With the conclusion of "Avengers Vs. X-Men" this week, Marvel is set to move on to the next phase of its publishing plan. Marvel NOW! ushers in a whole wave of relaunches for Marvel's biggest properties beginning this month and extending through January. "Avengers" #1 hits in December courtesy of Jonathan Hickman and Jerome Opena, who forge a new direction and roster for Earth's Mightiest Heroes. Hickman also takes on "New Avengers" for the Marvel NOW! launch window. Today, during a special press conference call, Hickman, Marvel EIC Axel Alonso and Marvel Executive Editor Tom Brevoort gather to shed some light on the upcoming series and the direction of the Avengers following "AvX."
After introducing the callers, Sales and Communications Coordinator James Viscardi kicked off the call by asking Hickman about his experience working on the book.
"The work that they're turning in is encouraging and exciting," said Hickman of the art teams on "Avengers" and "New Avengers."
Hickman will start off on "Avengers" with a three-issue arc called "Avengers World," which will lay out the new mission statement for the team.
"In a world where threats are more pervasive and bigger and bigger and bigger ... the Avengers have to become something bigger, something more in order to do what it is that they're supposed to do," he said. "We open with them facing a threat that is larger and different than anything they've face before."
Hickman will also reveal that Captain America and Iron Man have a contingency plan for this threat.
"Things get more urgent. It's a brave new Avengers world," he said.
Hickman's roster for "Avengers" is large, and early on when he and Brevoort spoke about the roster, one of the first things they agreed on was that the roster should "look more like the world." Currently, Marvel has revealed the biggest most iconic characters on the team, but Hickman says by issue #7, the issue will feature "more obscure characters," some of which are revamped versions of old characters, others of which are completely new. He says the roster will feature 24 characters, 12 of which will be female or minority.
The conversation shifted to the mysterious "New Avengers" team, which Jonathan revealed consists of the Illuminati, which was introduced in Brian Bendis' "New Avengers."
"It's about the guys that very quietly and secretly run the world," he said. "It's thematically much different than what's going on in 'Avengers.' The plan that I've worked up is that the Avengers are the utopian Avengers. They're the ideal Avengers, whereas the New Avengers are real-world. They live in the world as it is, which is dark and apocalyptic. It's very old-school. We're pretty excited about it. The books will work together, in tandem. You don't have to read both of them, but if you do, there will be things that echo across the books."
The roster is Captain America, Iron Man, Doctor Strange, Black Bolt -- Namor is involved in the book because "What causes the guys to come back together is such a momentous thing that they have to put aside all differences." The way they get back together has to do with Black Panther and an event that occurs in Wakanda. "Even though they don't like each other and don't get along, they have to save each other from stuff they know is threatening."
Hickman also noted the differences between coming on to do "Avengers" and "New Avengers" versus "Fantastic Four." "The Fantastic Four fundamentally wasn't where the Avengers are now," he said. "The fundamental difference between the two is obviously it's a bigger gig and obviously it's a book that has a lot more eyeballs on it. Fundamentally, the task is similar. We want to take this in a completely different direction -- what I personally want it to be is I want to do an Avengers book that hasn't been done before. ... I want to do a book that's a fundamentally different Avengers book."
Hickman further said he wants to take an "A-game to an A plus-game."
"Jonathan plays the long game," said Brevoort. "The sort of planning that he brought to bear on 'Fantastic Four' has now been brought to bear on 'Avengers' and 'New Avengers.' ... We're accelerating the core 'Avengers' book to come out twice a month."
Brevoort further described Hickman's run on "Avengers" as "a long-form science fiction novel" and the "Aaron Sorkin Avengers" in that they're built around big ideals and big idealism. The "New Avengers" title will be more focused as a clandestine title.
"I think my 'Avengers' pitch probably could have gotten approved as-is, on its own," Hickman said. "But if I hadn't done 'FF' and seen how it worked out, there's no way in hell my 'New Avengers' pitch would have gotten accepted. ... It's the thing that I love more than anything I've written at Marvel. The idea behind the series is just so cool."
