EXCLUSIVE: Introducing the Generals of Marvel's "Infinity"

On Free Comic Book Day 2013, Marvel Comics released a first look into its upcoming summer event: "Infinity," by Jonathan Hickman< with art by Jim Cheung. Taking place in the far reaches of the galaxy, on a planet called Ahl-Agullo, the issue not only placed Thanos squarely in the game for the lead-up to "Infinity," but also introduced Corvus Glaive, a deadly lieutenant carrying out the will of the Mad Titan.

As it turns out, Glaive is only the first of five dangerous and lethal beings who serve Thanos as the Cull Obsidian. In a three-part special feature, CBR News spoke with Marvel Comics Executive Editor Tom Brevoort about "Infinity," Thanos and his high-ranking Black Order, with Brevoort sharing details on the designs and conception of the new villains making their debut in Hickman's summer event.

For our first installment, Brevoort covered the events of the "Infinity" FCBD issue, explaining exactly how it sets the stage for "Infinity" proper, the introduction of Corvus Glaive and the purpose of Thanos' lieutenants, looking at the structure of his scheme and when readers can expect to see more of the Mad Titan's master plan.

CBR News: Tom, the FCBD issue kicked off "Infinity" in a big way with a story that introduced readers to some new characters and a new section of the galaxy. But the biggest surprise was perhaps that Thanos has recruited some new allies to his cause -- including a being called Corvus Glaive.

Tom Brevoort: I don't know if it's so much an ally as it is a lieutenant. Thanos is going to have five different subordinates within "Infinity" proper. We've seen Thanos as the head of big armies of guys in the past, he's had his armada of Thanos-Thralls and guys that have assisted him, but they've all kind of been faceless. I'd look at this as a good opportunity to introduce some characters and get some new villainous blood into the Marvel Universe in a big way. Here, we're going to have five characters, they're all different, they all have separate backstories and histories and modus operandi and so forth, but what unites them at the moment is that they're working under Thanos, for his cause and to his ends. We'll see them, learn them, get to see them in action and then they'll be on the stage where thereafter they can be characters that go up against our heroes -- particularly our heroes that are on the higher end of the scale, power-wise. These are galactic villains, so they're not necessarily guys that are going to be punching Daredevil in the streets of Manhattan. They're more going to be mixing it up with the likes of the Silver Surfer or Nova or somebody from the cosmos.

Thanos has served as a general of an army in the past, but now, he's delegating to these lieutenants. What was the impetus to keep him from being as much of a loner as he's been in the past?

Some of it is you don't want to tell the same story over and over again. We've situated and will have situated Thanos at a particular place by the end of Jason Aaron and Simone Bianchi's "Thanos Rising" limited series that recaps and retells his origin in a linear, sensible way and positions him for the future. He's a big character. As such, it sort of harkens back to his history that he has under him. Otherwise, Thanos comes down and it becomes 4,000 superheroes dog-piling on the one guy. It's more interesting, and certainly within the context of an event, it's more manageable to have a bunch of guys coming down and for heroes to be outnumbered as well as outgunned, instead of just facing one guy that they all have to take turns or draw numbers to get in line to take their shot at him. [Laughs]

Within the first few pages of the issue, Corvus Glaive mentions the Gauntlet of the Tribute. What's the significance of the Gauntlet of the Tribute? Is it an event? An Object? The word "Gauntlet" obviously calls back to a lot of Thanos-related things.

That's true. It's a loaded term for us to be using, and it was used very deliberately. Beyond that, I don't necessarily want to say too much. We'll get there once we get to August and "Infinity" proper.

One of the really great sections of this issue was the way Jonathan Hickman was able to demonstrate how deadly and dangerous Corvus Glaive is by showing a sequence describing Ahl-Agullo's greatest champion, who was on par with many of Earth's superheroes. Will readers get to see some of that for Thanos' other generals?

Each one of the five lieutenants will have their storylines and their moments in the sun. They're not just each going to be faceless background characters. You'll learn stuff and see them all in action over the course of "Infinity," not just Corvus Glaive. It's not Corvus Glaive and four backup singers; it's five guys that are all on the stage, all doing things, all carrying out Thanos' objectives and their own objectives subordinate to that. We'll definitely see them all as individual characters and not just a bunch of guys.

