SPOILER WARNING: This article contains spoilers for Gerry Duggan and Mike Deodato Jr.s' Savage Avengers#2, on sale now now.
Deep in the primeval heart of the Savage Land, a conspiracy is unfolding; the Hand, ancient cults, and a plot to awaken a monstrous alien god are all converging. The architect of this conspiracy is the time displaced sorcerer Kulan Gath, and he needs the blood of the Marvel Universe's most dangerous warriors to complete his machinations, leading to Punisher, Wolverine, Elektra and Dr. Voodoo have become embroiled in the mad wizard's scheme. Thankfully, they have someone at their side who knows a little about fighting sorcerers in Conan the Barbarian, who came to the present day Marvel U in the recent Avengers: No Road Home miniseries.
All of those twists and turns happen in just the first two issues of Gerry Duggan and Mike Deodato's Savage Avengers, the second chapter of which also featured an unusual form of CPR and the appearance of an ancient Klyntar symbiote. CBR spoke with Duggan about these twists, the new characters that will join his cast in subsequent arcs, and how Kulan Gath's previous Marvel Universe adventures might factor into the book.
CBR: One of the big moments in Savage Avengers #2 was when Wolverine was seemingly able to bring Dr. Voodoo back to life by exposing the sorcerer's heart to his mutant blood. Is this based on something Wolverine had done in past continuity, or is there something else going on?
Gerry Duggan: Voodoo was dead and he tried to do superhuman CPR on the guy. It came from a place of not wanting things to just be action. I wanted to see how else we could embody the word “Savage.” Cutting open a friend and getting their heart beating again while pumping your mutant healing factor blood into them seemed that. Tom [Brevoort] went for it, and that was enough for me. It was fun.
To my knowledge, using Wolverine's blood in this way hasn't been tried, and why not? If anybody's blood put right into your heart could bring you back it would be Logan's.
Also, I know I got some angry tweets about Dr. Voodoo at the end of issue #1, but I never had any intention other than trying to make him the coolest character in the Marvel Universe. I love all of these characters.
Another big moment in issue #2 was the discovery of a Klyntar symbiote in the Savage Land’s City of Sickles, but it did not have a host. Is this Eddie Brock's Venom symbiote? Or a new Klyntar?
This is seemingly one that has been trapped and who knows for how long? Kulan Gath is so old that Conan sort of mistakes it for a genie.
What's it like writing a loner character like Frank Castle in a series like this, where he's forced to work with others in order to survive and conquer?
These characters are still as you find them. Castle is no less of a loner in issue #2 of Savage Avengers than he is anywhere else, although circumstances have dictated that he is not alone in this. Castle's stakes are very personal. The spell requires the blood of the best killers on planet Earth, so the Hand dug up Frank Castle's family and brought them to the Savage Land. Frank went into their trap, but he went into it in a very Frank way. I was very happy with his entrance in issue #2; it felt like the most Frank I could put into an entrance.
The only one of your main cast yet to make an appearance in the City of Sickles is Elektra, who we caught a glimpse of in your back up story in this year's Avengers Free Comic Book Day offering from Marvel. What can you tell us about her entrance into the book and why she still hasn't appeared?
It's mostly about economy. If I had everyone jump in during the first issue things would get really crowded really quickly.
We saw Elektra impersonate one of the Hand's ninjas at the end of that Free Comic Book Day story. If you haven't read it yet, I believe it's available for free both at Marvel.com and comiXology, or copies might also still be available at your local comic shop.
Plus, I would assume that Elektra has no need to enter the city in a flashy way. There's a possibility that she's being overlooked here. She was already working this case, but from the angle of, “Hey, the Hand are doing something very different. They're kidnapping live people. Why are they doing that?”
It's likely that you haven't seen her yet, but you may have seen her already. Maybe you just don't know.
You gathered a cast of mostly anti-heroes in the Savage Land for a story that mixes ancient cults, ninjas, and Lovecraftian Horror, making Savage Avengers sort of a modern day pulp magazine-style tale. What inspired this series, and more specifically, this line up?
I was asked if I wanted to contribute to Savage Sword of Conan, and I leapt at the chance just as a bucket list gig. To be able to do that with that Ron [Garney] and Richard [Isanove] and have it turn out the way that it did will always be special. During the course of that Tom sort of said, “Hey, we're kicking the tires on this new title. What would you like to see in there if you were going to write this book?” So, we started talking back and forth about cast, what we thought the overarching story was, and what some of the little stories were.
I think we have a band of the most un-team like reprobates that we could throw together. There's a lot of fun in that. So, really it was inspired by all the old issues of Savage Sword that I was going back and reading, and the Robert E Howard stories.
