This September, Marvel Comics' premier super spy agency S.H.I.E.L.D. celebrates its 50th anniversary. First introduced by the legendary creative team of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1965's "Strange Tales" #135, the espionage agency has had a number of fascinating operatives over the years. The majority of those agents -- like Nick Fury, Dum Dum Dugan and Maria Hill -- originated in the comics and eventually became characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe's films and TV shows. Others like Phil Coulson (portrayed by Clark Gregg) and Melinda May/The Cavalry (played by Ming-Na Wen) first came to people's attention the opposite way. They were created for for films like "Iron Man" and shows like "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." and were then later introduced into Marvel's comics.
As part of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s big anniversary, Agent May will step into the comic spotlight in a major way with the one-shot "The Cavalry: S.H.I.E.L.D. 50th Anniversary" by writer Jody Houser (IDW's "Orphan Black") and artist Luke Ross. The issue will include the cunning and fierceness that Ming-Na Wen brings to the fan favorite character onscreen, but it will also examine the Marvel Universe origin of her titular nickname. CBR News spoke with Houser about adapting television characters for comics, the aspects of May she's interested in examining and the new Marvel characters she co-created for the one-shot.
CBR News: Jody, with the "Cavalry: S.H.I.E.L.D. 50th Anniversary" one-shot, you're penning the four color adventures of a cunning and kick-ass female character who was originally created for television. That's something you have experience with thanks to the "Orphan Black" series. How was it writing for Agent Melinda May? And how does it feel to have your first full-length Marvel comic on the horizon?
Jody Houser: As someone who's watched "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." since the pilot, I jumped on the chance to write the comic version of Melinda May. Editor Jon Moisan actually contacted me about doing the book just a few days after the episode "Melinda" aired, so the timing was pretty much perfect.
My first work with Marvel came out earlier this year, a Guardians of the Galaxy story I did with artist Tana Ford for "Avengers: No More Bullying." I'm thrilled to be doing a one-shot with them.
Television viewers have gotten to know Agent May over the course of two seasons of "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.," but the character has only been part of the comic universe for a short time. What's your sense of Marvel Universe May? How similar and how different is she to the television show May?
The decision was made early on that some of the core elements of May's character, including the tragic background that resulted in her nickname The Cavalry, would carry through into the comic book version. I think that for the characters that transition successfully to comics from another medium -- Renee Montoya, Harley Quinn and X-23 come to mind from the just the time that I've been reading comics -- their circumstances may change somewhat, but the soul remains recognizable. Fans of May from the show should find the comics version of the character very recognizable.
What kind of action does May become involved in during your one-shot? What sort of hints and teases can you offer up about the plot? The solicits suggest that this is story that unfolds both in the past and present via flashbacks. Is that correct?
The story does have some flashbacks. For a character like May, who often operates on instinct in combat situations, I thought it was interesting to play a bit with the experiences that shaped those skills. I wanted to show a side of May we haven't really seen in the "S.H.I.E.L.D." comic, so this story focuses on her interaction with a group of cadets, who have heard all sorts of interesting stories about her.
Are the cadets your only supporting cast members?
For the most part, May's story revolves around the group of cadets, all of whom are new characters, but you'll see a familiar face in there too.
While we're on the topic of new creations, the solicits mention characters called "Cyber-Wolves." What can you tell us about these characters and the role they play? Are these original characters co-created by you?
I burst out laughing when I saw the mention of the Cyber-Wolves in the solicit. Yes, they are an original creation for the comic. I wanted to have something fun that felt very comic-specific, but also didn't require any background knowledge for anyone who may be fans of the show but less familiar with the 616 -- or whatever the designation is post-"Secret Wars"!
This one-shot has paired you with veteran comic artist Luke Ross, whose most recent work includes "Captain America and the Mighty Avengers" and "Secret Avengers." He knows the worlds of spies and super heroes really well. What's it like working with and writing for Luke?
As someone who has only been working in comics for a few years, it's always a bit less pressure when you're working with artists who have more experience than you do. I think in the case of an artist like Luke, who has drawn plenty of complicated combat sequences, you know that the story will really flow through the action, so you're not afraid to play with that in the script. I'm excited to see how it turns out.
There may be an Easter egg or two in there for fans of the show and the amazing Ming-Na Wen!
Finally, this one-shot is likely to be many readers first exposure to your work. Are you currently discussing further work for Marvel?
I definitely hope there will be more Marvel stories from me in the future.
For readers that are curious about your other work, what do you recommend they check out? Seems like the "Orphan Black" series would be a a good starting point, or your comedic webcomic "Cupcake POW!"
In addition to the the work you mentioned, I've written for a number of comic anthologies that I'm really proud of; that's really how I got my start in comics. Aside from the Guardians story, I did a short with Nathan Fox for "Vertigo: CMYK," one with Eric Canete for a Kickstarter funded zombie anthology called "Dead Roots," and a story with Fiona Staples and Adriana Blake for "Womanthology: Heroic," among others. I've been very blessed in regards to the artists I've had the opportunity to work with.
"The Cavalry: S.H.I.E.L.D. 50th Anniversary" one-shot by Jody Houser and Luke Ross arrives in stores in September.