Readers got a good look at how Thanos' runs his empire in the FCBD issue. When will readers get a chance to find out more about the other worlds Thanos has demanded tribute from?

Again, in "Infinity," and to a lesser extent and certain extent, in "Thanos Rising." Thanos isn't necessarily conquering worlds at this point -- that's not really what he and his guys do. They're rolling through a world, they're rolling through town, taking what they want, laying siege and laying waste as they need to, then moving on. It harkens back to Thanos' really, really early years as a marauder and a pirate of space rather than as a more Machiavellian contemplative character as he became at certain points. He's at the head of an army of brigands and ne'er-do-wells and pirates and evil-doers and so forth. Like any sort of Mongol horde, the horde needs to move and the horde needs to consume. That's kind of what they've been doing. Ultimately, Thanos has particular objectives and particular things he wants and desires. Unleashing his forces on a given planet or given area of space is usually in the service of accomplishing or acquiring whatever it is he happens to be after. We'll see a little more of this in "Thanos Rising," and certainly a little more of it once we hit "Infinity" proper in August.

The last page of the issue teases the Outrider scout as he begins to infiltrate Earth and shows The Avengers, the X-Men and S.H.I.E.L.D. Will the Outrider get some play in Hickman's "Avengers" and "New Avengers," or will readers not see him until "Infinity" debuts?

You'll see some hints and some of the sketch of the bigger picture in both "Avengers" and "New Avengers," especially in the issues we've already marketed as prelude to "Infinity." Those are very deliberately the build-up and that's specifically where Jonathan is laying a bunch of track out so that once we get to "Infinity," we'll hit the ground running. You'll probably see more stuff there in those quarters in terms of what's going on with the Outrider, what he's searching for and whether or not anybody becomes aware of his presence in and around Earth.

Transitioning into the five lieutenants, it seems like they might be Thanos' own version of The Avengers. How do you think the inevitable battle will turn out for both sides?

Well, it's a good thing that the Avengers have gotten bigger and brought in more members. We're fielding a team, now, around 18 people deep, giving three apiece to take on the lieutenants and three guys to fight with Thanos himself. They will probably need it. Every one of these characters exist on a galactic scale. They're not necessarily Titans like Thanos, but they are beings of the cosmos who walk in the same circles as Thanos. They're unto like demigods. They're just as sturdy and undamageable and knowledgable as guardians. These aren't normal aliens, these aren't basic Skrulls or Kree or average Shi'ar. These guys are levels that are one-up from that. Even though the Avengers on the surface seem to outnumber them in terms of sheer mathematics, these are characters that are powerful enough and nasty enough to give a team of superheroes a fight, individually. In the same kind of way Thanos would go up against the Avengers by himself in the past, any one of these characters could hold their own against an Avengers team in the field. There are five of them, and they are backed up by legions of more conventional outer space bad guys.

This is only half the problem the Avengers and the other heroes are going to face in "Infinity." This is not even 50 percent.

Wrapping up our first installment, here's Jim Cheung's designs forces Corvus Glaive with commentary by Tom Brevoort and Jonathan Hickman.

"The first of the five. Thanos' most favored. Corvus is cruel, arrogant and the most loyal of the Black Order," said Hickman. "A warrior who betrayed his people and sold his soul to Thanos to pursue a different kind of glory."

"He was the one character among the generals who was designed by Jim, and he was designed by Jim specifically because this story was being done and Jim had to get to him first," said Brevoort. "In essence, this is no different than any other design challenge. Jonathan laid the particulars of the characters out on the table, Jim went to town and did a few designs -- different roughs for the head and so forth. We selected from that and away he went. He's the most prominent of the five lieutenants. He's Thanos' second-in-command and the one who most readily speaks for him, and yet you want him to have a certain amount of visual contrast to Thanos. While Thanos is a fairly big, blocky character and really became that over the years, Corvus -- he's not skinny, but he's more slender, more lithe, more wiry -- sort of in reflection of the glaive weapon that he carries. He's like the physical personification of that in a sense."

Check back on Wednesday for commentary on two more of Thanos' "Infinity" lieutenants.

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