When Marvel announced at last month’s Diamond Retailers Summit that Brian Michel Bendis would be leaving “Mighty Avengers,” speculation was rampant as to who would replace him. When it was announced at the Baltimore Comic-Con that Dan Slott would be the new writer starting in January, fans of the “Avengers: The Initiative” and “Amazing Spider-Man” scribe jumped for joy.
In a way few can match, Dan Slott is intimately familiar with nearly every corner of the Marvel Universe, and you’d be hard-pressed to find someone with more appreciation for Avengers legacy and lore. But while Slott can’t talk about the new team’s roster or the Marvel Universe’s status quo book following Secret Invasion he was happy to sit down with CBR News to talk about about his favorite Avengers stories, what the team means to him, and why this book just might be the one to smooth the ruffled feathers of those fans who have been unhappy with the departure from Avengers tradition seen since 2004’s “Avengers Disassembled.”
CBR: Is “Mighty Avengers” your dream job? Has Marvel given you the keys to the Ferrari?
With “Mighty Avengers” or “Amazing Spider-Man”? Who’s your favorite child? I’ve always gravitated more toward the Marvel heroes side of the Marvel Universe rather than say, the X-Men. So, yeah. I have such a fondness for all the classic Avengers lineups. My favorite characters are always going to be Spider-Man, The Thing, Doctor Doom, She-Hulk, Moon Knight. But I always liked getting the other superheroes together as a team. When I was a kid, I always liked reading The Avengers more than Captain America or Iron Man. I liked that you got everybody there.
What Avengers team did you grow up with?
One of the first issues I ever bought with my own hard-earned dough was “Avengers” #141, with one of the first appearances of the Squadron Supreme. In the next issue, they were hanging out with the Two-Gun Kid. So it was [writer Steve] Engleheart and [artist] George Perez [on the title]. This is around “Serpent Crown” and I was there all the way through #200, where you had the stuff with Ms. Marvel and Immortus and you had guys like [artist] John Byrne and [writer Roger] Stern [on the title]. One of the first issues I ever bought was when Hellcat joined the team, the cover where she’s jumping at you.
Did you read the classic, earlier Avengers stories when you were growing up?
A lot of those stories I had to read in reprints but back then Marvel was really good about putting out reprint books with stuff like “Avengers Triple Action.” I remember when it was “Cap’s Kooky Quartet.” It took me a long time before I got to read some of the really original run, though. Cap doesn’t join until issue #4, so in my mind it was the classic guys: it was Thor, Cap and Iron Man. But there was also a history to the book; characters like The Vision and Scarlet Witch. They were the characters that stuff happened to. Because Cap, Thor and Iron Man have their own books and if something big was going to happen to them it would happen over there.
With the exception of that first shake-up in “Avengers” #16, where most of the original team left, the Avengers haven’t seen as many major roster changes in their whole history as they have since Brian Bendis took over the franchise.
But every now and then you would get these massive shake-ups. There would be a whole issue dedicated to the new roster, or as stories would go along, one or two characters would bleed out and a couple of new characters would move in. In some issues you’d have gradual changes, in some you’d have all out shake-ups. Which were great. Everyone remembers that issue with Gyrich at the table telling everybody, “Only seven of you get to remain.”
Are The Avengers a team with whom anything can happen or is there something in your mind that’s at the core of what The Avengers should be?
After “Avengers Disassembled,” Brian Michael Bendis put together that great new team with all the heavy hitters. I felt it was a lot like what Grant Morrison did with “JLA.” Here are the brightest stars in the DC or Marvel Universes and they’re your Justice League, they’re your Avengers. Before that, for years you’d have scenes where Spider-Man would want to be an Avenger and the Avengers would go, “Oh, we wouldn’t take you.” Or issues where The Avengers would ask him and he’d say, “I’m a loner. I can’t do that.” And the same thing for Wolverine. There used to be a “no killers” clause.
So a lot of old-timey fans like me kind of bristled when Spider-Man and Wolverine became Avengers. It was one thing for years to have Spider-Man as a “reserve Avenger” and another thing to think of him as being one of the guys hanging around the mansion that Jarvis would bring tea and crumpets to.
That said, when you look at “New Avengers,” there’s no book that sets the tone for the Marvel Universe more than the amazing stuff Bendis is doing. It’s must-reading. You’ve got to see what Bendis is going to do next. And I don’t think that’s ever going to change. That’s what “New Avengers” is. If you want to follow the Marvel Universe, you better be reading this book.
What I’d like “Mighty Avengers” to be is the “Avenger-iest” Avengers book out there. If you’re someone like me and you’re about this old school legacy: Jarvis and the Quinn Jet being right and what costume Hank wears and what name he calls himself this week. If you’re one of those kind of guys, you’ll really dig this take on “Mighty Avengers.”