The writer also spoke about balancing a larger cast in "Avengers" ramping up to 22 members.
"[Part of the challenge was] just thinking about a structure that works with the rest of the guys writing all the other books in the Marvel NOW! stuff," he said. "One of the things we talked about was creating a structure where those guys would evolve in all their own books, and that stuff will be reflected in ['Avengers.']" However, the focus will also be on how the other characters interact and are affected by Marvel's heavy hitters.
"[Following the first arc,] We're doing one-and-done issues where it's much smaller teams where we concentrate on the characters," he said. "Cannonball and Sunspot have some surprises with Captain America."
Hickman also stated he'll be introducing a lot of new villains.
"I'm making a bunch of new bad guys, or seemingly bad guys or heroes who used to be -- we're making a lot of new bad guys," he said. "Will you see a lot of traditional 'Avengers' villains? Of course, of course."
As one of the stewards of the "Ultimates," Hickman stated there were a lot of differences between "Ultimates" and "Avengers," especially when it came to the weight of the book and the characters. "It feels like two completely different jobs."
In terms of Sunspot and Cannonball, Hickman said the selection process was simple: "I've always really liked them," he said, laughing. "I'm the one that pitched a Bobby and Sam in Mojoworld book and it got made. I don't think there's a scientific breakdown to why we like certain characters. I don't understand why people like Stilt-Man."
Brevoort noted Cannonball and Sunspot also brought in a certain youth to the team, but also still felt like established Marvel characters that readers can "buy" being Avengers. "I think Cannonball and Sunspot have that kind of history behind them," he said.
Hickman spoke a bit about his overall goals and responsibility coming on to the book.
"I think if I come on the book and people don't love it, I will have failed. I don't think there's any getting away from that," he said. "It's a big job and a big responsibility. I have a responsibility to the company to sell a lot of copies and I have a responsibility to the fans."
The teaser image from yesterday featuring an Omega symbol is the "New Avengers" logo.
The teaser image from yesterday featuring an Omega symbol is the "New Avengers" logo. Hickman further stated the connection between "Avengers" and "New Avengers," saying the two books had a Day/Night and Life/Death relationship.
Hickman further confirmed Beast and Mr. Fantastic will be a part of the "Avengers" book and Hyperion is pictured on one of the covers.
While the "Avengers" and "New Avengers" books won't take place the day after "AvX," the fallout will still affect the characters and throughout "New Avengers," some of the characters will "grow to hate each other immensely."
Some of the "Secret Warriors" and "S.H.I.E.L.D." stuff will appear both in "Avengers" and in the rest of "Marvel NOW!"
Brevoort described Black Panther as a "lynchpin character" in "New Avengers" and may even be considered the central character of the series. "He is going to be front and center a lot."
Hickman also says it's tough to get past the fact that Black Panther was the guy who said the Illuminati was a bad idea and he's "certainly the moral center of the book."
As for immediate "AvX" fallout on the Avengers, everything will get wrapped and addressed in Bendis' final issues. "You'll see a little of that in Brian's last 'Avengers' and 'New Avengers' story," said Brevoort. "Brian is doing the wrap-up on the immediate [fallout] of 'AvX.'"
Brevoort spoke to the tradition of the Avengers and how that continues in Marvel NOW!
"I think that depending on what your definition of the Avengers is ... all of that's going to be there from page one in 'Avengers,'" said Brevoort. "There's not going to be any questions about the scale. There are no B-players in the Avengers. At least at the start, it's a very quintessential, a very core idea."
In terms of "Avengers" leadership, Captain America will be the leader, with Carol Danvers and Iron Man as second-in-commands. "In 'New Avengers,' they all think they're in charge," said Hickman, who noted there might be three graphs in the pages of "Avengers" #1.
With that, the conference call wrapped.
"Avengers" #1 and #2 will feature art by Jerome Opena for the first three issues (followed by Adam Kubert, Dustin Weaver and Mike Deodato) hit in December with "New Avengers" #1 and #2 with a rt by Steve Epting hitting in January.