Marvel has had a big week of announcements for the new year. On Monday, the House of Ideas pulled back the curtain on "Astonishing X-Men's" newest creative team, Marjorie Liu and Mike Perkins beginning at Issue #48. Tuesday, Dan Slott stepped up to the plate for some major revelations on "Amazing Spider-Man's" 50th Anniversary storyarc, "Ends of the Earth." Today, Marvel showed no signs of stopping its new project blitz as it shed some light on upcoming series "Age of Apocalypse" written by David Lapham with art by Roberto De La Torre in a Next Big Thing press conference call.
Moderator and Junior Sales Administrator James Viscardi began the call by introducing series writer David Lapham and Assistant Editor Sebastian Girner, who set the stage for the new AoA. "We're spinning out of 'Uncanny X-Force,' so there are events in there that we directly fall out of. Basically, we open with Weapon X, who's the big bad overlord of the Age of Apocalypse world and he's just wiped out the last enclave of humanity," said Lapham. "There's no stronghold left and there's just some scattered people around and a small resistance has to figure out what to do in these dire circumstances."
Viscardi also referenced Marvel's "Point One" special that highlighted the last enclave of humans and went through the roster of the last humans on Earth, known as the X-Terminated. "Going back to the Age of Apocalypse and flipping the script and having these guys who were the bad guys in the regular universe, they're the heroes," said Lapham. "They're the same people but they grew up in an entirely different world under entirely different circumstances." The main character, Prophet, better known as William Stryker, grew up to become a completely different character. "He has some of those same qualities that draw other humans to him. He's smart, he's a leader, he has natural charisma, but he's a hero."
Donald Pierce, known as Goodnight, is involved with the AoA's Hellfire Club and is the inside man for the humans. Bolivar Trask is the science guy and the leader of what's left of humanity. "He uses his Sentinels and his ability to keep people alive while they're trying to figure out how to survive," Lapham said.
Trask's daughter, a new character who has no direct counterpart in the real Marvel U, will also play a part. "Another female character is named Deadeye," the writer said. "She's the sister of [Purifier Second-in-Command] Matthew Risman. For our female characters we had to create daughters and sisters." Greydon Creed is the big marine-type heavy of the group.
The conversation turned to the status of the Amazing X-Men in the "Uncanny X-Force" storyarc "The Dark Angel Saga," something that Lapham said would be addressed. "The battle that we open with, which is the battle that wiped out most of humanity, they were being defended by the Amazing X-Men. There are things that happen that leave many of them dead or gone," he said. "There's a couple of the X-Men that end up with our guys under very dire circumstances."
"Fans will get a taste and lead in to this story in the 'Uncanny X-Force' Point One issue next week," said Viscardi.
"Literally after 'Uncanny X-Force' Point One, 'Age of Apocalypse' takes place five minutes later," said Girner.
Lapham said that he was wanted to "bring the continuity and follow it. Not just ignore that stuff." The writer is crafting "a bunch of new characters," but "the villains we see at the start are going to be characters we're familiar with."
Wolverine, Sabertooth and Jean Grey will all play a significant role in the upcoming series. "Dark Beast will be involved. We might see Sugar Man," said Lapham. "There are plenty of bad guys that we've seen. I really want to create a credible world. It's from the old series, it's the Age of Apocalypse."
"I think it's important that the whole plot -- the book is called 'Age of Apocalypse.' X-Men comics have always been about what it's like to be different," said Girner. "All these characters have to reaffirm their humanity. ... All of this spins out of 'X-Force' and each character immediately has very hard choices to make."
Lapham also weighed in on what it's been like working with series artist Roberto De La Torre. "When you're writing, you hope you get a guy like Rob. Every time we get pages in -- he's an elite artist," he said. "I make him draw so much ... and he hits that post-apocalyptic world. He just nails it. It's a no brainer."
"Roberto has a lot of work to do creating the Age of Apocalypse," said Girner of De La Torres' Point One work. "He did that in the 8-pager. This is a post-apocalyptic world that people still live in. ... I came on to the book a lot later when pages were already coming in but Roberto is the perfect choice."
