow" Season Four's primary antagonist Damien Darhk. Guggenheim explains how they'll be introducing this season's villain in a different way and talks about what McDonough and his performance brings to the Arrowverse, allowing the writers to live out their wildest evil fantasies next season.
On why Neal McDonough was the perfect choice for Damien Darhk and how Season 4's villain will be different than those that came before him:
We're doing something we've never done before, which is really exciting ... We've always done a big bad, as everyone who watches ["Arrow"] knows, but that big bad typically gets introduced in the middle of the season. We're coming out of the gate with our big bad, and we're coming out strong. You know, right from jump you're going to see that [Damien Darhk] is not to be messed with. And we're not hiding him in the shadows. We're not keeping him off the board, waiting for the mid-season finale. We're coming in guns blazing. He's coming in guns blazing. And it's awesome because we knew we wanted to start off the year, again, with our big bad, but we didn't have a great actor 'til Neal said yes. ... You can write the greatest villain in the world -- unless you have an actor who embodies it and is capable of pulling off that material, it's all hypothetical. So, Neal's amazing, Damien is... very, very different from any kind of villain we've had on the show before. He's sort of got the malevolence of Ra's al Ghul combined with the twinkle in his eye of John Barrowman's Malcolm Merlyn, with a bit of the sick, twistedness of Slade Wilson. He's his own animal, and just, quite frankly, so much fun to write.