Also, it's inspired by films like Mandy. That's a wonderful film starring Nicholas Cage that's like if you took an old issue of Creepy or Eerie with a barbarian story in it and dipped it in acid. I loved that movie and it was on my mind when we started cooking this up. It was like, “Let's now have Gath be in a position where he's sort of a cosmically aware sadist/sorcerer.” That felt great.
Kulan Gath is very interested in sort of the most powerful and most bloodthirsty humans on Earth and we'll see why in issue #5. He's certainly set up a really nice fight for the Savage Avengers, but we don't understand exactly what the scope of Gath's plan is yet. I know what his plan is for Earth. We'll slowly reveal that, but we're not going to take too much time because we really get into things
We're also going to expand our cast. I think it's a little unrealistic to think that all these characters can survive in Conan's orbit, so our original cast will come, go and eventually return, but we'll also start to see other characters very quickly.
So Conan is sort of the through line in Savage Avengers and the book will feature a rotating cast of new and returning characters?
I think so. Anchored on the one side, we're going to have Conan and the characters he encounters, both heroes and villains in the Marvel Universe. Then, on the other side, you're going to have Kulan Gath not really trying to hide the fact that he's here to make things very comfortable for himself.
Who are some of the characters that Conan will run afoul of or fight alongside in future issues of Savage Avengers?
We have yet to see Venom in the book. He'll be in the first story at the end, and he'll also have a part to play moving forward.
Plus, we have a new amulet. Old readers might remember that Kulan Gath had an amulet and that's how he was traveling through time. His soul would leave the necklace. That doesn't appear to be how he's operating right now, but he does have another amulet that is called the Third Eye of Agomotto. I don't think anyone would be shocked if that got back to some of the sorcerers in the Marvel Universe.
The unusual cast of characters is the big draw of Savage Avengers, and that's helped in a big way by the art of Mike Deodato who has announced that this is his final Marvel job. What's it like working on this book with Mike? Has the fact that this is his last Marvel gig impacted your collaboration?
I feel like I have been monopolizing Mike and Frank Martin Jr.'s time for so long, because they were also the art team on Infinity Wars. That felt special enough that if I never got a chance to work with Mike again it would have been more than most people get. Now, to be able to have this second experience with Mike back-to-back is great.
I think Mike continues to get better with age. I don't know whether it's bittersweet for him, I suspect it is, but these are some of his best pages. By the time we get to Savage Avengers #5, you feel like he's someone who is really showing everyone up. So, once again I'm the beneficiary of this collaboration with Mike and Frank.
Kulan Gath is a villain with a long Marvel Comics history with Conan. And yet, when Gath sees Conan in issue #2, he knows who the barbarian is, but Conan doesn't recognize him. That suggests something is going on here. Has the Conan that came to the Marvel Universe in Avengers: No Surrender met Kulan Gath yet?
Kulan Gath is time displaced, so some of those questions will be answered as we go along. The other thing will be what happens when one of those characters from Dr. Strange's Sanctum at the end of that great X-Men adventure with Gath from the '80s hears his name. The way that spell was contained [in 1985's Uncanny X-Men#191], I think only half a dozen people remember that. That's also to Gath's benefit. At the moment, he may be underestimated by some people. That will be very fun as well.
Kulan Gath has been a real thrill to write. There's something so great about a man with a plan. Don't forget, this is the guy who crucified Spider-Man! I remember my Marvel history, and I'm looking forward to making everyone hate him as much as I did back then.
Finally, Savage Avengers is only two issues old and yet a number of crazy twists and turns have already happened. With all that's been revealed, what's in store for the series' second and third arcs? Will there be a moment for readers to catch their breaths between the first and second arcs? Or is this going to be a breakneck series all the way?
We decompress a little bit in issue #6, but not very much. It's a book called Savage Avengers that stars Conan, so it has to have velocity. I love giving readers whiplash, and the book will continue to do that -- especially with some of the names that we're rolling in for our second arc.
We'll have an announcement about someone who is going to succeed Mike on art that I'm really excited about. Plus, we'll have some new characters that will but heads with Conan in what I hope are some really fun ways.
I also have some stories that I can slide in as one-shots. I'm working with some really talented artists to be able to accommodate their schedules. Everyone on the Marvel side, as well as the Conan properties people, have all been really excited. I kid, but we're really trying to drive the book like a stolen car.
We're having a lot of fun on this book, and it seems like readers are too. We sold out before Free Comic Book Day so that appears to be a good sign. If you're liking the book, I just ask that you preorder it so you can relieve your retailers of some of their ordering guesswork.