The writer also mentioned interactions with "Uncanny X-Force" writer Rick Remender leading up to "Age of Apocalypse." "When we first began this and we know it was going to spin out of 'Uncanny X-Force,' we talked with Rick a lot so we were all coordinated to make sure he did what we wanted to get us to our starting point," he said. "He contributed a lot." The team members that will be incorporated from the Amazing X-Men were contributed by Remender. "He helped shape the direction of the book. He's kicking us off."
Lapham has had experience with the original Age of Apocalypse, and read through the entire run prior to coming on as series writer. "I like that it's incorporated into the Marvel Universe ... and it's not so seeped in the everyday goings on of the Marvel Universe," he said. "I feel like I have room to play."
"It's incredibly freeing," he said of the book's loose continuity. "It's more what I'm used to. I can play with the toys without constantly having to check on the continuity. Hopefully what that translates into from an anything goes sense, we have a whole world to play with. We can blow up whatever we want and we can do anything."
According to Lapham, the Celestials will have an element in "Age of Apocalypse." "It's a 100% [chance] there because that becomes the reason for Weapon X, who we're calling Weapon Omega when we get to the book, that's the reason he has this power, that's his motivation," said Lapham. "He's not just a mustache twirler. He's completely evil, but he has a purpose. He's following this directive he has to advance evolution."
"The basis of the book, though is going to be these human level characters in this world where they're outnumbered one thousand to one," he said. "At this point, I don't see it just ramping up to become this universe expanding Celestials where that leads to that level of character. The focus is going to be on the human characters."
The writer brought it back to some of the new characters in "Age of Apocalypse" and how some established Marvel U characters could make it into the book. "Even some of the old characters, we have to be careful about the ones that were clearly obliterated," he said. "I think anything is really open and it's all a big wide world. The only limitation is that we get 20 pages a month, so we have to pick."
The topic turned to the timeline of the book and when it takes place in AoA continuity. "In any kind of mainstream comics work is that element where you'd be a little unspecific about years, because these things go on for fifty years and nobody ages," Lapham said. "There are a lot of changes with Wolverine being the big bad and Apocalypse is gone. I've approached it that this was going on for a very long time. It hasn't been three years. It's been ten, fifteen, twenty years that this has been going on from the very start. There will be characters you see that aren't old, but some of the younger characters have grown up."
"If anything, the first issue picks up immediately after the 19.1 issue of 'X-Force' and that issue picks up right after the 'Dark Angel Saga,'" said Viscardi. "That story is going to continue. Essentially the story that started in 'X-Force' started way after the last visit to the Age of Apocalypse."
In terms of long term planning, Lapham said that he's plotted out "a very clear first 12 [Issues], which is comprised of many storylines that gets us to a certain turning point. I have many thoughts of where we can go beyond there. At the start we wanted to know what our first year was going to be, but in my head, it's endless. I'm coming up with ideas and hopefully everybody loves it so we can keep rolling on and on."
William Stryker's character, Prophet, has so far been Lapham's favorite character to write. "His main thing is that he's a human, a one-man CIA. He's constantly compiling information, he has many sources and that's how he stays ahead of these mutants that are so much more powerful. He always has to be one, two, three, four, five steps ahead. It's fun to write characters that are that confident. ... No matter what the situation or the odds against them, they're going to handle it."
The designs of the characters came both from series artist De La Torre and from Lapham himself. "Initially, we didn't know who the artist was going to be, so I drew various sketches of some characters," he said. "I gave them to Rob and he made them good. [Laughs] Some of the characters are completely new designs and some are based off of scribbles that I did. ... There was definitely back-and-forth on it, but he's the one that nailed it."
The writer also stated that due to the nature of the AoA world, characters have a higher likelihood of being killed. "There's no reason we can't do that because [characters] don't have their own series running simultaneously. At the same time, you spend a lot of time writing these characters, you don't want to be so quick to kill them off."
Wolverine, as Weapon Omega, was chosen as the big bad for this series due to his appearance in "Uncanny X-Force." "That's the status quo for me and that's what I worked with," said Lapham. "He's pretty kick-ass, and I'm happy to do that."
The call wrapped shortly after. "Age of Apocalypse" launches in March 2012.
Stay tuned to CBR News for more developments on "Age of Apocalypse."