There are many ways to make a super soldier in the Marvel Universe including physically enhancing serums, healing factors and treatments to infuse bones with unbreakable adamantium. On the other hand, some of the most successful super soldier programs have involved creating man and machine hybrids like the Deathlok cyborg. A number of subjects, some willing, others unwitting, have been transformed into Deathlok over the years. The latest in their number is Henry Hayes, an ex-soldier who believes he’s working for Medics without Borders but upon hearing a trigger phrase is transformed into a seemingly brainwashed, cybernetic, enforcer for the mysterious corporation known as Biotek.
Writer Nathan Edmondson and artist Mike Perkins introduced Henry to the world during the recent “Original Sin” event and launched a new “Deathlok” ongoing series in October that allowed them to explore even deeper mysteries surrounding their title character. CBR News spoke with Edmondson about some of those mysteries, how they connect to his other Marvel titles, and the characters that have become embroiled in them — including fan-favorite former Deathlok Michael Collins, the mutant known as Domino, and an intrepid S.H.I.E.L.D. agent.
CBR News: Nathan, in these early issues of “Deathlok” you picked up some plot threads from your “Punisher” series by referencing A.I.M. and Domino who has become one of their unwilling operatives. You also referenced some of the plot threads in your “Black Widow” series in the first issue of “Deathlok.” People who don’t read all of your Marvel work are getting exciting stories that can be understood on their own merit, but those who read all three of them are getting something far more elaborate, correct? Is the goal for the three individual stories of “Punisher,” Deathlok” and “Black Widow” to combine into one larger mosaic style story once all your reveals have come into play? Or are you just having fun building your own little corner of the Marvel Universe?
Nathan Edmondson: That is correct. I can’t say exactly what they’re getting — and at some level, even I’m not sure. We’ll have to see how far the readers will let us continue some of these threads, though there will be some major payoff in each series, have no doubt. Each series will remain distinct but Marvel has generously allowed us to carve out a corner of the universe all for ourselves and these characters, and it’s a corner that will bleed into the Marvel Universe at large.
It’s become clear that “Punisher” and “Black Widow” are both long form stories made up of individual arcs. Is “Deathlok” structured similarly or will you be dealing with shorter stories in this book?
“Deathlok” is all about one long(ish) journey. The individual missions really serve to build the blocks that make up the Henry Hayes House of Action.
Let’s move from structure to a little bit more about the new Deathlok, Henry Hayes. I’m curious, and I understand if this is something you can’t say much about for fear of spoiling the mystery, but when Biotek activates Henry’s cybernetics with the “whiskey” code word, is Henry still technically in control of his body? Is he a programmed and conditioned assassin or is, perhaps, an artificial intelligence controlling his body during those moments when he’s activated?
That’s really a good question, the same one that we the creators asked, in fact — and one that we will start to answer with issue #5.
In these first three issues you and artist Mike Perkins have shown off some cool new Deathlok tech like the laser claws in issue #3. What’s it like designing these bits of tech with Mike? Are these things he comes up with on his own or do you give him the basic idea?
We’re a team with the tech ideas. We don’t want Deathlok to be defined by the tech, but of course he’s also all about tech. We slowly unveil different tools of his trade and he may be equipped with unique gear depending upon the needs of that particular mission. Of course, I just toss out general ideas [like] “some cool laser claws” or something like that and Mike gets to go all elementary school boredom doodle mode and just have at it.
Henry wasn’t the only Deathlok who made an appearance in in issue #3 — the cliffhanger gave us our first real glimpse of former Deathlok Michael Collins, a character whose fate has been shrouded in mystery since this new series began. Will readers get to spend some more time with Michael next issue? And if so, what’s it like writing Michael? What do you find most interesting about him?
Don’t expect to see too much of Michael Collins at this juncture. We do see him, we remember him, but Henry keeps working and Andrea Hope’s search continues — and what role Collins will have to play in that we will have to say.
Writing Collins is something I completely ignored thinking too much about because if I did I’d find myself facing off against the titans who defined him before — McDuffie and Guice and Wright and Cowan, amongst others. Screw that. I have enough inferiority complexes already.
Collins was found by the mutant known as Domino because A.I.M. tasked her with finding him. Will Domino play a significant role in upcoming issues? What made you want to bring her into the book?
Domino will be there, I just finished writing a big turn with her in issue #6. I love having her around at arm’s length; she makes for a powerful character to have resurfacing every few issues as her plot thickens.
While Domino went after Collins, S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Andrea Hope, a character you mentioned earlier, continued her search for the newest Deathlok. Andrea is a new character created by you and Mike correct? What inspired her creation?
Correct. I’m not sure what inspired her except that we knew that Deathlok couldn’t really operate with total anonymity at this point, in the way that he is, and so S.H.I.E.L.D. would have someone look into him. The political intrigue that makes Andrea a lone wolf hunting this mysterious cyborg is just the best way we could work that angle in. S.H.I.E.L.D. closes in and Deathlok is completely unaware. But is Biotek?
Let’s wrap up with some teases about what’s coming up in “Deathlok” in the new year. I understand you’ll be closing out the first arc in February and kicking off a new arc in March’s issue #6. What sort of hints can you offer up about these issues and the second arc?
Issue #5 ends with a big revelation which will really drive the next five issues in a very specific direction, so it’s as if the whole series kicks into heavy gear all of a sudden. Not with a bang, but a question.
Though, issue #6, strangely, isn’t all that action-packed. Which for me, writing it, is very fun.
This is a different kind of book I think than any other you can find at Marvel right now, which makes it a very fun exercise in storytelling. Mike and Andy [Troy, the book’s colorist] continue to KILL it on art, so buy it for that reason above any and all.
“Deathlok” #4 by Nathan Edmondson, Mike Perkins and Andy Troy is scheduled for release on Jan. 14, 2015.
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