While you can’t yet tell us who is on the team, was there anyone you wanted for the new Mighty Avengers that you couldn’t get?
Oh, there’s always going to be guys you want and can’t get. When you’re a fan and you talk about this stuff like you’re talking about Fantasy Football Leagues, you pick your perfect Avengers team. When you’re a writer working in the Marvel Universe, you can’t just go through your handbook and pick who you want. It’s not like you’re in the candy store. People have plans. They’re doing things and you have to respect what this writer is doing in this killer run of his book.
I made some phone calls. I called up some guys. I did my audio version of the puppy dog eyes and said, “Can I have this guy to be in the Avengers? Please. I’ll be so good to him!” And they said, “No.” So, were there some denials? Yes. But at the end of the day I look at this lineup and I thin, “This is an Avenger-y Avengers lineup.”
I can’t tell you who I’m not getting because that would give away the roster. I can’t give away anyone else’s roster. I can’t give away my roster yet. Not until after “Secret Invasion” #8 comes out, and oh boy you better pick up “Secret Invasion” #8!
Have you found a backdoor to seeing some of the characters you want, perhaps in the form of guest stars?
Yeah. We’re going to have guest-stars. Anybody that we’re not getting in this team with a strong Avengers legacy is fair game. We’re going to try to have constant guest-stars in the book. I’ll tell you right now — I’m not getting Hank McCoy. He’s an Astonishing X-Man. That’s one guy I’ll tell you I’m not getting. In my heart of hearts, I’d love to have The Beast on the team. I’d kill for it. He’s such a lynchpin of the Marvel Universe with the X-Men and New Defenders and of course, the way I met him, as an Avenger.
So many characters became parts of The Avengers legacy. There were characters that you almost felt like were being forced on The Avengers — and this is not saying they’re bad characters — but it felt like a relative dropping by to crash at your house and then they don’t leave. Like Silver-Claw or Gilgamesh or Triathlon, who I’ve been having a lot of fun with as the new 3-D Man. But a lot of these guys felt like tack-ons. Even The Falcon felt like a tack-on. The Government literally forced him onto the team, into Hawkeye’s old spot. So he did feel like an outsider. But nowadays we look at that and say, “Yeah, Falcon. Falcon’s an Avenger. Sure.”
You’re known as a writer deeply familiar with the history of the Marvel Universe. How much homework did you have to do for “Mighty Avengers?”
When I’m working on something, I constantly go back and re-read a lot of the old stuff. I’m at the point now where I’ve re-read so many of the Spider-Man stories over and over and over again and grew up reading them that I really don’t have to pick up another Spider-Man book when I’m scripting [“Amazing Spider-Man”]. It’s kind of like in my DNA now. It was that way with She-Hulk too. I can be a little weak on my Avengers lore from time to time. So I’m going back and I’m re-reading the run. Just last night I re-read “Avengers” #1-4 again. I jump around, but day-by-day I’m working my way through the whole history of The Avengers.
Besides the focus on the legacy of the team, how might your “Mighty Avengers” run be different from what Brian Michael Bendis has done with the title? Are you keeping thought-balloons, for instance?
I like the experiment that Bendis was doing with thought-balloons. To me, it’s like that episode of “Buffy” where she can read people’s minds. Whenever she was reading Cordelia’s mind, Cordelia said exactly what she was thinking. To me, a lot of what Brian was playing with was that. Sometimes it would juxtapose, but there was a certain flavor and experiment Bendis was trying with his thought balloons. Thought balloons are a very useful tool. I’m using them in “The Initiative” right now and I don’t think anyone’s noticing. When Bendis made that huge announcement that he was bringing back thought balloons, I was thinking, “Yeah, you know what? I’ve been doing it for years on ‘She-Hulk.’” We were doing little yellow boxes and thought balloons! It would just help if other people had read them. [laughs]
How else might your “Mighty Avengers” stand out from what’s gone before? Some might expect a more light-hearted tone given your previous work.
I don’t want to say light-hearted. There will be an emphasis on adventure. There will be an emphasis on using Avengers villains. I think Brian uses the whole Marvel Universe tapestry and I think we’re going to focus on this being an Avengers book where you’ll maybe see guys like Graviton or Count Nefaria or Kang. Guys that are Avengers villains to the core.
What’s it been like working with series artist Khoi Pham?
It is awesome! There’s not going to be an issue of “Mighty Avengers” in December. There’s a skip month and we start up in January. But what you will have in December, when they declassify all those solicits, you’re going to get a special we can’t tell you about. But it will focus on one of the guys I have mentioned will be in the roster — Jocasta. As well as another character. I’d like people to check that out because it’s the first time you’ll see Khoi and I working together. So much fun.